Android Security: Google or Carriers issue?

In the world of Android a couple of disturbing articles have come out recently. Google is no long patching 4.3 (Jellybean) and earlier versions. Also the amount of malware for Android increased by 75% last year. This begs, who is to receive blame on the vendor side?

We all know people do not patch apps. Maybe they don’t like “new” terms that come with the update (most terms are the same as the prior versions). A lot get not the best information. Patching is important, and we all know that. In the world of PC’s we all know about Patch Tuesday (Microsoft, Adobe), and know how long it can take Apple to patch flaws in OSX and iOS (which they completely control and is out of the carriers hands). So what about Android, the worlds most popular phone OS?

The announcement this week that Google is no long patching WebView for versions 4.3 and earlier started me thinking more about this. Yes, Google is “abandoning” 930 Million users. Yes, They come out with new versions of Android so fast that the OS is fractured all over the place. The question is though, is Google doing the right thing? I personally think so. The reasoning why places a bunch of blame on the carriers.

Outside of iOS (iPhone), the carriers control when consumers get updates to their Android (and Windows) phones. In the world of Android, Google announces a patch, update, new version, then it gets sent to the device manufacturers. They have to test against their hardware and customization that they have done to Android for their devices (the look and feel of the OS you see). Then it gets sent to the carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, etc.) where even more testing has to be done against the carriers modifications to the OS (special built in apps, their radios, any network lock downs or features such as tracking cookies). Basically once Google releases the new version/patch/update getting it onto most peoples phones is out of their hands, the exception being the Nexus devices which Google controls. The longer an update take to get out there, the more chance there is for a breach. The easier it also may be for malware to get on the phones, and could be a reason the amount of malware for Android increased by 75% last year.

So the question arises, why does it take so long to hit our phones. the obvious and simple answer to me is money. Why bother pushing patches and updates, let alone new versions of the OS to phones especially ones that are only a year or two old, when you can try to force people to get new hardware, and either extend or get new contracts to get the latest? Security as a Service you can almost think of it as, but not quite. Seriously, the carriers have a cash cow on their hands with Android and doing things this way. The lastest verion of iOS is out and works on phones that are years old. Apple has it available for those older phones through their updater, although some features may not work on the older phones, it is still available. I am by no means an Apple fan, but the control they have over their updates is what Google needs to have over Android. The carriers don’t care, and won’t unless they lose some major lawsuit because someone’s phone got hacked due to a security update not having been available for that model. When I tweeted to my carrier (Verizon) about this, they sent me a link to their “news” page which has no information on updates. I also tweeted them back as they asked about what I was looking for (latest Windows Phone update, Android Lollipop) for specific devices. Never heard back from them.

The bottom line on this, from my perspective, is that both Google and the carriers are to blame. Google is to blame, not for not patching, but for not controlling the push out of patches and updates to the OS, and the carriers for not pushing out updates and patches in a timely fashion. Until this gets resolved, Android is going to stay heavily fragmented, and security for everyday peoples phones is going to be shaky at best.

There are 3 tablets, which one I prefer

I have in my possession a Surface, an iPad, and an ASUS T300 Android Tablet. After having spent time with all three, I look at the pluses and minuses of them, from my perspective, which means that there are opinions in here that are just that, opinions.

Tablets are the new big thing. Everyone wants one, and plenty of companies are making them. Some tend to be designed for specific things (Nook, Kindle) while others make what seem like empty promises to me. I started out with a Nook Color e-reader not long after it came out. I had figured that it would be the tablet of choice for me. Problem was, the 7″ screen and lack of apps, especially free (Ad Supported) apps made me think of getting something else.

That something else came from my work. As we were getting iPads and starting to support them at client sites, they gave me one. this was for me to play with, learn about and use so I could support them. I enjoy the iPad experience. It is quick, and solid. I don’t like Apple, their holier than god and we know what is right for you attitude, and the lack of decent tech apps. Video playback on it has been nice on trips, but I am limited to the Apple formats, as usual.

The Surface is the newest of the Tablets I have. I really had high hopes for this machine, and maybe in the future it will reach those aspirations, but not at the moment. Right now, I deal with the frustration of not finding either the apps I use or an equivalent. Flip Toast is ok, but has bugs (They have told me they are working on fixing them). I can’t find decent Network tools, most apps that I can get free with Ads on other platforms, cost money, or are more expensive than they are on other platforms. Then there is also my Nook issue. I have the Nook app, or my Nook Color on everything else. My Library is there on all my other devices. Microsoft, which bought an 18% stake (IIRC) in Nook has no Nook App for Windows 8. In Fact if you search for Nook in the App Store, you get 2 choices as of writing this article, Kobo or Kindle. So much for partnerships. Don’t get me wrong, there is good about the Surface. Office works nicely, the hardware is responsive and the tile system looks nice. Plus there is the keyboard cover, which is pretty sweet.

Both the Surface and the iPad I got through my office for testing and learning purposes. We want to make decisions on what our sales and service techs are going to use going forward. Honestly, I would lean to the Surface, because of Office, and because of the ease at which it integrates into a Microsoft environment. I can access network shares easily (even though I cannot join an RT device to the domain), and it will do everything that our sales and service teams need. The iPad integration we were trying with a Mac server and we just could not get it to do what we wanted.

The ASUS Transformer T300 is a personal item. It was a birthday gift back in Sept. To tell the truth, I love it. Outside of Flipboard not being available for it, I have everything I want or need on it right now. Yes, I am using Pulse on it, but the lack of new sources I like, and the lack of aggregation from the social media world, makes Pulse a bit annoying, especially in regards to World/U.S. news. Still, I have everything else, including a free Office Suite (which is amazingly useful in its own right). The only drawback to the T300 as compared to the Prime, is the plastic back. I also got a 3rd party case/bluetooth keyboard for it which works as nicely as the Surface’s keyboard cover.

My recommendation right now to people would be the Android Tablet. The T300 does it all, and while a bit sluggish at times, is still is plenty responsive. There are more free apps available for it, and you are not tied into iTunes or Apple’s network. The Surface might be the thing in the future, bight right now, it doesn’t have enough to make it worthwhile, especially on price point. The T300 costs under $400 for a 32GB model. The iPad and Surface (with Type touch cover) are both at $600 for 32GB (Without the Cover the Surface is $499 for 32GB).

Android ICS and the Razr

A couple of weeks ago, Verizon pushed ICS down to my Razr. I had been look forward to the upgrade for a while, but was it everything one wants?

The biggest problem with the Android OS is Google puts out a new version right about the time the Upgrades to the prior version come out. That being said, I finally got the ICS upgrade on my Droid Razr. With all the talk and positive things I had heard about ICS, I was excited.

The upgrade process was mostly painless, except for the notification coming at 4am on a work day. Once completed, I started looking for changes. First thing though was letting a number of my applications update. One of the biggest changes there was the Google+ app. The widget for it now showed actual posts, which makes my life easier, especially since I tend to forget about Google+ for days at a time (a post for another day).

The first bad thing about ICS I ran into was with my home button right after seeing the Google+ change. On Gingerbread, if you hit the home button once, it brought you to your home screen, and this hasn’t changed. Hitting the home button from your home screen on ICS does nothing, compared to Gingerbread which zoomed out and shows you all 5 screens so you could jump to a specific screen and not have to scroll to the far ones. This feature removal is a definite down side, although understandable since ICS is designed for devices without the  4 buttons below the actual screen.

The new set of customizable on screen quick start buttons is decent. the have put a nice App button there to bring you to the full application listing also. To add items to a home screen was completely different. You actually have to go into your main app list and hold touch on the itme. Apps that have widgets should show a widget app in the App screens also.

There are 2 big annoyances with ICS though. First is battery life, which already was limited on the Razr, has dropped even more. The second was after the upgrade, all the personalization I had done for ringtones, notifications etc, were gone. I wondered for a couple days why I was not vibrating when I got a new text message, until I figure this out.

Overall ICS has some good and bad. At this point in time, Android really reminds me of Microsoft and Windows. So many different configurations and hardware, the main company can’t keep up with it all, and the OEMs don’t care about keeping things current for their users. Instead they want you to buy new all the time.