Home  ›


Recent Archive  

Alcatel Says 1X with Android Go and 3V to Hit US In Coming Months

Yesterday, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced that it intends to sell the Alcatel 1X with Android Go and the Alcatel 3V in the U.S. at some point over the next few months. Both phones were announced earlier this year. The Alcatel 1X (pictured) is a small, entry-level device with the Android 8.1 Oreo Go Edition on board. Android Go is intended for low-powered phones and includes optimized Go variants of core apps such as Gmail, Maps, and YouTube. The 1X has a 5.3-inch, 18:9 screen with a quad-core MediaTek processor, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, 13-megapixel main camera and 8-megapixel selfie camera. The U.S. version, priced at $100, will include a fingerprint reader. The Alcatel 3V has a 6-inch, 18:9 display and includes a quad-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM and at least 16 GB of storage. The rear camera has a 12-megapixel main sensor and 2-megapixel secondary sensor for bokeh-style photos. The 3V comes in black, gold, or blue with a fingerprint reader, and runs Android 8 Oreo. TCL said more details will be made available soon.

iPhone Owners Gain Access to Google Lens in Google Photos

Yesterday, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said iOS users can try a preview of Google Lens in the latest version of Google Photos (v3.15). Google Lens is an image-recognition function that relies on mobile cameras to perform searches. Using Google Lens, iPhone and iPad owners can aim their camera at just about anything and Google will instantly perform a search and suggest results. For example, users can snap a shot of an old car on the street and immediately gain information about that car and discover where it might be available for sale. Google Lens can recognize objects such as flowers, vehicles, gadgets, business cards, and more. The tool works within the Google Photos mobile app. Google Photos is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Google Lens has been widely available to Android devices since earlier this month.

Samsung Brings Mickey and Minnie Mouse to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ as AR Emoji on Launch Day

Yesterday, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said those who buy the Galaxy S9 or S9+ smartphones will have access to classic Disney characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse via the phones' cameras. The pair of mice are brought to life in the S9/S9+ device thanks to Samsung's AR Emoji, which uses the front-facing camera to help people animate characters and more. Owners of the S9/S9+ will be able to send animated GIFs of Mickey and Minnie through messaging apps or pin them to their lock screen. "With more than 6 billion emojis sent daily, our goal with developing AR Emoji was to provide a fun, exciting way to communicate and a new way to bring animated images to life,” said Samsung's Younghee Lee. Characters from other Disney films including The Incredibles, Zootopia, and Frozen will roll out throughout the year.

Google Maps Transit Navigation Adds Wheelchair-Compatible Routes

Thursday, 4:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps public transit navigation with support for wheelchairs. The company asked its Local Guides to begin adding wheelchair/accessibility data to Maps last fall. This week's action builds on the data generated by that effort. Moving forward, people will be able to look up "wheelchair accessible" routes within Google Maps when using public transportation. Maps then displays a list of possible routes that weigh accessibility needs with data concerning elevators, lifts, ramp, and escalators. Google says accessibility-compatible routes are available in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney. Support for wheelchair navigation in public transit will come to more major cities over the coming months.

Facebook Bringing Lite App to More Countries, Including US

Thursday, 12:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today said it will allow more people to download and use the Facebook Lite application. Facebook Lite, which has been available since 2015, is a stripped-down version of the social networking app meant for regions with slow or poor network connectivity. Facebook is expanding the app's availability beyond the initial list of 100 countries to include nations with developed networks such as the U.S., Canada, Australia, the U.K., France, Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand. "We’ve seen that even in some developed markets people can have lower connectivity, so we want to make sure everyone has the option to use this app if they want," said the company. Facebook Lite will reach the new markets beginning March 16. Earlier this month Facebook brought Facebook Messenger Lite to more countries, including the U.S.

Law Enforcement Could Use CLOUD Act to Skirt 4th Amendment

Thursday, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The CLOUD Act would give law enforcement both at home and abroad new access to Americans' personal data in violation of the Fourth Amendment, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The CLOUD Act (H.R. 4943 and S. 2383) lets U.S. law enforcement access data stored anywhere in the world regardless of the privacy laws where that data is located. Moreover, it gives the president the power to enter into agreements with any nation that would let foreign law enforcement officials take data from U.S. companies — all without showing probable cause or requiring a warrant. The Act stipulates that foreign police could only grab data from U.S. companies when the target is not a U.S. citizen, but there's a big back door. According to the EFF, data scooped up on foreign targets in the U.S. would surely include metadata generated by and pertaining to Americans. Metadata might include call times/locations, emails, messages, voicemails, and more. Further, foreign law enforcement agencies could then share any data collected about U.S. citizens with U.S. law enforcement, again, with no warrant needed. The language that covers the circumstances under which data could be shared between agencies and across boarders is vague at best. "The backdoor proposed in the CLOUD Act violates our Fourth Amendment right to privacy by granting unconstitutional access to our private lives online," claims EFF. The Cloud Act is currently working its way through the House and the Senate. It's not clear if or when there might be a vote.

Google Rebrands 'Android Wear' as 'Wear OS by Google'

Thursday, 10:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is getting rid of the Android Wear brand that has been a part of its smartwatch strategy for years. Moving forward, Google's platform for wearable devices will be called Wear OS by Google. "As our technology and partnerships have evolved, so have our users. In 2017, one out of three new Android Wear watch owners also used an iPhone," explained Google in a blog post. "We’re announcing a new name that better reflects our technology, vision, and most important of all — the people who wear our watches. We’re now Wear OS by Google, a wearables operating system for everyone." Google didn't say if the OS or platform will change along with the name. It did, however, say that smartwatch and phone apps will be updated with the new name over the coming weeks.

BlackBerry to Keep John Chen As CEO Through 2023

Thursday, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it has extended its contract with CEO John S. Chen, who will serve as chief executive through November 2023. BlackBerry brought Chen on board in 2013 and he oversaw the company's transformation from a hardware business to a software and services business. Chen was responsible for deep spending cuts that helped keep the company from going under. It is now focused on selling mobile device management services to business customers. The company also develops device-side software for Android handsets that allows them to offer secure email, messaging, and other core communications. "The BlackBerry Board of Directors has tremendous confidence in John Chen. John engineered a successful turnaround and has the company repositioned to apply its strengths and assets to the Enterprise of Things, an emerging category with massive potential," said board member Prem Watsa. BlackBerry-branded handsets are designed and sold by TCL, which also designs devices under the Alcatel brand.

Google Opens Pixel's Depth-Of-Field Effect Code to Researchers

Thursday, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 8:49 AM

Google this week made its semantic image segmentation feature, which is what powers the portrait effect on the Pixel smartphones, available to academia and researchers. Google uses semantic image segmentation to define the shape of objects within photos and then assign those objects a label, such as person, dog, or car. In short, it's what allows smartphones such as the Pixel to recognize the shape of a subject's head in a portrait, draw a line around it, and then take action with the other regions of the photo, such as blur the background. Google is open-sourcing the newest version of its semantic image segmentation code, DeepLab-v3+, as implemented in TensorFlow. It is built on top of a convolutional neural network (CNN) backbone architecture, which Google says is meant for server-side deployments. Google's immediate goal is not to bring Pixel-level portrait shooting to other smartphones. "We hope that publicly sharing our system with the community will make it easier for other groups in academia and industry to reproduce and further improve upon state-of-art systems, train models on new datasets, and envision new applications for this technology," said the company. Researchers and academics interested in the technology can find the necessary resources on GitHub.

Apple Puts Family Resources On a Single Web Page

Thursday, 7:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple recently published a new web site meant to help families manage their iPhones, iPads, Macs, and Apple accounts. The site offers high-level overviews of all the parental controls available, as well as deep-dive tutorials with step-by-step directions on how to enable each tool. Parents have long been able to manage iTunes purchases, control content, set time/usage limits, see location data, share calendars and iTunes purchases, and more. The new Families web page is meant to serve as a central resource. It describes in detail how parents can reduce distracted driving for teens, set family groups and manage communications, find lost devices, and so on. The web site arrives after shareholders published an open letter earlier this year asking the company to address smartphone addiction.

Google Opens Maps and Resonance Audio to Developers

Wednesday, 2:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today gave developers more access to mapping and audio tools for creating games and other immersive experiences. First, Google brought its Google Maps API to the Unity gaming engine. The idea is to allow game developers to bring real-world map data into their augmented reality games. This way, games can mix and match reality with augmented content so developers can find the best real-world places for playing their games. Google says roads, parks, and buildings are now GameObjects in Unity, allowing developers to add their own style and textures to existing objects rather than force them to create new worlds from the ground up. Some 100 million buildings, landmarks, and other locales are available in 3D across more than 200 countries around the globe. Together with ARCore, Google believes its new Google Maps API will improve mobile gameplay. Second, Google released an open source version of its Resonance Audio project. Google released the spatial audio SDK last year. That SDK relies on data generated by the Resonance Audio project. Spatial audio creates a sense of presence within AR/VR environments, meaning players feel more like they are actually there. By opening Resonance Audio, Google hopes the community-driven approach will improve the tools available for developers when creating mobile or desktop experiences. Resonance Audio is now open source as a standalone library offered via GitHub through an Apache 2.0 license. Resonance Audio plugins for Unity, Unreal, FMOD, and Wwise are also open source, though they will be maintained by Google's partners. Developers can learn more about the new Maps API and open source Resonance Audio from Google's developer web sites.

Google Home Lets People Set Reminders That Ping Their Phone

Wednesday, 1:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has this week added several new features to Google Home that make the product more useful. First, people can now set reminders on their Google Home that are triggered by their phone's location. For example, at home, say, "Hey Google, set a reminder to pick up more coffee at the grocery store," and Google Assistant will remind you on your phone when you're actually at the grocery store. This is an expansion of a feature Google first announced last month. Second, routines are now more widely available. Routines string together a handful of actions that are triggered by a specific catch phrase. For example, people can ask Google to tell them about their day and get the news, weather, and traffic information they need first thing in the morning. Routines can now proactively turn off mobile devices' silent mode, and even interact with Assistant-powered appliances. Google is offering a half dozen routines to start, including morning, leaving home, bedtime, and so on. Users can easily customize the routines, and even ensure Google Assistant recognizes individual users for personalized routines. The new tools are free to use.

Samsung Partners with uBreakiFix for Same-Day Galaxy Repairs

Wednesday, 10:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Owners of Samsung's newer high-end phones will soon be able to score same-day repairs for most problems. Samsung has teamed up with uBreakiFix, which has some 370 locations around the country, in order to provide more timely repairs. uBreakiFix offers authorized repairs with genuine Samsung parts. The company says its technicians are all certified by Samsung and repaired devices are restored to factory conditions. uBreakiFix will fix the Note 5 and Note 8, as well as the Galaxy S6, S7, S8, and S9. The partnership officially kicks off March 15. The move helps Samsung become more competitive with Apple, which offers quick iPhone repairs at its Apple Stores.

Broadcom Ends Bid to Acquire Qualcomm

Wednesday, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Broadcom today said it will no longer pursue its proposed acquisition of rival chipmaker Qualcomm. The decision comes two days after the Trump administration opposed the deal on national security grounds. Broadcom will also withdraw its nominees for Qualcomm board seats. "Although we are disappointed with this outcome, Broadcom will comply with the order," said the company in a statement. Broadcom first proposed to acquire Qualcomm late last year. The companies have been wrangling over price and other matters since. Despite losing its planned bid for Qualcomm, Broadcom said it will continue efforts to repatriate to the U.S. The company is currently based in Singapore and plans to return to the U.S. within the next few months.

YouTube Debuts Dark Mode on Android and iOS

Tuesday, 7:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube today updated its mobile app for Android and iOS devices with a dark theme. The latest version of YouTube allows people to opt between light and dark theme. The dark theme changes the white background to dark gray. This makes the app easier on the eyes during nighttime viewing. The update is rolling out over the next few days.

T-Mobile to Adopt GSMA Universal RCS Profile

Tuesday, 2:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 7:54 PM

T-Mobile today said it plans to expand its support for Rich Communications Services during the second quarter of the year by adopting the GSMA Universal Profile. This will allow T-Mobile customers to take advantage of RCS-based features, such as video chat and large file transfers, with the native Android Messages texting app on their handset. The GSMA Universal Profile, for example, will let people send files as big as 100MB via messaging in addition to audio notes and more. T-Mobile is working with Google and other carriers around the world to ensure its RCS service is compatible with those used by competing networks, such as Sprint in the U.S., which adopted Google's RCS standard several years ago. This means people will be able to send rich messages to one another without downloading or installing a third-party messaging application, such as WhatsApp. T-Mobile said its customers can expect to see an update to the Android Messaging app arrive during the second quarter of the year. Moreover, the company intends to bring RCS Business Messaging to its network down the road. This will let businesses chat directly with customers for actions such as taking restaurant reservations or setting appointments. T-Mobile already offers RCS service to its own customers and has since 2015. AT&T and Verizon support their own RCS-like messaging services and have not announced plans to support the GSMA Universal Profile for RCS.

Essential Phone Being Updated to Android Oreo 8.1

Tuesday, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today said that the PH-1 Essential Phone is now receiving the Android Oreo 8.1 update. Essential says both beta testers and general users should be able to check for and download the update via the systems settings. Essential had been testing the Oreo build in beta for the last few months. Core improvement include notification dots, picture-in-picture, and autofill. The update is free to install.

Google Adds Captions to Image Search Results

Tuesday, 11:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is now providing more information in image search results. When people perform searches using Google Images, they'll see new captions that include the title of the web page where the result is published. Google believes this will give the results more context that is easily discerned from the main results page. Google already offers badges that call out image results based on what type they may be, such as products or recipes. Image search results also already include web site domains and URLs so people can see where the image is coming from. Google says image captions are rolling out globally today in the Google Search app for Android and iOS.

iPad Earns Its Own Version of Google Assistant

Tuesday, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a new version of Google Assistant specifically built for the Apple iPad. Google says Assistant on iPad can do all the same things Assistant can do on the iPhone, and yet it takes advantage of the added screen real estate of the iPad to display more information. Assistant works in portrait or landscape mode and can be used in a separate window when multitasking. Google says Assistant on iPad is rolling out beginning today and will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese (Brazil) and, Spanish. Google Assistant for the iPhone also picked up a minor update to day that resolves several bugs and adds new skills. Google Assistant is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

FitBit Steps Up Its Smartwatch Game with Versa and Ace

Tuesday, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FitBit today announce a range of new wearables, including a new smartwatch and a new fitness tracker specifically for children. The Versa is a smartwatch aimed at the masses thanks to its $200 price point and solid list of features. It includes a color touch screen, accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate monitor, altimeter, light sensor, vibration motor, WiFi, Bluetooth LE, and NFC. These sensors allow the Versa to track 15 different exercise modes, including swimming, assess cardio fitness level, provide personal reminders, track sleep, store and play music, and make mobile payments. Battery life is as good as four days. The Versa is compatible with Android and iOS. FitBit is accepting preorders now and expects the wearable to ship next month. The Ace is a simple movement tracker for kids. It is a wristband that counts steps, lets kids share and compare with family members and friends, participate in step challenges, as well as track sleep. Battery life is as good as five days. The Ace costs $100 and will ship in late May.

ACLU Sues TSA Over Domestic Electronics Searches

Tuesday, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The American Civil Liberties Union wants to know more about the Transportation Security Administration's policies concerning searches of electronic devices on domestic flights. As such, the ACLU has file a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the TSA seeking the agency's records. "The federal government's policies on searching the phones, laptops, and tablets of domestic air passengers remain shrouded in secrecy,” said ACLU attorney Vasudha Talla. "TSA is searching the electronic devices of domestic passengers, but without offering any reason for the search.We don’t know why the government is singling out some passengers, and we don’t know what exactly TSA is searching on the devices. Our phones and laptops contain very personal information, and the federal government should not be digging through our digital data without a warrant." Specifically, the lawsuit seeks the TSA's records related to policies, procedures, or protocols for conducting searches, as well as information about what devices are used to conduct the searches, and what training is involved. The ACLU notes that in October 2017 the TSA did announce heightened screening procedures for domestic flights, but the agency has yet to divulge any details. The ACLU first asked the TSA for details in December, but it has yet to receive any information from the agency. Customs and Border Control has more latitude to search the electronics of passengers arriving via international flights.

Trump Puts the Kibosh On Broadcom's Qualcomm Bid

Monday, 6:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

President Trump today issued an order that prevents Broadcom from purchasing Qualcomm. Trump cited national security as his reason behind the order. "The proposed takeover of Qualcomm by the Broadcom is prohibited, and any substantially equivalent merger, acquisition, or takeover, whether effected directly or indirectly, is also prohibited," said the president. Trump suggested there was credible evidence that the deal "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States." Qualcomm has so far rebuffed Broadcom's efforts, chiefly citing sale price. The proposal was under CFIUS review, given Broadcom's status as a foreign company. Broadcom is in the process of repatriation, but it doesn't expect to complete the process until early April. Broadcom did not immediately comment on the President's order.

Apple Sprinkles Bike-Sharing Data Into Apple Maps

Monday, 4:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today added data concerning the availability of public bicycle-sharing services to Apple Maps. The data comes from Ito World and congregates the availability and location of bikes and docking stations for 176 bike share systems in 179 cities around the world. Ito World says it launched its public data set late last year and claims it is the first worldwide feed concerning global bike sharing programs. By incorporating this data, Apple Maps users will be able to discover the availability of bikes such as Citi Bike in New York City, Bicing in Barcelona, Santander Cycles in London, Ford Go Bike in San Francisco, and many more. The details are surfaced by searching for "bike sharing" within Apple Maps.

Fifth Beta of iOS 11.3 Reaches Developers

Monday, 3:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made a new beta version of iOS 11.3 available to developers. iOS 11.3 Beta 5 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. iOS 11.3 also introduces four more animoji for the iPhone X, business chat, AirPlay 2, and more personalized recommendations in News. Apple also released developer beta versions of High Sierra 10.13.4 and tvOS 11.3. Registered developers can download the various new betas through Apple's developer portal and/or over the air. The public version of iOS 11.3 Beta 5 will likely be released later this week. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring.

Apple to Acquire Digital Mag Company Texture

Mar 12, 2018, 11:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it has agreed to acquire Texture, a digital magazine subscription service, for an undisclosed sum. According to Apple, Texture powers the digital experience of some 200 magazines on mobile devices. "We're excited Texture will join Apple, along with an impressive catalog of magazines from many of the world’s leading publishers," said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. "We are committed to quality journalism from trusted sources and allowing magazines to keep producing beautifully designed and engaging stories for users." Apple didn't say where Texture will fit into its business, though it is likely to supplement Apple's existing News app and/or book/magazine offerings.

Alexa Now Handles Follow-Up Requests and Makes Calls on Tablets

Mar 12, 2018, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has updated Alexa with several new powers that make it a more usable and fully-rounded voice assistant. First, Alexa gains a "Follow-Up Mode" that makes interacting with the assistant more natural. Once enabled, Alexa will listen for 5 seconds after completing an exchange for follow-up requests. The idea is to negate the need to repeatedly use the "Alexa" or "Echo" wake phrases. People will be able to wake an Echo device once, complete an interaction, and then immediately follow it up with a second request/interaction without using the wake phrase again. According to CNET, the blue ring on Echo devices will remain illuminated during this 5-second listening period. If no request is made, the Echo device will go back to sleep. Separately, TechCrunch reports that Amazon has brought Alexa voice calling to iPads, Android tablets, and Amazon-branded fire tablets. Alexa on Echo devices has been able to place voice calls for several months. Tablet owners can now initiate voice/video calls and send messages with Alexa on the slate of their choice. Amazon Fire tablets further gain the ability to act as intercoms, called Drop-In Mode, for talking to other Fire devices on the same WiFi network. Both Follow-Up Mode and voice calling on tablets need to be activated within the latest version of the Alexa app on mobile devices.

Honor View10 Available for Preorder In the US for $499

Mar 12, 2018, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei said that its Honor View10 smartphone is available in the U.S. starting today. The phone will be up for preorder between March 12 and March 22, with shipments starting March 22. The View10 has a unibody aluminum chassis with smooth edges and curved glass. The display measures 5.99 inches and adopts the 2:1 aspect ratio with full HD+ resolution. The phone is powered by Huawei's top-of-the-line Kirin 970 processor with 8 cores, 6 GB of memory, and 128 GB of storage. The View10 includes a dual-camera array on the rear. The main camera has a full-color, 16-megapixel sensor and the secondary camera has a monochrome, 20-megapixel sensor. They can tap into PDAF and the Kirin 970's neural processing unit for sharp focus and portrait photos with blurred backgrounds. Other features include a 13-megapixel selfie camera, fingerprint sensor, NFC, dual SIM cards, 3,750mAh battery, 4K video capture, aptX HD, Microsoft Translate, muted notifications during gaming, screen recording, face unlock, and 3.5mm headphone jack. The Honor View10 runs Android 8.1 Oreo with Huawei's EMUI 8 user interface on board. It includes U.S. LTE Bands 2, 4, 5, 7 12, and 17, which gives it average support for AT&T and T-Mobile. Missing are newer bands such as T-Mobile's 66/71. The View10 is being sold in blue and black, unlocked, for $499. Honor is selling the phone from its own web site. The company didn't say if other online retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, or B&H, will also sell the phone.

Broadcom Now Says It Will Be a US Company By April 3

Mar 12, 2018, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Broadcom has accelerated its plans to repatriate to the United States. The company today said its efforts to redomicile should be completed by April 3, rather than May 6. The change in plans appears to be a reaction to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) review being conducted of its proposed to buy Qualcomm. Qualcomm provides infrastructure and other communications equipment to the government and CFIUS fears there may be a national security risk. Broadcom, based in Singapore for the moment, planned to complete its repatriation before closing any deal with Qualcomm. Even so, it is currently a foreign company and there are limits to what foreign companies can buy when national security is a concern. The CFIUS review will be completed April 5, and Qualcomm will then hold its annual shareholder meeting. Broadcom hopes to unseat some members of the Qualcomm board and replace them with people more likely to approve its bid to buy Qualcomm. The drama between Broadcom and Qualcomm has been ongoing since the former first announced plans to acquire the latter late last year.

Motorola Confirms Some Layoffs, But Says Moto Z Phones Safe

Mar 10, 2018, 10:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola this week confirmed that it has released employees at its Chicago headquarters, though it insisted the impact to its handset team was minimal. Moreover, the company sought to quell rumors that its line of Moto Z handsets was in jeopardy. "In late 2017, Lenovo announced a worldwide resource action that would occur over the next several quarters, and impacting less than two percent of its global workforce," said Motorola in a statement. "This week's employment reductions are a continuation of that process. We are reducing our Motorola operations in Chicago, however, this did not impact half of our workforce there and our Moto Z family will continue." Speculation this week suggested that Motorola lopped its phone engineering team by half, and that the Moto Z line was cancelled. Motorola says that's not the case, though it did not provide exact numbers concerning the headcount reduction. Motorola has not introduced new smartphones since the third quarter of 2017 — fully six months ago. The company was expected to show off a refresh to its G series phones at Mobile World Congress, but the phones never materialized. The Moto Z line represents Motorola's top-tier handsets that feature swappable rear modules. The Moto Z2 Play and Z2 Force were introduced last summer.

Facebook Inks Music, MLB Deals

Mar 9, 2018, 1:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook upped its media game this week with new deals that give its users access to more content. First, the company has struck a licensing agreement with Warner Music Group. The deal means Facebook users will be able to embed music by Warner artists in videos and other posts shared on the social network. Facebook and Warner said they'll collaborate on "new products that enable users to personalize their music experiences across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and Oculus." Facebook already has similar agreements in place with Universal and Sony. Second, Facebook has a new partnership with Major League Baseball to bring daytime games to the social network. Under the terms of the deal, Facebook will stream 25 games during the regular season to the Facebook Watch service. Further, the MLB Live Facebook page will include access to recorded games globally. Facebook will begin airing live MLB games in April.

Microsoft Selling Customized Variants of Samsung Galaxy S9

Mar 9, 2018, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has added the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ to its online store. The devices are pre-configured with Microsoft apps and services. "A Microsoft customization is applied to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ Microsoft Edition when the devices are unboxed and connected to WiFi," explained Microsoft. When users first boot the device, they will be prompted to download Microsoft apps such as Office, Outlook, OneDrive, Cortana, and Microsoft's launcher for Android. Other than the software, the specs and features of the S9 and S9+ are unchanged from other versions of the phone. When purchased from Microsoft, the S9 and S9+ are unlocked. The S9 costs $720 and the S9+ costs $840.

Google Maps Adds Mario Time for Navigation

Mar 9, 2018, 12:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps for Android and iOS with a fun feature: Mario. Once users update to the latest version of Maps, they'll be able to turn on Mario Time for navigation. When activated, Mario will appear in place of the navigation arrow while driving, walking, or commuting. Google says the bonus feature is rolling out starting today and will be available for about a week.

Google Assistant Lets Device Makers Create Custom Actions

Mar 9, 2018, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced new Custom Device Actions for Google Assistant that will give devices native functionality specific to their hardware. Custom Device Actions build on the Assistant's existing Actions tool for issuing specific commands. Google says, for example, washing machines that include Google Assistant will let owners ask the machine to activate specific wash cycles simply by asking. Google is showcasing some of these new customized actions at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin this week, including a machine that sorts socks and a beer-ordering system. Google isn't stopping there. Assistant is gaining more functionality. For example, people will be able to subscribe to notifications via Actions. For example, Assistant can alert people to changes in stock prices in real time, or help them subscribe and then listen to Forbes' quote of the day. Moving forward, Google Assistant includes better media playback controls. Actions will support media playback on speakers and Android phones, meaning people will be able to pause or replay audio with simple voice requests. When using a phone, Actions will display a media player when listening to mediation sessions, relaxing sounds, or clips from TV shows. For example, Google says the new Daily Show Action lets people listen to the latest show and control playback via voice commands. Last, Assistant gains access to more brand-based Actions. Brands that have added the ability to interact via voice queries include American Idol, The Mindfulness App, and more. People will be able to launch and control these apps and/or experiences via Google Assistant on their home speaker or phone. Google says these new Actions for Google Assistant are rolling out over the next few days.

Broadcom Makes More Promises to Appease US Regulators

Mar 9, 2018, 9:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Broadcom today said it won't sell anything considered a "critical national security asset" to foreign buyers if its proposed purchase of Qualcomm is approved by U.S. regulators. Earlier this week, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) said it would take 30 days to examine Broadcom's proposal. For the moment, Broadcom is based in Singapore and there are limits on what foreign companies can do when purchasing U.S. companies, particularly those that provide services to the government. However, Broadcom is in the process of repatriating to the U.S., which it claims will be complete by May. Broadcom further committed to investing $3 billion in research and $6 billion in manufacturing in the U.S. on an annual basis if its deal is approved. Qualcomm insists Broadcom's current offer undervalues the company. Moreover, the two have not yet come to terms on how Broadcom will handle Qualcomm's licensing business. Broadcom hoped Qualcomm shareholders would elect directors proposed by Broadcom at the company's annual shareholder meeting this week. That meeting was postponed to accommodate the CFIUS review. The process is now on hold while CFIUS conducts its investigation.

Cricket Promo Includes $19 Phones from HTC, LG, Samsung

Mar 9, 2018, 8:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today kicked off a new promotion that drops the price of some smartphones to $19. Customers who switch to Cricket between March 9 and March 16 can buy the Samsung Galaxy Halo 16GB or 32GB, Samsung Amp Prime 2, LG X Charge, LG Stylo 3, or the HTC Desire 555 for $19. Cricket says the promotion is to celebrate its 19th birthday. A number of other promotions are still available and can be combined with the $19 phone offer. For example, customers who switch to Cricket and sign up for the Unlimited 2 plan (normally $55/month) can get a $10 bill credit each month for up to a year, in addition to a $5 monthly Auto Pay credit. These discounts drop the monthly cost to $40. The Unlimited 2 plan offers unlimited calls, messages, and data in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. The company is also offering four lines on the Unlimited 2 Plan for $100. Details are available on Cricket's web site.

US Ninth Circuit to Hear Challenges to FCC Net Neutrality Order

Mar 9, 2018, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court, based in San Francisco, will hear legal challenges to the Federal Communications Commission's repeal of Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The Ninth Circuit was chosen at random by the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation. Three-quarters of the Ninth's 24 active judges were appointed by Democratic presidents, with the remaining six appointed by Republican President George W. Bush. The Republican-led FCC's net neutrality reversal has been hit by legal challenges from every angle. For example, 22 state attorneys general have filed grievances, as have public interest groups, internet-based companies, and others. The states of California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania are all challenging the FCC, alleging that the agency disregarded "critical record evidence on industry practices and harm to consumers and businesses." Several states have said they'll enact net neutrality laws of their own to offset the FCC. In December, the FCC voted 3-2 down party lines to strike down net neutrality and published the rules in the Federal Register on February 22. The change legally goes into effect April 23. It's not clear yet if or how the legal challenges will impact the rollout of the law.

Google Allowing Artists to Contribute to their Own Search Results

Mar 8, 2018, 2:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is giving artists a bit more control over what appears when people search for them via Google. Moving forward, musicians can add content to their Knowledge Panel, which might include images, videos, GIFs, and text posted directly by the artist. Google says it will verify posts made by artists with a blue checkmark. Google says musicians who aren’t verified can do so easily in order to start posting. The feature is now live for all musicians who appear in Google worldwide.

MLB Network Steps Up to Bat On YouTube TV

Mar 8, 2018, 2:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube TV subscribers now have access to the MLB Network. Baseball fans will be able to watch all the content available on the MLB Network, which includes new programs and games. YouTube TB subscribers will be able to upgrade the experience to the MLB.tv product, which provides wider access to games, for an unspecified fee. At the same time, MLB an YouTube TV have expanded on an advertising partnership that will see YouTube TV’s branding prominently displayed during segments of baseball games. YouTube TV is an over-the-top streaming video service. It costs $35 per month, though the price is rising to $40 per month on March 13. The service is available to 85% of Americans and includes more than 50 live local, sports, and other channels.

MoviePass Yanks Some Location-Tracking from iOS App

Mar 8, 2018, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MoviePass has updated its iOS application and in so doing pulled unused app location features. The change comes after MoviePass CEO Mitch Lowe spoke about how much user location data the company tracks both before and after users attend movies. The revelation was met with disapproval from many. "Today, MoviePass released a new app update, including the removal of some unused app location capabilities," said the company in a statement provided to Engadget. "While part of our vision includes using location-based marketing to enhance the movie-going experience for our members, we aren't using some of that functionality today. Our members will always have the option to choose the location-based services that are right for them today and in the future." MoviePass hasn't said if or when it will make a similar change to its Android app.

Pixel's Motion Photos Can Now Be Exported as GIFs

Mar 8, 2018, 8:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Owners of the Google's Pixel handsets have a new way to share Motion Photos. A recent update to the Google Photos app adds the ability for Motion Photos to be exported as still images, videos, and now as GIFs. The GIFs are easy to share via social media apps and automatically loop once exported. The tool is available in the overflow menu of Google Photos. The GIF files are fairly large, larger than the original Motion Photo, and are saved at high resolution. The feature is already built into the Google Photos app on Pixel devices.

More articles in the Archive ›

What do you want to hear about? We're already working on a number of articles for the coming months, but we want to write about the things you're most interested in. So sound off: tell us what you want to know more about!

Subscribe to Phone Scoop News with RSS Follow @phonescoop on Twitter Phone Scoop on Facebook Subscribe to Phone Scoop on YouTube Follow on Instagram


All content Copyright 2001-2018 Phone Factor, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Content on this site may not be copied or republished without formal permission.