20 posts categorized "Current Affairs"


Apple Hit with New Lawsuit



VoIP-Pal (VPLM) recently filed a lawsuit against mobile technology giant Apple, stating that Apple has infringed upon its patented innovative call classification and product design technologies. The VPLM case, which was filed in a U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, Nevada this month, seeks more than $2.8 billion in damages from the computing and technology leader.

The damages sought in the lawsuit have been calculated at exactly $2,836,710,031, based 1.25 percent of royalties of the estimated profits Apple received throughout the history of its Mac (10%), iPhone (55%), and iPad (35%). 


An Issue with Patent or Pending-Patent Use

VPLM, through its case, that Apple has infringed upon its patents or pending patents with the development and sale of services like iMessage, Wi-Fi Calling, and FaceTime (which are available on various Mac, iPhone, and iPad devices).

It claims that Apple’s use of VPLM’s technology (as well as designs, features, and products) greatly infringes upon the marketing efforts of VPLM, for its own products that are similar and innovative. VPLM states that Apple used the company’s caller attribute classification protocol, as well as its call routing product design, instead of employing its own independent products and designs. This, says VPLM, is in violation of the company’s intellectual property rights. 

The Nevada court filing cites several ways in which VPLM believes Apple has infringed on its patents, including employing various VPLM messaging capabilities in the iMessage app. The VPLM case claims that Apple’s iMessage application directly and/ or indirectly makes use of specific technology included in the VoIP-Pal patent, including “the classification of a user, and, subsequently, how the call should be routed.”


Legal Action After Failed Communications

VoIP-Pal, a Bellevue company, delayed taking legal action until now, because it remained hopeful that it could work out a licensing situation with Apple in regards to the VPLM patent portfolio. VPLM says the company is still wishing for an amicable solution. We are “confident,” says VoIP-Pal CEO, Email Malak, that a favorable outcome can be reached for both parties and that the two sides will continue their current good.

VoIP-Pal describes itself as a “technical leader in the broadband VoIP market.” The company acquired Digifonica, a network operator, in 2013 and it currently does not generate income. However, it has plans to put its VoIP technology to use in creating products that will enhance the mobile marketplace.




Starbucks Launches Emoji Keyboard



If you’ve ever dreamed sending emoji of a unicorn drinking coffee to a friend or family member, that dream is now reality. Starbucks recently launched a keyboard app that’s all about entertainment as opposed to the coffee company’s main objective: selling food and beverages. The app allows you to send pictures of coffee, Frappuccinos, teas, and purple unicorns drinking caffeinated beverages to friends and family. 


Snaps Media Partnership

This keyboard app was not released under Starbucks on Apple or Google Play, rather it was created with the help of Snaps Media, a company that works with a variety of brands interested in launching keyboard apps and emojis. Brands working with Snaps Media don’t have the time or desire to craft related apps, which is why the company boasts a client list that includes Nickelodeon, VH1, TCM, MTV, BET, sports teams, and television shows such as Broad City, Deadpool, Portlandia, and Workaholics. Snaps Media also works with brands such as Dove, Sour Patch Kids, Coco-Cola, Pepsi, and Victoria’s Secret. 


App Developer Inspiration

Starbucks is undoubtedly a very popular brand, and one that has inspired more than a few app developers to use the famous name to promote their own App Store options. For example, searching for ‘Starbucks’ results in the pop-up of numerous “secret menu” apps, as well as coupon finders and “nearest store” locators. An emoji keyboard is subsequently not exactly a shocking new possibility related to the coffee juggernaut. 


First Time

The app is the first time Starbucks has introduced an emoji keyboard dedicated to mobile users. 

“Starbucks’ first emoji app features favorite Frappuccino blended beverages, iced tea, coffee, and even a purple unicorn sipface,” the company announced on its newsroom page, and promised new content is coming soon. 


Keyboard Quality

So what about the keyboard’s quality? According to initial reviews, it’s not great. Complaints about icon quality and the fact that emojis must be copied and pasted into messages are putting consumers off, however these problems are generally synonymous with emoji keyboards. This includes Kimoji, the most popular emoji app of the moment. 


Where It Works

The Starbucks emoji keyboard is the same as other popular third-party apps in that it’s available through SMS/iMessage, messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Messenger, and in email among other options. The release comes on the heels of Starbucks’ revitalized Rewards program and their “more personalized” mobile app. The new version of the company’s flagship app includes the new Rewards program as well as entertainment program options and mobile ordering improvements. 

The emoji keyboard app is free to download on both Google Play and the iTunes App Store. Starbucks has already led the way in terms of mobile app payments, so whether their keyboard app will become the most popular option of its kind should be interesting. Whatever the results, Starbucks’ foray into the mobile world demonstrates the company’s ambition in terms of mobile loyalty and related commerce. 

Besides, who doesn’t want to send an emoji of a purple unicorn drinking a cup ‘o joe? 


AT&T Launches Text-to-Donate Service for Flint Water Crisis



AT&T recently announced a new text-to-give campaign benefiting the children of the Flint water crisis. The water crisis occurred when the state of Michigan switched Flint's water source from Detroit's system to the Flint River to reduce costs. Residents subsequently ingested high amounts of lead, with many claiming developmental disabilities in their children. Seven families have filed a class-action lawsuit against Michigan Governor Rick Snyder. The lawsuit names several other city and state officials. 


The Long Wait

According to sources, water from Flint taps “smelled and tasted strange,” though residents had to wait over a year for testing. In their lawsuit, residents cite the Safe Drinking Water Act, a federal law that outlines rules and regulations concerning safe drinking water all over the country. The law was put in place by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Democratic presidential nominees Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both spoken out about the Flint water crisis, though Republican nominees have mostly stayed mute on the issue. President Obama approved federal funding for Flint earlier this year.

The class-action suit was filed on behalf of Flint’s tens of thousands of residents, who claim their children are suffering from health issues such as seizures, language problems, weight loss, stunted growth, anemia, headaches, abdominal pain, learning problems, mental and emotional stress, and more. Other issues stemming from the water crisis include property damage, water service line destruction, medical/educational/rehabilitation expenses, loss of income and earning capacity, and devaluation of property damages. 

The suit was filed by attorneys Hunter Shkolnik and Adam Slater, who say Governor Snyder and his associates acted in a negligent, reckless manner, as they were aware of the problem in 2014 but did nothing about it. Complaints concerning strange illnesses and rashes began in 2015.


Simply Sending a Text

Helping residents of Flint is as simple as sending a text message. Those who wish to donate can text ‘FLINT’ to 27722 to make a $10 donation to the Flint Child Health and Development Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. Donations are added to the sender’s monthly wireless bill.  


A Large Contribution

In January of this year, AT&T donated $50,000 to the development fund. Kathi Horton, President of the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, noted how grateful the community is to AT&T for its continued support. AT&T has also created a YourCause employee contribution page so their employees from all over the world can help families struggling in the wake of this crisis. 

Jim Murray, the President of AT&T Michigan, remarked that AT&T is committed to helping the families in Flint and acknowledged mobile technology for helping people stay connected. He said that the texting campaign went a step further by allowing people to help each other. 

Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley noted that the generosity of residents during the water crisis has been a “testament” to the character and resilience of families in the community and the state at large.  



MTN Rolls Out 4G LTE in Cameroon



It’s hard to imagine a world without wireless technology and connectivity—to do so would be like setting back our greatest achievements, limit our resources, and deter the proliferation of information we’ve come to expect from our online democratic space. But that’s exactly the kind of world many poor and underprivileged countries face despite vast improvements to the technologies at large. 

This year, however, we saw a few victories among those countries and regions that struggle the most. Cameroon, a central African country bordering the Atlantic, just received its first 4G LTE mobile network this month. MTN Cameroon, the country’s leading cell phone provider, announced the launch on Dec. 18 to more than 10 million subscribers. The potential for social and economic growth will help propel Cameroon into the 21st century. 

Currently, the 4G network is available in Yaounde, the capital, and highly populated regions Douala, Bamenda, and Buea. Among the country’s population of about 22.8 million, almost 50 percent are network subscribers. Aside from meeting international standards, the network was designed to work better than most existing 4G networks in other countries. 


Changing Cameroon for the Better 

The impact of this outstanding improvement will affect both this generation and generations to come.

“By launching the next generation 4G LTE technology,” said Philisiwe Sibiya, CEO of MTN Cameroon, “we are not only investing in a network. We are also, and most especially, investing in the Cameroonian people.”

Earlier this year, and after the government of Cameroon approved its license, MTN Cameroon deployed a 3G network. Eight months later, MTN launched the 4G LTE network for an estimated 60 billion. Cameroon is one of a few countries to develop both networks in such rapid succession—a sure sign of the countries’ eagerness to participate in global commerce and communication. 

“The 4G of MTN Cameroon is an evolution,” said Linda Kouam, MTN’s chief marketing officer. “Cameroon’s economic growth will change.”


Sharing Cameroonian Culture 

Cameroon has made headlines in the past for its well-known football (soccer) team, which has won four African Cup of Nations titles, a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics, as well as spurred attention during the 1990 FIFA World Cup

Cameroon is also well known for its geographic and cultural diversity—there are some 200 different linguistic groups represented. 

In addition to spreading the unique Cameroonian culture, the technology means citizens can now gain access to education, healthcare, sanitation, and other programs or services they once lacked. 



Samsung Says No to 4K (at least until 5G)



In the competitive world of mobile technology, new and improved almost always trumps old and efficient. Phones got smaller, and then the screens got bigger—it’s not always about change in a particular direction, just that change is good for business, and typically better for the end user. But when it comes to screen size and resolution, could there be an end in sight? 

When Sony introduced the Xperia Z5 Premium smartphone, the crown jewel of the device was the exclusive use of 4K—about double the resolution of most popular 2K resolution phones currently on the market. Sony is the first major manufacturer to include 4K on its device and many critics assumed other brands would follow suit in the coming year. This, however, may not be the case. 

A 4K smartphone uses the same advanced tech we see on many high-end, HD televisions—and those, as you know, don’t come cheap. But the economic side of this coin isn’t what may have turned off two of the largest smartphone manufactures in the game: Korean-based Samsung and LG. 

Rumor has it both Samsung and LG will forego 4K on all its new models in 2016. The source of this information is inconclusive, particularly because tech writers are scrambling to translate this Hangul news source—which doesn’t exactly translate word-for-word.  

But the gist of it goes something like this: Samsung and LG see no reason to move prematurely forward with 4K despite their Japanese competitor’s latest gadget. They fear the extra resolution may actual hinder other aspects of the phone they have been working to press forward on—specifically the battery life. 

Another reason Samsung and LG may steer clear of 4K is because presumably most content for 4K won’t be deliverable until the 5G network comes to pass. Also, some argue the boost in resolution from 4K wouldn’t even be visible to the naked eye, let alone on a 5x5-inch smartphone screen. 

The bottom line, Samsung and LG are playing it safe by not jumping on the upgrade bandwagon, and following what may have been an over-zealous attempt by Sony to get noticed in the smartphone arena. 

Some consumers will nab the Xperia Z5 just on tech principle, but others won’t be missing much—at least, not anything they can see. 

So don’t get down that your next Samsung or LG phone might not have the latest and greatest screen resolution next year. What you can’t see, in this case, surely can’t hurt you. 


InnJoo Launches Fingerprinting Smartphone



InnJoo, a Dubai-based Chinese smartphone manufacturer, recently released its latest smartphones, the InnJoo 2, Max 2, and Max 2 Plus, as well as a smart television, the InnTV 4. The company also introduced fingerprint technology, a unique feature found on its “flagship” smartphone, the InnJoo 2.

The technical startup was “born with Internet DNA,” according to its official website. It partnered with one of the largest ecommerce sites in the region to become “the fastest-growing company by providing smart devices as well as software services in the MEA area.” 

According to InnJoo managing director Robert Liang, the numerous device launches are designed to meet customers’ demands for “exceptional” technology, and that the options make ideal holiday gifts. Liang also said the company’s smart television is its foray into the TV market. 

InnJoo 2’s fingerprint technology offers improved security with regard to mobile applications and document accessibility. It makes for optimal photo-taking, and features a sleek design, dual 13-megapixel cameras, serious octa-core processor, and Android Lollipop operating system. The result? An enhanced Internet, picture, and video experience for users. 

“We at InnJoo are dedicated to bringing the new technology to the market, with an affordable price and premium quality that the market is chasing,” said Tim Chen, InnJoo’s Co-founder and CEO. “We think as a normal user when we design our products, define new functions and apply new technology to our devices. And as we see the increasing demands for privacy and security for every personal product, the fingerprint technology helps to satisfy it completely.” 


Long-Term Goals

The company has set its sights on becoming the “Xiaomi of the Middle East” over the next few years. Company heads are not only jumping up and down about the fingerprinting smartphone, but they are also very excited about what their smart TV will bring to the masses.

Chen noted that the InnTV 4 is designed to meet consumers’ lifestyle needs and subsequently make their lives easier. He said that the company’s smart TV is “probably the best” option for the most affordable price on the market, and that its functionality and features provide consumers with a “great experience.” Liang echoed these sentiments, remarking that the InnTV 4 features a 39-inch FHD display, which gives users a “splendid” quality of display, and that it runs on Android 4.4 “smoothly” with the core processor. The TV also features a built-in WiFi Module that provides Internet access so users can read news, go on social media, and more. 

Between the fingerprinting smartphone and the television, InnJoo is looking to make good on its promise to bring “premium quality, optimized software” to consumers for an affordable price. 



Popeye's Accused of SMS Spam



How often do you read through an entire opt-in agreement? You know, those fine print legal documents that detail subscriptions to emails, newsletters, or push notifications? Well, Jacob Meier reads them—this was made evident by a class action lawsuit he filled against Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen on Nov. 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. 

So, what’s the lawsuit about? Fortunately, this isn’t a case of bizarre findings inside fried chicken. Instead, Meier alleges that Popeye’s wrongfully spammed his cell phone using SMS messages to advertise food deals. The complaint states that Meier was expecting to receive no more than two text messages a month from the fast food chain. When the third text message came through, Meier said Popeye’s violated the opt-in agreement and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a law passed in 1991. 

Meier is seeking a jury trial with the hope of securing statutory damages, an injunction on any unlawful activities by the defendant, attorney fees, and anything else he can get from a sympathetic court.

The plaintiff’s willing cooperation to opt-in to the “love that chicken” mobile program, means this case is mildly offensive at worst and a programming error at best. Certainly this case isn’t as serious as Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, more popularly known as the hot coffee lawsuit, or the chili finger hoax at Wendy’s, circa 2005. Nobody bit into a dead mouse, and for that we should all be grateful. But what this case does bring up is elastic use of the word ‘spam’. 


What Is Spam?

For example, is three text messages a month really considered spamming? Or is spamming defined by an opt-in agreement that’s been laid out? Either way, retail stores across the nation should pay attention to the court ruling on this matter and tighten up their opt-in agreements to make sure they err on the side of caution when sending out updates, newsletters, or special advertisements. 

If Popeye’s hadn’t made any claims in the opt-in agreements about the specific number of text messages it wished to share each month, would the plaintiff still have a case? Right now, the working definition of spamming is “use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited messages.” Does an opt-in agreement change the nature of this definition? If a user wants to ‘love that chicken,’ doesn’t that imply some form of consent? 

I guess we will all have to stay tuned to find out. 

In the meantime, consumers should be wary of opt-in agreements that make promises to limit push notifications, especially if it’s a product or service you’re not ‘in love with.’ Mobile marketing is still somewhat uncharted legal territory as far as the user’s protection goes, and if you’re not willing to deal with excessive notifications, better safe than sorry. 


Maui Joins National Program to Bring Mobile Technology to Students, 24/7



Mobile technology is changing the face of education for students and teachers alike. It promises a more meritocratic platform on which individual students can access the kind of help they need to improve, without sacrificing the development of their peers.

The latest mobile learning initiative comes from the country’s largest telecommunications provider. The Verizon Innovative Learning Schools (VILS) program was established in 2012 to help schools across the country provide 24/7 internet access and tablets to every student. So far, more than 30 schools and close to 16,000 students have benefitted, and two middle schools in Maui have just joined their ranks.

Two middle schools - Kalama Intermediate School and Lokelani Intermediate School - were selected to join the program which will, for at least the next two years, provide students with tablets and Verizon 4G LTE connectivity so they can learn at school, at home and everywhere in between.

Additionally, teachers at both schools will receive ongoing professional development to help them integrate mobile solutions into existing lesson plans and devise more individualized learning methods. Dedicated coaches will be provided by the program. Over the two years, the total value of equipment, training and service provision will run up to $3 million, according to the needs of the district and the number of participating students. 

Providing students with training in the technology so central to the modern economy is only part of the overall objective. As well as emphasizing science, technology, english and math (STEM) subjects, the VILS program aims to foster independent learning, encouraging students to collaborate and innovate using critical thinking and entrepreneurial skills. 

Beyond Maui (and the other school districts benefitting from the full compliment of services), teachers can access many VILS resources online for free. These resources include best practices and insights from teachers currently using the program in Maui and other participating schools across the United States.

Thus far, VILS has achieved significant results in classrooms. According to data collected by the program, 66% of teachers reported an increase in individualized instruction, and 37% of students gained higher scores on assignments. Compared with non-VILS schools, standardized test scores went up by 4.13%. 

Progressive educators will be keeping a close eye on developments in the Pacific to see if programs like VILS can help students across the lower 48 as much as it’s helping those in Maui.


5G: What Does it Mean for Our Connected Lives?

It’s that time again. Just as we’ve got used to widely-available 4G mobile service, the next generation is gearing up for action. The FCC has given the go ahead for 5G spectrums, with some networks forecasting their first 5G readiness by 2017. Among investors and developers, enthusiasm for 5G is building - but what can consumers expect? How will 5G differ from 4G? 

The primary expectation will be for faster connectivity. New innovations like ultra high definition video, self-driving vehicles and augmented reality will also be better represented by the new networks. ‘The Internet of Things’ will come of age as reliable, speedy web access ceases to be an obstacle.  

On the technical side, this leap forward is enabled by the use of multiple radio access technologies, including ‘millimeter wave’ frequencies (above 24GHz) which were, until recently, considered unsuitable for mobile applications. Allied with the lower-band spectrum already used by 4G LTE networks, these frequencies promise to deliver top data speeds in excess of 10 gigabits per second - ten times the fastest speeds currently delivered on fixed, fiber optic networks. Small wonder that developers of real-time augmented reality applications and high definition video concepts are starting to drool at the prospect of 5G.

Different markets describe 5G in different ways. But there is a broad consensus that it will function as an infrastructure for the Internet of Things, turning a lot of extant dreams into reality.

Eric Starkloff, a marketing executive for National Insights who is collaborating with Nokia on 5G research, was quoted by Fast Company on the subject:  

"Everyone has a bit of a different definition of what 5G is. But it’s the next iteration of cellular standards, with a goal of a 50 times faster data rate than the most advanced Wi-Fi networks today. To give an example, the expectation is that a 5G network can stream a two-hour movie in less than three seconds.”

Bear in mind, we’re a few years away from the full roll-out, and the technology and standards are still being developed. Multiple international bodies are involved in turning 5G into a reality, and one of their chief concerns is ‘spectrum harmonization’ - the plan to designate the same frequencies to the same uses worldwide. The lack of 4G spectrum harmonization is regarded as one of its main pitfalls, giving users a vastly different (ie slower) experience, depending on where they are in the world. With 5G, global harmonization and standardized networking practices will make it possible to achieve the economies of scale necessary to keep prices low.


UCLA Grad Facing Mobile Fraud Charges


If you’ve ever received an unsolicited text message on your mobile device, listen up. Turns out, innocent-looking text messages—anything from horoscopes to celebrity gossip—can actually be costing you money. 

Recently, a UCLA graduate named Erdolo Eromo was taken into custody on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering, all shrouded in an elaborate “cramming scheme” costing thousands of unsuspecting mobile users tens of millions of dollars.  

Born in Ethiopia, Eromo studied sociology and played football at UCLA before becoming one the youngest executives to rule the mobile marketing industry. What’s more, the company he came to lead (Payvia) is a progressive leader in consolidating and simplifying online and mobile payments. The proverbial crime scene was set.  

Eromo’s main accomplice, Darcy Webb, is Payvia’s co-founder and lead developer of the company’s carrier-based billing payment strategy. The two face similar charges and are expected to appear in federal courts in New York and Los Angeles. The charges were brought on by the office of US Attorney Preet Bharara in New York

In May, six other men were brought to trial in connection with the scheme. One in particular, Lin Maio, was brought up on civil charges and had nearly $10 million seized in assets. 


Understanding Cramming Schemes 

According to the FBI, “cramming schemes” have been a problem on landlines for several years, but with the proliferation of cell phones, the threat has now become a mobile issue.  

Cramming schemes use what’s called local exchange carrier (LEC) billing to unlawfully charge mobile users through their local telephone company accounts rather than through the providers of the product or service. These charges can be for anything from premium messaging services and ringtones to apps or long-distance calling. 

The charges appear on a person’s cell phone bill, usually in amounts so small they go unnoticed. Multiply this by a few hundred thousand people and you’ve got yourself a “cramming scheme.” 

Eromo and Webb were charging almost $10 a month for trivial text messages being sent without the user’s consent. Most of the users ignored the messages and had no idea they were being charged.  

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has some useful tips to help keep you from falling victim to a “cramming shame”. First, they recommend you carefully look over your monthly statement for any unusual activity or extra charges. These may appear as one-time charges or occur monthly. Be weary of generic-sounding fees or services. Words like subscription, member fee, or activation should be viewed with suspicion. 

Unsolicited text messages are a sign you should be reviewing your bill for fraudulent charges. A text from someone you don’t know, or for a service you did not ask for, is a red flag. When it doubt, always call your service provider.