Ahead of tomorrow’s big reveal, everything we know about the Moto X

Motorola has released several phones under Google’s ownership, but one gets the impression that this is the first one Google has been excited about.

It’s been nearly two years since Google first announced its plans to acquire Motorola Mobility—ostensibly for its patent portfolio—and just a bit over a year since the acquisition was finalized. For all that, it still feels like we’re waiting to see what Google plans to do with the company, aside from laying off its employees and posting financial losses. Google’s Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette even went on the record in February to say that Motorola’s products lacked “innovative, transformative” qualities, and that Google was still working through the company’s pre-acquisition hardware pipeline (we may have seen some of those devices this morning at Verizon’s Droid event, in fact).

By all indications, that’s finally about to change. Rumors about a coming “X Phone,” later dubbed the Moto X, have been building since late last year. Eric Schmidt himself has been spotted carrying one around already. Motorola’s logo has even been changed to incorporate Google’s flatter, simpler aesthetics and to include a Google logo. These changes indicate that Google is finally taking ownership of Motorola in spirit as well as on paper.

If Google’s past statements are any indication, the Moto X represents the dawn of a new era for Motorola, one that will see its sprawling and convoluted product line boiled down to just a few handsets. Let’s talk about what we know about the (much-leaked) Moto X, and what future advancements it may be heralding.

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Yelp inches slowly toward profitability, losing just $878,000 in one quarter

About 15 months ago, Yelp, the renowned service review website, became one of the latest tech companies to bring an initial public offering. But the company has long discovered it’s hard to translate tons of reviews into profits: since Yelp began keeping track in 2008, it’s been losing increasing amounts of money nearly every year.

In the corporation’s latest earnings report, posted on Wednesday, Yelp’s year-over-year quarterly revenue reached $55 million, a 69 percent growth over the second quarter of 2012. However, Yelp continues to lose money. This quarter, the company sustained a net loss of $878,000. The good news? That’s a small fraction of the more than $5.6 million lost in total during the first half of 2013.

By comparison, at this point in 2012, the San Francisco firm already lost $11.7 million. And by the end of that year, Yelp reached a net loss of $19.1 million—the largest annual loss the company sustained to date. Still, in after-hours trading today, investors showed modest confidence in the new earnings report, boosting Yelp’s stock price by more than seven percent. It’s currently hovering slightly under $42.

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Senators take intelligence officials to the mat over secret courts, phone metadata

As intelligence officials came under fire over controversial National Security Agency (NSA) spying programs at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday morning, two senators announced that they would introduce legislation aimed at reforming the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and—in an apparent response to a recent petition from technology firms and civil liberties groups—providing more public information about government surveillance.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said he would introduce a bill this week requiring the government to report on the number of Americans swept into its databases and allowing Internet companies to disclose more information about the requests they receive from intelligence agencies. While several prominent firms have begun issuing “transparency reports” detailing the law enforcement requests for user information, intelligence orders typically come with gag orders forbidding the recipients from revealing even the existence of the request. The firms—joined by civil liberties groups—have lobbied hard for permission to reveal more about how, and how often, they respond to government demands for user data.

Franken also criticized the government’s “ad hoc transparency” about its programs, arguing that selective disclosure of information in response to leaks “doesn’t engender trust.” He pointed to the government’s decision to release, just minutes before the hearing began, several documents related to the NSA’s massive phone log database, which collects the “call detail records” of nearly all Americans under the Patriot Act’s Section 215 “business records” authority. “Did you start thinking about this, like, yesterday?” Franken asked sarcastically, suggesting that the new disclosures were driven more by political convenience than any change in the risk to national security posed by the documents.

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NSA director addresses Black Hat, says there have been “zero abuses” of data

NSA Director General Keith Alexander.

LAS VEGAS—At the Black Hat security conference today, National Security Agency (NSA) Director Keith Alexander defended the NSA’s data collection programs and described at a high level what data is collected and how it’s used.

His presentation covered two programs, both revealed by Edward Snowden: telephone metadata collection and a program of collecting from the computer industry data relating to foreign nationals, of which PRISM is a component. According to Alexander, the phone metadata collection, authorized under FISA section 215, was both limited and tightly controlled. The NSA collects only the time and date of a call, the phone numbers involved in a call, the duration of a call, and the service provider that captured the information. Notably, he said that names, address information, and location information were not captured. Nor was any conversation data collected, such as the contents of voice calls or text messages.

While this data was collected, Alexander said that access to the information was tightly restricted. Free-for-all queries weren’t permitted. Instead, numbers had to be individually approved by one of 22 people at the NSA, and only 35 analysts within the agency were authorized to run queries on those numbers. In 2012, he said that fewer than 300 numbers were added to the list.

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Zynga sues “Bang With Friends” for trademark infringement

Yes, like just about everything in this world: there’s an app for that—even gettin’ freaky.

Since the beginning of 2013, Facebook users have been able to use the “Bang With Friends” app to choose which one of their friends they’d like to do the horizontal tango with. But here’s the tricky part: the app won’t show the object of your affection that you’ve selected them until they select you back. (Sneaky!)

But there’s just one problem: Bang With Friends sounds a lot like another, more established online app: “Words with Friends,” or “Chess with Friends,” or a bunch of the other “…with Friends” apps made by Zynga. So it’s no surprise that the social gaming company has now filed a federal lawsuit against Bang With Friends, charging the younger upstart with trademark infringement, among other allegations.

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Hands-on with Microsoft’s Office Mobile for Android

Following up on its release of an Office app for Apple iOS devices, Microsoft has released Office Mobile for Android. As the name implies, it’s an app that gives Android phone users the ability to access and edit documents created in the Microsoft Office desktop suite.

But as with the iOS app, there are caveats. You have to be a subscriber. And it’s utterly worthless to tablet users. The Android app will not install on tablet form-factor devices, which is a strike against it compared to the iOS version. That at least runs in a very low-resolution mode on the iPad. However, the Android app does allow users to open Office-formatted documents from other apps, including DropBox, so you’re not entirely shoehorned into the Microsoft ecosystem for collaboration.

Users of Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium, Office 365 University, or an enterprise Office 365 account that includes licenses to the Office 2013 productivity suite can download the app for free from the Google Play store. Those without a subscription can buy one from within the app during initial startup. To see what fun may await you, we’ve got a look at some of the app’s features below.

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