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Popular chat app ToTok is reportedly secret United Arab Emirates spying tool – The Verge

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A report from The New York Times has revealed that messaging app ToTok, popular in the United Arab Emirates, is in fact a government spy tool, created for the benefit of UAE intelligence officials and used to track citizens’ conversations and movements.

ToTok launched earlier this year and has been downloaded by millions in the UAE, a nation where Western messaging apps like WhatsApp and Skype are partially blocked. It promised “fast, free, and secure” messages and calls, and attracted users across the Middle East and beyond, even becoming one of the most downloaded social apps in the US last week.

But, citing classified briefings from US intelligence officials and its own analysis, the NYT reports that ToTok is really a way for the UAE government to spy directly on its people. Citizens who used the app were sharing messages, pictures and videos, and even their location (supposedly being tracked to provide weather updates) with Emirati intelligence.

The Times notes that this is something of a new development in the history of digital spying by authoritarian regimes. Although many governments routinely hack citizens’ phones, not many set up an ostensibly legitimate app and simply ask for access to their data.

“There is a beauty in this approach,” security researcher Patrick Wardle, who conducted an independent forensic analysis of ToTok, told the Times. “You don’t need to hack people to spy on them if you can get people to willingly download this app to their phone. By uploading contacts, video chats, location, what more intelligence do you need?”

The Times reports that the company that runs ToTok, Breej Holding, is most likely a front for Abu Dhabi-based cybersecurity firm DarkMatter. The app is also connected to UAE data-mining firm Pax AI, which shares offices with the Emirates’ signals intelligence agency.

Breej Holding, DarkMatter, and the UAE government have yet to comment on the Times report, but both Google and Apple have removed ToTok from the Play Store and App Store. The FBI also refused to comment, but a spokesperson for the bureau told the Times: “[W]hile the FBI does not comment on specific apps, we always want to make sure to make users aware of the potential risks and vulnerabilities that these mechanisms can pose.”

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MediaTek taps TSMC 6-nanometer tech for new flagship 5G phone chips – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) – MediaTek Inc on Wednesday said it would use Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s 6-nanometer chipmaking technology for its newest chips aimed at premium 5G smartphones.

Taiwan’s MediaTek appears to be one of the first high-volume customers for the technology and is among a handful of companies with modem technology to connect phones to mobile data networks, competing against Qualcomm Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. The new chips announced Wednesday, called Dimensity 1100 and 1200, build on MediaTek’s efforts to go after higher-priced handsets where Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips have historically had stronger market share.

Like Qualcomm and Apple, MediaTek designs chips and then contracts out production to outside firms. The newest chips will be made at TSMC, on a chipmaking technology called 6-nanometer. Qualcomm’s chips are being made by Samsung on 5-nanometer technology while Apple Inc uses TSMC’s 5-nanometer technology.

Smaller chipmaker technology is faster and more power efficient. MediaTek’s previous chips used a 7-nanometer process, and moving to newer manufacturing technology along with advances in the chip’s design make it 22% faster at computing tasks while consuming 25% less power, Finbarr Moynihan, general manager of international corporate sales, told Reuters in an interview.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Galaxy S21 Plus specs vs. S21 Ultra vs. S20 Plus vs. S20 Ultra: Samsung S phones compared – CNET

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samsung-galaxy-s21-plus-ultra-06176

Drew Evans/CNET

Samsung’s trio of phones that make up its flagship S21 lineup have arrived — and the higher-end S21 Plus and S21 Ultra come packed with all the trappings you’d expect from a premium Android phone. All three are available to preorder now, and will ship on Jan. 29.

If you’re in the market for something fancier than the base model, it’s probably a good time to take a closer look at how Samsung’s pro phones, the S21 Plus and the S21 Ultra, compare with each other, and how they differ from their predecessors.

The standout change to the S21 is the price tag. Following lackluster sales of the S20 family, the South Korean company slashed prices by $200 across the S21 line, with the S21 Plus and S21 Ultra starting at $1,000 (£949, AU$ 1,549) and $1,200 (£1,329, AU$1,849) respectively.

The S21 Pro and S21 Ultra also have the expected incremental upgrades working in their favor: Processors are speedier, the displays have been upgraded and the cameras have been improved to take crisper photos and videos. The S21 Ultra now also supports Samsung’s stylus, the S Pen (sold separately), which blurs the line between the S series and the more professional Note series. 


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Samsung has also packed some refinements into the S21 Ultra’s camera system, but it hasn’t updated headline features such as 8K resolution and the phone’s 108-megapixel shooter. If you’re an avid photographer, you’ll likely care that the S21 Ultra comes equipped with two telephoto lenses (as opposed to one in the S20 Ultra) that offer 3x and 10x optical zoom, instead of digital zoom. Plus the main image sensor is apparently larger, which will allow it to capture photographs with improved dynamic range.

It’s also important to highlight the features Samsung removed to allow it to start at those lower prices. Because Samsung slashed prices of all three of S21 phones, it needed to save on costs by eliminating expandable storage entirely and ditching the in-box charger and earphones. The pricier S20 Pro and Ultra meanwhile, let you add up to 1TB storage and include those bundled accessories.

For more details on the differences between the S21 Ultra, S21 Pro, S20 Ultra and S20 Pro, take a look at our specs chart below.

Galaxy S21 Pro vs. S21 Ultra vs. S20 Pro vs. S20 Ultra

Galaxy S21 Plus Galaxy S21 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Display size, resolution 6.7-inch Flat FHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (2,400×1,080 pixels) 6.8-inch Edge WQHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X (3,200×1,440 pixels), 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X
Pixel density 394 ppi 515 ppi 525ppi 511ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 2.97×6.35×0.30 in 2.97×6.50×0.35 in 2.9×6.37×0.30 in 2.99×6.57×0.35 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 75.6×161.5×7.8 mm 75.6×165.1×8.9 mm 73.7×161.9×7.8 mm 76.0×166.9×8.8 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 7.12 oz; 202g 8.07 oz; 229 g 6.56 oz; 186g 7.76 oz; 220g
Mobile software Android 11 Android 11 Android 10 Android 10
Camera 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide) 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), 10-megapixel (telephoto), 10-megapixel (telephoto) 12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight camera 108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultra-wide), time-of-flight camera
Front-facing camera 10-megapixel 40-megapixel 10-megapixel 40-megapixel
Video capture 8K 8K 8K 8K
Processor Snapdragon 888 or 64-bit Octa-Core Processor 2.8GHz (Max 2.4GHz +1.8GHz) Snapdragon 888 or 64-bit Octa-Core Processor 2.8GHz (Max 2.4GHz +1.8GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz) 64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)
Storage 128GB/256GB 128GB/256GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB 128GB, 512GB
RAM 8GB 12GB, 16GB 12GB (5G), 8GB (LTE) 12GB, 16GB
Expandable storage None None Up to 1TB Up to 1TB
Battery 4,800 mAh 5,000 mAh 4,500 mAh 5,000 mAh
Fingerprint sensor In-screen In-screen In-screen In-screen
Headphone jack No No No No
Special features IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 30X Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, IP68 rating, 5G-enabled, 100X Space Zoom, 10W wireless charging, 10x optical zoom 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; water resistant (IP68) 5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; 100X zoom; water resistant (IP68)
Price off-contract (USD) $1,000 (128 GB)  $1,200 (128 GB)  $1,199 (128 GB) , $1,349 (512GB) $1,399 (128GB), $1,599 (512GB)
Price (GBP) £949 £1,329 £999 (5G) £1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB)
Price (AUD) AU$1,549 AU$1,849 AU$1,499 (4G), AU$1,649 (128GB), AU$1,899 (512GB) AU$1,999 (128GB), AU$2,249 (512GB)

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LG Considering Exit From Smartphone Business, Halts LCD Production for iPhone – MacRumors

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LG is considering exiting the smartphone business entirely amid declining shipments and accrued losses of $4.5 billion over the past five years (via The Korea Herald).

lg wing

LG CEO Kwon Bong-Seok cautioned staff earlier today that the company is re-evaluating its presence in the smartphone industry:

Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about time for LG to make a cold judgment and the best choice. The company is considering all possible measures, including sale, withdrawal and downsizing of the smartphone business.

He added that regardless of any change, the company will retain its current employees from the smartphone division and reassign them elsewhere.

LG has seen rapidly declining smartphone shipments in recent years, and the company is now believed to hold a market share of just two percent. LG has posted major financial shortfalls in its smartphone segment for 23 consecutive quarters, reaching a total loss of $4.5 billion.

When taking office as CEO in January 2020, Kwon pledged to turn the company’s smartphone business around. The CEO’s latest comments therefore appear to be an admission of failure to make the segment profitable.

At the same time, LG is reportedly ending its production of LCD displays for the iPhone, according to The Elec. LG Display had previously attempted to supply LCDs for the second-generation iPhone SE, but failed to meet Apple’s requirements, leading to Japan Display and Sharp being selected as suppliers instead. LG’s factory that previously made the components will be repurposed to manufacture automobile display panels.

Earlier this month, LG unveiled one of the world’s first rollable smartphones at CES, as the company has endeavored to explore unusual designs to lure in customers. The future of this device, and other LG smartphones such as the LG Velvet and LG Wing, are now highly uncertain.

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