No matter how you slice it, Windows Phone Store is a ghost town. Too many popular titles just aren't there right now. As developers take their sweet time to release the desired offerings or overlook the platform altogether, could Android apps be the answer to Windows Phone's long-lasting shortcoming?
It wouldn't be unusual for Microsoft to get in bed with Android, as the software giant already sells Android-based devices, which make up its Nokia X series (admittedly, Nokia launched it). If it works there, it could work just as well for Windows Phone. It's not like the platform has anything to lose, considering the measly market share it claims since inception. Right? Well, it's not that simple.
Let's face it: there are only two major app stores in the mobile space. One is Apple App Store and the other is Google Play. That is due to their huge app selection, which was long passed the one billion apps mark in each case, and the quality of the available offerings, which often tops that of other app stores.
On the iOS side of things, there is virtually no competition due to the platform's closed nature. On Android, however, Google Play's success stems from the popularity of Google-vetted devices, which tops that of handsets running forked versions of the operating system (that are not approved by Google). Still, one vendor had the potential to give Google Play a run for its money -- Samsung.
As a test, Avast purchased 20 used and supposedly wiped Android phones and discovered that it was able to recover vast amounts of personal user data. My colleague Brian Fagioli reported the story here.
Google responded to the news, stating "This research looks to be based on old devices and versions (pre-Android 3.0) and does not reflect the security protections in Android versions that are used by the vast majority of users". It went on to offer users advice on how to make sure when selling an old mobile phone you aren’t also gifting your personal data to buyers.
It has been a year since Google released its Chromecast -- a "one last thing" sort of device that was hidden behind the new Nexus 7 announcement. The tiny HDMI dongle has been steadily gaining features, making it compatible with an ever-growing number of services.
But one thing it lacked seemed rather basic -- Android screen mirroring. While we don't know how this slipped through the Google cracks, it has finally made its debut.
Last year Lenovo extended its Yoga line to cover not just the company's rather clever folding hybrid Windows laptops, but Android tablets too. The designs weren't quite as ingenious as the IdeaPad Yoga, with its keyboard that flipped nearly 360 degrees to sit flat against the back of the display, but it still had a unique selling point (USP): A brilliant flip-out stand which could hold the tablet either tilted or upright.
It was a fabulous concept, but spoilt by a dated specification. The screen was a bog standard 1280 x 800 resolution effort, and the processor a lowly Mediatek quad-core CPU. Now, however, Lenovo has come back with the Yoga Tablet 10 HD+, enhancing the previous model with a full HD 1080p screen and a Snapdragon S400 SoC. Is this enough to make a great tablet from a great idea?
Phones hit the headlines for lots of reasons -- the biggest, the most expensive, the shiniest, or just the newest. We live in times in which security and privacy are major concerns for people in all walks of life. The activities of the NSA, as revealed by Edward Snowden, served only to heighten paranoia -- the prospect of having one's phone calls and text messages intercepted is something that fills few people with joy. Enter Vysk communicastions' Vysk QS1 phone case which can be used with an iPhone 5 or 5s, and a Samsung Galaxy S5 or S4. The selling point here is that it's not just your phone that's protected, but also your privacy.
The privacy features come in mechanical and software forms. On the mechanical front there are "shutters" that can be used to obscure your phone's front and rear cameras, and there's also a jamming system for microphones. This is described by Vysk as "Lockdown Mode", but you can take things a step further. For $9.95 you can subscribe to "Private Call Mode". This introduces encryption to your texts and phone calls, with an onboard processor taking care of encryption on the fly and sent via the Vysk encrypted network. As Vysk puts it: "No one -- not even Vysk -- will know the identity of the caller or the recipient. No data is collected -- no phone numbers, call times or content - so there is no data to record. Because nothing is recorded, nothing is at risk."
Earlier this week we covered the debate on whether Android users need malware protection. If further fuel for the argument was needed it comes in the form of Russian security firm Dr.Web's monitoring of Android threats.
Until recently embedded advertising modules have topped Dr.Web's malicious program rankings, but statistics for recent months indicate that an Android SMS bot Trojan has been spreading at an alarming rate.
Hitting the road means luggage, and luggage is a pain -- all that… stuff… to carry from place to place. Traveling light can help to make the journey less of a chore, but there are some things that simply have to be packed: no self-respecting technology fan would go on vacation without taking a raft of devices with them. But devices need power, and this means chargers are needed. iPhones, MP3 players, Android tablets, iPads, digital cameras, Chromebooks, and countless other devices all need power -- and that means a lot of chargers.
We just took a look at the Lumsing DCH-5U 5-Port USB Travel Wall Charger which enables you to leave the chargers at home and charge up to five devices simultaneously from a single power point. And we have one to give away!
A few weeks ago I took a look at Lumsing's harmonica battery pack. Now from the same stables comes the lengthily titled DCH-5U 5-Port USB Travel Wall Charger. This is a slightly different twist on the idea of providing power to travellers' devices -- this is a wall charger rather than a portable battery pack. If you're going on vacation, taking a trip, or even just hitting the office, there are your devices to consider. Your phone, tablet, MP3 player, and other bits and pieces all need power, all need their own charger.
Except they don’t. Leave all of your chargers at home, and just take a selection of USB cables -- this 5-port hub allows for up to five USB devices (obviously) to be charged from a single wall power point. The 31W/6.2A unit has two 5V 1A ports for phones, and three 5V 2A ports for tablets and devices with higher power demands. Oddly, the ports are labelled, left to right, iPad, iPad, Samsung Tab, iPhone, and Android. It would have made more sense to simply indicate which of the five were the high-powered ports, but this is a minor niggle in the grand scheme of things.
Want to get more out of your rooted Android device? Looking for unique features and expanded functionality? Unhappy with the CyanogenMod team selling their collective souls to the VC devil?
If you answered "yes" to any of the above, you owe it to yourself to check out OmniROM. Billed as the "anti-CyanogenMod", OmniROM is the result of efforts by several former CyanogenMod team members to create a new custom Android ROM, one that adheres to the CM team’s original vision of an open-source alternative to Google’s stock OS.
Buying and trading goods used to be so easy. If I needed a rake and my neighbor needed a hoe, we could simply swap. If I wanted to sell something, I would take out a classified ad in a local newspaper, like the Penny Saver. Hell, I bought my first car that way -- loved that thing.
Nowadays, buying and selling is much more complicated -- especially electronics. You can buy something from eBay or Craigslist only to find out that it doesn't work or is stolen. Smartphones and tablets can be risky to sell, because you have to remember to wipe your data before giving it to the other party. If you forget, the buyer can get your personal information and private photos. Forget to delete that sexy selfie that you took? Some weirdo from eBay now has it and will spread it around the net. Today, Avast announces that as a test it purchased 20 used and supposedly wiped phones from the net. The personal data recovered is shocking.
Starting today, consumers looking for a large tablet have one more option to choose from as LG rolls out its 10.1-inch G Pad across the globe. The slate is part of the South Korean maker's budget-friendly lineup, which was introduced in mid-May.
G Pad 7.0 was the first of LG's new slates to debut on the market, less than a month ago. Its bigger sibling, G Pad 10.1, is available first in US, with other markets -- Europe, Asia and Latin America -- to follow shortly, later this month.
Adrian Ludwig, lead engineer for Android security at Google, spoke to journalists prior to Google's I/O developers' conference and said that Android users who install antivirus and other security apps on their devices are no better off than those who don’t. The risk of potentially harmful applications is "significantly overstated" he believes, and there’s no need for anyone to install any form of third party protection.
"I think ... paying for a product that you will probably never actually receive protection from is not a rational reduction of risk -- but people buy things for lots of reasons", he said. Security expert Graham Cluley, who worked for Sophos for 14 years, disagrees. In a blog post he says Ludwig is "wrong, wrong, wrong". Two very opposing views. So who’s right?
Something of a quieter week this week -- perhaps because of Independence Day and preparations there for. Still, there was plenty of news to keep us busy, including the NSA releasing a transparency report -- for what it's worth. Facebook found itself in the firing line after it transpired that the social network had been conducting psychological experiments by meddling with users' newsfeeds. Security is an on-going concern in technology, but it's something we have tendency to think about only in relation to computers and smartphones. One of the latest targets for malware and attacks is the power grid, and it's hard to tell what sort of havoc could be wreaked.
Microsoft tried to do its bit for security -- arguably in a misguided fashion -- by taking control of dynamic DNS service No-IP, and accidentally taking out a number of legitimate sites in addition to those malware-related ones -- the intended targets. In more positive Microsoft news, enhancements were made to Office 365's collaboration options. Windows Phone is still struggling in the smartphone market, but Microsoft will be hoping that this month's launch of Windows Phone 8.1 will help to improve things -- will the addition of folder support be enough? Looking further into the future, Joe pondered what Microsoft should do with Nokia. He also decided to give Windows another chance, helped along by his new Surface Pro 3.
It is hard to get excited about an Android smartphone nowadays. There are simply too many similar devices on the market. Slightly faster processor? Slightly larger screen? Yawn. At this point, Android is simply evolution rather than revolution. Hell, Google I/O 2014 was rather boring. While the proposed changes to Android "L" are nice, it is hardly anything to get excited about.
Instead, it seems that true innovation is coming from the manufacturers, rather than Google. There have been many cool additions to Android by Samsung, LG and HTC to name a few. Samsung in particular has enhanced the OS immensely with its tweaks and features. Sadly, many critics have lambasted that manufacturer for cluttering the user experience with too many features. While I understand the "less is more" philosophy, I refuse to fault any company for being too ambitious. For the past couple weeks, I have been testing Samsung's ambitions with the Samsung Galaxy S5 (Verizon) and I would like to share that with you.