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printed June 28, 2017
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Qualcomm's Snapdragon 450 Platform Jumps to 14nm Process

Yesterday, 11:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon 450 Platform, a new entry in its mid-tier range of processors for high-volume devices. The Snapdragon 450 is the first 400 series chip to make use of Qualcomm's 14nm process, which provides it with noticeable performance and efficiency gains over earlier chips. For example, Qualcomm says the 450 delivers four more hours of battery life when compared to the Snapdragon 435, and 25% faster CPU and graphics performance thanks to the paired Adreno 506 GPU. The Snapdragon 450 uses eight 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 cores clocked at up to 1.8 GHz. Qualcomm said market timing and availability prevented it from selecting ARM's newer A55 core for the 450. The CPU and GPU improvement deliver an average 10-15% reduced launch latency for mobile apps, quicker 3D graphics rendering, and full HD+ playback on smartphone displays. The Snapdragon 450 supports Qualcomm's X9 modem (Cat 6 LTE), which translates to download speeds up to 300 Mbps with 2x20 carrier aggregation and 64QAM. The improved Hexagon DSP and Aqstic Audio processing make the Snapdragon 450 a better option for media-focused handsets. For example, the 450 can support up to two 13-megapixel cameras for bokeh effects and real-time exposure/color measurements, or a single camera up to 21 megapixels. Video capture has been improved to 1080p at up to 60 frames per second, and the 450 allows for audio zoom when the camcorder is zoomed in. The Hexagon DSP also makes it possible for phones with the Snapdragon 450 to support iris-based biometric authentication — a first for the Snapdragon 400 family. Other features supported by the Snapdragon 450 include Quick Charge 3.0, advanced power management, fingerprint sensors, high-quality audio codecs, and powerful speaker amplifiers. Qualcomm said the Snapdragon 450 Platform will begin sampling during the third quarter and it expects the processor to reach consumer devices before the end of the year.

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Snapdragon Wear 1200 Platform Targets Simpler Wearables

Yesterday, 11:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon Wear 1200 Platform, a new system-on-a-chip that is meant for personal fitness and tracking devices more so than smartwatches. The 1200 consumes just 79 square millimeters of space and relies on a 1.3 GHz ARM Cortex A7 processor core with an integrated Cat-M1, NB1, and eGPRS multi-mode modem. The platform supports VoLTE, multiple global positioning systems, as well as Bluetooth 4.2 and 802.11ac WiFi for connectivity. Qualcomm claims the Wear 1200 Platform is 45% smaller than previous designs and accommodates up to 10 days of battery life even when connected to LTE. The Wear 1200 Platform is ideal for targeted kid, pet, elderly, and fitness trackers, according to Qualcomm, thanks to geofencing support and the extended battery life. The SoC can run Linux or RTOS operating systems, but nothing like Android Wear. The Snapdragon Wear 1200 Platform is in production and shipping today.


Qualcomm's New Fingerprint Sensors Work Under Water and Through Metal

Yesterday, 11:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced its next-generation fingerprint sensors for displays, metal, and glass. Qualcomm says it created the new sensors for today's demanding mobile designs, which are moving towards bezel-less, glass-and-metal hardware. All three new sensors work on waterproof hardware and the ultrasonic sensors can "see" through water and oil for underwater wake-and-authenticate. The new fingerprint sensors can detect heartbeats and blood flow, which help support finger swipes for directional gestures. The Display fingerprint sensor works through OLED displays up to 1200 μm thick, supporting ultrasonic wake-up and authentication. The Glass fingerprint sensor works through displays and/or glass surfaces up to 800 μm thick with capacitive wake-up and authentication. The Metal & Glass sensor supports ultrasonic wake-up through glass as thick as 800 μm and aluminum as thick as 650 μm. This last sensor may not support authentication (fingerprint locks), but it can still be used to wake devices up as well as interact with on-screen elements via swiping finger gestures. Qualcomm said these sensors were designed with the Snapdragon 630 and 660 processors in mind, though they will work with most Snapdragon 800, 600, and 400 series mobile platforms. The three sensors are expected to sample starting in July, with the first devices arriving during the first half of 2018.

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Google Now Offering Project Fi to Really Small Businesses

Yesterday, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today expanded the availability of Project Fi to its G Suite customers. G Suite users are those associated with businesses and use Google's email, calendar, contacts, and other products through their employer. Until today Project Fi has been available to individual users and families or other small groups, but moving forward G Suite customers can sign up for the monthly wireless service. Google says Project Fi is still limited to just six users per group plan, so it is not a viable option for medium or large enterprises. Google said Project Fi will be available to all G Suite users in the U.S. within the next few weeks. Project Fi relies on WiFi and LTE service from Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular to find the strongest/best signal. Project Fi only charges customers for data they use, rather than a large bucket. Plans start at $30 per month for talk, text, and 1 GB of data. A Pixel or Nexus Android smartphone is required.


AT&T Testing Millimeter Wave 5G Tech in Austin

Yesterday, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it has kicked off a second trial of mmWave technology in Austin, providing fixed wireless broadband to consumers and businesses alike with speeds up to 1 Gbps. AT&T is testing a handful of applications and services. For example, AT&T is allowing DirecTV Now customers to stream live television over this "5G" connection using Ericsson's 5G RAN and Intel's 5G Mobile Trial Platform. AT&T had previously made it possible to stream DirecTV Now via mmWave in its Middletown, N.J., laboratory. AT&T expects the trial will last for several months. AT&T didn't say what spectrum it is using to conduct this trial, nor what consumer equipment. The mmWave technology is just one of many candidate 5G technologies being considered by the 3GPP and ITU. The 5G standard has not yet been technically defined by the international community, but that hasn't stopped carriers and telecom equipment manufacturers from forging ahead. The goal with tests such as this is to make enough technical progress so AT&T can contribute to the final 5G spec and get a jump on deployment. AT&T says it expects to "deliver 5G speeds as early as late 2018."


Amazon Loads Up Its Roster of Prime Exclusive Phones

Yesterday, 9:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today added a handful of handsets to is lineup of discounted Prime Exclusive devices. The Prime Exclusive program offers phones at lower prices so long as you subscribe to Amazon Prime (which costs $100 per year) and are willing to view advertisements on the lock screen of your smartphone. The new additions include the Nokia 6, which is discounted to $180; the Alcatel Idol 5S, which is discounted to $200; the Alcatel A50, which is discounted to $100; the Alcatel A30 Plus, which is discounted to $80; and the Motorola Moto E4, which is discounted to $100. All the phones can be preordered starting today. The E4 ships June 30 and the rest ship July 10.


Alcatel's A30 Plus Bumps Up the Screen, Processor, Camera and Battery

Yesterday, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced the A30 Plus, an improved version of the A30 we saw earlier this year. This entry-level Android handset includes a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen (up from 5.0 inches) and a 1.5 GHz quad-core MediaTek processor (up from 1.1 GHz) with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor (up from 8mp) with time-lapse recording while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Alcatel says the phone's larger 3,000mAh battery (up from 2,460mAh) provides all-day life. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is sold with LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile via Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, and 17. Alcatel is selling the phone for $130, but it is also available via Amazon's Prime Exclusive program for $80. The Prime version requires owners to view ads on the lock screen. The Alcatel A30 Plus ships July 10.


Alcatel's Modular A50 Parties with Light Up LED Accessory

Yesterday, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today followed through on its promise to bring the A5 LED to the U.S., though it has changed the phone's name to simply the Alcatel A50. The phone, first revealed in February, is compatible with a handful of modular accessories, the most significant of which features an LED-covere panel that can blink a few dozen LEDs with color. The LEDs can be used to serve as notifications for incoming calls, messages, or alarms. The included Color Catching 2.0 app lets owners create unique LED patterns and themes. Last, the LEDs can provide a light show when listening to music. Other modular accessories include a snap-on stereo speaker and a snap-on battery pack. These are sold separately. The A50 has a quad-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM, 5.2-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera with Face Beauty software. Other specs include Bluetooth, FM, GPS, and WiFi radios, and a 2,800mAh battery. It runs Android 7. LTE support is limited to Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, and 12, which makes it moderately compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone costs $150, or $190 with the LED rear cover. The phone is being distributed through the Amazon Prime Exclusive program for $100, or $130 with the LED rear cover. The Prime Exclusive program requires owners to view ads on the lock screen. The Alcatel A50 ships July 10.


Alcatel Announces the Idol 5S with Stereo Speakers

Yesterday, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today marked the debut of the Idol 5S, the latest in its flagship series. Like its predecessors, the 5S features an aluminum frame, curved glass front and rear surfaces, powerful stereo speakers, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The phone has a 5.2-inch full HD screen and it is powered by the Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. As for photography, the Idol 5S includes a 12-megapixel main camera with two-tone flash, and f/2.0 aperture. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and f/2.0 aperture. Both cameras can shoot full HD video. The stereo speakers are backed by 3.6W amplifiers and the Idol 5S includes dual microphones to help reduce noise when capturing audio. Other features include Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi; USB-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack; and a 2,620mAh battery. LTE support for U.S. carriers is very good, as it includes Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 66, and 41. Alcatel said the phone will be compatible with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS at launch, with Sprint and Verizon to follow later this summer through a software update. The Alcatel Idol 5S runs Android 7.1 Nougat and includes the Google Assistant. The device costs $280 when purchased from Alcatel, but can be picked up for $200 through Amazon Prime Exclusives. The Amazon price requires users to view ads on the lock screen. The phone ships July 10.


Huawei Shows Off the Honor 9, But U.S. Support Limited

Yesterday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today provided an in-depth look at the Honor 9, the top handset for its Honor brand. The Honor 9 picks up where the Honor 8 left off last year thanks to its curved glass and aluminum frame. The phone has a polished, mirror-like finish that resembles that of the new HTC U11. The phone comes in blue ice, glacier gray, and midnight black. The Honor 9 has a 5.15-inch full HD display and it is powered by Huawei's Kirin 960 processor with 4 or 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. Like some other Huawei handsets, the Honor 9 features a dual camera array on the rear. The main rear camera has a 12-megapixel sensor and it is aided by a secondary 20-megapixel sensor to help with contrast and exposure; the higher-resolution sensor also provides 2x zoom. The user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The phone can capture up to 4K video. The Honor 9 includes standard connectivity options, such as Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and WiFi. Other features include USB-C, 3.5mm headset jack, fingerprint sensor, and a 3,200mAh battery. The phone runs Android 7 with Huawei's EMUI 5.1 on board. As for LTE, the phone supports a limited number of LTE bands, including 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 38, 40, and 41. This means it will not be able to access LTE service on most U.S. carriers. The Honor 9 goes on sale in Europe this summer.


T-Mobile Hits 741 Mbps with LTE-LAA, Deploys LTE-U

Monday, 4:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 4:29 PM

T-Mobile today said it, too, has successfully tested LTE-LAA in real-world trials. The company claims its LTE-LAA tests reached 741 Mbps in and around Los Angeles. Like the recent tests conducted by AT&T, T-Mobile's use of LTE-LAA combines airwaves that it owns along with unlicensed spectrum to push speeds upward. T-Mobile says it was able to aggregate 80 MHz between licensed and unlicensed spectrum in its trials to attain the 741 Mbps download rate. More importantly for the short term, T-Mobile has deployed LTE-U in some markets. LTE-U relies on public 5 GHz spectrum (same as WiFi) along with advanced network technologies including carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, and 4x4 MIMO to boost LTE performance. T-Mobile is offering LTE-U in Bellevue, Wash.; Brooklyn, N.Y.; Dearborn, Mich.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Richardson, Texas; and Simi Valley, Calif. More markets will score LTE-U service later this year. Right now, the Samsung Galaxy S8 is the only device able to take advantage of LTE-U.


Apple Releases First Public Beta of iOS 11

Monday, 3:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 11 available to public beta testers. Those interested in testing the unfinished operating system can sign up for the program on Apple's web site. This first public beta is likely the same code that Apple released to developers earlier today. Public beta testers are expected to provide feedback on the operating system's performance and Apple installs a feedback app with the beta. Apple strongly recommends beta testers back their devices up before installing the test code. The company also notes that the public beta is not recommended for peoples' main phone or tablet and that it be reserved for a secondary device. iOS 11 targets usability and multitasking on the iPad more than the iPhone, but both the iPad and iPhone will see refreshed control center behaviors, new photo gallery tools, better iMessage app behaviors, and much more. Apple won't release a final version of iOS 11 until the fall.


AT&T Says Its LTE-LAA Trials Breach 650 Mbps

Monday, 2:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it and partner Ericsson have reached LTE-LAA download speeds in excess of 650 Mbps in live field trials. The trials were conducted in downtown San Francisco. LTE-LAA is an advanced wireless technology that combines licensed and unlicensed spectrum via carrier aggregation. It will play a key role in bridging today's 4G networks with the 5G networks of the future. AT&T expects its LTE-LAA technology to reach speeds near 1 Gbps and it will deploy the tech in some small cells by the end of the year.


YouTube's Uptime App Hits App Store, No Invite Required

Monday, 2:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Uptime, an app that allows people to watch YouTube videos together, is now widely available to iPhone owners. Google initially announced the app, developed by Area 120, in March. Uptime purports to make YouTube more social and interactive. With Uptime installed, people can watch a video, interact and chat, curate favorites, and get daily recommendations together with friends who may be watching from somewhere else. Interactions include stickers, emoji, and other real-time reactions to videos. The app initially required an invite, but is now available to anyone from the App Store.


Apple Drops More Betas

Monday, 1:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released a couple of beta builds for developers. The first is a second version of iOS 11 Beta 2. The slightly revised code tackles a handful of bugs. Apple also distributed watchOS 3.2.3 Beta 4. Apple didn't discuss what changes are in the new watchOS build. These betas are not meant for public testers. Apple is expected to release a public beta of iOS 11 next month.


Facebook Adds Filters and Effects to Messenger's Video Chats

Monday, 10:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today dressed up the live video chatting functionality of Messenger with new effects. Family and friends can now apply reaction emoji, a variety of filters, and new masks to enliven real-time video conversations. Further, a new tool simplifies screenshots for capturing the spontaneity of live video chats. The new tools will be added to Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS in an update over the days ahead.


Verizon to Let Prepaid Customers Manage their Accounts Through My Verizon App

Monday, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said its prepaid customers will soon have access to the My Verizon account management tool. Beginning June 28, prepaid customers can download and use My Verizon to pay bills, set up auto-pay, add data, and perform other account-related tasks. The app was previously reserved for Verizon's postpaid customers. My Verizon is free to download and will be available to customers of Verizon's $40, $50, $60, and unlimited prepaid plans.


Nokia 6 to Be Available from Amazon Next Month

Monday, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 8:24 AM

HMD Global, the company that makes Nokia-branded handsets, today said it will sell the Nokia 6 smartphone in the U.S. via Amazon. The 6 is the best of the three Nokia Android phones currently available, though it still falls in the entry-level segment. The Nokia 6 runs Android 7 Nougat, has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, includes stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos sound, relies on a Snapdragon 430 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and a boasts a 16-megapixel main camera with an 8-megapixel front camera. It packs a 3,000mAh battery, as well as Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi, fingerprint sensor, 3.5mm headphone jack, and microUSB. LTE 4G support for U.S. networks is limited at best. It supports LTE Bands 2, 3, 4, 7, 12/17, 28, 38. It is only partially compatible with AT&T's 4G network because it is missing LTE Bands 29 and 30. The Nokia 6 is more compatible with T-Mobile's LTE 4G network. The matte black and silver color options are expected to go on sale in July for $229, with the blue and copper colors arriving later.


OnePlus 5 Earns Its First Software Update

Monday, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus pushed a small bug-fixing update to the OnePlus 5 over the weekend. According to the change log, the improved software resolves app installation and system update failures. It also makes optimizations to camera, Bluetooth, network, and system performance while improving compatibility with third-party apps. The update weighs in at just 36MB and can be downloaded and installed over the air.

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HTC Testing More Squeezable Edge Sense Actions for U11

Friday, 3:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today demonstrated a handful of new Edge Sense actions it is testing for the U11. In the video, posted to HTC's Facebook page, the company shows how Edge Sense can be used to zoom in and out of maps and photos, answer and end phone calls, dismiss alarms, and change views in the calendar. HTC did not say if or when any of these tools might be advanced to the U11, though it did ask its community of fans for suggestions on other potential Edge Sense actions. The U11 smartphone includes sensors in the left and right edges that when squeezed initiate a handful of actions.


Google to Stop Scanning Gmail for Ads

Friday, 11:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it will stop poking through users' inboxes for ad customization purposes. Google has nearly always scanned the emails of its free Gmail users in order to help personalize and suggest advertisements. Google says the forthcoming change will put its free Gmail service in line with its paid G Suite business email. Google contends that ads are shown based on users' settings, which can be adjusted at any time — up to and including disabling ads personalization completely. The change will be put in place later the year. G Suite will continue to operate free of ads.


YouTube to Automatically Adjust Playback Size to Fill Your Screen

Jun 22, 2017, 5:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is about to make it easier to watch videos shot in different aspect ratios. With an update scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks, the YouTube mobile app will "dynamically adapt to whatever size you choose to watch it in. That means if you’re watching a vertical, square or horizontal video, the YouTube player will seamlessly adapt itself, filling the screen exactly the way they should." This means videos will automatically fill more of the screen as users move their phones around. Google said changes are coming to the desktop version of YouTube, too, which will focus on simplifying the look and feel of the service. For example, a new Dark Theme will offer a more movie-theater-like appearance to videos. Google is also prepared to expand some sharing tools that make it quicker to share videos directly from the viewing screen. Google didn't say exactly when these changes will reach the mobile and desktop versions of YouTube.


YouTube TV Expands to More Markets

Jun 22, 2017, 5:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube TV will soon be available to millions more people around the U.S. thanks to a significant expansion of the service. Google today said YouTube TV will reach 10 new markets, including Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington, D.C., Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, and Charlotte, over the next few weeks. People in these markets will be able to sign up for the $35-per-month service, which includes live TV streaming of local channels, unlimited DVR use, and up to six individual user profiles per account. YouTube says people can register to see when YouTube TV will be available in their markets. The service initially launched earlier this year in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and the San Francisco Bay Area.


Imagination Technologies Puts Itself Up for Sale

Jun 22, 2017, 12:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Imagination Technologies today said it has put the entire company up for sale following its loss of business with Apple. Earlier this year Apple announced plans to make its own GPU for the iPhone, a part Imagination Technologies has manufactured for Apple for years. Apple was Imagination's largest customer and losing the GPU contract was a huge blow. The company has already listed two business units for sale and today made the entire enterprise available for purchase. Imagination said it already "is engaged in preliminary discussions with potential bidders." Despite these plans, Imagination has filed legal grievances against Apple because it believes the iPhone maker will not be able to create its own GPU without using Imagination's patented technology.


Fourth Beta of iOS 10.3.3 Is Here

Jun 22, 2017, 12:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released a new beta build of iOS 10 for developers. iOS 10.3.3 beta 4, which developers can download over the air, is a minor, bug-fixing release. Apple hasn't provided any details about what's contained in the new code, nor has it released a version for public beta testers yet. This minor update is likely to be the last for iOS 10 before Apple releases iOS 11. Apple is already beta testing iOS 11 with developers and will soon make a public beta available for general testing. The final version of iOS 11 isn't expected to arrive until September. Apple today also released tvOS 10.2.2 beta 4.


Motorola's Moto E4 Hits Verizon Prepaid June 22

Jun 22, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 22, 2017, 10:23 AM

Motorola today said its recently announced Moto E4 smartphone will go on sale June 22 in the U.S. The handset will be sold by Verizon Wireless Prepaid online for $70. Motorola also plans to sell an unlocked version the phone for $130 through Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Fry’s, Motorola.com, and New Egg. The company expects to offer the phone through Amazon's Prime Exclusive program, too, which will allow people to purchase the handset at a lower cost as long as they agree to view ads on the lock screen. The Moto E4 will reach Boost Mobile, Sprint, Flash Wireless, Jet.com, Republic Wireless, Target, and Ting in July. Motorola said the Moto E4 Plus won't reach the U.S. until later this summer.


Virgin Mobile to Phase Android Out Slowly

Jun 21, 2017, 7:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Virgin Mobile today announced plans to become an iPhone-only carrier, but the carrier's Android-based handsets won't vanish overnight. Virgin's reseller partners, including Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, will continue to carry and sell Virgin Mobile's lineup of Android handsets along with the prepaid carrier's Data Love service plans, according to Justin Scott, Virgin Mobile's Director of Communications. These retail partners will not sell the iPhone for the Inner Circle yet, though Virgin anticipates they will later this year. Virgin says its existing customers won't have to worry about any immediate changes. All Virgin subscribers are welcome to keep their current phone and service plan. If they wish, customers can upgrade to the Inner Circle plan once it becomes available, but Virgin won't force them to right away. Virgin will, however, begin to phase out all Android handsets over time. "While we love our partners in the Android ecosystem and care deeply about our Android customers, the Inner Circle is a path to a different future," explained Scott. "Specifically, it's an opportunity to reposition the brand and align it with the other Virgin companies in the United States. We certainly didn't make this decision lightly and based some of it on consumer data. We chose to become the first iPhone-only based mobile carrier in the United States and launch a game-changing offer because it was time for Virgin Mobile to make a bold move." Scott did not provide any sort of timeline for phasing out the company's Android phones.


Apple Pushes Second iOS 11 Beta to Developers

Jun 21, 2017, 3:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today seeded iOS 11 Beta 2 to developers. It also offered up fresh betas of macOS 10.13, watchOS 4, tvOS 11, and Xcode 9. Apple did not say what new features are included in the fresh builds. The company first announced iOS 11 earlier this month at its Worldwide Developer Conference. The revised mobile platform takes aim at the App Store experience, uses machine learning, makes changes to the camera and control center, adds a file folder, tweaks iMessage, and improves Live Photos. This second beta is still an early build of the platform and is meant only for developers. Apple is expected to make the first public beta available next month.


Virgin Mobile USA Relaunches As An iPhone-Only Carrier

Jun 21, 2017, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 21, 2017, 7:41 PM

Virgin Mobile USA, which is owned and operated by Sprint, transformed itself today into new provider much more closely aligned with the Virgin brand. Significantly, Virgin Mobile USA is now an iPhone-only carrier, meaning Apple's iPhones are the only phones Virgin will sell moving forward. Further, shoppers will be able to buy and activate an iPhone on Virgin Mobile USA at Apple Stores. Pricing for Virgin Mobile iPhones starts at $279 for the 32 GB iPhone SE and ranges up to $969 for the 256 GB iPhone 7 Plus. According to the company's web site, Virgin Mobile does not offer financing for iPhones and customers will have to pay full price. The company now offers only a single service plan. For $50 per month, Virgin Mobile USA provides unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S. International roaming add-ons start at $5 per month. There are limitations on Virgin's plan: video playback is capped at 480p, music is streamed at 500Kbps, and gaming is streamed at 1.5Mbps. Virgin says mobile data speeds will be suppressed when the network is congested. For a limited time, Virgin Mobile is offering up to 12 months of service for just $1. The $1 yearly service offer is only available to customers buying a new iPhone and activating it on Virgin's network. Customers will have to sign up by July 31, 2017 to score the $1 deal. At the end of the 12-month service plan for $1, customers will automatically be moved to the $50 plan. Last, the $1 yearly plan and iPhone purchase buy customers access to the Virgin Inner Circle. The Inner Circle is a promotional program that provides benefits with other Virgin-branded properties. For example, Inner Circle members who buy one plane ticket on Virgin Atlantic will be given a second ticket for free. Inner Circle members who book two nights at a Virgin-owned hotel will be able to cash in on a third night for free. Virgin says these offers will be made available to Inner Circle members every few weeks. Customers interested in this package can pre-order one of Virgin Mobile USA's iPhones starting today. The phones and Inner Circle will become available starting June 27. Last, Virgin said it will offer "pre-loved" iPhones starting in the fall, allowing customers to take advantage of more affordable prices.


Snapchat Introduces Simple Location Sharing

Jun 21, 2017, 11:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today updated its mobile app and made it possible for users to share their location with one another. The tool appears to have just two modes, on and off. When users choose to share their location, all their friends will see where they are on a map. Alternately, users can remain in "Ghost Mode" to keep their location private. Snapchat says users' Actionmojis will show up on the map only when they open Snapchat. The map supports zooming, so you can see where all your contacts are as they move about cities or regions. Snapchat sees the feature as a way for people to find one another when out and about and share experiences. Snap Map is being added to the Android and iOS mobile Snapchat apps over the days ahead.


5 Best Phones to Take On Summer Vacation

Jun 21, 2017, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Summer is here, which means it's time to go on vacation! Whether you prefer to make day trips to local points of interest, or plan far-flung adventures that span the globe, you're going to want your trusty smartphone by your side. Here are our top smartphone picks to help you get the most out of your summer sojourns.

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Spotify and Facebook Create Playlist Mashup In Messenger

Jun 21, 2017, 7:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Spotify and Facebook have rolled out a new tool they believe will make listening to music more social. The tool, called Group Playlists for Messenger, lets people create and build Spotify playlists together within Messenger. Spotify suggests Group Playlists for Messenger can be ideal for parties, road trips, or other times when several people want to collaborate on a playlist. One user, a Spotify subscriber, will need to kick off the playlist and then share it with friends through Messenger. Once shared, anyone in the conversation can add songs even if they're not on Spotify. The feature is available beginning today.


Unicode 10 Adds 56 New Emoji

Jun 21, 2017, 7:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Unicode Consortium this week announced Unicode 10, which includes 56 new emoji characters and four new scripts. Some of the new emoji include facial expressions (raised eyebrow, hand-over-mouth), more men and women (bearded man, woman in head garb), hand symbols, food (dumpling, fortune cookie), clothing items, animals (dinosaurs, bugs), vehicles (flying saucer, sled), and a curling stone. The Consortium says the new scripts cover some of the world's lesser-used languages, including Gondi, Soyombo, Syriac, and Gujarati. The Unicode Consortium often offers a preview of its releases before they are made final, but this week it announced and released the final build of Unicode 10. It will be up to operating systems, platforms, and applications to adopt the new emoji. Some of the new faces are already built into Android 8 O.


ZTE's Axon 7 Mini Wins Android 7.1.1

Jun 21, 2017, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today began pushing Android 7.1.1 to its Axon 7 Mini smartphone. Like the same update that reached the larger Axon 7 earlier this year, today's update for the Axon 7 Mini adds support for T-Mobile WiFi Calling; a wider selection of gender-balanced emoji and GIFs; performance improvements to Google's Daydream VR; and the latest security patches. ZTE says it also fixed bugs and tweaked behaviors throughout the operating system. Android 7.1.1 Nougat heralds split-screen multitasking and better power management. People who own the Axon 7 Mini can download the update manually via the system settings tools on their phone or wait for it to arrive over the air.


Instagram Powers Up Live Replays

Jun 20, 2017, 1:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible for people to share their live broadcasts through the Stories tool for up to 24 hours. Once users conclude a live broadcast, they can tap a new "share" button to add a replay of the the live broadcast to their Stories. The tool also makes it easy to discard live videos whenever the broadcaster might wish. According to Instagram, the shared replays will be visible to followers through a new button that appears on the profile photo on the Stories bar. People need only tap the button to watch the associated live broadcast, which supports scanning forward and backward 15 seconds at a time. The new replay feature is included in the latest version of the Instagram mobile app for Android and iOS.


Google Makes It Easier to Split Up and Pay Project Fi Bills

Jun 20, 2017, 1:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today simplified the process of managing monthly bills for subscribers to its Project Fi wireless service. Starting this week, Project Fi gains a new tool that helps the account manager easily determine what each member of the plan owes and send them a bill. Google says once the feature is enabled, Project Fi can automatically calculate the cost for each individual line. The service supports payment reminders, which it will send to each individual line. Further, Project Fi can accept payments through Google Wallet. Project Fi users need only tap the payment notification they may have received and follow simple steps to send their payment to the account manager. Owners can then cash out the payments to the debit card or bank account of their choice. Google says this new tool is rolling out to all Project Fi subscribers this week. Project Fi is available only to select handsets, including the Nexus 5x and Nexus 6p, and Google Pixel and Pixel XL.


Google to Drop Support for Android Market in Eclair and Older

Jun 20, 2017, 1:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it will no longer support the Android Market application on devices running Android 2.1 Eclair and older after June 30. Once the change takes place, devices running those operating systems will no longer have access to the Android Market, which was the original app store for Android devices. Google says this will impact only a very small number of users, as the vast majority of Android devices are running much newer builds of the operating system. Google will continue to support the Google Play Store app on devices running Android 2.2 for "as long as feasible." Practically speaking, Android 2.3 Gingerbread is the base operating system to offer full Play Store support via Google Play Services. The bulk of Android users needn't worry about Google's plan to cease supporting Android Market on Android 2.1 Eclair.


OnePlus Reveals the OnePlus 5 with Dual Cameras

Jun 20, 2017, 11:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 20, 2017, 11:44 AM

OnePlus today revealed its 2017 flagship handset, the OnePlus 5. The company has long offered high-end Android phones at affordable prices. The OnePlus 5 is the company's most advanced smartphone yet and it still manages to be affordable. The OnePlus 5 boasts a metal unibody design with a slim and rounded profile. The phone carries over the popular alert slider from earlier OnePlus phones and measures 7.25mm thick. Other hardware features include USB-C, a front-mounted fingerprint reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, and dual-camera array on the back. The two Sony camera sensors are 20- and 16-megapixels with apertures of f/2.6 and f/1.7, respectively. The 20MP sensor offers telephoto zooming while the 16MP sensor is better at low-light capture. OnePlus says it uses both lenses and sensors to help sharpen focus for all photos. The phone's optic AMOLED display measures 5.5 inches across the diagonal with full HD resolution. OnePlus picked Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor and the handset comes in two memory configurations: 6 GB of RAM with 64 GB of storage, and 8 GB of RAM with 128 GB of storage. Other specs include a 3,300mAh battery with Dash Charge, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, WiFi, and Cat 12 LTE with 3x carrier aggregation and support for 34 worldwide LTE bands. The phone relies on Android 7 Nougat as a base with OnePlus' user interface, which it calls OxygenOS, on top. Some of the features include App Priority, for personal app selection, and reduced latency for quicker input. It also packs Ambient Mode, which relies in sensors to adjust the backlight for eye comfort. The OnePlus 5 comes in black or gray and will cost $479/$539 when it goes on sale June 27. OnePlus says preorders open today.


Apple Files Another Grievance Against Qualcomm

Jun 20, 2017, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple is taking another angle in its patent fight with Qualcomm. The iPhone maker is going after one of Qualcomm's core strategies, which is to demand a percentage of the sale price for every iPhone sold in addition to the cost of the processors, basebands, modems, and other Qualcomm chips that may be inside. The fresh legal framework, seen by Reuters, suggests Apple is relying on a brand new Supreme Court decision (Impression Products v. Lexmark, May 2017) to argue that Qualcomm should only charge for the patent license or the chips, but not both. Apple also asked the court to force Qualcomm to drop its countersuits against Apple's manufacturing partners. Apple is withholding a significant amount of cash from Qualcomm while the legal spat plays out, and Qualcomm, in turn is targeting Foxconn and others to recoup the money. Apple believes the fight should be between Apple and Qualcomm only. Qualcomm is tangled in a web of legal lawsuits strung around the world concerning its licensing practices.


HTC Says Red Version of U11 Coming to the US

Jun 19, 2017, 11:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today said U.S. customers can pre-order the red variant of the U11 smartphone beginning June 20. Other than the color, the red U11 is identical to the black, silver, and blue versions. The phone costs $649 when purchased from HTC.com. HTC offers financing for those with good credit. Stand-out features include the Edge Sense squeezable sides, quad HD display, Snapdragon 835 processor, and high-quality 12-megapixel camera. HTC has other summer sales lined up that will be available between today and June 29. HTC has dropped the price of the U Ultra from $749 to $629, it has dropped the price of the HTC 10 from $699 to $499, and has dropped the price of the HTC Bolt from $600 to $500. HTC is also offering some discounts on select accessories. HTC didn't specify with the red U11 will actually ship.


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