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printed May 31, 2016
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Google Search for iPhone Gets AMP'd

Friday, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Google Search app for the iPhone and added several new features. The most significant improvement is support for Google's accelerated mobile pages, or AMP. Articles that make use of Google's AMP technology load much faster than other articles. They are called out by a lightning bolt and are stamped with the AMP signage. Google says Search on the refreshed iPhone app is much faster, and Search now shows video highlights on Google Now cards for the NBA and NHL. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Acer Says Liquid Zest Plus to Reach US In July

Friday, 10:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Acer recently revealed that the Liquid Zest Plus smartphone will go on sale in the U.S. for $199 beginning in July. Acer previewed the phone in April. It features a 5,000mAh battery with Quick Charge support that provides "days" of uptime. Other features include a 5.5-inch HD screen, MediaTek processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. The phone's main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with laser-assisted and phase detection autofocus. The 5-megapixel selfie camera has a wide angle of view. The phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

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'ForcePhone' Tech Brings 3D Touch to All Phones

Friday, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Researchers at the University of Michigan have created software that adds 3D Touch-like functionality to just about any device. The software emits a high-frequency sound from the speaker and uses the microphone to listen to and analyze the sound. The sound changes as people interact with the device and can tell the difference between a light touch and a more firm press, or what happens when the phone is squeezed in various pattern. The benefit of the ForcePhone software is that it doesn't rely on special sensors or technology, and instead uses what's already available inside the phone. "Now this functionality can be realized on any phone," said Kang Shin, Professor of Computer Science in the U-M Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "ForcePhone increases the vocabulary between the phone and the user. I think we're offering a natural interface, like how you turn a knob. It's the next step forward from a basic touch interface and it can complement other gestured communication channels and voice." Tung plans to demonstrate the technology next month, but hasn't announced any plans to commercialize it. The idea is nearly identical to one implemented by Elliptic Labs earlier this year.

Jolla Debuts New Phone and Community Device Program

Friday, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today added another chapter to its resurrection story by announcing a brand new smartphone and device community. The Jolla C is a simple handset that runs Sailfish OS 2.0. The phone has a 5-inch 720p HD screen; 1.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 212 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage; 8-megapixel main camera and 2-megaixel selfie camera; and a removable 2,500mAh battery. The phone includes the typical batch of radios, but LTE support is limited to bands 1, 3, 7, and 20, which makes it incompatible with U.S. networks. Further, Jolla has created a new community around the Jolla C meant for developers and enthusiasts. The program includes access to support sessions, developer materials, and invitations to community events. Jolla is limiting the Jolla C smartphone to just 1,000 units, and is reassuring those interested that the device is already being manufactured and will ship in July. (Jolla reneged on some hardware shipments last year.) Jolla was created by former Nokia employees and Sailfish OS was born from the Ashes of Moblin/Maemo Linux.

Batman-Themed Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Injustice Edition Swings Into Action

Friday, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has revealed the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Injustice Edition, inspired by Batman and the game of the same name. Samsung says the Galaxy S7 Edge Injustice Edition package includes a customized Galaxy S7 edge with black styling, gold detailing, and the Batman logo stenciled onto the back. The package also includes a Gear VR headset, along with Injustice game credits and Oculus VR content vouchers. The underlying handset is unchanged from the standard version of the Galaxy S7 Edge. The Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge Injustice Edition will be sold in China, Singapore, Korea, Latin America, Russia, and other yet-to-be-named markets. It goes on sale in early June. Pricing was not disclosed.

Google Exonerated In Java API Case vs. Oracle

Thursday, 3:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A jury today decided that Google's use of 37 Java APIs constitutes "fair use" and does not infringe on Oracles copyrights. The decision caps a two-week trial that saw Oracle once again claim Google stole its Java code when first creating the Android operating system back in 2007 and 2008. Google has long held to the argument that Java — the underlying basis for Android — is free and open for anyone to use. Oracle came into ownership of the APIs in question when it purchased Sun Microsystems. The company first filed legal complaints against Google in 2010. The first trial in 2012 found that APIs couldn't be copyright, but that decision was later overturned in 2014. Today's decision will likely be appealed by Oracle, but puts the matter that much closer to rest.

BlackBerry Makes Improvements to Priv's Camera and Keyboard

Thursday, 3:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today made software updates available to the Priv smartphone. The revised apps mostly fixes bugs, but also improves how well the camera and keyboard perform. For example, the camera app now includes manual mode so lets users adjust shutter speed, ISO, focus, white balance, and exposure. BlackBerry created some physical keyboard shortcuts for the camera, too, such as press-and-hold the letter A to return to auto mode, and press the spacebar to take a picture. The Priv's keyboard gains support for new languages, such as Vietnamese and Korean, and shortcuts such as CTRL + B to bold text or CTRL + U to underline text. BlackBerry says the new apps are available in the Google Play Store and will reach Priv devices over the next few days.

HTC Says Verizon's 10 to See Camera Update May 27

Thursday, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC's Mo Versi said via his Twitter account that the Verizon Wireless variant of the HTC 10 will receive a maintenance update that improves several aspects of the phone. The release chiefly boosts the camera's performance, including the autofocus feature. The update also tweaks performance and solves several bugs. The maintenance release will be pushed out over the air. HTC already delivered this same update to the unlocked/global variant of the 10.

Hyundai Makes Android Auto and CarPlay Available As a Do-It-Yourself Install

Thursday, 12:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Hyundai today made it possible for owners of select models to install Android Auto and CarPlay themselves. Hyundai owners will need to download the navigation system update from Hyundai's web site to a USB drive or SD card and then update the car manually. The company posted detailed directions to its web site to help walk customers through the update process. Hyundai says the download and install process can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the vehicle. Some of the models compatible with the upgrade are the 2015/16 Sonata and Genesis, 2016 Elantra and Tucson, and the 2017 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport. Android Auto and CarPlay both bring certain smartphone features to the dashboard, including access to navigation, phone and messaging, and music playback. Customers who want the update but aren't comfortable doing it themselves can have it performed at a Hyundai dealer for a fee.

ZTE Taps BMW to Help Design the Axon 7 Flagship

Thursday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 1:37 PM

ZTE today announced the Axon 7, its flagship smartphone for 2016. ZTE designed the phone with the help of BMW Group's Designworks studio. The Axon 7 has a unibody aluminum design and clean lines; it comes in gold and silver finishes. The device features a 5.5-inch quad HD display with 2.5D curved glass. The phone is powered by a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 820 processor with either 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM. The processor and 3,140mAh battery together support Quick Charge 3.0 and can deliver a 50% charge in 30 minutes. The main camera includes a 20-megapixel sensor from Samsung with optical and electronic image stabilization, sapphire lens, and an aperture of f/1.8. The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel camera. The phone can capture video up to 4K. Other standout features include dual AKM HiFi audio chipsets with Dolby Atmos software and stereo speakers, support for Google's Daydream virtual reality platform, support for memory cards, and a quick fingerprint sensor located on the back. The device adopts a USB Type-C connector. The Axon 7 ships with Android 6 Marshmallow and MiFavor 4.0 user interface, portions of which BMW's Designworks helped configure. The phone supports all U.S. LTE bands. It will be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile and launch, with Sprint and Verizon compatibility coming later in the year. The Axon 7 is sold with Axon Passport 2.0, ZTE's two-year warranty plan that protects consumers from busted screens and other damage. The Axon 7 goes on sale in China today, but will reach the U.S. soon. The phone is priced under $500 and will be sold directly to consumers via, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, ebay, and Newegg.

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Internet Companies Want Public Zero-Rating FCC Inquiry

Thursday, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A group of companies have asked the FCC to make discussions about net neutrality violations more open to public discourse. Specifically, 59 internet companies sent a letter to the FCC and asked the agency how it is handling zero-rating services, such as T-Mobile's BingeOn and Verizon Wireless' FreeBee. As it stands, the FCC is evaluating such services on a case-by-case basis mostly in private. They group argues that internet service providers, including mobile networks, have introduced a wide range of zero-rated services that toe the net neutrality line. Due to the volume of cases, decisions on each and every one "would have much the same effect as a new rule, only without the same public participation and transparency," say the companies. The companies believe the public and stakeholders both have a right to participate in defining any new rules. "Zero¬≠rating profoundly affects internet users' choices," said the companies. "Giving ISPs the power to favor some sites or services over others would let ISPs pick winners and losers online — precisely what the Open Internet rules exist to prevent. Because mobile networks are i ncreasingly the way most Americans get online, mobile ISPs matter equally. It would be unacceptable not to seek and incorporate broad input and expertise at this critical stage." Some of the companies that signed the letter include Dwolla, Etsy, Foursquare, Medium, Mozilla, Pinterest, Reddit, Upworthy, Vimeo, Yelp and dozens more. The FCC did not immediately comment on the matter.

PayPal to Kill Off Its Windows Phone and BlackBerry Apps

May 25, 2016, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

PayPal today said it will sunset its Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Amazon Fire Phone apps on June 30. After that date, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Fire Phone users will not be able to login to or use the Paypal mobile app. PayPay says these users will be able to sign in to via the browser of their device and conduct transactions online. PayPal further said all Android and iOS users of its mobile app need to upgrade to version 6.0 between June 3 and June 30. Version 6.0 of the PayPal mobile app has a fresh design. PayPal said it gave more prominent placement to features its customers use most, such as send and request money, PayPal balance, and transaction history. PayPal is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

FCC Fines Chinese Firm $35M for Selling Cell Jammers

May 25, 2016, 3:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today levied a fine of $34.9 million against a China-based company for marketing and selling illegal cell signal jammers in the U.S. The FCC says CTS Technology marketed some 285 different types of signal jammers to U.S. consumers through its web site. Some of the devices, created to interfere with cellular, WiFi, and GPS signals at distances of up to 0.5 miles, were sold to undercover FCC agents posing as consumers and shipped from China to the U.S. Signal jammers represent a danger to the public and first responders, as they can prevent people from placing emergency calls and can otherwise disrupt essential communications. The FCC first notified CTS Technology about is violations in 2014 and has attempted to contact the company numerous times. Even though the FCC has used official channels, CTS has not responded to any of the allegations. CTS has 30 days to pay the $34.9 million fine.

T-Mobile to Buy Chicago-Area Spectrum to Boost Coverage

May 25, 2016, 8:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it has agreed to buy 700 MHz spectrum from Leap in order to bring its "extended-range LTE" coverage to the Chicago metropolitan area. Specifically, T-Mobile is snagging A-Block 700 MHz spectrum covering Chicago, Elgin, Joliet, Waukegan, Evanston, Naperville, Aurora, Gary, Rockford, De Kalb, Janesville, Bloomington, Normal, Kankakee, Kenosha, and others. Leap Licenseco, the company that holds the spectrum licenses, is owned by AT&T. T-Mobile will turn on LTE in the low-band spectrum once the transaction is completed. T-Mobile has been using 700 MHz spectrum to supplement its main LTE network for some time. This deal will allow it to offer low-band coverage to 269 million Americans, including the top 10 U.S. markets. T-Mobile already offers LTE in the Chicago area via its AWS spectrum. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal must be reviewed by the FCC.

Opera Shareholders Approve Chinese Offer

May 25, 2016, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera's shareholders have approved a $1.2 billion bid from a consortium of Chinese companies. Just over 90% of shareholders voted in favor of the takeover, which was a condition of the offer made earlier this year. Opera's board of directors approved the deal in February. The collection of companies includes game-maker Kunlun, security firm Qihoo, and private investment firms Yonglian and Golden Brick. Qihoo has its own browser and would combine Opera's technology with its own. In addition to its desktop and mobile browsers, Opera also offers data compression products directly to mobile network operators, and consumer-grade compression through its Opera Max app. Opera did not say when it expects the deal to close.

Microsoft to Cut 1,850 Smartphone Workers

May 25, 2016, 7:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it plans to further streamline its smartphone business, an action that includes job cuts and restructuring charges. The company plans to cut 1,350 jobs from its facilities in Finland, as well as another 500 jobs globally. The company expects to take a charge of about $950 million, of which $200 million will be used for severance packages. "We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability, and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO. "We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms." Microsoft says it expects to complete most job cuts by the end of this year and all cuts by July 2017. Sales of Windows 10 Mobile phones began in late 2015, but the platform has lost more ground since then, accounting for just 1% of smartphone sales during the first quarter, according to Gartner. Microsoft recently sold its feature phone business to a Foxconn subsidiary, and Nokia recently gave that same subsidiary the rights to use its brand on mobile devices. This paves the way for Nokia to make a return, of sorts, to the mobile phone business.

AT&T's GoPhone Service Adds More Data to Plans

May 24, 2016, 4:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today made its GoPhone prepaid service plans more attractive by adding more high-speed data without changing the price points. The $45 plan improves from 2 GB of LTE data each month to 3 GB, and the $60 plan improves from 5 GB to 6 GB. The latter also includes unlimited talk and text from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada, as well as talk, text, and data roaming in the same two countries. The new data allotments will be applied to all accounts automatically. Customers who enroll in auto-pay will receive a $5 service credit each month.

E Ink Reveals Full-Color ePaper Display

May 24, 2016, 4:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

E Ink today announced Advanced Color ePaper (ACeP), which is a full-color reflective display. E Ink says this is the first time an electrophoretic display can produce color in every pixel without the use of a color filter array. The ACeP includes all eight primary colors using colored pigments in a single layer of fluid; each pixel is capable of displaying all eight colors. The fluid is controlled using voltages that work with traditional TFT backplanes. E Ink says its ACeP maintains the same paper-like readability and low-power features of its monochrome ePaper screens. E Ink has been able to create ACeP screens up to 20 inches with resolutions at 1600 by 2500 pixels. For now, E Ink says the ACeP display technology will target signage and other use cases. The company didn't say if it might create versions of the ACeP for mobile devices, such as cell phones. Powering displays requires a lot of energy, so battery-based mobile devices could benefit from a color ePaper screen.

Toyota and Uber Partner On Ridesharing

May 24, 2016, 3:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Toyota and Uber today announced a partnership that will see the two companies collaborate on several new initiatives. The idea is to establish new services that can benefit Toyota and Uber's shared customers. For example, the companies plan to create new leasing options for car purchasers who can cover their vehicle payments through Uber-generated earnings. The companies are also looking at a car-based application that can assist Uber drivers. Toyota and Uber did not disclose the financial terms of the partnership.

Google's Speech-to-Text App Gains New Powers

May 24, 2016, 3:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Text-to-Speech app for Android devices and gave the tool a handful of new features. The app adds support for Bengali, Danish, English, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, and Mandarin. The 14 supported languages each has six voices, three mail and three female. Google says the voices can be processor intensive and are not available to all devices. The app also improves its voice for Indian English. Last, the speech app can read aloud any text that is highlighted on the screen. Google's Speech-to-Text app is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Maps to Host Ads In the Form of 'Promoted Pins'

May 24, 2016, 3:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it plans to place advertisements in Google Maps on mobile devices. The change is meant to help Google's business customers promote their own businesses to people who search through Google Maps. Google says advertisers can take advantage of location extensions to showcase their locations on maps as promoted pins. Google is experimenting with a variety of ad formats, and will relaunch local business pages so they are more appealing and include special offers and the ability to browse product inventory at any given store. The introduction of advertising will come to both the Android and iOS versions of Maps, but Google didn't say exactly when. The new advertising push is part of Google's attempt top shore up its core business.

Huawei Sues Samsung Over Patents

May 24, 2016, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei has filed lawsuits against Samsung in the U.S. and China, alleging the smartphone maker is using its patented technology without permission. Specifically, Huawei believes Samsung is infringing on a patent related to LTE wireless technology. "We hope Samsung will stop infringing our patents and get the necessary license from Huawei," said the company in a statement. Samsung did not immediately comment on the matter. This marks the first time a Chinese phone maker has filed a lawsuit against foreign firms; typically, Chinese firms have been the defendants in patent cases. Handset manufacturers often resort to patent lawsuits to force negotiations for royalties.

LG Begins Selling G5 Friends Directly Online

May 24, 2016, 10:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today made the G5 Friends accessories available for purchase from its web site. Consumers can buy the CAM Plus ($70), 360 CAM ($200), 360 VR goggles ($200), and Tone Platinum headphones ($200) to go with their G5. LG is also selling battery packs and battery charging cradles. The CAM Plus adds a camera grip, dedicated buttons, and extended battery to the G5 via its modular hatch. The 360 CAM captures 360-degree video, while the 360 VR goggles allow people to view virtual reality content.

Twitter to Make Exceptions to Help Expand Tweet Length

May 24, 2016, 9:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today said it plans to change how it handles certain characters and content in an effort to make the service somewhat easier to use. Over the next few months, Twitter will drop @names, photos, quoted tweets, and other media attachments from the character count. It's also going to stop requiring a period before usernames when tweeting. This means people will be able to respond to people on Twitter as well as include photos or GIFs and still have 140 characters to write what they want. The restrictions will be removed one at a time so developers will have the opportunity to update their apps accordingly. Twitter hopes the changes will make the service easier to use for newcomers and less frustrating to seasoned veterans.

Pebble Reveals Two New Watches and 3G Connected Button

May 24, 2016, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pebble today announced the Pebble 2 and Time 2 smartwatches, as well as the Core connected button. The two wearables target fitness users and include heart rate monitors for tracking workouts and monitoring sleep. Pebble recently updated its health tools, and the Pebble 2 and Time 2 are able to take advantage of the upgraded software. Both devices serve notifications, show the owner's schedule, control music, run some 13,000 apps, and perform simple tasks. Each has an e-paper display and is water resistant down to 30 meters. The Pebble 2 can run for seven days and costs $99, while the Time 2 can run for 10 days and costs $169. They work with Android an iOS smartphones. The Core is a 3G-enabled fob that Pebble says acts as a smartphone when on the go. The device has two buttons that can be programmed to do anything, such as start/stop streaming Spotify playlists. The Core has Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS radios, and can act as a relay to the internet for Pebble smartwatches. It can be paired with Bluetooth headsets and accept voice commands, serve as a hotspot, and sync with select fitness apps. The Core costs $99. All three devices are available for pre-order via Kickstarter. The Pebble 2 ships in September, the Time 2 ships in November, and the Core ships in early 2017.

Freetel Kiwami and Priori3 Up for Preorder

May 23, 2016, 11:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Freetel Wireless today made the Kiwami and Priori3 handsets available for preorder. The Kiwami is a flagship-class device with a 6-inch quad HD screen and 21-megapixel camera. The device costs $350. The Priori3 is more of an entry-level device with a 4.5-inch screen and 8-megapixel camera. The Priori3 costs $89. Both phones support LTE in the 2, 4, 7, and 17 bands, which means they are partially compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile's 4G networks. Freetel said the devices will ship beginning in June. The Freetel Musashi flip phone will be available later this summer.

AT&T to Revamp Phone Purchasing Options

May 23, 2016, 10:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it intends to reduce the number of handset financing options from four down to two. Beginning June 9, AT&T will offer new and existing customers the AT&T Next Every Year plan and the AT&T Next plan. The first will allow customers to upgrade to a new device every year, as long as 50% of the phone is paid off at the time of upgrade. Device payments are broken up over 24 months, but customers trade in the device at 12 months for a new phone. The second option, AT&T Next, lets customers upgrade every two years as long as 80% of the device is paid off at the time of upgrade. Device payments are broken up over 30 months. AT&T said customers can always choose to trade in old phones for credit toward new devices, and may also choose to make a down payment on new phones to help reduce monthly payment amounts. Customers who cancel service will need to make the balance of device payments. Customers with low credit may need to leave a deposit.

Spotify Debuts New $15-Per-Month Family Plan

May 23, 2016, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Spotify today reduced the cost of its family plan and made it competitive with offerings from Apple and Google. Moving forward, the Spotify family plan costs $14.99 per month and supports up to six individual users. Each user is able to create and manage their own playlists. The old plan cost $30 per month for five users. Spotify's family plan now costs the same as the family plans sold through Apple Music and Google Music. The Spotify family plan offers on-demand, ad-free, and offline music. Spotify is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

AT&T Resurrects the 'Cingular' Brand for Flip Phone

May 23, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T recently added the Cingular Flip to its lineup of inexpensive feature phones. The phone is made by TeleEpoch and bears the model number M3620, but AT&T named it the Cingular Flip to give it some visibility. The Flip is a basic feature phone with a large keypad, 2.8-inch screen, and 2-megapixel camera with video capture. The phone has user-programmable keys, large text options, and a basic web browser. Other features include Bluetooth 2.1, UMTS 3G, and a single-core MediaTek processor with 64 MB of RAM and 128 MB of storage. The Cingular Flip runs the Nucleas Plus 2.1 operating system and simple apps such as calendar, alarms, address book, and text messaging. The Cingular Flip is available online and in stores for $60.

Google's Project Ara Launch On Target for This Year

May 20, 2016, 1:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 20, 2016, 1:53 PM

Google today said its modular phone, called Project Ara, will reach developers during the fourth quarter of this year. The company delayed the project last summer after running into trouble with the modules. The platform lets people hot-swap various modules, such as cameras, batteries, speakers, and screens. The modules all connect to a central frame. Google also said it plans to release a version of Project Ara for consumers some time in 2017. Google execs said the company will manufacture the Project Ara phones itself.

ZTE Brings Dual-Camera Grand X Max 2 to Cricket

May 20, 2016, 1:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Grand X Max 2 for Cricket Wireless, an inexpensive handset that includes two rear cameras. The phone boasts a 6-inch full HD display protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The camera ensemble features 13- and 2-megapixel sensors on the back that ZTE says capture more detailed images. The camera boasts features such as bokeh, panorama, multiexposure, and manual modes. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor; both cameras can capture full HD video. The Grand X Max 2 is powered by a 1.5 GHz octa-core Snapdragon processor and ships with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. The phone adopts the USB Type-C connector and the 3,400mAh battery supports Quick Charge 2.0 for rapid charging. Other hardware features include LTE, GPS, memory card support, and standard headphone jack. ZTE loaded Google's Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system on the device, which includes a variety of Google and Cricket apps and services, such as Deezer and Dolby Audio. The ZTE Grand X Max 2 is available at Cricket stores starting today for $199.99.

AT&T Adds More Phones to Extended BOGO Promo

May 20, 2016, 10:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today added a handful of new handsets to a buy one, get one free offer the carrier has had in place since February. The extended BOGO promotion now applies to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, the Microsoft Lumia 950, the HTC One A9, and the Kyocera DuraForce. The other handsets already included in the offer are the Apple iPhone 6s, 6s Plus; Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, S6 Active, and Note 5; and LG G5 and V10. The offer lets new and existing customers buy one phone at full price and receive a second one for free. The two handsets must come from the same manufacturer. AT&T says both phones must be purchased via its AT&T Next installment plan. The first phone can be a new line or an upgrade, but the second phone must be a new line purchased with an AT&T Next 24 plan (req's 30 payments). Both phones must be added to a qualified plan, such as Mobile Share Value, which starts at $70 for two lines. Customers will need to pay sales tax on the two phones at the time of purchase and may need to make several monthly payments on both before AT&T credits up to $650 for the second phone spread out over the 30 months. The offer is available through June 30.

Sprint Rolls Out BOGO Offer for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus

May 20, 2016, 9:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today launched a buy one, get one free promotion for Apple's latest iPhones. The offer includes both the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus. Customers must have an eligible upgrade and initiate at least one new line of service in order to qualify for the offer. Sprint said customers may purchase the iPhones on a monthly installment plan, lease the iPhones, or lease one and buy the other. However customers choose to pay for the iPhones, the cost of the second handset will be offset by a service credit applied each month. Sprint is also offering to cut $200 from the price of the latest iPads for customers who buy a new iPhone and iPad together on an installment plan. Sprint didn't say how long the buy one, get one offer will be available. It has offered similar programs for the Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 smartphones.

Hands On with Android Wear 2.0

May 19, 2016, 2:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google released a developer preview of Android Wear 2.0. This new platform, which touts a wholly refreshed user interface, is the biggest update yet for Google smartwatches. Here is a quick look at this early version of Android Wear 2.0 on the Huawei Watch.

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Android Apps Headed to Google's Chromebooks

May 19, 2016, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Chrome operating system will soon have access to the Google Play Store and the Android apps therein. ChromeOS will support all Android phone and tablet apps, including games, productivity apps, and social networking. Android apps can run in three different window sizes in ChromeOS and users will be able to move the windows around and multitask as needed. Keyboard, mouse, and touch input will all work together within Android apps, and Android-based notifications will be pushed to Chromebooks as well as phones. Moreover, users will be able share files seamlessly between Chrome and Android devices through a new Files app. Google says developers can add admin-level network support to their Android apps for Chrome so businesses and schools can control options such as Bluetooth and WiFi. Android games should run very well on Chromebooks, according to Google. Google Play for Chrome will be available to developers on the Asus Chromebook Flip, Acer Chromebook R 11, and the Chromebook Pixel with a wider launch expected later this year. Google says it will add support for Android apps to more Chromebooks over time. ChromeOS is Google's light-weight, browser-based operating system that runs on inexpensive laptops.

Google Shows Off YouTube VR App for Daydream

May 19, 2016, 11:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced YouTube VR, a version of YouTube dedicated to virtual reality. It will be among the first apps to support Daydream, Google's new VR platform for Android devices. YouTube says the VR app will support voice search, browsing/discovery, and playlists. Google says all YouTube content — whether captured in 360-degree/3D or not — will be available via YouTube VR. Google is working with content creators and camera makers to ensure that plenty of 360-degree content is available when the app launches. Google expects YouTube VR to arrive with Daydream in the fall. It will only work with Android phones. Google didn't say if YouTube VR will be compatible with other VR headsets, such as Gear VR or Oculus.

Awareness API from Google to Power Contextually Aware Apps

May 19, 2016, 11:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Developers will soon be able to make their apps aware of their surroundings thanks to the new Awareness API. The API can support up to seven different signals at once, including time, location, places, beacons, headphones, activity, and weather, to deliver contextually aware information. Google says the API is able to process signals from these sources intelligently for accuracy and efficiency, and do so without chewing through battery life. "Your app can combine these context signals to make inferences about the user's current situation, and use this information to provide customized experiences. For example, suggesting a playlist when the user plugs in headphones and starts jogging," explained Google. WebOS, developed by Palm, was able to handle some contextually aware situations, such as recognizing when the user's location didn't match their calendar appointments. Developers can sign up for early access to the Awareness API. Google didn't say when the API will be made more widely available, nor how or when it will be added to Android handsets.

Sprint Customers Can Stream Soccer Tourney for Free

May 19, 2016, 11:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said its customers will be able to stream all the 2016 Copa América Centenario soccer matches on their phones of free. The tournament, which is being held in June, will be streamed via the fuboTV app. Sprint is giving its postpaid and Boost/Virgin prepaid customers free access to the fuboTV app for 60 days. After the trial ends (60 days for Sprint, 30 days for Boost/Virgin), customers can continue the subscription for $9.99 per month, or drop the app. In addition to free access to the live matches, Sprint will not count streamed games against customers' data buckets. Sprint is sponsoring the tournament, which is taking place in the U.S. for the first time, and will have an on-site presence at all the games. The sponsorship includes several giveaways and awards that customers can access through the fuboTV app.

Bank of America ATMs to Support Android Pay

May 18, 2016, 7:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Bank of America today said it will add Android Pay support to some 5,000 ATMs around the country. Bank of America customers who have added their BofA debit card to the Android Pay app will be able to tap their NFC-equipped phone to compatible ATMs to withdraw cash and perform other account interactions. The company plans to start with 2,400 ATMs, mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area, and eventually expand to 5,000. The idea is to allow BofA customers to access their account and cash without their actual debit card. Users will still need to enter their PIN code to earn access to their account. Bank of America tested the technology in Boston, Charlotte, New York, and San Franciso earlier this year.

Google Play to Improve Beta App Discovery

May 18, 2016, 4:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google plans to make it easier for people to find and test beta applications in the Google Play Store. Google said it will begin to surface beta apps within search results in order to improve visibility. Users will be able to opt-in and send feedback to developers more directly. Google said it will begin bundling apps together in theme collections, as well. For example, a collection might feature a home finder app as well as a mortgage finder and real estate agent search tool. Google is also offering developers with more behind-the-scenes tools to assess beta apps and make fixes thanks to diagnostic reports.

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