The FTC is currently reviewing Google’s procedures and policies for antitrust issues. The probe mostly covers search and privacy practices, but recently we learned that it also includes Android for some reason.
While the mobile industry can hardly be called uncompetitive in this very moment, Android went from zero to hero and almost fifty percent of the smartphone market worldwide in just three years, so the FTC is looking into how much power Google has to exert pressure on app developers and device manufacturers to get its way.
Compared to the other mobile operating systems Android is pretty open, free and popular, plus there are a number of handsets that use generic Android without Google Services on it – no Android Market, no Maps, no Gmail, and so on. Moreover, companies are often installing their own software, like Sprint with its ID packs, Verizon using Bing, and manufacturers have their own skins like Sense UI.
The FTC, however, is apparently not satisfied, and is issuing inquiries into third parties whether Google is flexing muscles when it comes to replacing its core services with something foreign to the ecosystem. A case in point has been the lawsuit filed by Skyhook, which accuses El Goog in applying pressure on manufacturers to drop its localization technology from their handsets, and keep Google’s service. “Baseless” has been the only comment by Mountain View regarding the accusation, but it definitely looks like Android is being pressured on many fronts right now – whether this is a concerted campaign, or just that success always attracts the spotlight, remains to be seen.
For all we know, the Justice Department has launched a probe whether the Nortel patent bid by Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Sony and others, has been purposefully won by these cutthroat competitors for the patents to be used against Android’s domination. Google is not sitting still too – it bought more than a thousand patents from IBM, spent record amount of $2.06 million on lobbying in Q2 2011, and is hiring 12 more K street firms to protect its interests with Uncle Sam.
A source for BGR is saying that Google, possibly feeling the heat from an expected late September/early October launch of the Apple iPhone 5, is planning on moving up the release of Ice Cream Sandwich and the early devices that will be powered by the latest Android build. One possibility is that a next-gen model of the Nexus line will be the first or among the first handsets to rollout with the latest Android build.
While at this point everything pertaining to an Ice Cream Sandwich launch is mere speculation, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a launch of an early Ice Cream Sandwich device on Verizon since the carrier will have a large number of ready made buyers with all of those Motorola DROID owners coming up to the 2 year anniversary of their purchase. And of course, Verizon will presumably be one of the carriers that will be offering the Apple iPhone 5 when it is launched. Google will want to re-up those Motorola DROID owners with expiring contracts before they get a gander of what the next iPhone might bring.
Market research firm Kantar Worldpanel has released its newest numbers for the mobile phone sales for the past 12 weeks. The numbers include data from 7 areas around the world including: USA, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, and France. Some of the numbers aren’t so surprising, like the fact that Symbian has taken a dive worldwide, or that Android is selling like gangbusters. Some of the numbers are pretty shocking though. Two of the most surprising leaps in sales came from Germany and France. In Germany, Windows Phone 7 is starting to make a run pulling in 7.1% of the sales for the 12 weeks ending July 12, 2011. In France, Bada is making an even more impressive run pushing up to 9.6% of sales.
Overall, smartphones are booming, as we all knew. In Great Britain alone, 67% of all mobile phone sales were smartphones. And, smartphones made up at least 50% of all mobile phone sales in the USA, Australia, Great Britain and Germany. Kantar says that Italy, Spain and France are expected to cross that threshold sometime within the next quarter.
Android is leading the way with over 50% of sales across the 7 regions for the time frame, with iOS coming in second at 25%. Not surprisingly, Symbian was the big loss leader across most regions, except for the US where it never really had much market share to begin. Instead, the US had BlackBerry losing a huge chunk of its share, although BlackBerry held relatively steady in other areas.
Convinced that your smartphone is immune to malware? Well, as long as you don’t download any apps coming from suspicious sources, then you are virtually safe, but the thing is that every single mobile platform has its own security flaws exposing your privacy at risk.
The latest vulnerability that was brought to our attention targets Android users, and although it has not caused any damage yet, it has the potential to give you quite a headache. It has been discovered that “a design flaw” in the Android operating system could allow for unwanted pop-ups to appear whenever a set application is running thus defiling your smartphone with annoying pop-ups. However, if executed properly, the flaw could potentially be used for phishing attacks to be targeted at your device.
In a nutshell, when the malware detects that your banking app or e-mail client, for example, is running, it can launch an identically-looking pop-up app asking for your credentials. What makes things worse is that the execution of the pop-up app can happen so fast that the user would probably never realize what has happened until it is too late. The malware could even install itself as a service and run seamlessly in the background even after the phone is rebooted.
There have been no registered cases of the so-called design flaw being used in a malicious way, but a proof-of-concept application has been demonstrated just recently at the DefCon hacking convention. That is why we have said it before and we will say it again – you should always be extra careful when downloading apps from any shady-looking software marketplaces as you never know what might be coming along with them.
Android devices make up for nearly half of all smartphones and that might be the main reason behind the growing number of malware infected content. Actually, now you’re 2.5 times more likely to stumble upon a virus or malware of some kind than you were six months ago, mobile security company Lookout summed up.
“This number is likely so high because users on mobile devices often encounter threats targeting PCs–people read email, Facebook messages, text messages, and tweets on their phones just as they do on their PCs,” Lookout says.
It has also estimated that the number of infected apps has grown from 80 to the whopping 400, while nearly 500,000 people were affected by malware on Android in the first half of the year alone. The sampling size however is what matters most, and for Lookout it’s 700,000 Android and iOS applications and 10 million Android-powered devices.
Where is the threat coming from? First is DroidDream, found in some applications which later infected your phone with a trojan, and second is GGTracker which tries to trick you that it is the Android Market and then you download an app signing you up for premium text message subscription. A little caution goes a long way, and in the latter case you can protect yourself by paying extra attention as the Android Market for example would never open in the browser.
Curiously, the report also suggests that even when picking your apps carefully you could still get infected by first downloading a benign app, which then upon update is changed to contain malware. Have you personally had any malware-related problems on your device? Feel free to share in the comments below.
The latest breakdown of OS software build on Android devices shows that Froyo still leads the way. Android 2.2 is on 55% of Android branded phones and tablets. But while still a clear majority, Froyo has lost 10% of its share since the last report as the Gingerbread build has become more ingrained into the Android platform.
Following Android 2.2 is the 23.7% of Android devices powered by Android 2.3.3 and the top of the line 2.3.4. One of the major differences between the two is that the latter is enabled for gTalk video chat. 15.2% of Android powered phones and tablets still run Android 2.1 while the 2% of Android 1.6 follows.
The survey was conducted over a two-week period ended August 1st, 2011 and shows that of the tablet optimized Honeycomb builds, Android 3.1 has the largest share among all Android devices with .7%, followed by the .4% of Android 3.0 and the .2% of Android 3.2
As more phones get updated to Gingerbread, we should continue to see Froyo’s percentage drop while Gingerbread eventually takes over the majority of Android models. By that time, Ice Cream Sandwich should start to appear in a small number of phones.
Nearly 8 years have passed since the inception of the Android idea, 6 since Google took over it and less than four since the first beta SDK was published, and now we’re looking at a huge platform with galloping growth of more than 550,000 devices activated each day and over 250,000 apps on the Android Market.
But it has passed through numerous stages, starting with the T-Mobile G1, also known as the HTC Dream, a device we probably all remember with its slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Android was at version 1.0, but it already had been integrated with Google Services and featured multitasking, something that even contemporary platforms like Windows Phone don’t yet have.
Then the Linux-based platform got sweeter with 1.5 Cupcake enhancing some camera features among others, 1.6 Donut bringing CDMA support and 2.0 Eclair with improved mail support and browser UI. It’s all part of the history, but also – part of a creative infographic which you can later use to tell the Android Story to your grandchildren. No excuse to skip that, right?
On the surface, it sounds pretty great: AT&T has announced that all post-paid 2011 Android smartphones will be upgraded to Gingerbread. Unfortunately, when you dig down into that statement, it doesn’t really mean a whole lot, starting with the fact that the list of phones is just 6 devices long, because it only covers devices released so far, and ending with hazy timetables.
Even so, if you are the lucky owner of an HTC Inspire, LG Phoenix, Motorola ATRIX, Pantech Crossover, Samsung Captivate, or Samsung Infuse, you can rest assured that you will get your Gingerbread update. Of course, ATRIX users should already be seeing the update roll out. AT&T also stated that the HTC Inspire update would begin in August, but after that, there are no set ETAs for updates on the other handsets. The HTC Status was the first phone on AT&T with the update as the phone launched with Gingerbread.
The notice also doesn’t mention what version of Gingerbread the phones will get. Many updates so far for other devices have been to 2.3.3, which is sufficient for many phones, but Android 2.3.4 adds support for video chat through GTalk. The Motorola ATRIX, Samsung Infuse, and HTC Status all have front-facing cameras, and even the Status launched with 2.3.3. So, no telling if any of these phones will eventually get video chat in GTalk.
Google has unveiled a new UI for the Android Market that is set to roll out to Android 2.2+ phones over the next couple weeks. The UI changes are designed to make it easier to find new apps, movies and books, as well as to bring some of the features of the Android Market Web Store to phones.
The Market UI overhaul will bring a new homescreen with easy access to apps, games, movies, and books. When you begin to drill down, you’ll find the usual Categories, Top Paid, Top Free, Top Grossing, and Just In lists that we’ve come to expect, but you’ll also find easy access to an Editor’s Choice list and Staff Picks.
The new UI also highlights Google’s video and books stores, so you can rent video or buy books much easier. Google has also said that they have completely rebuilt the Market app, so the entire experience should be faster and more intuitive than before.
An interesting note that Google casually tossed into the preview video for the new Market is that Google is claiming their bookstore has the “largest collection of digital books” on your phone. Google is still claiming over 3 million books in their store, compared to just under 1 million in the Kindle store.
The Android Market update should automatically be pushed to your device (assuming you’re running Android 2.2+) over the next couple weeks.
source: Google Mobile Blog
Given that the vast majority of apps that run on Android tablets are actually designed to run on phones, having a good way to upsize the app to run on a tablet’s higher resolution is very important. So far, Android Honeycomb has only stretched phone apps to fit the higher-res screens of tablets, but it looks like the next update, Android 3.2, is going to add a new option: zoom mode.
The new option will live in the system tray to allow users to easily switch back and forth between zoom and stretch view modes. Normally, with the stretch mode, the layout of the app will be stretched to fit the screen, often leaving big swaths of empty space. The idea behind zoom mode is that it will run the phone app in an emulated screen at normal/MDPI resolution (320×480), then zoom in 200%. Of course, this can lead to pixelation, so we’ll have to see it in action before reserving judgement on how it works.
[stretch mode on left, zoom mode on right]
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