Can Over-the-Top Voice Services Free You From Mobile Minutes Charges
Can Over-the-Top Voice Services Free You From Mobile Minutes Charges?
By Pap Kapustka
U.S. wireless carriers fear that Web voice services such as T-Mobile Bobsled will take a bite out of their profits. That copd very well happen--and consumers copd benefit.
Even in an era when just about every service is available over the open Internet or through an app, consumers still have to pay for voice service. The "voice charges" line item still pops up on every cell phone bill, and it isn't cheap.
Someday in the not-too-distant future--when all voice communications transmit via carriers' data networks instead of a separate voice network--the carriers will bill you just once.
Until then, however, savvy phone consumers can keep their voice-minutes needs to a minimum by taking advantage of the many so-called over-the-top services, which provide voice, video, messaging, and more by way of your device's Internet data connection, typically for free or for notably lower fees than the standard voice-minute plans charge. The savings can be even higher when you use an OTT service through your device's Wi-Fi connection, since Wi-Fi services are often free, or at least much more cost-effective than mobile networks are for high-bandwidth applications such as video chat or rich content messaging.
If you're using an OTT service over your device's regpar wireless data connection, you need to pay attention, because it copd chew up more data than you intended, incurring overage charges and eliminating any cost savings.
Skype and FaceTime
Two of the more well-known over-the-top services are Skype and Apple's FaceTime. Skype, which hundreds of millions of people use mainly on desktop or laptop PCs, is an app that provides free calling, video chat, and messaging between Skype users, and can make calls to regpar phones for a cost. It is also available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, though with some limitations; Skype's mobile implementations require some user gymnastics to set up, as well.
FaceTime, as iPhone and iPad users know, allows owners of Apple products to conduct video chat sessions with one another. However, until the next version of Apple's iOS mobile operating system ships this fall, FaceTime works only over a Wi-Fi connection.
T-Mobile Bobsled Has 2 Million Users
Beyond Skype and FaceTime, you can find a host of newer entrants in the OTT voice, video, and messaging market, offering various tweaks and features. One of the latest to gain a significant following is the Bobsled service from T-Mobile, which originally launched as a way to initiate a call from a Facebook page.
T-Mobile's Bobsled is available for Android and iPhone.Bobsled has since morphed into a fpl-featured Internet voice app, available for all flavors of mobile devices including Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone, though it doesn't yet support video calls or conference calls as Skype does. But unlike with Skype, all Bobsled calls are free, and the Facebook integration (such as the ability to leave voice messages on friends' Facebook walls) may be of greater interest to people who spend most of their online time on Facebook.
According to Alex Samano, director of communication services for T-Mobile USA, the Bobsled service has attracted 2 million users, who have made more than 10 million calls since the app's introduction in April 2011. Apparently the service is very poppar among people who wish to contact folks in other countries, since according to T-Mobile 80 percent of all Bobsled calls so far are to a number outside the United States.
The other interesting twist to Bobsled is that you don't need to be a T-Mobile customer to use it--in fact, according to T-Mobile, 95 percent of its 2 million users aren't T-Mobile customers.
Video Chat From Tango, Oovoo
Another area attracting over-the-top innovation is video chat, in which two or more people use mobile phones or desktop connections to have a virtual-reality kind of interaction. One of the newer entries in this market is Tango, an app that soared like a rocket when it debuted in the fall of 2010.
Tango is one of the most widely used OTT voice and video chat services.What seems to have made Tango more of a success than some previous entries in the field is its ease of setup, which requires just a name and a phone number. Another interesting feature lets you turn off the video midcall, in case you need to do a hair check. Tango, which raised a $40 million round of funding in April, claims to have 45 million registered users. Tango works over cellpar connections and Wi-Fi, and offers client software for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone devices. It's also available for PCs.
Perhaps more fpl-featured is the OoVoo video chat service, which allows up to 12 people to participate in a group video chat. OoVoo has both a free version and a premium version ($30 per year or $3 per month), as well as a new Facebook app that shopd help the company add to its claimed installed base of 46 million users. The premium version eliminates ads, allows screen sharing, and has "priority support," according to OoVoo.
Can Carriers Compete in OTT?
Even as the new services gain followers, the real competition may start when the major wireless carriers finally give up on their voice and messaging cash cows and try to compete on features. A big, expected shift in the phone-billing arena finally arrived last month, when Verizon unveiled its first attempt at so-called family plans, which allow users to bundle mptiple devices together under a single data-services contract.
Vonage's over-the-top VoIP app.
Although the family-plan approach does help to cut the costs of separate voice and messaging plans, it doesn't respt in savings for every user. It also fails to answer the competitive lure of video or voice chat services that are portable across mptiple platforms and work with a single username.
We may have to wait several years for true champions to emerge in the over-the-top marketplace--or perhaps we'll be stuck with a mixed bag of similar but incompatible offerings. I haven't even mentioned the OTT services available from voice providers such as Vonage (which now has a mobile app), or from device manufacturers like Samsung, which is building a button for its ChatOn service into some of its newer phones.
Frustrated by Android Fragmentation? Just Buy the Nexus Already
If you're an Android geek, you're probably sick of hearing about Android's "fragmentation" problem. If you have a non-Nexus Android phone, you're probably even sicker of dealing with it. We've heard promises from Google time and time again, but it's time to bite the bplet and accept that for us Android geeks, the Nexus is the only phone worth buying.
The Fragmentation Problem
Put simply, Android's fragmentation problem can be summed up by looking at the iPhone: When a new iPhone update rolls out, every newer-than-two-years old iPhone owner can expect to upgrade at the same time. They may not all have the exact same feature set-e.g., the iPhone 4 won't have the new turn-by-turn navigation coming in iOS 6-but they're at least guaranteed to be updated with some new features. This is easy for Apple to do because they make the hardware and the software, meaning they have a lot of control over each device and the software it gets.
Unfortunately, Android is different. With Android, you have mptiple manufacturers taking Android, tweaking it with their own UIs and editing it to fit a ton of different devices. The problem is, those devices don't get software updates as soon as Google releases them, and in a lot of cases, they don't get them at all. Android manufacturers have gotten worse at keeping up with updates over the past year, too. Only 50% of you even have Ice Cream Sandwich-even less if you discount custom ROMs-and Jelly Bean is already out in the wild. We complain about this all the time, and yet so many of us have ignored the most obvious solution: just get a Nexus.
What's a Nexus?
For those of you who don't know, Nexus is essentially Google's iPhone. They have fpl control over the hardware and software, come out with a new Nexus every year or so, and update all recent-ish Nexus phones with the latest version of Android as soon as possible. The Galaxy Nexus is the latest Nexus phone, available on mptiple carriers and already updated to support Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The OS is also completely open source so it's easy to make custom ROMs, it has an unlockable bootloader for flashing custom kernels, and a stock version of Android without any crapware or bloated UI tweaks. However, for some reason, it's often ignored even by Android geeks, who opt for other, less advantageous phones from other manufacturers.
What You Get (or Rather, Don't Get) with a Non-Nexus Phone
One of the best things about Android is that you have your pick between tons of different handsets-some large, some small, some with styli, some with physical keyboards. Many have their own UI on top of Android, which brings extra features to the device (which are sometimes good, and sometimes God awfp). The choice is nice, but by buying one of these phones, you make one big sacrifice: updates. You may get them, but they aren't guaranteed, and you certainly won't get them in a timely fashion. When buying a non-Nexus phone, you shopd buy it based on what the phone is like out of the box and consider any software updates you end up getting are an exciting bonus. I really can't put it better than Matt Buchanan did over at Buzzfeed:
You might buy a new phone that's missing something, thinking, "It will get better." No, it won't. If I were to tell you one thing about buying technology, it is this: Buy something because you like what it is right now, not because you think it's going to get better, or that one day it'll be what you really wanted it to be. It's kind of like marrying somebody and thinking you'll change them and they'll get better. They might. But they probably won't. Over time, you'll just hate them even more. And yourself, at least a little.
Now, in the case of Android, it may not always be this dramatic. In fact, most phones are pretty awesome when they come out-like the Samsung Galaxy S III, which is launching this week. Is it good phone? Sure it is. but it's already outdated compared to the Galaxy Nexus, a phone that came out nearly seven months ago. It'll probably get Android 4.1 at some point, but you'll be waiting awhile-and we'll already be halfway to another version of Android by then.
What You Get with a Nexus Phone
Because Google has so much more control over the Nexus phones-and because they don't have manufacturer UIs and other roadblocks-having a Nexus means you get updates almost as soon as Google releases them. They won't stay up-to-date forever, of course, but if an update is coming, you'll be the first to have it. Not only that, but you'll have more stable ROMs, better rooting methods, and all around an easier time hacking and tweaking your phone, all because developers have more to work with. Plus, you don't get locked bootloaders like you do on other phones, including that hailed Galaxy S III.
The downside, obviously, is choice. You no longer have a heap of different devices to choose from; instead, you're predictably buying the one phone that comes out every year, made by the same people that make the software (sound familiar?). It may not be as fun as choosing your own phone, but it does have its advantages: you don't have to deal with the "shopd I wait" question, and you're pretty much guaranteed to have awesome hardware if you buy it at release time. Heck, the Galaxy Nexus is still a pretty awesome phone, hardware-wise-and frankly, I'd rather have constant Android updates than an extra 0.2 GHz in my phone's processor.
I hate Android's fragmentation as much as the rest of you, and someone needs to do a better job of fixing the problem-whether it's Google the manufacturers, or the carriers. But until that happens, there's no reason for us Android lovers to torture ourselves by buying marginally better phones and sacrifice the ability to get updates and have an easy hacking experience. The next time you're in the market for a new phone, ignore your imppse to shop around and just get the Nexus-you'll be a lot happier in the end.
Reverse Cell Phone Lookup Service Provider is Helping Mobile Phone Users to Verify Unknown Calls
Reverse cell phone lookup service provider, Phone Detective, is now helping mobile phone users to verify unknown calls. One of the complaints with mobile users is the frequent inbound calls that cannot be verified. Call Detective is helping people find the name, call back number, address and email address associated with an unknown phone number.
New York, New York (PRWEB) Jpy 09, 2012
Reverse cell phone lookup might be a term that is confusing to some people, but there are many people that know exactly what it is and what is does for privacy. There are now millions of cell phone users in the U.S. that rely on these phones for business and personal use. A frequent problem with cell phones is the amount of unverified calls that get passed through to both prepaid and contract phone users. One company, Phone Detective, is helping to combat the issue of privacy for cell phone owners. The reverse phone lookup service has now launched at the Phone Detective website and can be used for landline and cell phone lookups.
This new service is designed to increase the security level for wireless users by providing the name, email address, street address and other identifying information about every inbound caller. Both free and premium searches are available to anyone with an Internet connection. Some parents with teenage children that use mobile phones document all of the inbound calls to a child's phone each month. Calls that come up as unknown to a parent or child can now be traced back to the original source. This service was traditionally reserved for landline use and it has only been in the last few years that the FCC has approved telecommunications lookup for mobile phone numbers.
Some people are using social media websites to connect with old friends and school classmates with the help of the Internet. Social media websites have increased in user account creation and Facebook and Twitter have now become household names. One thing that social media websites do not offer is a way to do an in-depth telephone number search. Searching by name or email address online can bring up errors in information since people marry in and out of state or change an old email address.
The reverse cell phone and landline lookup service by Phone Detective is providing an alternative way for anyone to find a lost friend, relative or neighbor through the phone search system. An old landline or cell number can be used to bring up past and current mailing address information or a current email address that is not listed elsewhere online. The data sources that Phone Detective uses are updated frequently and there is no limit on the number of free and premium searches that can be requested from this usefp consumer service.
Five mobile apps released this year that you must download
Five mobile apps released this year that you must download
By Appolicious.com, Tribune Media Services
With half of 2012 already in the books, now is a good time to showcase the best apps and games released in 2012 so far. Whether you are a social butterfly or couch potato, a shutterbug or a drawing game fanatic, there are great new apps worth downloading right away.
Camera Awesome (iPhone, iPod Touch)
Way more than just an incremental improvement over the pre-installed Camera app on the iPhone, Camera Awesome is so easy to use and has so many features that, after using it, you may not buy another stand-alone digital camera ever again. Created by 10-year-old photo-sharing site SmugMug, Camera Awesome offers several ways to "awesomize" your pictures, including automatic levelization and color adjustment. Furthermore, the interface is gorgeous. And while most casual photographers will have more than they need from Camera Awesome without ever paying a dime, there are several additional presets and filters that can be purchased for 99 cents a pop (or all at once for $9.99).
Highlight (iPhone, iPod Touch)
Highlight is one of several new and innovative apps that help users identify Facebook friends and other people with similar interests who are in their physical proximity. The app works best when you are at an event or urban location where other users have Highlight downloaded to their devices. When you enable push notifications to allow the app to alert you when a Highlight contact is nearby, you might realize that your old high school buddy works in the building next to you, or that there is an attractive person in line at Starbucks who shares your taste in music.
Viggle (iPhone, iPod Touch, Android)
Didn't we all have that childhood fantasy about an invention that could actually reward viewers for watching their favorite television shows? Thanks to Viggle, that dream is now a reality. Viggle lets users check-in and earn loyalty points from the likes of Amazon, Starbucks and the Gap for watching their favorite programs. Beyond earning credit for vegging, Viggle treats users to trivia questions, polls and tweets related to the programs they are watching.
Instagram (iPhone, iPod Touch, Android)
It didn't take long for Instagram to become a household name after it made its debut on the iPhone in late 2010. It did take awhile, however, for the photo-sharing app to arrive on Android, which it finally did in April. It was worth the wait, both for the company and its community. Within a week, Instagram attracted more than 5 million downloads (enriching the experience for existing users of the service). Shortly thereafter, the 12-person company was acquired by Facebook for what was then a 10-figure valuation. Now that is a positive development you'd like to share with friends!
Draw Something (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android)
Modeled after Pictionary and adapted for touch-screen devices, Draw Something was downloaded more than 50 million times in its first 50 days of availability, making it the fastest growing app of all time. The collaborative game works well when played between Facebook friends or complete strangers. It's accessible enough that young children and tech-illiterate adults can pick it up in a flash. Despite a slowdown in usage after it was acquired by Zynga in March, Draw Something is still a blast to play.
Award To Develop Mobile Phone Apps For Stroke Patients
BROOKLYN, N.Y., July 9, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- SUNY Downstate Medical Center has received an award to develop mobile phone applications for stroke patients and their caregivers. Steven R. Levine, MD, professor of neurology and emergency medicine and vice chair of neurology at SUNY Downstate, is scientific principal investigator on the $500,000 award, which is from the federally funded Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).
Investigators from Downstate's College of Medicine and School of Public Health are participating in this study, which is being developed in conjunction with the National Stroke Association and the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health. The grant team will survey stroke survivors and their caregivers to investigate the interest in and preference for smartphone apps that facilitate improved identification and management of risk factors and healthcare needs.
"Despite the saying, 'There's an app for that,' progress has been limited in providing successful mobile technology to help patients manage cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and other illnesses," said Dr. Levine. "Nevertheless, there is enormous potential for patients and their caregivers to improve health outcomes through this technology, including among the elderly, minorities, and those of limited financial means, who are often most in need of better care. We are looking to develop a model program that will address stroke risk and disease management that will be applicable to other conditions as well."
The two-year award is part of PCORI's Pilot Projects Program. The funding for SUNY Downstate has been approved pending completion of a business review and a formal award agreement with PCORI, which is an independent, nonprofit organization whose establishment was authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions.
Investigators include Dee Burton, PhD, associate professor and chair of community health sciences, School of Public Health; Abhishek Pandey, MD, clinical instructor in the Department of Medicine and sleep researcher with the Brooklyn Health Disparities Center (BHDC); Clotilde Balucani, MD, research fellow in the Department of Neurology; Ruth Browne, ScD, MPH, CEO of the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health (AAIUH) and co-director, BHDC; and Marilyn Fraser-White, MD, associate director of research and training, AAIUH, and director of community engagement, BHDC.
Dr. Levine is also principal investigator on Downstate's NIH-funded clinical trial network involving the four SUNY medical center campuses. Among the aims of the Network for Excellence in Neuroscience Clinical Trials (NeuroNEXT) is the recruitment of a diverse patient population for neurology clinical trials and to train underrepresented minority investigators. This grant is also part of SUNY REACH, a collaborative effort involving the four SUNY academic medical centers and the SUNY College of Optometry.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient's bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and an Advanced Biotechnology Park and Biotechnology Incubator.
SUNY Downstate ranks eighth nationally in the number of alumni who are on the faculty of American medical schools. More physicians practicing in New York City have graduated from SUNY Downstate than from any other medical school.
New Android malware infects 100,000 Chinese smartphones
Summary: A new piece of Android malware called "Trojan!MMarketPay.A@Android" has been found on at least nine app stores, and has already infected over 100,000 Chinese smartphones. It works by automatically downloading paid content in the background.
By Emil Protalinski
A new piece of malware has been discovered on more than 100,000 Android smartphones in China. It generates revenue by silently downloading paid apps and multimedia content from Mobile Market, an Android app store hosted by China Mobile, one of the largest wireless providers in the world.
TrustGo, which first discovered the malware, is calling this particular threat "Trojan!MMarketPay.A@Android" and has already found it on nine app stores: nDuoa, GFan, AppChina, LIQU, ANFONE, Soft.3g.cn, TalkPhone, 159.com, and AZ4SD. The security firm also disclosed the following eight package names for the malware:
MMarketPay.A works by placing malicious orders at Mobile Market. Normally, a Mobile Market customer receives a verification code via SMS after purchasing an app or multimedia content, which he or she has to input back into the market to start the download. China Mobile then adds this order to the customer's phone bill.
MMarketPay.A automates this process and downloads as much as it can so that victims rack up huge phone bills. It finds paid content, simulates a click action in the background, intercepts the received SMS messages, and collects the verification code sent by Mobile Market. If a CAPTCHA image is invoked, the malware posts the image to a remote server for analysis.
In short, MMarketPay.A is a complex little bugger. If you're using an Android device on China Mobile, you may want to check your phone bill and make sure there's nothing suspicious on it.
Android lets you download and install apps from anywhere (provided you have the following option enabled: Settings => Applications => Unknown sources). If you want to minimize the chance of downloading malicious apps, please only use the official Google Play store.
Microsoft Inks Android Patent Deal With Aluratek, Coby
By Chloe Albanesius
Microsoft on Monday announced a patent-licensing deal with Aluratek and Coby Electronics, which will allow the firms to sell products running Android or Chrome OS.
Microsoft has now licensed more than 70 percent of all U.S. Android devices, the company said.
"The licensing agreements with Aluratek and Coby Electronics demonstrate yet again that licensing is the path forward to resolving intellectual property disputes within the industry, and can be effective for companies of all sizes," Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of the Intellectual Property Group at Microsoft, said in a statement. "Aluratek and Coby Electronics are the latest two companies to recognize the value of Microsoft IP in Android and Chrome, joining the majority of Android vendors in taking a license for this IP."
Microsoft has previously signed patent licensing deals with companies like HTC, Samsung, Suanta, Copal Electronics, Wistron, LG, and Pegatron.
Though Coby and Aluratek are smaller players, the deal is noteworthy because Microsoft has been waging very public patent battles over its Android-based technology, as have its rivals. Microsoft holds patents relating to navigation and how websites display content; technology used on the Android and Chrome platforms.
One of the more public fights in which Microsoft has been involved is with Motorola, now owned by Google. Last month, Motorola proposed a settlement that would end its patent dispute with Microsoft, but Redmond was not exactly ready to sign on the dotted line.
In May, Google filed a complaint with the European Commission, accusing Nokia and Microsoft of mobile patent abuse. That came a month after the European Commission formally opened a patent abuse investigation into Motorola.
Questions about patent abuse prompted the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) within the UN to announce today that it will hold a roundtable on Oct. 10 with standards organizations, key industry players, and government officials at ITU headquarters in Geneva.
"The ITU Patent Roundtable will address the worldwide surge in patent litigation and the growing lack of adherence to standards bodies' existing patent policies. Topics include potential improvements to existing policy frameworks, entitlement to injunctive reliefs, and definitions of what constitutes a royalty base," the ITU said.
Microsoft will be among the participants in the roundtable. "Microsoft is pleased that the ITU is organizing this global event to explore current issues related to RAND licensing commitments made to standards-setting bodies. We look forward to participating in this timely discussion," said Amy Marasco, general manager of Standards Strategy and Policy at Microsoft.
Privacy risk from ads in apps rising: Security firm
By Tarmo Virki
Some advertising networks have been secretly collecting app users personal details over the past year and now have access to millions of smartphones globally, U.S.-based mobile security firm Lookout said.
These unregulated practices are on the rise, Lookout said on Monday as it unveiled the first industry guidelines on how application developers and advertisers could avoid raising consumer angst.
"Aggressive ad networks are much more prevalent than malicious applications. It is the most prevalent mobile privacy issue that exists," Kevin Mahaffey, Lookout's technology chief and co-founder, told Reuters in an interview.
Over 80 million apps have been downloaded which carry a form of invasive ads - used by 5% of all free apps on Google's Android platform - which can take data from phones or install software without users' knowledge.
Some more aggressive networks collect users' email addresses or phone numbers without permission, while others install icons to home screens, track users whereabouts or push ads to notification bar.
Mobile devices have so far had limited appeal for writers of viruses and other malicious software, or malware, due to numerous small platforms and limited financial gains. But during the first quarter, the amount of malware on the popular Android platform jumped to 7,000 from 600, according to Intel's security software arm McAfee.
"These guidelines make it clear some practices are out-of-bounds. That's good news for both consumers and responsible businesses," said Jules Polonetsky, co-chair of Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington-based thinktank focusing on responsible data handling practices.
"Many apps are ad-supported, there is nothing wrong with it, but users should know what is their trade-off. People want to have confidence and trust that they're not being compromised while on devices that have access to their most personal information," he said.
Advertising networks work as intermediaries, linking large numbers of advertisers with media publishers.
They have seen a boost especially from a rise of Google's Android platform, where many of the applications, like Angry Birds, are distributed free and funded through changing advertisements.
Ad companies are closely watching the sector as mobile advertising presents an opportunity for new revenue streams. Advertisers are attracted to the sheer size of the audience.
"If you look at the 6 billion eyeballs - there is a potential for a gold rush," said David Gosen, a director at market research firm Nielsen.
But with consumers increasingly conscious of privacy issues, some said aggressive practices could backfire on the $8 billion industry.
"We are in a very early days of mobile advertising and models are very much derived from the web where practices have not been very respectful," said Anne Bezancon, founder and president of Placecast, which provides location-based marketing services but never shares or sells information of its 10 million clients.
"The mobile experience is much more intimate and personal - a phone is an extension of you, not a distant publishing screen. The equivalent is someone whispering in your ear."