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NSA can reportedly tap smartphone users’ data

The National Security Agency has the ability to access user data on three of the most popular smartphone platforms, including BlackBerry’s e-mail system, according to classified documents viewed by German news outlet Spiegel.

The US intelligence-gathering agency has created platform-specific working groups to tap the contact lists, SMS traffic, and user location information on the Apple iOS, Google Android, and BlackBerry mobile operating systems, the documents indicate. NSA scripts allow the agency to access at least 38 iPhone features after the agency infiltrates the computer used to sync the device, Spiegel reported.

The documents also indicate that the agency has succeeded at cracking the encryption for BlackBerry’s e-mail system, previously considered very secure. The Canadian handset maker told the newspaper that it had not programmed a backdoor pipeline to provide access to data on the platform but declined to comment on the surveillance allegations.

The alleged telecommunications surveillance has been a targeted activity that was performed without the smartphone makers’ knowledge, the newspaper reported.

The allegations emerge on the heels of a report last week that the NSA had created a program to circumvent encryption intended to protect digital communications. The agency bypassed common Internet encryption methods in a number of ways, including hacking into the servers of private companies to steal encryption keys, collaborating with tech companies to build in back doors, and covertly introducing weaknesses into encryption standards, according to the New York Times.  Read More

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Robert Downey Jr. reportedly signs with HTC for $12 million marketing blitz

robert downey jr iron man (Featureflash / Shutterstock.com)

HTC is preparing an extensive two-year marketing campaign featuring Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr, according to two sources who spoke to Bloomberg. The deal is said to be worth $12 million and will span television, print, and billboard advertising around the globe, with Downey maintaining a level of creative control.

HTC has struggled to keep the pace with rival Samsung’s marketing muscle, despitepositive reviews of products such as the flagship One smartphone, and was also recently hit with a series of high-profile departures. The company said last month it had soldaround five million One phones since its March launch, compared to Samsung’s 10 million shipments of the Galaxy S4 in its first month.

“We haven’t been loud enough,” said chief marketing officer Ben Ho in his first meeting with the press this March. Ho added that the company would be retiring its long-serving “Quietly Brilliant” tagline in favor of a campaign based around the themes of “bold,” “authentic,” and “playful.”  Read More

Samsung Updates Galaxy Note Phablet

Ignoring the wailing of pundits who complained that the Galaxy Note phablet with its 5.3″ HD screen was too big, Samsung instead chose to listen to the purchasing power of its customers, who have snapped up over 10 million units of the giant phone-tablet hybrid in the year since its introduction.

On Wednesday Samsung announced the Galaxy Note II, which increases the screen size to 5.5″, adds a quad-core CPU, the Android 4.1 (a.k.a. Jelly Bean) operating system, a battery more than 20% larger, and an improved S Pen, all in a package that is only slightly larger than its predecessor and weighs just two additional grams. The announcement also claims 4G LTE which, if released in the U.S. in this configuration, would be Samsung’s first quad-core phone here. (The U.S. version of the Galaxy S3 uses a dual-core Qualcomm SOC, not the quad-core Exynos SOC found in the international phone, in order to provide support for 4G LTE).

 

Walking through the differences between the two devices we can start with same 2GB of RAM, and a 1.6-GHz quad-core CPU instead of the 1.4-GHz CPU in the original. As for the case, it’s overall roughly the same size–151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4mm vs. 146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65mm–but sports a metal back plate as opposed to the original plastic one. Placement of the ports on the phone has been changed slightly, and the battery has been upped to 3100 mAh from 2500 mAh. The .2-inch larger screen is still Super AMOLED but the resolution actually has been reduced slightly from 1280 x 800 to 1280 x 720 (which is the pixel resolution of 720p HD).  Read More

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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