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printed February 22, 2017
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Verizon to Test 5G In 11 Cities By Mid-Year

Today, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it plans to trial 5G technology in 11 U.S. markets later this year. This "pre-commercial service" will be offered to a very limited number of customers and not necessarily made available to consumers. The tests will involve the 5GTF spec Verizon developed past year. The trial markets include Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville, Brockton, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Verizon competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are each testing their own variants of potential 5G technologies. The actual 5G spec has yet to be defined by the International Telecommunications Union, but carriers and telecom equipment makers around the world are hoping their technologies will be included in the final standard.

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Intel Claims LTE Modem to Deliver 1 Gigabit Speeds

Yesterday, 12:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel today announced the XMM 7560 LTE modem, a fifth-generation wireless radio that can produce broadband-like speeds in a variety of mobile devices. The XMM 7560 is manufactured using Intel's 14nm process and supports LTE Advanced Category 16 for downloads up to 1 Gbps and Category 13 for uploads up to 225 Mbps. The Intel XMM 7560 modem supports 5x carrier aggregation for up to 100 MHz combined bandwidth on the downlink, and 3xCA for up to 60 MHz on the uplink. It also supports 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM. Intel says the XMM 7560 works well with its SMARTi 7 RF transceiver, which supports up to 35 LTE bands and 230 carrier aggregation combinations for worldwide compatibility. The XMM 7560 also packs envelope tracking and other power optimization features to improve battery life in smartphones, tablets, and PCs. The Intel XMM 7560 will sample during the first half of the year and Intel expects to see it in consumer devices shortly thereafter. Separately, Intel this week announced new efforts in its push toward 5G. It is working with Nokia, AT&T, Telefonica, 5TONIC, Ericsson, and others to define, prototype, and deliver early 5G products.

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Review: Logitech ZeroTouch Alexa-Powered Car Mount

Yesterday, 10:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Logitech ZeroTouch car phone holder brings the power of Amazon's Alexa to your car. The ZeroTouch combines a car mount, mobile app, and Alexa so you can not only make calls and send texts, but access your smarthome settings safely from behind the wheel.

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Qualcomm Targets IoT Anew with Snapdragon 210 and SoC

Yesterday, 9:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today revealed two new sets of products design with the Internet of Things in mind. First, the company plans to add support for the Android Things operating system to its Snapdragon 210 processors and X5 LTE modems. Android Things is Google's IoT platform. Qualcomm says the the Snapdragon 210 and X5 combo will be the most powerful processor/modem available to Android Things, allowing developers and hardware makers to design more capable devices and services. Some possible use cases include electronic signage, video monitoring, and asset tracking, as well as smart home assistants and smart appliances. The Snapdragon 210 and X5 SoC for Android Things will be available later this year. Separately, Qualcomm said it is sampling two new SoCs for IoT that combine three radios into a single package. The QCA4020 includes Bluetooth Low Energy 5, Dual-band Wi-Fi, and 802.15.4-based technologies, including ZigBee and Thread. The QCA4024 integrates Bluetooth Low Energy 5 and 802.15.4 tech. These modules will support a wide range of IoT platforms, including Apple's HomeKit, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Open Connectivity Foundation. Qualcomm expects to see them put to use in smart cities, toys, home control and automation, networking, and home entertainment. The QCA4020 and QCA4024 are sampling now and will reach consumer devices later this year,


Qualcomm Fine Tunes RF Antennas for Snapdragon 835

Yesterday, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today introduced a new range of RF front-end products that will complement advanced processors such as the Snapdragon 835. The new family of radios are the first gallium arsenide (GaAs) power amplifier modules to come from Qualcomm. The company says the QPA546x and QPA436x are multimode, multiband power amplifier (MMPA) modules that are designed for superior cell-edge performance, which also makes them the first MMPA modules optimized for High Power User Equipment (HPUE) operation. Sprint plans to use HPUE later this year to improve the performance of its 2.5GHz spectrum to boost speed and capacity at the cell edge. The module family supports a range of other technologies, including Qualcomm TruSignal antenna performance. Qualcomm says its newest TruSignal design is better able to support carrier aggregation while also maximizing power efficiency over LTE. Consumers should see more consistent voice and data performance both indoors and out. The QAT35xx antenna is ready for the Snapdragon 835, while the QPA546x and QPA436x are sampling now with the expectation that they'll reach consumer devices later this year.


Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 Modem Powers 1.2Gbps Speeds

Yesterday, 8:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, which it says is the first Category 18 modem capable of download speeds up to 1.2Gbps. The X20 is manufactured using a 10nm FinFET process. It supports up to 5x20 MHz carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and up to three aggregated LTE carriers. The X20 LTE modem uses a new RF transceiver that Qualcomm claims is capable of receiving up to 12 spatial streams of LTE data. Each downlink supports 256QAM, while uplinks support 64QAM. Other features include all major carrier technologies, more than 40 LTE frequency bands, LTE Broadcast, and VoLTE with support for Ultra HD Voice. Last, the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem supports Dual SIM Dual VoLTE for advanced use cases. Qualcomm believes the X20 will be ideal for Gigabit LTE networks, which are expected to bridge the gap between today's 4G networks and what will eventually become 5G networks. Qualcomm says the X20 is already sampling, but it won't ship on consumer products until the first half of 2018.


Verizon to Pay $350M Less for Yahoo After Privacy Breach

Yesterday, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon and Yahoo today said they've amended the terms of their acquisition, first announced in July 2016, which will see the sale price drop by $350 million. The deal has been in jeopardy since December when Yahoo disclosed a material security breach that impacted more than 1 billion users. According to Yahoo, an outside party was able to steal names, email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords, and some security questions/answers of users back in August 2013. Verizon had originally agreed to pay $4.8 billion for Yahoo's core internet business and customer base. The total sale price is now closer to $4.48 billion. Moreover, the two companies agreed to terms with respect to any investigations over Yahoo's security breaches. The remaining Yahoo business that exists after the transaction will be held accountable for 50% of any cash liabilities from non-SEC or third-party investigations and all the liabilities of SEC and shareholder lawsuits. "The amended terms of the agreement provide a fair and favorable outcome for shareholders. It provides protections for both sides and delivers a clear path to close the transaction in the second quarter," said Marni Walden, Verizon executive vice president and president of Product Innovation and New Businesses.


Apple Pushes Third iOS 10.3 Beta to Developers

Monday, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 3:26 PM

Apple today made iOS 10.3 beta 3 available to developers. The most notable new feature of iOS 10.3 is a tool called Find My AirPods, which helps people locate lost earbuds via an audio alert. iOS 10.3 also makes the jump to the Apple File System (APFS), refreshes the Apple ID profile, tweaks animations, and provides more details concerning iCloud storage use. This latest beta is meant for developers. Apple normally makes public beta builds available a day or two after it releases developer betas. Apple also released new betas of macOS 10.12.4, watchOS 3.2, tvOS 10.2, and Xcode 8.3.


Verizon Adds 2 GB Option to Prepaid Plans for $40

Monday, 10:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced a new service plan for its prepaid business, offering 2 GB of data for $40 per month. The plan includes unlimited texting and, for customers who make on-time payments, carry-over data from month to month. Customers who exceed the 2 GB limit will see speeds reduced to 128 Kbps for the remainder of the billing period. Verizon also offers a $30 prepaid service plan for feature phones, as well as a 5 GB plan for $50 and a 10 GB plan for $70. The new $40 plan will be available starting Feb. 21.


Android 2.3 Gingerbread Officially No Longer Supported

Monday, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has put Android 2.3 Gingerbread out to pasture. The update this month follows an announcement Google first made in November regarding Play Services 10.2, which severs backward compatibility with devices running Android 2.3 and older. Google Play Services is the core code behind app compatibility across Android platforms. The Play Services 10.2 update jumps from API level 9 to API level 14. This means Play Services 10.2.0 only supports Android 4.0.1 Ice Cream Sandwich and up. Gingerbread is nearly six years old and Google says the number of devices impacted by the change is fairly small. Google Play Services is updated automatically across Android devices once every couple of months. The 10.2 update to Play Services introduces a handful of new tools that developers can use to improve their apps. For example, it supports the latest version of Google's Firebase developer toolset, custom styling within Google Maps, more health data points in Google Fit, and additional behaviors of ID tokens with Smart Lock. Play Services 10.2 also lets developers use some updated and/or new APIs, including the Fence API for geofencing, the Google Sign-in API for authentication, and the Nearby API for ultrasonic audio location. Most Android devices can expect to see Play Services 10.2 installed on their devices shortly, if it hasn't been already.


LG's G6 to Carry Dual 13MP Rear Cameras

Monday, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said its forthcoming G6 flagship smartphone will include two rear-mounted cameras and a single front-facing camera in much the same vein as last year's V20. The rear cameras will each capture 13 megapixels, says LG, with one taking standard field-of-view shots and the other taking 125-degree, wide-angle shots. LG says users will be able to switch between the two cameras seamlessly with no delay, and the wide-angle lens reduces optical distortion around the outer edges for cleaner pictures. LG said the cameras have equal resolution sensors due to consumer feedback wishing for higher quality images from the secondary camera. LG didn't specify the resolution of the user-facing camera on front, but did indicate it, too, takes wide-angle pictures with a field of view measuring 100 degrees. Moreover, LG has added a handful of new tools to the user-facing camera for self portraits, including the ability to combine between 2 and 100 images to create GIFs. Other features headed to the G6 camera include an enhanced food mode, and 360-degree panoramas for virtual reality apps captured via the wide-angle camera on the rear. LG has already shared lots of the G6's features ahead of the phone's expected Feb. 26 debut.


ZTE to Reboot Project CSX Hawkeye, Pull Kickstarter Campaign

Friday, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said it is exploring fundamental changes to its Project CSX Hawkeye smartphone and is cancelling the current Kickstarter funding campaign. Project CSX started as a community-based program to create a smartphone with features imagined by the public. The original intent was to bring a crowd-sourced device to market by the end of 2017. ZTE fielded hundreds of ideas from around the world and eventually settled on a device featuring eye-tracking powers and a self-adhesive rear panel. In January, ZTE unveiled Hawkeye's full spec sheet through a Kickstarter campaign and was immediately beset by feedback from the community. ZTE wanted the phone to be affordable to most people around the world and thus designed a mid-range handset with middling specs. The Z-Community, however, would prefer a high-end device. "Project CSX has always been about going against the norm and trying something different. But above all, it’s been about listening to you, the consumer," explained ZTE in a forum post. "Based on the feedback we’ve received on both Kickstarter and our own Z-Community forum, we’ve decided to phase out this campaign; however, this doesn’t mean the project is over." ZTE said it will create the device consumers want, but it needs time to figure out how best to move forward. ZTE is no longer sure it can meet its original end-of-2017 release goal. It expects to provide an update about Project CSX Hawkeye in a month or two. In the mean time, the company will refund all pledges contributed to the campaign. "All of your support, perspectives and suggestions are what has driven Hawkeye so far, and for that we are grateful. We will continue to push the boundaries, think outside the box, and pave new paths to ultimately deliver a device that you want, all while continuing to listen and explore with you every step of the way," concluded ZTE.

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Skype Douses Android and iOS Apps with Silliness

Feb 17, 2017, 8:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype's mobile app for Android and iOS devices now looks a lot more like Facebook Messenger, based on the preview released by Microsoft this week. In a blog post, Microsoft explained the new features are meant to make conversations more expressive and entertaining. First, Skype adds in-call reactions. These let people add live emoticons, photos, and text to video calls. The integrated camera now supports emoticons, stickers, and annotations. People can respond to any individual message with multiple reactions, such as a thumbs up, sad face, smiley face, or shock. Last, the app adds a new search panel for finding and sharing links, news, sports, points of interest and other data. Microsoft says this negates the need to jump back and forth between apps. Android device owners can download this Skype Preview from the Google Play Store. iPhone owners will need to apply to become a Skype Insider for iOS. If selected, Skype will email a download link to the app. Microsoft hopes those who preview this version of Skype for Android and iOS will offer feedback before the company releases these features to everyone.


Samsung Heir Arrested On Bribery Charges

Feb 17, 2017, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jay Y. Lee, a top executive at Samsung, has been arrested after a judge agreed that the special prosecutor's allegations of corruption warranted legal action. Lee has been under investigation for months over $37 million in payments that investigators say were used as bribes. The special prosecutor is also charging Lee with perjury, embezzlement, and hiding assets overseas. Lee has for the last several years been groomed to take over the company following the heart attack of his father. Some of the money, allege the prosecutors, was used to grease a contentious merger between two Samsung businesses that helped pave the way for Lee's ascension. The scandal has gripped South Korea since last year, as President Park Geun-hye is also involved. In a brief statement, Samsung said, "We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in future court proceedings." Lee wasn't necessarily involved in managing the day-to-day operations of the company, but was involved in top-level decision making. Samsung may have to reorganize its executive structure to account for Lee's potential absence.


AT&T Follows 'Unlimited' Lead Set by Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint

Feb 16, 2017, 4:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced its own unlimited family plan meant to compete with the likes of those introduced by Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint earlier this week. Beginning Feb. 17, customers will be able to sign up for a wireless-only AT&T Unlimited Plan that AT&T says will cost $180 for a family of four. The package includes four lines with unlimited data, talk, and text. The first line costs $100 and each additional line costs $40. The four-person plan will start at the cost of $220 per month ($100 + 3x$40). The $180 monthly price reflects a $40 credit for the fourth line, which won't be applied to the account for several months. Critically, the new AT&T Unlimited Plan does not include tethering or mobile hotspot at all. AT&T says customers who wish to use those features should select is Mobile Share Advantage plan instead. The Unlimited Plan includes its Stream Saver by default, which downgrades video quality to 480p resolution to cut down on data use. Customers can turn Stream Saver off at no additional cost to stream HD video. Further, AT&T may throttle data speeds once customers exceed 22 GB of data usage in a given month. The AT&T Unlimited Plan also allows customers to make unlimited calls from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico, roam at no extra cost in Canada and Mexico, and send unlimited texts to more than 120 other countries. AT&T's plan costs the same as Verizon's for four lines at $180 per month, but Verizon permits up to 10 GB of mobile hotspot use. AT&T's separate unlimited plan for its DirecTV customers remains in place.


Review: GoalZero Flip 30 + Nomad 7 Plus Kit

Feb 16, 2017, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Flip 30 + Nomad 7 Plus Kit from GoalZero includes a USB battery pack and solar charging panel. For people who spend lots of time outdoors away from AC power, the Nomad 7 Plus panel lets you charge the Flip 30 battery directly — or any phone or other USB-compatible device — using the power of the sun.

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Huawei P10 Revealed by FCC

Feb 16, 2017, 12:45 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC today approved a new, unannounced phone from Huawei that matches leaked photos of the P10. The company is expected to announce the P10 flagship phone in a little over a week at the MWC trade show in Barcelona. The documents made public on the FCC web site show the external design of the phone and reveal wide support for the many LTE bands expected of a flagship phone, but reveal few other details. Two versions have been approved so far, with both supporting the primary bands used by AT&T and T-Mobile, although neither seems specifically designed for US networks (neither supports LTE band 30 nor 66, for example.) One version supports dual SIM cards. The phone has dual rear cameras, a USB-C connector, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The all-metal design has rounded sides and large injected antenna bands that resemble those on Apple's iPhone 7. The phone also includes NFC and dual-band Wi-Fi. Unlike most previous Huawei phones, there does not appear to be a fingerprint sensor on the rear. A front-mounted fingerprint sensor would be a major design shift for Huawei.

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Google Home Gains Voice-Based Shopping to Compete with Amazon Echo

Feb 16, 2017, 12:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today added the ability to shop for certain goods to its voice-controlled Google Home speaker. Google says people can use Google Home to purchase everyday essentials from more than 50 national and local retailers. Some of the initial stores include Costco, Whole Foods Market, Walgreens, PetSmart, and Bed Bath & Beyond. Google Home owners need only say "Ok Google, how do I shop?" or "Ok Google, order paper towels" to get started. The Google Home app on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones allows Home owners to configure their default credit card, shipping address, and other settings before making their first purchase. Google says now through April 30, people who shop via Google Home won't be dinged with service or membership fees associated with its retail partners. Google expects to enable purchases from more apps and services over time.

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