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ID theft a reality for mobile users

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Page last updated: 15th May 2009 - 04:12 PM

New research has been carried out by security firm Credant into just how safe mobile phone users are from the threat of data theft. The results are quite shocking, and suggest that up to 4.2 million people across the country are at risk of becoming victims of identity theft due to sensitive data being stored on their mobile handsets.

Credant interviewed a selection of London commuters for its research, and the figures reveal that more and more people are saving data on their phones that is potentially sensitive without realising the dangers that this represents to them or to the people whose details they hold on the handsets.

The research found that 24% of those interviewed kept their passwords or pin numbers on their phones, and that 10% store credit card information. But despite that, only 6 in 10 people use a password to protect their phones, meaning they are leaving them open to abuse if the handsets are stolen.

And it’s not just personal details that are being put at risk. 99% of those interviewed used their phones to conduct business of some sort, meaning the contact details of colleagues and clients are being put at risk as well.

One of the reasons that the problem is so large is the proliferation of smartphones. As phone handsets have become ever more capable and people have become increasingly dependent on them, more and more data is being stored on them. Although this is very convenient, it is putting a greater number of people at risk.

Experts say that if you are going to keep sensitive data on your phone then password protection or even data encryption is essential in order to reduce the risks.

Graham Cluley, who is the senior technology consultant for the security firm Sophos, said after reading the findings that for people storing sensitive data on their phones, they “must ensure it's protected by a good password - or even better a pass-phrase”.

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'Freedom Packs' from Vodafone

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Page last updated: 8th May 2009 - 04:31 PM

Hard-pressed Vodafone customers are to be offered a new money-saving gimmick by the mobile operator. The company has just released ‘Freedom Packs’, its way of helping its customers to pay less for a lot more, and they are certain to prove popular in these cash-strapped times.

The 'Freedom Packs' are available to PAYG customers only, and consist of rewards for topping up with a certain amount. If customers top up by £10 in one go, they will receive 300 texts and 100 minutes of phone calls, which is worth £50 normally.

This is a phenomenal deal, but if customers top up by £15 or £20 in one go then the rewards are even greater. £15 leads to 600 texts and 200 minutes of talk time, double the amount of the £10 top-up, and £20 leads to unlimited texts and 300 minutes.

The bonuses will last for 30 days from the moment that they have been topped up, providing plenty of time for customers to take advantage of the features.

Vodafone is already one of the leaders when it comes to the PAYG mobile market. Other offers that the company already has are its ‘Free Weekends’ deal and the ‘Text Unlimited’ deal, offering free texts every month.

But the latest Freedom Packs are certain to lead to a new level of competition in the PAYG market. PAYG phones are an obvious choice for people in the current economic climate who do not want to get drawn into a long and costly contract, and by offering such a good deal Vodafone is certain to tempt more people towards getting a PAYG handset instead.

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Live mobile TV from BBC

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Page last updated: 1st May 2009 - 04:17 PM

It has been revealed that the BBC has been trialling a new feature that will allow mobile phone users to watch live BBC TV programmes on their mobile handsets. The BBC has already seen its iPlayer become a huge success online, which offers viewers the chance to catch up with any programmes in the last week that they have missed. However, this is a completely different arena, and if successful could change the way we watch TV altogether.

The free mobile TV service is currently in its Beta phase, meaning that it is only available on a very select number of mobile handsets. It is also only available over Wi-Fi connections, and will not work over a 3G connection. It is unsure whether this will change in the future or whether this will remain the case.

The news only broke recently, but the BBC was quick to release a statement saying that the service has been trialled since last year, and that it is not some kind of covert operation. It is being offered through the iPlayer for mobiles service, and the BBC has said that it will be quite a while before this becomes a regular service.

All the main BBC channels are currently available on the free TV service for those phones that have access to it, but the BBC has pointed out that it is still a criminal offence to watch the programmes without a valid TV licence. How they are going to enforce this in the future, however, is anyone’s guess.

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Nokia 'Point and Find' launched

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Page last updated: 24th Apr 2009 - 04:37 PM

‘Point and Find’ is a new futuristic device released from Nokia, whereby users point their mobile phones at an object or a picture and the phone is then able to produce a wealth of information about it right on the spot.

It all sounds very hi-tech, but it’s real and the Beta version has just been launched in the UK and the US. It works by using the camera and the internet connection on the handset. Although a picture is not actually taken, the viewer captures the image, sends it off to some huge database in cyberspace, where it is then cross referenced with other items and information is collected and delivered back to the phone in seconds.

The Beta version is limited to film posters at the moment, meaning the user can simply point their phone at a film poster and receive information on reviews, trailers and showing times in seconds. However, in the future the aim is to have a system that works for almost anything. It is also limited to certain Nokia handsets for the time being, but over time the feature will not just be available on Nokia phones and could become a regular addition to most handsets.

This could completely change the way that we use our mobile phones, but the possibilities for marketing are even greater. In the not-too-distant future, it is quite likely that companies will place ads which, when people use the ‘Point and Shoot feature’, will be able to provide videos, music and adverts straight to their phones.

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Skype now available on iPhone

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Page last updated: 24th Apr 2009 - 04:33 PM

After causing conflict across the mobile phone industry over recent weeks, Skype has now managed to arrive on the iPhone and the iPod Touch, which has itself caused more than a few ripples through the industry.

The free Skype application essentially allows users to make free calls over the internet to other Skype users, as well as low-cost calls to landlines all over the world. It also allows users to send texts to mobile phones.

However, it is not all as great as it sounds and will surely not make the iPhone network providers, which in the UK is O2, redundant. For a start, Skype can only be used on a Wi-Fi connection rather than 3G. This means that users cannot simply use Skype rather than their regular network whenever they want.

On top of that, the call quality will vary depending on where the phone is being used. If the Wi-Fi connection is in a bar with lots of other users, it will not be as good as using the regular network.

However, the application’s popularity has been phenomenal, racking up over a million downloads in the first two days alone. This is sure to worry the industry players, who will be worried about losing revenue to calls made over Skype. Only recently, O2 and Orange were threatening not to stock the Nokia N97 unless the in-built Skype application was removed, so it is fair to say that they will not be too happy with the latest developments and will be hoping that Skype does not prove as popular as it’s download figures have suggested.

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SIM-free iPhone from Play.com

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Page last updated: 17th Apr 2009 - 03:56 PM

Up until last week, if you wanted an iPhone then the only way to go about it was through O2. And even though O2 has just announced cheaper deals where customers can get the iPhone for free on longer contracts, a new option has arrived on the market from Play.com.

The online company has just announced that it will be offering the iPhone on a SIM-free basis, meaning customers will not have to sign up to a hefty contract with O2 in order to get all the benefits of the revolutionary phone.

This caused a few ripples through the industry, and many people were quick to question the legitimacy of the deal. However, Play.com has assured its customers that anyone who buys an iPhone from the company will be covered by Apple’s warranty. Indeed, the company actively encourages its customers to sign up on the Apple website after purchasing one.

It wasn’t long ago that Apple was threatening to block iPhones that were unlocked by their owners, and that any that were would not be covered by the warranty. However, Play.com says that the move has been possible due to “EU legislation ensuring the sale of SIM-free mobile phones”.

It’s all great news for those who are looking for a bit more choice, but it will of course come at a cost. The 8GB version is selling for £549.99, and the 16GB is currently selling for £599.99, although this could well go up in the near future. This is still cheaper than taking out a two-year contract with O2, but then you have to factor in money spent on a different contract as well.

And with rumours circulating that a new iPhone model will be released this summer, do you really want to splash out a small fortune on something that is sure to go down in value on the announcement of any new models?

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Mobile coverage on London Underground? Not yet...

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Page last updated: 17th Apr 2009 - 03:54 PM

Despite the technology being available now to allow people to pick up mobile phone reception whilst using the tube, it looks like the London Underground is set to remain a mobile free zone for the foreseeable future.

The news comes after TfL (Transport for London), which had been thinking about the possibility of such a scheme since 2005, carried out a two year research programme; it had been hoped that this would result in a six-month trial of an underground mobile phone system on the Waterloo and City line. However, TfL has just stated that despite its hopes for the system to get the go ahead, it has now turned out not to be “commercially viable”.

The news has brought mixed responses. Some have complained that seeing as the technology already exists, it is denying people, and especially commuters who rely on the Underground, access to their mobiles. However, others have said it is great news as it will keep the Underground free from the eponymous mobile chatter that seems to follow us everywhere these days.

O2 currently has a system in place in Glasgow that allows people to make calls on their mobiles as normal from the metro system. But TfL were keen to point out that the only reason for the decision was that the costs of a system would be too great.

A spokesman for TfL indicated that we could see a system arrive in the future if it was not too expensive, saying that “the market has yet to provide us with a credible proposal for enabling mobile phone use on the Tube.”

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900 million will use mobile banking by 2014

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Page last updated: 9th Apr 2009 - 04:44 PM

With mobile phone growth spreading rapidly across the world, the next huge growth area is set to be mobile banking. Research carried out by Berg Insight into mobile banking reveals some striking figures. According to the company, in 2008 there were 20 million mobile banking users across the globe. However, by 2014 there will be an estimated 900 million, representing an enormous growth in popularity.

The research went into detail about the findings, and revealed that 65% of all mobile banking customers will be in the Asia Pacific region, representing by far the biggest growth area. It also highlighted Africa as a large growth area because it will provide people with far greater access to financial services without the need to have a bank account.

Mobile banking is seen as something quite different in the developed world. Although the research suggested that more and more people are using their mobiles to access the Internet and will therefore start to access mobile banking more as well, it will be a natural progression for them and will not have the same implications as it will in the developing world. According to the figures, the USA will have 80 million users by 2014, and Europe will have 110 million.

The telecom analyst at Berg Insight, Marcus Persson, said that mobiles are in “an excellent position” to allow them to become the “primary digital channel” for accessing banking and financial services across the world.

This technology could really open up the world of banking to people who have previously been unable to make use of financial services due to them not possessing a bank account. Whereas in the West it will make life a bit easier, in the developing world it could change people’s lives considerably.

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O2 could slash iPhone price

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Page last updated: 9th Apr 2009 - 04:43 PM

Last week, numerous rumours began to surface that O2 would be slashing the cost of the iPhone due to the launch in the summer of an anticipated new model from makers Apple, which many are thinking could be an ‘iPhone Nano’.

Mobile Today reported that O2 would be making the iPhone free for £35 and £45-a-month customers, leading many to decide to hold back from purchasing a phone just yet to see if the rumours were true.

O2 was quick to respond to the rumours by announcing some changes to its price plans. Starting on April 3rd, O2 will be offering the iPhone free to customers taking out a 24-month contract.

At the moment, before the changes go through, the 16GB phone is free to customers paying £75 a month, and the 8GB version is free to customers paying £45 a month.

Under the new contracts, the 16GB iPhone will now be available for free to £44.05-a-month customers, whilst £34.25-a-month customers will have to pay £57.74 for it, as long as they are on a 24-month contract. The 8GM version will now be free.

O2 have said this new deal is for customers “looking for added value in return for added commitment”. And although it is still a lot to pay over two years, it does at least make it more affordable for fans who have so far not been able to get their hands on the iPhone.

Following this news, Apple also announced iPhone OS 3.0, a huge host of features that were currently missing from the iPhone that will now be available for free for iPhone owners in the summer. They include cut, copy and paste, as well as MMS and the 'shake to shuffle' feature.

But as for news of whether a new iPhone model really is on its way, we’ll just have to wait.

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Nokia handsets top the recycling charts

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Page last updated: 3rd Apr 2009 - 04:16 PM

Money4urmobile.com, a company which as its name would suggest, pays you for recycling your mobile phone, predicts a 15% rise in the number of Nokia handsets being recycled this year. It seems that with the rise in popularity of the i-phone and Blackberry we are discarding our traditional mobile phones and, with the current state of the economy, who could blame us for wanting to convert them into cash?

Nokia takes the top three places in the recycling charts, according to figures from money4urmobile, with Sony Ericsson coming fourth and fifth. The public is becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of recycling items such as phones, not only in terms of the environment but also our pockets. In fact, certain mobiles are worth £150 if recycled.

The average life expectancy of a mobile phone is a mere 18 months with many of us upgrading our handset every time our contract comes up for renewal. The average person in the UK has two mobiles languishing at home and if you are under 20 this figure rises to three. If you think that is bad, consider the residents of India, where the average number is five.

Only 17% of people in India are aware that mobiles can be recycled and Nokia has started a campaign to increase awareness, with green incentives being offered such as the planting of a tree for each handset deposited in their recycle bins.

If you are living in the UK and are more interested in hard cash than trees being planted, take a look at the website for money4urmobile and see how much you could get for your old phone.

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