U.S. Cellular recently revealed that it has forged its first LTE roaming partnership, and customers will reap the benefits in two to three months. U.S. Cellular did not name its roaming partner, and said the deal is still in the engineering phase, but in all likelihood the partner is a Tier 1 carrier. This means U.S. Cellular customers will benefit from dramatically expanded network access as they travel around. U.S. Cellular was frank in saying that it expects the deal to benefit its customers more so than its partner's customers and its own bottom line. The company has other roaming agreements in the pipeline. The carrier ended the second quarter with 4.78 million customers, and says it will cover 98% of them with LTE by the end of the year.
Sony is telling visitors to its online web store that the site will cease taking orders and shut down on August 28. Sony's web store is one of just a handful of places to purchase its Xperia-branded smartphones in the U.S. Sony did not say why it is closing the web store, but did say it plans to "improve our online shopping experience" with "an exciting new product web site that includes our authorized retailers for your purchasing preference." Customers who have questions about their Sony web store account or any online purchases they may have made can find answers on a FAQ posted to the site. Sony has already closed the majority of its U.S. brick-and-mortar retail stores, with only its NYC flagship store remaining. Verizon plans to sell the Sony Xperia Z4v later this summer.
YotaPhone today said it has cancelled plans to bring the YotaPhone 2 to the U.S. even though it raised the necessary funding through an Indiegogo campaign. The company blamed the change in plans on logistical problems with its manufacturing partner. "We believe the likelihood of a severe delay in these shipments would have created a conflict with our international road map for 2016, leaving Indiegogo supporters behind when customers in other regions will be offered a newer, cheaper and better YotaPhone," explained YotaPhone in an email provided to its supporters. "The good news is that, as a result of our growth, we are bringing on a new manufacturing partner who can support the scalability we need in order to quickly bring YotaPhone to various regions around the world, including North America. This includes delivering a new generation YotaPhone with the latest specs and technologies, but also at a lower cost, to allow us to offer better value to our customers in 2016." Those who backed the company through Indiegogo can choose to receive the international variant of the phone (which does not support U.S. LTE networks), or receive a refund. YotaPhone said it is still working out the details for providing the refunds. YotaPhone's device has two screens: a standard LCD panel on the front, and an e-ink display on the back that can be used to conserve battery life.
ParkerVision today said it lost an appeal of allegations that Qualcomm was infringing on some of its patents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a district court ruling maintaining that ParkerVision did not prove infringement of its patents by Qualcomm. The appeals court also agreed with the district court in denying Qualcomm's attempt to invalidate one of the patents. ParkerVision said, however, that the appeals court reversed the lower courts decision regarding the validity of ParkerVision's other claims. "We are highly disappointed with the appellate court's decision both with regard to infringement and validity of certain of our patent claims," said Jeffrey Parker, ParkerVision's Chairman and CEO. "Despite this setback, we will consider further options on appeal, and will move forward in our second infringement case against Qualcomm, HTC and Samsung." ParkerVision designs radio-frequency technology for wireless devices.
Cricket Wireless today improved its international offering by adding the ability to make calls and send text messages from Canada and Mexico to the U.S. The change means Cricket customers who travel to Canada and Mexico will be able to stay in touch with family and friends in the U.S. while they are away. Cricket customers are already able to make unlimited calls and send unlimited messages from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico. Cricket said the "roundtrip" feature will be available to its Smart and Pro plans ($50 and $60 per month, respectively) for at no extra cost. The unlimited calling/SMS feature goes into effect for Mexico on August 2 and will go into effect for Canada later in August. Cricket's move follows similar calling plan changes made by parent company AT&T, as well as competitors T-Mobile and MetroPCS.
Samsung won't launch Samsung Pay in the U.S. until later this summer, but the company is already looking to expand the service to other markets. Samsung today said it has partnered with MasterCard and the two will together offer the service to financial partners and retailers across the continent. Samsung Pay can take advantage of two different technologies, including NFC and MST, for mobile payments. NFC-equipped terminals are still somewhat limited in the U.S., but magnetic stripe technology is available in most retail environments. Samsung is already trialling the service in its home country of Korea. It is expected to arrive in the U.S. with the Galaxy Note 5, which Samsung is believed to be revealing at an Aug. 13 event. Samsung Pay will also be made available to the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge via software updates. Samsung didn't say when it expects to launch Samsung Pay in Europe.
An appeals court has sided with Microsoft and upheld a 2013 verdict that says Motorola has to pay Microsoft for refusing to license standard-essential patents at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. This particular case began in 2010, when Microsoft sued Motorola for failing to pay it patent-licensing fees for technology found in Motorola's Android smartphones. Motorola filed its own lawsuit in return, in which it sought some $4 billion to cover royalties for technology in Microsoft's Xbox and Windows devices. Even though Microsoft sued Motorola, Motorola was still required to license its own patents to Microsoft at fair rates. Two separate courts determined in 2012 and later 2013 that Motorola's $4 billion demand far exceeded what's considered fair and reasonable. Therefore, Motorola violated its agreement with Microsoft and Microsoft was thus awarded $14.5 million in damages for breach of contract. This week's decision, reached by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, verifies that Motorola must pay the damages.
Google today expanded the number of ways developers can test their apps ahead of general release. At the moment, developers are limited to testing through closed betas that require people to join dedicated Google+ communities or Google Groups. Moving forward, developers will be able to offer open betas directly through the Play Store, as well as closed betas via email invitations. The open betas can be managed by limiting app downloads, and the email address-based closed betas give developers even more granular control over who's testing the app. The added options make it easier for developers to test and collect app data to make sure they perform well at launch. Google said the new beta testing tools are available in the Google Play Developer Console.
Google today said support for its Android for Work program has swelled to 40 companies thanks to the addition of new carriers, phone makers, app developers, and management providers. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint in the U.S., and Rogers, Bell Canada, and Telus Mobility in Canada have thrown their weight behind Android for Work, marking the first time carriers have joined the program. This means people/businesses will be able to ask their carriers to provide the security, device management, and productivity tools included in Android for Work. Samsung is working with Android for Work, too, in conjunction with its own KNOX services. Silent Circle's forthcoming Blackphone 2 is another handset that will support Android for Work. Google says more than 10,000 businesses are testing, deploying, or using Android for Work. The program is meant to help offer secure connections to corporate information, the ability for IT to manage devices remotely, and access to Google's productivity apps.
Facebook today made a new tool called Security Checkup available to users online. The tool provides Facebook account holders with a broad array of controls over access to their account. For example, Security Checkup lets people log out of Facebook on old devices, set login alerts, and check password strength. Facebook hopes all users will take advantage of Security Checkup to assert more control over their login security. The feature is available globally online beginning today, and will reach mobile devices soon.
Samsung reported its second quarter earnings today and signaled some changes in its handset strategy. Despite the release of its flagship handsets during the quarter, Samsung's mobile phone business saw a 38% decline in profits when compared to the year-ago quarter. The company admitted that it misjudged supply for the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge handsets. It made too many of the flat-screened S6 and not enough of the curved S6 Edge. The phones did not sell as well as Samsung hoped. In response, Samsung it "plans to firmly maintain its sale of premium smartphones by flexibly adjusting the price of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and launching a new model with a larger screen." Samsung has invited media to attend an event on August 13, where it is expected to reveal the Galaxy Note 5 along with a larger version of the S6 Edge. Samsung has in years past launched its Galaxy Note handsets during the first week of September at the IFA trade show. Samsung did not spell out exactly how it might alter the price of the S6 and S6 Edge moving forward. As a whole, Samsung recorded a second-quarter profit of $4.93 billion, a drop of about 8% year-over-year, on revenues of $41.7 billion.
AT&T has requested that all its handset manufacturer partners include functional FM radios in their Android smartphones by 2016. Further, the company is asking its OEM partners to enable any FM radios that may be dormant inside existing handsets. FM radios are often included on modules that bundle other radios, such as Bluetooth, WiFi, and cellular. The move means AT&T's Android customers will be able to listen to local FM radio via their smartphones through apps, such as NextRadio. The National Association of Broadcasters applauded the move, saying, "[This] marks a new beginning in mobile technology with the agreement by a global iconic brand, AT&T, to light up the FM receiver chips in all of its future Android smartphones." NextRadio, which makes it easy to find an listen to local FM radio stations, competes with myriad other third-party music services on smartphones.
Boost Mobile today announced the Alcatel OneTouch Conquest and Elevate, two low-cost Android handsets. Shared features between the two handsets include support for LTE, 5-megapixel rear cameras, 2-megapixel front cameras, and the Google Now launcher.
- Conquest: The Conquest (pictured) features an IP67 rating for protection against water and dust. The larger of these two smartphones boasts a 5-inch 720p HD screen with Dragontrail Glass and 1.2GHz quad-core processor. The Conquest runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and costs $129.99.
- Elevate: The Elevate has a 4.5-inch FWVGA display and quad-core 1.1GHz processor. It relies on a 2,000mAh battery to get it through the day. The Elevate runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and costs $99.99.
Yahoo! today launched Livetext, its new messaging app to compete with services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. The app lets you have a text conversation with one other person at a time, accompanied by a silent, 2-way live video stream. The app is designed for situations where audio might be inappropriate for one or both parties, but you want to share what you're seeing and/or facial reactions. Tapping your own video stream thumbnail switches between your front and back camera. It does not support group messaging. The app first appeared quietly in the Hong Kong iOS App Store, but today is being launched in the U.S. It will be available tomorrow for both Android and iOS.
Sprint today introduced the Sprint Family Share Pack, a plan that includes unlimited talk and text and 10 GB of shared data for four lines for $100 per month. Sprint Family Share Pack subscribers can quadruple their shared data to 40 GB for $20 more (total of $120 before taxes and fees). There are some catches. First, the offer is only available to families that switch active lines from another carrier to Sprint. Moreover, customers will need to purchase new handsets via Sprint's Easy Pay program. In exchange, Sprint is offering to cover all ETFs and remaining handset payments that might be incurred by customers who switch. The Sprint Family Share Pack is being offered for a limited time.
Google today added 20 new languages to its Google Translate application for Android and iOS devices. The app now lets people instantly translate text between Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian. Google Translate initially launched with support for English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and it now speaks a total of 27 languages. With Google Translate, users can point their phone's camera at text in any of these languages and instantly see the translation to the language of their choice. Google also took steps to improve the performance of Google Translate's voice conversation mode. The company is using convolutional neural networks to help translate languages faster when the network connection is poor or even non-existant. This means real-time translations between two spoken languages is faster and smoother. Google said the updated Google Translate apps for Android and iOS are available in the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively, beginning today.
Samsung today said it has begun to mass produce a thinner camera module for high-end phones. The S5K3P3 uses pixels that are 1.0μm in size. The smaller pixels allow Samsung to shrink the depth of the sensor module by 20% to less than 5mm, making it ideal to use in thin designs. The S5K3P3 is a 16-megapixel sensor and Samsung claims it captures images that are on par with sensors with larger 1.12μm pixels. The S5K3P3 also uses Samsung's ISOCELL technology, which isolates the individual pixels from one another with physical barriers. This prevents color crosstalk between neighboring pixels, increases light sensitivity, and improves color fidelity in all lighting conditions. The S5K3P3 is already available in volume.
Verizon and HBO today announced the immediate availability of HBO Now to Verizon's internet and TV customers. Subscribers to Verizon's FiOS broadband and television services can trial HBO Now for free for 30 days, after which it will cost $15 per month. HBO said it plans to bring its content to Verizon Wireless' forthcoming mobile video platform later this year. HBO Now offers the bulk of HBO's programming, including movies, series, and sports. It first launched via Apple TV earlier this year.
Google updated its search application with the ability to show when businesses are at their busiest. Google Search results will display a graph that depicts the location's average foot traffic throughout the day. Google suggests the feature might be helpful in avoiding long lines for that afternoon latte. The feature is part of the latest version of Google Search for Android, which is free to download from the Play Store.
Motorola has revealed there will be at least two variants of the Moto G handset for the U.S. market. The first model, XT1540, is the GSM model that includes EDGE, HSPA+, and LTE. This model is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. The second model, XT1548, is the CDMA model, though it also supports GSM, EDGE, HSPA+, and LTE for world roaming. Motorola specifically said the Moto G will be offered by Sprint Prepaid, U.S. Cellular, and Virgin Mobile. None of these carriers has yet voiced support publicly for the Moto G. The Moto G, now in its third generation, has a 5-inch 720p screen, Snapdragon 410 processor, 13-megapixel camera, and support for memory cards. It costs $179 and is available directly from Motorola.com.
AT&T has filed a waiver with the FCC asking the agency to alter some of the rules governing how AT&T serves deaf and hard-of-hearing customers so it can deploy WiFi calling sooner. AT&T plans to use WiFi to supplement its cellular network in some areas. According to AT&T, however, the TTY technology used to provide telephony services to the deaf is outdated and unreliable when pushed over WiFi. AT&T has a replacement technology, called Real-Time Text, or RTT, under development. "RTT is designed to provide better functionality than TTY, working over WiFi calling and other new IP-based networks," explained AT&T in a blog post. "Once we implement RTT, it will be backwards compatible with TTY so our customers using RTT can still communicate with TTY users, including 911 centers." AT&T can't use RTT, however, until the FCC gives it permission to make the switch. Once AT&T is allowed to jump to RTT, it will be able to move forward with its WiFi network and WiFi-based calling services. The FCC has not publicly responded to AT&T's request.
AT&T is not happy about the FCC's proposed $100 million fine levied against the carrier regarding its throttling practices. The FCC last month alleged that AT&T did not properly inform grandfathered unlimited customers about its network management techniques, which included slowing their internet speeds. In a filing, AT&T called the FCC's actions unprecedented and indefensible. "It is absurd to suggest that AT&T intended to or actually did mislead the relevant Unlimited Data Plan customers. Those customers were repeatedly advised of AT&T's congestion management practices, and, for nearly four years, they chose to keep their service," argued AT&T. "While the [FCC] speaks of AT&T's 'culpability' and 'clear knowledge' that it was misleading customers, the evidence is to the contrary. AT&T made multiple disclosures by email, bill message, text message, and online posting, precisely so that potentially affected customers would be informed about the policy." AT&T has requested the FCC to withdraw the fine. The FCC said it will weigh AT&T's request before making a final judgment in the matter.
Google today extended the voice capabilities of its Google Search app by allowing it to interact with third-party messaging apps. People can now issue commands such as "Ok Google, send a WhatsApp message" to initiate and dictate messages in a handful of popular messaging apps. In addition to WhatsApp, Google Search's voice assistant can interact with Viber, WeChat, Telegram, and NextPlus. Google said Android owners will need the latest version of the Google app and the messaging app in question in order for the voice commands to function properly. The feature is available to English speakers, but Google said it plans to add support for more languages and apps in the near future.
Sprint's Boost Mobile and Virgin Wireless USA brands today made available new data packs for customers seeking a bit more data. The $5 pack provides 1 GB of high-speed data and the $10 pack provides 2 GB of high-speed data. Boost's existing plans offer unlimited talk, text, and 2G data, but limited buckets of LTE 4G data. Virgin's plans offer a variety of talk, text, and LTE data buckets ranging from 1 GB to 3 GB. The $5 and $10 data packs can be added to any of Boost's or Virgin's plans.
T-Mobile today improved its iPhone leasing program. Anyone who leases the iPhone 6 before Labor Day will only have to pay $15 per month for the handset. Moreover, those customers will be able to keep the $15 monthly lease payment even if they upgrade to the next iPhone before the end of 2015. (This upgrade normally increases the lease payment to $27.) T-Mobile today also added Apple Music to its Music Freedom offering. This means people will be able to stream an unlimited amount of music from Apple over T-Mobile's network with no fear of it impacting their data usage. Both programs go into effect today.
Motorola's mid-range wonder boasts a significant number of upgrades over last year's handset, making it a compelling option. Here are our first impression of this welterweight device.
Motorola showed off three new handsets today, including the Moto X Style - or "Pure Edition" - for the U.S. market. This handset runs stock Android and offers some solid updates to last year's model in terms of design and features. Here are our initial thought about Motorola's latest.
Motorola today announced the Moto G, its mid-range powerhouse. The phone has a 5-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The Moto G is water resistant and can sit in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. The handset features a quad-core Qualcomm 410 processor and comes in several memory/storage configurations. Importantly, the Moto G has been upgraded with support for LTE 4G. The Moto G comes in black or white with a metallic frame. A variety of Motorola shells are available online, but it can also be customized via Moto Maker to be completely personalized. The 2015 Moto G goes on sale in select markets, including the US, beginning today. It costs $179 for the 8 GB model.
Motorola today showed off a variant of the Moto X called the Moto X Play, which indulges a 3,630mAh battery with Quick Charge technology. Motorola says the handset can last two days on a charge, and can gather 8 hours of battery life with just 15 minutes of charging. The Moto X Plat has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, 21-megapixel camera, Qualcomm 610 processor, and 5-megapixel user-facing camera. It will be available in August. Pricing was not yet disclosed, but Motorola said it is not announcing U.S. availability at this time.
Motorola today announced the Moto X Style, its flagship handset for 2015. The phone carries forward the same design from the last few years with a metallic frame and customizable rear panels, including silicon, wood, and leather. The Moto X Style has a 5.7-inch quad HD screen, 21-megapixel camera, and Quick Charging technology that Motorola claims is faster than competing devices. Other specs include 3 GB of RAM; support for memory cards; Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and WiFi; and water resistant innards. The Moto X Style will be sold in the U.S. as a "pure edition" handset, unlocked with support for worldwide LTE networks. It will ship with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. The Moto X Style will reach the U.S. in September. Pricing starts at $399 for the 16 GB model.
Qualcomm today announced new technology that allows metallic handsets to charge wirelessly. Most wireless charging pads are tolerant of some metal in the charging field, but Qualcomm says it was able to boost the sensitivity enough, via Near Field Magnetic Resonance technology, to allow for wireless charging through metal handset enclosures. Qualcomm's WiPower is based on the A4WP's Rezence standard and can deliver up to 22 watts of power to charge handsets wirelessly. Rezence pads can handle several different devices, with varying charging requirements, at a time. Qualcomm did not say when it expects to see the metallic device charging technology reach consumer handsets.
We're live from Motorola's big phone event today in NYC. We're expecting at least one new phone, if not two or three. A new Moto X and/or Moto G seems likely. Tune in for live updates as the happen on stage!
CAT today announced the S40, a new rugged handheld for those who need a tough, waterproof phone. The CAT S40 features a hardened exterior (mil-spec 810G) that can handle drops from 6 feet as well as protect against water and dust intrusion. The S40 has a 4.7-inch qHD screen that's protected by Gorilla Glass 4 and can work with gloves and/or when wet. The phone is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The phone supports North American GSM/LTE networks and includes Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi. The phone will be available soon. CAT did not disclose pricing.
OnePlus today revealed the OnePlus 2, its second-generation flagship Android smartphone. The OnePlus 2 features a 5.5-inch 1080p HD IPS LCD display with 178-degree viewability, and is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. The main camera captures 13-megapixel images with laser-assisted focus, f/2.0 aperture, optical image stabilization, and larger pixels to aid with low-light performance. The user-facing camera features a 5-megapixel sensor. Other hardware features include a slider switch for controlling alert profiles, a fingerprint sensor for security, 3,300mAh battery, and USB Type C for reversible connections. The handset will offer swappable rear covers, including some made from bamboo, black apricot, kevlar, and rosewood. The OnePlus 2 runs OnePlus' version of Android 5.1 Lollipop, which it calls Oxygen OS. The OnePlus 2 will be available August 11 in the U.S., Canada, India, Europe, and China, with other regions to follow later in the year. It costs $389. A version of the phone with 3 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage costs $329.
Nextbit, a small San Francisco-based startup, today announced that it plans to build smartphones. The company is only teasing an Android handset at the moment, and said it will reveal more details about the device and its plans in the weeks ahead. Nextbit is run by CEO Tom Moss and counts among its staff at least two former HTC employees, including Scott Croyle, HTC's former head of design. "We want to set this off as something different," said Croyle, speaking to Recode. "We don't have to be for everybody." Nextbit already offers cloud-based storage. The company remained mum on the specifics regarding its smartphone plans, such as whether it will target the entry level, middle, or top of the market.
HTC has made a system update available to the T-Mobile variant of the One M9, and the phone earns some significant improvements with the new code. To start, it gains the camera enhancents given to the international edition earlier this year, as well as the kill switch required by California law. It also adds battery improvements and new support for Google Wallet. The update is being pushed out over the air.
Google today said some changes are on the way for its Google+ social network. To start, people will no longer be required to create Google+ accounts to access all of Google. People will be able to maintain separate Google+ and Google profiles, though some information will be shared between them. YouTube will be the first product that separates Google+ profiles from Google accounts. Google also said it wants to make finding content in Google+ easier, and new features, such as Google+ Collections, allow people to do that. Collections let users organize posts by topic. Similarly, Google believes removing Google+ Photos from Google+ helps to streamline the core Google+ offering. Moreover, functions such as location sharing will be moved to Google Hangouts. "We think changes like these will lead to a more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+," said Google. "As always, your underlying Google Account won't be searchable or followable, unlike public Google+ profiles. And for people who already created Google+ profiles but don't plan to use Google+ itself, we'll offer better options for managing and removing those public profiles." Google said the changes will roll out slowly over the next few months.
Microsoft recently released a launcher for Android smartphones that delivers a different take on the home screen. The launcher, which replaces the standard Android home screen, uses three panels to display various information. The left-most panel focuses on people, including recent contacts complete with addresses and numbers. The central home panel is where users can put their apps. It also includes a section for recently-used apps so people can jump back into those apps quickly. The last screen is for notes and reminders and can display calendar items as well as personal reminders. Microsoft's Arrow Launcher is available in a closed beta, which means people need to join the Google+ community in order to access the launcher. However, the APK is available directly from Microsoft, as well, for those who want to bypass the community aspect. Arrow Launcher is free to use. Microsoft has created a wide range of apps for Google's Android platform. Arrow is the latest.
Verizon Wireless recently added the LG Terra to its lineup of basic feature phones. The Terra is a flip phone that runs a simple operating system with features such as text-to-speech for listening to text messages and photo ID for identifying incoming calls. The handset operates on Verizon's CDMA 1x network in the U.S., but includes quad-band GSM/EDGE radios, too, so it can be used when roaming abroad in more than 200 countries. Other features include a 2.4-inch main display, 1.77-inch secondary display, and a 1.3-megapixel camera. The LG Terra cots $96 at full price, or $4 per month with a Verizon Edge payment plan.
AT&T today said it has completed its acquisition of DirecTV. The FCC approved the acquisition earlier today, and AT&T was quick to finalize the paperwork. "Combining DirecTV with AT&T is all about giving customers more choices for great video entertainment integrated with mobile and high-speed Internet service," said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO. "This transaction allows us to significantly expand our high-speed internet service to reach millions more households, which is a perfect complement to our coast-to-coast TV and mobile coverage, We're now a fundamentally different company with a diversified set of capabilities and businesses that set us apart from the competition." AT&T said current customers will not need to take any action now that the deal is complete. It will take several months to fully merge the operations of both companies. AT&T said it will roll out new television, internet, and wireless packages in the months ahead.
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