Android users may have found one or two apps missing from their phones today after Google activated a remote app removal system to delete software that breached its terms of service.
The apps, which were removed without phone owners’ consent, were free and created for the purposes of research by a single security expert.
Google claims that the researcher removed the apps himself after it made a request and it followed up on this by activating the so-called app kill switch.
The search giant stated: “Every now and then, we remove applications from Android Market due to violations of our Android Market Developer Distribution Agreement or Content Policy. In cases where users may have installed a malicious application that poses a threat, we’ve also developed technologies and processes to remotely remove an installed application from devices.
“They were not designed to be used maliciously and did not have permission to access private data — or system resources beyond permission.INTERNET. As the applications were practically useless, most users uninstalled the applications shortly after downloading them.
“In case of an emergency, a dangerous application could be removed from active circulation in a rapid and scalable manner to prevent further exposure to users. Whilst we hope to not have to use it, we know that we have the capability to take swift action on behalf of users’ safety when needed.”
There is certainly a slightly troubling side to this power which giants like Google have over their products, but it is interesting that the firm has always been transparent in its addition and implementation of the killswitch.
It took a hacker to point out that Apple had implemented a similar program, as it was only after this revelation that the firm officially confirmed its existence.
At least 50 touchscreen smartphones based on the Google Android platform will have speedy text input software Swype factory-installed and available as an option alongside its alternatives.
It has been confirmed that the Samsung Galaxy S is going to be one of the first Android mobiles to use the Swype typing technique, which involves tracing fluidly across the letters in a word without removing your finger from the screen.
The Swype software is being heavily promoted by its creators, with a goal of 50 different handsets being targeted for the end of 2010, Swype’s Mike McSherry has told the Reuters news agency.
Android smartphones have represented the most significant proportion of existing or planned Swype platforms, although the developer is confident that it will be able to get other manufacturers and mobile software designers on-board.
It is even said to be courting Apple and if it does get Swype onto the iPhone it will certainly have secured its place as a industry standard mobile typing solution.
Major UK network providers are starting to test new technology that will allow live television to be viewed on smartphones with a 3G network connection.
A triumvirate of providers made up of Vodafone, Orange and O2 are partnering in order to trial the service, which could eventually be rolled out across the UK.
The networks are attempting to forge ahead with plans that will harness 3G networks in a manner that will not overload the bandwidth and compromise connections for users who simply want to check their emails.
The integrated mobile broadcast (IMB) service is being tested over three months from October at locations in London and Slough and it will replace the existing mobile TV streaming options which generally cause disruption when several people try and watch these data-intensive services in close proximity to one another.
IMB takes advantage of a portion of the 3G networking spectrum which is currently unutilised and so in theory this should allow mobile TV to be broadcast without impinging on the network’s various other uses.
A total of half a billion users would be able to use IMB technology if the tests prove successful and it is subsequently rolled out globally, so these UK providers are clearly aware that the potential revenues are significant.
Luke Ibbetson of Vodafone said: “With the strong growth of data traffic on our 3G networks and the mobile industry’s recent support of this high performance broadcast technology, the time is right to move forward with an IMB initiative.”
HTC recently requested the investigation of Apple by the International Trade Commission (ITC) in the US over patent infringement claims and now Apple has responded with another suit of its own.
This time HTC is being targeted for the way in which its smartphone user interface operates and the US legal system has once more been called upon to tackle a dispute between the market leading smartphone firms.
Apple has already hit HTC with a suit claiming that four patents that it owns are being infringed by HTC’s current smartphone range. The latest suit incorporates some of these older disputes but with slight modifications and updates by Apple’s legal team.
HTC recently attempted to ban the import of iPhones to the US by bringing its own patent issues to the ITC, although this investigation is ongoing and it has not impacted on Apple’s ability to launch the iPhone 4 stateside.
Some believe that Apple is trying to drive Google’s Android operating system out of the market, or at least out of the US, by bringing up different patent infringements which it constructs internally in readiness for the moment when a rival needs to be put in its place.
A study of Android applications has found that a fifth of the programs on the Android Market are able to get unfettered access to private data stored on Android-based smartphones.
The report also discovered that some apps could potentially make voice calls and send SMSs without first seeking the permission of the user, with five per cent of the 48,000 apps available for Android possessing this slightly worrying trait.
There are fears that malicious developers could use this to automatically rack up high phone bills by having apps secretly call or text premium rate numbers operated by the firms, according to SMobile Systems.
SMobile has not directly identified any actively malicious apps, but it does say that there are the necessary tools out there for exploitation under inappropriate guidance.
“Just because [the app is] coming from a known location like the Android market or the Apple App store (with the iPhone) doesn’t mean you can assume that the app isn’t malicious or that there is a proper vetting process,” said SMobile’s Dan Hoffman.
Mr Hoffman also said that several apps were known to posses spyware tendencies and that such malicious apps were a growing issue in the mobile security industry.
Responding to the report, a Google spokesperson played down the company’s claims and alleged that its report “falsely suggests that Android users don’t have control over which apps access their data”.
He added: “Not only must each Android app get users’ permission to access sensitive information, but developers must also go through billing background checks to confirm their real identities and we will disable any apps that are found to be malicious.
Augmented reality app Layar is set to come preinstalled on 33 per cent of new smartphones sold in 2010 after its developer signed a deal with manufacturers, ensuring its widespread use.
Layar marked its first birthday last week and it has since said that both mobile manufacturers and network providers had committed to delivering its software across a range of new smartphones.
In an official blog post, Layar’s Maarten Lens-FitzGerald stated: “With pride Layar announced that LG, the worlds #3 mobile phone manufacturer will pre-load Layar on new Android devices. In addition, Samsung expanded the existing relationship with support for Layar on the Bada platform.
“These four partnerships ensure Layar will be pre-loaded on 1 in 3 new smartphones sold worldwide this year and more global distribution partnerships will be announced in the coming months.”
Augmented reality apps, which allow users to learn more about the world around them by pointing their smartphone cameras at objects.
They rely on GPS data and visual search technology to fill in the blanks and are becoming ever more widely used and understood. Layar is one of the most significant players in this evolving market.
Network provider Orange is commencing tests for its HD Voice mobile technology that will allow for greatly improved audio quality during standard calls, with the potential for an August roll-out.
The HD Voice service will use the 3G network to provide clearer audio. Orange has started trials in Bristol, Reading and Southampton, with the finished product destined to arrive across the country without its customers having to pay a penny more.
The first test runs have pleased independent observers, who report that not only does the HD Voice bring better general sound quality, but it also eliminates the majority of external noise.
Richer, more varied tones are produced as a result of the technology, which means that conversations will sound far more realistic.
Andrew Warner of Orange told Tech Radar: “It’s an open standard. Other networks will use it, but we’ll be first in the UK.”
The initial tests have taken place using Nokia X6 smartphones with updated software, although Orange says that many more mobiles will be compatible with the service in the coming months, with widespread manufacturer uptake expected by the end of next year.
HD Voice essentially doubles the amount of bandwidth that you use when on a voice call, allowing for clearer voice data to be sent.
All of this is achieved without a subsequent doubling in data use, as the experts have been careful to encode the audio in the most efficient way possible.
Orange is going to give more details about its HD Voice roll-out as they become available. It is apparently going to use Moldova as a testing ground because the 3G networking equipment installed there has only recently been activated.
A new Apple application promises to make mislaying an iPhone a lost less painful and could even reunite owners with handsets that have been stolen.
Users will need to own another Apple device, such as an iPad or an iPod Touch, in order to activate the app’s features on their lost or stolen iPhone.
However, once they have the app up and running they will be able to find out where the phone has ended up, thanks to the iPhone’s built in GPS receiver.
iPhone owners will also be able to initiate a full lock of the phone, making it inaccessible to a third party, or alternatively delete all of the stored data.
To achieve this, they will be required to sign up to Apple’s MobileMe service which will set them back £59 for an annual subscription. If this sounds a little steep, users might want to try out the 60 day free usage period to see if it is a sensible investment.
Replacing a lost or stolen iPhone can be expensive and you will have plenty of personal information stored on it, so the locating and deleting capabilities of the new Find my iPhone app are particularly useful.
HTC is set to tackle hackers responsible for unofficial updates to Android for its smartphones by taking its complaints before a court of law.
Android hacking site Shipped-ROMs, which acts as a hub for people who do not want to wait for HTC to build an official update, is being asked to cease and desist in a formal, written complaint from HTC.
HTC claims that the update Android ROMs, which have been cobbled together by its users, must be deleted in order to limit any damage to the intellectual property owned by the firm.
A significant number of hackers have devoted their energies to the Shipped-ROMs site.
Historically, they have outpaced HTC with speedy Android updates for unsupported smartphones, such as version 2.1 of the platform for the HTC Hero, which sat in limbo for months whilst HTC continually delayed its own update.
Lead hacker Coinflipper has said that although the site will endeavour to soldier on, it seems that closure will be inevitable to avoid further legal action from HTC.
Although Android is an open source platform, HTC is concerned that its own Sense interface is being defaced and misused, which is the source of its concerns.
Hopefully the manufacturer will get the message and implement a quicker turnaround for official Android updates, otherwise hackers will continue to find a way to share updates online even if one site is killed off.