FireChat downloads spike in Iraq after censors block Facebook, Twitter

firechat downloads spike iraq censors block facebook twitter screen shot 2014 06 25 at 7 09 49 pm

FireChat, the peer-to-peer messaging app that works even without Internet connection or mobile coverage, was downloaded in large numbers in Iraq as the government began blocking news and social media sites in response to a terror threat from extremist Sunni militants ISIS. According to The Guardian, the app was downloaded by 40,000 users in one weekend this month after the Iraqi government started targeting social media services like Facebook and Twitter to prevent ISIS from generating public support through the Internet. Before the surge, the app had only been downloaded a total of 6,600 times in the country. 

The spike transpired in spite of Iraq not having its own app store. Firechat, which was launched last March, takes advantage of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities of mobile devices to connect one phone to another. When there are enough connections, a mesh is created, which allows users to text other phones within the network.   

“Your phone today, your smartphone, not only has a radio to connect to a cell tower, but it also has  other radios like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, to connect to other devices around,” Micha Benoliel, the co-founder of Firechat developer Open Garden, Inc., told The Guardian. “And when smartphones are next to each other with Firechat, they directly interconnect.” 

Earlier this week, a new version the app, called FireChat <3 (FireChat Love) was launched, which expands the app’s mesh network through iOS and Android mobile devices. In an interview with Bloomberg, Open Garden Vice President of Sales and Marketing Christophe Daligault said that Iraqi iPhone users probably used VPNs to trick the Apple App Store into thinking they were somewhere else. 

On June 15, Iraq’s Ministry of Communications ordered ISPs to block Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Whatsapp, and Instagram. The Iraqi government is also attempting to completely block Internet services in ISIS strongholds such as Nineveh province and Anbar province.

Computing

Here’s why you might still be using Wi-Fi after cellular 5G launches

Cellular 5G might be around the corner and promising to deliver lightning fast speeds, but the folks over at the Wi-Fi Alliance have a few reasons why they think you shouldn't dump Wi-Fi just yet.
Mobile

These parental control apps will help keep your kids' device habits in check

Looking for extra security and monitoring on mobile devices? Take a look at the best parental control apps for limiting time and keeping watch on your child's phone usage and behavior. We have the top options for Android and iOS here.
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Home Theater

Common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
Deals

Here are 19 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great stocking stuffer ideas), we've rounded up 19 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth…
Mobile

How to use Samsung’s Bixby assistant for all of your smartphone tasks

Samsung Bixby is a powerful tool, but not the most intuitive one we've encountered. Here's how to set up and use every feature of Samsung's digital assistant, as well as what to expect in the future.
Product Review

With sapphire glass and analog dials, you'd never know this watch is smart

The world of hybrid smartwatches is getting much larger, and the latest comes from a name with history — New York Standard Watches. In our NYSW GTS Activity Tracker review, we find out what makes this watch special, and why we were so…
Mobile

Declutter your life with our favorite wireless chargers for Android and iPhones

We checked out the best wireless phone chargers to make tangles and uncooperative ports a thing of the past. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out which wireless charging pads are worth buying, and how their features compare.
Mobile

Microsoft patent filing shows wearable that mitigates involuntary movements

A patent application from Microsoft has shown the company is looking into using wearable technology to alleviate symptoms from various diseases and disorders that cause involuntary movements.
Mobile

AT&T makes 5G a reality for a dozen U.S. cities, with more to come in 2019

Ready to experience a radical transformation in mobile communication? AT&T is launching mobile 5G in cities across the country over the next few months. Here's everything you need to know about the AT&T 5G rollout.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

Scientists have charged a phone and a Fitbit with solar-powered clothes

Scientists from Britain's Nottingham Trent University have discovered a way to incorporate solar panels into clothing, and they've even managed to charge a phone and Fitbit with the energy created.
Mobile

The Lenovo Z5 Pro GT packs the most RAM ever seen in a smartphone

The next generation of smartphones has begun, and it's begun with a bang. The Lenovo Z5 Pro GT comes with the next generation Snapdragon 855 processor, 12GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage.
Mobile

Which smartphone manufacturers won and lost in 2018

As the curtain comes down on 2018, we take a look at the big successes and failures in the smartphone market over the last 12 months. Which phone maker had the best year, and who had a year to forget?