Apple apologises for iOS Maps debacle, promises improvement

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Apple has officially apologised for the whole iPhone Maps fiasco, which has caused quite the racket since it rolled out with iOS 6.

In an open letter to disgruntled customers, Apple boss Tim Cook said he was “extremely sorry” for the anger and frustration caused by the less than stellar mapping software and assured the company is “doing everything we can to make Maps better”.

The move to put its hands up will both shock and please tech waters, who derided the iGiant for its decision to boot Google Maps as the native mapping solution on iOS devices.

Despite bringing new and arguably useful features such as voice support, turn-by-turn navigation and 3D Flyover, Apple’s Maps fell short of delivering the level of accuracy and reliability that iFans have come to expect.

Previously, Apple said Maps would improve the more it gets used due to being a cloud-based service. However, that failed to pacify early adopters who queued up for hours (even days) and shelled out good money to get their hands on the just-launched iPhone 5.

Whether Cook’s apology will have the desired effect and encourage more patience amongst users remains to be seen. However, Apple’s rivals will doubtless be cherishing this moment and preparing yet more insults to hurl at the tech titan.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the complaints about Maps had little adverse impact on the sales of the iPhone 5, which still raced to five million units in its launch weekend.

Google, meanwhile, has yet to reveal whether it will release a standalone app for iOS, though it has stated it plans to support all platforms and devices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kenya to switch off ‘fake’ mobile phones

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Kenya has confirmed that a switch-off of counterfeit mobile phones will take place at the end of the month.
 
In addition, networks will be forbidden from activating new “fake” devices bought after 1 October.
 
Government officials said the move was designed to protect consumers from hazardous materials and to safeguard mobile payment systems. They added it should also help them track users and limit violence ahead of March’s general election.
 
The action had originally been scheduled to take place at the end of 2011, but was twice delayed to give subscribers a chance to replace their devices. However, the Ministry of Information and Communications has said this would not happen again.
 
The government said three million users were using counterfeit handsets as of June. Official data suggests the country had 29 million mobile phone subscribers at the end of March.
The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) defines fake handsets as “copies of popular brands and models made from sub-standard materials” that have not been licensed by the organisation. They are sourced from China and other parts of Asia, as well as Nigeria and South Africa.
 
The CCK said “sub-standard components” were often used which had not been put through safety checks and might emit higher than recommended radiation levels. They have proved popular since they are often sold at a heavy discounts to legitimate models, thanks in part to the fact that retailers avoid paying import taxes. But the commission said they had caused an increase of dropped calls for all users because of “their inability to connect seamlessly to the mobile networks”.
 
Law enforcement agencies had also complained that some of the devices used duplicated IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identifier) codes, making it difficult to track down users suspected of using their handsets to plan crimes.
In addition, when the government publicised the switch-off in June it also linked the move to efforts to restrict fraud.
 
“In this era of mobile banking, use of counterfeit devices, which are manufactured without due consideration to the recognised security standards, may expose our mobile money systems as well as the wider banking and financial system to unnecessary risks,” said the communications secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo. “The government cannot allow this to happen and thus our decision to have all unregistered SIM cards and counterfeit handset mobile phones phased out by 30 September 2012.”
The move was initially opposed by the Consumers Federation of Kenya, a campaign group which said the action would punish users who were not to blame for the fact fakes were sold. But last month the organisation dropped a theat to go to court to block the switch-off after a study suggested most Kenyans supported the effort.
 

Sunday’s deadline also means counterfeit models can be barred from networks ahead of the election on 4 March 2013. About 1,300 people were killed and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes because of clashes following 2007’s disputed presidential election. There is concern the vote could spark further violence, and the CCK has suggested that ensuring all mobiles were registered could act as a deterrent.
 
“As the general elections draw near, we… have an obligation to ensure that the mobile telecoms industry is not used to perpetrate instability and to incite violence,” said Francis Wangusi, the commission’s director general.
Users can send a free SMS message containing their 15-number IMEI code to check that their handset is recognised as genuine. The fact millions of devices will need to be replaced presents phone manufacturers with an opportunity to boost sales. But there are also been worries that abandoned handsets could end up in landfill sites, damaging the environment.
 

To minimise the risk Nokia and Samsung have partnered with a local recycling company and mobile service providers to allow users to safely dispose of counterfeit models at collection points in major cities. “Mobile phones contain many valuable and useful materials that can be recycled, including precious metals and plastics,” said Bruce Howe, general manager for Nokia East Africa. “For every one million phones recycled, it is possible to recover nearly 35kg of gold and 350kg of silver, which can be re-used in the production of future electronic goods.”
 
The firm added that it believed Kenya’s move was a model that could be adopted elsewhere in Africa and beyond. Uganda has already said that it planned similar action.
 

EE – 1 Million 4G Subscribers in the UK

peoples-phone-ee-4gEE has confirmed its leadership of the UK’s 4G market with the announcement that it has passed the one million subscriber mark.

The number also confirms the operator has the most LTE connections in Europe ahead of nearest rival Vodafone Germany, according to GSMA Intelligence.

EE said it had cracked the milestone four months ahead of schedule. It launched its LTE network on 30 October 2012.

EE is well ahead of its competitors in the UK. Vodafone and O2 only launched their rival services on 29 August. And 3 UK has said it will launch its LTE network in December 2013.

EE said its progress represents “one of the fastest 4G adoption rates in the world”.

It has chosen to differentiate itself from rivals with a rapid rollout. Its 4G network now serves more than 100 towns and cities in the UK.

“EE has the most attractive 4G pricing in the world – and we’re also gearing up to launch a new range of innovative plans, providing even more ways for people to get the fastest speeds and the best value plans,” said Olaf Swantee CEO, EE

 

 

 

Check the latest EE deals here.

 

 

Mind your mobile manners

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Many British mobile phone users are so attached to their devices but so worried about the cost of calling someone back that they’ll answer a call whatever they’re doing, according to a new survey by Vodafone UK. We don’t think twice about answering a call while preoccupied in the bathroom, or even when we’re spending ‘quality time’ with our partner. 
 
While being ‘busy’ in the bedroom topped the list of times people should never answer the phone, 
worryingly, a third of mobile phone users said they would do it. During a wedding, at the dinner table 
and on a date are also times when people will take a call rather than wait and call back later, 
according to the majority of those questioned. 
 
The figures were revealed by research carried out by Vodafone to mark the recent launch of 
Vodafone Red, its best ever value plan, which lets customers talk and text as much as they want 
and get loads of internet. Vodafone Red lets customers make as many calls as they want, whenever 
they want. So instead of picking up the phone at a time when perhaps they shouldn’t, customers can 
call back later without worrying about the cost. 
 
Vodafone’s Mobile Manners survey of over 2,000 mobile phone users shows that men are more 
likely than women to think it’s ok to talk in the loo, and those from Cardiff are most likely to take a 
call while on a date. 
 
Srini Gopalan, Consumer Director, Vodafone UK said: “It seems as a nation we’re desperate not to 
miss out on the latest gossip no matter what we’re up to. But this doesn’t mean you have to take a 
call even when you’re responding to the call of nature, having a romantic dinner or in bed. 
“Now Brits have unlimited calls, they don’t need to interrupt quality time with their partner to answer 
their phone as there’s no need to worry about the cost of returning a missed call. Even cutting a chat 
short when you do call back for fear of running out of inclusive minutes is now a thing of the past.” 
 
The study into modern phone use reveals the crucial role that mobile phones play in everyone’s lives with 90 per cent of people saying they had received a very important call on their mobile. Over 
a quarter said they had been given a job offer, nearly 15 per cent said they had been told about the birth of a child and one per cent even said they had been proposed to via their mobile phone. In 
London, the number of people who have been proposed to over the phone rose to more than 4%. 
 
The research also revealed while the majority of us have between one and 50 numbers in our phones, we only speak regularly to between five and ten of those people. It also emerged around 8 
out of 10 of us have numbers in our phone’s address book that we have never called. 
 
The research also examined why many of us choose to text rather than call. The results showed convenience, time, cost and bizarrely, how much we like the recipient of our text, all play a part, with 
teens most likely to go through this thought process when they get their phone out. 
 
But the research also showed that despite their love of texts, younger mobile phone users actually want to talk more often and would make more calls if they didn’t have to worry about the impact on 
their pocket. 
Srini Gopalan added: “It’s time to revive the art of conversation. People still want to talk but they want to do that without worrying about the cost. 
 
“We’ve seen from our research that the younger generation in particular would call more people more often and would talk for longer if cost wasn’t a factor. And there are clearly plenty of people in 
everyone’s address book that we don’t catch up with often enough. With Vodafone Red, mobile phone users can call whoever they want, whenever they want.” 

 

 

 

  

Check the availability and latest deals for Vodafone here

 

 

 

 

iPhone 5 Wi-Fi problems uncovered

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Complaints about the iPhone 5’s wireless broadband connectivity are mounting online, amid separate consumer concerns about the shortcomings of the new handset’s default mapping solution.

While by no means a universal problem, the Macrumors forum is awash with grousing from iPhone 5 owners attesting to slow internet access over Wi-Fi. Still others are reporting glitches with connecting to wireless at all.

The testimonies on Macrumors follow separate iKit-related Wi-Fi complaints on Boy Genius Report (BGR), which can be relatively easily amended by simply heading to Settings > General > Reset, which will clear your current cellular and Wi-Fi network settings.

However, interestingly these appear to relate to older generation iPhones and iPads, which have been updated to the new iOS 6 version of Apple’s operating system.

That suggests that what we’re dealing with here is a software problem rather than an Antennagate-style design flaw with the newest iPhone.

News of yet more customer flashpoints for Apple comes after strong criticism of Apple Maps, which replaces Google Maps in iOS 6. These relate mostly to howling inaccuracies, misspellings and in some cases whole towns that have gone AWOL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Game rolls out free wi-fi across UK stores

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GAME, the UK’s leading videogames retailer, today announced that in partnership with BT it will provide wi-fi access to its 341 UK stores, creating a new environment for gamers to interact and discover new titles.

The move will allow GAME to showcase its full range of gaming content both on-line and in-store, through a fully multi-channel, multi-platform shopping experience.

GAME customers will also be able download a free smartphone app in-store – via a QR code – giving them instant access to product reviews, videos, news and special offers whilst browsing in-store.

Together with live interactive demonstrations on its in-store consoles, this seamless shopping experience offers gamers the chance to research and experience products in even more depth before selecting their purchases.
The technological innovation is enabled by a BT wi-fi solution which will be rolled-out in time for the peak Christmas period.

Martyn Gibbs, CEO GAME Retail, said: “The introduction of in-store wi-fi signals a new level of customer experience and a major step towards achieving our vision of delivering excellence for the UK gaming community.

“Just as in the music and home movie market, online has revolutionised the way we discover and access new video games. As a company we are constantly evolving, listening to our customers and adapting our approach to deliver for them.”

Customers will be able to research products online before and during store visits to make a purchase. In-store wi-fi access allows them to continue and complete that journey, accessing product information, ratings and reviews to assist with their purchase.

Andy Baker, CEO BT Wi-fi, said: “According to Ofcom 39 per cent of adults now have a smartphone and they’re a crucial part of people’s shopping habits, especially for gamers. We are delighted to add GAME’s stores to the four million UK hotspots where our broadband customers already enjoy unlimited BT Wi-fi for free. In store wi-fi will give gamers access to all the information they need to buy there and then.”

BT Wi-fi is one of the biggest wi-fi networks in the world giving its broadband customers free access to over four million UK and two million overseas wi-fi hotspots as part of its broadband packages. Available at Starbucks, John Lewis stores, Hilton and Thistle hotels, Heineken pubs, city centres and millions of homes and independent businesses.

 

 

4G launching in the UK this year

peoples-phone-ee-launchEE (Everything Everywhere) will be launching the UK’s first 4G LTE network by the end of the year.

The cities to get LTE by the end of 2012 are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Southampton. 

This covers a third of the population and more areas will follow in 2013.

The new network will be called EE. Orange and T-Mobile tariffs will remain as they are for the time being.

High street stores will rebrand as EE this year, which implies that Orange and T-Mobile tariffs are likely to be consolidated into the EE name at some point.

The launch will be supported by five handsets: Nokia Lumia 920, Nokia Lumia 820, HTC One XL (LTE version of One X), Huawei Ascend P1 LTE and Samsung Galaxy S III LTE. It’s expected that the iPhone 5 will also join this list.

 EE will offer LTE mobile broadband with a Huawei USB dongle or MiFi device. This could be a real alternative to home broadband for some, depending on cost and whether LTE covers areas where fibre or a decent ADSL connection isn’t available. In addition, EE will offer a fixed line fibre product with an average 58.5Mbps. They will offer a discount to customers who take both products, as they do now with their ADSL and mobile packages.

 

Check the latest EE deals here.

 

 

BT and Premiership Rugby in exclusive live broadcast deal

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BT and Premiership Rugby today announced one of the biggest broadcast deals in the history of club rugby, signing a contract worth up to £152 million for a range of exclusive live rights over a four year period.

In a ground-breaking move for the club game in England, BT will have the exclusive live broadcast rights for four years to show Aviva Premiership Rugby and the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Sevens from the 2013-14 season. BT will also have exclusive live broadcast rights to matches played by Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs in any future European competitions from 2014-15 for three years.

Live Aviva Premiership matches are currently split between BSkyB and ESPN so the new deal means that from next season, rugby fans will be able to catch all of the excitement of the Aviva Premiership in one place with the bonus of additional live coverage from future European competitions from 2014.

“This is a game-changing agreement and will deliver a service that I know our club supporters will enjoy,” said Mark McCafferty, Chief Executive of Premiership Rugby, the umbrella organisation of the Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs.

“We are delighted to have concluded our discussions with such an ambitious partner that will help bring Premiership Rugby to new audiences.

“BT is a company at the cutting edge of technology and that is one of the reasons it makes them such an exciting broadcast partner for Premiership Rugby.

“We will develop a broad partnership. As well as showing the live games, BT will assist us in further upgrading the technical infrastructure of our clubs’ stadia and by building Community programmes with us.”

Marc Watson, BT Vision CEO added: “BT is delighted to have secured this deal. Rugby Union is entering a thrilling phase with the World Cup being staged here in 2015 and rugby returning to the Olympics in 2016. We plan to bring the excitement of the very best matches to as wide an audience as possible. We will also be bringing all of the action together in one place and will look to distribute it on a variety of platforms.”

“BT is serious about sport and this deal means we will be offering the very best rugby action alongside some of the most thrilling football matches from the Premier League. That is a winning combination and one that will appeal to fans of both sports.”

The agreement, which is worth up to £152m, covers:

Exclusive live broadcast rights to up to 69 matches per season from Aviva Premiership Rugby for four years starting from the 2013-14 season.

Exclusive live broadcast rights to matches from the entire J.P. Morgan Asset Management Sevens Series for four years starting from the 2013-14 season.

Exclusive live broadcast rights to matches of Aviva Premiership teams in any future European competitions for three years starting from the 2014-15 season.

 

 

 

 

 

Checkout the latest deals on BT TV here.

Cyber-thieves cash in on mobile phone fraud

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Cyber-thieves who target mobile phones are ramping up efforts to steal cash from victims, suggests a report.

In nine months viruses that steal cash have jumped from 29% of mobile malware to 62%, found the report by Lookout.

Mobile security firm Lookout said the growth was down to phone fraudsters industrialising their scams.

Viruses were getting on to phones via booby-trapped apps and through adverts and webpages harbouring malware, it said.

Kevin Mahaffey, head of technology at Lookout, said phone fraudsters were increasingly using viruses that surreptitiously added charges to a user’s bill to cash in.

Over the last few months, he said, Lookout had seen fraudsters stop experimenting with ways to steal cash and move on to large scale campaigns on networks where they knew they would succeed.

“Once they find a repeatable, scalable way to make money they try to get as big as possible,”. 

This meant, he said, that some territories had been hit hard by mobile malware once the fraudsters found a loophole to exploit. For instance, he said, in June this year 30-40% of those who signed up for Lookout’s security service in Russia already had malware on their phone.

China and India were also places that were suffering significant amounts of infection, he said.

Analysis by Lookout suggested that a small number of malware writers were behind the mobile viruses stealing cash.

Mobile viruses were being included in so-called crimeware kits, he said, sold to thieves with little technical knowledge that automate the process of stealing cash.

In addition, said Mr Mahaffey, Lookout was starting to see attacks that did not directly try to steal money from a phone. Instead, he said, they inserted a virus called “NotCompatible” on to a phone as a way to hide other nefarious activity.

“It turns your phone into a proxy for fraudulent behaviour,” he said.

A phone infected with the “NotCompatible” virus would have traffic piped to it that it would then be sent on to a target website, he said. In this way the true source of that traffic, the criminal, would be hidden.

Such a virus might be used to artificially inflate the popularity of an advert, a song on a music website to help generate a larger return for criminals.

Lookout based its conclusions on data gathered from its 20 million users as well as statistics from industry analysts.

 

Hidden mobile charges that could be buried in your bill

When Maria Dementieva, a 56-year-old doctor in Moscow, dials her husband’s mobile phone number, she hears music instead of a normal ringtone. It’s the same for him. What they don’t know is that this “service” costs them money, even though neither of them recalls subscribing to it.

 
Only when Mrs Dementieva calls her mobile phone network MTS, Russia’s largest mobile operator, does she find out that she is being charged for it: 42 roubles (80p; $1.30) a month.
 
When she complains that she never bought the service, the customer service representative calmly replies that yes, she did. She is experiencing the same issues as phone users in many other countries.
 
“Turns out that shortly after I had signed a contract with them, they sent me an SMS, informing me that I had this music added to my account and that it was free for the first month, but after that it was going to continue automatically with a monthly fee,” Mrs Dementieva says. “And to stop it, I had to call them and cancel it. 

But I only use my mobile for calls. It is not a smartphone, the screen is tiny and I am not tech-savvy, so I don’t read or send SMS.

“I guess I had received this text but I never read it. And I certainly did not know I was being charged for it.”
 
Two of Russia’s other big telecom operators, Megafon and Beeline, have similar services. Such practices have enraged users, and Russian online forums are peppered with angry comments from customers claiming that the services they never chose to have are costing them dearly.
 
One blogger, Roman, writes that he bought an MTS Sim card to use for web access only – and still got charged for phone ringtones.
 
MTS declined to comment.
 

In the UK, industry watchdog Phonepayplus states that users “must not be charged for premium rate services without their consent” – and evidence of consent is required. 

“Where consumers are accessing high-cost subscription services, we have a system of double opt-in to make certain that they understand the full cost of the service,” says Patrick Guthrie, director of strategy and communications at PhonepayPlus.
 

To avoid hidden charges, Mr Guthrie says people should always read the terms and conditions in any advert.
 
“Once you’ve seen how a service works and what it will cost, then make up your mind about taking part,” he says. “Be wary of ‘free’ offers or fabulous prizes. If something looks too good to be true, it probably will be. If you’re signed up to a subscription service on your mobile but want to quit, simply send the word STOP to the service number.”
 
The organisation says that teenagers are especially likely to click on a service that promises to be free, such as a trendy ringtone, but do not read terms and conditions – until their parents discover a hefty charge on the monthly bill.

PhonepayPlus has even set up a website called PhoneBrain to educate young people about the potential pitfalls of owning a mobile.
 
When people move from a normal mobile phone to a smartphone, many may not realise that there are a lot of extra hidden fees, says analyst Carolina Milanesi from research firm Gartner. “People should be aware that smartphone apps that are left active keep pushing content to the [phone], which may result in extra charges,” she says. “I am not sure consumers necessarily realise that and this is especially true for users who suddenly have to deal with a device that is more clever than they thought. This can easily be avoided by making clear that the app is using the mobile network, something that most apps already do. Other things like backing up photos or files can also be set up, as well as working over wi-fi in order to avoid charges. Maps used when roaming are another source of cost when those maps cannot be downloaded beforehand.”
 

In the United States, millions of customers find unauthorised fees from third-party firms on their phone bills, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a government agency. This is known as “cramming,” because these phony charges are “crammed” among many items on a monthly bill and may be hard to spot. Customers end up paying for services they have never signed up for, ranging from ringtones, horoscopes and music downloads to yoga classes and diet plans.
 

Landline cramming affects 15 to 20 million US households, says the FTC – and now mobile phone scams are becoming a real issue too.
 
According to a US Senate inquiry completed in 2011, cramming costs American consumers about $2bn a year, and only one in 20 realises they have been scammed. The report states that leading US telecom companies Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink/Quest are not only aware of the issue, but pocket millions from allowing cramming charges on their bills. Although there is no legislation yet to deal with cramming, the FTC recommends “that wireless providers be required to offer consumers the ability to block third-party charges, and to make this option clear to consumer”.
 
Both AT&T and Verizon have recently promised to limit the ability of third-party firms to put charges on their bills. Back home in Moscow, Mrs Dementieva is happy she no longer has to pay for something she never chose to have.
And in future, she says, she’ll keep a closer eye on her monthly bill and on incoming texts. Even if she has to read them on her handset’s tiny screen.