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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Android, FTW! News

Two weeks ago I purchased my wife an iPhone 4 to get her to send/receive text messages (my new toy by proxy) and I got me a couple of Palm Pre’s via craigslist, as I wanted to see what all the fuss was about for webOS’ coming out party with the just announced HP Pre 3 and new Touch Pad. Obviously, I am in the Android camp but I wanted to keep an open mind and review the competition objectively to explain why I choose Android over anything else. (I was not able to get a Windows Phone 7 device, so while it is gone, it is not forgotten).

First of all, the lot of these phones are very advanced. As I write this article, I am reminded of my 2001 Kyrocera QCP-6035 that ran Palm OS 1.x and had a grayscale screen, connected at 14kbps, and felt like it weighed more than my current iPad 2. So these all feel like some Star Trek communicators in comparison. I have listed some short hardware descriptions below but this review will be all about the software, the key differences between Anrdoid, iOS, and webOS.


I was inspired to write this article because I read far too many blogs that are populated by consumers who have never had the opportunity to actually own a competing device, except maybe for a brief fling in their friendly neighborhood wireless outlet. So a few weeks ago I got an itch to own a Palm Pre Plus again (I had one briefly back in August, 2010, solely for the hotspot capability). Well, I found two of them on craigslist and for the last few days I have used nothing but a pair of Palm Pre’s, with external batteries, and two Touchstone chargers to get the most use out of them. I have to say I am very impressed with webOS and this isn’t even v2.0. Even with the TI OMAP 500MHz, I got a pretty good idea of its potential. The Palm activation is much like an Android one. Just input your Facebook, Google, webmail, and IM account info and Synergy takes care of the rest. While it takes at least twenty minutes to fully sync with said accounts you will not need a computer this post-PC era.

The multi-tasking capabilities of webOS are simply amazing, especially with the 256MB bump to 512MB total. At any given time, I could run anywhere between two and twenty cards (application instances) and I usually didn’t notice any slowdown. Compared to my Android phone(s), it runs circles around them but it also taxes the battery very heavily. That’s bad. The ability to jump in and out of apps is very PC like and is refreshing on such a small scale. The notifications on Android and webOS are very similar, Android's coming from the top and webOS coming from the bottom, but while webOS alerts can be cleared one at a time, Android is largely an all or nothing affair. iOS loses here because its notifications are generally annoying and intrusive to anything you happen to be doing at the time. Apple, please fix these in iOS 5.

The Pre's icon dock at the bottom resembles the iPhone’s most instead of Android’s three pronged attack but Android can be modified with a myriad of launchers. No can do with iOS/webOS. In fact, I use one myself as I quickly grew tired of Moto’s light BLUR implementation. The biggest downside to webOS is its obvious lack of mainstream applications. Even with PreWare Homebrew apps, there is no Skype, Google Voice, or even an official Twitter app. In my humble opinion, this is the real Achilles heel. No developers = no good apps. No matter what, applications are still the dominating force behind choosing a live-in smartphone just behind the decision to pick a carrier with whom to betroth.

Android and iOS win hands down when it comes to a full catalogue of apps. With thousands available, it may as well be an unlimited number since one phone can’t possible hold them all. I have been pleasantly surprised how good iOS has gotten since the last time I owned an iPhone, v2.2. Apple’s multi-tasking is good but still doesn’t even allow for simple updates to Twitter, even in timed intervals like Android. No, for me the killer apps for iOS is the Skype integration of the FF camera and FaceTime. While these are big wins for iPhone, iOS is very much an evolutionary platform and getting better all the time. Not many changes though in Apple’s walled garden approach but I have to admit, it’s definitely getting closer to the ‘Garden of Eden’ of mobile devices if you can overlook Apple's tight control and use of iTunes activation and sync. But I suspect most iPhone users do not think this is a major issue. The iPhone is blazingly fast and keeps a charge over three or four days versus the Pro and the Pre's one day term. So I can see why this phone is not only wildly popular but with its good looks and app catalog it will satisfy the needs of ninety-percent of the market.

But for me, Android still wins out because it’s unadulterated integration of Google services like Gmail, Contacts/Calendar, Google Talk/Voice, Google Maps with turn-by-turn directions, and even a decent version of Skype (especially Verizon’s deal struck for Skype Mobile, not to mention the recent Sprint support for GV). Again, let me emphasize, whilst the other have email clients that are geared towards Gmail, Android truly shines here with an integrated full-on client. The UI/UX of iOS and webOS have more fit and finish, and it seems as if Android users are more concerned with functionality over form. I’m not saying that I don’t care about the UI but I will sacrifice some eye candy over usability any day. Another ingenius move by Android developers was to allow sync function of Google services to be turned of and off at will. Instead of listening to Gmail alerts all day on the iPhone and Pre whilst I receive dupe alerts on my PC in front of me. Even though there has been endless debate about just how much of Android is open source, give me a little FOSS over proprietary code any day. It’s not a coincidence that so many ROM’s have been created for Android in so little time versus iOS and webOS, just ask Steve Kondik AKA Cyanogen.

Probably the only app that makes me jealous right now of iOS is the Netflix app, however it looks as if Android could get its own any day. But what is unknown is the hardware requirements for DRM of said app. Oh and lest I forget, FaceTime is very nice, but Honeycomb has proven that Google Talk can be a conduit for video calls as well.

In closing, iOS and webOS are very good mobile platforms, great in fact, and are worthy competitors and both are wildly successful in their own ways. And I have new found respect for these platforms as there is definitely enough room to have healthy competition in the new mobile society in which we live. Between the three platforms, there is so much that can be taken away as positives like iOS' ecosystem and UI, webOS' true multi-tasking abilities, and Android's openness and Google integration. But I choose to be an AndroidGuy because I believe in community driven open source projects that produce good software, Google’s determination to make a world class mobile platform, and no matter the current carrier conflicts with Android, it is still a beautiful dream to have a "free" OS that is hardware agnostic. Not to mention that no matter the hardware preference, there is definitely a device and form factor for you available from Acer, Archos, HTC, LG, Motorola, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson just to name a few. The iPhone and Pre are limited to just two: the slab and the slider. Not necessarily bad but I like to err on the side of Choice.

Palm Pre Plus, Verizon

  • Sleek hardware with full, albeit small QWERTY keyboard. But a small tactile keyboard is better than none at all
  • Feels the best in the hand with almost perfect weight and balance resembling a river stone it was modeled after
  • No front-facing camera but the 3MP camera takes quick sharp snapshots like a point-n-shoot
  • No true GPS driving app except for Verizon’s VZ Navigator
  • webOS 1.4, will never be upgraded to v2.0 (Palm’s version of the G1)
  • Free hotspot app with no monthly charges up to 5GB/month. Thanks Verizon!
  • Need PreWare Homebrew Apps to turn into a daily driver via side loading apps via your PC and/or alternative appstore
  • Adobe Flash coming in v2.0, Palm Pre 2/3
  • Touchstone induction charge is a nice accessory and comes in very handy, IF you can position it right to keep it from chiming incessantly and keep the “charging battery” message from popping up every 20 seconds
  • Removable battery and Touchstone
  • 16GB ROM out of the box but no external SD card

Quick walk around:
The Palm Pre Plus looks great and you can get it in any color as long as it’s black. The sides are smooth except for a volume rocker on the top left corner and the power/sleep button top. The face of the Verizon Pre is smooth since losing its home button that debuted on the Sprint version, and the only differentiation between the north and south of the device is the silver ear piece. The sliding mechanism feels strong and secure, and the keyboard is manageable with some practice.

iPhone 4, Verizon

  • Apple’s iconic shape of love and hate for so many of you users out there
  • Until the iPhone 5 arrives, the 4th Gen remains the pick of the litter with a rear 5MP (w/ LED flash) and front facing camera enablement for Skype and Apple’s own FaceTime
  • Retina display is ridiculously clear and sharp
  • The big story here though is iOS 4.2 and its version of multi-tasking that allows real-world usability. Will most likely be upgradable to iOS 5.0 in the future
  • The iPhone 4 is very thin but very fragile as well. With its front and back glass casing, I don’t see how it would survive a drop without one of a thousand available cases
  • Verizon enabled hotspot but will add $20/month to your already unlimited data plan with only 2GB allowed montly.
  • No Adobe Flash....EVA!
  • Netflix app that looks better than Silverlight on a Windows PC
  • Needs a good jailbreak and possible unlock to “unlock” its potential using Cydia, for example,
  • No removable battery but it doesn’t need it with great battery life
  • No external SD ROM addition

Quick walk around:
With the exception of the ever elusive white iPhone 4, the default model in black is still stunning. A silver band divides the front and back, and keeps the iPhone looking balanced and chic. Stellar design and attention to detail keeps it looking both futuristic and the one to copy. Also feels like an aspirational product, even though everybody and their brother has one. Apple has kept the home button the integral part of the iPhone user experience and instantly makes iOS users feel at home.

Motorola Droid Pro, Verizon

  • One of only two Android phones that Motorola produced with a full QWERTY keyboard, but the Pro mimics even the best BlackBerry
  • Largest phone of this bunch but still small by the new super phone standards set by the Droid X and the EVO, Thunderbolt, et al
  • The Pro doesn’t look overly flashy and while it won’t win any beauty contests, it definitely shows up with its business suit on. This thing’s not called ‘Pro’ for nothing
  • Android 2.2, will probably never see 2.3 AKA Gingerbread but I can dream, can’t I?
  • Runs Adobe Flash 10.x in the browser
  • Verizon offers their proprietary hotspot app but the Pro can be rooted in about a minute and then you have your pick of Barnacle or WiFi tether to use for FREE
  • Removable battery and option for an extended version that adds at least 8 hours of life
  • Camera w/ LED flash is 5MP but is slow for most picture applications, ditto for the camcorder
  • Most Android devices can be made even more awesomer by adding some Cyanogen love
  • SD card for adding ROM
  • Side loading of apps is supported

Quick walk around:
The Pro definitely comes from the Droid bloodline, that Verizon’s marketing has made both a blessing and a curse for us Android fans and not just “Droid” users. Anybody who has seen a BlackBerry, will know exactly where Motorola derived its inspiration. In the Pro’s case, imitation is certainly the best form of flattery. The screen resolution on the Pro is not the highest but will work in most conditions except for movie watching. In short, the Pro is the best Android phone for people who require a full QWERTY but do not want a sliding mechanism to get it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Debenhams launches Nokia and Android applications

Debenhams has added an Android and a Symbian application to its portfolio.

The department store already has an iPhone application, but is now extending its range.

The applications are aimed at shoppers on the move and allows you to search for, purchase and pay for products available on the retailer's site.

The Android application features a barcode scanner, allowing you to scan a barcode and then match it to the shop's inventory. For example, if you're looking to buy a replacement eye shadow, you simply need to scan in the barcode using your phone's camera and the application will search for everything Debenhams has in stock, allowing you to buy straight away.

Debenhams says the barcode scanner alone on the iPhone application has been used 90,000 in the first five months it was available to download on the App Store and it expects similar results from the Android application.

Debenhams has also put QR codes to good use, offering customers who spot a QR code on adverts or shop fronts to scan it in and get special offers.

Other features of the iPhone, Android and Nokia applications include the ability to filter searches, create a wish list for sharing among friends and families and find a store.

“Launching on the Android and Nokia platforms opens Debenhams mobile shopping to another millions more customers, bridging the gap between the high street and,” says Harriet Williams, head of digital development for Debenhams.

The Debenhams iPhone application has been downloaded a total of 360,000 times and according to UTalk Marketing, has been responsible for almost £1 million worth of sales since its launch.

The launch of the Debenhams application comes just days after QVC launched its own shopping application for iPhone. The QVC app syncs items currently on-air in real-time, which means you won't miss out on every day's products.

Sprint integrating Google Voice, outs Nexus S 4G with Android 2.3

Google and Sprint announced today that Sprint customers will soon be able to turn their Sprint phone numbers into full-service Google Voice numbers, integrating all the services implied without having to port them or take on a second phone number, as most Google Voice users do. Google and Sprint are consummating this new level of hand-holding with a handset, the Nexus S 4G, which will ship with Android 2.3 Gingerbread on Sprint's network this spring.

With Google Voice integration, Sprint customers will no longer have to activate a second phone number or port their current number, the way Google Voice users currently do. Sprint customers will be able to make their numbers ring on multiple phones by default, and Google Voice's voicemail services will replace the Sprint voicemail interface.

Sprint customers that already have separate Google Voice numbers will be able to adopt them as their primary phone number while retaining all the Voice services. Either way, the integration of Google Voice negates the need for a separate app to use all of the Voice features.

Sprint and Google are dovetailing this announcement with one for the Nexus S 4G, a hotspot-capable Android 2.3 phone that will come with 16GB of internal memory and 512MB RAM. The phone's processor has only a single 1GHz core, which won't make it very competitive among the burgeoning number of dual-core phones, but Samsung has indicated that the phone does have a dedicated GPU.

The launch dates for both Google Voice integration and the Nexus S 4G are vague—Samsung has pegged the Nexus S 4G for "this spring," and Google has said Google Voice integration will be "available soon."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Acer launches Android-based Liquid Metal

Measuring 115 X 63 X 13.5mm inches, the smartphone has a curved 3.6" display with a TFT capacitive touch screen. The smartphone has a stainless steel battery cover, which is solid and resistant.

The Liquid Metal supports HSDPA for on-the-go Internet access at speeds up to 14.4Mbps as well as WiFi allowing data transfer 10 times faster than previous devices. The LED signal on the upper part of the telephone notifies the user of missed calls, the need to charge the battery, and new incoming messages clearly.

Acer Liquid Metal's 1500 mAh battery coupled with intelligent power management means you have up to 8 hours talk time and 550 hours in standby mode. Acer Liquid Metal comes with 3 popular keyboard layouts including Clever XT9 predictive text support to save users typing unnecessarily.

Liquid Metal is built in with a pinch to zoom feature, 5-megapixel camera with digital zoom, LED flash with a maximum resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. The camera offers 720p HD video recording as well as autofocus and smile recognition.

Key specs:
* Powered 800MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon Core Processor
* Android 2.2 Froyo OS (5X faster than the earlier versions)
* Display : 9.1 cm (3.6-inch) TFT capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors, 480 x 800 pixels resolution
* Fastest Connectivity Suite : HSPA 14.4 MBPS , 3G (3G + WiFI), GPS, Mini USB
* Record video in HD at 720p (30fps)
* Dolby Surround technology , EQ profiles and Dynamic Bass Boost Push Mail
* 3 Predictive Dialers (3 KB with XT 9)
* Superior Battery Life up to 8 hrs of talk time (1500 MAH Battery)
* Top LED Indicator
* Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate
* Wireless LAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, UPnP
* Bluetooth v3.0 with A2DP
* Camera: 5 mega-pixel,auto-focus, LED flash ,Geo-tagging, face and smile detection, image stabilization
* Unique Acer Interface
* Pinch to Zoom option
* 8GB Micro SD Card (up to 32GB)

Available in silver, brown and tiffany Blue colours, Acer Liquid Metal is priced at Rs 20500.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Video: Android 3.0 Honeycomb Walk-Through its new

I had a chance to spend about a week with the brand new Motorola Xoom and I was rather impressed with the new operating system. Android 3.0 Honeycomb offers a refreshing interface and many people are not aware the improvements it has over the older smart phone OS. For those of you who have yet to get their hands on one of these tablets, I decided demo five new features that makes the tablet-optimized Honeycomb OS great for the tablet form factor:

Home Screen Interface

The new Android 3.0 code-name Honeycomb OS features five home screens for widgets and application icons. It starts out on the center home screen and users can swipe to either the left or right to access the others. A new space themed Tron inspired interface is apparent throughout the entire system, not just the home screen. Google has hinted that the next Android upgrade for smart phones will inherit the new look. A handful of interactive widgets come pre-installed. Organizing items on the home screens is easy and intuitive with great visuals.

Voice Actions

Google may have initially introduced this feature about a year ago at their I/O 2010 conference, but the feature still impresses. Without having to program or train your device, the cloud-based Voice Actions perform tasks based on your command. Users can initiate music playback, start GPS navigation, send emails, set alarms, visit webpages, or search the internet with simple commands.

New Bundled Apps

The new tablet-optimized Honeycomb OS also brings a set of quality pre-installed application that take advantage of the large screen size. Most of these offered more features and were more responsive than the iOS 4.x counterparts on the original iPad in my opinion.

  • Google Books – 3D carousel view, two side-by-side page view
  • Web Browser – tabbed interface, Adobe Flash support soon
  • Calendar – flexible and supports multiple calendars
  • Camera – a new layout for easy access to settings
  • Clock – a full screen clock which also shows set alarm time
  • Contacts – a convenient two-pane view
  • Gallery – stacks represent folders of photos and videos
  • Gmail – two-panes, snippets show previews of messages
  • Google Maps – 3D buildings and two finger zoom and rotate
  • Movie Studio – edit and publish videos on the go
  • Music – cover flow interface and views for Albums/Artists
  • Settings – reorganized layout for easy customizing
  • Talk – supports video chat and multiple conversations
  • YouTube – 3D wall for featured content

Multitasking and Notifications

Switching between apps is easier than ever. While users generally had to hold down the home key on smart phones, there is now a dedicated app switching icon at the lower left of Android 3.0. It displays the five most recent used applications. Notifications now appear in the lower right task bar by the clock. It is easy to dismiss or react to a notification. A quick settings panel is also within reach at all times for access to WiFi, brightness, screen lock, and other options.

Web Marketplace and Chrome to Phone

The new web-based Android Marketplace is compatible with Honeycomb tablets. It is easy to install new apps to your tablet even if you are not in the same room. Of course, no cable required. It works as long as your tablet is online with either 3G, 4G, or WiFi. The Chrome to Phone extension also works perfectly with the Motorola Xoom tablet. I pushed webpages, maps, videos, and other content over to the tablet with a single click from my laptop.

Samsung Galaxy II out with Android 3.0 (Latest Adition)

The latest series of Samsung Galaxy tablets have been anounced this week! These new Android based tablet smartphones are out with better screens, content and most importantly, speed. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 runs on Google Android 3.0 operating system nicknamed the Honeycomb and comes with a 1GHz dual-core processor.

Galaxy 10.1 has been launched with a whole new variety of features like a 10.1 inch display with AMOLED, 8 MP Autofocus camera a 2 MP front facing camera, dual surround sound speakers, HD video recorder. Also it supports HSPA and a 21 Mbps connectivity! For apps lovers, the phone is to be a delight in that field too.

These smartphones are the latest items that are being swooned over in the markets of Southeast Asia, Oceania and Taiwan and has given 2011′s competition for smartphones are great boost!

This phone also has great multimedia features like instant access to music, games and ebooks as well as social networking sites for all the entertainment lovers, fast web browsing and it can also multi task making the experience of using this phone similar to that of a PC. Other features like data encryption, virtual meetings and mobile device management by Microsoft, Cisco and SAP has also been added.

The Galaxy family has four new members added to its tech tree, the Galaxy Ace, Galaxy Fit, Galaxy Gio, Galaxy Mini and Galaxy Pro with their screen sizes between 2.8 inches to 3.5 inches.

Already 10 million units of the Samsung Galaxy SII have been sold and more are on their way to be sold catering to the needs of people from different fields mainly the youth who are enthusiastic about anything new in technology and satisfying their entertainment cravings!

This are the amazing phone in android market.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

TEGA v2 review: Windows 7 tablet with Android on the side

The parade of expected Windows 7 tablets has begun, as the TEGA v2 began shipping late last year. I picked one up and have been using it for a few months, and it’s time to give it some pixels. Sharp-eyed readers may be thinking the TEGA v2 looks like the just released ViewSonic ViewPad 10, and you are correct. The same ODM is making both the TEGA v2 for Tegatech in Australia and the ViewPad for Viewsonic, and they are the same right down to the dual-boot environment with Android.

The TEGA v2 is a thin slate with a 10.1-inch display running at 1024×600. It is heavier than the Motorola XOOM, but about the same size. It is basically a netbook in a slate form, with an Intel Atom processor, 2 GB of RAM and a 32 GB SSD to speed things along. The multitouch capacitive digitizer works as well as that on any smartphone, and the webcam is handy for video conferencing.

Check out TEGA v2 photo gallery with comparison to Motorola XOOM

Image Gallery: Check out the TEGA v2 Windows 7 tablet photo gallery with Motorola XOOM comparison.
Image Gallery: TEGA v2
Image Gallery: TEGA v2

Hardware specs as reviewed:

  • CPU: Intel Atom N455, 1.6 GHz (single core)
  • Memory: 2 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB SSD
  • Display: 10.1-inch, wide-angle, 1024×600
  • OS: Windows 7 Pro
  • Slots/ ports: 2-USB, Mini VGA, microSD, audio, SIM (3G)
  • Battery: integrated, 3,500 mAh, 3.5 - 4 hour real-world battery life
  • Connectivity: WiFi b/g, Bluetooth, 3G (GSM)
  • Webcam: 1.3 MP
  • Dimensions: 10.8 x 6.7 x 0.63 inches, 1.9 lbs.

The construction of the TEGA v2 is first-rate, from the black plastic bezel on the front of the tablet to the aluminum back. It feels very solid in the hand, if a tad heavy for prolonged use. The accelerometer is used for auto-rotating the display to the desired orientation, and as this feature is incorporated in the BIOS it works very well with only a slight delay observed in the process.

The three buttons on the right of the display (in normal landscape orientation) are reminiscent of those found on Android phones. They are (top-bottom) Power; Home; and Back. The Home button has a nice function that is handy for a Windows tablet; hitting Home instantly minimizes all open windows and displays the desktop. It is a toggle so a second tap brings all of the windows back instantly. The Back button toggles WiFi on and off so care must be exercised to not hit this accidentally. The Power button works as it does on any Windows system and can be configured in the power management to put the tablet to sleep.

Windows operation

The TEGA v2 is a complete Windows system and operates as expected. The touch screen has just the right sensitivity for operation via the fingers, and Windows 7 works with touch better than you might expect. Some controls are small for tapping with the finger, but most can be adjusted in size to make this work better. Overall I find that it is easier to use Windows on the TEGA v2 than I thought it would be. The performance of Windows on the tablet is quite good, due to the fast SSD.

The problem with this tablet, as with all Windows touch tablets, is quickly discovered when you run a program. As my ZDNet colleague Mary Jo Foley is fond of pointing out, Windows 7 is touch capable but not touch-centric. This is evident when running programs; any Windows program can be used on the tablet, but few of those are written to handle touch operation properly. Most Windows programs don’t handle touch at all, and these can be tough to run without a mouse and keyboard. This will have to be addressed in future versions of Windows designed for touch. It is not just the operating system that must be written for touch, the apps must also be optimized. This is not unique to the TEGA v2, it is the same for any touch tablet running Windows 7.

The advantage of the Windows tablet over those running other platforms is the ability to run any Windows programs. The TEGA v2 can handle any of these with ease, with the exception of CPU-intensive programs. It can also be used with an external keyboard and mouse if necessary, in effect turning it into a super portable netbook. For those facing situations where running Windows programs is mandatory, and the TEGA v2 is a perfect fit.

Android operation

The TEGA v2 (and the ViewSonic ViewPad) dual-boots into Android 1.6. Tegatech is working to release version 2.2 (Froyo), but they’ve been working on it for a while and it’s not out yet. This old version of Android cannot run some of the newer Android apps, and older apps don’t handle the large 10-inch screen particularly well. The Android Market is not available either, so having Android on the tablet is more a novelty than anything useful.

Once Froyo is released that will change, as Android can be used for quick sessions without firing up Windows. It should be better for battery life, too. I will give this a try when the update is released but until then I don’t boot into Android.

The TEGA v2 has the Intel processor, so the open-source version of Android written for the x86 platform is what is used. This may be affecting the speed of the Froyo update on the TEGA v2.


The TEGA v2 is a solid tablet that is well-made and quite functional. Windows 7 runs very well, and the touch screen and other controls are nicely laid-out. Windows tablets such as the TEGA v2 are suited for the enterprise, particularly those with proprietary Windows programs that would benefit from the slate form factor. If running Windows programs is not what you need, you will be better off looking at the iPad 2 just announced or another tablet such as the Motorola XOOM.

This tablet is available through Tegatech for $799, which is the price for the tablet as reviewed. They also have accessories for the TEGA v2, including a case with an integrated keyboard.

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Google issues hacking alert to 260,000 smartphone users who downloaded virus-infected apps

Google yesterday admitted that up to 260,000 smartphones have been hacked after handset users unwittingly downloaded virus-infected apps.

The threat came to light last week when the technology giant was forced to withdraw at least 50 apps from its official Android Market.

Google has now sent text messages warning those affected that the malicious applications could access their personal information and take control of their handset.

Infected: Google has admitted that up to 260,000 smartphones have been hacked after handset users unwittingly downloaded virus-infected apps

Infected: Google has admitted that up to 260,000 smartphones have been hacked after handset users unwittingly downloaded virus-infected apps

Studies have found that the dodgy applications were downloaded after they had been repackaged with a code that corrupted them.

Google Android is an open-source software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications.

The deadly apps were simply copies of existing programs which had malware DroidDream found in them, and were swiftly taken off the site and recalled - but not before affecting hundreds of thousands of users.

DroidDream fires sensitive data, such as a phone's unique ID number, to a remote server.

In addition the malware will check if the phone has been infected already. If it hasn't the program bypasses security controls and hands its creator access to the handset.

This means that the user can access information, including passwords for other personal things.

Security expert Mikko Hypponen said the incident is embarrassing for Google because it shows the firm hasn't fully tested the safety of its apps.

'I do think Android phones are more vulnerable than any of the other major smartphones out there at the moment,' he told Metro.

A Reddit user first noticed the problem late last week after one program, which teaches people how to play a guitar on their mobile handset, was titled under the name of a publisher who didn't write it.

'Lompolo' discovered that the application was a carbon-copy of the original, however it had a name change and virus code added to is.

The user had worked out that the corrupted application had been downloaded more than 200,000 times after they were placed on the Marketplace.

The latest version of the Android operating system, known as Gingerbread, is not vulnerable to the exploits DroidDream uses.

Friday, March 4, 2011

New Google Tool In Market Tackles Android Fragmentation

android logo

Google on Thursday expanded its Fragments API to applications running older versions of Android, meaning apps that are compatible with Android 1.6 or higher can tap into Fragments to create apps that work on larger-screened devices like tablets.

Though Android has been growing in popularity recently among handset and tablet makers, the main complaint about the OS has been its fragmented nature. At this point, about 57.6 percent of Android devices are running version 2.2, followed by 2.1 at 31.4 percent. About 6.3 percent are still on Android 1.6, according to the Android Developers site.

To address this, Google introduced the Android Fragments API in early February as part of Android 3.0 Honeycomb.

"Android 3.0 further helps applications adjust their interfaces with a new class called Fragment," Dianne Hackborn, a Google software engineer, wrote in a February 3 blog post. "A Fragment is a self-contained component with its own UI and lifecycle; it can be-reused in different parts of an application's user interface depending on the desired UI flow for a particular device or screen."

At the time, however, the Fragment API was only available for Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Hackborn acknowledged that "the immediate need for many developers today is probably to design applications that they can provide for existing phones while also presenting an improved user interface on tablets." With it only available via 3.0, however, the "shorter-term utility is greatly diminished."

She said Google was working on a static library for older versions of Android, and that library is now available.

"Today we've released a static library that exposes the same Fragments API (as well as the new LoaderManager and a few other classes) so that applications compatible with Android 1.6 or later can use fragments to create tablet-compatible user interfaces," Xavier Ducrohet, Android SDK tech lead, wrote in a separate blog post.

The library is available via SDK Updater under "Android Compatibility package."

Android, Not Apple, to Lead Huge Tablet Market in 2014

Apple sold 15 million iPads from April to December last year, and every major PC and smartphone manufacturer has since set plans in motion to launch a competing device of its own. Think the tablet market is crazy already? The really intense figures are yet to come.

According to a March 4 report from RBC analyst Mike Abramsky, only 0.3 percent of the world’s population has so far bought a tablet, leaving a big, big market of potential purchasers.

By 2014, Abramsky expects that more than 400 million people will own tablets, with 185 million units shipping in 2014. And while Apple may for now dominate the field—holding more than 90 percent of the worldwide market share, according to ABI Research—Abramsky projects that 40 percent of 2014’s sales will be tablets running Google’s Android OS.

The reason for this will be Android’s “broader support from OEMs and carriers and expected budget-priced Android tablets from Asia,” wrote Abramsky, according to U.K. site FoneHome. These are essentially, the same factors that enabled Android to become the leading mobile operating system in just two years.

Canalys reported Jan. 31 that during the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphones running Android passed long-time-leader Nokia’s Symbian platform; Android shipped 32.9 million units to Symbian’s 31 million.

According to Abramsky, in 2014, Apple’s OS will follow Google’s Android, with 34 percent market share. Next up, with 13 percent, will come Microsoft, followed by RIM’s BlackBerry, with 8 percent, and HP’s webOS, with a 5 percent share.

Deloitte reported Jan. 18 that Apple, Motorola and Samsung will help to fuel a trend that will mark 2011 as a “tipping point” for tablet sales. In another report the same day, IDC said it expects tablet growth to “accelerate significantly” during the first quarter of 2011, with new products poised for market, such as the Motorola Xoom, RIM BlackBerry PlayBook and HP TouchPad.

IDC forecast tablet sales to reach 44.6 million units in 2011 and rise to 70.8 million units in 2012. Meanwhile, Deloitte put 2011’s projected total at 50 million units, with substantial demand from enterprise markets; health care and retail could alone account for 5 million tablets this year.

Raymond James, also in a Jan. 18 report, anticipated, too, that Android will eventually overtake Apple’s iOS in market share, adding that it additionally has high hopes for tablets running HP’s webOS.

“We view webOS as a very competitive operating system and believe that HP’s brand name, expansive customer base and world-class supply chain position the company for success in the tablet market,” wrote Raymond James analyst Brian Alexander.

More recently, Morgan Stanley reported—similar to RBC’s Abramsky—that the tablet market is still being underestimated, and that shipments could reach 100 million units in 2012. China, Morgan Stanley said in a report, will lead the worldwide market, accounting for 41 percent of all shipments, while the United States, behind Japan and much of Europe, will account for just 11 percent of sales.

Abramsky, in a chart in his 88-page report, emphasized the potential for tablet growth by comparing tablet owners to those of other markets. While tablet and smartphone owners total approximately 394 million users, broadband subscribers are 555 million strong, PC owners run to 1.3 billion and Internet users 2 billion, while overall mobile subscribers have passed the 5 billion mark.

Android Market should scan for malware Great Things

Android Market apps should be scanned for traces of malware to protect Android customers from downloading apps that look legitimate but are in fact malicious, a security expert told CNET today.

Earlier this week Google removed a bunch of malicious apps, most disguised as legitimate apps, from the Android Market after they were found to contain malware. The malware, dubbed DroidDream, uses two exploits to steal information such as phone ID and model, and to plant a back door on the phone that could be used to drop further malware on the device and take it over.

"At a minimum, they have to do signature-based scanning for known malware," said Chris Wysopal, chief technology officer at Veracode, an application security provider. "DroidDream is now a malware kit and it would be easy for people to make variations of it and insert it into new software."

But traditional signature-based antivirus software isn't good at detecting brand new malware or existing malware that has been modified enough to slip past the antivirus programs. To catch something like DroidDream then, behavioral-based antivirus scanning should also be used, according to Wysopal.

"Downloading and installing additional software onto the device outside of the app store is the kind of behavior that should be scanned for," he said.

A Google spokesman declined to comment beyond confirming that the company had removed some apps and disabled several developer accounts for violating Android Market policies.

Most if not all of the 55 or so apps that were pulled from the Android Market were repackaged versions of legitimate apps, said Kevin Mahaffey, chief technology officer at Lookout, which provides security software and services for Android, BlackBerry, and Windows. This means that even more cautious Android users could have been more easily duped into downloading one of the apps, he said. (Symantec has a list of some of the apps removed from the Android Market here.)

Depending on the handset used, Android versions may be patched by now, but others are not, he said. The vulnerabilities exploited by the malicious apps have been patched in Android 2.3, also known as Gingerbread, but older versions could still be vulnerable, according to Mahaffey.

It's not clear whether DroidDream did in fact download any software onto devices that installed any of the malicious apps. The command-and-control server the malware set up to communicate with the victim devices is offline now and "we haven't seen any evidence that the server was pushing apps to the devices," Mahaffey said.

It's also a mystery who is behind the malicious apps, but there's a possibility it's someone in China as the malware was also found on alternative Android marketplaces that target Chinese users, he said.

Cleanup can be a pain; in addition to removing the app, any additional software it may have hidden in the device must be wiped. Lookout can walk Android users who need help through the cleanup process, Mahaffey said.

The Android Market is flourishing, with the number of apps growing faster than the iPhone market, according to Lookout. Android also has greater overall market share of mobile operating systems in the U.S. (29 percent) than Apple's iOS and Blackberry (both 27 percent), Nielsen announced today.

Much of the success of the platform is due to the fact that the operating system is open-source and thus attracts a large number of developers. The openness of Android's platform fosters innovation, but leaves much of the responsibility for security on the shoulders of Android customers, experts say. (More details on the different security models between Android and iPhone is here.)

In one analogy Wysopal has come across, the iPhone environment has been likened to Disney World and Android to New York City. You might not have as much freedom and choice at Disney World, but you probably feel safer.

"How are people who don't read CNET supposed to know that they need to do something on their phone to bring it back to its factory state because it's been compromised" by a malicious app, Wysopal said. Apple could send a warning out to all iPhone users if it needed to but that can't happen on the Android because of all the different flavors of the operating system running on the different handsets, he said.

This may be the first time Google has removed malicious apps from the Android Market, but it's not the first time apps have been pulled. Last year two proof-of-concept apps designed to test how easy it would be to distribute an innocuous program that could later be made malicious were removed. Later in the year Google pulled another app the same researcher created to illustrate a flaw in the mobile framework that allowed apps to be installed without a user's knowledge. That hole also was plugged.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Google pulls 56 malicious apps from Android Marketplace Its Amazing

According to reports from Android Police and mobile security vendor Lookout, more than 50 stolen Android applications have been removed from the Android Marketplace for containing Malware. The malicious code has the ability to steal sensitive information and open a backdoor to the device.

The initial warning about rogue Android applications came from a user on Reddit who noticed pirated versions of legit application were being posted by developer Myournet. The Reddit user, Lompolo, dug into the source of the stolen apps and discovered code that allowed them to circumvent Android’s security sandbox. From there, Android Police investigated the incident further, and discovered more malicious activities.

The Android Police report says that in addition to rooting the device, the Malware embedded within the pirated applications will swipe the product ID, model, language, country, and userID. Moreover, it has the ability to download further code, thanks to a backdoor that is created. At best count, the applications were downloaded by anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 people.

Mobile security vendor Lookout addressed the discovery of the Malware by giving it a name and releasing an over-the-air update to protect their users. The Malware, dubbed by Lookout as DroidDream, was also discovered within applications being offered by two other developers, Kingmall2010 and we20090202.

Google reacted by pulling the applications from the market and initiating their remote removal processes. However, there is no way to tell how many were actually victimized by the Malware, despite download counts.

A full list of pirated and malicious applications can be found here.