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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.


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.


Facebook Seeks to Improve Bots for People, Brands, and Developers

Apr 18, 2017, 1:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced major changes to its Messenger platform that should make bots easier to find and use. To start, Messenger now includes a Discover tab where people can recall recently used bots, as well as use a free-form search field to seek out new bots. Messenger bakes in new support for QR code scanning via mobile device cameras. The idea, says Facebook, is to make it simpler for people to find and interact with bots, particularly when they encounter QR codes when out in the real world. For brands and developers, Messenger gains new chat extensions. These will let everyone in a single group converse with the same bot at the same time. Facebook says this will make it easier to share bots and bot conversations with others. Some early partners in this endeavor include Spotify, TheScore, OpenTable, Food Network, NBA, Wall Street Journal, and Kayak. M, Facebook Messenger's artificial intelligence, receives a boost in capabilities, too. For example, M now makes suggestions within conversations, such as to say "thank you" or set reminders. Last, the new Messenger platform renews its focus on social gameplay. Messenger gains game bots that can play turn-by-turn games with single players, as well as help challenge others to games via Messenger. These features are rolling out to Messenger users in the U.S. first, with other regions to follow.


Huawei Watch 2 Hits Stores Today

Apr 18, 2017, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today made its new smartwatch, the Watch 2, available from various online retailers for $300. The device runs Android Wear 2.0 from Google and includes GPS, a heart rate monitor, NFC, 420 mAh battery, and a 1.2-inch AMOLED display. The Watch 2 is rated IP68 for water resistance. Huawei says the standard model can be purchased from Best Buy, Target, Jet, Walmart, B&H, and others. The company expects to bring the Watch 2 Classic to the U.S. later this year for $369. Huawei has no plans to bring the LTE variant of the Watch 2 to the U.S. right now.


Google Maps Timeline Feature Travels to iOS Devices

Apr 18, 2017, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made the Timeline tool of Google Maps available to iOS devices. Timeline tracks users' movements based on their location, providing a clear picture of where they've been, for how long, and how they got there. Timelines can be useful for recalling information about unfamiliar places you may have visited, as well as keeping tabs on your favorite locations. Users are in control of what appears in their Timeline. The feature gives people full control over deleting specific locations, routes, days, and even the entire travel history. People can customize their typical mode of transportation, as well as view place cards of locations or businesses they’ve previously visited. Last, Timeline will provide monthly recaps to iOS users via email with summaries of the cities, countries, and places they’ve visited over the previous month. Timeline is optional and can be disabled. Google Maps is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Timeline has been available to Android devices for some time.


Sprint's Roaming Plan Now Includes Free 2G Data

Apr 18, 2017, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today improved its international roaming plan, making it cheaper and more appealing to customers. Sprint customers can now enjoy free 2G data, free text messaging, and $0.20-per-minute voice calls in some 165 countries. Customers who want or need faster mobile data can pay for it on a daily basis directly from their phone. In Canada and Mexico, for example, LTE roaming costs $2 per day or $10 per week, while in most other countries LTE roaming cost $5 per day or $25 per week. Sprint says customers that subscribe to its Unlimited Freedom plan will receive free LTE high-speed data roaming, voice calling, and text messaging while traveling in Canada and Mexico. Sprint customers don't need to do anything ahead of time to take advantage of the free roaming services when traveling.


Android Pay and PayPal Now Play Nice

Apr 18, 2017, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Android Pay service is now compatible with PayPal. The companies today announced that Android Pay users can opt to use their PayPal account as a source of funds when making tap-and-go payments at retail stores or on the web. PayPal via Android Pay will stand in for a debit or credit card. People will be able to link their accounts from either app. Android Pay and PayPal will gain this functionality through an update to their respective mobile apps in the coming weeks. Google recently added in-app Android Pay compatibility with several mobile banking apps. The moves are meant to help coax more people to use Google's mobile payment service.


Google Wholly Revamps Google Earth for Desktop and Mobile

Apr 18, 2017, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released a brand new version of Google Earth that it has spent two years crafting. This revised Google Earth is all about giving people more ways to view things thanks to changing perspectives, new zooming behaviors, and, of course, plenty of ways to share. Google Earth now includes Voyager, a tool for exploring and taking guided tours on the planet's most famous locations. For example, Natural Treasures from BBC Earth will take you to caves, jungles, and more, while the refreshed "I’m feeling lucky" search button will randomly select an interesting spot and tell you everything. Maps includes a wider variety of Knowledge Cards that provide details about places around the globe. Google Earth gains more 3D content, as well, allowing people to swoop through the Grand Canyon or check out European castles from every angle. The new Google Earth is available on the web in Google's Chrome browser as well as a new dedicated mobile app for Android devices. Google says it will bring the new Google Earth to iOS and more browsers in the future.


Instagram Debuts Private Collections

Apr 17, 2017, 1:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made saving groups of photos more appealing through a new collections tool. Until today, users could only bookmark favorite photos for later. Now, Instagram makes it possible to create and name new collections of bookmarked posts that are batched together. This applies to both new and existing posts. Instagram says people can cultivate as many collections as they wish, which can be used to tag and manage types and/or styles of photos, as well as the contributions of select people or groups. Collections will remain private to the person who created them. The new collections feature is rolling out to the Android and iOS versions os Instagram over the next week. Instagram is free to download.


Third Round of Betas for Apple Platforms Reach Developers

Apr 17, 2017, 1:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.3.2 Beta 3 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 third 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.


Verizon-Branded Wear24 Smartwatch Streets May 11

Apr 17, 2017, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said its Wear24 Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch will go on sale May 11. Verizon announced the device earlier this year, but did not have availability details at the time. The Wear24 costs $349, but Verizon will cut $50 from the price for those willing to sign two-year agreements. The Wear24 is compatible with Verizon's LTE network and can share a phone number with smartphones for seamless messaging and calls. The smartwatch has a 1.39-inch display with 360 by 360 pixels. The Wear24 also includes NFC with support for Android Pay, a 450mAh battery, and a rating of IP67 for water resistance up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water. Android Wear 2.0 includes advanced messaging tools, an on-device app store, and the Google Assistant. Verizon subscribers can add the Wear24 watch to their existing plan for $5 per month. Otherwise, the Wear24 requires Verizon's $10 Single Device Plan, which provides unlimited talk and text, and up to 1 GB of LTE data per month.


HTC Cuts Price of U Ultra to $599

Apr 17, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today kicked off a week-long sale that sees some of the best-ever prices for its handsets. Notably, the new HTC U Ultra has been knocked from $749 down to $599, a significant cut for the smartphone. The U Ultra is an all-glass Android phone from HTC that boasts top specs. HTC also slashed the price of the A9 from $499 to $199, the HTC 10 from $699 to $499, and the Bolt from $600 to $450. The sale prices are good through April 23. HTC sells its phones unlocked via its U.S. web site.


Google's Family Link App Reaches iOS Devices

Apr 14, 2017, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today expanded the availability of its Family Link application to iOS devices. Family Link is a service that lets parents set up and monitor their children's Android smartphones. Parents can use the app to create Google accounts for kids younger than age 13, which are linked to the parent's Google account. Parents can then approve and block apps from the Google Play Store, control screen time with daily limits, and remotely lock or prevent devices from being used at night. Google is offering Family Link through an early access program. Parents interested in testing it can request an invitation directly from Google. Though parents can now use Family Link from an iPhone, the child's handset still needs to run Android 7 Nougat and up. Family Link for iOS is available from the iTunes App Store.


LG Harmony Springs Into Cricket's Lineup

Apr 14, 2017, 11:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 14, 2017, 11:46 AM

Cricket Wireless recently added the LG Harmony to its roster of inexpensive Android handsets. The phone, which is a down-spec'd variant of the K20, has a 5.3-inch 720p display and it is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone boasts an 8-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel front camera. It can record full HD video. Other features include a removable 2,800mAh battery, microSD memory card slot, and Android 7 Nougat. It includes LG software features such as KnockOn, Knock Code and Gesture Shot. The phone is available in stores and online today. The LG Harmony costs $99 when activated with a new rate plan. Cricket does not require contracts.


Google Photos Can Sort of Fix Your Shaky Videos

Apr 14, 2017, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The latest version of Google Photos for Android devices includes a new video stabilization tool. Google's software goes beyond what the individual phone's own hardware and software do to improve videos. Using the Google Photos in-app editing function, people can apply the stabilization technique to their video clips at any time. The app automatically saves a new, stabilized copy of the clip and maintains the original clip in its pure form. The results are slightly cropped when compared to the original. Google Photos for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


T-Mobile Says It Will Start Using 600 MHz Spectrum This Year

Apr 13, 2017, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 13, 2017, 1:26 PM

"T-Mobile now has the largest swath of unused low-band spectrum in the country," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere about the company's 600 MHz auction winnings. The company successfully won an average of 31 MHz (ranging between 20 MHz and 50 MHz) of the 70 MHz low-band spectrum auctioned off by TV stations and the FCC. The winnings give T-Mobile 100% coverage of the U.S. and Puerto Rico. "That is a [big freaking deal] for our customers. This spectrum sets us up to bring the Un-carrier — and real competition — to wireless customers everywhere," noted Legere. Further, T-Mobile claims it will put some of the new spectrum (at least 10 MHz) to use later this year. T-Mobile began preparing for the 600 MHz spectrum in 2016, and it already has compatible equipment from Ericsson and Nokia on deck. T-Mobile expects devices with select chipsets from Qualcomm will support the 600 MHz spectrum before the end of 2017. "Our team has a history of deploying network technologies at record-breaking pace — including the fastest recorded LTE deployment in US history," remarked T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray. "We're ready to break records again on 600 MHz." T-Mobile didn't specify which markets might first see access to 600 MHz services, nor did it say what handsets might support the new wireless broadband spectrum.


T-Mobile, US Cellular Named FCC Incentive Auction Winners

Apr 13, 2017, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today marked the official end of the incentive auction for 600 MHz airwaves. The agency said 50 wireless companies bid a cumulative $19.8 billion on some 70 MHz of spectrum that was put on offer by 175 television stations. In total, the FCC sold some 2,776 licensed spectrum blocks. An additional 14 MHz has been reserved for unlicensed use. The low-band spectrum is seen as ideal for wireless broadband due to its strong propagation properties. T-Mobile, Dish, Comcast, and U.S. Cellular are among the biggest winners, according to the FCC. T-Mobile said it won 45% of all low-band spectrum sold, covering 100% of the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The company claims it scored 31 MHz of nationwide spectrum, a fourfold increase in its low-band holdings. The FCC will now embark on a 39-month odyssey that will see the owners of the spectrum give it up so it can be repurposed for wireless broadband. Some of the TV station owners have agreed to move to lower channels, while others will give up their licenses and remain on the air through spectrum sharing. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, "The conclusion of the world’s first incentive auction is a major milestone in the FCC’s long history as steward of the nation’s airwaves. Consumers are the real beneficiaries, as broadcasters invest new resources in programming and service, and additional wireless spectrum opens the way to greater competition and innovation in the mobile broadband marketplace." The auction was put in motion back in 2012, though bidding didn't begin until March 2016. The FCC says the auction will lay the groundwork for 5G services.


Instagram Ups Its Sticker Game

Apr 13, 2017, 10:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out new sticker tools meant to help people be more creative in their posts and stories. First up is the ability to turn your selfie into its own sticker. Instagram says the latest version of its mobile app lets people capture mini selfies, apply frames, and use the framed selfie as a sticker on posts. The selfie sticker can be resized, moved around, and enhanced with other tools. Selfie stickers can also be pinned to videos, including those shot with Boomerang. The new Instagram adds four more geostickers so people in Chicago, London, Madrid, and Tokyo can dress up their posts with artwork and themes related to those cities. Geostickers are interactive, so people who watch a story can tap the sticker to see the location page. Last, Instagram is making it easier to find stickers thanks to a new shortcut. The tool will pop up users' most recently used stickers for quick access. The new version of Instagram is available for Android and iOS devices.


Several Banks Add Android Pay to Their Own Apps

Apr 12, 2017, 1:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has partnered with a small number of financial institutions in order to ease the process of signing up for Android Pay. Several banks, including Bank of America, Bank of New Zealand, Discover, mBank, and USAA, now let customers add debit/credit cards directly to Android Pay from within the mobile banking app. Typically, cards are managed in the Android Pay app itself. After completing the setup process, customers of these banks will be able to use the tap-to-pay functionality of Android Pay at millions of stores and on millions of web sites. Some of the apps support Android Pay even if the Android Pay app itself is not installed on the phone. People can also manage bank card choices, such as setting defaults, as well as manage card security by deactivating cards from their phone. Android Pay is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google's banking partners plan to update their mobile apps with support for Android Pay in the weeks ahead.


Google Brings Web-based VR to Cardboard

Apr 12, 2017, 1:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today expanded the availability of web-based virtual reality content to Google Cardboard. Google first brought WebVR to Chrome for Daydream-compatible devices earlier this year. Now, most any Android handset can access virtual reality content through the Chrome browser with Google Cardboard. People who don't have Daydream or Cardboard viewers handy can use their mouse or finger to pan around 3D content directly in the browser. In addition to expanding web-based virtual reality to Cardboard, Google launched WebVR Experiments, a showcase of the experiences developers are building for browser-based virtual reality. There, people can take a look at and sample WebVR projects, apps, and games.


BlackBerry Wins $815M from Qualcomm for Overpaying Royalties

Apr 12, 2017, 8:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it received a favorable outcome after arbitrating a royalty payment issue with Qualcomm. The two companies entered into arbitration on April 20, 2016, over a dispute concerning "whether Qualcomm's agreement to cap certain royalties applied to payments made by BlackBerry under a license agreement between the parties." The binding arbitration settlement determined that Qualcomm's agreement did in fact apply to such payments, resulting in BlackBerry paying Qualcomm too much money. BlackBerry was awarded $814.8 million in royalty overpayments. Qualcomm said it was disappointed with the decision, but it cannot appeal. BlackBerry CEO John Chen said, "BlackBerry and Qualcomm have a longstanding relationship and continue to be valued technology partners."


Samsung's Bixby Voice User Interface Not Ready for Galaxy S8 Debut

Apr 12, 2017, 6:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ will not ship with the Bixby Voice user interface when the devices first go on sale, according to Samsung. "Key features of Bixby, including Vision, Home and Reminder, will be available with the global launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8 on April 21. Bixby Voice will be available in the U.S. on the Galaxy S8 later this spring," said the company in a statement provided to Phone Scoop. Samsung did not offer any explanation for the delay, though the company was not able to offer live demonstrations of Bixby as recently as the S8's splashy March 29 launch event. More than just a voice assistant, Bixby is a voice-based user interface. It allows people to interact with any touch element on the screen, such as opening apps, selecting menu items, toggling controls, and more. Any app that is Bixby-enabled will offer full voice control to S8 and S8+ owners. Bixby Vision, referenced in Samsung's statement, combines the artificial intelligence element of Bixby with the camera for translating languages, reading business cards, recognizing landmarks, and scanning QR codes. Bixby Vision will work when the S8 goes on sale. The S8 and S8+, which include dedicated Bixby buttons, reach stores April 21. It's not clear how long consumers will have to wait before the voice-based interface arrives.

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Chrome Gains 'Scroll Anchoring' To Keep Web Sites In Place

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

Google hopes the latest addition to its Chrome browser will make reading web sites less frustrating. The tool, called scroll anchoring, will prevent web sites from bouncing users up and down the screen. As Google explains, "annoying page jumps typically happen when the web site inserts an image or other content above the visible area, pushing down what’s on the screen." The result is often grating, as it forces people to navigate back to where they were on the screen to continue reading or viewing. "Scroll anchoring locks the content you’re currently looking at to the screen, keeping you in the same spot so you can keep reading," says Google. Google suggests web developers check out the technical details on its developer web site. Google didn't specify exactly which version of Chrome carries the new feature. Chrome is free to download from the Google Play Store and is preinstalled on most Android handsets.


Facebook Messenger Adds Group Payments

Apr 11, 2017, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made it possible to pay groups of people within Messenger. The app has supporter peer-to-peer payments since 2015, but they were limited to single people. The latest version of Messenger makes is possible to send funds to a group of people. Facebook suggests the tool will be helpful when groups need to split a restaurant check or share the costs of gifts. The tool, found under the "more features" menu, makes it possible to pay an entire group or just several members of a group. Payments can be spread out evenly, or customized based on the situation at hand. The function even supports annotations, allowing users to tag the payment so they know why it was made. Messenger users will need to have a debit card associated with their account to send money. The new Messenger for Android is rolling out over the next few days. Facebook didn't say when group payments will reach the iOS version of Messenger. Group payments are only available in the U.S. for now.


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