OPINION

AT&T Mobility, for Better and for Worse

This week I’ll share my perspective on what AT&T Mobility is doing so right and so wrong. My Pick of the Week is some good news from Alcatel-Lucent — finally — and a problem that Ericsson is trying to understand.

Every day, I get calls from reporters looking for comments on stories it are writing about AT&T. I’m sometimes asked whether I love or hate AT&T. After giving that question some thought, let me set the record straight: a little of both.

I have been a fan of AT&T for many years — in fact, even before it was AT&T. I am talking about SBC, BellSouth and Cingular. However, that does not mean it does everything right. During the smartphone explosion of the last few years, AT&T Mobility has done quite a bit right but has also had its challenges.

The Apple iPhone and other smartphones played a big part in AT&T’s successes and problems in recent years. When Apple decided to expand and open its doors to Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and C Spire, I expected the pressure to be taken off of AT&T so quality would improve — but I expected that it would be hurt as well. It has held up pretty darn well so far.

David Christopher, AT&T Mobility chief marketing officer, says many predicted it would suffer. However, one year after Verizon got the iPhone, and several months after Sprint and C Spire began offering it, AT&T is still outselling everyone. Kudos, David.

These are the numbers. During the fourth quarter of 2011, AT&T sold 7.6 million iPhones. Verizon sold 4.3 million, and Sprint sold 1.8 million. Looking at those numbers, you can see AT&T is doing well.

Why? The answer is simple. It’s all about the brand, handset selection and connectivity.

Building the brand takes years of good, hard work. AT&T has worked hard to build the brand. Of course, tearing it down can happen in an instant — and AT&T has done its fair share of damaging its own brand as well.

One thing I have always been confused about is why AT&T keeps shooting itself in the foot. This is a problem it could solve, easily — but it has not done so over the years.

Prepaid Lower on AT&T’s Totem Pole

I just heard a startling story from a neighbor who was a happy prepaid AT&T Mobility customer until recently. Apparently AT&T does something unfair to its prepaid customers. To make matters worse, it’s secretive about it.

As you know, there are postpaid and prepaid services. This neighbor has a friend who lives nearby who is also an AT&T Mobility customer. They both upgraded their phones to the iPhone.

The only difference is one is prepaid and the other is postpaid. You would think the experience would be the same, right? It’s not.

The prepaid customer has experienced a serious data speed slowdown. The postpaid customer hasn’t.

AT&T is giving a preference to one customer type over another. While this may not be illegal, it is wrong. Not disclosing the practice to customers is another problem.

AT&T should be honest with its customers. Not being honest creates anger and distrust. This tears down the value of its brand and damages relationships with customers.

So AT&T has shot itself in the brand-foot once again. Ouch.

Choosing the Best Network for You

Choosing the best wireless network for you simply means finding the best connection wherever you spend time. That is the most important point, period. Without a good connection, your wireless phone is just a paperweight.

Like you, I have read countless stories over the years about quality problems with AT&T Mobility. They tend to create a sour image of the company. I have to say much of this is earned. Even Consumer Reports says it has the worst quality of all major carriers in the United States.

However, while that may all be true, I don’t think it really matters as much as you would think. If AT&T is so bad, why is it continuing to be in the No. 1 or 2 spot, competing with Verizon Wireless, year after year?

Connectivity is the No. 1 most important key — and AT&T has connectivity.

As a tech analyst and consultant over the last 25 years, I have followed and worked with just about all the companies in the wireless space. I have used phones from them all and compare them wherever I go.

Over years of using wireless devices and networks, I’ve discovered they all have different strengths and weaknesses. I have determined that the first reason people choose AT&T is connectivity. It provides its customers with better connections in the places where they spend most of their time.

The best carrier isn’t the same for everyone. You are the only one who can test this for yourself. Don’t listen to all the marketing and advertising. You have to decide if there are strong signals where you spend time.

AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and C Spire all offer good connections and service. However, they are not all the same. Some are stronger, and others are weaker for every customer.

In fact, any company that resells one of the big networks has the same connections as the big networks. So, for example, Tracfone resells the AT&T network and it works just as well as an AT&T phone.

For many reasons, people complain about AT&T Mobility. However, this company still has good quality connections and is still one of the fastest-growing wireless companies, second only to Verizon Wireless.

That’s why I have always used and liked the service, even though there are lots of chinks in AT&T’s armor.

So, your job is simple. Find the best network connection where you spend time. Don’t pay attention to advertising and marketing. Make sure you have signals everywhere you spend time.

Don’t assume, because once you pass your grace period you are stuck with the phone and service for a couple of years. So test, test, test!

To answer the question whether I love or hate AT&T, the answer is, “yes.” AT&T could be a great network and a great company. It comes close in many ways, but it just keeps getting in its own way.

Any way you slice it, AT&T Mobility is still competing with Verizon Wireless for the No 1 spot and still outselling all the others with the iPhone — so it must be doing something right. in its history as a combined company. Atta boy, Alcatel-Lucent! Not only that, but it posted a positive cash flow in the fourth quarter. It took a while, but at least it looks like it is headed in the right direction. Let’s hope it stays on that path.

Ericsson is another story. I received an interesting call from a market research firm it hired to uncover its growing problem. Ericsson once was a strong player in the telecom and wireless marketplace, but in recent years it has struggled.

As I explained to the researcher, Ericsson has serious problems. Of course, it is not alone. Others, like RIM and Nokia, face similar troubles. However, the problems are solvable.

This is a good first step. Until now, I would say Ericsson was in a state of denial. Admitting there is a problem is the first step.

Once you recognize there is a problem, then you have to understand it and develop solutions.

The changes in the wireless industry over the last four years have been quick and severe.

The problem is the Wave that Ericsson originally rode has passed it by. It must understand the next Wave and be prepared to successfully jump on and ride it.

It must understand the new and continually changing marketplace — the new expectations of the customer and the investor. Ericsson must speak the new language.

The new industry Wave was created by companies like Google with Android and Apple with iOS. This new Wave is already being successfully ridden by companies like Samsung, LG and HTC. That has to be Ericsson’s target. Either that or create its own Wave, which is much more difficult.

I was brutally honest in the interview. I wanted to help Ericsson — to let it know the problem it finds itself in. If Ericsson can understand the changing industry and the next Wave, it can jump on and ride it as a player and a competitor. If.

That is its challenge. Some companies are doing this successfully right now. If Ericsson does not, it will continue to struggle. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a tech analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at [email protected].

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

Appdome CEO on Mobile App Security: No Developer, No Code, No Problem

No-code platforms are a key tool for organizations to better secure their own mobile apps.

Mobile software is frighteningly insecure, warns Tom Tovar, CEO and co-creator of Appdome. This is not a tenable situation for mobile app publishers.

The company’s no-code software removes the costly and time-consuming in-house process of building in security and fraud protection. It provides a valid alternative to development organizations hiring outside programmers.

The power of no-code lies in its ability to shift roles from professional programmers to IT workers who can build an app or website. Such tools make it possible for IT to balance convenience and speed with the cost considerations entailed with outsourcing coding projects.

No-code technology enables non-developer users from different business teams such as HR, finance, and procurement to build custom apps without having to write a single line of code. IT workers and others within an organization can build their product by dragging and dropping components and making use of existing app templates.

That scenario is where Appdome comes into play. The company’s technology can be a game-changer for mobile app developers and publishers looking for a hands-on approach to secure Android and iOS mobile apps.

Most development organizations adopting DevOps already have highly automated processes in place. The only way to secure apps without delaying the release and increasing budgets is by automating that process too.

“It is simply too complex, cumbersome, and expensive to do so manually,” Tovar said.

Pivot to No-Code

Founded in 2012 as a mobile software security firm, Tovar joined the company four years later as CEO and co-creator of the Appdome platform. The company has offices in Redwood City, Calif., and Tel-Aviv, Israel.

Appdome is the heart of the company’s mobile app security solution, noted Tovar, who nudged the company towards a no-code solution for mobile app security and fraud prevention.

“The patented Appdome no-code platform employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to build security features into a mobile app binary. This provides all kinds of protections, including man-in-the-middle prevention, data encryption, code obfuscation, jailbreak and rooting prevention, fraud prevention, and more,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Consumers Bemoan Lacking Security

Prominent on Appdome’s website is the “CISOs Meeting Consumer Expectations of Mobile App Security in 2021” report that covers responses from 10,000 mobile consumers in different countries and demographic audiences. It shows clearly that mobile consumers no long will settle for “security awareness,” assertions.

Consumers today have high expectations of security and malware prevention in every Android and iOS app. App makers who fail to comply risk churn and cancel culture in their mobile business.


Consumer expectations of mobile app security

Source: Appdome


Appdome sees its mission as protecting the mobile economy and mobile app users. The security firm does this with a no-code mobile security and fraud prevention platform. It puts the global mobile transformation and DevSecOps adoption in mobile development pipelines.

A large majority (73 percent) of all consumers would stop using a mobile app if it left them unprotected against attack, and 63 percent say security is as important or more important to them than (app) features, Tovar said of the survey’s results.

“Consumers expect that every app is to be secured equally, another major finding from the global mobile consumer survey,” he observed.

Insider’s View About Mobile Security

During our conversation I spoke further with Tovar about no-code technology, and the state of mobile app security and fraud prevention.

TechNewsWorld: How is No-code technology changing the way enterprises develop and use apps?

Tom Tovar: No-code technology is making it much easier for mobile app developers to create secure apps. Most security implementation is still a highly manual process, and skilled security specialists are in high demand and hard to recruit.

It is even more difficult in the mobile app world because iOS and Android require significantly different approaches. A large number of development frameworks from which to choose exist. It is a very complex situation.

How does that impact the development of mobile apps?

Tovar: Security implementations can dramatically slow the delivery of the mobile app. In turn, this can significantly hurt revenue in such a highly competitive space, as well as increase costs.

What are typical use cases for no-code technology in mobile app security and fraud prevention?

Tovar: There are many! Banking apps, for instance, are notoriously insecure, even though they tap into a bank’s most sensitive back-end systems and provide access to customer accounts.

Appdome CEO, Tom Tovar
Appdome CEO Tom Tovar

For example, a white-hat hacker who recently probed the security of 30 apps from a variety of large global financial institutions found that 99 percent of the mobile apps that researchers reverse-engineered contained hardcoded API keys and tokens such as usernames and passwords to third-party services.

Are banking apps an isolated example?

Tovar: No, Fintech relies heavily on mobile apps to deliver its services, and they absolutely must be secure. Health and wellness apps may not seem like they contain valuable information, but they do.

In fact, health records are far more valuable than credit cards on the black market because they contain personally identifying information useful for stealing identities and perpetrating fraud.

Why is Appdome’s software a benefit to DevOps and enterprise IT automation?

Tovar: Shift left in security — finding and preventing defects early in the software delivery process — is a key trend in 2022. Many of the CISOs and VPs of mobile engineering I talk to are looking to implement security earlier in the development cycle.

Our software automates the implementation of security and is fully compatible with the way developers build their apps today. DevOps teams can use the Appdome API to seamlessly integrate the process of building security features with existing build systems and CI/CD pipelines.

This allows DevOps teams to deliver true system-to-system reliability and scale for both their consumer as well as employee mobile apps.

What are the biggest challenges mobile app users face today, and how is Appdome addressing these issues?

Tovar: Consumers are not happy with the “buyer beware” state of mobile app security. They expect publishers to protect them. In fact, more than two-thirds (68 percent) said that publishers have an even higher duty to do so during a pandemic.

Unfortunately, unless a big breach gets big play in the press, there is really no way for consumers to differentiate between secure and insecure apps. So, they are stuck unless publishers find a way to consistently, quickly, and affordably ensure their apps are secure. Appdome provides the means to accomplish these goals.

How does Appdome’s software technology work?

Tovar: Appdome is a security build system that uses patented machine coding to build security features into Android and iOS applications. App makers do not need to make any changes to their mobile apps to build a secure version on Appdome.

The creation software requires no source code, no development experience, and no user data to operate. It also requires no modifications to the mobile applications, no SDKs (software development kits), or manual coding. As a machine, it can complete mobile application security projects with ease, usually in a few seconds.

Securing mobile apps is a simple three-step process. One, upload a mobile app binary (APK or AAB for Android, and IPA or bitcode for iOS) to the platform. Two, select the security features needed to complete the project. Three, click on the Build my App button.

Developers have the choice of using the Appdome console to do this work or build the desired security features to their mobile app using an API. They can incorporate Appdome into their existing DevOps processes with a few lines of code that will connect to our platform and secure the app.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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