Category: Phone Apps


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Mobile security company Lookout has continued to expand its list of Android Market applications that have been found to contain malicious code known as ‘RuFraud’. Researchers spotted 22 malicious apps by the start of the week, prompting Microsoft to offer victims free Windows Phone handsets, while five more have been discovered since then.

The titles include several horoscope apps, wallpaper utilities that offer pictures from movies such as Twilight and Moneyball, fake downloaders for popular Android games such as Angry birds, and fake free versions of other games.

Once downloaded, the apps trick users into agreeing to charges that will be applied to the bill due to SMS messages sent to premium numbers. The code appears to affect users in Europe and Asia, rather than North America.

Google has quickly pulled the offending titles from the app portal, however the situation has given credence to criticism of the mobile platform’s security features. The company’s open approach is said to make it easier for attackers to post malicious apps without encountering problems in the approval process. Fragmentation is also seen as a potential problem, as most Android handsets are running older OS versions that lack the latest security protection.

Thanks: Electronista

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When you come to talking about a major revision to the most popular smartphone operating system, it’s hard to find a place to start because there is simply so much to cover. Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” is perhaps the second largest step Android has taken in terms of major revisions, the largest of course being Android 2.0 back in 2009 which brought a wealth of new features.

Ice Cream Sandwich (or ICS) has included a huge amount of things to Android, from a new design and unified stylings to new functionality and features. Google has followed in the footsteps of Android 3.0 “Honeycomb” for tablets by shifting to blue as the primary color, as opposed to green in Android 2.3 “Gingerbread”. The blue design glows in a somewhat futuristic way, and interface elements are squarer and more angled than before.

Throughout all stock applications on ICS is seems like they have gone for several major styles, most of which differ to previous versions:

Sharp angles and lines are commonplace. In the app drawer, around the search bar, under the text entry bay and even in the onscreen buttons, smooth curves or gradients have been replaced with single-color lines and sharp corners. The Roboto font is modern and clean. Thanks to the 720p display on the Nexus, it appears very sharp and it’s very easy to read. The sans-serif and simple design makes it feel at home in a 2011/2012 world. Black, grey and blue are the colors used, along with transparency. The notification pane uses blue/grey icons on a black background, sliding it down reveals a semi-transparent background with blue highlights. In apps, buttons are grey on semi-transparent black with blue highlights.

For the first time in my history of using Android (and I’ve used it since the Google G1), a unification has been achieved. It is absolutely essential these days in a mobile operating system that moving between included applications feels like you are still “in” the OS, and never before has Google achieved this.

With Gingerbread Google may have updated the Calendar to a new style, but left Gmail with the same style from original Android. It was an awful mess of old and new, but going through ICS feels like everything is in place. I always see the same button styles, the same layouts, the same designs and the same colors used in every single included application, and it actually makes me smile at an Android design for once.

Now this may be somewhat controversial, but I really believe that the push to the ICS style was due to the threat of Windows Phone. Using Windows Phone’s style is simply outstanding because every single application uses the Metro design language, so browsing from Messaging to the Browser feels like you haven’t left Microsoft’s world. Fonts are crisp and clean, designs are angled and minimalistic and there is a focus on text over imagery.

Of course not everything in Metro has influenced Android, in fact many, many things are quite different, but it seems more obvious than ever before how influential Microsoft have been in the mobile space. In all honesty, I don’t care that Google borrowed some aspects of Windows Phone, such as the angular design, minimalist icons and swiping panes, because in the tech industry this happens all the time.

The point is Ice Cream Sandwich feels like the first Android revision that actually has a style. A proper, unified and beautiful style that feels modern, clean and even futuristic. I love it, almost to the point where it pushes out Windows Phone from my mobile OS design preference.

Thanks: Neowin & Tim Schiesser

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slightly backtracked on its plans to drop mobile Flash entirely Monday after it stated that there was one more version coming to support Android 4.0. Where it had previously said Flash 11.1 was the last version, the company told Pocket-lint one more version would come to support the Galaxy Nexus and future devices before the end of the year. An update was also coming for the Flash Linux Porting Kit on a similar schedule.

It’s not apparent why Adobe was making the exception. Adobe may be following up on an obligation to Google, which began promoting and bundling Flash on Android and the Chrome browser, respectively. Google has been a supporter of HTML5, but it may also want Flash for one last generation of phones.

The news will still rule out any support for Jelly Bean, the next major revision of Android after 4.0. While this will lead to many 2012 Android phones and tablets still supporting Flash, it will lead to some high-end phones in the second half of the year having to rely on web standards for video and complex web apps instead of the proprietary plugin.

Companies like HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and Toshiba may be the most affected by the switch. These have often made Flash a major and sometimes central focus of their marketing but will now have to compete more on their own features than on third-party extras they don’t control.

Thanks: Electronista

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Google’s new Gmail app for Apple’s iOS devices was unceremoniously pulled from the App Store recently but now Google has once again offered the mobile app version of its web-based email service to all those iPhone and iPad users. The official Gmail blog has announced that the original version was pulled on November 2 due to “a bug which broke notifications and displayed an error message.” The notifications are now working for the new (and free) Gmail iOS app.

First announced a couple of weeks ago, the iOS port for Gmail has a number of interesting features, including being able to use auto-complete for all of your Gmail contact email addresses, using search to find a specific email in your inbox and, as noted before, being alerted when a new email hits your inbox with sounds and other notifications. The iPad version of Gmail also has the ability to read your email as well as scan your inbox at the same time.

Even though Google has its own mobile operating system, the truth is there are likely a lot of Gmail users who will want to use the service via an iPhone and iPad. The new Gmail mobile app should allow iOS users to access all of the advanced features of Google’s email service without having to surf to the Gmail web site via Safari.

Thanks: Neowin

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Google has quietly readied itself for the launch of the Galaxy Nexus by introducing a heavily remade version of Google+ for Android (Android Market). The app is “completely new” and is designed to borrow the interface layout of Android 4.0: it takes the multi-column interface of the new mobile OS, such as the edge-to-edge photo browsing and the spare, open look. Its posting interface has been given one of the more conspicuous changes to be in line with the new OS.

Some recent changes to the social network itself are now reflected in the app, such as support for Google Apps users. Battery life and speed should be better, and notifications have been tuned to an unspecified degree. It’s now possible to add people to circles from a circle’s profile, not just an individual user.

Although intended for Android 4.0, the new Google+ works on any Android device running 2.1 and up. The interface still isn’t fully optimized for tablets. Some changes, like Google Apps support and circle profile adds, are likely to reach the iOS app.

The Galaxy Nexus is informally expected to ship worldwide within the next one to two weeks.

Thanks: Electronista

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Google may answer one of longer-lasting complaints about Gmail on the iPhone by releasing a native Gmail app, multiple insiders claimed Monday. The app is described by CrunchFund partner MG Siegler’s contacts as “fantastic” and taking advantage of push notifications. It will presumably include starring and may have recent but now established features like Priority Inbox sorting as well as possible improvements for contact IDs, a new threading layout, and much more in-depth searching.

The app may have already been submitted for approval. If cleared, it could be available soon.

Approval is a possible point of competition. Apple has often denied apps that “duplicate functionality” and is well-known for being more resistant to allowing certain Google apps than usual, such as its year-long Google Voice block that has been unofficially attributed to retaliation against Android. Apple has been more willing to allow similar but more specialized apps in recent months.

Adding a Gmail app might help close a gap with Android. As expected, its Gmail app is often considered a selling point for many who have accounts and want advantages such as push e-mail, labels, and filters. On iOS, Gmail users either have to setup a special Exchange sync account to get live mail and lose some features, limit a Gmail account to periodic checks, or use the HTML5 web app.

Thanks: Electronista

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Mobile app writer Steve Troughton-Smith and Cydia developer Grant Paul early Sunday successfully created a fully functional implementation of Siri working on both the iPhone 4 and the fourth-generation iPod touch. The technique brings over files and a validation token from a jailbroken iPhone 4S to trick the voice recognition system into working as it would on its intended platform. Unlike some earlier hacks, both run at the full potential speed and connect properly to the network.

Most of the refinement now involves making it work smoothly. The current tactic involves about 20 steps to get it working, Troughton-Smith said. He also wanted to make sure that the technique isn’t breaking other components behind the scenes and is safe to use.

More details were expected to come once the process was cleaned up. Troughton-Smith didn’t to put the code in the Cydia jailbreak store himself, since he just wanted the proof of concept. It might also be interpreted as illegal, something he would be keen to avoid.

As shown so far, the hack explains why Apple didn’t relay it to the iPod touch, since the microphone isn’t powerful enough to accept voice on as consistent level as the iPhone. The iPhone 4 does appear to process tasks as quickly as the 4S, suggesting that Apple either didn’t have time or resources to backport Siri or else held off to encourage early sales.

Thanks: Electronista

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A handful of more details about Google’s music store may have emerged on Monday. The service is now thought by unofficial WSJ sources to be going live within the next two weeks, and possibly this week. “At least two” major labels are unlikely to have signed on, however, with only EMI probably onboard and Universal in discussions that might not make the release date.

Independent labels are still the ones most likely to sign on. The rumors had Sony and Warner both anxious about preconceptions about piracy on the combination of a music locker and a store. Sony reportedly believes that the locker would greenlight piracy by not making distinctions between paid and unpaid tracks, even though some of the tracks could be paid songs from other stores.

Warner, meanwhile, just sees the locker as a revenue opportunity, giving it a chance to charge again to have streaming access online. Google has been trying to cast the locker as an incentive for the paid downloads, which themselves would likely confirm to the 99-cent standard. Variable pricing is likely given that other stores have been asked to do the same.

The store’s unique sharing system would go through Google+. Those given sharing access to a song would get at least one full listen for free.

Google has been working on plans for a music store since at least spring 2010, when it gave clues to a music service during the Google I/O conference. The company is known to be eager to have an equivalent to iTunes for Android users but, because of its trouble negotiating with labels, has not only gone without a store but has seen Apple create a fuller ecosystem. Google’s store may be intentionally rushed to beat iTunes Match, although its free model for the locker may still force listeners to upload their own tracks. iTunes Match, due at the end of this month, will skip uploads for any track it recognizes in its library.

Thanks: Electronista

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If you saw the movie Mission Impossible 3, you know that Tom Cruise’ character Ethan Hunt at one point scales the Vatican wall in Rome and then places a photo in front of one of the wall’s security cameras to fool the operator into thinking he is just seeing the normal view. Believe it or not, it sounds like the newly announced Android 4.0’s facial recognition software could be fooled in exactly the same way.

According to TechSpot, a Google spokesperson claimed that the Face Unlock feature in Android 4.0 “could” be used by simply using a photo of the pre-registered owner of the smartphone. However, this claim has been refuted by Tim Bray, who works on the Android operating system at Google. Responding to a Twitter message from someone who say Face Unlock could be hacked in this manner, Bray said, “Nope. Give us some credit.”

We are more than willing to give Bray and the rest of the Android 4.0 team the benefit of the doubt in terms of this new feature working the way they say it works. But we question the need for such a advanced feature in the first place… what happens if you are in a dark space and want to unlock your smartphone?

TechSpot’s report said that during the big Android 4.0 press event last week, the phone of Matias Duarte, the head of Google’s user experience, had issues identifying him with the Face Unlock feature. It may have been due to the poor light during the event. In any case, we will know for certain when the first Android 4.0 smartphone, the Galaxy Nexus, is released sometime in November.

Thanks: Neowin

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RIM in a stealth acquisition has bought NewBay for $100 million. The deal will give it access to LifeCache, a service that lets users upload and share photos and videos. It also gives the BlackBerry creator Social Networking Gateway to help update from a central hub, also inlcuding photo and video services like Flickr and YouTube.

The deal is expected to keep NewBay in its home of Dublin and represent a rare step outside of North America for RIM.

Intentions for the acquisition weren’t mentioned but may see RIM create a parallel, though not necessarily an equivalent, to cloud services like Apple’s soon-to-launch iCloud or Google’s more mobile-friendly equivalents. BlackBerry users can share media through individual services but don’t have an official, central place to sync and share what they have.

RIM has been spending much of the past year or more trying to reinvent its platforms to appeal to regular people, not just the corporate world. The PlayBook is representative of this through its stronger emphasis on music and video, but most of its effort is poised to come with its next-generation phone platform.

The buyout strategy has lately taken a turn towards services that replicate iOS features. RIM recently took over JayCut to get on-device movie editing.

Thanks: Electronista