Amazon Adds Free Encryption to Storage Service

Using Amazon Web Services' new Server Side Encryption feature, enterprises will at no extra cost be able to encrypt data stored on the company's Simple Storage Service (S3), Amazon said on Tuesday.

The Server Side Encryption feature has been added to simplify the process of protecting data stored on S3. Previously, enterprises had to choose an encryption algorithm, create and store keys, and adapt applications to ensure that all data was encrypted and decrypted for every operation. Now users can leave that to Amazon. The Server Side Encryption feature handles all encryption, decryption and key management transparently, according to a blog post.

The data is encrypted when an extra header is added when writing an object to S3. Each object is encrypted with a unique key. As an additional safeguard, this key itself is encrypted with a regularly rotated master key. The encryption algorithm Amazon uses is AES-256, it said.

Enterprises can start to take advantage of Server Side Encryption using Amazon's Management Console and the S3 API.

That Amazon added encryption on its servers isn't terribly exciting, according to Swedish security expert Jakob Schlyter. The feature would help protect data if someone managed to break into one of Amazon's data centers, and steal a disk that stored company data. That has to be weighed against what would happen if something went wrong with Amazon's key management, and data was lost because of that, Schlyter said, and added that he would still use client-side encryption.

On Tuesday, Amazon also said that the number of objects stored on S3 increased to 566 billion during the third quarter of this year, after reaching 262 billion objects during the last quarter of 2010.

The company is also hiring new staff to the S3 team, including a software development manager, development engineer and business development representative, who will all be based in Seattle.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Apple Announces IPhone 4S to Crowd

Apple on Tuesday announced the iPhone 4S, a 3G smartphone with improved hardware designed to allow the device to run applications faster than its predecessor, the iPhone 4.

The iPhone 4S will run on a dual-core A5 processor, which also will allow the device to run graphics up to seven times faster than prior models, said Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide product marketing at Apple, during an event held at the company's Cupertino campus. That could allow for a better gaming experience and 1080p video playback. The iPhone 4's A4 chip provides up to 720p of video playback.

The iPhone 4S will be priced at US$199 for a 16GB model, $299 for a 32GB model and $399 for a 64GB model, with a two-year contract.

The smartphone will be available on Oct. 14 in the U.S. through AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. It will also become available in Canada, Australia, the U.K., France, Germany and Japan on that day. It will become available in 24 more countries by Oct. 28, and in 70 countries by the end of the year.

Video: Apple Unveils Souped-Up iPhone 4S

The new smartphone will offer eight hours of 3G talk time, 14 hours of 2G talk time and 10 hours of video on one battery charge. The device will also offer nine hours of Wi-Fi browsing time and six hours of 3G browsing time.

The iPhone 4S is also a world phone, which means it has a baseband chip that will work on both GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks. The iPhone 4 previously had two separate models for the GSM and CDMA networks. The iPhone 4S will also have an 8-megapixel camera, as many analysts had predicted.

The iPhone 4S also includes retina display, like the iPhone 4, which started shipping in June last year. The naming convention is much like the iPhone 3GS, which was considered an incremental upgrade from iPhone 3G.

The iPhone 4S will run on iOS 5, which the company introduced earlier this year. The OS includes about 200 more features than earlier versions, including Twitter integration, the new iMessage application for communication between iOS devices, and a unified center for notifications on email, text messages and more. The OS will also include the free iCloud syncing and hosting service for music, photos and other data, which will become available on Oct. 12.

The company also announced a new version of the iPod Touch, which will come with iOS 5. An 8GB model will be priced at US$199, a 32GB model at $299 and a 64GB model at $399. The new device will also come in white and become available on Oct. 12.

(Additional reporting by Macworld staff.)

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Apple iPhone 4S: A Deep Dive Into the New iPhone's Hardware

Apple iPhone 4S: A Deep Dive Into the New iPhone's HardwareApple iPhone 4SAfter more than a year with the iPhone 4, the iPhone 4S--announced Tuesday by Apple CEO Tim Cook--seems a bit, well, underwhelming.

The hardware announced today offers no design overhaul. Apple upgraded the phone's camera from a 5-megapixel sensor to an 8-megapixel sensor, though, and the iPhone 4S will use the same dual-core A5 chip that the iPad 2 does.

4G capability? Forget it--Apple isn't going that route this time. We already knew about iOS 5 and its features for a while, but the inclusion of the Siri voice-activated software was a nice surprise.

That isn’t to say that I’m dissatisfied. Last year’s iPhone 4 still holds up among smartphones released this year, and the internal enhancements in the iPhone 4S, while a bit late to the game, are certainly welcome. The iPhone 4S is a good phone that has become even better, but I certainly wouldn’t call it “revolutionary.” And, on second thought, Apple didn’t either.

[Read: Apple iPhone 4S Features Roundup: A Visual Tour]

Design: No Changes, No Problem

The iPhone 4S has an identical design to the iPhone 4, but its guts are all new. Although that might be a disappointment to some people (no larger display, no slimmer body, no tear-shape game-friendly design), I am actually pretty happy with it. I really like the iPhone 4 design: It's still the thinnest smartphone available (despite Samsung’s claims), and it has a stylish, premium look thanks to the glass face and back.

I am a little disappointed to see that the screen real estate didn’t get a bump. I’m definitely not asking for a 4.5-inch display (which is too big in my opinion), but 4 inches or even 3.7 inches would make Web browsing, movie watching, and gaming a bit more comfortable. Ramon Llamas, IDC's senior research analyst for mobile devices technology and trends, says that keeping the same screen size is actually a benefit to consumers and developers.

“You have all these incredible apps [in the App Store]. If you do a different screen size, it will wreak havoc for the developer community,” Llamas says. A consistent screen size is one of the reasons why the App Store has such a high number of apps, he adds.

The Best Camera? Hard to Say

Apple iPhone 4S camera featuresApple iPhone 4S camera featuresApple isn't the only tech company that loves to tick off specs and claim its products are the first to market with a certain technology. Most companies that do so rely on consumers' failure to understand the technology or know what the specs mean. Such confusion frequently happens with camera specs, so I asked my colleague Tim Moynihan, PCWorld’s camera editor, to decipher some of the specs announced for the iPhone 4S’s camera.

Apple says that the new iPhone’s 8-megapixel camera is built around a backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor, a type of low-light-optimized sensor that debuted in Sony's cameras a few years ago. BSI sensors are now fairly commonplace in CMOS-based cameras, including both stand-alone cameras and a growing number of camera phones.

A BSI sensor is designed such that small, light-blocking wires move to the back of the sensor, making the sensor's surface a more efficient light-gathering source; as such, BSI-sensor cameras usually perform well in low-light situations without a flash. The iPhone 4's 5-megapixel sensor was also a BSI sensor, and was very good; the new sensor in the iPhone 4S is likely a higher-resolution version.

Apple also says the iPhone 4S has a five-element lens that offers 30 percent more sharpness. According to Moynihan, the lens specs sound good, but we'll need to test Apple's claims of improved image sharpness in our labs. The iPhone 4S's F2.4 lens has a wider aperture than most phone cameras do; coupled with the low-light-optimized sensor, it should perform well in low-light situations and at quick shutter speeds. The T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide's F2.2 aperture is still a bit wider. (The HTC-made MyTouch 4G Slide is PCWorld's top-ranking phone camera right now.)

[Read: Android Camera Shootout: 13 Phones Put to the Test]

More Pixels Make It Better?

When Apple says that the iPhone 4S camera has 60 percent more pixels than the iPhone 4 camera, it means that an 8-megapixel camera is technically 160 percent of the resolution of a 5-megapixel camera. So really, it doesn’t translate directly to improved image quality, as more megapixels aren't an indicator of better image quality on small-sensored cameras. The higher megapixel count does mean that you'll be able to print out images at a bigger size without losing resolution, or to crop images without the cropped area losing resolution.

According to Moynihan, unless the sensor size is also 60 percent bigger, the added resolution could translate to worse image quality when compared with that of the iPhone 4. When you pack a sensor of the same size with more pixels, you can end up with a lot of noise and artifacts. Again, this is something we’ll have to test when we get the iPhone 4S in.

Video: Apple Unveils Souped-Up iPhone 4S

We’re still a bit confused about what exactly Apple means when it says that the iPhone 4S has a Hybrid IR filter, as the company simply threw that term out there without actually explaining what the "hybrid" refers to. It could be a filter that allows both infrared photography and regular photography, a feature that the user can turn on or off. Moynihan suspects that the iPhone 4S’s sensor has an infrared-blocking filter built to fix any chromatic aberration, purple fringing, or color-accuracy issues caused by the sensor's being sensitive to infrared light.

If that's the case, it's a unique feature for a phone camera, although some stand-alone cameras use lens coatings and processing software to address similar issues.

As for the company's shutter-speed claims of just 1.1 seconds to take a first photo and 0.5 seconds more to take a second, we noticed that Apple did not compare the iPhone to the T-Mobile MyTouch Slide, which has the best camera of any phone we’ve tested. The Slide’s camera specs are pretty similar to the iPhone 4S’s, so we’ll have to do some head-to-head testing once we receive the Apple phone in our labs. We also plan on replicating Apple’s test with other phones we have in house.

Like many dual-core Android phones currently available, the iPhone 4S can shoot high-resolution video up to 1080p. It also features digital video stabilization--but unless it’s a radically different system than we’ve seen on other video devices, don’t expect miracles from digital-only stabilization.

Judging from the specs alone, the iPhone 4S's camera is competitive with those in the top crop of recent Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S II series, the HTC ThunderBolt, and the Slide. Considering the iPhone 4's excellent performance in our imaging tests, Apple gets the benefit of the doubt when it comes to those claims of improved camera performance--we just don't think the higher megapixel count has much to do with it.

Next: Speed Boost, No 4G, and Siri Software

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