New Nokia phones: Nokia 150 and Nokia 150 Dual Sim

Nokia is back! The first new phones from the former number 1 mobile manufacturer now built by HMD, are out. These are not smart phones though, rather new feature phones that gives a glimpse of what HMD can do.

Meet the Nokia 150 and Nokia 150 Dual Sim:

Nokia 150 and 150 Dual SIM specs:
2.4-inch QVGA TFT display (240 x 320 pixels)
Expandable storage via microSD card, up to 32GB
VGA rear camera w/ LED flash
Bluetooth 3.0
FM radio
MP3 player
1020mAh removable Li-Ion battery (BL-5C)
Nokia Series 30+
118.0 x 50.2 x 13.5 mm
81 g

It has an MP3 player, built-in radio, Bluetooth and a VGA camera. The best part, it has a battery life of 22 hours!
Priced at $26 USD or roughly Php1,300 before taxes, the new phones will be available early next year.

Soon though, we’ll see the new smart phones from Nokia, I don’t know about you but I’m feeling a bit of excitement myself. Check out HMD’s website for more info about these new feature phones.

Android Malware: Gooligan – Is your phone infected?

You may have heard or read about it online, a malware has been found to have infected more than 1 Million Android devices and that number goes up by as much as 13,000 devices per day. This was reported by tech security firm Check Point:

Our research exposes how the malware roots infected devices and steals authentication tokens that can be used to access data from Google Play, Gmail, Google Photos, Google Docs, G Suite, Google Drive, and more.

Gooligan is a new variant of the Android malware campaign found by our researchers in the SnapPea app last year.

The malware has spread through 3rd-party Android app stores for a number of reasons: less stringent security measures compared to Google’s Play Store, free versions of paid apps are usually found in these 3rd-party app stores and majority of the apps are available for free.

Gooligan malware is part of an online campaign to steal Google account tokens that can be used for other nefarious deeds aside from the obvious stealing of one’s Google account. Check out the infographic below to see the big picture:

How gooligan campaign works
Image by Check Point

They have an online tool that lets you check whether or not your Google account has been compromised which means your device has been infected by the Gooligan malware or not. I checked out my primary Google account and was glad that it is still remains intact.

They also have a list of apps that have been confirmed to carry the Gooligan malware. So check it out and your device’s list of installed apps to see if you’re phone has been infected or not. The most effective way to protect your phone is simple: do not download apps from 3rd-party app stores. Avoid side-loading apps or manually installing apps on your device specially if you’re unsure of where it came from. And even if you’re on the Google Play Store, do some research first before downloading an app.

Google is already aware of this issue and have taken steps to combat this malware.

Read Check Point’s report on the Gooligan malware for more information. Be safe. Be smart.

Impressed with Google Handwriting Input

While searching for a way to put emojis on my Twitter posts, as it seems that it only works on iOS devices, I stumbled on the brand new Google Handwriting Input app which was released yesterday. As it name says, the app converts handwritten words and shapes into text input on your Android device. It supports 82 languages, cursive and printed writing and will work with or without a stylus.

Google Handwriting Input
Google Handwriting Input easily recognized my terrible handwriting and even offered auto-spell correction.
I’ve been using it since yesterday on my Nexus 5 and what a joy it is to use. I’m very impressed as it recognized my terrible handwriting even after my finger has ran out of space on the screen and was literally scribbling over the letters I just wrote. Another cool thing about it is that it accepts or recognizes my national language Filipino without auto-spell correction kicking in and making a mess of my grammar and sentences.

The only thing I can’t seem to do with it is write the number “0” as the app interprets it as the letter “o”. Over all though, the app is impressive (can’t say this enough) and is the perfect companion to the already awesome Google Keyboard. It works on phones and tables running Android 4.0.3 and up.

Anyone else who has tried this great new app from Google?

Bitten by the Nexus 5 memory leak bug

After receiving the Android 5.1 update via OTA last week I calmed down. Confidence shot up by a couple of points knowing that my Nexus 5 once more is sporting the latest version of Android. I should be. I’ve never had issues with Android updates in the many years of using Nexus devices. Until now.

Nexus 5 memory leak

While the performance and battery consumption have been improved, well as far as I can tell, my Nexus 5 has seen an increase of restarts and crashes. At first I thought it was because of the many apps I cycle through on a typical day. But no. Even after clearing the previously running apps, my phone would just freeze and a manual reboot would be required. After doing my homework, and this time around really paying attention to the details, I have come to the conclusion that the Android 5.1 update has brought the memory leak bug to my Nexus 5. So much for patiently waiting for the update via OTA.

How does it compare to before updating to Android 5.1? I borrow the words..err, tweet of @FlopNRoll:

Fortunately, Google and the Android team is working on it as news of an Android 5.1.1 update – which finally address this memory leak issue once and for all – is soon to be released. When? Well, it’s from Google so your guess is as good as mine.

Are you also using the Nexus 5? Have you updated to Android 5.1? Are you also suffering from the same issue?

Android L’s enterprise management tools – piling the pressure on BlackBerry

When was the last time we heard something new or exciting from BlackBerry? Apart from the recent appointment of Marty Beard as COO, not much else.

And this quick rundown by Ingrid Lunden over at TechCrunch of where BlackBerry stands right now isn’t all sunshine and rainbows:

BlackBerry’s share price dropped by more than 10% the day after Apple and IBM announced their news. The effect was not helped by the general decline that BlackBerry has seen over the last couple of years as its market share in smartphones as tumbled while Android devices and the iPhone continue to rise. On pre-market trading, BlackBerry’s stock was at $10.13 per share, up some 0.9% on Friday’s closing price.

It’s not just the double-team from Apple and IBM, Android is also making a big push into the enterprise space with the enterprise management tools in the upcoming Android L release.

Android Central’s Jerry Hildenbrand gives a breakdown of what it does:

  • Enable or disable other apps, and set restrictions on them.
  • Configure intents to be forwarded between the primary account and the managed profile.
  • Wipe all the data associated with the managed profile.

And has this to say about its potential:

The new methods of control over Android intents sound very interesting, and may be exactly the secret sauce Google needs to get a foot in the enterprise door. I can see situations where you’re unable to send a Google Drive document to your personal email, nor can you import a file from a non-managed app to a managed one.

Clearly, BlackBerry has been setup for a defining challenge as its competitors have set their sights on its home turf which is the enterprise segment after they have overtaken the Canadian firm in the devices market. Would this be the final battle for BlackBerry’s survival?

Smudge attacks – why I don’t use patterns to lock my Android phone

Have you tried to guessing a friend’s security pattern by looking at the trail of smudge on their phone’s screen? It turns out that the odds are in your favor. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania has come out with a paper that takes a closer look at how greasy fingers can lead to smudge attacks – people guessing your security pattern by simply looking at the smudge trail on the screen of your smartphone or tablet device.

In their study, they were successful in guessing the right security pattern at an amazing 90 percent of the time! They further concluded that:

We showed that in many situations full or partial pattern recovery is possible, even with smudge ‘noise’ from simulated application usage or distortion caused by incidental clothing contact.

So I was right all along. The first time I saw a friend unlock his Android phone using a pattern and then a trail of smudge was on the screen, I knew that by following that grease trail, it wouldn’t be that hard to guess what the correct pattern is.

And I’m pretty sure most folks use the pattern feature to lock and unlock their devices as opposed to the traditional numeric PIN code. Between the two, I use a numeric PIN code and have never used a pattern in securing my Android phones.

Aside from this vulnerability with the pattern feature, the other reasons I don’t use it are:

I would easily forget the pattern even with numerous usages throughout the day. PIN numbers work best for me.

Other folks can easily remember it when they see it. With a pattern you just have to remember how someone moved their finger across the screen while in the case of numeric PINs, you’d have to consider which numbers were pressed and in what sequence to get it right.

My sweaty palms naturally create more smudge and greasy fingerprints on my devices.

I’m quite sure that I’m not the only one that has these concerns. Thankfully, the good folks at Lifehacker has come up with some solutions to mitigate the risks of smudge attacks. That plus a habit of regularly wiping your device’s screen will go a long way in securing your device.

Huge Security Hole in HTC Devices Found

Just when I am in the process of saving up for a new HTC smart phone, the folks over at Android Police had discovered another security hole – a massive one at that, in HTC devices.

The vulnerability is:

any app on affected devices that requests a single android.permission.INTERNET (which is normal for any app that connects to the web or shows ads) can get its hands on:

  • the list of user accounts, including email addresses and sync status for each
  • last known network and GPS locations and a limited previous history of locations
  • phone numbers from the phone log
  • SMS data, including phone numbers and encoded text (not sure yet if it’s possible to decode it, but very likely)
  • system logs (both kernel/dmesg and app/logcat), which includes everything your running apps do and is likely to include email addresses, phone numbers, and other private info

They add that this security hole is way bigger in terms of scale compared to the data-leaking Skype vulnerability discovered early this year. So far, affected models were mostly the EVO line, models that are not officially sold here in the Philippines, as far as I know. But HTC users can check by downloading the Proof of Concept APK.

They already informed HTC about this but so far, no reply has been made nor is there any news as to what the company will do about it.

Hopefully, all of this gets sorted out by the time I’m ready to buy an HTC handset. Otherwise, I may end up getting a Samsung or a unit from Sony-Ericsson. Worse, I could be stuck on a BlackBerry.

Check out Android Police’s report about it for more information. They’ve done a great job with this one.

Review: HTC ChaCha

Smart representatives told us that the HTC ChaCha is being targeted by HTC to high school students or the young at heart mainly because it is the unofficial Facebook phone thanks to the dedicated ‘Facebook button’ on the handset.

Yep, this device comes with a full QWERTY keypad and a 2.6 inch Gorilla Glass display with touch capabilities. Yes, that’s a touch screen and a physical QWERTY keypad in one nifty device.

Before we proceed, here’s a quick run down of the phones specifications:

HTC ChaCha
HTC ChaCha in silver

Display Size: 480×320, 2.6 inch Gorilla Glass display.
Internal Memory: 512MB ROM, 512MB RAM
CPU: 800 MHz processor
Primary Camera: 5MP LED Flash
Video Capture: Yes
Secondary Camera: Yes, VGA
Colors: Black, White, Purple

The ChaCha’s build is solid and comfortably fits the palm of your hands. It might be cumbersome for folks like me who have large thumbs to master speed typing on the keypad without making a grammatical and spelling disaster on your posts and messages, but you can get used to it in a short time.

The touch screen capabilities complement the physical keypad well as you can easily navigate the HTC Sense UI with it. Though I found it a bit confusing at first because I’ve never encountered a phone with both touch and physical keypad capabilities before.

So there were times that I trying to navigate using the keypad’s direction keys while trying to type a message on the screen which should have been the other way around.

The HTC ChaCha runs on the latest Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS sporting the exceptional HTC Sense 3.0 UI so it’s a good package altogether. It gives a clear display with crisp and vivid colors you could easily appreciate the 5MP camera that comes with it.

The 2.6inch 480×320 display may feel a bit cramped but it serves the phone’s primary purpose, allowing the user to easily update his or her Facebook wall status or check in to places you’ve just arrived at. All of these made possible because of the dedicated Facebook button which allows you to post photos, videos, music or status updates instantly without having to open the Facebook app itself.

The only downside I found with the HTC ChaCha, well on the test unit loaned to me, was that the p and @ keypad wasn’t working. Hopefully it’s not a bug of one all ChaCha phones as it could seriously turn away users who are looking for a capable phone with great mobile Internet features.

The HTC ChaCha is available exclusively from SMART and it’s free on their Smart Data Plan 1000 or the UNLIMITED Data Plan 1500. You get 100 free sms, free 40 minutes of calls and 100MB of data volume which is enough to let you enjoy updating your Facebook account while on the go.

Note: This review has been reconstructed from the original post that seems to have never been published because of a database error that struck this blog. Visitors coming from RSS readers may get confused so I apologize for the mishap.

Review: HTC Sensation

The folks at HTC named this smart phone just right. It overwhelms you with sensations of awe and excitement even before you hold it on your hands.

The HTC Sensation is the newest dual-core handset from the Taiwanese phone maker. This is the my first time to review an HTC smart phone, trying out the Sensation has convinced me as to why its manufacturer has earned great accolades and reviews both from tech pundits and followers.

Solid unibody design and feel

HTC SensationThe second you feel it in your grip, the Sensation tingles you with its sexy curves and sleek feel. It weighs light for a phone of its size. You can feel the phone’s center of gravity set low in your palm giving you the confidence to hold it in one hand.

Its face is almost covered by a single sheet of glass that is curved like a scallop, this design feature allows the phone to avoid getting scratches when put on a table face-down. Of course, that’s almost impossible to do with the Sensation because of its Gorilla glass. No physical buttons here, just touch-sensitive icons like in the Desire HD and S which gives you basic navigation like Home, Options, Back and Search.

Tough but crisp and vivid display

Tried scratching it with some coins and my set of keys and you could almost hear the the Sensation laughing at your pathetic attempt to scratch its glass panel.

That display panel is a huge 4.3 inches of Gorilla glass display with a resolution of 540×960. Unlocking the phone presents you with the home panel and already, you drool at the clarity and crispness of the display.

And this is the perfect platform to savor the HTC Sense 3.0 UI. A tightly-knit user interface layered on top of the Android 2.3 OS which continues the Sensation’s sexiness inside as you navigate through the apps installed.

Fast and smooth performance

Launching apps, switching in between, even the subtle animations when navigating the Sense is a breeze and seamless thanks to the 1.2Ghz dual-core Qualcomm MSM 8260 processor and the Adreno 220 GPU.

The only time when an app would slow down is when your mobile internet connection is also slow.

Amazing mobile internet exeperience

Using the HTC Sensation to go online is a great experience. The smoothness and quick response of the browser can only be spoiled if your mobile connection is slow or intermittent.

It comes with HTC’s own Facebook and Twitter application that is integrated with the HTC Sense 3.0. It mashes up your Gmail, Facebook and Twitter contacts into the phonebook for seamless connectivity with your friends.

Of course, you can still download and install the official Facebook and Twitter apps.

Smart Mobile Internet Speedtest
Smart's Mobile Internet connection was good enough for a smooth browsing experience while on the road
The HTC Sense comes into its own on the road where there’s no free Wi-Fi available. On my way to work, which is usually a two-hour ride along Emilio Aquinaldo Hi-way, I spend that time to check up on my Twitter stream, Gmail, Reader and post occasional rants on Facebook. I subscribed to Smart’s new volume-based mobile data plans and noticed that the connection was consistent and stable.

According to 3G Watchdog app, my average daily consumption was 20-30MB, making Smart’s volume-based data plans the most cost-efficient and practical way to go online if you’re on a budget.

But with the HTC Sense, you’d find it hard to resist streaming YouTube videos because that 4.3″ is just beckoning you to do it. So subscribing to an unlimited mobile data plan is a good way to go about it. Good thing Smart offers the HTC Sense for free on their Smart Unli Data Plan 3000 which includes free 240 texts and 300 minutes of free calls.

Taking photos with the HTC Sensation is such a treat. Its huge screen gives out very crisp previews of what the camera sees. Its controls are responsive and the auto-focus does a good job almost every time. Again, let the photos add more than a couple of thousand words to this post:

Taking videos with the Sensation is a fun experience that you can easily get addicted to. The full 1080p HD recording capability of the Sensation is first sampled on the large 4.3″ Super LCD screen which gives out crisp and well saturated images. Check out the video I shot yesterday when a bus driver screwed up and shut down traffic on Emilio Aguinaldo Hi-way last Friday:

Sound quality of the HTC Sensation is good enough for a decent listening experience. It comes with built-in SRS Wow effects that allows you to fine tune the output of the sound through equalizers when using headphones.

The best feature of the HTC Sensation in the sound department is its ability to output the audio to DLNA-capable audio systems like your HDTV or home theater system.

Some cons

The only complaint I have with the sound quality is that the HTC Desire S has a better-sounding output compared to the Sensation. Maybe it’s just me, but the Sensation’s audio output quality and volume is almost the same as that of my LG Optimus One, sans the SRS Wow effects, which I still found to be lacking.

Being new to HTC smart phones, I agree that the biggest weakness of the four review units I got is the battery life. The HTC Sensation is no execption. Regular use with the Wi-Fi turned on would just give you some 6-7 hours before the Sensation would ask for the charger to be connected. You can extend that by just using the 3G capabilities of the phone.

The verdict

Overall, its sleek and sexy design, its blazing fast responsiveness, HD capabilities and the HTC Sense 3.0 UI + Android 2.3 combo far outweigh the shortcomings of the HTC Sensation, making it one of the best smart phones available today.

It retails around 28k to 31k in stores but you can get it for free when your sign up for the Smart Unli Data Plan 3000.

HTC Sensation – a preview

For those who have been waiting, here’s a quick preview of the HTC Sensation, the latest dual-core smart phone from HTC.

HTC Sensation
HTC Sensation + Smart = WIN

HTC Sensation specs:
4.3 inches @ 540 x 960 pixels
1.2 GHz dual-core processor
Adreno 220 GPU
Qualcomm MSM 8260 Snapdragon
Gorilla glass display
HTC Sense v3.0 UI
1 GB storage, 768 MB RAM
up to 32GB via microSD, 8GB included
HSDPA 14.4 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, WiFi hotspot
Bluetooth 3.0 with A2DP
8MP autofocus camera, dual-LED flash
1080p @ 30fps video, stereo sound recording
GPS with A-GPS support
Li-Ion 1520 mAh
Android 2.3 Gingerbread

It’s one of the sexiest smart phones around. Huge touch screen Gorilla glass display giving you crisp and vivid images. Impressive 8MP HD camera with dual-LED flash. Equally impressive HTC Sense UI layered on top of the Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS.

Some negative points would be the battery life which easily drains in a day of regular usage. That huge display is a smudge magnet. It’s size would make you think twice before mindlessly putting it in your pocket or if you have a small hand-span and short fingers, you would have to hold it with both hands almost every time.

Going online while on the go with the HTC Sensation is wonderful experience, the review unit I have came with a Smart Pre-paid account but thanks to their improved 3G/HSDPA coverage in Cavite and their new volume-based data plans, updating Facebook, Google+, checking Gmail and the occasional Google search is such a cool treat.

Watch out for the full review soon!