Android Authority Android News, Reviews, How To Mon, 18 Feb 2019 15:26:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 54cc39 Google’s new permissions policy could cripple popular sex workers’ safety app Mon, 18 Feb 2019 15:25:29 +0000 The Ugly Mugs app on the Play Store.

  • Google’s revised call and SMS permissions policy could see a sex workers’ safety app lose key functionality.
  • The Ugly Mugs app allows workers to screen calls and texts for dangerous clients.
  • Google rejected the organization’s application for an exception.

Google’s decision to restrict call and SMS permissions has been a divisive one, as everything from task automation to phone tracking apps fell foul of the move.

The policy change goes beyond mere inconvenience. The new limitations could have serious consequences for some sex workers, as a prominent safety app used by hundreds of Irish and U.K. workers is set to lose key functionality or be removed from the Play Store next month.

The Ugly Mugs app, developed by London-based Safe IQ, allows workers to screen incoming calls and text messages for dangerous clients, using a traffic light system of sorts (yellow, orange, red) to classify clients. The app also allows users to manually search for numbers in a database to check if they are associated with potentially dangerous clients, as well as get help and support.

“Ugly Mugs is a not-for-profit technology initiative that improves the safety of workers in Ireland and the UK and reduces crimes committed against them, by bringing workers together to share information about potential dangers,” according to the initiative’s website. The term “ugly mugs” refers to clients who assault, rob, or otherwise abuse sex workers. The first “ugly mugs schemes,” designed to warn sex workers about dangerous clients, have been established in the ’80s.

Unfortunately, Safe IQ director Lucy Smyth told Android Authority that Google has rejected the company’s application for an exception to be made. This rejection means that Ugly Mugs will be removed on March 9 if the screening functionality isn’t disabled.

“So basically Google wrote to us in November and told us we have to remove the call screening features of our app, and we’d have to apply for an exception if we wanted to keep them,” the director explained in a telephonic interview. “We did apply for an exception and just last week they refused our exception.”

An automatic rejection?

Smyth suspects that the application, which was filed in December, was automatically refused and that a human being didn’t look at the request. A Google developer support email sent to Safe IQ and seen by Android Authority confirms the rejection in what appears to be a canned response.

“The declared functionality {Caller ID, spam detection and spam blocking} is determined to be unnecessary or not aligned with the core functionality of your app,” reads an excerpt of the email.

Editor's Pick

“We just want to keep these features if possible, because they really do help people stay safer,” Smyth said, noting that major sex workers organizations, such as Sex Workers Alliance Ireland, were in support of the app as well.

The Android app currently has over 1,000 installs, with hundreds of sex workers using it every day. Smyth say the Ugly Mugs website and mobile apps average roughly 7,000 users in a year, noting that many sex workers are part-time or occasional workers.

Several reviews of the Ugly Mugs Android app call it a life-saver.

Google’s refusal to make an exception is particularly noteworthy in Ireland due to the country’s laws, the Safe IQ representative says. “In Ireland, the situation is that sex workers are criminalized under what’s called brothel keeping laws, which means that in order to work legally, sex workers must work alone. So they’re not allowed to have a friend for safety, and so that makes them targeted by offenders, as it’s known that someone who is doing sex work must always work alone.”

When contacted for comment, a Google representative directed us to a January blog post that reminded developers about the upcoming changes to the calls and SMS log policy. According to the post, penned by Google Play director Paul Bankhead, Google employs “global teams [to] carefully review each submission.” The teams decide which apps get to keep their access to the calls and SMS log based on factors including “user benefit of the feature,” “likelihood that an average user would understand why this type of app needs full access,” and “importance of the permission relative to the core functionality of the app.”

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UK security experts seemingly not as worried about Huawei as those in US Mon, 18 Feb 2019 14:32:21 +0000 The Huawei logo.

A major U.K. security body has suggested any potential risk posed by Huawei’s 5G infrastructure would be manageable, according to the Financial Times yesterday.

The U.K.’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has reportedly concluded that the potential infrastructure threats could be mitigated, despite other nations having recently outlawed Huawei equipment.

Huawei is currently under scrutiny outside of China, as it has been suggested the company’s high-speed 5G infrastructure may be leveraged to conduct espionage. Huawei has always denied it is in collusion with its government.

Editor's Pick

One source told the Financial Times the NCSC findings, which are yet to be made public, would “carry great weight” among European leaders, as Huawei’s future there is debated. The news could also derail U.S. initiatives to persuade other nations to block Huawei.

According to the BBC, the U.K. government is set to decide in March or April whether U.K. networks such as Three, Vodafone, and EE, will be permitted to use Huawei technologies in the future.

What’s Huawei’s stance?

Huawei’s cybersecurity chief John Suffolk told the BBC Huawei is “probably the most open and transparent organization in the world.” Rather than take Huawei at its word, however, Suffolk invited security companies to investigate it.

“The more people looking, the more people touching, they can provide their own assurance without listening to what Huawei has to say,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Trump may issue an executive order in the coming days banning U.S. companies from using Huawei tech.

Read next: If Huawei has a security problem, what exactly is it?

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Gary Explains: Is your smartphone spying on you? Mon, 18 Feb 2019 14:21:49 +0000

Digital privacy is a hot topic. We have moved into an era where almost everyone carries a connected device. Everyone has a camera. Many of our daily activities — from riding the bus to accessing our bank accounts — are done online. The question arises, “who is keeping track of all that data?”

Some of the world’s biggest tech companies are under scrutiny about how they use our data. What does Google know about you? Is Facebook transparent about how it handles your data? Is Huawei spying on us?

To try to answer some of these questions, I created a special Wi-Fi network which let me capture every packet of data being sent from a smartphone out to the Internet. I wanted to see if any of my devices were secretly sending data to remote servers without my knowledge. Is my phone spying on me?


To capture all the data flowing back and forth from my smartphone I needed a private network, one where I am the boss, where I am root, where I am admin. Once I have full control of the network, I can monitor everything that goes in and out of the network. To do this I set up a Raspberry Pi as a Wi-Fi access point. I imaginatively called it PiNet. Next, I connected the smartphone under test to PiNet and disabled mobile data (to be double sure I am getting all the traffic). At this point, the smartphone was connected to the Raspberry Pi but nothing else. The next step is to configure the Pi to forward all traffic it gets out to the Internet. This is why the Pi is such a great device, as many models have both Wi-Fi and Ethernet on board. I connected the Ethernet to my router and now everything that the smartphone sends and receives has to flow through the Raspberry Pi.

There are lots of network analysis tools out there and one of the most popular is WireShark. It enables real-time capture and processing of every data packet flying across a network. With my Pi between my smartphones and the Internet, I used WireShark to capture all the data. Once captured, I could analyze it at my leisure. The advantage of the “capture now, ask questions later” method is I can leave the setup running overnight and see what secrets my smartphone is revealing in the middle of the night!

I tested four devices:

What I saw

The first thing I noticed was our smartphones talk to Google a lot. I guess that shouldn’t surprise me — the entire Android ecosystem is built around Google’s services — but it was interesting to see how when I woke a device from sleep, it scurries off and checks your Gmail and the current network time (via NTP) and a whole bunch of other things. I was also surprised by how many domain names Google owns. I was expecting all the servers to be, but Google has domains with names like (which I guess is a reference to a Googolplex),,, and so on.

I checked and verified every domain and every IP address the test devices contacted to be sure I knew who my smartphone was talking to.

Besides talking to Google, our smartphones seem quite carefree social butterflies and have a wide circle of friends. These, of course, are directly proportional to how many apps you have installed. If you have WhatsApp and Twitter installed, guess what, your device contacts WhatsApp’s and Twitter’s servers on a regular basis!

Did I see any nefarious connections to servers in China, Russia, or North Korea? No.


Something your smartphone often does is connect to Content Delivery Networks to get ads. Again, which networks it connects to, and how many, will depend on the apps you install. Most advertising-supported apps will use libraries provided by the ad network, which means the app developer has little or no knowledge of how the ads are actually served or what data gets sent to the ad network. The most common ad providers I saw were Doubleclick and Akamai.

In terms of privacy, these ad libraries can be a controversial topic, because an app developer is basically trusting the platform to do the right thing with the data and only send what is strictly needed to serve the ads. We have all seen how trustworthy ad platforms are during our daily use of the web. Pop-ups, pop-unders, auto-playing videos, inappropriate adverts, ads that take over the whole screen — the list goes on. If ads weren’t so intrusive, there would never be ad blockers.

Amazon AWS

I saw a fair bit of network activity related to Amazon’s Web Services (AWS). As a major cloud server provider, Amazon is often the logical choice for app developers who need databases and other processing abilities on a server, but don’t want to maintain their own physical servers.

Overall, connections to AWS should be considered innocuous. They’re there to provide the services you asked for. However, it highlights the open nature of connected devices. Once you install an app there is potential it can send any and all of the data it has collected to a miscreant, even via a reputable service provider like Amazon. Android guards against this in several ways, including by enforcing permissions on apps, and with services like Play Protect. This is why side-loading apps can be very dangerous.

OK, Google

Google Home vs Amazon Echo

Since PiNet allowed me to capture every network packet, I was keen to check to see if Google was secretly spying on me by activating the microphone on my Pixel 3 XL and sending the data to Google. When you activate Voice Match on the Pixel 3 XL, it will listen permanently for the keyphrases “OK Google” or “Hey Google.” Listening permanently sounds dangerous to me. As any politician will tell you, an open mic is a hazard to be avoided at all costs!

The device is meant to listen locally for the keyphrase, without connecting to the internet. If the keyphrase isn’t heard, nothing happens. Once the keyphrase is detected, the device will send a snippet to Google’s servers to double-check if it was a false positive. If everything checks out, the device sends audio to Google in real-time until either a command is understood, or the device times out.

That is what I saw.

There is no network traffic at all, even when I talked directly at the phone. The moment I said”Hey Google” a real-time stream of network traffic was sent to Google, until the interaction stopped. I tried tricking the Pixel 3 XL with slight variations of the keyphrase like “Pray Google” or “Hey Goggle.” Once I managed to get it to send a snippet to Google for further validation, but the device didn’t get confirmation and so Assistant didn’t activate.

What does Google know about me?

Google offers a service called Takeout which allows you to download all your data from Google, ostensibly so you can migrate your data to other services. However, it is also a good way to see what data Google has on you. If you try to download everything the resulting archive can be huge (maybe more than 50GB), but that will include all your photos, all your video clips, every file you have saved on Google Drive, everything you uploaded to YouTube, all your emails, and so on. As a way to check privacy, I don’t need to see which photos Google has, I know that already. Likewise, I know what emails I have, what files I have on Google Drive, and so on. However, if I exclude those bulky media items from the download and concentrate on activity and metadata, the download can be quite small.

I downloaded my Takeout recently and had a poke around to see what Google knows about me. The data arrives as one or more .zip files containing folders for each of the different areas including Chrome, Google Pay, Google Play Music, My Activity, Purchases, Task, and so on.

Diving into each folder shows what Google knows about you in that area. For example, there is a copy of my Chrome bookmarks and a copy of the Playlists I created on Google Play Music. At first, there was nothing surprising. I expected a list of my Reminders, since I created them using Google Assistant, so Google should have a copy of them. But there were one or two surprises, even for someone as “tech savvy” as me.

The first was a folder of MP3 recordings of everything I ever said to my Google Home mini. There was also an HTML file with a transcript of all those commands. To clarify, these are commands I gave the Google Assistant after it was activated with “Hey Google.” To be honest I didn’t expect Google to keep an MP3 file of all my commands. OK, I get that there is some engineering value in being able to check the quality of Assistant, but I don’t think Google needs to keep these audio files. It’s a bit much.

There was also a list of all the article I have ever read on Google News, a record of every time I played Solitaire, and all the searches I have made on Google Play Music going back almost five years!

It turns out Google processes all your email messages looking for purchases and creates a record of them.

The one that really shocked me was in the Purchases folder. Here Google had a record of everything I have ever purchased online. The oldest item was from 2010, when I purchased some airplane tickets. The point here is that I didn’t buy these tickets, or any of the items, via Google. I have purchase records for items from Amazon, eBay, and iTunes. There are even records of birthday cards I bought.

Digging deeper I started to find purchases I didn’t make! After some head scratching it turns out that these records are the results of Google processing my email messages and guessing at purchases I have made. You have probably seen this especially with regards to flights. If you open an email from an airline, Gmail helpfully puts some summary information about your flight in a special tab at the top of the message.

It turns out Google processes all your email messages looking for purchases and creates a record of them. When someone forwards you an email about something they have purchased, Google can even inadvertently parse it as a purchase you have made!

What about Facebook, Twitter, and others?

Social media and privacy are in some ways contradictory. As Harold Finch said in the TV show Person of Interest about social media, “The government had been trying to figure it out for years. Turns out most people were happy to volunteer it.” With social media, we willingly post information including birthdays, names, friends, colleagues, photos, interests, wish lists, and aspirations. Then, having published all that information, we are shocked when it is used in ways we didn’t intend. As another famous character said about a gambling hall he frequented, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”

All the big social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, have privacy policies and they are fairly broad in what they cover. Here is a snippet from Twitter’s policy:

“In addition to information you share with us, we use your Tweets, content you’ve read, Liked, or Retweeted, and other information to determine what topics you’re interested in, your age, the languages you speak, and other signals to show you more relevant content.”

So, is your device connecting to Twitter and allowing Twitter to determine things like your age, the language you speak, and what things interest you? Sure.

It profiles you — and you let it do that.

Here is the key question: if I didn't have a smartphone, would that stop entities from spying on me if they wanted to?

Potential vs Actual

The biggest problem with connected devices and online entities is not what they are doing, but what they could do. I used the phrase “entities” intentionally because the dangers around mass surveillance, spying and profiling are not just about Google or Facebook. Ignoring genuine software mistakes (bugs) as well as the standard business models of big online companies, it is fairly safe to say Google isn’t spying on you. Neither is Facebook. Neither is the government. That doesn’t mean they can’t — or won’t.

Is some hacker or government spy somewhere activating the mic on your phone to listen to you? No, but they could. As we saw recently with the events surrounding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, entities can trick you into installing an app that spies on you. Companies like Zerodium sell zero-day vulnerabilities to governments, which could allow malicious apps (like Pegasus) to be installed on your device without you knowing.

Did I see any such activity with my devices? No, but I’m not a likely target for such surveillance and skullduggery. It could still happen to someone else.

Here is the key question: if I didn’t have a smartphone, would that stop entities from spying on me if they wanted to?

Before the launch of smartphones, every major government in the world was already involved in spying and surveillance. World War II was probably won by breaking of Enigma code and gaining access to the intelligence it hid. Smartphones aren’t to blame, but now there is a larger attack surface — in other words, there are more ways to spy on you.


Following my testing, I am confident none of the devices I used are doing anything unusual or malevolent. However, the issue of privacy is larger than just a device which isn’t being intentionally malicious. The business practices of companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are highly debatable and they often seem to push the boundaries of privacy.

As for spying, there’s no white van parked outside my house watching my movements and pointing a directional microphone at my windows. I just checked. Nobody’s hacking my phone. That doesn’t mean they can’t.

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13 things you need to know in tech for Monday, Feb. 18 Mon, 18 Feb 2019 12:13:14 +0000 Here’s your daily tech digest, by way of the DGiT Daily newsletter, for Monday, Feb. 18, 2019.

Sign up right here to get the full email with much more into your inbox.

1.Ever wanted a foldable phone that’s also a smartwatch?

CNET has worked on a nice scoop, tracking patent image filings and renders for a new set of potential foldable devices from TCL, including a hybrid smartwatch and foldable phone that looks impressive:

  • TCL’s gadgets, if these five different renders are accurate, show a variety of potential foldable devices that might just be nice enough to consider owning.
  • At IFA last year we saw Nubia show off a very early smartphone/watch called the Nubia Alpha (Android Authority).
  • The Nuba Alpha wasn’t much more than a prototype, and not particularly attractive, but a sign of things to come.
  • TCL makes a huge range of electronics, from TVs to appliances and smartphones, including the revived BlackBerry line and value-focused Alcatel line of smartphones, so it is fully capable of bringing out something good.

What’s new?

  • Five different options show us what TCL and other smartphone manufacturers are toying with – from two different fold-out tablets to horizontal folding smartphones, to a foldable phone/watch hybrid, which is the most striking.
  • That device is getting a few people excited around the gadget space: it may be a little more cumbersome than your standard smartwatch when folded, something like a bracelet or bangle.
  • But if it’s a smartphone it’d offer cellular connectivity, higher-end performance and storage, and potentially better battery-life as well.
  • CNET points out that a TCL executive told the publication just last month that the company will release its first foldable device in 2020.
  • It’s been a while coming. Some folks highlighted the Nokia Morph (back in 2008) was a concept just like this (YouTube), while Lenovo had a similar concept in 2016 (YouTube).
  • Will TCL’s concept actually emerge from beyond the leaks and rumors stage?
  • Well, LG news suggests it’s not all roses. The South Korean giant appears to have put its foldable phone on hold, focusing on “optional” dual displays instead (Android Authority).
  • “Management didn’t see the market as becoming very favorable for an expensive, first-gen foldable smartphone,” an LG spokesperson said.
  • Also: LG lost $700m in 2018 on its mobile division (Android Authority), so being aggressive may not be part of its 2019 plans.
  • More on foldables from MWC next week!

2. Here’s our first look at the LG V50: 5G, triple camera, and a 4,000mAh battery (Android Authority).

3. These are the best Android phones for power users (Android Authority). Until next week?

4. Here’s a fill in the blank smartphone quiz (Android Authority). 7/10 for me, but that wasn’t easy and I did get lucky once or twice.

5. A 16- to 16.5-inch size MacBook Pro with all-new design expected in 2019, says reliable Apple source Ming-Chi Kuo (MacRumors). Plus a large 6K external monitor, and more.

6. A $10 accessory proves smartphones are too big (WSJ – paywall). Spoiler: It’s a PopSocket.

7. “Stop saying, ‘We take your privacy and security seriously’” (TechCrunch).

8. Collections of curated lists hosted on Github are becoming more popular. Here’s the ‘Awesome’ list (Github) (it’s more focused towards developers)

9. The tech whiz behind Vine and HQ Trivia made millions in his 20s. He was dead by 34 (WSJ – paywall). Superb long read told with compassion.

10. In 1973, a photo of a Swedish Playboy model named Lena was used to engineer the digital image format that would become the JPEG. Yet the now 67-year old model herself remained a mystery — until now (WIRED).

11. “I’ve used Dvorak for 10 years, and I’m here to tell you it’s not all that” (The Verge).

12. DJI makes drone safety improvements with new 3D geofence (BBC).

13. Watch a harpoon successfully spear a piece of space junk (MIT Technology Review).

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Moto G7 Power launched in India, brings massive battery at a modest price Mon, 18 Feb 2019 11:48:09 +0000 moto g7 power front

Earlier this month, we got our first look at the new Motorola Moto G7 series. Following the global launch, the energy-focused Moto G7 Power has now made its way to India.

First spotted by FoneArenaa listing has surfaced on Flipkart giving us the official price for the smartphone. The Moto G7 Power like the rest of the Moto G7 line up plays it safe on the design front.

Editor's Pick

The 6.2-inch display on the Moto G7 Plus, has a fairly big notch in the middle. The screen itself has an HD+ resolution that is a bit of a disappointment when placed next to competitors like the Redmi Note 7 and Honor 10 Lite.

The major specifications include a Snapdragon 632 octa-core processor paired up with 4GB RAM. Users get 64GB of storage that can be expanded further via a microSD card.

moto g7 power back

The back of the phone continues the ‘Motorola’ design language so to speak with the 12-megapixel camera module and LED flash embedded within a raised circular pattern. Over at the front is an 8MP front-facing camera.

The Moto G7 Plus has a glass back, beneath which is a 5,000 mAh battery rated to last several days on a single charge. In our time with the phone, we liked how the glass felt in the hand as well as the gradient style finish of the blue variant. It appears that India will, however, only receive the black version of the phone.

moto g7 power

The Motorola Moto G7 Power is priced at ~$200 or 13,999 rupees in India and will be sold online via Flipkart. Do you think a large battery is enough of a reason to opt for the phone over solid competitors like the Honor 10 Lite, Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2 and the upcoming Redmi Note 7? Let us know in the comments.

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Samsung Galaxy S9 Android Pie update spotted for unlocked U.S. devices Mon, 18 Feb 2019 11:19:53 +0000 samsung galaxy s9 one ui review apps

It looks like the Android Pie update may now be rolling out to the carrier-unlocked Samsung Galaxy S9 in the U.S. The update has been spotted on Redditat PhoneArena, and via a tip from one of our readers (we couldn’t verify the claim, but the evidence is mounting).

The update has been for the S9 standard as well as the Galaxy S9 Plus, with the latter update coming in at more than 1.7GB. It includes the January 2019 security patches and updates the OS to the latest version of Samsung’s Android skin, One UI. You can find out more about what exactly that offers in our hands-on coverage here.

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus unlocked Android Pie update screenshot. Reddit

Sometimes these updates roll out to a small set of users before a wider rollout begins a while later, so treat this with caution until we learn more. If it is the real deal, however, it would bring a close to the major U.S. Pie rollouts for these devices, with T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint having also deployed the update recently.

Have you received the update for your U.S. unlocked Galaxy S9 or S9 Plus? Let us know in the comments.

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LG puts foldable phone on hold, focusing on “optional” dual displays instead Mon, 18 Feb 2019 10:33:20 +0000

LG has paused its foldable phone plans after evaluating the current market viability of them, LG Electronics mobile and TV boss Brian Kwon has confirmed. Speaking at a Seoul press conference yesterday (via The Korea Times), Kwon said: “We have reviewed releasing the foldable smartphone when launching 5G smartphone but decided not to produce it.”

Last year, LG’s former mobile CEO Hwang Jeong-hwan confirmed LG was developing a folding smartphone, but acknowledged it wasn’t concerned with being first to market. LG’s Android rivals Samsung and Huawei are developing folding display devices that may be unveiled as early as this week.

Editor's Pick

In an email today, an LG spokesperson said: “Since Mr. Hwang (former MC President) made that statement in October, management didn’t see the market as becoming very favorable for an expensive, first-gen foldable smartphone. So we’ve decided to focus our efforts in other areas, such as optional dual displays.”

Earlier in January, rumors emerged suggesting an LG device with an optional display was headed to MWC 2019. The extra screen is tipped to be part of an additional phone case.

LG isn’t the only manufacturer wary of the folding phone market. Last month, Honor President George Zhao said folding phones were “too thick and heavy,” and questioned if consumers really needed them.

With all of that in mind, Kwon said LG was “fully ready” to respond to folding smartphone demand if it’s there. It seems like LG has the technology, but whether it will pursue it may depend on what everybody thinks of the Galaxy F.

Up next: Folding phones with flexible displays, the ones we know about so far

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Ever wanted a foldable phone that’s also a smartwatch? TCL may be working on one Mon, 18 Feb 2019 09:18:43 +0000 A series of foldable devices purportedly by TCL.

A series of foldable devices purportedly by TCL. CNET

TCL is a name you’d usually associate with low-end Alcatel phones and BlackBerry-branded devices. But the company may be working on foldable devices too, according to CNET.

The outlet obtained renders and patent image filings for several devices (seen in the main image), and the most striking gadget is a foldable phone that turns into a smartwatch of sorts. It may be more cumbersome than your standard smartwatch — the folded design may be less secure and discreet than dedicated wriststraps — and TCL would likely need to heavily modify the Android skin for the watch form factor. But you’d also be getting cellular connectivity and plenty of storage by opting for this solution rather than a traditional smartwatch.

We also see two tablet-sized devices, with one featuring an in-folding screen akin to a book. Meanwhile, the other tablet-sized device folds outwards, much like the Royole Flexpai.

Editor's Pick

The last two foldable devices uncovered by CNET are folding smartphones, with one boasting a clamshell design (with the screen on the inside) while the other folds outwards (with the screen on the outside). The former solution could mean the display would be protected when folded, while the latter design may be more likely to get scratched in a pocket, but could provide always-on functionality.

The outlet also says it saw a rendering for devices with a “Surface Book-like gap in the middle.” This suggests that these particular devices wouldn’t have a proper folding display. In any event, it’s believed these images are preliminary and that TCL could still cancel or change the devices (if it is developing them at all).

A TCL executive previously told the publication that it would launch its first foldable device in 2020. Which folding design would you choose?  Give us your thoughts in the comments!

NEXT: The best Chromebook deals (February 2019)

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5 best ad blocker apps for Android! Mon, 18 Feb 2019 08:18:28 +0000 This is the featured image for the best ad blocker apps for android
Ad block is an essential experience for many people. Bad advertising can ruin experiences left and right, especially while browsing the web, playing games, and watching video content. Of course, there’s a necessary evil aspect to the whole thing, but people still use ad blockers anyway. There are several ways to get ad block on your Android device in at least some capacity. The most comprehensive ad blockers do require root or somewhat difficult setups.

Ad blocker apps aren’t generally in the Play Store. You can read here to find out why. Thus, most of the apps on the list require a third party download and installation. We didn’t have any problems doing so, but you may be a bit apprehensive. Also, more and more sites and services allow for payment in lieu of advertisements. We recommend that over ad blocking because it lets the creators of the content you enjoy continue doing so while also earning a living. Just a thought.

AdAway (Root only)

Price: Free
AdAway is a simple ad blocker app. It uses a modified hosts file to send all ad requests to In other words, the request goes nowhere and you see no ads. The app supports modified or custom host files or you can download a basic one from the app itself. Host files are stored in a read-only part of the Android system. That means root is required for this one. You can donate if you want to, but the whole app works for free. The only two downsides are that you must download them from F-Droid, not the Play Store, and that you need root access. Root users can always just change the host files themselves without an app if they want to.
AdAway (Root only)

Adblock Plus

Price: Free
Adblocker Plus is arguably the most popular ad blocker app on the list. It works on both rooted and non-rooted devices, although non-root users have some extra work to do. The app runs in the background and filters web traffic almost exactly like its web browser extension. You basically open it once, set it up, and then it runs on its own in the background. That's about it, really. Hit the button to go to the official website with instructions on installing and setting up Adblock Plus on both rooted and unrooted devices.


Price: Free / $24.99 per year
AdGuard is a bit of a wild card. We hadn't heard much about it before doing this article, but it seemed to work okay for us. The app blocks ads the same way as Adblock Plus. AdGuard runs as a service in the background and filters web traffic. It does work without root, but it requires a bit of extra setup. It also keeps tabs on all of your web traffic similar to apps like GlassWire. You also get a good looking Material Design UI to put everything together. The free version blocks ads in web browsers only. The premium version runs for $24.99 per month, but you do also get the premium version of AdGuard for your Windows PC or Mac computer.

Browsers with ad-block

Price: Free (usually)
There are a bunch of browsers with ad-block. These browsers filter out most ad traffic or at least the most offensive ad traffic. Google Chrome has ad-blocking, but it still shows the ads that are the least offensive to the viewer while leaving a few there so the sites can still make money. We recommend that as a happy medium (for obvious reasons). Some other examples of web browsers with ad block include Brave Browser, Firefox Focus, Kiwi Browser, Samsung Browser, and a few others have ad blocker add-ons like Firefox and Dolphin Browser. Choose the one you think will do the best for you.
Browsers with ad-block

Block This

Price: Free
Block This is not the most popular ad blocker app on the list. However, it is effective, open source, and completely free to use. This app uses the same VPN style setup that Adblock Plus and AdGuard use. However, Block This uses DNS blocking instead of a filter. The developer claims this method uses less battery than standard ad blocker apps because most of the work is done before the data reaches your Android device. There are pros and cons to using this approach. For the time being, we still recommend something like AdBlock Plus or an ad blocking browser. However, we like the idea quite a bit.
Block This

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Motorola’s 5G Moto Mod has feature to limit radiation exposure, but why? Mon, 18 Feb 2019 06:49:52 +0000 The 5G Moto Mod on a Moto Z3.

  • Motorola’s 5G Moto Mod has a feature to limit millimeter wave radiation exposure.
  • An FCC filing shows that the add-on has several sensors to detect fingers around the module.
  • Antennas close to those fingers will shut down in order to reduce exposure.

The 5G Moto Mod will allow the Moto Z3 to become one of the first commercially 5G-enabled smartphones in the world. We’re inching ever closer to a release, and an FCC filing for the add-on has revealed it has a way to limit radiation exposure from millimeter waves.

Motorola’s filing, spotted by The Verge, mentions that the 5G Moto Mod has capacitive and proximity sensors to detect your fingers. These sensors aren’t for Edge Sense functionality, however, as it shuts off any antenna close to your fingers.

“The control mechanism is a simple one in which, if proximity detectors indicate the potential presence of the user within a roughly conical region in front of the module where power density may approach the MPE [maximum permissable exposure – ed] limit, that module is disabled from use by the modem. This terminates and prevents transmission from the module in question until the condition is cleared,” reads an excerpt of the filing.

Any reason for the feature?

In any event, the outlet notes that millimeter wave radiation is non-ionizing, and is also encountered at airport security scanners. But it’s still interesting to see Motorola take this approach in order to reduce exposure — even if the module is only approaching (and not exceeding) FCC limits.

Editor's Pick

The feature seems to imply that radiation is a concern of some kind in the transition to 5G, even if it’s still within the allowed limits. Or it could simply be a case of Motorola being excessively cautious. We’ve contacted the manufacturer for comment regarding the functionality, and will update the story if/when they respond.

Motorola’s filing also notes that the 5G Moto Mod is compatible with the Moto Z3 Pro. Unless this is an error, it means that we should expect a souped-up Moto Z3. The device packed 2017’s Snapdragon 835 chipset and a ho-hum 3,000mAh battery, so a Moto Z3 Pro would presumably offer a more powerful chipset and bigger battery. It’s unclear when this model will launch, but a release alongside the 5G Moto Mod seems like a sensible decision.

NEXT: Here’s our first look at LG V50 — 5G, triple cameras, and a 4,000mAh battery

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