Android apps really take advantage of those permissions they ask for to access users’ personal information: one online store records a phone’s location up to 10 times a minute, French researchers have found. The tools to manage such access are limited, and inadequate given how much information phones can gather.
In a recent study, ten volunteers used Android phones that tracked app behavior using a monitoring app, Mobilitics, developed by the French National Institute for Informatics Research (INRIA) in conjunction with the National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL). Mobilitics recorded every time another app accessed an item of personal data — the phone’s location, an identifier, photos, messages and so on — and whether it was subsequently transmitted to an external server. The log of the apps’ personal information use was stored on the phone and downloaded at the end of the three months for analysis.
The volunteers were encouraged to use the phones as if they were their own, and together used 121 apps over the period from July to September. A similar study last year used a special iOS app to examine the way iPhone apps access users’ personal data.
Many apps access phones’ identifying characteristics to track their users, the researchers said. One of the few options users have to avoid this tracking is a switch in the “Google Settings” app to reset their phone’s advertising ID. That’s not much help, though, as apps have other ways to identify users. Almost two-thirds of apps studied in the three-month real-world test accessed at least one mobile phone identifier, a quarter of them at least two identifiers, and a sixth three or more. That allows the apps to build up profiles of their users for advertising purposes.
Location was one of the most frequently-accessed items of data. It accounted for 30 percent of all accesses to personal information during the test, and 30 percent of the apps studied accessed it at some point. The Facebook app recorded one volunteer’s location 150,000 times during the three-month period — more than once per minute, on average, while the Google Play Store tracked another user ten times per minute at times. Often, the only use apps make of such information is to serve personalized advertising, as was the case with one game that recorded a user’s location 3,000 times during the study.
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd agreed to sell its fiber optics operations to U.S. specialty glass maker Corning Inc, shutting the door on another non-core business to focus on shoring up underperforming key areas like smartphones.
Terms of the sale, including plants in China and South Korea, weren’t disclosed. Announced by both parties on Tuesday, the South Korean firm’s second exit from a business line this quarter comes as it braces for its lowest annual profit in three years, squeezed by stiff competition.
The world’s top maker of smartphones has been caught between Chinese rivals like Xiaomi Technology Co Ltd at the low end and Apple Inc’s iPhones at the top. Samsung Electronics’ share of the global smartphone industry has shrunk year-on-year for the last three quarters.
“We have decided to sell our fibre optics business, in order to focus on our core business areas,” a Samsung Electronics spokeswoman said. The company declined to comment on how much revenue the division generates.
The firm also said in October it will halt its light emitting diode lighting business outside of its home country, which was also considered a non-core business.
Sony Pictures Entertainment has hired FireEye’s Mandiant forensics unit to clean up a cyber attack that knocked out the studio’s computer network nearly a week ago, and resulted in three movies ending up online.
The FBI is also investigating the incident. Sony went down last Monday after displaying a red skull and the phrase “Hacked By #GOP,” which reportedly stands for Guardians of Peace. Emails to Sony have been bouncing back with messages asking senders to call employees because the system was “experiencing a disruption.”
Mandiant is an incident response firm that helps victims of breaches identify the extent of attacks, clean up networks and restore systems. The firm has handled some of the largest breaches uncovered to date, including the 2013 holiday attack on Target. Sony is investigating to determine whether hackers working on behalf of North Korea have launched the attack in retribution for the studio’s backing of the film “The Interview” which is to be released on Dec. 25 in the United States and Canada.
The movie is a comedy about a CIA attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who is such a funny guy. The Pyongyang government denounced the film as “undisguised sponsoring of terrorism, as well as an act of war” in a letter to UN. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Japan’s hemorrhaging technology giant Sony Corp plans to slice its TV and mobile phone product line-ups to cut costs, counting on multi-billion dollar revenue surges for its buoyant PlayStation 4 and image sensor businesses over the next three years.
Having lost ground to nimbler rivals like Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in consumer electronics, Sony said on Tuesday its goal for TV and smartphones is to turn a profit, even if sales slide as much as 30 percent.
“We’re not aiming for size or market share but better profits,” Hiroki Totoki, Sony’s newly appointed chief of its mobile division told an investors’ conference. A poor showing by its Xperia smartphones has weighed heavily on recent earnings and Sony said more detail on plans for the unit will be unveiled before end-March.
Under its new three-year electronics business plan, Sony said it was aiming to boost sales for its videogame division by a quarter to as much as 1.6 trillion yen ($13.6 billion). It said that will be helped by personalized TV, video and music distribution services that should lift revenue per paying user.
At its devices division, which houses its image sensor business, Sony said sales could increase 70 percent to as much as 1.5 trillion yen. Sony’s sensor sales are already robust, with Apple using them in its iPhones while Chinese handset manufacturers are increasingly adopting them.
In a similar event last week for its entertainment units, the conglomerate said it was aiming to lift its movie and TV programming revenues by a third over the next three years.
The group had published a list of emails and passwords for PSN, Windows Live Mail and 2K Games accounts online, and claimed to be prepared to release more, but Sony says that they’ve come from other sources than hacking.
“We have investigated the claims that our network was breached and have found no evidence that there was any intrusion into our network,” the company wrote in a declaration to Joystiq. “Unfortunately, Internet fraud including phishing and password matching are realities that consumers and online networks face on a regular basis. We take these reports very seriously and will continue to monitor our network closely.”
Microsoft has seen a number of Xbox One exclusive titles already be ported to the PC. Both Dead Rising 3 and Ryse have already made it to the PC, but we are now again hearing that Sunset Overdrive again is heading to the PC and Forza Horizon 2 maybe following as well.
This is not the first time we have heard rumors of Sunset Overdrive coming to the PC. An ad that suggested as much was down played at the time by Insomiac as a mistake. Now Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2 showed up on Amazon France as coming for the PC.
While Phil Spencer has suggested that Microsoft will have more to say about the PC in 2015 and that it would be a good thing for PC gamers. The reality is that Microsoft has not pushed PC game development in a longtime as it chose to focus on titles for the Xbox and Xbox 360. With the Xbox One being closer in design to the PC, porting a title to the PC is easier and Microsoft of course wants to be a player in this space.
We will have to wait and see what actually happens, but should Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2 make their way to the PC, it will be a good thing for PC gamers. Then again it could just be nothing more than a mistake.
One of the inherent risks of a story-heavy IP is that if you bugger up one of the instalments, your audience skips it, falling out of touch with the series’ story arc and disconnecting from its universe. Such was the fear for Dragon Age, a world which impressed in its opening act, but fell away sharply with what felt like a rushed and uncertain part 2. In acknowledging the shortcomings of the second game, Bioware went some way towards reassuring the faithful, but it was undeniable that nothing less than a resounding crescendo could re-establish the land of Tevinter as an RPG setting of the same calibre as the Tamriel of the Elder Scrolls or The Witcher’s Temeria.
There aren’t many teams you’d rather leave such a task in the hands of than Bioware’s and, judging from review scores, that trust would be well-placed. With a metacritic ranging from 84 for Xbox One, 88 on PC and 89 for PS4, EA and Bioware seem to have established the Dragon Age series as the new gen’s first top-class RPG – stealing a march on 2015′s Witcher 3 and whatever Bethesda may be working on as a follow up to Skyrim.
One of the best-scoring reviews comes from Polygon’s Philip Kollar, who focuses on the game’s scope, characters and sheer wealth of content in his 9.5/10 review. Kollar argues that this is the game where the universe really finds its feet, finally fulfilling the promise it had teased in Origins and its sequel by immersing the player in a sequence of events which incorporates a story far bigger than the perspective you’ll have of it. Nonetheless, says Kollar, it’s still in the details that Bioware’s talents shine brightest – weaving engaging and worthwhile characters as threads in a vast tapestry.
For all its narrative nuance and political intrigue, Dragon Age: Inquisition isn’t afraid of a good old slimy monster, either.
“But in true BioWare fashion, that broader story often takes a back seat to smaller character conflicts,” he writes. “The Inquisitor pulls together a huge group of followers, including nine playable party members, and each has reams of dialogue conveying a fully developed personality.”
As well as offering chatter and the opportunity for romance, the player’s extended party brings both questing opportunities and advice on dealing with obstacles, says Kollar, making them more than just talking weapons. In fact, he says, that guidance comes in extremely useful in coping with a game which offers gameplay hours well into triple figures.
“Dragon Age: Inquisition is made up of numerous zones that I could teleport in between at will. However, each of those zones is gigantic in and of itself. In the 80 hours I spent playing Inquisition, I only fully completed two zones, and each of them took me around 20 hours of exploration, questing and monster-bashing.”
“In the 80 hours I spent playing Inquisition, I only fully completed two zones, and each of them took me around 20 hours of exploration, questing and monster-bashing”
Philip Kollar, Polygon
In addition, Bioware has added the simplest of tools as an aide to exploring this vast landscape: the jump button. By doing so, says Kollar, the team has made the world feel more whole and believeable, introducing vertical as well as horizontal scale and a much more convincing sense of exploration. Tie that into the sense of being part of such a huge chain of events that new additions such as the ambassador-lead ‘war table’ missions, says Kollar, and you have a classic perfect for the winter evenings.
In broad agreement is Richard Cobbett at Eurogamer, who awards an 8 to Bioware’s efforts. Whilst full of praise for the lush surroundings of Tevinter and the clear improvements made over the last game, Cobbett finds some concerns over the influence which Inquisition seems to have felt from its contemporaries.
“The role-playing too, pretty as it is, didn’t feel like BioWare. There are straight up MMO style quests, like collecting 10 bits of meat, which at least make sense in context – that you’re helping refugees and refugees need food. Others, however, are thrown in with no finesse whatsoever. You find a letter that says, in about as many words, “Girls really dig people who can kill bears!” and then ping, your Quest Journal suddenly thinks you’re interested in bear-hunting. The first hour of a game is a bad, bad time for it to be resorting to this crap.
“The reason for the sack of activities where normally there’d be more involved quests is that Inquisition takes as many cues from the likes of Assassin’s Creed as other RPGs, with its maps a sack of quests, collectibles, secret bits and general things to do.”
That sense of piecemeal progress and scrappy world building disappears around a fifth of the way into the plot, says Cobbett, allowing the more convincing mechanisms of the plot to take hold. “The stakes become meaningful and dramatic,” he writes. “The mysteries become interesting.” Not as convinced as Kollar by the tasks which can be assigned to your plenipotentiaries, nor the combat which is arguably the game’s key activity, Cobbett finds Inquisition’s approach to less bloodthirsty matters of state a refreshing change from the sword and sorcery.
Bioware’s continued commitment to diversity is apparent, with plenty of deviations from the usual path of straight white male.
“While that side provides most of the raw action,” he says of dragon killing and rift-closing, “it’s the adventure and political parts of the game that make Inquisition work – its understanding that a party in Orlais, where the Great Game is played for the highest stakes, should be just as dangerous as anything that happens in a dungeon. After two games of controlling a ragtag bunch of misfits, it’s also interesting to be in a position of genuine power for once.”
Destructoid’s Chris Carter and Joystiq’s Alexander Sliwinski are similarly impressed, offering scores of 8.8/10 and 5/5, respectively.
Carter praises the RPG tree development of the characters as well as their dialogues, noting that “nothing feels tacked on” in a system which offers some of Origins’ depth, tempered by the streamlining in evidence in the sequel. Overall, he says, the experience is “less nuanced than Origins,” but offers a similar perspective on a living world, the fate of which increasingly lies in your hands.
Political intrigue and the raw sense of exploration garner praise from Carter, too, who also has good things to report about the game’s multiplayer mode – a section of the game which sees you take control of an entirely separate character.
“Multiplayer is the cherry on top, because nothing in the campaign feels like it was compromised for its addition”
Chris Carter, Destructoid.
“Multiplayer is the cherry on top, because nothing in the campaign feels like it was compromised for its addition. In essence, it’s a modified horde mode that operates similar to Uncharted 3′s co-op sections. Four players will be able to select from a host of classes, each with their own skills and abilities, and play through a miniature dungeon together.
“It has that horde feel in terms of fighting wave after wave of enemies, but each stage is an adventure complete with multiple paths, loot to gather, and special doors that can only be opened by certain classes. In that sense, it’s not your typical boring ‘kill kill kill’ mode.”
Sliwinski’s assessment also acknowledges the scope and detail achieved here, as well as the palatable way in which the development team is able to introduce such vast levels of information to the player.
“Inquisition’s immensely helpful in-game codex can introduce or refresh players to some of the characters and socio-political rules of the world,” he writes. “With very few exceptions, long-standing characters are properly reintroduced. There isn’t a ‘previously on Dragon Age…’ within the game, though curious players can cover those gaps with the helpful interactive recap at DragonAgeKeep.com.”
Joystiq’s reviewer also appreciates the switch of pace afforded by the inclusion of Orlais as a destination, a place where court politics partially replace the hew and bellow of the battlefield.
“With the inclusion of The Orlesian Empire, Inquisition delves deep into ‘the game,’ which is how those born into or educated in Orlais refer to the machinations of social politics. Orlais had previously been referenced in the Dragon Age series, but now we get to see this twist on 18th century French court intrigue in all its grandeur. Inquisition explores Thedas’ class and racial politics through a variety of missions and interactions with the game’s companions, who have rich ideological diversity.”
In summarising, Sliwinski makes the key point that so many Bioware fans have been waiting to hear since the Drs Zeschuk and Muzyka departed the company they founded: has Bioware maintained its aims, its ambitions and its quality?
“Dragon Age: Inquisition is BioWare’s reaffirmation of what it’s capable of delivering,” reassures Sliwinski. “It’s a gorgeous game on an epic scale. Rich in character and story, it creates a fantasy world with plausible social rules you can get lost in. It makes you feel that you aren’t just exploring a new world, but helping shape it at various levels of society. Inquisition sets the bar for what a blockbuster RPG should be.”
Sources are telling us that we should expect new skateboarding titles from both Electronic Arts and Activision in 2015. Word is that Activision is preparing a new Tony Hawk title and Electronic Arts will be bring out a new Skate title as well.
While Activision and Electronic Arts have not made the announcements yet, our sources tell us that we should expect both titles to be announced in the near future for a likely late 2015 release. It is unknown who might be handling the development on both titles, but word is that both titles are already deep in development.
With the release of a new Tony Hawk and Skate titles, it will revive the Skateboarding segment that has been dormant for quite some time. EA has not produced a new title in the Skate franchise since Skate 3 and the late couple of Tony Hawk titles didn’t do so well, but the re-issue of original Pro Skater for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 with DLC made up of levels from 2 & 3 have shown that interest does still exist for this segment.
Our hope is that it will be less like what we saw with the SSX revival that EA tried and then realized that it was not really want the people wanted and more like a new next-generation skateboarding title that puts the fun back into skating. We will have to wait and see.
Apple Inc is embarking on its most aggressive push yet onto enterprise IT turf, hiring a dedicated sales force to talk with potential clients like Citigroup Inc and working in concert with a dozen or so developers, two sources familiar with its plans say.
Experts say the company hopes to offset a gradual deceleration in growth – highlighted by iPad sales that have declined three straight quarters – by expanding its footprint in the workplace.
Three months after unveiling a partnership with IBM to develop apps for corporate clients and sell them on devices, the iPhone maker’s plans to challenge sector leaders Hewlett-Packard, Dell Inc , Oracle and SAP are starting to take shape.
Details remain scant, but some industry experts say that the tie-up with Big Blue gives Apple an opportunity to begin to challenge Hewlett Packard’s and Dell’s dominance of office IT, and Oracle and SAP’s command of work applications. Depending on its progress, it may hamper Microsoft, Samsung’s or Google’s own efforts in the nascent market for mobile work applications.
Apps developers and other sources familiar with Apple’s plans who could not speak publicly provided additional details on how the iPhone maker is working behind the scenes.
The iPhone maker has worked closely with a group of startups, including ServiceMax and PlanGrid, that already specialize in selling apps to corporate America. The two people familiar with the plans, but who could not speak publicly about them, say Apple is already in talks with other mobile enterprise developers to bring them into a more formal partnership.
The iPhone maker may be trying to replicate the model that served the iPhone well: hook the client on the software and content, then keep them coming back for the hardware, which is what drives the lions’ share of Apple’s bottom line.
Increased violent video game consumption correlates with declines in youth violence, according to a new study. A recent study published in the Journal of Communication by a researcher at Stetson University found that there were no associations between media violence consumption in society and societal violence.
Christopher Ferguson (Stetson University) published his findings in the Journal of Communication after carrying out two studies to see if the incidence of violence in media correlates with actual violence rates in society. The first study looked at movie violence and homicide rates between 1920 and 2005. The second study looked at videogame violence consumption and its relationship to youth violence rates from 1996-2011. He found that societal consumption of media violence is not predictive of increased violence rates in society.
In the first study independent raters evaluated the frequency and graphicness of violence in popular movies from 1920-2005. These were correlated to homicide rates for the same years. During the mid-20th century, movie violence and homicide rates did appear to correlate slightly, which may have led some to believe a larger trend was at play. That correlation reversed after 1990 so that movie violence became correlated with fewer homicides. Before the 1940s, movie violence was similarly related to fewer homicides, not more.
In the second study on video game violence, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) ratings were used to estimate the violent content of the most popular video games for the years 1996-2011. These estimates of societal video game violence consumption were correlated against federal data on youth violence rates during the same years.
Violent video games were correlated with declines in youth violence. However, it was concluded that such a correlation was due to chance and did not indicate video games caused the decline in youth violence. So far studies have focused on laboratory experiments and aggression as a response to movie and videogame violence, and this is the first one which looked at real-life exposure.
Some analysts had predicted Sprint would fall to fourth place behind T-Mobile, which has 53 million wireless customers, due to Sprint’s losses of postpaid phone subscribers. Those customers pay monthly bills after using a wireless service, as opposed to paying in advance.
In the company’s earnings call late Monday, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure announced a loss of 500,000 postpaid phone connections during the quarter that ended Sept. 30. That’s down from a loss of 620,000 in the second quarter and 693,000 in the first quarter. For the first nine months of the year, Sprint has lost about 1.8 million postpaid customers.
Still, Claure said that Sprint has worked to stabilize is subscriber base with new family service plans and special pricing for the iPhone 6, which he said has been the best iPhone launch by Sprint ever. He cited record sales, but did not disclose any numbers.
“I have now completed 85 days [as CEO], and couldn’t be more excited about the progress made in those short weeks…,” Claure said. “We have started a transformation, while the company faces headwinds. ”
The biggest determining factor in a carrier’s success is postpaid phone customer growth, Claure noted.
Sprint’s wireless customer base includes 29.9 million postpaid connections (for all devices, not just smartphones); 15.1 million prepaid connections; and another 9.9 million connections made from Sprint affiliates, wholesale customers and devices of various types.
In contrast, T-Mobile said last week it had added 2.3 million subscribers in the same quarter, giving it 52.89 million customers.
With the benefit of wholesale and affiliate connections, “we still have the third most [connections],” Sprint spokesman Scott Sloat noted in an email.
Remaining in third place gives Sprint bragging rights, but it wasn’t something anyone at Sprint highlighted, given T-Mobile’s strong surge in recent quarters and Sprint’s problems.
Despite the overall third quarter customer losses, both September and October saw year-over-year improvements — the first such improvements in 2014, Claure said.
The banks would be major competitors to handset makers Apple and Google because unlike others pushing mobile wallet technology, such as mobile phone carriers and retailers, they already have an intimate relationship with consumers and know their spending habits.
“Banks all around the world are working on this right now,” said James Anderson, senior vice president for mobile and emerging payments at MasterCard.
Anderson didn’t name any of the banks, but said MasterCard is already in conversations with them on how to add mobile payment capability to the existing apps that millions of consumers already have on their phones.
The most likely way will be through a technology called host card emulation, that was introduced in Android 4.4 “KitKat” and allows software apps to emulate the secure element chip found on some bank cards and the iPhone 6. Using software means wider compatibility with phones than if a dedicated chip was required.
The mobile payments market had been relatively quiet until recently. Google Wallet and Softcard, a competitor backed by cellular carriers, were in the market but consumer awareness and interest appeared to be low.
That changed with the launch of Apple Pay on Oct. 20. A million cards were activated in the first three days of use and early adopters have praised its ease of use: users just need to hold their thumb over the iPhone 6 fingerprint reader and bring the device near a terminal for payment to be made.
As a result, competitors are planning their attack. Next year CurrentC, backed by some of the biggest retailers in the U.S., will launch and companies like PayPal are also hoping to expand their footprint in stores.
But an app from a bank might have an edge because it removes a potential hurdle to adoption: unease among consumers that at a third-party is getting access to details of purchases they make.
Apple has stressed that it doesn’t see any of the purchases made by its users but Google’s system is set up so that all payments run through the company’s servers — giving the company an additional layer of information into the lives of its users.
A bank already has access to this information because of its nature and is presumably trusted by its customers. If a customer has a banking app on their phone, it would suggest they also have faith in the bank’s online security system.
After releasing a string of AAA console titles to varying levels of commercial success, the UK-based studio is attempting to establish what it describes as a “third way” of making games – one that falls somewhere between what we have traditionally called AAA and Indie. Smaller scale, lower cost, with no sacrifices made in terms of creative risks and quality of execution.
“We’re taking our work on Hellblade as an opportunity to question the way the games industry has always done things,” said product development manager Dominic Matthews in a recent developer diary. “To see if there’s a better way, a more streamlined way. To create amazing quality on a smaller budget.”
As a result, Hellblade has a core team of 12 people, with a single person working in the majority of discipline areas. Ninja Theory is committed to finding affordable or homebrew alternatives to the high-end processes associated with its previous games – the performance capture used in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, for example – but its sales target will remain eminently achievable: between 200,000 and 300,000 units.
“[Hellblade] is about what we feel passionate about, what we’re good at, and what we think our fans and supporters want from a game,” said Tameem Antoniades, Ninja Theory’s co-founder. “But it comes at a price. We have to self-fund this game, and we have to work within the restrictions that that means for us.”
Microsoft Corp introduced a device called “MicrosoftBand” that will allow users to monitor their fitness and exercise regime, marking the world’s largest software company’s foray into the wearable technology market.
The wrist-worn device has sensors that monitor pulse rate, measure calorie burn and track sleep quality, Microsoft said in a blog post. Microsoft said the device will be available in the United States in limited quantities from Thursday for $199.
Apple Inc unveiled a smart watch on Sept. 9 that will combine health and fitness tracking with communications and will go on sale in early 2015, while Samsung Electronics Co unveiled its Galaxy Gear smart watch in September 2013. The Apple Watch will be priced at $349.
Microsoft also launched a health app called “Microsoft Health” that includes a cloud service for users to store and combine health and fitness data.
The Microsoft Health app will collect data from the fitness band and will work on iPhones and Android smartphones, as well as its own Windows Phone.
Apple Pay, which debuted in September, is a mobile payment app that allows consumers to buy things by simply holding their iPhone6 and 6 Plus devices up to readers installed by store merchants.
A Rite Aid spokeswoman told the New York Times that the company does not currently accept Apple Pay. The company is “still in the process of evaluating our mobile payment options.”
Rite Aid and CVS are not part of the group of retailers that had teamed up with Apple on its payment system. However, Apple Pay technology was working in Rite Aid and CVS stores over the week, the newspaper said.
The reason for the disabling was not immediately clear, the newspaper said.
According to analysts, disabling the acceptance of Apple Pay is a way to support a rival system that is being developed by Merchants Customer Exchange (MCX), a consortium of merchants that includes Rite Aid and CVS, the NYT reported.
MCX is developing CurrentC, an app that scans the bar code of the product and initiates the payment transfer by connecting to the customer’s debit card, according to MCX’s website. CurrentC will not be available until 2015.
Apple, Rite Aid and CVS could not be immediately reached for comment.