Nokia isn’t totally abandoning HERE on Windows Phone, but Android and iOS will be its priority

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Nokia’s HERE suite of driving and navigation apps first made its appearance on Windows Phone, and although it’s now being developed for other platforms, for many it remains best associated with Microsoft’s mobile operating system.

However, now that Nokia is no longer tied to Windows Phone, the Finnish company’s interest in developing for that platform is waning, and it will in future be focusing on Android and iOS -- which have a much larger user base.

Talking to Finnish publication DigiToday, Udo Szabo, Director of Product Marketing at HERE, said:

When we did Nokia phones, our goal was slightly different. Now we are developing applications on the basis of a realistic market. Microsoft will pay our maps license fees and is responsible for application development.

That suggests Nokia has handed over development of the Windows Phone version of HERE to Microsoft, but it turns out that’s not (entirely) the case. Nokia has since released a statement clarifying its role in HERE development on Windows Phone, stating:

We have noticed some discussions in the blogosphere about HERE on Windows Phone. We want to clarify that we are committed to providing great products and consumer experiences for Windows based phones. We will continue to support our HERE apps to ensure that they will be compatible with future versions of Windows.

Notice Nokia didn’t say it would be developing the apps, only that it would continue to support them. In other words, keep them ticking over (and keep its options open).

Exactly what all this will mean for HERE on Windows Phone is uncertain, but I’ll guess we’ll find out in due course.

Nokia has already brought HERE to Android, and the iOS version is expected to arrive in early 2015.

Photo Credit: Sabphoto/Shutterstock

OnePlus is the latest smartphone maker to be banned in India

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The High Court in Delhi has temporarily banned the sales of smartphones built by Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus.

The ban comes after Micromax, an Indian consumer electronics company, filed a lawsuit alleging OnePlus violated an exclusivity agreement it signed with Cyanogen.

Cyanogen is an open source operating system for smartphones and tablet computers, based on the Android mobile platform. It is developed as free and open source software based on the official releases of Android by Google, with added original and third-party code.

The Delhi High Court issued a temporary order that restricts OnePlus from importing, marketing and selling Cyanogen-based handsets in India, effective immediately, Live Mint reports.

Micromax was given an exclusive license to integrate and distribute Cyanogen’s technology as a part of its devices in India through an "ambient services and application distributions agreement", which is why it complained that, by launching its phones on 2 December, OnePlus had infringed its exclusive rights.

Micromax claimed that it had "incurred major expenses for creation of a brand exclusivity for providing to Indian customers mobile phones with Cyanogen operating systems" and "it would suffer irreparable harm and loss if the defendants (OnePlus) are permitted to continue with their illegal acts in violation of the agreement between Micromax and Cyanogen".

On the other hand, OnePlus says it had a collaboration agreement and trademark license agreement with Cyanogen since February, and that it got terminated a fortnight before its launch in India.

Published under license from ITProPortal.com, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.

Sinch enables low-cost SMS integration for apps and websites

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Businesses are increasingly turning to mobile to communicate with both customers and employees. But whilst attention tends to be focused on apps, SMS messaging still has its place.

Communications platform Sinch is announcing the launch of its SMS API, making it easier for developers to integrate SMS capability into their apps and websites.

Previously integrating SMS capability has been a difficult challenge for developers, involving deals with SMS termination providers, then managing the back-end operation, which can require a major commitment of resources.

Sinch offers a simple, affordable route to in-app SMS communication. Features on offer include the ability to notify customers or users instantly without relying on push notifications. It's useful for marketing campaigns and to drive downloads by sending links to apps. It can also be used to enable two-factor authentication to verify user login details. Analytics allow an at-a-glance view of how many messages have been sent successfully delivered.

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"We're in a great position to help developers take advantage of huge time and cost savings while implementing a much needed communication layer into their offerings," says Daniel Forsman, COO of Sinch. "Sinch takes all the hassle out of the integration process, so new features can be added quickly and securely. By implementing new communication features, not only can developers create richer apps, they can help drive up active users and time spent within their products".

One of the first customers for the SMS API is Swedbank, one of Sweden's largest banks which is now using Sinch to send fleet management notifications to the 15,000 drivers of its company cars. "The Sinch SMS API was really easy to implement and did just what I needed," says Robert Bergman, head of fleet management at Swedbank.

You can find more information on the SMS API on the Sinch website.

Image Credit: Bloomua / Shutterstock

Apple Pay gaining momentum as more companies sign up

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Apple has announced that its mobile payment service Apple Pay has received even more support -- now 90 percent of all credit purchases by volume in the United States can be achieved by using Apple Pay.

SunTrust, Barclaycard, USAA, and dozens of other companies have joined the likes of Citibank and Chase in the last weeks and agreed to work with Apple, so that customers can buy things with little more than a wave on their iPhone, The New York Times reports.

Ten more banks, including TD Bank North America and Commerce Bank, will back the new form of payment on Tuesday.

Aside from the banks, 1,400 Staples' locations now accept Apple Pay as a means of payment. Winn-Dixie, Albertsons, Amway Centre, just some of the other leading names that now use Apple’s mobile payment service.

New additions suggest that Apple Pay has generated more traffic than its competitors from the likes of Google, Verizon and AT&T.

"Retailers and payment companies see Apple Pay as the implementation that has the best chance at mass consumer adoption, which has eluded prior attempts," said Patrick Moorhead, president of research firm Moor Insights & Strategy. "They believe it will solve many of the problems they had before with electronic payments".

Forrester Research has recently published a paper saying mobile payments volume in the United States will reach $142 billion by 2019.

Denée Carrington, a Forrester analyst, believes Apple Pay will be among the biggest "culprits" for the huge boom in mobile payments in the US. It certainly seems to be gaining traction fast and doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon.

But what do you think? Let us know in the comments section.

Published under license from ITProPortal.com, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.

Microsoft brings Lumia 635 to Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile USA and Sprint

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Windows Phone is a great operating system. If you disagree, you are wrong. Sure, it has frustratingly low app availability, including a lack of Google apps, but the underlying OS is wonderful. Live tiles are useful, and the UI is smart and attractive. Hell, the hardware is wonderful too, and it is often sold at very affordable prices.

Today, Microsoft and Sprint are joining forces to bring the Lumia 635 to Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile USA and Sprint's own network. Believe it or not, this is the first-ever Lumia handset for Boost and Virgin USA -- two of Sprint's sub-carriers.

"Sprint and Microsoft will proudly showcase a renewed partnership with the announcement of Lumia 635 arriving across multiple Sprint brands beginning with Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile on Dec. 23. It will be available on Jan. 16 to Sprint postpaid customers. This is the first Windows Phone 8.1 smartphone to launch on Sprint's network and the first Lumia Windows Phone available to Sprint's prepaid customers", says Sprint.

Matt Rothschild, head of North America sales for Microsoft Mobile Devices explains, "we are pleased to partner with Sprint and offer even more U.S. customers the opportunity to choose Lumia smartphones. The Sprint, Boost and Virgin brands have great synergy with the value represented by the Lumia 635 -- a great, affordable smartphone that delivers uncompromised experiences to help people do more".

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There is actually something to that -- both Sprint and Windows Phone represent affordability -- it is not just corporate speak. This is a smart partnership for Microsoft, as the carrier does represent the Windows Phone philosophy. A $99 off-contract phone is a great thing for consumers.

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Microsoft lists the following specs:

  • Main camera: 5.0MP
  • Windows Phone 8.1
  • Display size: 4.5 inch
  • Display resolution: FWVGA (854 x 480)
  • Processor name: Snapdragon 400
  • Battery capacity: 1830mAh
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Mass memory: 8 GB
  • Maximum memory card size: 128 GB
  • Expandable memory card type: MicroSD

The 635 launches on December 23 for Boost and Virgin USA for an off-contract price of $99. Sprint on-contract availability will be on January 16, but pricing is unknown. Will you buy the Lumia 635? Tell me in the comments.

Interested in encrypting your data? Here’s what you need to know [infographic]

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There is more than one way to keep your data safe from prying eyes, but the practice that is most recommended is still the use of encryption. It will ensure that only you will be able to access personal information, requiring a decryption key to unlock your data. Proving just how effective it can be, the US government basically wants both Apple and Google to allow it to bypass the encryption in the latest versions of their mobile operating systems, namely iOS 8 and Android 5.0 Lollipop, respectively, because currently it is unable to directly access that data.

However, there are quite a few things that you should also know about encryption before you decide to go down this road. To learn more about what encryption entails, you can check out the following infographic, called "Protected: A Beginner's Guide To Encryption".

This infographic briefly details the basics of encryption, starting with the encryption key, what encryption software you can use on your PCs and Macs, how to encrypt data stored on cloud storage services, and how to encrypt your emails.

As with cloud-based accounts, the more complex the encryption key, the better your chances of keeping your data private. A strong encryption key will be much, much more difficult to crack than, let's say, "password1234" -- it will not help keep your data safe for long, even if you are using the best encryption around.

Similarly, if you do not use safe browsing habits your data may still be at risk, no matter if it is encrypted. You must also make sure that your devices are protected against unauthorized access when you are not using them -- that means locking them while you are away, using difficult to guess passwords and so on.

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Image Credit: VERSUSstudio / Shutterstock

Avast wants beta testers for its business security software

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Avast has long been a favorite with home PC users thanks to its free antivirus offering, and protects 175 million computers worldwide. It also launched a free mobile product in 2011 and now protects around 50 million smartphones too.

In 2015 it's looking to move into the business market and is seeking beta testers to help perfect its product before launch.

Avast For Business will offer free business-grade security from the cloud for any number of devices. It's designed to protect devices in the background without being intrusive and will protect both Windows and Mac devices. There's a Secureline option as well to protect business users when they're on public Wi-Fi connections. Cloud-based controls allow system admins to upgrade and add new features to protected systems.

Testers get early access to pre-release versions of the Avast for Business product and will be able to make suggestions for improvements and additional features. They'll also be rewarded for their efforts with three months of the product's Premium service for free when it’s launched in 2015.

For more information and to sign up to take part in the beta program you can visit the Avast website.

Image Credit: soliman design / Shutterstock

Skype offers free calls from India to US and Canada until March

Skype offers free calls from India to US and Canada until March

Microsoft has an end-of-year present for Skype users in India. Starting now and running until the beginning of March, calls from India to the US and Canada are completely free of charge. Interestingly, this includes calls placed to mobiles as well as to landlines.

Unusually for such an offer, there's no commitment, no free trial and, seemingly, no catch -- just free calls for the next three months. The news comes just after Microsoft unveiled details of its Skype Translator preview, and is just in time for the holiday season when the number of phone calls placed tends to skyrocket.

Over on the Skype website, Microsoft gives some details about the offer, and there are very few limitations. Calls can be up to four hours long -- after this time you can simply hang up and redial if you still need to chat -- and business use, such as in call centers, is prohibited. These points aside, this is a pretty clear cut offer which will be well-received.

Microsoft explains:

From December 16, 2014 (00:01 IST) to March 1, 2015 (00:01 IST) (the Offer Period) use Skype to make free calls from India to landlines and mobiles in the U.S. and Canada (excluding special, premium service and non-geographic numbers).

To take advantage of the offer there's no need to do anything special -- just fire up Skype and start dialing!

Photo credit: Ollyy / Shutterstock

Samsung and Nokia are 2014′s biggest smartphone losers

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Samsung, the largest smartphone supplier, has had a surprising year and reported losing over 20 million sales, compared to 2013.

Samsung sold 7 million less units in Q3 and 23 million less overall in 2014, compared to the previous year. The Galaxy S5 has been a huge letdown for Samsung, selling less than 20 million units in 2014, a number Apple’s iPhone 6 has already surpassed.

Samsung has reportedly reformed the mobile division, to create more competitive products to excite customers in 2015. The competition on Android is fierce, with top-tier smartphones like the Moto X and HTC One M8, so it might take more than a piece of metal for Samsung to win back customers.

Lower-cost feature phone sales were also down for Samsung with fierce competition, such as Xiomi and Micromax entering India and China. Even in its home nation of South Korea, Samsung lost to LG and Apple for most of the year in sales.

Nokia had troubles in 2014 as well, losing 20 million customers in 2014. Microsoft’s $7.2 billion (£4.9 billion) acquisition has still not shown any change in fortune, even after CEO Satya Nadella sacked 18,000 workers from the hardware division.

This year’s big winner is Xiaomi, the Chinese based manufacturer sold 15.7 million smartphones in Q3 2014, compared to 3.6 million in 2013. Xiaomi has become the largest smartphone maker in China and the expansion to India and Singapore has shown excellent sales results.

Huawei and Lenovo, the two other mobile giants in China, seen growth in the mobile market, although considerably less than Xiaomi.

Apple also had a sales increase in Q3 2014, selling 8 million more units than last quarter. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have worked wonders with South-East Asian audiences, and even in Europe, Apple is seeing growth.

Google’s Android OS now holds 83 percent of the overall mobile market, iOS sits comfortably in second with 12.7 percent and Windows Phone has dropped to 3.6 percent in 2014. BlackBerry has been wiped off the records with under one percent share.

Published under license from ITProPortal.com, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.

HBO GO lands on Amazon Fire TV set-top box

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HBO is one of the most popular premium networks on TV, with shows like Game of Thrones and others. The channel has also launched an online and mobile app called HBO GO. This brings the content to your computer, phone or tablet.

Now the network has arrived on Amazon Fire TV, the tiny set-top box that launched earlier this year. It's a strong competitor to Roku and Apple TV. While arguably less capable than the former, it is also stronger than the latter in its offerings.

"Since launch we’ve increased the number of services available on Amazon Fire TV by more than 4x", says Peter Larsen, Vice President Amazon Devices. "We’re thrilled to add HBO GO, the most requested service, to Fire TV in time for the holidays. HBO has produced some of the most groundbreaking and award-winning TV shows and movies, and we are excited to bring this amazing content to our customers, all of which is accessible via voice search on your Fire TV remote".

Amazon claims it now has more than 700 apps and games available on its platform. And the addition of HBO GO brings approximately 1,700 titles along for the ride. You can browse the store to grab the app. For now, you'll still need to verify a cable or satellite subscription, but that's scheduled to change next year. Oh, and it's currently on sale for $79, a $20 price cut. The deal will last through December 28th.

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