20 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

09/02/2015

Apple Catches Up with Samsung on Global Sales

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Market research authority Gartner, reports Apple had a good second quarter this year, making strides to catch up to Samsung in the global smart phone race. Apple sold 48 million units, an increase of 36%, while Samsung slipped back 5.6% in the same quarter.  

Despite the media’s optimism towards Gartner’s findings, Samsung maintains a strong grip on the global market. Samsung’s loss of less than 6% last quarter has certainly not gone without notice, however, the dip is less disturbing when compared to the number of units sold, which is more than 20 million over Apple—an impressive 72 million units worldwide. 

Not to be insensitive, but the hype isn’t that interesting. Maybe it makes people feel better knowing that Apple hasn’t given up in the smart phone fight, but truth be told, the numbers tell a different story. 

 

What the Research Says

Apple’s global market share floats around 12%. Meanwhile, Samsung is sitting comfortably at 21.9% even after the dip in units sold during the second quarter. 

Apple’s biggest threat to other smart phone brands is the price that defines the high-end segment of its mobile phone market. That’s Apple’s niche: slick, expensive, smart devices. They have yet to address a vastly growing segment of consumers that prefer bargain to luxury. 

Instead of considering alternatives to high-priced products, Apple went head-to-head with Samsung by increasing the screen size on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus—once the distinct advantage to Samsung’s latest Galaxy product line. The increase in Apple’s second quarter sales is likely related to this change, which would have directly squeezed out Samsung.  

Chinese companies like Huawei and Xiaomi are also doing a fair share of squeezing, offering budget alternatives to both Samsung and Apple smart phones in the Chinese market—the biggest country for smart phone sales. 

Gartner also reported that smart phone sales were the lowest they’ve been since 2013. While growth is steady in counties supporting new infrastructure, in places like China where that infrastructure has been established and fewer first time buyers are accessible, the natural trend is to slow. This will likely be the case in any budding market that gets saturated: there’s always going to be a limit to new users.  

So, kudos to Apple for selling more smart phones, but it’s going to have to do a lot more to surpass Samsung, if it’s ever going to win the smart phone race. 

 

08/14/2015

Judge Lets Apple Off the Hook

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On Tuesday, the 4th of August, US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that a class action lawsuit against Apple couldn’t move forward due to a lack of clarity in the plaintiff’s claims.

The plaintiff, Adrienne Moore, said in her 2014 filing that Apple willfully kept text messages sent from its iMessage system to other non-Apple devices, notifying neither the sender nor the receiver of the unsent messages. Further, Apple has taken little to no action in ameliorating the problem, leaving Android users to come up with their own workarounds to communicate with iPhone users via text message.

The iMessage Glitch

This glitch is unique to certain mobile users: only those who formerly had iOS-based devices and switched to Androids within their cell phone contracts have experienced the communication breach. Moore’s platform suggests that she is not alone in her troubles, and others who made the switch have lost several text messages as well.

The experts in the case estimate that the number of missing text messages is in the millions. Were the class action suit to move forward, the millions of messages lost could have resulted in millions of dollars in damages.

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the case is that Apple actually knew about the bug, but didn’t really offer many solutions. Last year, Apple quietly introduced a microsite to deregister iMessage accounts in order to alleviate the problem. While this did help resolve the issue, it wasn’t very well advertised to Android-flippers, and it required cell phone users to fix the problem themselves. Other Android users have tried another workaround, namely asking iPhone contacts to sever the iMessage connection between the numbers. Again, this requires the owner of the device to do a great deal of legwork just to get the text message system to function.

Glitch is not provable as a breach of contract, according to judge.

Despite the difficulty for Moore and other Android users, Judge Koh would not allow the case to continue. She claims that the filing members of the lawsuit cannot prove that they were inconvenienced by any “contractual breach or interference” due to the iMessage system. The judge went on to say that individual claims may continue to be filed against Apple, if Adrienne Moore or any other parties wish to sue Apple on their own.

When Moore originally brought the case to the judge, Koh stated that Apple could be liable for “a tortuous interference with contract,” but she recently amended her statement in writing. “[The] Plaintiff does not have to allege an absolute right to receive every text message in order to allege that Apple’s intentional acts have caused an ‘actual breach or disruption’ of the contractual relationship,” Koh writes.

In any event, it is unlikely that there will be any individual suits against Apple, save for Moore’s claim, due to how much time and money a claimant would have to devote to the suit. In hindsight, a great deal of anguish could have been avoided by the tech giant had it just addressed the issue when the glitch originally popped up. But Apple got lucky instead, receiving a pass from Judge Koh on a potentially devastating class action lawsuit.

 

06/24/2015

Wells Fargo Customers: Beware of the Latest Mobile Scam

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According to a story on NBC, scammers have been attempting to defraud Wells Fargo customer in the San Gabriel valley. Local authorities are urging residents to be wary of text messages purporting to be from the bank, requesting them to call urgently.

The number given (626 416-4675) routes to an automated message telling the customer their available funds are limited due to a technical error; it instructs them to resolve the issue by giving the Social Security number, card number, PIN, expiration date and security code. For the security conscious, that should be enough to set alarm bells ringing, but a number of people have fallen prey to the scam. 

West Covina PD is warning locals not to give their information, and to immediately delete any text messages fitting the description above.

Wells Fargo responded to the scam on their website:

"If you receive a text message expressing an urgent need for you to update your information, activate an account, or verify your identity by calling a phone number or submitting information, on a website, do not respond and delete it. These messages may be part of a phishing scam conducted by fraudsters in an attempt to capture your confidential account information and may be used to commit fraud.” 

The bank also provided a fraud hotline for customers concerned they may have been targeted by this, or any other suspicious text message: (800) 225-5935.

 

 

06/01/2015

How to Protect Yourself Against the Latest Apple Bug

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Last week, a new bug wreaked havoc on iPhones across the world. Unlike most infections, which require some degree of coding ability to unleash, this one is disturbingly easy for would-be pranksters to use. All that’s required is the right string of characters to be sent in a message and the recipient’s device will instantly crash. 

As usual, Reddit users were the first to alert the world to the iOS bug, which is caused by a glitch in the way Apple’s operating system renders Arabic text. When a text message is displayed by an alert or notification on the lockscreen, the system attempts to abbreviate the text with an ellipsis. If the ellipsis is placed in the middle of a sequence of non-Latin script - including Marathi and Chinese as well as Arabic - the system crashes and the phone has to reboot. 

The text string is unlikely to be replicated by accident, which means the bug is being spread maliciously - reportedly by so-called friends of recipients, in many cases. Victims of the attack have reported they are no longer able to access messages. Others say that, bizarrely, sending a photo to the contact who texted the bug via the Photos app allows them to access the message history and delete the conversation, thus resolving the issue. Apple is still working on a permanent fix, according to the latest reports

There is no suggestion that the bug is being used for fraudulent purposes. There is no obvious benefit to the sender other than to cause mayhem. In that sense, falling prey to it is nothing more than an inconvenience. Users worried about the attack can simply disable notification banners on their iPhone. However, glitches like this do leave the possibility for more skilled hackers to turn the attack into something sinister.

It’s not just SMS messages. Twitter messages or other social media messages that have banner notifications and alerts enabled will also cause the phone to crash if the string of characters comes through.

Apple will surely resolve the glitch once and for all. In the meantime, disable notifications to protect your phone, and keep your eye on the latest updates online. We’ll bring you the latest news as soon as we have it...

05/20/2015

AOL Deal Will Help Verizon’s Mobile Advertising Push

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Over the past two decades, AOL Inc. has undergone some massive changes. What was once a portal for dial-up internet access, AOL suffered under the merger with Time Warner. After starting over again six years ago, AOL managed to increase its value by acquiring relevant sites like Huffington Post and Tech Crunch. Perhaps most importantly though, AOL took a dive into the deep end of the mobile advertising pool – and it looks like their gamble will pay off.

Last Wednesday, Verizon Communications Inc. announced that the company will be acquiring AOL Inc. in a $4.4 billion deal.

With the latest trends predicting a greater shift toward mobile use by consumers, many corporations have been seeking to carve out a piece of the market share. Currently, the mobile market lies directly in the hands of two leading companies, Google and Facebook. Facebook Inc., of course, owns and operates the largest recurring mobile app user base, while Google provides several integrated apps like Drive and Maps, while providing  the most popular search engine for users as well. As a result of their products’ frequent use, these juggernauts have had the mobile advertising market in a virtual stranglehold.

All of this, however, is poised for a change.

By acquiring AOL, Verizon has the opportunity to integrate advertising and content programming with one of the most ubiquitous wireless networks in the world. The assets provided by AOL include several websites with marketable content, but most importantly, Verizon will receive a mobile video-streaming service out of the deal. As consumers continue to shift away from paying for traditional TV bundling packages and move toward mobile video-streaming services, Verizon wants to provide such a service to new and existing users.

With the overcrowded wireless market in the United States, Verizon is looking to offer even more to customers to get them on board. While they have been searching for opportunities to increase their brand saturation over rivals like T-mobile and AT&T, they have concurrently been developing their video-technology wing by acquiring other tech companies like upLink, EdgeCast and OnCue. Unfortunately, their original plans for a mobile video-streaming service lacked an advertising component.

Now, with the acquisition of AOL Inc., Verizon has the opportunity to create a brand-new revenue stream for the company, for the first time ever. Verizon has been known for years for having excellent data streaming and calling services, and they have generated an enormous amount of brand awareness in that time. The next step in their business’ evolution involves the creation of a mobile-integrated advertising platform that they can use exclusively on their mobile video-streaming service. The plan is simple with potential for success, but one cannot imagine Google Inc. sitting idly by as Verizon takes a bite out of their market share.

Only time will tell. Expect to see Verizon’s new streaming service in late June of this year.

04/04/2015

Nintendo Finally Moves into Mobile Gaming

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In a move that’s surprising mostly because of how long it’s taken, Nintendo recently announced the imminent arrival of games designed specifically for smartphones. The veteran video game company has partnered with a mobile gaming specialist, and will release titles on both Android and iOS, with the first one expected later this year. 

It’s not yet clear whether Nintendo will fall in line with mobile gaming standards by offering ‘free-to-start’ options, a business model that has attracted criticism for getting players ‘addicted’ to compulsive games before requesting money to top up credits. It’s thought that Nintendo may want to avoid making the same mistake they made with Pokemon Shuffle, a game designed for their 3DS portable console that gives players a limited number of hearts (essentially credits) that are diminished with each game played. When the hearts run out, players can buy more. 

This model has proved tremendously successful for the makers of Candy Crush Saga and others, relying on the addictiveness of the gameplay to ensure monetization. Free-to-start has become the default practice for mobile game makers. But Nintendo has a hard-won reputation as a family-friendly brand, and will be wary of prompting accusations of ‘rip-off’ from their legions of loyal followers.

The question of whether to monetize mobile games this way is something Nintendo will have to mull over, but they undoubtedly have a number of striking advantages as they embark on this new area of business. For one thing, an official Mario game on the app store will practically sell itself. Other Nintendo titles, old and new, will be highly visible in what is a very crowded marketplace. This level of brand recognition is something most developers can only dream of.

Entering the mobile world will also allow Nintendo to tap hitherto-unexplored international markets (bafflingly, the company has never taken off in a number of major countries, including India). What it couldn’t achieve with consoles, it can achieve with mobile gaming. And if the mobile games take off, they will act like a form of reverse marketing in these countries, with the spin off game promoting the flagship from whence it came. If the launch of mobile games in a big market like India sparks interest in the Wii and DS consoles, that alone will have justified the entire endeavor.

 

02/23/2015

DEA Now Accepts Tip Offs Via Text Message

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The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in Texas recently announced a new way to send anonymous tips about possible drug trafficking: text messaging. 

DEA Assistant Special Agent Steve Jenkins in McAllen, TX believes the text messaging program is a great way to help keep the community safe, and the DEA is trying to get the message out to folks about the program. 

“TIP 411" is anonymous, and allows a person to send a tip when he or she witnesses potential drug-related activity. It requires typing ‘TIP 411’ into a cell phone, then using the resulting message box to type ‘RGV’ along with a description or image of the possible crime. 

"That’ll get passed to the DEA office here and we'll take action appropriately," Jenkins said. 

The tipster’s phone number will not be available to the DEA. And unlike a phone call, where the information stream ends once the person hangs up, text messaging allows the conversation to continue. Jenkins says the program is attractive to those who don’t want their identity known, but do want to report drug activity. He is also hopeful younger people in the community will start using the program.  

“This is out there for them,” he said. “We’re here to keep the streets safe." 

The program has already been implemented successfully in other cities, including El Paso, New Orleans, and Albuquerque.  

“This is a way for (the public) to anonymously provide the information to us and communicate back and forth with a DEA agent, via text message,” Jenkins continued. “Then, if at some point they no longer want to communicate with us, they can send the word stop in the message and all communication will be cut off with the agent.”

The DEA notes that with the software they use, it’s impossible for them to see the number behind the anonymous tip. Once the tipster texts the word ‘Stop,’ the DEA has no way to get in contact with the person. 

Anyone using the anonymous program must be connected to a cell phone provider. 

The program has been in use for about a month, so it will be interesting to see how well texting serves the drug trafficking issue. If all goes well, texting could be utilized by law enforcement in a variety of other ways relating to anonymous tipping. 

 

12/26/2014

Niagara PD Adds Text Messaging to their Crime Fighting Arsenal

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Victims of crime in New York can now receive text alerts about the custodial status of convicted offenders across the state. The announcement was made last week by the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office. 

The New York Sheriffs’ Victim Information Notification Everyday (VINE) hotline allows crime victims to check on the status of offenders by checking their website or by phone. Text messaging was added to the list, with both Spanish and English language options available. It’s hoped the new technology will assist more crime victims, 2.8 million of whom searched the VINE Database in 2014. 

Sheriff James R. Voutour stated: 

“Crime victims need and want timely and accurate offender information to proactively ensure their personal safety and that of their families. I applaud the addition of texting and predict crime victims will embrace this new technology."

SMS is increasingly being used in the fight against crime, with police departments working alongside service providers to assist the public. In 2014, the four major wireless carriers began offering free text-to-911 services, allowing victims to more easily report crime as they witness it (a text message can be sent more surreptitiously than placing a phone call). 

Niagara is just the latest police department to start using SMS to fight crime. In Franklin, Tennessee, an anonymous texting service was established for students in 2009. Sgt. Charles Warner recognized the aversion young people have towards being labeled ‘snitches’ and the fear of retaliation brought about by reporting crime.

More recently, the Polaris Project – based in DC – fields texts and phone calls related to human trafficking. An app called Redlight Traffic not only lets members of the public report specific crimes, it educates them on the tell-tale signs of human traffickers, and how best to deal with anything they witness. Suspicious behavior can be submitted via the app, along with photographic evidence, GPS locations, vehicle registrations and personal descriptions. Police can use this data to enhance tracking of suspects. For citizens unsure of whether to call 911 in any given situation, the app provides the perfect solution.

Texting is also helping relieve law enforcers of more mundane duties, such as pursuing misdemeanors, which take up valuable police time – time that could be spent solving serious crimes. In Moscow, drivers can sign up to receive text alerts 20 minutes before their car is towed. When the scheme was launched earlier this year, city officials predicted monthly savings of up to $2.6 million.

 

12/24/2014

How SMS is Affected by the Net Neutrality Debate

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Tiered internet access may have been one of the biggest tech stories of last year, though it was hardly the only one. The net neutrality issue regarding SMS text messaging addresses whether mobile carriers should regulate the content they provide customers.

A recent Pew research poll found that most consumers don’t know a whole lot about significant technologies, influencers and concepts. Pew discovered some 40% of Americans aren’t aware of what net neutrality means or what it’s about; and how net neutrality affects content sent to mobile devices via Short Message Service (SMS) is even less likely to be understood.

So what’s the debate about? Net neutrality focuses on whether internet service providers should be allowed to discriminate among data delivered. As far as text messaging is concerned, the issue is whether mobile carriers can and should regulate content they provide to customers, particularly if it’s over the internet. This issue is obscure because of the merging of two elements: Voice and Internet. Voice is protected as “common carriage” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The Internet is not. 

As the year draws to a close, the FCC is expected to provide new rules regarding broadband internet governance. SMS, a “no man’s land” of sorts, has evolved to become a platform that links other applications via companies such as HeyWire Business, Twilio, Google and Microsoft. For example, if you’ve ever sent a text for Uber or Lyft services, you did so because Twilio made it happen by connecting you through SMS without disclosing telephone numbers.

The whole debate is a concern to Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson, who says carriers will have the power to “police” content and subsequently determine which messages are appropriate for recipients.

"As a company, Twilio has a unique viewpoint because we are a communication service that works with both sides," Lawson said. "Twilio favors Title II treatment for mobile, broadband, text and SMS. The fact is that when you don't have Title II protection, carriers have the ability to decide how to prioritize things. It's a scary world. 

Last month, Twilio, HayWire Business and similar service providers met with FCC officials to voice their concerns. And while the FCC hasn’t commented on the meeting or anything else regarding net neutrality, Michael Weinberg, a vice president with communications advocacy group Public Knowledge, believes the agency should keep a closer eye on the billions of text messages sent every year.

“It’s an important communications platform,” Weinberg said. “It’s often one that’s overlooked and dismissed, but it’s one that’s really critical for a lot of people.” 

12/04/2014

Apple Faces Lawsuit Over 'Vanished' Text Messages

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Apple is currently facing a U.S. federal lawsuit over “text messages that never appeared.” The company filed a motion over the summer to dismiss the claim, which stated Apple failed to inform customers that using its Messages app and iMessages service could result in undelivered texts. This occurred to users switching from iPhones to Android-based phones.

The motion to dismiss the claim was denied, with U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California announcing Apple must face plaintiff Adrienne Moore's claim that message blocking disrupted her Verizon Wireless contract for wireless service, which she kept after switching in April 2014 to a Samsung Galaxy S5 from an iPhone 4. Moore’s class-action lawsuit, filed this past May, seeks unspecified damages.

Moore claims Apple did not inform her that using its iOS 5 software operating system would interfere with the delivery of "countless" messages from other Apple device users “if iPhone users switched to non-Apple devices.” She says the company is aware of issues users have receiving texts after switching to a rival smartphone, but doesn’t make customers aware of the problem. Moore also notes visiting Apple’s Help Page on their official website, but found it misleading in regards to undelivered message issues, and that calling the company and speaking to a representative was no help.

Judge Koh believes Moore deserves to show the technology giant the problems it created and that by blocking messages, Apple violated a California unfair competition law.

"Plaintiff does not have to allege an absolute right to receive every text message in order to allege that Apple's intentional acts have caused an actual breach or disruption of the contractual relationship," the judge wrote.

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 I put it to you that cellphones haven't even been invented yet.

Neither Apple nor Moore have responded to requests for comment at this time. Apple maintained in court papers that never it claimed this iOS 5 service and application would recognize when iPhone users switched to rival devices.

"Apple takes customer satisfaction extremely seriously, but the law does not provide a remedy when, as here, technology simply does not function as plaintiff subjectively believes it should," the company said in a statement.

Apple now has an online tool for helping customers retrieve messages after switching to a non-iOS device.

The case is named Moore et al v. Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 14-02269. Apple reported 169.2 million in iPhone sales for the fiscal year, which ended September 27.