iPhone app makes stethoscopes obsolete


Medical workers from around the world are ditching physical stethoscopes in favour of an iPhone app which replicates the functions of this essential tool.

iStethoscope takes advantage of the iPhone’s integrated sensor technology to detect heartbeats, although its creator Peter Bently says that he only built the app to pass the time and did not expect it to catch on in the manner that it has.

The free version of the app went live last week and is currently being downloaded by over 500 iPhone owners every 24 hours.

“Everybody is very excited about the potential of the adoption of mobile phone technology into the medical workplace and rightly so. Smartphones are incredibly powerful devices packed full of sensors, cameras, high-quality microphones with amazing displays,” said Mr Bently.

The replacement of stethoscopes with an iPhone app is seen to be just the beginning of the potential functions which smartphones of the future could harness. Ultrasound scans and blood pressure assessment could soon be possible using the mobile phone that sits in your pocket, according to experts.












Vodafone to sell China Mobile stake

Vodafone is poised to start breaking up its sprawling portfolio of assets by selling its stake in China Mobile in a deal that could raise more than £4bn.
Vodafone is poised to start breaking up its sprawling portfolio of assets by selling its stake in China Mobile in a deal that could raise more than £4bn.
Vittorio Colao, chief executive of Vodafone, is understood to have decided to offload its 3.2% in China Mobile – either to a single buyer or on the open market. A sale could come within the next few weeks, ahead of an eagerly awaited strategy update from Colao that will set the future direction of the company.
Two years after replacing Arun Sarin as CEO, Colao appears ready to end Vodafone’s global ambitions in favour of a more focused approach. Weekend reports said he has already told investors that the company will concentrate on Europe, India and Africa. To achieve this, Colao must also resolve the long-standing issue of Vodafone’s 45% minority stake in its US joint venture with Verizon Wireless.
China Mobile is the biggest mobile phone operator in the world, listed on the Hong Kong stock market and valued at £135bn. Selling out of China Mobile is likely to please those Vodafone shareholders who have been agitating for the company to divest some of its minority stakes in other mobile operators around the globe. This strategy could boost Vodafone’s value and even lead to higher dividends. A Vodafone spokesman declined to comment.
Vodafone is currently worth just over £81bn. Robin Bienenstock, telecoms analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, has estimated that the company is undervalued by 40% because of its array of minority interests. The issue even led to a small revolt at last month’s annual meeting when over 6.5% of shareholders opposed chairman Sir John Bond’s re-election.
This protest vote was led by The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, who accused Vodafone of a “disastrous” series of acquisitions and demanded a new chairman. Bond himself has close ties to the Far East, having worked for HSBC for more than 40 years.
Colao’s new strategy for Vodafone is expected to include significant changes in the way it offers data services. In the UK, Vodafone had been expected to bid for the next-generation mobile licences due to be auctioned in 2011. However that process has been thrown into confusion after Everything Everywhere, the parent company of Orange and T-Mobile, threatened to sue over the plan.
Everything Everywhere is angry that the coalition government tore up an agreement hammered out between its Labour predecessors and the mobile industry. This would have seen Vodafone and O2 surrender some of their valuable spectrum at 900Mhz in return for being able to buy new spectrum at 800Mhz and 2.6Ghz. Because Orange and T-Mobile started operating later than Vodafone and O2, they do not own any 900Mhz spectrum, but had hoped to buy a share as part of the auction terms.
This auction is due to take place by the end of next year, and could potentially raise £5bn for the Treasury. Everything Everywhere, though, has warned communications minister Ed Vaizey in a letter this month that it will take legal action unless he reconsiders, or provides information to address its concerns.
Vaizey has instructed Ofcom to draw up the rules for this spectrum auction. Everything Everywhere’s letter appears to be “a marker” that gives it the opportunity to sue if it does not accept the communications regulator’s decisions.
Buying this new spectrum will allow operators to offer the next generation of faster services, called Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband. But the auction comes at a time when revenue from existing services is under pressure from competition.
“Operators are looking at pretty hefty investments in these auctions, plus they must find many hundreds of millions of pounds to roll out these networks,” said Shaun Collins, managing director of analyst firm CCS Insight. “It’s very difficult to make these networks work on current spending trends.”
Ofcom reported this month that the average household spending on telecoms fell in 2009, for the fifth year in a row, mainly due to lower spending on mobile service. Vodafone itself has just returned to organic revenues growth after 18 months.

Facebook developer slams Android phones


Google’s Android platform has come under fire from the developer of mobile Facebook applications.

App developer Joe Hewitt made his feelings known about the platform on Twitter, reserving most of his ire for perceived design flaws.

He Tweeted: “The more I work with Android the more it reminds me of Windows… as in, it’s really flexible, agnostic and developer-friendly, but also really sloppily designed.”

Mr Hewitt went to explain that he was definitely in favour of the open source nature of Android and the accommodating stance of Google and commented that Apple’s methods of app selection and censorship were too dictatorial.

“Android tools are horrendous, OS is hideous, but the absence of big brother telling me what to do gives it a slight edge,” he said.

The Android OS’ welcoming approach towards developers is widely regarded as one of the key reasons for exponential growth of the Android Market in the last six months.














iPhone Sega games’ prices slashed


Sega has slashed the price of its iPhone games, offering gaming fans a taste of classic arcade action from 59p.

In many cases the RRP has been halved. The repertoire includes classic Sega titles sitting alongside retro reboots, which means that there should be something for everyone.

The cheapest foursome of the bunch, all of which cost 59p, consists of side-scrolling battlers Golden Axe and Streets of Rage, together with the notorious underwater adventure Ecco The Dolphin and ancient RPG Shining Force.

Sega’s mascot Sonic the Hedgehog makes an appearance in the form of his first two games at a cost of £1.79 and there are three entries in the Super Monkey Ball series available, with prices ranging between £1.19 and £1.79.

Fans of Sega will be pleased to hear that it will be launching a new update of a retro game on the iPhone this week, namely Phantasy Star II.














Google Earth Android app charts oceans


Detailed underwater mapping has come to the Google Android app, offering users a glimpse of the topography world’s oceans.

By activating the Ocean Layer within the app it is possible to magnify the surface of the sea and take a glimpse of the world beneath the waves.

This feature is joined by the Explore the Ocean layer which integrates pictures and videos captured by users from around the world, all of them displaying some aspect of the alluring sea.

Android 2.2 users will be able to get the most from the new app features because the native support for Flash video will allow playback of clips from within the app itself.

Various other tweaks and improvements have been made to Google Earth for Android and the search giant has made interacting with the app even easier.

If you have a smartphone that runs Android 2.1 or higher, you will be able to download and enjoy the new Google Earth app from the Android Market straight away.















iPhone removed from green ratings


The iPhone has been removed from the first-ever UK ranking initiative for rating smartphones’ eco-friendliness.

Apple’s major rivals including Nokia and Samsung have agreed to submit their mobiles to the project, which will assign a star rating up to a maximum of five so that consumers can judge the environmental viability of a particular model.

Network provider O2 is spearheading the project and claims that 93 per cent of the mobiles that it offers to its customers will get a rating under the scheme.

Researchers from Forum for the Future will be working with O2 to judge how the components, production, transport and lifespan of a mobile will impact upon the environment.

Apple has not only withdrawn the iPhone from the scheme, but it has also refused to release any comment as to precisely why it will not be joining in with the competing firms.

“Transparency is always an issue for consumer electronics companies, who claim that providing too much information gives away competitive advantage. Whilst Apple has recently made important strides in eliminating toxic chemicals from its products and the reporting of their environmental footprint, it still lags behind others in transparency,” said Greenpeace spokesperson Gary Cook.

Apple has been the target of both criticism and praise by Greenpeace and other eco-activists and this latest move could tip the balance in a negative direction.

Manufacturers will be faced with 63 questions which the project organisers will then use to assign a ranking.

“The largest impact comes from the energy used in extracting materials [from the Earth] and transporting them, as well as the energy and water used to process components such as silicon wafers,” explained Forum for the Future’s James Taplin.

Unsurprisingly, it was Sony Ericsson’s eco-friendly Elm mobile that got one of the highest rankings, scoring 4.3 out of a possible five. The greatest proportion of its points were awarded because its multipurpose extra functions, such as media playback and photography capabilities, meant users would not be buying standalone gadgets.

“You need to look at the indirect impact of the phone, such as fewer devices, not just the phone,” Mr Taplin added.

Three of Nokia’s mobiles drew with the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 variants and the Samsung GT-S8500 to take second position on the rankings with a solid score of four out of five.

11.5 per cent of respondents to a survey said that green credentials would have an impact on their choice of mobile phone.
















Do bumpers damage iPhone 4?


The free bumper case that Apple was forced to give away in order to tackle the iPhone 4 reception issues is reportedly causing damage to the very system it is designed to protect, namely the antenna.

The Apple Support Discussion Forums have been used by a number of iPhone 4 owners to highlight scrapes and scuffs delivered to the antenna band that encircles the iPhone 4.

These have, apparently, been accumulating even while using the bumper case, which users conclude must point to this supposedly protective device as being the culprit.

“I received my black bumper about a week ago now. Took off the bumper tonight to clean my phone down and there are scratch marks on the steel band from the bumper (this is caused from the pieces of hard plastic on the underside of the bumper,” explained forum poster and iPhone 4 owner Dayvidpriddy.

The conclusion that the plastic within the bumper itself was causing the abrasions was quickly dismissed, as other users suggested that it was likely to be the result of debris finding its way into the space between the bumper case and the surface of the antenna, with any movement causing lesions which build over time.

However, in some cases, users were right to criticise the bumper for being excessively sharp on the inside and one user reported that Apple had acknowledged this fact and has replaced not only the scratchy bumper but also the iPhone 4 itself.

Images posted on Razorianfly.com that there are some very real scuff marks that can be attributed to bumper usage.

This is not the first time that an iPhone case has been linked to scratching the device. When the original 2G model launched back in 2007, one of the most popular cases sold by Apple caused a similar controversy.


















100m Facebook users have accessed iPhone app


Social networking powerhouse Facebook has seen its iPhone user base grow consistently, with the 100 million mark just passed for active participants using the dedicated application.

These figures include not just the iPhone and its variants, but any Apple device powered by the iOS platform, which means that iPad and iPod Touch users are also amongst the total.

Over half a billion people actively use Facebook around the world and given that 20 per cent of these are in possession of an Apple product it is clear that the ties between the two are closer than you might think.

The Facebook app for iPhone is continuing to expand in functionality, with the new location-based Places service arriving to upset some of its less established rivals.

A comprehensive figure showing just how many active iOS users are accessing Facebook via the app is available on the official iPhone group. At present, this is sitting close to 104 million, with considerable room for expansion.



















Mobiles eat up Brits’ leisure time


Mobile usage and other forms of communication occupy around 45 per cent of the day for the average UK citizen, according to a report from industry regulator Ofcom.

The telecoms watchdog also revealed that growth in text messaging is still ongoing, with levels increasing by a factor of four between 2008 and 2009.

The good news for consumers is that all of the services that are being used more frequently are actually cheaper than they were two years ago by 0.2 per cent, suggesting that saving money on mobile deals and home broadband is allowing people to squeeze more value from the services.

Peter Phillips of Ofcom stated: “Consumers are using communications services more – phone calls, texting and the internet. Yet they are paying less despite getting more, partly through buying in bundles.

“For the first time we can see just how central media and communications are to our lives – on average we use them for nearly half our waking hours.”

Facebook has held its position as the most popular website for mobile owners to visit, taking up 45 per cent of all mobile browsing time.










iPhone data theft tool developed


The arrival of a USB device disguised as a harmless memory stick but with the sole purpose of ripping personal data from the Apple iPhone has been greeted with mixed emotions in the media.

In addition to copying texts and pictures, the iPhone Spy Stick can snatch location based data stored by the iPhone’s GPS and even your browsing history, all in a matter of moments.

The spy device will not touch your emails or call log, but even its manufacturer admits that it can be used to spy on partners or check up on what your children are doing with their smartphones.

The slightly more legitimate suggested use for the unsubtly titled Spy Stick is to recover data from your iPhone, although whether or not it still works if the phone will not power up after an accident is unclear.

To extract the data you simply need to plug both the device and the iPhone into a PC and the process will commence from there.

The iPhone Spy Stick is retailing for around £130 and although it will not yet work with iPhones that have been updated to iOS 4, the manufacturer is aiming to launch a new version next month.