Monthly Archives May 2015

Text Message Bug Crashes Apple Devices

Ontario wireless contractsApple is currently working to fix a bug that allows one person to crash another person’s iPhone simply by sending it a specific text message. The bug affects iOS 8 devices, causing them to crash and restart when a particular SMS message with Arabic characters is received.

The bug crashes not only iPhones, but iPads and Apple Watches as well. After the crash, users have reported not being able to open their Messages App. Apple says that this behavior is caused by a problem in iMessage.

“We are aware of an iMessage issue caused by a specific series of unicode characters and we will make a fix available in a software update,” Apple said in a statement.

There is currently a work around available to get back into Messages. If your phone has been affected, click here and follow the steps.

Apple has fixed bugs like this in the past. Another bug that affected iOS 8 allowed an attacker to crash an iPhone by sending a Class 0 or Flash message, which are usually reserved for emergency notifications. A similar bug also affected iOS 6 in 2013.

Apple Accounts for majority of Google’s Advertising Revenue

GoogleGoogle made $11.8 billion in mobile search revenue in 2014, 75 percent (nearly $9 billion) of which came from iOS.

According to an analysis by Goldman Sachs, this total can be attributed to the deal between Google and Apple making Google the default search engine for mobile Safari. This arrangement is believed to cost Google between $1 billion and $2 billion per year.

Rumors state that Apple might be considering a switch to Yahoo or Bing, or to offer its own solution. Apple is known to be working on a large-scale web search program with the social analytics firm Topsy. If Apple does develop its own search engine, Google could be in the position to lose those billions of dollars each year.

With mobile search becoming more popular than desktop search in major markets, including the U.S. and Japan, many new Android-based manufacturers are opting to use local search engine options rather than Google. This problem is most prevalent in China, where most Google offerings are blocked by government firewalls.

If this trend continues, and Apple does switch from Google, the company might be at risk of being cut out of the market by its own software.

False Answers to Security Questions Make Accounts Less Secure

IMG_1591When creating a new account online, chances are you’ve had to answer a security question about your pet, your mother or your favorite teacher. You may have answered them incorrectly, thinking it would make your answer harder for hackers to guess. As it turns out, you likely made your account less secure.

Google researchers recently examined how difficult it was to guess the answers to “personal knowledge” questions such as the ones required for a Google Account. They found that accounts are not actually as safe as one might think.

“Our analysis confirms that secret questions generally offer a security level that is far lower than user-chosen passwords,” said a peer-reviewed paper presented last week at a conference in Florence. “Surprisingly, we found that a significant cause of this insecurity is that users often don’t answer truthfully.”

Author of the paper, Joseph Bonneau said that the most common fake answers are more predictable than real answers, particularly when it comes to surnames and other such categories. Answers like “Don’t have one” or “I don’t know” are especially bad.

Based on the results of his study, Bonneau has made a few recommendations for users. He says to avoid generic fake answers like the ones previously mentioned. He also suggests having a backup mechanism that is more secure than questions alone, such as registering your phone number with your account in order to receive a recovery code.

Aria Adds Gesture Control to Wearable Devices

ariaThe Aria band solves the frustration of needing both hands to interact with wearable devices by adding gesture control to smartwatches.

Project Aria is compatible with Android Wear and Pebble Time, and allows users to move through the watch’s interface using a variety of programmable finger gestures. These gestures are felt by the module that slots into the existing band, thereby keeping one hand free at all times.

A Kickstarter campaign for Project Aria is launching in the coming weeks and will feature two versions of the band. The $69 band is built for Pebble Time and will connect directly to the watch, eliminating the need for an independent battery or Bluetooth communication.

The other option costs $169 and is aimed at developers. This standalone unit will feature its own battery that will slot into any watch band, and will come with a Software Developer Kit (SDK) allowing owners to use the module with most Android Wear watches as well as integrate gesture controls into apps.

Aria is not currently able to directly control the Apple Watch, but the SDK is compatible with iOS applications, so the band could find potential uses with Apple products going forward.

Android M Rumored to Launch at Google I/O

androidIndustry insiders are speculating that Android M, being referred to internally by developers as Android Macadamia Nut Cookie, could be revealed at Google I/O. The latest build of Google’s mobile operating system might make its official debut at Google’s upcoming annual software developer-focused conference held in San Francisco, California on May 28 and 29.

Some Skeptics believe Android M may not launch until next year, as developers need more time to make Android 6.0 into a fully integrated ecosystem with other devices such as Chromebooks. Nevertheless, many still believe a beta version of Android M will be revealed at Google I/O, and that October will be Macadamia-month.

Many predict Android M will maintain the Material Design elements of Android 5.0 Lollipop released last year, while making substantial performance improvements. Adoption rates for Lollipop are still under 20% due to the buggy nature of 5.0 and its subsequent versions compared to its predecessor KitKat.

In order for Google to build an operating system that is free of bugs and makes users happy, some believe a 2016 launch is much more realistic. The only way to know for sure is to wait and see what is revealed at Google I/O in the coming days.

CRTC Asks for Volunteers to Test Broadband Speeds

modemThe Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is asking volunteers to help test Internet speed across the country. The goal is to measure the performance of home broadband Internet services offered by various service providers, ten of whom are partnering in the project.

The telecom regulator says the results will tell Canadians their “actual connection speeds” and whether the services are “delivering speeds as advertised.” The CRTC also believes this data will help to improve its broadband policy-making, according to a recent news release.

The measurements will be taken by SamKnows, a company that specializes in broadband speeds. 6,200 volunteers will receive a device called a Whitebox that connects to their modem or router. It will periodically measure the speed of their Internet connection while not actively in use.

Carriers involved in the project are Bell, Bell Aliant, Cogeco, Eastlink, MTS Allstream, Northwestel, Rogers, Shaw, Telus and Videotron.

Robert Goodman, the senior director of Internet for Rogers Communications, thinks the CRTC project is “great news for consumers.”

“Canadians deserve the Internet speeds they pay for and more transparency means they can make more informed choices,” Goodman said in a statement.

What Causes Smartphones to Catch Fire?

chargersTwo people in Alberta, Canada recently experienced considerable trauma and expense when their smartphones suddenly burst into flames. Around the world, similar stories have surfaced of electronics spontaneously combusting. These occurrences now have people asking: Why is this happening and am I in danger?

Alberta teen Josh Shultz woke up to a flaming iPhone in the middle of the night, giving him third-degree burns and a temporarily inhabitable home. His iPhone had been plugged in and charging.

Many are suggesting these combustions are related to the charging process. Smartphone fires can be caused by a short circuit as a result of corrosion within the phone or by faulty third-party batteries and charger cables. Just last year, the London Fire Brigade warned Britons to avoid purchasing knock-off cables unless they wanted to suffer electrocution, burns or home destruction.

“I was shocked at how potentially dangerous these chargers are,” fire investigator Andrew Vaughan–Davies said in a statement. “There have been some near misses in the last few months and, unless people stop buying them, it’s only a matter of time before we are called to a fatal fire.”

Around the same time, the government of New South Wales, Australia issued a warning against “non-compliant USB style chargers” after the fatal electrocution of a young woman.

In Josh Shultz’s case, firefighters blame the fact the iPhone was left to charge under his bedcovers.

“It got smothered enough that it couldn’t get rid of any heat, and it eventually got too hot,” said John Weisgerber, chief of the Rimbey volunteer fire department. “I’ve seen other [fires] like it … [electronics] are engineered to take a lot, but every once in a while you’re going to get one that’s just not going to take it.”

Federal Court of Appeals Rules Against Apple

apple logoThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently ruled that Apple cannot seek damages from Samsung over copying the basic design of the iPhone. This overturns an earlier ruling from a lower court. Apple argued Samsung’s smartphones were in violation of the company’s design patents; both brands of smartphones have a rectangular body and round edges, along with other similarities.

The court ruled that the overall “look” of the iPhone is integral to the way touchscreen smartphones work, and Apple cannot prevent Samsung or any other company from using the same generic design. Patent law only protects designs that serve a non-functional purpose, such as the placement of logos, and does not apply to Apple’s claims in this scenario.

During the oral arguments, an Apple executive conceded the iPhone’s design is in fact functional, stating it “improved the quality [of the iPhone] in some respects.”

A federal jury previously awarded Apple $980 million in damages, including $382 million over the “trade dress” of the iPhone. With the former ruling overturned, a jury will now be responsible for determining how much of that latter sum, if any, Samsung will have to pay.

“This case has always been about more than money,” said Josh Rosenstock, spokesman for Apple. “It’s about innovation and the hard work that goes into inventing products that people love, which is hard to put a price on.”

Yotaphone 2 Enters U.S. Market Via Indiegogo

yotaYota Devices, a Russian smartphone startup, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring its Yotaphone 2 dual-screen e-ink Android-based smartphone to the U.S. market.

What makes the Yotaphone 2 so unique is that it has two screens, both of which are touchscreens. The front features a 5-inch AMOLED display, and the back has a 4.7 inch e-ink screen. The always-on rear screen can be used for reading, decoration or any other information purposes, and Yoda’s software allows content to be easily sent from the color screen to the back screen.

A TechCrunch review from earlier this year said the Yotaphone 2 was “one of the first smartphones in a long time to genuinely surprise me.”

The device will launch in North America this summer, and pre-orders are currently being taken using Indiegogo. Early backers can order a handset starting at $500. Yota Devices has a goal of $50,000 for its two-month campaign, and will use the funds raised to help pay for the certifications and regulatory fees required to launch in the U.S. At the time this article was written, $58,960 had already been raised with 61 days left in the campaign.

The Yotaphone 2 will receive an update to Android 5.0 Lollipop this summer. Updates to Yota’s skin will include tweaks to the YotaHub, YotaCover and YotaEnergy services as well as new features such as YotaFitness, YotaRemote, YotaNotes and YotaSports.

Bing Updating Algorithm to Favor Mobile-Friendly Sites

bingBing recently announced it will be revamping its search algorithm to give mobile-friendly sites a boost in search results. This update comes just a month after Google began favoring mobile-friendly sites itself. Search engines are adapting their results to better fit the small screens of mobile devices, as mobile Internet searches are now surpassing desktop searches.

Bing is currently tagging search results as “Mobile-friendly,” to help users find compatible sites when searching on their phones, but plans to make searches even more mobile-friendly by factoring it into search rankings. The company has not yet released a firm date for the launch of the new algorithms, but expects it to “start rolling out mobile friendliness ranking changes in the coming months.”

A site’s mobile-friendliness will be based on factors such as navigation, readability, scrolling and compatibility. While sites not suited to mobile devices will appear lower than mobile-friendly counterparts, Bing maintains relevancy will always outweigh mobile-friendliness.