Partnership With Chinese App Store Shines A Light On The Hidden World Of Jailbreak Groups

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Jailbreak releases for new iOS products are major events. In the early years, release teams would celebrate major holidays with a new jailbreak or SIM unlock and millions of anxious users would rush for the latest software. Much has stayed the same – the excitement, the rush to jailbreak. But something has changed: jailbreaks have become big business.

Take Evasi0n, for example. After launching an iOS 7 jailbreak users found that, on computers with the language set to Chinese, the program automatically installed a program called TaiG (Tai-Gi or Tai Chi). This Chinese app store offered Chinese-language apps but a little something extra, as well: pages and pages of cracked, pirated games.

The group made “around a million dollars” in placement fees for adding TaiG to Chinese iPhones. While the actual number is currently unknown, my source explained that the rumors were true and that the fee was well within that “order of magnitude.”

The Evasi0n team, for their part, responded online to allegations that they had been paid to put pirated app stores on users’ phones.

Yes, we have benefitted financially from our work, just as many others in the jailbreak community have, including tweak developers, repo owners, etc. Any jailbreak from us will always be free to the users but we believe we have a right to be compensated in an ethical way, just as any other developer. However, the interests of the community will always be the most important thing to us. When releasing the jailbreak, we pledged all our donations to foundations supporting the interests of the community. We are deeply upset at how we have inadvertently distressed the community and we are focused on fixing it.

“We are very upset that despite our agreement and review by their team, piracy was found in the store. It was not acceptable and they have been strenuously working to resolve the problem in good faith, and have removed all instances of it that we have brought to their attention,” they wrote.

“The jailbreak works and people should use it,” said Jay Freeman aka saurik, creator of Cydia, a popular “feature store” that allows users to shop for tweaks and updates to their iPhone’s OS.

“The thing that bugs me [about TaiG] is there’s tons of piracy in it. We’re not about piracy. It used to be that if you wanted to pirate you did have to jailbreak. That’s no longer the case. But people still look at us we’re those pirate assholes,” said Freeman.

Jailbreaking is a business now. Saurik himself makes a living off of having his app installed on jailbroken phones and the Evasi0n team, among others, make money selling space in their apps. In short, things have come a long way since the lone hacker spent time cracking iOS in his spare time.

What does the TaiG partnership mean? Very little, in the long run. Even George Hotz aka Geohot, a well-known early iPhone jail breaker, attempted to sell his own jailbreak technique to unidentified buyers for $ 350,000 to a commercial customer.

In the end, Evasi0n released theirs for free, heading potential for-pay jail breakers off at the pass. That they made money for adding TaiG, in fact, should be immaterial. That the TaiG app store contains pirated material, however, is another matter entirely. Now that jailbreaking is a business, people want to get paid, but not this way.

“They do good work and I think they deserve money for it,” said Freeman.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

This Week On The TechCrunch Droidcast: What To Get The Android Lover Who Has Everything

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After a whirlwind trip in Toronto, my co-host Darrell Etherington and I are back in our respective countries and ready to talk about what’s new with Android. But first, a heartrending disclaimer — we were not wearing festive sweaters while recording the show like the image would indicate, but we did get a little festive talking about Google’s new Play Edition devices, what’s new in the world of Google Glass, and our picks for last minute Android-centric gifts. That’s got to count for something right?

And as for next week? Christmas does indeed land on Droidcast day, and the two of us may just sneak away from our families to spend a few moments discussing what (if any) Android goodies were left under the tree for us. Why would we do that? Because we love you thiiiiiiiiiiis much.

We invite you to enjoy weekly Android podcasts every Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern and 2:30 p.m. Pacific (generally speaking), in addition to our weekly Gadgets podcast at 3 p.m. Eastern and noon Pacific on Fridays. Subscribe to the TechCrunch Droidcast in iTunes, too, if that’s your fancy.

Intro music by Kris Keyser

Direct download available here.

 


TechCrunch » Android

Gift Guide: Something For A Twenty-Something

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Twenty-somethings are some of the hardest people to shop for. They’re changing so quickly, interests waxing and waning by the day, making it pretty difficult to figure out a great gift for the holidays.

But have no fear.

At least one of these four suggestions should be a good fit for a young professional or college student, whether they’re your family member or a friend.

Roku 3

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The Roku 3 is quite possibly the best media streaming device available. Where all the tech specs are concerned, it’s got best-in-class technology under its tiny, shiny hood, which ultimately means that it works more reliably than other options like the Apple TV. For a young pupil off at University, Roku makes it dead simple to play Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, and a thousand other channels by simply hooking it up to a TV and turning it on. Plus, the Roku 3 remote comes with headphones that let you listen to the content privately, a feature which could keep roommates happy during finals time.

Fitbit Force ($ 129)

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The freshman fifteen is a real thing, trust me. Being away at school makes it easy to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, with no one telling you to do otherwise. But a good way to stay motivated and aware of your health is to use the Fitbit Force. The biometric wristband doubles as a watch, but also offers intensive metrics on your calorie burn, steps taken, flights climbed, etc. You can even input nutritional information into the accompanying app to have a full read on your health over time.

Mophie Juice Pack Helium ($ 79)

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FOMO has never been stronger than it is today, with the majority of humans simply addicted to their smartphones. College kids are among the worst, which means that their smartphones are always dropping like flies. The Mophie Juice Pack Helium for iPhone ensures that the phone can stay with you through the day and doesn’t add on too much bulk, offering 80 percent extra battery. Indicator lights on the back give you a read on when the Mophie itself is charged, and how much battery it has left throughout the day. You can snag this guy for $ 80.

B&W P7 Headphones ($ 399)

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Music is a huge part of any college experience, and a nice set of headphones can make all the difference walking to class, studying at the library, or hanging out in the dorm. The P7 over-the-ear headphones from Bowers & Wilkins are far more expensive than ultra popular Beats headphones, but they also stand out from what everyone else is wearing. But being stylish is only a small fraction of what the P7 headphones bring to the table, with sound quality that is truly impressive. They even come with a microphone attachment so you can switch between music and phone calls.

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TechCrunch » Gadgets

Facebook Eyeing Up A $10-$15M Acquisition Of India’s Little Eye Labs

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We now have more details on Facebook’s plans to acquire Bangalore-based Little Eye Labs, an Indian startup whose primary product is a software tool for analyzing Android apps’ performance. Multiple sources have told us that the two companies exchanged the term sheets few weeks ago, and that a final announcement could be made by mid-January. The deal size is expected to be in the range of $ 10-15 million.

Overall, the Little Eye Labs acquisition fits right into in Facebook’s mobile ambitions, an area where it has lagged rivals like Twitter, despite having some 874 million of its 1.19 billion-strong (September figures) user base logged on via mobile devices. And Facebook has been on the lookout for startups that could potentially help it gain a greater foothold on mobile devices.

As part of its aggressive mobile strategy, Facebook acquired Parse, a mobile-backend-as-a-service startup in April of this year.

A Facebook acquisition of Little Eye Labs would mean a lot for an Indian startup that’s less than one-and-a-half years old, and it would mean much more for the Indian startup ecosystem as a whole, where acquisitions of this profile have been tough to come by. While exploring potential acquirers, Little Eye Labs also pitched to Twitter, but Facebook seemed to offer a better deal, another source added.

One of the sources who shared some details about this proposed acquisition said that if the deal closes, most of the Little Eye Labs’ founding team will move to Facebook’s U.S. headquarters, and work there as part of the mobile engineering team.

Little Eye Labs caught the attention of potential acquirer(s) in Seedcamp, London, where the startup was refining its product along with 20 other companies. Gaurav Lochan, who joined Little Eye labs from India’s largest e-commerce company, Flipkart, earlier this year, had this to say about using the startup’s tool for fixing a bug in Google’s official I/Q app at the event. Flipkart, was also the first customer for Little Eye Labs.

Kumar Rangarajan, co-founder of Little Eye labs, had even acknowledged that the company was in discussions with Facebook earlier this month, after reports of the acquisition first surfaced. However, Rangarajan could not be reached at the time of publication. A Facebook spokesperson, who had earlier declined to offer any comments, has also not responded.

The Little Eye founders — Kumar Rangarajan, Satyam Kandula, Lakshman Kakkirala and Giridhar Murthy, all worked together previously at IBM. They started Little Eye Labs in August 2012 and were part of the GSF Accelerator’s batch from October to December of the same year. In March of this year, the startup raised seed funding of around $ 300,000 from GSF and Venture East.

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A Little Eye Labs acquisition would not be the hugest deal for Facebook, especially when compared with its $ 85 million acquisition of Parse. But it would be an important enough piece in the social network’s overall mobile strategy. I know of several Indian startups working in the mobile space who hope acquisitions like these will raise the profile of the ecosystem.


TechCrunch » Android

Today In Dystopian War Robots That Will Harvest Us For Our Organs

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Hello, future IKEA Swedish meatballs! How are you this Friday? Ready to be torn to bits by sharp, gnashing, robotic teeth? I bet you are. In this exciting edition of TIDWRTWHUFOO we meet some tiny flying robots, some big climbing robots, and some bigger flying robots.

First, say hello to the DelFly Explorer. This teeny weenie little flying robot weighs 4 grams – as much as four sheets of paper – and flies autonomously around the room using on-board computing and vision to keep the robot from crashing into anything. All of the processing power is on board the ultralight robot and it moves by flapping its funny little wings. But don’t let it hear you calling it funny. It will cut you. You can learn more about it here.

Think you can escape from the DelFly by climbing a tree? Not so fast, buster. Take a look at RiSE from Boston Dynamics, a six-legged robot that can climb walls, hump over ledges, and even jump from tree to tree. It’s a little old, but it tells you just what Google has in store for us when we get out of line in the woods.

Finally we see these exciting flying robots that self-right themselves when they’re thrown in the air. The InstantEye from PSITactical is a tool for creating instant vantage points above a scene without having to take the time to launch devices into the air. I can also imagine them self-righting after we smack at them with baseball bats. Again… and again… and again.


TechCrunch » Gadgets