AT&T chimed in this evening to say it, too, will carry the HTC One for Windows. AT&T said pricing and availability will be announced at a later date. Verizon is selling the phone starting tomorrow.
Sharp debuted its first phone for the U.S. market in years this week. The Aquos Crystal boasts a nearly bezel-less design in a compact form factor. Here are our initial impressions.
Steve Ballmer today resigned from his position on Microsoft's board of directors effective immediately. Ballmer left the company's CEO post just six months ago, but said in a letter to current CEO Satya Nadella he felt his new obligations as owner of the LA Clippers, among others, will keep him too busy to participate meaningfully on Microsoft's board moving forward. Ballmer succeeded Microsoft founder and CEO Bill Gates. He wished Nadella and Microsoft well, and will remain a large shareholder in the company.
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Google today published a version of its Photo Sphere app for iOS. The app allows iPhone owners to stand in one spot and capture a 360-degree view of whatever is around them. Photo Spheres can be published to Google Maps or shared with various social networks. Before today, Photo Sphere was only available to Android smartphones (similar apps are already available to iPhones from other companies). Photo Sphere is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
HTC gives Windows Phone fans what they've always wanted: A premium device with Microsoft's operating system. Here are our initial thoughts on HTC's latest device.
HTC today announced the One for Windows Phone, a variant of the One (M8) that swaps Google's mobile platform for Microsoft's. The One for Windows Phone runs the latest operating system from Microsoft and carries over a few HTC apps, such as Blinkfeed, the HTC duo-camera, SenseTV, Video Highlights, and BoomSound. The One for Windows Phone adopts some of the M8's motion gestures, such as double-tap to wake, but also loses a few. Apart from the operating system, the hardware is identical to the One (M8) with Android. It has the same 5-inch 1080p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, Ultra-pixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera, and premium aluminum design. The HTC One for Windows Phone is exclusive to Verizon Wireless. It is available online from VerizonWireless.com beginning today and reaches Verizon stores August 20 for $99 with a new contract or $30 with Verizon Edge.
Sprint today announced the Sharp Aquos Crystal, a mid-range handset that it will sell later this year. The Sharp Aquos features a nearly bezel-less design, with narrow edges running along the top and sides of the phone. The screen measures 5 inches and offers 720p HD resolution. The device offers a handful of software features developed by Sharp, including Clip Now, which takes screen shots with a swipe and makes them easily sharable via link. Speaktoit Assistant is a natural language assistant that can perform a number of tasks, such as answer questions, open apps, place calls, and send texts. The device comes with Harman Kardon Clari-Fi and LiveStage audio technologies for improved music reproduction, and Direct Wave Receiver technology, which uses the display panel to create sound for phone calls. The device runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and includes the usual suite of Google services, in addition to OfficeSuite for editing Microsoft documents. Other hardware features include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The Aquos supports microSD cards up to 128GB. The camera captures 8-megapixel still images and 1080p HD video. It also has a 1.2-megapixel camera for selfies. The Aquos will cost $240 at full retail, or $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $10 with Sprint. Sprint subsidiaries Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will also sell the device at the price of $150. Virgin and Boost do not require contracts.
The U.S. ITC recently upheld an earlier ruling that found ZTE innocent of violating patents held by Interdigital. Interdigital alleged that ZTE infringed on select patents related to mobile technology. The ITC made its initial determination clearing ZTE of wrongdoing in June. This week's decision puts the matter to rest. The ITC cleared ZTE in a separate case against Interdigital in December. ZTE said it was pleased with the ITC's decision and is committed to protecting its intellectual property. Patent-holding firms such as Interdigital often use litigation to generate revenue.
LG today announced plans to follow the trickle-down approach with its user interface. The company said it will push the UI found on this year's G3 handset, including the simplified camera software and adjustable keyboard, to its mid-range and entry-level handsets. LG said most devices released during the second half of the year, including smartphones and tablets, will adopt the newer user interface.
Sprint today announced new shared data plans that offer twice as much mobile data as comparable plans from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Sprint's Family Share Pack includes four lines with unlimited talk and text and 20GB of shared data for $160 per month. AT&T and Verizon have similarly-priced plans that include only 10GB of data. T-Mobile's shared plan costs $100 per month. Further, Sprint is offering a huge incentive to families that port their numbers from another carrier. Sprint will give families with up to 10 lines unlimited talk/text and 20GB of shared data for only $100 per month through 2015, plus an additional 2GB per line. Under this promotion, a family of four would have up to 28GB of data per month and a family of 10 would have up to 40GB of data per month. The promotional $100 plan pricing will be available from August 22 to September 30. Last, Sprint is offering to cover the ETFs - up to $350 per line - for families that break their contract to sign up with Sprint Family Share Pack. All new devices must be purchased through Sprint Easy Pay. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said the company will debut new plans for individuals later this week.
The National Association of Broadcasters today asked a U.S. Court of Appeals to help it challenge some of the rules set by the FCC for the forthcoming reverse spectrum auction. The NAB contends the rules adopted by the FCC don't follow the guidelines set by congress strictly enough and will result in harm to the NAB and its constituents. The NAB is most concerned over changes to the methodology that will be used to determine television coverage areas and population served. "Under this new methodology, many broadcast licensees will lose coverage area and population served during the auction's repacking and reassignment process, or be forced to participate in the auction and relinquish broadcast spectrum rights." Further, the NAB believes the rules will leave broadcasters - even those that choose not to participate in the auction - with bills totaling $500 million to cover repacking expenses. "Local broadcasters should not be forced to go out of pocket to help multi-national wireless giants," argued the NAB's Rick Kaplan. The NAB insists today's legal action is not meant to delay the auction, which is expected to kick off next year. It hopes to come to an agreement with the FCC in time to keep the reverse auction on schedule. The auction is asking TV broadcasters to give up their airwaves, in the 600MHz band, so that it can be sold to wireless network operators. The CTIA Wireless Association expressed disappointment in the NAB's action. "As the FCC Commissioners and members of Congress continue to emphasize, the wireless industry needs more spectrum as soon as possible to be able to meet mobile broadband demand. To help meet that need, we will continue to work with the FCC, NAB, and other affected stakeholders to ensure that the Commission is ready to hold the auction on schedule in mid-2015."
Verizon Wireless introduced a new, cheaper plan over the weekend that applies to single lines of service. The plan costs $60 per month and includes unlimited talk/text and 2GB of data. The monthly price drops further to $50 for customers who finance their handset via Verizon Edge. Data overage charges cost $15 per 1GB. The same service offering previously cost $90 per month under the company's More Everything plans, which required a $40 connection charge per line plus $50 for the minutes, messages, and data. The $60 pricing was previously available only to select customers as a loyalty incentive. Sprint may unveil new, cheaper plans as soon as August 19 during a scheduled press conference. Carriers are increasingly looking to service pricing as a way to compete, which benefits customers.
SoftBank, which owns Sprint, today said it has chosen Sharp to supply it with low-cost smartphones. The handset deal with Sharp includes Sprint, which will also sell phones made by Sharp. The first such device is a handset called the Sharp Aquos Crystal, which the company revealed today. The Crystal features an edgeless design. SoftBank believes its combined scale with Sprint will allow it to sell the Sharp Aquos Crystal at a low cost. SoftBank's announcement coincides with a Sprint event scheduled for August 19. The event invite reads "Time to take the Edge Off," which could be a reference to the edgeless design of the Aquos Crystal. According to Sharp, the Crystal includes a 5-inch 720p HD screen, Snapdragon 400 processor, and runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Sharp has not sold handsets in the U.S. for several years.
Amazon today made available Fire OS 3.5.1 for the Fire Phone. The update (version 111009920) adds a range of new features to the Fire Phone. For example, the Lenticular Photo tool now allows owners to paste together 11 images into one rather than just three, and the email carousel now allows owners to delete emails directly from the home screen. The update adds the ability to pin favorite apps to the front of the home carousel; create folders of apps or content in the app grid; and, with a double-press of the home button, quick switch to other running apps. The system update also makes improvements to video sharing, which now permit high-resolution videos to be sent via MMS or email. Last, Fire OS 3.5.1 makes dozens of updates to system apps in order to improve battery life. Fire Phone owners can download and install the update over the air, or install it manually via USB. The update is free.
BlackBerry today updated BBM for the Windows Phone platform to version 1.01. The app has officially graduated from beta status. The update, though minor, squashes a number of bugs in the app, as well as boosts performance, such as start-up time. BBM for Windows Phone is free.
A U.S. court today handed Vringo a defeat in its patent claims against Google and other companies. Earlier, Vringo won a guilty verdict against Google over how search results are filtered. Google appealed and today's decision effectively overturns the earlier verdict. The court declared both Vringo's patents invalid and tossed the case. Vringo said it is evaluating its options. There's no word from Google yet about its exoneration. Vringo purchased the rights to a wide swath of mobile technology patents from Nokia in 2012 and has sued several companies, including Google and ZTE, in order to protect its intellectual property.
Sprint's new CEO, Marcelo Claure, told company employees that it will debut "very disruptive" service prices as soon as next week. Claure made the remarks during a company-wide town hall meeting. Claure's dialog covered a range of topics and was often frank about Sprint's standing in the market. "When you have a great network, you don't have to compete on price," said Claure. "When your network is behind, unfortunately you have to compete on value and price." Claure told employees the company will give them the tools they need to more effectively sell their services, including Framily plans. "We're going to change our plans to make sure they are simple and attractive and make sure every customer in America thinks twice about signing up to a competitor." Claure admitted to employees that the network overhaul has taken too long, but that its spectrum holdings are vast enough to give Sprint plenty of fighting power. Claure didn't elaborate on what the new pricing structure will be, but indicated he wants Sprint to be seen as the incumbent challenger - a role T-Mobile has been all too happy to play for the past year and a half.
Samsung said it has agreed to purchase a startup called SmartThings. SmartThings, which is based in Washington, develops technology for the Internet of Things. It sells a home controller device for $99, but has also created an online service to help developers design and create their own internet-enabled and smartphone-controlled gadgets. The company claims 8,000 apps and 1,000 devices use its platform. SmartThings will move its operations to Palo Alto, Calif., where Samsung has a developer facility, but SmartThings' CEO Alex Hawkinson said the company will be run independently. The move is largely seen as a way for Samsung to counter steps made by Google and Apple to expand the functionality of their smartphones and tablets to control household items. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.