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printed January 16, 2017
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HTC Says One A9 to Start Receiving Nougat Today

Today, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC's Mo Versi today announced via Twitter that the late-2015 One A9 smartphone will be updated to Android 7 Nougat. HTC is pushing the system update to the unlocked variant of the phone first. The revised operating system will be delivered via an over-the-air update. HTC didn't say when carrier-branded versions of the One A9 will receive Nougat.


S. Korean Authorities to Arrest Samsung Heir On Bribery Charges

Today, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Prosecutors in South Korea plan to arrest Lee Jae-yong, the heir to Samsung's massive array of businesses. The special prosecutor's office is recommending Lee be charged with bribery, embezzlement and perjury, though the warrant must be approved by a Korean court before it can be served. The bribery charges pertain to alleged actions that took place in 2015 between Lee and President Park Geun-hye, South Korea's leader. Lee is said to have paid Park's government a total of $36 million in bribes in order to facilitate government approval of the merger of two lower Samsung affiliates. The merger helped pave the way for Lee's succession plan, which has been in the works for several years. Samsung is a family run business, though it is also publicly traded. If Lee is arrested and held, three co-CEOs will continue to run Samsung's day-to-day business operations, but Lee's path to succession will become much less clear. President Park has already been impeached by the Korean government, which is weighing whether or not to remove her from office. It appears Park may be the real target here. "We believe the bribery is linked to the president," said a spokesperson for the special prosecutor's office. Park is said to have profited from widespread corruption since taking office. Lee's arrest would be another black mark in Samsung's book, which has suffered in recent months from the Note7 recall.


Snapchat to Ease Navigation with Universal Search

Friday, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat is prepared to make its mobile app much easier to use with the addition of a universal search tool. The tool, reports TechCrunch, will always be accessible at the top of the screen and will let people quickly find friends, groups, publishers, and stories. The search bar uses a new visual style and offers suggestions for Quick Chats that allow users to find friends' message threads and/or stories in a blink. Other new tools include the ability to quickly jump to your own profile as well as add to the general Our Story slideshow that's accessible/viewable to all users. Snapchat is testing the new search tool with a limited number of Android users, but expects to roll it out to all Android and iOS users soon.


Verizon Debuts Global Jetpack with LTE-A and Support for 15 Connected Devices

Friday, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless this week announced the MiFi 7730L Jetpack, a global mobile hotspot that provides wireless access to WiFi devices in the U.S. and around the world. Verizon says the 7730L supports Cat 9 LTE-Advanced with carrier aggregation for speeds that are up to 50% quicker in some 450 U.S. markets. It supports a wide array of LTE bands for overseas markets, as well as CDMA 1x, GSM, and HSPA/HSPA+. The dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac radio helps offer connectivity to up to 15 WiFi devices at a time. The 7730L has a 4,400mAh internal battery that can be charged rapidly via Quick Charge, but it can also be put to use charging phones and accessories via the USB-C port when needed. The Jetpack has a 2.4-inch touch screen for managing settings, and supports mass storage access. The MiFi 7730L Jetpack, made by Novatel, costs $200 at full retail or $50 with a two-year contract.


App Store Antitrust Case Against Apple Allowed to Proceed

Thursday, 6:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

An on-going lawsuit accusing Apple of holding a monopoly on the market for iPhone apps has been given new life today thanks to an appeals court ruling. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Apple's sole distribution method of mobile apps for the iPhone may be anticompetitive. The original lawsuit was filed in 2012. It charged that Apple's policy of allowing only apps distributed via the app store onto iPhones violates federal law. Apple's legal argument centered on the idea that the App Store serves only as a platform for end users to buy apps from developers, the iPhone maker sees the App Store as shelf space that is rented out by app writers. However, app developers pay a 30% portion of revenues for the ability to sell via the App Store. Moreover, people pay Apple directly for apps via iTunes; they do not pay developers. Initial rulings in the case sided with Apple, but today's decision reversed lower courts, as iPhone owners cannot buy or install apps via any method other than the App Store, lest they jailbreak (or hack) their device. Apple maintains that this policy protects end user security, but a collection of iPhone owners contend it leads to less competition and higher pricing for mobile apps. It's not clear what the next steps in the case are, nor where they may lead.


Beta Testers Can Check Out iOS 10.2.1 Beta 4

Thursday, 5:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 10.2.1 Beta 4 to public testers. Apple has not said much about this minor update to iOS, but it is believed to resolve bugs and performance issues throughout the mobile operating system. Apple released a developer beta build of iOS 10.2.1 earlier this week.


Google Lets Maps Users Book, Pay for Uber without Leaving Maps

Thursday, 12:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier to hail rides from more car services within Google Maps. The new ride services mode now shows a map with a carousel of car providers that are nearby. Users can select their preferred service (Uber, Lyft) and see what options and promotions are available. Moreover, Maps will let people book, complete, and pay for an Uber ride without ever leaving the Google Maps app thanks to new integration with Uber's API. Uber users can sign into their account or create a new one within Google Maps and then book rides, track drivers, and connect via message — even if Uber is not installed on the device in question. The app also allows people to examine menus, hours, and other details about destinations while en route. Google says the new ride tools will be available over the next few days via Google Maps for Android and iOS.

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Straight Path to Pay FCC $100M for Squatting On 5G Spectrum

Thursday, 10:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 1:38 PM

The FCC has fined Straight Path Communications $100 million for failing to deploy wireless service in accordance with spectrum license requirements. Straight Path is sitting on approximately 1,000 licenses for spectrum in the 39 GHz band, which will eventually be used for 5G. The company renewed its licenses several years ago by submitting falsified documentation that claimed it had installed wireless systems that were in fact never built. After an investigation, the FCC concluded that Straight Path has not made any real attempt to put its spectrum holdings to use. According to the Consent Decree, Straight Path has agreed to pay a $100 million fine, $15 million of which is due immediately. The company must also surrender 20% of its 39 GHz spectrum licenses immediately. Straight Path has to sell or surrender the remaining spectrum licenses within one year, or it will be subject to the remaining $85 million in fines. Moreover, Straight Path must give 20% of the proceeds of any spectrum license sales to the U.S. Treasury as an additional civil penalty. "Squatting on spectrum licenses without any meaningful effort to put them to good use in a timely manner is fundamentally inconsistent with the public good," said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau. "Wireless spectrum is a scarce public resource. We expect every person or company that receives a spectrum license to put it to productive use."


LG Suggests G6 Will Be Waterproof

Thursday, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today revealed more potential details about its forthcoming G6 flagship handset in a teaser video. LG asked a number of people what they want in a phone, and those in the video say they're looking for something that has a big screen, but is easy to use one-handed, won't get ruined if dropped in the toilet, and has a good camera. LG has already said the G6 will drop the modular design of last year's G5 and will boast a 5.7-inch QHD+ display with thinner bezels. LG may announce the phone as soon as the Mobile World Congress trade show scheduled for February.


Hands On with the HTC U Ultra and U Play

Thursday, 3:30 AM   by Rich Brome

The HTC U Ultra and U Play are the company's new high-end phones, replacing the iconic HTC 10 and One series. They sport flowing 3D curved glass on the back, and high-end specs. The U Ultra also has a secondary touch screen above the main display. The U series also includes a learning AI assistant, as well as traditional HTC features like UltraPixel cameras, BoomSound Hi-Fi, hi-res audio, and HTC Connect for wireless media streaming. What are the U phone like in person? We checked them out.

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HTC U Ultra Is New, Glass-Backed Flagship Phone

Thursday, 3:30 AM   by Rich Brome

HTC today announced its new flagship phone, the HTC U Ultra, along with a smaller version, the U Play. Both phones have a new design with colorful glass on the front and back, and a metal frame. The rear glass is fully curved at all four edges, a first. HTC developed a unique process called optical spectrum hybrid deposition" to give the glass multi-layered color. Available colors are: blue, white, black, and pink. The U Ultra has a 2-inch secondary touch-screen above the main display, much like the LG V20. New "HTC Sense Companion" software uses an AI to learn about you and offer intelligent suggestions. It can learn which are your most important contacts and apps, and only surface those notifications on the second screen. It can also advise you when to charge the phone if your schedule indicates you may run out of power before bedtime. (The battery rates 3,000 mAh.) The HTC Sense Companion will be on both U-series phones, as well as other new HTC phones this year. The U Ultra's Super LCD 5 main display measures 5.7 inches and has Quad-HD resolution. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor and 4 GB of RAM. HTC gave the U Ultra four microphones that are always listening, and it can record "3D audio". The main camera is a 12-mgeapixel UltraPixel sensor, similar to the HTC 10 but with improved PDAF (focusing). A 16-megapuxel camera graces the front. Other features include 64 GB of internal storage, memory card slot, Android 7.0, Hi-Res audio, Cat. 11 LTE, fingerprint sensor in the home button, NFC, and Quick Charge 3.0. It has a USB-C port with USB 3.1, but no 3.5mm audio jack. The U Ultra is now available for pre-order from htc.com for $750, in an unlocked version that will work with the LTE networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. It will ship in early March. The U Play has the same design but smaller, with a 5.2-inch display, no second display, and a more modest main camera and processor. Other features are similar. HTC has not announced plans for a US-compatible version of the U Play.

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FCC Sees Potential for Harm in Zero-Rated Data Schemes

Jan 11, 2017, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 11, 2017, 3:06 PM

The FCC today took AT&T and Verizon to task for their zero-rated video services and said they may in fact be harmful to the market. The agency has spent time evaluating each of the zero-rated offerings from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. While the agency has no quibble with zero-rated services, per se, AT&T and Verizon's offerings may cross a certain line with respect to competition. "We ... have found that two of the plans present significant risks to consumers and competition in downstream industry sectors because of network operators' potentially unreasonable discrimination in favor of their own affiliates," said the agency in today's report. The FCC judged the offerings based on whether or not they amount to blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization, and if they don't violate those tenets, whether or not the services violate the general conduct rule with respect to data caps, transparency, and user choice. T-Mobile's BingeOn service, for example, is in the clear because it is open to all customers and all third-party services. AT&T's Data Perks program is okay, too, but its Sponsored Data program crosses the line because it likely violates the general conduct rule. The same is true of Verizon's go90 offering. "We are aware of no safeguards that would prevent [Verizon or AT&T] from offering substantially more costly or restrictive terms to enable unaffiliated edge providers to offer services comparable to [go90 and Sponsored Data] on a zero-rated basis," noted the agency. The FCC believes companies such as AT&T and Verizon that own both the content and the delivery mechanism may cause real harm to consumers and competition. The FCC didn't say what, if any, actions it might take next.


LeEco Selling the Pro3 and S3 Through Target

Jan 11, 2017, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LeEco has struck a distribution deal with Target and is now selling its Pro3 (pictured) and S3 handsets via Target's web site. The two phones are available online for $400 and $250, respectively, and are sold unlocked. They support GSM/LTE networks such as those operated by AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. LeEco is trying to expand from its home market of China into the U.S. Its handsets went on sale via LeEco's own web site late last year. The new distribution agreement with Target, even though limited to Target's web site, means LeEco's phones will seen by more U.S. consumers over time. Both the Pro3 and S3 feature solid hardware and specifications, and run highly customized versions of Android.


FAA to Halt Galaxy Note7 Warnings Thanks to 96% Return Rate

Jan 11, 2017, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung said this week that the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration are no longer requiring airlines to warn passengers about the Galaxy Note7 during boarding. Samsung says high participation of its refund and exchange program has helped it collect most outstanding devices. "By leveraging our digital technology to target each device, we've had over 96% of Galaxy Note7 phones returned to date," said the company in a statement. "Together with our wireless carriers, we have taken aggressive action to limit the remaining phones' ability to work as mobile devices, further enhancing participation in the recall." Over the last few weeks, U.S. carriers have distributed a system update to remaining Note7 handsets that prevents them from charging, effectively rendering them useless. Samsung thanked consumers, airlines, airports, and the government for their patience during the recall. Samsung was forced to cancel the phone after a number of units overheated and caught fire.


LG Says Next Flagship to Get QHD+ 18:9 LCD Screen

Jan 10, 2017, 1:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG Display has announced a new smartphone screen intended for its forthcoming flagship handset, the G6. The screen measures 5.7 inches across the diagonal and includes a non-standard 18:9 aspect ratio. "The new 18:9 aspect ratio represents LG Display's direction on how displays should evolve, while meeting the rising trend for watching videos on smartphones," said the company. "The 18:9 aspect ratio is also optimized for multi-tasking, using dual-screen functions." The QHD+ resolution adds 320 pixels to the length of the display, improving it from 2560 x 1440 pixels to 2880 x 1440 pixels with a pixel density of 564ppi. The new screen also shrinks the bezel requirements, reduces overall thickness, improves outdoor viewability, and reduces power requirements. LG is expected to announced the G6 with this new display as soon as the Mobile World Congress trade show next month.

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AT&T Bumps Up the Price of Unlimited Plans By $5

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

AT&T has quietly increased the cost of its old unlimited plans by $5 per month. The price jump is the second in a year from AT&T. "If you have a legacy unlimited data plan, you can keep it; however, beginning in March 2017, it will increase by $5 per month," said AT&T. After the increase, the old unlimited plan will cost $40 per month. Device access fees, and talk and text services are extra. AT&T throttles its grandfathered unlimited customers once they surpass 22 GB of mobile data per month. Like Verizon Wireless, AT&T stopped offering unlimited plans years ago.


Following Pebble Acquisition, FitBit Buys Vector

Jan 10, 2017, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vector Watch today said it has been acquired by wearable market leader FitBit. Vector, based in Romania, made several smartwatches that rely on e-paper displays and boast 30-day battery life. Vector has a proprietary platform for its watches, rather than rely on the more widely-used Android Wear operating system. FitBit has acquired both the hardware and software businesses from Vector Watch. "We believe this is an important milestone as a moment when we will start building other new and amazing products, features and experiences, incorporating our unique technology and knowhow with Fitbit’s experience and global community," said Vector Watch in a blog post. Vector promised that the transition will go smoothly. Its watches will maintain all existing features and functions, but no new product features will be added to the platform. FitBit, which already has a wide array of fitness-focused wearables, bought smartwatch maker Pebble in December 2016. FitBit didn't provide its own comment on the Vector acquisition, but clearly it intends to use Pebble's and Vector's hardware/software assets to improve its own offerings in the wearable space. Terms of the transition were not disclosed.


Verizon Installs 200 GB Cap On Unlimited Customers

Jan 10, 2017, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless plans to cut off customers who use 200 GB of data in any given month, even if those customers are grandfathered in on unlimited plans. These customers will have to agree to switch to a more limited plan or face loss of service. "Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a small group of customers on unlimited plans who use more than 200GB a month that they must move to a Verizon Plan by February 16, 2017," said Verizon via email to Ars Technica. Verizon hasn't offered unlimited plans since 2011, so the new policy impacts only those who've held onto old, old plans. Verizon made a similar move in August 2016, but set a higher 500 GB cap at that time. This new, lower cap will be applied to customers who use more than 200 GB per month for several months in a row. Those who don't agree to move to a limited plan and are disconnected will have 50 days to re-activate their account on a limited plan. Verizon throttles data speeds once customers exceed their monthly data allotment. Verizon's largest plan includes 100 GB per month and costs $450.


The Pocket-Size SCiO Could Tell You If Your Drugs Are Pure

Jan 9, 2017, 3:00 PM   by Rich Brome

At CES, Consumer Physics is demonstrating its SCiO molecular scanner. It's a lightweight Bluetooth accessory the size of a lighter that uses near-infrared spectroscopy to determine the exact molecular makeup of items it's pointed at. The company has an active network of developers creating a variety of apps that work with the device to address different use cases. Available apps include personal nutrition tools and commercial pill verification. However some third-party developers are working on apps that could use the device to determine the purity of illicit drugs such as MDMA (Ecstasy).

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Apples Seeds More iOS, watchOS Betas

Jan 9, 2017, 1:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 9, 2017, 1:47 PM

Apple today made a slew of betas available for its core operating systems. iOS 10.2.1 beta 3 is the most important for developers as Apple prepares the next minor update to its platform. watchOS 3.1.3 beta 2 is also available, as is tvOS 10.1.1 beta 2, and macOS Sierra 10.12.3 beta 3. Apple didn't spell out any specific changes in this round of betas, which are believed to focus on bugs fixes and performance improvements. Public testers can expect to see updated betas for their devices in a day or so.


Nokia's Comeback Gets Its Start In China

Jan 9, 2017, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 9, 2017, 8:39 AM

HMD Global this week announced the Nokia 6, the first smartphone to fall under the company's plan to resurrect the Nokia brand. HMD Global is a Finland-based business with the sole license to design smartphones using the Nokia brand. Foxconn is HMD Global's exclusive manufacturer. The Nokia 6 is milled from a single block of aluminum and then anodized 2 times over 10 hours to ensure a smooth finish. The device has a 5.5-inch full HD screen with 2.5D Gorilla Glass. The Nokia 6 is powered by a Snapdragon 430 processor with 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and Qualcomm's X6 LTE modem. HMD says the main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor at f/2.0 with automatic scene detection and phase-detection autofocus, while the selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. Dual amplifiers provide plenty of audio power and Dolby Atmos software helps shape the sound. The Nokia 6 will ship with Android 7 Nougat. Pricing is going to be set around $245. The device will ship during the early months of 2017. HMD Global did not say what LTE bands the phone supports, but it will only be sold in a China.


Best of CES 2017

Jan 7, 2017, 4:01 PM   by Rich Brome & Eric M. Zeman

CES is the world's big consumer tech show. Every year we head out to Vegas to check out everything in person. This year, we're also honoring the standouts with our Best of CES awards. This year, seven products really caught our eye.

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Samsung's Gear Smartwatches Now Work with iOS

Jan 7, 2017, 3:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has followed through on a promise it made last year and made the Gear S2, S3 and Gear Fit2 compatible with iOS. iPhone owners can download the Gear S app to use with their Samsung-branded wearable. Samsung says the exact Gear S features available to iOS phones will vary a bit by device, but all users can expect to use the GPS, speedometer, and other sensor for tracking workouts and monitor fitness. Fitness tools include distance and route traveled, pace, calories, and heart rate. The Samsung Gear S application is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Hands on with the New Balance RunIQ Running Watch

Jan 7, 2017, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

New Balance partnered with Intel and Strava to create the runner-focused RunIQ. This smartwatch runs Android Wear and includes core features such as GPS and a heart rate monitor. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions.

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Sprint Planning to Use Virgin Mobile As Market 'Disrupter'

Jan 7, 2017, 11:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint intends to relaunch its Virgin Mobile brand later this year and will use the prepaid service to shake things up. "We've put most of our attention in the postpaid handset business, which is where 80% of the profit in this industry comes from," said CEO Marcelo Claure. "Now that that business is stable, we're putting a lot of energy into Boost and Virgin." Claure has spent the last 18 months trimming costs at Sprint and getting its network strategy under control. With these tasks largely on track, the company is now focusing on its prepaid brands, which it has de-emphasized for a while. "I envision Virgin as being our disruptive brand," said Claure. "You're going to see us test different models. One model we're testing that we like is, rather than subsidizing handsets, actually providing free airtime with no subsidy on the handset. So you're going to see Virgin be our disrupter brand. And you're going to see Boost be a very strong brand that can give good competition to both Cricket and Metro." Claure didn't say when it might actually unveil the new, "disruptive" Virgin Mobile.


Nexus 6 Earns Android 7.1.1 from Google

Jan 7, 2017, 11:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week said the Nexus 6 smartphone from Motorola should receive the Android 7.1.1 update in the days ahead. The updated system software installs the new app shortcuts, round app icons, the image-enabled keyboard with new emoji, and various bug fixes. The Nexus 6 does not get some of the best features available to the new Pixel phones, such as Google Assistant. Knowledgable users can manually install 7.1.1 using the factory images available from Google's web site, but the update will be distributed over the air soon.


Verizon Kills 2-Year Plans, Bumps Activation Fee to $30

Jan 7, 2017, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless no longer offers two-year contracts with device subsidies, and has raised the cost of activating new devices by $10. The changes, confirmed by Fierce Wireless, were put into effect January 5. Moving forward, all post-paid customers will need to pay for devices via monthly equipment installment plans. Such plans break down the cost of phones and other devices over a course of two years, separating the price of the phone from the price of the service plan. Customers aren't locked into contracts, but they are on the hook for the full price of the phone if they choose to leave Verizon before the device is paid in full. Verizon Wireless has also increased the price of activating new lines of service from $20 to $30.


Hands On with the Casio WSD-F20 Smartwatch

Jan 5, 2017, 11:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Casio trotted out its second-generation Android Wear smartwatch this week. The WSD-F20 is a major improvement over last year's model thanks to the addition of GPS and Android Wear 2.0. Here is a quick look.

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NYC Reaches Full Cellular Coverage In All Subway Stations

Jan 5, 2017, 9:07 PM   by Rich Brome

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo today announced that by January 9th, all underground subway stations in New York City will have cellular and Wi-Fi coverage. The system was built and is maintained by Transit Wireless, which confirmed to Phone Scoop that this milestone includes all four major wireless carriers, at all covered stations. The system consists of an array of antennas spread throughout all platforms and passageways of all 278 underground stations in the subway system.


Hands On with the Kodak Ektra

Jan 5, 2017, 8:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Bullitt Group is back with another Kodak-branded smartphone and believes it has a better combination of form, features, and functionality in the Ektra. The Ektra clearly taps into the nostalgia factor thanks to its resemblance to older cameras. Bullitt has done its homework this time around and has high hopes for this unique handset. Here are our first impressions.

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Micro-LED Backlights Could Bring OLED Performance to LCD Screens

Jan 5, 2017, 6:50 PM   by Rich Brome

AT CES this week, Rohinni demonstrated its micro-LED technology, and provided a glimpse at new backlight technology it's working on for the LCD display panels used in phones. While most LED chips are around 1mm, Rohinni's micro-LEDs are many times smaller and can be placed precisely on thin, flexible plastic sheets. Rohinni is working with unnamed partners to use this technology in LCD backlights, which could reduce panel thickness, allowing thinner phones. Also, much like high-end "LED" home TVs, it would allow local dimming, which would improve contrast and lower power consumption, bringing most of the benefits of OLED technology to LCD panels. Micro-LEDs can also be printed on thin, flexible plastic sheets in any configuration. They're currently used for the thinnest laptop keyboard backlights, and have many other potential applications in mobile devices.

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Hands On with the Samsung Galaxy A5 and A3

Jan 5, 2017, 6:39 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 7, 2017, 7:11 PM

Samsung is bringing much of its acclaimed S-series design and features to its much more affordable A-series in 2017. In the A3, A5, and A7, you'll find a premium metal-and-glass design, water resistance, fingerprint security, Samsung Pay, Super AMOLED displays, and USB-C. What are they like in person? Read on for our first impressions.

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Kodak's Ektra Phone to Go On Sale in April for $549

Jan 5, 2017, 5:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Kodak Ektra smartphone, which was announced last October for European markets, will be sold in the U.S. starting this spring. Bullitt Group, the company that manufactures the device, says it will be available for pre-order in April at a cost of $549. The Ektra has a 21-megapixel Sony IMX230 sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and dual LED flash. It includes optical image stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, and can capture 4K video. The front-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor. The phone includes a 5-inch full HD screen, MediaTek Helio X20 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. The Ektra runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and has an advanced camera application with features such as bokeh, HDR, panorama, and manual mode.

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T-Mobile Will Pay You To Use Less Data

Jan 5, 2017, 2:57 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 5, 2017, 3:08 PM

T-Mobile today announced KickBack, an automatic bill credit of $10 per line per month for lines that use 2 GB of data or less in that month. Starting January 22nd, customers of the company's Simple Choice and T-Mobile One plans can opt in to KickBack via the T-Mobile app, or via customer service. After January 22nd, new sign-ups for the T-Mobile One plan will automatically be opted in to KickBack.

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T-Mobile Ditches Separate Taxes and Fees

Jan 5, 2017, 2:53 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 5, 2017, 3:17 PM

T-Mobile today announced that its plans will now include all taxes and fees in the advertised price. The company's T-Mobile One plan is included in this policy, and the price will stay the same, but now include all taxes and fees. Furthermore, the company will phase out all other plans on January 22nd. T-Mobile One — with unlimited data and taxes and fees included — will be the only plan the company offers. Consumers already on other plans (including older T-Mobile One plans that do not include taxes and fees) can keep them as-is, but no other plans will be offered to consumers looking to switch carriers or plans.

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Qualcomm To Build Wireless Charging Into Snapdragon Chips

Jan 5, 2017, 1:10 PM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm revealed this week that it will start building AirFuel wireless charging technology into its Snapdragon series of SoCs (system-on-chips). The support will include all of the logic and primary circuitry to support both inductive and resonant wireless charging technologies. The Snapdragon 835 — announced this week — will be the first chip with AirFuel. In addition, all new 600-series chips announced in 2017 and beyond will include the technology. Manufacturers will still need to include a charging coil and some minor passive components in order for a phone to support wireless charging, but this step will make it much easier and more affordable for phone makers to include wireless charging.

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Alcatel Debuts the A3 XL with 6-Inch Screen

Jan 5, 2017, 12:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced the A3 XL, the first in a new line of "premium affordable" mobile phones from the budget phone maker. The most distinctive characteristic of the A3 XL is the 6-inch 720p HD display. Alcatel is also calling out the phone's fingerprint sensor for biometric security. The phone is powered by a MediaTek MT8735B 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The A3 includes an 8-megapixel main camera with flash and HDR, and a 5-megapixel front camera. It has a 3,000mAh battery and runs Android 7 Nougat. LTE support is limited to bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20, and 28b, meaning it isn't compatible with the 4G networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. Alcatel says the phone will be sold overseas, though it plans to expand the A series over time.

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Google Fit and Apple Health Can Now Talk to Google Calendar to Help Complete Goals

Jan 5, 2017, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced new integration between its Google Goals tool and Google Fit and Apple Health. In order to help ease the process of meeting goals, Fit and Health can automatically record and mark users' goals in Google Calendar as "done." The tool is smart enough to see that if users set goals for something like "run at 6am" but never get out the door until 6:45, Goals will adjust automatically to reflect the user's actual behavior. Google says this integration with Google Fit and Apple Health give people more ways to manage the activities they like to pursue — and find the time to do them. The feature is being added to the latest version of the Google Calendar app.


Garmin inReach Brings Satellite Messaging to Your Phone

Jan 5, 2017, 12:10 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 7, 2017, 2:53 PM

Garmin this week announced its inReach series of satellite communicators. These standalone handheld devices can also be paired with any Android, iOS or Windows 10 smartphone to provide satellite-based text messaging and GPS mapping on your phone even where there is no cellular coverage. The devices use Iridium's global satellite network for messaging, letting the devices send and receive text messages with any cell phone number, email address or another inReach device. Users can set up the devices to provide regular location updates to a mapping portal, so friends and family can follow the progress of an expedition. An SOS function can let first responders and family know when you're in trouble and exactly where to find you. The base model inReach SE+ will sell for $400, while the inReach Explorer+ adds TOPO maps, compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer for an extra $50. Both models will be available later this quarter.

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Nuu Mobile Shows Off the X5 Smartphone with Konnect i1 eSIM

Jan 5, 2017, 11:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 7, 2017, 3:40 PM

Nuu Mobile this week announced the X5 smartphone during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The X5 is a flagship-class Android smartphone for those seeking alternatives to traditional postpaid carriers. The device offers a lot of value thanks in part to Nuu's unique mobile service plans. The X5 is a large slab that features a 5.5-inch full HD display. The phone is powered by a MediaTek MT6750T 1.5 GHz octa-core processor with 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 128 GB. Nuu selected Sony camera chips for the device, with a 13-megapixel BSI sensor on back and a 5-megapixel wide-angle sensor on front. The X5 supports U.S. LTE bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17 for compatibility with AT&T and T-Mobile. It also packs Bluetooth 4, GPS, NFC, WiFi, and an FM radio. Last, the phone contains a 2,950mAh battery, and it runs Android 7 Nougat out of the box. Nuu Mobile gave the X5 support for two SIM cards in a removable tray, but the handset also includes Nuu's Konnect i1 eSIM technology. The eSIM allows the X5 to roam in other countries at local wireless rates. Introductory pricing for roaming is approximately $2 per day for 500 MB of high-speed data overseas. People who exceed the daily data limit will be throttled, but will have full access to 500 MB again the following day. The eSIM means users don't have to hunt down a local SIM card when traveling; instead, they can simply activate the Konnect i1 service directly on the X5. The Nuu Mobile X5 goes on sale in March. Pricing wasn't announced, but all of Nuu Mobile's handsets cost less than $250.

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