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printed April 24, 2017
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LG G6 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8: Buying Points to Consider

Today, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Can't decide between the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8? It's a tough choice, to be sure. These appealing Android smartphones represent the best from LG and Samsung by breaking new ground in design and refining core features along the way. Here are how these two phones compare head-to-head on a handful of essential buying points.

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Google to Automatically Translate Local Reviews

Today, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said travelers will have access to a wider range of local reviews thanks to new translation features. Moving forward, Google said it will automatically translate reviews of restaurants, theaters, and other locations into the language you’ve set on your device. The translated reviews will be followed by the original. This feature is available to Google Search and Google Maps.

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Apple Spits Out Fourth Round of iOS, WatchOS Betas

Today, 12:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.3.2 Beta 4 available to developers. Apple hasn't provided any specific details about what's in iOS 10.3.2; it likely focuses on resolving bugs and smoothing over performance issues. Apple also made fourth betas of watchOS 3.2.2, macOS Sierra 10.12.5, and tvOS 10.2.1 available to developers. Apple hasn't indicated if or when these new in-progress operating systems will be released to public beta testers. Public betas typically drop a day or two after the developer betas. Consumers interested in testing pre-release software will need to register their Apple device, such as the iPhone 7, in order to receive beta builds of iOS and other platforms.


Sony's Mid-Range Xperia XA1 Goes On Sale May 1 for $300

Today, 10:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced the XA1 will be available to purchase online starting May 1. Internet retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, BrandsMart, Fry’s, and others will offer the phone unlocked for $299.99. The XA1, announced earlier this year, has a 5-inch 720p screen and 2,300mAh battery. It is powered by a MediaTek octa-core Helio P20 processor with the Mali T880 GPU accompanied by 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The device supports microSD memory cards up to 256 GB. It has a 23-megapixel Exmor RS main camera with a 24mm lens and an aperture of f/2.0, and an 8-megapixel selfie cam. Other specs include USB-C, Qnovo adaptive charging, rapid charging, Cat 6 LTE, and Android 7 Nougat. It is being offered in white, black, pink, or gold.


Samsung to Issue Software Patches for Galaxy S8

Today, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it will push two software updates to its Galaxy S8 smartphone to resolve issues with screen tint and WiFi connectivity. Some S8 owners claim their devices have a reddish tint to the screen, while others say they cannot connect to WiFi networks. Samsung insists there are no actual defects in the device itself and that the updates are being distributed "for consumer comfort." The first patch will address the tint issue, giving consumers "a further enhanced ability to adjust the color setting to their preference." The second patch targets phones sold by a specific carrier in South Korea and will be only be issued there. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ went on sale in the U.S. on April 21 and in S. Korea a few days before that. Samsung says pre-orders for the device have been strong, particularly in its home market of Korea. The company did not share first-weekend sales figures. The phones are the first high-end devices to ship from Samsung after its failed Note7 last year, which was recalled due to battery problems.


Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Amp Prime 2 Available from Cricket

Friday, 9:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today added two new Samsung handsets to its list of devices. First, the Galaxy S8 is available for purchase from Cricket stores. Cricket is charging $699.99 for the handset, a $50 savings off list price, when the S8 is activated on a new line. Second, Cricket debuted the Galaxy Amp Prime 2 (pictured), a low-cost Android phone. The Amp Prime 2 features a 5-inch 720p HD screen with a 1.35 GHz quad-core processor and 16 GB of storage. The phone includes 5- and 2-megapixel cameras on the back and front respectively, and a 2,600 mAh battery. Other features include LTE, Bluetooth WiFi, and support for memory cards up to 256 GB. The Samsung Galaxy Amp Prime 2 runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $150.


Google Play Music to Be Default Music Player on All Samsung Devices

Friday, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Samsung today said starting with the launch of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, Google Play Music will be the default music player and music service on Samsung phones and tablets globally. Consumers who buy the S8 or S8+ will receive a free three-month trial of Google Play Music, which offers ad-free access to some 40 million tracks. The trial also includes YouTube Red, an ad-free version of YouTube. Moreover, Samsung device owners will receive special features from Google. To start, S8 and S8+ buyers will be able to upload up to 100,000 of their own tracks to Google Play Music for safekeeping (double the standard amount.) Google says more custom features for Samsung phones are on the way. Last, Google Play Music will be compatible with Samsung's Bixby voice assistant when Bixby launchers later this spring. Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners will be able to ask Bixby to play their favorite song and it’ll start playing on Google Play Music instantly. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ go on sale today.


Apple to Help Make Live Photos More Shareable On the Web

Thursday, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released a new tool for developers that should make it easier for people to share their Live Photos with others. Specifically, the company made available the LivePhotoKit JS API. Apple says, "This new JavaScript-based API makes it easy to embed Live Photos on your web sites. In addition to enabling Live Photos on iOS and macOS, you can now let users display their Live Photos on the web." Live Photos, which are essentially short moving pictures, can be shared between iOS and macOS devices, but not so easily across platforms. Google solved this problem with its own Motion Stills app for iOS, which lets iPhone owners turn Live Photos into web-compatible GIFs. Apple says it will be up to individual developers and web sites to put the LivePhotoKit JS API to use on their own sites. Until they do, Google's Motion Stills app remains a viable alternative.


Lenovo Says Bug Preventing Moto G Plus from Making 911 Calls On Verizon

Thursday, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo issued a notice this week warning that the Moto G5 Plus may not be able to connect 911 calls via VoLTE on Verizon's wireless network. The company has identified the bug and expects to issue a software patch in the next week or so. Until then, Lenovo suggests owners of the Moto G5 Plus disable VoLTE calling. This will enable the G5 Plus to make regular cellular calls to 911, though Lenovo reminds people that this will prevent Verizon customers from using voice and data at the same time.


Google Home Now Recognizes Individual Voices

Thursday, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it possible for up to six people to get personalized results from its Google Home product. Using the refreshed Google Home mobile app, Home owners can train the device to recognize individual voices for everyone in your house. Google says it is able to do this through the use of neural networks. Once properly trained, people will be able to ask Google Home for their daily schedule, preferred news, commute details, and personal playlists. The functionality requires the latest Home app from Google on each associated account. This feature will start rolling out today for Google Home users in the U.S., but will expand to the U.K. in the coming months. Google Home is a $129 in-home connected speaker that relies on the same Google Assistant app found on Android handsets.


Sprint Offering Two-For-One Lease On Samsung Galaxy S8

Thursday, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today finalized its retail plans for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and there's good news for consumers. The company is offering a two-for-one lease deal on the S8 with a new line activation and one upgrade, or two new line activations. New and existing customers can lease the S8 for $31.25 per month and receive a second leased phone at no additinal cost. The second monthly lease payment will be credited to the account each billing period. The Sprint Galaxy Forever lease program allows people to trade the phone in for the newest Galaxy handset after making 12 lease payments. The S8 and S8+ are both compatible with Sprint's new HPUE technology, which makes them perform much better on the company's 2.5 GHz spectrum. Sprint says this two-for-one lease deal for the Galaxy S8 is good only from April 21 through April 27.


Samsung's 2nd-Gen 10nm Process Delivers Performance Boost

Thursday, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung this week said it has finished testing its second-generation 10nm FinFET process and is ready to produce the silicon in volume. The 10LPP (Low Power Plus) technology, used in conjunction with 3D transistors, improves speeds by about 10%, or power efficiency by about 15% when compared to the first-generation 10nm process. Some variants of the Samsung Galaxy S8 rely on the first-gen 10nm process in the Exynos 9 processor, though the U.S. model relies on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835. Samsung expects to begin producing the new 10nm 10LPP circuitry by the fourth quarter. The company didn't say what mobile processors might make use of the new technology.


Google Chrome may Block Obnoxious Ads

Thursday, 9:27 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is planning to add a limited ad-blocking feature to its Chrome browser for both mobile and desktop platforms, according to the Wall Street Journal. The feature would only block the most obnoxious ads, such as pop-ups, those that auto-play sound, and overlays with a timer before you can view content. These specific ad types have been determined to be "beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability" by the Coalition for Better Ads. Google's plans for the feature are still in flux. Chrome may block only these ad types, or it may block all ads on sites that display some offending ads. The company has not yet announced the feature, and could still decide not to launch it. Google earned $60 billion in revenue last year from online advertising.


Microsoft Will Help You Ditch Passwords

Apr 19, 2017, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has a new tool for Android and iOS device owners to use when signing into Microsoft accounts. The phone sign-in functionality relies on the Microsoft Authenticator. People can add their Microsoft account to either the Android or iOS version of the Microsoft Authenticator mobile app. Then, when signing into a new Microsoft app, people will only have to put in their username. The Authenticator will pop up a notification on users' phones that, once approved, unlocks access to the new app. "This process is easier than standard two-step verification and significantly more secure than only a password, which can be forgotten, phished, or compromised," said Microsoft in a blog post. Microsoft Authenticator is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


ZTE US Mobile Phone Exec Promoted to Global Role

Apr 19, 2017, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said it appointed Cheng Lixin, the executive behind the company's North American mobile phone business, to run its global mobile phone business. The move comes after ZTE settled with the U.S. government over allegations that it violated international trade sanctions against Iran. ZTE paid a $900 million fine to make the allegations go away. Lixin has led ZTE's mobile efforts in the U.S. since 2010. The company has grown its marketshare in the U.S. during that time thanks to low-cost handsets, which it sells through pre-paid carriers such as Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and MetroPCS. Lixin's predecessor has taken a seat on the company's corporate board. The change is effective immediately. ZTE has not yet named a new executive for the U.S. market.


Instagram for Android Gains Offline Mode

Apr 19, 2017, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram has made it possible for Android device owners to enjoy the app in a limited way even when offline. Speaking at Facebook's F8 developer conference, Instagram staff explained that many users access the app from areas with poor internet connections. Adding support for offline access will allow these people to enjoy the app when connections aren't available. According to TechCrunch, the app will store previously loaded portions of the user's feed locally on the device, including the Explore tab. People will be able to view, like, comment, and share photos, as well as unfollow users and perform other actions that will take hold once the device reconnects to the network. Instagram targeted Android for this mode given the platform's wide global popularity. It is still "exploring" whether or not it will offer offline functionality to iOS devices.


Google Earth VR Gains Search Tool

Apr 18, 2017, 3:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Along with the new Google Earth mobile app for Android devices and Chrome desktop browsers, Google today updated Google Earth VR for Android. Moving forward, people can type addresses or locations in Google Earth VR and they'll be whisked away to any location on the globe. The tool also gains 27 new locations for detailed exploring, such as mountains, glaciers, and castles. Google Earth VR is available to Android handsets for free.


Snapchat Adds 3D Lenses

Apr 18, 2017, 3:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today introduced a new way to use its Lenses feature in a way that the company says is more interactive. When using the rear camera, Snapchatters can discover new Lenses that can "paint the word around you with new 3D experiences." These new Lenses include sticker-like animations that float and move around people within Snapchat images. The 3D Lenses are available in an update to the Android and iOS mobile Snapchat app. Snapchat is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

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