Tag Archive: Google


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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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More Google services to shut down soon

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Google continues its efforts to streamline its business, announcing on its blog site this week that a number of its services will be closed over the next several months. One of them is Google Wave which launched as a web app for real time communication. Google has now announced that Wave will become read only after January 31, 2012 and will close completely after April 30.

Google Gears, which was designed as a way to make offline web apps via a browser extension will stop working on December 1 for Gears-based Gmail and Calendar offline. Later that same month the Gears browser extension won’t be made available for download at all.

Google Bookmark List, created to allow people to share their browser bookmark list with friends, will shut down on December 19. Google says, “All bookmarks within Lists will be retained and labeled for easier identification, while the rest of Google Bookmarks will function as usual.”

Google is also closing down its experimental energy division, which it called Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal. Google concentrated its efforts on improving solar power but has now decided that “other institutions are better positioned than Google to take this research to the next level.” The company will continue its own efforts to conserve energy and use alternative energy sources in its own businesses.

Thanks: Neowin

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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

For the first time, Facebook has revealed details about how it tracks users across the web.

Through interviews with Facebook engineering director Arturo Bejar, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes, Facebook corporate spokesman Barry Schnitt and Facebook engineering manager Gregg Stefancik, USA Today‘s Byron Acohido was able to compile the most complete picture to date of how the social network keeps tabs on its 800 million users.

Here is what Acohido learned:

    • Facebook doesn’t track everybody the same way. It uses different methods for members who have signed in and are using their accounts, members who are logged-off and non-members.
    • The first time you arrive at any Facebook.com page, the company inserts cookies in your browser. If you sign up for an account, it inserts two types of cookies. If you don’t set up an account, it only inserts one of the two types.
    • These cookies record every time you visit another website that uses a Facebook Like button or other Facebook plugin — which work together with the cookies to note the time, date and website being visited. Unique characteristics that identify your computer are also recorded.
    • Facebook keeps logs that record your past 90 days of activity. It deletes entries older than 90 days.
    • If you are logged into a Facebook account, your name, email address, friends and all of the other data in your Facebook profile is also recorded.

Data about web searches and browsing habits could be used to figure out political affiliations, religious beliefs, sexual orientations or health issues about consumers. According to USA Today, this type of correlation doesn’t seem to be happening on a wide scale, but the concern of some privacy advocates is that selling data could become a tempting business proposition — both to social networks like Facebook and online advertising players such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo that similarly employ cookie tracking techniques.

Facebook told USA Today that it uses data collected via cookies to help improve security and its plugins and that it has no plans to change how it uses this data. It has, however, applied for a patent on a technology that includes a method that correlates ads and tracking data.

“We patent lots of things, and future products should not be inferred from our patent application,” Facebook corporate spokesman Barry Schnitt told USA Today.

Regardless of how Facebook is handling the data it collects through cookies, by doing so it has entered a very sticky debate about whether consumers should be able to opt out of being tracked by such methods. Aproposed law that would create this option was introduced in February.

While a recent poll found that about 70% of Facebook users and 52% of Google users were either somewhat or very concerned about their privacy, some argue that online commerce would suffer without online tracking.

Thanks: Mashable

 

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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

Review: Droid Razr

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The Droid Razr is a phone that is using a name that helped to define Motorola in the mobile phone segment. By taking on this branding, Motorola is betting big that this device will not tarnish the name that the original Razr established. The Droid Razr retails for $649.99 or is $299.99 on a two year contract.

Hardware:

The Droid Razr comes in at 7.1mm and it definitely feels like a slice of mechanical joy that the original Razr first introduce. Coming in at just over a quarter inch thick, you begin to realize that this phone is pushing the boundaries of how thin a device can be and still retain the quality that doesn’t make it feel cheap in your hands. One thing did become clear during our review, design was placed over functionality for this device. Does the device turn heads? Yes, but is that always a good thing?

Just because a device is thin, does not mean it isn’t wide. The 4.3 inch device has a bezel that makes the device feel as if the screen is larger than 4.3 inches. With the extended bezel, the device does feel rather wide at times and those with tiny hands may not be able to firmly grasp the device.

The one thing that does separate this phone from other Android devices but does link it closer to that of the iPhone, is that the battery is not user replaceable. For some this may be a deal breaker for others, it’s a non-issue. For us, it goes both ways as if you compare it to an iPhone, it’s not a big deal but then again, in the Android community, user replaceable batteries are rather common.

Display:

Motorola is packing in the goods with the display as it comes in with a resolution of 960 x 540 Super AMOLED display which allows you to make the most of the 4.3 inch real estate provided by the Droid Razr. The screen is beautiful, but one thing to note is that it’s not the best display that we have seen as there is something awkward about how text is handled when scrolling as it becomes a bit jaded when compared to other devices.

For the average user, most will not notice the small imperfections of the screen and it does work well on this device. Those who are overly sensitive and notice the finer things in life may get annoyed with some of the blurring of text when scrolling but it is far from a show stopper.

Software:

Victory! Motoblur is not on this device, well, at least the naming of the skin is not. For the most part, a lot of Motoblur has been removed from the skin but elements of the theme are still hidden in the cracks and can still be found when using the device. There are also many free apps that come on the device and Verizon is pushing its free NFL mobile app for those on 4G for the 2011 season. There are the usual other apps such as Vcast, Blockbuster and a few others. Motorola also includes Motocast which is similar to the iCloud service.

Another interesting and useful app is the “Smart Actions”. These location based tasks are clever and quite useful. You can set them up to turn specific features on and off depending on many different metrics. You can have it adjust device settings when at work, turn off certain features when the battery hits a denoted percentage, or even automatically silence the ringer in certain locations such as the office (it can change settings based on location). They take some time to setup, but once done, they reduce the amount of times you have to change particualr settings in your daily routine.

Battery:

Motorola made big claims when introducing the phone that the battery would not be short sided in use, but we have yet to use a 4G device that doesn’t kill the battery when pulling down data. We can’t give a full breakdown of battery usage yet as we have limited time with the device but it does have a 1780 mAh battery. We noticed, as one would expect, that heavy use of 4G does impact the battery, but in a single day we made several calls, checked email, and of course, browsed the web.

The battery appeared to be standing up to this punishment but we were not exactly heavy on the 4G use either.

Camera:

Not surprisingly, Motorola is using an 8 megapixel shooter in this device. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Motorola has been using this same camera in the Bionic. There is also a 1.3 megapixel camera upfront that and as you have guessed, is used for video calling.

Overall we were generally pleased with both of the cameras. The rear camera was modest in its color reproduction and focus time was acceptable to the point that it should not impede use. It was not the fastest focusing camera we have ever used on a mobile device but it is far above the worst we have seen too. It’s well above average, especially in well lighted areas but low light pictures did begin to show noise at even modest darkness.

Video capture is above average as well. The device comes pre-set to 720P but you can bump it up to 1080P. We might suggest that if you require high quality 1080P video to purchase a dedicated device, but for a cell-phone, it does reasonably well. Personally, we will keep it at 720P as 1080P video will fill up your internal storage rather quickly.

Performance:

The device feels great in use, but is far from perfect. Actually, the only time we really saw a slowdown with the device was occasionally while browsing the web. Quadrant came back at 2700 on average over a series of tests during the day which puts it in company with many other high end smartphones.

If you were thinking that it’s really thin and that Motorola must have sacrificed on the performance to get it this thin, you were wrong. However, if you are watching a movie or any other intensive action, the device does get a bit warm.

Call Quality:

The Droid Razr is an average performer in this category. Sure, calls were easily heard and understood on both ends but definitely had a tint of tin to them. The same can be said for the speakerphone; it’s clear the thinness of the device plays into quality but it doesn’t render the device unusable, far from it.

Conclusion:

The Droid Razr is a device that will turn heads but also makes a few sacrifices to get the job done. It is by far one of the best looking devices on the market with its sleek profile and Kevlar back plate. But to get that thin profile, the device is rather light and almost (almost!), feels cheap and the display does leave some room for improvement.

What Motorola has done proves that it can compete in the design game and produce a fantastic looking device. If you need a gorgeous device that runs Android but cuts only a few corners, this is your device. But at the same time, with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus right around the corner that will also be on Verizon, it makes the decision a little bit harder.

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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As promised, Microsoft has begun pushing its Windows Phone 7.5 update to all compatible phones from around the world, no matter what the carrier or device. The LG Optimus 7 on Telefonica in Spain and Samsung Omnia 7 on Deutsche Telekom were updated on Wednesday, for example. Users can check if their handset will get the update online. If an update for a phone is not listed as “scheduling” or “testing,” it will get the update.

Major changes in Windows Phone 7.5 focus on multitasking, a modern IE9-based browser, and Twitter integration. custom ringtones, visual voicemail, new speech commands and threads in e-mails, social networks and text messages. E-mails from multiple accounts can also be funneled into a single inbox and can also be organized in a more flowing conversation view.

Firmware updates beyond 7.5 itself are being sent out to certain phones around the world. The patches will improve phone performance, fix bugs and activate new features if supported by the hardware. These updates are sent to phones on particular carriers in some countries and certain phone models.

Thanks: Electronista