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BlackBerry reports large second quarter loss

Struggling smartphone maker BlackBerry reported a major net second quarter loss Friday and said is is burning cash at a higher rate as it moves to execute a tentative deal that could take the company private.

Revenue for the quarter ended Aug. 31 was $1.6 billion, with a net loss of $965 million, or $1.84 a share. That compares with revenue of $2.9 billion and a loss of $229 million, or 44 cents a share, for the same quarter last year.

Adjusted net loss from continuing operations was $248 million, or 47 cents per share. The per-share loss was on the low side of the 47 cent-to-51-cent range that BlackBerry warned of last week, when it announced preliminary results and plans to lay off 4,500 employees. Wall Street analysts had expected a loss of 49 cents a share.  Read More

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AT&T plan lets users upgrade phone every year

A new AT&T plan will allow wireless customers upgrade their smartphones every year.

The carrier announced AT&T Next, an option that lets a smartphone or tablet owner snag a new device every year at no additional costs.

AT&T Next will work similarly to plans introduced by rival T-Mobile, which scrap traditional contracts in favor of paying for phones through monthly installments. The AT&T plan would allow a consumer to acquire a smartphone and make monthly payments for the full price of the phone with nothing down, then opt to upgrade after 12 months. If a consumers decides to keep their phone, they make payments for an extra 8 months.

AT&T says installments range from $15 to $50 a month, depending on the device. For example, a 16 GB iPhone 5, which carries a full price of $649.99, would be available for $32.50 per month.

The plan will be available nationwide starting July 26.  Read More

NFC Phone Hacking and Other Mobile Attacks

One of the main tracks today at the Black Hat 2012 conference in Las Vegas is Mobile. The most compelling one to me was Don’t Stand So Close To Me: An Analysis Of The NFC Attack Surface by the famous Charlie Miller. The others raised important concerns, but only Miller’s made me cringe. His presentation included a demonstration of the use of a malicious NFC device which, simply when placed close enough to a user’s phone, resulted in a complete compromise of the phone, or what security people call “remote code execution.”

Dr. Miller, formerly of the NSA, is well-known in the security field as a top security researcher and probably the top researcher of Apple products. He has won many awards for impressive attacks on Macs and iPhones. He is currently a principal research consultant for Accuvant Labs.

The NFC Forum's N-Mark logo for NFC-enabled devices

The NFC Forum’s N-Mark logo for NFC-enabled devices.

NFC is designed for close wireless communications with the most famous application being wireless payments. It’s very similar to RFID in design, but devices can exchange much richer sets of data. NFC communications are very close-range. Miller said he heard of it can be made to work as far as 10 cm, but 4 cm was about where he found the outer range.

It turns out that, at least on Android, if your phone is on and awake, NFC is active. And if it’s asleep and locked, an attacker who knows the number can wake it up with an SMS message. Google addressed this some in Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) by turning NFC off when the phone is locked. You have to first unlock it with the passcode. Miller did all his testing on Android and on a Nokia phone running Meego.  Read More

Apple’s iOS 6 to add privacy controls for user contacts

Leaked details from iOS 6 show that Apple has beefed up privacy controls for user contacts, something the company was criticized for earlier this year.

(Credit: Apple)

Apple will offer users a way to manage which applications have permission to access their contact information as part of a new privacy control panel that’s coming in iOS 6.

The feature comes in tandem with a new privacy pop-up that asks whether users want to give a particular application access to contacts, as pointed out by MacRumors today.

Apple said it would add such a feature as part of a “future software release,” back in February, though the company did not specify when exactly that would be.

At the company’s annual developer conference earlier this week, Apple took the wraps off iOS 6,

which will be released to consumers in the fall. That software was given to developers under a non-disclosure agreement, however, details beyond what Apple shared during its press conference have since leaked out.

Demands for a specialized address book privacy settings came after controversy when Path — a popular iOS and Android application — was found to be collecting user contact information without permission. Path quickly issued an apology on the issue, saying that it was using that data to alert users to when their friends joined the social network. The company then introduced an updated version that required users to opt-in to the feature.

Apple responded by saying “apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines.”  Read More

RIM warns of operating loss, layoffs to come

Struggling BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion warned Tuesday that it will have an operating loss in its current March-June quarter and said there will be significant layoffs this year.

RIM also said in a release that it has hired J.P. Morgan and RBC Capital Markets to help the company evaluate various strategies, including opportunities to partner with other companies and license software as well as other alternatives.

Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM made no mention of a sale of the company but new chief executive Thorsten Heins did not rule it out after RIM’s last earnings were released in late March.

“It’s a disaster, it’s bad,” Jefferies analyst Peter Misek said. “The problem is you can’t see a path to a sale until you stabilize the business.”

Misek said if the advisers weren’t brought in to consider a sale originally they are likely considering it now. Misek expects RIM to announce as many as 5,000 layoffs soon.

RIM’s stock was halted in after-hours trading Tuesday. When trading resumed shares fell more than 10 percent, or $1.20, to $10.03.

The once-iconic RIM, the company that pioneered the smartphone market with its Blackberry phones, is facing the most difficult period in its history. RIM’s U.S. share of smartphones dropped from 44 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2011, according to market researcher NPD Group. The company still has 78 million active subscribers across the globe, but Apple and Android phone makers such as Samsung and HTC are taking market share.  Read More

Nokia Phi Pops Up On WMBench with Windows Phone 8 at the Helm

Nokia Phi Pops Up On WMBench with Windows Phone 8(Photo: WMPoweruser)

Nokia is the leading manufacture for Windows Phone, and the Finnish giant has only been selling devices only since November of 2011, that’s a full six months ago. The Lumia 800 was the first of many Windows Phone 7.5 devices. However, the company is not slowing down, and it now appears a Windows Phone 8-based Nokia is already in the works.

The device that is simply called the Nokia Phi according to WP Bench, a tool that allows users to benchmark their Windows Phone. The device showed up on the tool with Windows Phone 8 as the OS of choice, which leaves us wondering if we will see this device at Microsoft’s Windows Phone Developer Summit next month. It would make sense for Microsoft to use a Nokia branded Windows Phone 8 handset as its test device at the summit since both companies are tied in bed together.  Read More

Facebook-Instagram Deal Reportedly Probed By FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may have opened a probe into Facebook’s purchase of photo-sharing app Instagram.

The social network in April announced plans to acquire the app for $1 billion in cash and stock. According to Facebook’s pre-IPO S-1 documents filed with the Security and Exchange Commission, the company expects the deal to close in the second financial quarter of 2012.

But a new report posits that the deal may be delayed.

According to the Financial Times (paywalled), two sources said that the FTC has begun an antitrust investigation into the deal.

“The competition probe – routine for any deal more than $66m – is likely to take six to 12 months, according to several experts,” writes the FT.

Facebook has said it will pay Instagram $200 million if the deal falls through.

FTC Spokesman Mitch Katz told The Huffington Post, “The FTC doesn’t have anything to say about this. We haven’t even said that we’re the agency responsible,” pointing out that the Department of Justice also has oversight over these matters. “The pre-merger review process is entirely non-public. Unless an early termination is granted.”

A Facebook rep declined to comment.  Read More

With 12M+ Downloads, Scan Launches Scan-to-gram, A New Way To Follow People On Instagram

Screen shot 2012-05-10 at 4.29.24 PM

Three guys from Provo, Utah set out on a mission to make QR codes, those boring pixellated, black-and-white squares come alive — in other words, to extend their functionality by turning them into realworld “like,” “follow,” and “buy” buttons. And it’s been working. In February, Scan closed a seed funding round from Shervin Pishevar, Google Ventures, CRV, Start Fund, Social + Capital, Ludlow Ventures, and more. The company moved their operations from Utah to San Francisco, and is currently sitting at just over 12 million downloads across iOS devices.

How did it become one of the top downloaded QR code scanner in just over a year? Because, beyond the basic scanning functionality offered by a host of iOS and Android apps, Scan offers a variety of services and features that let SMBs and enterprise companies create mobile optimized QR code, NFC, and other tech experiences to let users can QR codes with their phone and immediately “like” products or businesses on Facebook, follow on Twitter, check in on Foursquare, etc. Check out how businesses are using it hereRead More

Crunching the Numbers on Mobile Payment Systems

The cashless society is coming: American consumers now carry more than 750 million credit cards, while paper currency production continues to decline. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving produced fewer $1 and $5 bills in 2010 than at any other time in the last 30 years.

Related: Will This Payment App Make You Ditch Your Wallet?

So why do so many small businesses still refuse to take plastic? After all, the old excuses–excessive transaction fees, hidden costs, cumbersome processing systems–no longer apply. Credit goes to the emergence of new mobile payment applications that enable virtually anyone with a smartphone or tablet to accept credit and debit cards anywhere, anytime. The best known among them, Square, generates more than $4 million in transactions each day.

But Square isn’t the only mobile payment processing solution available–it may not even be the best one for your particular startup. Let’s crunch the numbers.   Read More

Square

7 Surprising Facts About Mobile Shoppers

As we all know, the spike in smartphone adoption is changing the way users interact with their mobile devices. For instance, phone calls are no longer the point of phones for many of us.

Instead, we expect our phones to perform more complicated tasks in shorter amounts of time, and we take them with us wherever we go. People also treat the smartphone as a first screen, rather than a second screen, because it’s the go-to device to instantly source real-time information like directions, prices, and reviews.

In fact, most people look at their phone about 150 times a day, (that’s roughly once every 6.5 minutes), according to Qualcomm CEO, Paul Jacobs. Those glances are to check incoming e-mail and text messages, but mobile web browsing is exploding as well. This begs the question: what about mobile shopping?

These days, consumers are indeed using their smartphones to bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar stores and ecommerce. IBM reported that Black Friday sales were up 24.3% in 2011 and attributed some of these gains to mobile device purchases, which “surged to 9.8% from 3.2%,” compared to the same time last year.

In an effort to learn more about who these mobile shoppers are, we conducted a quantitative study, zeroing in on adults (we define adults as anyone 18 years old and above) who used a smartphone or tablet to shop during the holiday season. What we found is that consumers are constantly integrating their smartphones into their shopping routines all year round. Below, are seven other interesting facts about how this plays out.  Read More

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