Roundup of the month – 5 things you might have missed

“In the world of mobile, life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.

Judging by my obvious fondness for the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the paraphrased quote seems appropriate for today’s mobile and tech industries. There’s rarely a day when a new mobile device or technological advancement doesn’t make the headlines. So much so, that as Ferris (brilliant played by Matthew Broderick) rightly states, you could miss it if you don’t stop and look around once in a while.

With that in mind here’s our roundup of the month – a brief recap of news that you may have missed in the last four weeks or so.

1. Samsung’s super-sized Galaxy View tablet

Samsung Galaxy View Tablet

The 18.4-inch tablet was officially announced by Samsung in late October and launched at $599 in the US (though it’s already discounted to $499 on the company website) on 6th November.

So what is the Galaxy View? Essentially it’s a huge Android 5.1 tablet packing a full HD touchscreen, stereo speakers, a powerful CPU, and a few tweaks here and there to focus on media consumption / playback.

“The dedicated home screen for videos showcases various content services all in one place, making it easy and convenient for people to enjoy the latest entertainment,” said Samsung.

Unfortunately for anyone in the UK waiting to get their hands on one there’s no official release date yet – though it should be any day now. More details on the Galaxy View can be found here.

2. The US halts mass phone surveillance program

NSA Carpet

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been running its mass phone surveillance program for quite some time now. But the Freedom Act apparently now forbids the NSA from collecting the “phone metadata”, a move which came into effect on Sunday 29th November. The upshot is that agents now require a court order to obtain data from telecoms companies, and then can only perform the monitoring for 6 month at a time.

While the US hasn’t completely stopped spying on its citizens, the cessation of the phone surveillance program is generally seen as a positive one. Unfortunately, the new rules don’t apply to foreign intelligence gathering or other intelligence-gathering efforts such as “PRISM” (concerned with Internet surveillance).

3. BlackBerry launches new Android mobile called the Priv

BlackBerry PRIV 2

The Android-based BlackBerry Priv was rumoured online for months, and so came as no surprise when the device officially went on sale earlier this month. BlackBerry inspires strong feelings in a lot of our readers who hold a soft spot for the company’s smartphones. Under leadership of John Chen, they are in the process of trying to make a comeback (of which the Priv is a part) with a focus on security. Not forgetting the excellent physical keyboard, something of a rarity these days.

We’ve briefly covered the Priv phone in a related article.

4. First “Li-Fi” prototype unveiled

Li-Fi

We all know what Wi-Fi is. But how many people have heard about Li-Fi? Chances are a few of our readers are familiar with the term, but it’s a technology still in the research and development phase though getting ever closes to commercial availability. Inventor Harald Hass, chair of Mobile Communications at the University of Edinburgh, first gave a TED talk back in 2011 about this light based alternative to Wi-Fi, and more recently gave an update on progress at a more recent TED talk. The talk was held in September but released this month, hence there’s been a glut of tech articles in November discussing this promising technology.

Li-Fi uses visible light communication (VLC) to transmit and receive data – a single LED light bulb is able to create a high speed wireless Internet connection that’s faster than Wi-Fi and more secure (as light obviously won’t travel through walls, nobody can snoop on the signals in a nearby room for instance).

Back in 2012, Haas said: “My big idea is to turn light bulbs into broadband communication devices … so that they not only provide illumination, but an essential utility. It’s a bit like sending a Morse code signal with a torch, but at a much faster rate and using the alphabet that computers understand”.

As part of a partnership with the University of Edinburgh’s Li-FI R&D Centre and a company called pureLiFi, they have developed a Li-Fi router, which means that in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to connect all manner of mobile devices and gadgets to the Internet using a Li-Fi system. Pretty exciting stuff.

Wikipedia has some technical information and history of Li-Fi here, or check out the pureLiFi website for more details.

5. New series of 361 Podcast

Ewan has been hard at work on series 11 of the 361 Degrees Podcast. I admit putting this at number five is a blatant excuse to blow our own trumpet.

At the time of writing episode 2 (“Blooming Marvellous Apps”) has already been published, so if you haven’t already done so it’s well worth listening to.

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