Apple Releases Public iMessage Beta for OS X

I love using iMessage and one functionality that it lacked was the ability to sync with your Mac, but now Apple has changed that. In addition to today’s OS X Mountain Lion news, Apple has released a public beta version of its new Messages app for OS X for existing users. About time, don’t you think? iMessage was one of the biggest features of iOS 5, and it allows users to chat across multiple devices using the same interface that’s used for SMSes. Something which Android still lacks till this day. The best part? While SMS costs additional money, iMessage does not. It is offered for free!

OS X Messages

The new Messages app includes the features of iChat and FaceTime and adds compatibility with the features of iMessage introduced for iOS last year. You can download Apple’s iMessage beta for free via their download page. It should be noted that you need to make sure the latest version of OS X is running on your Mac. The app also supports AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber accounts.

Download Messages Beta and get a taste of what’s coming in OS X Mountain Lion. When you install Messages, it replaces iChat. But iChat services will continue to work. And Messages brings iMessage to the Mac — just like on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch running iOS 5. Here are the features you can expect with Messages:

– Send unlimited iMessages to any Mac, iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.
– Start an iMessage conversation on your Mac and continue it on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.
– Send photos, videos, attachments, contacts, locations, and more.
– Launch a FaceTime video call and bring the conversation face-to-face.
– Messages supports iMessage, AIM, Yahoo!, Google Talk, and Jabber accounts.

I have been using the app for a few hours now and it is incredibly simple to use and simply awesome. Like I said, about time!

Dark Legends MMORPG Trailer Teaser Video

A MMORPG game called Dark Legends is all set to be released for iOS, and in 2012 and we have a teaser video trailer of the game for you.

Dark Legends

In Dark Legends Players will embrace the secret societies of vampires to challenge the hordes of undead, werewolves, demons and humans that hunt them. Dark Legends opens with the player recently raised and under the direction of the vampire that sired them. The secret existence of vampires has been exposed and angry, misguided humans are uniting to exterminate the undead plague by any means necessary. Players must work with their clan to survive this brutal new world.

I stand weightless at the mouth of Gallows’ Alley. My enemies tremble before me – cornered, clutching their sacred totems, frantic as they load their weapons and stammer their song of hope.

The Thirst rages in my veins… but I remain patient. Eons of training under Sofia and Lord Ulrich keep the bloodlust from consuming me. The Blood is strong. But, in me, the Blood is disciplined. My Blood is a weapon.

The Blood knows when the moment is right. I soar forward, high above the stones. I fly into my enemies’ reach. Defiant. Crimson razor shears in my hands bounce streaks of moonlight onto the stone walls. A shimmer flashes across the Hunters’ faces. They raise their weapons – slowly, like blood crawling through snow.

They scream…

Dark Legends is set to be released in Q1 of 2012 for iOS, Android and Google Chrome. You can watch the trailer of the Dark Legends game in the embedded video below after the jump.

Path, Hipster, and Several Other Mobile Apps Caught Uploading Contact List without Permission

Last year, Facebook’s mobile apps received flak for uploading numbers of cell phone contacts without intimating the user. Unfortunately, it now appears that this practise is a lot more prevalent than most of us could have anticipated.

Earlier today, Arun Thampi discovered that the new social network Path is also doing pretty much the same thing. He made this startling discovery by snooping on the API requests made by Path’s iOS app with the help of a man-in-the-middle proxy tool. Thampi found that as soon as you create a new account or log into Path’s iOS app, your entire contact list is uploaded to its servers. Everything including your contacts’ name, email address, and phone number is silently uploaded over HTTPS, and there is nothing you can do about it.

Soon after, Mark Chang uncovered that location sharing social network Hipster also grabs your contact list. However, Hipster is even more callous with your personal data. It transmits email addresses from your phone’s address book to its servers without even bothering to encrypt them.

Path-Uploading-Contact-List
Path uploading user’s address book

After the news broke, Path’s CEO Dave Morin apologized to users and offered the following statement.

We actually think this is an important conversation and take this very seriously. We upload the address book to our servers in order to help the user find and connect to their friends and family on Path quickly and efficiently as well as to notify them when friends and family join Path. Nothing more.

We believe that this type of friend finding & matching is important to the industry and that it is important that users clearly understand it, so we proactively rolled out an opt-in for this on our Android client a few weeks ago and are rolling out the opt-in for this in 2.0.6 of our iOS Client, pending App Store approval.

As Morin explains, social networking apps like Path have a valid reason for requiring access to your address book. However, there is simply no excuse for failing to intimate the user about the same. Heck, Path and Hipster doesn’t even mention this in their FAQ, which most services use for covering their back while performing shady activities. The good thing is that Path has already rectified its mistake. In the latest version of its Android app, contact upload is opt-in, and the iPhone users will also get the same treatment as soon as Apple approves the latest update. Meanwhile, if you don’t want Path to have a copy of your phone book, you can request the deletion of data from its servers by sending a mail to [email protected]

Update: Path 2.0.6 for iOS is now available in the App Store.

As I mentioned upfront, this practice is way more widespread than any of us could have imagined. Hacker News readers have already identified the same behavior in Beluga and Kik Messenger. Earlier today, Aurora Feint got delisted from the App Store for transmitting address book as plain text. However, with Feint, at least this is strictly opt-in.

Address book is something most users treat as extremely sensitive information, and it’s high time that the industry realizes that. Android does notify the user during installation, if the app accesses the address book. However, most users simply don’t have the habit of paying attention to the “Permissions” screen while installing apps. Moreover, there is no reason to conclude that if an app is reading contact data, it is uploading the same to its servers without permission. On the other hand, Apple, which often positions its App Store as more secure, gives apps full access to the address book without even requiring any additional permission.

One thing that Morin is right about is that this is an extremely important conversation. Hopefully, people will not just move on after expressing their knee-jerk reaction. An iOS app called MobileSubstrate that will alert users every time an app tries to access the phonebook is already under development for jailbroken devices. Ideally though, Apple and Google should take responsibility, and do a better job at protecting the user’s privacy. Perhaps, they should even consider changing their APIs to force apps into explicitly seeking permission before accessing the address book.

Osmos HD and Resident Evil 4 Now Available For Android; Angry Birds Season Gets An Update

In the last week, quite a few Android games got updated and a couple of popular games landed on the Market as well.

Firstly, the all popular and highly addictive Osmos HD is now available for Android handsets and tablets. The iOS version of the game has won the Game Of Year award from Wired, 148Apps, Apple and more. The game supports multi-touch, and has a unique physics based gameplay. The developer is also celebrating the launch of the game by releasing the game at a sale price of $2.99. Here is the link to purchase the game from Android Market.

In other Android gaming related news, Rovio has released an update for Angry Birds Season. The theme of the new update is ‘Year of the Dragon’ and celebrates the spirit of Chinese New Year. The Mighty Eagle has transformed into Mighty Dragon and is available for free to everyone for this particular episode. The Year of the Dragon update for Angry Birds Season can be downloaded from here.

The biggest gaming related news in the Android ecosystem is the release of Resident Evil 4 for the OS. This is the first game of the franchise to be available for Android OS. Sadly, the game is not available for all Android handset owners to download. At the moment, the game is available only for the LG 4G LTE U+ handset owners to download. Hopefully, the exclusivity period of the game will end soon and the developers will release it on the Android Market for all Android owners to enjoy.

iPhone 4S & iPad 2 Untethered iOS 5.0.1 Jailbreak Available

Jailbreakers rejoice, the long awaited and highly anticipated untethered jailbreak for iOS 5.0.1 on the iPhone 4S and iPad 2 is finally available.

It was only a few days ago that the first untethered iOS 5.0.1 jailbreak was shown off on video. It was functional, but declared to still be in testing. Fast forward just 4 days later, and a public release is available for all to download. The Chronic Dev team have announced they have packaged the exploits that allow execution of unsigned code (code named Absinthe A5) into a working untethered jailbreak. Both the iPhone 4S (GSM and CDMA variants), as well as the iPad 2 (GSM, CDMA and Wi-Fi only variants) are targeted and supported in this release.

It took a mass of crash reports, over 10 million, and almost 10 months of work for the team to find an entry point and exploit the new A5 chip. The exploit consists of a series of both userland and kernel level exploits that were dubbed ‘corona’.  The name comes from a vulnerability that was in Apple’s IPSec IKE daemon, named ‘racoon’. Although the app released today, for jailbreaking current iPhone 4S and iPad 2 devices, is only available for Mac OS X users, there is a placeholder for Windows and Linux users. Their respective applications will likely be available soon and will be as simple as a point and click.

In addition to the tools being released, the “iOS Hacking Dream Team” has spawned. It consists of members from the Chronic Dev team (posixninja, pod2g and nikias) and the iPhone-dev team (planetbeing). Both teams have donation pages to thank them for their work and provide funds for hardware upgrades to ensure future devices can be jailbroken.

iOS 5.1 Beta 3 Suggests That Apple is Planning Deep Facebook Integration

With the introduction of iOS 5, Apple deeply integrated Twitter into iOS. This deep integration allows users to easily sign into Twitter and tweet from anywhere through a built in iOS app. Now, new evidence suggests that iOS 5.1 will add deep integration for Facebook as well.

A recent discovery in the third beta of iOS 5.1, made by iMore suggests that Apple could indeed add deep Facebook integration into a future operating system update. In one screenshot shown for the iOS Contacts application, there is an option to enter a person’s Facebook username right below their Twitter account. The beta build of iOS 5.1 also reportedly includes references to new iPad models named “J1AP” and “J2AP.” Judging by the way Twitter is integrated into iOS, Facebook integration may work the same way and offer similar functionality. This would make it easier for users to share information with their friends on to Facebook.

Facebook iOS 5 beta

In fact, system-wide Twitter integration is one of the most-touted features of iOS 5, which was made available to the public last October. After its release, signups for Twitter grew more than three times.

iPhone 4S iOS 5.0.1 Untethered Jailbreak Shown Off

If you’ve been waiting for your precious iPhone 4S to receive a jailbreak, you’ll need to keep waiting just a bit longer.

Affiliate and member of the Chronic Dev Team, pod2g and DHowitt, have posted a video showing the successful jailbreak of iOS 5.0.1 on the newest iPhone 4S hardware. While owners of previous generation devices such as the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone 4 and 3GS have had a jailbreak for 5.0.1 for a few weeks now, the newer A5 chip proved to be a bit more difficult.

The video shows off an iPhone 4S running iOS 5.0.1, complete with Siri, powered on and off after having been jailbroken. With full access to Cydia and an untethered restart, it’s a fully functional and end-user ready jailbreak. Hopefully the exploit can be packaged into the currently available tools and released once it’s been fully tested.

Be sure to watch the official page for a release by the Chronic Dev Team. It’s also highly likely that the iPhone-dev team will also have their tools updated with the new exploit for eager jailbreakers soon.

Apple Will Earn More Than Half of the Total Mobile App Download Revenue in 2012

Apple has always generated the highest profits in any industry it has operated in. It commands only a small share of the global smartphone market, but takes away more than half of the total profits, while its competitors struggle to sell inexpensive, low-margin devices.

Apple has been one of the first-movers when it comes to mobile apps, and has over 500,000 apps in the iOS App Store now. It has generated more revenue for its developer base than any other platform, and continues to be more lucrative than Google’s Android for developers. According to a report by Strategy Analytics, Apple generated more than 60% of the total revenue from paid mobile app downloads in 2010, and will continue to generate more than half of the total revenues in 2012 and 2013.

Mobile App Revenue

Android will generate more than 20% of the total mobile app download revenue, while other platforms like Windows Phone, Blackberry and Symbian will generate the remainder. The mobile app market is set to explode in the next five years, as the number of smartphones and tablets sold increase, and the virtual goods market expands. Apple and Google are currently positioned to make the most of it.

“The introduction of tablets from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and a renewed push for Windows Phone ensure an intensifying battle for the third horse in the apps ecosystem race. Unlike paid downloads that offer one time payment, virtual goods allow developers to earn recurring revenue from heavily used apps making the business opportunity appealing. Despite the importance of virtual goods, few platforms beyond the leaders have stepped up. Thus, Android and Apple may well dominate into the future,” said Josh Martin, Director of Apps Research at Strategy Analytics

Samsung Launches ChatON Messenger on iOS App Store

Samsung, which has been competing with Apple in the smartphone and tablet market, is now challenging Apple on its own turf. It has launched the Samsung ChatON instant messaging service on the iOS App Store, making it available to iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users.

It offers features like IM, group chat, image sharing, video sharing, location sharing and other stuff.

Samsung had initially launched ChatON on its own Android and Bada phones in August, but then made it available on the Android Market in October. It is quite popular and has racked up over half a million downloads there. It is now present on the two most popular mobile platforms, and unlike iMessage or BBM, it’s a multi-platform messenger app.

It also works with feature phones. Samsung has announced that it will be launching ChatON on Windows Phone and Blackberry soon. It will compete mainly with WhatsApp, the most popular multi-platform IM app and Kik.

Download Samsung ChatON on iTunes: Samsung ChatON

You can check out more details about Samsung ChatON here: Samsung Unveils The ChatON Messenger

Samsung ChatON iOS

Windows Phone Updates Are Now Completely Opaque

Windows Phone Opaque

Windows Phone behind a frosted glass

After the “NoDo” update mess, the Windows Phone engineering team took a major u-turn and did several things right. They became more transparent by having a blog and a site dedicated to providing the latest status of a certain update by carrier, by phone model, by country/geography. Secondly, they got together with the OEMs and the carriers to do a coordinated deployment of the first major update, Windows Phone 7.5 (codename Mango).

So, why do I say they have become opaque? This afternoon, over at the Windows Blog, Eric Hautala, General Manager of Customer Experience Engineering announced that going forward they are going to discontinue the constant, weekly updates they were putting out on the blog. Instead, they will provide news of updates on the main Windows Phone blog. Also, that this update (and presumably others, going forward) is going to be up to the carriers to request from Microsoft and provide to end users.

The update, available to all carriers that request it, is part of our ongoing maintenance of Windows Phone

What? The carriers have to request the update? Why would they? If they request the update, they’d have to run a long test cycle to validate the update. Then they’d have to roll it out to their users. It takes a lot of engineering effort on the part of the carriers to undertake these tests. Why would they, unless it is a huge issue like a major security vulnerability or if phones are becoming useless (“bricked”)? Absolutely no reason.

Microsoft has to push the carriers (and OEMs) to push the updates to the phones that are impacted. Sometimes not all phones on all carriers are impacted, but instead of relying on the carriers to request the update, Microsoft should be the one pushing the carriers to force the updates to the users. Unfortunately, unlike Apple, which treats you and I as their customers, Microsoft treats the carriers as their customers. That is not to say that the end customer is irrelevant to Microsoft, but clearly, the customers that pay Microsoft are the carriers and the OEMs.

I have mocked Android before, for being extremely slow in updating phones, but in that case at least, Google has admittedly washed their hands off the entire process by making Android free to use. Their argument could very well be that they have no control over the OEMs and therefore, it is futile to push the carriers who may have to do even longer testing because of the large variety of Android phones that are available. In Microsoft’s case though, all OEMs are known because it is a not a free license. The updates could be coordinated, as we saw in the case of “Mango”, among the various OEMs and carriers. That they have made a conscious decision not to mandate the carriers, shows that behind the scenes, something has changed politically which has led to this decision.

I am disappointed at these moves: first, the move to let the carriers request the update, but second and more importantly, the lack of the detailed communication regarding various updates, going forward. So, going forward, it will not only be unclear if you will receive the update, but also, you won’t know how far along your specific carrier is with the update deployment.

I can only imagine that the transparency did not go down well with Microsoft’s partners since it clearly exposed the OEMs (Samsung in particular) and carriers (Telefonica is an example) which were holding up the updates. However, the end user is the one who gets the short end of the stick here – not because they don’t receive the update, most normal customers don’t even care – mostly because their phone experience suffers. In the most recent update, there is an annoying, oft-occurring bug which has been fixed (“disappearing keyboard”). If AT&T does not pick it up and push the update out in the next few weeks, this Windows Phone user will definitely start watching the next iPhone rumors more closely.