Microsoft today announced the next version of Windows will be called Windows 10. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will encompass "one product family, one platform, one store." Windows 10 will run on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. Microsoft says the operating system will offer users a seamless experience across multiple different form factors with varied input types (mouse, pen, touch). One of the key components will be the shared code so developers can create apps that run on any of the supported form factors with little customization. Microsoft shied away from sharing too many specifics as far as features go, but noted that preview builds of the desktop platform will reach consumers in early 2015. The company didn't make any commitments as to when then next version of Windows Phone will be available.
Pebble today announced a software update for its devices and lowered the prices of its hardware. The software update targets health and fitness apps, and allows Pebble smart watches to track activity in the background. For starters, Misfit, Jawbone, and Swim.com have updated their apps to take advantage of the new health and fitness powers. Jawbone's new Up app will mirror some of the functionality offered by its own fitness tracking wearables, and Swim.com will allow swimmers to track distance, pace, strokes, and efficiency in their workouts. In order to boost appeal of its wearables, Pebble is dropping prices. Beginning today, Pebble costs $99 and Pebble Steel costs $199 (both prices reflect a $50 drop). Last, Pebble's wearables will be sold from a wider selection of stores, such as Sam's Club, Fry's, and Sprint.
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U.S. Cellular today said it will soon offer the LG G3. The flagship device, which boasts a 5.5-inch quad HD display and 13-megapixel camera, will go on sale in October, though U.S. Cellular didn't say exactly when. U.S. Cellular said the phone will be available for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments for well-qualified customers. The company didn't disclose the full retail price of the G3. The G3 has been available from other carriers for several months.
Microsoft today re-launched its MSN web portal. The site has been redesigned from the ground up and provides one-click access to many tools, such as OneDrive, Outlook email, OneNote, and Skype. Microsoft says the new MSN will look and behave the same across all devices, be they PCs, tablets, or smartphones. Microsoft said it is pulling in content from a wider range of sources in order to appeal to as many users as possible. It is also localizing news content, so people in the US will have content that differs from the content offered in Japan, India, and other regions. The new MSN is free to visit on the web. Along with the reboot of MSN, Microsoft said it is updating a handful of its apps for Windows Phone, including Health & Fitness and Weather. Both apps gain new lock screen features. Health & Fitness, for example, will be able to provide GPS data and a step counter on the lock screen so users won't have to launch the individual app to see their workout stats. Similarly, the new weather app will offer real-time weather updates on the lock screen. Both apps are free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
eBay today announced plans to separate its online auction business from its online payments business. eBay will spin off PayPal into its own company, a move it expects to complete during the second half of 2015. eBay and PayPal have long worked hand-in-hand to let people make online purchases easily with just their email address. PayPal has expanded its scope beyond simple online transactions, but will need to push further into the mobile space to combat the likes of Apple Pay and Softcard. "For more than a decade eBay and PayPal have mutually benefited from being part of one company, creating substantial shareholder value," said eBay CEO John Donahoe. "However, a thorough strategic review with our board shows that keeping eBay and PayPal together beyond 2015 clearly becomes less advantageous to each business strategically and competitively." Activist investor Carl Icahn long pushed for eBay and PayPal to separate, but eBay resisted the move until today. Devin Wenig, eBay Marketplace President, will be the new eBay's CEO. eBay has tapped American Express executive Dan Schulman to run the new PayPal. He is joining PayPal immediately. Donahoe will oversee the separation of the two companies, and will then step aside.
Alcatel revealed two new Android smartphones headed to Tracfone later this year, the Pop Mega and the Pop Star. Here are a few thoughts on these low-cost cell phones.
BlackBerry says "We're back!" with the Passport, a smartphone that breaks new ground in some respects. Here are our first thoughts.
T-Mobile continues to chase 700MHz A Block spectrum across the country. According to recent filings with the FCC, T-Mobile's newest target is a batch of licenses held by Triad 700 LLC. Triad holds four licenses covering Anchorage, Alaska; Salisbury, Md.; Reno, Nev., and Erie, Pa. The spectrum blankets about 2.43 million POPs in those markets, according to AllNet Labs. All told, T-Mobile has initiated 700MHz A Block spectrum purchases that cover just under 18 million POPs. T-Mobile plans to use the 700MHz spectrum to enhance its LTE network. Terms of the latest deal were not disclosed.
Microsoft today released a new version of OneDrive for Android smartphones and tablets. The updated cloud storage app includes what Microsoft calls the All Photos View, which makes it easier to browse and see photos across OneDrive. OneDrive also adds new business tools, including a search function and a file viewer to find documents that colleagues have shared with the user. The updated app for Android devices is free to download from the Google Play Store. Microsoft recently doubled the amount of free storage from 15GB to 30GB - as long as users choose to automatically upload photos from their phone to OneDrive.
AT&T today launched a limited promotion that doubles the amount of monthly data available to certain plans for no extra charge. Customers who subscribe to one of AT&T's Mobile Share Value plans with 15, 20, 30, 40, or 50GB of data can upgrade their data to 30, 40, 60, 80, or 100GB, respectively, for free. The upgrade works with plans that include between two and 10 lines and already subscribe to a minimum of 15GB ($160 per month). The promotion, which is available to new and existing customers, runs between today and October 31. AT&T said the promotional data allotments will not expire, and customers can keep them as long as they subscribe to a Mobile Share Value plan.
A major RadioShack shareholder plans to invest more cash in the business in order to improve its liquidity. RadioShack is facing a cash crisis. As of last month it had just $30.5 million in the cash and owed creditors $658 million. Standard General is still discussing the particulars with RadioShack and its other creditors. The hedge fund, along with new, unnamed investors, believe they can buy out RadioShack's loans and get the company back on its feet. Standard General raised its stake in RadioShack from 7.08% to 9.8%, making it the single largest shareholder. The investors hope to shore up RadioShack ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season. RadioShack sells cell phones and wireless service from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless alongside other consumer electronics.
Vine today updated its Android application and brought it closer to parity with the iOS version thereof. The chief new feature in Vine for Android is support for the camera roll, which allows Vine users to import video they've already shot (rather than record live). Vine users are free to piece together multiple segments from their phone to create 6-second masterpieces. Vine for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Yahoo today announced another round of product closures as its narrows its focus on core business units. One of the closures is a mobile app called Qwiki. Qwiki was able to take the photos stored on smartphones' camera rolls and convert them to short videos. The Qwiki app and service will cease operating on November 1. Yahoo suggests users download their stored content before the shutdown. Yahoo also said it plans to close Yahoo Education and Yahoo Directories, two web-based services for desktop machines. "At Yahoo, focus is an important part of accomplishing our mission: to make the world's daily habits more entertaining and inspiring," said Jay Rossiter, Yahoo SVP, Cloud Platform Group. "To achieve this focus, we have sunset more than 60 products and services over the past two years, and redirected those resources toward products that are aligned with our vision."
Pantech, based in Korea, has staked a For Sale sign in its front lawn. The company, which declared the equivalent of bankruptcy last month, is seeking a buyer to scoop up the entire business. Pantech has been facing trouble all year long. It twice sought delays in debt payments and entered into court receivership in August. The company believes it will fetch a higher price if sold as a single entity (approx. $366 million) rather than broken up and sold in pieces (approx. $181 million). Bids for the company are due in early October. Pantech found itself unable to compete with Samsung and LG, which are also based in Korea. It faced financial losses six quarters in a row, which led to its debt problems and eventual bankruptcy.
Intel today said it has forged an agreement with Tsinghua Unigroup to co-develop processors for mobile devices. Tsinghua runs both Spreadtrum and RDA, which are fabless semiconductor companies that develop 2G-, 3G-, and 4G-enabled mobile chipset platforms for smart phones, feature phones, and other consumer electronics products. In particular, Spreadtrum will create and sell a family of Intel Architecture-based system-on-chips (SoCs). The companies said Intel-based SoCs will appear in consumer products during the second half of next year. Further, Intel is investing $1.5 billion in Tsinghua, giving it a 20% stake in the company. Intel has its own family of mobile processors, but it has struggled against stronger competitors such as Qualcomm, which often combines application processors with wireless baseband radios. Combo chips are often more attractive to handset makers.
Apple today made available iOS 8.0.2, an update that Apple says fixes an issue in iOS 8.0.1 that impacted cellular network connectivity and Touch ID on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. In addition to resolving the cellular connectivity issue, the update also repairs a number of other issues. For example, it fixes a bug so HealthKit apps can now be made available in the App Store. It also: addresses an issue where third party keyboards could become deselected when a user enters their passcode; fixes an issue that prevented some apps from accessing photos from the Photo Library; improves the reliability of the Reachability feature on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus; fixes an issue that could cause unexpected cellular data usage when receiving SMS/MMS messages; fixes an issue where ringtones were sometimes not restored from iCloud backups; and fixes a bug that prevented uploading photos and videos from Safari. iOS 8.0.2 is free to download and install over the air, or via iTunes.
Hyperlapse is today releasing an updated version of its application with one major new feature: support for the user-facing camera. Users can now take timelapse videos with themselves as the star. The app also introduces a new design for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and resolves some bugs. Hyperlapse, which is made by Instagram, is free to download from the App Store.
Apple today issued a statement concerning reports of bent iPhones. It said bent iPhones are "extremely rare" under normal use, and the company has only received nine such compliants from customers. Videos and images have spread across the internet in recent days depicting iPhones 6 Plus handsets that nave been bent. Apple said the device has undergone rigorous durability tests and consumers have no reason to worry.