How many of you have more than $50 in your pocket right now? If you’re like me, you rarely ever have cold, hard cash in your pocket. Just about every purchase I make is used with a card. Well, for some of us, that is about to change. Soon you will be able to pay for everything using your smart phone. Wait a minute…what? Want to pay for something? Walk up to the register, have the clerk check you out, and then tap your phone to the front of the register. The register picks up some data on your phone, and the bill is settled. No sliding a card, no pulling out cash, just tap your phone to the register and you’re on your way.
All of this is made possible thanks to technology called Near Field Communication (NFC) and Google Wallet. This week, Google Wallet became available to the public, and provided you're in the right place, you can use it to pay for your goods.
How does Google Wallet work?
Let’s start with the basics. Google Wallet is an Android application. It’s a free download and you can add the details of your credit cards so that it stores all the basics that you need to make payments – your credit card number, expiration date, name and the CCV security code on the back.
Google Wallet works by communicating with the checkout terminal when you go to pay for goods or services. Tap your phone to the register and your phone sends wireless data to the store and your products are paid for. There's no cash involved.
Right now the Google Wallet app is only available for the Sprint Nexus S 4G phone works with a Citi MasterCard credit card. Google has said that it’s looking to support all cards from all suppliers in the future but, until then, you do have another option - the Google Prepaid Card, a virtual credit card that then serves as a source of cash to make your Google Wallet payments. As an added bonus for early adopters, if you get a Google Prepaid Card before the end of the year, you'll get an extra $10 deposited courtesy of Google.
Also, while MasterCard is the only credit card that will currently work with the system, Visa, Discover, and American Express have come onboard as well recently, meaning that soon everyone's credit cards and check cards should be working with the system.
Who accepts Google Wallet payments?
Of course, to use Google Wallet you will need to find a place that accepts it as payment. At the moment just over 124,000 merchants are using the MasterCard PayPass NFC terminals currently required for the task. Within that number, you’ll find those who will process the payments as well as supply the full Google Wallet benefits of loyalty points and voucher redemption, and those who are just enabled to take the payments alone. The former are known as Google SingleTap merchants and include the likes of Bloomingdales, Macys, Subway as well as other big names.
If you’d like to find out your nearest PayPass and Google Wallet-ready locations, then you can enter your zip code in the Google Wallet site. The PayPass locator Android app also has a location feature to help you find what you’re looking for. Finally, it’s also worth keeping your eyes open at the check out, Spot the PayPass symbol and you’re in luck.
How safe is it?
Security and consumer trust are obviously going to be massive issues if Google Wallet is to succeed. As such, Google has done its best to put users at rest by outlining how safe the system is going to be with your money.
Once entered into the app, all your card details are encrypted and stored on a separate chip within your handset known as the Secure Element. The Secure Element apparently can be thought of as a distinct computer capable of running its own programs and storing its own data. It uses storage separate from the normal Android memory and will allow trusted programs to access your information.
On top of all of that, the Google Wallet app also requires users to enter a PIN each time a transaction is made and, just to make sure there’s as little damage potential as possible, each Google Wallet transaction is currently limited to just $100. You can spend more but it requires an activation code being sent to your handset.
Should all else fail, the consumer will find themselves with the same rights and liability as if it were a normal credit card.
Along with the expansion in credit card types, expect to see Google Wallet come to a variety of different platforms and phones quickly. Even though Google is only rolling out things on Sprint's Nexus S 4G, it's just for the initial testing. It won't remain on Sprint alone forever. Current iPhones don't have NFC technology, but it's entirely possible future models might.
There is also the matter of a service known as Google Offers which will be starting up in an area nowhere near you shortly. Google Offers will be for both online and local deals in a rather similar way to which Groupon currently works. The added push is that anything you purchase via Offers will automatically sync with your Google Wallet. Once at the store in question, you’ll be able to present the barcode on your screen for the sale staff to scan or complete the transaction via NFC if they happen to be fitted with a reader.
Where can I get Google Wallet?
Currently Google Wallet is only available on Sprint Nexus S 4G phones through a software update. To get this update and to get started using Google Wallet click here!
Social engineers have been using various dirty tricks to fool people for centuries. Social engineering, the art of gaining access to buildings, systems or data by exploiting human psychology, rather than by breaking in or using technical hacking techniques, is as old as crime itself and has been used in many ways for decades.
For the past several years online, social engineers have been trying to fool unsuspecting users into clicking on malicious links and giving up sensitive information by pretending to be old friends or trusted authorities on email and social networks.
And now that mobile devices have taken over our lives, social engineering is an attack method of choice to gain access to a person's smartphone or tablet.
Here are three examples of current cons being used by criminals to get inside your mobile device. Malicious apps that look like legitimate apps
One example is the case of a popular and legitimate application Android users were purchasing that caused a virtual "steam" to appear on the screen of a smartphone. You could move your finger to scrape the virtual steam off, people love this sort of thing, although it served no real purpose.
But a malicious application that looked exactly like the virtual-steam application was created and many were conned into purchasing that one, instead of the authentic application. From a users perspective it is very hard to distinguish between an app that is legitimate with an app that turns out to be malicious.
What users ended up with was an application with unwanted things behind it. In some cases, the malicious application activated an SMS message from the victim's phone that was sent to request premium services and the user was charged. The attacker, meanwhile, would delete any return SMS messages acknowledging the charges so the victims had no idea they were being billed.
The best advice, don't install applications that come from un-trusted sources. Malicious mobile apps that come from ads
In some cases, legitimate applications on a smartphone run bad advertisements. If the user clicked on the ad, they are taken to a web site that tricks the victim into thinking their battery is inefficient. The person is then asked to install an application to optimize the battery consumption, which is instead a malicious application.
Our advice is the same as with PC’s, be leery of any advertisement that is asking you to install an application. Apps that claim to be for "security"
Another new mobile attack vector is a ZeuS malware variant that actually originates with an infected PC. When a user visits a banking site from an infected computer, they are prompted to download an authentication or security component onto their mobile device in order to complete the login process.
The attackers realize that users are using two-factor authentication. In many cases that second factor is implemented as a one-time password sent to the user's phone by the banking provider. Attackers were thinking: 'How can we get access to those credentials?' Their answer is: 'Attack the user's phone.'
The way this ruse works is once the PC is infected, the person logs onto their bank account and is told to download an application onto their phone in order to receive security messages, such as login credentials. But it is actually a malicious application from the same entity that is controlling the user's PC. Now they have access to not only the user's regular banking logon credentials, but also the second authentication factor sent to the victim via SMS. In many cases, people thought they simply were installing security applications, or in some cases, a security certificate.
Mobile devices, pure and simple, are hand-held computers and should be treated as such. The best way to protect yourself is to be cautious of not only the applications you install, but the links you click on in the web browser. If asked to download a file, application or security certificate, be leery and only download from trusted sources.
This week, Google launched its own social network in an attempt to challenge Facebook with a service that ties together all its existing sites including Gmail. Google’s long expected second shot at taking on Facebook in the social networking space has arrived in the form of the Google+ Project
. It has some interesting twists on the social networking model but is far from a Facebook-killer.
Google+ is structured in a remarkably similar way to Facebook, with profile pictures and news feeds forming a central core. However, a user's friends or contacts are grouped into specific circles of their choosing - as opposed to the common pool of friends typical on Facebook.
Google+ started rolling out to a limited number of users on Tuesday in what the company is calling a field trial. Only those invited to join will initially be able to use the service. Google did not say when it would be more widely available.
To create Google+, the company went back to the drawing board in the wake of several notable failures, including Google Wave and Google Buzz, a micro-blogging service whose launch was marred by privacy snafus. 'We learned a lot in Buzz, and one of the things we learned is that there's a real market opportunity for a product that addresses people's concerns around privacy and how their information is shared,' said Google spokesman Bradley Horowitz.
As with Facebook's service, Google+ has a central web page that displays an ever-updating stream of the comments, photos and links being shared by friends and contacts. A toolbar across the top of most of Google's sites - such as its main search page, its Gmail site and its Maps site - allows users to access their personalized data feed. They can then contribute their own information to the stream. Google+ will also offer a special video chat feature, in which up to ten people can jump on a conference call. And Google will automatically store photos taken on mobile phones on its Internet servers, allowing a Google+ user to access the photos from any computer and share them.
Want to try the service? Right now, it’s strictly invite only. Some press are being allowed in, along with others that Google hand picks. There’s no ETA on when wider invites will be available. Unusually, this isn’t being called a beta test or an experiment but rather a “field trial” that’s meant to finally gather some feedback from outside Google itself. The limited test is probably wise. It’ll give Google more time to discover things it might not have anticipated being problems, as was the case with Buzz.
For more detailed information and additional video tours of Google + click here
After rumors that Skype and Facebook were in talks to add Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) capability to Facebook chat, coming from nowhere, the newly released Bobsled app by T-Mobile just jumped at this opportunity by providing free voice calling to Facebook members worldwide. Days of calling people with a phone number are numbered.
T-Mobile has announced a new service named Bobsled and that is worth getting excited about. Why? Because it means that you can make free voice calls through Facebook — even if you're not a T-Mobile customer.
Once you install the app (powered by Vivox
), a little phone will appear by online friends’ screen names of those who have the app installed, and placing a phone call is just a click away. Bobsled takes out the need to dial friends’ numbers, or remember screen names, which is required by Bobsled’s competitors on Google Talk and Skype. You can also leave a voice message for your friends and family when they are not available. The messages can be public by posting a link on your friends wall or they can be marked private and will be sent via Private Message.
Bobsled will eventually be a suite of services but T-Mobile is launching it first as an app for people using PC or Mac computers. According to T-Mobile’s official press release
, Brad Duea, Senior Vice President, T-Mobile is confident that the service will continue to expand, possibly even to T-Mobile’s mobile platforms.
“Integrated voice on Facebook is a critical part of our roadmap for Bobsled by T-Mobile
and Vivox is the clear leader in this area,” said Duea, “Vivox is a talented and innovative company, and we look forward to a successful partnership with Vivox.”
In the near future, T-Mobile plans to evolve Bobsled by T-Mobile
to include video chat, the ability to place VoIP calls to mobile and landline U.S. numbers, and will offer applications on smartphones and tablets across various mobile platforms, regardless of the carrier that powers such devices.
If you’re interested in taking advantage of the service, visit www.LetsBobsled.com
or look for the free download from Facebook’s mobile app page
. From what I can tell, the install is fairly simple and is finished in three steps.
Well this is interesting…MySpace and Facebook plan to make a joint announcement this afternoon about an unspecified venture, according to an invitations issued by MySpace late last night, as seen below.
All the emailed invite specifies is that there will be a webinar noon Pacific Time on Thursday, to be hosted by MySpace CEO Mike Jones and Dan Rose, Vice President of Partnerships and Platform Marketing at Facebook.
Given that the two companies were arch rivals just a few short years ago, the collaboration is a shocker. It's like receiving an invitation to a party thrown by the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. However, MySpace did effectively signal it was out of the competition last month after it repositioned itself as a social-entertainment destination. The change was intended to stabilize the News Corp.-owned company after years of struggle that saw its dominance of the social networking space effectively up-ended by Facebook and Twitter.
Given that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn't listed as a participant, it doesn't seem like it would be a HUGE announcement, like some sort of joint venture or merger. (Plus, MySpace is listed first.)
Is MySpace throwing in the towel and moving its social network over to Facebook's social graph, to focus on being an entertainment portal? Or is the MySpace "log in with Facebook" deal just getting some play for the press? Is MySpace planning to adopt the Facebook apps platform? Or could this be something ad-related?
The rumor mill in the tech blog world is swirling with predictions of what this announcement could be. Whatever it is, we’ll find out in a few short hours.
What do you think about this announcement?
The ever-popular social networking site, Facebook, announced yesterday that it is rolling out a whole new messaging system over the next few months. This new messaging system "isn't just e-mail," but integrates four common ways users communicate: email, Facebook messages, chat, and SMS, archiving it all in a single thread.
The new system puts a user's identity above the communication protocol. Facebook Engineer Joel Seligstein said in the company blog, "You decide how you want to talk to your friends...They will receive your message through whatever medium or device is convenient for them, and you can both have a conversation in real time. You shouldn't have to remember who prefers IM over email or worry about which technology to use. Simply choose their name and type a message."
Messages are received in an inbox, but without the conventions of email and Facebook messaging (subject lines, recipient/cc/bcc fields, and such) and instead turns all conversation into a chat, where the conversation and the person you're conversing with are merged.
So if you and a friend are conversing over Facebook chat, then they switch over to a mobile device, the conversation stays in the same place, except it's being sent through SMS.
It currently handles the four different methods of communication, but as it rolls out, it will also become a sharing and collaboration platform. Microsoft also announced that it is integrating the Office Web Apps experience into Facebook's new messaging system. Users will be able to share Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents in Facebook messages, and download them to the desktop.
Facebook's new messaging system will be rolled out to different groups of users over the next few months, and will include a new mobile app, and @Facebook.com email addresses for interested users. For frequently asked questions or for an invite to try to the new messaging system click here.
With Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera all duking it out for browser market share, some might think the world doesn’t need another Web browser. However, a group of developers led by Tim Howes and Eric Vishria have taken the wraps off of RockMelt, a new Web browser that builds on the notion of a social Web by building Facebook and Twitter directly into the browser. RockMelt will also include integrated sharing tools and an enhanced way to navigate through Google search results via the keyboard to find exactly what you want. Additionally, if you happen to be using a public computer or someone else’s system, no problem: RockMelt is the first browser to be “fully backed by the cloud.” Just run RockMelt, and your personalized browsing experience is waiting for you.
“RockMelt does more than just navigate Web pages,” RockMelt wrote on their just-launched company blog. “It makes it easy for you to do the things you do every single day on the Web: share and keep up with your friends, stay up-to-date on news and information, and search.”
RockMelt also keeps track of users favorite sites, informing users of new posts or updates automatically so users don’t have to constantly check for new posts. Taking it one step further, RockMelt proactively fetches that content so users don’t have to wait for it to download once they notice it’s available. RockMelt also integrates a sharing tool to make it easy to share a page or a link with friends: clicking a Share button next to the browser’s URL field automatically shares the link with Facebook or Twitter, with no fuss. RockMelt also claims to be the first browser “backed by the cloud,” meaning that users can run RockMelt from anywhere, after you log in, you can tap directly into your personalized Web experience. RockMelt also aims to make searching easier my enabling users to flip through Google search results from the keyboard like flipping through a magazine.
RockMelt is available for Mac and Windows (Linux support not available) by invitation only—and, for the moment, interested users can only get an invitation via Facebook. The initial RockMelt release is a beta and has many rough spots, but the developers seem eager for feedback and thoughts on how to enhance the browser. Folks who spend a good portion of their online time using Facebook and Twitter then sharing interesting items with their friends may find a lot to like in RockMelt.
If RockMelt’s features resonate with social Internet users, expect mainstream browsers to quickly take notice…or maybe RockMelt could become a mainstream browser itself.
HTC has come a long way in the few years since its beginnings as supplier of third-party handsets for the mobile networks. Now it bows to no-one, with the possible exception of Apple, for the
quality of its smart phones, whether they run the Google Android OS, or this, the first smart phone out of the blocks to run on Microsoft's much-heralded Windows Phone 7
Wireless carrier T-Mobile is expected to release its first Windows Phone 7 based device, the HTC HD7
. This new release is followed by a second such phone due in several weeks, the Dell Venue Pro
. While we'll still have to wait until Monday, November 8th to see the HD7 on shelves, we can already take a look at what the sales package includes in the video below.
The guys over at PhoneDog.com
managed to grab one HTC HD7 device, and they videoed the unboxing process, and also made it available for your viewing pleasure.
The first Windows Phone 7 device to arrive at T-Mobile is currently the most impressive such device of them all. The HTC HD7 packs a 4.3-inch touchscreen display, which is much larger than what the rest of the handsets include (though Dell Venue Pro would boast a 4.1-inch screen).
The HD7 comes with a 1GHz application processor, and with a high-quality camera on the back with HD video recording capabilities. 3G connectivity options have been also included into the mix, as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, GPS receiver, and enough storage space to fit the needs of any user.
This phone is one of the most feature-packed Windows Phone 7 devices so far, but then again there aren’t many to compare it to. The handset was already listed at various online retailers in the US with lower price tags than what T-Mobile is asking for.
Make no mistake, the HTC HD7 is a solid Windows Phone 7 device and the OS shines on the 4.3-inch display. For a more detailed review from ZDNet, including specs, click here
The next version of Google’s smartphone operating system, Android 3.0, is just around the corner and the folks over at Phandroid have managed to obtain some new details on the forthcoming update. As you might already know, the “Froyo” (Android 2.2) successor is codenamed “Gingerbread”, and is slated to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2010, just in time for the holidays.
A lot of new and interesting updates have been made into this version, and seem rather appealing. Gingerbread will focus heavily on an improved user experience, which Google hopes will enable it to bring smartphone vendors into a more unified User Interface.
Most of the visual changes to Gingerbread are quite subtle, according to Phandroid. Icons have been redesigned to give a more uniform appearance, while the notification bar gets a “warm slate grey” color and the overall aesthetic has a more uniform feel to it – that includes revamping standard apps, like Youtube, to make them look and feel more integrated with the OS. Apparently the idea is to eventually eliminate the need for manufacturers to create their own overlays, so users won’t have to face long waits for manufacturers to roll out their updates.
Android 3.0 is also expected to include the Google’s music service. This will give you the ability to use your Android 3.0 handset to stream music from your home computer over the air. This feature seems quite cool and innovative too. It is also expected that this upcoming version of Android operating system will allow the user to enter a larger and more resourceful Android Market.
The minimum hardware requirements of the Android 3.0 Gingerbread operating system include the 1 GHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM, and a display which should be at least 3.5 inch or higher. But, most of us might have already heard of the Android handsets with 2 GHz CPU approaching our way. Moreover, a new resolution support of 1280 x 760 pixels have been incorporated and will prevail on devices which have a display of about 4 inch or higher.
With the release date a few weeks away way, we’ll have to wait and see what other tricks Google has up its sleeve.
Verizon Wireless has made it official, they are going to begin selling the Apple iPad as of October 28th. Verizon just issued a
press release announcing the launch of the Apple iPad in over 2,000 Verizon Wireless stores. Could this mean the start of a new frontier in the Android vs. Apple war?
This is indeed a bit of good news
, but it comes with some potentially bad points. The Verizon iPad will NOT be sold as a CDMA device – rather it will be a Wi-Fi only iPad that is bundled with the company’s MiFi service allowing a mobile modem of sorts. Whereas the AT&T iPad can simply roam around and get service via AT&T’s 3G signal.
Here’s the deal, Verizon will be bundling the iPad
with a MiFi Mobile Hotspot modem. Not entirely a bad idea, though this does mean an extra device to keep charged while on the go. That aside, this comes with some good and some bad points. First the good, the data plan will be contract free and only set you back $20 per month. The bad, you will only be given 1GB of data per month. Let’s just say that you are not going to be streaming Netflix with only 1GB. Another downside is the steep sticker price. Verizon will be offering the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB iPad with Wi-Fi for $629.99, $729.99 and $829.99 respectively.
Either way you look at it, this is a huge symbolic shift in the way mobile politics are being played and it definitely foreshadows changes to come. Android and Apple have been very secluded in their own little carrier worlds. AT&T has had the exclusive contract on the iPhone for quite some time. Since the launch of the Motorola Droid, Verizon and the “Droid” campaign have been the dominating Android influence. The Verizon vs. AT&T war has run parallel to the Android vs. Apple war, accentuated by AT&T being the last carrier to get an Android device.
The implications are obvious, the fact is that Verizon and Apple are now officially working together definitely opens the door for the Verizon iPhone 4G early next year. There is a clear partnership and the remaining hurdle is stuffing CDMA specs inside Apple devices. This is something that hasn’t been done yet, but something that will surely come soon. And of course with Verizon getting the iPhone, and other carriers possibly getting the iPhone as well, it makes Android’s competitive landscape in the United States much different.
The Apple & Android showdown has been pretty fun for everyone involved. Not to mention, it’s been great for consumers who are seeing manufacturers and carriers push devices, capabilities, and prices to the limits. With an Apple product being sold within the House That Droid Built, let the games begin!