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printed August 30, 2016
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Synaptics Improves Natural ID Fingerprint Tech

Yesterday, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Synaptics today announced its third-generation Natural ID fingerprint technology, which can now read fingerprints through even thicker glass. Synaptics says the FS4500 sensor can identify fingerprints through glass, ceramic buttons, and recessed cover glass up to 300μm thick, which will let hardware companies hide the fingerprint sensor out of sight. Synaptics' second-generation Natural ID fingerprint tech was limited to glass no greater than 200μm thick. The FS4500 includes other mobile-focused features, including a single voltage power supply; enhanced navigation capabilities; the ability to control two 'soft keys' with the fingerprint sensor; system-level security via ultra-fast TLS-secured communication; and a USB interface for simple PC integration. Synaptics believes its improved technology gives device makers even more freedom to create phones and tablets that don't have buttons cluttering up the design. Synaptics says it is already sampling the FS4500 sensor and expects to begin manufacturing in volume during the fourth quarter.

Verizon Debuts LTE Advanced with 50% Faster Speeds

Yesterday, 10:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it has launched LTE Advanced service in 461 markets around the country, covering some 288 million POPs or 90% of Americans. Verizon's LTE Advanced relies on two- and three-channel carrier aggregation to boost speed and capacity. Verizon says LTE Advanced delivers a 50% improvement in download and upload speeds compared to its traditional LTE network. Close to 40 devices sold by Verizon are compatible with LTE Advanced. Many of the newest phones (Galaxy Note7, Moto Z Droid) will support LTE Advanced out of the box, though some devices will require system updates. Verizon customers can take advantage of LTE Advanced's faster speeds at no additional cost.

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Alcatel Reveals the Fierce 4 for MetroPCS

Yesterday, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced the Fierce 4, a large, budget-conscious Android smartphone that will be sold by MetroPCS. The Fierce 4 features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and is powered by a quad-core, 1.1 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone has an 8-megapixel main camera with autofocus and a 5-megapixel front camera with an extra-wide 84-degree field of view for more inclusive selfies. The phone supports memory cards up to 128 GB; runs on Metro's LTE 4G network; includes a 2,500mAh battery; and runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The Alcatel Fierce 4 will be available nationwide at MetroPCS stores beginning today for $69. Alcatel says the Fierce 4 will reach T-Mobile later this fall.

T-Mobile Slightly More Generous with Revised 'One' Plan

Yesterday, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 8:36 AM

T-Mobile today made several adjustments to its T-Mobile One plan in order to halt the firestorm of criticism the plan has received. First, T-Mobile One subscribers will be able to use an unlimited amount of mobile hotspot data at speeds up to 512Kbps. Hotspot speeds were capped at 128Kbps in the first incarnation of T-Mobile One. Second, T-Mobile is offering HD day passes for $3. Customers can pay $3 to stream as much HD video as they want, providing a bit more flexibility than the monthly add-on originally announced by T-Mobile. The day passes are good for 24 hours. Third, T-Mobile is introducing T-Mobile One Plus, an enhanced version of the plan that includes unlimited mobile hotspot, unlimited use of HD day passes, and 256Kbps free international roaming. According to T-Mobile, the unlimited HD day passes don't cost anything, but they must be toggled on each time the customer wants to use them. The phone will still default to standard definition video until the day pass is turned on. The HD day pass will expire automatically, resetting the device to standard definition at the end of each day. The T-Mobile One Plus add-on will cost $25 extra per month. Last, T-Mobile is launching its T-Mobile One plans five days earlier than originally announced. The plan will be available beginning September 1. The starting price is $75 per month for unlimited talk, text, and 4G data. T-Mobile One subscribers can use up to 26 GB of 4G LTE data before they might encounter throttling on congested cell sites. The price drops to $70 per month if customers use auto-pay.

U.S. Cellular Adds More Data to Plans, But Also Bumps Prices

Friday, 1:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular rolled out new Shared Connect plans that offer a pooled bucket of data to multiple lines. All the plans include unlimited talk and text in the U.S. The least expensive option costs $30 per month and includes 2 GB of data. Subsequent choices cost $45 per month for 4 GB, $60 for 8 GB, $80 for 16 GB, or $100 for 24 GB. The latter two plans include unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada. These prices don't include device access fees nor device payments. The new Shared Connect plans are available starting today.

Sprint Adds High-Quality Video Option to Unlimited Plan

Friday, 9:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Friday, 9:56 AM

Sprint today moved to appease its video-loving customers with an add-on that provides unlimited HD video streaming. The Unlimited Freedom Premium plan costs $80 per month for a single line or $140 for two lines and includes 1080p HD high-quality video, music streaming at 1.5Mbps, and gaming at up to 8Mbps. The plan supplements the Unlimited Freedom plan, which costs $60 per month but includes only 480p standard-definition video streaming, 500Kbps music streaming, and 2Mbps gaming. Sprint said for a limited time customers who sign up for the Unlimited Freedom plan will be upgraded to the Unlimited Freedom Premium plan (through 10/31) at no extra cost.

Review: Samsung Galaxy Note7 for T-Mobile

Friday, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung's Galaxy Note7 is one of the best phones of the year. This pricey phablet is a powerhouse of mobile computing. If you can afford it, there are few Android phones as feature-rich as the Note7.

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HTC Reveals Nougat Update Plans

Friday, 6:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC revealed via its Twitter account that it plans to update some devices to Android 7.0 Nougat later this year. The unlocked HTC 10 will be first to receive Nougat at some point during the fourth quarter. HTC will follow that with the unlocked One M9 and unlocked One A9, but it didn't specify timing for these two phones. The carrier versions of all three of these devices will also see Nougat down the road, but again HTC didn't provide specifics. The news walks backs HTC's initial promise to provide Nougat to the HTC 10 within 15 days of Google's Nexus-branded devices (which received Nougat on Aug. 22). The company didn't explain why it isn't sticking to its earlier commitment.

Google Killing Off Device Assist Tool On Nexus Phones

Friday, 6:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has begun informing owners of Nexus devices that it is shutting down the Device Assist app. The app, which first appeared in 2014, was meant to serve as a support tool for Nexus handsets. Google did not explain why it is discontinuing the tool. The change is effective immediately.

Apple Pushes iOS 9.3.5 to Patch Security Holes

Thursday, 1:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 9.3.5 available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. The update, according to Apple, resolves three security issues. Two of the problems could have led to remote code execution. Apple suggests all users update as soon as possible. The update is free to download over the air.

Google Adds Actual Games to Mobile Search

Thursday, 9:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made several simple games available to play directly in search results. Performing a search for solitaire will bring up a playable version of the card game. Similarly, users can search for tic-tac-toe to strategize Xs and Os. Google also made a simple coin toss function available in search to help people settle bets. Google says more simple and fun games are headed to search in the near future. The games can be assessed via the desktop or mobile devices.

Samsung Releases Pink Gold Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge

Thursday, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 2:36 PM

Samsung today announced a pink gold version of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. The new color will be available only at Best Buy stores in the U.S. For a limited time, customers who buy and activate the pink gold Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge from Best Buy will receive a $150 gift certificate to Best Buy. The pink gold handset goes on sale August 28. They be sold, carrier locked, to AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless customers.

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WhatsApp to Share User Data with Facebook

Thursday, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

WhatsApp today updated its terms of service and revealed plans to share data with its parent company, Facebook. The company says coordinating with Facebook will allow it to better track metrics to do things like fight spam. It will use the information for advertising purposes, as well. "By connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them," explained WhatsApp in a blog post. Users will have the ability to opt out of sharing their data, but must do so proactively via WhatsApp's privacy tools.

Google Drive, Play Music See Updates on Android

Thursday, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Google Drive and Google Play Music apps for Android devices, giving new features to both apps. Google Drive now allows people to set home screen shortcuts for their favorite or frequently-used files and folders. The update also makes it easier to control notifications and upgrade or change the storage plan. Google Play Music adds a sleep timer that people can use to control how long their device plays music. The app also features new control buttons and other minor tweaks. Google Drive and Google Play Music for Android are both free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Gives Nexus Phones Access to WiFi Assistant

Aug 24, 2016, 11:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 24, 2016, 11:32 AM

Google this week made its WiFi Assistant feature available to all Nexus devices. The tool is a direct carryover from Google's Project Fi. The WiFi Assistant lets Nexus owners automatically and securely connect to more than one million free, open WiFi hotspots that are certified by Google. Users won't be required to sign in or set up accounts to access the WiFi. Moreover, Google manages the connection and ensures it is protected. Google says the tool can help improve average connection speeds and lower monthly data consumption, regardless of which wireless carrier provides cellular service to the phone. The Google WiFi Assistant is available to Nexus devices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Nordic countries. Google says it will roll out over the next few weeks. Project Fi relies on WiFi for calling and data, but also hops onto Sprint, T-Mobile, or U.S. Cellular when WiFi is not available.

Verizon to Bring VoLTE to Prepaid Later this Year

Aug 24, 2016, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 6:55 AM

Verizon Wireless plans to give its prepaid subscribers access to VoLTE services, including HD Voice and video calls in the near future. Prepaid customers will need to add HD Voice to their account before they can make HD calls, but the add-on will be free. Calls will be billed by the minute, even though they are routed over the LTE data network rather than Verizon's legacy voice network. HD Voice supports six-way conference calls, one- or two-way video calls, and WiFi calling. As always, both the handset making the call and the handset receiving the call need to have the feature enabled and must be connected via LTE for HD Voice to function properly. Verizon said it anticipates launching HD Voice for its prepaid customers early this fall.

Microsoft Adds GIF Search to Its iPhone Keyboard

Aug 24, 2016, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's Word Flow keyboard now features a search tool for finding GIFs, images, and emojis. The search functionality also allows iPhone owners to find contacts and look up restaurants. Microsoft says the app includes more predictions, including GIFs, that show up as users type. Word Flow now makes it possible to control the cursor placement with 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The app gains some accuracy improvements, particularly when in one-handed mode, and support for the iOS text replacement function. Last, Word Flow has even more themes that people can use to customize their keyboard. Word Flow from Microsoft is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Sony Talks Up Plans for Android 7 Nougat

Aug 23, 2016, 12:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today highlighted which devices it plans to update to Android 7 Nougat. Sony will make Nougat available to the: Xperia Z3+ and Z4 Tablet; Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact, and Z5 Premium; and the Xperia X, XA, XA Ultra, and X Performance. Sony said it is working to bring Nougat to these devices as quickly as it can, but reminds owners that availability will vary depending on region, carrier, and other factors. Sony will provide more detailed information as it becomes available.

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