Apple in talks with Foursquare help to improve Maps using local data

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Apple is reportedly in discussion with Foursquare for a collaboration that could see the companies enter a landmark data sharing deal.

According to “people familiar with the talks” cited by The Wall Street Journal, the iGiant is in an early stage of negotiations with the location-based social network to gain access to valuable local data in a bid to enhance its much-derided proprietary Maps application.

The talks are set to have taken place in recent weeks and involve Apple’s senior vice president of internet services and software, Eddy Cue. It is thought Apple wants Foursquare support to be baked right into iOS, much like with Twitter and Facebook.

Although exact details are still thin on the ground, smart money is on the ability to check in to places without launching the Foursquare app, possibly from within the notifications centre.

Apple has already added support for local directory service Yelp in iOS 6, but Foursquare’s ‘Explore’ feature, which recommends nearby places, is perhaps more appealing to users.

News of developments come hot on the heels of Google’s announcement that its all-new, standalone Maps app for iOS has been downloaded a whopping 10 million times in just two days of entering the App Store.

Apple Maps, which replaced Google Maps as the default mapping solution in iOS 6, has come under intense scrutiny for an embarrassing level of inaccuracies, whereby locations are often misplaced, misspelt or missing entirely.

The company’s CEO Tim Cook has already apologised for the blunder and has promised “a huge plan” to improve it. Whether Foursquare integration is part of that plan is something only time will tell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Android mobiles hit by spamming computer virus

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Cyber-thieves are using games including Angry Birds to turn Android phones into spam-sending drones.
 
Phones have been infected with spam-forwarding software that hid inside free versions of popular Android games. Once installed, the booby-trapped app contacts a web server for a list of phone numbers then starts sending junk text messages to them.
 
Angry Birds Space, Need for Speed Most Wanted and many other games have been used in the attack.
 
The first stage of the campaign to recruit phones to act as spam relays. It involved sending out thousands of messages supposedly offering people free versions of popular Android games, said network security firm Cloudmark in an analysis of the SpamSoldier attack.
 
The copies of the games were held on a server in China rather than on the main Google Play store, it said. After the app is downloaded users must disable some safeguards, grant the app permission to install and give it the ability to browse the web or send texts messages before it will run.
 
Once installed the app removes its icon from a phone’s main screen and then contacts a central server for a list of target phone numbers. It then starts sending out spam messages in a bid to trick more people into downloading and installing the rogue app. Other spam messages sent via infected phones falsely told people they had won a gift card.
 
In a separate analysis mobile security firm Lookout said SpamSoldier worked hard to hide its activity by editing outgoing message logs to hide the junk texts being sent. In addition, it also looks for responses from the numbers it spammed to prevent victims finding out about its presence. So far, said security firms, the number of phones infected remained low but junk texts sent by infected phones were starting to pop up on all US carriers. Cloudmark said whoever was behind the attack had recently ramped up their use of it. Now, it said, it was seeing more than 500,000 junk texts per day being sent through infected Android phones.
 
“This sort of attack changes the economics of SMS spam, as the spammer no longer has to pay for the messages that are sent,” said analyst Andrew Conway at Cloudmark. ” Now that we know it can be done, we can expect to see more more complex attacks that are harder to take down.”
 
Ciaran Bradley, head of handset security at Adaptive Mobile, said growing numbers of spammers were adopting this tactic. “We’ve also seen the spammers try to spread the infection by advertising free adult videos featuring a well-known reality TV star,” he said. “. It illustrates the lengths spammers will go to to ensure their messages are delivered and to avoid detection.”
 
To help protect themselves, Android owners were urged to be wary of unexpected messages that offer free versions of apps which are usually sold.
 

British workers say “give me the gossip but hands off my mug”

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Gossip and the occasional treat are the most commonly shared items across British workplaces, but
more personal items such as coffee mugs are off limits, according to a new survey of the nation’s
sharing habits at work. And while the end of year festive season is traditionally seen as a time for
goodwill, many British workers say it has no effect on their willingness to share.

The survey was conducted by YouGov on behalf of Vodafone to support Vodafone Data Sharer,
which enables businesses to save money by sharing their mobile internet allowance across
employees and devices. Over 1,000 workers were questioned in the survey and almost half (46%)
said the things they most share with colleagues was treats such as sweets. Gossip is a close
second with 45% saying they like to engage in a quick chat. Workers in Scotland and the East of
England are the top gossipers with 61% and 52% of workers surveyed, respectively, saying they like
to share a good gossip.

Food is the most contentious item, with 31% saying their lunch would be one of the top three things
they would least like to share, closely followed by an equal aversion to sharing a favourite coffee
mug (30%). People in Scotland (41%) said they have the biggest gripe when it comes to other
people borrowing their mug.

Christmas is traditionally seen as a time for sharing, but across Britain’s workplace the Christmas
spirit has yet to take hold, according to the survey. Of the 1,153 workers polled, 75% said they
wouldn’t be more likely to share just because it was Christmas. Workers in LondoN, perhaps
surprisingly, were most likely to share more things over the festive period (23%), compared with any
other region. In Scotland, for example, 82% of workers said Christmas did not make them more
likely to do it.

Chocolates (62%) were the most likely item distributed by those workers who would be more likely 
to share things over Christmas, followed by mince pies on 39%. Less than one-fifth (17%) of 
Christmas sharers, however, would split a bottle of champagne at their work Christmas party. 
 
Relationship psychologist and self-help author Corinne Sweet, best known for her work on Big 
Brother comments: “During tough economic times people are a bit more wary about sharing things 
of monetary value (food, wine), or sharing due to health implications (like mugs, earphones, even 
kisses), as they need to stay healthy to keep working. The economic gloom and doom has 
dampened our generosity somewhat as a nation. However, increased prudence has also meant we are aware of sharing things which are precious, and stretch resources more thoughtfully today.” 
 
Peter Boucher, Enterprise Marketing Director at Vodafone UK adds: “We know from working with British businesses every day that people are actually becoming increasingly open to sharing in the 
workplace, demonstrated by their willingness to adopt new working styles, including sharing a desk. 
 
Using tools like Vodafone Data Sharer, workers can collaborate even more and businesses can make the most of their resources by pooling data allowances amongst employees and devices. But 
Britain’s workers shouldn’t be worried: introducing more flexible ways of working through tools such as Vodafone Data Sharer shouldn’t mean they have to share personal things like their mug if they 
don’t want to!” 
 

 

 

  

Check the availability and latest deals for Vodafone here

 

 

 

 

Google Maps returns to iPhone

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Google Maps has returned to iOS devices in the form of an official downloadable app, after Apple’s own mapping software came in for heavy criticism from users.

Apple replaced Google Maps as the iPhone’s default mapping solution with the arrival of the iOS 6 software back in June. The move was seen as a pointed snub to the company behind the rival Android operating system and part of Apple’s longer-term strategy to reduce its reliance on Google-created apps.

In the meantime, iPhone owners have had to rely on the inferior Apple Maps software, which was low on germane layers of information and, although now much improved, was found to be riddled with inaccuracies at the outset.

Today’s good news is that Google Maps is back and available now as a free download from the App Store. And it’s much improved from the web-based app and even the native app before it got the chop.

Not least because now present and correct is turn-by-turn navigation, vector maps and panoramic images of the indoors of buildings that are agreed to be part of Google’s Street View Business Photos service – all of which were previously exclusive to Android phones.

In a characteristically protectionist move, Apple had at one stage been expected to block the sale of a Google Maps app through the App Store. The decision to allow its competitor back in is being seen by some as a tacit admission that Apple Maps will take years of information-harvesting and improvements before it is a worthy rival.

The return of Google Maps comes after Nokia recently brought its equivalent, the imaginatively named Nokia HERE Maps, to the iPhone earlier this year, as mapping software becomes a harder-fought battleground among phone-makers keen to capture market and mind share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Little Pony mobile phone game in-app payment row

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Complaints have prompted mobile phone game developer Gameloft to reduce the cost of playing My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

The “freemium” game is free to play or gamers can pay to progress faster. But some players say it can take years to finish without spending cash.

Campaigners worry about the number of such freemium games aimed at children.

But Gameloft said the complaints were from older users known as “bronies”, not from children or their parents.

A “brony” is the term used to describe the adult fans of the My Little Pony game and of the TV show of the same title.

The game can be downloaded free from Apple’s App store or the Android equivalent, Google Play.

It involves building and managing the town of Ponyville. Despite being free, players have the option to pay to progress faster, using the game’s premium currency, gems.

The last pony, needed to finish the game, used to cost 500 gems – the equivalent of £34 ($44) – and some users complained on forums that it was extremely difficult and took too long to get the amount of gems required without paying.

“Looking at the ponies it seems it would take over 100 dollars in cash to unlock everything, which seems utterly ridiculous,” said one player, pinkuchuu, on a web forum.

The complaints were first described in an article on technology blog CNET, which was then approached by Gameloft.

Lewis Digby from Gameloft’s UK branch told the BBC the company responded to comments of “a selected few hardcore older fans of My Little Pony who were wanting to progress through the game very quickly”.

He said the company dropped the price for the most expensive pony, Rainbow Dash, from 500 gems to 50 gems (£5, $8). But he added that the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic game had had excellent feedback from its main audience, young girls.

“People confuse free games and freemium,” he said. “We are not creating free games here, these are games with a free access, but we have to sell in-game content if we want to be profitable. But you can enjoy our games for free – it’s about giving our customers the option. It’s up to them to decide if they want to play more regularly and progress through the game quicker. They can pay for in-game content, but you can enjoy it very much without paying anything.”

Marc Gander of the Consumer Action Group said that it was not uncommon to see costs pop up in mobile games for children that parents at first thought were free.

“I think that any parent who is suddenly faced with having to say ‘No’ to their child or else foot the bill for what they thought was a free game would be justified in feeling that they had been mugged,” he said.

Earlier this year, Apple was sued by parents over another freemium app, Smurfs’ Village, arguing that it was too easy to rack up huge bills on iPhones without parents’ consent. The case is still active.

 

 

WhatsApp denies Facebook takeover rumours

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WhatsApp, the hugely popular cross-platform instant messaging service has brushed aside recent chatter that it’s going to be acquired by social network giant Facebook.

Last week, a Techcrunch report citing unnamed sources claimed that Facebook has been in talks with WhatsApp over the possibility of a takeover, which, if it happened, would be as monumental a purchase as Instagram, which was snapped up in summer for some $700 million (initially $1 billion).

However, Whatsapp has already rejected the claim in a statement to AllThingsD.

“The TechCrunch article is a rumor and not factually accurate. We have no further information to share at the moment.”

Zuckerberg and co, were more cryptic in their response, stating simply: “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

Takeover rumours are nothing new in the tech industry and are naturally denied by the companies involved. Sadly, TechCrunch’s tipsters didn’t provide any specifics as to what stage the negotiations were supposed to be at or what sort of value Facebook thinks WhatsApp is worth, which made the rumours less believable.

We suppose the billion-dollar question is whether it makes any sense for Facebook to buy WhatsApp, considering it has its own Facebook Messenger service, albeit not nearly as popular as WhatsApp, which serves a whopping 10 billion messages per day.

So, yes it makes sense that Facebook might want a share of that massive instant messaging pie. But it also makes sense for WhatsApp to carry on as it is and become a dominant industry force by its own right.

Only time will tell whatever may or may not be happening behind the curtains. For now, the official word is that it’s all a bit of hogwash.