Apple has denied a report suggesting it plans to sell phones and wireless service directly to consumers. Apple doesn't own any wireless spectrum, nor does it have any telecommunications infrastructure. The only way it could operate a wireless network would be as an MVNO, or by reselling access to the networks run by companies such as Sprint and T-Mobile. "We have not discussed nor do we have any plans to launch an MVNO," said Apple in a statement released to media. Apple very rarely comments on rumor and speculation, but was quick to denounce this particular report, which was published by Business Insider. Apple last year released the Apple SIM card, which lets owners of its iPad tablet easily switch between wireless network operators. The Apple SIM does not work with the Apple iPhone, however, and Apple recently agreed to work with the ITU in supporting electronic SIM cards that are permanently embedded in handsets.
BlackBerry today showed off the Passport Silver Edition, a refined version of its wide-screen smartphone. The Silver Edition has a reinforced stainless steel frame to improve strength and help with antenna performance. The design was updated with rounded corners, a slimmer profile, and a diamond pattern soft-touch back plate to improve its appeal and usability. Most other features of the phone remain unchanged. The phone has a 1440 by 1440 pixel 4.5-inch screen, 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 13-megapixel camera, and a massive 3,450mAh battery. The device runs BlackBerry OS 10.3.2. BlackBerry is selling the Passport Silver Edition in North America beginning today via its web site. The phone costs $549.
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Sprint reported its second quarter earnings today and the numbers reveal it has fallen behind competitor T-Mobile in the total number of customers. T-Mobile, which gained a total of 2 million new customers during the second quarter, reported a total customer base on 58.9 million. Sprint saw net additions of 675,000 customers during the second quarter, but that left it with a total of 57 million. T-Mobile now ranks as the third-largest U.S. carrier in terms of customers, and Sprint ranks fourth. AT&T and Verizon Wireless still hold the top two spots. Sprint reported a financial loss for the quarter of $20 million on revenue of $8 billion. Despite the loss, Sprint reduced churn and ceded just 12,000 postpaid smartphone subscribers, which are considered the most lucrative to hold. The company said it continues to work aggressively to improve its network and cut costs. Sprint is mostly owned by SoftBank, based in Japan. CEO Marcelo Claure has been on board for just about a year. He recently shook up the executive suite and installed a new CFO and COO.
Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile have agreed to exchange AWS-1 and PCS spectrum in dozens of markets around the country in a deal valued at $173 million. The spectrum in question covers portions of Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia. The companies will swap spectrum licenses only; the deal does not include the transfer of assets or customers. The exchange will allow Verizon and T-Mobile "to enjoy the efficiency benefits associated with larger blocks of contiguous spectrum and/or alignment of spectrum held in adjacent markets," according to regulatory filings. The companies expect the deal to close during the fourth quarter of the year. Companies often sell, buy, or swap spectrum from one another. Such deals require FCC approval.
Sprint today made changes to its top executives and named a new chief financial officer. Sprint appointed Tarek Robbiati to the CFO position, where he replaces Joseph Euteneuer, who will leave the company. Robbiati was previously at FlexiGroup and Telstra. "I am delighted to join Sprint," said Robbiati. "Sprint has a unique opportunity to disrupt the U.S. wireless market, and I am eager to help Marcelo and the Sprint team change the game." Günther Ottendorfer is joining the company as chief operating officer of technology. Ottendorfer was previously at Telecom Austria and Optus Singtel. Both Robiatti and Ottendorfer plan to relocate to Sprint's Kansas City headquarters. Last, John Saw, Chief Network Officer, has been promoted to the Chief Technology Officer position. Saw was previously at Clearwire. Marcelo Claure, Sprint CEO, said of the changes, "One of my goals when I first arrived as CEO was to strengthen our management team. As I begin my second year here at Sprint, I feel very good about the team we have put together to pursue the great opportunities ahead."
USTelecom and other opponents to the FCC's net neutrality rules will have their first day in court come December. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear initial oral arguments regarding the FCC's internet regulation rules on Dec. 4. The rules, which went into effect earlier this year, bar companies from throttling speeds, discriminating against content/services, and prevent fast lanes or paid prioritization schemes. The rules also reclassify wireless and wired broadband services under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934. USTelecom and its constituents believe the FCC acted beyond its authority in implementing the laws and seeks their repeal.
LG and Verizon Wireless today announced a short promotion that will reward buyers of the LG G4 with a $100 Visa Gift card. Verizon customers must buy the G4 between Aug. 1 and Aug. 12, and register for the gift card by Aug. 31.
Nokia today formally announced the sale of its HERE Maps business unit to a consortium of three German auto makers. Audi, BMW, and Daimler have agreed to buy HERE Maps for $3 billion. Nokia has been shopping the business unit since April, soon after it announced plans to acquire Alcatel-Lucent. The three car makers will act as investors in HERE, as well as customers of the mapping business and suppliers of data. Nokia said HERE-branded mobile apps will continue to be available to Android, iOS, and Windows devices. Nokia expects to complete the sale during the first half of 2016. Once finalized, Nokia will have two business units: its telecommunications equipment unit and its technology unit.
AT&T today rolled out combined wireless and television packages that rely on its recent acquisition of DirecTV. The basic package includes four wireless lines with unlimited talk and text with 10 GB of shared data and HD television service with up to four receivers (DirecTV or U-verse) for a combined price of $200 per month. AT&T is offering four different TV packages, including DirecTV Select or U-verse U-Family for $50 per month; DirecTV Xtra or U-verse U-200 for $70; DirecTV Ultimate or U-verse U-300 for $75; and DirecTV Premiere or U-verse U-450 for $125. The $200 combined price includes the entry-level $50 TV plan and AT&T's $160 four-line wireless family plan. Customers who choose one of the other DirecTV packages will still see a $10 monthly discount when wireless and television services are combined on a single bill. Customers may also choose to add AT&T's home broadband internet services on top of the wireless and television packages. AT&T customers who sign up for DirecTV will be given access to DirecTV's mobile video apps before the DirecTV service is even installed. Existing DirecTV customers who switch to AT&T will be given a $300 bill credit. AT&T is now selling DirecTV services at 2,000 stores around the country. The bundled wireless/TV packages will be available August 10.
U.S. Cellular recently revealed that it has forged its first LTE roaming partnership, and customers will reap the benefits in two to three months. U.S. Cellular did not name its roaming partner, and said the deal is still in the engineering phase, but in all likelihood the partner is a Tier 1 carrier. This means U.S. Cellular customers will benefit from dramatically expanded network access as they travel around. U.S. Cellular was frank in saying that it expects the deal to benefit its customers more so than its partner's customers and its own bottom line. The company has other roaming agreements in the pipeline. The carrier ended the second quarter with 4.78 million customers, and says it will cover 98% of them with LTE by the end of the year.
Sony is telling visitors to its online web store that the site will cease taking orders and shut down on August 28. Sony's web store is one of just a handful of places to purchase its Xperia-branded smartphones in the U.S. Sony did not say why it is closing the web store, but did say it plans to "improve our online shopping experience" with "an exciting new product web site that includes our authorized retailers for your purchasing preference." Customers who have questions about their Sony web store account or any online purchases they may have made can find answers on a FAQ posted to the site. Sony has already closed the majority of its U.S. brick-and-mortar retail stores, with only its NYC flagship store remaining. Verizon plans to sell the Sony Xperia Z4v later this summer.
YotaPhone today said it has cancelled plans to bring the YotaPhone 2 to the U.S. even though it raised the necessary funding through an Indiegogo campaign. The company blamed the change in plans on logistical problems with its manufacturing partner. "We believe the likelihood of a severe delay in these shipments would have created a conflict with our international road map for 2016, leaving Indiegogo supporters behind when customers in other regions will be offered a newer, cheaper and better YotaPhone," explained YotaPhone in an email provided to its supporters. "The good news is that, as a result of our growth, we are bringing on a new manufacturing partner who can support the scalability we need in order to quickly bring YotaPhone to various regions around the world, including North America. This includes delivering a new generation YotaPhone with the latest specs and technologies, but also at a lower cost, to allow us to offer better value to our customers in 2016." Those who backed the company through Indiegogo can choose to receive the international variant of the phone (which does not support U.S. LTE networks), or receive a refund. YotaPhone said it is still working out the details for providing the refunds. YotaPhone's device has two screens: a standard LCD panel on the front, and an e-ink display on the back that can be used to conserve battery life.
ParkerVision today said it lost an appeal of allegations that Qualcomm was infringing on some of its patents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a district court ruling maintaining that ParkerVision did not prove infringement of its patents by Qualcomm. The appeals court also agreed with the district court in denying Qualcomm's attempt to invalidate one of the patents. ParkerVision said, however, that the appeals court reversed the lower courts decision regarding the validity of ParkerVision's other claims. "We are highly disappointed with the appellate court's decision both with regard to infringement and validity of certain of our patent claims," said Jeffrey Parker, ParkerVision's Chairman and CEO. "Despite this setback, we will consider further options on appeal, and will move forward in our second infringement case against Qualcomm, HTC and Samsung." ParkerVision designs radio-frequency technology for wireless devices.
Cricket Wireless today improved its international offering by adding the ability to make calls and send text messages from Canada and Mexico to the U.S. The change means Cricket customers who travel to Canada and Mexico will be able to stay in touch with family and friends in the U.S. while they are away. Cricket customers are already able to make unlimited calls and send unlimited messages from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico. Cricket said the "roundtrip" feature will be available to its Smart and Pro plans ($50 and $60 per month, respectively) for at no extra cost. The unlimited calling/SMS feature goes into effect for Mexico on August 2 and will go into effect for Canada later in August. Cricket's move follows similar calling plan changes made by parent company AT&T, as well as competitors T-Mobile and MetroPCS.
Samsung won't launch Samsung Pay in the U.S. until later this summer, but the company is already looking to expand the service to other markets. Samsung today said it has partnered with MasterCard and the two will together offer the service to financial partners and retailers across the continent. Samsung Pay can take advantage of two different technologies, including NFC and MST, for mobile payments. NFC-equipped terminals are still somewhat limited in the U.S., but magnetic stripe technology is available in most retail environments. Samsung is already trialling the service in its home country of Korea. It is expected to arrive in the U.S. with the Galaxy Note 5, which Samsung is believed to be revealing at an Aug. 13 event. Samsung Pay will also be made available to the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge via software updates. Samsung didn't say when it expects to launch Samsung Pay in Europe.
An appeals court has sided with Microsoft and upheld a 2013 verdict that says Motorola has to pay Microsoft for refusing to license standard-essential patents at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. This particular case began in 2010, when Microsoft sued Motorola for failing to pay it patent-licensing fees for technology found in Motorola's Android smartphones. Motorola filed its own lawsuit in return, in which it sought some $4 billion to cover royalties for technology in Microsoft's Xbox and Windows devices. Even though Microsoft sued Motorola, Motorola was still required to license its own patents to Microsoft at fair rates. Two separate courts determined in 2012 and later 2013 that Motorola's $4 billion demand far exceeded what's considered fair and reasonable. Therefore, Motorola violated its agreement with Microsoft and Microsoft was thus awarded $14.5 million in damages for breach of contract. This week's decision, reached by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, verifies that Motorola must pay the damages.
Microsoft's latest Windows handset for AT&T is the powerful 640 XL, a massive device best suited to phablet lovers. It features a 5.7-inch screen, 13-megapixel camera, quad-core processor, and an assortment of AT&T and Microsoft apps and services. Here is Phone Scoop's full review.
Google today expanded the number of ways developers can test their apps ahead of general release. At the moment, developers are limited to testing through closed betas that require people to join dedicated Google+ communities or Google Groups. Moving forward, developers will be able to offer open betas directly through the Play Store, as well as closed betas via email invitations. The open betas can be managed by limiting app downloads, and the email address-based closed betas give developers even more granular control over who's testing the app. The added options make it easier for developers to test and collect app data to make sure they perform well at launch. Google said the new beta testing tools are available in the Google Play Developer Console.