Now that Skype’s iOS4 app will work in the background, you could plausibly use an iPod Touch and a MiFi (or some other portable WiFi hotspot) to reproduce just about all of the functionality of an iPhone. If you don’t use the phone much anyway, and you want to use the MiFi with other devices (like an iPad) this could make a lot of sense. You would have to figure out how to keep the MiFi charged and under any bandwidth caps, but it seems doable. Not sure if a Bluetooth headset will work, though.
PC Magazine’s list of the top 20 free Android apps is topped by Advanced Task Killer Free 1.5.1, which quits other programs you might have running on your device. “It’s surprisingly difficult to close an Android app,” the review says.
This seems like Android’s version of the iPhone cut-and-paste problem. Apple solved that one after ruminating for many moons, presumably over the best way to implement the user interface. WWGD?
- Incredibly obnoxious ads. Ads take up at least one-third of the mapping space when you start mapping.
- The cues are sometimes incomplete.
- Buggy user interface. It is constantly thinking that I clicked when I dragged, which re-routes the whole ride sometimes. Yes, there is undo, but that does not make up for the fact that the interface is not responsive and too busy. It feels like they decided to add a ton of features without getting the basics right first.
- No Street View.
- You have to pay $2 to print your route.
I do plan to check out their iPhone app to see if it makes up for these problems.
Interesting item from iPhone J.D.’s analysis of the App Store end-user license agreement:
17. No nukes. You cannot use an iPhone app to design nuclear weapons, so don’t even think about it, buddy. “You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture or production of nuclear, missiles, or chemical or biological weapons.”
The headline features (Genius, ringtones, app organization via iTunes), don’t excite me that much. I use Spotlight to find apps, rarely use any special ringtone (let alone one I have paid for), and I used the Genius once in iTunes and forgot about it. I’m somewhat disappointed at the lack of an Energy Saver settings page, but at least the following features seem useful.
Remotely lock iPhone with a passcode via MobileMe
I guess this means that you don’t need to put a passcode on your phone before you lose it. Maybe you can push a passcode to the phone after you lose it, so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of unlocking the phone all the time. We’ll have to see what this is like in practice.
Use Voice Control on iPhone 3GS with Bluetooth headsets
It’s not clear how Voice Control would be invoked in this situation. If you have to hold the home button on the iPhone, then you still need to fish it out of your pocket or purse. If, on the other hand, you can push a button on the headset, this could be great.
Paste phone numbers into the keypad
I just tried doing this the other day and was surprised it didn’t work. Now it will.
Full details on the update at Apple.
CNET says the 15-year-old encryption technology used to secure voice communications on GSM cellular networks (like AT&T’s) will be cracked wide open in a few months. Skype, which encrypts voice communications using a variety of standards-based technologies, avoids this problem, at least for Skype-to-Skype calls.
Twenty of the busier underground Metro stations, including major transfer points Metro Center, L’Enfant Plaza and Gallery Place, will soon get improved wireless service from all the major carriers: AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and Verizon. Since 1993, Metro has given Verizon the exclusive right to subterranean cell service, so this will be a big improvement for all those iPhone users on Metro (some Sprint phones were allowed to roam on Verizon’s network, so Pre users may already be surfing the tunnels).
The enhanced service begins October 16, 2009. The remaining 27 underground stations should be wired up by 2012. Metro says phone, text and internet services will be available.
Service will be based in stations, so surfing the web on the train when traveling between stations is likely to be spotty.
Money made it happen, Metro says:
Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, AT&T and T-Mobile will build, operate, maintain and own the new wireless network that is currently being installed. The firms also will build a second wireless network, which Metro will own, operate and maintain for Metro’s own public safety and operational communications. The second network will support future plans to launch The Metro Channel, which will provide riders with rail and bus service information, news and advertising via monitors in stations, trains and buses.
The wireless contract will generate a minimum of nearly $25 million during the initial 15-year term and an additional $27 million during the five, two-year renewal terms. Other FCC licensed and unlicensed carriers may gain access to the networks either through entering into agreements with Metro or the group of carriers, which would produce additional revenue for the transit agency.
A new company called Swebapps promises to make an iPhone app for your business for $250-$450, plus a monthly $25-$35 fee. You choose, Chinese-menu style, from numerous possible “buttons,” which essentially serve as bookmarks for content stored on Swebapps’ servers. More buttons cost more money. The idea seems to be to make a mini-website in the form of an iPhone app.
I guess clients might think it is cool that I have an iPhone app even though they could get the same info by surfing to my website. But my prediction is that almost all clients would use such an app exactly once. On the other hand, do I care? Once I make an impression as “the guy with the iPhone app — so cool!” does it matter whether the client actually uses the app? Then again, this thing looks awfully plain (bordering on ugly) so maybe I would become “the guy with the lame iPhone app.”
The price is fairly modest if you have an actual revenue-generating business, but the pain in the ass of coordinating yet another web presence may be the biggest cost.
[Edited August 5 to add] There were some important details that the San Francisco Chronicle left out or got wrong. The attack actually seems to be much worse than the original story suggested. First, the “invisible” messages, which the story described as “text” or “SMS” messages, seem to be control messages. As cNet makes more clear, control messages are not necessarily seen by the user, which makes this attack far easier to pull off. The Chronicle’s story said you could delete any one of the 512 incoming messages to foil the attack. Obviously that is not possible if the user can’t see the messages. So the Chronicle blew it, presenting a jumble of true and incorrect information, and I will know better than to rely on it in the future.
Perhaps the most shocking thing about the exploit is that ordinary Joes who have nothing to do with the phone company or Apple can send control messages to cell phones and, according to the cNet story, any iPhone can be reprogrammed to do so.
A huge buzz preceded the presentation by Charlie Miller and Collin Mulliner at the famous “Black Hat” cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas. The pair claim to have discovered a way to take over a smartphone, such as an iPhone or Windows Mobile phone, using nothing more than SMS. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “A pair of security experts have found a vulnerability in the iPhone that allows a hacker to take control of an iPhone through a text-message attack.”
Even scarier, the attack uses “a series of mostly invisible SMS . . . bursts,” the Chronicle said.
Here are the real facts:
- Yes, in theory, a hacker could take over your smartphone. Could be an iPhone, as the Chronicle’s lead paragraph and headline said. Could be a Windows Mobile phone.
- There is no such thing as a “mostly invisible”
SMSmessage. You would receive a normal-seeming SMSmessage that should show up on your phone just like any other.
- You would know you are being hacked because you will receive
SMSmessages that contain empty square characters (I guess this is what the Chronicle means by “mostly invisible”; by that standard, the letter o is mostly invisble). If at that point you delete the messages or turn off your phone or go into Airplane mode, the attack will not succeed.
- The attack requires 512 SMS messages, presumably delivered rapid-fire.
That makes an attack against a single victim fairly noticeable and possibly expensive. An attack against more than a small number of smartphone users would be cost-prohibitive. Even “unlimited” SMS plans have their limits.
- The attacker needs the phone numbers of enough smartphones to make this worth his while. Sending the attack to landlines or regular cellphones would merely run up his costs and raise his profile.
This effectively limits the attack to “whales.”
- The 512 SMS messages must all survive until all of them have been received by the victim. If the victim deletes even one of these messages, the exploit fails.
- Cell phone companies actually care about SMS spam and have countermeasures in place. Leaky, lousy countermeasures, to be sure, but they would be foolish to allow their networks to be take over by zombie phones. Surely they could filter out all “mostly invisible” messages.
It is disturbing that this attack is possible, even given these constraints. You just don’t think of SMS as a security hole. Thank goodness Apple has already patched against this exploit. But get a grip, people.
Apple has extensive tips about extending battery life on the iPhone. But the iPhone does not have the equivalent of the Energy Saver control panel on the Mac. It would be so handy to have a simple slider to say, “This is how much I care about battery life right now,” or a single gathering place to see/set all energy-relevant settings. Ideally, you would have presets for Home (turn on WiFi, turn off Bluetooth), In The Car (turn on Bluetooth and the equalizer, turn off WiFi), Traveling (turn off everything but push e-mail), etc.
Instead, to turn off or adjust power-hungry preferences, you are forced to go to hither and yon through the Settings app:
Only one of these settings — Airplane Mode — can be reached through the main screen of the Settings app.
It would be nice if there were a third-party app that could do this, but I would be surprised if non-Apple programmers had access to all of those settings.