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It’s not just Jet Black iPhone 7 models that are getting all scratched up

I have always been incredibly careful with my smartphones. I've never shattered a display or had a phone that saw any serious damage from a drop. In fact, I've always been so careful with my smartphones that until this past fall when I switched from a 4.7-inch iPhone 6s to the larger iPhone 7 Plus (since it's the only real flagship iPhone now), I never even bothered to use a case on my smartphones. Even now, I use this paper-thin case on my iPhone 7 Plus. It offers no real protection from drops, but I use it just to add some grip since the phone is so large and can be tricky to use with one hand.

In years past, my iPhones have always been pristine when I've gone to sell them or trade them in while upgrading to a new model. But this year, with the iPhone 7 Plus, my phone has looked like it's been through a war zone since a week or two after I got it — and I haven't dropped it a single time. I don't have a Jet Black iPhone and I haven't been any less careful with this iPhone than I have with any other. So what's going on here?

If you choose the Jet Black finish when buying an iPhone 7 or an iPhone 7 Plus, odds are pretty good that you know what you're getting yourself into. Long story short, Apple's Jet Black finish is going to get scratched up like crazy no matter how careful you are. Just look at the horrific photos of Jet Black iPhones that people have been sharing online. In fact, Apple even has a disclaimer on its website warning people that the Jet Black finish on its new iPhones is prone to scratching.

Covering a Jet Black iPhone with a case completely defeats the purpose and I have no interest in using a scratched up iPhone, so I opted for matte black when I bought my iPhone 7 Plus. Little did I know, however, that it wasn't the back of the phone I needed to worry about.

Threads on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and even Apple's own support forum detail a problem that just about everyone seems to be having with their iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models: the screens are ridiculously prone to scratching. iPhone owners have been talking about it ever since Apple first released its new iPhone models this past September, and the issue doesn't appear to be confined to any particular iPhone models. Everyone's screens are getting scratched up, it's just a question of whether or not they notice it.

In the case of my iPhone, the only time the display comes in contact with anything other than my fingers or the side of my face is when it's sliding in or out of my pants pocket. And yet after just a week or two of usage, the display was already covered with fine scratches and swirling. While Apple doesn't specify its glass supplier for any iPhone models, it is believed that Corning's latest-generation Gorilla Glass is used on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. And from the looks of things, Corning has a serious problem with the finish on its new glass.

Using a glass screen protector on your iPhone is really the only way to prevent the scratching problem, and there are plenty of well-review options out there like this one. For me personally though, this isn't an option. Screen protectors rarely have a good feel, they never resist oil as well (though the oleophobic coating on Apple's iPhone screens has also been known to disappear in no time), and they spoil the smooth lines on the face of the iPhone.

This new iPhone 8 feature might end up blowing our minds

Amid rumors that the iPhone 8 will incorporate advanced facial recognition features, the Hebrew-language website Calcalist (via Times of Israel) is reporting that Apple recently acquired Realface, an up-and-coming Israeli startup with impressive real-time facial recognition software.

Lending credence to rumors that the iPhone 8 may forgo the use of Touch ID in favor of facial recognition, Realface's software is said to be sophisticated enough such that it can reliably be used as a foundation for mobile-based biometric authentication.

As is often the case when Apple acquires a company, Realface's web presence has already been wiped from the web. Still, thanks to the magic of Google, we were able to poke around and dig up some intriguing nuggets of information about the company's promising technology.

Realface boasts that it's AI software rests upon deep learning methods and is so reliable and quick that the end-result is an absolutely seamless user experience.

"Our technology provides our customers and end-users with the highest level of authentication and security available on all platforms," says Realface. "We have proprietary IP in the field of frictionless face recognition and effective learnings from facial features." Incidentally, Realface's technology is also capable of filtering out photos of faces and advanced sculptures designed to trick the software into thinking that a device's camera is honed in on an actual human face.

Further, Realface claims that its software can recognize faces with a 99.67% success rate, an impressive figure that is even higher than the average 97.5% success rate exhibited by humans. To this point, a profile on Realface from last year relays that the company's technology is so advanced that it can even distinguish between identical twins with alarming and impressive accuracy.

Below is a quick and dirty demo of the software in action.

What's particularly interesting is that Realface's technology is not only capable of discerning individual faces, but can also analyze specific facial expressions as a means to determine a user's mood. If this sounds somewhat familiar, Apple last year acquired Emotient, a company with similar AI technology of its own.

Now as for what Apple is planning to do with its growing portfolio of AI-based facial recognition software, well, that's the million dollar question. While initial speculation centered on Apple rolling out augmented reality features, perhaps similar to what the beloved MSQRD app does, more recent rumblings suggest that Apple wants to position facial recognition as a means to identify users and securely authorize sensitive transactions. Again, there are even reports that facial recognition might ultimately serve as a replacement for Touch ID.

While this seems far-fetched, Ming Chi-Kuo -- an analyst with the best track record regarding Apple rumors -- seems to think otherwise. In a recently issued research note, Kuo claims that the iPhone 8's rumored edgeless design cannot, for whatever reason, coexist peacefully with Touch ID. Consequently, Kuo relays that Apple wants to eventually replace Touch ID with a facial recognition solution.

When it comes to Apple, the old adage that when there's smoke, there's fire is generally true. That being the case, it stands to reason that facial recognition will be a huge and incredibly exciting component of the iPhone 8 user experience.

The best way to expand your iPhone’s storage is discounted right now on Amazon

Apple was apparently just as tired of hearing customers complain as we were of seeing "not enough storage" errors on our iPhones, because last year the company finally doubled the internal memory on all of its iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models. As is always the case with smartphone storage, however, it’s never enough. Phones have a tendency to fill up with photos and videos no matter how much internal storage they have, and that’s why microSD slots are so important in mobile devices. Of course, Apple will never kill its massive iPhone profits by adding microSD support, so third-party solutions are the best we can hope for — and our favorite third-party solution, the SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive, is on sale right now on Amazon.

Some key details from the product page:

Free up space on your iPhone by moving photos and videos to your iXpand flash Automatically back up photos and videos from your camera Automatically back up your contacts Watch popular video on your iPhone or iPad Designed with a flexible connector to fit through most iPhone cases High-speed USB 3.0 transfer to and from your computer Secure file storage across your computer, iPhone and iPad Videos automatically saved to the drive if captured from within the iXpand Drive app

Philippines: Vietnamese ship attacked; 1 dead, 6 abductedMANILA, Philippines (AP) — Gunmen attacked a Vietnamese cargo ship off the Philippines' southern tip, killing a Vietnamese crewman and abducting six others including the vessel's captain, the Philippine coast guard and the ship's owner said Monday.

Fresh ceasefire appears to hold for now in eastern UkraineBy Pavel Polityuk AVDIYIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) - Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists appeared to be respecting a new ceasefire attempt on Monday after international powers called for shelling to stop and for the withdrawal of banned heavy weapons. In recent weeks, the area around the government-held town of Avdiyivka has seen some of the heaviest artillery fire of the past two years, refocusing global attention on a simmering conflict that has strained relations between Russia and the West. Violence has since lessened, but the close proximity of the opposing sides and continued use of heavy weapons prompted the leaders of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine to call on Sunday for renewed efforts to implement the terms of the much-violated Minsk peace agreement of 2015.

Don’t Look Now, But There’s Another Greek Debt Crisis BrewingTalks over Athens’ debt burden threaten to spill into European election season.

Scuffles at Thai temple as police hunt for monkBy Cod Satrusayang and Aukkaraporn Niyomyat BANGKOK (Reuters) - Monks and police scuffled on Monday at a Buddhist temple in Thailand where security forces are trying to arrest an influential former abbot on money-laundering charges. The standoff at the scandal-hit Dhammakaya Temple represents one of the biggest challenges to the authority of Thailand's junta since it took power in 2014. Police said they would try to avoid violence while threatening arrest for followers of the sprawling temple who have defied orders to leave and instead flocked there, hampering the search for 72-year-old Phra Dhammachayo.

Philippines' Duterte ordered murders: ex-police aidePhilippine President Rodrigo Duterte ran a death squad that killed many people, including a journalist and a pregnant woman, when he was mayor of a southern city, a retired policeman who claimed to be part of the group said Monday. Arthur Lascanas, sitting alongside three prominent human rights lawyers, broke down in tears as he listed a series of murders in Davao city that he alleged Duterte ordered either to eliminate critics or fight crime. Lascanas said he even killed his two brothers, who were involved in drug trafficking, due to "blind loyalty" to Duterte as well as cash rewards.

Iran says Saudi, Israel working to damage countryIran on Monday criticised what it said was coordination between Israel and regional rival Saudi Arabia, describing attempts to create an "international atmosphere" against Tehran. Israel and Saudi Arabia accuse Iran of fuelling regional conflicts by supporting armed Shiite movements in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain.

Zimbabwe's Mugabe says he is people's choice for 2018 electionBy Cris Chinaka HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's people and the ruling ZANU-PF party see no viable alternative candidate to President Robert Mugabe for general elections in 2018, state media quoted him as saying on Sunday. "The people, you know, would want to judge everyone else on the basis of President Mugabe as the criteria," Mugabe, who is Africa's oldest leader, said. Mugabe has been in power in the southern African country since 1980 and in December his party confirmed him as its candidate for the next presidential election expected in mid-2018, when he will be 94.

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