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back to article iPhone OS update sticks customers with premium call bills

A combination of failures has resulted in some iPhone users incurring premium-rate call charges, for calls they didn't know they were making. Punters who downloaded the free, advertising supported Bubblewrap game from Orsome NZ have spotted the application calling premium-rate numbers, and incurring premium-rate charges, without …

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Stop

Who clicks on adverts anyway?

I'm always amazed at how effective these ads are. Simple solution, don't click on it

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You've never misclicked?

Perhaps you missed the word 'accidental' in the article.

The app is a game that involves rapidly tapping the screen. Can't you see why, on occasion, some users might accidentally tap an advert?

Have you really never clicked an advert by accident? If you have, how would you feel if you were then billed for your trouble?

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WTF?

sigh

iPhone apps on the app store should have a box listing what additional malware (Admob, Flurry etc) is embedded in them, similar to the way that Steam lists "third-party DRM", so people can avoid the software in question.

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WTF?

Eh? This was Apple's fault?

So some ad company makes a bit of software that will call premium rate numbers;

then fails to apply their own policy of not accepting premium rate number ads;

then makes some excuses about it being hard to detect international premium rate numbers (i.e. they probably only check US numbers);

then fails to test said app when Apple release a new version of iPhone OS;

then a developer decides to add that code to his app to fund his work;

finally a freetard fanboi installs said app and clicks on a link to a premium rate number.

How exactly is this Apple's fault?

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re: Eh? This was Apple's fault?

The problem is that, before Apple came along and, without telling anyone, changed the behavior of the phone, said program would pop up a warning dialog before dialing any number, premium rate numbers included.

As such, an accidental tap on the ad did not result in premium rate calls, because the phone would ask you if you were sure about calling that number.

Then Apple came along and changed the game, removing said confirmation. And most importantly, not telling anybody that it had removed said confirmation.

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Black Helicopters

re: Eh? This was Apple's fault?

Except you're missing the obvious - the company whose software was making the premium rate calls claims that their software shouldn't be making any premium rate calls AT ALL.

So yes, there's some confusion about the removal of the confirmation box but if the software is doing something it's not supposed to do even WITH the boxes then that's hardly Apple's fault.

Personally, I think someone cocked up and put these premium rate numbers in when they shouldn't have - naughtyy naughty! More testing is required, that's for sure!

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Silver badge
Jobs Horns

Yes, yes it is.

Yes, it's Apple's fault. Why? Because they voluntarily took on the responsibility of policing what software people point on their iPhones. If I install malware on my computer, it's my own damn fault for not checking it out first. If I install software on my (jailed) iPhone than it must be software that Apple reviewed and found acceptable, so if it turns out to contain malware anyway, yes it's their fault.

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AdMob clearly at fault

The original behaviour was no alert, then with OS 3.1 I believe the prompt was introduced. Developers complained as it made alternative dialer apps appear broken. The prompt was removed with 3.1.2. I'm not sure if it was in the release notes or not but the behaviour is well known by developers. The blame for this can clearly be laid at AdMob.

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Jobs Horns

Utterly disgraceful

I thought the App Store allowed Apple to control the types of things apps could and could not do. Letting through crap like this leaves a bad taste in the mouth, especially after turning off call confirmation. I've got an iPod Touch, so I'm immune to it making premium rate calls but it's all too easy to touch an ad by mistake when playing a game / whatever. The number of times Safari has launched to go to the app maker's home page !

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Gold badge

Damned if they do, damned if they don't

Which all goes to show how Apple's control freakery is there for a good reason.

Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

If they provide developers with APIs to make calls then it can be abused.

If they don't provide access to such APIs then developers and user complain.

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Saved by O2's crap network

I downloaded bubble-wrap app when I first got my iPhone last summer.

Fortunately I have not been charged for premium rate calls due to the inability of my iPhone to make any phone calls from where I live in rural Norfolk. This despite O2's map saying that I have coverage in my area.

I should have stuck to my dated but trusty old Nokia 6230i -Orange- and brought an iPod touch.

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Flame

iDummies the lot of you...

Well, what you expect from iDorks using these stupid toys. Get a real phone.

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Silver badge
FAIL

@"iDummies the lot of you..."

Clearly reading comprehension is something you believe happens only to other people.

- AdMob also support Android. You know: that mobile OS based on Linux.

- AdMob also support other platforms. Like Palm and... Symbian.

- The problem is AdMob, who clearly haven't understood the second word in "core competency".

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Jobs Horns

They can't win

I believe the way it went was... In iPhone 3.0, Apple introduced the call confirmation dialog to stop apps making unsolicited calls.

But the devs all complained, whinging that their "Phone Mum", "Phone World" & "Phone Dog" applications didn't allow people to make 1-touch phone calls any more and denying them their money for old rope.

Rather than the usual fingers-in-the-ears, I-can't-hear-you response, Apple apparently caved and went back to the old model. So apps with AdMob code embedded were correct at 3.0 when submitted, but when the 3.1 update went out they all instantly "broke".

It looks like AdMob couldn't have won if they tried... the devs would have needed to resubmit all their AdMob powered Apps whenever Apple changed the rules for the 3rd time. Blame lies entirely with Apple this time.

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Jobs Halo

They could have won but didn't

"It looks like AdMob couldn't have won if they tried... "

Well no - not if they're claiming that their software won't make premium rate calls at any time, even when the user clicks some kind of "accept" button.

The software makes the calls, therefore they have lied. It's that simple.

The blame is squarely with AdMob, no-one else developed the software and it was they themselves who lied about the premium rate calls...

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Unhappy

Maybe this will open peoples eyes?

There is no such thing as "FREE" software or applications, regardless, it may be an ad sponsored "Free" application on the iPhone or a toolbar sponsored "Free" PDF reader from sourceforge.

No such thing as free, these people (developers of "free" software / App's) rely on LOTS of people wanting anything from the latest bit of eye candy to a useful utility and then clicking install, agree, yes without actually looking what you are agreeing to.

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Bronze badge

Obviously

It should be impossible for this to happen - and yet it should be possible to run any application on the iPhone like on a real computer. Just as regular computers should be safe from dialer malware.

It's really quite simple. One computer runs applications. A separate CPU handles telephony. So, with a computer with a dial-up modem - whenever you want to connect to a BBS or dial-up Internet, you have to dial the number on a separate telephone keypad that plugs into your modem - it cannot be commanded to dial out by the computer or software.

With a device like the iPhone, but more versatile, you have one physical button to switch from computer mode to phone mode - in phone mode, you're talking to a cell phone with a built-in browser and its own plug-in application format, protected by encryption; when not on the phone, you can be in computer mode, and play games and even write your own programs. In that scenario, the "phone mode" can be more locked down than the iPhone without limiting the versatility of the device, and the "computer mode" can be wide open, because the computer CPU has no access to the telephony capabilities.

Is this rocket science or what?

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Badgers

Or you could just fix your phone to prevent this...

You would have to jailbreak it, of course, but to prevent 'mistakes' like that or even the annoying adverts crashing your app like admob does on cycorder's video recorder. If you happen to stop recording a video just when the ad is refreshing from the server... Your video will not save b/c the app will just lock up. Since the ads refresh like every 5 seconds or so, this is a VERY high likelihood.

So simply search on 'admob' and 'hosts file' on your favorite not-bing search engine, and you have the solution. No more ads in free apps!

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Pint

Didn't tell anyone?

What is all this nonsense about Apple not telling anyone? With the SDK there is documentation you know. Every single method, class, etc. is documented, including any deprecated methods and changes to functionality. If you expected a public announcement because one method's behaviour was altered, then you don't understand what constitutes a large API.

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