Verizon Wireless today said it plans to trial 5G technology in 11 U.S. markets later this year. This "pre-commercial service" will be offered to a very limited number of customers and not necessarily made available to consumers. The tests will involve the 5GTF spec Verizon developed past year. The trial markets include Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville, Brockton, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Verizon competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are each testing their own variants of potential 5G technologies. The actual 5G spec has yet to be defined by the International Telecommunications Union, but carriers and telecom equipment makers around the world are hoping their technologies will be included in the final standard.
Intel today announced the XMM 7560 LTE modem, a fifth-generation wireless radio that can produce broadband-like speeds in a variety of mobile devices. The XMM 7560 is manufactured using Intel's 14nm process and supports LTE Advanced Category 16 for downloads up to 1 Gbps and Category 13 for uploads up to 225 Mbps. The Intel XMM 7560 modem supports 5x carrier aggregation for up to 100 MHz combined bandwidth on the downlink, and 3xCA for up to 60 MHz on the uplink. It also supports 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM. Intel says the XMM 7560 works well with its SMARTi 7 RF transceiver, which supports up to 35 LTE bands and 230 carrier aggregation combinations for worldwide compatibility. The XMM 7560 also packs envelope tracking and other power optimization features to improve battery life in smartphones, tablets, and PCs. The Intel XMM 7560 will sample during the first half of the year and Intel expects to see it in consumer devices shortly thereafter. Separately, Intel this week announced new efforts in its push toward 5G. It is working with Nokia, AT&T, Telefonica, 5TONIC, Ericsson, and others to define, prototype, and deliver early 5G products.
Qualcomm today revealed two new sets of products design with the Internet of Things in mind. First, the company plans to add support for the Android Things operating system to its Snapdragon 210 processors and X5 LTE modems. Android Things is Google's IoT platform. Qualcomm says the the Snapdragon 210 and X5 combo will be the most powerful processor/modem available to Android Things, allowing developers and hardware makers to design more capable devices and services. Some possible use cases include electronic signage, video monitoring, and asset tracking, as well as smart home assistants and smart appliances. The Snapdragon 210 and X5 SoC for Android Things will be available later this year. Separately, Qualcomm said it is sampling two new SoCs for IoT that combine three radios into a single package. The QCA4020 includes Bluetooth Low Energy 5, Dual-band Wi-Fi, and 802.15.4-based technologies, including ZigBee and Thread. The QCA4024 integrates Bluetooth Low Energy 5 and 802.15.4 tech. These modules will support a wide range of IoT platforms, including Apple's HomeKit, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Open Connectivity Foundation. Qualcomm expects to see them put to use in smart cities, toys, home control and automation, networking, and home entertainment. The QCA4020 and QCA4024 are sampling now and will reach consumer devices later this year,
Qualcomm today introduced a new range of RF front-end products that will complement advanced processors such as the Snapdragon 835. The new family of radios are the first gallium arsenide (GaAs) power amplifier modules to come from Qualcomm. The company says the QPA546x and QPA436x are multimode, multiband power amplifier (MMPA) modules that are designed for superior cell-edge performance, which also makes them the first MMPA modules optimized for High Power User Equipment (HPUE) operation. Sprint plans to use HPUE later this year to improve the performance of its 2.5GHz spectrum to boost speed and capacity at the cell edge. The module family supports a range of other technologies, including Qualcomm TruSignal antenna performance. Qualcomm says its newest TruSignal design is better able to support carrier aggregation while also maximizing power efficiency over LTE. Consumers should see more consistent voice and data performance both indoors and out. The QAT35xx antenna is ready for the Snapdragon 835, while the QPA546x and QPA436x are sampling now with the expectation that they'll reach consumer devices later this year.
Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, which it says is the first Category 18 modem capable of download speeds up to 1.2Gbps. The X20 is manufactured using a 10nm FinFET process. It supports up to 5x20 MHz carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and up to three aggregated LTE carriers. The X20 LTE modem uses a new RF transceiver that Qualcomm claims is capable of receiving up to 12 spatial streams of LTE data. Each downlink supports 256QAM, while uplinks support 64QAM. Other features include all major carrier technologies, more than 40 LTE frequency bands, LTE Broadcast, and VoLTE with support for Ultra HD Voice. Last, the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem supports Dual SIM Dual VoLTE for advanced use cases. Qualcomm believes the X20 will be ideal for Gigabit LTE networks, which are expected to bridge the gap between today's 4G networks and what will eventually become 5G networks. Qualcomm says the X20 is already sampling, but it won't ship on consumer products until the first half of 2018.
Verizon and Yahoo today said they've amended the terms of their acquisition, first announced in July 2016, which will see the sale price drop by $350 million. The deal has been in jeopardy since December when Yahoo disclosed a material security breach that impacted more than 1 billion users. According to Yahoo, an outside party was able to steal names, email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords, and some security questions/answers of users back in August 2013. Verizon had originally agreed to pay $4.8 billion for Yahoo's core internet business and customer base. The total sale price is now closer to $4.48 billion. Moreover, the two companies agreed to terms with respect to any investigations over Yahoo's security breaches. The remaining Yahoo business that exists after the transaction will be held accountable for 50% of any cash liabilities from non-SEC or third-party investigations and all the liabilities of SEC and shareholder lawsuits. "The amended terms of the agreement provide a fair and favorable outcome for shareholders. It provides protections for both sides and delivers a clear path to close the transaction in the second quarter," said Marni Walden, Verizon executive vice president and president of Product Innovation and New Businesses.
Apple today made iOS 10.3 beta 3 available to developers. The most notable new feature of iOS 10.3 is a tool called Find My AirPods, which helps people locate lost earbuds via an audio alert. iOS 10.3 also makes the jump to the Apple File System (APFS), refreshes the Apple ID profile, tweaks animations, and provides more details concerning iCloud storage use. This latest beta is meant for developers. Apple normally makes public beta builds available a day or two after it releases developer betas. Apple also released new betas of macOS 10.12.4, watchOS 3.2, tvOS 10.2, and Xcode 8.3.
Verizon Wireless today announced a new service plan for its prepaid business, offering 2 GB of data for $40 per month. The plan includes unlimited texting and, for customers who make on-time payments, carry-over data from month to month. Customers who exceed the 2 GB limit will see speeds reduced to 128 Kbps for the remainder of the billing period. Verizon also offers a $30 prepaid service plan for feature phones, as well as a 5 GB plan for $50 and a 10 GB plan for $70. The new $40 plan will be available starting Feb. 21.
Google has put Android 2.3 Gingerbread out to pasture. The update this month follows an announcement Google first made in November regarding Play Services 10.2, which severs backward compatibility with devices running Android 2.3 and older. Google Play Services is the core code behind app compatibility across Android platforms. The Play Services 10.2 update jumps from API level 9 to API level 14. This means Play Services 10.2.0 only supports Android 4.0.1 Ice Cream Sandwich and up. Gingerbread is nearly six years old and Google says the number of devices impacted by the change is fairly small. Google Play Services is updated automatically across Android devices once every couple of months. The 10.2 update to Play Services introduces a handful of new tools that developers can use to improve their apps. For example, it supports the latest version of Google's Firebase developer toolset, custom styling within Google Maps, more health data points in Google Fit, and additional behaviors of ID tokens with Smart Lock. Play Services 10.2 also lets developers use some updated and/or new APIs, including the Fence API for geofencing, the Google Sign-in API for authentication, and the Nearby API for ultrasonic audio location. Most Android devices can expect to see Play Services 10.2 installed on their devices shortly, if it hasn't been already.
LG today said its forthcoming G6 flagship smartphone will include two rear-mounted cameras and a single front-facing camera in much the same vein as last year's V20. The rear cameras will each capture 13 megapixels, says LG, with one taking standard field-of-view shots and the other taking 125-degree, wide-angle shots. LG says users will be able to switch between the two cameras seamlessly with no delay, and the wide-angle lens reduces optical distortion around the outer edges for cleaner pictures. LG said the cameras have equal resolution sensors due to consumer feedback wishing for higher quality images from the secondary camera. LG didn't specify the resolution of the user-facing camera on front, but did indicate it, too, takes wide-angle pictures with a field of view measuring 100 degrees. Moreover, LG has added a handful of new tools to the user-facing camera for self portraits, including the ability to combine between 2 and 100 images to create GIFs. Other features headed to the G6 camera include an enhanced food mode, and 360-degree panoramas for virtual reality apps captured via the wide-angle camera on the rear. LG has already shared lots of the G6's features ahead of the phone's expected Feb. 26 debut.
ZTE today said it is exploring fundamental changes to its Project CSX Hawkeye smartphone and is cancelling the current Kickstarter funding campaign. Project CSX started as a community-based program to create a smartphone with features imagined by the public. The original intent was to bring a crowd-sourced device to market by the end of 2017. ZTE fielded hundreds of ideas from around the world and eventually settled on a device featuring eye-tracking powers and a self-adhesive rear panel. In January, ZTE unveiled Hawkeye's full spec sheet through a Kickstarter campaign and was immediately beset by feedback from the community. ZTE wanted the phone to be affordable to most people around the world and thus designed a mid-range handset with middling specs. The Z-Community, however, would prefer a high-end device. "Project CSX has always been about going against the norm and trying something different. But above all, it’s been about listening to you, the consumer," explained ZTE in a forum post. "Based on the feedback we’ve received on both Kickstarter and our own Z-Community forum, we’ve decided to phase out this campaign; however, this doesn’t mean the project is over." ZTE said it will create the device consumers want, but it needs time to figure out how best to move forward. ZTE is no longer sure it can meet its original end-of-2017 release goal. It expects to provide an update about Project CSX Hawkeye in a month or two. In the mean time, the company will refund all pledges contributed to the campaign. "All of your support, perspectives and suggestions are what has driven Hawkeye so far, and for that we are grateful. We will continue to push the boundaries, think outside the box, and pave new paths to ultimately deliver a device that you want, all while continuing to listen and explore with you every step of the way," concluded ZTE.
Skype's mobile app for Android and iOS devices now looks a lot more like Facebook Messenger, based on the preview released by Microsoft this week. In a blog post, Microsoft explained the new features are meant to make conversations more expressive and entertaining. First, Skype adds in-call reactions. These let people add live emoticons, photos, and text to video calls. The integrated camera now supports emoticons, stickers, and annotations. People can respond to any individual message with multiple reactions, such as a thumbs up, sad face, smiley face, or shock. Last, the app adds a new search panel for finding and sharing links, news, sports, points of interest and other data. Microsoft says this negates the need to jump back and forth between apps. Android device owners can download this Skype Preview from the Google Play Store. iPhone owners will need to apply to become a Skype Insider for iOS. If selected, Skype will email a download link to the app. Microsoft hopes those who preview this version of Skype for Android and iOS will offer feedback before the company releases these features to everyone.
Jay Y. Lee, a top executive at Samsung, has been arrested after a judge agreed that the special prosecutor's allegations of corruption warranted legal action. Lee has been under investigation for months over $37 million in payments that investigators say were used as bribes. The special prosecutor is also charging Lee with perjury, embezzlement, and hiding assets overseas. Lee has for the last several years been groomed to take over the company following the heart attack of his father. Some of the money, allege the prosecutors, was used to grease a contentious merger between two Samsung businesses that helped pave the way for Lee's ascension. The scandal has gripped South Korea since last year, as President Park Geun-hye is also involved. In a brief statement, Samsung said, "We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in future court proceedings." Lee wasn't necessarily involved in managing the day-to-day operations of the company, but was involved in top-level decision making. Samsung may have to reorganize its executive structure to account for Lee's potential absence.
AT&T today announced its own unlimited family plan meant to compete with the likes of those introduced by Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint earlier this week. Beginning Feb. 17, customers will be able to sign up for a wireless-only AT&T Unlimited Plan that AT&T says will cost $180 for a family of four. The package includes four lines with unlimited data, talk, and text. The first line costs $100 and each additional line costs $40. The four-person plan will start at the cost of $220 per month ($100 + 3x$40). The $180 monthly price reflects a $40 credit for the fourth line, which won't be applied to the account for several months. Critically, the new AT&T Unlimited Plan does not include tethering or mobile hotspot at all. AT&T says customers who wish to use those features should select is Mobile Share Advantage plan instead. The Unlimited Plan includes its Stream Saver by default, which downgrades video quality to 480p resolution to cut down on data use. Customers can turn Stream Saver off at no additional cost to stream HD video. Further, AT&T may throttle data speeds once customers exceed 22 GB of data usage in a given month. The AT&T Unlimited Plan also allows customers to make unlimited calls from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico, roam at no extra cost in Canada and Mexico, and send unlimited texts to more than 120 other countries. AT&T's plan costs the same as Verizon's for four lines at $180 per month, but Verizon permits up to 10 GB of mobile hotspot use. AT&T's separate unlimited plan for its DirecTV customers remains in place.
The FCC today approved a new, unannounced phone from Huawei that matches leaked photos of the P10. The company is expected to announce the P10 flagship phone in a little over a week at the MWC trade show in Barcelona. The documents made public on the FCC web site show the external design of the phone and reveal wide support for the many LTE bands expected of a flagship phone, but reveal few other details. Two versions have been approved so far, with both supporting the primary bands used by AT&T and T-Mobile, although neither seems specifically designed for US networks (neither supports LTE band 30 nor 66, for example.) One version supports dual SIM cards. The phone has dual rear cameras, a USB-C connector, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The all-metal design has rounded sides and large injected antenna bands that resemble those on Apple's iPhone 7. The phone also includes NFC and dual-band Wi-Fi. Unlike most previous Huawei phones, there does not appear to be a fingerprint sensor on the rear. A front-mounted fingerprint sensor would be a major design shift for Huawei.
Google today added the ability to shop for certain goods to its voice-controlled Google Home speaker. Google says people can use Google Home to purchase everyday essentials from more than 50 national and local retailers. Some of the initial stores include Costco, Whole Foods Market, Walgreens, PetSmart, and Bed Bath & Beyond. Google Home owners need only say "Ok Google, how do I shop?" or "Ok Google, order paper towels" to get started. The Google Home app on the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones allows Home owners to configure their default credit card, shipping address, and other settings before making their first purchase. Google says now through April 30, people who shop via Google Home won't be dinged with service or membership fees associated with its retail partners. Google expects to enable purchases from more apps and services over time.
Sprint today announced an updated version of its unlimited plan that improves video quality and includes up to 10 GB of mobile hotspot data. Sprint says the new plan allows customers to stream video at up to 1080p HD rather than 480p; stream music at 1.5 Mbps rather than 512 Kbps; and stream games at up to 8 Mbps rather than 2 Mbps. These represent significant improvements over Sprint's previous unlimited plan, but subscribers will still be subject to data deprioritization when the network is congested. The deal is only available to new customers and they must sign up for Unlimited Talk, Text and Data with Sprint AutoPay. The first line costs $50 for unlimited everything. The second line costs $40, and lines three and four are free, leaving the total monthly cost for up to four lines at $90 (plus taxes and fees). This rate, however, is only good through March 31, 2018. After that date, subscribers to this promotion will see the first line jump to $60 per month, the second line stays at $40, and lines three and four increase to $30 each. Moreover, after March 31, 2018, streamed video, music, and games will be capped at the lower bit rates. Accompanying the revised plan, Sprint is further tempting consumers with a free phone lease. Customers who switch to Sprint and port their number can lease the 32 GB iPhone 7 at no cost for 18 months with a qualifying trade-in. Eligible trade-in devices include the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, Samsung GS7, GS7 edge, GS6, GS6 edge, Note 5, LG V20, G5, and Moto Droid 2. T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless have trotted out similar changes to their unlimited plans over the course of the last week.
HTC plans to exit the entry-level phone market moving forward and will instead focus its handset portfolio on high-margin devices. The company made the comments during a conference call with media to discuss its fourth quarter financial results. HTC said it will continue to sell and support entry-level phones that are already in the channel, but the company will reduce the total number of new phones to six or seven for the 2017 calendar year. HTC cited the high level of competition in the entry-level space as one reason for dropping low-cost phones from its lineup, as well as the slim chance it will be able to create profits from such phones. The company said it needs to focus on profitability in its handset business moving forward and will thus make only mid-range and high-end devices. HTC announced the U Ultra (pictured) and HTC U Play at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. These phones are expected to go on sale in March.
ZTE today said it plans to introduce a smartphone at the Mobile World Congress trade show later this month that will be capable of 1 Gbps download speeds. The phone is, fittingly, called the ZTE Gigabit Phone. ZTE claims the phone's raw speed will bring "a qualitative leap to a new world of mobile experience by making 360-degree panoramic VR video, instant cloud storage, entertainment upgrades and fast cache of ultra Hi-Fi music and movies possible." ZTE didn't share any other details about the handset, but there are a few to be sussed out based on ZTE's claims. To start, Qualcomm's X16 modem is one of the only wireless chips capable of such speeds. Moreover, the X16 was designed with the Snapdragon 835 processor in mind. Only a single network — Australia's Telstra — supports such high-speed mobile broadband at the moment, so most people will not be able to experience the phone's full potential. ZTE also said it plans to launch new phones in its Blade series at MWC. ZTE recently brought its first Blade-branded handset, the V8 Pro, to the U.S.
LG has developed a new version of its Android user interface skin in order to take advantage of the unique 18:9 aspect ratio display of its forthcoming G6 flagship smartphone. The phone's display will measure 5.7 inches across the diagonal with 2880 by 1440 pixels. LG is marketing the size and aspect ratio as a FullVision screen. To start, LG will use more pixels at the top and bottom of the screen to display useful controls and information within select apps, such as the browser, video player, and games. The 18:9 ratio means LG can split the UI into two equally-sized squares. LG envisions that this will be particularly useful when multitasking with two apps open side-by-side at the same time. Some apps, such as the calendar, will be able to make use of both windows. For example, the calendar can show the full month in one square with a detailed view of the user's agenda in the other. Moreover, the camera will include a 1:1 shooting mode that lets people see their most recent shot in one square next to a live look at their subject through the viewfinder. The camera also gains a new food mode and GIF creator. LG has teased a number of the G6's other features in recent weeks, suggesting it will be reliable, waterproof, and more. LG is expected to announce the phone on Feb. 26 during the Mobile World Congress trade show.
Google today made Google Search more entertaining to use with the addition of fun facts. The feature is starting small. Users can type in queries such as "hippo fun facts" and Google Search will display a unique and interesting fact about hippos that may not be well known (apparently hippos can hold their breath for up to five minutes.) What to know more? Refresh the search and Google will display a second fun fact about the search subject. Standard, in-depth results will still be listed below the fun facts, which appear at the top of the results page. Google suggests people stick with fun facts about animals, plants, fruits, and vegetables for now.
Verizon Wireless and AwesomenessTV no longer plan to develop premium video content for mobile devices. Verizon invested in a 24.5% stake in AwesomenessTV last year with the intent of introducing new programming for millennials that would stand apart from Verizon's existing go90 video product. These plans have been shelved. "The most important part of the Awesomeness/Verizon go90 partnership is our premium content, and the success of 'Guidance' and 'T@gged' have shown what we can do together," said Verizon in a statement provided to Variety. "Rather than launch a new and separate venture, we decided to instead double down on the Awesomeness episodic series output for go90 and also extend the term of our relationship to best build on the momentum we are seeing with our Gen Z target audience." The change in strategy comes a month after Verizon laid off some 155 people from its go90 team. The go90 product has struggled to find traction with users and Verizon is revamping it.
BlackBerry filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Nokia this week. BlackBerry claims Nokia is using its patented technology in select telecommunications equipment that Nokia sells to network operators, such as T-Mobile, without the proper licenses. The 11 patents in question were originally held by Nortel Networks and, in a bankruptcy sale, later sold to Rockstar Consortium, a patent-holding collective including Blackberry, Apple, and Microsoft. Many of the patents are said to be standard essential. BlackBerry isn't looking to block Nokia's use of the patents. Moreover, BlackBerry is obligated to license them at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms. "BlackBerry seeks to obtain recompense for Nokia’s unauthorized use of BlackBerry’s patented technology," said the company in a statement, but it didn't specify what sort of recompense or damages it is seeking. BlackBerry filed the complaint in Delaware.
Unlocked smartphones let you use your device on the carrier of your choice, whether at home or travelling overseas. Though unlocked phones tend to be pricey, you can't really put a price on the freedom they offer. Here are our picks for the five best flagship-class unlocked phones available right now.
Facebook is making several big changes to how it treats video on mobile devices. First, sound will fade in and fade out as users scroll past videos in their News Feed as long as the phone's volume is turned on. Videos will not automatically play sound when the phone's volume is set to off unless users tap on the video to hear it. People who never want to hear sound from News Feed videos can turn sound off entirely via the app's settings. Second, Facebook is taking advantage of mobile devices' form factor to make vertical videos look better. Moving forward, vertical videos will display a larger preview windows that fill more of the phone's screen. The larger format is available to all users on Android and iOS. Third, Facebook is making it easier to watch a video and scroll through the News Feed at the same time. People can minimize videos into a picture-in-picture format that will continue to play in one corner of the screen as they browse through their Feed. Facebook says Android device users will be able to keep picture-in-picture videos playing in the background even if they exit the Facebook app. Last, Facebook plans to bring its video to smart TVs and other big screens. The Facebook video app for TV will roll out soon to app stores for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV. Facebook says support for more platforms will follow. The TV app will let people watch videos from their News Feed, as well as those shared by friends, pages, or live broadcasts.
Nest today updated its camera software and mobile app for Android and iOS devices with new features and tools for keeping homes safe. In conjunction with its line of indoor and outdoor security cameras and Nest Aware, the Nest mobile app has learned to recognize doorways. It can now automatically create Activity Zones around doors, and will send notifications when it registers motion in those Activity Zones. Nest Aware users (requires monthly subscription) have long been able to designate Activity Zones manually; the change here is that Nest Cams and the Nest app can now do this on their own. Beyond the door recognition tool, the Nest app gains better alerts for Android and iOS. For example, alerts will include a thumbnail image that shows users what’s going on at a glance, and can let people see animated previews of Nest Cam video clips without opening the app. Further, when the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector goes off, any Nest Cams associated with the account will show a live video feed so homeowners can assess what their entryways look like. Last, the Android version of the Nest mobile app is adding app shortcuts on the home screen. The Nest mobile app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Nest Cams, Nest Protect, and Nest Aware are all sold separately. Nest says the Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor will receive the door recognition update over the next few weeks.
South Korea's special prosecutor's office is taking another run at arresting and charging Samsung executive Jay Y. Lee. Lee faces possible embezzlement, bribery, and asset-related charges tied to S. Korea President Park Geun-hye. Specifically, the prosecutor's office believes Lee payed Park to facilitate a merger of two lesser Samsung businesses that, in turn, helped pave the way for Lee's succession within the organization. "Samsung has absolutely never bribed the president seeking something in return or sought illicit favors," said Samsung Group in a statement. Last month, a Seoul-based court rejected the procesutor's attempt to charge Lee. Lee is a member of the family that controls a majority stake in Samsung and has been groomed to lead the organization. A court will have to approve the presecutor's new request.
T-Mobile is prepared to improve its T-Mobile One unlimited service plan ($70) in the wake of Verizon's new unlimited plan ($80). Primarily, T-Mobile will give T-Mobile One subscribers access to high-definition video and 10 GB of LTE 4G mobile hotspot data. Previously, streamed video was limited to 480p definition and hotspot data was limited to 3G speeds. Verizon's new plan includes HD video and 10 GB of LTE hotspot data, but cost $10 more than T-Mobile's before taxes and fees. T-Mobile has matched the features of Verizon's plan without increasing its prices. Moreover, T-Mobile is offering these features to two lines for $100, and T-Mobile's plan includes taxes and fees. The news was shared by T-Mobile CEO John Legere via his Twitter account. Some details from still aren't clear; for example, whether "HD" means 720p or 1080p. The changes to T-Mobile's One unlimited plan, available to existing customers ad new customers alike, will go into effect Friday, Feb. 17.
Apple has joined the Wireless Power Consortium, according to IHS Technologies and the WPC's own web site. Apple is listed as a backing member of the organization, which is behind the Qi wireless charging standard. This is the first time Apple has appeared to support either of the two competing standards. Apple is not backing the AirFuel Alliance (formerly the Power Matters Alliance) wireless charging standard, at least not according to the Alliance's web site, where Apple is not listed as a member. Apple's membership in the WPC does not necessarily mean the company plans to bring wireless charging technology to its mobile devices; rather, it means Apple can contribute its own technology to the standard, as well as take advantage of the standard's existing feature set. Many of Apple's competitors already back at least one of the two major wireless charging standards. Samsung, for example, supports both Qi and AirFuel, which makes its devices compatible with most wireless chargers. Wireless charging is one of a handful of technologies that Apple's iPhone has yet to adopt.
Google today said it has a handful of new programs for its YouTube Kids service on deck. Specifically, subscribers to YouTube Red (Google's ad-free version of YouTube) will be able to watch four kid-focused series called Hyperlinked, DanTDM Creates a Big Scene, The King of Atlantis, and Fruit Ninja: Frenzy Force. Google said it worked with Susanne Daniels to develop the shows, which are currently in production. Google expects these four shows to reach YouTube this spring with more originals to debut later this year. In addition to the new programming, Google plans to release a version of YouTube Kids for certain LG and Samsung Smart TVs. The Smart TV app will let children access their favorite YouTube Kids content — all with the same parental controls available to the mobile app — from their television set.
Google today made it easier to keep track of and share favorite spots thanks to a new list tool in Google Maps. Maps users can take advantage of pre-set list categories, such as Want to Go or Favorites, as well as create their own. Lists are accessible via Maps' side menu under Your Places and icons for saved spots will appear on maps themselves so users can always see when they are nearby. Of course, all lists can be shared via text, email, social networks, and popular messaging apps. Google says lists are available on mobile (Android, iOS) and desktop machines, and can even be saved for offline access. Lists will be made available to most users over the days ahead.
Qualcomm today announced two components that should improve how WiFi hotspots and mobile devices work with one another. The first piece of the puzzle is the IPQ8074 system-on-a-chip for gateways and routers. Qualcomm says the IPQ8074 improves network capacity by a factor of four through 12-streams (eight 5 GHz and four 2.4 GHz), 8x8 MU-MIMO, 80 MHz channels. The complete SoC includes an 802.11ax radio, MAC and baseband, plus a quad-core 64-bit A53 CPU and dual-core network accelerator to provide a fully-offloaded 11ax subsystem. Qualcomm manages all this with its WiFi Self-Organizing Network to help ease installation pains, reduce dead spots, and optimize traffic. The IPQ8074 works hand-in-hand with the QCA6290 SoC for devices. The QCA6290 can take advantage of all that the IPQ8074 offers for peak speeds of 1.8 Gbps by using both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands together with 1024 QAM. All this, according to Qualcomm, can help boost capacity and speed while also cutting back on power requirements by as much as two-thirds. Qualcomm says the IPQ8074 and QCA6290 will sample at some point during the first half of the year. The company didn't say when the combo will reach routers and mobile devices.
Verizon Wireless today announced a promotional trade-in offer that will give a free flagship-class phone to those who switch from other carriers. The offer requires users to select Verizon's new $80 monthly unlimited plan. It also requires a working trade-in that is fully paid off. Customers will need to port their number in from a competing service provider. Customers can then select the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel, Moto Z Droid, Moto Z Force Droid, Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, or LG V20. Verizon will provide up to $792 toward the cost of the phone spread out over 24 months. In order to get one of the above phones for free, switchers will need to trade-in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Samsung Note 5, LG G5, LG V20, or the HTC 10. Customers who have an older phone to trade, such as the Apple iPhone SE, Samsung Note 4, Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G4, LG V10, or HTC M9, will need to pay $5 per month for the "free" phones being offered by Verizon. Verizon Wireless didn't say how long this promotion will be available.
Verizon Wireless will on Monday offer unlimited data plans to its customers for the first time since 2011. Verizon's new offer costs $80 per month for a single line with unlimited talk, text, and data; mobile hotspot; calling/texting to Mexico and Canada; and 500 MB of 4G LTE data per day when roaming in Mexico and Canada. The total monthly cost for two lines (before taxes and fees) is $120, the cost for three lines is $160, and the cost for four lines is $180. Lines five through 10 will cost an additional $20 each. Paperless billing and auto-pay are required to qualify for these prices. Verizon says domestic mobile hotspot usage is limited to 10 GB per month; customers who exceed that limit during a single billing period will see their speeds dropped to 3G for the remainder of the month. Verizon says unlimited data customers who consume more than 22 GB of data during any single billing period may see throttled speeds when the network is congested. "While we don’t expect to do that very often, network management is a crucial tool that benefits all Verizon customers," said Verizon Wireless. Connected devices such as smartwatches and the GizmoPal can be aded for $5 per month. For roaming countries other than Mexico and Canada, Verizon still offers its TravelPass data plan, which costs $10 per day for 500 MB in most countries. Verizon will continue to offer its 5 GB, small, medium, and large service plans. Verizon's new unlimited plan will be available from Feb. 13.
Google today added a feature to its Pixel and Nexus handsets that it hopes will help ease the process of using phones as mobile hotspots. Instant Tethering, as the feature is called, works because both the phone and secondary device (like a tablet) rely on the same Google account and can talk to one another via Bluetooth. "When you unlock a tablet such as the Pixel C, it will notice if there is no internet connection available, and will ask your Pixel phone if it has internet and battery life," explained Pixel Project Manager Omri Amarilio in a blog post. "If it does, we will give you an option to enable a secure hotspot and pair automagically, without even taking your phone out of your pocket." Once you stop using the tablet and lock the screen, Instant Tethering is smart enough to realize the hotspot is no longer needed and will turn it off on the phone in order to save battery life. Instant Tethering is limited to Google devices and works with the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P smartphones and the Nexus 9 and Pixel C tablets.
OnePlus is pushing out a minor system update to both the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T smartphones. OxygenOS 4.0.3 chiefly resolves some bugs, but does manage to add a few new features. For example, the phones gain a toggle for switching on WiFi IPv6, as well as the Amazon Prime app in some regions. OnePlus says OxygenOS 4.0.3 improves the the way both phones transition from poor WiFi to LTE data when the hotspot connection drops. Other fixes include increased stability and optimized night time photos in the camera; updated audio parameters and cleaner audio recordings; and updated APNs for select global carriers. OnePlus says the update will roll out in waves over the next few weeks.
Sprint today announced a new promotion that will give customers unlimited talk, text, and data on up to five lines for $90 per month total. The promo has a handful of requirements and a big limitation. First, the deal is only available to new customers and they must enroll in AutoPay. The first line costs $50 for unlimited everything. The second line costs $40, and lines three through five are free, leaving the total monthly cost for up to five lines at $90 (plus taxes and fees). This rate, however, is only good through March 31, 2018. After that date, subscribers to this promotion will see the first line jump to $60 per month, the second line stays at $40, and lines three through five increase to $30 each. All five lines will be subject to data deprioritization when the network is congested. Moreover, streamed video, music, and games bit rates are capped. Sprint said this promotion will only be available for a limited time.
T-Mobile today announced several promotions that customers can take advantage of over the next few weeks. To start, the company is offering a free pizza to customers who use its T-Mobile Tuesdays rewards program. T-Mobile said every line enrolled in T-Mobile Tuesdays can score a free pizza from Papa John's during one of the next four weeks. During the other three weeks, customers will be given a coupon for 25% off a regular menu item at Papa John's. On Feb. 14 (Valentine's Day), T-Mobile is also including a free Lyft ride and free movie rental from FandangoNOW. Separately, T-Mobile is bringing back its free tablet offer. Any customer who finances either an LG G Pad X 8.0 or Samsung Tab E on a T-Mobile Equipment Installment Plan is eligible for free monthly reimbursements over a two-year period. In order to get the free tablet, customers will have to put the device on a T-Mobile One or other mobile internet plan with at least 6 GB of high-speed data. T-Mobile said the free table offer is available for a limited time.
WhatsApp today rolled out two-factor authentication to all users worldwide. The feature is still optional, though it provides a second layer of account security. When enabled, users will need to provide a user-defined, six-digit passcode to verify their phone number. People can also provide their email address so WhatsApp can help them reset their security settings if the passcode is forgotten. WhatsApp will occasionally ask people to reverify their phone number with the passcode. The reason for this is twofold: it protects users and, according to WhatsApp, will likely help them remember the passcode. A number of messaging and email services provide two-factor authentication for security purposes.
Huawei today said it will begin rolling out Android 7 Nougat to its Honor 8 handset starting Feb. 10. The update adds features and tweaks performance. To start, the update gives Honor 8 owners the option of selecting the stock Android user interface rather than Huawei's EMUI. Other changes include the option to use the app drawer, use two apps side-by-side, more fully customize notifications and the Quick Settings menu, set camera priorities, share contact cards via QR codes, switch between profiles quicker, and rearrange the settings list. Huawei says it optimized performance as well, reducing the number of steps needed to complete most tasks, reducing Bluetooth pairing times, and preventing the system from storing certain subsets of user data. Huawei says the rollout will be gradual, though it expects all Honor 8 devices globally to receive the update by the end of the month.
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