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printed June 1, 2016
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T-Mobile Picks Up Coolpad Catalyst for $100

Yesterday, 5:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Coolpad today said T-Mobile has agreed to sell its Catalyst Android smartphone. The Catalyst will be the first Coolpad phone sold to postpaid customers in the U.S. The phone features a 5-inch, 854 by 480 screen, 5-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel selfie camera, and support for T-Mobile's LTE 4G network. Other features include Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, and 2,200mAh battery. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and will cost $100 at T-Mobile retail stores. The phone goes on sale at T-Mobile shops on June 7, with MetroPCS stores to follow on July 11. Coolpad is a Chinese manufacturer that has sold a few handsets in the U.S. in recent years.

Court: No Warrant Needed to Pull Carrier-Based Location Data

Yesterday, 2:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A U.S. appeals court said law enforcement does not need to obtain a warrant before obtaining location data from wireless network operators. Today's decision stems from an appeal based on a Baltimore case involving armed robberies from 2011. Citing a decades-old idea suggesting consumers routinely allow their phone service provider to know their location, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, reversed a divided opinion from last year. The majority (12-3) opinion held that "Anyone who has stepped outside to 'get a signal,' or has warned a caller of a potential loss of service before entering an elevator, understands, on some level, that location matters." A ruling last year from the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court agreed that no warrant is needed. The Supreme Court has refused to review similar cases. A lawyer for the ACLU argued that the matter has not been finalized by the courts.

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T-Mobile Kicks Off Prepaid Plan for People Visiting the US

Yesterday, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced the T-Mobile Tourist Plan, a prepaid service plan that T-Mobile hopes international travelers will use when they come to the U.S. during the summer months. The plan costs $30 and provides three weeks of service with 1,000 voice minutes (domestic only), 2 GB of LTE data, and unlimited texting (domestic and international). Moreover, T-Mobile won't charge for the SIM card, and it won't charge an activation fee. T-Mobile says tourists interested in the T-Mobile Tourist Plan need only bring their compatible, unlocked handset to a T-Mobile store. The plan will be available beginning June 12.

ARM Intros Cortex and Mali Chips for Virtual Reality

Yesterday, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ARM today announced the Cortex A73 processor core and the Mali G71 GPU, which will bring dramatic gaming and virtual reality improvements to next year's high-end smartphones. ARM says the A73 delivers 30% more sustained power when compared to the A72, in addition to 30% more power efficiency. The processor relies on ARM's 10nm FinFET process and supports clock speeds up to 2.8 GHz. The A73 can be paired with the A53 or A35 processor cores in big.LITTLE configurations to suit device processing needs. The Mali G71 uses ARM's new Bifrost architecture and targets gaming and virtual reality applications. ARM says it delivers 1.5 times the performance of the Mali T880 GPU and offers new APIs for developers to put to use. It adds support for OpenCL2.0 with full hardware coherency, and will work with Vulkan, which is at the heart of Android N. ARM said the chips will reach flagship handsets beginning in 2017.

Asus Debuts A Trio of Zenfone 3 Smartphones

Yesterday, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Asus Zenfone 3 will come in not one, but three variants. Asus revealed the new lineup at the Computex trade show in Taiwan this week. Shared features include USB Type-C, fingerprint sensors, and Google's Android operating system.

  • Zenfone 3: The entry-level model uses a glass design with a metal frame. It sports a 5.5-inch full HD screen, octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 4 GB of RAM, 3,000mAh battery, and 16-megapixel Sony sensor with OIS and EIS. It will cost $249.
  • Zenfone 3 Ultra: This mid-range handset has a unibody metal design and steps up the specs a bit. The screen measures 5.7 inches with full HD resolution and it is powered by a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM. The Deluxe carries over the same 3,000mAh battery found on the entry-level model, but takes advantage of Sony's latest 23-megapixel IMX318 sensor in the camera. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 and will cost $479.
  • Zenfone 3 Deluxe: The top of the range has a unibody design similar to that of the Ultra, but increases the screen size to 6.8 inches at full HD. The Deluxe relies on a Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM. It carries over the same 23-megapixel Sony sensor from the Ultra model, but the battery capacity was enlarged to 4,600mAh. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 and will cost $499.
Asus has not indicated if or when the Zenfone 3 series of handsets will go on sale in the U.S.

MediaTek's Pump Express 3.0 to Challenge Quick Charge

Yesterday, 7:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 8:03 AM

MediaTek recently announced Pump Express 3.0, advanced rapid charging technology for smartphone batteries. MediaTek claims Pump Express 3.0 can charge a battery from 0% to 70% in 20 minutes, or provide four hours of talk time after charging for five minutes. Pump Express 3.0 makes use of direct charge through USB Type-C, which bypasses the phone's charging circuitry by routing current directly to the battery. This prevents phones from overheating during the charging process. MediaTek says Pump Express 3.0 supports bi-directional charging and has safety systems in place to manage thermals. Pump Express 3.0 will be paired with the Helio P20 processor and MediaTek expects it to reach market in at least one phone by the end of the year. Pump Express goes head-to-head with Qualcomm's Quick Charge rapid charging technology.

Sony's Xperia X Series to Reach US In June

Yesterday, 7:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today said it plans to bring its Xperia X range of handsets to the U.S. market beginning in June. The Xperia X is available for preorder starting today from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo Video, and Reagan Wireless for $550. The phone ships June 26. Preorders for the Xperia X Performance, Xperia XA, and Xperia XA Ultra begin June 19 and ship in July. The X Performance costs $700, the XA costs $280, and the XA Ultra costs $370. Sony is offering three free Sony Pictures movies and the Sony Quick Charger with preorders for all four phones. Sony initially announced the Xperia X series at Mobile World Congress in February. The X series replaces the Z series as Sony's main line of smartphones. The X and X Performance are the high-end models, boasting 23-megapixel main cameras, 13-megapixel selfies cameras, and 5-inch full HD screens. The phones include support for some US LTE bands, but Sony has yet to specify which. People who preorder the Xperia X and X Performance will receive a 128 GB memory card.

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Caltech Sues Broadcom, Apple Over WiFi Patents

Yesterday, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Caltech has filed a lawsuit against Broadcom and Apple and alleges the two firms are using its patented technology without permission. The patents in question, granted to Caltech between 2006 and 2012, cover 802.11n and 802.11ac WiFi technologies, which improve transmission speeds and reduce the hardware needed for WiFi radios. Caltech says the iPhone 5 and all subsequent iPhones violate the patents. It is seeking to halt sales of the devices and recover monetary damages. The WiFi modules in question were made by Broadcom. Neither Apple nor Broadcom commented on the matter.

Google Search for iPhone Gets AMP'd

Friday, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Google Search app for the iPhone and added several new features. The most significant improvement is support for Google's accelerated mobile pages, or AMP. Articles that make use of Google's AMP technology load much faster than other articles. They are called out by a lightning bolt and are stamped with the AMP signage. Google says Search on the refreshed iPhone app is much faster, and Search now shows video highlights on Google Now cards for the NBA and NHL. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Acer Says Liquid Zest Plus to Reach US In July

Friday, 10:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Acer recently revealed that the Liquid Zest Plus smartphone will go on sale in the U.S. for $199 beginning in July. Acer previewed the phone in April. It features a 5,000mAh battery with Quick Charge support that provides "days" of uptime. Other features include a 5.5-inch HD screen, MediaTek processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. The phone's main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with laser-assisted and phase detection autofocus. The 5-megapixel selfie camera has a wide angle of view. The phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

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'ForcePhone' Tech Brings 3D Touch to All Phones

Friday, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Researchers at the University of Michigan have created software that adds 3D Touch-like functionality to just about any device. The software emits a high-frequency sound from the speaker and uses the microphone to listen to and analyze the sound. The sound changes as people interact with the device and can tell the difference between a light touch and a more firm press, or what happens when the phone is squeezed in various pattern. The benefit of the ForcePhone software is that it doesn't rely on special sensors or technology, and instead uses what's already available inside the phone. "Now this functionality can be realized on any phone," said Kang Shin, Professor of Computer Science in the U-M Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "ForcePhone increases the vocabulary between the phone and the user. I think we're offering a natural interface, like how you turn a knob. It's the next step forward from a basic touch interface and it can complement other gestured communication channels and voice." Tung plans to demonstrate the technology next month, but hasn't announced any plans to commercialize it. The idea is nearly identical to one implemented by Elliptic Labs earlier this year.

Jolla Debuts New Phone and Community Device Program

Friday, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today added another chapter to its resurrection story by announcing a brand new smartphone and device community. The Jolla C is a simple handset that runs Sailfish OS 2.0. The phone has a 5-inch 720p HD screen; 1.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 212 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage; 8-megapixel main camera and 2-megaixel selfie camera; and a removable 2,500mAh battery. The phone includes the typical batch of radios, but LTE support is limited to bands 1, 3, 7, and 20, which makes it incompatible with U.S. networks. Further, Jolla has created a new community around the Jolla C meant for developers and enthusiasts. The program includes access to support sessions, developer materials, and invitations to community events. Jolla is limiting the Jolla C smartphone to just 1,000 units, and is reassuring those interested that the device is already being manufactured and will ship in July. (Jolla reneged on some hardware shipments last year.) Jolla was created by former Nokia employees and Sailfish OS was born from the Ashes of Moblin/Maemo Linux.

Batman-Themed Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Injustice Edition Swings Into Action

Friday, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has revealed the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Injustice Edition, inspired by Batman and the game of the same name. Samsung says the Galaxy S7 Edge Injustice Edition package includes a customized Galaxy S7 edge with black styling, gold detailing, and the Batman logo stenciled onto the back. The package also includes a Gear VR headset, along with Injustice game credits and Oculus VR content vouchers. The underlying handset is unchanged from the standard version of the Galaxy S7 Edge. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Injustice Edition will be sold in China, Singapore, Korea, Latin America, Russia, and other yet-to-be-named markets. It goes on sale in early June. Pricing was not disclosed.

Google Exonerated In Java API Case vs. Oracle

May 26, 2016, 3:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A jury today decided that Google's use of 37 Java APIs constitutes "fair use" and does not infringe on Oracles copyrights. The decision caps a two-week trial that saw Oracle once again claim Google stole its Java code when first creating the Android operating system back in 2007 and 2008. Google has long held to the argument that Java — the underlying basis for Android — is free and open for anyone to use. Oracle came into ownership of the APIs in question when it purchased Sun Microsystems. The company first filed legal complaints against Google in 2010. The first trial in 2012 found that APIs couldn't be copyright, but that decision was later overturned in 2014. Today's decision will likely be appealed by Oracle, but puts the matter that much closer to rest.

BlackBerry Makes Improvements to Priv's Camera and Keyboard

May 26, 2016, 3:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today made software updates available to the Priv smartphone. The revised apps mostly fixes bugs, but also improves how well the camera and keyboard perform. For example, the camera app now includes manual mode so lets users adjust shutter speed, ISO, focus, white balance, and exposure. BlackBerry created some physical keyboard shortcuts for the camera, too, such as press-and-hold the letter A to return to auto mode, and press the spacebar to take a picture. The Priv's keyboard gains support for new languages, such as Vietnamese and Korean, and shortcuts such as CTRL + B to bold text or CTRL + U to underline text. BlackBerry says the new apps are available in the Google Play Store and will reach Priv devices over the next few days.

Review: LG Stylo 2 for Boost Mobile

May 26, 2016, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 26, 2016, 3:37 PM

LG's second take on its stylus-equipped smartphone is easier to use and performs better than its predecessor. The Stylo 2 is also well made, inexpensive, yet laden with Android and LG goodies. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review of the LG Stylo 2 for Boost Mobile.

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HTC Says Verizon's 10 to See Camera Update May 27

May 26, 2016, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC's Mo Versi said via his Twitter account that the Verizon Wireless variant of the HTC 10 will receive a maintenance update that improves several aspects of the phone. The release chiefly boosts the camera's performance, including the autofocus feature. The update also tweaks performance and solves several bugs. The maintenance release will be pushed out over the air. HTC already delivered this same update to the unlocked/global variant of the 10.

Hyundai Makes Android Auto and CarPlay Available As a Do-It-Yourself Install

May 26, 2016, 12:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Hyundai today made it possible for owners of select models to install Android Auto and CarPlay themselves. Hyundai owners will need to download the navigation system update from Hyundai's web site to a USB drive or SD card and then update the car manually. The company posted detailed directions to its web site to help walk customers through the update process. Hyundai says the download and install process can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the vehicle. Some of the models compatible with the upgrade are the 2015/16 Sonata and Genesis, 2016 Elantra and Tucson, and the 2017 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport. Android Auto and CarPlay both bring certain smartphone features to the dashboard, including access to navigation, phone and messaging, and music playback. Customers who want the update but aren't comfortable doing it themselves can have it performed at a Hyundai dealer for a fee.

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