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printed July 2, 2016
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Sprint Giving Away 60 Days of Amazon Prime

Yesterday, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said customers who add Amazon Prime to their account during the month of July will be eligible to receive 60 days of Prime benefits for free. Sprint charges $10.99 per month for Amazon Prime, which is added to wireless bills as a subscription. New subscribers will receive the first two months (60 days) at no charge. After the 60-day period ends, Sprint will begin to charge the $10.99 monthly subscription fee, or customers can cancel the Prime subscription. Existing customers who already subscribe to Prime via Sprint do not qualify for the free 60 day promo. Amazon Prime includes Prime Video and Prime Music streaming services, Prime Photo online storage, video games, early access to deals, and free two-day shipping. Amazon charges $99 per year for Amazon Prime. Sprint customers who add it to their subscription will end up paying $132 for Prime over the course of a year.

Verizon Intros Trade-In Program for $300 Off Flagship Phones

Yesterday, 11:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said customers can trade in an old flagship smartphone for up to $300 off a new flagship smartphone. The promotion is limited to certain handsets. For example, only the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, S6, and S6 edge/edge+; HTC M9; Apple iPhone 6; and LG G4 and V10 are eligible to trade-in for $300. The phones must be in good working order and good cosmetic condition. Other phones traded in will receive a lesser amount to be determined by Verizon. The program also requires customers to activate a new line, upgrade, or switch to Verizon and then purchase a new device on a monthly payment plan. Customers can use the $300 toward the Apple iPhone 6S or 6S Plus; HTC 10; LG G5; Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 edge, and Note 5; and the Moto Droid Turbo 2 or Maxx 2 .(Customers interested in the Turbo 2 or Maxx 2 are allowed to trade-in phones with broken screens.) Verizon suggests customers perform the trade-in at Verizon's stores, where credit for the value of the trade will be applied immediately, but the company is also offering the promotion through its web site. New customers will receive the $300 via a gift card, while existing customers will be given an account credit. Verizon's didn't say how long the trade-in program will run.

Verizon to Offer Rewards for Social Network Referrals

Yesterday, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it will give customers up to $100 to refer friends and family to the network via Facebook or Twitter. Customers will have to do some legwork to receive the reward. The process involves authenticating their MyVerizon credentials and creating an official referral through Facebook or Twitter. The recipient needs to see the referral on Facebook or Twitter, click on it, and create a new Verizon account online or in stores. Verizon is offering $25 for one referral, $50 for two referrals, and $100 for three or more referrals. The new line must be active for 45 days before Verizon will send the corresponding amount via Visa gift card. The social network referral rewards program begins today, July 1.

Facebook Updates Messenger Platform to Improve Bots

Yesterday, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook hopes new features added to its Messenger Platform will help improve how bots perform within Facebook Messenger. For example, people can now rate bots so developers have more direct feedback on what works and what doesn't. Bots will be able to offer quick reply selections to help users know what to type/request within the context of a conversation. A persistent menu should help end users get used to chatting with bots, no matter what developer designs the bot. Bot conversations also gain access to more content types, such as photos, videos, GIFs, and audio files. Last, end users will be given more control over bot conversations, such as the ability to mute conversations when its inconvenient to receive messages. Facebook says its developer partners have created more than 11,000 bots for Messenger already, and more than 23,000 developers are working on bots. Facebook first introduced bots several months ago. It believes brands will use them to facilitate interactions with customers, fans, and others.

Google Adds Multi-Stop Directions to Maps

Yesterday, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google gave Google Maps users the ability to plan multi-stop trips. The latest version of Google Maps allows people to add multiple destinations to a single excursion. Users can reorder the stops whenever needed, as well as search for specific locations, such as gas stations or restaurants, to add to the route. Google says once users plot their multi-stop route, navigation functions as it always has. This feature is coming to Google Maps for Android first, with Android Maps for iOS to follow soon. Google gave Android users another tool in Maps that can help surface travel memories. Google says Maps users who have Location History turned on can view their travel timeline and select any date from recent trips to see the photos they took on that day. Google Maps is free to download from the Play Store.

Olympics to Be Offered In Virtual Reality for Samsung Gear VR

Thursday, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

NBC today said that it will provide virtual reality coverage of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, but only to the Samsung Gear VR headset. NBC plans to capture about 85 hours of virtual reality programming, including the opening and closing ceremonies, and select competitions. Some of the sports include men's basketball, gymnastics, track and field, beach volleyball, diving, boxing, and fencing. NBC plans to create highlight packages of these sports, as well. NBC said the VR content will not be offered in real time, and will instead be delayed by about a day. The content will be made available through then NBC Sports app. Compatible smartphones include the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, Note 5, S7, and S7 Edge. A Gear VR headset is required, and interested consumers will need to authenticate their pay TV cable account before accessing the Olympics VR coverage.

Android N Named Nougat

Thursday, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today revealed the dessert-themed name for Android N, and it is Nougat. Google did not specify the number designation for Android Nougat. The previous version, Android 6, is known as Marshmallow. Android Nougat is available in beta form to select devices and will be released in full later this summer.

Google Fit Tackles More Goals In Latest Update

Thursday, 10:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated the Google Fit application for Android and expanded its functionality to include a wider range of activities. The app gains more goal options and support for multiple goals, such as daily, weekly, and monthly goals for specific activities. The dashboard has been refreshed to display all the daily stats at once, and includes info on trends in your weight after logging new measurements. Last, Google Fit now allows people to (anonymously) compare their activity against other Fit users in the same area. For example, Fit might tell users that they are more active than 87% of the people in their town on a particular day. Google Fit is free to download from the Google Play Store.

'AT&T Thanks' Program Rolls Out First Offer

Thursday, 8:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said its customer appreciation program, called AT&T Thanks, is ready to offer its first perk: Ticket Twosdays. Postpaid customers can score a free movie ticket when they buy one at full price for a Tuesday showing. Qualifying customers can get a free ticket each week by visiting AT&T's web site, where they have to verify their number/account in order to receive a coupon code. AT&T said AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment Group are participating in Ticket Twosdays. Another promo includes priority pre-sales to Live Nation concerts. AT&T says customers will be able to purchase concert tickets and VIP packages ahead of general availability. The Live Nation ticket program doesn't kick off until the fall. There is no cost to take advantage of AT&T Thanks, nor is there an app to download. T-Mobile launched its own customer appreciation program earlier this month.

MetroPCS to Sell the iPhone

Thursday, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile's prepaid brand, MetroPCS, today said it will soon sell the entire range of iPhones from Apple. MetroPCS plans to kick off iPhone sales at select stores in Florida on July 1, but will expand to all stores around the nation soon. MetroPCS will sell the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus for $649 and $749, respectively, and the iPhone SE and iPhone 5s for $349 and $199, respectively. MetroPCS did not indicate how quickly the iPhone will be made available to stores outside of Florida. MetroPCS does not require contracts and service plans start at $35 per month.

Google Keep Sorts Notes By Topic

Thursday, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google Keep gained a useful tool in a recent update — the app can now categorize notes by topic. Keep will assign categories to topics such as web sites, recipes, or favorite places, and those topics will be searchable via keyword. The updated version of Google Keep is available to Android and iOS devices, as well as the web. Keep is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Verizon Discontinues Free Content Filtering Service

Thursday, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless this week retired its content filtering service. The tool was initially made available to account holders in order to prevent devices from accessing certain types of content via the web and the Google Play Store. According to a support page on Verizon's web site, any type of content that was previously blocked is now available to devices. Moreover, devices blocked from accessing the Play Store can now browse through and purchase/download apps. Content Filtering was chiefly used by parents and business account holders. Verizon recommends users reboot the devices on their account in order to ensure proper functionality. Account holders still interested in content filtering services can do so directly on the device, as well as through paid third-party tools. "The growing popularity of apps and decline in web browser usage has created a need for new and different tools and protections," said Verizon to Fierce Wireless. "There are numerous alternatives for security, protection and filtering services in the marketplace to help manage content through the device operating system, through applications downloaded to the device and through Web browsers." Verizon's Content Filtering service went offline June 27.

Samsung Intros Unlocked Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

Thursday, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 10:34 AM

Samsung today said U.S. consumers can buy unlocked variants of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. The devices are identical to those sold by carriers, but are unlocked and can be used on any GSM/CDMA network in the U.S. and abroad. The unlocked S7 and S7 Edge support LTE in Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 29, 30, and 41, making them highly compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Moreover, the devices ship without carrier apps and instead come with a clean build of Android 6.0 Marshmallow and Samsung's TouchWiz. The unlocked Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge are available from, Amazon, Best Buy, Ebay, Sam's Club, and The S7 costs $670 and the S7 Edge costs $770.

Verizon, Samsung Offer Small Cell for Improved In-Home Coverage

Wednesday, 1:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced the 4G LTE Network Extender for homes and small businesses. The small box provides LTE coverage in buildings up to about 7,500 square feet, including services such as HD Voice and high-speed data. Verizon says the 4G LTE Network Extender supports up to seven devices at a time, with an eighth channel reserved for emergency calls. The device, made by Samsung's networking business, is self-optimizing and can learn its surroundings to provide better coverage. Verizon says the box needs a wired broadband connection to function. Further, it requires broadband service with minimum speeds of 10Mbps down and 5Mbps up, and Verizon recommends broadband service with 20Mbps down and 10Mbps up for optimum performance. The device does not rebroadcast or boost local signal; instead, it uses the broadband connection as backhaul and creates its own LTE cell for connectivity. Users will be able to transition seamlessly between in-home LTE and Verizon's macro LTE network when stepping outside. The 4G LTE Network Extended goes on sale June 30 for $250.

FCC Incentive Auction Racks Up $86B In Clearing Costs

Wednesday, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 12:11 PM

The FCC today said that the reverse portion of its incentive auction is now complete. Bidding for 600 MHz television airwaves is over, and the cost to clear the 126 MHz spectrum target exceeded $86.4 billion. The FCC expects to begin the forward portion of the auction soon, which will see wireless companies bid on the spectrum blocks. Carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are participating, but Sprint is sitting out. The auction drew lots of interest from individual bidders, too. It's not clear how much the FCC expects to make from auctioning off the airwaves moving forward, but bidders will need to meet or exceed the $86.4 billion at a minimum. The airwaves are vital low-band spectrum to be used for mobile broadband. "Today, bidding concluded in the reverse auction, establishing the cost for clearing 126 MHz in the TV band for wireless use," said the FCC's Gary Epstein in a prepared statement. "Strong participation from broadcast stations made this initial clearing target possible. Now the action shifts to the forward auction, which will give wireless bidders the opportunity to compete for this beachfront spectrum to meet America's growing mobile data needs."

Facebook Says It Will Prioritize Posts from Friends

Wednesday, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Responding to user feedback, Facebook plans to change how it ranks posts that appear in the news feed. Facebook says items posted by family and friends will be ranked higher than other content and thus should appear higher up in the news feed. Facebook explained how it approaches the news feed with a system of values. For example, friends and family come first. Facebook also wants the news feed to inform and to entertain — things its research says people want. At the same time, Facebook believes the news feed should be a platform for all ideas that generates engaging conversations while still leaving users in control. "Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook," said the company in a blog post. The latest iteration to the news feed will roll out to all users over the coming weeks.

Blu R1 HD Revealed In Full

Wednesday, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today announced the Blu R1 HD, an inexpensive Android smartphone that will be sold unlocked starting July 12. The R1 HD boasts curved Gorilla Glass 3, a metal frame, and soft-touch paint job on the rear cover to give it a premium feel. The screen measures 5 inches with 720p HD resolution and the phone is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core MediaTek 6735 processor with 8 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM. The R1 HD includes an 8-megapixel main camera with f/2.0 aperture and LED flash, while the selfie camera — which has an LED flash of its own — captures 5-megapixel images. The phone can record video up to 1080p HD. The Blu R1 HD runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and comes with support for two SIM cards and microSD cards up to 64 GB. The phone is sold unlocked and is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile (LTE in Bands 2, 4, 7, 17). The device costs $100, but will be sold exclusively by Amazon for $50 with ads and promotions appearing on the lock screen. A second variant includes 16 GB of storage and 2 GB of RAM for $10 more.

Amazon to Sell Discounted Unlocked Phones As Long As You Agree to Watch Ads

Wednesday, 8:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today announced a new promotion that will allow Amazon Prime subscribers to buy unlocked handsets at reduced prices. The first two phones eligible for the promotion include the Motorola Moto G4 (pictured) and the Blu R1 HD. Amazon said the Moto G4 will cost $150, rather than $200, and the Blu R1 HD will cost $50, rather than $100. There's a big catch, however; people who buy these phones will be required to watch ads. "The breakthrough pricing on unlocked smartphones is supported by personalized offers and ads," explained Amazon, "including deals and product recommendations, displayed on the phone's lockscreen. When a customer sees an offer, they can tap to learn more about it or simply unlock their phone to dismiss." Amazon uses a similar model to discount the price of its own Kindle-branded e-readers. Both the Moto G4 and Blu R1 HD go on sale July 12. For a limited time, Prime subscribers can get an additional $25 off the G4, dropping the total price to $125.

LG's VPInput App Lets PCs Control Smartphones Via Bluetooth

Wednesday, 8:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG recently announced VPInput, an app for PCs and select LG handsets that makes Bluetooth pairing a breeze. More than simply connecting the devices, VPInput lets LG smartphone owners control their device using the PC's mouse and keyboard. LG is pitching the app as "a convenient solution when you’re at your desk but want to check your phone without interrupting your workflow." For example, VPInput can be used to copy text from a Word document on a PC and then paste it into a document on a smartphone, or take a screenshot on a phone and display it on the PC screen. Further, function keys on the PC can be used as shortcuts to launch certain apps or tools that are on the smartphone. VPInput is free to download from the Google Play Store, but is only compatible with the LG V10, G4, and G5 smartphones.

WiFi Alliance Promises Faster WiFi Is On the Horizon

Wednesday, 7:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The WiFi Alliance today announced an expansion of its WiFi Certified ac program in an attempt to boost the speed and capacity of WiFi routers and other WiFi-equipped devices. Specifically, devices won't receive WiFi Certified ac status unless they make improvements to several core functions. First on the list is MU-MIMO, which lets routers multitask and send data to multiple devices at a time. This improves throughput and efficiency in any given network. Second, WiFi Certified ac now supports four spatial streams, up from three, to connect to more devices. Third, the certification program increases the maximum channel bandwidth from 80 MHz to 160 MHz for doubling speeds. Last, WiFi Certified ac extends support for more channels in the 5 GHz band, which should allow routers make more efficient use of the spectrum. Select chips from Broadcom, Marvell, MediaTek, Qualcomm, and Quantenna have already been approved for WiFi Certified ac and can be used to test the technology in device designs. The WiFi Alliance expects WiFi Certified ac products to proliferate over the next five years.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 Optimized for Project Tango

Wednesday, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said its top-of-the-line processor, the Snapdragon 820, is ready to power Project Tango hardware. Qualcomm initially supported Project Tango with the Snapdragon 652, which required a number of software optimizations. This is why the recently-announced Lenovo Phab 2 Pro Project Tango handset runs on the Snapdragon 652 rather than a different chip. Qualcomm retuned the 820 to match the 652's software optimizations. Specifically, Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 820 now offers "high accuracy, uniform time stamping of multiple sensor data streams, efficient processing without the need for external co-processors, and leading camera and sensor processing technology" — all needed for Tango. Qualcomm plans to support Tango with more of its Snapdragon 600 and 800 tier processors over time.

Skype for Android Adds Arabic and Hebrew

Wednesday, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced version 7.05 for Android devices, which adds proper support for Arabic and Hebrew. Both languages are written right-to-left, not left-to-right like English or Spanish. Microsoft says Skype 7.05 offers a native right-to-left experience in the app for the first time. Rather than simply mirror its UI for Arabic and Hebrew, Skype recreated every transition animation and optimized its navigation tools to function normally with the two right-to-left languages. Skype 7.05 is free to download from the Google Play Store.

SanDisk Debuts Two 256 GB MicroSD Cards

Wednesday, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

SanDisk today announce two new high-capacity microSD memory cards for smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Both cards offer 256 GB of storage for photos, music, movies, and other content. The SanDisk Extreme microSDXC UHS-I card delivers transfer speeds of up to 100Mbps and write speeds up to 90Mbps for burst photo capture. SanDisk says the card can store up to 14 hours of 4K video. This card is meant more for professionals than consumers. SanDisk's Ultra microSDXC UHS-I card Premium Edition targets Android smartphones and tablets and is meant more for general capacity than raw speed. That said, transfer speeds reach as high as 95Mbps, which SanDisk claims is rapid enough to move up to 1,200 photos from a phone's built-in storage to the memory card in about one minute. The card can store up to 24 hours of full HD video. The Extreme microSDXC UHS-I will go on sale during the fourth quarter for $F200, while the Ultra microSDXC UHS-I will go on sale in August for $150.

Motorola's Refreshed G Series Streets July 12

Tuesday, 10:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said its fourth-generation G series smartphones will go on sale beginning July 12. The G4 will cost $199 and the G4 Plus (pictured) will cost $249. The phones will be sold by, Best Buy, BrandsMart, B&H, CarToys, Fry's, MicroCenter,, Sam's Club, and Walmart. Further, Republic Wireless will offer both phones with its service starting July 28. The Moto G4 and G4 Plus are sold unlocked with support for most U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.

Luna Mobile Licenses Microsoft Patents

Tuesday, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced a new partnership with Luna Mobile, which has agreed to license Microsoft's technology patents for mobile devices. Luna has committed to launching 5 different smartphones this year, ranging in price from $139 to $459. Luna Mobile did not provide any details about the handsets in question, such as what operating system they might run and where they might be sold. The company has several manufacturing partners lined up in China. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Microsoft did say it will receive royalties from Luna. Microsoft has similar patent-licensing agreements with many other phone makers.

US Cellular Coverage Reaches Google's Project Fi

Tuesday, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Project Fi app in order to take advantage of cellular coverage offered by U.S. Cellular. Earlier this month, Google said it planned to supplement Project Fi's coverage with U.S. Cellular. The freshly updated app allows Fi subscribers to capitalize on that expansion. Project Fi already relies on Sprint and T-Mobile for cellular connectivity, and automatically connects to the strongest signal. U.S. Cellular provides LTE service in 23 states, mostly in the Midwest, which improves Project Fi's overall footprint. Google claims its dynamic network-switching technique provides customers with a cellular connection 99% of the time they are using their phones. Project Fi also relies on WiFi. The Project Fi app is free to download from the Google Play Store, but the service is only available to select Nexus smartphones.

ZTE Allowed to Export US Goods Through August

Tuesday, 6:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE can continue to export U.S. goods for another two months thanks to an extension offered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department alleged in March that ZTE violated trade sanctions in place against Iran by using shell companies to hide its exporting activities. The government initially banned ZTE from exporting any U.S. goods, parts, or components, but quickly offered a three-month reprieve while ZTE works with the government to resolve the issue. That reprieve has been extended another two months, through August 30. The ban would have disrupted ZTE's global supply chain had it been put into full effect.

Google's Cardboard-Based Expeditions Expand to All

Monday, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its Expeditions virtual reality application available to all Android devices. Expeditions lets people setup and participate in virtual tours of popular tourist spots, locations, and landmarks. At launch, the tool was limited to educational purposes. Today's expansion allows anyone and everyone to take virtual trips to more than 200 destinations with curated imagery and commentary. Google Expeditions is intended to work with the Google Cardboard VR viewer.

Google Makes New Google Cast SDK Available

Monday, 3:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today offered developers access to the Google Cast SDK version 3.0 for Android and iOS. Google first discussed changes to its casting platform at the I/O developer conference in May. Google Cast allows people to push content from smartphones, tablets, and laptops to other devices, such as television sets or media players. The revised Google Cast SDK is easier to use, more reliable, and quicker, says Google. Developers can make use of the SDK to add casting features to their own apps. The SDK is free for developers to access and use. Google believes the simplified SDK will convince more app writers to make content cast-able.

Facebook Wants People to Share More Videos

Monday, 3:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook is prepared to ease the process of creating compelling video posts with your pictures. The company today said it plans to relocate the Slideshow feature built into its Moments app and drop it into the main Facebook app for iOS. Once the feature is moved, it will automatically assemble photos and videos into small, easy-to-digest slideshow videos. In order to function, Slideshows will look for collections of at least five photos and/or videos posted within a 24-hour period. The tool adds themes, transitions, and music on its own, but users can customize them if they so wish. The feature is similar to Memories in Apple Photos and Movie Assistant in Google Photos. Facebook for iOS with Slideshows is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Google Sharpens Imagery In Maps and Earth

Monday, 10:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has updated the satellite images in Google Maps and Google Earth with much higher-resolution pictures. The company put to use imagery captured by the Landsat 8 satellite, which launched in 2013, to improve the clarity, color, and resolution. Google says it also improved its processing techniques, using millions of images to create the clearest-possible mosaics through the same Earth Engine APIs that scientists use. Google parsed more than 700 trillion pixels culled from nearly a petabyte of Landsat imagery. Google says the new, sharper imagery is now available across all its mapping products.

Twitter Wants You to Dress Up Images with Stickers

Monday, 9:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today said it is bringing stickers to its Android and iOS mobile apps. Twitter users can browse through Twitter's library of hundreds of accessory, emoji, and prop stickers to "make your photos more fun." Twitter says people can use multiple stickers on a single photo, as well as resize and rotate the stickers to better fit the image. Once images are adorned with stickers, the sticker's name will be added to the image as a searchable hashtag, allowing everyone to search for stickers to see how they've been used on various photos. Twitter is rolling out stickers to mobile devices and the web gradually over the next few weeks. Stickers have become popular in messaging and social networking apps, including Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.

Qualcomm Develops 5G Test Platform

Monday, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm has created what it calls a prototype 5G system and trial platform. The 5G New Radio (NR) prototype is able to function across a wide range of spectrum bands, primarily below 6 GHz, and can achieve multi-gigabit per second data rates and low latency. Qualcomm says the prototype uses some of the designs that may be used in the final 3GPP standard for OFDM-based 5G NR air interface. The 3GPP is already studying the 5G NR, which may become a part of Release 15. The 5G NR includes a base station and end-user equipment for testing 5G technologies. It supports wide RF bandwidths over 100 MHz for testing speed, latency, and the various technologies that make these speeds possible. The prototype is something that telecommunications equipment vendors and wireless network operators will put to use as they work to develop and help define 5G. The FCC recently said more action is needed to push 5G forward. Some U.S. carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, plan to test 5G networks as soon as late 2016 and early 2017. The standard for 5G has not yet been defined, but technology firms of all stripes are hoping to contribute to the final standard.

Walmart Pay Now Available In 16 States

Jun 24, 2016, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart this week expanded the reach of its mobile payment service, Walmart Pay, to a total of 16 states. Walmart Pay was already available in Alabama. This week, the service went live in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Walmart Pay works with Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Walmart said it expects to complete its rollout by the end of summer. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own.

YouTube to Enable Mobile Live Video Streaming

Jun 24, 2016, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google plans to add live video streaming to its YouTube mobile apps. Google says live streaming will be incorporated into the application's core and won't require a separate app or download. A "capture" button in the corner will initiate live recording. Users will be able to select a thumbnail image and even chat while streaming. Google says videos that are streamed live will have all the features available to videos that are uploaded regularly, such as search, recommendations, and playlists. Videos captured live will be automatically saved to YouTube for safekeeping. Google is bringing live video streaming to a handful of video content creators first with plans to expand availability to more people over time. The feature is a response to competing live-streaming apps from Periscope and Facebook.

Instagram to Begin Recommending Video Channels

Jun 23, 2016, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today said it will start grouping video recommendations into channels in a new "Picked for You" feature. The recommendations will appear under the Explore tab and will be put together based on topics and user interests. Instagram says video consumption on the service has surged, so it is creating even more categories under the Explore section to improve discovery. The Picked for You feature will reach U.S. users first, with other regions to follow over time.

Nextbit Says OS Update to Tackle Battery Life In New Way

Jun 23, 2016, 10:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 23, 2016, 10:53 AM

Nextbit will bring the same thinking it used to create the Robin's dynamic storage functionality to the smartphone's battery in a future operating system update. "We can apply the same intelligence we've used for smart storage towards making your battery last significantly longer," said the company in a blog post. "We will launch a new version of Nextbit OS that gets to know your habits and optimizes functions at the system level to ensure you get the most screen time possible." Nextbit says its battery intelligence will work hand-in-hand with the existing power-saving tools in Android Marshmallow and the forthcoming features in Android N. The company didn't dive into specifics on how it will achieve battery gains, nor did to make any claims as to how much more battery life will be achieved through its technique. The operating system will be offered to members of the Nextibt Beta Program before it is released to all users in the fall. The Robin dynamically shifts photos, videos, and even apps from the phone to the cloud when needed to make room for new content.

T-Mobile Kicks Off Summer with Free LTE In Europe

Jun 23, 2016, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said its customers will be able to use an unlimited amount of high-speed mobile data across Europe this summer. Specifically, customers can enjoy the highest-possible speed, up to and including LTE 4G, throughout the European Union between July 1 and August 31. T-Mobile customers can already use unlimited 2G data in more than 140 countries. The high-speed summer roaming includes unlimited free texting and $0.20-per-minute voice calls, but not tethering. T-Mobile may terminate or restrict service for misuse or excessive roaming. T-Mobile is also giving every person who flies in the U.S. this weekend (including AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon customers) a free hour of Gogo in-flight WiFi on their smartphone. The free WiFi offer is available from Friday, June 24 through Sunday, June 26 on all domestic flights that offer Gogo WiFi. Last, T-Mobile added Belize to its list of Simple Global countries, which means T-Mobile customers can use 2G data and send messages for free, and make low-cost calls when traveling to Belize. Free roaming in Belize begins July 1.

Instagram to Soon Include Translations

Jun 23, 2016, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram said that it plans to add a translation button to its service over the coming month so users can read the profile bios, feed stories, and comments written in other languages. Tapping the button will automatically translate the content to the user's native language. Instagram didn't specify if the functionality will reach its web site, mobile apps, or both. "The Instagram community has grown faster and become more global than we ever imagined. And we're excited that you'll soon be able to understand the full story of a moment, no matter what language you speak," said the company in a blog post. The translation feature will be made available to most users. Instagram is owned by Facebook. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Innovative Keyboard Case is Both Wireless and Battery-Free

Jun 22, 2016, 5:20 PM   by Rich Brome

One2Touch has a new keyboard case for Android phones called SlimType that uses NFC technology in a unique way to connect to a phone. Most keyboard cases have a battery or physical connector that adds bulk. The SlimType, however, draws power from the phone using NFC, and also uses NFC to communicate with the phone, eliminating the need for a Bluetooth radio. The standard SlimType model is no thicker than a typical leather flip case. The current model is optimized for the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7, but can work with some other Android phones with NFC. A larger model adds a rigid kickstand. An even larger non-case model provides a full-size keyboard. The standard model is available now from Amazon for $40. Read on for our hands-on impressions and more about the clever technology behind it.

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