Tag Archives: Mobile News

Opera Mobile 12 Introduces Hardware Acceleration and Enhanced HTML5 Support

Opera Mobile for Android has been updated to introduce many of the shiny new features of Opera 11.6 and 12 to the mobile platform. The most visible change is the new “Infinite Speed Dial”, which supports bookmaking of as many websites as you want. Previously, you were limited to only 9 speed dials (visual bookmarks) in Opera Mobile. However, the biggest enhancements in Opera Mobile 12 are all under the hood improvements.

Opera-Mobile-12

Opera Mobile 12 features the Ragnarök HTML5 parser that was introduced in its desktop counterpart a few months back. Opera promises better web apps and increased compatibility with websites with the new parser. Native webcam support and device orientation detection specifications of HTML5 have also been implemented. As a result, Opera Mobile 12 now scores a whopping 354 points on HTML5Test.com. Chrome for Android, which supports only ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich), and Safari for iOS score 343 and 305 points respectively. Head over to shinydemos.com to check out the fancy new capabilities of Opera Mobile 12 and compare it with your mobile browser.

Opera Mobile 12 also does WebGL, which even Chrome for Android doesn’t support. WebGL is a graphics library that leverages the GPU (graphics processing unit) of a device to render complex 3D graphics in a web browser. “Opera have contributed significantly to the development of the WebGL specification and now Opera Mobile is playing a leading role in the roll-out of GPU-accelerated WebGL on Android,” said Neil Trevett, Khronos president and vice president of mobile content at NVIDIA.

Opera-Mobile-12-Speed-Test

Opera has always focused on trying to be available on as many platforms and in as many form factors as possible. In that spirit, Opera has also released lab builds of Opera Mobile that are optimized for MIPS and Intel architectures. MIPS is expected to be powering several low-cost Android tablets in the coming months. On the other hand, Intel is desperate to challenge ARM’s dominance in the mobile market, and will have a number of device launches across the budget spectrum in 2012. “Intel looks forward to a bright future with Android on Intel Atom processors,” remarked Doug Fisher, Vice President of the Software and Services Group and General Manager of the Systems Software Division at Intel.

Opera Mobile 12 for Android is available for download from the Market.

Opera Acquires Two More Mobile Advertising Networks

The Norwegian browser maker Opera Software, which had an excellent Q4 2011, has acquired two mobile advertising networks – Mobile Theory Inc. and 4th Screen Advertising, Ltd. The company expects the new purchases to “significantly expand its offering to advertisers and mobile publishers”.

Opera-Ad-Network

Back in 2010, Opera entered the booming mobile advertising arena with the acquisition of AdMarvel for $8 million in cash. Soon after, Opera launched Open Mobile Ad Exchange, which helps monetize Opera Mini and Opera Mobile by inserting ads into partner websites.

AdMarvel is already having a significant positive impact on Opera’s bottom line. By the end of 4Q11, mobile advertisements delivered by AdMarvel reached more than 130 million consumers across more than 7,000 mobile applications and websites around the world. This represents an impressive 134% year-on-year increase. During the same period, Opera’s revenue in the mobile publisher (Opera Mobile Store) and advertiser area (AdMarvel and Opera Mobile Ad Exchange) grew over 200%.

The new acquisitions will help Opera sign up more publishers and advertisers by increasing the reach of its mobile ad network. 4th Screen Advertising is focused on UK and other European countries, and its advertiser clients include Coke, Barclaycard, Direct Line, Green Flag, Disney, Natwest, Warner Bros, Nokia and more. On the other hand, Mobile Theory is more US oriented, and has clients like Microsoft, Chevrolet and Coca-Cola.

“This is yet another important step in Opera’s quest to create even more economic value in the mobile ecosystem. Two years ago, we announced the acquisition of AdMarvel – which has grown to become the global leader as a supply-side platform (publisher platform) for mobile advertising. Last year, Opera helped generate well over $200 million in revenue for our publishers globally,” said Lars Boilesen, CEO, Opera Software.

Opera will shell out $5 million in cash upfront to each of the companies, with $16 million being put in escrow ($13 million for Mobile Theory and $3 million for 4th Screen). Amount from the escrow will be paid out to the sellers in 2012 and 2013 based on revenue performance targets. Additionally, MT and 4th Screen can earn up to $32 million and $6.5 million respectively in earn-out cash for fulfilling aggressive 2012 and 2013 revenue and EBIT targets.

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.

What’s new in Skype 5.8

Skype 5.8 was released last week. There was a buzz of activity as Microsoft released an update to the Windows version of Skype. This bodes well for the direction that their partnership is taking.  If you had enabled  the option to check for the latest version enabled (under Help > Check for Updates), then you will  receive notifications about the latest version.

You can also download the latest version here.

HD video calling

A wonderful new world of clear video chat is open for all those who have atleast 2 Mbps download speeds. They have also specified that you would need to own an HD camera like the Logitech C920 webcam.

 Group screen sharing

You can share your screen or a single application window with other members in a conference call. Check this option under “+” > Share my screen. Unfortunately, group video conference is still not free. I prefer Google+ hangout over this. However, there is no question that Skype rules if quality matters.

Audio and video calling for Facebook friends

My favorite new feature that allows you to call your friends on Facebook even if they are not on Skype.

Push to Talk

It has hot keys that enable the microphone. Check out this option under Tools > Options > Advanced > Hotkeys. This feature is supposed to be useful for gamers who can use it to mute or unmute the microphone.

Bing Bar Integration

This is the fruit of the set up between Microsoft and Skype. This feature has not been elaborated in their release notes.

End Note

As usual, Skype has the “automatically sign into skype option” enabled. This can be removed under under Tools > Options > General Settings.

Do not forget the upcoming Windows Phone 8 (aka Apollo) that will include great new features like NFC (Near Field Communication), Data Smart (to prioritize Wifi connections), will no doubt have Skype strongly wrapped up in the package too. The new Windows Phone OS is quite amazing already. Having arrived late into the mobile industry, it is very important that Microsoft differentiates its products very definately.

 

Samsung Galaxy S3 Rumored to Come in May, 3D Version in the Pipeline

Samsung-GalaxyLast week, we learnt that the eagerly awaited Galaxy S3 won’t be making an appearance at the Mobile World Congress, which will be held in Barcelona towards the end of this month. However, we were hopeful that the latest and greatest Galaxy device will hit the shelves before the end of first half of 2012. Now, South Korea’s Electronic Times News has published a new report that backs this up.

ET News believes that the first quad-core powered behemoth from Samsung will be released in May. As you might expect from Samsung, there are multiple variations of the Galaxy device in the pipeline, including a 3D version and one with a touch pen. ET also divulged some of the other specifications of the Galaxy S3. The S3 will feature an 8 megapixel rear and a 2 megapixel front camera, SAMOLED Plus display, 2GB RAM, and Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). However, the S3 isn’t simply about mighty specs. Measuring in at 7mm, the next-gen flagship from Samsung is also rumored to have killer looks.

Samsung has witnessed spectacular success in the smartphone segment with the Galaxy S and S2. However, it will face stiffer challenge this year. The iPhone 5 is expected to be a significant overhaul that should hit the market around about the same time as the S3. 2012 should be an extremely interesting year for smartphone enthusiasts.

ZTE Reveals the Not-So-Insignificant Cost of Windows Phone License

Windows-PhoneWe all knew that Microsoft charges OEMs a considerable amount for licensing Windows Phone. However, what we didn’t know was exactly how much that “considerable amount” is. Now, ZTE has come forth and revealed what it is paying Microsoft, and it’s a fair bit more than most people had anticipated.

At the UK launch of the ZTE Tania, Santiago Sierra, the Portfolio Manager for ZTE UK, revealed that Microsoft gets as much as $23 to $30 per handset sold. ZTE cited the licensing fee as one of the biggest challenges towards introducing affordable Windows Phone devices. It also explains why so many OEMs are queuing up to release Android handsets, in spite of the tough competition. On paper, Android costs nothing, as the core product is offered by Google for free. However, there are several “hidden charges” associated with releasing Android handsets.

Pretty much every Android handset available in the market ships with Google Apps (Android Market, Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube etc.), which are proprietary and require a licensing fee. Moreover, Microsoft indemnifies OEMs who license Windows Phone 7 against intellectual property infringement issues with the product. By comparison, Android manufacturers have to fend for themselves, which often involves expensive litigation and patent licensing costs. Several Android manufacturers including Samsung and LG pay Microsoft in the range of $3-$6 per device as patent licensing fee. Hardware driver development and testing for Android is also reportedly more expensive for Android than Windows Phone which has a standardized chassis.

These numerous hidden charges definitely add up. However, even after considering all extraneous costs, I would be surprised if Android costs anywhere near what Microsoft is charging the OEMs. Nevertheless, it is possible that ZTE is getting a particularly rough deal as it is a rather small manufacturer. Favored partners and bigger brands like Nokia and HTC probably have a more lucrative arrangement with the Redmond giant.

Pricing and Release Date of Several Unannounced Sony Smartphones Leaked

Yet another day, and yet another leak from Sony! GSMArena has published the release date and price of nearly a dozen Sony smartphones. This comes just a day after Sony Xperia Nypon and Lumquat were spotted in a leaked snap. At this rate, Sony won’t have anything to announce at the Mobile World Congress, which will be held next month.

The source of the leak is Sony India, hence the prices as well as release dates are for India. Nevertheless, cost of unlocked phones should be in the similar range in most places around the world.

Sony-Xperia-2012

The list includes several smartphones, such as Atlas, Hayabusa, Mint, Lotus, and AFFM, that we haven’t even heard of. Mint and Hayabusa are particularly interesting because of their prime pricing. They are slated to retail for a fair bit more than the new Xperia S, which was announced at the recently concluded CES. Android Central also made the curious observation that the Atlas will be the second Android device from Sony (previously Sony Ericsson) with a Greek codename. The previous one was the Xperia Play, which went by the codename Zeus. If Sony indeed manages to release a PlayStation certified gaming smartphone for less than €300, then they might finally get the kind of success they were hoping for with the Xperia Play.

SpareOne Mobile Phone Promises 15 Years of Shelf Life

Yes, you read that right. SpareOne is a mobile phone that can stay alive for fifteen years without requiring a recharge or a battery replacement. Even more astonishingly, SpareOne doesn’t use some fancy new battery technology. It runs off a single AA battery!

SpareOne-White

SpareOne is positioning itself as backup phone that can come in handy in case of emergencies. Be it something as regular as a critical work related call, or as extreme as getting trapped in a flash flood, SpareOne wants to be the backup option that you can always rely on. Smartphone hardware has improved in leaps and bounds over the past few years. They are infinitely more capable than their predecessors, but they are also more power hungry than ever before. Multi-core smartphones with high speed data connectivity often fail to make it through the day without requiring a recharge. SpareOne attempts to return to the basics to solve this problem.

“SpareOne’s breakthrough technology provides an unprecedented lifeline during dire situations that require an emergency response,” said Alan Cymberknoh, SpareOne Project Director at XPAL Power. “By operating on a single AA battery, SpareOne solves so many daily issues, serving as a simple back-up phone you can carry without worrying whether it’s charged or not. It can be left in a car for emergencies, used by hotels who want to pre-program concierge numbers for guests, passed to your children or parents to maintain an open line of communication – it’s essentially designed to make and receive the most important calls, no matter what.”

SpareOne-Red

In a CES dominated by smartphones and ultrabooks, SpareOne, with its curious shape, tiny screen, and keypad, looks like a relic of a bygone era. It is a dumb phone that is built only for calling and messaging. As far as connectivity is concerned, the first model to launch will be a dual band GSM handset that will accept microSIMs. WCDMA compatible versions will be released later in select regions. SpareOne also has a few other interesting tricks up its sleeve to help you in emergencies. It automatically attaches your approximate location with SMS by using the cell ID, and has a built-in torch – something that Nokia popularized in countries like India.

SpareOne is slated to go on sale during the first quarter of 2012 for $49.99.

Polaroid Announces 16 MP Android Cameraphone with Optical Zoom

In a somewhat surprising move, Polaroid has announced a new Android powered camera phone – the Polaroid SC1630. The SC1630 will feature a whopping 16 MP camera with 3x optical zoom and 5x digital zoom. On paper at least, it will boast of the most competent camera to grace an Android smartphone. According to Engadget, the shutter speed maxes out at 1/1400 second, aperture is between F3.1 – F5.6, and ISO can be dialed up to 3200.

Polaroid-Android-Camera-Phone-Optical-Zoom

The phone itself runs an unknown version of Android, powered by an unknown processor. However, we do know that it will have an 800 x 400 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen, 512 MB internal storage, upto 32 GB expandable memory (microSD), and 512 MB RAM. All the standard features such as accelerometer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS are present, in addition to some additional options like FM. The handset supports 850/1900/2100MHz WCDMA and 850/900/1800/1900 GSM.

Unfortunately, the heavy duty camera has its own disadvantages. Polaroid SC1630 is rather bulky and heavy with maximum thickness being 18.5 mm. In fact, Polaroid even had to opt for a smaller battery (1020 mAh) due to space constraints. This might turn out to be a major area of concern as Android is known to be a battery hungry operating system.

The SC1630 is expected to retail in April for a very reasonable price tag of $299. However, Polaroid once again had to compromise on multiple aspects, including build quality and design, in order to achieve this. The SC1630 has too many unknown factors and shortcomings for us to recommend it as a smartphone. Hopefully, Polaroid has done a damn good job with the camera, as otherwise this Android device is going to sink without a trace.

1.4 Million Aakash Tablets Booked; Manufacturer Struggles to Cope with Demand

We had earlier reported that India’s Aakash tablet, also known as UbiSlate, had sold out soon after it was up for preorder. At that time, we didn’t have specific sales figures; however, Economic Times has now revealed that as many as 1.4 million Aakash tablets were ordered.

In order to cope with the unexpectedly high demand, the UK-based manufacturer, Datawind, will be establishing three new factories in India. The new manufacturing units will come up in Cochin, Noida and Hyderabad during the first half of this year. The Aakash, which retailed for less than fifty bucks, was conceived as an educational tablet. However, delays on the part of the Indian government has meant that individual customers and corporate clients will probably get the device before educational institutes.

Aakash-Ubislate

The unexpected demand has also brought to light how ill prepared Datawind is to handle significant volumes. “We never expected such a high response from both corporate and individual buyers. We plan to supply 70,000-75,000 units per day once the factories are in place by April,” revealed Suneet Singh Tuli, CEO of Datawind. Digit has highlighted that many customers are in the dark about the status of their shipment and are unsure about how to seek help. Perhaps Datawind needs to take a more proactive approach, or partner with established online retailers like Flipkart in the future.