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printed July 23, 2016
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FCC Wants Carriers to Step Up Anti-Robocall Efforts

Yesterday, 1:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today asked the country's major telephone providers to improve consumer tools for blocking robocalls. The FCC said robocalls continue to be one of the top complaints filed by consumers. Wheeler sent letters to AT&T, Bandwidth Comms, Frontier, Level3, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon asking them to make blocking tools available to consumers as swiftly as possible. "Consumers want and deserve more control over the calls they receive," wrote Wheeler in a blog post. "I am calling on the carriers and standards groups to accelerate the development and deployment of technical standards that would prevent spoofing of caller ID and thus make blocking technologies more effective. All of these companies have been asked to respond within 30 days with their concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues." The FCC said it will continue to investigate consumer complaints against robocalls and prosecute whenever possible.


Review: Alcatel Idol 4S - Unlocked

Yesterday, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel's flagship Android handset strives to break through barriers with its high-end design and mid-range specs. The middle of the market is a tough space in which to play, and, rather than allowing the Idol 4S to stand on its own merits, Alcatel hopes a set of VR goggles, a case, and a pair of headphones will help sweeten the deal. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth review of the Alcatel Idol 4S.

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Samsung Hits Huawei with Handful of Complaints

Yesterday, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has sued Huawei in China for patent infringement. The Korean phone maker says several of Huawei's devices, including the Mate8 and Honor line, are violating six of its technology patents. Samsung is seeking $24 million in damages as well as a ban on the manufacture and sale of the devices in question. The lawsuit is a tit-for-tat response to a similar lawsuit filed by Huawei against Samsung earlier this year. Samsung said it attempted to resolve the matter through negotiation, but has been unable to strike a deal with Huawei. "It has regrettably become necessary to take legal action in order to defend our intellectual property," said Samsung. Tech firms often use patent-based lawsuits against rivals as a negotiation tactic.

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Verizon to Cut Off Certain Customers Who Exceed 100GB Per Month

Yesterday, 7:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless confirmed plans to disconnect select customers who consume more than 100 GB of mobile data per month. Verizon is specifically targeting customers who have grandfathered-in unlimited data plans and are taking advantage to use extreme amounts of data. "Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a very small group of customers on unlimited plans who use an extraordinary amount of data that they must move to one of the new Verizon Plans by August 31, 2016," said Verizon in an email to Ars Technica. "These users are using data amounts well in excess of our largest plan size (100GB). While the Verizon Plan at 100GB is designed to be shared across multiple users, each line receiving notification to move to the new Verizon Plan is using well in excess of that on a single device." Customers who are cut off will be able to reactivate their account within 50 days as long as they agree to move to one of the current, metered service plans. Verizon hasn't offered unlimited plans since 2011, but customers have been able to hold onto them over the years. Not too long ago Verizon raised the prices of those plans by $20. In 2014 the company attempted to put in place a network optimization plan that would have throttled the heaviest users. The FCC fought Verizon's plan and the carrier eventually dropped it. Verizon says 99% of its postpaid customer base is subscribed to metered data plans.


Consumer Cellular Adds Alcatel Pop 3 and Others to Lineup

Thursday, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumer Cellular recently added four phones to its roster of inexpensive devices, including the Alcatel Pop 3. The Pop 3 (pictured) has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 8 GB of storage, 5-megapixel camera, and FM radio. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and costs $100. Consumer Cellular also added the Samsung Galaxy J3 for $125, the ZTE Avid 828 (Avid Plus) for $70, and the Consumer Cellular 101 flip phone for $30.


T-Mobile Gives Away Free Service in Brazil for Olympics

Thursday, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said its postpaid customers will have access to free mobile data and calling in Brazil for the entire month of August in honor of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. T-Mobile customers will not have to take any action to enjoy free roaming in Brazil. Those who travel to Brazil will have unlimited high-seed data, unlimited calling to the U.S., and unlimited texting worldwide during their visit. T-Mobile said it is supplying the families of Olympic athletes with free T-Mobile service and a Galaxy S7 Olympic Edition handset through October. AT&T debuted its own roaming plan for Brazil earlier this summer, but it costs $50 to add to an existing service plan. About 100,000 Americans are expected to make the trip to Brazil to watch and participate in the games.


Review: Motorola Z Droid, Z Force Droid for Verizon Wireless

Thursday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola's flagship smartphones for 2016 are the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid for Verizon Wireless. These Android smartphone are unique thanks to their slim, metal designs and swappable modular back panels. Here is Phonescoop's full review of these handsome handsets.

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Verizon Kicks Off Preorders for Moto Z Droid and Z Force Droid

Thursday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 8:19 AM

Verizon Wireless today began accepting preorders for the Motorola Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid, which will reach stores on July 28. The Moto Z costs $624 ($26 per month) and the Z Force costs $720 ($30 per month). Verizon customers may trade in their current flagship smartphone for up to $300 to put toward either Moto Z handset, or older phones for up to $200. Verizon Wireless also shared pricing details on the Moto Mods modular accessories that attach to the back of the Moto Z and Z Force: the JBL SoundBoost speaker costs $80, the Moto Insta-Share Projector costs $300, the Tumi power pack costs $60, the Kate Spade New York power pack costs $90, and Incipio's rear plates cost $15 each. The Moto Mods attach to the Moto Z and Z Force via magnets and enhance the capabilities of the phone. Verizon said that, for a limited time, customers who purchase one Mod with their Moto Z will receive 20% off any additional Mods they buy. The Moto Z and Z Force are Android smartphones. Each has a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, USB-C with QuickCharge, and fingerprint reader.


Latest Skype Update for iOS Improves Bot Discovery

Thursday, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype recently updated its app for the iPhone and iPad to version 6.20. The refreshed app focuses on making bots easier to find and use. For example, Skype now includes a bot icon in the "recents" header. A simple tap takes you to an up-to-date list of bots for chatting. Skype users may now also mark their favorite bots so they are easier to return to. Skype says version 6.20 improves notification reliability and keeps muted conversations quiet. Skype is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Gorilla Glass 5 from Corning to Better Withstand Drops

Wednesday, 3:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Corning today announced Gorilla Glass 5, a new breed of toughened glass made to survive the everyday perils of drops. Gorilla Glass has long been able to handle sharp impacts, but drops from waist height are the most common way to break screens. Corning said it designed Gorilla Glass 5 specifically to handle drops from up to 5.25 feet (1.6m) onto rough surfaces. Corning's lab tests show Gorilla Glass 5 is four times more likely (or up to 80% of the time) than competing glass when dropped face-down from shoulder height onto rough surfaces. Corning is already manufacturing Gorilla Glass and expects it to be sold on commercial devices before the end of the year.


Apple Releases Second Public Beta of iOS 10

Wednesday, 12:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10 Public Beta 2 available to those who've signed up to test the pre-release operating system. The beta, which Apple says contains bug fixes and other improvements, can be downloaded and installed over the air. Apple did not spell out any specific new features or improvements. The second public beta follows the third developer beta, which Apple released earlier this week. iOS 10 makes significant changes to the Music, Photos, and News apps, the lock screen and notifications, and iMessage.

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Skype to Drop Support for Older Windows Phone Versions

Wednesday, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 9:14 AM

Microsoft today said its Skype service will no longer be updated for Windows Phone 7 - 8.1 and older versions of Android and iOS. The company said it wants to "focus on the platforms of the future" which means it "must end support for some devices and operating systems." Skype will continue to support Windows 10 for Mobile, Windows 7, 8, XP, and Vista, Yosemite on Mac, iOS 8, and Android 4.03. Versions of Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android older than those named here will no longer be supported with updates. Skype says its service won't cease immediately on older platforms, but as the company continues to move Skype to the cloud, some features may become broken over time.


Review: Ultimate Ears Boom 2 Bluetooth Speaker

Wednesday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Boom 2 is a portable Bluetooth speaker that's unique thanks to new support for Siri and Google Now, allowing users to control the music via voice commands. It's also rugged, waterproof, and delivers excellent battery life. Here is Phonescoop's review of the Boom 2 from Ultimate Ears.

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Review: Ultimate Ears Roll 2 Bluetooth Speaker

Wednesday, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ultimate Ears' Roll 2 is a compact, rugged, waterproof speaker that's ideal for summertime, on-the-go action. Its odd shape and coloring give it some character in a me-too market full of alternatives. Here is Phonescoop's review of the Roll 2.

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Twitter Simplifies Account Verification

Tuesday, 1:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today streamlined the process for individuals seeking to verify their accounts. Users can now request a verified account through an online application. Twitter isn't handing out verified accounts to anyone. Interested users need to explain why their account should be verified as part of the application process. Verified accounts have typically been reserved for public figures, such as people in music, TV, film, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, and business. Verified accounts, signified by a blue dot, have been authenticated as genuine.


Deezer Opens Up Service to Everyone In the US

Tuesday, 1:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Deezer today made its music-streaming service available to anyone who wants it in the U.S. The service was previously limited to Cricket Wireless customers and those who owned Sonos home stereo equipment. Deezer's offering is similar to Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Music in that it provides access to millions of tracks, radio stations, and podcasts to mobile devices. Songs can be streamed or downloaded for offline playback. Deezer is available to Android, iOS, and Windows devices. The app itself is free to download, but the Premium+ experience requires a $10 monthly fee.


Cricket to Carry Alcatel Idol 4 with Virtual Reality Goggles

Tuesday, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 10:10 AM

Cricket Wireless today announced plans to sell the Alcatel Idol 4 beginning next month. The Idol 4 is the smaller brother of the Idol 4S. The Idol 4 has the same basic appearance as the Idol 4S, with a metal frame and glass back, and features such as JBL stereo speakers and a reversible user interface. The Idol 4 has a 5.2-inch full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 617 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel camera main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, NFC, Cat 6 LTE, memory card slot, Android 6.0, and fast charging. Cricket says the Idol 4 will reach its stores on August 4 for $199 when activated on a service plan. The package includes Alcatel's virtual reality goggles. Alcatel is selling the larger Idol 4S directly to consumers through its web site for $349.


AT&T's Galaxy Note 5 Wins A Security Patch

Tuesday, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variant of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smartphone. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. The security update for the Note 5 can be downloaded and installed over the air.

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