Google dubs Android purchase as ‘best deal ever’



A top Google executive has heralded the purchase of the Android operating system as its ‘best deal ever’.

Google’s VP of corporate development, David Lawee has admitted that despite harbouring doubts initially, the investment in Android was well worth it, which is saying something considering the search giant has made quite a few acquisitions over the years.

Lawee spoke of how he did not have the same faith in the platform as Andy Rubin when Google acquired it in 2005.

He said: “I saw this guy in my building for two years, walking his dog, and I was like, I hope this guy does something”.

Android was purchased for an estimated sum of around $50 million. It has since come leaps and bounds to establish itself as a genuine competitor to Apple’s iOS and is projected to turn over $5 billion in revenue in 2012.

Social media dominates mobile broadband activity



Social media and social gaming dominate mobile broadband* usage according to new traffic statistics released by mobile operator Three.

Facebook is the most popular service used by customers accessing the web via mobile broadband on their computer or tablet, according to the amount of data customers use when browsing to those websites.
More surprisingly, social gaming site and its top game, Farmville, also feature amongst the top five sites used on Three’s mobile broadband service. Meanwhile, visits to only generate a quarter of the volume of browsing data traffic compared to Facebook.
With nearly 2,500 terabytes (2,500,000 GB) of data flowing over the Three mobile broadband network in June 2010 alone, the browsing figures are based on a massive volume of mobile broadband data usage information. The figures differ significantly from those just measuring site visits via fixed line Internet usage, which see Google UK in first place and do not feature social gaming sites at all (Hitwise, 2010).
Outside of social media, features strongly coming in as the third most popular site, driven by access to iTunes and from iPad users.
Three’s mobile broadband network was recently named best in the UK by the regular YouGov Dongle Tracker survey 2010 – an accolade Three has now scooped twice in a row. Three has the largest share of the UK mobile broadband market – at around 35% – and has been the market-leader since launching the country’s first high-speed mobile data service in September 2007.
Charlotte Blanchard, Three’s Director of Internet Services and Products, said: “We’d expect to see a difference in usage patterns between fixed and mobile Internet access, but the dominance of social gaming shown in these browsing figures is particularly surprising. It shows that, for many, keeping up to date with friends or regular gameplay on the move is now more important than accessing their emails via Hotmail or keeping up to date with the news.
“The volumes of data we’re looking at show the importance of Mobile Broadband as an internet access channel – with nearly seven terabytes of Facebook browsing data being generated in just one week – and that doesn’t count the up and download volume.”






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Three rated best mobile broadband provider


The UK’s biggest 3G network has been rated best mobile broadband provider for the second time running in an independent survey of UK consumers.


In the latest independent YouGov DongleTracker survey of Mobile Broadband users, Three outperformed other networks to take home the award for best mobile broadband provider, with customers rating Three as having the fastest connection speeds, as well as being number one for reliability, ease of use and value for money.
At the same time, YouGov SMIX and iPhone survey results see Three rated as the best network for speed and value by Smartphone customers using mobile internet and as the best network for the iPhone. In fact, Three’s smartphone customers are more likely to recommend their network than the customers of any other operator.
Three’s Director of Mobile Broadband, Joe Parker, said: “We’re thrilled that our customers have rated us the Number One Mobile Broadband provider in the UK for the second time running, but also that smartphone users, including iPhone customers, are seeing the value of our strong 3G network. It’s a huge accolade and we can’t thank our customers enough.
“At Three we’re always looking at how we can evolve our offerings to best meet our customers’ needs and hope that we can continue to impress them.”
The YouGov DongleTracker survey asked more than 2,000 customers from Three, Vodafone, Orange, O2 and T-Mobile, along with smaller providers, to rate the level of service they got from their provider on fifteen key points including installation of software, network coverage, getting connected, staying connected, reliability during the day and during the evening, download speeds, upload speeds, ease of use, customer services, billing and overall quality. Customers rated Three the best in eight of these categories.
These accolades come shortly after Three marked the completion of its massive three-year long network upgrade, which has seen heavy investment in improving data speeds and strengthening the 3G network as data usage on mobile devices continues to increases dramatically. This has added move coverage, equivalent in size to an area double the size of Wales, to what was already Britain’s biggest 3G network. As well as network improvements, Three continues to provide the best Mobile Broadband contract deals available, such as £15 for 15GB, great value PAYG offers and the UK’s most competitive iPad tariffs. Three has the largest share of the UK mobile broadband market – at around 35% – and has been the market-leader since launching the country’s first high-speed mobile data service in September 2007.



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iPhone TomTom app gets Star Wars voices


Star Wars voice commands have come to the latest version of the TomTom app for iPhones, as George Lucas finds new and inventive ways to exploit milk? his galactic cash cow.

The revamped version 1.5 of the app offers users a choice between the gnomic wisdom and idiosyncratic syntax of Yoda, Han Solo’s breezy chutzpah or Darth Vadar’s breathy menace. Jar Jar Binks’ meta-irritating language mangling, thank Christ, is not an option.

Also new to the daddy of iPhone sat nav apps is the option to navigate to a geo-tagged photo.

The Star Wars voices cost £3.49 each and are available to buy within the app. Users in the UK and Ireland are looking at £50 one off charge for TomTom itself.

Android owners need not be left out of the Star Wars-related smartphone fun. Last month, a special R2D2 edition of the Motorola Droid hit stores in the US, offering unique themed content.




Android hits back at iPhone ‘openness’ claims



Andy Rubin, Mobile Strategy Chief at Google, has delivered a sly riposte to Apple Chief Executive Office Steve Jobs’ claims that the Android operating system is less ‘open’ than its proprietors claim.

Speaking at Apple’s quarterly earnings call this week, Jobs said that “Google loves to characterize Android as open, and iOS and iPhone as closed”, but claimed that in fact the search giant is being “disingenuous” in this facet of its marketing and that it uses this line in PR blurb as a “smokescreen”.

In a pithy retort on Twitter, Rubin implied that it is actually Jobs who’s being disingenuous and responded by posting a set of Linux commands for copying Android, in a bid to illustrate just how free and easy Google is regarding third-party use of its OS.

The Tweet stated: “The definition of open: ‘mkdir android ; cd android ; repo init -u git:// ; repo sync ; make’.”

Google has yet to respond to further criticism of Android from Jobs at the Apple event. As well as playing semantics with the notion of openness, Jobs slammed the way that Google has allowed its platform to become “fragmented”, which he claims results in a less user-friendly smartphone experience for consumers.

iPhone 4 breaks more often says warranty expert


Warranty provider SquareTrade has revealed that Apple’s premier blower the iPhone 4 is 82 per cent more prone to accidental damage than its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS.

According to SquareTrade’s figures, an alarming 4.7 per cent of iPhone 4 users have reported accidental damage to their phones within the first four months of its release. That compares with a figure of 2.8 per cent made for the iPhone 3GS during the same introductory period.

The study finds that iPhone 4 owners have claimed accidental damage to their devices 68 per cent more frequently than 3GS users and that a projected 15.6 per cent, almost one out of six iPhone 4 owners, will call in with a problem with their phones within the first year.

The numbers are particularly concerning considering the iPhone 4 comes equipped with the so-called “Gorilla glass”, an aluminosilicate panel which Apple claims is “chemically strengthened to be 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic” and is “ultradurable”.

Although SquareTrade’s figures don’t detail the exact affected components of the device, it revealed that at least a quarter of glass breaks “involved the back screen”.







Three’s £400m 3G network upgrade completed



Three adds 4,900 sites to the UK’s biggest 3G network to fuel smartphone and dongle boom. 
Mobile operator Three UK marked the completion of its massive three-year long network upgrade today as it connected its 12,400th 3G site.
The upgrade and improvement programme, which has seen Three’s 3G network grow from an already market-leading 7,500 sites to 12,400, has brought new coverage to rural areas and added crucial capacity to cities.
3G population coverage across the UK is now close to 97%.  Three’s customers are able to make calls, send texts and connect to high-speed mobile broadband throughout the country from Lands End to the Shetland Islands.
The changes have improved the network across areas where 45m people live and added 50,000km² of coverage. Over the past three years an area more than twice the size of Wales has been added to what was already Britain’s biggest 3G network.
While Three’s network reach and capacity has grown, this expansion has been achieved through consolidating and upgrading equipment, and sharing sites with other providers. This has actually led to 5,069 fewer active masts across the country.
As Three approached the completion of this network upgrade, which has seen the firm invest around £400m, it has received a series of accolades, including first place in the latest YouGov DongleTracker survey*. Three has also moved up to second place in YouGov’s most recent smartphone survey, after taking top spot in upload and download speeds.
Kevin Russell, CEO of Three UK said: “Thousands of people across the country have put in a phenomenal amount of work to build the UK’s biggest Mobile Broadband network. Smartphone and Mobile Broadband use is exploding and we have built a 3G network that reaches further than ever before, as well as bringing more capacity into urban areas where our customers need it most.”
Three’s network now carries more than 100 terabytes of data a day across it – or roughly 20-times the amount of information held in Wikipedia.  Of this more than 40% is made up of people streaming media from sites like BBC iPlayer and Youtube, 38% is from web browsing, including web downloads, and close to 6% is from people updating Microsoft software. In addition about 2.5% is now made up of people messaging each other, such as via Skype or MSN.
To mark the completion of the network upgrade Three launched an augmented reality app to enable retail staff to bring the changes to the network alive in Three’s 300+ stores across the UK. The Android and iPhone app uses the Layar augmented reality platform to show how dramatically the upgrade has changed Three’s network. 




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Drivers who talk on their hands-free mobiles while at the wheel are at risk

Talking on a hands-free mobile while driving raises the risk of having a rear-end shunt, scientists warn.
Talking on a hands-free mobile while driving raises the risk of having a rear-end shunt, scientists warn. A new study has found that motorists’ brains become overloaded during phone conversations, costing them milliseconds of reaction time when the car in front brakes sharply. And it makes no difference whether they are using legal hands-free kits or breaking the law by having the handset clamped to the side of the head.
The research emerged a week after a coach driver was jailed for five years for causing the deaths of two passengers in an accident. 

Martin Chun, 60, was in a ‘telephone-induced stupor’ after spending eight minutes chatting hands-free when the vehicle careered off the road in Cornwall and crashed.

Researchers from the Universities of Central Florida and Beijing Jiaotong selected 42 men and women aged between 30 and 40 and with driving licences. They were put behind the wheel of a car on a driving simulator and asked to negotiate an urban dual carriageway behind a vehicle driving at 50 kph (31 mph), which then slows to 40 kph (25 mph) before stopping suddenly.
Each participant had three sessions in the simulator so they could perform emergency stops while holding a mobile to their head, while talking hands-free and without distraction – though the running order was chosen at random. To mock up the effects of having a conversation, drivers had to respond to a series of maths questions played over a speaker. Of the 126 emergency stops, seven ended in rear-end shunts, all of them involving mobile use, four of them hands-free. There were a further 15 near-misses – twelve of them involving mobiles, seven of them hands-free.
Drivers with no distractions were faster to react when there was a large gap between the vehicles and quicker to apply the brakes. Those on the phone were quicker to spot danger when the cars were closer together and braked harder, suggesting that those using mobiles were aware that what they were doing was dangerous and so over-compensated.

However, they were still more likely to crash. The study – in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention – concludes: ‘Even though they took a series of compensation behaviours to mitigate the risk, the cell phone use drivers still encountered higher risk than the drivers without [them]. Many governments have introduced legislation banning only for the use of hand-held cell phone while driving, but allowed the use of hands-free technology for conversing. ‘However, the results supported the notion that the use of hands-free phones impaired driving performance in the same way as the use of hand-held phones, indicating that the driving impairment to a large extent was a result of cognitive degradation, rather than physical distractions. It is therefore recommended that drivers do not engage in any cell phone use (either hand-held or hands-free) while driving.’
Motorists have been banned from using hand-held mobiles since 2003 with offenders facing fines of up to £100 and three penalty points. But the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is calling for the law to be extended.
Head of road safety Kevin Clinton said: ‘Sadly, people continue to lose their lives on our roads in crashes caused by drivers who are distracted because they use a phone. ‘This can so easily be avoided by all drivers switching off their mobiles while driving and only checking messages once they have stopped in a safe place. Research clearly shows that using a hands-free phone does not significantly reduce the risks because the problems are caused mainly by the mental distraction and divided attention of taking part in a conversation at the same time as driving. 

Ideally, when the law was introduced, it would have made hands-free mobiles illegal to use. 

It is difficult for the police to detect drivers using them just by observation, but they can see if a person’s driving is affected because they are distracted and, for more serious crashes or offences, phone records can be checked.’

Sussex University psychologists recently found that the area of the road that hands-free drivers concentrate on is up to four times smaller than the average road user.
Last week, Chun was jailed for five years for causing the death by dangerous driving of Margaret Luxton, 59, and Carol Muldoon, 68, and leaving four others seriously injured. They were among 51 passengers on an Age Concern day trip to Looe in Cornwall when the coach driver lost control on a bend and the vehicle ploughed into a hedgerow. Jailing Chun, Judge Simon Carr told Truro Crown Court: ‘There was no other possible cause of the accident other than the use of the phone. At the point of the collision, you had been on the phone for eight minutes. That could never have been safe.’ Earlier, prosecutor Stephen Mooney told the jury Chun had been in a ‘telephone-induced stupor’.

Three times more drivers use mobile at wheel

The number of motorists admitting they take phone calls and send text messages while driving has tripled in a year, according to an RAC survey.
The number of motorists admitting they take phone calls and send text messages while driving has tripled in a year, according to an RAC survey.
As many as 39% of drivers admit to being distracted by calls, texts and social media website alerts on their mobile phones while at the wheel. Those saying they take calls while driving has risen from 8% to 28%, while those admitting texting at the wheel has increased from 11% to 31%, the poll of 1,150 British motorists found.
The survey also showed that on an average car journey of 23 minutes, a motorist’s phone rings or beeps at least once. Just over half (53%) of motorists admit they are likely to take their eyes of the road to see who a call is from and 45% admit they would look to see who a text is from.
Young drivers (17 to 24 year olds) are most likely to glance at a phone while driving if it rings or beeps, with 58% saying they would. As many as 21% of motorists admit they are likely to check a social media alert from applications such as Facebook and Twitter while driving.
The top five social media sites and applications which motorists admitted using while on the road (stationary with the engine running or driving) are, in order: email, Google Maps, music, photos and Facebook. Almost half (46%) of all motorists who receive calls when they are driving claim not to be distracted by them, and 47% believe texting on the road does not divert their attention from driving.
Many motorists think it is permissible to use mobile phones while driving when the car is not moving. Over a quarter (26%) believe it is acceptable to use phones (for calling, texting and social media) at traffic lights, 33% believe using a phone in a lay-by is permissible and 9% say using phones while stuck in traffic is reasonable.
RAC motoring strategist Adrian Tink said: “It’s extremely concerning that the use of mobile phones for texting and calling has risen in the past year. It is also worrying that people are admitting to using their phone for a whole host of social media applications while driving. Taking your eye off the road, just for a second, to read an alert or check who a call came from can have potentially fatal results. This steep rise in mobile phone usage at the wheel could potentially be set to continue as more and more people embrace smart phone technology.”
Peter Rodger, chief examiner of the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists), said: “These results are worrying, particularly the rise in the use of social media applications, and the high level of young drivers admitting glancing at the phone if it rings or beeps. Young drivers are the least experienced on the road, and the most at risk of having an accident, so anything that distracts them further is a real issue. The growing range of technology is increasingly intruding into the driving environment, and using mobile phones in the car needs to be subject to tougher enforcement.”

Apple probes iPhone 4 cracking glass problem


Apple is investigating claims that the Phone 4’s glass panel is prone to cracking when owners use third-party protective cases.

According to insider sources cited by gdgt, the company fears the alleged issues with the panel have the potential to snowball a la antennagate and has charged its engineering team with fixing the problem to head off another PR disaster.

Gdgt’s Ryan Block stated: “The iPhone team has grown to be very concerned by this issue with slide-on cases, and has created a lab and large new test program specifically to investigate this further.”

It is believed that slide-on cases are most likely to cause cracks and splits in Apple’s latest handset.

The latest spate of reported problems with the iPhone 4 come in the wake of issues with the handsets’ antennas that caused them to drop calls when held in a certain way – AKA the so-called death grip.

Apple attempted to placate owners with a free case giveaway, which ended last month.