Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Free Android apps could hijack your phone

Those annoying pop-up ads are back. This time, they're on your smartphone, and they're badder than ever. Here's how you can avoid aggressive adware on your mobile device.
Downloading free Android apps could make you vulnerable to aggressive adware, according to San Francisco-based security firm Lookout.
In fact, as much as five percent of those free apps have spammy ads that may be parceling out your information to third parties according to CTO Kevin Mahaffey.
That number may seem small at first, but not after you consider how many hundreds of millions of times those free apps are downloaded. To combat the problem, Lookout has developed its own app that scans other apps to tells you which ones are engaging in bad behavior. It's up to you to delete the offender(s).
The Android platform is the Wild West, and the good, the bad and the ugly are all present in abundance. The good, of course, is some seriously creative app development and an open platform that allows for some very cool innovation.
The bad, though, is less oversight when it comes to advertisers. The result can be apps that download themselves onto your device or send fake messages that appear to be texts and pop up on your screen even when the app isn't running.
And then there's the ugly, the possibility of malware that can steal information from your phone, like your current location or banking information, and send it to its creator. Lookout calls the practice "bad behavior" and has developed a set of rules for identifying apps that behave badly.
Compared to Android, Apple's App Store has more stringent rules limiting what free app developers can get away with and the types of allowable advertising. That might mean fewer new apps hitting the app store. But when it comes to protecting its users, Lookout says Apple isn't willing to compromise.
CNET News staff

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You Can Now Handwrite Your Google Searches

Google has added a new feature to its mobile search, handwriting.  When going to the google.com page, a user can now use their finger as a pencil and write the words they wish to search on the screen.  While this does seem somewhat cool, it doesn’t necessarily seem all that useful, especially if you’re someone that uses the Swype keyboard.  Of course, as with any other special feature, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it.  Perhaps some of you will actually find this feature to be useful.  To try it out, go to google.com using your mobile Chrome browser, and select “settings”.  From there, select “enable” under the handwrite section, then scroll down and tap save.  Now you will be able to type your google searches by using your finger to draw the letters.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rumored Release Date of iPhone 5 is September ?????

So far, according to rumors, those waiting for the next iPhone should expect a new, larger and widescreen display as well as a smaller dock connector on the sixth generation iPhone. While there is really no shortage of rumors — and they seem to affect current iPhone 4S sales to a certain extent — we haven’t really heard of a release date confirmed by more than one source/rumor.
Of course there was the August 7 rumor — which we’ll soon find out about — but according to a French online publication, September 21 is the release date for the iPhone 5. Based on sources within Chinese accessory makers, App4phone is reporting that Apple might have included the September 21 bit given out to these accessory manufacturers. Last year’s iPhone 4S was launched in October on the 14th, a little bit off from previous year’s dates, and September 21 seems to be off every previous date (given that Apple usually makes the phone available ten days after its announcement). A September 11 keynote is possible but highly unlikely though.
Source: App4phone
Anton D. Nagy | July 25, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Late again? There's an App for that!!! Twist will text or e-mail your apology

A start-up hopes to capitalize on a basic chore: telling people when you're going to arrive. An iPhone app will be followed by an Android version later.

Twist screenshots
Twist is designed to help people arrange trips more easily. At left, the app shows an estimated time to walk to a destination. Center, the app lets people pick a destination from earlier trips or calendar events. At right, the app shows users how much time Twist thinks it's saved.
(Credit: Twist)
Many of us remember how liberating mobile phones were when it came to meeting people: "Which street corner was that again?" "Should I buy tickets for both of us?" "Sorry, I'm running late."
A start-up called Twist, though, believes phones can make the process much more convenient -- by automatically handling some of those messages.
With an iPhone app, the startup's technology tracks when a person leaves on a journey and tells the person at the destination what the expected time of arrival is based on data from Google Maps, Bing, and the company's own algorithms that factor in things like personal driving style and GPS trouble spots. If you hit traffic or your bus doesn't arrive, Twist will send a notification by e-mail or text message, and a few minutes before you arrive, it'll send another alert.
It's a modestly scoped utility, but the company expects it'll have appeal for the many times when people are getting together.
"It's a simple and easy-to-use app that lets friends know when you're going to arrive. There are a lot of apps that solve where, but we're trying to solve when," said Chief Technology Officer and co-founder Mike Belshe, who previously worked on Google's Chrome team where he helped create the SPDY protocol to improve Web performance.
Twist logo
Although Twist is an app, what it does is arguably a feature that could be built into smartphones as mapping and navigation services steadily grow in sophistication. For example, the new Google Now feature in Android 4.1, aka Jelly Bean, can tell people when they should leave for an upcoming appointment, factoring in traffic, public transportation schedules, and other information. And with iOS 6, Apple is building its own mapping service, too.
Predicting travel times is where Twist's plan for actually making money comes in, said co-founder and Chief Executive Bill Lee. Although Twist isn't charging for consumer services, it eventually expects to offer a business version that lets companies tell customers when to expect the food delivery or the cable guy to arrive. Alternatively, a restaurant could know better if that party of six really will arrive at 7:30 p.m.

In his meeting-infused life, "Somebody always is early or...late," said Lee, who earlier in his career was co-founder of Remarq and Social Concepts. "The idea came out of a personal need -- a better way to keep people from wasting all this time."
The company also announced $6 million in first-round funding from Bridgescale Partners, Lee, Belshe, Eric Hahn of Inventures Group and Netscape's former CTO, and Jeff Skoll, the first employee and first president of eBay.
Although the company today relies on Google and Microsoft for traffic data, Twist hopes hopes for more independent information from its own app, Belshe said.
"In the long term, as we get bigger and get more data, we'll be having our own sources," not unlike what Google and Apple do to collect location data, he said. "As we get more users on the system, we get more data. Our system already uses that in how we compute the ETAs [estimated times of arrival]. Over time, we can get more reliant on that."
The company's algorithms learn from individual behavior, for example whether a person drives slower or faster than average, and from aggregate data for things like how long it takes to traverse San Francisco at a particular time or particular day.
"We're now up to about 98 percent accuracy with our ETAs," Belshe said.
The app is supported for trips in the United States, but the company hopes to expand to Europe by the end of the year. It works with driving, walking, public transit, and bicycling trips.
Twist is launching with an iPhone app, but an Android app is planned "in the not-too-distant feature," Belshe said.
They started with the iPhone because "it's got a great user base, it's a good product, and it's a lot easier to build on," for example with better application programming interface (API) to tap into GPS location data, Belshe said.
"On the Android product, the fragmentation problem is big. When people say 'Android,' they bundle together a lot of devices that really aren't the same," he said. "With Ice Cream Sandwich [Android 4.0], which is on the top performers of the Android market, the APIs are in good shape, but the older version really need a lot work. It'll take awhile to make something that works well for the entire user base."
Hardware diversity also makes Android development harder, Belshe said. "The other practical considerations of screen size and processing power are hugely different, too. It makes it a more treacherous platform overall," Belshe said.
Stephen Shankland

Thursday, July 12, 2012

NASA launches Spacecraft 3D app for iPad and iPhone

NASA has announced the launch of the new application for iPhone and iPad users that is available on the iTunes App Store for free right now. The app is called Spacecraft 3D and is designed to show off various NASA spacecraft using 3-D animation. The point app is to show people interested in space how the spacecraft maneuvers and manipulates its external components.
Right now, the app features animations for two missions, including the Curiosity rover that will land on the surface of Mars next month, and both GRAIL spacecraft called Ebb and Flow. The app uses augmented reality to view the spacecraft using the iPhone or iPad camera. The app has users print an augmented reality target on a normal sheet of paper.

Once that augmented reality target is printed, and the camera is aimed at the paper, the spacecraft appears on the screen. It looks as if the spacecraft is meant to look like it’s in front of you, in your room. Other features include the ability to make a self-portrait with the spacecraft putting you or someone else in the picture. NASA says that the app is only available for Apple devices now, but other formats are coming in the future.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Verizon Wireless wants to 'edit' your Internet access

commentary Here's a novel idea: Claim the First Amendment gives a carrier the right to pick and choose what you connect to via the Internet.

What if your wireless provider gave you Internet access and search results according to what it decided was a "priority"?
As a Verizon Wireless customer, I'm furious at the idea that it would "pick favorites" over what I was actually looking for -- especially if it was an emergency.
But that's just what Verizon is fighting in court to do right now. Verizon has filed a brief (Verizon vs. FCC) with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit for the "freedom" to edit your Internet, dear customer.
If you think this would remain a Verizon issue, think again. If Verizon gatecrashes Internet access filtering, you better bet that other ISPs will hustle to get on the train to sell Internet "priority" spots to the highest bidders.
This comes at the same time that Verizon is set to win approval from the FCC, according to reports, in an airwave buyback deal from a group of cable companies (including Time Warner and Comcast). Only the U.S. Justice Department can block the deal.
Verizon is suing to have the FCC's net neutrality order thrown out -- and it's not the first time, as Verizon was quick to challenge the FCC about this very issue in 2011 when the FCC first set such rules.

The FCC's order was intended to keep the Internet as it was when it began -- to keep Internet service providers like Verizon from becoming "editors" or gatekeepers. It holds that neither Verizon nor any other Internet provider can block or slow access to online content, including if they disagree with its message or are being paid by a third party to favor some alternative.
Verizon's argument is sure to enrage people who cherish the free and open Internet. Verizon's reason is that Internet/broadband providers inherently have "editorial discretion."
From Verizon's filing:
In performing these functions [providing the transmission of speech], broadband providers possess "editorial discretion."
Just as a newspaper is entitled to decide which content to publish and where, broadband providers may feature some content over others.
That Verizon offers this argument just as it's set to land-grab cable airwaves -- and with a brief for filtering Internet results grounded in cable-company First Amendment rulings -- doesn't seem like a coincidence.
MediaMatters wisely observes:
Verizon cites as precedent Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC (1994), in which the Supreme Court ruled that cable companies enjoy First Amendment protection because they exercise editorial discretion in transmitting the speech of others, and are not merely neutral pathways over which speech is transmitted without restriction or interference.
The idea that ISPs -- especially cable (pay-TV) providers -- can use the First Amendment as a shield against net neutrality is hotly contested.
Naturally, reasonable people are worried that Internet content will be more filtered than the filing suggests. MediaMatters Research Fellow Simon Maloy writes:
Verizon is arguing that its freedom of speech requires that it have the power -- a power that, by its own admission, it has never used -- to deny content producers access to consumers, and vice-versa.
The concerns about how far Verizon's argument to "edit" customers' internet access might go are disturbingly valid.
In 2008, Verizon rejected Hollywood's call to filter the Internet in an attempt to use Internet censorship to "fight piracy."
So maybe Verizon's suggestion it wants to be able to edit the Internet might be little more than a legal tactic.
We hope. I asked Verizon for comment and a spokesperson succinctly said, "Our filing speaks for itself."
Whether or not Verizon will actually try to deny or edit access remains to be seen. But Verizon is certainly fighting to be able to "edit" Web access and make its own best interests -- whatever those are -- a priority.
Violet Blue

Monday, July 9, 2012

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The near future of smartphones

Google, Apple, Microsoft, and RIM each made a play for the domination -- or survival -- of their mobile OS that will manifest starting in autumn. Now that the dust has settled, here's what it all means.

(Credit: Josh Long/CNET)
High-flying skydive stunts! Steering wheel voice commands! Predictive search that knows your life! That was June for us, one big sneak peek of the mobile platform future, a flurry of OS features and software specs that Apple, Google, Microsoft, and RIM lobbed at us from San Francisco area events all in the same month. It was so busy around here, we CNETers dubbed the month "Junesanity."
The specs that emerged from these four events are a peek at the near future of mobile phones. In addition, the flashy presentations were designed to win developers and consumers to each company's side as they ready for the next phase of the mobile turf war.
What's coming, a recap
Here's what the Big Four mobile software-makers announced.
iOS 6
Apple iOS
The iOS 6 family tree.
(Credit: CNET)
At its annual WWDC conference on June 11, Apple announced a slew of iOS 6 updates that will arrive this fall. Many catch up to features already found in Android and Windows Phone, like Facebook integration, video calling over the cellular network, and turn-by-turn voice navigation. However, iOS 6 will also bring some new toys to the playground, like natively storing and accessing tickets to events, and setting call reminders.

The slick new features of Apple iOS 6 (pictures)

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Other standout features include offline Web reading, 3D maps, and a smarter Siri that will be able to open apps and get you dinner reservations. At some point down the road, Siri will also wind up in certain cars.
Of course, these latest and greatest features only account for what Apple is willing to tell us now, without giving away any functionality related to new hardware, like a better camera in the iPhone 5, or any processor-related gaming tidbit. It's probable that Apple's next smartphone announcement will reveal an iOS 6 zinger.

BlackBerry 10
RIM shows off its BlackBerry 10 interface
RIM shows off its BlackBerry 10 interface at BlackBerry World in May 2012.
(Credit: Screenshot by Kent German/CNET)
RIM may have first shown off bits and pieces of the BlackBerry 10 operating system in early May, but June is when the company kick-started its developer-focused BlackBerry 10 Jam world tour, and began inviting press in on just how it plans to keep developers on board the wobbly ship.

A closer look at BlackBerry OS 10

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BlackBerry 10 OS and the hardware it'll go on are far from complete, but there is some definite promise. There will be a brand new interface with a cleaner, more minimalist layout than ever before. There's also a new multitasking workflow, called Flow, and an intelligent virtual keyboard that can easily predict your sentences and delete or complete words with a simple gesture. Brand new camera processing features will be able to detect faces, and a novel feature will let you rewind a previous frame to get the exact expression you want.
Not much is known about the hardware itself, save that it's expected to host a high resolution screen. Rumors and leaks point to a 768x1280-pixel resolution for the top-of-the-line series.
It's still early days for BlackBerry 10, and we saw relatively little about how well the OS operates. Until we see more, neither Brian nor I are convinced that the new OS is the game-changer that RIM and some loyal developers swear it is, but the features we know about so far are a big step in the right direction.
Windows Phone 8
Windows Phone 8 start screen
Microsoft shows off the new Windows Phone 8 start screen on a Nokia Lumia 900.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)
Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8 on June 20. The major OS update will get support for multiple processors, starting with dual-core Qualcomm chips, two new compatible screen resolutions (including HD), and integrated NFC.

A glimpse at Windows Phone 7.8 and 8 (pictures)

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Microsoft is also integrating VoIP and is improving multitasking smoothness. Rumors points to an innovative, unannounced keyboard designed for one-handed typing. There's a revised start screen that gives you resizable dynamic tiles across more of the screen surface. A shared kernel with Microsoft's Windows 8 platform for desktops and tablets will be able to let developers for Microsoft's other computing platforms more easily program for Windows Phone.

The first handsets are slated for fall, eventually to 180 countries. Unfortunately, existing handsets aren't eligible for the Windows Phone 8 upgrade.
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Resizable widgets are new to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Resizable widgets are new to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
(Credit: CNET)
Google was the last of the four to debut its new mobile plans, but on June 27, it announced Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, an upgrade from Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Jelly Bean's big draws are its revamped search app and its more substantial notifications. Google has made search front and center in Jelly Bean, so that it looks and feels more like Siri. The Voice Actions interface and voice readout are changed, but the bulk of Voice Actions remains the same as before.

Hands-on with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (pictures)

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What is new is Google Now, an optional program that can tap into your GPS coordinates and several apps to help you organize your life and anticipate your needs, down to suggestions on when to leave to make a certain appointment on time. The notifications menu also gets thicker descriptions for events that pop up there, and the ability to do things like share a photo or respond to a message.
Offline voice typing is new, predictive text is smarter, and overall performance is smoother. In addition, there are resizable widgets; and the NFC feature, Android Beam, can now handle larger files like photos and video in addition to URLs and maps.
Staging a smartphone battle for fall
For Apple and Google, the struggle is for platform dominance. Apple had the upper hand for a long time after the first iPhone launch, with Grade A hardware and the more developed operating system, but Android has wrested away control and now leads the U.S. market with roughly 51 percent to the iPhone's 32 percent.
Right now the ball is in Apple's court. Secrecy and surprise have always worked in Apple's favor, and depending on when the company announces and sells its iPhone 5 this autumn, its newest handset can draw -- and keep -- customers' attention. Discounts on its iPhone 4S will also attract new buyers across U.S. carriers.

Compare this momentum to Google's Jelly Bean roll-out, which will be slow and fragmented as always as the manufacturers and carriers test and slowly deploy updates to select phones, starting with Samsung's Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S, among them. Beyond updates, it'll be up to manufacturers to integrate Android 4.1 into their handset release plans, or you can buy a new, unlocked Samsung Galaxy Nexus from Google now. As great as the little bump is from 4.0 to 4.1, Jelly Bean isn't an earth-shattering update.
For Microsoft and RIM, the next few months will be a pitched fight for survival against the undeniable combined force of Android and iOS. Microsoft has now spent two years trying to make Windows Phone stick, and RIM keeps moving higher up the endangered species list.
RIM's tragedy has gone from bad to worse to so-bad-I-can't-look, with plummeting share pricesand sales, massive layoffs and probably more to come. There's also the high possibility that RIM will hack apart its business and sell off parts, and its final hope, future BlackBerry smartphones running RIM's BlackBerry 10 operating system, is delayed from late 2012 to early 2013.
Even if the forthcoming BlackBerry 10 arrives in a blaze of glory with innovative features and flawless hardware, with such low investor and customer confidence, who will buy a BlackBerry?
In an interview with CNET, RIM's managing director for the U.S., Richard Piasentin, pointed to a still-loyal customer base, and reminded the public that BlackBerrys serve 90 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies. In addition, the smartphone maintains its pedigree in various markets overseas.
Microsoft's challenge is comparatively simple, especially now that it's OS can handle phones with multiple processors, HD resolution, microSD cards, NFC. However, leaving current users in the lurch because of its prior stringency isn't going to do anything for traction, since existing users have to buy new handsets to stick with Microsoft.
For Redmond, the third year into Windows Phone recycles the same old challenge -- getting its platform competitive enough to sell.
Winners and losers
It's no coincidence that Junesanity's major announcements culminate in a fall showing for three of the four OS-makers. Autumn begins the smartphone world's most important season, after all, since it ramps up to holiday sales. Here's how I suspect the winners and losers will shake out.
A worthy OS upgrade combined with a highly-anticipated hardware unveiling give Apple the greatest interest and appeal going into fall. It doesn't hurt that Apple has traditionally led the pack in terms of premium build materials, including the camera. Status: Biggest winner.
Google is sitting pretty, thanks to its platform popularity and myriad partner phones. Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is a great update that will add a lot of functionality, but come fall, few will have access to everything that Android can offer. Status: Moderate winner.
Song Search widget (above), returned result (below)
Android 4.1 Jelly Bean's Song Search widget (above), with a returned result (below).
(Credit: CNET)
Barely hanging on, Microsoft is still catching up, and has yet to offer an innovative feature that no other OS can claim. Sure, good things are coming to bring Windows Phones up to speed on the hardware front, but with the iPhone 5 and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean arriving in roughly the same time frame, Windows Phone 8 will be largely ignored.Status: Loser.
RIM's BlackBerry 10 OS is delayed, and RIM will have nothing to show customers save some low-cost, rehashed BlackBerry Curve phones. RIM's days of attracting hordes of new customers is over in markets where Android and iOS already reign supreme. Status: Biggest loser.
With over 25 percent market share, Samsung is sitting pretty. It has a long string of Android successes, like the Samsung Galaxy S III (S3). Although its current Windows Phone 7.5 handsets are now as good as bricks, the Korean electronics giant has enough cash to stick with Microsoft through Windows Phone 8. Status: Winner.
Microsoft's lack of upgrade path for existing Windows phones to OS 8 puts Nokia in a pinch, since the handset maker tied the fate of its smartphone business to Microsoft. Still, the Nokia Lumia 900 and Lumia 710 showed the world what Nokia can do. Besides, Nokia has a contingency plan, the Finnish company says, if Windows Phone doesn't pan out. Status: To be determined.
Once the rising star of mobile handset-makers, HTC has stumbled of late. Samsung is eating HTC's lunch on the Android side, even though the HTC One X and One S are terrific handsets, and HTC has a history of producing excellent phones. HTC is getting behind Windows Phone 8, but likely not at Samsung's rate. HTC trails Samsung, but if it acts fast on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean updates and new phones, it still has a chance to increase its share. Status: To be determined.

January's Motorola Droid Razr Maxx was Moto's last U.S. peep.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
For a company that's meant to be Google's closest supporter (and wholly owned subsidiary,)Motorola has been suspiciously absent from Android plans in the U.S. market. We knew that Motorola was pulling back on quantity to concentrate on quality, but if the company doesn't act soon, it'll miss out for good. Status: Probably a loser.
Of course, we won't know for a few months what fall will bring, and any carrier or manufacturer could pull a surprise from thin air. Whatever the outcome, the mobile heavyweights are promising plenty of fireworks when the seasons change, and plenty of speculation as the summer months play out.
 Jessica Dolcourt