The Wrap – June 30, 2017

A big virus that you shouldn’t get, Pandora goes dark, and even a dose of good news, too, with new phones aplenty. It’s your EOFY Wrap, and it won’t cost you a thing.

Transcript

For the last day of June this year, this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest serving of technology delivered right to your ears, and this week that serving comes with good news and bad news, because a lot has happened, and it’s kind of divided.

Let’s start with the bad news, because it’s always good to get the bad out of the way, so we can end on a bit of a high note.

First there’s trouble in paradise if you normally approach the internet with your head in the sand, with the ostrich move rarely a good thing to do, especially when there are so many dangers lurking.

Let’s just be clear: you don’t need to be afraid of the internet, but it’s good to approach emails and websites with a hint of suspicion and a touch of trepidation, and this week more so than ever, because there’s a new security exploit out, and boy is it a doozy.

Called “Petya”, it’s a piece of ransomware that is less about ransom and more about destruction, trashing and replacing your computer’s master boot record, making it very difficult to not only find your operating system, but potentially find files on your computer, too.

This is different from your regular run of the mill piece of ransomware too, because while they’re still bad when they lock up files you like and don’t unlock them until you pay a ransom – hence the name – Petya is more about killing your computer than asking you to pay up, though variants may do that, also.

While we’ve heard it initially targeted Europe, Petya has managed to break free, making its way to Australia and America, turning it into a serious threat.

In fact, the security whiz kids at Kaspersky Labs told Pickr that ransomware threats shouldn’t be taken lightly in Australia, because our country had amongst the highest ransomware statistics last year, telling us that “on a scale of 1 to 10, the danger level involved in a ransomware attack is 11”.

That’s a pretty serious issue, and so with this thing spreading over email, you’re advised to check through emails carefully and don’t open attachments unless you know what they are and who sent them.

Oh, and make sure you get some internet security on your computer, because that’s obviously the first line of defence, followed by that education of not clicking and downloading what you don’t need.

Now Petya is one bit of bad news, and there’s also one other, because if you use Pandora’s online customisable radio service in Australia, you won’t be for much longer.

This week, Pandora Australia announced that it will be pulling the plug on local operations, shutting up shop today and shuddering the service for Australians in the coming weeks.

It’s bad news if you’re one of the million or so Aussies who relied on the digital radio service, one of the first of its kind that allowed you to shape a radio station based on your own musical preferences simply by starting with an artist, a song, or a style and hitting thumbs up or thumbs down on tracks you liked or didn’t.

In a few weeks, though, it may not matter. While Pandora wouldn’t return our requests for comment on what Australian subscribers will be able to do, the company did tell us it was focusing on its business in the United States and would wind down the service for local listeners shortly.

That means if you do subscribe, you may want to try out a different service in Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, or something else, because when August comes, you might be lucky enough to still be connected, but it wouldn’t surprise us to see a geoblock go into action like it did from 2007 to 2013.

So you’ve had your bad news, so let’s get stuck into the good news, and this week the news is good as the old phone makers return to Australia.

First up, there’s Motorola, a name that practically means mobile phones in this country.

In truth, Motorola has been around for a while, but this week the Hello Moto Startac and RAZR brand has a few more varieties launching.

First there’s the new Moto Z2 Play, a not-quite-flagship that offers a super thin 5.9mm thickness yet still keeps the 3.5mm headset jack, providing a 5.5 inch Full HD screen, 64GB storage, a microSD slot, and a 3000mAh battery.

The big deal with the Z2 Play isn’t the specs or how thin it is, however; it’s the Moto Mods, Motorola’s accessories that snap onto the back of the phone, just like they did with last year’s Moto Z and Moto Z Play. Priced at $699, it comes across as a high-end mid-range phone, or a well-priced high-end phone, and it’s not the only model Motorola is releasing.

Two other models are on the way, a new Moto C and Moto E, delivering phones for the $149 and $249 price points, essentially getting more into budget phones than the company has in ages.

In fact, the Moto C is the one that interests us, getting an Android 7 smartphone down to a $149 price point at the expense of the screen. That makes the Moto C feel like it’s perfectly skewed to kids and seniors, or just anyone who won’t necessarily need the best of the best of the best.

Finally there’s Nokia. You remember them right? The company that probably made your first phone, unless you’re so young that an iPhone was your first, you lucky person you.

If you had a Nokia first, it was probably one of the popular ones, a 5110, a 6110, a 3310, or an 8110. Maybe something with a “50” in the name, and a customisable colourful case, not to mention Snake, a remake of the old game Nibbler that everyone remembers.

Well Nokia is back under ownership of HMD Global, a new Finnish company that aims to keep the Nokia name going.

Australia will even see some of those new Nokia phones, with three specifically hitting market shortly, though they’re different from the colourful button-based feature phones we’re used to.

Instead, the Nokia 3,Nokia 5, and Nokia 6 are touchscreen phones made for a different market, specifically that of budget and mid-range.

The phones appear to offer exactly the sort of mid-range specs we’d expect, but in 5, 5.2, and 5.5 inch displays, and Nokia is keeping Android the way Google says it should be, making Nokia very similar to Motorola in that regard.

It’s kind of surreal, actually, because both Motorola and Nokia are kind of doing the same thing in the mid-range and budget, but they’re also probably the oldest of all the phone companies now. It’s a little surprising, though hopefully it allows both of them to pave the way for something a little more grand.

Tell you what, though, that “grand” future is coming, with one of the biggest mobile chip makers Qualcomm this week showing off a new fingerprint sensor that works inside the glass.

Like a taste of the future, this new sensor will mean you merely have to touch the screen and the phone will unlock, almost like something out of the future.

It’s a pretty special technology that feels like it’s come right out of science fiction, and it’s coming, expecting to be in phones next year. Maybe Motorola and Nokia will have it.

We guess we’ll find out in 2018, and we can’t wait, but we’ll have to try because we’re out of time, and here we are without a time machine.

We’ll be back next time provided nothing major happens to stop us from recording, so you can expect more news and even a review in the tiniest of times. Until then, have a great week!

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