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Google Continues Wooing Enterprise Users With Android For Work Launch

February 27, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google Inc rolled out an initiative  to make smartphones running its Android software more appealing to corporations, a move that could help extend the Internet technology giant reach into workplaces.

Google said on its official blog that its Android for Work program will provide improved security and management features for corporations that want to give their employees Android smartphones. Smartphones supported by the new initiative will be able to keep an employee’s work and personal apps separate, and a special Android for Work app will allow businesses to oversee key tools such as email, calendar and contacts.

Google said it is partnering with more than two dozen companies including Blackberry Ltd, Citrix Systems Inc, Box Inc.

Google’s Android software is the world’s most popular mobile operating system, but many corporations, which have significant security and device management requirements, give their employees smartphones made by Blackberry or Apple Inc.

 

 

Google Acquiring Softcard’s Mobile Wallet Technology

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Google announced it has reached a deal with three of the country’s major cellular carriers to acquire “technology and capabilities” from Softcard, a competing mobile wallet app created jointly by the telecom operators. But the deal appears to be less about technology and more about branding.

The biggest immediate change is that Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will begin pre-installing Google Wallet on new Android smartphones later this year — something that had been blocked before in preference for the Softcard app.

At their heart, both apps are based on the same contactless payment technology as Apple Pay and a new generation of payment cards from banks and credit unions. They use NFC (near-field communication) to complete a transaction once a payment card or phone is brought within a few centimeters of a terminal.

Apple Pay brought the technology widespread recognition when it launched late last year, but Google Wallet has been around since 2011. However a lack of support from carriers, retailers, card issuers and Google itself had relegated the technology to the sidelines.

While Google Wallet and Apple Pay share a technology base, there are key differences in how they work. Perhaps the biggest is that in Google Wallet, all transactions are routed through Google before being charged to the customer’s credit card.

That gives Google even greater insight into the lives of its users. In contrast, Apple doesn’t see any details of purchases made on its system.

Getting the Google Wallet app in front of more consumers could help reduce confusion over the different brands — an important consideration when the biggest Android phone maker is making moves of its own in mobile payments.

 

 

 

Visa Europe Announces New Mobile Payments Method

February 25, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Visa Europe has announced a new, more secure way for consumers to pay retailers usinng their mobile phones,a move that could set the stage for Apple’s  Apple Pay and rival mobile payment services to be introduced into Europe in the coming months.

Visa Europe said on Tuesday it would introduce to member banks by mid-April a “tokenization” service which substitutes random numbers for a user’s credit card details when a merchant transmits transaction data, reducing the risk of online theft.

Similar security from Visa Inc ,the former parent of Visa Europe, and rival card issuers MasterCard and American Express has been key to the success of Apple Pay since it was introduced in the United States last year, according to industry experts.

Apple Pay allows iPhone users to store their credit card details on their phones, then pay at the tap of a button. In its first three months, more than $2 out of every $3 which U.S. consumers spent using speedy new “contactless” systems at the three major credit card networks was done via Apple Pay, the company said last month.

Visa Europe’s move is one of several new services the London-based credit card giant is unveiling as it battles to retain its role as a middleman connecting banks and consumers in a fast-moving payments landscape being shaken up by major technology firms including Apple, Google  and eBay’s PayPal, as well as scores of ambitious start-ups.

These include a way for card customers to send money overseas to other Visa users via their social media profiles on sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Steve Perry, Visa Europe’s chief digital officer, said in an interview his association’s plan for secure credit card data transmission parallels what Visa Inc offers in the United States. But he declined to comment on whether Apple Pay had agreed to use his organization’s version in European markets.

 

Android Malware Fake Shuts Down Phones To Steal Data

February 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Next time you turn switch off your Android mobile phone, you might want to pop the battery out as an extra precaution.

Security vendor AVG has spotted a malicious program that fakes the sequence a user sees when they shut off their phone, giving it freedom to move around on the device and steal data.

When someone presses the power button on a device, a fake dialog box is shown. The malware then mimics the shutdown animation and appears to be off, AVG’s mobile malware research team said in a blog post.

“Although the screen is black, it is still on,” they said. “While the phone is in this state, the malware can make outgoing calls, take pictures and perform many other tasks without notifying the user.”

The malware requires an Android device to be “rooted,” or modified to allow deep access to its software. That may eliminate a lot of Android owners who don’t modify their phones.

But some vendors of Android phones ship their devices with that level of access, potentially making it easier for the malware to get onto a device.

This malware is unlikely to show up in Google’s Play Store, since Google tries to block applications that have malicious functions. But it could be a candidate for one of the many third-party app stores with looser restrictions.

 

YouTube Releasing New Kids App

February 23, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

YouTube is rolling out a new app for children next week, called YouTube Kids, which will run on smartphones and tablets and focus on kid-appropriate content.

The free app from Google Inc’s online video service will be available for download as of today, February 23rd, and will feature kid-friendly design, with big icons and minimal scrolling, according to details seen by Reuters.

The app, which will be separate from the mainstream YouTube mobile app, will also feature parental controls such as a timer that can be used to limit a child’s screen time.

The Wall Street Journal earlier reported the launch, saying the company is planning to announce the new app today at a children’s entertainment industry conference.

A YouTube spokeswoman confirmed the information.

In December, USA Today reported that Google was planning to roll out child-friendly versions of its most popular products in a bid to be “fun and safe for children.”

Internet companies such as Google and Facebook Inc do not offer their services to children under 13.

 

 

Samsung Moving Toward Mobile Payments With LoopPay Acquisition

February 20, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd has acquired U.S. mobile wallet startup LoopPay, signaling its intention to launch a smartphone payments service to compete with rival Apple Inc.

Mobile payments have been slow to catch on in the United States and elsewhere, despite strong backing. Apple, Google, and eBay Inc’s PayPal have all launched services to allow users to pay in stores via smartphones.

The weak uptake is partly because many retailers have been reluctant to adopt the hardware and software infrastructure required for these new mobile payment options to work. These services also fail to offer much more convenience than simply swiping a credit card, Samsung executives said on Wednesday.

LoopPay’s technology differs because it works off existing magnetic-stripe card readers at checkout, changing them into contactless receivers, they said. About 90 percent of checkout counters already support magnetic swiping.

“If you can’t solve the problem of merchant acceptance…, of being able to use the vast majority of your cards, then it can’t really be your wallet,” said David Eun, head of Samsung’s Global Innovation Center.

Injong Rhee, who is leading Samsung’s as-yet-unannounced payments project, said the Asian giant will soon reveal more details of its envisioned service. He would not be drawn on speculation the company may do so during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

He said new phones such as the upcoming, latest Galaxy would support the service.

Apple Pay, launched in September, allows iPhone users to pay at the tap of a button. Executives have lauded its rapid rollout so far, including the fact that more than 2,000 banks now support it and the U.S. government will accept Apple Pay later this year.

But Apple Pay requires retailers to install near-field communication and some have been reluctant. In addition, many retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and CVS Health Corp, back their own system, CurrentC.

Samsung had invested in LoopPay, along with Visa Inc and Synchrony Financial, before its acquisition. Terms of the deal, which Samsung negotiated over several months, were not disclosed.

It’s unclear how else Samsung could differentiate its service versus Apple’s or other rivals.

 

 

Flip-Phones Oddly Increasing In Popularity In Japan

February 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Japanese shipments of traditional flip-phones picked up pace in 2014 for the first time in seven years while smartphone shipments dropped, highlighting Japanese consumers’ tenacious attachment to the familiar and typically less expensive older models.

Nicknamed “Galapagos” phones because they have evolved to meet unique Japanese standards and tastes, flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 percent to 10.58 million in 2014, data from market researcher MM Research Institute Ltd shows. Smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent to 27.70 million, down for a second year.

Users in Japan pay some of the highest smartphone fees among developed nations, the telecommunications ministry says, while flip-phone rates are among the lowest. Many Japanese accustomed to years of deflation are content with old-style flip-phones offering voice calling, email and in most cases basic Internet services.

Japanese electronics companies Panasonic Corp and NEC Corp have pulled out of the consumer smartphone business, unable to compete with dominant brands Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. They still make flip-phones, though, competing in a crowded market with Fujitsu Ltd and Sharp Corp, among others.

But with a mobile penetration rate of 98.5 percent, or 125 million subscriptions, there is little scope for significant overall growth in Japan’s mobile market, MM Research said. “Smartphones are also peaking in terms of functionality and they tend to last a long time as well, so there are fewer renewals,” said MM Research Executive Analyst Hideaki Yokota. He said 2014 was a particularly strong year for renewals in the subscription cycle for flip-phones, suggesting that last year’s growth may not be repeated this year.

 

 

Apple Wooing Windows Users With Free iWork For iCloud

February 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple has opened the beta of its iWork for iCloud application suite to Windows-only users, letting people without an iOS device or OS X-powered Mac create an Apple ID needed to access the Web apps.

Apple in mid-2013 launched iWork for iCloud — the browser-based versions of its productivity apps Pages, Numbers and Keynote — requiring an Apple ID for access. Apple IDs are normally associated with an Apple-made device, such as an iPhone, iPad or Mac. Consumers who owned a Windows PC but also, say, an iPhone, had an Apple ID and thus were able to access iWork for iCloud.

This latest change gives anyone, including those without a stake in the Apple ecosystem, access to iWork for iCloud.

iWork for iCloud, which has been in beta for more than a year and a half, is Apple’s productivity answer to Microsoft’s Office. Starting in the fall of 2013, Apple began giving away the iOS and OS X iWork apps to new buyers of iPhones, iPads and Macs; iWork for iCloud is the browser-based side of those apps.

The availability of iWork for iCloud will tempt few if any Windows-only consumers: They have free access to Microsoft’s own Web apps, dubbed Office Online.

 

 

Xiaomi Testing U.S. Waters, Launches Phone Accessory Store

February 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The biggest Android mobile phone manufacturer that most Americans have probably never heard of is making its first foray into the U.S. market.

Xiaomi, which in just four years has gone from nothing to leading the Chinese market, will launch a U.S. version of its online shopping site later this year but it won’t sell the low-cost, high-spec phones for which the company has gained its reputation.

Instead, it will offer a selection of phone accessories like battery packs and headphones. That doesn’t mean a U.S. launch of its phones has been ruled out, however.

“The amount of effort to bring [smartphones and tablets] to market is significant,” said Hugo Barra, the one-time Google executive who is now vice president for international markets at Xiaomi in Beijing. Barra, who was speaking to reporters in San Francisco, noted the various certifications required to sell products in each country, the need to strike deals with carriers and organize customer support.

“It’s an incredible amount of work and we have to move at the right pace,” he said. “We’re accelerating our entry by bringing simpler products.”

While Barra wouldn’t commit to if or when Xiaomi will launch hardware, it appears to be on the company’s mind. Thursday’s event was held to introduce reporters to company executives and give them a chance to see Xiaomi handsets, many probably for the first time. The company also handed out samples of its MiNote 2 smartphone to some reporters and said it was keen to hear what they thought of the phone.

In China, the company has become a favorite among local users by continually seeking suggestions and improvements for its version of the Android operating system. Users vote on what features are added and every Friday at 5 p.m. local time, an update is published.

 

Apple Expresses Interest In Self-Driving Cars

February 16, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Technology giant Apple exploring how to make a self-driving electric car and is having conversations with experts at carmakers and automotive suppliers, an automotive source familiar with the talks has said.

The Cupertino, California-based maker of phones, computers and watches is exploring how to make an entire vehicle, not just designing automotive software or individual components, the source said.

“They don’t appear to want a lot of help from carmakers,” the source, who declined to be named, said.

Apple is gathering advice on parts and production methods, the source said, adding that Apple appeared not to be interested in combustion engine technology or conventional manufacturing methods.

An Apple spokesman in London on Saturday declined to comment on “rumors or speculation”.

Rival software maker Google has developed a prototype self-driving vehicle, while startup rival Tesla Motors  has produced a successful electric sports car.

In addition to building a car, there is money to be made from the software operating system for a self-driving vehicle, as well as the services associated with autonomous driving, such as high-definition mapping, car-sharing and electric car recharging services, the auto industry source said.

“It’s a software game. It’s all about autonomous driving,” the source said.

 

 

After Introduction Of Kill Switch, Smartphone Thefts Have Dropped

February 13, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

The number of thefts and robberies of smartphones, particularly iPhones, is declining in New York, London and San Francisco, according to a recently released study.

Law enforcement officials, who have been at the forefront of demands to include a “kill switch” in all smartphones, hailed the news as proof that the technology is working as a deterrent.

In San Francisco, overall robberies and thefts dropped 22 percent from 2013 to 2014, but those involving smartphones were down 27 percent. Thefts and robberies of iPhones fell 40 percent. In New York, smartphone theft dropped 16 percent overall with iPhone figures down 25 percent. And London saw smartphone thefts from persons drop 40 percent in a year.

“The huge drops in smartphone theft that have occurred since the kill switch has been on the market are evidence that our strategy is making people safer in our cities, and across the world,” said New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement.

The kill switch is a software lock that can be remotely activated when a phone is lost or stolen. It can wipe personal data from a phone and “brick it” so it can’t be reused or reprogrammed.

Law enforcement officials campaigned to make the technology standard in reaction to a growing numbers of thefts of robberies of smartphones on city streets across the U.S. and beyond. The assumption was that phones would be much less desirable targets if they could quickly be made useless.

Apple added a kill switch, called Activation Lock, to its iPhone in September 2013. Samsung followed in April 2014 with its Galaxy S5 and Google made it a standard feature of Android with the release of Lollipop.

Soon most smartphones sold will include a kill switch thanks to a new California law that mandates them in smartphones manufactured after July 1 this year and sold in the state. While the law only covers California, it’s leading to their introduction in phones sold worldwide.

 

 

Ready For 8K Screens?

February 11, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Consumer Electronics

A new standard that supports higher-resolution displays should aid in moving 8K screens from the realm of high-end TV and into laptops, all-in-one PCs and possibly mobile devices.

The Video Electronics Standards Association’s Embedded DisplayPort (eDP) 1.4a will boost image quality on screens through faster video transfer rates. The newer standard is for displays inside computers, and it will replace the older 1.4 standard that was released in early 2013. With 8K, displays will show images at a 7680 x 4320 resolution.

Displays based on the new technology will start appearing in computers and mobile devices by 2016, VESA said.

Screens with 8K resolution could find their way into high-end laptops and all-in-one desktops. Apple has used a modified version of the eDP standard in its iMac with 5K Display. Some high-end gaming and business laptops already have 4K displays.

At the moment, 8K resolution is the province of high-end TVs. Japan’s NHK is testing 8K broadcasts in time for the 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo.

Tablets and smartphones don’t have 4K screens yet, and may not get 8K screens. It’s hard to differentiate pixels on small screens, and 8K screens could be expensive for device makers. For now, mobile devices have powerful graphics processors that are able to process 4K video, which can then be shown on external displays.

Displays are the most power-hungry components in laptops and mobile devices. But the new eDP standard could improve battery life by reducing display circuitry and improving processing of pixels.

 

 

Samsung Puts Pressure On Other Internal Divisions

February 11, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Samsung’s components businesses is finding itself under pressure to pick up the slack and secure external customers for chips and display panels and might even start flogging them to rival mobile companies.

According to Reuters the reason for this is that the Smartphone industry is tanking and the only one making any money out of it is Apple — and even it is suffering a bit.

Samsung Display has begun supplying organic light-emitting diode (OLED) panels to Chinese smartphone makers Lenovo, Coolpad, Oppo Electronics and Vivo Electronics.

The subsidiary says it’s on the lookout for more clients, aiming to have half its total revenue by 2017 from sales to outside customers, up from just over a third in 2013.

Industry experts think that external clients account for around a fifth of Samsung Display’s sales of smaller smartphone and tablet panels compared to about 50 percent for large panels for TVs, underscoring a need for more mobile clients.

Samsung was not interested in overseas sales when Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy S devices were selling well, but suddenly it is trying to push into new pastures.

Samsung’s systems chips business is also trying to grow its customer base . It lost a $1 billion last year on declining sales of Galaxy smartphones and the loss of a contract to supply the processor for Apple Inc’s iPhone 6.

Samsung’s next Galaxy S smartphone is widely expected to be powered by its own Exynos processor.

The outfit is in talks with third-party customers about supplying its Exynos mobile processors. Samsung is likely to win back the Apple contract and supply the majority of mobile processors for the next iPhone.

Courtesy-Fud

Alibaba Looking To Push Own Mobile OS With Latest Deal

February 10, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

China’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is taking a $590 million stake in a little known domestic smartphone maker as the e-commerce giant explores ways to expand its mobile operating system in a shrinking, cut-throat handset market.

Extending a previously muted push into hardware, Alibaba said will acquire an unspecified minority stake in smartphone maker Meizu Technology Co. Dwarfed by rivals like Xiaomi Inc, privately owned Meizu’s slice of China’s smartphone market is estimated by analysts at below 2 percent.

The deal, unlike U.S. rival Amazon.com Inc’s foray into smartphones with its own-brand Fire Phone, is designed to help Alibaba push its mobile operating system within China through Meizu’s handsets. In return, Zhuhai, Guangdong-based Meizu will get access to Alibaba’s e-commerce sales channels and other resources, the companies said in a joint statement.

For China’s e-commerce king, with a market value of $213 billion market value, the $590 million price tag may be a costly entry fee. Meizu’s reach in China, and likely that of the Alibaba operating system, is severely blunted by domestic leaders Xiaomi, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Lenovo Group, as well as multinational giants Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

“You could say they’re spending $590 million to experiment a bit and see what happens – it’s an expensive experiment, right?” said Michael Clendenin, Managing Director at Shanghai-based RedTech Advisors.

“My concern is that some internet players are confusing being able to just spend a couple hundred million dollars to buy a piece of hardware that looks pretty cool but is essentially a copy of what Apple has done and what Xiaomi has done,” he said.

Together, the leading five brands accounted for nearly 60 percent of China’s smartphone market in the fourth quarter of 2014, said Nicole Peng, a Shanghai-based analyst with data research firm Canalys.

Meizu has pumped up shipments from a few hundred thousand in previous years to under 2 million in the last three months of 2014, but it still had less than 2 percent of China’s smartphone market share in that quarter, said Peng.

 

 

 

New Spyware Infection Can Steal Pics, Data From iPhones

February 6, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A group of cybercriminals that target governments, the military and journalists has turned its attention to the iPhone, according to Trend Micro.

The computer security firm says it has discovered new spyware that infects iPhones, gathers large amounts of personal information and sends it to a remote server.

The spyware, called XAgent, is delivered via a phishing attack using a technique called island hopping. In that, the phones of friends and associates of the true target are first infected and then used to pass on the spyware link. It’s based on the assumption that the target is more likely to click on links from people they know than from strangers.

Once installed, XAgent will collect text messages, contact lists, pictures, geo-location data, a list of installed apps, a list of any software processes that are running and the WiFi status of the device. That information is packaged and sent to a server operated by the hackers. XAgent is also capable of switching on the phone’s microphone and recording everything it hears.

XAgent runs on both iOS 7 and iOS 8 phones, whether they’ve been jailbroken or not. It is most dangerous on iOS 7 since it hides its icon to evade detection.

On iOS 8 it isn’t hidden and needs to be manually launched each time the phone is rebooted — a process that would require the user to purposely reinfect their phone each time. For that reason, Trend Micro believes the spyware was written before iOS8 was launched last year.

While close to three quarters of Apple mobile devices are using iOS 8, a quarter are still running iOS7, according to data published by Apple this week.

“We’ve been monitoring the actors behind this for quite some time,” said Jon Clay, senior manager of Global Threat communication at Trend Micro, in a phone interview. “The criminals have introduced [the iOS app] as part of their campaign to move further into the [targeted] organization, using this rather than PC malware.”

While the identity of the hackers isn’t known, Trend Micro says it believes those behind what it calls “Operation Pawn Storm” to be a pro-Russian group. Past targets have included military organizations, defense contractors, embassies and media groups.