UK Drivers Could See New ‘Safe’ Software for Phones Introduced

A meeting between the government and leading mobile phone networks could lead to phones having ‘drive safe’ mode software introduced.

The aim is to prevent drivers becoming distracted and help curb the number of accidents involving the driver using a mobile phone while behind the wheel.

The government says it wants to replicate the safe mode that smartphones offer users when on airplanes.

One national newspaper has reported that the move is the first part in a crackdown on the use of mobile phones while driving.

The difference between drive safe mode and that for people on planes is that the driver will still be able to make an emergency call and accept those from some designated callers.

However, it also been mooted that the phone could be automatically blocked if the vehicle’s speed reaches a certain limit using GPS technology.

From 2017, the penalty for using a mobile phone without a hands-free device will double to £200 and penalty points will double to six.

There has already been a move in the US for similar measures to be brought in with only music and satnav apps having the ability to function.

Android apps to delete

Users of Android smartphones wanting to speed-up their device should bin a range of apps to boost performance, says research firm Avast.

They say they have highlighted a range of popular apps including music streaming, dating and social network platforms that slowdown an Android’s phone.

Among them is Wattpad, a favourite with bookworms, WhatsCall, a Skype competitor, and the TayuTau pedometer.

They have joined the list of regular performance-hogger apps including Facebook, SnapChat, Spotify and Tinder.

Customers happy to interact with apps

Consumers say they are happy interacting with retail outlets and other brands on familiar mobile messaging apps including Facebook Messenger.

Around 53% of those questioned in the UK and France said they had used WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to interact with a company via the mobile messaging services.

What’s more, they are happy to do so but only if they can block those brands that do not interest them.

Just 28% of people questioned said they were not interested in using Facebook Messenger to interact with a brand, say market research firm Kenshoo.

We will be using a virtual PA by 2019

The increasing popularity of virtual personal assistants such as Google Now and Siri mean that more smartphone users will converse with them daily by 2019.

The growing popularity will be helped by the platforms offering more intelligent and intuitive ways to complete tasks.

Currently, 42% of US smart phone users and 32% in the UK have ever used a virtual personal assistant on their smartphone in the last three months.

Around 37% of smartphone owners use the VPA feature at least once every day and this figure is set to rise sharply.

Global mHealth market will rocket in value

With growing numbers of us using wearable tech means the global mobile health market will grow by nearly a third from today to reach $102 billion by 2022.

The technology uses smart phones, tablets and wireless devices to communicate with healthcare services and applications.

The market will see growth in sleep monitors, blood glucose meters and wearable fitness devices, say researchers.

However, the market for blood-pressure monitors is accounting for more than 20% of all revenue generated and likely to grow further with blood glucose meters occupying the second largest segment.

Firm claims 700 million Android phones have spyware pre-installed

Security firm Kryptowire was the first to warn about Adups collecting personal data from pre-installed apps but now it appears other smartphone makers are being drawn into the controversy.

The apps are made by a Chinese company which are pre-installed on Blu smartphones and are able to spy on the Android user and now another security firm, Trustlook, says the devices that are utilising Adups is ‘massive’.

They say there are more than 700 million Android phones that use the firmware and this is putting the user at risk of having their call histories, messages and device information collected without their consent or knowledge.

Most of the affected phones are only released in Asia or smaller markets but phones made by ZTE and Lenevo are also been called into question.

Predictions for 2017’s popular mobile apps

A brave firm has made predictions for the types of apps that will take off in 2017 and say there will be lots of innovation taking place.

Pinxter Digital says there will be a boom in mobile bot commerce as consumers switch to using apps to make purchases and this will continue to grow.

They also say there will be more food ordering apps from restaurants as well as chains.

The firm is also predicting more take-up for virtual reality while mobile apps will generally move every industry ‘into the future’.

Data Leaks are Still a Big Issue for Consumers

A report has revealed that consumers are concerned about smartphone security risks with more than 200 mobile applications and websites leaking personal data in the last year.

The report from Wandera says it’s found significant evidence that information is being leaked from apps and sites in 20 countries.

A spokesman says: “Mobile is the new frontier for data security but it’s clear that compliance risks and security are a much bigger threat than was previously thought.”

Among the data being leaked included names, addresses, contact information and phone numbers.

Also, the growing popularity of mobile wallets means financial data is also being leaked.

The firm says the data sources include mobile shopping and entertainment apps as well as news, sports and travel sites.

Perhaps it should not come as a surprise that some sites are more prone to data leaks than others with 80% of the world’s top 50 adult websites shown to be leaking data.

Encryption shortcuts found in secure apps

Researchers have found that some smartphone apps that claim the encryption service is bullet-proof do not encrypt files at all.

They say many apps found in the Google Play Store that claim to secure files by using encryption either fail to encrypt or use methods that are easy to crack.

The researchers at the University of Strathclyde put nine of the most popular apps which said they protected passwords and have the ability of encrypting files to the test.

All of the tested apps were funded with adverts and were selected because they had high numbers of downloads but all displayed major weaknesses that compromised the user’s security credentials.

Personal data restrictions unveiled by the EU

The EU has unveiled measures that would restrict the way messaging apps will handle personal data in future.

The restrictions would affect WhastApp and Skype.

The proposals are extension of the regulations covering mobile phone operators and will now cover value added messaging services.

Among the proposals is to guarantee the confidentiality of all communications and requiring the consent of companies before they can process a user’s location data.

In addition, the proposals also prevent online advertisers using platforms to target customers with online ads.

Bus passengers can buy tickets with their phones

Bus passengers in the borough of Gedling, near Nottingham, can now pay for their travel using a smartphone.

That’s because they will be able to use ApplePay to buy tickets and then show the driver their phone when boarding. No money will be changing hands.

A spokesman for Nottingham City Transport said the current app has been popular since launching with more than 50,000 downloads and that the current new features including mobile ticketing are also proving to be popular.

Beware if you use an STI app

STI apps are delivering harmful and inaccurate information, say researchers.

The study looked at 90 smartphone apps that focused on sexually transmitted infections and one in three had incomplete or inaccurate information.

Reaches say that the variation in the quality of medical advice could lead to the app’s user running sexual health risks before speaking with a doctor. One of the issues is there is little guidance for the consumer to assess the quality of information and its accuracy provided by the app.

In other Miratrix mobile phone app news …

Smartphone users in India who use payment and banking apps have had a shock after chip maker Qualcomm said most of these apps are using poor security for their online applications.

Industry watchers say the new Microsoft Surface smartphone may be the success the firm has been looking for and come to dominate the mobile phone sector. One of its striking features will be adding peripherals that are built for personal computers.

Bank Available Only as a Phone App Continues Success

A fast-growing bank that is only available as a smartphone app has announced its now available in 17 European countries and the number of customers has risen to 200,000.

The German-based Number26 bank only offers accounts to people living in the euro zone and now has its own banking licence from German regulators.

The bank offers users an online account for cash withdrawals, insurance services and savings with everything being managed on a smartphone.

This means there are no branches and there’s no computer infrastructure so the bank is able to offer better rates on savings and borrowing.

Those behind Number26 told a London conference about tech disruption that they have created a truly European bank that is also the continent’s most modern mobile bank.

Users warned to be aware of free Android apps

A study by a university of 18,000 free apps in the Google Play Store has revealed many are sharing the user’s information without their knowledge.

The researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say that half of the apps they surveyed did not have a privacy policy.

Also, most of the free apps that did not have a privacy policy were also less than honest about how they were using personal information collected from the user.

Researchers say that 41% of Android apps they checked made no mention of their gathering of identifiable data in a privacy policy and 17% also failed to disclose that the information is shared.

With millions of Android users now using free apps from the Google Play Store means many of them will be unaware of whether their data is being collected and shared.

However, the apps are violating Google’s guidelines for posting apps to the Play Store.

One critic said the automated system used by the researchers may not prove a problem exists since checking apps for their privacy requirements may be an inconsistent.

Mobile apps help boost the gig economy

Apps for mobile phones are helping to fuel the rocketing ‘gig’ economy in London, suggests research.

The New Economic Foundation says that the gig economy in the capital has risen by 72% since 2010 and the number of those employed within it have rocketed from 38,000 to 65,000.

It’s the application of app technology as well as new business models that has led to a big rise in workers undertaking the casual short-term work and helped to create companies such as Deliveroo and Uber.

The think tank says that the next rapid growing gig economy will be in DIY trade and cleaning.

The government says around 5 million people are currently working in the UK’s gig economy which is expected to grow further over the coming years.

In other Miratrix mobile phone app news …

Microsoft has announced that it is effectively going to turn a mobile phone into a PC by delivering a full suite of desktop apps to ARM chipsets. The Windows 10 platform will also have desktop app support.

The users of health apps are being warned not to rely on them in an emergency. A survey in the US has revealed that despite a proliferation of health apps, the ones that are designed to help those with serious ongoing health problems do not live up to expectations.

P-Plate drivers in New South Wales, Australia, are now officially banned from using their mobile phone behind the wheel and this includes using navigation apps. The ban also extends to the device being inserted safely in a dashboard mount.

Blame Pokémon Go but Sony has unveiled plans to release six games for smartphones in the coming year in the hope of recreating the success seen by Nintendo’s Pokémon Go. Among the titles will be popular PlayStation hits such as Arc The Lad and Everybody’s Golf with the games launched in Japan and then rolled-out to other Asian countries.

Amazon Unveils its AI Platform

Amazon is providing access to its machine learning tools for third-party developers to use in their apps.

The announcement was made at a developer event in Las Vegas with the firm revealing the tools that developers will now have access to on the Amazon AI platform.

App developers can now use Rekognition, an image recognition service, which can identify scenes and objects, similar to Microsoft and Google tools.

There’s also Polly which is a text-to-speech recognition tool with support offered for 24 languages and the choice of 47 female and male voices.

Amazon is also offering Lex with developers able to add multistep conversations to an application which can utilise simple phrases to help train a chatbot.

Amazon says they can use this tool to build a communicating chatbot and other mobile apps that support lifelike interactions.

One reason for the widening of access, according to one industry analyst, is a recent survey revealed that consumers are increasingly open to interacting with a chatbot when they are online shopping and for retailers this facility helps create a profitable opportunity when considering future software developments.

AirDroid app users warned

Users of the popular AirDriod app are being warned to watch out for a new security fix which they have been told to install immediately but only on a secure network.

The move follows news that the app is vulnerable to hacking and with up to 50 million downloads from the Google Play Store it could see millions of Android users being exposed to data theft and code-execution attacks when using unsecured networks.

Security firm Zimperium revealed the issue and says the problem is that when transmitting update files and sensitive data, the app uses an easily detectable and static encryption key.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: “Should a malicious party be using the same network they could remotely gain control of the device.”

Mobile Payment apps struggle

Analysts saw that Black Friday shoppers boosted last year’s figures but didn’t use apps such as Apple Pay.

Around 90% of purchases in-store were made with a credit or debit card with mobile phone payment apps accounting for 0.6% – not much higher than last year’s figure, says tech firm Cayan.

With so many choices and obstacles, industry watchers are saying it could take decades before these apps take off.

Adobe says that 54% of purchases on Black Friday came from smartphones or tablets.

In other mobile app news …

A new WhatsApp upgrade in the New Year may see millions of users being booted off the platform because the app will not work on older smartphones. One of the world’s most popular phone apps, there will be many new features.

The NORAD Santa Tracker website has now gone live and there’s an app to download in time for children (and parents) to use on Christmas Eve.

A new system to classify SD cards for use with Android phones has been unveiled – users will see whether the card is powerful enough for their needs ‘at a glance’.

The popular BBC news app has been updated so users can enjoy vertical videos and being able swipe through the day’s stories.

Smart phone users in Edinburgh’s city centre can now enjoy free high-speed Internet which covers the entire centre rather than having wifi hotspots.

Move to Prevent Apps Working in Cars

App developers around the world need to be aware that the US government is looking at plans that would disable mobile phone apps from being used when the user is in a car.

The government says it wants the makers of smartphones to lock most apps from being used.

The guidelines are currently voluntary with the aim of reducing accidents that are caused by drivers being distracted by their phones.

In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also wants carmakers to make their infotainment systems easier to be paired with a driver’s phone.

The move would see the driver still able to make calls but unable to send or receive text messages or browse the Internet or even use the video function.

However, navigation systems would still be permitted but there will be guidelines on how driver distraction can be avoided.

Meanwhile, the Australian government is looking to ban newly qualified drivers from using mobile phones while driving with a ban covering all use including navigation apps.

Apps build database of mobile phone numbers

A searchable database of billions of phone numbers has been built-up without permission by three popular mobile phone apps, according to a Hong Kong security firm.

They point out that among the numbers are those being stored are for top politicians in the UK and Hong Kong.

The apps work by enabling users to use a ‘reverse look-up’ function for a number they do not recognise – but this data is taken from users’ own phone lists.

Since the report was published one of the app providers has halted the ‘reverse look-up’ function while the two others say users can opt out of their database.

Mobile messaging app will boom

The use of mobile messaging will be enjoyed by a quarter of the world’s population within the next two years, according to a forecast.

That would be an increase of 16% on current use with most users being in the Asia Pacific region.

The growing market for messaging is India where users will increase in number by 24% to more than 133 million people.

One industry watcher told a news outlet that the reason for the rapid growth is that mobile messaging apps are a cheaper alternative to text messaging.

Top apps hog more user’s time

A survey has revealed that the 100 most popular apps are taking up more of their user’s time, says Opera Mediaworks.

In the first quarter of 2016, users were spending on average 30 minutes with the top apps which grew to 33.5 minutes in the next quarter and in the third quarter rose to nearly 37 minutes.

A spokesman for the firm said: “In just six months that has been a 20.5% jump.”

The findings reveal that mobile users spend on average just five minutes with an app but for the top 100 apps, users spend nearly 10 minutes on them.

Also, iPhone users open their phone 80 times on average while Android users open their phones 76 times: this means that mobile phone users access their phone every 15 minutes.

In other mobile phone app news …

Plunging sales at mobile phone firm HTC has led to rumours that the owners are looking for a buyer despite the firm producing some of the best tech-strong phones in recent years. However, HTC has denied a takeover is imminent.

The troubled Windows mobile phone software may be boosted next year to run the full desktop version of Windows apps instead of the firm’s ‘universal apps’.

The US army has announced it is increasing the number of training apps available for tablets and smartphones with the current batch proving popular. The apps have to meet strict security requirements but the aim is to improve training standards for soldiers.