Saturday, February 28, 2015

Does Apple Use Green Bubbles to Make You Hate Android Users?

By Ben Stegner
iMessage, the service that Mac and iOS devices use to chat with each other, is a much-loved feature of the Apple ecosystem – and it got even better with an upgrade in iOS 8. Instead of using standard text messages, iMessage sends text over the Internet using your WiFi or data connection for a faster and more reliable conversation.
If you have an iPhone, you may have a noticed a slight difference in the bubbles that represent your sent messages. This seemingly insignificant detail sparked controversy recently; let’s examine why.
Note: iMessage is supported on iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone, and Mac. However, since none of these devices typically have texting capabilities except the iPhone, in this article I’ll be talking about iMessage on iPhone only.

What’s the Beef?

In case you haven’t used iMessage before, or do use it and just haven’t noticed, here’s a rundown of what happens. By default, when you send a message through the Messages app on your iPhone, it goes through iMessage if the recipient is also using an iPhone. If the person on the other end has any other phone – mainly Android, but Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and “dumb” phones too – the message is sent as an SMS. iMessage uses blue bubbles when sent; a text uses green.
The differences aren’t just cosmetic. iMessage includes read receipts and “typing” messages, dead-simple group messaging, doesn’t count against your monthly plan for texts, and is faster since it goes over the Internet. However, not everyone has an iPhone, so we can expect Apple users to understand the difference and respect their friends’ decisions, right?
Wrong. See for yourself how people really feel about green bubbles:
One user even took this popular image (it’s hard to see in the tweet) comparing the features of the Nexus 4 (released in 2012) and the iPhone 6 (released in 2014) and dismissed it due to the fact that its creator “sends green text message bubbles.” Apparently, your statement of device specifications is invalid if you don’t have the “chosen” blue bubbles.
This is just a minute sample; a search on Twitter for “green bubbles” will bring up hundreds more, and they aren’t stopping. Fascinating, isn’t it? These users seem to despise green bubbles so much that they act as if it’s an inconvenience to text the lowly peons that spawn them.

The Psychology of Green Bubbles

Paul Ford’s fascinating look at this phenomenon, “It’s Kind of Cheesy Being Green“, cites some of these tweets and looks at why green bubbles seem to strike a nerve with so many iPhone users. But are their gripes really valid?
Some, including Ford, have suggested that the green bubbles are a “harsh” color and are harder on the eyes that the cooling blue color that iMessage provides. Longtime users of iOS might remember that before iMessage was around (it launched with iOS 5 in 2011) all messages showed up in green. It’s your call whether this green became less attractive once iOS made the jump to a flatter look with its radical iOS 7 re-design.
We’ve established that iMessage is objectively better than standard texting, as those with limited plans can chatter to their hearts’ content while on WiFi. However, few people, if any, are citing the actual benefits of the service when complaining about green bubbles. Instead, it becomes almost an obsession: people want to purge every green bubble (and those who cause them) from their devices.

Does Apple Encourage This?

It’s no secret that Apple isn’t a fan of Android, and none of this discussion is meant to be an iPhone vs. Android debate. Rather, we want to look at this fascinating sociological effect, since it clearly isn’t only a few people who are fighting to kill green bubbles. Apple designed the OS; could they have planted the seed of anti-green-bubblism?
Taking a look at Apple’s iMessage page shows a small jab at green texters, though it’s pretty harmless – SMS users probably won’t be “green with envy” since they won’t even know what they’re missing. They’ve been more aggressive, however. During Apple’s developer conference in 2014, they openly poked fun at green bubbles and said that friends who cause them use “inferior devices.” So they’re certainly in on the reputation.

Green is obviously the color of the Android logo, but it isn’t as if Apple totally rejects the color from their operating system. The Messaging icon itself is a similar shade of green – odd that nobody has brought this up, since it would make more sense to make it blue.
In all, it’s highly unlikely that Apple intentionally planned these color differences to reference Android. Having the two types of messages be different colors is important so users can differentiate, of course, but that’s really the bulk of it. However, that doesn’t mean that Apple is ignoring this sensation. They know that people hate green bubbles, so if non-iPhone users feel pressure to switch due to their friends’ urging, Apple picks up customers from this tiny design decision.
Hopefully, they won’t stoop to making this a huge selling point, though. The iPhone is an amazing device on its own, and making fun of the competition only looks Apple look petty. Having to resort to trashing your opponents instead of promoting why your product is better is a poor place to be in – just look at how Microsoft embarrassed itself with its “Scroogled” line of ads.

What Do the People Say?

We could end our discussion of this peculiarity here, but I wanted to make this study more interesting. I created a survey (you can still fill it out if you’d like) that I shared to Facebook. In it, I asked friends, family, and students at my university (a huge thank-you to all who helped me out!) about their mobile devices. After seeing what device they used and what version of iOS they were on just out of curiosity, I proceeded to poll them about iMessage. If they weren’t iOS users, I asked different questions to get their perspective. Here’s what I found.
Of the 119 respondents, 58% used an iPhone, 29% were on Android, and 13% had a “dumb” phone. All but two iOS users knew what iMessage was – then I asked if they knew of any advantages iMessage has over texting. Among the responses were:
  • I can text my friends in other countries without having to worry about international texting rates.
  • Yes. All of them. Uses data so mobile signal isn’t an issue. Delivery notifications. Cheaper. More secure.
  • iMessage tells you if your message was delivered and read but a regular text message tells you nothing.
  • Sometimes it will use iMessage if a text fails
  • You can see if the person has had the message delivered to them, if they have read it, and when they are responding.
A handful of folks said they weren’t aware of any differences, but the majority had at least some idea. My next question was whether they prefer blue or green bubbles when texting:
I was really trying to get at people’s opinions here before they read the article, so I asked them to follow up if necessary:
  • They don’t mean much to me, I appreciate the added benefits of iMessage, but I don’t use them for much. Most people seem to turn off read receipts, anyway.
  • The “read TIME” lets me know someone saw the message and they won’t be obligated to respond (like when it’s a definitive end of the conversation. EX: “Meet me there at 5″ — then I won’t worry that they haven’t seen it). If I haven’t gotten a response in a while I can just send a follow-up text.
  • All of the benefits can also be downsides. Sometimes it’s glitchy and it makes it harder to ignore people.
  • They both mean that I am sending/receiving messages so that works for me!
  • Only losers use green ones! Nah for real, the blue is a more pleasant colour.
  • Not a huge fan of either, but I think the green is a little nicer.
  • To be honest, it is a matter of color preference. Blue makes me think of the cold, while green makes me think about warm and sunny days.
  • If I see green, I usually think that something did not send correctly and had to be sent as SMS since most of my contacts are iPhone users.
  • I actually am not a fan of iMessage and don’t even bother to have it enabled. That might seem weird, but I just prefer the little extra privacy that comes with being able to ignore someone’s message and not seem like a jerk for not responding when I may be busy.
  • I know it’s a lowly android user if it’s not blue.
  • Most of my friends do have apple phones so all of their message bubbles are blue, but my boyfriend had an android so it seems special.
Here, we definitely see a nice balance and a clash with how the Twitter universe sees green bubbles. Most people who had a preference had a good reason when asked to back it up, and some even brought up great points, like knowing the other person has read your “See you at 8″ message and that iMessage can be glitchy.
After giving them Ford’s article, I asked for their response. There are far too many interesting responses to publish here, but as a small selection:
  • I think it’s honestly kind of petty to get so worked up about whether the bubbles are blue or green. it’s just an embellishment on the product. I’m not surprised Apple markets for blue and not green. it’s their job to sell their product so they need to use all methods at their disposal
  • I have never noticed the correlation to green bubbles and non apple products before. What annoys me is this “first world problem” mentality… I mean, really, you’ve got a PHONE for goodness sake… bubble color is not important
  • This article was so interesting! It is something that I have thought about before. And yes, green bubbles do slightly annoy me so I can understand why people hate them.
  • Green bubbles annoy me. They have for years. I’m just interested to hear I’m not alone on this.
  • They oddly irritate me, and yet, I’m not 100% why, probably just because they’re different. It really wouldn’t be difficult at all to make all text bubbles the same color.
  • My first reaction was that the way people feel so strongly about it is very shallow and ridiculous, but I realize that I’ve had those same, almost sub-conscious, tendencies. While I will most likely be more aware of when the bubbles are green, I honestly don’t care that much about the difference. A few of my siblings have non-Apple phones, and it’s never bothered me to a significant extent.
After that I asked a few more questions to quantify green bubble feelings – 1 being “They don’t bother me at all” and 5 being “I won’t text people with green bubbles.” It appears most iPhone users don’t actually hate Android and most don’t even care about green bubbles.
Aside from some closing thoughts, that was the end for the iPhone users. Android and “dumb” phone owners got a separate survey, and most of them answered that they text iPhone users often. I asked which device they use and what they knew about iMessage; it seems that non-Apple people aren’t as familiar with the service.
I asked them to read the article, too, and most thought the whole thing was ridiculous.
  • I think they should feel privileged to have an iPhone at all, and a home, and food/clean water.
  • These people are being ridiculous. As is Apple, to be honest. This feels like a divide and conquer type deal, making Apple advocates aware of their Android-owning friends. It’s underhanded and slightly ridiculous.
  • I think the color green can induce some sort of negative psychological effects as opposed to blue, which can induce relaxing and calming feelings. But I believe the people on Twitter described in the article are taking it to a whole other (and unnecessary) level.
  • No merit, just a nuance of society. Also a pretty sad indication of what people allow to affect them.
  • I wonder if green has some kind of uncomfortable sight type deal. Like red rooms are said to make you more on edge, etc.?
In all, it seems like most people surveyed don’t let green bubbles affect them too much. Twitter has fiercely voiced their bit, though. Who’s right?

Are Green Bubbles Are Here to Stay?

Perhaps it’s just me, but this phenomenon is deeply fascinating. How can such a tiny design choice, that likely didn’t have any malicious intent behind it, spark such a huge movement of people who hate green bubbles with a passion? It would be quite a sight to see the survey answers from people who are tweeting like this.
As the final word on this: no, Apple didn’t do this on purpose. That’s a bit of a far-fetched claim. However, they’re probably loving the effect green bubbles have had on iPhone users, and if just a few people switched to an Apple device because of this minute complaint, they’ve made a profit.
The question that survey respondents answered that folks on Twitter haven’t is why they prefer blue bubbles. Is it an OCD-like effect where they want everything to be the same color, or do they really feel that people with iPhones are above texting people without them? That’s a study for another day.
Another interesting point to bring up is that changing the color of your text message is a simple tweak you can make on Android, even without rooting. Using an alternative texting app, you can fine-tune the color for both incoming and outgoing messages. So, if it’s really all about the bubble colors, then maybe these iPhone users are using the wrong device.
If you enjoyed this topic, I invite you to view all the responses (only names have been removed) and if you’d like to take the survey yourself, I’d love to read your thoughts! You’ll also be able to find plenty of tweets about green bubbles by searching for the term on Twitter, if you’d like to see for yourself.
Hangouts, an all-in-one app that’s Android’s closest counterpart to iMessage, is a great app and one Android users might enjoy for messaging each other.
How do you feel about green bubbles? Do you find this as fascinating as I do? I totally want to hear your thoughts on this one, so leave me a comment with your take!
Image Credits: Young casual woman Via Shutterstock, woman holding phone Via Shutterstock

Security Threats WhatsApp Users Need To Know

4 Security Threats WhatsApp Users Need To Know About

By Dann Albright
WhatsApp has gone from a newcomer on the messaging scene to the biggest name in the business, and with that increase in size has come a big jump in the number of people looking to take advantage of the app’s users. If you use WhatsApp, there are a lot of threats out there that you should know about – here are a few of the big ones.


Now that you can use WhatsApp via a web interface, there are people out there distributing bad download links that look like real WhatsApp clients, but will saddle you with a bunch of malware. Kaspersky Labs found a number of these suspicious downloads in a variety of languages.
These sites collect information from downloaders and distribute malware. Kaspersky researchers found ones that add users to WhatsApp spam lists, some that come packaged with trojans, and some that distribute malware designed to get at banking information.
Fortunately, the solution to this problem is a simple one: make sure that you’re using the official URL. To use the web app, go to You don’t need to download any apps or browser extensions – you only need to go to the correct page and sign in.

Crash Messages

A while ago, someone discovered that you could crash someone else’s instance of WhatsApp by sending a message over 7 MB in size. After receiving the message, WhatsApp will crash every time the user tries to open the thread, and the only way to regain control of the app is to delete the thread. It was recently discovered that the same thing could be done by sending a much smaller message – only 2 KB in size – that contains a set of special characters.

Even if a message is backed up, restoring the conversation doesn’t solve the problem; it’ll still crash the app. This exploit works not just with messages to individuals, but also to groups, in which case every member of the group will experience the crash and need to leave the group and delete the thread. This might not sound like a big deal if you only use WhatsApp to organize rides to the bar, but many people use the app for business as well, which means this vulnerability could be a huge pain.
As of yet, there’s no way fix or defend against this exploit. Your best hope is that Facebook and WhatsApp quickly fix the problem before more people find out about it. Fortunately, however, this doesn’t seem to happen on every platform; so far, it’s only been seen on Android.

Bypassing Privacy Settings

Maikel Zweerink recently discovered that WhatsApp, even with the increased security that has been put in place recently, isn’t nearly as safe as we think it is. He showed proof that a simple app called WhatsSpy Public can monitor status messages, status changes, and user photos, as well as adjust security settings, even if the app’s owner has set the privacy options to “nobody” (you can see a small sample of the sort of information that the app can pull below).
Zweerink was experimenting with WhatsApp to create a bot, and was shocked when he found out how it could be used to track other users despite their privacy settings. He also wrote a detailed blog about the problems he discovered that is certainly worth a read. This is a particularly worrying development, even for an app that’s had a lot of worrying security problems recently.
As far as we know, there’s no way to protect against this, and we’ll just have to wait for the WhatsApp developers to find a way to fix it.

Spying on Other Users

WhatsApp recently debuted end-to-end encryption, making it much more secure than it’s been in the past. Despite this, however, there are still a few ways that other people can listen in on your conversations. There’s a piece of spy softwarecalled mSpy, for example, that sends reports on calls, browsing, text messages, WhatsApp conversations, and more, back to the owner of the app. All they have to do is get the app onto your phone which just takes a few minutes.
Paying close attention to the apps that are installed on your phone will help you catch spyware like mSpy, but MAC spoofing is a more insidious and harder-to-detect method of listening in on WhatsApp conversations. A phone’s MAC addressis a unique identifier, and WhatsApp uses this address to route messages. By temporarily assigning someone else’s MAC address to your phone, you can intercept their WhatsApp messages (though they also get sent the intended recipient).
The best way to make sure that your messages aren’t being intercepted in this way is to not give anyone who you don’t trust access to your phone. It doesn’t take long to get the MAC address for a phone, and once you have it, it’s easy to spoof it from another phone. Detecting and preventing MAC spoofing isn’t easy, so not giving anyone the chance to do it in the first place is your best bet.

Should You Get Rid of WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a great messenger app, but between Facebook’s ownership of it and the ever-increasing number of security worries, it’s looking like it might be a safer idea to use a more secure messaging app, like Telegram, a very popular alternative. While most users won’t find that they get taken advantage of because they’re using WhatsApp, the worry will always be there. And now that WhatsApp has been identified as a high-priority target for hackers, it might not be worth the risk.
Do you still use WhatsApp? Are you worried about the security vulnerabilities that have shown up over the past few years? Share your thoughts below!

New Net Neutrality Rules Passed

By Dave Parrack
New net neutrality rules, Facebook prevents suicide, Apple Watch is launching soon, play Fable for free, Google hates Apple, and the Toejam & Earl sequel hits Kickstarter.

The FCC Preserves Net Neutrality

As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted in favor of new rules aimed at preserving net neutrality. The new rules reclassify ISPs as common carriers, meaning the FCC now has the authority to regulate them. This should help prevent the emergence of fast lanes for content providers willing to pay broadband providers a premium for preferential treatment.
In the end, the three Democrat commissioners voted in favor of the new rules, while the Republican commissioners voted against the change. Broadband companies, who will now have to put consumers before their personal interests are, unsurprisingly, against these changes, and are likely to challenge them in court.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler strongly defended the new rules, explaining:
“The Internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet. It is simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field. Think about it. The Internet has replaced the functions of the telephone and the post office. The Internet has redefined commerce, and as the outpouring from four million Americans has demonstrated, the Internet is the ultimate vehicle for free expression. The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules.”
“This proposal has been described by one opponent as ‘a secret plan to regulate the Internet.’ Nonsense. This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concepts: openness, expression, and an absence of gate keepers telling people what they can do, where they can go, and what they can think.”
This may just be the best defense for these new rules we have yet seen, reminding naysayers that enshrining something in law doesn’t automatically make it bad. Most people who understand what’s at stake, and who don’t have a vested interest in killing net neutrality, believe this is a positive change designed to protect, rather than strangle, freedom.

Facebook Helps Suicidal People

Facebook is significantly updating the system it has in place for dealing with users thought to be contemplating suicide. Any report of “troubling content” will be reviewed by a dedicated team. Support will then be offered both to the person exhibiting signs of depression, and the friend who flagged it up.
It should be noted that Facebook isn’t setting itself up to be the first and only line of defense, reminding people that if they see someone posting a “direct threat of suicide,” they should “contact their local emergency services immediately.” However, this offers another path that could lead to a positive outcome.

Apple Watch Launching on March 9

Apple is officially set to launch the Apple Watch on March 9. The event will take place in San Francisco, with details on pricing and availability for Apple’s smartwatch guaranteed to be revealed.
Despite the tagline of ‘Spring Forward’ being a clear reference to time, there are rumors that Apple will reveal several other products at the event. CNET imagines we’ll see a bigger iPad, new MacBook Airs, an updated Apple TV set-top box, and possibly even a new iPod.

Fable Legends Goes Free to Play

Microsoft has announced that Fable Legends will be a free-to-play title on Windows 10 and Xbox One (Xbox Live Gold subscription required). Crucially, gamers will be able to “play through it beginning-to-end without having to spend any money,” and have “access to the entirety of Fable Legends’ storyline and all of the quests we release this year and forever.
These leaves customization options and cosmetic items as the things offered through the in-app purchases that will be needed to make Fable Legends pay for itself over the longterm. Which isn’t too disagreeable at all. That is so long as the actual game is any good, which we won’t know for several more months.

Google Exec Calls Apple ‘Irresponsible’

Sundar Pichai, Google’s Senior Vice President of Products, has ripped into Apple over its pricing strategy. His counter to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s previous comments regarding the monetization of users came during an interview with Forbes covering a range of different topics.
Pichai said, “Users use our services by choice. These are very loved products. We have many, many products that have more than 1 billion users. They provide a lot of value. And we provide many of these services for free. It’s a bit irresponsible to say everything should be many hundreds of dollars. [as most Apple products are].
The sad fact is that products and services need to be paid for one way or another. Apple chooses to charge a premium for hardware, while Google monetizes in other ways. Neither is particularly wrong, and consumers are left to make their own minds up as to which method they prefer.

Toejam & Earl Sequel on Kickstarter

And finally, a new Toejam and Earl game titled Back In The Groove, could be on its way, with the original creators of the game funding a sequel through Kickstarter. The campaign needs to raise $400,000 for this game to happen, with a pledge of $15 more required to receive the game if and when it’s completed.
Initially targeted at PC gamers, with versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, Toejam and Earl: Back In The Groove will feature retro graphics, randomly generated levels, and an emphasis on co-op play. All of which will no doubt please oldies who remember the series from the early 1990s.

Your Views on Today’s Tech News

Do you agree with the new rules regarding net neutrality? Has Facebook got it right on how it tackles suicide? Is Apple as “irresponsible” as Sundar Pichai claims?
Let us know your thoughts on the Tech News of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.
Image Credit: Andrew Hart via Flickr Source:

Friday, February 27, 2015

Is Your Favorite Website Spying on You?

By Dave LeClair
We all use services like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but are these websites keeping more information on us than we intended? As it turns out, quite a few websites out there track an incredibly large amount of data from users.
So what can you do to make sure you aren’t being tracked by the sites you visit? Thankfully, you have options. The infographic below will show you which sites are tracking you the most, and even more important, how to make sure you aren’t being tracked, regardless of which web browser you use.
Via Study Web
Click To Enlarge

Siri on Mac: 11 Ways to Get Tasks Done With Your Voice

Akshata Shanbhag , We’ve shown you  how to set up Siri on your Mac . Now here comes the tricky bit: figuring out what kind of tasks Siri...