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printed January 16, 2017
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HTC Says One A9 to Start Receiving Nougat Today

Today, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC's Mo Versi today announced via Twitter that the late-2015 One A9 smartphone will be updated to Android 7 Nougat. HTC is pushing the system update to the unlocked variant of the phone first. The revised operating system will be delivered via an over-the-air update. HTC didn't say when carrier-branded versions of the One A9 will receive Nougat.


S. Korean Authorities to Arrest Samsung Heir On Bribery Charges

Today, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Prosecutors in South Korea plan to arrest Lee Jae-yong, the heir to Samsung's massive array of businesses. The special prosecutor's office is recommending Lee be charged with bribery, embezzlement and perjury, though the warrant must be approved by a Korean court before it can be served. The bribery charges pertain to alleged actions that took place in 2015 between Lee and President Park Geun-hye, South Korea's leader. Lee is said to have paid Park's government a total of $36 million in bribes in order to facilitate government approval of the merger of two lower Samsung affiliates. The merger helped pave the way for Lee's succession plan, which has been in the works for several years. Samsung is a family run business, though it is also publicly traded. If Lee is arrested and held, three co-CEOs will continue to run Samsung's day-to-day business operations, but Lee's path to succession will become much less clear. President Park has already been impeached by the Korean government, which is weighing whether or not to remove her from office. It appears Park may be the real target here. "We believe the bribery is linked to the president," said a spokesperson for the special prosecutor's office. Park is said to have profited from widespread corruption since taking office. Lee's arrest would be another black mark in Samsung's book, which has suffered in recent months from the Note7 recall.

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Review: Olloclip Pivot

Friday, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Pivot from Olloclip is a simple pistol grip for smartphones. It is meant to help when capturing video and/or photos with your mobile device. It's unique in that it has an articulating arm to allow for more poses and angles when shooting. Here is Phonescoop's review.

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Snapchat to Ease Navigation with Universal Search

Friday, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat is prepared to make its mobile app much easier to use with the addition of a universal search tool. The tool, reports TechCrunch, will always be accessible at the top of the screen and will let people quickly find friends, groups, publishers, and stories. The search bar uses a new visual style and offers suggestions for Quick Chats that allow users to find friends' message threads and/or stories in a blink. Other new tools include the ability to quickly jump to your own profile as well as add to the general Our Story slideshow that's accessible/viewable to all users. Snapchat is testing the new search tool with a limited number of Android users, but expects to roll it out to all Android and iOS users soon.


Verizon Debuts Global Jetpack with LTE-A and Support for 15 Connected Devices

Friday, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless this week announced the MiFi 7730L Jetpack, a global mobile hotspot that provides wireless access to WiFi devices in the U.S. and around the world. Verizon says the 7730L supports Cat 9 LTE-Advanced with carrier aggregation for speeds that are up to 50% quicker in some 450 U.S. markets. It supports a wide array of LTE bands for overseas markets, as well as CDMA 1x, GSM, and HSPA/HSPA+. The dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac radio helps offer connectivity to up to 15 WiFi devices at a time. The 7730L has a 4,400mAh internal battery that can be charged rapidly via Quick Charge, but it can also be put to use charging phones and accessories via the USB-C port when needed. The Jetpack has a 2.4-inch touch screen for managing settings, and supports mass storage access. The MiFi 7730L Jetpack, made by Novatel, costs $200 at full retail or $50 with a two-year contract.


App Store Antitrust Case Against Apple Allowed to Proceed

Thursday, 6:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

An on-going lawsuit accusing Apple of holding a monopoly on the market for iPhone apps has been given new life today thanks to an appeals court ruling. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Apple's sole distribution method of mobile apps for the iPhone may be anticompetitive. The original lawsuit was filed in 2012. It charged that Apple's policy of allowing only apps distributed via the app store onto iPhones violates federal law. Apple's legal argument centered on the idea that the App Store serves only as a platform for end users to buy apps from developers, the iPhone maker sees the App Store as shelf space that is rented out by app writers. However, app developers pay a 30% portion of revenues for the ability to sell via the App Store. Moreover, people pay Apple directly for apps via iTunes; they do not pay developers. Initial rulings in the case sided with Apple, but today's decision reversed lower courts, as iPhone owners cannot buy or install apps via any method other than the App Store, lest they jailbreak (or hack) their device. Apple maintains that this policy protects end user security, but a collection of iPhone owners contend it leads to less competition and higher pricing for mobile apps. It's not clear what the next steps in the case are, nor where they may lead.


Beta Testers Can Check Out iOS 10.2.1 Beta 4

Thursday, 5:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 10.2.1 Beta 4 to public testers. Apple has not said much about this minor update to iOS, but it is believed to resolve bugs and performance issues throughout the mobile operating system. Apple released a developer beta build of iOS 10.2.1 earlier this week.


Google Lets Maps Users Book, Pay for Uber without Leaving Maps

Thursday, 12:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier to hail rides from more car services within Google Maps. The new ride services mode now shows a map with a carousel of car providers that are nearby. Users can select their preferred service (Uber, Lyft) and see what options and promotions are available. Moreover, Maps will let people book, complete, and pay for an Uber ride without ever leaving the Google Maps app thanks to new integration with Uber's API. Uber users can sign into their account or create a new one within Google Maps and then book rides, track drivers, and connect via message — even if Uber is not installed on the device in question. The app also allows people to examine menus, hours, and other details about destinations while en route. Google says the new ride tools will be available over the next few days via Google Maps for Android and iOS.

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Straight Path to Pay FCC $100M for Squatting On 5G Spectrum

Thursday, 10:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 1:38 PM

The FCC has fined Straight Path Communications $100 million for failing to deploy wireless service in accordance with spectrum license requirements. Straight Path is sitting on approximately 1,000 licenses for spectrum in the 39 GHz band, which will eventually be used for 5G. The company renewed its licenses several years ago by submitting falsified documentation that claimed it had installed wireless systems that were in fact never built. After an investigation, the FCC concluded that Straight Path has not made any real attempt to put its spectrum holdings to use. According to the Consent Decree, Straight Path has agreed to pay a $100 million fine, $15 million of which is due immediately. The company must also surrender 20% of its 39 GHz spectrum licenses immediately. Straight Path has to sell or surrender the remaining spectrum licenses within one year, or it will be subject to the remaining $85 million in fines. Moreover, Straight Path must give 20% of the proceeds of any spectrum license sales to the U.S. Treasury as an additional civil penalty. "Squatting on spectrum licenses without any meaningful effort to put them to good use in a timely manner is fundamentally inconsistent with the public good," said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. "Wireless spectrum is a scarce public resource. We expect every person or company that receives a spectrum license to put it to productive use."


LG Suggests G6 Will Be Waterproof

Thursday, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today revealed more potential details about its forthcoming G6 flagship handset in a teaser video. LG asked a number of people what they want in a phone, and those in the video say they're looking for something that has a big screen, but is easy to use one-handed, won't get ruined if dropped in the toilet, and has a good camera. LG has already said the G6 will drop the modular design of last year's G5 and will boast a 5.7-inch QHD+ display with thinner bezels. LG may announce the phone as soon as the Mobile World Congress trade show scheduled for February.


Hands On with the HTC U Ultra and U Play

Thursday, 3:30 AM   by Rich Brome

The HTC U Ultra and U Play are the company's new high-end phones, replacing the iconic HTC 10 and One series. They sport flowing 3D curved glass on the back, and high-end specs. The U Ultra also has a secondary touch screen above the main display. The U series also includes a learning AI assistant, as well as traditional HTC features like UltraPixel cameras, BoomSound Hi-Fi, hi-res audio, and HTC Connect for wireless media streaming. What are the U phone like in person? We checked them out.

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HTC U Ultra Is New, Glass-Backed Flagship Phone

Thursday, 3:30 AM   by Rich Brome

HTC today announced its new flagship phone, the HTC U Ultra, along with a smaller version, the U Play. Both phones have a new design with colorful glass on the front and back, and a metal frame. The rear glass is fully curved at all four edges, a first. HTC developed a unique process called optical spectrum hybrid deposition" to give the glass multi-layered color. Available colors are: blue, white, black, and pink. The U Ultra has a 2-inch secondary touch-screen above the main display, much like the LG V20. New "HTC Sense Companion" software uses an AI to learn about you and offer intelligent suggestions. It can learn which are your most important contacts and apps, and only surface those notifications on the second screen. It can also advise you when to charge the phone if your schedule indicates you may run out of power before bedtime. (The battery rates 3,000 mAh.) The HTC Sense Companion will be on both U-series phones, as well as other new HTC phones this year. The U Ultra's Super LCD 5 main display measures 5.7 inches and has Quad-HD resolution. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and 4 GB of RAM. HTC gave the U Ultra four microphones that are always listening, and it can record "3D audio". The main camera is a 12-mgeapixel UltraPixel sensor, similar to the HTC 10 but with improved PDAF (focusing). A 16-megapuxel camera graces the front. Other features include 64 GB of internal storage, memory card slot, Android 7.0, Hi-Res audio, Cat. 11 LTE, fingerprint sensor in the home button, NFC, and Quick Charge 3.0. It has a USB-C port with USB 3.1, but no 3.5mm audio jack. The U Ultra is now available for pre-order from htc.com for $750, in an unlocked version that will work with the LTE networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. It will ship in early March. The U Play has the same design but smaller, with a 5.2-inch display, no second display, and a more modest main camera and processor. Other features are similar. HTC has not announced plans for a US-compatible version of the U Play.

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FCC Sees Potential for Harm in Zero-Rated Data Schemes

Jan 11, 2017, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 11, 2017, 3:06 PM

The FCC today took AT&T and Verizon to task for their zero-rated video services and said they may in fact be harmful to the market. The agency has spent time evaluating each of the zero-rated offerings from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. While the agency has no quibble with zero-rated services, per se, AT&T and Verizon's offerings may cross a certain line with respect to competition. "We ... have found that two of the plans present significant risks to consumers and competition in downstream industry sectors because of network operators' potentially unreasonable discrimination in favor of their own affiliates," said the agency in today's report. The FCC judged the offerings based on whether or not they amount to blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization, and if they don't violate those tenets, whether or not the services violate the general conduct rule with respect to data caps, transparency, and user choice. T-Mobile's BingeOn service, for example, is in the clear because it is open to all customers and all third-party services. AT&T's Data Perks program is okay, too, but its Sponsored Data program crosses the line because it likely violates the general conduct rule. The same is true of Verizon's go90 offering. "We are aware of no safeguards that would prevent [Verizon or AT&T] from offering substantially more costly or restrictive terms to enable unaffiliated edge providers to offer services comparable to [go90 and Sponsored Data] on a zero-rated basis," noted the agency. The FCC believes companies such as AT&T and Verizon that own both the content and the delivery mechanism may cause real harm to consumers and competition. The FCC didn't say what, if any, actions it might take next.


LeEco Selling the Pro3 and S3 Through Target

Jan 11, 2017, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LeEco has struck a distribution deal with Target and is now selling its Pro3 (pictured) and S3 handsets via Target's web site. The two phones are available online for $400 and $250, respectively, and are sold unlocked. They support GSM/LTE networks such as those operated by AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. LeEco is trying to expand from its home market of China into the U.S. Its handsets went on sale via LeEco's own web site late last year. The new distribution agreement with Target, even though limited to Target's web site, means LeEco's phones will seen by more U.S. consumers over time. Both the Pro3 and S3 feature solid hardware and specifications, and run highly customized versions of Android.


FAA to Halt Galaxy Note7 Warnings Thanks to 96% Return Rate

Jan 11, 2017, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung said this week that the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration are no longer requiring airlines to warn passengers about the Galaxy Note7 during boarding. Samsung says high participation of its refund and exchange program has helped it collect most outstanding devices. "By leveraging our digital technology to target each device, we've had over 96% of Galaxy Note7 phones returned to date," said the company in a statement. "Together with our wireless carriers, we have taken aggressive action to limit the remaining phones' ability to work as mobile devices, further enhancing participation in the recall." Over the last few weeks, U.S. carriers have distributed a system update to remaining Note7 handsets that prevents them from charging, effectively rendering them useless. Samsung thanked consumers, airlines, airports, and the government for their patience during the recall. Samsung was forced to cancel the phone after a number of units overheated and caught fire.


Review: Kyocera DuraForce Pro

Jan 11, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Kyocera's DuraForce Pro is a capable, rugged Android smartphone for outdoor types who demand a lot from their hardware. No rugged phone is without compromises, but the DuraForce Pro has fewer detractors than most. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth report.

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LG Says Next Flagship to Get QHD+ 18:9 LCD Screen

Jan 10, 2017, 1:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG Display has announced a new smartphone screen intended for its forthcoming flagship handset, the G6. The screen measures 5.7 inches across the diagonal and includes a non-standard 18:9 aspect ratio. "The new 18:9 aspect ratio represents LG Display's direction on how displays should evolve, while meeting the rising trend for watching videos on smartphones," said the company. "The 18:9 aspect ratio is also optimized for multi-tasking, using dual-screen functions." The QHD+ resolution adds 320 pixels to the length of the display, improving it from 2560 x 1440 pixels to 2880 x 1440 pixels with a pixel density of 564ppi. The new screen also shrinks the bezel requirements, reduces overall thickness, improves outdoor viewability, and reduces power requirements. LG is expected to announced the G6 with this new display as soon as the Mobile World Congress trade show next month.

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AT&T Bumps Up the Price of Unlimited Plans By $5

Jan 10, 2017, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has quietly increased the cost of its old unlimited plans by $5 per month. The price jump is the second in a year from AT&T. "If you have a legacy unlimited data plan, you can keep it; however, beginning in March 2017, it will increase by $5 per month," said AT&T. After the increase, the old unlimited plan will cost $40 per month. Device access fees, and talk and text services are extra. AT&T throttles its grandfathered unlimited customers once they surpass 22 GB of mobile data per month. Like Verizon Wireless, AT&T stopped offering unlimited plans years ago.

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