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printed January 27, 2015
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FCC Fines Verizon $5 Million for Failed Rural Calls

Yesterday, 4:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said it has fined Verizon $5 million for failing to investigate claims of low call connection rates in rural areas. According to the FCC, Verizon didn't look into consumer complaints over an eight month period in 2013 regarding failed wireless and wired calls in 26 rural regions. Verizon is to pay $2 million to the U.S. Treasury and set aside $3 million more to improve call connection rates over the next three years. "Rural call completion problems have significant and immediate public interest ramifications," said the FCC. "They cause rural businesses to lose customers, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications." Verizon signed a consent decree admitting its wrongdoing. The decree also lists a number of steps Verizon has agreed to take to resolve the issue, such as appoint an ombudsman to analyze call completion data, monitor call connection rates in rural areas, and investigate when connection rates fall behold a set threshold.


Chase Pulls Mobile App from Windows Phone Store

Yesterday, 3:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Chase has removed its mobile banking application from the Windows Phone Store. The company recently notified users that its app would be pulled and eventually shut down. Today the company followed through. Chase customers who've already downloaded the app to their Windows Phone will be able to use Chase Mobile until March 22, after which it will no longer be supported for account access. Chase based its decision on the lack of users. Chase still offers mobile banking apps to the Android and iOS platforms. JPMorgan Chase is the largest bank in the U.S.


T-Mobile to Add 700MHz Support to Select Phones

Yesterday, 3:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile plans to make some of its handsets compatible with its 700MHz spectrum through a software update. Today, only the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge can use LTE on T-Mobile's 700MHz spectrum. T-Mobile said it will provide the system update to the Motorola Nexus 6 in the early part of 2015, followed by the Sony Xperia Z3 and Samsung Galaxy Avant in May, and the ZTE Max later this year. Two tablets and T-Mobile's Z915 LTE 4G Hotspot also support the 700MHz airwaves. T-Mobile is supplementing its AWS-based LTE network with its 700MHz holdings in select markets around the country. The company is still in the process of deploying LTE to all its 700MHz spectrum.


Cablevision Launching FreeWheel WiFi-Based Phone

Yesterday, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cablevision today announced FreeWheel, a wireless service that relies wholly on WiFi networks rather than cellular networks. FreeWheel will offer unlimited voice calls (via VoIP), messaging, and data for $30 per month. Cablevision's Optimum Online customers will be able to use the service for just $10 per month. At launch, the service will work with the Motorola Moto G, which Cablevision is selling for $99. FreeWheel service can be accessed anywhere WiFi is offered. Customers will automatically be connected to Optimum Online WiFi hotspots when and where they are available. Cablevision claims to have 1.1 million public hotspots available. The service will be most heavily marketed in the New York City region, which is Cablevision's home market and where it has the densest number of access points. FreeWheel offers international calling and does not ask customers to sign contracts. The service and device will be available beginning in February.


AT&T to Buy Second Mexico Carrier for $1.875B

Yesterday, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced its intent to purchase Nextel Mexico, which covers 76 million customers across the country. Nextel Mexico is owned by NII Holdings and AT&T will pay it $1.875 billion. NII Holdings is currently in bankruptcy and AT&T's offer is less than NII Holdings' outstanding debt. AT&T will acquire all of NII's spectrum licenses, network assets, retail stores, and about 3 million customers. According to AT&T, the proposed acquisition complements its recent purchase of Iusacell, another Mexican network operator. AT&T said it plans to create the "first-ever North American Mobile Service area" covering more than 400 million people across Mexico and the U.S. The deal will need to be approved by both bankruptcy courts and Mexican regulators. AT&T expects the deal to close by mid-2015.


T-Mobile's 'Score!' Program Offers Discounted Upgrades

Sunday, 6:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today unveiled a new program for consumers interested in cheaper handset upgrades called Score. With Score, users will qualify for a free entry-level smartphone after six months or significant discounts on all T-Mobile devices after 12 months. Score costs $5 per month and is open to all T-Mobile customers, whether prepaid or postpaid. After paying $5 per month for six months, for example, customers may choose to get the Alcatel OneTouch Evolve 2 at no additional cost; or, after paying $5 per month for 12 months, take $150 off the price of the Motorola Nexus 6 or $100 off the Samsung Galaxy S5. (Actual handset discounts will vary based on when the customer chooses to upgrade.) Customers who enroll in Score today will be able to upgrade to a new, free phone as soon as July 25 or enjoy a heavily discounted flagship as soon as Jan. 25, 2016.


Sprint Offering T-Mobile Customers $200 for Trade-Ins

Friday, 9:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today launched an aggressive promotion aimed directly at T-Mobile. Sprint is promising $200 to T-Mobile customers who port their number to Sprint and turn in their working T-Mobile phone. The $200 trade-in offer, which runs from today through April 9, can be combined with Sprint's ETF buyout. In addition to the $200, Sprint will pay up to $350 per line to cover ETFs and other fees when customers cancel their T-Mobile service. With the two promotions combined, T-Mobile customers stand to receive up to $550 if they switch to Sprint, which should cover any costs associated with terminating their old service and acquiring a new handset.


Moto G Earns Android 5.0 Lollipop Update

Friday, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today began pushing Android 5.0 Lollipop to the second-generation Moto G in the U.S. The update is being delivered in phases over the next few weeks. Motorola hasn't indicated if the first-generation Moto G will receive the update, too. Motorola has already delivered Lollipop to the second-generation Moto X.


Twitter Adds Bing Translation Tool to Mobile Apps

Friday, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter has added a feature to its Android and iOS mobile apps, as well as Twitter.com and TweetDeck, that will let users translate foreign-language tweets. Microsoft's Bing Translator is providing the machine-based translations. In order to see translated Tweets, users need to turn the feature on in their online account settings. Once enabled, a globe icon will appear with foreign-language tweets. Users can click the globe and see both the translation and the original text. Twitter said Bing Translator can work with 40 different languages, though it warned the system is not perfect. Tweet Translator is available immediately.


Boost Mobile Offering More Data to People Who Auto-Pay

Thursday, 3:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Boost Mobile today announced a $35 Data Boost plan that includes unlimited talk, text, and 2.5GB of high-speed data each month. Normally, Boost's $35 plan includes only 1GB of data. Customers who sign up for Auto Re-Boost, which automatically keeps their accounts up-to-date, will receive 2.5GB at no additional cost. Boost says the promotion kicks off Feb. 3 and can be paired with any of its phones. Boost also offers a $45 plan and a $55 plan, which include 5GB and 10GB of monthly data, respectively. Boost said it will take $100 off the price of any phone when customers port their number from another carrier. New customers who switch to Boost but don't port their number will receive their first month of service for free. The pricing promotions also start Feb. 3.


Verizon Now Selling Kyocera's DuraXV Handset

Thursday, 3:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless recently added the Kyocera DuraXV to its lineup of rugged handsets. The DuraXV, a successor to Kyocera's DuraXT, is a flip phone that meets mil-spec standards for protection against temperature extremes, dust, and shock. It is also waterproof in depths up to six feet for 30 minutes. The DuraXV features Kyocera's Smart Sonic Receiver technology for clear phone calls, and includes dual front-facing speakers. It has two screens with the main color display measuring 2.4 inches with 320 x 240 pixels. The phone has a 5-megapixel camera, but Verizon also sells a variant with no camera. The phone runs the Brew MP operating system. The Kyocera DuraXV costs $199 at full price, $99 with a two-year contract, or $8.33 per month with a Verizon Edge plan. U.S. Cellular is also selling the phone as the Kyocera DuraXA. It is charging $199, but is offering a $50 mail-in rebate to cut the total cost to $149.


AT&T Adds Carrier Aggregation to Several Big Cities

Thursday, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has expanded the use of carrier aggregation to its LTE network in New York City, San Francisco, and Dallas. Tom Keathley, AT&T's SVP of network and product planning, told Fierce Wireless that AT&T has deployed carrier aggregation "in a significant way." The company plans to further expand carrier aggregation across its network over the course of the year. Carrier aggregation allows two separate spectrum bands to act as one, which improves data speeds and throughput. Keathley also noted that about 20 of AT&T's handsets support LTE Advanced (Cat 4), which allows them to make use of carrier aggregation.


Verizon Says No Data Rollover Programs In Its Future

Thursday, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 1:32 PM

Verizon Wireless will not follow AT&T and T-Mobile's data rollover programs with one of its own. "We're a leader, not a follower," said Verizon CFO Fran Shammo. AT&T and T-Mobile allow customers to roll unused data over to the next month. T-Mobile launched its program in December and AT&T followed it in early January. Shammo said Verizon understands that it will lose some customers over such features, but noted, "We did not go to places where we did not financially want to go to save a customer." Carriers often respond to pricing and service plan changes made by competitors.


T-Mobile Pledges 'Smartphone Equality' for Credit Challenged

Thursday, 10:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile CEO John Legere posted a video blog today announcing Smartphone Equality, a new program that will help customers with little or poor credit get the best deals on devices. Legere explains that more than 100 million people in the U.S. have credit scores that prevent them from qualifying for many of the carriers' $0 down and no-interest device payment plans. Beginning next week, any T-Mobile customer (prepaid and post-paid) that has made 12 consecutive payments on time will automatically qualify for T-Mobile's best smartphone sales and prices even if they still have poor credit.


AT&T, Verizon Take Issue with FCC's Data Roaming Rules

Thursday, 9:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 11:41 AM

AT&T and Verizon Wireless have challenged a ruling made by the FCC in December regarding data roaming rates. The FCC sided with an argument made by T-Mobile about how reasonable roaming rates are calculated. The FCC is not going to set rates, but will "provide guidance on the application of the commercial reasonableness standard" with respect to data roaming rates. AT&T and Verizon fought the FCC ahead of the ruling and have now filed petitions asking the FCC to reverse its decision. "Responding to a nakedly self-interested plea from T-Mobile for additional leverage in its commercial negotiations with AT&T, the [FCC] issued a declaratory ruling that purports to 'clarify' the Commission's rules, provide 'additional guidance,' and 'lessen ambiguity,' but has in fact thrown the Commission's entire data roaming regime into confusion," argued AT&T. Verizon accuses the FCC of not following the proper protocol when making the ruling. "These changes were unlawful because modifications to the Data Roaming Order must be made through rulemaking--and must be made by the full Commission, not by the Bureau. They also undermine the Commission's policy decision to ensure that its roaming rules do not cause carriers to rely on roaming rather than to expand their coverage and invest in building out facilities." The FCC hasn't responded to AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile asked the FCC to change the rules because it believes AT&T is overcharging for data roaming.


AT&T Lines Up $9.2 Billion to Pay for Spectrum

Thursday, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has padded its balance sheet with cash as the AWS-3 spectrum auction winds down. The company has lined up loans and credit facilities totaling $9.2 billion. The company also made billions of dollars of bonds available to investors late last year. Verizon is weighing whether or not to sell some of its landline assets in select markets to help pay for the new spectrum, though it hasn't made a final determination. Bids for the AWS-3 auction have reached about $45 billion and AT&T and Verizon Wireless are likely leading the bids.


BlackBerry CEO Weighs In On Net and App Neutrality

Thursday, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen penned a blog post concerning net neutrality. Chen does not think the FCC should reclassify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. He believes the FCC can come up with other ways to ensure an open, competitive market. Perhaps more interesting, however, are Chen's thoughts on "application neutrality." Chen believes application developers and content providers should be required to make their apps and services available to all mobile devices, including BlackBerries. "Not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality," wrote Chen. "Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple's iMessage messaging service. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system." Both the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store are home to more than one million apps each. The number of apps available to BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices is much, much less.


Twitter Adds 'While You Were Away' Feature to iOS App

Thursday, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter has packaged a new feature into its iOS application that aims to catch people up on what they might have missed on Twitter while away. Twitter said it will surface some of the best tweets based on engagement and other factors. The recaps will be under a header "While You Were Away" so users will know they're not current tweets. Twitter said people who use Twitter a lot won't see the recaps that often, but occasional users will see it more often. Twitter's updated iOS app is available for download from the iTunes App Store. Twitter said the feature will reach Android devices and Twitter.com soon.


LG to Kick Off Sales of G Flex 2 January 30

Thursday, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG said it will begin selling the G Flex 2 in its home market of Korea on Jan. 30. The phone will reach other markets in the "coming months." Several U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular, have said they'll sell the phone but none has said when or for how much. The G Flex 2 will cost Koreans approximately $830 when it goes on sale next week. Separately, an LG executive refuted reports that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor overheats. Bloomberg on Wednesday reported that Samsung plans to drop the Snapdragon 810 chip from its forthcoming Galaxy S6 smartphone due to overheating issues. "I am very much aware of the various concerns in the market about the (Snapdragon) 810, but the chip's performance is quite satisfactory," said Woo Ram-chan, vice president for mobile product planning at LG. Woo said the chip emits less heat than other devices. "I don't understand why there is a issue over heat." LG uses the Snapdragon 810 in the G Flex 2.


DropBox Lands On Windows Phone

Thursday, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Dropbox has released an app for the Windows Phone platform for the first time. The app gives Windows Phone owners 2GB of free cloud storage for saving documents, files, and photos. Users can easily share their files by sending a link to others. Dropbox competes with Microsoft's own OneDrive. Users can pay to upgrade their storage to higher amounts, but the base app is free. Dropbox is already available to Android, iOS, and desktop platforms.


Spotify Adds Touch Preview Feature to iOS App

Thursday, 8:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Spotify today rolled out a minor update to its iOS application and added a new way to preview playlists. With Touch Preview, users can preview any playlist, song, album, or artist by holding their finger on the screen. The hold gesture will automatically start a preview of the selected playlist/artist. Swiping during a preview will save the song for later and a tap will play the entire track. Spotify said the new iOS app is available today, and it will add Touch Preview to other platforms at some point in the future.


Twitter's Digits Sign-in Service Now Available on the Web

Jan 21, 2015, 3:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 21, 2015, 3:54 PM

Twitter today expanded the availability of its Digits sign-in service to the web. Digits, which was made available to Android and iOS apps last fall, lets people use a mobile apps' phone-based login to access the web site associated with the app rather than requiring people to use an email address and password, or social networking credentials. When people log in on the web for the first time, they'll receive a confirmation code via SMS on their phones, which they type into the web window. After that, users won't need to log in again. According to Twitter, developers can add Digits to their web sites (or mobile apps) with just a few lines of code. Digits is not associated with Twitter's main product, but Twitter believes it is a more user-friendly way for smartphone users to sign into apps and now web sites.


Google Updates Productivity Apps for Android and iOS

Jan 21, 2015, 3:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today pushed out updates to its suite of mobile productivity apps for both the Android and iOS platforms. The Android version of Docs, Sheets, and Slides gains offline printing, easier file creation, and improved context menus for accessibility, in addition to bug fixes. More specifically, Docs gets line spacing controls, Sheets gets scrollbars for easier navigation, and Slides gets shape manipulation. The iOS version of Docs, Sheets, and Slides gains support for Touch ID for protecting documents. More specifically, Docs gains live spellcheck, Sheets lets users hide/show rows and columns, and Slides allows users to group objects together. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.


WhatsApp Expands to the Web

Jan 21, 2015, 2:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

WhatsApp today made it possible for people to send messages from their Chrome browser in addition to their mobile device. The Chrome-based service is compatible with Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone devices, but not iOS due to "platform limitations." In order to launch the web-based functionality, users need to scan a QR code from within the WhatsApp application on their handset. They are then able to unlock the Chrome-based desktop client, where they'll be able to message their WhatsApp contacts.


Microsoft Reveals Details About Windows 10

Jan 21, 2015, 12:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 21, 2015, 1:55 PM

Microsoft today offered an early first look at its forthcoming Windows 10 operating system, which will run on PCs, tablets, and phones. Microsoft said it is taking a new, more user-centric approach with Windows 10. It is incorporating the feedback it received about Windows 8/8.1 and is making sure to add user-requested features, such as the old Start menu. The company now views Windows more as a service and it will provide continual updates. Microsoft said Windows 10 will be a free upgrade during its first year of availability, for example, to all devices running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1. Windows 10 for PCs and tablets will gain features from Windows Phone, including the Action Center and Cortana, Microsoft's voice-activated personal assistant. Windows devices with screens 8 inches and larger will include the "desktop experience." Smaller devices will have an altered experience more suited for phones. A rough build of the phone-centric version of Windows 10 features a revised settings menu that has new graphics. Windows 10 also allows users to move the keyboard around on the screen if they so wish. The entire Windows 10 platform will include Skype more firmly entrenched across apps. Further, full versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that closely match the desktop variants will be included in Windows Phone 10. All Windows 10 devices will have a new Outlook client, which has been revised with the Word engine. Other major app re-writes include the calendar, photo gallery, and Internet Explorer, which is based on Project Spartan, a complete overhaul of the browser. Last, the entire platform will more broadly support Xbox gaming, including PC-to-Xbox play. Microsoft said the first preview of Windows 10 for phones will be available to "insiders" beginning in February.


MetroPCS Promo Includes Unlimited LTE 4G for $50

Jan 21, 2015, 9:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS today unveiled a new rate plan that includes unlimited talk, text, and LTE 4G data for $50 per month. Customers can sign up for the promotional plan between today and April 5. Once signed up, users can keep the unlimited LTE 4G data plan indefinitely. In order to use this plan, however, customers have to have a MetroPCS-branded LTE-capable handset. Customers cannot supply their own, unlocked handset. MetroPCS also increased the data available to its existing plans by 1GB each. For example, its $40 plan now includes unlimited talk, text, and up to 2GB of LTE (improved from 1GB), and a $50 plan with unlimited talk, text, and up to 4GB of LTE (improved from 3GB). These plans are available to BYOD customers and MetroPCS-branded devices. Last, MetroPCS said customers can buy the Samsung Galaxy Light for $49 and the LG F60 for $59. MetroPCS does not require contracts.


FreedomPop Selling Unlimited WiFi Access for $5

Jan 21, 2015, 9:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today announced the launch of a WiFi-only wireless service plan that costs just $5 per month. The plan includes unlimited voice minutes (via VoIP), messaging, and data use across 10 million WiFi hotspots around the country. FreedomPop is an MVNO that resells access to Sprint's network. In order to make this new service work, FreedomPop partnered with an unknown number of WiFi aggregators so its WiFi network will be available in public places such as Burger King, McDonalds, Panera, and Starbucks in addition to shopping centers and other outdoor public spaces that offer WiFi. FreedomPop began selling a WiFi-only phablet last year that is compatible with this WiFi service, but the company hopes consumers will connect old phones or tablets to its $5 WiFi plan, too. The service requires an Android device for now. FreedomPop created an Android app that automatically locates and connects to available WiFi hotspots. The new WiFi-only service is available starting today.


Apple Picks Up Music Analytics Firm

Jan 21, 2015, 8:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has purchased a company called Semetrics for an undisclosed sum. Semetrics, which is based in the U.K., can track online music sales as well as illegal downloads and buzz across social media. Semetrics' Musicmetric service lets artists gauge how well their songs are performing within services such as Spotify, for example. Apple is believed to be preparing a music streaming service to compete with Spotify, Pandora, and others, and Semetrics can help provide it with the data needed to more effectively run that service.


Amazon Wallet App Headed for the App Graveyard

Jan 21, 2015, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has informed users of the Amazon Wallet application that it will shut down the app and remove it from the Appstore today, reports CNET. Amazon launched the app as a beta service in July. Amazon Wallet let people store gift cards, loyalty cards, and membership cards. Amazon originally pitched the app as a way to reduce clutter in wallets and purses. The wallet app did not connect to bank accounts or credit cards and couldn't be used to make tap-and-go payments. "We have learned a great deal from the introduction of the Wallet and will look for ways to apply these lessons in the future as we continue to innovate on behalf of our customers," said Tom Cook, an Amazon spokesperson. Amazon said customers will be able to use the balances of any gift or loyalty cards stored in the app, but it will no longer track balances. Amazon didn't say if the app will return at some point in another form. Consumers are able to use alternate services, such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Softcard, to make contactless payments at participating retailers around the country.


Verizon Adds Data to Prepaid Plans

Jan 20, 2015, 4:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today refreshed its prepaid service plan options and gave them more flexibility with data allotments. For example, Verizon doubled the data available to the entry-level $45 plan, which now includes 1GB of data each month instead of 500MB. The $45 plan also includes unlimited voice minutes and texting, and unlimited texting to Mexico and Canada. Data add-ons cost $5, $10, or $20 per month for 500MB, 1GB, or 3GB, respectively, above the standard allotment. Verizon is also offering a 500MB bonus to customers who sign up for auto-pay. Customers can add unlimited calling to Canada and Mexico for $10. The new prepaid rates are available starting today.


Twitter for Windows Phone Earns New Features

Jan 20, 2015, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today updated its mobile app for Windows Phone devices and took the opportunity to add new functions. For example, Twitter now integrates with the People Hub for saving Twitter profile data. The new app also makes it possible to share web links from Internet Explorer and to send Tweets with help from Cortana. Twitter says it fixed some bugs, too. Twitter for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.


Chrome for iOS Updated with Material Design

Jan 20, 2015, 1:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today delivered a new version of Chrome to iOS devices. The latest rendition of Google's browser for iPhones and iPads carries over Material Design from the Android version and builds in better support for iOS8 and the larger screen sizes of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Chrome for iOS now also includes support for handoff from Chrome to users' default desktop browser. Chrome is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Facebook Says It Will Nix Hoaxes from News Feed

Jan 20, 2015, 1:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today said it will reduce the number of fake stories published to users' news feed. Facebook said it is primarily targeting stories that are hoaxes or scams. Moving forward, Facebook will reduce the distribution of stories that are flagged by users as fake, stories that receive lots of comments warning others of scams or false content, and stories that are deleted by large volumes of people. Facebook said most publishers should be safe -- including those that produce satirical content that is clearly marked as such. The changes apply to Facebook users' news feed both online and on their mobile devices.


Verizon Improves BART Service with XLTE and HD Voice

Jan 20, 2015, 12:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it has completed upgrades to its service along portions of San Francisco's BART public transit system. Verizon has enhanced coverage with XLTE (1700MHz) throughout BART tunnels, stations, and the Transbay Tube. Verizon said the Colma to Millbrae section of BART will see similar service upgrades by the middle of the year. In addition to XLTE, Verizon Wireless' Advanced Calling 1.0 (VoLTE) with HD Voice service is also available throughout the BART system. San Francisco's BART transports 400,000 riders every day.


AT&T Now Offering Unlimited Calls to Mexico

Jan 20, 2015, 9:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today added unlimited calling from wireless handsets to Mexico to its World Connect Value plan. For $5 per month, AT&T customers can make limitless calls to landlines and cell phones in Mexico. Customers who already subscribe to the World Connect Value plan will receive the upgraded free calling to Mexico at no additional charge. The World Connect Value plan, which is available to AT&T's postpaid wireless and AT&T Home customers, already offers low-rate calls to 225 countries around the world. The new plan arrives mere days after AT&T finalized its acquisition of Iusacell, Mexico's third-largest wireless network operator.


Facebook Working On Its Own Voice-to-Text System

Jan 20, 2015, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook plans to add voice-to-text transcription to its Facebook Messenger application, said David Marcus, Facebook's vice president of messaging products. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Marcus said the company is already testing the system using machine-to-machine learning, though he declined to say when the feature might be added to the app. Facebook expects the feature to be popular across Asia and other regions where typing various languages on mobile devices is more of a chore. Apple, Google, and Microsoft already provide their own voice-to-text services, which are built into the iOS, Android, and Windows Phone operating systems, respectively. Marcus didn't say how Facebook's transcription service will differ from what's already available to consumers. Marcus said 500 million people use Messenger monthly and it hopes to grow that number to 1 billion. Marcus indicated Facebook is exploring ways to monetize Messenger, but the company wants to avoid advertising. Facebook also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, which have 700 million and 300 million monthly users, respectively. Facebook said it will monetize Messenger before WhatsApp. Facebook has an "ambitious" roadmap for Messenger, and will add other features over the course of the year.


Los Angeles Subway to Be Fitted with Cell and WiFi Service

Jan 20, 2015, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 21, 2015, 3:44 PM

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority began work this week on adding cellular and WiFi service to select stations along the Red line. Four stations will receive cellular and WiFi service by May, and the tunnels between them will be linked by August under phase one of the project. Phase two, to be completed by June 2016, will add wireless services to five more stations along the Red and Purple lines. Phase three, which won't be fully finalized until March 2017, will extend WiFi to the Red line's end point in North Hollywood, as well as the tunnel portions of the Gold line in Pasadena and East Los Angeles. The contract was awarded to InSite Wireless two years ago, but work has been delayed in order to circumvent security and interference issues with first responders. The Metro did not specify which wireless network operators are involved with the project. Boston, New York City, Washington, D.C., and the Bay Area all offer limited cellular service in select stations and lines.


Minor Update Bumps AT&T's HTC One to Android 4.4.4

Jan 19, 2015, 5:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today released a minor system update for the HTC One (M8). The software, which can be downloaded and installed over the air, updates the phone to Android 4.4.4 KitKat and makes a handful of improvements. For example, the software enables HD Voice, adds copy-and-paste the camera, and adds AT&T's usage manager application. The update improves security, Bluetooth, and battery performance, and updates the AT&T Ready2Go and Visual Voicemail services. The software update is free. AT&T recommends users download the update via WiFi.


T-Mobile Parent Still Wants To Offload the Uncarrier

Jan 19, 2015, 8:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Deutsche Telekom, majority owner of T-Mobile, believes the Uncarrier's best chances of success are to merge with or be acquired by another large carrier. Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges, speaking to Re/code, said T-Mobile lacks the scale enjoyed by rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Without that scale, it will be hard for T-Mobile to compete in the long run. "I was intrigued by the idea of having a combination with Sprint and being the 'super-maverick' in the market," said Hoettges, "I hope that the political environment will change at one point in time." Sprint's parent, SoftBank, abandoned the idea of acquiring T-Mobile last year after regulators said the deal would face major hurdles in scoring approval. While Hoettges praised T-Mobile CEO John Legere for enacting change and turning the company around with aggressive promotions, he said T-Mobile cannot hold its current course indefinitely. "The question is always the economics in the long term," said Hoettges. "You have to earn your money back at one point in time."


Samsung Picks New Design Chief

Jan 19, 2015, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has hired Lee Don-tae as senior vice president of Samsung’s global design team, where he will oversee all Samsung's designs. Before being scooped up by Samsung, Lee worked for a U.K. design agency called Tangerine. Tangerine once consulted for Apple more than 20 years ago, and is where Apple found its current design chief Jony Ive back in 1992. Sales of Samsung's top phones slipped during the latter half of 2014, which has effected changed across its entire mobile device business. The company shook up its executive ranks at the end of 2014 and rearranged several business units. Lee's hiring is one of many steps the company has taken to help revitalize interest in its products.


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