Category: Mobile


A Cell-Phone Network without a License

A trial cell-phone network in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, gets by without something every other wireless carrier needs: its own chunk of the airwaves. Instead, xG Technology, which made the network, uses base stations and handsets of its own design that steer signals through the unrestricted 900-megahertz band used by cordless phones and other short-range devices.

It’s a technique called “cognitive” radio, and it has the potential to make efficient use of an increasingly limited resource: the wireless spectrum. By demonstrating the first cellular network that uses the technique, xG hopes to show that it could help wireless carriers facing growing demand but a relatively fixed supply of spectrum.

Its cognitive radios are built into both the base stations of the trial network, dubbed xMax, and handsets made for it. Every radio scans for clear spectrum 33 times a second. If another signal is detected, the handset and base station retune to avoid the other signal, keeping the connection alive. Each of the six base stations in xG’s network can serve devices in a 2.5-mile radius, comparable to an average cell-phone tower.

“In Fort Lauderdale, our network covers an urban area with around 110,000 people, and so we’re seeing wireless security cameras, baby monitors, and cordless phones all using that band,” says Rick Rotondo, a vice president with xG, which is headquartered in Sarasota, Florida. “Because our radios are so agile, though, we can deliver the experience of a licensed cellular network in that unlicensed band.”

While most cognitive radios that have been developed scan for frequencies that are completely clear, xG’s radios can unlock more free space by analyzing channels whose use varies over time, Rotondo says. Signals can then be inserted in between bursts of activity from a device using that channel.

“Where a more conventional cognitive radio would see a wall of signals, we are able to put our packets in between them and move around between those gaps,” he explains. “Using that method, we find that even in an urban area, the 900-megahertz band is really only around 15 percent occupied at any time.”

The company has begun the installation of another xMax network to cover a large chunk of the U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss training base in New Mexico. “They’re interested in the possibility of one day being able to create cellular networks for use on their bases for everything we use cell networks for: voice, texting, e-mail, and data access,” Rotondo says, “or rapidly deploying a version on the battlefield.”

Craig Mathias, an analyst with the Farpoint Group, which specializes in the wireless industry, has inspected the Fort Lauderdale network. “It really is just like using a regular cellular system, even though the technology is so different,” he says.

The potential for cognitive radio to make better use of spectrum has motivated many companies and academic labs to work on the technology in recent years, says Mathias. “The real advance of xG’s system is that it can be deployed in exactly the same way as a conventional cell-phone network,” he says. But exactly how xG will bring the technology to market is unclear. “One option may be for a carrier to use this in an area or market where they don’t have spectrum, or to serve rural areas without coverage.”

Rotondo says that xG wants to offer its approach as a complement to existing networks. “We are interested in having devices able to dynamically access different areas of spectrum–both licensed and unlicensed,” he says. Wireless carriers like AT&T are turning to Wi-Fi hot spots to offload some of the load on their licensed spectrum, he points out. Being able to have devices switch to the 900-megahertz band at times of high load could be an attractive option, because it can perform much more like a cell network. The radios developed by xG could be built into commercial phone handsets, says Rotondo.

Alternatively, the system could augment emerging networks that operate in the unlicensed “white spaces” recently freed up by the end of analog TV broadcasts, Rotondo says. A recent study by University of California-Berkeley academics revealed how the density of TV stations in metropolitan areas could reduce the availability of white spaces in such areas.

Source: Technology Review

Motorola DROID 2 security flaw allows Voice Actions from passcode-protected state

One of our astute readers let us know about a bug that appears to be present in all stock, unrooted, Motorola DROID 2s (and potentially other Android 2.2 devices with BLUR). The bug allows users to execute Google Voice Actions on their device even when the handset is locked and a passcode is activated. With your DROID 2 locked, and the passcode prompt on the screen, holding the “search” softkey or keyboard-key for four seconds will — without giving the user any feedback — still trigger Google’s Voice Actions. Speaking: “Call 555-555-1234″ or “Call Home” will actually make your DROID 2 do just that (assuming “home” is in your phonebook). We couldn’t make our Nexus One or Captivate replicate the issue, so we’re assuming it is a Motorola/BLUR specific issue. Anyone out there with a DROID X running Android 2.2 able to get their handset to do the same?

We’ve reached out to Motorola for comment and will update the post as soon as we hear back. There is a short video demonstrating the issue after the break.

Source: Boy Genius Report

Watch out Android and iPhone: WP7 expected to alter the app landscape

Microsoft  is about to formally unveil Windows Phone 7 during events in New York and other major cities, as it takes on Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone.  But the Blagosphere has been buzzing about the implications of WP7.

Jennifer LeClaire reports in TopTechNews: “Microsoft is hoping to rebound in an increasingly competitive smartphone operating-system market where Apple and Android devices have been gaining ground on established players.”

Analyst Rob Enderle in Conceivably Tech said iPhone and Android phones impart status/pride of ownership. He said Microsoft will have to play the status game to succeed.

“I’m a Windows Phone user myself and I’m certainly looking forward to getting something that works better.  However, if it weren’t for the fact the iPhone is on AT&T and AT&T sucks where I live, I’d likely be using an iPhone today and not care as much about the new Microsoft offering,” he said. “Over the next few weeks, to be successful, Microsoft and its partners have to increase the status associated with their platform exponentially and while they have done this before, the degree of difficulty for this stunt is through the roof, given Apple’s dominance in the segment.”

LeClaire quoted Enderle: “Developers have actually been pretty positive about the platform. People who have seen the phone are pleasantly surprised about how good it is and are hoping for an alternative to the other devices that are out there, specifically Apple. The success is going to depend an awful lot on the hardware end.”

Thom Holwerda in OS News said stakes are very high for Microsoft and CEO Steve Balmer: “Windows Phone 7 has to succeed. Come hell or high water.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Ballmer’s position at Microsoft depends on Windows Phone 7’s success. While Windows and Office continue to do well, Microsoft’s other endeavors haven’t been as successful; Windows Phone 7 should be the sign that Microsoft can still innovate and come up with something new that will enter a market, and grab a significant share.”

Nick Wingfield noted in the The Wall Street Journal that Ballmer’s pay was docked last year for screwing up with another mobile play, the Kin.

From Android alternative makes it extra tough

But he warns that Microsoft faces a tough sell against Android, having to persuade OEMs to pay for WP7 when they can get an OS for free from Google.

He said Microsoft “can always resort to what I call the rogue tactics. You can spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the competing platform – in this case, Android – by holding secret negotiations, speaking of patents nobody has ever seen, forbidding companies from ever revealing those supposed patents, and suing any company that flips you the bird (Motorola, you go girl).” (Microsoft filed a suit against Motorola last month, claiming its Android phones infringed on Microsoft patents. Still, business is business. Motorola’s co-Chief Executive Sanjay Jha and Ballmer both said they are open to collaboration.)

LeClaire said some analysts are skeptical that Phone 7 will breathe new life into Microsoft’s mobile Relevant Products/Services strategy. Gartner reports Microsoft’s share of the smartphone operating-system market has dipped to five percent, about a half from a year ago.

But Enderle said it’s never too late in the smartphone game.

“Apple entered the smartphone market way late. And we had smartphones in the market for several years before Apple brought out the iPhone. We clearly had some players that were thought to be unstoppable — Nokia and Research In Motion — and Apple swept in without any trouble at all and carved out a segment,” he said.

Early reviews  of WP7 are good

Garrett Rogers at ZDNet said last month: “If you haven’t had the opportunity to try a Windows Phone 7 device in person, I have to say that you are missing out. Today I had the chance to play with a prototype device from Samsung, and frankly, I was blown away. The phone is really fast, and everything feels consistent from app to app.”

He added: “There may be stuff missing from the initial version of WP7 when compared to other platforms like Android and iPhone, but what it does have is done very well. Compared to my Nexus One (which has similar hardware), the operating system is very responsive, and animations are very smooth. I’m not saying that Android is unbearably slow, but compared to Froyo, WP7 takes the cake.”

Meanwhile, the battle between MSFT and APPL is entering the iPAD tablet zone.

Carl Bagh reports in International Business Times : “Microsoft’s jump into the tablet market is an expected outcome of iPad’s dominance as it has started eating into the PC market. With Microsoft’s business model dependent on its sale of licenses, it is imperative that Microsoft has a gamut of devices running its OS.

He noted that “Santa Balmer,” AKA Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer, speaking at the London School of Economics last week, announced that MSFT will be delivering its new version of tablets in time for Xmas: “You’ll see new slates with Windows on them. You’ll see them this Christmas.”

PCWorld also reports that Spotify, the popular music app, has announced it will offer a Windows Phone 7 application in the coming months, “giving Microsoft another hugely popular application to add to its app catalog.”

Source: Appolicious

Firefox 4 Beta for Android and Maemo is Now Available

Firefox 4 beta for mobile is now available to download and test. It’s built on the same technology platform as Firefox for the desktop and optimized for browsing on a mobile phone. Firefox beta for mobile comes with many of your favorite Firefox desktop features like Firefox Sync, Add-ons and the Awesome Bar.

A major focus of this release is to increase performance and responsiveness. Two of the big architecture changes are Electrolysis and Layers. Our alpha contained Electrolysis which allowed the browser interface to run in a separate process from the one rendering Web content, resulting in a much more responsive browser. This beta brings the Layers pieces which improve overall performance and in graphics areas such as scrolling, zooming and animations. For more technical details, see Mozilla mobile engineer Matt Brubeck’s blog.

Firefox 4 Beta includes Firefox Sync to create a seamless Web browsing experience between desktop and mobile. With Firefox Sync, you can take your browsing history, bookmarks, tabs, passwords and form-fill data with you anywhere so you never have to retype passwords or long URLs again. Your Firefox data is completely encrypted end-to-end between your computers so that only you have access to it. (For those using Firefox Sync, be sure you’re up to date.)

This release delivers a rich set of features, including pinch-to-zoom, which is now supported on multitouch-capable devices, and the Awesome Screen, which instantly gives you access to your recent history, bookmarks and tabs just by tapping in the Awesome Bar. See the release notes for a full list of features included in this release.

Source:  The Mozilla Blog

Microsoft agrees to license mobile patents

Microsoft took a break today from suing the mobile industry to examine life on the other side of the coin as a patent licensee.

The company has agreed to license patents belonging to what many have derisively considered the ultimate patent troll, Acacia, according to The Wall Street Journal. Microsoft did not disclose how much it paid for the licenses, but they cover 74 patents held by Acacia and Access, which acquired Palmsource back in the day and agreed to let Acacia pursue licensing deals on its behalf.

Acacia has a long history of assembling patents and suing whomever it believes has run afoul of those patents. They’ve taken on video-streaming companies, Wi-Fi registration pages, and new licensee Microsoft over Windows boot technology.

The patents at issue in this licensing deal are “related to smartphones,” according to the Journal report, and are likely the same ones involved in lawsuits that Acacia has pending in Texas against Apple, RIM, and Motorola, among others.

Microsoft has found itself on the aggressor side of the patent lawsuit game of late, most recently suing Motorola for patent infringement. It has also negotiated a patent licensing deal with HTC and warned anyone who will listen that Google’s Android mobile software isn’t as free as it appears, implying that more Android-using handset makers could be in its sights.

Source: CNET

Mozilla: Firefox Home coming to BlackBerry, Symbian

Mozilla on Tuesday outlined plans for its Firefox Home app, which will be launched on the BlackBerry and Symbian platforms.

Firefox Home was launched in July and a new version landed last week. It’s a cloud-based app that saves your browsing history so you can pick up a desktop session on your phone.

The key points:

  • Mozilla will take Firefox Home to new platforms in addition to the iPhone.
  • The app will have access to Facebook and Twitter data.
  • Panorama settings will move to your phone.
  • Mozilla has no plans for an iPhone Firefox browser. In a blog post, Mozilla said:

We are working to bring as much of your Firefox experience as possible to Firefox Home. People have asked about adding more browser-like features to Firefox Home, but there are technical and logistical restrictions that make it difficult, if not impossible, to build the full Firefox browser for the iPhone.

Source: ZDNet

BlackBerry 6 coming to Bold and Pearl 3G, Storm left out

RIM as part of the BlackBerry Torch launch provided details of the upgrade plan for BlackBerry 6. The new OS will reach the Bold 9700, the Bold 9650 and the Pearl 3G as well as future devices. A timetable hasn’t been set, but it should reach devices in the “months ahead.”

The Canadian phone maker unusually made no mention of upgrading either the Storm or the Storm2, leaving both phones out despite their touchscreens. RIM hasn’t explained why, but their use of the now discarded SurePress click-down screen may prevent them from using BlackBerry 6 properly. A decision of the sort nonetheless cuts them off entirely, even as the Storm2 is less than a year old.

BlackBerry 6 is the first major overhaul to the interface in years and adds a multi-touch interface that adds Action Menus, or context-sensitive menus that show the most frequently used secondary tasks through a long press of the screen or the trackpad. Web browsing is now much faster and more accurate through the use of a WebKit engine, and it now has a unified social feed section that combines social formats like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter with AIM, BlackBerry Messenger, Google Talk and Windows Live Messenger into a single stream. SMS and MMS are now threaded to follow conversations.

Media has been improved dramatically with a new dedicated podcast app to subscribe to and play podcasts, an improved media player and a YouTube app. On Wi-Fi equipped models, BB6 can sync music from iTunes or Windows Media Player over the local network without having to connect to USB.

The OS ships with the Torch on August 12 and should give a significant boost to developers with a new Java SDK that should significantly streamline the company’s historically difficult app development. Apart from supporting the new interface, they can now call on the WebKit browser and work with HTML5. Support has been deepened for location finding and maps.

Source: Electronista

JailbreakMe Exploits Serious iPhone Security Flaw

JailbreakMe makes the process of jailbreaking the Apple iPhone much simpler and less intimidating. Just visit a Web site on the iPhone, and voila! Jailbroken iPhone. Think about that for a minute, though. The simple act of visiting a Web site is able to fundamentally alter the core functionality of iOS.

jailbreaking the iPhone is technically legal–at least from a copyright and DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) perspective–having a tool that can accomplish it simply by visiting a Web site is awesome for less technically savvy iPhone owners.

However, if JailbreakMe is capable of unlocking the iPhone operating system by taking advantage of a flaw in the way the iPhone renders Adobe PDF files, then other applications can also exploit that same flaw for less-benevolent goals. What JailbreakMe illustrates is that the iPhone has a serious security issue that Apple needs to address.

For companies that allow the iPhone to connect with network resources, or that have embraced the iPhone as the business smartphone of choice, both the JailbreakMe tool itself, as well as any other malicious attacks that might circumvent iOS controls using the same method represent a security concern.

IT admins can use a tool like MAD (Mobile Active Defense) for the iPhone to monitor and enforce security policy on iPhones. Winn Schwartau, chairman of M.A.D. Partners, LLC–developers of Mobile Active Defense–explains that, with jailbreaking, “iPhone users can now download apps from anywhere they choose, not just the iTunes store. This signifies a far greater risk to companies who are trying to leverage the unique capabilities of the Apple platform. But, Mobile Active Defense provides a strong, workable and automatic solution that solves the jailbreaking problem on corporate networks.”

Companies have compliance mandates such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act), and PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) to follow, and the requirements dictate that IT admins must have control over the devices that connect to the network or process company data and communications. A jailbroken iPhone can interfere with the ability to do that.

Schwartau says that the MAD Mobile Enterprise Compliance and Security (MECS) server “can detect jailbreaking within one minute. That’s pretty cool. Once this clear violation of security policy is discovered, the MECS managed firewall issues immediate remediation options to the administrator.”

Detecting jailbreaking could mean intentional jailbreaking from a user trying to implement the JailbreakMe tool on an iPhone, or unintentional jailbreaking from a malicious attack exploiting similar means to take control of the iPhone. Either way–legal or not–IT admins need tools in place that help to monitor and enforce security policy on the iPhone and prevent users from jailbreaking the device.

Source: Yahoo!

Apple to sell iPhone 4 unlocked in Canada

When the iPhone 4 goes on sale in Canada on Friday, it will bring with it something relatively new for Canadian wireless customers — the ability to pit the big three service providers against each other.

Apple on Monday said it will sell its wildly popular device to customers online and through its own retail stores, as well as through Bell, Rogers and Telus.

The difference with buying the phone directly from Apple is that it will be unlocked and contract-free, so customers will be able to shop around for a service plan with the big three.

The iPhone 4 is compatible with all three companies’ networks, so customers would only have to pop in a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card, which carriers generally sell for between $5 and $10, to make it work.

Customers will also be able to switch providers whenever they like and use the phone in other countries with SIM cards from local carriers, which will allow them to avoid roaming charges from Canadian providers.

Industry analysts say Apple’s move puts a higher value on the iPhone 4 in Canada than in the United States, where customers currently have only one carrier, AT&T, as an option for the device.

Not only does AT&T have an exclusive deal with Apple to sell the iPhone, but its network technology is also incompatible with most of the other big U.S. service providers.

“The offers or plans of the big three Canadian carriers might look similar, but for some customers who know how to bargain on a specific service or within a bundled backdrop, there may be some opportunities for cost savings,” said Amit Kaminer, an analyst with The SeaBoard Group telecommunications consultancy.

“And, having no contract? Some might say that you can’t put a value on freedom.”

Source: CBC News

Motorola sues Huawei for trade secret theft

U.S. mobile phone maker Motorola Inc (MOT.N) has sued China’s Huawei Technologies Co (HWT.UL) for alleged theft of trade secrets, highlighting the fast-growing Chinese firm’s difficulty in shaking the nation’s reputation for piracy.
In an initial suit, filed in 2008, Motorola sued five of its former workers for allegedly sharing trade secrets with Lemko, which was also named in the suit and has a reseller agreement with Huawei.

In the amended complaint, filed on July 16 in a federal court in Chicago, Motorola claimed an engineer shared information about a Motorola transceiver and other technology with Huawei founder, Ren Zhengfei, a former officer in China’s People’s Liberation Army.

Motorola claimed a string of emails tagged “Motorola Confidential Proprietary” showed that “Huawei and its officers knew they were receiving stolen Motorola proprietary trade secrets and confidential information without Motorola’s authorization and consent,” according to the suit.

Huawei said the lawsuit was groundless.

“Huawei has no relationship with Lemko, other than a reseller agreement. Huawei will vigorously defend itself against baseless allegations,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Cases like these are hard to prove from an evidence point of view, said Connie Carnabuci, a technology, intellectual property expert and partner at Freshfields in Hong Kong.

“Cases involving misappropriation of proprietary information are usually very difficult cases to run,” Carnabuci said.

“This case is being brought in the courts of the United States, one thing interesting is that decisions of the U.S. courts are not enforceable in China,” she added.

Schaumburg, Illinois-based Motorola accused Huawei of various violations including threatened or actual misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty and usurpation of corporate opportunity.

Since at least 2006, Motorola had required its engineers to sign a confidentiality agreement, according to the filing.

Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said: “We don’t comment on pending litigation, but will continue to vigorously defend our IP (intellectual property).”

Lemko could not be reached for comment.

DIVERGING FORTUNES

Huawei and Motorola were once fierce rivals in China’s fast-growing telecoms market, but their fortunes have diverged in the last few years.

Over that time, Huawei has risen to become the world’s second-largest seller of wireless telecoms equipment, notching major sales not only in developing markets but also in lucrative Western Europe markets.

Motorola, meanwhile, has seen its networking equipment business struggle in recent years as its mobile phone business also lost ground. It now looks poised to exit the networking equipment business, announcing earlier this week it would sell the unit to Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN.UL) for $1.2 billion.

Motorola’s ongoing case against Huawei comes as the Chinese company is trying to push for legitimacy in the global arena despite wariness from Western politicians over Ren’s government and military ties.

In 2008, Huawei’s bid to buy U.S. firm 3Com fell through after opposition from U.S. lawmakers.

The Motorola lawsuit has echos of another lawsuit Huawei faced.

In 2004, Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) agreed to drop a drawn-out lawsuit against Huawei after the latter agreed to make some product changes.

“There is a lot of attention amongst Chinese companies and (multinational companies) doing business in China where people are looking at their business practices and ways to minimize unauthorized leakage of information,” Carnabuci said.

(Additional reporting by Helen Chernikoff and Sinead Carew in NEW YORK; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Lincoln Feast)

Source: NEW YORK/SHANGHAI (Reuters) / Yahoo!