Monday, February 27, 2012

Phones poised to replace the money in your pocket

Visitors at the first day of the Mobile World Congress on February 27 2012 in Barcelona, Spain


Editor's note: Gareth Beavis is Mobile Devices Editor, reaching over 11 million people each month with news, features and some of the most in-depth reviews on the web. He's been fascinated with mobile technology for longer than he'd like to admit -- but still believes he holds the world record score for Snake on a Nokia 5110.
Barcelona, Spain (CNN) -- This is the fourth time I've covered Mobile World Congress and every year I arrive expecting to be unimpressed, thinking "surely, this year there's nothing new left to show" and every year I leave realizing the pace of change is just accelerating.
This year is no different: from smartphones with specs to rival advanced DLSR cameras to devices that are more powerful than a home PC in your pocket, Mobile World Congress has been impressive once more.
It's easy to talk about the headline devices, such as the Nokia 808 Pureview: a 41 megapixel camera stuffed into a phone. That's right: forty one megapixels in a phone -- imagine saying that just a couple of years ago.
The fact it's running Nokia's older Symbian OS isn't really relevant (although disappointing) because if you're that into the technology you'll be happy with whichever operating system you get -- but it seems similar camera phone tech will be stuffed into Windows Phone devices in the near future too anyway.

Another key theme this year has been the battle of the quad core phones: Samsung was noticeable for its lack of press conference, as it's saving its headline device for a standalone event. This means the likes of HTC, LG and new boys Huawei have managed to steal some of the thunder from the top Korean manufacturer, all pushing the boundaries of smartphone speed seemingly beyond breaking point by packing four chipsets into one device.
But there are several more stories underneath that point the way to an interesting future for the phone in your pocket, beyond today's identikit black touchscreen slabs -- such as Samsung's new Galaxy Beam smartphone, which packs a projector into a device that's just over one centimeter thick.
It might seem pointless, but presentations on the go just became a reality for salespeople the world over, and it's a decent smarpthone to boot.
Then there's the idea of durability -- I've counted more than five companies all stating they're in talks with major manufacturers to not only make your phone shockproof, but make it water repellent as well. That means the days where dropping your phone in the toilet equals instant phone death will soon be over; the water will just roll off and your handset will keep on chugging (although you'll probably want to clean it first).
But to me, the most exciting thing is the way contactless technology is becoming reality: Near field communication has been around for a while in our handsets, but this year we're going to see it finally come to most new handsets and with it a whole host of new opportunities for users and networks alike.
You'll start seeing a lot more information around paying for items with your phone soon; a number of retail outlets are upgrading their pay points to accommodate payment simply by tapping your phone on a hotspot, and you'll be able to keep up to date with all your spending through a specific (and secure) app soon.
But it's beyond the cash that gets me excited: touching phones together to exchange business cards will soon be a regular occurrence, or connecting to Wi-Fi routers or Bluetooth speakers with a simple tap of the phone. A number of the top-end manufacturers have confirmed to me that this is the year they'll start integrating such tech in their devices, and that's something that users can really get involved with.
It's left me feeling like there's literally nowhere for mobile phones to go now -- but this time next year, when we're looking at phones capable of projecting 3D holograms with 16 chips and 100 megapixel cameras, I'm sure I'll change my mind!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Whitney Houston scams flood Facebook and Twitte

Written By Matt Liebowitz
Published February 14, 2012
Whitney Houston
Singer Whitney Houston poses with a lifetime achievement trophy at the first ever World Women's Award ceremony in Hamburg's Congress Center, in northern Germany, on June 9, 2004. (AP Photo/Christof Stache)

As the rest of the world mourns the loss of Whitney Houston, online crooks have wasted no time capitalizing on her tragic death in the hopes of making a quick buck.
Shortly after news of Houston's death hit the Web on Saturday (Feb. 11), Twitter and Facebook became inundated with people reacting to the event. As a result "RIP Whitney Houston" quickly became a trending topic on Twitter, creating a perfect environment — millions of interested social networkers hungry for any information — for cybercriminals to strike.
The security firm TrendMicro found one such Twitter scam disguising itself under the supposedly homage-paying trending topic. Clicking on the link in the rigged Twitter post takes people to a blog dedicated to Houston's career, but the blog automatically redirects them to a Web page offering different Whitney Houston wallpapers.
Downloading a wallpaper triggers yet another offer to download Whitney Houston ringtones, and, no matter what you do, the sneaky Web page eventually takes you to a survey site that asks for your cellphone number.
Of course, no scam would reach even a fraction of its true potential unless it spread like wildfire through Facebook, and this one certainly has. Trend Micro spotted a wall post with the subject, "I cried watching this video. RIP Whitney Houston," followed by, of course, a link to what promises to be a YouTube video.
"However, clicking this link only leads to several redirections until users are lead to the usual survey site," Trend Micro's Christopher Talampas wrote in a company blog.
Trend Micro found 101 such survey scams registered on the same IP address where the original fake video was hosted.
It's par for the cybercriminal course that, within hours of a tragic event, scammers emerge from the woodwork to prey on the public's fascination and desire to know the "true" story of what happened. Similar scams popped up following the deaths of Amy Winehouse, Osama bin Laden and Moammar Gadhafi, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and countless other huge world happenings that drew people in droves to the Web.
To protect yourself from Whitney Houston hoaxes and other ones that are sure to come in the future, never download anything that looks suspicious, even if it comes from a friend on Facebook or Twitter. And make sure your anti-virus software is updated; besides basic common sense, it will be your strongest line of defense in combating rigged websites and dangerous software.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What scares Facebook: Privacy and phones

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants his apps to be on all phones, but they don't make money yet.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants his apps to be on all phones, but they don't make money yet.

(CNN) -- Like a good friend, Facebook says it doesn't want to invade our privacy or hang out with folks who spend all their time looking at a cell phone.
Privacy has long been a sensitive issue for Facebook. The word was mentioned 35 times in its filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday to sell company stock on the public market.
Facebook lists users' concerns over privacy as a risk to its business because it could prompt them to curb their usage of the social network. Perhaps more surprising, Facebook also says in the prospectus that as more people access the service from an application on their phones or tablets, the company could face problems.
A business is required to spill many of its secrets in an initial-public-offering filing. In Facebook's document, which totals nearly 200 pages, the company lists potential risks, intimate financial details and updated statistics on the website's growth. Facebook had 845 million people regularly using the site as of the end of last year.
Not surprisingly, the overall tone of the document is optimistic, but Facebook reveals its concerns, especially over mishandling of user information. For example, the filing says that if Facebook improperly discloses personal data or if hackers access data, its reputation is expected to take a hit.
Facebook usage -- and therefore, the company's finances -- could dip if the users become concerned with their privacy options on the site, the company notes in several bullet points within the filing. Facebook writes that it must avoid adopting "policies or procedures related to areas such as sharing or user data that are perceived negatively by our users or the general public."
Facebook has grappled for many years with public outcries over substantial changes to its design and features related to privacy. The reaction to Beacon, a scrapped service that published what users were buying from online retailers, and News Feed, which surfaced more data from other parts of the site, were especially contentious.
This issue can become amplified because Facebook provides a platform to vent, even about Facebook, Rebecca Lieb, a media analyst at tech consulting firm Altimeter Group, said in a phone interview Wednesday shortly after the filing was made public.
"People will hate on Facebook within Facebook," Lieb said. "I don't think it's anything new for Facebook. They've backed down on privacy issues before. Zuckerberg has eaten crow."
But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has had less time to digest what the trends toward mobile usage will mean for his fast-growing company. Facebook's apps are dominant on most mainstream mobile platforms, but the company makes no money directly from them because they don't show advertisements.
In the IPO filing, Facebook listed growth in usage from phones and tablets in place of computers as a risk. Reading between the lines, Facebook is perfectly happy to let users check in from their phones at the bus stop as long as they keep using the site just as often from PCs.
"That was the first thing in the prospectus that was in flashing red lights for me," Lieb said. Access from mobile devices, she said, "will eventually put a serious dent in desktop use."
On the desktop version of Facebook, the company has begun inserting ads into users' homepage News Feeds from brands they or their friends have "Liked." In the public document, Facebook points out that the company is considering making a push toward mobile advertising.
"We currently do not show ads or directly generate any meaningful revenue from users accessing Facebook through our mobile products, but we believe that we may have potential future monetization opportunities such as the inclusion of sponsored stories in users' mobile News Feeds," Facebook's prospectus says.
Making money from ads shown on a phone is something the rest of the tech industry is struggling to figure out as well. Apple, Google and many start-ups are squaring off in mobile ads. Facebook is not necessarily behind in its efforts, Lieb said.
In the letter from Zuckerberg contained in the filing, the founder mentions mobile developments as an opportunity.
"We live at a moment when the majority of people in the world have access to the Internet or mobile phones," Zuckerberg writes, calling them, "the raw tools necessary to start sharing what they're thinking, feeling and doing with whomever they want."
But perhaps users should brace for a day when they have to scroll past a mini ad for soda before seeing what their friends are up to.