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As the most recent statistics from OFCOM reveal, mobile phone use in the UK is now almost universal with 94% of adults owning or using a mobile (Q1 2017). Of these, 76% have a smartphone (Q1 2017), while the number of households that are ‘mobile only' has risen to 18%. Combined with this significantly greater use, the proliferation of apps that we use for everything from booking tickets to watching what we eat would seem to suggest that our reliance on our mobile devices is only going to increase.


One of the most significant changes that mobile technology has brought about is the way we pay for goods and services. There has been a rapid and significant increase in the number of people in the UK who make purchases both online and in person using a mobile phone.


This has in large part been brought about by a significant increase in the use of contactless payment cards across the UK, along with other mobile payment systems such as Apple Pay and Android Pay, Boku, along with a burgeoning range of person-to-person (P2P) apps that enable you to instantly transfer money electronically to another individual, often without having to go through a bank.


However, while the number of contactless card payments in the UK as a whole has grown exponentially (more than £25 billion was spent via contactless payments in 2016), it has been interesting to note that UK consumers have not embraced other forms of mobile payment quite so readily. For instance, Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay have not quite had the impact many expected (despite the fact that the number of Apple Pay transactions in 2016 grew by 300%).


While most people in the UK are more than happy to use a contactless debit or credit card (i.e., a card that does not need to be inserted into a card reader and for which no PIN is required) to make a payment at a supermarket or coffee shop, they have not necessarily seen the need to move over to alternative payment systems where only a mobile phone is needed, such as those offered by Apple, Google and Samsung. For instance, payments made using Apple Pay or Android Pay by passengers on Transport for London services account for only 8% of all contactless card payments (albeit this figure is up from 3.5% twelve months earlier).


Security concerns are cited by some as preventing them embracing card-free payment technology, while others have not seen a pressing need to adopt the technology given that existing ‘tap and go' or ‘wave and pay' cards largely do the same job. There is also the sentiment expressed by many consumers that losing a mobile phone or having it stolen is a traumatic enough experience without the added complication of card security being compromised as well.


Another reason that has prevented greater uptake of mobile payment services has been their hitherto relatively limited acceptance, meaning that consumers haven't found that there are enough opportunities to use the system to warrant switching over to it entirely.


However, two important factors point towards much faster growth in the mobile payments sector in the very near future. Firstly, the demographics. The latest available data from 2016 showed that almost 60% of payments made in the UK using Apple Pay or Android Pay were by users aged 16-34. If these early adopters continue to use the technology moving forward, this will impact significantly on the overall number of users, as currently only 3% of users are aged 65 or more. In ten to fifteen years, however, we can expect to see a much wider spread of age groups experienced in and used to using mobile payments.


Another game-changer could be Apple Pay's move to accept limitless payments. To date, most card readers that accept contactless payments (both mobile phone and card) have a maximum transaction limit of £30. However, the majority of tills in the UK that accept Apple Pay are now able to process payments greater than £30, and it is expected that this will have a dramatic impact on uptake rates, and will give the mobile payment system a distinct advantage over bank-issued contactless debit and credit cards.


Android Pay too is making inroads in this sector, and while uptake has been slower than expected since its introduction to the UK in 2016, the fact that 60% of the mobile phones in the UK use the Android operating system would suggest that there is much unrealised potential for growth. The launch of Samsung Pay, and the Barclays Bank mobile payment system (available through its own native mobile banking app) have further broadened the choice for consumers in this area as well.


Therefore, it would seem to be the case that while acceptance of mobile payment systems in the UK has been steady rather than explosive, a significant incremental increase in uptake is expected to continue. And whether people are aware of it or not, it will soon be the case that just about everyone in the UK will soon be carrying in their pocket or purse the mobile technology to pay for a coffee, buy the week's shopping, or book a holiday, without the need for a conventional plastic card at all.


Popular mobile payment methods


As well as direct mobile payment systems, there are many other ways in which mobile phones can be used to buy goods and services in the UK.

 

Pay by Mobile



Pay by Mobile is an increasingly popular way of making payments via a mobile phone. When you make a purchase using Pay by Mobile on a service like Boku or Fortumo, the amount you spend is added to your monthly mobile phone bill if you are on a post-paid plan, or deducted from your balance if you are on pay-as-you-go.


The Pay by Mobile payment method has proved very popular with the young, and payment solutions like Boku are frequently used in the leisure sector, with mobile casinos for instance offering a range of payment methods and Pay by Mobile options. Carrier billing payment methods are also a popular alternative for those without traditional banking arrangements, such as credit or debit cards, and are an especially convenient way of making in-app purchases or subscribing to streaming services. There are also specialist services like PayByPhone that enable you to pay for your parking across the UK with your mobile phone, or OboPay which enables you to make person-to-person payments that are charged to your mobile phone account.


Another reason for the popularity of Pay by Mobile payment systems like Boku is that the costs are charged to the merchant rather than the user, making it a cost-effective way of making digital and online purchases.


One of the most significant developments in carrier billing services in the last year has been a proposed partnership between Boku and ALTBalaji to stream original video content to customers globally. This will no doubt further increase the appeal of highly convenient Pay by Mobile payment systems.


E-wallets



E-wallets have long been one of the most popular online payment methods and they can be used for mobile payments as well. Skrill and Neteller are the two most prominent and widely accepted e-wallets, and can be used to make online purchases for a wide variety of goods and services via mobile. Many users appreciate the security that e-wallets give them, as they act as a third-party middle man between you and any retailer or service provider you deal with so that they don't have access to your bank account or credit card details.


There are fees attached to using e-wallets, usually when you make a deposit into your account. However, most retailers or leisure providers that you deal with won't charge you for making a purchase or adding funds to a casino account, for instance.


Recently, both Skrill and Neteller expanded into offering P2P payments. With Skrill, all you need is the recipient's email address or mobile number, while for Neteller money transfers only an email address is required.


P2P payment apps



Person to Person mobile payments (generally known as P2P apps) are a quick and straightforward way of transferring money from one person to another using a mobile phone, often without the need for bank accounts. P2P apps are designed for transferring small amounts of cash, rather than large money transfers.


P2P apps have proved to be an especially popular way for friends to repay small amounts of money, or to share the costs of purchases or services (e.g., splitting the bill at dinner, or for buying tickets to a show or match), and there are a growing number on the market. Each has its own different capabilities, with one of the most notable differences being that some will require both parties to have the app, while others let you send cash to, or request money from, anyone with a mobile phone. The cost of using these apps will vary as well.


One of the most popular P2P apps in the UK is Paym. You link the app directly to your mobile or online banking account, and so any money you send goes straight from your account as it would with any other purchase. All you require to send money to a friend is their mobile phone number (the Paym app will access your contacts for this) and the recipient will get a text saying they have been sent cash by you (provided their bank supports the Paym system).


One of the biggest developments in P2P apps is the news that Facebook has now launched Person to Person payments in the UK. Using the Messenger app, you can send cash either from your mobile or your laptop, and once you have linked a debit card to the account there are no fees applied. There is a maximum transfer amount of £2,500, although like most P2P apps, the majority of people use it to transfer small sums to friends. 


Contactless credit and debit cards


Currently, credit and debit cards remain the dominant form of contactless payment and are generally used more often than mobile payment methods. However, Barclays Bank has now launched its own mobile payment system which removes the need for a physical card and enables its customers to use their mobile phone to make purchases in the same way as they currently do with a tap-and-go card.


However, as discussed above, as Apple Pay and Android Pay make further inroads into the market, it is expected that other major high street banks will also launch their own mobile payment systems. And although no-one is expecting it to happen anytime soon, just as cash was overtaken in 2016 by contactless cards as the primary means of making physical purchases, it's not unreasonable to expect that plastic credit and debit cards will go the same way in the not-too-distant future.


The future of mobile payments


It's hard to imagine a future where mobile payments don't become the dominant means of making purchases both online and in physical stores, not only in the UK but globally. Mobile payments have become especially beneficial in underbanked regions of the world, most notably in Africa, and with the number of mobile phones users worldwide predicted to top 5 billion by 2019, the further uptake of mobile payment systems would seem inevitable.


As we carry more and more of our lives around in our mobile devices, it is logical to expect that we will further embrace technology that is integrated within these devices. Mobile payment systems reduce the need for physical cards, make transferring money quicker and easier, and enable us to access the growing number of digital and streaming services with greater ease. So even if your mobile phone isn't your wallet right now, you can almost certainly expect it to become so in the future.



Modular is a company created by audiophiles and music lovers who decided to come together in their inaugural entrepreneurial venture and launch a new and revolutionary range of headphones that are not only surprisingly affordable, but also boast of high audio quality. The Mod-1 Bluetooth headset is the flagship product of the company and it's meant for long daily use both indoors and outdoors. So the question is, does it live up to the expectations set so far by Modular or does it fail to impress? Let's find out in our review of the Modular Mod-1 wireless Bluetooth headset.


In the Box



Modular sends in a neatly packed box that contains an auxiliary cable, a USB cable for charging the headphone, a quick start manual and of course, the headphones themselves. Depending on the color that you chose, the headphones will either come in rose gold, gunmetal or black. It doesn't contain a whole lot but the included auxiliary cable is a nice little touch that users will appreciate.


Features


When it comes to features, Modular has packed the Mod-1 to the gills with them. To know what we are talking about here, take a look at the following list of the headphone's feature set.


• Compatibility with all devices running on iOS or Android
• Compatible with ANY Bluetooth enabled device out there
• Adjustable headband with modular earpads that can be easily changed or replaced
• 3.5mm audio jack is retained for wired connections to your computer or smartphone
• Usability even while being charged
• On-headphone buttons for controlling the volume, playing, pausing, skipping and making calls
• In-built FM radio transmitter
• Included mic for taking and making calls
• Noise reduction
• Can read and play music from microSD cards
• Lightweight
• 400mAh battery makes sure that it runs all day on a single charge



Specs


While the features of the Mod-1 do sound quite impressive, let's now take a look under the hood to see what kind of hardware it's packing and if it's really as impressive as the features say it is.


• Input: 5V DC 500mA and Output: 3W×2 RMS
• Speaker: 4Ω, 3W, ⌀40mm
• Frequency Response: 27Hz-20kHz
• Signal to Noise Ratio: ≤70dB
• Total Harmonic Distortion: ≤0.3%
• Battery: 400mAh
• Charging Time: ≤2 Hours for full charge
• Maximum Power Consumption: 500mA


As it turns out, the Mod-1 does pack the hardware to deliver the quality features that it promises, so that's a big bonus!


After using it for some time, we have come to the conclusion that the Mod-1 wireless Bluetooth headset by Modular is an excellent pair of headphones in almost every possible way. Aside from packing in more features that nearly every other headset in the price range, it also produces surprisingly crisp sound for the price you pay for these. Add all that to the fact that you can basically wear these around for hours due to the lightweight and the dependable battery life, and it becomes very hard not to recommend the Modular Mod-1 to anybody who is looking to buy a pair of quality Bluetooth headsets without breaking the bank.



Every year the most common New Year's resolution is to lose weight and get fit. If you are like 75% of Americans who have this resolution on their list for 2018, you will need the right gadgets that will support your fitness endeavours. With so many different sport gadgets available on the market, it can be hard navigating through them to decide which is worth the money and which is right for you. Continue reading to learn more about our list of must-have gadgets to enter the New Year with. To learn more about how to sift through other weight loss products on the market to learn which are farcical and which will offer real results click here.


Fitbit Surge



The Fitbit Surge is one of the newest Fitbit models. Aside for the usual fitness tracking, the Fitbit Surge has caller ID, continuous heart monitoring, music control, GPS tracking, wireless syncing and text notifications. The battery life is expected to last up to seven days. It has a sleek design that is slightly less geeky than other smartwatch designs we have seen. A few downsides are that the manufacturer does not recommend wearing the watch under water or while swimming. So for avid swimmers, this is not the right option for you if you are looking to track your fitness. Another common complaint we saw is that the watch is slightly bulky and can feel awkward on your wrist. The Fitbit Surge is available to purchase for $158 online.


Jaybird X3



Could you ever imagine lasting through a workout only hearing the sound of heavy breathing and the sweat dripping down your face? If you take working out seriously, you should also take your headphones seriously. The Jaybird X3  are in-ear, wireless, bluetooth headphones that are designed to be worn behind your head. The cord has a clip that can be clipped on to the back of your shirt to ensure that the headphones do not snap out of your ears during a workout. These headphones are at the top of the line when in comes to work out gear.  You can purchase a pair online for $79.89.


HAPIfork



Eating well goes hand in hand with staying fit. HAPIfork is an electronic fork that will help monitor and track your eating habits. It is designed to alert you when you should slow down or stop eating through indicator lights and gentle vibrations. It looks light a regular fork, only slightly larger. The initial set up will require setting up the fork on your computer and it will then begin syncing all of your data. HAPIfork will measure how much time it takes you to eat between bites and you can customize how much time you want it to give you between bites. All of your data can be synced onto your smartphone to help you track your eating habits. It is available for $99.


It takes a lot to stick to a New Year's resolution. Make your fitness resolution a bit easier this year by starting off the year with the right fitness equipment that will make staying fit easier.



Not unlike the fabled Galaxy X and its foldable display, the in-screen fingerprint scanner never really arrived on any Samsung device, in spite of there being no shortage of rumors that hinted Samsung will incorporate it in the Galaxy S8 or the Note 8. As it turns out, even the upcoming Galaxy S9 will most likely go with a traditional fingerprint scanner at the back, albeit in a better place! However, the focus of this news is the fact that it's a Chinese company named Vivo that has beaten the mighty Korean giant and the all-powerful Apple in getting Synaptics' inside-the-display fingerprint scanner inside one of its smartphones.


Vivo is no joke though, because the company is one of the leading smartphone companies in its home country and in India. Unfortunately, this also means that the western world might not see this smartphone ever make its way onto the US shores. In the words of the source, which is Patrick Moorhead aka @PatrickMoorhead on Twitter,



"Here are some pics @anshelsag and I took of the Vivo smartphone with the Synaptics in-display fingerprint reader. The CMOS image sensor is .7mm thick and reads the fingerprint right through the OLED display. The experience was faster than I expected."


You can check out the photos above.


Sakat Kar (tech-enthusiast)



Security Researchers from Positive Technologies have recently revealed information about a buffer overflow they stumbled upon in the firmware update of Intel's management engine 11's which is secret. They stated that the Intel firmware update could be attacked by sophisticated individuals to gain access to ME functionality despite being turned off. This clearly means that sophisticated intruders would be able to play real money slots from the system they attack despite a firmware update being released by the chipmaker. The researchers have also claimed that the firmware update released by the manufacturer may not be significant to permanently resolve the issues.


The Intel management engine which is also known as the Intel ME resides in the controller hub of the platform and is a co-processor which powers the remote administrative features of the company. It has its own operating system which is the Intel Minix 3 that is similar to the Intel UNIX operating system. It has been designed to monitor computers and has access comprehensively to all the data and processes of the primary system.


The researchers stumbled upon four vulnerabilities which affected firmware Intel ME versions 11.0 to 11.20. Two of the vulnerabilities were found in earlier versions of the firmware belonging to Intel ME along with two in server platform services and a couple in the trusted Intel execution engine version 3.0.


A security audit was conducted by Intel after the firmware update warnings were issued by the researchers for identifying and exploring the vulnerabilities of the firmware update which were affecting the Intel ME. Intel issued a statement to its users on November 20 they were responding to issues discovered by external researchers about the firmware update and therefore they had completed a comprehensive security review of the flaws which were identified with the objective of enhancing the resilience of their firmware.


Firmware Intel identified the issues for their management engine, trusted execution engine and Intel server platform services and decided to issue a firmware update to resolve the issues plaguing the ME platform. The researchers, however, believe that the firmware update released by Intel does not prevent an intruder from using other methods for the attack which was also patched by the chipmaker during a recent firmware update.


The chipmaker has not responded positively when questioned about whether they had any plans to modify the way their management engine works or to begin producing chips without the ME. A spokesperson for the company provided a recommendation that requests such as these should be forwarded to the hardware vendors.


The spokesperson for the company issued a statement saying that the management engine is capable of providing important functionality for its users and includes features such as two-factor authentication, enterprise service management and even the option to get heart bingo reviews. They advised system owners with customers requirements to contact equipment manufacturers for the kind of request being put forward to the chipmakers. The company, however, confirmed that it would not support any configuration which would remove the functionality essential in most of their mainstream products apart from providing the firmware update.


The statement issued by the chipmaker certainly comes as a surprise since Intel has been one of the leading firmware manufacturers of such products throughout the world for a number of years. It has also issued a firmware update whenever needed.

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