Facebook today made Paper version 1.1 available to the iPhone. Paper re-encapsulates Facebook content and presents it in a more appealing digital magazine. Today's update adds a number of new features including: birthdays and other events, photo commenting, group updates, new story buttons, more article covers, and accessibility options. Paper is only available to the iPhone at the moment, though Facebook said an Android version is in the works. Paper 1.1 for iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
AT&T today upped the amount of data available to its GoPhone plans at no additional charge. Beginning April 25, the $40 plan jumps from 250MB to 500MB per month, and the $60 plan jumps from 2GB to 2.5GB per month and adds Wi-Fi hotspot. AT&T inserted a new $45 plan in between the two, which includes 1GB of data and is available at Walmart stores. Customers who already subscribe to these plans will receive the added data automatically. AT&T GoPhone is a prepaid service that does not require contracts.
Verizon Wireless today made a system update available to the HTC One (M8). The update adds several minor features to the Gallery app, including a copy/paste function, and resolves a number of bugs, such as web connection errors and data syncing when the Dot Matrix case is attached. The system update is free to download and install.
Microsoft today announced the availability of WinJS 2.1, a tool developers can use to help port their Windows apps to Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft says it should be painless for most developers to recreate their full Windows apps for the Windows Phone platform thanks to WinJS 2.1's familiar set of technologies, APIs, and other resources. WinJS 2.1 ties into recent changes made to Visual Studio, which includes templates for Windows apps, Windows Phone apps, and universal apps that run on both platforms. Microsoft hopes the allure of universal apps will entice developers into supporting Windows Phone.
MetroPCS announced the availability of the Samsung Galaxy S5, which is in stores and online beginning today. The GS5 costs $649 and can be paired with Metro's $40 no-contract plans.
Samsung today published an infographic explaining how its Milk streaming music service works. The company launched Milk earlier this year. It is based on Slacker's music engine and gives Galaxy-branded device owners free, ad-free streaming. The infographic suggests, however, that Milk is ad-free for only a limited time and will eventually include advertisements for basic service. The premium version, which Samsung indicates will launch soon, will cost $3.99 per month and include an ad-free experience as well as other exclusive features. Samsung did not say when this switch might be made.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler today reasserted his belief that AT&T and Verizon need to be restricted from purchasing too much 600MHz spectrum in the reverse auction planned for mid 2015. Wheeler's comments came in the form of a letter in which he responded to Representative John Barrow. "The Incentive Auction offers the opportunity, possibly the last for years to come, to make low-band spectrum available to any mobile wireless provider, in any market, that is willing and able to compete at auction," said Wheeler. "At the same time, a priority of the auction should be to assure that companies that already possess low-band spectrum do not exploit the auction to keep competitors from accessing the spectrum necessary to provide competition." AT&T and Verizon Wireless both hold significant blocks of 700MHz spectrum. Low-band spectrum is coveted for its propagation properties. Wheeler wants to make sure smaller companies, such as Sprint and T-Mobile, get a shot at the 600MHz airwaves. Wheeler's proposal involves reserving 30MHz in each market for companies that control less than one-third of the low-band spectrum in that market. This essentially precludes AT&T and Verizon from participating. AT&T believes the conditions are unfair and amount to the FCC picking the auction's winners and losers before it even starts. The company threatened to not participate, which could hurt the auction's ability to raise capital for a national safety network.
Microsoft has begun allowing developers to post responses to reviews of their application in the Windows Phone Store. For now, Microsoft is limiting this feature on a trial basis, though it will expand soon. The responses are emailed to the review author through Microsoft. Microsoft does not provide the developer with reviewer contact data. Microsoft thinks the ability to respond to user reviews will help developers improve their apps over time. Developers will be able to respond to reviews posted from devices running Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1 only. The feature will be limited to the U.S. from the onset. Microsoft didn't say if it will expand review responses to more countries.
Facebook today announced a new feature that will let people share their location with their friends. The tool, called Nearby Friends, is opt-in and needs to be turned on by users. It can be turned off at any time. Users will be able to share their location with all their friends, just close friends, or with specific lists of people. In order to see friends who are nearby, other users will need to have it on and share their location, too. The feature lets people share their exact location for a defined period of time, which is then visible on a map in order to make the person easy to find. Facebook suggests Nearby Friends be used by people to meet up when near one another. Nearby Friends will be added to the Android and iOS apps in the coming weeks.
Verizon Wireless today announced the LG Lucid 3, a low-cost Android smartphone. The Lucid 3 includes a 4.7-inch qHD display and a 1.2GHz quad-core processor. It features a 5-megapixel camera with full HD video capture and a VGA user-facing camera for self portraits. The phone runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and comes with a wide selection of LG apps, such as Knock Code, QSlide and QuickMemo. Other features include Isis Mobile Wallet, Bluetooth 4.0, LTE 4G, and a removable 2,440mAh battery. The LG Lucid 3 is free with a new two-year agreement, $12.50 per month with Verizon Edge, or $300 at full retail. It is available beginning today.
Flickr today introduced completely new versions of its mobile app for Android and iOS devices. The revised photo app places a higher priority on capturing, sharing, and interacting with photos. The photo stream has been redesigned and is easier to navigate. The built-in camera has Instagram-like filters and all photos now have the ability to favorite, share, or comment on them. The app supports video capture and editing, and allows users to upload clips up to 30 seconds in length. It includes more robust editing functions, such as crop, rotate, and tools to fix contrast, exposure, and color. The app makes it a cinch to see metadata so users can examine the details of each photo. Flickr for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
AT&T indicated to the Federal Communications Commission this week that it disapproves of proposed rules for the upcoming incentive auction for 600MHz spectrum. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has floated a plan that would reserve spectrum in each market for companies that don't already have low-band spectrum. Thanks to its 700MHz spectrum holdings, AT&T would be restricted from bidding in about 70% of U.S. markets for the 600MHz spectrum. Wheeler's proposal has yet to be officially implemented, but AT&T's Joan Marsh said, "If the restrictions as proposed are adopted, AT&T will need to seriously consider whether its capital and resources are directed toward other spectrum opportunities that will better enable AT&T to continue to support high-quality LTE network deployments to serve its customers." If AT&T doesn't participate in the auction, it could hinder the FCC's goal of generating money to build a public safety network. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the incentive auction rules by May.
Google updated the YouTube application for Android devices recently and made a number of improvements. YouTube now lets users reply to comments, delete their own comments, and see if comments were shared publicly or privately. The app also improves video quality for devices running Android 4.2 and up, lets users share and like playlists, and moves playlists to the left-hand guide drawer. YouTube for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
AT&T is making Android 4.4.2 KitKat available to the LG G Flex starting today. The update includes new status and navigation bars, and improves battery life and processor performance. The update is free to download via Wi-Fi.
Google today announced the availability of Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android, a tool that allows Android devices to remotely access Windows and Mac computers. In order to gain remote PC access, users will need to download and install software on their PC as well as the Chrome Remote Desktop app on their Android device. Once configured, users should be able to access PC-based files from their Android device. The service is free to set up and use. Google said an iOS version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app us due later this year.
Google today released a separate version of the stock camera application that ships with many Android smartphones. The app, which can receive improvements outside of full OS updates, has a slightly revised user interface with larger buttons. Google Camera offers a handful of new features, such as Lens Blur mode, which adds depth-of-field effects to make subjects pop. Google Camera also includes Photo Spheres, panorama mode, and a 100% viewfinder so users see everything that will appear in their photos. Google Camera is available to devices running Android 4.4. KitKat and up.
Aio Wireless, which is owned and operated by AT&T, today announced new service plans that offer increasing discounts for adding lines to a single account. The Group Save plans are available today to accounts with two to five lines of service. According to Aio Wireless, a two-line account will pay full price for the first line and then receive a $10 discount on the second line. A three-line account will receive a $10 discount for the second line and a $20 discount for the third line. Four- and five line accounts will receive a $10 discount on the first line, a $20 discount on the second line, and a $30 discount on the fourth (and fifth) lines. The idea is similar to that of Sprint's Framily Plans, which offer increasing per-line discounts the more lines are added to a single account. AT&T is in the process of acquiring prepaid provider Cricket Wireless. The Aio Wireless brand will eventually be retired in favor of Cricket Wireless.
HTC today made available a preview of its dual-camera software developers kit. The SDK will allow developers to tap into the two-camera setup on the HTC One. With these tools, they can create their own apps that take advantage of the perspective information captured by the second camera on the One. The SDK is free to download for all developers.
AT&T today said owners of the BlackBerry Q10 and Z10 smartphones can download and install BlackBerry OS 10.2.1. This update adds a wide range of new features to the Q10 and Z10 handsets. Some include: a customizable pinch gesture for filtering BlackBerry Hub content; the ability to access BBM from within any app; improved sound for BBM voice/video chats; more lock screen notifications; picture password; and improved battery life monitoring. AT&T says the free update can be installed manually via Wi-Fi.
AT&T today announced the availability of the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system for the Samsung Galaxy S4. The update is being rolled out gradually, but owners can manually download using the system settings. The update is free.
The NFC Forum today announced the availability of nine revised technical specifications. According to the NFC Forum, the updated specifications will let hardware makers and developers improve interoperability, generate faster read and write performance, improve handovers, and reduce power consumption in devices/apps that use NFC technology. Despite the revisions, the NFC Forum says the new specifications are backward compatible with older versions. The updated specs are available to download for free.
Samsung has committed to releasing a smartphone based on its Tizen platform by the end of the second quarter. Speaking to Reuters, Yoon Han-kil, SVP of Samsung's product strategy, said two Tizen-based devices will arrive this year. The first will be a high-end handset and the second will target the middle of the market. It's unlikely either device will reach the U.S., however. "We had tried to launch (Tizen) with DoCoMo and Orange ... but couldn't because of poor market conditions. We have changed our strategy and will release the phones in a few countries where we can do well," explained Yoon. The company will target emerging markets where demand for top-notch equipment isn't as high. Samsung has delayed plans to release Tizen-based phones several times. Tizen is based on Linux. Samsung is working with Intel on the platform, which the company recently added to its Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches.
The CTIA Wireless Association today said a number of handset makers and wireless network operators have agreed to a basic framework that will eventually provide consumers with better anti-theft tools for their smartphones. The Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is meant to deter theft while also giving phone makers and carriers room to innovate. All the companies agreed to implement a baseline anti-theft tool preloaded on (or downloadable to) all wireless smartphones manufactured after July 2015. This tool will let consumers: remotely wipe their data; render the smartphone inoperable to unauthorized users; prevent reactivation without owner's consent; and reverse the inoperability of the device as well as restore the data to the device in the event it is found by the owner. Consumers will also be free to use whatever third-party anti-theft tools they wish in addition to those provided by the phone maker. All signatories will make the baseline anti-theft tool available with all its core features. The initial batch of companies signing the commitment include: Apple; Asurion; AT&T; Google; HTC America; Huawei; Motorola; Microsoft; Nokia; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile; U.S. Cellular; and Verizon Wireless. Some of those who haven't signed include Kyocera, LG, Sony, ZTE. A number of lawmakers lauded the commitment, which arrives several months after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler mandated that wireless companies come up with such a solution or face regulatory intervention.
BlackBerry today indicated it has purchased a minority stake in healthcare IT firm NantHealth. The companies are working together to design a smartphone specifically for the healthcare market, which BlackBerry says has plenty of potential thanks to the need for security. The company said the device will be made available to anyone, but it will be optimized for viewing 3D images and CT scans. The company's expect the device to reach the market by the end of the year. "BlackBerry's capabilities align closely with NantHealth's," said BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen. "This investment represents the type of forward-looking opportunities that are vital to our future."
Google today added a feature to the desktop browser-based version of Gmail that simplifies the process of sharing photos stored on Android smartphones. The new Insert Photo button is able to tap into images that have been automatically uploaded and/or backed up to Google+. The photos are listed in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent shot. Google believes this will make it even easier to share photos taken with smartphones. In order for the feature to work, users have to use the automatic backup tool that's part of Google+ Photos on their phone. The tool also makes it possible to share entire albums, and even crop or resize images before sending. Once enabled, Gmail users on the web will be able to share their smartphone photos from their computer.
Jason Mackenzie, president of HTC America, today said via his official Twitter account that the company will update the One (M7) smartphone to Sense 6.0 by May. Sense 6.0 is what shipped with the this year's One (M8). It includes an updated version of Blinkfeed, new camera software, and other features.
Verizon Wireless has added two refreshed LG handsets to its lineup of inexpensive phones. The LG Optimus Zone 2 and Extravert 2 are both sequels that improve specs and features. They are limited to Verizon's 3G network, as neither supports LTE 4G.
- Zone 2: This entry-level smartphone (pictured) runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and includes a 3.5-inch screen with 480 x 320 pixels, 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 3-megapixel camera, 1,700mAh battery, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth 4.0. Some of LG's software and apps are aboard, including QuickMemo and Guest Mode. The full retail price is $200, but Verizon is offering the device for just $50.
- Extravert 2: This updated feature phone is a sideways slider that includes a touch screen on the front and a full QWERTY keyboard underneath. It has a 3.2-inch display with 400 x 240 pixels and LG's touch-based user interface for feature phones. Other features include a 2-megapixel camera with video capture, Bluetooth 3.0, media apps, Verizon content, and the Opera Mini web browser. The Extravert 2 costs $200 with no contract, $80 with a two-year agreement, or $8.33 per month with Verizon Edge.
Verizon Wireless today said it will allow more customers to switch to its More Everything plans. Beginning April 17, customers who have month-to-month service can switch to a More Everything plan in order to take advantage of the monthly service savings. According to Verizon, phones moved to More Everything plans with less than 8GB of data will save $10 per month, while those moved to More Everything plans with 10GB (and up) will save $25 per month. Further, Verizon will also allow customers to add a compatible phone they already own to More Everything plans for either $15 or $30 per month, depending on options. Verizon says four smartphones with 10GB of data will run $160 per month - the same as AT&T. The ability to switch to More Everything plans is a limited-time promotion, but Verizon didn't say when the promotion will end.
T-Mobile today announced that it will abolish the practice of charging overage fees beginning in May. The change will apply to all T-Mobile customers, no matter what plan they subscribe to. Overage fees are generally charged when a customer surpasses their monthly limit for voice minutes, messaging, or data use. Further, T-Mobile CEO John Legere challenged AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon to do the same thing. "Charging overage fees is a greedy, predatory practice that needs to go," said Legere. "Today I'm laying down a challenge to AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint to join T-Mobile in ending these outrageous overage penalties for all consumers – because it's the right thing to do." Legere kicked off a Change.org petition and is asking consumers to sign it in order to force change at T-Mobile's competitors.
Microsoft today made available a preview version of Windows Phone 8.1. The operating system is in its penultimate form and available to developers for testing purposes ahead of the general release. Members of Microsoft's developer community may download the preview for free. It includes all the features that are part of the revised operating system, including Cortana, the personal assistant, new Start screen, and Action Center. Microsoft warns that the update may void device warranties. Carrier and manufacturer software updates are not included in the developer preview. Microsoft expects to release Windows Phone 8.1 to the general public over the summer.
Isis recently issued an update to its Android mobile wallet application and added several new features. Isis now works better with location data and can help the owner find offers and stores near them that accept Isis. The app also works more closely with the credit card issuer, which can notify users of special offers available only to them. The app has a new icon, as well. Isis Mobile Wallet is free to download from the Google Play Store, but requires a major credit card from select issuers to use for tap-and-go payments at participating retailers. Isis is a joint venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
PayPal today made a new version of its mobile app available explicitly for the Samsung Galaxy S5. The app, first announced in February, lets GS5 owners make payments across the web by swiping their finger on the GS5's fingerprint sensor. PayPal says the feature can be used with most online merchants and mobile apps that accept PayPal, in addition to select retail stores. Further, PayPal launched a separate app for Samsung's Gear 2 and Gear Fit smartwatches. The watch-based app lets people save and redeem offers, check their balance, receive payment notifications, and check-in at local stores. Both the smartphone and smartwatch apps are free to download.
AU Optronics recently unveiled a high-resolution screen for smartphones. The AMOLED panel measures 5.7 inches across the diagonal and has QHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) resolution. AU says the panel has a pixel density of 513 pixels per inch. To put that in perspective, Apple's iPhone 5s has 326 pixels per inch and the Samsung Galaxy S4 has 441 pixels per inch. The new screen makes use of in-cell touch technology, which helped AU Optronics keep the thickness at 0.57mm. The drivers for the panel allow for up to 10 points of touch input. AU Optronics didn't say when the panel would reach mass production for devices. The company also revealed a high-contrast 1.6-inch AMOLED for wearable devices. AU Optronics claims both screens are power efficient.
Sprint today revealed a new handset meant for children called WeGo, which is paired with location tracking and parental controls for Mom and Dad's peace of mind. The WeGo has a simple LCD screen, a single button on the front, and volume buttons on the side that double as scrolling tools for the user interface. The device is rugged and water resistant. Using the online portal, parents have full control over the device and its use. The service plan for WeGo costs $10 per month and it includes 1,000 voice minutes and 1,000 text messages. The WeGo can store up to 20 contacts and parents can determine when those contacts can call or message the WeGo, as well as when the child can make outgoing calls or send one of several pre-determined text messages to those contacts. The WeGo service offers notifications that can be sent to parents if the phone has low battery, is powered down, if the panic button is activated, or if the device exceeds a certain speed. Parents are able to pinpoint the WeGo on a map and track its location at scheduled intervals or continuously. The phone offers easy access to 911 emergency services and a loud alarm that sounds when the ripcord is pulled. WeGo costs $120 with a contract or $5 per month via installment plan. It cannot be added to Framily plans and must be paired with at least one regular line/account. It is available starting today.
Samsung indicated via its web site that developers will soon be able to buy a developer edition of the Galaxy S5. The device will be compatible with Verizon's network. Samsung didn't say how much the developer edition will cost, nor what special tools might be included, nor exactly when it will go on sale. The standard edition Galaxy S5 launches at most carriers today.
The USB Implementer's Forum recently released the first images of the new Type-C reversible USB connector that is planned to replace micro-USB. While similar in size to a current micro-USB connector, the new plug can be inserted either way, much like Apple's Lightning connector. The new connector will also support faster data transfer - up to 10 Gbps - in the form of SuperSpeed USB 3.1. It also provides increased power for charging using extended 5-volt current ranges and up to 100 watts with USB Power Delivery standard. The standard is expected to be finalized by July and should appear in devices by the end of 2014.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission today approved Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp. The FTC said, however, that it will hold both companies to a 2012 agreement Facebook made with the FTC. Together, Facebook and WhatsApp will have to notify consumers and obtain their consent before collecting private information beyond what they allow through the services' current privacy settings. If WhatsApp doesn't follow this proposal, the FTC could find both companies in violation of the law. WhatsApp is a third-party messaging service that allows mobile device users to communicate without using SMS - or text - messages. Instead, WhatsApp passes messages through the phone's data connection. Facebook already offers its own, separate messaging service for mobile devices called Facebook Messages.
Google today said it is taking a new measure to protect Android devices and their owners against bad apps. Google already uses a program called Verify Apps to scan them before they are installed on handsets. Beginning today, Google will continually scan devices to make sure all apps are behaving in a safe manner, even after they've been installed. Google said most people will never see a warning or any other indication that this additional layer of protection exists; however, Google noted that it expects warnings to show up on some phones here and there. Owners of Android-based devices do not need to take any steps to receive this protection from Google.
Samsung's Download Booster, a feature of the Galaxy S5 meant to improve file download speeds, has been removed from the device by AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless. The companies did not provide a reason for cutting the app. T-Mobile will be the only major U.S. carrier to support the feature. Download Booster splits file downloads between Wi-Fi and LTE in order to create faster speeds. AnandTech reports that Download Booster only works with files from apps such as the Google Play Store, YouTube, Facebook, and the browser that are larger than 30MB. Download Booster's usefulness will vary depending on local network connections.
T-Mobile today announced the second of three new initiatives meant to help lure in customers. The company is targeting tablet customers with its latest offer, which will give current voice subscribers a total of 1.2GB of free tablet data until the end of the year. T-Mobile already offers 200MB to all tablets for free and is adding 1GB to that pot. Second, T-Mobile is selling LTE-equipped tablets at the same price as their Wi-Fi-only counterparts. That means a 16GB Apple iPad Air with LTE will cost $499 instead of $629 when purchased through T-Mobile. T-Mobile is carrying over its Contract Freedom initiative to tablets, as well, and will pay the ETF for customers who break their tablet contract and switch to T-Mobile. Last, T-Mobile is offering tablets for $0 down with corresponding monthly payments for those who prefer to finance their hardware.
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