July, 2011

Jul 11

Google+ Now Available for Android

Although this doesn’t comes as a great surprise, considering that Android too is a Google product only, the Google+ application for Android is very smart. Apart from some inevitable flaws, the mobile app is intuitive and very well designed. In fact if you weren’t told specifically, you could easily mistake it to be meant specifically for mobile phones.

When you open this application, you will view a home screen consisting of the major elements: Circles, Photos, Stream, Huddle and Profile. Evidently missing is the video conferencing feature – Hangouts that Google plans to add soon.

Tapping on any of the icons will take you to the inner screens that perfectly fit in all the elements of Google+ without making the whole appearance look cluttered. Navigation is not difficult either. Tap on a circle and you will receive a list of your circles. Thereafter, tapping of any circle fetches a list of people who comprise that circle. At this point, you can filter the photos or posts you wish to see.

One feature that is missing from the web version, but is present in the Android app is the location awareness. As a user, you have the liberty to filter the posts depending on your location. This feature has already shown its usability by proving helpful for a Google+ user who was looking for a bicycle pump for a specific kind of wheel. He was successfully able to locate one with the help of the app and was also able to find some local places for learning about rock climbing.

Jul 11

The Mango Season is here!

The new version of Windows Phone OS was recently announced and guess what the code name is?  Well, it is Mango!

It is currently in the manufacturer testing phase, which is one of the final stages before the new operating system hits the market.  The manufacturers are currently trying it out to see how the new version is working with their respective handsets.

The good news is that Mango will be made available not only on the new handsets but will also be released for the existing phones as a software update.

On Microsoft’s blog, the corporate vice-president of Engineering for the Windows Phone stated that it is that phase in the developing phase which involves handing over code to mobile operator and handset partners to fully utilize Mango for their particular phone as well as network configurations.

As far as the team of Windows Phone is concerned, it is now their turn to prepare for an update process, which will entail complete redesigning of the in-built IE web browser and also, better multi-tasking features.

This is considered to be the first major software update for the Windows Phone 7 platform ever released by Microsoft.  Though there was news of an interim update around end of March, but it’s nothing as compared to what can be expected with Mango.  What is worth noting is that Microsoft is only considering this as an update to the OS and not a new version.

Before the manufacturer release, the preview of Mango can be viewed on CNET if it interests you.

Jul 11

Small B2B in UK: Carphone Warehouse’s Focus

According to online reports on Mobile Magazine, Carphone Warehouse has launched an attempt to target SME customers as well as local traders and grab more market share from the B2B industry.  It is offering a complete range of smartphones, networks, tablets and tariffs, all of which have been designed taking business into consideration.

The new B2B scheme will have Carphone Warehouse adding its own business tariffs on to the other operator tariffs that are on offer.  Graham Stapleton, CCO at Carphone Warehouse stated that the new tariffs are likely to fill the gaps that the current business offerings have.

Stapleton, speaking to Mobile, said that this is an excellent move for Carphone Warehouse.  While there are ten million mobile phone users in the business market, a big section of them is not served currently by Carphone Warehouse.  The proposed step in this direction will make a tremendous difference to the customers and will be significant value creation for them.

Carphone Warehouse is not only offering the widest variety of tablets, phones and tariffs, but will also offer “Network Price Promise”.  This will include a guaranteed lowest price apart from a 14-days coverage guarantee to check the provider’s service and change the network if required.  The “Walk Out Working” service will also be offered in addition to handset replacement service.

Since other mobile networks are quite behind Carphone Warehouse in this effort, Stapleton is viewing it as a good opportunity to bring in small companies and sole traders which the existing B2B services are not prepared to handle.

Jul 11

SmartPhone Apps Pose Threat to Security at Work

WebProNews recently reported that 20% of Android apps posed a fair level of security risk at one’s workplace.  These apps include popular ones too such as Netflix, LinkedIn and even Foursquare.  Apart from the thrill that your employer will get on gaining access to your LinkedIn account, did you know that it is not completely harmless and is actually a threat to security?

It was stated in the Wall Street Journal that applications exposed different types of personal information on cell phones in plain text, including emails sent out by a LinkedIn member from the app, or search history from Foursquare’s Places tab, or even the movie queue of Netflix application user.

With respect to one’s personal information, it is completely one’s own decision on how much risk one can take with that, however the information that is unwittingly shared about one’s employer and the business may not only result in losing one’s job but also puts the employer at risk.

All you need to do with SmartPhone apps is to think twice before even using them at workplace.  As discussed above, they not only pose a great threat to security, but some companies don’t even permit downloading and using mobile apps at work.  That in no way means that you have a free hand if your company does not have such policies.  It is always better to be safe and is advisable to use work related applications and use social networking apps for after hours.

Jul 11

Nokia’s Windows 7: An Investment of US $127 Million

Ever since the announcement was made regarding Nokia using Windows 7 as its primary OS for future smartphones, we are just following related news to understand how things are looking up and when the first phones can be expected in the market.

CNET reports that Nokia has earmarked US $127 million to market the new Nokia phones with Windows 7 all over the world.

The recent reports from Marketing Magazine state that Nokia is planning to launch a 6-months long campaign beginning October which will see Nokia’s complete re-brand and its transition from MeeGo and Symbian to Windows 7 now.  “Sea Ray” is expected to be the first device to be released this autumn.

Microsoft, undoubtedly, is very thrilled with this news.  Steve Ballmer, the CEO, in an address to Microsoft partners, jokingly admitted that the company had not done too well in marketing the operating system.  He clearly mentioned that the progress on that front was negligible.

It is quite evident what we will see in the Sea Ray with Nokia’s first handset release, but it is still unclear on what will come next.  With some of Nokia’s new strategies, it seems to be shooting itself in its foot, including the release of an excellent Maemo phone just before discarding Maemo and making way for Windows 7.  That also means the forthcoming handsets will have to be exceptionally good if Nokia intends to overtake or compete with Android as well as Apple’s iOS, both of which are gaining ground very rapidly.

Jul 11

Wish to Change your Phone to a Proper SLR?

Have you heard about Photojojo (photojojo.com/store), the photography accessories store?  Well, it is now having an SLR mount for sale that can be used for iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS and allows you to put your Canon and Nikon lenses on the iPhone for getting a better control over photography.

By paying US $190 for iPhone 3GS and US $250 for iPhone 4, you can get an aluminium case which includes SLR lens adaptor, UV filter and tripod mount.  International shipping is also available on Photojojo and information related to shipping costs etc is mentioned on its site too.

The iPhone has been recognized as the number one camera by Flickr.  As compared to the smartphone cameras, the sale of digital cameras has gone down drastically.  Of course one cannot compare a smartphone with a good digital camera but for many of us, the smartphone serves more than enough for various purposes, most importantly for clicking a photograph and sending it immediately to family and friends.

Smartphones with 5-megapixel cameras or more are selling like hot cakes and the figure this year is expected to touch 361 million, while experts have also mentioned that the sales of traditional digital cameras will reach 130 million.

Apart from being able to upload immediately, the use of smartphone as camera is also picking up pace due to its attractive size as it can just be slipped into a handbag or purse.  If you wish to take photography a little more seriously, well, this new SLR mount may just be the ticket for you.

Jul 11

Your Email Password should be Toughest

The hacking scandal of News of the World is growing and the latest one related to hacking Milly Dowler’s phone just makes us even more disgusted, if not angry.  Though such behaviour is not expected from News of the World and may be called immoral and even unethical, it also throws light on another aspect of the discussion: the password element.

When Milly’s mobile phone was hacked, a very ordinary caller ID spoof would surely have enabled PI to get into the phone’s mailbox.  Even a PIN would not have been required in 2002.  Though that problem has mostly been solved, it does not necessarily ensure that we can rest peacefully.

Most messaging systems these days require a password for accessing it, and that in no way, means that they cannot be accessed by hackers.  This is where the importance of how strong your password is comes into picture.

Unfortunately, we become extremely lazy with passwords when it is about our mobile phones.  Isn’t it common to see that one’s PIN is actually the last 4 digits of the mobile number itself?  It totally reminds me of the cases where doors are locked but the keys are left under the mat and within easy access.

Having a password also is no guarantee that hackers can’t get around it.  Using a password retrieval system, it all becomes very easy.

Since every online and digital service that one uses leads back to one’s email address, it becomes one’s virtual skeleton key.  Hence, all your email passwords must not only be unique, but also very strong.

Jul 11

PAYG Charges Up and EU Roaming Charges Down

Since last Friday, Orange has been charging its pay as you go customers, also called PAYG, an additional 25% for voice calls and additional 20% on text messages.  PAYG customers of Vodafone who are not on Simply tariff plan, will see the minimal voice call charges going up by 66%, texting up by 20% and voicemail charges up by 19% from July 14.

uSwitch’s Ernest Duku, when questioned about the increase in PAYG fees by Orange and Vodafone, said that the PAYG customers are getting affected in a big way due to a double blow of price hikes.  Not only are the voice call charges going up, but even text charges are being raised.  The two biggest networks, Orange and Vodafone, will see roughly 9 million prepay customers getting affected due to this price hike.  Customers, who are already cash-strapped, will end up struggling even more to make both ends meet.

Representatives from both Vodafone and Orange have mentioned that the price increases are actually a necessity, while Vodafone has specifically attributed the reason behind the hike to be the recent decrease in mobile termination rates as per Ofcom’s enforcement.

The European Commission has ordered mobile service providers to impose a cap on roaming charges to bring them in line with the prevalent domestic rates.  Hence, the EU roaming fees are slashed down by 10%.  However, the fall in rates is so marginal that an average traveller will not make more calls in the near future.

Jul 11

Wallet: Are the times changing?

The number of active PayPal accounts has exceeded a 100 million, as announced by the company recently.  Along with this news, the company’s president Scott Thompson predicted rather boldly: by the year 2015, the wallet will definitely be a thing of the past in the US.

Thompson stated on a blog post that while the digital currency is gaining momentum, PayPal is focused on providing solutions which are different, new and much better than what the norms currently are.

By the year 2015, digital currency will be a widely accepted mode of payment in the US and not just Walmart, even local corner stores will be accepting the same.  One will not need to take along a wallet any longer.

PayPal, in an effort to take this idea forward, is expected to launch a new digital currency challenge which will involve five residents from the US Bay area to only use digital currency for all purchases made by them and not use any cash at all.  Not only will this step assist in promoting the challenge but will also facilitate in its marketing.

eBay, PayPal’s sister concern, has recently been surpassed by PayPal in terms of profits as well as total revenues.  Mobile transactions worth more than $3 billion USD are expected to be made this year on PayPal’s platform.

Such digital payment challenge from PayPal actually comes in the wake of Google trying out its own ‘payment by smartphone’ initiative among users from three major US cities.