A Swiss iPhone developer has published research that indicates that security vulnerabilities affecting the iPhone are not limited to jailbroken iPhones. Developer Nicholas Seriot has created a proof of concept app called SpyPhone as a demonstration of how Apple’s own APIs could be misused to read or edit a user’s address book or gain access to a user’s web surfing history or recent location information. For such attacks to succeed, a malicious application would still need to get past Apple’s App Store approval process to be available for non-jailbroken iPhones, however this is not outside of the realm of possibility as such an app would not require the use of any exploits or third-party APIs, and the spyware portion could be hidden by delayed activation or an encrypted payload.
The security researcher detailed these potential iPhone privacy risks in a talk he delivered in Geneva on Wednesday, during which he also outlined possible defense strategies, suggesting that Apple should design the iPhone OS to require users to authorize read or read-write access by iPhone applications to potentially sensitive on-device information such as the Address Book, add firewall functionality to the device and ensure the keyboard cache is not as readily available to third-party applications. (via The Register).
Following last month’s official launch of the iPhone on China Unicom, China’s most popular online retailer is reporting much lower than expected sales of official iPhone units in China. Taobao.com, the largest Chinese e-commerce web site reports that it has sold only two 8GB iPhones and three 16GB iPhones since it began selling them on Nov 22nd. Although China Unicom is also selling the iPhone directly, Taobao is considered to be China’s top online retail site for buyers of electronic devices. To comply with local regulations, iPhones sold by China Unicom do not include Wi-Fi capabilities and sell for a higher price than fully-capable iPhone models that have long been available through unofficial sources: A 32GB iPhone 3GS from China Unicom costs 6,999 yuan (US$1,024) without a contract compared to about US$800 in Hong Kong, making it difficult for official China Unicom iPhone models to compete. (via PC World).
The iPhone finally launched in South Korea over the weekend, with strong demand seen by carrier KT. Apple had seen difficulties in getting the iPhone past the country’s telecommunications regulatory body, receiving preliminary approval in September, followed by final approval earlier this month. According to KT, roughly 65,000 people placed orders for the iPhone since it became available for pre-sale on November 22. We’re hoping that this iPhone will be a trigger point for the smartphone market in Korea,” said Yang Hyun-mi, chief strategy officer at KT. Explaining that smartphones currently make up just one percent of all cell phone sales in South Korea, she added, “we just think it will be really huge.”
Apple has begun field testing a next-generation iPhone model, according to device usage records from an iPhone/iPod touch application. Mac Rumors reports that developer Pandav, who uses PinchMedia to provide analytics for its app iBART, found a device identifying itself as “iPhone3,1” in its usage logs for November. Apple has in the past used the first number to identify a major architecture change between models, with the original iPhone being labeled “iPhone 1,1,” the iPhone 3G appearing as “iPhone 1,2,” and the iPhone 3GS labeled “iPhone 2,1.” Evidence of the new model was found in iPhone OS 3.0 as early as this March; Mac Rumors also notes that Apple began field testing the iPhone 3GS last October, roughly eight months ahead of its launch.
AT&T is now offering refurbished iPhone 3GS units through its online store. Refurbished 16GB models are priced at $149, while 32GB units are selling for $249; both prices are with a two-year contract, and both white and black units are available. In the past, AT&T’s refurbished units have been listed with a notice that they include a warranty of 90 or more and may have “minor scratches.”
Supermarket chain Tesco has announced that it will soon offer the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in its stores through its Tesco Mobile brand, making it the fourth U.K. carrier to sell the device. BBC News reports that a Tesco spokesperson said the company hopes to offer the phone “in time for Christmas,” which would put its roll out ahead of Vodafone’s, which isn’t expected until early next year. Tesco Mobile is a joint venture between the supermarket firm and O2, and offers phones both on contact and on a pay as you go basis from its stores around the U.K.
A number of iPhone users are voicing their displeasure over a bug in iPhone software 3.1.2 that sees the phone randomly start searching for service. According to a thread on the Apple Support Discussions site, the problem appears to be software related, as users on AT&T, Rogers Wireless, and Telus have been affected; the only current fix once the phone begins searching is to reboot the device. It is unclear as to whether the problem is limited to iPhone 3G units, but no verified users of other models have complained on the thread thus far, suggesting that the bug may be specific to that iPhone model.
Update: A number of users, including one iLounge editor, have confirmed in the comments that the bug is indeed affecting all models of iPhone.
According to the latest data from mobile advertising firm AdMob, the iPhone accounts for 50% of all worldwide smartphone ad requests. The company’s newly-published October Mobile Metrics Report (PDF Link) also shows the iPhone accounting for more than 22% of requests from all handsets worldwide, making it the top handset model, followed by the iPod touch with 9.8%. In the U.S. market, the iPhone fares even better, taking a 55% share of all smartphone ad requests. Among the top handset models in the U.S., the iPhone is number one with 24.1% of requests—an improvement over its worldwide numbers—while the iPod touch again comes in second with 11.4% of requests, also an improvement over its international numbers. AdMob’s percentages are based on ad requests, impressions, and clicks, tracked over the more than 15,000 mobile web sites and applications to which the company serves ads.
Apple is preparing to launch a pair of new TV advertisements for the iPhone 3GS that directly attack competing carriers, most specifically Verizon Wireless. Both ads—uploaded online with the titles “What Time’s the Movie?” and “Did You See My Email?”—feature the iPhone being used against a white backdrop, similar to most of Apple’s recent iPhone commercials. While both ads show various apps in use, the theme for each is not the apps themselves, but instead the fact that AT&T’s 3G network allows for data access while on a call, something that Verizon can’t offer due to its different network technology. BusinessWeek reports that the new ads are scheduled to air tonight during programs like House, The Daily Show, and Dancing With the Stars; continue reading to see both commercials below in embedded form, or follow the above links to watch them separately on Vimeo.
KT has announced (Translated Link) that it will officially begin sales of the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in South Korea on November 28. “We are thrilled to bring iPhone to South Korea,” said Kim Woo-sik, CEO of KT’s personal customer group. “Our customers will enjoy the power and benefits of using the revolutionary iPhone on KT’s 3G network.” All three iPhone models will be available with three different “i-” plans, with the 16GB iPhone 3GS and 8GB iPhone 3G available for free with the W 95,000/month—roughly $82—“i-Premium” plan; pricing rises through the three tiers to a maximum of W 396,000 (~$343) for the 32GB iPhone 3GS on the W 45,000/month (~$39) “i-Light” plan. Despite the official announcement and a confirmation from Apple, South Korea remains missing from Apple’s list of countries where the iPhone is available.
A new iPhone worm affecting jailbroken units is targeting owners who use their device to access Internet banking services from Dutch online bank ING. BBC News reports that the worm was discovered by security company F-Secure, and uses the same SSH vulnerability—specifically, jailbroken iPhones that have had SSH activated without having the default password changed—to redirect the bank’s customers to an unauthorized look-a-like site with a login screen. According to F-Secure, this new worm is more dangerous than prior threats because it can behave like a botnet, enabling the phone to be accessed or controlled remotely. “It’s the second iPhone worm ever and the first that’s clearly malicious - there’s a clear financial motive behind it,” F-Secure research director Mikko Hypponen told the BBC. “It’s fairly isolated and specific to Netherlands but it is capable of spreading.” Hypponen added that while the number of infected phones is thought to still be in the hundreds, the worm could potentially jump from phone to phone when multiple vulnerable devices are running on the network, such as at Wi-Fi hotspots. A spokesperson for ING Bank said the company was going to post a warning about the worm on its official website. “We are also briefing call centre personnel,” she added. “It’s important to remember that the worm only affects jail-broken phones and it is only aimed at customers in the Netherlands.”
In an interview with BusinessWeek, Apple senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing Phil Schiller made several interesting comments about the continuing growth of the App Store and the company’s app approval process. “We’ve built a store for the most part that people can trust,” Schiller said of the App Store. “You and your family and friends can download applications from the store, and for the most part they do what you’d expect, and they get onto your phone, and you get billed appropriately, and it all just works.” Comparing Apple to a brick-and-mortar retailer that must determine what products to put on store shelves, Schiller continued, Whatever your favorite retailer is, of course they care about the quality of products they offer. We review the applications to make sure they work as the customers expect them to work when they download them.”
Schiller reiterated the company’s count of more than 100,000 apps available in the App Store, and said that roughly 10,000 are submitted each week; Schiller claimed that most are approved, while about 90% of rejections are sent back to the developer due to a technical issue, such as a bug or unexpected operation. The other 10% are mostly inappropriate. “There have been applications submitted for approval that will steal personal data, or which are intended to help the user break the law, or which contain inappropriate content,” Schiller said. However, about 1% or fewer of returned apps fall into a gray area that Apple hadn’t previously anticipated; Schiller used apps written to help users cheat at casino games as an example. “We had to go study state and international laws about what’s legal and what isn’t, and what legal exposure that creates for Apple or the customer,” he said.
Schiller said the company is also taking a hard line on potentially illegal use of trademarks—particularly those owned by Apple. “If you don’t defend your trademarks, in the end you end up not owning them,” Schiller says. “And sometimes other companies come to us saying they’ve seen their trademarks used in apps without permission. We see that a lot.” The executive did say that the company is working to make its trademark guidelines more sophisticated and transparent. “We need to delineate something that might confuse the customer and be an inappropriate use of a trademark from something that’s just referring to a product for the sake of compatibility,” he said. “We’re trying to learn and expand the rules to make it fair for everyone.”
Apple’s increased number of iPhone carriers in France is leading to a boost in sales, which bodes well for a similar result in the U.K. Marketwatch reports that the latest data from Bernstein shows Apple’s value market share in France jumped from 21% in the second quarter to 32% in the third quarter, thanks to the phone’s availability on Bouygues Telecom and SFR. “The expansion of iPhone distribution has clearly benefited Apple, helping it to more than double sales in three months,” said Pierre Ferragu, an analyst with Bernstein. Morgan Stanley had similar estimates, the report states, which showed iPhone market share in France increasing by 17% sequentially in the third quarter. Carolina Milanesi, research director in Gartner’s mobile device department, said France is now the biggest market for the iPhone in Europe with more than 600,000 units sold in the third quarter.
A similar boost is hoped for in the U.K. “Exclusivity in France ended in April. Our numbers show that shelf share tripled and market share doubled quarter on quarter,” said Strategy Analytics analyst Neil Mawston. “Given that the U.K. market is pretty similar and the brand strong there, yes, you can extrapolate that.” O2 was the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the country until earlier this month when Orange launched the device; Orange said it saw first-day sales of 30,000 units, while competing carrier Vodafone will launch the handset early next year. [via MDN]
Google has launched a new mobile-formatted version of its Google News homepage. The new offering is optimized for display on the iPhone and iPod touch, as well as Android devices and the Palm Pre. It offers the same personalization available on the desktop, along with more stories, sources, and images, a mobile-friendly “jump to” menu, and the ability to reach favorite sections, find articles, and play videos in fewer taps. To access the new mobile version of Google News, simply visit news.google.com from Safari on an iPhone or iPod touch.
Virgin Mobile Canada has announced that it will launch the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in its Virgin Mobile retail stores and online in the coming months. Although no further details were provided in the official announcement, Canadian mobile news site MobileSyrup suggests that the handset will launch on the carrier in February 2010, and also believes pricing will be similar to that offered by the phone’s other Canadian carriers, with a three-year contract. The iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS are currently available in Canada through Rogers/Fido, Bell Canada, and Telus.
AT&T has suffered an initial setback in its lawsuit against Verizon Wireless over the latter’s recent TV advertisements attacking AT&T and the iPhone, but has also launched a new television commercial to counter the Verizon spots. A federal judge in Atlanta has denied an initial request from AT&T to force Verizon to pull its “map for that” commercials from the airwaves, the Asscociated Press reports, but did schedule a hearing on December 16 to give AT&T attorneys another chance to state their case. AT&T filed suit against Verizon Wireless two weeks ago claiming that the latter’s ads were “misleading.”
In response to Verizon’s ads, AT&T has launched a new TV commercial called “Side by Side” comparing certain characteristics of the two company’s offerings that favor the U.S. iPhone carrier. Starring actor Luke Wilson, the ad points out that AT&T has the “nation’s fastest 3G network,” which allows users to “talk and surf at the same time,” that it offers the most popular smartphones, and that its customers—more specifically, iPhone users—have access to over 100,000 apps. The new advertisement is available for viewing below in embedded form or can be viewed in high quality on YouTube. [via Mac Rumors]
AdMob, the mobile advertising network recently acquired by Google, has launched a new “Interactive Video Ad Unit” for the iPhone. The new ad unit promises “true interactivity,” offering in-player actions that enable users to browse Web sites, view additional videos, and more while the video is playing. AdMob says the unit will be sold primarily as an interstitial that will automatically play as an application loads, but may also be accessed through banner ads. In addition, AdMob creates multiple bitrate encodings of the video files for each and then dynamically streams the most appropriate file size based on the devices’ EDGE, 3G, or Wi-Fi connection, utilizing its network of globally distributed servers to ensure the fastest possible video load times. According to the company, AdMob’s iPhone ad network reached more than 20 million unique iPhones and iPod touch devices worldwide in 2009.
Qualcomm has confirmed that it is in talks with Apple over the possibility of supplying telecommunications chips for future versions of the iPhone. “We continue to discuss it, but haven’t made it yet,” Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “Hopefully, in the future, we will have the opportunity.” The company already provides chips to other smartphone manufacturers, including those building phones that run Windows Mobile and Google’s Android operating systems. “We talk to everybody in the industry,” Jacobs said. “We are very strong in the smart-phone market.” Bloomberg reports that Qualcomm plans to begin selling chips compatible with China’s domestically-developed TD-SCDMA technology next year; China Mobile uses the technology and had 1.66 million TD-SCDMA customers as of September 30. China Mobile recently said that it remains in talks with Apple about offering the iPhone on its network.
Following last month’s launch of the iPhone in China on rival network China Unicom, China Mobile has reaffirmed that it remains in talks with Apple to offer the iPhone on its own, more popular, network. “We really are still in talks with Apple…In our negotiations in the past, we insisted on sticking to our conditions,” company chairman Wang Jianzhou told reporters at a regional mobile phone conference in Hong Kong, reports the AFP. “We are still very sincere about completing this negotiation,” he said, adding that the company would like to introduced several different types of smartphones in the coming years. “iPhone is only one type of smartphone. On the whole, we hope to turn all our future phones into smartphones. This would require the collective effort of our vendors.”
The Korea Communications Commission, South Korea’s telecommunications regulator, gave the iPhone its approval at a meeting this week, meaning the phone can now be launched at any time in the country. Strangely, this is the second time the device has been granted approval by the commission; the first was in September. Although commission spokesman Lee Sang-hun could not immediately confirm how this new decision different from September’s, he did say it was related to location-based services. South Korean law requires companies providing location-based data to obtain government permission, and in September’s decision, the commission decided that local service providers could obtain permission on Apple’s behalf.
KT and SK Telecom, local network providers in South Korea, have both been in discussions with Apple over the iPhone; Apple spokesman Steve Park told the Associated Press that the company has yet to confirm whether it will introduce the iPhone to South Korea. Still, South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo has reported that KT—which confirmed plans to sell the iPhone in August—plans to begin taking online orders for the device on Thursday with a launch date of November 28, while a SK Telecom spokeswoman said the carrier has made no decisions regarding the device. Apple has yet to add South Korea to its list of countries to which the iPhone is “coming soon.”