Only 20 percent of BlackBerry 10 apps originated as Android apps


BlackBerry has taken heat for a perceived abundance of apps in BlackBerry World being nothing more than Android ports. One BlackBerry executive says that only about 20 percent of the more than 100,000 apps available for BlackBerry devices originated as Android apps.

Martyn Mallick, BlackBerry VP for global alliances and business development, tells AllThingsD that only about one in five BB10 apps are ported. That would suggest that the remaining population, save those that are wrappers for web apps, features tens of thousands of apps built specifically for BB10. If BlackBerry could manage such an incredibly high adoption rate less than two months on the market, why bother with Android apps at all?

Even if you’re someone who doubts the accuracy of Mallick’s estimate, the issue isn’t the number of apps that are ported from Android; what matters is the popularity of apps that were converted. BlackBerry could easily have tens of thousands of apps, but the apps that consumers most want might not appear on the platform were it not so easy to convert Android apps to be compatible with BB10. The conversion process uses a woefully outdated version of Android that will make some features and apps incompatible, but it also is the reason Skype will be available on the BlackBerry Z10 sooner rather than much later. Mallick said:

“We give [developer] a very nice on-ramp to get onto the platform. Our users deserve to have great content. If that is the fastest way we can get some of that content, that’s great.”

Developers who convert their Android apps to BlackBerry 10 are also taking advantage of BB10 features like linking to the Hub and integrating push notifications, Mallick says. BlackBerry’s goal is to eventually make its Cascades SDK the desire method for building native apps, but the company sees Android as a necessary stopgap measure to bolster its app choices for customers.

North Korea’s 3G Experiment Might Be Over


North Korea’s Internet liberation has hit a snag — it’s still North Korea.

One month after announcing that it would grant tourists and visitors 3G Internet access, North Korea appears to have revoked its 3G services.

Tourists no longer have 3G access, Koryo Tours, a North Korean tour group, first reported on its website.

There is a chance that the 3G service is merely busted, but given North Korea’s history, the consensus at the moment is that the plug has been pulled. Heightened tensions with South Korea in the wake of the North’s nuclear test — a Koryo tour group blogged about the palpable sense of military readiness — support the notion that this isn’t a blip.

Tourists reportedly can still buy SIM cards to make calls over North Korea’s 3G network, which is more than capable of handling 3G Internet. However, access to the Web is impossible — just like the old days.

Coming on the heels of Google chairman Eric Schimidt’s visit to the country, North Korea’s decision to allow tourists to use its 3G networks was a big deal. In the past, tourists’ phones had simply been confiscated upon entering the country.

As for North Korean nationals, they never were granted access to the 3G network.

[Sources: Koryo Group; Wired]

 

From Humble Beginnings, Computer Attack Becomes Enormous

The dispute began when antispam group Spamhaus placed Dutch Web host CyberBunker on its blacklist. The favor was returned — and then some — in what is believed to be one of the largest computer attacks in history.

Spamhaus’ blacklist is used by email providers to eradicate spam, and CyberBunker’s spam-ridden clientele — it draws the line only at child pornography and terrorism-related content — earned it a spot on the list.

The ensuing tiff resulted in distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks targeted at Spamhaus. However, the scale of the attacks screwed up the Internet for millions of users: Netflix users, for instance, were experiencing delays because of the surge of activity taking place over the Web.

The attacks came from a plethora of computers known as “botnets,” which send data streams that are larger than whole nations’ Internet connections.

Spamhaus has been targeted with DDoS attacks before, knocking it offline, but the scale of the recent attacks is vastly greater.

Such assaults are akin to online nuclear bombs, said Matthew Prince, the chief executive of Cloudfare, the California-based Internet security firm that first reported the attacks.

[Sources: Cloudflare; The New York Times]

Sweden Nixes Word After Google Intervention

The Swedish Language Council removed an entry from its 2012 list of new Swedish words after Google suggested an amendment to the definition.

The council in December had added “ogooglebar,” or “ungoogleable” — something “that you can’t find on the Web with the use of a search engine” — to its annual list of new words.

Google reportedly responded by asking the Council to amend its definition to specify that the word referred specifically to Google searches — not Internet searches as a whole — which the Language Council declined to do.

Thus, the Council removed the word from its list — a first for the Council — and publicly stated its displeasure with Google.

The Council conceded that it could have compromised with Google but said it chose to remove the word (and then publicize its removal of the word) to spark debate.

Cyberattackers Brewed Special Malware Cocktail for South Korea


Cybersecurity news had a distinctive international flavor last week.

In South Korea, a cyberattack from unknown sources disrupted portions of the nation’s banking and broadcast industries.

During the attacks, a North Korean Human Rights website based in Washington, D.C. was also defaced.

Because of bellicose actions by North Korea in recent weeks, fingers began pointing at that rogue state. Investigators later traced the attack to a Chinese IP address.

Security researchers analyzing the attack found the Windows malware used was actually a cocktail that included a component to wipe data from Linux machines. It’s very unusual to see malware that attacks multiple operating systems, security software maker Symantec noted in a blog post.

 

Taiwan: China Targeting Our Infrastructure

While South Korea was under cyberattack, Taiwan started waving a red flag about attacks by Chinese hackers on its computer systems.

Appearing before a legislative committee on the island republic, the director general of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau reportedly said that China has been stepping up its online aggression, moving from stealing information to exploring ways to destroy the country’s infrastructure.

European Developments

Two significant reports regarding cybercrime and cyberwar in Europe were released last week.

Europol, in the most detailed study of its kind yet by the continent’s law enforcement community, identified 3,600 organized crime groups active in the European Union and detailed how the Internet contributed to their operations.

“The advantages of technology are great on the one hand, but we also have to keep in mind that bad guys use it as well or better than good guys,” Steve Durbin, global vice president for the Information Security Forum, told TechNewsWorld.

Organized online gangsters have another advantage over law enforcement, he added.

“The bad guys don’t suffer from budget control,” he said. “If they need more money, they just steal it.”

On the cyberwarfare front, a group of 20 experts enlisted by NATO to work on the connections between international law and online warfare released a document detailing the result of their labors.

Among the findings in the Tallinn Manual on the International Law Applicable to Cyber Warfare is that in some circumstances, deadly force can be legally used against organized hackers.

Microsoft Probe

Microsoft, too, found itself involved in international intrigue last week. It is reportedly being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department and Security and Exchange Commission for alleged kickbacks by its agents in China, Italy and Romania.

Neither Microsoft nor any other company needs to resort to corrupt practices to get business done in China, according to Dan Harris, a partner with Harris & Moure, which sponsors the China Law blog.

“As a lawyer, we’ve done hundreds of registrations in China — trademarks, copyrights, licensing agreements. We have never been hit up for a bribe,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Screen Lock Flaws

A news development outside the international realm involved the continuing efforts by Samsung and Apple to work out bugs in the lock screens on their mobile phones.

Apple pushed out an update to its mobile operating system to address a bug that allowed the lock screen to be circumvented by exploiting the emergency call feature of its phones.

No sooner had the update been released than another bug was uncovered that allowed the same kind of exploit, although this one was limited to the iPhone 4.

Meanwhile, similar lock screen problems were discovered with Samsung’s version of Android.

“This bug just lowers the bar to a level where a petty thief or inquisitive roommate or lover can get at all the stuff on your phone,” Andrew Conway, a threat researcher with Cloudmark told TechNewsWorld.

One reason problems keep showing up in these operating systems is that the development cycles for the products is taking on an insane pace, according to Andrzej Kawalec, global chief technology officer for HP Enterprise Security Services.

“Application development life cycles keep getting shorter and developers aren’t motivated to deliver secure code,” he told TechNewsWorld. “They’re being motivated to deliver applications as fast as possible. Every time you accelerate or invent a new process, you introduce vulnerabilities.”

Kyocera Torque Review – Sprint’s toughest Android


The Sprint Kyocera Torque is not a phone made for those who need a cell phone insurance plan. There’s little chance that someone would ever need to file a claim for the Kyocera Torque, built with the explicit intention of withstanding more than the trouble the average Android user can get into, because of hardware damage. That’s because this phone is not designed for the average user; it’s made for the person who needs the extra protection afforded by a rugged phone.

Can Kyocera succeed where so many other rugged phone makers fail at making a durable phone that’s also a good phone? Durable devices may withstand the elements, but they are often plagued by software shortcomings and a lack of imagination. Someone needs to build a phone that’s as engaging as it is tough; might the Kyocera Torque be that phone?

HARDWARE

Smartphones are often described as if they are beauty pageant contestants, but the Kyocera Torque would fair poorly in such a competition. The bulky and stretched shape removes any notion of this being a pretty phone, but that’s to be expected considering its stated purpose. It would be more fitting to describe the Torque in terms related to bodybuilding competitions: strong and tank-like. The phone stands far more appealing in that arena because this is hardware that is hard. Four raised bars on the back of the phone give the Torque extra protection when dropped, and extra shock protection is built in the corners of the device.

Kyocera makes durability a priority, and the main selling point, of the Torque. Aside from shock protection, the phone’s design has exposed screws that secure its heavy frame (168.5g, 5.94oz); a locking mechanism that keeps the battery cover secure; and hard covers that protect the USB charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The airtight protection makes the Torque waterproof and dust proof. I dropped the phone in snow for 15 minutes and nothing happened. Submerging it in a container of water for 28 minutes also yielded no adverse effects (the phone can last up to 30 minutes in 1 meter, or 3.28 feet, of water). I don’t have a dusty test zone to gauge how well it does there, but living up to previous claims makes me accept Kyocera’s word that the Military Standard 810G spec phone can withstand extreme conditions.

Kyocera Torque
Kyocera Torque

The Torque’s ability to withstand damage is enabled by coarse materials that have plenty of grip but don’t always feel pleasing to the touch. Protection comes at a price. Anyone expecting an exciting new toy will probably be disappointed; those looking for a phone capable of a very hard’s day work will be pleased. I’ve dropped the phone about 15 times in a week, most of them intentional, and it took a drop from 6 feet before a piece of the material chipped away slightly.

Screen Quality

With a phone capable of surviving falling in a pool or falling down a flight of stairs, you’d expect the screen to be equally hardened. The Torque has a 4-inch IPS with 800×480 resolution, and the screen is impact-resistant. It’s also recessed, which reduces the chance that the screen will come into contact with a surface hard enough to break it when dropped. The resolution falls short of the bar set by HD displays in recent phones, but the quality is good enough to provide passable video and text. I didn’t run into any problems with dark colors or poor visibility, though I did notice that the recessed screen can sometimes make it hard to tap on-screen buttons in the corner.

Kyocera Torque
Kyocera Torque Performance and Key Specs

Perhaps my favorite attribute of the Torque is the volume. Whether in calls or listening to music, this phone can really raise the sound levels; it doesn’t offer the crispest sound on the market, but it’s definitely the loudest Android smartphone I’ve ever used. For a device that rests its hat on reliable communication and durable materials, the speaker comes in handy.

The Kyocera Torque has a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. That’s obviously a step back from what’s sense on Android’s cutting edge, and the difference is apparent. The Torque isn’t a slow device, but there are occasions when it doesn’t snap along quite as fast as a device with more RAM or a newer processor might. It also doesn’t help that the phone uses Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich – not Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, which is known to have performance enhancements, especially in terms of transitions and animations. The lag noticed when switching between or launching apps made that clear before I even bothered running benchmarks to try and quantify its abilities. For the record, the phone scored 4,139 in Quadrant, putting it behind last year’s HTC One X. I’d say that the Torque managed to be a good performer that occasionally left something to be desired.

Key Specs:

– Dimensions: 128.5 x 68.4 x 12.9 mm (5.06 x 2.69 x 0.51in)
– Weight: 16.5g (5.94oz)
– Memory: 4 GB ROM, 1GB RAM, microSD slot up to 32GB
– LTE, Push-to-talk Direct Connect, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0+ LE/EDR, Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz 802.11 b/g/n

 

Mystery Motorola-Google Phone Dials Up Web Speculation


A video and photos of what could be the first Motorola-Google smartphone have appeared on the Web, showing a standard Android phone with a Motorola logo at the top left of the device’s screen and the words “Motorola Confidential Property” along the screen’s bottom edge.

A Possible Motorola-Google Smartphone?

A Possible Motorola-Google Smartphone?

The Vietnamese website hosting the images, Tinhte, lists the mystery phone as having a 720p 4.65-inch AMOLED 320 ppi screen. It is apparently built around a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro or higher processor, and has a Qualcomm Adreno 320 graphical processing unit.

The mystery phone is reported to have 2 GB of RAM and a 2200 mAh battery. It also has onscreen buttons and a case with a curved back.

The device has been spotted in Brazil, according to published reports.

“It is nearly impossible to determine the specs,” said Michael Morgan, a senior analyst at ABI Research.

This may not be the so-called Google “X Phone,” which will reportedly be Motorola’s flagship device when it launches later this year. That device could be unveiled in mid-May at Google I/O 2013, and it may run the stock version of the Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie operating system.

“I have heard of the ‘X Phone’ rumors, but nothing that definitively tells me what it is,” Morgan told TechNewsWorld.

 

Google Influence?

“If this phone is an example of where Google is taking its handsets, I would say that Google is looking to treat smartphones as a commodity whose only purpose to push Google software,” Morgan remarked. “From what I can see in these pictures, the only thing Google has brought is the request for higher margins from its newly acquired Motorola hardware business. The physical design and size of the handset imply a lower bill of materials.”

There might be some traces of the old Motorola on the mystery device, “but from what I can see here, those traces are only a silkscreen logo on the top and bottom,” he said.

The phone in the photo looks very much like any other Android smartphone, and “the only hope of differentiation is if this device has an Intel chip and sells for less than $100,” Morgan suggested.

X May Not Mark the Spot

Much of the speculation regarding a Motorola-Google device has centered around the rumored “X Phone” which the companies plan to position against both the iPhone and Samsung’s smartphones.

 

Whatever device Motorola and Google release, it “cannot be the same as before with an emphasis on thin design and, mostly, battery life,” Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC, told TechNewsWorld. “I am looking forward to new or better user experiences instead.”

Those experiences could take many forms, such as “more integration with Google + or YouTube, more augmented reality a la Google Glasses,” Llamas said.

“Both Google and Motorola bring a lot to the table,” he added, “and I cannot envision them just maintaining the status quo.” 

AT&T Sony Xperia TL gets Android 4.1 Jelly Bean – for real this time


Android 4.1 Jelly Bean was promised earlier this month, but several Sony Xperia TL owners reported they were unable to download the update. AT&T today announced that it should be available to users by going to Settings > About phone > Software update. The same features previously mentioned – speed increases, better battery life, expanded notifications, Google Now, Drive Mode, and more – are available in the Jelly Bean update. Xperia TL owners should make sure the phone is charged at least 75 percent and connected to Wi-Fi before starting the update process.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 launches in Europe and Japan


The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 8.9 tablet is now available in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan. Amazon previously focused its sales efforts in the U.S., but its popular tablet has expanded availability. Amazon also lowered the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 price in the U.S. to $269 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version. The 4G LTE-capable Kindle Fire HD 8.9 now starts at $399.