Personal technology

Robert Cookson

As apps go, Ant Smasher sounds simple enough. The free game, which has been downloaded more than 50m times from the Google Play app store, allows mobile phone users to entertain themselves by squishing digital ants as they scurry down the screen. Splat, splat, splat.

But Ant Smasher has a dark side. It is one of a growing wave of apps that contains “adware” – aggressive advertising technology that displays ads in a phone’s notification bar and other places outside of the app itself, without consent. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Apple introduced a much-needed and radical redesign for its Mac Pro desktop line this week, but its refreshing of the MacBook Air was all internal – the laptop’s look has not changed since its revamp in 2010.

Since then, many Windows laptops have tried to copy the Air’s classic wafer-thin looks and it has inspired an entire “Ultrabook” category, created by Intel. But, after trying the new Air and its most recent competition, it’s easy to see why Apple felt no need to change things externally. Read more

Chris Nuttall

The Computex show in Taiwan this week has featured some inventive takes on computing, including Asus’s Transformer Book Trio that works as a Windows 8 notebook and desktop as well as an Android tablet.

Next to that, announcements from Sony and Toshiba around the show seem rather conventional, with pens featured and the latest fourth-generation “Haswell” Core processors from Intel. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Days after August’s launch, yet another smart lock has come knocking on the door in the shape of Goji, which launches an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign today.

Goji stands out from other remotely operated deadbolts with its built-in camera, which takes and emails or texts you a picture alert of the person entering your home. So you can check what state your son was in when he came in at 3am or see if the cleaner sent someone else to do her shift. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Microsoft’s attempt to introduce consumers to the wonders of touch with Windows 8 amounted to a rough shove. The operating system’s poor reception has prompted a rethink and details of an updated version were unveiled on Thursday.

Windows 8.1, available as a preview from June 26, will bring back features familiar to and missed by Windows 7 users, including a Start button – but no Start menu – and the choice of not beginning their bootup experience with the touch-optimised “Modern” tile interface. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Two Silicon Valley companies delivering thousands of entertainment channels over the internet have announced significant funding rounds and milestones for their services.

Roku, whose set-top box delivers more than 700 channels of movies, TV, music, radio and web content, has received $60m in a Series F round, while TuneIn, which gives access to more than 70,000 radio stations, has bagged $25m in Series C funding. Read more

Paul Taylor

A new mobile service operator called ItsOn aims to shake up the US smartphone business by offering users the ability to tailor their voice, text and data plans precisely, and – perhaps most interestingly – buy data by the app.

The company’s Zact service – a play on the word ‘exact’ – operates as a cloud-based mobile virtual network operator, buying capacity on Sprint Nextel’s 4G/LTE network and reselling it to its own customers via a smartphone app or web page.

 Read more

Chris Nuttall

Things are looking up for Nokia in the US, a territory where it was unloved and unrepresented by operators not so long ago.

Now it has not one but two carriers touting its latest Windows smartphones, with Verizon launching the Lumia 928 this week and T-Mobile having its own exclusive with the 925, unveiled in London on Tuesday and available at a date to be announced in the US. Both represent advances on its signature Lumia 920 launched last year. Read more

Robert Cookson

What does Bitcoin have in common with 3D printing, besides both being technologies loved by geeks? On the face of it, not much: one is a digital currency and the other allows you to reproduce almost any small, solid object in the world.

But as lawmakers are starting to realise, there is a key similarity: both Bitcoin and 3D printing have the potential to reduce the power of the state and put it into the hands of individuals. Read more

Chris Nuttall

The Fitbit is no longer fiddly.

Its San Francisco-based maker has removed my chief problem with this useful health tracker – launching a Fitbit Flex version today that straps to my wrist rather than the USB-stick shaped predecessor that was always getting lost in one of my pockets. Read more