Posts Tagged Sprint

Why Carrier IQ is doomed

“Carrier IQ: How the Widespread Rootkit Can Track Everything on Your Phone, and How to Remove It” — That was the title of one of LifeHacker’s posts this Wednesday, which is just one of countless articles on the now-controversial carrier metric-gathering tool Carrier IQ that some are calling “rootkit” and “spyware.”

” … a hidden application on some mobile phones that had the ability to log anything and everything on your device—from location to web searches to the content of your text messages. The program is called Carrier IQ, and … it actually comes preinstalled by the manufacturer of your phone.” — LifeHacker.

Developer Trevor Eckhart posted his YouTube video detailing the proported workings of the Android software, which demonstrates Carrier IQ monitoring keypresses, SMS messages, and browsing, even when the phone is not connected to a carrier network, and transmitting this data to Carrier IQ’s servers. Supposedly this data is then aggregated and then transmitted to the carriers for network and user-experience improvements. Though it’s not necessarily what it is doing, it’s about what it’s capable of doing. Read Eckhart’s detailed article here for his detailed breakdown the capabilities of Carrier IQ.

So I’ll say it once more — Carrier IQ is doomed — at least in its present incarnation. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

LifeHacker, HowToGeek, TechCrunch, BBC News, and others have all run articles on Carrier IQ, typically with one main focus: Detecting it and allowing the user to remove or disable it.The U.S. Senate has started asking questions, and it’s fairly certain that there will be lawsuits. After all, it’s not what you’re doing, it’s what you’re capable of doing:

“Senator Al Franken … has asked Carrier IQ to clarify exactly what its software can do. Franken specifically wants to know what data is recorded on devices with Carrier IQ, what data is sent, if it’s sent to Carrier IQ or carriers themselves, how long it’s stored once received, and how it’s protected once stored.” — The Verge.

If you want Eckhart’s app for checking/removing it on Android, you can get it here. Non-root users, or those having trouble with the above tool, can get a tool that detects but cannot remove Carrier IQ here.

What will be the end result?

If the lawsuits have their way, Carrier IQ is likely to have it’s functionality reduced at the very least, as well as a full disclosure to its presence. It could also mean a visible option to disable it — and that’s if handset manufacturers and carriers continue to use it. At the very most, it will be a huge, drawn-out ordeal, which is very likely. Update: The lawsuits are already underway:

“Carrier IQ, the new poster child for (alleged) smartphone privacy violations, has been hit with two class-action lawsuits from users worried about how the company’s software tracks their smartphone activity.” — ArsTechnica.

If the tech blogs are of any influence (and they are), people will start removing Carrier IQ from their handsets, or switching away from Android to handsets that don’t have Carrier IQ on them. Apple has already stated they are planning to drop Carrier IQ completely in future versions of iOS. RIM has stated that they never had Carrier IQ on BlackBerry handsets to begin with. Microsoft states Windows 7 phones don’t even support Carrier IQ.

Phones aren’t the only devices Carrier IQ may be installed on. Users have started asking questions about tablet devices such as the Nook as well, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 can be rooted to check for the presence of it.

Highly motivated consumers may even choose to switch away from AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile, who use Carrier IQ, to Verizon, who states they do not.

You can bet that, over time, the pressure from customers and negative press towards Carrier IQ will cause the carriers to reconsider the value of it, especially since they might be the ones paying for it in the first place. If you want one last laugh, be sure to read John Gruber’s “translation” of the Carrier IQ press release from November 16th.

Have any thoughts of your own to share regarding Carrier IQ, or would like to share what devices you have or have not found it on? Please feel free to share them in the comments below. Thank you!

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Google Music vs iTunes Match

Google and Apple each brought their own services which allow users to upload their music library and stream it to their devices in the form of Google Music and iTunes Match, respectively. But how do those services compare?

Let’s take a side-by-side comparative look at some of the features:

Feature Google Music iTunes Match
Number of songs 20,000 songs not purchased from Android Market 25,000 songs not purchased from iTunes
Price Free $25/yr
Supported devices Works on common browsers on Win / Mac / Linux / Android / iOS (1) Works on Win / Mac running iTunes; iOS devices supporting iCloud
Sync Automatically sync music to Google Music using Win / Mac / Linux client Automatically sync music to iTunes Match using iTunes
Sync Selection Select which songs to upload using sync client All songs from iTunes library are synchronized.
Local Storage Save music to your Win / Mac / Linux / Android device for offline playback Save music to your Win / Mac / iOS device for offline playback
Uploading Every song must be uploaded Matching is performed prior to upload; Only unmatched songs are uploaded
Supported file formats Mp3, AAC (m4a), wma, flac, ogg (source) Same as iTunes
Excluded formats None 24-bit audio; Bitrates under 96 kbps; File over 200MB (source)

(1) Although Google Music is reported to work on iOS devices, I wasn’t able to get it to display any of the songs in my library — (screenshot). UPDATE: I can confirm it does work on iOS (iPhone), but only as the desktop site (which is clunky and requires zooming on an iPhone screen). Screenshots one, two, and three. The mobile site still shows I have no music in my library.

As you can see, Google Music is aimed at the Android crowd, while iTunes Match is aimed at the iOS crowd. However, a few of the major points in Google Music’s favor that I see are that it supports playback from a web browser, has a Linux client, and is free.

I’m interested in everyone else’s opinion as well. Which streaming music service do you prefer, and why? Please feel free to share your opinion in the comments below. Thank you!

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Easy Sprint Galaxy Tab 7 Rooting

There’s a very easy method for rooting the Sprint Galaxy Tab 7″. I don’t know whether it works on the 10.1 or not, as I only have the 7″.

REQUIRES:
* A decent Windows computer (XP or newer) – Virtual machine alone will not work
* Your Tab USB cable
* About 15 minutes or so
* Ability to follow instructions

NOTE: Build number will NOT show “QUENS.GINGERBREAD.EF17” per the screenshot, it will show “GINGERBREAD.EF17”. Verify success by the presence of ‘Superuser’ in applications and try downloading Titanium Backup (or any other root-required application, such as Root Checker) from Market and verify you get a prompt for Superuser access.

Runs smoothly with no issues.

Link: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1161033

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Sprint and Google Voice integration

I was recently in a Sprint store and saw that they were advertising Google Voice integration with your Sprint mobile number which adds all of the features and functionality of Google Voice to your Sprint mobile number.

The Sprint and Google Voice integration gives you two (technically three) options to use with your account. I’ll explain the two carrier-integration and the one non-carrier-integration options as clearly as I can, citing references and personal experience on each.

If you install the Google Voice app on Android, you’ll be prompted to either perform the carrier integration steps or skip it. Unfortunately, the impact of the options isn’t as clear as it could be. So here’s my take-away on this.

First, the carrier-integration options as listed on http://www.google.com/googlevoice/sprint/

Option 1: Use your Sprint number with Google Voice.

This causes the carrier to pass (for lack of a better word) all of your inbound calls through the GV service. Your Sprint mobile number becomes your Google voice number. This is the mode that Sprint is encouraging, both from a feature and a billing perspective.

All of your outbound calls from the GV website will display your Sprint number. The one thing about this is that you can enable/disable calls from ringing your mobile through the Google Voice settings (even though it’s your mobile number — remember we’re passing incoming calls through the GV service?). You can even uncheck your phone in the list of ringing devices and have it go directly to voicemail.

If you have an existing GV number already, you will have a limited time (90 days) before Google recycles the number back into their pool (unless you pay a $20 one-time payment to permanently keep it). This information is displayed in your Google Voice settings.

The one thing that unnerves me a bit is the fact that you can uncheck your phone in the list of phones and it will not ring when people dial your number. So… keep that in mind.

Also, SMS are delivered to the Google Voice app ONLY, and require a data connection to work. MMS are delivered to the phone directly.

Option 2: Use your Google Voice number on your Sprint phone.

This causes ALL outgoing calls and texts from your mobile handset to pass through the GV service and therefore display your current Google Voice number (NOT your Sprint mobile number). Similiar to the above except for the number displayed is your current GV number and not your Sprint mobile number.

Non-integrated Option 3: Use Google Voice only for voicemail.

Skip the carrier integration and just dial a call forwarding/no answer/busy code on your handset to your GV number. On Sprint, this is *28. So if your GV number was 312-555-1212, you would dial *283125551212 and hit send. To stop this and return to carrier voicemail, dial *38. you should hear confirmation tones. If you hear an error message instead, call Sprint at 888-211-4727 and ask them for assistance. In this option, everything happens over the Sprint network except for voicemail, which is handled by the “Call forwarding no answer/busy” function (*28).

To disable carrier integration:

If you turned on integration and changed your mind, follow these steps to disable it:

  • Log in to your Google Voice account
  • Click the gear icon in the top-right corner and click Voice Settings
  • Under “Phones” click “Disable integration” next to your integrated line.

Mind you, carrier integration is NOT number porting (I was nervous about this myself) but rather a mutual hand-off of who is routing and handling the incoming/outgoing call path.

Still have questions about Sprint Google Voice integration?

See the following links for more information:

Some issues that others are facing:

Engadget has also posted the following posts on Sprint Google Voice integration:

… and please feel free to share your feedback or experience with Sprint Google Voice integration in the comments below. Thank you!

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Curious Samsung smartphone micro-USB charger issue

In the past I had a Samsung Moment that had an infuriating issue with charging — after a while, it would get very picky about which chargers it wanted to accept. The phone would either charge or not, or intermittently cut out from the charger.

I replaced the phone at least once that I can recall and had the issue start up about a month after getting the new phone. Frustrated, I replaced it with a Blackberry.

Now I have a Samsung Epic 4G and without a second thought I plugged it in to my USB cable and charged it right after I got it.

When I went to plug it in to the charger on my nightstand, it wouldn’t charge. I put a 120v-to-USB adapter on the USB cable and charged it like that for the time. I blamed it on chargers not outputting enough voltage, and told myself I’d look into it another day.

Today I finally got around to testing it with various chargers, and the results were interesting:

  • NONE of my Samsung-branded wall chargers worked.
  • My Samsung-branded USB cable didn’t work.
  • My Blackberry-branded USB cable worked.
  • A Belkin-branded USB cable worked.

Interesting, no? I took a closer look at the male micro-USB connectors.

Click for larger image with mark-up

The photo above — being the best I could do with my camera — shows the Samsung-branded cable on top and the Blackberry-branded cable on the bottom. Notice (if you’re able) that the Samsung-branded cable is shorter — about 0.5mm shorter, actually. The Samsung cable is about 5.5mm and the Blackberry (and the Belkin) is about 6mm.

My opinion is that the female micro-USB on the phone, when new and snug, accepts the 5.5mm plug. As the receptacle starts to wear, the shielding and insulation shift ever-so-slightly and the 5.5mm plug no longer fits correctly. The phone charges fine with a 6mm plug. I’ve heard from plenty of people with Samsung devices that have charger issues that the phone gets “picky” about which chargers it accepts. I suspect this is the reason.

What happens over time with a 6mm plug? Well, since I’m coming back to update this post I’ll tell you that with the 6mm microUSB the port eventually failed (again?). I took the phone to Sprint and they said the port failed and agreed to replace the phone. And now… the 5.5mm Samsung plugs are snug and the 6mm generics almost seem too tight. Is it that the 6mm plugs lead to premature failure of the port? I honestly don’t know… but — Samsung devices seem to be the only devices with this issue that I’m aware of.

If you have anything to share about the above, please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you!

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Meet the Samsung Moment

I finally got my Samsung Moment from Sprint, and all I can say is… wow!

Loaded with Android 2.1 (Eclair), the Moment is a great phone.

The roughly 3.25″ 320×480 capacitive touchscreen AMOLED display shows bright, crisp, clear colors (even against sunlight glare), and responds well to finger touches without requiring pressure. Notable is the fact that it does not respond to object touch, only finger touch. Directly below the screen are three touch keys: Home , Menu, and Back. Holding the home key brings up the task list. Below that, hardware Send and End keys, and an optical trackpad complete the front keys. The optical trackpad is a wonderful asset, especially when browing the web; small elements (such as links) are sometimes hard to touch accurately, and being able to select them by scrolling and clicking the trackpad is great.

Around the sides, hardware volume up and down keys, two-position camera button, and a voice command button give quick access at a touch, and rubber-plugged USB (charging) and 3.5mm headphone jack add ruggedness to the ports. The two-position camera key allows the user to have the camera focus with a half-press, and take the picture with the full press.

The 3.2MP auto-focus camera with flash is great for taking both casual and macro pictures. The auto-focus feature is also great for use with apps such as Barcode Scanner, Parcels, Google Shopping, and more.

I found the slide-out full QWERTY keyboard to be essential, as I don’t favor on-screen keyboards (though it’s there if you prefer). The only thing I’m still getting used to is the particular layout. Though, each manufacturer has their own quirks when it comes to QWERTY layouts, it’s not an unbearable layout. In fact, I’m getting used to it already.

So now on to the apps. I thought fitting to put together a list of some of the apps that I feel are must-haves, at least for me, in no particular order. You can read about them on my list of must-have Android apps.

Now, the one really bad thing I found about this phone is the ubiquitously-mentioned poor battery life. In it’s stock configuration, the 1440mah battery will barely last the day, even on the fullest charge. I haven’t been able to find an Extended Life battery for this phone on the web yet, so I had to do some troubleshooting to find ways to extend the battery life. The results? The default radio settings have Wifi, GPS, and “background data” all turned on, and the phone never takes a break. Head to Settings > Wireless and Network Settings and tick off Wifi, and Bluetooth when you don’t need them. Under Settings > Location and Security Settings you’ll find Use GPS satellites which can be ticked off when not needed. Going to Settings > Account and Sync Settings you’ll find Background Data which will also save you data and battery life. Of course, you can always add the Power Control widget to your home screen to have these controls available to you at a single touch. I’ve also heard of some running the battery down to about 5% then plugging the phone in and letting the battery charge completely to supposedly “recalibrate” the phone’s battery meter. I’m experimenting and if I find anything significant, I’ll post it.

Use the Samsung Moment and have a tip to share? Any advice for extending the battery life on this phone? Please leave a comment below.

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The almost indestructible phone case

When I got my Sprint BlackBerry 8530, the first thing I looked for was a good case. It’s a shame to have a nice phone and tear it up from keys in the pocket, accidental drop, banging against a counter (which is how I cracked the camera lens on my HTC Touch Pro: I leaned up against the counter at Chuck-E-Cheese).

I initially had a cheap silicone case, but it quickly stretched and became a lint magnet. Not to mention the fact that it would stick to the inside of my pocket and not want to come out when my phone was ringing. Though cheap, silicone cases are junk, in my opinion.

I decided I was probably better getting some kind of hard case. The nice thing about hard cases is they feel more natural on your phone and they can take the abuse. I’m rough on my phone — it goes with me everywhere, even in the rain.

I heard some really nice things about Seidio cases, and checked them out. My friend Jeff beat me to the order, and I asked to take a look at his device with the case on it. It’s nice-looking.

So for myself, I found the Innocase Surface and the Innocase Holster. I was extremely happy with this case. Until I broke it.

Breaking this case was no easy task: I’ve dropped it on concrete, tile, wood floors, tossed in my work toolbag a few times (screwdrivers, pliers, etc), talked on it while doing a brake job (which is probably what took the finish off)… This case is tough. I’ve even demonstrated to a few people that you can take a key to it and not scratch it.

Ironically enough, I was out somewhere and dropped it on carpet. The case flew apart and the locking tabs broke. I guess it had finally had enough.

So now I’ll be ordering another, and I guess I have to be extra careful with it until the new case comes in.

Caveat: There is a small downside to [the black] case. I’ve found out through experience that the BlackBerry will stop charging the battery if it gets too hot. That’s actually a good thing, as if you try to charge a Li-ion battery thats too hot, you’ll actually degrade the battery. The case I bought — being black and having a soft finish, actually caused the phone to heat up if I left it in on the passenger seat of my car in the sun. Solution? I just put it in my center console.

Have an Innocase for your phone or considering it? Share your thoughts below…

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