A Few Good Mobile Reports

A grab bag of mobile reports news this week, including one on the relative merits of Australia’s three main network providers, and a fairly damning examination of Android security.

Mobile Networks

First up, a new report from P3 Communications and CommsDay into Australia’s mobile network performance has confirmed what everyone already knew, which is that Telstra’s LTE network remains the best in the country, when it comes to both call quality and data speeds.

Nuance, however, came in the form of findings that Optus and Vodafone are both gaining significant ground.

Peak download speeds in metropolitan areas averaged 46.4Mbps on Telstra, 38.3Mbps on Optus, and 31.7mbps on Vodafone. Whilst this is a 7% improvement on last year for Telstra, the figures from Optus and Vodafone are an increase of 27% and 40% respectively. Impressive gains, and a testament to a huge increase in network investment by both carriers.

Android Security

A new report from the University of Cambridge has revealed that 87% of Android devices are vulnerable to crippling malware. Furthermore, it has revealed that the fault in the vast majority of cases lies not with the user, but with the manufacturers and carriers.

The report was based on a survey of over 20,000 devices, users of which voluntarily installed the Device Analyzer app on their device. (Rest assured this app isn’t malware!) It will test your device for vulnerability to 11 of the most notorious malware programs, including Stagefright, which is a new bit of nastiness that infected over a billion Android phones. Based on how your device performs, it will be given a score out of 10 (10 being the highest).

The highest Android device was Google’s own Nexus, which only attained a modest 5.2. Other flagships handsets by LG, Motorola, Samsung and HTC managed nothing higher than 4. Altogether, Android devices achieved an aggregates score of 2.9.

So why is this the case? The researchers say that the fault lies with the scarcity and slowness of security updates. Users on average received an average of only 1.26 updates per year. Part of the issue is the enormous variation among Android platforms and OS versions, coupled with the fact that manufacturers make no money supporting old handsets.

Android manufacturers, however, insist that the fault lies with the carriers, who create update bottlenecks by the need to test updates themselves before they deploy them. This only applies to devices that are locked to a network, however. It doesn’t explain why unlocked Android devices have so many security flaws, given these can receive updates directly from the vendor.

Apple’s more unified ecosystem renders it more secure, though that isn’t to say it is invulnerable. Wired has reported that enterprising ne'er-do-wells have found a way to silently hack Siri from up to 16 feet away.

Either way, it’s something for all users to think about, and a reminder that it’s essential to install those security updates as soon as they are available. It might be a bit of a pain right now, but it sure beats having your personal details stolen by a keylogger.