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2 years ago

Latest Android Malware scare might be premature

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The folks at Symantec have tipped everyone off about a new piece of Android Malware, calling Android.Counterclank "a bot-like threat that can receive commands to carry out certain actions, as well as steal information from the device."  They note that starting one of the apps "infected" with the apperhand SDK package will show a second service running, and often places a search icon on the home screen.  They have verified this is in 13 applications on the Android Market and are calling it "the highest distribution of any malware identified so far this year."  Some reports on the internet claim it may have affected 5 million users.  That's 5,000,000 -- a huge and scary number. And it makes for a great headline.

But it looks like Symantec might have jumped the gun a bit.

Lookout, a competitor in the Android security field, says that the applications are not malware, and the apperhand package actually is a legitimate, but aggressive, advertisement component.  It's part of an advertising software development kit that's a modified version of the "ChoopCheec" platform” or “Plankton” SDK that was the focus of some privacy concerns in June 2011.  This newer version is cleaner, but it still has capabilities common to many ad networks. Writes Lookout:

  • It is capable of identifying the user uniquely by their IMEI number, for instance. But unlike some networks, this SDK forward-hashes the IMEI before sending to its server. They’re identifying your device, but they are obfuscating the raw data. (That's a good thing.)
  • The SDK has the capability to deliver “Push Notification” ads to the user. We’re not huge fans of push notifications, but we also don’t consider push notification advertising to be malware.
  • The SDK drops a search icon onto the desktop. Again, we consider bad form, though we don’t consider this a smoking gun for malware provided the content that is delivered is safe.  In this case, it is simply a link to a search engine.
  • The SDK also has the capability to push bookmarks to the browser.  In our opinion, this is crosses a line; although we do not believe this is cause to classify the SDK as malware.

We're not sure exactly how far is too far, but if the applications are using practices found in "many" other ad networks, we agree with Lookouts points listed here and have to call this one a non-issue when talking about malware.  On the issue of privacy and wanton sharing of user data, we're not loving it, but it's not malware.  

We're not security specialists, and we never claim to be.  We can tear applications apart and see what's hiding in there, but in-depth scanning and analysis is best left to the experts.  That being said, we are experts at catching bullshit, and this one reeks of it.  Nobody likes ads, but we can't just call them malware anytime we like.  They're a part of the ad-supported app model, and we should expect to see more than we like.  When they misbehave, call for someone's head, but not before.  

But that's not sensational.  Headlines like Computerworld's "Massive Android malware op may have infected 5 million users" cause controversy, and everyone loves a controversy.  Explaining that the 5 million mark is from adding the high end of the download counters, which allows for a 4 million-device margin of error, is conveniently forgotten.  And we'd like to think that if as many as 1 million devices on the low end had been infected, Google and the Android Market team would have said something.

The long and the short of it is, we're sleeping just fine tonight. Move along.

More: Symantec; Lookout

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2 years ago

Late night poll: Do you hack your Android phone?

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Hacking is half (or more) the fun for many an Android user.  With the right phone, you can change just about everything, making it have little resemblance to the way it came out of the box.  It's fun and addicting for the same reason computer tweaking and hacking is -- we do it because we can.  There's a good chance many of you guys reading this are the same way.  The simple fact that you found an Android site on the Internet makes you a more informed user, and you're exposed to all this hacking jazz.  

There's as good a chance that you're not into breaking hacking your phone.  We get that.  You like things well enough the way they are, and just use your phone.  We wanna hear from both sides this evening, so let us know in the poll.

 

Do you hack your Android phone?

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2 years ago

EFF working to keep jailbreaking legal, wants your help

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Jailbreaking or rooting your smartphone is currently "legal" under Digital Millennium Copyright Act, but that exemption is set to expire in 2012.  The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is looking for help and support to keep it that way, and they would like people to contact the US Copyright office and express their opinion.  They are offering up a handy set of questions and concerns readers can use in their appeal to the copyright office, and have done as much as they can to streamline the process and make it painless, with direct links and a petition.  

The idea behind it all is that once we pay our hard-earned money for our expensive electronic toys, they are ours to do with as we please.  As long as safety regulations are met, and we don't do anything to adversely affect our cellular carrier, we should be able to do anything we wish.  It's a great idea, and it's a shame that this even requires an exemption in the DMCA.

The DMCA has been used against people who hack game consoles, and used against people trafficking cell phones, but has anyone ever been prosecuted for rooting their smartphone?  I've searched the net for a few days, and every time I find something that sounds promising, it ends up being more than just someone jailbreaking their iPad or rooting their Bionic.  Yeah, carriers and manufacturers probably hate it, and we can't blame them, but I don't see a case like HTC vs. Jerry Hildenbrand for rooting his Wildfire S getting much traction in a court of law.  Unfortunately, we can't trust things will stay this way in a world full of companies like Microsoft and Apple.

It's absolutely ridiculous that we would require some sort of waiver to be allowed to mess up our own hardware.  It's even more ridiculous that carriers and device makers have acted in ways to put the fear of prosecution in us so we want an exemption in the first place.  It's mine.  If you want to tell me what to do with it, you need to pay me for it.  Until then, leave me the hell alone and let me enjoy my toys.

Hit the link below, and do your part to make sure the Copyright Office does the right thing.

EFF: Jailbreaking is not a crime

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2 years ago

'Optimus 3D MAX' branding rumored for next LG 3D phone

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Earlier this week we saw reports that LG is preparing a successor to its Optimus 3D smartphone, to be unveiled at next month's Mobile World Congress. The LG CX2, as it's apparently codenamed, was to ship with a 1.2GHz CPU, 4.3-inch 3D WVGA NOVA display and dual 5MP cameras. Leaked renders also appeared, showing a device much thinner than the veritable brick that was the original Optimus 3D.

Today GSM Israel says it's learned from a "very reliable source" that the CX2's official branding will be "Optimus 3D MAX" (spelled the old-fashioned way, with just one X). If true, the new name would fit a device which appears to be more a refinement of last year's Optimus 3D than anything revolutionary.

It's likely we'll see more of the Optimus 3D MAX, or whatever it's called, in just a few weeks time at Mobile World Congress, so stay tuned.

Source: GSM Israel (translated); via: UnwiredView

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2 years ago

Sony Ericsson buyout approved by the European Commission

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The European Commission has given Sony the OK to take full control of Sony Ericsson, three months after Sony paid €1.05 billion for Ericsson's share of the partnership.  Along with the entire company, the hefty sum also earned Sony an IP cross-licensing agreement, as well as ownership of five patent families. If you'll recall, upon announcement of the buyout, Sony said that the acquisition was fueled by the need to integrate SE smartphones into its existing network-connected devices, including TVs and tablets. The European Commission's approval is a major stepping stone in the acquisition process, which will likely be finalized in the coming weeks. 

What does the buyout mean for consumers? As Sony said, it will likely begin focusing on how its smartphones can mingle with its current line of products. Back at CES, Sony showed off its idea of a "connected home", an environment in which its line of smartphones will almost certainly thrive. Who knows, is a smartphone that acts as a Playstation controller too much to ask for? 

Source: Reuters; via Xperia Blog

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2 years ago

LG Spectrum review - Verizon gets another decent second-gen LTE phone

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Our LG Spectrum review comes at an interesting time for both the smartphone manufacturer as well the carrier on which it resides, Verizon. On one hand you have LG, which has brought us some excellent high-end Android smartphones as well as a surprising low-ender in the Optimus line. And then you have Verizon, whose 4G LTE network is starting to mature at the ripe old age of 1 but at the same time can appear to have a glass jaw.

And now, we have the LG Spectrum. It's the U.S. version of the LG Optimus LTE -- the Korean manufacturer's second foray in to the latest in high-speed mobile data -- and cousin to the LG Nitro HD on AT&T. (The LG Revolution was one of Verizon's fledgling LTE smartphones.)

Join us after the break as we put the phone through its paces and see if it has what it takes to help carry Verizon deep into 2012.


Fast processor, fast data and a lot of customizations to make things easy for new(ish) users. Has a bright, high-resolution display.


The level of tweaks and customizations may turn some off. Battery life isn't stellar, slight UI lag in places.



The Spectrum is a solid phone for Verizon, but the highly skinned user interface is starting to look a bit cartoonish. The display is a strong positive, but yet again we're left waiting for the promised upgrade to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

Inside this review

More info

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2 years ago

RIM's new CEO on Android hardware: 'they are all the same'

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To say it's been an interesting year for Research in Motion and BlackBerry would certainly be an understatement. It was about 10 months ago that we first learned that RIM's tablet would be capable of running full-fledged Android applications, and suddenly we had to start caring about what was coming out of Waterloo.

This week RIM has undergone probably its most important change since realizing SurePress wasn't a sure thing -- co-founders Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie stepped down as co-CEOs, and chief operating officer Thorsten Heins has taken their place in the head office. There have been calls for RIM to adopt Android. There have been calls fro RIM to adopt Windows Phone. Really, everybody seems to know what's best for RIM.

Our pals at CrackBerry got some one-on-one time with Heins this week, and we're learning a little more about his position on Android -- mainly that he's unimpressed with the hardware on which it's running. "They are all the same," he says.

Here's what Heins told CrackBerry's Kevin Michaluk:

Kevin: I keep reading these articles that BlackBerry should build on Android, but I just don't understand them.
Thorsten: Just take a look where the Android OEMs are. I leave this to you. Take a look at their recent announcements and what you will immediately see is there is just no room for differentiation because they are all the same.

We've seen a lot of Android devices over the past year. Some good, some not. A lot of black slabs, to be sure. But also a dual-screen phone. Two phones with 3D screens. BlackBerry-esque phones with tiny screens and quint little keyboards. Thinner, lighter, faster, with web browsers that actually work and games you're not ashamed to play in public. Android hardware manufacturers might be guilty of too many models, but you certainly can't say they haven't experimented, even if it led to failure.

Before Heins bemoans the "sameness" of Android hardware, perhaps another look at RIM's own stable is in order.  

Check out Kevin's entire interview with Thorensten Heins at CrackBerry.com!

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2 years ago

Vlingo responds to privacy issues raised about its Android app

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The popular Android app Vlingo has come under a bit of fire the past several days, as it seems the application is sending a bit more data than they explain in their privacy agreement.  The folks over at Android Pit found some things that raised a few eyebrows, so we reached out to Vlingo to see what was what, and if we need to worry.  We spent some time talking to product engineers, and our conclusion is that everything's on the up-and-up, but there were some issues with the way their privacy agreement was written or presented to the user and a software bug or two at work.  

Things get a little muddy, partially because there's more than one Android version.  One is available in the Market for any device to download, and there's a more customized version offered by OEM's like Samsung on the Galaxy Note.  Different versions with different licenses and agreements simply led to the wrong version of the privacy agreement being presented to the user.  The developers and staff at Vlingo recognize that there's an issue, and were completely transparent about the entire thing.

They also came across a bug that allowed the service to run even if the user initially canceled the request, and another that sends location data when none is requested.  Again, Vlingo was up front about the issue and answered any questions we asked.  They even have set up an opt-out process for folks who don't want to use the product with these issues, and they will delete all user data from anyone who requests it.

Yes, it's bad when software bugs force an application to send the wrong data.  It's also bad when users aren't presented with the correct use policies -- even though most would never read them.  But these types of things happen, and the real test is how the company reacts when presented with issues of this sort.  And Vlingo aced it.  They were courteous, and seemed genuinely concerned about the issues, without trying to back pedal or lay the blame at someone else's feet.  This kind of transparency with the community is exactly what we deserve and expect.  Hit the break for the official statement, in its entirety.

More info about the privacy concerns: Android Pit

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2 years ago

Late night poll: Do you play games on your Android device?

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Games can be really fun to play on your Android device.  There's all sorts of them available, from ones for dedicated "gaming" hardware like the Xperia Play, to HD games optimized for tablets.  But Android is good for a lot of things besides games.  Some use their device as the web in their hands, others need a portable e-mail solution, some of us are heavy texters.  Tonight, I'm curious and want to find out just how many folks out there like to game on their Androids.  I know since I got an Android tablet, I find myself playing more games than I ever imagined myself playing.  What say you my fellow Android fans?

 

Do you play games on your Android device?

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2 years ago

Sony Xperia S boasts 'dirt-repellent' coating and 'fast charging'

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As launch day approaches, more technical details of Sony's new Xperia S are starting to trickle out. We learned all the key specifications at CES (where we also got some hands-on time with the device), but now two interesting new features of the Sony flagship phone have come to light, according to Swiss tech site PocketPC.ch.

Firstly, the site reports that a Sony Ericsson product manager told them the Xperia S has a "dirt-repellent", "UV-active nano-coating". We're not even going to pretend to know what that means, but if it protects the device from scrapes and daily wear-and-tear, we're all in favor. For what it's worth, the presence of an "anti-stain shell" has already been confirmed on the official Sony Ericsson Facebook page.

The product manager also reportedly spilled a few details on the new battery tech employed by the Xperia S. The phone is said to use improved lithium-polymer technology that's capable of recharging in half the time taken by earlier models, with ten minutes of charging time apparently being enough to power the device for a whole hour.

The Xperia S is due to launch in Europe from the second week of March. Its American counterpart, the AT&T Xperia Ion, will land stateside during the second quarter.

Source: PocketPC.ch; via: XperiaBlog

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2 years ago

New version of Google Music Manager allows easy downloading of purchased tracks

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Here at AC, we love Google Music, and some of us have it cranked high all day long while the lovingly sweet sounds of Led Zepplin or Motorhead coax us through the workday.  But I digress, and maybe that's only me.  We especially love it when changes get made to makes things easier, and today is a good day for easy.  Google has updated the Google Music Manager program to allow for easy downloading of songs you have uploaded or purchased from the Android Market.  Music Manager is the portion of the service you run on your computer to upload and manage your library, and we have to admit when compared to competitors like iTunes or Zune it's a little sparse.  

With today's update, you can download all your legitimately *cough* purchased and uploaded music with just a few button clicks.  Right click on the Music Manager in your system tray, open the options dialog and choose the "Download" tab.  From there you have the option to download your library.  If you've downloaded it before, you'll also have an option to only download newly added songs.  The tracks are saved in the folder you specify as 320 kbps .mp3 files.  Your songs still stay in the cloud, but now you've got a local copy as well.

In addition, server side changes now allow you to share the Youtube video for purchased songs with your Google+ circles.  Click the dropdown next to the song title to share the video with your circles, and they'll see it in their Google+ timeline.  Now if only the rest of the planet could use Google music, it would be perfect.

Source: Android Market support; via +Android

 

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2 years ago

Google's Android developers want you to say goodbye to the menu button

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Goodbye menu button, hello Action Bar overflow!  Today on the Android Developers blog Scott Main, lead technical writer from Google, wrote up a nice piece of prose about how developers should migrate away from the traditional menu-button based way of designing applications.  You see, Ice Cream Sandwich allows for the folks designing phones to do away with all those buttons we've grown accustomed to at the bottom of our screen, and replace them with software based buttons built into the OS and apps.  It's something we first saw in Honeycomb tablets, where the need for menu buttons was removed by the introduction of the ActionBar class.  

Google wants developers, and in turn us users, to learn to love the Action Bar.  Scott gives examples of how the new Action Bar "overflow" (those three dots that replace a menu button in ICS) can replace what we traditionally needed a menu button for, and even how to build applications to use both methods -- developers don't want to forget all the devices that haven't been updated to Ice Cream Sandwich yet.  It's an interesting read for those who keep up with Android application interface guidelines, and a must-read for all you developers out there.  

Most importantly, Scott stresses that the application UI should have all the important  elements right up front for the user to see, and the overflow should be used for things not important enough to be on the screen.  He also gives instruction on how to make the legacy menu button not appear if it's not being used, and how to get rid of the whole Action Bar if an application doesn't need it.  As developers get their apps updated for ICS and beyond, we'll be able to say goodbye to those three dots we chase all over on "buttonless" phones and tablets.  That's a good thing.

Source: Android Developers Blog.  Thanks, Sebastian!

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2 years ago

Motorola: 18.7 million smartphones, 1 million tablets sold in 2011

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Motorola's just announced it's fourth-quarter and year-end earnings, and we're getting a pretty clear picture of what sold -- and what didn't -- in 2011. Here's the breakdown:

  • For all of 2011, Motorola sold 18.7 million smartphones and 1 million tablets (Motorola Xoom, Xyboard/Xoom 2)
  • For the final three months of the year, Motorola sold 5.3 million smartphones and 200,000 tablets.

Quarterly speaking, that's a bit of an increase. For Q3 2011, Motorola sold 4.8 million smartphones and 100,000 tablets. But it still pales in comparison to the more than 40 million iPads Apple sold in 2011, never mind iPhones.

As far as earnings go, Motorola announced a net revenue of $3.4 billion, but a non-GAAP operating loss of $19 million and an earnings loss of 27 cents per share.

Motorola does mention the Google merger in its earnings report, but that's it. No update on progress. And for that reason, Motorola's also not hosting a conference call with the report.

Source: Motorola

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2 years ago

Mobilicity launching the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on Feb. 6

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Canadian carriers have been rolling out the Samsung Galaxy Nexus for quite a while now but has just added their name to the mix. On their Twitter account they've made it known the Samsung Galaxy Nexus will be available from them on February 6th. No pricing details were released for now but it'll no doubt fall in line with the rest of the carrier offers meaning -- it should arrive for around $600, possibly less if Mobilicity wants to be nice.

Source: Twitter

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2 years ago

Amazon offering the Galaxy Nexus for a deeply-discounted $100

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We here at Android Central refuse to ignore a bargain, espcially one as great as this: Amazon is currently selling the Galaxy Nexus for a mere $99.99, a full $200 less than what you'll pay Verizon. The sale price is for new customers only, and you'll need to sign a two-year contract, of course. If you've held out for the current Android king, this is likely the best price you've seen to date, though the device is finally starting to see some respectable discounts (newegg.com, for example, is currently offering the Nexus for $200).

Given Amazon's name-brand and solid reliability, this deal is just too good to ignore for those who have been waiting patiently to take a bite out of Ice Cream Sandwich. Hit the source link for Amazon's product page.

Source: Amazon

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