Category: Android


Review: Mozilla Firefox 4 Android Mobile Browser

The stock Internet browsers that come with smartphones are usually barebones apps with limited functionality. That’s why many fans of the Mozilla Firefox browser have eagerly anticipated the release of Firefox 4 for Android phones. We took a look at Mozilla’s latest version of the Firefox mobile browser to see how it stands up to the stock Android browser.

The Good: Speed and Plug-ins

There are a lot of things to praise in the Firefox 4 mobile browser. It has a nice minimalist interface that is definitely more useful than the stock browser experience. Swiping to the right reveals a vertical panel with all the open tabs. Switching or closing them is simple and fast. Swiping to the left reveals a different panel with options to go forward or back, favorite a page and change the settings. The interface is intuitive and easy to remember.

The Firefox 4 browser for Android also seems to load pages just a bit faster. Everything feels a little speedier with it. Panning and zooming is smoother, and the entire interface is responsive.

But none of these things are the biggest reason to use Firefox 4 for Android. The single most attractive thing for us was the ability to install plug-ins and add-ons that increase the functionality of the browser. Add-ons are one of the single best things about the full Firefox browser on computers so it’s only appropriate that they should be included in the mobile version.

To be fair, the mobile add-ons are far fewer in number than those found for the full browser, but many of the same important functions are still available, including ad blockers and interface customization. The stock Android browser can’t compete with these options.

The Bad: No Flash Yet

However, things aren’t perfect with this little browser, either. For instance, some of the most important plug-ins aren’t yet compatible with Firefox 4. The most egregious example is the Adobe Flash plug-in. Flash is basically a requirement for normal browsing habits, so the lack of it is pretty jarring, especially when there’s a Flash option for the standard Android browser.

Other major plug-ins aren’t yet compatible with Firefox 4 mobile, too. This will change with time, but for now it’s a huge hole in Firefox 4 for Android functionality.

Summary

Mozilla Firefox 4 for Android has many improvements to bring to the browser market, unfortunately some of the best ones aren’t fully formed yet. Perhaps, the real idea to take away here is that it’s a diamond in the rough. It’s good, but with some time and better support, it will be great.

Source: Yahoo!

Can the Atrix 4G Really Become Your Next PC?

The PC as we’ve long known is dead — or it will be soon. As mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets become more capable, few people will need a full-blown PC or Mac. Instead, a mobile device that connects to external resources as needed — keyboards, mice, monitors, storage, and perhaps even processors — can be the computer you always have with you, using its own screen and hardware when you’re on the go.

I believe that evolution is well under way. Last fall, Apple CEO Steve Jobs all but said that’s where the Mac OS and iOS are headed, with the forthcoming Mac OS X 10.7 Lion marking the next step in the journey. But the Motorola Mobility Atrix 4G is here today with a more tangible version of the future ready to try.

The Atrix is an Android smartphone based on Citrix Systems’ Nirvana phone technology that can dock to external peripherals, using them to provide a more PC-like working experience. When docked, Atrix runs the desktop version of the Firefox 3.6 browser (in Linux), so you can run most cloud services available for your PC or Mac. (Note: Not all browser plug-ins, such as Microsoft Silverlight, work in the Linux version of Firefox.) And any Android apps you run on the Atrix can take advantage of the larger screen, keyboard, and mouse docked to the Atrix.

To see how well the Atrix delivered on this promise, I spent the weekend using it in its “lite” PC guise.

That hardware is not cheap. For the laptop option, Motorola Mobility’s Lapdock costs $400, providing an LCD screen, keyboard, trackpad, and battery in its laptop shell. If you want to use the laptop dock over a 3G connection, rather than just Wi-Fi, you need to subscribe to a data plan.

Source: PC World

BlackBerry Messenger will launch on Android and iOS

Research In Motion is planning to bring its beloved BlackBerry Messenger app and service to Android, and eventually to iOS as well. According to our sources, RIM has not yet finalized details surrounding timing or pricing, but we have heard that the company might make the software free to all users. We’re also told strategy is still being developed, however, and RIM may end up charging users a one-time fee or even a recurring fee for access to its BBM service on third-party platforms.

It might seem a bit strange for RIM to want to bring the software that is responsible for keeping BlackBerry devices in the hands of countless potential defectors, but in the big picture, we think it could make sense. The company is getting very frustrated with applications like WhatsApp and Kik offering third-party experiences based on a concept RIM invented, and RIM apparently wants to own the space.

As far as what Android and iOS users can look forward to, we’ve been told RIM will offer stripped down versions of the BBM experience BlackBerry owners know and love. That way, Android and iOS users can communicate with practically anyone who has a smartphone using BBM, but they might not be able to share photos, location, or videos (when RIM crosses that bridge). Users who want the full BlackBerry Messenger experience will still need a BlackBerry smartphone to get it. At the same time, RIM could own the entire messaging app category on every major smartphone OS platform and could potentially draw new users in because it has given them a taste of what BlackBerry Messenger is all about.

Right now, we have heard that Android is definitely a go. But again, we’re not sure on timing, though our sources are confident that it will launch some time this year. RIM chose Android first because of the fact that it could develop and integrate something like this much easier with an open platform, but the plan is to build and deploy an iOS version at some point as well.

Source: BGR

Android Phone: New Virus Warning on Android Devices

An android phone virus has been spotted in China that is aimed at revealing users encrypted personal information. NetQin, a global leader in mobile security, warned today that the new malware, called Hong Tou Tou, is specifically aimed at Android devices. Hong Tou Tou was discovered on February 18.

The Hong Tou Tou virus has been discovered in two strains. The DB.HongTouTou.A hides itself behind a legitimate phone app. Once activated, the mobile malware connect to a network in the background and collects and encrypts the users private data, not excluding passwords, bank information and credit card information. This private information is sent to a remote server. BD.Hong Tou Tou.B lures users to download and install the app “Dynamic Footprint Wallpaper. After installation, the virus connects in the background and attempts to collect user data nd send it to a remote server.

Android users are encouraged to use NetQin Mobile Anti-Virus 4.6. NetQin Mobile Anti-Virus 4.6 can be downloaded at http://www.netqin.com/products/antivirus/  This application will, with a high scan capability, fully protect one’s most trusted device.

NetQin also advises smart and responsible smartphone use. Avoid downloading apps that are ‘cracked versions’ or ‘revised versions’ as these versions may contain the nasty virus. Over ten per cent of the apps on the Android Market were discovered to be cracked, repackaged or not submitted by the original developer. Download apps only from trusted and reputable sources – ignore the Android Alternate Markets. Never ever accept application requests without knowing the application’s source. Monitor closely an apps permission request; an app should never ask for more that what it offers in its official list of features. Be aware of unusual behavior on the smart device, such as stealthy network connection or sending SMS without authorizations.

Source: Thinking Clearly

Remote Support Tool TeamViewer Gets an Android App

Cross-platform screen sharing solution TeamViewer has been around for a while (we wrote about it a couple of years ago). But it’s been recently updated to version 6, and also has a new Android app. While there are many screen sharing and web conferencing apps available, TeamViewer stands out by offering an all-in-one solution for making presentations, connecting to and troubleshooting remote computers. I’ve been trying the Android app, and I found it easy to set up and use. It’s responsive, too, as the developer says that it can adapt to different connection speeds.

TeamViewer can be set up in different ways. If you want to share your screen for presentations or training, you can install the software on your machine, and then share your ID with your audience, who can view your desktop in a web browser. The software is not intended to support large numbers of viewers, so it would not be suitable for webinars.

TeamViewer can also be used for troubleshooting remote computers, similar to CrossLoop, LogMeIn Rescue, or the “remote assistance” functions built into Windows and Mac OS X. In this configuration, you ask the client to download and run the TeamViewer QuickSupport module (it doesn’t need to be installed). The client gives you the ID and password that the QuickSupport module creates, which you can enter into your copy of the software or use the web version.

The TeamViewer software, which is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, can also be used to connect remotely to unattended computers. It’s also possible to connect on the go via iOS and Android apps.

One nice feature of TeamViewer is that (as with LogMeIn and similar products) it can create connections behind firewalls, meaning that it doesn’t take the sort of setup that VNC does. A chat and file transfer system is included.

All in all, TeamViewer is a well-developed product that can be used for many needs faced by those of us with remote workforces. I confess, though, that I got a bit of sticker shock from TeamViewer’s pricing structure, which starts at $729 for one workstation. But since TeamViewer is priced as a one-time payment with no monthly subscription fees, it may be a good buy for some organizations. Note that TeamViewer is free for non-commercial use, and also offers free trials.

Download Here.

Source: Gigaom

The Nexus S is coming soon to Canada

It’s been rumoured for a few weeks now that the Google Nexus S will be hitting Canadian soil. Thankfully one of them just arrived at our doorstep and this Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) device will be launching across multiple carriers sometime in Q1 (so by the end of March). That’s all we know.

Google / Samsung Nexus S Specifications:

The Samsung Nexus S has a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor under the hood and comes with a 4 inch ( 400 x 800 ) Super AMOLED display ( aka The Contour Display — but more on that in a sec ), a rear 5MP camera with auto-focus and LED flash, a front-facing VGA camera for video-conferencing, WiFi b/g/n, A-GPS and HSDPA support.

One of the most important features of the Google / Samsung Nexus S smartphone is hardware NFC ( Near Field Communication ) support. NFC is essentially a technology which enables data-exchange between devices over a short distance. Therefore, Samsung Nexus S will be able to communicate with existing smart-cards and readers, being compatible with proximity cards already in use in public transportation and payment ( you have to admit — the possible uses of this technology are interesting to say the least ). For more about NFC check out the ever useful Wikipedia page.

Source: MobileSyrup / G Games

What Honeycomb Means for Apple and Microsoft

Overall tablet sales for 2011 are estimated in the tens of millions, and many of those new units will run Google’s tablet-specific mobile platform, Honeycomb. Though a number of the OS’s new features and functions—from a new graphics engine to support for a variety of device sizes—appear specific to slates now, some are sure to filter down to smartphones, bringing greater Android unification across device types. And while Apple’s (AAPL) iPad may have the current lead in the tablet market, Honeycomb puts Google (GOOG) in an excellent position to catch up, much as Android has done in competing with iOS. But Apple isn’t the only competitor Google’s got in its crosshairs: Microsoft (MSFT) is also likely to be affected, from both a mobile and a desktop computing perspective.

Much of Honeycomb is a bit of a catch-up effort from Google, as Apple’s iOS has a nearly 12-month head start in the tablet market. And while many Honeycomb features are similar to those available in iOS, a few standout functions actually jump past Apple’s tablet platform:

• Honeycomb supports multiple cameras, including 3D stereoscopic image recording. And its ability to provide Google Talk users with a front-facing camera for video chat is a direct strike against Apple’s FaceTime.

• Android Market apps can be purchased and sent over the air to either a Honeycomb tablet or any recent Android smartphone. Apple’s iPad has a built-in app store, just like Honeycomb tablets do, but doesn’t support app discovery and purchase over the air from a computer.

• Honeycomb supports various screen sizes, which offer hardware makers a way to differentiate their tablet against Apple’s “one-size-fits-all” iPad. With the relative success of the older Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google has proved there’s a market for smaller slates.

• An increased number of Android tablets strengthens Google’s advertising base. Put another way, every Honeycomb tablet sold is another lost opportunity for Apple’s iAd platform, which started with initial success last year but has been hampered by lackluster performance since.

Threat to Microsoft

Honeycomb affects Microsoft both from a mobile perspective as well as that of the desktop. Microsoft revamped its smartphone platform with Windows Phone 7, but as of yet, it has no mobile tablet operating system aside from the tablet integrations within Windows 7, which is not designed from the ground up for touch computing.

Without a true, light mobile operating system, Microsoft is left to stand by and watch iPads, and soon likely Honeycomb tablets, sell in the millions. Microsoft is already facing pressure on the desktop side as smartphones outsell traditional computers, since more platform revenues will be flowing to other companies. Yet Microsoft is only just beginning to fight back with Windows Phone 7, and has yet to mount a consumer tablet challenger. And therein lies the danger.

Simply put, Honeycomb looks to be the mobile platform and ecosystem that Microsoft should have built by now. Instead, Microsoft is behind and will be fighting among Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Research In Motion (RIMM), and others for smaller tablet market shares, if and when it ever creates a lighter version of Windows for tablets.

Source: Business Week

Google has forked Android

The last thing I wanted to see was Android to split into two “official” versions. Well, guess what, for all intents and purposes that’s what’s happened. Ack!

It’s bad enough that Android has multiple current versions. Then, Xavier Ducrohet, Android SDK (Software Development Kit) Tech Lead, announced “Android 3.0 (Honeycomb) is a new version of the Android platform that is designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes, particularly tablets.”

I asked multiple people at Google if they could expand on this news. None of this could.

So, I’ll spell out what I think is happening here. We’re seeing an Android fork. There will be one line for smartphones, the current Android 2.3, Gingerbread, line, and the forthcoming Android 3, Honeycomb, line.

According to Ducrohet, besides Android’s common features set—multitasking, notifications, and widgets—Honeycomb will have a new UI (user interface) framework for creating great apps for larger screen devices; high-performance 2D and 3D graphics using a built-in OpenGL (Open Graphics Library); support for multicore processors; rich multimedia; new Bluetooth APIs (application programming interfaces) and enterprise enhancements such as encrypted storage and password expiration. That’s all great, but really do we need to split Android into two parts to do this?

If you look at the Android Honeycomb highlights, it becomes even clearer that Honeycomb is going its own way. There is some good news for developers who don’t want to re-do their Android 2.x work for Honeycomb. As the Web page states, while “The new UI brings fresh paradigms for interaction, navigation, and customization and makes them available to all applications—even those built for earlier versions of the platform. Applications written for Android 3.0 are able to use an extended set of UI objects, powerful graphics, and media capabilities to engage users in new ways.”

There’s the rub. If you write apps. for Honeycomb and the coming flood of Android tablets, it sounds like you’re not going to be able to easily backport them to Android smartphones. Sure you could just write for Android 2.x, but your 2.x compliant applications won’t look half-as-good running on tablets. No developer who wants to make money is going to do that.

I like Honeycomb’s new features. They sound great. I just object to Google to turning Android into two separate but unequal platforms Sure, the hardware was never going to be the same, but did Google really need to make two platforms? Apple seems to be doing OK with iOS for everything from iPad Touch devices to iPad.

For Android developers the bottom line is going to mean more work because they’ll need to write two different versions of every single application. Like I said at the top: “Ack!”

Source: ZDNet

Android source code, Java, and copyright infringement: what’s going on?

So it’s been a fun day of armchair code forensics and legal analysis on the web after Florian Mueller published a piece this morning alleging Google directly copied somewhere between 37 and 44 Java source files in Android. That’s of course a major accusation, seeing as Oracle is currently suing Google for patent and copyright infringement related to Java, and it prompted some extremely harsh technical rebuttals, like this one from ZDNet and this one from Ars Technica. The objections in short: the files in question are test files, aren’t important, probably don’t ship with Android, and everyone is making a hullabaloo over nothing.

We’ll just say this straight out: from a technical perspective, these objections are completely valid. The files in question do appear to be test files, some of them were removed, and there’s simply no way of knowing if any of them ended up in a shipping Android handset. But — and this is a big but — that’s just the technical story. From a legal perspective, it seems very likely that these files create increased copyright liability for Google, because the state of our current copyright law doesn’t make exceptions for how source code trees work, or whether or not a script pasted in a different license, or whether these files made it into handsets. The single most relevant legal question is whether or not copying and distributing these files was authorized by Oracle, and the answer clearly appears to be “nope” — even if Oracle licensed the code under the GPL. Why? Because somewhere along the line, Google took Oracle’s code, replaced the GPL language with the incompatible Apache Open Source License, and distributed the code under that license publicly. That’s all it takes — if Google violated the GPL by changing the license, it also infringed Oracle’s underlying copyright. It doesn’t matter if a Google employee, a script, a robot, or Eric Schmidt’s cat made the change — once you’ve created or distributed an unauthorized copy, you’re liable for infringement.*

Why does this matter? Because we’re hearing that Oracle is dead-set on winning this case and eventually extracting a per-handset royalty on every Android handset shipped. In that context, “those files aren’t important!” isn’t a winning or persuasive argument — and the more these little infringements add up, the worse things look for Google. Whether or not these files are a “smoking gun” isn’t the issue — it’s whether Android infringes Oracle’s patents and copyrights, since the consequences either way will be monumental and far-reaching. Ultimately, though, the only person who can resolve all of this for certain is a judge — and it’s going to take a lot more time and research to get there.

Source: Engadget

Samsung to Introduce 4G Tablets, Smartphones at Mobile World Congress

Samsung Electronics has sold more than 1.5 million Galaxy Tabs, the 7-inch, Android-running tablet that it has made available through every major U.S. carrier. Nevertheless, the South Korean electronics giant appears to have only begun its attack on the Apple iPad’s market share.

At the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, which wrapped up Jan. 9, JK Shin, president of Samsung’s mobile communications business, said the company is planning to announce several dual-core tablets and smartphones at the Mobile World Congress event Feb. 14-17 in Barcelona, according to Phone Scoop, and that it plans to soon sell 4G devices through all major U.S. carriers. It reportedly also has several phones running Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 in the works.

The Wall Street Journal added that Samsung has a “slate of tablets of different sizes” planned.

While rivals Motorola and HTC, with Android-running phones, gained early leads in the smartphone race, Samsung has quickly caught up, with its successful line of Galaxy S smartphones. By the end of 2010, it had sold more than 10 million of the smartphones.

“[Samsung] executes extremely well, devices that customers like and don’t bring back,” Glenn Lurie, president of the AT&T group responsible for the carrier’s tablet portfolio, told the Journal.

While a “slate of tablets” is likely to help Samsung compete in a tablet market crowded with competitors such as Hewlett-Packard, Research In Motion, Motorola, ViewSonic and others —in addition to market leader Apple —they also fit into the company’s new vision of “digital humanism.”

During a Jan. 6 keynote at CES, Samsung CEO Boo-Keun Yoon explained the term, which he said is achieved “by adding emotional value to digital technology.” It’s also guided by four principles he called “the four A’s” — Access, to communicate freely and share experiences through products; Align, by experiencing comfort through multisensory design and the user experience; Amaze, by creating “a new dimension of enjoyment” through viewing experiences; and Act, to fulfill our responsibilities to the planet.

“The next step for digital technology is for … human nature to be at the center of our efforts,” said Yoon. “What we need now is digital technology that is truly aligned with our most fundamental human desires. Human life becomes our priority. People become our priority.”

He continued, “We at Samsung are breaking down the wall between devices, empowering consumers to seamlessly enjoy any content on any Samsung device. Whether it be our Samsung TV, cell phone or tablet, consumers will be able to access and share a variety of content on any one of Samsung’s network of products.”

At the CES show, Samsung additionally introduced a WiFi-only Galaxy Tab, an Android-running “smart player” called the Galaxy Player and the Infuse 4G smartphone — which, with a 1.2GHz processor and 4.5-inch Super-AMOLED Plus touch-screen, will begin enriching the lives of AT&T subscribers beginning in the second quarter.

Source: eWeek

‘Most Sophisticated’ Android Trojan Surfaces in China

Geinimi, a highly sophisticated Trojan, has been detected in Android devices in China.

However, it appears to be more of a sign of things to come rather than a serious threat to U.S. Android users.

Dubbed Geinimi (a scrambulation of Gemini) by Lookout Mobile Security, a startup based in San Francisco, the botnet-like Trojan sends location information, device identity and even stored contacts to an unknown server.

According to Lookout co-founder Kevin MaHaffe, the most significant feature of Geinimi is its sophisticated command-and-control mechanism.

“A server can tell the Trojan what it can do, which makes it more advanced than other Android malware we’ve seen,” he said. ”

The mobile Trojan has been found in apps infected and repackaged to look like legitimate apps, and uploaded onto Chinese third-party app stores. Infections have been found in games like “Monkey Jump 2,” “Sex Positions,” “President vs. Aliens,” “City Defense,” and “Baseball Superstars 2010.”

GetJar and Android Marketplace have not reported any cases yet.

One quick and dirty method for detecting mobile Trojans, MaHaffe says, is to learn an app’s permissions and compare them to what the downloaded app is actually asking for. For instance, if the app’s description only lists requests for age and gender, a red flag should go up if your downloaded app suddenly asks for your home address, too.

Although the Geimini Trojan has yet to land in the U.S., MaHaffe warns smartphone users not to get lazy about protecting their phones as mobile malware becomes increasingly sophisticated.

“Attackers are still figuring it out on the mobile landscape,” he said. “There’s a lot of sophistication for PC malware, but smartphone users need to start protecting their phones as they do their computers.”

For starters, MaHaffe advises people to use the same level of discernment towards smartphone downloads as they would with PC downloads.

“People probably wouldn’t download software from nefarious Web sites,” he said. “Same thing with mobile apps—be careful where you download mobile apps from. Look at developer ratings, user reviews of the app.”

Source: PC Magazine