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printed August 23, 2017
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Hands On with the Samsung Galaxy Note8

Today, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung is back with the Note8, a wholly reimagined handset when compared to the disastrous (and fire prone) Note7. This year's Note smartphone takes cues from Samsung's existing Galaxy S8 devices thanks to the Infinity Display with curved edges. The Note8 manages to carve its own path, however, thanks to a twin camera array and new S Pen powers. Here are Phone Scoop's first thoughts about the Galaxy Note8

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Samsung Galaxy Note8 Adopts Infinity Display, Dual Camera

Today, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 10:50 AM

Samsung today announced the Galaxy Note8, its top-end flagship smartphone with a huge display and S Pen stylus. The Note8 eschews the blockier design language of previous generations for the svelte look of the Galaxy S8 and S8+. The phone has two curved pieces of glass mated to an aluminum frame. The Note8 jumps to Samsung's Super AMOLED Infinity Display. It measures 6.3 inches across the diagonal with quad HD+ resolution. The Note8 is among the first from Samsung to move to a dual-camera configuration. The handset has twin, full-color 12-megapixel sensors with one wide-angle lens (f/1.7) and one telephoto lens (f/2.4). The cameras make use of optical image stabilization and electronic image stabilization, with the telephoto lens providing 2x optical zoom and up to 10x digital zoom. Some of the unique shooting modes include Live Focus for selective focus (bokeh) photos that can be adjusted before or after the image is captured, and dual capture, which lets people simultaneously take a zoomed shot through the telephoto lens as well as a wide-angle shot through the main lens. Samsung updated the S Pen stylus: the tip now measures 0.7mm and provides the same feedback as most ballpoint pens. The phone is able to detect 4,096 different levels of pressure to record exactly what the user scribbles on the screen. On the software front, the S Pen can create animated memos through a feature called Live Message. The messages can be transmitted and opened by most platforms/apps that support GIFs. The existing screen-off memo tool now lets people create up to 100 pages of text without waking the screen, and supports dynamic use cases, such as crossing items off a shopping list. The S Pen function can translate entire phrases now, as well as access more templates in the PenUp mode. Most of the phone's other specs mirror those of the S8 devices. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 6 GB of RAM, Gigabit LTE, 3,300 mAh battery with rapid wireless charging, and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. The Note8 and S Pen are waterproof, and security features include iris/face unlock, as well as Knox 2.9. The phone has a dedicated Bixby key and upgraded DeX software that improves multitasking when used in PC mode. Preorders for the Samsung Galaxy Note8 begin August 24 and the device will go on sale September 15. Samsung said an unlocked variant will go on sale when the carrier models do. Carriers will charge $930-960 full retail price. Samsung plans to sell the black and gray versions in the U.S., while blue and gold versions will also be sold overseas.

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Verizon Makes Unlimited Plans Pricier, More Complicated

Yesterday, 8:16 AM   by Rich Brome

Verizon today revealed revamped unlimited plans that aren't nearly as attractive as last month's plans. The standard Unlimited plan now costs $85/month instead of $80/month, and has been renamed "Beyond Unlimited". It offers unlimited calls, texts, and full-speed 4G LTE data up to 22 GB, after which data speed may be limited on busy towers. The plan includes HD video, but HD video on phones is now limited to 720p resolution, even for customers with older plans that did not previously limit video. (Tablets and laptops are allowed video at 1080p.) The plan also includes 15 GB of mobile hotspot data, up from 10 GB, and that change is retroactive to customers with the old plan. The company also unveiled a cheaper "Go Unlimited" plan for $75/month, which technically offers 4G LTE data, but may throttle data speeds at any time the network is busy, not just after 22 GB as with the more expensive plan. The cheaper plan also limits video to SD resolution and throttles mobile hotspot data to just 600 kbps. All of these new prices require paperless billing and auto-pay, or an extra $5/month fee applies.


Google Details Final Release of Android 8.0 Oreo

Monday, 3:37 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced the final release of Android 8.0, and also named this version "Oreo". Members of the Android Beta program will receive an update to the final version today. Nexus and Pixel users will receive the update "rolling out in phases over the next several weeks". Google has been working with all of its partners to enable updates for other phones. In the coming weeks and months, other manufacturers will roll out the update to many recent phones. By the end of the year, phones from Essential, Huawei, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Sharp and Sony will have Android 8.0 Oreo. The update includes some minor new features, such as picture-in-picture and improved auto-fill, plus many important improvements for developers and overall performance.


Android 8.0 Will be Named "Oreo"

Monday, 1:51 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Monday, 1:55 PM

Google today announced that "Oreo" will be the full name of Android version 8. Google has made a tradition of giving each major version of the OS an official nickname, in alphabetical order. The previous three versions were named Lollipop, Marshmallow, and Nougat. Before that was KitKat, the last time a trademarked brand name was used. Android 8.0 "Oreo" was announced earlier this year and has been available in beta since May. It's expected to be available to the public soon.


Review: Nokia 6 with Amazon Prime Exclusive Ads

Monday, 6:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global's first significant handset is the Android-powered Nokia 6. This device straddles the border between entry-level and mid-range smartphones thanks to its refined design but outdated specs. Consumers can pick it up from Amazon for $50 under retail as long as they agree to view lock screen ads. Here are Phone Scoop's thoughts on the Nokia 6 from HMD Global.

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Google Search Results On Android Now Include Video Previews

Aug 18, 2017, 4:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is rolling out short video previews in search results. The videos will be lined up in a carousel located high in the results list. Users can slide the carousel back and forth to choose which videos to watch. For now, the short previews will only play when you're on a WiFi network. Users can choose to enable video previews on mobile networks if they wish, or opt out of video previews all together. Google believes giving video results higher priority in search will help people find certain types of information faster, particularly "how-to" and similar queries. Video previews are slowly hitting the Google app for Android and Chrome on Android starting today, with a wider rollout planned for next week.


Google Home Speaker Now Bluetooth Compatible

Aug 18, 2017, 12:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google updated its Google Home speaker with the ability to connect to Bluetooth devices. The search giant first announced the feature at its I/O developer conference earlier this year and has just now enabled the functionality. Using the Google Home app on mobile devices, Home owners can connect to the speaker via Bluetooth for streaming music or other media files. Until now, Home could only stream music through Google Cast connections (over WiFi). Google also enabled free Spotify accounts through Google Home this week. People who use the free version of Spotify can set the music provider as their default streaming service when listening via Google Home. Previously, Google Home only supported the paid Spotify Premium streaming service.


Sprint, T-Mobile Discount LG G6 and V20

Aug 18, 2017, 11:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and T-Mobile today both introduced promotions that make LG's flagship handsets more affordable. Sprint, for example, dropped the lease price of the G6 from $29.50 per month to $20 per month. That cuts the full cost of the phone from about $700 to $480, or a savings of $220 over time. T-Mobile is offering a buy-one, get-one promo on the G6 and V20. Customers who buy either phone on an equipment installment plan can get a second for free with the activation of a new line. T-Mobile sells the G6 for $20 down and $20 per month, or $500 in total. It sells the V20 for $0 down and $20 per month, or $480 in total. Customers will need to buy both devices and then register to receive a rebate to cover the cost of the second phone. The rebate comes in the form of a prepaid MasterCard for up to $500. LG is widely expected to replace the V20 with its new V30 flagship later this month.


Google Syncs Android O Reveal with Solar Eclipse

Aug 18, 2017, 10:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google plans to reveal the name of Android 8 on August 21. The company has timed the revelation with the total solar eclipse that will occur in North America on that day. Google has so far only indicated that Android 8 will start with the letter "O" and guesses range far and wide as to what the name will be. Google typically names major Android versions after desserts, such as Nougat, Marshmallow, and Lollipop. Some believe the new version of Android will be called Oreo, while others think it will be Orangina or Oatmeal. Google released a penultimate version of Android O through its developer channel earlier this summer and is expected to release the final version of the operating system when the name is revealed next week. As per the norm, Google-branded Nexus and Pixel devices will be the first to receive the new operating system. Google will make the announcement at 2:40pm Eastern Time.


iOS 11 Lets Users Temporarily Disable Touch ID

Aug 17, 2017, 5:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A new setting discovered in iOS allows iPhone owners to quickly and temporarily disable Touch ID. Pressing the power button rapidly five times activates SOS Emergency mode. The purpose of this mode is to let people bypass the lock tools to make an emergency phone call. A byproduct of entering SOS Emergency mode is disabling Touch ID. The only way to unlock the phone once Touch ID has been disabled is via the PIN or password. Because users are able to do this quickly and discreetly, it could be useful to help safeguard the iPhone in a situation when the owner might be compelled to provide their fingerprint. The feature was first spotted on Twitter and later verified by The Verge. iOS 11 is still in beta testing. It should be rolled out the general public next month.


YouTube TV Jumps to Another 14 Markets

Aug 17, 2017, 5:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its YouTube TV streaming video service is expanding to 14 new markets this week, with another 17 to follow in the weeks ahead. The new markets going live today include: Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Columbus, Jacksonville-Brunswick, Las Vegas, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Seattle-Tacoma, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota, and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce. These markets, together with the 10 markets already active, bring YouTube TV service to about half of Americans. YouTube said it struck a deal with Sinclair so it can air ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC affiliates in nine of the 14 new markets. The 17 markets on deck for YouTube TV in the near future include: Austin, Birmingham, Cleveland-Akron, Denver, Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, Hartford-New Haven, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Oklahoma City, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and St. Louis. The same deal with Sinclair brings live ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC to 11 of these 17 markets. YouTube TV costs $35 per month, includes up to six personal accounts all with unlimited DVR recordings and access. The number of channels is still limited to about 50.


Instagram Adds Photo Replies and Face Filters

Aug 17, 2017, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram has rolled out several new ways to interact with friends on the photo-sharing social network. First, Instagram made it possible to reply with a photo or video to specific photos, videos, and reshared posts in the Direct messages feature. The reply tool automatically includes a snapshot of the original photo and overlays it on the reply. It also supports split-screen replies, allowing people to mix up their own selfie response with the original image. Editing tools let users add graphics, text, and doodles on the replies, as well. Instagram also released a new set of customizable face filters that target fashion from the 1960s. Using the filters, users can tap the accessories to explore different hats, glasses, and outfits and mix and match them however they wish. The new face filter is accessible via a new face button that appears in the lower corner of the camera. Both the photo reply and face filter tools are rolling out in the latest version of Instagram for Android and iOS devices.


Sprint Taking Preorders for the Essential PH-1

Aug 17, 2017, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today began accepting preorders for the Essential PH-1 smartphone. Sprint is offering the phone at a significant savings through its lease program when compared to buying the phone outright directly from Essential. The PH-1 is available to Sprint customers for $14.58 per month through a Sprint Flex 18-Month Lease, which totals about $260 under the full retail cost of $699. At the end of the lease period, Essential lessees can opt to pay off the balance or turn the phone in for something else. Sprint is also offering the Essential 360-degree modular camera attachment for $199, or $16.67 per month for 12 months on an installment plan. The black version will be available in stores within a few weeks, according to Sprint, with the white model following at a later date. Sprint says the phone supports three-channel carrier aggregation on its network and can hit theoretical download speeds in excess of 200 Mbps. Essential recently emailed customers who preordered the phone and informed them that the PH-1 will ship in about a week. The Essential PH-1 has a bezelless design, a magnetic mod system, dual cameras, and a Snapdragon 835 processor.


Xfinity Says It's Now Available In All Comcast Markets

Aug 17, 2017, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xfinity, Comcast's wireless service, today said it has expanded its availability to every market in which Comcast has a presence. The low-cost service launched in April, but was limited to just a small selection of markets. Now, Comcast customers can take advantage of the wireless offering and tie it to their existing internet and television service. Xfinity has also tweaked its service plans. Moving forward, the company offers unlimited service (up to 20 GB of high-speed LTE 4G) for $45 per line per month. It also sells access for $12 per 1 GB, which can be shared across all the lines in a plan. Xfinity offers all customers unlimited talk and text and a base 100 MB of data to get them started. Taxes and fees are included in the pricing structure. Xfinity operates on Verizon's network, but will offload data traffic to Comcast-owned WiFi hotspots when they are available. Xfinity says it has 18 million such hotspots positioned around the country. Xfinity offers a number of popular phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Apple iPhone 7. Customers can pay full price up front or over time via monthly installments.


HMD Global Intros Nokia 8 Flagship Smartphone

Aug 16, 2017, 2:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global, the sole licensee of the Nokia brand, today announced the Nokia 8 flagship Android smartphone. The handset is milled from 6000 series aluminum and polished to a high-gloss finish in black, blue, silver, and copper. The Nokia 8 boasts a 5.3-inch quad HD screen with curved Gorilla Glass 5, and it is powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4 or 6 GB of RAM, and 64 or 128 GB of storage (depending on color selection.) All versions support microSD memory cards up to 128 GB. Like many modern flagships, the Nokia 8 adopts a dual-camera configuration with two 13-megapixel cameras on the rear with LED flash. One camera captures full color images and the other captures monochrome images along with depth and contrast information. Both feature Zeiss optics. The front camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, too, with a display-based flash. All three cameras have f/2.0 lenses. The Nokia 8 includes software that allows people to shoot photos and/or video with both the front and rear cameras at the same time. Other specs include a 3.090mAh battery, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, NFC, and Cat 9 LTE. The phone runs Android 7.1 Nougat and costs $700. HMD Global didn't immediately specify where the Nokia 8 will be sold.


Google Home Owners Can Now Make Free Calls

Aug 16, 2017, 1:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today enabled free voice calls from its Google Home speaker. Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant. Google says Home owners in the U.S. and Canada can initiate free voice calls to anyone in their contacts, as well as any business, by simply asking Google Home to make the call. The calls are completed over the Home's WiFi connection. For now, those who receive a call made via Google Home will see "unknown" or "no caller ID" when it rings their number, though Google hopes to let people display their mobile device number in Home calls by the end of the year. People who subscribe to Google Voice or Project Fi can use their Google number with Home right away.


Google Brings Q&A Feature to Maps and Search

Aug 16, 2017, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is adding a question-and-answer tool to Google Maps and Google Search for Android devices. Users need only search for and open business listings within Maps or Search to see the Q&A feature, which taps into data provided by Google Local Guides and others. Google says existing answers will be visible first, but people can ask (or answer) their own questions. Questions posed by users may be answered by the community at large or the business owner in particular. Google suggests business owners post their own FAQs and/or answers to common questions that might concern hours, accessibility, and so on. Google says the new Q&A feature is rolling out on Maps and Search for Android worldwide.

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