SiliconFilter

Mobile Security Takes a Front Row Seat at MWC

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Not too long ago, nobody really worried too much about mobile security. The worst thing that could really happen to your data on your phone, most people thought, was that you would lose the physical device and somebody could make calls or browse your address book. Today, however, with the proliferation of mobile malware that can do anything from downloading your contacts list to a remote server to sending you pricey premium SMS messages, as well as a general trend toward letting employees use a mobile phone of their own choosing, the issue of mobile security have become far more pressing. This trend was clearly on display at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, where numerous well-known security firms and even more startups showed off their latest products.

Security and Android

Most of these security products today focus on Android. To some degree, Google's mobile operating system provides the perfect breeding ground for malware, as its open nature allows users to install apps from numerous sources and stores besides Google's official app store. It's far easier then for a malware developer to create an app that exploits flaws in Android's security and get it into circulation than it would be for somebody who wants to create iPhone or iPad malware. Apple, after all, only lets users download from one store and exercises complete control over it.

Kindsight security demo

Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk to Brendan Ziolo, the VP of marketing at Kindsight. The Alcatel-Lucent spin-off provides desktop and mobile security products, but here in Barcelona, the company focused on its newly released mobile security tools for Android.

While there are now numerous Android security tools available, Kindsight takes a somewhat different approach than most of its competitors, as it also works directly with mobile carriers to provide both software to end-users that can scan a phone for known malware as well as detection software that runs on the carrier's servers. The company is working with a number of mobile operators to bring its tools to their users and there is a good chance that you will find its software on your phone at some point in the future. Given the nature of these deals, though, you may never know that it's Kindsight that is running in the background (the carriers are more likely to give it their own name).

What Hackers Can do With Your Compromised Phone

Ziolo showed me a demo of a malware app the company developed for Android. Just by installing a malware-infested clone of Angry Birds, a hacker could – within seconds of starting the app – start spamming your friends with SMS messages, download your address book, locate you and even get access to your phone's camera and see a live stream from it without you ever noticing it.

With the company's software running, of course, users quickly get an alert about what is happening and can then uninstall the application. The scan on the phone itself is similar to a standard anti-virus or malware scan you would run on your desktop. At the same time, the company's software on your carrier's servers also keeps an eye out for suspicious traffic and can even detect some malware it has never seen before.

While there has been some discussion over how widespread the Android malware problem really is today, most reports indicate that it's growing quite rapidly. As Kindsight's Ziolo also rightly pointed out, unlike the early days of desktop malware, hackers can now rely on an established infrastructure for selling personal information and other data, making the whole business even more attractive and lucrative for these criminals.



8:31 am


For Qualcomm, Making Mobile Browsing Better Starts at the Chip Level

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When it comes to browser performance, we tend to talk a lot about what browser developers like Microsoft, Google and Mozilla can do to render web pages faster and make complex web apps like Gmail run smoother. Especially in the mobile world, though, there is a level of optimization that's happening at the level of the actual chips that are responsible for making your phone or tablet tick. That optimization is happening both in the design of the chips, as well as how the operating system talks to them. Yesterday, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, I had a chance to sit down with Sy Choudhury, who leads Qualcomm’s Web Technologies initiative. For the most part, our chat focused on what chip makers can do to improve the mobile browsing experience, as well as the increasing importance of HTML5 in the mobile world (HTML5, at its core, is a set of technologies that allow developers to create highly-interactive web applications that look and feel just like regular desktop software).

Qualcomm, which is mostly known for producing the processors and chipsets that run a larger percentage of the world's mobile phone, is working together closely with both the Android and Chrome teams at Google to make your browsing experience on your mobile phone or tablet better. The company, of course, is also working together with other vendors, including Microsoft, but most of the optimization work is currently being done on the Android platform.

The difference between an optimized version of Android and the reference version from Google can often be quite dramatic. In Qualcomm's tests, for example, web pages render 20-30% faster in the optimized version and JavaScript programs are executed 70% faster. Qualcomm also optimized its processors to decode pictures faster, which leads to about a 25% improvement in rendering speed for JPEG images.

As Choudhury told me, this optimization happens at virtually all of the levels of the experience, most of which most users never think about. This ranges from how the browser talks to the network, to how it uses your phone's graphics hardware to make sure video plays without stuttering and all the way up to how your browser interprets JavaScript, the language most complex web pages today are written in.

Qualcomm browser web speed html5

Qualcomm is showing a number of impressive demos at the Mobile World Congress this week to demonstrate this work, including an Instagram-like photo-sharing application that lives in the browser. In another demo, the company is showing the difference between an HTML5-based game that has access to the graphics card and one that doesn't. Unsurprisingly, the one that doesn't use the tablet's graphics hardware directly features mediocre performance while the other runs just as smooth as a native app.

With Great Power Comes Worse Power Consumption

All this power, though, always comes with a trade-off – and more often than not, that trade-off is power consumption. For companies like Qualcomm and its partners, finding the right balance between those two poles isn't always easy. According to Choudhury, though, small tweaks can often make a big difference. Qualcomm, for example, changed how often the network chip shuts down when it is not in use and just a small change like this can lead to power savings of close to 7% under some circumstances.

Who Needs Apps When The Browser Can Do All Of This?

Qualcomm, of course, is also a member of the Core Mobile Web Platform Group Facebook announced at the Mobile World Congress earlier this week. In Choudhury's view, now that websites can access your phone's camera, display videos and render even games without the need for Flash and do so smoothly and without the user ever really having to think about what technology an app uses, there is almost no need for native apps anymore.

Qualcomm’s Web Technologies initiative
 


7:30 am


PocketCloud: Wyse Wants to Become the Hub of Your Personal Cloud

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Wyse, a company that is better known for offering remote desktop solutions to enterprise companies than for its consumer offerings, is now bringing PocketCloud Explore, its app for easily managing files across multiple desktops, operating systems and mobile devices, to the iPhone (it was already available on Android). I got a demo of the app at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week and it's quite an impressive service that indeed works as seamlessly as the company promises.

What makes Wyse's solution so interesting and different from what, at first glance seem like similar offerings from Box.net or Dropbox, is that the company is combining remote desktop access and easy mobile and web access to files that are running on your computer at home (and that are only accessible while that computer is on and connected to the Internet) with its own cloud-based file-storage service. Wyse also offers a cloud-storage service with 2GB of free storage, the PocketCloud Web Cloubin, which allows users to easily upload documents into the cloud and then share them with their friends and colleagues.

PocketCloud Explore app store

The mobile Explore app for iOS doesn't feature any built-in editing capabilities, but it does integrate with the editing apps that are already on your devices (think QuickOffice or DocumentsToGo, for example).

To get started with the service, users have to register and install a small piece of software on the desktops they want to use.

Pricing

The service uses a fermium model. The paid version, which will only code $1 per month for now, will allow you to access data from more computers (up to 10) and share files up to 500MB in size (up from 25MB in the free version). The free version also restricts the length of audio and video clips you can stream from your computer to your phone to 30 seconds in length. The paid version doesn't have this limitation.



3:45 am


Nokia at MWC: Lumia 900 Going Global, a 41MP Camera Phone & Smarter Asha Feature Phones

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Nokia today announced that its Lumia 900 Windows Phone flagship device is going beyond the U.S. and will soon be available as an HSPA+ phone worldwide. The company also introduced its new Lumia 610 phone, as well as its new 808 PureView camera phone with a 41MP resolution (though it's worth noting that this is achieved through interpolation).

The company also announced three new Asha feature phones at the Mobile World Congress today. In addition to the HSPA+ version, Nokia also announced that the Lumia 900 is coming to Canada as an LTE phone. During the press conference, Microsoft also announced that it has now made Windows Phone compatible for the Chinese market and Nokia will soon introduce these phones in China. The new Lumia 900 phones will cost about 480 Euros that's without carrier subsidies).

The Lumia will also now feature Nokia Reading, a new hub for finding and reading news, eBooks, feeds and other content. Microsoft also today announced its first beta of Skype for Windows.

In addition to its new hardware, Nokia also announced a new partnership with Groupon, that will bring daily deals to the company's phones.

Lumia 610

Nokia also today announced the Lumia 610. Nokia called it the "prefect introduction to Windows Phone for younger users" and highlighted its "generous curves" and "confident feel." The phone will come with the usual Windows Phone features, including support for social networking and gaming though Xbox Live. It will come preloaded with the standard Nokia feature (Nokia Maps, Drive, etc.), but it will also feature Nokia's new Transport tool for finding public transport options in about 500 cities.

The phone will retail for around 189 Euros and come in four colors.

808 PureView

Also announced today was the S40-based 808 PureView – a camera phone with a 41MP Carl Zeiss sensor and high performance optics. To deal with the massive size of these pictures, Nokia will make it easy for users to zoom in and share just parts of a picture.

The phone will also feature 5.1 channel Dolby Digital Plus surround sound.

Smarter Feature Phones

As Nokia noted, there are still billions of users out there that don't have feature phones and/or don't have data plans. In addition to these new feature phones, Nokia also announced its Nokia Life suite of products for these feature phones, though it's worth noting that the company is also making three free games from EA (Bejeweled, Need for Speed, and Tetris) available for these phones. Two of these phones, the Asha 202 and 203, will retail for around 60 Euros. Another, more high-end and social media-focused device, the Asah 302 (with a 1GHz processor) will also be available soon and retail for just under $100.

The Asha phones will also support Microsoft Exchange for the Asha 302 and the previously announced 303, making it "well equipped for business use."

Nokia Life

Nokia Life is focused on education, financial information and other services that can be delivered over SMS or through phone calls. Nokia Life also includes a sharing feature With this service, the company is clearly aiming at the developing world.

During the press conference, Nokia's CEO Stephen Elop noted that there is a major growth opportunity of the company in developing countries. Looking back to Nokia's last year, Elop noted how the company radically shifted its strategy just one year ago. In his view, Nokia has "radically changed [its] clock speed." He also cited the fact that Lumia sales have "exceeded Nokia's expectations," especially in Asia and the U.S., as signs of Nokia's turn-around.

Elop also stressed Nokia's move towards location-based services. In the Windows store, developer submissions are up 3x from last year, he said, and downloads from S40 devices, too, are growing.

Note: this post was cross-posted from live.orange.com.

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11:46 pm


Study: Mobile Web and App Usage Now at Parity

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The online analytics company comScore released its annual "Mobile Future in Focus" report earlier this morning. Just ahead of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, comScore is taking a closer look at how consumers in the U.S., the five largest European markets and Japan are using their phones. The report is far too long to be summarized here, but here is an interesting statistic that I don't think most people are aware of: mobile Internet users now use apps at about almost exactly the same rate as they use the web on their devices.

ComScore 2012 mobile browser and apps

 

 

European Smartphone Users Still Different from their U.S. Counterparts

There are some interesting differences between the U.S. and the top European countries. Even though the overall smartphone penetration is about the same in the U.S., Germany, Spain, France, the UK and Italy (41.8% in the U.S., 44% in those five largest European markets), Europeans don't quite use the mobile web and apps at the same rate as their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic.

Maybe this is due to the fact that European and U.S. users do have slightly different usage patterns, with European users, for example, using mobile email significantly less than U.S. users (30% vs. 41%). They also seem to be less interested in using social networking platforms and reading blogs while on the go (26% vs. 35%).

Another factor may be the higher popularity of tablets in the U.S. when compared to every other major market. According to comScore, more than 14% of U.S. smartphone owners also own a tablet. In Germany, that numbers is just 7.4%, while the other European countries fall in between the 8% to 11% range.

ComScore 2012 Mobile Future in Focus pdf  page 28 of 49

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9:59 am