Sunday, 26 May 2013

Google Galaxy S4 with Stock Android, on Sale for $649 in June

Google Play will soon be showing off a slightly modified Samsung Galaxy S4 on its shelf. And it is not like any other Samsung Galaxy S4 that you have seen before. It runs stock Android. It is in a completely unlocked form and comes with an unlocked bootloader as well as Google’s prompt system updates. Even though Samsung has been named Google’s key leader, numerous Android spy apps have been able to bring frown lines to the tech giant’s forehead.

Changes in Samsung Galaxy S4
The new S4 will be available on Google Play store from June 26th. The device will not only be carrier unlocked but also supports an unlocked bootloader. That allows the users to load their own software on the device including things like CyanogenMod which means that the user can go for a very deep customization of the software. The new S4 is all set to become the next big thing for developers but its high price tag, however, makes it more likely to be a Smartphone for the a small part of the market.

Apart for some modifications in the software, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition is the same down to the bezel. Counting the drawbacks of purchasing an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S4 is the inability to access to TouchWiz.

Several rumors paint a picture of years to come that Samsung might not want to continue Android OS in its device. At this time, Google trying to take advantage of the opportunity to sell its OS in Samsung’s hardware is not at all surprising.

When Samsung Galaxy S4 was launched last month, tech experts found it not is as physically solid as the HTC One or as good as the improved Galaxy SIII but it is being crowned as the most compelling Smartphone running Android. As compared to the unlocked Nexus 4 which can be purchased from Google Play for just $299, Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition will make the pocket lighter. The unlocked device is probably the top current devices running Android Jelly Beans 4.2. It happens to be the first non-Nexus device to get the opportunity.

The high price tag
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Google will be up for purchase on Google Play from June, 26th. Holding no contract, owners will be able to use it both on AT&T and T-Mobile. The high price doesn’t really make it a device for the masses but many might volunteer to spend that much for an experience of an untouched Android.

Interestingly, Samsung announced all of its devices to be stock Android. Fans seem to be a bit overwhelmed by Samsung’s software smorgasbord and this might end up presenting the Samsung Galaxy S4 in a new light altogether.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Android Security in 2013 - Users and Their Woes

As the US Army approves of Samsung Android phones running Knox to be replaced by Blackberry, security must have been given a lot of thought before the decision was made. Introduced by Samsung during the launch of Galaxy S4, smartphones running Knox allows the users to keep their private and personal life separate while providing an added security to the professional data in the phone. As Android phones have been an easy target for Android spy apps ever since their launch back in 2007, the OS seems to have recently experienced another malware blow as users discover about the excess baggage that Facebook Home app seems to be sporting.

Latest Android Malware in town
The Home app, which refashions the phone into the Facebook Home page, has recently been under speculation for the unnecessary features that come with it. once the user installs the Home app to their smartphone, the app is automatically given access to your audio settings, camera and sound recoreder. It can adjust the volume of the phone without giving to a notification or asking your permission. It can record audio by using the phone’s microphone and use the camera to take pictures and record videos without your permission. The question does arise here that why would an app need all this excess baggage to run. A spokesperson from Facebook did admit that though the Home app has the ability to do things like these, the company will not do that.

2013 and Android malware
With a whopping 52.2% market share in the US alone, more than a 100 million Android phones have reportedly been shipped in the second quarter of 2012 in the country. Android’s share of malware rose in 2012 when in the fourth quarterof the year, 96% of all attacks on mobile OS were targeted at Android phones during this time period. Here are some of the scandals that have risen against Android in recent times:

Google Play scandal
In Feburary 2013, Android experienced a massive blow when it was asked by web developers and customers alike to change it’s policies when they discovered what their harmless downloading has been resulting in. Google Play store has been getting information out of every single person who purchases Android apps from the Google Play store. The news broke when a developer of Android apps noticed personal information of customers when they purchased one of his apps. their names, e-mails, addresses and even the suburbs they lived in were accessible.

A report in April 2013 by a Romanian firm, Bitdefender, warned cell phone users against the highly intrusive qualities of apps. Almost 30,000 free Android apps were analyzed in this study and 12.87% of them were found to be collecting personal information from their customers without permission or even knowledge.

Google may be using your private Gmail messages and Scroogled
What 70% of the population of US is unaware of is the fact that Google uses Gmail messages to deliver advertisements. Microsoft launched it’s Scroogled campaign against this policy of Google. Much of Scroogled was based on ads and Microsoft played on the fear of the general masses by leaving the impression that people at Google are reading each and every message sent through Gmail. Although not impossible, this is very difficult as this would allow huge databases and logarithms.

Google has not been able to resolve many of the security issues that Android users have been faced with. The question arises that apart from filling the previous loopholes in the OS, will Google give it’s customers another privacy blow in the rest of the year. A lot of this depends on the time to come.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Nexus 11 Awes Market With it’s Leaked Specs

On it’s I/O developer event last year, Google introduced the Samsung Nexus 7 to showcase it’s software. Nexus 7 had Android 4.4.1 and will be available only at Google Play store, revealed Google last year at San Francisco. This year the attendees of the event anticipate the rumored launch of Samsung Nexus 11. A larger device, Nexus is reportedly going to be octa-core and a whole lot of firsts by Samsung. The Samsung tablet plan for the year has been subject to a major leak as the specifications and features of the Nexus 11 tablet and many more come to the public front.

Where the leak occurred
Recently, SamMobile recently posted a blog about Samsung’s plan of action for the year 2013. Samsung sketches out a road map for what kind of tablets it wants to launch this year. One of the mark here which catches the eye is the Nexus 11. SamMobile has more than average track for such leaks in the past. An entire list referring to all the tablets and their specs that Samsung intends to introduce in the market.

Samsung Nexus 11
Samsung is currently known in the market for it’s Nexus 10 tablet, Nexus smartphone and Galaxy Nexus. As the Galaxy line has become almost synonymous with the Android brand, Samsung seems to be Google’s key partner of late. Samsung is the biggest seller of Andtoid hardware.

As the name indicates, the new member in the Nexus line is slightly larger than it predecessors. It features an 11-inch Super PLS TFT  LCD display most likely at 2560 x 1600 which is the  same reso;ution as the Nexus 10 tablet. It is also going to have Samsung's new Exynos 5 Octa processor which has been showcased in some variants of the Galaxy S4. The Exynos bosts of a 5 Octa 5410 that has four ARM Cortex-A15 cores alongside four ARM Cortex-A7 cores, allowing lower-power tasks to be offloaded to the A7s to conserve battery.

Furthermore, the Nexus may be snagging the market segment craving quikc photography with it’s 8 megapixel camera on the back side of the tablet. The front holds a 2 megapixel camera. It will also include microSD card slot for expandable memory. It is the first Nexus with memory expansion. Expected to be the next launch from Google’s side, Nexus 11 might be running Android 4.3.

Another feature of  Samsung’s plan of action for 2013 is the Galaxy Tab 11. It is a similar 11-inch device that might not be including the classy Exynos 5 octa chipset but a dual-core Exynos 5 that has been admired in the Nexus 10 tablet. To keep the cost down of this tablet, Samsung plans to use a lower resolution display as compared to Nexus 11.

Rumor has it…
With almost no time left in Google’s i/O developer event, the the world expectantly looks forward to what it has in store for the market. All of the above remain unconfirmed rumors which hold no solid ground. Many have their eyes on the annual event for more than just rumors on Google’s Nexus plans.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Let's Talk T-Mobile -- The Uncarrier

The USA has some central mobile service carriers which offer contract services to its subscribers. This entails the purchase of a handset and a contract both. The contracts are two year long and ensure that users won’t be switching services anytime soon. This also means that ‘carriers’ really are those annoying contractors- -where is T-Mobile is not. Here is why.  

The iPhone is finally getting more coverage from T-Mobile USA as it is the last carrier to offer it despite the fact that it is after all the top selling smartphone in US. But this may also be in part that instance of malware or iPhone spyware are few and sparse. Nonetheless, the news is official; T-Mobile will be selling iPhone 5 sets as of April 12th onwards through installed payments. Those who are interested can purchase the devices with a down payment of 100 bucks and a monthly installment of a mere 20. The service charges begin at around $50 which includes unlimited calls and 5GB of data.

This is an intriguing change from the standard long term contracts that cellular services usually offer. According to T Mobile, it is a conscious break away and an attempt at getting phones to users without having to subsidize them in return for two year contracts. This way the carrier won’t have to depend on phone discounts and can instead get users lower service prices.
The whole point is to also attract customers and get as many people as possible on board. The incentive means that anyone with enough cash for an initial down payment can afford a T-Mobile carried iPhone 5 handset. Of course, this is a confidence move on the part of T-Mobile, who is pretty certain that none of their competition will be able to match it. This might even separate T-Mobile from the rest, namely AT&T and Verizon Wireless, which are the USA’s biggest carrier names. These companies already sell handsets at discounted rates in order to get customers. After losing 2.1 million monthly contract subscribers, this is T-Mobile’s attempt back into the big leagues.

With this also comes, T-Mobile’s launch of an LTE network. This is all part of a $4 billion investment plan and the company is offering the service in 7 different areas. Verizon already offers it in more than 485 cities, which means that T-Mobile has a lot of catching up to do. However, the “un-carrier”, as it is fondly calling itself, is also attempting to complete a merger deal with the fifth largest carrier, Metro PCS Communications Inc.

The deal is still pending and according to reports, the folks over at Metro PCS will take a vote whether to go ahead or not on April 12th. Though the merger is pending, T-Mobile is spilling confidence (perhaps over-confidence) in every technological direction.  But the fact is that PCS seems to be putting up a fight in opposing the merger, namely fearing that it will be overburdened with debt and be simultaneously undervalued. Nonetheless, the merger can prove a worthy adversary for the leading carriers.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Adobe’s CTO moves to Apple; Analysts shocked

There has been a major turn of events in the world of technology - Chief Technology Officer at Adobe, Kevin Lynch has made an announcement that he has resigned from his post at Adobe to join Apple as vice president, technologies. The announcement came as a shock for tech analysts, as Lynch had been a harsh critic of Apple at some point. The controversy began in 2010, when Apple declined to use Adobe’s Flash technology on their iPhone and iPad. The war escalated to the point that both companies became public with their grievances. Former CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs published a memo called “Thoughts on Flash”, in which he brutally criticized Adobe’s technology, terming it flawed, while praising HTML5. Adobe replied by launching an online and in print advertising campaign against the workings of Apple, which takes away people’s freedom to choose. However, a year after this controversy, Adobe halted its work on mobile version of Flash and focused more on HTML instead.

Lynch and Apple say: No comment
So, what prompted this sudden change of mind on Lynch’s side – no one is sure of. When contacted by the media for a statement and probable cause of shift, Apple and Lynch chose to stay mum.  However, Adobe responded and said the company wouldn’t be hiring any new CTO; instead the responsibilities will be re-assigned to two key personnel - Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen and SVP Bryan Lamkin.
Earlier, CNBC reported that Lunch will take the position of vice president of technology at Apple, working directly under senior vice president of Apple, Bob Mansfield. This position was created, when ioS software chief Scott Forstall resigned in October 2012 along with retail chief John Browett. Apple is still looking for Browett’s replacement, but it is rumored that Lynch will be filling in for Forstall.

Speculations at Adobe
Back at Adobe, people are speculating upon Lynch’s reasons for resignation. One senior employee assumed that it’s probably got to do with Apple’s approach towards combining hardware and software. Connecting threads, he said Lynch’s fascination with combination of hardware and software – which is absent at Adobe – may have propelled him towards Apple. While solving the mystery of Lynch’s move, tech analyst Jeffery Hammond has said Lynch has always been interested in software. He has earlier knowledge of iOS and worked with the Mac software including the Mac spyware threats. This might have forced Lynch to make its move to Apple. Another important reason is lack of software based work in Adobe – despite its success with cloud computing.

The significance of Lynch’s resignation can also be determined by the fact that Adobe’s revenue crashed down significantly in its first quarter, which might have created a buzz in the market. However, the company number of members for its Creative Cloud service has increased to over 500,000 this year. Moreover, the company showed a marked increase at the stock exchange – from $2.32 to $43.07. However, Apple’s stocks decreased by 89 cents to $453.60 per share.

Friday, 15 March 2013

How to Monitor LGBT Cyber Bullying

For children growing up in this age, discovering who they are and what their sexual identity is can be more then confusing.  If they begin to experience some lesbian, gay, or bisexual tendencies then they may seek some comfort or solace in sharing this with friends and peers. The foremost way of socializing nowadays is through social networking sites, text messaging, and instant messenger services such as GTalk and so on. But sharing such details on the internet is never a good idea. Children and teens can be targets of cyber bullying by all sorts of people that you may not be aware of which can include, friends, relatives, and these include adults too.

The sad fact is we live in a brutal world and in brutal times. It’s difficult living in times of global economic crisis; it’s even more difficult living in times of intolerance and fear of others who may be dubbed ‘different’, ‘weird’, or even ‘freakish’.  And of course, as a parent, these are the last things one wants to hear associated with their child. The internet is not the nicest virtual neighborhood. After all, there aren’t enough restrictions, rules, or regulations in place for any adult to let their child just wander the virtual social landscapes without supervision. So what should a concerned parent do?

Here are some steps to go about monitoring your child and making sure that they don’t fall prey to cyber bullies and hence end up losing confidence in their abilities and sense of self esteem.

Observe your child’s internet practices
In order to monitor your child in such a way that you are up to date on what is happening around them when they log on to the internet, you should first know what their internet routine is. If they access it through their cell phone, through their laptop or the family PC, or perhaps when they go over to a friend’s place, you should go about picking out the best monitoring apps keeping that in mind.
 If your child is still a preteen or under 13 and already demonstrating some sexual deviancy then it would be a good option to bar them from owning a personal cell phone just yet. That way you could talk to them about the changes in their selves and explain to them what to do in case of online bullying and threats before they occur.

Monitor their access devices
In case they are old enough or you feel that they can handle having a personal cell phone, its time you invest in a cell phone monitoring app. If they own their own laptop then you will need computer and internet monitoring software for that device. If they use the family PC only then you can spend time with them when they are online and go about networking and interacting online together.

You can avail a range of apps and spyware software that will allow you to check their browsing history, their emails, their pictures and text messages as well as their contact lists. This way if they receive any harassing texts or multimedia messages, you’ll be in on the loop too and hence equipped to deal with the emotional and mental drama that may afflict your child. As a parent, you will also be able to block any such bullies from Facebook, Twitter, and other sites before the malicious content even reaches your child, preventing mental injury.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Unpatched Vulnerabilities: Android Devices Continue to Cling Onto the Risk Factor

Carriers and tech gurus continue to be at sixes and sevens with regards to solving that million dollar puzzle: patching up Android devices. While mobile spy software is deadlier every passing moment, it seems to be Android spyware that is weaving its malicious magic more effectively than other brands of malware, as the operating system casualties soar without any indication of ceasing any time soon. Recent reports have confirmed that Android’s long tussle with malware is still ongoing, the platform is still the target numero uno for spyware from across the globe and most crucially there seems no easy way out for the users that want to keep themselves up to date with latest patches.

Unpatched Vulnerabilities Galore!
Duo Security is one of many think-tanks mulling over the Android patchwork. It recently compiled results from 20,000 Android machines, which had been scanned with the X-Ray tool for vulnerability assessment. According to the results more than 50 percent of the devices all over the world have unpatched vulnerabilities. And to add fuel to this blazing fire, the chief technology officer of Duo Security is touting the number as a “conservative estimate”, which has been compiled after the preliminary results. If one were to factor in detailed tests this number could further soar skywards.
Duo’s numbers are in synchrony with the Bit9 report that was released earlier this year, which stated that 56% of Android devices were allowing insecure and out of date versions of the software and in turn inviting Android spyware to wreak havoc in their devices.
Devices that have been under this pretty menacing gun include, HTC, Samsung, Sanyo, Motorola, Sony and LG.
Sophos has also reported recently that the discovery of new malware has hiked up 41 times in 2011, while most of this jump traces its origin to a toll fraud malware family which targeted Eastern European markets. This toll fraud occurs when mobile spy software stealthily sends texts to paid services via a phone that has been hijacked.

Crossing the Line
The thing that affects the US the most is the latest apps which use extremely aggressive tactics. And more often than not these tactics cross all lines of privacy. The more aggressive of these apps link sponsored apps, display their advertisements even if the application doesn’t run and criminally extract private information and take it to the server of the advertiser – if this isn’t blatant violation of the ad policy of Google for Android, then what is?
Advertising, while a fundamental right of every single company and firm, has become a dangerous tool, in the garb of which many a hacker has eradicated some of the biggest companies by delving into their private data. Again, no other platform has been as compromised as Android and while other platforms do put up a wall to bolster their lines that shouldn’t be crosses, Android’s lines continue to be the easiest to cross for hackers.

Maximum Risk
As we study the security aspects of various platforms it is still as you were, and Android’s poor vulnerability patching and fragmentation continues to be a massive risk for its users. And with Android – unlike iOS that Apple has on iPhones and iPads – there is a plethora of vendors that use scores of platform versions. This, in turn, results in a hotchpotch of strategies catering to patchwork and they are further complicated owing to the carriers that push out updates.
There are some carriers that tend to push out updates sooner than the rest of the carriers and similarly there are users that install the patches sooner than the rest. And hence the fact that there are more than 50 percent Android devices that have unpatched glitches shouldn’t be that big a surprise for anyone. With Android providing the maximum risk factor to its users, do we really expect things to be different any time soon? Not really…

Quasi Silver Lining
With no tangible solution foreseeable, Android spyware is clearly on the up, which would continue to up the ante on users that have unpatched phones. Even so, mobile spy software and malware is still not as daunting as the malicious apps that have been created to expose vulnerabilities in computers and hence, the menace for Android users is still less than the potential menace in the tech domain. This can be demonstrated simply by knowing the simple fact that one can survive if they haven’t updated their phone’s OS, but no one can survive not updating the anti-virus or the OS patches on the PC.
So yes while the risk factor for Android users is, has been, and would in all likelihood continue to be a hot topic of debate in the tech world, there is still a ray of hope for Android buffs in the shape of the survival and persistence of the PC industry. As they say every cloud has a silver lining; only sometimes one needs a really robust telescope to perceive it.