Weekend Roundup: Samsung Galaxy S4 faces flak, Moto X launches, and password security under the microscope

Motorola launches Moto X smartphone

Following hot on the heels of the launch of the new Nexus 7 tablet and the unveilings of both Android 4.3 and the Chromecast HDMI stick, Google subsidiary Motorola stepped into the spotlight this week to pull the cloak on its latest flagship handset, the Moto X. It was Motorola's most important announcement since becoming part of the Google family and created a considerable buzz amongst both smartphone enthusiasts and business leaders eager to ascertain Motorola's post-acquisition potential.

All eyes were therefore on New York, and while the Moto X launch was shrouded in secrecy in a way rarely seen in the typically porous mobile world, the event ultimately gave birth to the tempting mid-range device many anticipated - a 4.7in handset sporting a 10-megapixel 'ClearPixel'-branded camera, myriad customisation options, and the intriguing Motorola X8 chipset. For many, the SoC was the real star of the show - the X8 is a dual-core, Snapdragon S4 Pro-based configuration featuring Adreno 320 GPUs and backed up by 2GB of RAM.

But the Moto X launch also produced a fair amount of disappointment. It turns out the Moto X is slated as a US-only release, its burly 'Born in the USA' credentials so patriotic it's unfit to venture outside of the land of the free. Motorola has quickly moved to reassure the old world that the Moto X is merely the first in its new family of devices, some of which will be rolled out to the UK and Europe. Righteous sounding sentiment, forsooth - but it will scarcely soften the blow for those who were looking forward to getting their paws on the Moto X in the near future.

That said, it's still well worth checking out our hands on with the Moto X. It may not be setting sail for Blighty any time soon, but it's a good indicator of what we can expect from Motorola Mobility going forward - and possibly even harks forward and hints at how the Google Nexus 5 might be shaping up.

The pet password conundrum

Pets. If you're like us, you probably adore them. But humanity's fondness for its animal companions may be putting its online security in jeopardy. At least, that's what a recent survey of Google Apps web users found. According to the study, we love our pets so much that we have a worrying tendency to immortalise them in our passwords. Despite being aware of the risks of casual password assignation, pet names topped the list of the most popular phrases, followed by wedding anniversaries, dates of birth, and children's names.

Risky online behaviour extends beyond password choice, however. Nearly half of the respondents in the Google Apps investigation admitted to sharing secret words with others, while some 10 per cent said that they have been able to successfully gain access to a colleague's device in the workplace by guessing the password. Eye-opening stuff, all of it - but it's not the first time that our laissez-faire attitudes towards digital security have been dramatically underlined. The fact is, passwords are weak - an uncomfortable truth, especially for enterprise leaders looking to safeguard sensitive data in the BYOD era. If passwords are habitually soft, the question is: what can replace them? And that's precisely what our resident malware crusader Will Dalton addressed this week, examining what's better than weak passwords in today's temperamental security landscape.

Samsung Galaxy S4 mired in controversy

Samsung's latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4, has predictably remained in the headlines this week – albeit largely for the wrong reasons. First came the news that a Galaxy S4 handset had exploded at a man's home in Hong Kong, burning down his apartment and very nearly taking names in the process. The Galaxy S4 Fireball, as we've dubbed it, may or may not have been the result of failings by Samsung components, with some early speculation pointing to the use of a knock-off charger by Mr Du as the cause of the combustion.

However, while the Hong Kong blaze is certainly one for the annals, the more worrying news for smartphone geeks is that Samsung is accused of cooking Galaxy S4 benchmarks.

An investigation this week revealed that clock speeds for Galaxy S4 chipsets may have been inflated - jumping by up to 11 per cent in the case of the GPUs. Of more concern still is that the benchmarks involved are widely used in the hardware world. Antutu, GLBench, and Quadrant are all big in the benchmarking game, yet it looks like they allow themselves to be manipulated and all-too-easily optimised for certain configurations and architectures.

The question the is whether Samsung is to blame, or if it's the benchmarks at fault? Both sides are likely culpable, but Antutu in particular has a growing reputation for artificial boosting - prior to the Galaxy S4 drama, some experts noted that it had been optimised for x86 architecture and Intel chipsets in particular. Whatever the case, it underlines the importance of independent hardware analysis - like our closer look at the Galaxy S4 benchmarking scandal.