mfioretti: smartphone*

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  1. In the summer of 2016, Lenovo’s Motorola unit did something unusual for an Android phone maker: It announced an ambitious idea for a new kind of phone, and then vowed to stick with it for several years.

    To distinguish the Moto Z from other high-end Android phones, Motorola offered a set of “Moto Mods” that could snap onto the Moto Z’s backside, adding features like a better speaker, a 10x optical zoom camera lens, and a backup battery pack. And instead of just pushing the concept on its own, Motorola turned to accessory makers and entrepreneurs for help, promising that whatever they built would work with three generations of Moto Z phones.

    Eighteen months later, more than a dozen Moto Mods are now available, including a hands-free Alexa speaker, a game controller, a magnetic car dashboard mount, and a Polaroid photo printer. Meanwhile, an accelerator program for independent mMd makers is close to yielding its first product–a snap-on physical keyboard–after more than a year of development. After all this time, the modular hardware ecosystem seems close to paying off.

    But amid broader struggles at Lenovo, it’s unclear how much longer the idea will last. Lenovo has acknowledged that its $2.9 billion acquisition of Motorola from Google in 2014 hasn’t led to smartphone profits as planned, and last month the company confirmed layoffs to the Motorola team in Chicago. Although Lenovo says work on the Moto Z and Moto Mods will continue–and a new version of the phone is rumored for later this year–the company will only speak in generalities about the future.
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  2. “I can be in my bed for hours on my phone, and that’s me being bored,” said Maxine Marcus, a 17-year-old and founder of The Ambassadors Company, a teen consulting business. “You think that we’re so entertained because we’re on our phones all the time, but just because we’re on it, doesn’t mean we’re engaged or excited. I get bored on my phone all the time.

    “When you’re bored on your phone, you’re just sitting with your own thoughts. You’re on it, but it’s just an action so your brain still goes wherever it wants to go. You get bored and you start thinking and daydreaming,” she added.

    It’s important to note that the majority of time users spend on their phones, they spend engaged. Tech companies go to exorbitant lengths to keep users active and attentive. If you’re posting photos, liking, commenting, reading, or watching something on your phone, you’re not phone bored.
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    Phone boredom hits when you’ve cycled through everything there is to do on your device and you’re left feeling stranded.
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  3. Smartphones are particularly insidious for a few reasons. With a two-year average life cycle, they’re more or less disposable. The problem is that building a new smartphone–and specifically, mining the rare materials inside them–represents 85% to 95% of the device’s total CO2 emissions for two years. That means buying one new phone takes as much energy as recharging and operating a smartphone for an entire decade.
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  4. emerge un rischio anche entro soglie considerate "sicure". A lanciare l'allarme uno studio dell'Istituto Ramazzini di Bologna, attraverso il Centro di ricerca sul cancro Cesare Maltoni, il più vasto mai realizzato in materia. Ma la rivista internazionale Environmental Research dove lo studio è stato pubblicato, ha rimosso temporaneamente l'articolo dal sito web per motivi tecnici.

    La ricerca del Ramazzini ha esaminato esposizioni alle radiofrequenze mille volte inferiori rispetto a quelle utilizzate in un'analisi precedente del National Toxicologic Program americano, e sono stati individuati gli stessi tipi di cancro. Scoprendo aumenti statisticamente significativi nell'incidenza di tumori rari delle cellule nervose del cuore, nei ratti maschi del gruppo esposto all'intensità di campo più alta (50 V/m). Inoltre, gli studiosi italiani hanno scoperto un aumento dell'incidenza di altre lesioni: l'iperplasia delle cellule di Schwann sia nei ratti maschi che femmine e gliomi maligni (tumori del cervello) nei ratti femmine alla dose più elevata.
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  5. In a study published Monday in the journal Emotion, psychologists from San Diego State University and the University of Georgia used data on mood and media culled from roughly 1.1 million U.S. teens to figure out why a decades-long rise in happiness and satisfaction among U.S. teenagers suddenly shifted course in 2012 and declined sharply over the next four years. Was this sudden reversal a response to an economy that tanked in 2007 and stayed bad well into 2012? Or did it have its roots in a very different watershed event: the 2007 introduction of the smartphone, which put the entire online world at a user's fingertips?

    In the new study, researchers tried to find it by plumbing a trove of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders' responses to queries on how they felt about life and how they used their time. They found that between 1991 and 2016, adolescents who spent more time on electronic communication and screens -- social media, texting, electronic games, the internet -- were less happy, less satisfied with their lives and had lower self-esteem. TV watching, which declined over the nearly two decades they examined, was similarly linked to lower psychological well-being. By contrast, adolescents who spent more time on non-screen activities had higher psychological well-being. They tended to profess greater happiness, higher self-esteem and more satisfaction with their lives. While these patterns emerged in the group as a whole, they were particularly clear among eighth- and 10th-graders, the authors found: "Every non-screen activity was correlated with greater happiness, and every screen activity was correlated with less happiness."
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  6. Children who are cyberbullied are three times more likely to contemplate suicide, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics in 2014. With such facts and figures, who could argue that there’s something to worry about. Throw in the increased unease within big technology companies such as Facebook about the corrosive effects of rumor and fake news in its feeds, and among executives such as former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya that they’ve unleashed a potentially destructive force, and the argument would seem airtight.

    Except that it’s not. Widespread parental apprehension combined with studies lasting only a few years, with few data points, and few controls do not make an unequivocal case. Is there, for instance, a control group of teens who spent an equivalent amount of time watching TV in the 70s or playing arcade video games in the 80s or in internet chat rooms in the 90s? There is not. We may fear the effects of the smartphone, but it would seem that we fear massive uncertainty about the effects of the smartphone at least as much.

    Any new technology whose effects are unknown bears careful study, but that study should start with a blank slate and an open mind. The question should not be framed by what harm these devices and technologies cause but rather by an open-ended question about their long-term effects.

    Take the frequently cited link between isolation, cyber-bullying, depression and suicide. Yes, suicide rates in the U.S. have been on the rise, but that has been true since the early 1990s, and prevalence is highest among middle-aged men, who are most disrupted by the changing nature and demographics of employment but are not the teens spending so many hours glued to their devices. Cyber-bullying is an issue, but no one kept rigorous data about physical and psychological bullying in the 20th century, so it’s impossible to know if the rate and effects of bullying have grown or diminished in a cyber age. As for depression, there too, no one looked at the syndrome until late in the 20th century, and it remains a very fuzzy term when used in mainstream surveys. It’s impossible to say with any certainty what the effects of technology and depression are, especially without considering other factors such as income, diet, age, and family circumstances.

    Some might say that until we know more, it’s prudent, especially with children, to err on the side of caution and concern. There certainly are risks. Maybe we’re rewiring our brains for the worse; maybe we’re creating a generation of detached drones. But there also may be benefits of the technology that we can’t (yet) measure.

    Consider even an anodyne prescription such as “everything in moderation.” Information is not like drugs or alcohol; its effects are neither simple nor straightforward. As a society, we still don’t strike the right balance between risk and reward for those substances. It will be a long time before we fully grapple with the pros and cons of smartphone technology.
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  7. La strada che il Miur ha scelto di imboccare va nella direzione opposta rispetto alla Francia, dove da pochi giorni il ministro dell’Istruzione Jean-Michel Blanquer ha introdotto il divieto di usare gli smartphone a scuola. Due risposte alternative al medesimo fenomeno: in Italia l’89,3% dei giovani usa i 'telefoni intelligenti', col primo apparecchio posseduto già a 8-9 anni. L’Italia punta sull’educazione a partire dalla convinzione che «proibire l’uso dei dispositivi a scuola non è la soluzione » (n.2). Chi avrà ragione?
    Il decalogo

    1 Ogni novità comporta cambiamenti. Ogni cambiamento deve servire per migliorare l’apprendimento e il benessere delle studentesse e degli studenti e più in generale dell’intera comunità scolastica.

    2 I cambiamenti non vanno rifiutati, ma compresi e utilizzati per il raggiungimento dei propri scopi. Bisogna insegnare a usare bene e integrare nella didattica quotidiana i dispositivi, anche attraverso una loro regolamentazione. Proibire l’uso dei dispositivi a scuola non è la soluzione. A questo proposito ogni scuola adotta una Politica di Uso Accettabile (PUA) delle tecnologie digitali.

    3 La scuola promuove le condizioni strutturali per l’uso delle tecnologie digitali. Fornisce, per quanto possibile, i necessari servizi e l’indispensabile connettività, favorendo un uso responsabile dei dispositivi personali (BYOD). Le tecnologie digitali sono uno dei modi per sostenere il rinnovamento della scuola.

    4 La scuola accoglie e promuove lo sviluppo del digitale nella didattica. La presenza delle tecnologie digitali costituisce una sfida e un’opportunità per la didattica e per la cultura scolastica. Dirigenti e insegnanti attivi in questi campi sono il motore dell’innovazione. Occorre coinvolgere l’intera comunità scolastica anche attraverso la formazione e lo sviluppo professionale.

    5 I dispositivi devono essere un mezzo, non un fine. È la didattica che guida l’uso competente e responsabile dei dispositivi. Non basta sviluppare le abilità tecniche, ma occorre sostenere lo sviluppo di una capacità critica e creativa.

    6 L’uso dei dispositivi promuove l’autonomia delle studentesse e degli studenti. È in atto una graduale transizione verso situazioni di apprendimento che valorizzano lo spirito d’iniziativa e la responsabilità di studentesse e gli studenti. Bisogna sostenere un approccio consapevole al digitale nonché la capacità d’uso critico delle fonti di informazione, anche in vista di un apprendimento lungo tutto l’arco della vita.

    7 Il digitale nella didattica è una scelta: sta ai docenti introdurla e condurla in classe. L’uso dei dispositivi in aula, siano essi analogici o digitali, è promosso dai docenti, nei modi e nei tempi che ritengono più opportuni.

    8 Il digitale trasforma gli ambienti di apprendimento. Le possibilità di apprendere sono ampliate, sia per la frequentazione di ambienti digitali e condivisi, sia per l’accesso alle informazioni, e grazie alla connessione continua con la classe. Occorre regolamentare le modalità e i tempi dell’uso e del non uso, anche per imparare a riconoscere e a mantenere separate le dimensioni del privato e del pubblico.

    9 Rafforzare la comunità scolastica e l’alleanza educativa con le famiglie. È necessario che l’alleanza educativa tra scuola e famiglia si estenda alle questioni relative all’uso dei dispositivi personali. Le tecnologie digitali devono essere funzionali a questa collaborazione. Lo scopo condiviso è promuovere la crescita di cittadini autonomi e responsabili.

    10 Educare alla cittadinanza digitale è un dovere per la scuola. Formare i futuri cittadini della società della conoscenza significa educare alla partecipazione responsabile, all’uso critico delle tecnologie, alla consapevolezza e alla costruzione delle proprie competenze in un mondo sempre più connesso.
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  8. After several weeks of development, eelo is running as a beta.

    The real challenge isn't building a new front-end. It's removing Google Play Store, Google Play Services, and Google Services. That's not easy. While Android developers don't have to use any of them, they are very useful.

    For installing programs, Duval is turning to the alternative Android program repositories F-Droid and APKPure. Ideally, he wants an an "eelo store," which would deliver both official free applications like APKPure and open-source applications such as offered in F-Droid.

    To replace Google Services, Duval plans on using MicroG. This is an open-source implementation of Google's proprietary Android user space apps and libraries. To deal with programs that use Google's SafetyNet Attestation Application Programming Interface (API) -- an API that checks to make sure the application runs in a Google Android compliant environment -- Duval thinks eelo will probably use Magisk Manager. This is a program that enables Android applications to run on smartphones, such as rooted systems, that would normally block them.

    For search, the plan is to offer privacy-enabled DuckDuckGo and the new privacy oriented search engine Qwant. You'll also be able to pick your own search engine, since as Duval admits, "in some cases, it Google » is still offering the best results."

    Then, there are all the invisible internet services most people never think about, such as Domain Name System (DNS), which can also be used to track you. To deal with this, by default, eelo will use the Quad 9 DNS. The Global Cyber Alliance (GCA)'s Quad 9 both preserves privacy while blocking access to known malicious sites.

    Low-level proprietary smartphone hardware drivers remain a problem -- but, short of building an eelo phone from the circuits up, that's beyond eelo's current scope.

    It's still early days for eelo, and Duval is welcoming support both on eelo's KickStarter page, where the current goal is to raise $120,000, and by talking directly to him via e-mail at or by following him on Twitter or Mastodon.

    Can it work? While alternatives to Android and iOS have failed more often than not, Android forks have had more success. With people increasingly desiring more privacy, I think eelo has an excellent chance of becoming a viable niche operating system
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-03)
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  9. Android is a mostly free operating system developed mainly by Google. Unfortunately, the drivers for most devices and most applications from the "market" are not free (as in free speech, not free beer). They frequently work against the interest of the users, spy on them, and sometimes cannot even be removed.

    This campaign can help you to regain control of your Android device and your data. We collect information about running an Android system as free as possible and try to coordinate the efforts in this area.

    You want a mobile device that is really yours when you bought it? You want a mobile device that does not spy on you and hands over your data to big corporations? Then read on!
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-15)
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  10. It has been ten years since a turtle-necked Steve Jobs first held up a now ubiquitous white object exclaiming that it was a music player, a cell phone, and an internet communicator all in one. Charmingly — and uncharacteristically — shortsighted about his hopes for the device, Jobs was most effusive about how easily the iPhone would allow people to talk to one another.

    Flash forward to the present, 2017. When people say they’ve talked to someone, they rarely mean in person. And they almost never mean on the phone. An anecdote derived from having “spoken” with somebody is usually accompanied by a fluttering of fingers to indicate that the conversation was carried out over text. Or Facebook messenger. Or Instagram. Or Snapchat. When is the last time you saw someone extend their pinky toward their chin and their thumb to the right eardrum in the ancient sign for “phone?”

    We can’t get much more cell-phone addicted than we are now. With few exceptions, we use our cell phones to tell us what to eat, whether or not our bodies need more sleep or exercise (yes, both), how to get where we are going…we even trust the secret guru buried inside of our SMS cards to tell us who to date. And with the progress being made in virtual reality, we can use our phones to have sex.

    The tenth anniversary of the iPhone’s unveiling came flanked with frantic articles about what could possibly come next — what could be around the corner when our smartphones already accomplish so damn much? Google Glass was superfluous and smartwatches a bit desperate, and as for everyone signing up for nanobot implants to be permanently connected to the Internet, thankfully, we’re not there yet.

    In a new book I have coming out, called Touch, a noted trend forecaster is tasked with answering just this question for a major tech company: what’s up next, in tech? Her answer is a disappointing one in respect to her employer’s bottom line. She’s convinced the world is on the threshold of a resurgence in face-to-face interactions that don’t require any technology at all.

    This premise is one that’s near and dear to my Luddite heart, but it’s also one that the former trend forecaster in me firmly believes. You see, when I was in my twenties and thirties, I worked as a consultant for boutique trend forecasting agencies, most of them in France. In an industry that prizes intuition, no one sits you down and tells you how to spot trends, but it only takes scrutinizing the past year’s “Best-Of” listicles to learn that trend forecasting, on a basic level, is a game of opposites and apexes. Take literature, for example: If 2015 was big in bleak dystopians, you can probably count on seeing the return of epic family sagas that pack a lot of hope. If the seven figure advances were going to the doorstoppers last year, next year, they’ll go to the novels that end at forty-thousand words.

    This see-saw pattern can hold true in tech, too. The key is to look for peaks and saturation points. Sophisticated entertainment systems and MP3 players paved the way for the return of the vinyl record. The seeming futility of smartphones (which were so instrumental in electing Obama) to prevent a nation from needling toward The Orange One led many of the disillusioned to leave the echo chambers of social media for the brick and mortar streets.

    It would seem we’ve reached an apex in mobile phones as well, which is an exciting place to be. 2016 was the first time that Apple’s sales for cell phones waned. The iPhone 7 Plus doesn’t have much more to offer, in terms of versioning, than the iPhone 7, or, for that matter, the 6S or the SE. Plus, in the wake of an unforeseen election helmed by a hatemonger who’s physically incapable of putting down his phone, it’s really not that cool to be addicted to your cell. So yes. Indeed, the question begs. What in the world is next?

    I haven’t donned my trend forecaster fascinator in years now — its feathers are ragged, the beads have fallen off. A mother to a three year-old, I mostly use my intuition to divine whether or not my toddler is going to pee her pants. But I haven’t been out of the game so long that I can’t spot something around the corner: I think we’re about to see the rise of slow communication, heralded by the return of the dumb phone.

    I think we’re about to see the rise of slow communication, heralded by the return of the dumb phone.

    Because, let’s face it — sure, maybe the aesthete literary critic who roasts his own espresso beans has the time and willpower to flat out cancel his cell phone contract, but most of us do not have such bravura. What many of us do have, however, is the desire to maintain a healthier balance with our cell phones, which, weirdly, I think is going to be accomplished by the trend setters purchasing a secondary phone — a dumb phone — that only calls or texts.

    Just as smokers sometimes suck on straws or alcoholics survive cocktail parties with a death-grip on their seltzer, cell phone addicts need a replacement habit, too. But in order to top the fathomless bright connectivity of our touch-screens, it’s gonna have to be something super cool. And as hipsters on one-speeds the world over have proven, what’s cooler than something kind of ugly that doesn’t really work?

    Sure, Jasper Morrison has had a very sleek and overpriced dumb phone on the market, sitting stagnantly, for years, but I’m nevertheless convinced that secondary cell phones are about to trend. New-to-the-market The Light Phone is out to make the telecommunications downgrade easier with slim-as-hotel-card companion phones that let you keep your own phone number. Light Phones necessitate that their early-adopters go cold turkey on digital communication. At the time of writing, they can take calls, but they can’t text. The idea of changing our communication patterns so drastically is both overwhelming, and immensely appealing. With it becoming all too easy to know what others are thinking and doing at all times, (and eating, and wearing, and even evacuating in the case of certain over-sharers), it could become the height of sophistication to be unfindable again. Aspirational, even, to literally get lost because your dumb phone doesn’t have a GPS.

    It will also be a status symbol, a way to instantly communicate to others that you’re digitally detoxing. Likewise, secondary dumb phones can be used to accord a certain hierarchy to relationships: imagine what it signals to a potential partner if you show up with a dumb phone on a first date. Leaving your smartphone behind tells the people you’re engaging with that they’re worth being fully present for.
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