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ExtraBITS for 4 April 2016

In ExtraBITS this week, the FBI has agreed to unlock an iPhone related to an Arkansas homicide, Verizon is adding a $20 fee to phone upgrades, and Amazon is trying to banish non-compliant USB-C cables from its store.

FBI to Unlock iPhone in an Arkansas Homicide Case — Apparently, it wasn’t just about one iPhone. Despite the government’s protestations that it wasn’t seeking a backdoor when asking Apple to unlock the iPhone in the San Bernardino terrorism case, the Associated Press is reporting that the FBI has now agreed to help an Arkansas prosecutor unlock an iPhone and iPod associated with a double homicide. It remains to be seen if the FBI will share its knowledge of how the unlocking is being achieved with Apple, but it’s conceivable that the hack works only on older
iPhones or models running a particular version of iOS. At that point, the FBI could both share the information with Apple and still use the technique on iPhones currently in the possession of law enforcement when possible.

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Verizon Wireless Adding $20 Upgrade Fee — According to a leaked memo published by MacRumors, Verizon Wireless is instituting a $20 flat rate upgrade fee for customers upgrading to a new iPhone or other smartphone in order to cover support costs. Starting 4 April 2016, the charge will be applied to new smartphones purchased on a Device Payment financing plan or at full retail price, and even to customers taking advantage of Apple’s iPhone Upgrade program. AT&T and Sprint, but not T-Mobile, have similar upgrade fees.

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Amazon Bans Non-compliant USB-C Cables — We’ve reported previously on how poorly made USB-C cables could ruin a laptop. Online retailer Amazon is now taking steps to protect its customers from such cables, adding to its list of prohibited items “Any USB-C (or USB Type-C) cable or adapter product that is not compliant with standard specifications issued by ‘USB Implementers Forum Inc.’” Amazon vendors caught selling faulty cables risk Amazon closing their accounts and destroying any merchandise stored in the company’s fulfillment centers. While this isn’t a
guarantee that all cables purchased through Amazon will work properly, third-party vendors now have extra incentive to sell only quality cables. We hope to see other online retailers follow Amazon’s lead, but even still, we recommend sticking with reputable manufacturers when buying USB-C cables.

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