Google today rolled out an update for its Gmail app for iOS devices. The update carries over a feature given to the Android app earlier this month: the ability to share files from Google Drive. iPhone and iPad owners can now insert documents from their Drive account into emails as they compose them on their device. The app makes it easy to save email attachments from Gmail to Drive, too. Gmail for iOS allows users to change their Gmail account picture, and those with multiple Gmail accounts can choose which signed-in accounts they want visible in the app. Gmail is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google today delivered a new beta version of its Chrome browser to the Android platform. The chief new feature of the updated app is broader support for Google account sign-in. According to Google, users who sign into the Chrome browser on their Android device will automatically be signed into all their other Google services, as well. The sign-in feature supports multiple accounts, and can sync the settings and bookmarks of those accounts, too. Chrome beta for Android also adds in some elements of Material Design, the new design language Google is using to define Android Release L, which is due later this year.
The FCC has published the rules regarding Auction 97, which will see 1,614 spectrum licenses sold by the government to wireless network operators. The auction will start November 13, with a trial auction scheduled for November 10. The spectrum includes 65MHz in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz -- or AWS-3 -- bands. The lower of the three blocks will be sold unpaired in 5MHz blocks, while the upper two bands will be sold in 10MHz paired blocks (with a couple of exceptions). The collective reserve price for the lower block is $580 million and the collective reserve price for the upper blocks is $10.07 billion. Of the 1,614 licenses offered in Auction 97, 880 will be Economic Area (EA) licenses and 734 will be Cellular Market Area (CMA) licenses. Dish Networks and T-Mobile wanted the unpaired and paired licenses to be auctioned separately, but the FCC decided against splitting the bidding process in favor of efficiency for all parties involved. The FCC has another auction, for 600MHz spectrum, scheduled for mid 2015.
AT&T today said Windows Phone 8.1 is now available to the Lumia 1520. Customers can use the onboard tools to download and install the OS over the air, which includes Cortana, Internet Explorer 11, and the Action Center. AT&T also revealed a green variant of the Lumia 1520 in a promotional video. The green Lumia 1520 will be available soon.
Visa today announced Visa Cloud Payment Solutions, a tool that device makers can use to add mobile payments capabilities to their hardware. Visa claims the Cloud Payment Solution will reduce fraud because it replaces the standard 16-digit credit card number with a digital token. The token can be built securely into smartphones, tablets, wearables, and appliances so consumers can make wave-, scan, and click-to-buy payments virtually anywhere. The tokens negate the need to share personal credit card data; can be restricted to specific merchants, devices, or types of purchases; can be easily replaced without changing account numbers; and can be processed easily by merchants and retailers. Visa has been forging ahead aggressively to enable mobile payments via mobile devices. Portions of the Visa Cloud Payment Solutions toolset are available beginning today, though the full set won't be available until January 2015. Visa plans to launch an extended Developer Center in early 2015 with all the related SDKs, APIs, specifications, and guidelines.
HTC has recently pulled some of the core applications out of its Sense user interface and made them available separately through the Google Play Store. Both the Sense keyboard and Sense clock apps have appeared in the Play Store in recent days, which can now be updated independent from full OS upgrades. Google and Motorola have taken similar steps with some of their apps, such as their camera apps. HTC already offers a handful of other apps via the Play Store, including Gallery, Blinkfeed, Sense TV, and Dot View.
Google hopes Android and iOS Maps users will take advantage of a new tool for exploring their surroundings. Google is adding a new button to Maps called Explore, which will tell people what's nearby. According to Google, the tool can be set to show what's as close as a 5-minute walk and what's as far as a 20-minute drive and everything in between. The Explore function doesn't just provide a list of nearby places, it is also contextually aware. For example, it will consider information such as the time of day and the weather so it doesn't send users to shops that are closed or to parks during a thunderstorm. The updated Maps app is being pushed out this week. It is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Uber today made available a version of its mobile application for the Windows Phone platform. Uber lets Windows Phone users request rides through its on-demand taxiing service. The Windows Phone app supports credit card payments and provides rate comparisons, allows users to set pickup locations, see the progress of their pending taxi, and receive emailed receipts. Uber runs on all Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 smartphones. The application itself is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. The app was available last year, but was yanked from the store in August 2013.
Sony plans to make a large investment its in imaging business and will increase production of CMOS sensors for mobile devices. The company will spend as much as $345 million to improve the capacity of its sensor-making facilities. Sony has already purchased several new manufacturing plants. The company currently makes about 60,000 sensors a month. It will improve those yields to 68,000 by August 2015 and eventually 75,000 by the end of 2015. Sony makes CMOS sensors for its own smartphones and tablets, but also for other manufacturers, such as Apple.
Skype today announced version 5.0 for the Android platform and added one big feature: the ability to cross-integrate contacts between Skype and the phone. Skype 5.0 can scan the local phone address book for other registered Skype users and will then automatically add them to the Skype app's people list. Skype will also be able to sync the Skype address book with other Microsoft services to make sure it finds and adds all possible Skype users. Android users will be able to turn this feature off if they wish, or pick and choose which contacts are added to Skype. Users' actual phone number will not be shared as part of their public profile. Skype said similar features will soon appear in its apps for other platforms, such as iOS and Windows Phone.
Verizon Wireless today announced it will sell the HTC One Remix beginning July 24 for $99 with a new contract. The One Remix is a rebranded version of the HTC One mini 2, which was announced earlier this year. The Remix relies on the same design language as the full-sized HTC One (M8), but is considerably smaller. The Remix features a 4.5-inch 720p display, 13-megapixel camera, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, and HTC Sense 6.0 with Blinkfeed. In addition to the contract price, Verizon will also offer the HTC Remix via its Edge monthly payment program.
Microsoft today revealed the Lumia 530, a new entry-level Windows Phone that succeeds last year's 520. The device features the same colorful design language common to Lumia models and includes interchangeable rear shells for personalization. The Lumia 530 runs Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana, MixRadio, and HERE Maps. The 530 features a 4-inch 854 x 480 display, is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, and includes a 5-megapixel camera. Connectivity is limited to HSPA at 21Mbps, but it includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and aGPS. System memory is limited to 512MB and storage is limited to 4GB. The Lumia 530 supports microSD cards up to 128GB and will be sold in a dual-SIM variant in select markets. The Lumia 530 will be available globally and begins shipping in August. The target price point is about $130. T-Mobile is the only U.S. carrier to voice support for the 530, which it said will go on sale later this year.
Motorola today announced the availability of a digital tattoo that can be used to unlock the Moto X. The tattoo is actually an adhesive based on VivaLnk’s eSkin technology. It is about the size of a nickel and adheres to the skin for about five days. Users need only tap the Moto X against the digital tattoo, which has a shimmery, metallic design, to unlock their device. According to Motorola, the tattoo is waterproof and can be used during activities such as swimming and jogging. The digital tattoo was created by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group in cooperation with VivaLnk. VivaLnk sells the tattoos in packs of 10 for $10. It was first announced last month.
Skype today said it is preparing a version of its mobile communications application for Amazon's Fire Phone. The Fire Phone runs FireOS, a forked version of Android. The Skype app will launch alongside the phone when it goes on sale. Skype said it designed the app with the Fire Phone's user interface in mind, including a widget for the Fire carousel, and it will offer an experience that feels natural to Fire Phone owners. Skype said its 3D icon and notification badge make use of the Fire Phone's Dynamic Perspective technology, which provides a 3D-like experience through the use of four user-facing cameras. AT&T will begin selling the Fire Phone later this month.
Sprint recently announced that it is rolling out Wi-Fi calling to the HTC One and HTC One Harmon Kardon Edition. The Wi-Fi calling feature makes it possible to connect voice calls and send messages via local Wi-Fi networks rather than through Sprint's cellular network. International Wi-Fi calling will also be available in the coming weeks. It allows customers to make calls and send texts via Wi-Fi in more than 100 countries. Only a handful of Sprint's phones support Wi-Fi calling, but Sprint said more will be updated with the feature throughout the year. HTC One owners will receive the update over the next few weeks.
Amazon recently released a mobile wallet application for Android-based smartphones. The app, which Amazon has labeled a beta, lets people store gift cards, loyalty cards, and membership cards, which can be scanned or typed directly into the app. Amazon touts the app as a way to reduce clutter in wallets and purses. The wallet can reveal bar codes for scanning at a number of different merchants to make gift card-based payments. The wallet app does not connect to a bank account or credit card, however, and cannot be used to make tap-and-go payments via NFC. The app is free to download from the Amazon Appstore and the Google Play Store. Amazon did not immediately say if a similar app will be available to its own Fire Phone.
Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA subscribers will soon have access to PlayPhone's socially-connected gaming portal, says PlayPhone. The platform will allow Boost and Virgin subscribers to find and play mobile games with their online friends, and share scores and achievements across various social networks. Boost and Virgin's prepaid subscribers will be able to make in-game purchases through their account, rather than with credit cards. Purchases will be billed directly to their wireless plan. The platform will be available later this summer, though Boost and Virgin declined to say exactly when it will launch and which devices will support it. Verizon adopted PlayPhone's platform earlier this year.
Xiaomi today announced the Mi4, an Android-powered smartphone that offers high-end specs for a low price point. The Mi4 uses a blend of steel, glass and plastic in its design and has a 5-inch full HD display with narrow bezels. The Mi4 includes a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM, and it comes in 16GB/64GB variants. The main camera captures 13 megapixels with an aperture of f/1.8 and 4K video. The user-facing camera captures 8 megapixels and also has an aperture of f/1.8. The Mi4 includes a 3,080mAh battery and swappable rear covers for personalization. The Mi4 is one of the first Xiaomi phones to support worldwide LTE bands, and it includes an IR blaster for controlling home theater equipment. The Mi4 costs approximately $320 for the 16GB version.
Yahoo today announced that is has agreed to purchase Flurry for an undisclosed sum. Flurry offers mobile app developers a variety of tools to improve and monetize their applications. According to Yahoo, the acquisition will allow it to further refine is mobile offerings to advertisers. Flurry's existing services and staff will remain in place. The deal is expected to close later this year.
Facebook today announced a new feature that will allow users to save content for later viewing. The tool can be used to earmark links, places, movies, TV, and music. Facebook Save is headed to the web, as well as Android and iOS apps. Users will be able to save content on one platform and view it on another. Saved items will only be visible to the account holder unless they choose to share it with others. Facebook said it will periodically remind users about their saved content if it sits unread. Facebook Save is being rolled out slowly to all users over the next few days.
Verizon Wireless today announced the pending launch of Verizon Smart Rewards, a program that will give customers points for performing different account-related activities. The program kicks off July 24 for Verizon's postpaid customers. Those who sign up will receive 10,000 points automatically, and will then earn more points for activities such as signing into the My Verizon tool, selecting paperless billing, paying their bill, and other interactions. According to Verizon, the reward points can then be redeemed as discounts up to 40% with more than 200 brands across a variety of product categories, including groceries, travel, hotels, dining, and goods. Verizon Smart rewards will cover Verizon goods and services, too, such as gift cards and opportunities to win NFL football tickets. Last, the program will include daily deals, auctions, and sweepstakes. It is free to enroll in Verizon Smart Rewards, though Verizon notes customers may also have to also enroll in its Verizon Selects marketing insights program.
BlackBerry today said it has appointed Marty Beard to the post of Chief Operating Officer. Beard worked for LiveOps and Sybase before joining BlackBerry. Beard will be responsible for marketing, application development, and quality and customer care. The COO post had been vacant since Kristian Tear left last November. BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen also hails from Sybase.
Sony recently made the Xperia Z2 available to U.S. buyers via its web store. The Z2, which was announced in January, costs $699 and is being sold unlocked. The Z2 has a 5.2-inch full HD display, 20.7-megapixel camera with 4K video capture, quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor with 3GB of RAM, and various sensors/radios. It is also water and dust resistant. The Z2 is compatible with the LTE networks of both AT&T and T-Mobile. Sony typically offers its smartphones through its web store when they aren't sold by wireless network operators.
A new phone accessory allows users to create their own long-range wireless network between two or more phones. The goTenna is a six-inch wand that pairs with a phone via Bluetooth LE. goTennas connect to each other at 151-154 MHz, a frequency low enough to reach up to 50 miles with the 2-watt radio in the goTenna (but more typically, 3-10 miles.) Communication is limited to text messaging and location sharing, via the included app, which is available for both iOS and Android. Messages can be sent an individual, a group, or broadcast to all goTenna users in range. All messages are encrypted. The device is intended for people traveling in remote areas where mobile networks may be unavailable, such as hikers or camping families. The device is dust-tight, water-resistant, and has an integrated nylon strap. It is also useful for large events where the mobile network may become overloaded, such as concerts, festivals, and sports matches. The devices will retail for $300/pair in the fall, but can currently be pre-ordered for half-off, or $150/pair.
Google this week released a new version of Google Wallet that can capture, store, and manage gift card info. Users can add gift cards via the camera or keyboard, then show a barcode on the screen to redeem the card. Select retailers - including AMC, Best Buy, Nike, Sephora, Toys-R-Us, TGI Friday’s, and Whole Foods - have linked their systems with Google Wallet to allow the app to display remaining balances on the virtual gift cards. The app can also alert the user when they are near one of those locations. The new version of the app also adds Spanish language support and a feature to request money from friends via Gmail.
Amazon is finally ready to unleash its first phone, the Fire. An exclusive to AT&T, this unique phone sports a spiffy interface totally new to the phone world, and a few fancy hardware and software features. Read on for our hands-on first impressions.
LG today announced the G3 s, a smaller and more affordable version of the company's new G3 flagship phone. The phone shares the same front and back design as the G3, but in a smaller, lighter body that's 1 mm thicker. The display shifts from 5.5 inches to 5.0 inches with 720p resolution. The processor steps down to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chip. The camera steps from 13 megapixels to 8, although it keeps the laser focusing system. Memory, battery, and Wi-Fi specs have been similarly scaled down. It does retain a memory card slot, removable battery, LTE, and NFC. The new model launches tomorrow in Korea as the G3 Beat, and "in the weeks that follow" in Europe as the G3 s. Pricing and US availability were not announced.
Microsoft today announced a sweeping company-wide re-organization that includes major changes to the mobile device business acquired from Nokia. Of Microsoft's 18,000 layoffs today, 12,500 are within the former Nokia units. Microsoft will combine the smartphone and feature phone units, with the feature phone operations continuing "for maximum efficiency with a smaller team." Nokia's Android-based Nokia X lineup will be abandoned. Select future models will be reworked to run Windows Phone to address new low price points for Lumia. Existing Nokia X phones will be supported, but the software will not appear in any new phones. The company will focus primarily on Windows-Phone-powered Lumia phones, and tablets. In an open email to employees, Stephen Elop explained that "the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia. Whereas the hardware business of phones within Nokia was an end unto itself, within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy."
HTC has brought its Desire 610 mid-range phone to AT&T. The 610 brings high-end design and a few nifty features to a low price point. It's not perfect, though, and it does differ from the international version a bit. Read on for our first impressions with one.
Visa today announced Visa Checkout, a service that speeds up the process of buying items on the web, especially from mobile devices. Using Visa Checkout, a user simply enters a Visa username and password, replacing the longer process of entering payment, shipping, billing, and contact information. Users must first create a Visa Checkout account with Visa. When purchasing online, users will see a Visa Checkout button on the shopping cart page.
BlackBerry today revealed that the upcoming BlackBerry OS 10.3 will include a voice-activated virtual assistant, much like Siri and Google Now. BlackBerry assistant, as the app is called, will be able to interact with email, calendar, messaging, timers, and the web. In addition to voice, it also accepts input via the keyboard. Tasks it enables by voice include sending meeting invitations, searching email, setting reminders, searching the web, launching apps, changing ringer profiles, and sending messages. The Assistant learns, improving over time.
Verizon Wireless this week announced that, starting tomorrow, it will allow Allset prepaid customers to use 4G LTE phones and the faster LTE network, as well as mobile hotspot features to share the LTE connection with other devices. Previously, Verizon prepaid customers could only use the CDMA network, which is much slower for data. Customers will be able to bring their own existing Verizon LTE phone (previously used with a post-paid plan) or purchase a new LTE phone such as the LG Lucid 3, LG G2, Moto X, Samsung Galaxy S 4, Samsung Galaxy S5, or HTC One. Prepaid customers will be able to access both bands of the company's LTE network for full capacity and speed, a capability Verizon brands "XLTE". Allset plans start at $45/month for unlimited voice and texting, plus 500 MB of data. An additional 500 MB can be added for $5 and/or by signing up for automatic payments. Additional 90-day data buckets can be purchased at $10 for 1 GB or $20 for 3 GB. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile already allow 4G devices with prepaid service.
AT&T tonight announced that it will offer HTC's Desire 610 on July 25 for $200 without a contract. The 610 is an affordable Android phone with a 4.7-inch display, 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 8-megapixel main camera, front camera, 4G LTE, and a memory card slot. It sports a clean design inspired by the HTC One, but in high-quality plastic. Like the One, it features BoomSound dual front speakers and Zoe video functions. AT&T also offers Next pricing for the Desire 610, which runs as low as $8.34/month. At full price, it's available for both post-paid and GoPhone pre-paid service plans.
Apple and IBM today announced a partnership that will see more business-oriented apps developed for iOS, and IBM selling iPhones and iPads directly to its large corporate customers. The two companies will jointly develop the apps, of which there will be about 100, targeted as various industries. IBM is today primarily a software and services provider, implementing complete IT solutions for large companies.
Nokia today began rolling out automatic updates to Windows Phone 8.1 for all Lumia devices that currently have Windows Phone 8. The update includes all new Windows Phone 8.1 features from Microsoft, plus several new enhancements specific to Lumia devices. Lumia devices will gain updated Nokia Camera apps, plus Nokia Device Hub, which intelligently tracks accessories used with the device. The Lumia 1520 and Icon phones will gain Nokia Rich Recording and Dolby surround sound video capture, plus Screen Share. Standard Windows Phone 8.1 features include a more customizable home screen, Action Center quick settings, Wi-Fi Sense for automatically connecting to free hotspots, and the Cortana voice assistant. The update will roll out to all eligible devices "in the coming weeks."
Apple has introduced a rudimentary mobile payment system in Japan. The system exposes the user's iTunes account via a 2D barcode on a Passbook card, and allows users to carry a positive cash balance, much like a Starbucks account used through Apple's Passbook app. For now, the system can only be used to purchase apps and content through Apple's iTunes and App Store, and deposits must be made in person at Apple Stores. Although the current system is quite limited, it marks a new step for Apple toward full mobile payments, and gives a glimpse of how such a system could work.
MediaTek today took the wraps off its newest flagship processor chip for high-end phones. The MT6795 is a SoC (system on chip) combining an LTE radio with a 64-bit, 8-core processor at speeds up to 2.2 GHz. It supports displays up to 1600 x 2560. It also supports display refresh rate of 120 Hz for extra-smooth motion, and slow-motion video capture at 480 fps in full HD. The company has had little traction with phones bound for U.S. shores in recent years. According to Mohit Bhushan, Head of U.S. Business Development, the company is working to change that by having its processors certified directly by U.S. network operators. The MT6795 is currently undergoing that certification, and the company plans to have the chip in a device shipping in the U.S. next year. The chip competes with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810.
Verizon, Ericsson, and Qualcomm recently announced plans to test spectrum-sharing technology in the 3.5 GHz band. The band is used for military radar systems, but the FCC believes the band can be shared with commercial uses in some situations. This new Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) band is being considered for various licensed and unlicensed shared uses by the FCC. Verizon wants to use the band to add download capacity to its LTE network in high-demand areas like stadiums, college campuses, or airports. The band is currently 3550-3650 MHz, although the FCC is also considering stretching it to 3700 MHz.
A team at Oxford University has discovered a new type of display technology that consists of a simple thin film of phase-change material (PCM) between two thin films of transparent electrodes. The three layers can be applied to very thin, flexible Mylar sheets, creating a flexible display. The material only requires power to change state, so it holds an image without power, making it extremely power-efficient. The technique can currently create individual pixels as small as 300 x 300 nanometers, resulting in displays much sharper than today's. The team has also found a way to produce different colors by altering the size of the bottom electrode. Although the work is still in its early stages, the team has filed a patent and is working to commercialize the technology through Isis Innovation, Oxford University's technology commercialization company.
Google updated Maps for iOS devices today and added a number of new features. To start, search results now appear with descriptions directly on the map, and search results can be easily switched between list and map views. The details of search results are presented on cards similar to those used by Google Now on Android devices. The locations of reservations and appointments culled from Gmail are visible and labeled on maps, and the new explore tool provides users with recommendations based on location and time of day. Google Maps is free to download for the iPhone and iPad.
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