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Report: Apple Developing Satellite-Based Internet for Future Devices –



Apple is developing satellites that could one day offer high-speed data directly to its smartphones, tablets, watches, and computers. Bloomberg reports the Cupertino-based company has a “secret team” designing satellites, and the technology might allow future hardware to bypass traditional wireless networks altogether. Now, we’re seeing just how much Apple wants to cut out partners.

The project should take several years to formulate. Still, Apple CEO Tim Cook reportedly sees it as a priority. Apple’s satellites aren’t going to roll out anytime soon, and that’s fine if they’ll eventually reduce the dependency on wireless carriers or at least improve location tracking. Apple hasn’t finalized its strategy, according to the report.

Satellite-based internet could replace carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. In addition, global carriers outside the United States might be impacted. Apple’s satellites could offer high-speed data to next-generation iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac devices anywhere in the world. Carriers would be significantly hurt by losing Apple’s reliance on their networks, but it’ll streamline the company’s business.

Apple doesn’t want to rely on outside partners as much as it does today. Currently, the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and AirPods utilize in-house chips. The majority of components, though, are still made by other companies. Apple has started work on MicroLED displays, and it did acquire Intel’s 5G modem segment earlier this year. There’s no question Apple desires to handle the supply chain anywhere possible. Dropping wireless networks and instead transferring data through satellites aligns with that approach.

By hiring industry experts, Apple appears serious about developing satellites. However, it’s not the only company with similar plans. SpaceX, which Elon Musk owns and operates, should start offering satellite-based internet plans in mid-2020. It’ll also be joined by Amazon at some point. Regulatory filings reveal Amazon aims to launch as many as 3,236 satellites enabling high-speed, affordable internet. Both companies are prepared to spend billions of dollars in rolling out the necessary infrastructure.

The report suggests Apple would like to set its satellites into orbit within the next five years. So don’t expect the next iPhone or anything else in the pipeline to feature satellite-based connectivity. Everything should continue relying on 4G networks until 5G takes over, and then Apple might start transitioning its hardware to satellites if performance meets expectations.

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How Samsung's SmartTag Bluetooth trackers work (and how to buy them) – CNET




The SmartTag is small enough it won’t get in the way. 

James Martin/CNET

This story is part of CES, where our editors will bring you the latest news and the hottest gadgets of the entirely virtual CES 2021.

Samsung on Thursday held its first Unpacked event of the year, where in addition to a trio of new Galaxy S21 phones, the company also introduced the SmartTag and SmartTag Plus. The products are a direct competitors to Tile, the small Bluetooth trackers that help locate lost items like keys, your phone, pets and anything else you routinely misplace or would like to attach the tag to. Samsung is bundling a free SmartTag with Galaxy S21 preorders

There are several things to know about the new product. For a start, SmartTags connect to SmartThings Find, a service that’s already built directly into Samsung Galaxy phones — SmartThings is Samsung’s hub for smart home devices. There are also two different types of SmartTags, which makes things confusing right off the bat (don’t worry, we’ll explain below). 

Here’s everything we know about Samsung’s SmartTag so far (and what we don’t), from the price and way it works, to how to figure out which SmartTag to buy.

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Samsung SmartTag: What does it do?

Samsung’s SmartTag is a small, battery powered device that you can attach to things like a wallet, backpack or even your pet. It isn’t clear what kind of battery SmartTag uses, what the battery life is, or how to replace it. We’ve asked Samsung for more details.

Once it’s set up and linked to your Samsung account, the tag can be found using the SmartThings Find app on your phone. 

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How do you use a SmartTag to find a lost item?

After you realize you’ve lost an item, open the SmartThings Find app on your smartphone. Next, you’ll tap on the Find card, pick the device you want to locate and wait for it to load. 

If you’re close to the lost item, you use the gauge on the screen to show how far away the item is. The fuller the gauge gets, the closer you are. To help you find the tag, you can make it play a sound.

If the tag isn’t close to you, don’t worry, it can still be found. Other Samsung devices near the tag will anonymously locate it for you, and then let you know where it is, all without the owner of the device doing a thing. It’s done in the background and is encrypted to ensure privacy. 


SmartThings Find is the app you’ll use to track down list items.

James Martin/CNET

Why are there two different types of SmartTags?

In a classic Samsung move, there are two different types of SmartTags. The first, which is available alongside the Galaxy S21 lineup, uses Bluetooth Low Energy as its connection standard. The other version, called SmartTag Plus, will use ultrawideband connectivity (UWB)

There are two versions of the SmartTags, because not all Samsung Galaxy phones support UWB, but they do all support BLE. Only the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, the Galaxy S21 Plus and S21 Ultra support UWB. 


Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is a good-looking phone, right? 

James Martin/CNET

What’s the difference between the two SmartTags?

Using the SmartThings Find app to locate tags that are equipped with Bluetooth Low Energy, you won’t be able to see a tag’s exact location, but an estimate of how far away or close it is. It’s the same kind of tech that’s used to stream music from your phone to your wireless earbuds or allow your phone to act as a key with a smart lock. 

With ultrawideband, your phone and the tag are able to talk to each other and estimate a more precise location, within a few inches. Using a series of short pulses, a UWB device can communicate measuring how long it takes for one of the pulses to be received and answered by another UWB device. In short, UWB is far more precise than BLE. 

We’re seeking more information about the expected range difference between the two. We have a far more detailed explanation here of what exactly UWB is, how it works and other ways it can be used. 


All the color options for your Bluetooth Samsung SmartTag.

Samsung/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

Will both Bluetooth and UWB SmartTag models be available at the same time?

No. Samsung is launching the standard SmartTag first, with the UWB version SmartTag Plus launching later. The company didn’t say when, just that it’s coming. Since a SmartTag is being bundled with Galaxy S21 preorders, we assume the BLE version is what’s included. 

How much do SmartTags cost?

The SmartTag that’s available for the Galaxy S21 launch is $30 for one, $50 for two and $85 for a four-pack. The UWB version will launch at $40 for one and $65 for a two-pack.


Samsung revealed two new SmartTags and their pricing.

Samsung/Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

What is this bundle deal with a Galaxy S21?

If you preorder a Galaxy S21, you’ll get one SmartTag for free, along with a credit that ranges from $100 to $200, depending on which S21 model you order. 

Will both tags work with every Galaxy phone?

No. Currently, the Galaxy S21 Plus, S21 Ultra and last year’s Note 20 Ultra support the UWB SmartTag technology. All other Galaxy phones only support the BLE version of the SmartTag. 


It’s too bad you can’t use a SmartTag to track down the new S Pen for the S21 Ultra. 

James Martin/CNET

What else should I know?

The extra features of UWB mean that you can use a dedicated augmented reality mode in the SmartThings Find app that will help you pinpoint a tag’s location in the real world, instead of using a gauge that fills in as you get closer to it. 

Using AR, you’ll be able to hold up your phone and view exactly where the tag is, using a combination of your phone’s camera and a graphic in the app to see the world around you. 

Battery life is expected to last months, but it’s unclear if the battery is replaceable. We’ve asked Samsung for more details and will update when we learn more. 

Once we get our hands on SmartTags and the S21, we’ll update this post with more information. Until then, make sure to check out our initial impressions of the S21 Ultra. If you want to preorder an S21, here’s everything you need to know. We also take a deep dive and look at the S Pen capabilities of the S21 Ultra

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Here's the top Canadian mobile news from the past week – MobileSyrup



Every week we bring you the latest in Canadian mobile news. Listed below is a quick overview of the top stories from the past seven days.

Toronto’s dotmobile shares plan pricing following CRTC MVNO approval
Xbox shows off the most Canadian-themed controller ever
British Columbia doubles EV incentives for businesses
Galaxy Buds Pro Review: Sound quality over comfort
Contest: Win a Bell Google Pixel 4a 5G!
Samsung Galaxy S21 series Canadian specs, pricing and availability
Google fixes issue affecting its COVID-19 Exposure Notifications System
NHL Live and Sportsnet Now+ is almost the perfect NHL streaming bundle
Shaw reports 31 percent increase in postpaid net additions in Q1 2021
COVID Alert exposure notification app surpasses six million downloads
François-Philippe Champagne sworn in as new Innovation Minister as Bains steps down

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Elon Musk wants you to use Signal instead of Facebook. Here's how the app works – CNET



The Signal app encrypts all of your messages to others on the platform.

Roy Liu/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Tech mogul Elon Musk — known as widely for slinging cars into the sun’s orbit as he is for advocating against COVID-19 safety measures — took to Twitter last Thursday to slam Facebook over its latest privacy policy updates for its supposedly secure encrypted messaging app WhatsApp. Musk instead recommended users choose encrypted messaging app Signal. 

The tweet was then retweeted by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. Shortly after, Signal tweeted that it was working to handle the surge of new users. 

The Signal app was downloaded almost 1.3 million times on Monday, according to data from Apptopia, a tracking firm. The app had been downloaded an average of 50,000 times a day prior to Musk’s tweet. A Signal spokesperson said the report undercounted the number of downloads the service is experiencing.

Signal also attributed a temporary Friday outage to the surge in new users. 

“While we have been working hard all week to keep up with all the new people switching over to Signal, today exceeded even our most optimistic projections. We are working hard to resolve [the issue],” the spokesman told CNET in an email. 

Musk’s Twitter endorsement also incidentally led shares in the biotechnology company Signal Advance to soar, despite the fact that it is completely unrelated to Signal, which is not a publicly traded company. 

This isn’t the first time Musk has publicly sparred with Facebook over privacy concerns. In 2018, he not only had his own personal Facebook page removed, but those of his companies Tesla and SpaceX. His take on the long-fought battle between Signal and WhatsApp isn’t off-base, though. 

Both of the encrypted messaging apps have been found to have security bugs over the years that have been resolved. For years, WhatsApp has openly collected certain user data to share with parent company Facebook. Its latest policy change just expands that. Signal, on the other hand, has a history of fighting any entity that asks for your data, and adds features to further anonymize you where possible. 

Earlier this week, WhatsApp published an FAQ aimed at clarifying its data collection policy, emphasizing that neither it nor Facebook can see users’ private messages or hear their calls. Following mounting privacy concerns, WhatsApp announced Friday it would delay the rollout of its new policy by three months.

“We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp. We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15,” the company said in a blog post. 

Here are the basics of Signal you should know if you’re interested in using the secure messaging app.

What Signal is, and how encrypted messaging works 

Signal is a typical one-tap install app that can be found in your normal marketplaces like Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store, and works just like the usual text messaging app. It’s an open source development provided free of charge by the non-profit Signal Foundation, and has been famously used for years by high-profile privacy icons like Edward Snowden.

Signal’s main function is that it can send text, video, audio and picture messages protected by end-to-end encryption, after verifying your phone number and letting you independently verify other Signal users’ identity. You can also use it to make voice and video calls, either one-to-one or with a group. For a deeper dive into the potential pitfalls and limitations of encrypted messaging apps, CNET’s Laura Hautala’s explainer is a life-saver. But for our purposes, the key to Signal is encryption.

Despite the buzz around the term, end-to-end encryption is simple: Unlike normal SMS messaging apps, it garbles up your messages before sending them, and only ungarbles them for the verified recipient. This prevents law enforcement, your mobile carrier and other snooping entities from being able to read the contents of your messages even when they intercept them (which happens more often than you might think). 

When it comes to privacy it’s hard to beat Signal’s offer. It doesn’t store your user data. And beyond its encryption prowess, it gives you extended, onscreen privacy options, including app-specific locks, blank notification pop-ups, face-blurring anti-surveillance tools, and disappearing messages. Occasional bugs have proven that the tech is far from bulletproof, of course, but the overall arc of Signal’s reputation and results have kept it at the top of every privacy-savvy person’s list of identity protection tools. 

For years, the core privacy challenge for Signal lay not in its technology but in its wider adoption. Sending an encrypted Signal message is great, but if your recipient isn’t using Signal, then your privacy may be nil. Think of it like the herd immunity created by vaccines, but for your messaging privacy. 

Now that Musk and Dorsey’s endorsements have sent a surge of users to get a privacy booster shot, however, that challenge may be a thing of the past. 

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