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printed September 27, 2016
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Lenovo Announces Layoffs, Remains 'Committed' to Motorola

Yesterday, 4:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 4:17 PM

Lenovo today announced a workforce reduction that will see close to 2% of the company's 55,000 employees losing their jobs. Most of the more-than-1,000 cuts impact Lenovo-owned Motorola. Lenovo said the job cuts are "part of the ongoing strategic integration between Lenovo and its Motorola smartphone business." The company is still working to align its businesses and streamline its product portfolio. The company claims it is "making adjustments in other areas of the business" to manage costs and improve efficiencies. It insists the job cuts are necessary to ensure the company's long-term future. Lenovo said it "is absolutely committed to Chicago and we plan to maintain our Motorola Mobility headquarters there" where it will pursue research and development for its smartphone business. "We expect to take advantage of local talent to continue developing Moto products there." Lenovo bought Motorola from Google in 2014 for $2.91 billion. It has already cut more than 3,000 people from Motorola's payroll. Motorola's most recent handsets are the Moto Z, Z Force, and Z Play, which are sold unlocked as well as via Verizon Wireless under the Droid brand.

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Verizon Prepaid Customers Gain HD Voice

Friday, 11:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said its prepaid subscribers will have access to VoLTE services, including HD Voice and video calls, starting September 25. 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 are routed over Verizon's 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 its prepaid customers HD Voice is available to more than two dozen newer iOS and Android smartphones. All WiFi calls made to U.S. phone numbers are free, but calls made to foreign numbers are billed at international long distance rates.

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Apple Releases iOS 10.0.2 to Fix Bugs

Friday, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.0.2 available to iPhones and iPads in order to resolve some bugs. According to Apple, the small update addresses a problem impacting audio controls, fixes an issue that prevents some app extensions from working, and solves a bug that caused Photos to crash. iOS 10.0.2 is free to download and install.


Hands On with Blu's Life One X2

Friday, 10:46 AM   by Rich Brome

Blu has a new Android phone offering desirable specs like a fingerprint reader, 5.2-inch, full-HD screen, 16-megapixel camera, fast charging, and memory card slot, all for under $200 unlocked. We spent a little time with it. Read on for our impressions.

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AT&T Settles with FCC Over Microwave License Violations

Friday, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said AT&T has agreed to pay a fine of $450,000 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 dozens of its microwave stations without filing the proper paperwork with the FCC to account for the variances. The FCC has been investigating this matter for several years and first announced its intent to fine AT&T in January 2015. Today's settlement marks an end to the investigation. In addition to the $450,000 fine, AT&T will also have to implement a compliance plan and conduct regular reviews of its wireless fixed microwave stations.


Charter Joins Comcast with Plans to Launch Wireless

Friday, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Charter Communications followed Comcast's lead this week and also disclosed plans to offer wireless service in the future. Charter's offering will mirror that of Comcast's. Charter has an agreement with Verizon Wireless that allows it to sell access to Verizon's network as a wholesaler. Charter will combine that with a network of WiFi access points to provide its cable TV customers with wireless service. Charter believes the wireless offer could convince more consumers to subscribe to its cable TV products. Charter did not say when such a service might launch. Comcast said it plans to launch its wireless service by the middle of 2017.


Novatel to Sell MiFi Business and Focus on IoT

Friday, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Novatel Wireless today announced plans to divest its mobile broadband business. The company has agreed to sell its MiFi branded hotspots and USB modem product lines to Hong Kong-based TCL Industries Holdings for $50 million in cash. Novatel was an early player in mobile internet products and provided modems for the Palm Pilot and other fledgling smartphones. The company later branched out into USB- and WiFi-based mobile hotspots. Novatel said it wants to focus on generating recurring revenue IoT solutions, rather than hardware sales. Some of its IoT business lines include Ctrack telematics, fleet management, asset tracking and monitoring, and Feeney Wireless business connectivity solutions. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions, but the firms expect to complete the transaction during the first quarter of 2017.


Apple Drops iOS 10.1 Beta for Public Testers

Thursday, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.1 beta available to those enrolled in the public beta testing program. The only known new feature of iOS 10.1 is Portrait Mode for the iPhone 7 Plus. Portrait Mode uses both the rear cameras of the 7 Plus to help blur the background of portrait images — creating a Bokeh effect. Apple already made iOS 10.1 beta available to developers. Apple hasn't said when iOS 10.1 will be released to all iPhones, but earlier indicated that Portrait Mode wouldn't reach the iPhone 7 Plus until October.

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Google's Daydream Developer Tools Exit Beta

Thursday, 12:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Google VR SDK 1.0 with support for Daydream available to developers. The VR SDK, which has been in beta since earlier this year, gives developers the tools they need to create virtual reality content for Google's Daydream platform. Google says the SDK "simplifies common VR development tasks so [devs] can focus on building immersive, interactive mobile VR applications for Daydream-ready phones and headsets." The SDK supports integrated asynchronous reprojection, high fidelity spatialized audio, and interactions using the Daydream controller. Moreover, Google said it has partnered with Unity and Unreal so developers can make use of the Unity and Unreal gaming engines as they build their VR apps. The company is now accepting applications for its Daydream Access Program. Developers who rely on the Google VR SDK can ensure their apps will work seamlessly with all Daydream-compatible phones and headsets. Google expects the first Daydream devices to ship this fall.


Sony Reveals Xperia XZ and X Compact Pricing

Thursday, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today discussed pricing and availability details for the Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact (pictured) smartphones. The XZ will cost $700 and it goes on sale via Amazon and other online retailers October 2. The X Compact will cost $500 and will reach Amazon and others September 25. The XZ is a flagship handset with 5.2-inch screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, and 23-megapixel camera, while the X Compact is a smaller sub-flagship with a 4.6-inch screen, Snapdragon 650 processor, and 23-megapixel camera. Both devices run Android 6 Marshmallow and are sold unlocked with AT&T/T-Mobile LTE compatibility.


Blu Shows Off the Life One X2

Sep 22, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu today announced the Blu Life One X2, a successor to the Blu Life One X. The Life One X2 features a 5.2-inch full HD display with curved glass, a metal chassis, and a fingerprint reader for biometric security. The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 430 processor with 2 or 4 GB of RAM and 16 or 64 GB of storage. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with phase-detection autofocus and LED flash, and the selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with a forward-facing LED flash. The phone supports Qualcomm's QuickCharge technology for rapid power-ups. The Life One X2 supports LTE Bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17 for AT&T, MetroPCS, and T-Mobile. Preorders for the phone kick off today from Amazon.com. Consumers who preorder Sept. 22 or 23 will receive a 10% discount. The 2 GB / 16 GB model costs $150 and the 4 GB / 64 GB model costs $200. Blu didn't say when the Life One X2 will ship.


Review: Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Sep 21, 2016, 3:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus offers a few tricks that the smaller iPhone 7 doesn't. I particularly like how the dual cameras work together and how the larger power cell pushes battery life past a single day. Together with iOS 10, the iPhone 7 Plus is a formidable smartphone, even if it's hard to distinguish from its predecessors. Here is Phonescoop's full review.

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Apple Releases New iOS, WatchOS Betas

Sep 21, 2016, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made a handful of beta operating systems available to developers. To start, the company releases iOS 10.1, which follows last week's public distribution of iOS 10. iOS 10.1 adds Portrait Mode to the iPhone 7 Plus and makes a resolves a number of bigs and performance issues. Along with iOS 10.1 Beta 1, Apple also released betas of watchOS 3.1, macOS Sierra 10.12.1, tvOS 10.0.1, and Xcode 8.1. Apple didn't discuss any details of the betas, such as new features. Registered developers can download these beta operating systems immediately. Apple is expected to make iOS 10.1 Beta 1 available to public beta testers by the end of the week.


Sprint and Verizon Resume Sales of Galaxy Note7

Sep 21, 2016, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and Verizon Wireless are once again selling the Samsung Galaxy Note7. Both companies' web sites list the device for sale and also reveal where the phone can be found at local stores. Supply of the device is limited, but determined consumers can buy the phone. Samsung and its carrier partners halted sales of the device early this month after Samsung discovered a quality issue with some batteries. About 2.5 million devices in total were recalled due to the possibility of fire risk, though the actual number of impacted devices isn't clear. Incidences of burns, fires, and explosions blamed on the phone have been reported in the media. On Tuesday, Samsung said about 500,000 replacement units are now available to original Note7 buyers who have yet to exchange their phones. Samsung and its carrier partners are pushing a software update to the Note7 so owners know whether or not their device is safe. Recalled devices will display an alert stating such, while safe devices will display a green power indicator in the status bar.


Instagram Makes It Possible to Save Drafts

Sep 21, 2016, 8:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram is pushing a small update to its mobile app that adds the ability for users to save drafts. People will need to add effects, filters, a caption, or their location to a photo before being given the option to save it for later. Draft posts will be accessible in the library folder upon reopening the app. The new version of Instagram will be made available to Android and iOS devices over the next few days. The app is free to download.


Google Releases Allo Messaging App for Android and iOS

Sep 21, 2016, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 21, 2016, 7:09 AM

Google today made Allo, the messaging app it first revealed back in May, available to Android and iOS devices. Allo expands the ability for expression by tapping into the new Google Assistant, all while keeping conversations secure. The app supports emoji and stickers, and a tool called "whisper shout" that lets people shrink or expand the size of text to convey volume or impact. Allo supports drawing tools for marking up or annotating photos. It uses machine learning to guess or suggest responses that could be appropriate for the conversation — all without requiring users to type. Google says the app can do things such as help make dinner plans, find answers to basic searches, and share YouTube videos. Users need only type "@google" to bring the assistant into group chats. The app permits people to converse directly with the Google Assistant to, in effect, perform searches, such as sports scores and headlines. Incognito mode encrypts messages from end-to-end for privacy and offers private notifications and expiring chats. Further, when incognito conversation threads are deleted they are gone forever. Google says Allo can send simple SMS messages to people who don't use Allo, and can also send previews of Allo-stylized messages with a link to the app for download. Google Allo is free to download from the Google Play Store and from the iTunes App Store.


Samsung Says 500,000 Note7 Replacements Available

Sep 20, 2016, 3:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung Electronics America today said that 500,000 replacement Galaxy Note7 smartphones have been shipped to carrier and retail stores in the United States. The replacement devices will be made available starting September 21 to people who previously bought the Galaxy Note7 and need to exchange it for one with a known-safe battery. Further, Samsung plans to push a software update to all Note7s to help consumers identify safe devices from those that still might pose a fire risk. Once updated, new/safe Note7 units will display a green battery icon on the status bar found on the top right hand of the screen. Samsung and the U.S. CPSC urge everyone who bought a Note7 before September 15 to power down their device. A software update will be pushed to all recalled devices that will prompt owners with a safety notice urging them to turn the phone off and and exchange it. The notice will appear every time Note7 owners power up or charge their impacted phone. Note7 owners can visit Samsung's web site for more information.


T-Mobile Claims 5G Tests Reach 12 Gbps

Sep 20, 2016, 3:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile and Ericsson today said lab tests demonstrate the power of forthcoming 5G technology. The two firms pushed data speeds to 12 Gbps over a wireless connection, with latency as low as 2 milliseconds, in the 28 GHz band. The companies also conducted a voice call between 4G and 5G networks, and say 8x8 MIMO can transmit four 4K video streams over the network at the same time. T-Mobile and Ericsson expect to continue testing this technology in the lab and the field during the back half of 2016. T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said, "At T-Mobile, we will put 5G to work for people, like we always have with new technologies. And, true wireless 5G on our network has the potential to change things radically, accelerating long-term trends, creating immersive experiences and increasing mobile productivity and entertainment for everyone." Ray doesn't expect 5G will begin to reach consumers until 2020.

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