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printed September 18, 2014
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Android L to Have Encryption Turned On By Default

Today, 6:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said that encryption will be turned on automatically in the next release of Android, which is expected to arrive next month. Encryption will make it harder for law enforcement to access user data on such devices. "For over three years Android has offered encryption, and keys are not stored off of the device, so they cannot be shared with law enforcement," said company spokeswoman Niki Christoff to the Washington Post. "As part of our next Android release, encryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won't even have to think about turning it on." With encryption turned on, only those who enter the correct password will be able to gain access the device and the information stored on it, such as photos and videos. New devices that ship with Android L will benefit from this immediately. In the mean time, Android device owners can turn on encryption manually in the settings menu. Earlier this week, Apple said it took similar steps with the latest release of its mobile operating system, iOS8, which is also encrypted.


Sony Hopes PlayStation Can Bolster Phone Business

Today, 3:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony has hatched an ambitious plan to use its booming PlayStation and gaming business unit to support its other, money-losing efforts such as mobile devices. The company this week warned it would report steep loses in its handset division, which is struggling to sell devices. Sony's new plan is to use PlayStation as a hub for entertainment that it can stream to smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Andrew House, chief executive of the game unit, told The Wall Street Journal that it will likely offer its streaming service to non-Sony devices. "A streaming-based approach needs to have a very wide funnel of devices, and that inherently means a broad- and manufacturer-agnostic approach," said House. Sony recently unveiled a lineup of new smartphones, including the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact. Both of these devices will be certified to interact with the PlayStation 4, Sony's current gaming console. Sony said it will launch this streaming service in the U.S. before the end of the year.


Ericsson to Dump Mobile Modem Biz

Today, 3:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ericsson today said it will cease to make wireless modems for mobile devices and cut about 1,000 jobs as a result. Ericsson cited fierce competition in the space as playing a role in its decision. More and more handset companies are demanding modems that are built into application processors, such as those made by Qualcomm. Ericsson does not have its own application processor business, and has seen its share in the market drop accordingly. Ericsson said it will shift some employees from the modem business to an R&D facility in its networking and M2M business. Earlier this year, Broadcom made a similar decision to stop making basebands for cell phones.


Facebook Tweaks Messenger for iOS8

Today, 3:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook updated its Messenger application for iOS devices. Facebook didn't call out any new features other than to say it is compatible with iOS8.


Twitter for iOS8 Refreshes Profiles and Notifications

Today, 3:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today updated its application for iOS devices. The new version of Twitter makes two major changes. First, it places a greater emphasis on user profiles, which are easier to see. Twitter explains that bios are visible as soon as you get to the profile page for any given user, it no longer requires a swipe to access. The improved profiles are visible to all devices running iOS7 and up. Second, Twitter for iOS8 takes advantage of some of the new features in the operating system from Apple. iPhone owners running iOS8 will be able to interact directly with push notifications from Twitter, meaning they can Retweet, favorite, and follow directly from the notifications as they appear on the screen. Twitter is free to download from the App Store.


Samsung Note 4 Available Oct. 17, Preorders Start Sept. 19

Today, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 9:05 AM

Samsung today said it will begin accepting preorders for the Galaxy Note 4 on September 19. The device won't ship, however, until October 17. Samsung said the Note 4 will be available in black and white, and it will be carried by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular. Samsung said the phone will also be available at Samsung Experience Shops in Best Buy stores, as well as from Amazon, Costco, RadioShack, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart. Individual carriers and retailers will provide their own pricing and availability details in the near future. AT&T was first to announce those details. AT&T said the Note 4 will cost $34.42 per month with AT&T Next 18; $41.30 per month with AT&T Next 12; $299.99 with a two-year agreement; or $826 at full retail. AT&T is offering a $100 bill credit to new/existing customers who activate a new line of service with the Note 4. Verizon is offering the Note 4 for $299 with a new contract and said Verizon Edge installment pricing will also be available. T-Mobile isn't accepting preorders until September 24, and it is asking for $0 down followed by $31.24 a month for 24 months.


Verizon Lights Up AWS Spectrum in 22 More Markets

Today, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced it has expanded the reach of its "XLTE" footprint by 22 markets. Verizon's LTE network runs on 700MHz almost nationwide, but it has been adding coverage in the 1700MHz band throughout the year and marketing the dual-band 700/1700MHz coverage as XLTE. According to Verizon, four out of five of its LTE markets have access to this dual-band coverage, which is available in about 400 cities and towns across the country. Verizon didn't name the 22 new markets that launched today.


Amazon Says FireOS 4 'Sangria' to Reach Fire Phone Next Year

Today, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today announced a new version of its FireOS platform. FireOS 4 Sangria further integrates Amazon's devices with its cloud-based content offerings. The revised operating system has a redesigned user interface and adds individual Profiles, which allows family members to have their own email and social media accounts, as well as settings such as display brightness, bookmarks, and game levels. Fire OS includes ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction), which Amazon says can predict the movies or TV shows the owner may want to watch and streams them instantly. Another feature called Smart Suspend will use individual user profiles to determine when the device is most often dormant and can then proactively take steps to conserve battery life, such as turning off the wireless radios. FireOS 4 adds a function called Family Library, which makes it easier for families to share apps, games, books, and other Amazon content. Last, FireOS 4 brings Firefly to Amazon's tablets. FireOS 4 ships on Amazon's newest fourth-generation Kindle Fire tablets and will be available for Amazon's third-generation tablets through an over-the-air system update. Amazon said Fire OS 4 will be available on Fire Phone early next year. FireOS 4 Sangria is based on Android 4.4 KitKat.


Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to Have Kill Switch

Yesterday, 6:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple's new iPhones will include a kill switch that owners can use to remotely lock or wipe them, reports Reuters. The feature has been part of iOS for several years, but the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will have the feature turned on by default. The feature can be installed on older iPhone models, as well. The news comes from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, rather than Apple itself. Earlier this year, Apple, Google, and Microsoft all agreed to add kill switches to their devices by July 2015. Most major wireless network operators in the U.S. have agreed to a similar framework. Lawmakers believe the presence of the kill switch will eventually deter street crime and reduce the thefts of smartphones. The logic behind the effort is to reduce the demand for stolen goods by allowing owners to render them useless and valueless to thieves.


HealthKit Sickened By Bug, Apple Delays Release

Yesterday, 6:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has delayed the release of HealthKit, which is part of iOS8, thanks to a bug. "We discovered a bug that prevents us from making HealthKit apps available on iOS 8 today. We're working quickly to have the bug fixed in a software update and have HealthKit apps available by the end of the month," said Apple. Users who install iOS8 will notice the Apple Health app has been added to their iPhone, but without associated apps it isn't of much use. HealthKit serves as the link between health/fitness apps and Apple Health on the iPhone. According to Reuters, apps developed by MyFitnessPal and WebMD were yanked from the App Store at the last moment today thanks to the bug.


Swype, SwiftKey, Others Available to iOS for First Time

Yesterday, 2:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 2:48 PM

Apple released iOS8 today and with the updated operating system comes a new feature many will surely relish: support for third-party keyboards. Though Apple took care to revise its own keyboard application, iOS devices can now install and use keyboard apps made by other companies. Some of the first to leave the gate are Swype and SwiftKey, two keyboards that are well known to Android device owners. Swype is available for $0.99 and the SwiftKey Keyboard is available for free. Swype includes several themes, supports a handful of languages, and supports personal dictionaries. iPhone owners can easily switch between the stock keyboard and Swype for easier typing. Swype works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. SwiftKey offers a similar feature set, including word predictions, enhanced autocorrect, and cloud-based learning for a more personal experience across devices. SwiftKey's one limitation is that the Flow (tracing) keyboard only works with the iPhone and iPod, but not the iPad. Flesky and Minuum are two other such apps.


Verizon Starts VoLTE Roll-Out; Wi-Fi Calling on Deck for 2015

Yesterday, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless has slowly begun to enable VoLTE on select devices on its network. To start, VoLTE is available to the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G3. In order to use the service, subscribers need to download an app called Advanced Calling 1.0. More devices will supported over time. In order for VoLTE to work, both parties need to have VoLTE-capable phones and access to Verizon's LTE 4G network. The service, which is free to use, offers high-quality calls that are passed over the data network rather than the traditional voice network. Separately, Verizon Wireless said that, like AT&T, it is going to wait until 2015 to launch Wi-Fi Calling. Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said it will eventually roll out the service, which is supported by the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but it is not a priority. "We built our voice platform so extensively [that] there was never a need for us to tell our customers, 'Oh, our network is not good enough so you need to go on Wi-Fi to complete your call,'" said Shammo. Both Sprint and T-Mobile offer Wi-Fi Calling to a growing number of handsets. T-Mobile just today launched its Personal CellSpot in order to help its customers experience better voice connectivity when in their homes.


Apple Makes iOS8 Available to the Masses

Yesterday, 12:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS8 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch (5th gen). iOS8 offers a number of refinements to Apple's mobile operating system. Some of the new features include a new word prediction engine and support for third-party keyboards; family sharing for iTunes content; Continuity for seamless messaging across devices; revised gallery and camera apps that make sharing and editing easier; improvements to Spotlight search; the ability to send audio clips within text messages; and Health for tracking fitness and health apps. iOS8 is compatible with the iPhone 4s, 5, 5s, and 5c, as well as most iPads. It comes preinstalled on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which go on sale September 19. The system update can be installed over Wi-Fi or via iTunes.


Republic Wireless to Offer Moto E in October

Yesterday, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless has begun notifying customers that it will soon sell the Moto E smartphone from Motorola. The Moto E is Motorola's entry-level handset and features a 4.3-inch display with Gorilla Glass 3, a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor with 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of internal storage. It comes with a 5-megapixel camera that can capture panoramas as well as 720p HD video. The phone also includes support for a microSD card up to 32GB, an FM radio, and a 1,980mAh battery that Motorola claims is good for a full day. The Moto E runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat, but is limited to 3G data. Republic said the Moto E will cost $99 when it launches in October.


Cricket Selling First-Gen Moto G with LTE

Yesterday, 7:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today said it will sell the first-generation Moto G on September 19 for $150. The first-gen G has a 4.5-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, and Snapdragon 400 processor. It supports Cricket's LTE service.


Google Now Pushing Play Services 6.1

Yesterday, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google said it is delivering Play Services 6.1 to most Android devices running 2.3 Gingerbread and up. This update targets three aspects of Play Services: analytics, Google Drive, and Google Fit. Developers will be able to use the Enhanced Ecommerce tools in Google Tag Manager to assess the success of their apps and ad campaigns. Google enhanced the Google Drive Android API with a new Completion Events feature. This lets developers see when their apps are talking to the server. The Drive API has also been updated with Material Design in the UI, and adds support for Recent and Starred views. Last, the Google Fit Developer Preview has been refreshed so developers can test their fitness apps on any Android device. Google expects to complete rolling out Play Services 6.1 over the coming days, at which point it will make the updated SDK available to developers.


T-Moble's Personal CellSpot Available Today for $25

Yesterday, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile said the Personal CellSpot is available to its customers beginning today. The CellSpot is a Wi-Fi hotspot for in-home use that allows smartphones to make voice calls over Wi-Fi rather than T-Mobile's cellular network. This particular hotspot prioritizes voice traffic over data traffic and can hook into any existing home network. The idea is to provide better in-home voice service to customers where T-Mobile's network doesn't quite reach. The CellSpot is made by Asus. It costs $100 to own outright, but T-Mobile is allowing people to take one home if they put down a deposit of $25. All new T-Mobile smartphones will have Wi-Fi calling enabled moving forward. T-Mobile's existing customer base will be able to add Wi-Fi calling to their handset through a software update, though T-Mobile didn't say when to expect it. Separately, T-Mobile customers will be able to send text and picture messages, and listen to voicemail via the Wi-Fi networks provided by GoGo in select airplanes. T-Mobile says more than 2,000 aircraft offer the service in the U.S. In-flight messaging is free to T-Mobile customers.


Hands On with the ZMax for T-Mobile

Tuesday, 7:27 PM   by Rich Brome

At an event in NYC tonight, ZTE announced the ZMax, an affordable, large-screen phone for T-Mobile USA. The phone comes at a time when ZTE is trying to escape its low-tier reputation in the U.S. The company will be putting its own brand on all phones instead of white-labeling many. Is this phone the one to help ZTE make a name for itself? Read on for our impressions.

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ZTE ZMax Phablet Coming To T-Mobile

Tuesday, 6:18 PM   by Rich Brome

ZTE today announced the ZMax, a large-screen phone exclusive to T-Mobile in the U.S. The ZMax has a 5.7-inch HD screen, Corning Gorilla Glass 3, 8-megapixel camera with flash, 1.6-megapixel front camera, large 3400 mAh battery, and runs Android 4.4. It also sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core processor, 16 GB of internal memory, and a memory card slot. Unlike many previous ZTE phones, the ZMax is fully ZTE-branded. It will go on sale September 24 for $252 (full retail), or $10.50/month on a payment plan.

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ZTE Commits To Branding All U.S. Devices

Tuesday, 6:09 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Tuesday, 11:11 PM

ZTE today announced that, going forward, all of its phones for the U.S. market will carry the ZTE brand. Many of its previous phones were carrier-branded, such as the Boost Warp 4G and T-Mobile Concord II.

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FaceTime Verdict Against Apple Tossed for Now

Tuesday, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A federal court today threw out a guilty verdict levied against Apple in 2012 over patents related to its FaceTime application. A company called VirnetX sued Apple, alleging FaceTime infringed on VirnetX's intellectual property. VirnetX sought damages of $708 million, but the Tyler, Texas, jury awarded it $368 million in 2012. Today's action sees the basic guilty verdict vacated based on some technicalities experienced in the original trial. The appeals court believes Apple did in fact violate VirnetX's patents, and sent the case back to trial for further examination.


Microsoft Ports OneNote to Android Wear

Tuesday, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its OneNote application to support Google's Android Wear platform. The app allows Android Wear owners to wake their device and use OneNote to dictate notes that are saved on the host Android smartphone. In addition to Android Wear compatibility, Microsoft also updated OneNote for both the iOS8 and Windows Phone platforms. The iOS8 version of OneNote adds extensibility, which allows users to save files to OneNote without leaving the app they are currently using. The Windows Phone version of OneNote was updated to allow users to convert photographs into PowerPoint or Word files. The updated OneNote apps are free to download from the Play Store, iTunes App Store, and Windows Phone Store.


Sprint, Boost, and Virgin to Sell the HTC Desire 510

Tuesday, 9:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 3:55 PM

Sprint today announced it and its prepaid brands will all soon offer the HTC Desire 510. HTC announced the 510 last month. It is an entry-level handset with LTE 4G on board. It features a 4.7-inch display, a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor with 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of built-in storage. The main camera captures 5-megapixel images, and the user-facing camera captures VGA images. Connectivity features include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and DLNA for sharing media. The 510 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and includes HTC Sense and Blinkfeed. Sprint plans to sell the device with its postpaid service. It will reach Sprint stores on September 19. It will cost $9 per month with Sprint Easy Pay. The full retail price is $216. Sprint didn't spell out the contract price. Boost Mobile will begin selling the Desire 510 on September 22 for $100, and Virgin Mobile will begin selling it on September 23 for $100. Neither Boost nor Virgin Mobile requires contracts. The Desire 510 is also being sold by Cricket Wireless.


Subway to Accept Softcard Starting October 1

Tuesday, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Subway today announced it has partnered with Softcard and will begin accepting Softcard-based mobile payments on October 1. Softcard, which launched last year as Isis, is backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The service allows smartphone owners to link their credit card to the Softcard app on their phone and use it to make mobile payments at select retailers nationwide. Subway said it will accept Softcard at 26,000 locations around the U.S. Further, the company is offering $1 back on every purchase made with American Express Serve through 12/31. Last, Subway will eventually add its Subway Card Rewards Program to the Softcard app, which will let customers earn rewards points when making mobile payments. Softcard is available to a wide number of Android smartphones through a dedicated application.


Motorola Makes Moto Voice Available to 2013 Droids

Tuesday, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola recently published a version of its new Moto Voice app that is compatible with the 2013 Moto X, as well as the Droid Ultra, Droid Mini, and Droid Maxx. Moto Voice, formerly Touchless Control, combines several of the key functions found on the 2013 Moto X, such as the Active Display, Google Now voice prompts, and Google Assist. It allows users to customize their own catchphrase; and adds voice command support for YouTube, Facebook, and WhatsApp; allows users to switch modes via voice commands; and includes support for Moto Hint and Moto 360. Moto Voice requires Android 4.4 KitKat and is free to download from the Google Play Store.


AT&T Also to Sell LG G3 Vigor

Monday, 5:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T chimed in today to say it, too, will offer the LG G3 Vigor to subscribers. AT&T didn't specify how much the device will cost, nor when it will go on sale. Sprint also plans to sell the Vigor.


Sprint to Sell LG G3 Vigor

Monday, 2:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 3:56 PM

Sprint today announced the LG G3 Vigor, an affordable smartphone that places the volume and screen lock keys on the back, like LG's flagship devices. The phone has a 5-inch 720p HD display and quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor under the hood to keep costs low. Stand out features include LG's suite of specialized apps, such as Knock Code and Knock On, LG Gate for enterprise security, as well as QSlide Apps, QuickMemo, and LG's Smart Keyboard. The phone runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and is compatible with Sprint Spark. Sprint services on board include HD Voice and Wi-Fi Calling. The full retail price of the LG G3 Vigor is $312. Sprint also offering the G3 Vigor for $13 a month with Sprint Easy Pay.


Sprint Prepaid Reworks Plan Pricing

Monday, 9:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint's branded prepaid service, called Sprint Prepaid, today dropped the cost of its service plans. The three new plans mirror those offered by Sprint's Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA brands, but are available under the Sprint name. All three include unlimited talk and text, but vary in the amount of data available each month. The $35 plan includes 1GB of data, the $45 plan includes 3GB, and the $55 plan includes 6GB. The new plans are available to Sprint Prepaid beginning today. Sprint Prepaid does not require contracts.


Google Releases Trio of Android One Phones in India

Monday, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and its partners today revealed the first three Android One handsets. Google initially spoke about Android One in June. The idea behind Android One is to bring low-cost handsets to the largest-possible populations around the world. To that end, Google worked with hardware makers, component suppliers, and wireless network operators to develop inexpensive smartphones for India. The first three devices are the Karbonn Sparkle V, the Micromax Canvas A1, and the Spice Dream UNO. The phones include front and rear cameras, large touch screens, MediaTek processors, dual SIM card slots, memory card slots, FM radios, and removable batteries. All three phones are being sold for about $105. According to Google, the devices ship with Android 4.4 KitKat, but will be among the first to receive Android L later this year. Google, rather than the local network operators, will provide all the system updates for these devices. Google said it has signed more manufactures to the Android One project, including Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, Asus, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo, and chipmaker Qualcomm. Google plans to expand the Android One program to Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka later this year, with more to follow throughout 2015. The main goal is to connect as many people as possible - more than 5 billion - to the internet.


Preorders for Moto X Begin Sept. 16, Moto 360 Back in Stock

Sunday, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said consumers can order some of its new products beginning September 16. The Moto X for AT&T and the Moto X Pure Edition will both be available for ordering on Tuesday. The AT&T Moto X costs $99 with a new contract, and the Moto X Pure Edition - which runs stock Android 4.4 KitKat and features an unlocked bootloader - costs $499. Other carriers plan to announce availability soon. In addition to these handsets, the Moto Hint wireless earbud and the Moto Turbo Charger will also be available. The Hint costs $149 and the Turbo Charger costs $35. Last, Motorola said the Moto 360 smart watch will be back in stock on Tuesday, though quantities are limited.


GreatCall Touts Touch3 for Seniors

Sep 12, 2014, 2:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

GreatCall recently announced the Samsung Touch3, an Android smartphone designed specifically for senior citizens and older users. The Touch3's major selling point is the user interface, which has been stripped down to the bare essentials in order to make it easier to use. Select apps, such as the phone, messaging, camera, and help are front and center in large fonts so they can be found faster. The Touch3 offers the usual selection of GreatCall services, such as 5Star, Urgent Care, and MedCoach. The device itself features a 4-inch screen, 4-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and 8GB of built-in storage. The Touch3 is available from GreatCall's web site. It costs $150 and doesn't require a contract commitment.


Sprint to Sit Out AWS-3 Auction

Sep 12, 2014, 11:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today confirmed that it will skip an upcoming spectrum auction. "Sprint has decided not to participate in the FCC's AWS-3 auction, but will continue to evaluate the opportunities presented by the upcoming 600MHz incentive auction," said Sprint spokesman Jeffrey Silva to Bloomberg. Auction 97 will see 1,614 spectrum licenses sold by the government to wireless network operators. The auction will start November 13, with a trial auction scheduled for November 10. The spectrum includes 65MHz in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands. AT&T, Dish Networks, Verizon Wireless, and many smaller companies plan to participate in the auction. The FCC has another auction, for 600MHz spectrum, scheduled for mid 2015. AT&T and Verizon already have significant low-band spectrum holdings, while Sprint does not. Sprint is more interested in the 600MHz spectrum for this reason. Low-band spectrum is valued for its propagation characteristics.


HTC Desire 610 On Its Way to Big Red, According to FCC

Sep 12, 2014, 11:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Documents seen on the FCC web site suggest that Verizon Wireless will soon have its own version of the HTC Desire 610. Based on the model number (OP90300), SKU (HTC331ZLVW), and spectrum support, a newly approved phone made by HTC is earmarked for Big Red. The 610 is an affordable Android phone with a 4.7-inch display, 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 8-megapixel main camera, front camera, 4G LTE, and a memory card slot. It sports a clean design inspired by the HTC One, but in high-quality plastic. Like the One, it features BoomSound dual front speakers and Zoe video functions. HTC announced the Desire 610 earlier this year, and it is already being sold by AT&T.


AT&T to Wait Until 2015 to Launch WiFi Calling

Sep 12, 2014, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's top exec today said the company won't offer WiFi calling on its devices until next year. WiFi Calling has been around for years, but was highlighted by Apple this week as a new feature in the iPhone 6/6 Plus. Further, T-Mobile announced this week plans to expand WiFi calling to all its smartphones with a new in-home hotspot. T-Mobile's WiFi service goes live soon, but AT&T is in no rush to compete. "We're very focused on making sure it's a great experience for customers, but we see it as a complement, not a replacement," said CEO Ralph de la Vega. "We feel good about a great nationwide network with unlimited talk and text." WiFi calling passes voice calls and text messages over a local WiFi network rather than the macro cellular network.


Google Gives App Buyers Two Hours to Return Apps

Sep 11, 2014, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has extended the time during which Android device owners can seek a refund for app purchases. Google used to allow app buyers a mere 15 minutes to decide whether or not they liked an application enough to keep it. Now, app buyers have two hours to make that decision. According to Google, users will see a "refund" button in the My Apps section of the Play Store during a 120-minute window after they purchase apps. Once the refund button disappears, the app can no longer be returned for a refund. Device owners will still be able to uninstall unwanted apps at any time.


BlackBerry Acquires Movirtu

Sep 11, 2014, 10:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today revealed it has acquired a British firm called Movirtu. Movirtu develops virtual SIM card solutions that allow multiple phone numbers to be used on a single device. BlackBerry said the acquisition will help it separate work and personal use on its smartphones for split billing. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. During the course of the last year, BlackBerry has focused on beefing up its enterprise services rather than sales of BlackBerry smartphones.


RadioShack Weighing Bankruptcy

Sep 11, 2014, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

RadioShack is considering whether or not to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as its cash reserves dwindle. The company ended its most recent quarter with just $30.5 million in cash on hand, with debts totaling $658 million. It has lost money 10 quarters in a row as electronics buyers shun the chain for larger retailers or the web. Filing for bankruptcy would help protect RadioShack's remaining cash reserves, and could set the stage for a reorganization of the firm. The company is also weighing taking on investments and cited liquidation as a last resort. Earlier this year RadioShack announced plans to close 1,100 stores, but later reduced that number to 200 after investors balked. RadioShack sells wireless service from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, as well as several prepaid brands.


T-Mobile Expands Wi-Fi Calling, Partners with GoGo

Sep 10, 2014, 3:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 7:04 AM

T-Mobile today said it will make Wi-Fi calling available to all its postpaid customers for free. The move, announced at an event in San Francisco, is meant to help provide improved voice coverage in spaces where T-Mobile's network doesn't reach. Wi-Fi calls can be made from any open network. Even so, T-Mobile also debuted the T-Mobile Personal Cell Spot. This Wi-Fi hotspot, made by Asus, requires a $25 deposit and works with existing in-home internet service. It will permit T-Mobile customers to experience high-quality Wi-Fi calls when at home. It prioritizes voice functionality over data functionality. New phones sold by T-Mobile (including the iPhone 6) will have this new functionality built in from the get-go, while older devices will receive an update to gain the new Wi-Fi calling features. The Personal Cell Spot will remain private; only those with the Wi-Fi password will be able to use it for calls and messaging. The Wi-Fi calling feature is free to use for all customers. T-Mobile offered a similar service back in 2007, called Hotspot@Home, but discontinued it in 2010. T-Mobile also announced a partnership with GoGo that will let its customers send and receive SMS/MMS messages from GoGo-equipped airplanes, as well as receive visual voicemail. The in-flight messaging service goes live September 17 and is free to all T-Mobile customers. The service will work with select phones at launch, including Samsung Galaxy S5, Apple iPhone 5s, HTC One, and LG G3 among others. More will be added over time.

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Skype for Windows Phone Adds Location Sharing

Sep 10, 2014, 2:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced an update to its app for Windows Phone devices that introduces location sharing for the first time. Skype version 2.22 is compatible with Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1. The sharing feature permits users to transmit their location data to others within IM conversations. The recipient can then pinpoint the sender via Bing Maps. The update also makes it easier to save photos and adds more granular controls for notifications. Skype for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.


Republic Wireless to Reduce Roaming Availability

Sep 10, 2014, 2:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless recently unveiled a change in policy regarding roaming. The company, citing high costs for its customers to roam onto the wireless networks of competing carriers, will reduce the amount of roaming data allowed each customer to just 25MB per month. Further, the company will throttle back the speeds available to customers when they roam. The changes go into effect September 15. In addition to this change, Republic Wireless said it is working to deliver an option to customers that will allow them to roam more than 25MB for an optional fee. Republic is still working out the details of that plan. Republic Wireless is an MVNO that operates on Sprint's network, but it prefers that customers make calls and send messages via Wi-Fi. It offers access to Sprint's network when subscribers are out of range of Wi-Fi hotspots.


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