Weekend Roundup: BlackBerry bounces back, Samsung Galaxy S4 makes waves, hacking still the name of the game

BlackBerry bounces back

It’s been nearly two months since the release of BlackBerry 10, the company formerly known as RIM’s latest attempt at recovering its stronghold of the mobile market. Though there’s still little indication as to how well the OS and accompanying flagship BlackBerry Z10 smartphone are faring among consumers, that hasn’t stopped the Canadian company from grabbing headlines all week. First, BlackBerry chief Thorsten Heins joined the chorus of iOS-bashers, telling the Australian Financial Review that Apple’s mobile platform is outdated as he aggressively shilled BB10 ahead of the Z10’s arrival in more markets this week.

The rest of the week was filled with relatively good news for the company, with reports that the UK government had rejected BB10 for use in high-level government work being quashed by the government department responsible for communications security. BB10 hasn’t even been tested yet, a government spokesperson said, and is expected to retain its status as the mobile solution with the highest level of government authorisation, giving it a much-needed boost in the public eye. More good news followed: BlackBerry lived up to early BB10 promises by announcing that users can now choose from more than 100,000 apps in the BlackBerry store; the company revealed that a new mid-range flagship smartphone will join the Z10 and Q10 later this year, giving respite to potential customers who may not want to shell out north of £500 get their hands on a BB10 handset; and an unexpected seal of approval came from an unlikely place when Google chairman Eric Schmidt admitted to the Guardian that he hasn't managed to shake off his BlackBerry addiction.

We closed the week off with a comprehensive review of the BlackBerry 10 platform, with Sascha Segan giving it 3.5 stars out of 5. “Email addicts, IT managers, and fervent multi-taskers will find much to love about BlackBerry 10, the new OS from the once-leading smartphone firm that drags the venerable BlackBerry line into 2013. BlackBerry 10 maintains some of the core themes that got so many users addicted to their "CrackBerries," while taking full advantage of the latest hardware and web technologies,” wrote Sascha. Follow the link to find out more about how BlackBerry 10 stacks up and whether the OS deserves all the attention it received this week.

Samsung Galaxy S4 makes waves

This week may have marked the official beginning of the Spring Equinox, but what it also signalled was the dawn of Samsung Galaxy s4 season. Following the launch of the new flagship handset on 14 March, we've been parsing through the fallout of the announcement to determine whether the device really measures up in the market. Accordingly, the Galaxy S4 was given the spec comparison treatment and did battle spec-for-spec against the HTC One, the Nokia 920 and its predecessor, the Galaxy S3.

Specs aside, James Laird this week offered a careful take on whether the S4 is ultimately a better purchase than Apple's the iPhone 5. "Rather than contemplating processor clock speeds and camera megapixels, we should be asking the simple question: should I buy the Samsung Galaxy S4? Or, rather, should I buy the Galaxy S4 or the iPhone 5? It's nigh on impossible to get away from this grudge match, such is the extent to which Apple, Samsung, and their respective handsets have come to dominate the mobile industry - and the passion with which the firms loathe each other. But which comes up trumps in this particular battle?" he asked. Read on to find out what James concluded.

Hacking still the name of the game

As ever, the past few days have been a testament to the extent to which digital security should be a growing area of concern for consumers and businesses alike. Early in the week, South Korea found itself the victim of a broad cyber attack that left a number of major companies and services with their servers compromised. Three television broadcasters, KBS, MBS and YTN, and two banks, Nonghyup and Shinhan Bank, all reported that their networks had suddenly given way, with staff computers being shut down remotely.

Later in the week, yet more attacks were reported: the BBC was targeted by the Syrian Electronic Army, a pro-Assad group that has been defacing media sites and social network accounts; Microsoft confirmed that the Xbox Live accounts of some high-level employees had been hacked; researchers identified a flaw in Electronic Arts' Origin platform that could leave 40 million people vulnerable.

Despite the sustained threats, we did see some new solutions put forth this week. A perhaps radical new proposal, borne out of Gartner's 'Maverick Research' programme, has challenged the traditional mindset of IT administrators by suggesting that killing off security controls and placing more trust in the employee can actually reduce overall risk. Companies who have reduced security controls in the past have actually found detecting threats easier as a result, because the "noise" of more innocuous data breaches from employees is cut out, making serious hacking incidents from outsiders easier to identify, said a Gartner expert.

On the consumer side, Apple has decided to get serious about security. The firm announced that it is enabling two-factor authentication for iCloud and Apple ID accounts, making it that much harder for hackers to get a hold of users' personal data. The optional feature will require users to verify their identities beyond providing their passwords when: signing in to an Apple ID to manage an account; buying something on iTunes, the App Store, or iBooks; or getting Apple ID-related support.

Image Credit: Flickr (defenceimages)

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