Tag: backend as a service review

Motorolla’s X Phone: Google Strikes back?

Motarolla-x

With the release of the Samsung Galaxy SIV still making waves in the mobile world and also with eyes now turning to Apple in expectation of a return salvo from Cupertino in the near future, as we talked about in the Samsung blog, the mobile manufacturing world seems to be shifting quite substantially. It no longer seems certain that Apple will remain “The Man” in this particular race, but then there is the somewhat nebulous entity of Google in this whole affair as well.

Outside of the Galaxy Nexus, until very recently Google have been very quiet in terms of manufacturing and creating phones that they control; instead being happy to sit back and let their OEMs do the work for them. Of course this has changed somewhat with the introduction of the actual Nexus line, with Google throwing down the guantlette to the other manufacturers out there with examples of what they think premium, feature rich mobile hardware should be; and what price they think it should be sold for.

The Nexus line is not manufactured by Google though, and this means that whilst they may have technical control over the design and features of the devices, but they don’t control the supply chain, and that has always been Apple’s – and to some extent Samsung’s – greatest strength. By controlling their supply line they ensure that they always have the thousands of handsets that their customers demand of them during the product’s release and then in the months that follow and in so doing are able to get more of their product and their vision of what a mobile device should be, into the public eye.

This is where Google has, thusfar, failed. The Nexus 4 is undoubtedly a very popular and in demand phone, but there have been so many delays and supply shortages caused by manufacturer LG that the device has not become nearly as prolific as it could have been. And with this lack of getting phones in to hands, Google have missed an opportunity to install the Vanilla Android and Nexus experience as a solid competitor on the smartphone market.

But this may be about to change soon, as rumours have started circulating about Motorolla, a company that after being acquired by Google in 2011 seemed to drop off the face of the Earth.

Well, if the rumours are to believed, the folks at Motorolla have not disappeared into the night, but have instead been quietly beavering away on a secret project only known as the Motorolla X Phone.

This was initially thought to be a single “ultimate” handset but information has now surfaced that X Phone is actually more akin to a class name of a phone, like the Nexus line, that will have various models of handset under the same naming conventions.

The supposed flagship of the X Phones is starting to get the rumour mill going though, with information turning up from an Australian mobile carrier, of all places, who claims to have seen the phone, or at least maybe a prototype of it, and is very excited.

Hugh Bradlow, chief of technology at Telstra was reported to say to staff that the X Phone is a “real breakthrough, a game changer that will put pressure on Samsung and Apple.”

Details on specs or features are somewhat thin on the ground but there is a rumour going around right now that the X Phones will be fully customisable by customers in an online store that they then get sent to them, similar to how Dell does ordering with their PCs. There is also a fair amount of certainty that the device will come with a 5” screen, at least a quad core processor (the Samsung Octa processor being discussed in the rumour mill) and also there have been some fairly regular mentions of the next version of Android; 5.0 Key Lime Pie, being shipped with the device.

At the moment this is mostly conjecture and rumour, but with Google’s I/O conference just a couple of months away now in May, it seems like it is likely we will have some kind of announcement to do with these devices.

Samsung: The Rise Of The Next Mobile Competitor

Samsung-Logo

A lot has been written across the internet in the last few years about Google and Android versus Apple and iOS. It’s a traditional battle of titan vs titan, two sets of fans and customers ready and willing to duke it out with each other over the differences in their platforms whilst also excitedly scooping up the latest offerings from their chosen suppliers. It’s PS versus Xbox, Nintendo versus them, Microsoft versus Apple and virtually any kind of commercial product that has some kind of following.

Theirs was a clear cut two horse race with no other competitors in sight as Apple heaved its massive production chains to work and Google surrounded itself with its various allies.

And for a while it’s stayed like that, but now Samsung have released the Galaxy S4 the game of mobile thrones has changed again. Now both Google and Apple have got to realise that one of the biggest manufacturers in the business isn’t just a manufacturer using an OS, it’s a manufacturer that is looking to become the big name in mobile and until now, no one seems to have noticed them moving towards it.

But Samsung use Android as their mobile OS, how can they be a threat to Google?

Well… they may use Android, but they also are the single largest manufacturer using Android out there. Despite there being tens of manufacturers, Samsung still control a commanding 36% share of the entire Android market alone.

And then there are two other factors to consider here:

One: they may be using Android, but have been steadily deGoogling the OS for a while now, with the culmination of this being in the S4, which has essentially stripped damn near everything related to Google out of Android and has been replaced by a variety of Samsung apps instead.

Two: Samsung are not sitting on their hands in this OS fight. They are hard at work creating their own OS, called Tizen, to the market. Right now it’s only in Alpha build, and we’ve only seen glimpses of it, but it’s reportedly Open Source and HTML 5 based, much like the next wave of mobile OS that have started to arrive from Ubuntu, FireFox and others.

This is why Google bought Motorola and started the Nexus line of products. They wanted to wrest some control of Android and the way the OS was used back into the hands of those who had created it by supplying their own handsets, pricing and rulebook for what they expect in an Android device.

But it’s not just Google who are worried about Samsung, Apple are also making defensive noises.

Whereas they were famous for subverting other company’s launches with announcements of events or their own product launches right in the middle of CES or MWC, there hasn’t been a peep from Cupertino in a while now.

And there’s also the somewhat questionable interview from Phil Schiller who took to his soapbox to take potshots at Android, along with the “Why iPhone” website that just launched a few days ago that seeks to highlight all the various advantages of the iPhone 5 over its competitors.

Apple’s moves right now don’t seem like those of the confident marker leader; rather those of a company who’s just realised that they have a growing problem in the form of Samsung and that they are still slowly losing market share to the Korean behemoth.

And all the while Samsung are increasingly feeling like their ego has started to properly inflate and they know that they, at least for now, are on an upwards trend. Only time will tell what happens, but it could be that in 6 months time, the mobile market will look different from what it does now.

The Galaxy SIV: Game changer?

Samsung-Galaxy-S4-With-Super-Display-Images

So as of last week, we all now know what Samsung have brought to the table in terms of the newest handsets. There are a host of new features, some more useful than others, but more than anything they are throwing down the gauntlet in terms of what a smartphone is for in a customer’s life.

We’re not going to talk about every feature, but the highlights, that we can do.

Performance:

As expected, that S4 is no slouch when it comes to raw computing power, to the point where it is starting to be redundant to own a laptop.

The processor for the US is a 1.9Ghz Quad Core Snapdragon processor, that has been reliably clocked as being the most powerful CPU in the smartphone world as of now. There aren’t any details as to the specific model number of the chipset, but it’s rumoured that the EU and Asian markets will be getting the new and much touted Exynos 5 Octa eight core processor made by Samsung.

This is backed up by 2Gb of RAM and a 2600 mAh battery that is hopefully going to be able to keep the monster processor running.

Screen:

It had been strongly rumoured that the phone would be sporting a 5inch screen, and Samsung didn’t spare any expense in giving us an eye blindingly good screen. It’s a full HD 1080p resolution screen, with 441ppi pixel density that blows anything sporting the Retina brand name out of the water. As always with Samsung, the screen is a Super AMOLED that will make real life seem a little less vibrant.

Design:

The S4 is, for all intents and purposes, the slimmer sister of the S3, despite the larger screen. Samsung have reduced the bezel sizes and have also slimmed down the phone in general which means that it may be more powerful, but it’s also a lighter feeling package.

The lines are similar to the S3 but also take some queues from the S2 and the note with there being a little more in the way of straight  lines and prominent curves.

Software:

Much has been made about the software upgrades in the S4, with the eye tracking and “smart scrolling” features. The eye tracking software isn’t a thing that happened, all the software can do is track your head, much like the S3’s ability to see whether you’re paying attention.

The tech has evolved  in the S4 with Smart Pause, where the phone will pause a video when you look away from the screen.

Smart Scrolling is partially in the phone, where you can tilt the phone up or down to scroll down a web page or document.

The Air Gesture feature is one that those who have used Graphics tablets may be familiar with. You can hold your finger above the screen and still interact with the phone, and use the phone even whilst wearing gloves, and gestures are also part of the package.

And if you like to second screen, the phone has an IR blaster that can control nearly any modern TV, so you don’t even need to find your remote when you’re lazing on the couch on a Sunday afternoon.

Final additions:

There is also a 13mp camera, if you’re a snap happy smartphone user and a range of upgrades to familiar features of the S3.

As for the release date of the phone, or pricing, there hasn’t been any news specifically. Samsung have said that they’re looking at the price being the same as “A premium Samsung smartphone” which will probably put it in at around $199 on a 2 year contract when its released.

As for when that happens, well, we’ll find out first hand from users what experiences they have.

Thermodo: The Tiny Thermometer That’s Taking Smartphone Accessories To The Next Level

Thermodo

Since we started drawing on cave walls a few hundred of thousands of years ago, the human race has always liked to customise and accessorise our belongings, and also to add extra functions and abilities to our already existing tools. This trend can be seen everywhere in modern life, from our computers, to our cars and of course our mobile devices.

Computers when they first arrived were little more than expensive calculators, but slowly we added to them, and now they are capable of so many amazing feats. For example, with motion controllers like the Myo and the LeapMotion, we can now interact with our computers directly; reaching out and nearly touching the programs that are running.

Mobile devices, so ubiquitous in many of our lives, have advanced so quickly they’ve left behind the accessories as tools market. We obviously have a great many accessories like cases and screen protectors, but considering touchscreens have been standard for a few years now, it seems perhaps a little odd that it’s only now that companies like Samsung have been packaging Styluses in with their phablets.

That trend is looking to change though with a company called Robocat bringing us Thermodo, a passive temperature sensor that can detect the surrounding temperature very accurately and display the information on your phone.

The project has already smashed through its initial Kickstarter goal of $35,000; managing that in just over seven hours from when it went live and has continued to see very strong support from funders, with the project now sitting at over $110,000 at the time of writing this.

So clearly there’s a market for this technology, but why is it that Robocat made Thermodo in the first place?

The Robocat team states “It’s incredible how much we rely on forecasts and so called “local” temperatures – the truth is that temperature values available online or through apps comes from weather stations that can easily be miles away. Nothing beats taking the measurement yourself right where you are.”

How does it actually work though? Well, you plug the Thermodo into your mobile devices (either Android or iOS right now) and then, well, we’ll let the team give the details from their Kickstarter page:

“Thermodo sends an audio signal through the temperature sensor. This sensor will then attenuate the signal amplitude depending on the actual temperature. This attenuation can now be detected on the microphone input and through software we calculate the corresponding temperature. Easy peasy! We call this the Thermodo Principle™. Simply plug Thermodo into your device and start the companion app or any other Thermodo enabled apps of your choice. The temperature reading takes place instantly. Thermodo is powered by your device. No external power is required, it can even run in the background while you do important stuff.”

A simple solution to a small but noticeable problem, Thermodo is a great example of what a good app does on a phone, and also an example of what the customers of apps and mobile technology are looking for from the market.

They’re looking for devices and apps that don’t give them anything more to worry about, but instead help them solve problems in innovative and useful ways, or create simple distractions that can be picked up and dropped at a moment’s notice without too much fuss.

(UPDATE 2017: You can now buy Thermodo at their web site.)

The Phone Unlocking Legal Battle And Why It’s Important

Unlock-phone

As many of you probably know, unlocking your phone was recently outlawed in the US and it caused quite a fuss when it happened. After all, it had been legal for over half a decade before hand, but with pressure from mobile providers coming thick and fast, the bill was passed and now users who unlock their phones face incredibly harsh punishments if they are caught doing so outwith their carrier’s permission.

How harsh are these punishments?

Well, those found breaking the unlocking ban can face, and this isn’t an exaggeration here, a potential $500,000 fine and 5 years in prison. And that’s the potential sentencing for first time offenders. If you’re caught a second time, the sentence doubles.

Aside from the disproportionate punishments for breaking this new law, it also traps customers of the various carriers into either sticking with the same company or having to go through whatever process the carrier has for doing a “legal” unlocking.

In the case of AT&T, many customers who have tried to unlock their phones have been made to jump through various bureaucratic hoops to do so and even then, sometimes are told that it turns out their phones can’t be unlocked anyways. There’s also the issue that the “unlocking” that is usually done by carriers is similar to a temporary unlock for say, a holiday, and the more permanent unlocking constantly has its goal posts shifted constantly to try to prevent customers jumping ship from the carrier.

The phone unlocking debate also raises a larger issue over device ownership and also our ownership of the mobile sphere. If customers can’t unlock their phones and use the physical devices they have paid good money for however they want, instead of being owners of these devices they’re more just renting them from the carrier. And if users are just renting these devices to use, what does that then imply for ownership of their information and also, the apps that are on their phones?

It seems to be that by outlawing phone unlocking, a fairly murky set of legal ownership issues come to the forefront that could imply big problems for users in the future due the ramifications of storing personal data on a “rented” device. After all if it’s rented, what does that then give the carriers in terms of power over users data? Do they actually own it instead of the user? Could they push for more access to that data?

Luckily this is something that we don’t need to go into in too much detail because the White House recently announced that they are backing a bid to overturn the outlawing of private phone unlocking.

Some are calling this a cheap political move after there was so much obvious discontent over the original move but it make sense really. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, bar the carriers. Democrats get a win of liberty vs big business, Republicans get a win against regulation, customers get back their right to unlock their phones and the current administration get a boost in votes for the Congressional race.

It also sets a standard for the rest of the world where it’s shown that customers definitely do not want to have their right to unlock their phones restricted and is likely to help keep heavy regulation of these things out of official law.

Which is, of course, good news for mobile customers and app developers.

Whilst of course, there should be some regulation in every industry, preventing customer freedom to the extent of marrying them to their carriers whims is probably a step too far in our eyes. By allowing customers the freedom to move carriers, it creates much stronger business incentives for the networks to offer competitive rates and devices and encourage the adoption of modern handsets.

And all of these things benefit app developers. More customers, more devices, more money in the industry all means more money able to come back to you.

 

Corporate OS choice – Android vs Blackberry

20-questions-ask-client

Despite having a shaky presence in the consumer world, Blackberry has always had a strong following in the corporate sector. RIM (now just Blackberry) always angled their phones towards the corporate world anyway by providing full qwerty keyboards and a range of powerful office apps as part of the phone, and with a secure OS as standard that companies could easily control, it was a no brainer that it would be used.

(UPDATE 2017: I think we all know what happened to Blackberry.)

But now with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) being such a popular  choice among companies these days, Android has been making big in-roads into the corporate world.

That might seem a little bit odd to those of you who read our blog on Android security not long ago. For those of you who didn’t, there was a report released that said that Android accounted for over 70% of all mobile security attacks in 2012, and 96% of those in Q4 alone.

Those numbers would have any corporation worried, but at the same time, where there are threats there are also solutions and with the customisability of Android; all it takes is a clear internal strategy to beat out many of the problems inheirant in the platform.

“”There is a huge ecosystem of productivity applications and software readily available for Android, as well as native support for Java based sites and improved security measures,” says Ernest Doku, Product Relations Manager at price comparison firm Uswitch Communications in an article for TechCrunch
.
“The OS is fast becoming a good bet for those businesses looking for a stronger infrastructure and fewer overheads,” he adds.”

What it essentially means is that Android may not arrive “Business ready”, but there are so many different apps out there that businesses can easily customise the OS to suite any of their needs and also not pay through the nose for handsets whilst they do it.

So businesses looking to have a secure mobile platform whilst also reducing their overheads are quickly turning to Android as their go-to OS. Coupling that with the fact that because Android is now the most globally popular mobile OS at the moment, many employees are already used to using the OS and don’t need to be trained or inducted into using it.

Android also has the advantage when it comes to phone performance right now, as the OS is sitting on the world’s most powerful handsets like the Nexus 4 and Sony Experia Z, and the Samsung Galaxy SIV is just around the corner and it’s looking to be the most powerful phone in the world to date. Of course, as well, Android is Google’s creation, and they are all about limiting lag and making internet browsing as easy and as efficient an experience as possible.

This all adds up to make Android a winning packages, especially for small to medium sized businesses who are looking for a mobile plan that also won’t break the bank.

Blackberry still have the corporate edge though, and with the BB10 just released with various business friendly features like the ability to partition the phone into “work” and “personal” partitions that can’t talk to each other, and the “work” partition is encrypted and can be set-up and controlled by your company’s IT team.

Android doesn’t currently have anything to match that, (although an app is in the works to create one), and with BlackBerry’s experience in the corporate world they may just be able to re-establish their lead in that market.

Whatever OS a business is using though, they need to have a strong, streamlined security policy in place and that goes down to on every level, and this also includes app developers. If you’re an app developer, you’re very likely to be dealing with users private information, or at least their e-mail addresses and names. You’re going to want to keep that secure in a Mobile Backend, but if you don’t have server side programming experience this can be a tough job.

Well thankfully that’s where Mobile Backend as a Service’s like us at Kumulos come in. We provide a secure, easy to set up Mobile Backend that also won’t break the bank.

So if you’re a safety conscious app developer, why not talk to us today and see what Kumulos can do for you?

Just How Secure Are Your Apps?

secureapp

We talked a little while ago about app security, but we’re bringing it up again in light of a recently released study by security specialists F-Secure that pointed to Android being the home of 79% of all mobile malware, with iOS only being home to 0.7%.

Why is Android so full of malware?

Well on the one hand Android is the world’s biggest handset OS right now, and as such will be attracting the most attention from those who are making malware purely because they’re likely to get a better hit ratio for their creations.

On the other hand, it’s very likely that those making malware are aware of Google’s somewhat less stringent barriers for entry into their app store and are using that to get their malware up into the cloud. Google were supposed to have installed a scanning service that would warn a user of a malicious app, but it’s clearly not too effective as F-Secure reported that 96% of all malware attacks in the mobile world in Q4 of 2012 occurred on Android.

That’s a number that will have many Android users a little worried and many iOS users smiling quietly behind their iPhones.

It’s important to note though that despite accounting for most of the malware attacks in the mobile world, the actual amount of malware ridden apps accounts for less than 1% of the Google Play store, according to Appthority. And in a place where there’s over 700,000 apps, that number is incredibly small. There’s also the fact that it’s usually easy to protect yourself from malware by simply reading the user comments of those who have downloaded the app before you. If they’re all saying it’s infected and that you shouldn’t download it, you probably should download it after all.

On the other side of this is the fact that there may not be as much malware on iOS, but Appthority found that iOS apps instead have a tendancy to gather more data about the user and then are more likely to play fast and loose with that data.

By taking 50 free apps from each OS and their respective app stores, Appthority found that the iOS apps sent user data unencrypted 100% of the time, with Android not being much better at 92%. The iOS apps were also found to be more likely to gather location (60% iOS to 42% Android) and contact and email data (54% iOS to 20% Android).

So it seems that whichever of the two reigning OS you choose, you’re likely to find security holes.

As a developer, how can you improve these numbers?

Well, unless you’re intentionally injecting malware into your apps, affecting the malware numbers on Android is a little out of your reach (unless of course you’re building a malware hunting app, in which case you probably can affect the numbers).

What you can do though, regardless of which OS you work with, is introduce more  robust security measures for your app’s users. You can start working on adding encryption to your users data when it is sent wirelessly and also only have your app collect data that it needs to work rather than arbitrarily gathering data just because it can.

 

Chinese Government Is Not Too Happy About Android’s Market Dominance

china-flag

It’s old news that Android has managed an overall market share that is a fair bit larger than iOS in the global market and in Europe. This has been the case for a while now actually, but in China Android doesn’t just have an overall larger share, it’s got a practical stranglehold on the smartphone market.

Just how much? Well this image provided by a recent study by Gartner shows us:

The orange bar is Android, and as you can see, as of Q3 2012, Google’s OS had more than 70% of the market share. From a standing start in 2008 it took just 3 years for Android to push out all other OS into minority (relatively speaking) figures.

And the Chinese technology Ministry is not very happy about it.

They recently wrote a whitepaper to the central Government, which contained the above graph, highlighting the fact that Android, and by extension Google, has an effective stranglehold on the smartphone market.

“Our country’s mobile operating system research and development is too dependent on Android. While the Android system is open source, the core technology and technology roadmap is strictly controlled by Google,” the whitepaper states.

Their main problem is, as highlighted in the quote, Google still have the final say over what Android does and what direction it goes in. And when they have devices in the hands of 70% of the market, it’s probably a little worrying to the somewhat infamously controlling Chinese Government to have so much out of their hands.

That said though, there are economic reasons for the worry as well. Google knows that they have a massive amount of sway in the Chinese smartphone world and as such are accused by the whitepaper of using economic and business pressure to stamp out or at least undermine Chinese mobile companies. There is at least one tale of Google stepping in to stop a competing homegrown OS from flourishing. For example Aliyun, which was meant to be put to devices in a deal with Acer but Google put pressure on Acer by stating that the devices wouldn’t be Android compatible which effectively killed the project.

The thing that the whitepaper seems to be overlooking here is that whilst Android is technically a massive piece of the Chinese OS world right now, many Chinese phones that are running it are running heavily customised versions; a good majority of which don’t even have any Google services enabled like Google Play. That means that Google doesn’t really have as much control as the whitepaper implies.

It is interesting that the mobile world has now expanded to the point of causing a certain amount of bother to a country’s government, and raises interesting questions about the power of communications as a market and industry.

For now however, it’s probably a safe bet to say that Google aren’t going to take over China just yet.

 

Samsung Galaxy SIV Rumour Rundown

Samsung-Galaxy-S4-With-Super-Display-Images

With Samsung having confirmed the launch date of their next flagship handset to be the 14th of March, the internet is abuzz with hype and the rumour machine has gone into overdrive recently. We at Kumulos (Backend as a Service) love new technology excitement as new handsets can bring in great new opportunities for app developers and also, as tech heads ourselves, we’re definitely not above a bit of good old fashioned gadget lust.

So we decided to do a quick rundown of the various rumoured specs and features of the SIV, and we’ll find out very soon if what the rumours say is what we’ll actually get.

Screen

So far Samsung have always favoured Super AMOLED screens for their flagship phones. The Galaxy S2 had a 4.3 inch screen that was then upped to 4.8 inches by the S3. AMOLED screens are incredibly vibrant and they can produce eye-searingly bright colours.

The only real complaint against the screens in these phones was that they used the Pentile approach, which means that if you look closely, you can still count individual pixels. Samsung claimed they did this to extend the life of the screens, but these days there are so many screens out there that aren’t using Pentile and are still clear and vibrant so it’s something we hope they plan to recitify.

As for the actual screen of the S4? Well, the money right now is on the 4.99 inch, 440ppi full HD screen they debuted at CES. With the ever increasing size of smartphones and Samsung being a fan of big screened devices, it makes sense to think that this screen, or a relative of it, will be in the SIV.

Performance:

This is where things get a little muddy with the rumours. On the one hand there was talk a while ago that Samsung weren’t looking to focus so much on hardware as they were software with this iteration and this had some worried that the phone was going to be underwhelming compared to other leading handsets.

Well, then there was a recently released leak, supposedly of an Antutu benchmark test of the Galaxy SIV (find the original blog it turned up on here), and it shows the SIV to be a bit of a monster that drastically outclocks its nearest competitors such as the Nexus 4 and the LG Optimus G and is far ahead of the now aging S3.

It’s also shown to be sporting an Exynos Octa 5410 CPU clocked at 1.8GHz, PowerVR SGX 544MP GPU, 2GB of RAM, 4.99″ Full HD (1920×1080) display and a 13 Megapixel Camera and apparently also runs Android 4.2 out of the box.

The Octa Core, some of you may remember, is Samsung’s new eight core CPU that runs 4 high performance cores and 4 low power cores for handling the background stuff. Clearly it’s a step up in terms of power, but time will tell if these specs and the benchmarks are real or not.

Buyers will be happy to be getting Android 4.2 straight out of the box, but time will tell whether they get the next in line upgrades, as the Nexus line was recently just pushed the 4.2.2. update.

Price?

No confirmed details, but around $600-$700 is probably not a bad guess for a new top of the range handset these days.

Camera

Since Sony released the Experia Z with a 13Mp camera, it’s been quietly assumed that the two tech giants have been sharing camera sensor chips in the background and the SIV will sport a very similar 13Mp camera set up. Some pictures appeared online a short time ago reportedly being taken by an SIV, but they were so blurry and badly done that there’s been no confirmation beyond conjecture as to whether they’re real or not

Design

Finally, the design of the phone has been reportedly leaked more than once, with some looking like a big S2 and some renders looking more like a Nexus 4 on crack. Samsung have been doing incredibly well to crack down on major leaks and have been only teasing a look at the device with their adverts and announcements for the launch, so we’ll just have to find out then.

But it’s a good bet that it will be a monolithic looking slab of screen, with maybe some plastic lines around the edges. It is Samsung after all.

So there you go folks, the speediest rumour round up in the west.

 

PassBan and the Wearable Security Technology of Tomorrow

passban

We talked a short time ago about mobile security and the various problems facing mobile users in this day and age. The crux of the matter being that, well, the security options for keeping your mobile safe are way behind the threats they’re trying to counter.

This has mostly occurred due to the incredibly rapid advances in mobile technology. Every 6 months or so we seem to take a massive leap forward in terms of what these handsets are capable of. For example, a top tier phone arriving on the market now is likely to have say, a 1.5Ghz quad core and 2 Gb of RAM. By the end of this year, it wouldn’t be surprising if we were closer to 2Ghz processors with 3Gb of RAM.

And of course, with these advances in hardware jumping forward so rapidly, the software side of things hasn’t quite been able to keep up and as such has left quite a void between what the hardware is capable of and what is actually utilised. This isn’t a new thing to be fair, despite having had Quad core processors in Desktops for years now, we’re only just starting to get to the point where hyperthreading is being used, and even then it’s still not that often.

That’s not stopped the people who create malware and such like from keeping up, but they’re not usually trying to upgrade complex OS which makes it a little easier. But then you still have the very lacking security on the device itself, which has been shown to be quite easy to break in the hands of people who know what they’re doing.

So what can do you aside from setting up a 9 digit pin number that you change every other day?

Well a startup called PassBan think they may have a solution through physical security passes.

How it works is that you buy one of a variety of physical “keys” like a wristband, which is linked to your device via bluetooth, and then you can use the PassBan app to set up a security system for your apps.

For example, do your friends keep fraping you when you leave your phone with them for more than 2 minutes? Well with PassBan you can set up a block that requires your security key to be near the device and you can also set up things like a custom gesture to add an extra layer of security. Therefor, unless someone can get your wrist band and also memorise your gesture (in which case we say you should just let them do it as it clearly means a lot to them), they can’t get into your Facebook and cause havoc.

Of course, this kind of technology is also well suited to add an extra layer of security onto apps that hold important information like, say, card number or bank account details.

But how does it work? Well the PassBan app creates a block whenever an app is opened and stops it from actually going ahead and opening until the prerequisite security check has been completed.

The apps doesn’t require the user to have a wrist band or other form of physical key, but the folks behind PassBan clearly think that physical authentication adds a much needed extra layer to stop people using your phone without your permission.

At the moment PassBan is in closed beta, but it will soon be released to the public, and the company wants to sell the authentication wrist bands for less than $20 each, which will put it very much in the grasp of the average smartphone user.

The elephant in the room is whether anyone really wants this technology yet, part of the reason why mobile security is so poor is that many users just don’t actually think about it and PassBan may face an uphill struggle to get a good adoption rate of their technology. They aren’t, however, the only company on the scene who likes the idea of physical authentication, Google has been making a lot of rumblings about wanting to move internet security into the realm of physical keys rather than passwords or strings of numbers.

PassBan with be releasing their development kit very soon that will allow third party devleopers to add in PassBan functionality into their apps.

Whether you decide to do that or not as an app devleoper is your choice, but as the technology is only getting more and more advanced and security is becoming more and more of an issue, now could be the time to start getting your app’s security sorted.

(UPDATE 2017: PassBan was acquired by RSA in 2013, after this article was written.)

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