Flappy Phone

Flappy Bird, you've met your match - Flappy Phone. Except they are serious, the new Samsung Galaxy S5 has a flap over the immensely hideous USB 3 micro B port. On one hand, this is a "face palm" moment. On the other hand, I applaud them for avoiding the 2 hours of listing gimmick software features that no one cared about like they did at the S4 unveiling. 

Also worth mentioning is the fact that the fingerprint scanner is "quite unreliable and virtually impossible to activate," but I'm sure no one will notice (*cough). 

Samsung S5 UI Leaks

Looks like Samsung is putting some effort into design cleanliness. Not something they're exactly known for. The question is whether they're giving the UI a genuinely fresh overhaul, or are we seeing a friendly face with the same Samsung clutter behind it?

It is worth mentioning that the "Samsung clutter" does enable a lot of niche uses for users, but it certainly doesn't lend itself to a clean user experience.


Knowing Samsung, this leak is accurate (probably even intentional). I would also bet that the same old pile of (many useless, some useful) features are present somewhere.

Path Launches Windows Phone App

Path is a simply wonderful social network. I connect with my close friends and family and we use the app to share more intimate moments that aren't appropriate for the public or large following of acquaintances. The app is beautifully designed on iOS, it is acceptable on Android, and now has finally launched for Windows.

Path has enjoyed noteworthy success, though is not, and will never be, the next Facebook or Twitter. The fact that it took them this long to launch on the Windows platform goes to show how much Windows is struggling in the smartphone realm. This isn't to say the platform isn't good, but it seems too be too little too late.

Your Phone is Divulging More Information Than You Think

It is no secret that the NSA is, or is at least capable of, tracking your every move. Many people also realize that advertisers have a lot more access to tracking you than you'd think (or like), but most people do not.

Your phone is constantly connected to cellular towers, scanning for WiFi, and in some cases searching for Bluetooth. To make wireless connections, a handshake of sorts has to take place. This handshake includes some indentifiers to tell the source who you are. This information isn't your name or email address, but a MAC address is unique enough to pretty easily trace you as an individual.

Combine that with using free WiFi to log into Facebook or Twitter, and you've just told an advertiser your name, email address, and MAC address. Any other hotspot you walk by or log into knows exactly who you are, what your internet browsing habits are, and even when you've been. This technology allows companies to know a lot about you.

"Locations have meanings," says Eloise Gratton, a privacy lawyer. Marketers can infer that a person has a certain disease from their Internet searches. A geolocation company can actually see the person visiting the doctor, "making the inference that the individual has this disease probably even more accurate," she says.

It doesn't stop here though. Once the data is collected, it is immensely valuable, why else would it be collected? The sale of the data is often more concerning than the collection of it.

Viasense Inc., another Toronto startup, is building detailed dossiers of people's lifestyles by merging location data with those from other sources, including marketing firms. The company follows between 3 million and 6 million devices each day in a 400-kilometer radius surrounding Toronto. It buys bulk phone-signal data from Canada's national cellphone carriers. Viasense's algorithms then break those users into lifestyle categories based on their daily travels, which it says it can track down to the square meter.

I added the emphasis myself to highlight how prevalent this is. We aren't talking about shady back-alley operations here, this data is bought and sold by major corporations including your cell phone provider that can pin point your exact location at any time any day since you signed up for the service.

This isn't to say that there is no potential benefit to being tracked. There are some regulations on what is bought and sold and to whom, though the laws tend to lag the technology. There is some upside to this data being available to advertisers. For ages we have considered ads to be annoyances. This largely stems from the fact that ads are generic and meant for large audiences. However, we're all consumers, we all buy things, so what if the ads we got were genuinely meaningful and saved us money on things we need or want? These highly specific targeted ads are only possible if the advertiser knows a creepy amount about you.

There is no substitute for being educated to understand what you're sharing and when.

AT&T Announces Sponsored Data

There is no doubt that privacy is getting more visibility than ever with the NSA leaks of late. A lot of people are opting for more secure services, apps, and hardware. This often comes at a price as these services are harder to engineer and maintain, they're not usually given away for free. The exception is Kim Dotcom's MEGA service with 50GB of free ultra secure cloud storage.

AT&T announced sponsored data plans today that allow providers to pay for the data that you use on your mobile device while using their services. Imagine streaming Netflix without it counting toward your 2GB data cap, seems neat right? Well the financial savings represent the most obvious upside, the privacy issue presents the largest down side. Your data and your usage are now bought and paid for by someone else, meaning they own it.

This isn't to say that sponsored data is bad in all regards, sponsored Netflix seems like the most obvious win since they already know what you're watching, you're not really revealing anything. Where do you draw the line though? Will AT&T give you fine control over this, or will it be fully opt-in or opt-out? From the looks of the press release, users will get this new sponsored data automatically, there is no mention of an opt-out policy.

I think there is room for both sides of this privacy issue to win - sponsored data and secure data. I think there are appropriate times to use both. However, I do not expect to be able to really balance the two any time soon, it'll be all or nothing for a while.