Mobile Payments – Where’s it Headed?

Research predicts that mobile payments will reach the $90 billion mark by 2017.  Several methods of mobile paying are functional now, as businesses, bankers and consumers gradually get on board with the idea. But, the popularity of mobile paying is growing rapidly. We’re headed toward a time when cash, and even plastic, may become obsolete.  Even the magic strip on credit cards could become an historical curiosity, as NFC (Near Field Communication) payments flourish, and we become accustomed to waving a mobile device in front of a scanner to pay for our purchases.

It’s still early in the world of mobile payments

As financial giants like MasterCard and Citicard struggle to develop ways to conform their business to the mobile environment, companies like Google are improving the “wallet” concept, and individual banks and institutions are hurrying to adapt their individual systems to be mobile-friendly. Needless to say, right now, mobile payment methods are still in varied and complex stages of development.

How much do we really want to know?

Do we, as consumers, have the time or inclination to understand the complexities and challenges that are faced by developers of mobile payment systems? Absolutely not. What do we want? We want a secure, simple system that reliably works in approximately the same way, wherever we go. And, ultimately, we won’t have to manually enter account numbers and passwords, but will prefer to wave our all-inclusive device over a terminal that will read our data and process it correctly.

Really cool ideas quickly become dinosaurs

Payment devices that snap onto phones, such as the Square, are cool and convenient for taking credit card payments on the spot, but we still have to enter data and a signature to complete a transaction. Currently, the most popular way to pay for goods via mobile is the way we’ve done it for the last couple decades – through an online website and a credit card number (WAP, or mobile web payments).  It’s familiar and it’s available and who doesn’t shop on the Internet? But, researchers predict that “proximity” payments – the kind you make with a wave of your phone – will become the fastest growing method, accounting for “$41 billion of payments made via mobile by 2017.”

Looking ahead

Is it a little creepy to imagine that the wave of a device will one day pay for your groceries, as well as  your new car? Right now, it’s still a novelty available with only a handful of merchants, like Starbucks. But if the experts are right, we’ll soon be able to pay for almost anything with NFC.

In the meantime, don’t forget to protect your mobile device with a powerful mobile security product! Share your ideas and concerns about mobile paying with us on our Facebook page, or leave a comment on our blog. We’d love to hear from you.

NQ Family Guardian Offered by U.S. Cellular as “Family Protector”

NQ Mobile’s Family Guardian, by any other name, is still the final word in mobile protection for kids and families. But here’s some news:  U.S. Cellular will now offer its 5.9 million customers our Family Guardian suite as “U.S. Cellular Family Protector,”powered by NQ Mobile.  Same product, same superior protection for kids and families.

U.S. Cellular’s adoption of the Family Guardian suite reflects their strong interest in protecting mobile families. Naming the product U.S. Cellular Family Protector powered by NQ Mobile, allows U.S. Cellular to cater to their own large customer base without adding unfamiliar or confusing branding.  It’s a brilliant move, and an indispensable collaboration between the two companies. NQ Mobile’s Co-CEO, Omar Khan, remarks that this partnering to protect customer’s vital mobile information is “more important now than ever.”

Here’s a quick refresher. U.S. Cellular Family Protector powered by NQ Mobile (NQ Family Guardian), is a powerful way to link the mobile family together for safety and for managing your kids’ mobile lives. Here’s what it offers:

  •  Web Filter: Safeguards your children by filtering and blocking inappropriate websites
  •  App Filter: Helps you make smart choices about which apps children can access
  •  Contact Filter:  Helps kids fight spam text and harassing calls by adding numbers to their block lists
  •  Schedules: Helps to control children’s mobile phone use by setting up times when they can unlock their phones to make calls, browse the Internet, text, and more
  •  Monitors: Parents can keep track of children’s locations, message content, calls, browsing histories, app downloads, and photos
  •  Geo-Fences: Lets parents set up a virtual safe zone for children, and receive a notification if they go beyond the boundaries.
  •  Check-in:  Lets kids check in when they arrive safely at their destinations. Also tracks their location if they forget to check in
  •  Panic Alarm: If kids are in trouble, they can send an alert message to their parent’s phone with their exact location

U.S. Cellular is a Chicago-based carrier with a strong line-up of cutting-edge devices. Its high-speed nationwide network has the highest call quality of any national carrier. To learn more, go to  See our complete news release here.

Tips for Protecting Your Mobile Privacy

At NQ Mobile, we like to occasionally refresh our readers’ collective memory about safe smartphone practices. Follow these tips to diminish the chances of a privacy breach, malware invasion or ID theft.

  • Passwords:  Passwords should be based on something obscure, like the initials of a favorite quote or personal mantra. Incorporate at least one special character, at least one number, and don’t use the name of your pets, kids, street name, company name or any other easy-to-guess word associated with you. Make sure to change your password frequently.
  • Security Updates:  Download security updates when you’re prompted. Keep your phone current.
  • Lock your Phone:  Keep the phone on a short leash with an auto-lock that will kick in after just a few minutes. If you leave your table to get a coffee, it won’t be vulnerable to prying eyes.
  • Social Networking:  Don’t overshare – be careful not to post addresses, phone numbers or information about vacations, family or other tips for potential identity thieves, stalkers or bullies. Checking-in may be fun for your friends, but it also tells stalkers and other predators where you are. Forego it, if you can.
  • System Maintenance:  Keep your phone clean by deleting any data that doesn’t need to be there.
  • No Phishing: If you receive an urgent message from a bank or financial institution, do not click on it or provide any of the requested information. These flash messages often want you to think your account’s in jeopardy and that you need to re-enter your private data.  It isn’t, you don’t – and you shouldn’t.
  • Permissions:  Learn to read permission agreements, end-user license agreements and terms of service agreements to make sure you’re not giving away private data when downloading new apps. And while you’re at it, teach your kids what to look for.
  • Secure Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi hotspots are often an easy target for cyber-criminals. Make sure you’re working within a secured network. Hotels, coffee shops and malls are often the worst places to go online. Merchants don’t always provide super-tight WiFi security because they don’t want to require passwords, and they want to accommodate every kind of device. Besides, a good cyber-criminal knows how to break most Wi-Fi systems.
  • Security Software: Always use a strong mobile security product to keep out the viruses, malware and fraudulent demons that tend to slip into your phone’s system when you do a lot of web surfing.
  • Wipe It Clean: When you dispose of a phone, be sure it’s wiped clean of all data.

You wouldn’t invite strangers to comb through and memorize the information in your wallet. Your best bet is to regard your smartphone as a receptacle of your personal and private life, and treat it accordingly.

Do you have stories that involve privacy with a smartphone? We’d love to hear from you. Join us on our Facebook page, or leave a comment on our blog.

Smartphone Innovation 2013 – Time to Stretch?

The 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week promises to bring some surprises to mobile users.

Smartphones are so smart now that developers are having to think up clever new features, beyond the electronic ones, to distinguish their phones. Some might be a bit over the top – what do you think of these two new innovations?

The Auto-Centric Phone

Here’s a smartphone that stays in your car.  That’s right – its permanent place is on the dashboard. Sure, this one is voice-activated and has all the great smartphone features, but with all the mounts and gadgets available to hold your portable smartphone, do you really need one that’s glued to the car?

OK, it may have some advantages

  • You won’t have to search your pockets or briefcase while you’re driving
  • You won’t need to remember to grab your phone before you leave the car
  • If you forget to bring your phone along, you’ve always got one in the car

Never mind if it’s an eyesore on your dash. It may become a status symbol – or maybe not.

The Transparent Phone

It’s not transparent when it’s turned off, but if it’s on, good luck spotting it between your couch cushions.

Right now it’s still just hardware looking for an operating system, but there’s no doubt that at least one of the big smartphone companies will buy in, according to Polytron Technologies.  Why would you want one?

  • It’s dual sided – you can use it from either side
  • It goes transparent when it’s fired up, and stays, otherwise, translucent
  • The glass being used to build it will have other uses

Many are still looking for a real user-advantage to the transparent phone, which is planned for release at the end of this year.  Surely some folks will have to have one if it really does emerge on the market. But, it’s not like it’s a self-cloaking stealth phone, and the clear glass is going to present some users with a challenge.

Whatever you decide about upcoming smartphone innovations, we at NQ Mobile want to remind you that downloading a powerful security package is a number-one priority.  Keep your mobile gadgets safe, private and malware-free with our award-winning privacy and security software.

The Pleasures (and Problems) of Cyber Dating

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when it was uncommon to say you’d met your love interest on a dating site. Fast-forward to 2013–online dating is now a  $4 billion industry, with no signs of slowing down. Meeting someone special online has become the norm. It eliminates the need to hang out at bars, it’s discreet, you can sort down to the type of person that interests you and, well, let’s be honest–it’s convenient!

As with any $4 billion cyber industry, the dangers of online dating can be daunting. There’s hardly a  cyber-niche that hasn’t been targeted by criminals, and this one’s no exception. Here are a few safety reminders for when you’re shopping online for a date or a partner:

  • It’s always a good practice to avoid clicking on links for ads that offer something free. Valentine’s Day, in particular, tends to generate a lot of fakery in terms of phishing scams, and tempting invitations that send you a gift of malware in exchange for a click.
  • Because there’s so much online purchasing activity during this time, be extra careful about checking for valid URLs, and deal only with reputable retailers. Sometimes a fake URL’s not as obvious on a mobile device, so double-checking is a good practice.
  • Don’t send money to anyone you don’t know as a real, live person. If your new cyber relationship develops into one where you’re being asked to send money, credit card or bank information, you may be the victim of a dating scammer. It’s sad, but losing your money might be worse than losing this loser.
  • Don’t tell online acquaintances if you’re planning to be on vacation, and don’t leave your smartphone’s geo-location features on.
  • Make sure your mobile device has a powerful security system in place to keep the demons away.
  • Use only a well-known, reputable dating service. Check their credentials. There are thousands of them, and some don’t have your bests interests at heart.

We tend to be a little vulnerable around Valentine’s Day, whether we’re in a relationship or single. Chocolates and flowers have a way of touching the soft spots in our hearts, and it’s a dating time of year. Go ahead and spoil yourself and your partner, if you have one, but don’t spoil your special holiday–cyber-criminals love Valentine’s Day, too. Stay mobile-safe and secure.

Apps Collect Our Data. How Do They Use It?

Most mobile users know that apps frequently collect private information. While it’s true some people aren’t aware of it, most who are aware tend to be indifferent to the idea. But, don’t we deserve a little more info about what app makers actually do with the data they extract from our mobile devices?

An article by NBC’s Bob Sullivan  describes a flashlight app that tracks a smartphone user’s location. It was surprising to many folks to find out that such a handy, seemingly harmless app would be tracking their physical whereabouts, and you have to wonder why an app as simple as a flashlight would need to know that. What’s more distressing is many apps collect device IDs, photos, contacts and even our gender.

Jason Hong at Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute revealed that users don’t care as much about what apps do with our data, as we do about being kept in the dark and being surprised about it.  When seemingly innocuous apps want user data like our geographical location, like the “flashlight” example, it’s a natural response to be suspicious.

Here are a few reasons why personal data is collected:

  1. Your data can help app makers to make important decisions related to future feature enhancements.  These features may help the app to work for you in a more personalized way.
  2. Some apps gather your personal data so that they can target specific ads to you. If your data shows you meet certain criteria, advertisers will tailor their marketing efforts accordingly.
  3. In the case of a malicious app, your personal data could be sold or used for illegal purposes. For example, this type of app might send text messages without your consent to premium numbers. In such instances some users have reported being charged as much as $10 per message. Getting access to your contact list can be a goldmine for malware authors and spammers.

Data gathering doesn’t always have a sinister purpose, but unfortunately we usually aren’t informed why it’s needed. It’s reasonable to wonder how our private information will be used.

Although not required to say why, mobile apps most often warn us when they’re going to collect our information, and they often even specify what data they’ll take. The downside is that we aren’t given a choice – we can either agree to the exchange of data, or pass on downloading the app. That’s not satisfactory to most of us, and perhaps it will change eventually. But, for now, developers aren’t required to give us a choice and the research shows most of us are still willing to take the risk.

As users, what’s the best practice? Make it a habit to read the permission screens on all apps you download.  Make a conscious decision about whether you want to give away the information wanted by the app. If you can’t understand or interpret the permission screen, go to the apps’ website, if it has one, and see if you can get more information before downloading. Make sure you have a strong mobile security app on board to catch any malicious code.

Have you used apps that surprised you with how much or what type of data they want to collect? Tell us about your experiences on our blog, or join us on Facebook.