10 of the Worst Mobile Phone Commercials, Ever

Despite the ever-growing popularity of mobile devices, smartphone-makers have generated their fair share of bad commercials. A recent USwitch article pulled the top 10 lamest smartphone commercials to-date. Here are some of the highlights:

iOS 6 Ads Starring Samuel L Jackson and Zooey Deschanel:

“Much criticized for over-selling Siri, the ads, which marked the first time that Apple employed Hollywood stars to tout their products, feel like nothing but a pretty cheap attempt to use celebrity as a smokescreen for the app’s shortcomings.”

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Testing Challenge: Meet the Stylus and Split Screen

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1As if there weren’t enough different mobile devices (each with their own little intricacy) to test on, Samsung is adding another, totally different device to the mix. The makers of that phone-tablet in-between the Galaxy Note, Samsung is not introducing a stylus and split screen capacity to its newest tablet – a full sized tablet called the Galaxy Note 10.1.

The stylus isn’t too out of left-field, since the original Note has a stylus and plenty of people buy a stylus to use with their tablets anyway. It’s a feature that probably gets at least some testing out in-the-wild.

The bigger of the two features from a testing standpoint is the split screen. This feature lets you view two apps side-by-side. It’s a great concept, but what’s it going to do to the apps? Does the tablet have enough power to simultaneously run two apps and let you interact with both of them? How will the apps look when they shrink to fit into split screen mode? Will developers have to tweak their apps to fit this new feature?

For now it looks like only select apps will be able to function in split screen (according to a video review by the Wall Street Journal). In this light, it’s likely Samsung anticipated these issues and already took care of testing for the apps that will be split screen enabled. It also seems like split screen is playing second fiddle to the stylus, which is getting most of the attention, so it may be a less important feature that Samsung isn’t going to do too much with. It will be interesting to see how well split screen actually performs and if Samsung ever opens it to third party app developers.

You can read all about the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 in this review by All Things D >>>

McDonald’s Testing a Mobile Payment App

In France, they call a Quarter Pounder a Royale with cheese. Also in France, you can pay for it with a mobile app. CNN.com posted a nice summary of this in-the-wild testing project by the world’s largest fast food chain. Here were some of the more meaty details:

McDonald’s customers in Paris can now pay for a Royale with Cheese using their smartphones or tablets — a concept that could spread to the company’s 33,500 locations worldwide if the fast-food leader likes the results.

Customers at 30 locations in France are now able to order their meals using the McDonald’s mobile app, pay for it via PayPal, then join a separate line to pick up their food, according to a Reuters report.

The trial is part of a rapidly growing consumer-service trend of skipping cash, and even credit cards, in favor of a quick tap from a mobile phone.

Major retailers from Target to Best Buy to 7-Eleven have teamed up to create the Merchant Customer Exchange. The group is developing a mobile app that would allow customers to pay for goods at participating stores’ registers with their smartphones. The app will also give users exclusive coupons and deals.

Square, a mobile app and phone attachment created by one of the founders of Twitter, is gaining traction as a tool for small businesses to accept credit-card payments and this month signed a deal with Starbucks for the coffee behemoth to begin accepting payments through the app.

The trend is clear: We’re transitioning to a cashless society, thanks to mobile technology. The real question, at least for me, is whether individual companies will have success in rolling out their own payment apps (think Starbucks, McDonalds, etc.) or whether a company like Google (i.e. Google Wallet) will dominate the space for all retailers. Whatever the outcome may be, testing is sure to play a major role. Stay tuned.

You are Your Own Biggest Security Threat

Worried about having your own personal data hacked? A new study shows that officer workers are well -just terrible at securing their mobile devices. From a lack of passwords, to poor IT departments, these stats are pretty worrisome.

Ricardo Bilton of VentureBeat took a closer look at the study:

Let’s start with the big one: 84 percent of respondents said that they use their phones for both work and personal matters. That might not usually be a problem, but this use is joined by a worrying lack of basic security protocol: 47 percent of respondents say they didn’t have passwords on their phones, which immediately becomes a problem if the devices land in the wrong hands. (Just as bad: 36 percent said they reuse the same password, breaking Password Rule No. 1.)

But we can only blame the workers too much. Fifty-one percent of respondents said that their companies lacked the capability to remotely erase the data on their phones (28 percent said they weren’t sure). That’s a basic feature embedded in a large number of consumer-focused services and apps (including iCloud and Prey), so IT departments have no excuse for not doing so.

Perhaps worse, 49 percent of the survey-takers said that their IT departments had never talked to them about the state of mobile security, which likely explains why the survey’s respondents were so bad at securing their devices.”

Do you find yourself not using passwords – or using your device for both work and personal matters? Let us know your thoughts on this study in the comments section.


Researcher Exposes Major Apple Security Risk

There are two kinds of hackers; those who use their skills for good – or of course – those who use them for evil. The good kind of hackers are either security testers or security researchers. To be a good security tester you have to think like a villain, and go through an app like a hacker would looking for vulnerabilities.

And that was exactly what French iOS security researcher, Pod2G, did on Friday when he identified a SMS spoofing flaw in every version of Apple’s OS. As explained by Devindra Hardawar in VentureBeat:

Using the flaw, hackers could spoof their identities via text and send messages asking for private information (by pretending to be from a users’ bank, for example), or direct users to phishing sites.

As Pod2g explains it, an SMS text message is converted to Protocol Description Unit (PDU) when sent from a phone, a dense protocol that also handles things like voice mail alerts and emergency medical systems. If a hacker was able to send a message in raw PDU format, they could take advantage of the User Data Header section to alter the reply number for a text.

If properly implemented, you should see both the original texting address and the altered reply number. But on the iPhone, you only see the altered reply number. For whatever reason, the original sender gets hidden. The flaw only relates to texts on the iPhone, and not messages sent through Apple’s iMessage network (those don’t hit the SMS protocol at all).”

Pretty scary stuff. These types of vulnerabilities can exist on any device or mobile application. The only way to discover them is to utilize a community of skilled security experts for testing.

To learn more about security testing click here.

Google Makes Updating Apps Easier

Delta Update making app updating fasterGoogle has changed the way app updates are pushed to users’ devices. The improvement will make updates quicker, take up less bandwidth and drain less battery. Functioning on Android devices running Gingerbread or higher, “delta updates” work by only updating the parts of an app that have actually been updated by the developers (rather than reinstalling the entire app). According to TechCrunch, the feature was announced at Google I/O in late June, but only launched this week. In fact, the launch was so quiet that it took some people noticing how much less space updates were taken to realize that the feature had even been pushed live. From TechCrunch:

According to Android Police, an update of the popular ezPDF Reader, which would usually weigh in at about 6.3MB, now clocks in at under 3MB. An update to Instagram, which went out this morning, is now a 3MB download instead of 13MB for the full app.

These numbers should be even more dramatic for larger apps and especially games. After all, instead of having to download all the graphics assets for a game again, you now only have to download the parts needed to enable that new level or feature.

Let us know if you notice any difference the next time you update an app.

4 Apps For Finding Your Lost or Stolen Phone

That sinking feeling of dread sets in and your stomach becomes one giant knot … you can’t find your mobile and you don’t remember the last place you had it. Was it in the car? Did you leave it at the restaurant? Did it fall out of your bag in the cab? Did someone take it out of your bag?

Considering how expensive these devices can be and how much personal information we store on them we’re usual desperate to get the device back in our own, non-malicious hands. If you don’t take the precautionary measure of installing one of these apps then all you can do is hope that it turns up on its own, a good samaritan turns it in or the person who took it only wanted the phone itself and just erases your data without giving it a second look. If those options don’t sound so hot, go with one of these four apps (highlighted by Read Write Web) that will help locate your MIA device.

Find My Phone (iOS)
By far the best-known method for finding a lost device is Apple’s free Find My iPhone app. It has all the key features, including geolocation, remote alarm and remote wipe. All you need to do is enable the app from your device settings.

Prey (iOS, Android, Linux, OSX, Windows)
Prey is the only mobile-recovery application that works across phones, tablets and computers. An open source product, its features include geolocation, snapshots, screenshots and remote hide/wipe.

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Want Your Mobile App to be a Hit? Copy These Guys.

Mashable posted a great summary of mobile companies that are killing it right now – and suggests that if you want to obtain similar success, that you should copy what they’re doing. Well, maybe not copy entirely, but you get the idea. One example they gave was that of Path’s sliding navigation. Take a look:

One of the most common modern mobile and tablet UI conventions is the slide-out navigation panel. Rather than having floating menus or relying solely on upper or lower tabs, users can slide to the left or right of the screen to bring up an extended vertical menu of options or notifications.

The method was first introduced by Facebook in its iPad app, but since then, dozens (if not hundreds) of apps for iOS and Android have started to employ the feature. Ken Yarmosh details some common use cases of this design pattern on his blog.

For us, the prime example of the best way to use this sort of UI pattern is Path for iPhone [iTunes link] and Android [Google Play link].

What we love about Path’s approach is that the slide-outs work on both the left and right side of the app. Sliding in from the left brings up typical menus and user-level notifications. Sliding out from the right brings up friends details and search.

Path — like most apps that employ the slide-out feature — also aligns the slide animation to top buttons — which is great for users that don’t know how to use the feature, or for accessibility purposes.

Read the rest here >>>

Are You Suffering From a Mobile Addiction?

You can’t function without it – sleeping beside it every night and checking on it every couple of minutes. No, I am not talking about your significant other; I am talking about your mobile device.

Are you suffering from a mobile addiction? If you answered “yes” to any of the following questions, mostly likely you are:

  • Do you sleep with your mobile device in arms reach?
  • Do you check your phone every 30 minutes?
  • How about every 10?
  • Do you panic when you leave your phone behind?
  • Does the thought of being without your mobile device make you nervous?

A recent poll done by Time Magazine confirms that most of us do indeed have an addiction to our mobile devices. The study states that 1 in 4 people check their mobile devices every 30 minutes, and 1 in 5 check it every 10 minutes. In addition, three-quarters of those in their late 20s sleep with their mobile devices beside them.

As written by Nancy Gibbs in Time Magazine:

“A third of respondents admitted that being without their mobile for even short periods leaves them feeling anxious. It is a form of sustenance, that constant feed of news and notes and nonsense, to the point that twice as many people would pick their phone over their lunch if forced to choose.”

What are your thoughts on Time’s study, and how has technology changed your life? Share your thoughts in the comments section.