Like AT&T, Verizon Wireless is upset with the tactics used by Dish Networks in the recent AWS-3 spectrum auction. It accused the firm of artificially raising prices by creating perceived demand where in fact there was none. Dish used three smaller entities to place bids in the auction, but didn't place any bids itself. Verizon claims Dish closely managed these three entities, two of which ended up winning $13.3 billion in spectrum licenses, beating out Verizon and others. Further, because Dish used to smaller entities to bid for the spectrum, it scored a $3 billion discount on the license costs. Verizon filed a petition with the FCC asking the agency to look into Dish's actions. Dish, however, defended its tactics. "Anyone who's been in auctions knows that's impossible to do," argued Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen. "There was nothing artificial about it. We wanted to win the licenses. We were disappointed we didn't win all the licenses." The FCC hasn't said if it might take any action against Dish.
Sprint recently announced the Best Buy One Plan, a plan that includes a smartphone and service for a single monthly price. According to Sprint, Best Buy shoppers (who have good credit) can lease an iPhone 6 16GB with unlimited talk, text, and data for no money down for $65 per month. The lease program lasts two years. Best Buy customers may also lease an Android smartphone with unlimited talk, text, and data for $75 per month. Prices don't include taxes and fees, and final price will vary depending on the phone leased. Customers interested in leasing for a period of only one year can do so for an extra $10 per month. Customers who activate a new line of service before March 28 will also receive a $200 Best Buy gift card. The Best Buy One Plan is only available at Best Buy stores.
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Smartflash, a Texas-based patent holding firm that won a courtroom victory over Apple earlier this week, is suing the company again. According to Smartflash, it was unable to include Apple's most recent devices, such as the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad Air 2, in its initial lawsuit. Now that it has won in court, it wants the same findings applied to Apple's newest devices, which it says violate the same patents. "Apple cannot claim they don’t know about these patents or understand that they are infringing. A diligent jury has already rejected those arguments," said Smartflash's attorney in a statement provided to Reuters. Apple did not immediately comment on the matter.
Ericsson today sued Apple in the U.S. and alleges the iPhone maker is violating multiple wireless patents. Ericsson filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission over Apple's use of its standard essential patents covering 2G and 4G LTE technology. It is seeking to ban sales of Apple's iPhone and iPad in the U.S. The ITC is a popular venue for lawsuits because it can prevent companies form important and/or selling devices. Ericsson also filed complaints in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking both damages and injunctions. Standard essential patents must be licensed at fair and reasonable terms. Ericsson contends that Apple wouldn't agree to terms. "By refusing Ericsson’s fair and reasonable licensing offer for patented technology used in Apple smartphones and tablets, Apple harms the entire market and reduces the incentive to share innovation," said Ericsson. Apple didn't immediately respond to Ericsson's claims.
Qualcomm today announced its initial foray with LTE into the unlicensed 5GHz band, spectrum that is normally reserved for WiFi networks. Qualcomm believes LTE-U, or LTE in unlicensed spectrum, could help carriers fill in blank spots with small cells. LTE-U would be use for downlink purposes only and could supplement standard cellular coverage in targeted areas. Qualcomm has made a transceiver for cell phones that can receive LTE in the 5GHz band, as well as the corresponding transmitters for small cells and/or base stations. The phone transceiver would work in tandem with a normal LTE modem, and the chip can handle CAT 6 with 3x20MHz carrier aggregation. Qualcomm claims LTE-U provides reliable and predictable performance; a seamless experience for users; better performance than LTE or WiFi could provide separately; and additional capacity for carriers. Qualcomm says LTE-U can coexist with WiFi and not cause interference or other problems thanks to its more efficient use of the spectrum. Qualcomm expects to see LTE-U capabilities added to handsets during the second half of the year, though it's not clear if or when carriers might add LTE-U to their cellular networks.
AT&T today made the Denim system update available to the Nokia Lumia 1520. The update makes numerous changes to the behavior of the camera, including a faster shutter and 4K video capture, and also adds Live Folders and an updated Glance screen. According to Microsoft, Lumia 1520 owners need to have 1GB of free internal storage in order to install the update, which can be downloaded and installed via WiFi. The update is free.
The FCC today voted 3-2 along party lines to implement new regulations over broadband services. The rules seek to reclassify broadband services as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which will put them under stricter government oversight. The FCC's two Republican commissioners, Ajit Pai and Michael O'Reilly, opposed the vote. Chairman Tom Wheeler and the two Democratic commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, voted in favor of the rules. The rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services on both wired and wireless networks. Wheeler believes the rules will withstand the legal attacks that are sure to come from companies such as AT&T, which has already indicated it will sue. The agency fielded more than four million comments from Americans ahead of the vote.
Motorola is prepared to add its Moto 360 smartwatch to its Moto Maker design tool. Motorola launched Moto Maker with the Moto X in September 2013. The online tool lets people design their own smartphone (within certain limitations). Beginning next month, people will be able to customize a Moto 360 smartwatch, too. Users will be able to pick from three different finishes, two band sizes, and between leather and metal band materials. Motorola will also preload custom watch faces. Motorola said it believes personal choice is an important aspect of its business model now and it is glad to bring Moto Maker to its smartwatch. Motorola didn't say how long it might take to configure personalized watches, nor if any extra costs are involved.
Microsoft today released a modest update to its OneDrive application for Windows Phone handsets. OneDrive now allows users to sign in with multiple Microsoft accounts on a single device. It also adds PIN code protection to prevent people from intentionally or inadvertently accessing, changing, or deleting files. Last, the app adds the ability to create and manage photo albums (different from folders) directly on the handset. Microsoft says the albums can contain photos from any folder in OneDrive and can be easily shared with others. OneDrive for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.
Silent Circle today said it has purchased the Blackphone assets from partner Geeksphone. Silent Circle and Geeksphone together launched the Blackphone, a secure smartphone based on a forked version of Google's Android platform, last year. Geeksphone, based in Spain, created the hardware and Silent Circle, based in Switzerland, provided the secure communications services. Today, Silent Circle bought out SGP Technologies, which was the joint venture formed between the two companies. Silent Circle now fully owns the Blackphone and its associated services. Silent Circle said the move will result in operating efficiencies and an integrated product roadmap. The company also said it intends to introduce new devices, software, and services at the upcoming Mobile World Congress trade show. More information will be available in the days ahead.
LG today announced a variant of its Watch Urbane smartwatch that adds support for LTE and NFC. Because Google's Android Wear platform doesn't yet support LTE and NFC, the Watch Urbane LTE runs LG's proprietary wearables platform. LG said its own platform offers most of the same features found on the Android Wear version of the Watch Urbane. With LTE, the Watch Urbane can make and receive phone calls, send and receive messages, enable carry out push-to-talk conversations, and perform other network-centric tasks without requiring a nearby smartphone. The Watch Urbane LTE has a 1.3-inch 320 x 320 P-OLED display, Qualcomm 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage, and a bevy of sensors for tracking motion and other metrics. LG significantly increased the size of the battery from 410mAh to 700mAh to accommodate the LTE radio's power requirements. LG claims the watch can last for days in standby mode. The Watch Urbane LTE is protected from water and dust thanks to its IP67 rating. LG didn't disclose pricing or availability.
Google pushed out an update to its calendar app for Android devices today and added several features requested by users. For example, the calendar now offers a seven-day view and pinch-to-zoom. Users can now add Google Drive files directly to events and control whether or not birthdays are shown from Google+. The calendar can also show week numbers and import .ics files from within Gmail and other apps. Google Calendar for Android devices is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Samsung today announced that it is producing embedded memory modules for flagship smartphones using the new Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 2.0 standard. UFS is a generational leap compared to the eMMC standard, which is used widely in mobile devices today. The UFS standard uses a serial interface rather than an 8-bit interface common to eMMC modules, which helps produce speed gains. Samsung claims its UFS-based storage offers significantly faster read/write speeds compared to eMMC, while still delivering a 50% reduction in energy needs. Further, the ePoP (embedded package on package) solution can be stacked directly onto the logic board, reducing space requirements by 50%. The UFS chips can support 4K (Ultra HD) video playback while performing other tasks. Samsung is manufacturing 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB varieties of the module. Samsung imagines the new UFS memory modules will be ideal for flagship smartphones and tablets. It will continue to use eMMC-based memory products for mid-range and entry-level phones.
Google today updated its Android for Work initiative to better woo corporate users. Android for Work is a set of tools that allow businesses to better manage employee devices. For example, work profiles isolate work data (including email, calendar, contacts) from personal data. Companies can protect the work data, but can't touch the personal data. This works natively in Android 5.0 Lollipop. In devices running Ice Cream Sandwich through KitKat, the Android for Work application houses corporate communications in a separate container that acts like a profile where it can be managed securely. Google Play for Work allows businesses to deploy and manage corporate apps securely, and can prevent unauthorized app downloads. Last, Android for Work includes Google's Docs productivity suite, with additional support for Microsoft Exchange and Notes. Google hopes these tools will convince more businesses to adopt Android.
Softcard today indicated that the Windows Phone version of the Softcard mobile payment application will be discontinued. "The Softcard for Windows Phone app will be terminated. A specific termination date will be provided soon," said Softcard in a statement on a new FAQ web site published today. Softcard was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Supported devices, including a handful of Windows Phones sold by AT&T and Verizon, can use Softcard to make tap-and-go mobile payments at participating retailers. Google purchased Softcard's assets from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon earlier this week to bolster its own Google Wallet application. The three carriers have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android handsets moving forward. Wallet competed with Softcard. Softcard didn't indicate how soon the Windows Phone app will be deactivated. Without it, Windows Phone handsets won't have the same mobile payment options available to Android and iOS devices.
Google today more than doubled the amount of storage available to users of its Play Music service. Beginning today, users can upload as many as 50,000 songs from their personal library (previous limit was 20,000). Once uploaded, the songs can be accessed from any Android device, as well as from the iPhone, iPad, and from web browsers. The upgraded storage and basic service are free. Consumers can pay $10 per month for access to Google's entire library of music.
Motorola's new Moto E handset improves specs across the board, including the screen, processor, and storage. It also adds LTE 4G. Here are our first impressions of Motorola's low-cost smartphone.
Morgan Stanley Wealth Management today announced that owners of its debit cards can use their card with Apple Pay. Once Morgan Stanley cardholders register with Apple Pay, they'll be able to make tap-and-go mobile payments at participating retailers. Apple Pay launched in October and has performed well. Earlier this week, JPMorgan Chase said more than one million of its customers have registered cards with Apple Pay. Morgan Stanley's support of Apple Pay means more people will be able to take advantage of the service.