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printed January 31, 2015
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HTC Says Lollipop Rollout Going Slower Than Hoped

Yesterday, 6:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 6:16 PM

HTC today warned owners of its handsets that it likely won't meet its self-imposed 90-day deadline to deliver Lollipop to existing handsets. Several years ago, HTC promised customers it would update its handsets to the latest version of Android within 90 days of that vesion's general release. According to HTC, however, things aren't going so smoothly with Android 5.0 Lollipop. "We've been working hard in the labs with Google and our carrier partners ever since the code release and are making great progress so far, but if you've been following the progress of this rollout you will know that Google has had to address several issues with this release," said HTC in a blog post. "We've been diligently working to fix some of them on our end and incorporating Google's fixes as quickly as possible, but despite everyone's best efforts some carrier versions of the HTC One (M8) and HTC One (M7) will not meet our 90 day goal, which is February 1st." HTC concluded by saying it would prefer to deliver the update correctly rather than quickly. It said it will continue to provide updates as more information about Lollipop rollouts become available.


AT&T to Use Auction Winnings to Boost Downlink Performance

Yesterday, 4:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 4:29 PM

AT&T today said its winnings from the recently concluded FCC AWS-3 spectrum auction give it a near contiguous 10x10MHz block of spectrum across much of the country. The J Block spectrum covers 306 million people, or 96% of the U.S. population and 96 of the top 100 markets. AT&T said it expects to begin deploying LTE service on the spectrum in the 2017-2018 timeframe. It will initially use the spectrum to supplement its downlink services. AT&T needs to work with the FCC, NTIA, DOD, and other federal agencies so it can eventually support uplink capacity. AT&T spent $18.2 billion to acquire the licenses. "Growth in our customers' mobile data usage continues to explode, driven by mobile video traffic. This spectrum investment will be critical to AT&T staying ahead of customer demand and facilitate the next generation of mobile video entertainment," said AT&T's John Stankey, chief strategy officer. AT&T said data traffic on its network has increased 100,000 percent from January 2007 through December 2014. Verizon also commented on its winnings. Verizon scored 181 licenses covering 192 million POPs, or 61% of the U.S. Verizon said it would have more to say about its plans for the spectrum next month.

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Google Opens 'Now' to Third-Party Apps

Yesterday, 2:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google Now will soon show cards from third-party apps. Google is prepared to update its learning search tool and allow about 30 select apps to deliver information and other results to Android devices. Some of those with early access include Airbnb, eBay, and Lyft, according to the Wall Street Journal. As long as Android device users have signed into Google Now and have the third-party apps installed, they'll be able to surface relevant content in the form of cards within Google Now. Users will have to give the third-party apps permission to access Now in order for them to work. According to Google, more than 40 new Cards will become available within the Google Now application. The updated Google Now service is rolling out to Android users beginning later today. Google didn't say if or when it will open up Now to more third-party apps.


AT&T, Verizon Dominate AWS-3 Auction

Yesterday, 1:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 2:04 PM

The FCC today published a list of companies that placed winning bids for the AWS-3 spectrum auction. The FCC auctioned off 1,600 licenses, for which 70 companies were competing. The 10X10MHz J Block was the most coveted section of airwaves. The G, H, and I blocks are all 5x5MHz channels, but also saw competitive bidding. AT&T and Verizon won many of the J Block segments. For example, AT&T placed a $2.76 billion winning bid for J Block spectrum covering New York City. Verizon, however, won the J Block covering Washington, D.C., and Baltimore with a $966 million bid. Aside from AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile, Northstar Wireless, Advantage Spectrum, and SNR Wireless LicenseCo (Dish) won the majority of the licenses. The FCC was hoping to raise $10.54 billion and instead raised $41.32 billion. AT&T's bids alone totaled $18.2 billion, while Verizon bid $10.4 billion and T-Mobile bid $1.8 billion. The two bidding entities tied to Dish Networks totaled $13 billion. The $41.3 billion auction total is slightly smaller than the FCC earlier reported due to discounts and incentives.


Vine Releases Kid-Friendly Version of Its App

Yesterday, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine today revealed a new version of its video-sharing service aimed at kids. The app, called Vine Kids, is separate from the main Vine app, but pulls curated, kid-friendly content from the main service. Kids can swipe left or right to see the next Vine video and tap the screen to get sound. The app uses animated characters to help kids use the app. Vine lets people record short videos that are played back in a loop, but Vine Kids only permits playback. Vine Kids is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Vine, which is owned by Twitter, didn't say if or when Vine Kids would be available for Android devices.


Verizon Wireless Does About Face On Supercookies

Yesterday, 12:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today reversed its stance regarding ad-targeting programs and will allow customers to opt out of its "supercookie" tracking tool. The company was under fire from privacy advocates, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Consumer Watchdog, as the supercookies track customer behavior, including web browsing history, and cannot be turned off. "Verizon takes customer privacy seriously and it is a central consideration as we develop new products and services. Delivering solutions with best-in-class privacy protections remains our focus," said the company in a statement provided to the New York Times. "We listen to our customers and provide them the ability to opt out of our advertising programs. We have begun working to expand the opt-out to include the identifier referred to as the UIDH, and expect that to be available soon. As a reminder, Verizon never shares customer information with third parties as part of our advertising programs." Verizon didn't say when customers will be able to opt out. AT&T tested a similar program last year, but eventually decided against using it.


Chicago to Install LTE 4G Throughout Subway System

Yesterday, 10:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 10:36 AM

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced an initiative along with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless that will see the city's subway system upgraded with LTE 4G. The City of Chicago and Chicago Transit Authority have agreed to fund the project with $32.5 million. The four carriers will undertake the upgrade themselves with a distributed antenna system, or DAS. The existing system has been in place nearly 10 years and is now outdated. Emanuel said the project will deliver continuous 4G coverage along the 22-mile stretch between O-Hare airport through the tunnels and platforms of the Red and Blue Lines. Work on the project actually began earlier this month and will be complete by the end of the year. Los Angeles recently announced a similar initiative. Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C., also offer underground cell service in their respective transit systems.


Cricket Adds More Data to Low-Cost Plans

Yesterday, 9:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 11:06 AM

Cricket Wireless today added more data to its bottom two prepaid service plans in a bid to keep up with similar offers from Boost Mobile and MetroPCS. With Cricket's auto-pay discount, the Basic plan costs $35 per month and now includes unlimited talk, text, and 2.5GB of high-speed data per month (up from 1GB). Cricket's Smart plan costs $45 per month and includes 5GB of high-speed data (up from 3GB), and the Pro plan costs $55 per month and includes 10GB of high-speed data. Existing customers will automatically receive the upgraded data allotments. Last, Cricket added an Advanced plan that includes 20GB of data for $55 per month. The Advanced plan will only be available for a limited time and requires an LTE-capable handset. Cricket will provide one month of free service to new customers who sign up for its Smart, Pro, or Advanced plans. The new rates go into effect today. Cricket is owned and operated by AT&T. LTE speeds are limited to 8Mbps. Customers who exceed their monthly limit will be throttled for the remainder of the billing period.


Nokia's Z Launcher for Android Earns First Major Upgrade

Yesterday, 8:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia recently updated its Z Launcher for Android devices. The application replaces the home screen on smartphones and adjusts what it displays throughout the day based on the user's behavior. The update adds preliminary support for icon packs, which will allow for more customization. The launcher also gains an easy way to uninstall or hide apps with a long press, and improved handwriting recognition with the scribble tool. Nokia made adjustments to the user interface and the carousel widgets. The update also fixes bugs and resolves other issues. Nokia's Z Launcher for Android is still in beta, but is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Microsoft to Back Cyanogen's Android Efforts

Thursday, 2:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has agreed to invest an unknown dollar figure in Cyanogen, which offers a version of Android devoid of Google's strictures. Cyanogen recently raised $70 million in funding, of which Microsoft is playing a minority role say sources cited by the Wall Street Journal. Neither Microsoft nor Cyanogen commented on Microsoft's involvement with the Android software maker, but Cyanogen has big goals. Last week, Cyanogen CEO Kirt McMaster said, "We're going to take Android away from Google." Cyanogen is working with handset makers to have its version of Android preinstalled on devices rather than Google's. It has succeeded with Micromax in India and is working to win over others. Google may offer Android to OEMs for free, but the search giant places strict requirements for handset makers to access the Play Store and other Google services. Cyanogen claims 50 million people have installed its variant of Android on devices, most of whom are enthusiast users who root their device and sideload the operating system.


FCC Fines AT&T $640,000 Over License Infractions

Thursday, 1:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said it plans to fine AT&T $640,000 for operating microwave stations outside the parameters of its licenses to do so. Microwave stations are generally set up in point-to-point configurations to beam signals across terrain where it is uneconomical to run copper or fiber wires. Companies use them to serve as backbone connections on the telephone network, to connect cellular base stations to the larger network, or to relay television signals. According to the FCC, AT&T altered 26 of its microwave stations without filing the proper paperwork with the FCC to account for the variances. AT&T ran afoul of the FCC in 2013 for similar infractions related to its wireless network.


Yahoo Updates iOS App with More Digital Mag Content

Thursday, 1:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 1:45 PM

Yahoo today announced a refresh to its iOS application that adds more imagery and content from across its properties. Yahoo says the app is more visually engaging and makes it easier to access articles, polls, and blogs from its digital magazines, such as Yahoo Autos, Yahoo Sports, and others. The app now keeps Yahoo Weather and Yahoo News Digest above all the other digital sections in the news feed. Yahoo for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Facebook Adding Tips About Nearby Places to Newsfeed

Thursday, 1:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 1:38 PM

Facebook today announced a new feature for its iOS application called Places. Using location data, Facebook will begin to post information about nearby places -- restaurants, museums, etc. --- to the top of users' newsfeeds. The tips will appear as cards, which will contain information about the place's location, hours, and web site as well as photos and/or ratings shared by the user's friends. It mimics some of the behaviors of Foursquare. Places relies on cellular, GPS, and WiFi radios to determine location, but Facebook is also testing location placement with Bluetooth-based beacon technology. The feature is optional and users can turn it off any time. Places for Facebook is baked into the iOS application, which is available today. Facebook didn't say when it might add the feature to its Android app.


FCC Sets New E911 Location Rules for Carriers

Thursday, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today adopted rules it first proposed last year that will eventually help first responders to locate people who call 911 from their cell phones faster. Specifically, the FCC wants first responders to be able to better locate people within buildings. With today's technology, first responders still have trouble determining from which building wireless 911 calls originate from, let alone the floor and/or apartment or suite. The FCC has laid out clear, measurable goals for carriers to provide X, Y, and Z coordinates to help place callers as accurately as a specific room inside a building. Last fall, the CTIA Wireless Association along with members AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless laid out their own plan to meet the FCC's demands. The FCC said it understands that there's no silver bullet and knows carriers will need to rely on multiple different technologies to reach the benchmarks it has set in place. The FCC said it will allow the operators some leeway in developing their own standards as long as they meet the location accuracy requirements.


AWS-3 Spectrum Auction Over, Bids Total $44.89 Billion

Thursday, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 11:51 AM

The FCC today said Auction 97, which covered blocks of spectrum in the AWS-3 band, is now over. It received a final bid today for the 1695-1710MHz unpaired spectrum band just a day after it closed bids for the G, H, I, and J paired spectrum blocks. The AWS-3 auction encompassed 65MHz of spectrum in the 1695-1710MHz band (unpaired), and the 1755-1780MH and 2155-2180MHz bands (paired). The paired blocks saw the most action, especially the J Block, which offered a 10x10MHz block in large metro areas. After 341 rounds, the AWS-3 auction has generated winning bids totaling $44.899 billion -- more than four times the reserve price for the auction. The FCC hasn't yet said which companies won the auction. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are most likely to have won the bulk of 1,600 available licenses, though T-Mobile, Dish Networks, and 66 other entities were bidding on the licenses.


Delaware Exploring Digital Driver's Licenses for Phones

Thursday, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Following in Iowa's footsteps, Delaware is considering whether or not to provide digital driver's licenses to its citizens. The state's assembly recently passed a resolution requesting that the Division of Motor Vehicles study and consider issuing optional digital driver's licenses for Delaware motorists. According to the resolution, Delaware uses the same driver's license vendor as the state of Iowa, which is also exploring the use of digital driver's licenses. Delaware's digital license would be available in addition to standard physical licenses and would't be required. The state indicated certain security standards would have to be met, and might require the use of biometrics or other technologies to authenticate device ownership and identification. In the end, Delaware's lawmakers believe digital driver's licenses could improve quality-of-life for its motorists. The resolution did not spell out any sort of timeframe.


Microsoft Offers Outlook Email App to Android and iOS

Thursday, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released an Outlook email application for Android and iOS devices, including smartphones and tablets. The app is based on the code from Acompli, a company Microsoft acquired last year. With Outlook for Android and iOS, users can manage their work and personal email. It supports Office 365, Exchange, Outlook.com, Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, and other email services. Users can personalize their experience with customizable swipes and actions. The Outlook email app also offers native calendar integration to make scheduling and managing a calendar easy. Outlook for Android and iOS is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively. The Android version of Outlook is being offered as a preview for the time being. In other Microsoft news, the company stripped the preview tag from its Office for Android suite of apps. Android tablet owners can now download Word, Excel, and PowerPoint from the Play Store and access a basic set of document creation and editing features with their Microsoft account. Advanced features require an Office 365 subscription.


OneDrive 5.0 for iOS Supports Personal and Biz Accounts

Wednesday, 4:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today pushed out a relatively big update to its OneDrive application for iOS devices. Most significantly, OneDrive for iOS allows people to sign into both their personal and business OneDrive accounts, open/organize their business files, and save new files to their business account. The app improves how it handles photos. For example, users can create photo albums that let them view photos in one folder or album without moving the actual image files. It also now supports tags, such as "plant" or "animal" automatically thanks object recognition. OneDrive for iOS also boasts a new design, integration with third-party password managers (1Password, LastPass, etc.), improves search and text recognition, resolves audio playback issues, and addresses several other bugs. OneDrive is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

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