Posts Tagged ‘phone’

Bulk-SMS App Maker Bazuc Responds to Lookout’s Claims, Says Consumers Should Pay Attention to Risks

December 20, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

The maker of an app that Lookout has branded as a security threat contends that it is offering a potentially lucrative, if risky, business opportunity to consumers. Bazuc distributes an Android app that when installed sends SMS messages through a user’s phone, with Bazuc promising to pay users a tenth of a penny for each message sent. After spending a month researching and its apps, Lookout on Thursday warned that the app poses a significant threat to users, including the potential for angry phone calls and seeing their phone service disconnected for violating the terms of their contracts. Lookout said it would warn users of its security software who have the app installed, and also said it was reaching out to carriers and other companies that it believes may have a problem with what Bazuc is doing. In an email, Bazuc creator Richard Loomis confirmed some things that Lookout said, but took issue with others, and insists that it details many of the potential risks on its website. “Yes, there are risks involved for the app users, which are very clearly posted in a very large font on both the website and inside the app itself,” Loomis said in an email to AllThingsD

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Top Products in Two Decades of Tech Reviews

December 18, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

This is my last column for The Wall Street Journal, after 22 years of reviewing consumer technology products here. So I thought I’d talk about the dozen personal-technology products I reviewed that were most influential over the past two decades. Obviously, narrowing so many products in the most dynamic of modern industries down to 12 is a subjective exercise and others will disagree. Though most were hits, a couple weren’t blockbusters, financially, and one was an outright flop. Instead, I used as my criteria two main things. First, the products had to improve ease of use and add value for average consumers. That was the guiding principle I laid down in the first sentence of my first column, in 1991: “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault.” Second, I chose these 12 because each changed the course of digital history by influencing the products and services that followed, or by changing the way people lived and worked. In some cases, the impact of these mass-market products is still unfolding. All of these products had predecessors, but they managed to take their categories to a new level. Some readers will complain that Apple is overrepresented. My answer: Apple introduced more influential, breakthrough products for average consumers than any other company over the years of this column.

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VCs — Not "Shark Tank" — Give DoorBot $1M for Caller ID for the Doorbell

December 11, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

A startup called  DoorBot has raised $1 million after selling 10,000 Wi-Fi videocamera doorbells for $199. DoorBot on Shark Tank DoorBot is a specialized smart home security device, so next time someone rings the bell outside your home, you can check who it is from an app on your phone — and without opening the door, talk to them via two-way audio. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company brought in the funding after failing to raise money  on the ABC TV show “Shark Tank,” whose investors passed on the deal for various reasons including competition and security risks (only one of the five sharks offered to invest, but with an onerous royalty rate that the company declined). But everything worked out okay. DoorBot was able to raise money at the same $7 million valuation that CEO Jamie Siminoff pitched on the show, he said this week. The money came from more traditional technology investors including First Round Capital, Upfront Ventures, Charles River Ventures and Matt Mullenweg. DoorBot sales are accelerating, according to Siminoff, with $600,000 worth of sales in the past month. And the 16-person company is now profitable. Siminoff said his team’s key innovation is the ability to squeeze out a year of battery life by keeping the device deactivated and then very quickly waking it up within a second. However, that design means that users can’t just open up the app and check outside their door at any time. They have to wait for someone to ring the bell. That should change in a coming update, Siminoff said

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"Hour of Code" Calls on Students to Program Computers, With Support From Obama (And the Republicans, Too!)

December 9, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

By now you may have heard about the United States’ woeful lack of public coding classes , despite the economy’s ever-growing need for technical workers. For five years now, Computer Science Education Week has existed as a call to mobilize people to learn to program. This year, it’s getting a little more oomph, with promotion by various tech companies of the new nonprofit ’s “Hour of Code” initiative, five million students committed to participate globally at 33,000 schools in 166 countries, and endorsements by celebrities and public figures including both U.S. President Barack Obama and his political foil House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Here’s the video from Obama, in which he urges, “Don’t just buy a new video game, make one. Don’t just download the latest app, help design it. Don’t just play on your phone, program. No one’s born a computer scientist, but with a little hard work — and some math and science — just about anyone can become one.” And here’s Cantor, who says “coding is the necessary tool of this century”: (By the way, the name “Hour of Code” is not meant to specify any specific hour, but rather the motivation for people to spend an hour learning to code at some point over the next week.) And it’s not just political rivals coming together, but also competing companies, noted co-founder Ali Partovi. All the Apple Stores in the U.S. plan to hold an open Hour of Code class on Dec.

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December 9, 2013  |  Media Week  |  No Comments

Specs Who

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Like This If You Like Pandas! Facebook Says Publishers Shouldn’t Fret About News Feed Changes.

December 6, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

In 2011, Google changed the way it ranked websites , in an effort to punish spammers and “content farms” that showed up high in search results but delivered crummy pages. Google’s “Panda” changes had giant ripple effects throughout the Web: Ask Demand Media , among others. This week Facebook announced that it was changing the way it ranked content in its all-important News Feed — the main page Facebook users see on their desktop and on their phones — in order to promote “high-quality content.” And Facebook said it would make things like “meme photos” harder to see. The immediate reaction from several publishers I’ve talked to this week: “This is Facebook’s Panda.” But if that’s the case, then who is Facebook trying to punish? And why does Facebook care about this anyway — isn’t the crucial thing that people like the stuff, and not what the stuff is? One way to get some answers is to ask a Facebook executive directly

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J.P. Morgan Warns of UCard Data Breach

December 5, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

A July attack on J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.’s network has put the personal information of nearly a half million of the bank’s customers at risk. J.P. Morgan said Wednesday that 465,000 users of its UCard prepaid cash cards may have had some personal information pilfered by hackers that breached its network. Speaking to Reuters , the bank said it believes only “a small amount” of noncritical data was taken. But it doesn’t seem to have definitively ruled out the theft of social security numbers, birth dates, etc. As of yet, there is no evidence any crimes have been committed using the data

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Microsoft-Nokia Deal Gets Go-Ahead From Justice Department

December 2, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Shutterstock / Lisa S. It’s a regulatory green-light for Microsoft’s pending acquisition of Nokia’s phone business. The U.S. Department of Justice unconditionally approved the $7.2 billion deal last Friday , rubber-stamping a massive transaction that will see Microsoft acquire Nokia’s devices and services business and license the company’s mapping services, a move that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says will accelerate the company’s share and profits in phones. A milestone moment for Microsoft, and one that clearly shows the company recognizing two crucial truths: 1. It must create a first-rate Microsoft phone experience in order for it to succeed in the smartphone business. 2. It cannot afford to allow Google and Apple to foreclose the smartphone ecosystem by utterly dominating software and hardware innovation in this sphere. The next hurdle to be overcome: Regulatory approval in the European Union. Here’s a quick refresher on the numbers behind the deal: Microsoft is spending about $7.2 billion to acquire Nokia’s core cellphone business. Of that, $5 billion is for Nokia’s devices business. The remaining $2.18 billion is to license Nokia’s intellectual property Nokia’s patent portfolio includes some 8,500 design patents. It also includes approximately 30,000 utility patents and patent applications. About 32,000 Nokia employees are expected to transfer to Microsoft as part of the deal. About 18,300 of those are “directly involved in manufacturing.” But 56,000 Nokia employees will remain at the company once the deal has closed. With 8.7 million units shipped, Windows Phone had a 3.7 percent share of global smartphone market in the second quarter of 2013, according to IDC. Windows Phone has greater than 10 percent share in nine markets, according to Microsoft. Windows Phone is outselling BlackBerry in 34 markets — again, according to Microsoft. Nokia accounted for 81.6 percent of all Windows Phone smartphone shipments during the second quarter of 2013. Microsoft’s gross margin on sales of Nokia’s Windows Phone handsets before the deal: Less than $10

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One of the Year’s Most Addictive Mobile Games Doesn’t Seem Like a Game At All

December 2, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

It’s inevitable: When I tell people I write about videogames, someone almost always asks, “What should I play?” Since I’m not a reviewer, there are plenty of games I haven’t played, but I always have at least one game on my phone ready to be shown off; recently, that game has been an unusual one. Clumsy Ninja , which game studio NaturalMotion first demoed at Apple’s iPhone 5 event in September 2012 , finally made it to Apple’s U.S. App Store a few weeks ago, and since then it’s been on a tear. “This is not designed to be a hardcore monetizing game,” NaturalMotion CEO Torsten Reil told me in a pre-launch interview. Well, oops? It is monetizing well — so well, in fact, that it broke into the top-25 iOS grossing apps chart within three days of its launch. At the time of this writing, it peaked at #14 overall on Tuesday and has been hovering between the high teens and low 30s since then, according to App Annie (registration required). (As for what that means in real money terms: According to one report from Distimo, the top-10 grossing apps make at least $47,000 per day . Even if the app never crosses the magical top-10 barrier, that’s still a lot of dough.) So why does Clumsy Ninja monetize so well?

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Facebook Testing Timehop-Like Feature to Surface Past News Feed Posts

November 29, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Grufnik/Flickr Facebook is getting the slightest bit more nostalgic. The company is trying out a new feature inside of the News Feed that lets users surface old Facebook posts from their Timeline. Facebook confirmed the new feature in a statement: “We’re testing a new way to help you remember favorite moments by making it easier to revisit previous News Feed posts,” a Facebook spokesperson told AllThingsD . “When you click on this notice, you will see a selection of some of the top posts from your News Feed from a year ago. This is just a small test at this stage.” The feature is much akin to startups like Timehop and the now-defunct Memolane , single-serving apps that connected to users’ various social media accounts and resurfaced status updates, tweets and photos from years past. I found Timehop in particular to be equal parts charming and embarrassing when looking back on what I had to say just a year or two ago. But as an app that served little purpose outside of digging up the past, it was difficult to see any direction in which it could evolve. I’ve also been suspect of how long people would keep an app devoted entirely to this purpose before deleting it from their phone. It makes sense, then, that a site like Facebook — which aims to essentially be a digital-identity service and record of your online life — has subsumed the functionality. It’s also a simpler way to look into the past without requiring the work of digging back through your entire Timeline. As Facebook said, the feature isn’t being pushed out widely at the moment. But the timing of the test seems perfect: It comes smack in the middle of Thanksgiving and the holidays, the time of year perhaps best suited to nostalgia and self-reflection.

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