New Samsung phone: Nicer camera, static design, higher price

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This Wednesday Feb, 21, 2018, photo shows the camera lens of a Samsung Galaxy S9 mobile phone. (AP)
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In this Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, photo, the Bixby virtual assistant software of a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus mobile phone translates a foreign language sign during a product preview in New York. (AP)
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In this Feb. 21, 2018, photo, the dual camera lens of the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus mobile phone is shown in this photo during a product preview in New York. (AP)
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In this Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, photo, the Bixby virtual assistant software of a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus mobile phone translates a foreign language sign during a product preview in New York. (AP)
Updated 25 February 2018
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New Samsung phone: Nicer camera, static design, higher price

NEW YORK: Samsung unveiled new smartphones with largely unchanged designs and incremental improvements such as a better camera — accompanied by a second annual price increase for many customers.
The static design of the new Galaxy S9 underscores both the slowing pace of smartphone innovation and the extent to which other manufacturers, particularly Apple, have caught up with Samsung features that once stood out. That includes everything from edge-to-edge screens to facial recognition to a water-resistant body.
The new phone’s biggest selling point is a collection of minor improvements to its camera, which is already among the best in the smartphone business . The S9 promises even better low-light shots, while offering a video mode that appears to freeze fast-moving objects, matching a feature in some Sony phones. The S9 can automatically detect when there’s high-speed motion to record, such as a cork popping off a bottle of champagne. A fifth of a second of video gets stretched out into six seconds.
While single features like this aren’t likely to drive buying decisions, the slow-motion effect could be “the kind of thing that will get a lot of attention,” said Bob O’Donnell of the research firm Technalysis.
For the first time in a major phone, the S9 will let you change the camera’s aperture to let in more light, making for better images in dark settings.
But analyst Carolina Milanesi of Creative Strategies warns that despite the improvements, the new camera is competing with already good cameras in earlier Samsung phones.
Nonetheless, you may have to pay more, though nothing quite at the level of last year’s $100 price hikes for the Galaxy S8. For instance, AT&T is raising prices of the base model by $40 to $790. As people hold onto phones longer before upgrading, manufacturers and carriers often hike prices to make up for lost revenue. Some of the increases will be offset with promotions. And T-Mobile will cut prices from last year’s models.
The new phones were unveiled Sunday in Barcelona, Spain, and will be available March 16. Advance orders begin this Friday. Unlike Apple, Samsung lets carriers set their own prices and typically doesn’t make an unlocked version available right away.
Here are some additional things to know:
UNCHANGED: The S9 features the same screen, same virtual home button and same battery capacity as the S8. Samsung did move the fingerprint sensor on the back to reduce smears on the camera lens.
A SECOND LENS: The camera on the Plus model now has a second lens with twice the magnification, a feature already available in Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 and some iPhones. This means sharper close-ups.
FUN WITH SELFIES: Snap a selfie, and Samsung’s software will turn that into an emoji version of you for sharing. It’s usually a static image, though you can produce an animated version — much like the iPhone X’s Animoji feature.
VISUAL ASSISTANT: Samsung’s Bixby digital assistant mimics a similar Google feature that pulls up information on landmarks or other items you’ve just photographed. New Bixby capabilities let it instantly translate signs (point the camera, and the phone replaces the sign’s text in a matching color and font) and provide nutritional info for that restaurant meal you’re splurging on.


China suspected in huge Marriott data breach, official says

This May 19, 2014, file photo shows the master bedroom in the Abu Dhabi Suite at the St. Regis in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (AP)
Updated 13 December 2018
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China suspected in huge Marriott data breach, official says

  • Officials from the Justice Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that China is working to steal trade secrets

WASHINGTON: Investigators believe hackers working on behalf of China’s main intelligence agency are responsible for a massive data breach involving the theft of personal information from as many as 500 million guests of the Marriott hotel chain, a US official said Tuesday.
Investigators suspect the hackers were working on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of State Security, an official briefed on the investigation told The Associated Press.
The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, said investigators were particularly concerned about the data breach in part because Marriott is frequently used by the military and government agencies.
Marriott, which announced the data breach on Nov. 30, has not disclosed what it knows about the source of the hack, which included the theft of credit card and passport numbers over four years from guests who stayed at hotels previously operated by Starwood.
Marriott acquired Starwood, which includes such brands as Sheraton, W Hotels and St. Regis, in 2016.
“Our primary objectives in this investigation are figuring out what occurred and how we can best help our guests,” Marriott spokeswoman Connie Kim said. “We have no information about the cause of this incident, and we have not speculated about the identity of the attacker.”
The revelation of suspected involvement by China comes amid heightened tension with the US over trade; the arrest in Canada on an American warrant of a top executive of Chinese electronics giant Huawei; and alarm among law enforcement officials about Chinese efforts to steal technology to bolster its growing economy.
President Donald Trump said he would get involved in the Huawei case if it would help produce a trade agreement with China, telling Reuters in an interview Tuesday that he would “intervene if I thought it was necessary.”
Officials from the Justice Department, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that China is working to steal trade secrets and intellectual property from US companies in order to harm America’s economy and further its own development.
Chinese espionage efforts have become “the most severe counterintelligence threat facing our country today,” Bill Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, told the committee. “Every rock we turn over, every time we looked for it, it’s not only there, it’s worse than we anticipated.”
Priestap said federal officials have been trying to convey the extent of the threat to business leaders and others in government. “The bottom line is they will do anything they can to achieve their aims,” he said.
Cyber-security expert Jesse Varsalone, of University of Maryland University College, said the Marriott hack does have signs of a foreign intelligence agency involvement. They included its duration and the fact that the information stolen, including details about travel by individuals, would be valuable to foreign spies.
“It’s about intelligence, human intelligence,” he said. “To me, it seems focused on tracking certain people.”
Priscilla Moriuchi of Recorded Future, an East Asia specialist who left the National Security Agency last year after a 12-year career, cautioned that no one has put out any actual data or indicators showing Chinese state actor involvement in the Marriott intrusion.
In the last few months, the Justice Department has filed several charges against Chinese hackers and intelligence officials. A case filed in October marked the first time that a Chinese Ministry of State Security intelligence officer was extradited to the United States for trial.
Prosecutors allege the operative, Yanjun Xu, recruited employees of major aerospace companies, including GE Aviation, and attempted to persuade them to travel to China under the guise of giving a presentation at a university. He was charged with attempting to steal trade secrets from several American aviation and aerospace companies.
Such investigations can be time-consuming and difficult. The Justice Department is training prosecutors across the country to bring more of these cases, Assistant Attorney General John Demers told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We cannot tolerate a nation that steals the fruit of our brainpower,” he said.