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Latest Version of Google Maps for iOS Lets You Customize Your Car

Today, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

iPhone owners can now have some fun with Google Maps by selecting a new navigation icon. Maps historically relies on a blue navigation arrow to indicate the user's location and direction of travel. Tapping the arrow will bring up a menu that allows people to select a car, pickup, or SUV to customize the experience. Earlier this year, Google let Android users opt for a Mario-style car for driving directions. Google says the latest version of Google Maps for iOS, with optional car graphics, is free to download from the iTuns App Store.


T-Mobile Prices the LG G7 ThinQ at $750

Today, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today revealed launch plans for the LG G7 ThinQ. Pre-sales for the phone begin Friday, May 25, with general retail availability starting June 1. T-Mobile said the LG G7 ThinQ will cost $750. It is asking customers for a $30 down payment followed by monthly payments of $30 for 24 months. Notably, the G7 ThinQ supports T-Mobile's 600 MHz spectrum, on which the carrier is deploying LTE across the nation. The phone supports 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM for fast wireless performance. During the pre-sale period, T-Mobile is offering a buy-one, get-one deal on the LG G7 ThinQ. Both phones will need to be financed on an equipment installment plan. T-Mobile will make the monthly payments for the second device over a two-year period. T-Mobile says it is the only carrier offering the G7 ThinQ in raspberry rose.


HMD Global Raises $100M to Expand Nokia Phone Business

Today, 8:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global today said it has raised $100 million in funding in order to help the company grow. HMD Global is the sole licensee of the Nokia brand and makes and sells Nokia-branded phones that run Google's Android operating system. The company brought its first phones to market in early 2017 and has seen modest success in overseas markets. The company claims to have sold more than 70 million phones in over 80 countries at some 250,000 retail outlets. This year, HMD Global plans to "aggressively expand its portfolio of Nokia smartphones" while also finding more places in which it can sell those phones. "It is our ambition to deliver great smartphones that delight our fans while staying true to our Finnish roots and the hallmarks that the Nokia brand has always been known for," said Florian Seiche, CEO of HMD Global. "We aim to be among the top smartphone players globally and our success to date gives us the confidence to further continue on a growth path in 2018 and beyond." The company has released 11 phones to date. HMD Global was created by former Nokia employees. Its phones are manufactured in China. The most recent Nokia phone made available to U.S. buyers is the Nokia 6 (2018), which can be purchased from Amazon.


Qualcomm Debuts 5G NR Small Cell for Carriers

Today, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the FSM100xx, a 5G NR product designed for small cells and remote radio heads. Qualcomm says the FSM100xx builds on its existing Qualcomm FSM Platform for 3G and 4G small cells. It supports 5G NR in sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum, allowing network operators to make use of whatever spectrum is available to them in a given location. Qualcomm designed the FSM Platform for flexibility. It is based on 10nm mobile technologies for controlling power consumption while allowing for fast performance. Qualcomm says the FSM100xx can address the propagation characteristics of mmWave spectrum in real time, particularly in indoor spaces where small cells are most often deployed. Further, it supports MIMO and multi-gigabit throughout, as well as power-over-ethernet for broader outdoor deployments. Last, the FSM100xx includes a software-defined modem, which gives carriers the flexibility to control and update their hardware when needed to comply with future 3GPP releases of the 5G NR spec. Qualcomm says it expects the FSM100xx to begin sampling in 2019. Meanwhile, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all claim they will launch 5G in select markets by the end of 2018.


LG Adds High-End Features to the Q Series' New Q7

Today, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the Q7, the 2018 version of its mid-range Q Series Android phones. The Q7 picks up where last year's Q6 left off, with updated specs and features. There are three models, the Q7, the Q7+, and the Q7α. The series carries over the 2.5D curved 5.5-inch FullVision Display with full HD+ resolution. The phones have a metal frame and metal rear panel. Updates to the series includes IP68 protection from water and dust and mil-spec 810G compliance, rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, HiFi Quad DAC, DTS:X 3D Surround Sound, face recognition, portrait shooting, and the QLens for image-based visual search. The devices run either a 1.5 GHz or 1.8 GHz octa-core processor.

Other shared specs between the three phones include a 3,000mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, WiFi, and USB Type-C. All three ship with Android 8 Oreo. LG says the Q7 range will go on sale in Europe beginning in June with other key regions, including the Americas, to follow later.


FCC to Investigate Web Site that Exposed Phone Locations

Friday, 1:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said it is investigating reports that a web site leaked the location data of millions of U.S. cell phones. A security researcher claims a company called LocationSmart suffered a leak and made it possible track the whereabouts of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers without their consent. Accuracy of the location data was as good as a few hundred yards. On her Twitter account today FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, "The @FCC needs to investigate. No ifs, ands, or buts." Senator Ron Wyden agreed, saying, "This leak, only days after the lax security at Securus was exposed, shows how little companies throughout the wireless ecosystem value Americans’ security. Wireless carriers and LocationSmart appear to have allowed nearly any hacker with a basic knowledge of web sites to track the location of any American with a cell phone. A hacker could have used this site to know when you were in your house so they would know when to rob it. A predator could have tracked your child’s cell phone to know when they were alone." Wyden demanded an investigation and the FCC appears to agree. The agency has pushed the matter to its enforcement bureau to investigate.


Google Home Now Lets You Control Play Movies Via Voice

Friday, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

As promised, Google has added voice control support to its own video service, Google Play Movies & TV, to Google Home. People who own Google Home products can now speak voice commands to access movies and television shows purchased or rented through the Google Play Store and have that content play on Chromecast-connected television sets. Google says people won't have to change any settings or reconfigure their device to access this feature, as it has been added automatically on the backend. Google Home has for some time allowed people to use voice commands to access Netflix and other third-party streaming video content. The tool lets people start movies and shows, fast-forward, rewind, pause, and more.


Qualcomm to Add WPA3 to Mobile Devices This Summer

Friday, 8:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm this week laid out its plan to adopt the latest wifi security protocol in future products. The company said it will apply the Wifi Alliance's Wifi Protected Access (WPA3) across its portfolio of mobile and networking products starting this summer. The core feature of WPA3 is stronger protection when users choose weak passwords. WPA3 also simplifies the process of securing access points that don't have a display or interface. The standard provides individualized data encryption to protect data as it moves from computers, tablets, and phones to access points. Further, it includes a 192-bit security suite to help businesses and governments adopt the highest levels of protection. Qualcomm says it has already added WPA3 to its WCN3998 wifi radio and IPQ807x AP platform. The company says phons based on the Snapdragon 845 mobile application processor will be the first to support WPA3. The chip and phones that rely on it will gain WPA3 this summer, with Qualcomm's portfolio of networking devices to follow soon thereafter.


Apple Pushes iOS 11.4 Beta 6 to Developers and Public Testers

Friday, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has released iOS 11.4 Beta 6 to both registered developers and public beta testers. The release comes just several days after Apple pushed iOS 11.4 Beta 5. Apple didn't provide a reason for the quick iteration. iOS 11.4 primarily adds support for ClassKit, Apple's new set of developer tools that target educations. It also re-introduces several features that were meant to be included in iOS 11.3, but didn't make the final release. These include AirPlay 2 and Messages on iCloud, which allows people to store their iMessage content in the cloud and sync it across devices. Developers and public testers alike should be able to download and install iOS 11.4 Beta 6 over the air.


House Committee Votes to Keep ZTE Ban In Place

Friday, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The House Appropriations Committee this week voted on an amendment that upholds the Commerce Department's sanctions against ZTE. Specifically, the amendment prevents the U.S. Commerce Department from renegotiating its sanctions against ZTE in order to prevent ZTE from gaining access to hardware and software from its U.S. suppliers. The Commerce Department slapped ZTE with the ban last month after it discovered that ZTE misrepresented the actions it took in a 2017 settlement. Over the weekend, President Donald Trump surprisingly tweeted in support of ZTE, suggesting the Commerce Department help ZTE "get back into business, fast." ZTE has largely ceased operations and idled some 75,000 employees in the wake of the ban. The amendment voted on by the house will "prevent a foreign company that is beholden to its government — and that ignores embargoes — from infiltrating the devices and networks that are now indispensable to American life," said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) in a statement. "This amendment, which passed with the unanimous support of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, shows that, when the United States enacts sanctions, we stand behind them." The bill was coauthored by Ruppersberger and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.).


Instagram Now Lets You Share Feed Posts to Stories

Thursday, 11:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible to share feed posts directly to stories. The latest version of the app includes tools that make it easy to share a post published in your feed to your own story as a sticker where your friends and followers can see and interact with it. Posts shared to stories will display the original poster's username and a link so viewers can see the original post and learn more about the original poster. Instagram says users can only share posts from public accounts, and users who don't want their posts shared in others' stories can opt out. The new Instagram is available for Android devices today and will reach iOS devices in the coming days.


Essential Updates Its Camera App with a New Look

Thursday, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential today said it has published a new version of the camera app for its PH-1 phone. Most significantly, the app has been given a fresh coat of paint with new icons that should make it easier to see and switch between photos, videos, and other modes. The app renames the Monochrome shooting mode as Black & White, which Essential says is "a bit more familiar" to end users. Last, the app gains stability and performance tweaks. The Essential camera application is free for owners of the PH-1 to download from the Google Play Store.


Sprint Offering Lower Cost Service to Those Over 55

Thursday, 9:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today refreshed its offering for customers age 55 and up. Starting Friday, May 18, new customers who are over 55 can get two lines of unlimited talk, text, and data for $70 per month. Sprint says the first line costs $50 and the second line costs $20. Autopay is required to score this price. The offer includes Sprint Global Roaming, which provides basic text and data at no additional charge in more than 185 countries. The Unlimited 55+ plan provides unlimited mobile hotspot at 3G speeds, but limits video streaming to standard definition (480p), limits music streaming to 500 Kbps, and limits game streaming to 2 Mbps. Sprint says this offer for those aged 55 and up will be available for a limited time.


AT&T and Verizon Say They'll Sell the Red Hydrogen One Phone

Thursday, 9:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and Verizon Wireless today voiced support for the Red Hydrogen One phone, which they'll sell later this summer. The Hydrogen One was first announced in summer of 2017. It is a pricey Android phone with a 5.7-inch "holographic" display touting glasses-free 3D. While the display supports traditional stereo 3D, it also supports a new 3D-like "holographic" technology created by Red called Hydrogen 4-View (H4V). The phone body sports Red's industrial design and comes in either aluminum or titanium. The Hydrogen One will support snap-on modules for shooting both high-resolution video and H4V content. It will also integrate with other Red products, serving as a touchscreen controller and monitor for Red cameras. The phone also has USB-C and a microSD memory card slot. When first announced, Red listed the Hydrogen One's price as $1,195. Neither AT&T nor Verizon said what they'll charge for the phone. The Hydrogen One was expected to go on sale in early 2018, but it has been delayed several times. An exact for-sale date was not provided.


Netflix Brings HDR Support to 3 More Phones

Thursday, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Netflix has granted three newer phones the ability to stream HDR video. The latest devices include the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, the Huawei P20 Pro, and the Sony Xperia XZ2. HDR content has more contrast than standard content, creating deeper blacks and brighter brights for a richer viewing experience. Other devices already able to access HDR playback on Netflix include the LG G6 and V30, Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ Premium, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Note 8, and the Razor Phone.


LG Kicks Off Sales of G7 ThinQ Phone, But US Pricing Remains Elusive

Thursday, 8:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said it has commenced sales of its flagship G7 ThinQ phone in its home market of South Korea. The G7 ThinQ, announced earlier this month, is a premium metal-and-glass phone with a super bright 6.1-inch screen, Snapdragon 845 processor, AI-assisted dual rear cameras, BoomBox speaker, and Android 8 Oreo. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have committed to selling the LG G7 ThinQ beginning later this month. So far, however, U.S. pricing for the phone has been kept a secret. LG says carriers will announce pricing closer to the actual for-sale date. Pre-orders for the G7 ThinQ in the U.S. are expected to begin on or around May 24, with a ship date of June 1.


Google Play Music to Remain As-Is for the Time Being

Thursday, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today relaunched its premium video and music services, but says its existing Google Play Music service will remain unmolested. "If you use Google Play Music, nothing will change — you’ll still be able to access all of your purchased music, uploads and playlists in Google Play Music just like always," explained Google. Google Play Music carries its own $9.99 per month subscription fee. That fee has historically also included access to YouTube Red and YT Music. The same will be true of Google's new premium services. "If you are a subscriber to Google Play Music, good news, you get a YouTube Music Premium membership as part of your subscription each month," said Google. Existing customers can keep their current pricing. New YouTube Premium subscribers will pay $11.99 per month. This bundles together access to YouTube Premium and YouTube Music. Those who only care about music can subscribe to just YouTube Music for $9.99 per month. The ad-free version of Google Play Music, with support for offline downloads, also costs $9.99 per month. Google hasn't clarified if legacy Google Play Music subscribers will be grandfathered-in to the new YouTube Premium service.


YouTube Reimagines Its Premium Video and Music Services

Thursday, 7:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube today announced YouTube Premium and YouTube Music, services that replace YouTube Red and YT Music, respectively. Moving forward, YouTube Premium will be the video site's top-tier service, offering originals, ad-free play, background play, and downloads across YouTube. Google says YouTube originals include content such as the Karate Kid-inspired series Cobra Kai, with many more on the way from the U.K., Germany, France, Mexico, and more. YouTube Premium will offer subscribers an ad-free experience with no mandatory pre-roll advertisements. Moreover, videos that permit downloads can be stored locally on phones and tablets for offline playback, as well as played in the background as users multitask. YouTube Premium will cost $11.99 per month (for new members), which is more than the $9.99 subscription for the outgoing YouTube Red service. Google says people who already subscribe to YouTube Red will be able to keep their current pricing. Google didn't say anything about family pricing plans. YouTube Premium rolls out soon in existing markets, including the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and South Korea. It’s also coming soon to Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K. The new YouTube Premium subscription includes the new YouTube Music. Google is relaunching YouTube Music on May 22. "YouTube was made for video, not just music," said Google. "We’ll be changing that by introducing a new music streaming service made for music with the magic of YouTube: making the world of music easier to explore and more personalized than ever." YouTube Music will include official songs and albums from artists around the world, as well as thousands of playlists, radio stations, remixes, live performances, covers, and music videos. To accompany the service, YouTube has a reimagined mobile app and a brand new desktop player that are designed specifically for music playback. Google says people will be able to search based on partial lyrics, or keywords based on the artist or video. The service will personalize the home screen for each subscriber and dynamically recommend new music based on listening history. An ad-supported version of YouTube Music will be offered for free. The paid service, which includes an ad-free experience, background play, and downloads for offline playback, will cost $9.99 per month. Subscribing to YouTube Premium, at $11.99 per month, includes YouTube Music. The new YouTube Music will be available in the same markets as YouTube Premium. Google Play Music will remain as-is.


Senate Votes In Favor of Saving Net Neutrality

May 16, 2018, 12:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 16, 2018, 4:06 PM

Democrats in the Senate forced a vote on net neutrality today and walked away victorious. Members of the Senate voted 52-47 to retain the net neutrality regulations put in place by the Obama administration that were later nixed by the FCC. The margin of victory was large than expected, with three Republicans, two independents, and 47 Democrats all voting in favor of keeping the rules. Though the bill has passed the Senate, it still has to get through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and, if it succeeds there, President Trump. Obama's FCC established firm rules governing broadband service as a utility under Title II. As such, paid prioritization, fast lanes, blocking, and throttling were strictly prohibited. The Republican-led FCC has largely scaled back those rules, preferring to let the industry govern itself with "light regulation" from the FTC rather than the FCC. For the moment, the FCC's repeal of net neutrality will go into effect on June 11. Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel applauded the vote. "Today the United States Senate took a big step to fix the serious mess the FCC made when it rolled back net neutrality late last year. The FCC's net neutrality repeal gave broadband providers extraordinary new powers to block websites, throttle services and play favorites when it comes to online content. Today’s vote is a sign that the fight for internet freedom is far from over."


OnePlus Re-Enters Accessories Market with Bullets Wireless Headphones

May 16, 2018, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today announced the Bullets Wireless Bluetooth headphones meant to accompany its smartphones. The Bullets Wireless are a behind-the-neck style pair of headphones. They feature 9.2mm drivers with support for Bluetooth 5.0 and aptX for high-quality sound. OnePlus says the Bullets Wireless offer 8 hours of music playback and thanks to built-in fast charging can provide 5 hours of playback after charging for just 10 minutes. The headphones have magnetic casings that snap together to help prevent wire tangles. Smart features include automatic pause and resume when the headphones are snapped together or pulled apart, respectively. The Bullets Wireless support Google Assistant, and soon after launch, will support the ability to answer calls by unclipping them from one another. The OnePlus Bullets Wireless headphones go on sale June 5 for $69.


OnePlus 6 Moves Up the Ladder with All-Glass Design and Top Specs

May 16, 2018, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today announced the OnePlus 6, its redesigned flagship phone, at an event in London. The OnePlus 6 drops the metal chassis of previous phones and adopts a metal-and-glass design common to today's top devices. The 6 will be offered in white with pearl powder, matte black, and glossy black, all with unique finishes on the curved Gorilla Glass 5 surfaces. OnePlus says the phone can withstand splashes and similar exposure to water, but the phone stops short of being waterproof. The OnePlus 6 adopts a notched screen design. The AMOLED display measures 6.28 inches across the diagonal with 2,280 by 1,080 pixels at a 19:9 aspect ratio. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. It comes in several memory and storage variants, including 6 GB or 8 GB of ROM and 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. Like many flagship phones, the OnePlus 6 includes a dual-camera array on the rear. The main sensor captures 16-megapixel images at f/1.7 and it is aided by a secondary 20-megapixel sensor also at f/1.7. The main camera includes OIS/EIS, super slow-motion capture, time-lapse, portrait shooting, and a dual-LED flash. The selfie camera has a 16-megapixel sensor at f/2.0. OnePlus says a software update will bring software-based portrait shooting to the selfie cam after launch. Other core specs include a 3,300mAh battery with rapid charging, face unlock, USB-C, fingerprint reader, 3.5mm headset jack, dual-band wifi, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD, and GPS. The phone boasts CAT 16 LTE with 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM. Support for U.S. LTE bands is excellent, as the OnePlus 6 includes Band 29 for AT&T and Bands 66 and 71 for T-Mobile. The phone is sold unlocked and can accommodate up to two SIM cards. One the software front, the OnePlus 6 offers the latest version of OxygenOS, which is based on Android 8 Oreo. Unique features include a new swipe-based navigation user interface, app locker for secured apps, multi-finger gestures, dark theme, scrolling screenshots, and reading mode. The OnePlus 6 will go on sale in the U.S. and other countries on May 22. The mirror black and matte black 6 GB / 64 GB models costs $529, while the 8 GB / 128 GB models costs $579. The silk white model is a limited edition and will go on sale June 5 with 8 GB of memory and 128 GB of storage.


Google's Redesigned Google News App Reaches iPhones

May 16, 2018, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's overhauled version of Google News is now available to iPhones and iPads via the iTunes App Store. The new version of the app uses machine learning to personalize the experience for each user. The app contains four main tabs along the bottom that take users to their recommended stories, top headlines, favorite sources, and subscriptions. In addition to offering personalized recommendations, the new Google News offers links to multiple accounts of the same story to offer perspective and help further comprehension. Google News is free to download from the App Store. Google hasn't said when the app will reach Android devices.


Samsung Adds Gold and Burgundy to Galaxy S9/S9+ Range, But They Won't Reach the US

May 16, 2018, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today introduced two new colors for its flagship Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones, gold and burgundy. The new colors join the red, black, blue, gray and purple hues that are already available. According to Samsung, the gold and burgundy colors are being reserved for select markets. Burgundy will reach Korea and China this month, with gold following in Australia, Chile, Germany, Hong Kong, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam, in June.


Senators Balk At Idea of Lifting ZTE Ban

May 15, 2018, 4:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Security, not trade, is the issue, say a handful of Senators who today pushed back against President Donald Trump's efforts to help ZTE. The U.S. Department of Commerce banned American companies from supplying ZTE with parts or software for a period of seven years. ZTE precipitated the ban by bungling a settlement agreement over its illegal sale of technology to Iran and North Korea. The company ceased most operations earlier this month. Over the weekend, Trump tweeted in support of ZTE. He suggested that too many jobs were being lost in China and he wanted to help the company get back in business quickly. Speaking Tuesday, Republican and Democratic Senators suggested that Trump's approach is not the right one. "I confess I don't fully understand the administration’s take on this at this point," said Senator Mac Thornberry. "It is not a question to me of economics, it is a question of security." Some in the government worry ZTE and Huawei devices could be used to spy on Americans. Thornberry indicated that he doesn't expect the Commerce Department will remove the ban. Trade emissaries from China and the U.S. are expected to meet again this week.


Verizon Adds LA to Short List of 5G Launch Cities

May 15, 2018, 3:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam today indicated that Los Angeles will be one of the carrier's first 5G markets, and that it will launch during the fourth quarter of the year. 5G is "a lot closer than people think," said McAdam. Los Angeles will join Sacramento and Boston on Verizon's short list of initial 5G markets. "This has been a three-year journey for us," said McAdam. "I have never seen a technology that is as disruptive and has as much benefit to consumers as 5G. We’re charging ahead." Verizon is testing a number of different technologies for its forthcoming 5G network, including millimeter wave. Verizon and its carrier competitors are all racing to be first to deploy 5G, with AT&T and T-Mobile also targeting late 2018 launches.


HTC Working On Blockchain-Based Android Phone

May 15, 2018, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today pulled back the curtains on Exodus, a forthcoming phone based on blockchain. "Our vision is to expand the blockchain ecosystem by creating the world’s first phone dedicated to decentralized applications and security," said the company. "With the release of the HTC Exodus we can now make this a reality." HTC explained that Exodus will work with multiple protocols with the intent of interoperability between blockchains. Each phone will serve as a node to help with decentralization. HTC believes it can double or triple the number of nodes of Dfinity, Ethereum, and Bitcoin, for example. The goal here will be to provide a way to facilitate cryptocurrency trading. The phone will feature a secure enclave, provide a trusted hardware stack with APIs that connect to wallets, and provide owners with their own identity and data on the phone, rather than one stored in the cloud. HTC also hopes to increase the user base for DApps on mobile devices. The effort is being led by Phil Chen, HTC's decentralized chief officer. HTC didn't say when the device might reach the market.


DirecTV Now Gains Cloud DVR, Improved Mobile Apps

May 15, 2018, 2:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today updated its DirecTV Now mobile video service, adding several new features along the way. To start, the Android and iOS apps have been redesigned a bit. AT&T says users' most-watched channels and programs will now be highlighted when they first open the app. The number of on-demand titles is improving. Depending on the subscription level, DirecTV Now customers can gain access to more than 25,000 on-demand programs. The streaming video service is adding optional support for a third stream. Under the current plan, DirecTV Now only permits two concurrent streams. For $5 more per month, subscribers can make use of a third stream, meaning three people can watch on separate devices at the same time. The new DirecTV Now debuts a cloud DVR (in beta) that provides up to 20 hours of free recording that can be saved for up to 30 days. The DVR supports features such as fast-forward and rewind. AT&T expects to offer more cloud DVR options later this year. Last, DirecTV Now will allow people to watch their local channels when on the road. This means people who prefer their home market's news programs on NBC, ABC, and FOX can do so no matter where they are. AT&T's DirecTV now starts at $35 per month.


Google Wifi Lets You Check Network Connections for Each Device

May 15, 2018, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is rolling out a new tool to its wifi product that will let people gain more insight with respect to the performance of their home network. The Google Wifi Network Check function lets people measure how each individual device is performing on their wifi network. "Knowing wifi coverage is poor in an area of your home can help you pinpoint the exact bottleneck when you notice a connectivity slowdown. Then, you’ll know to move your Google Wifi point closer to that device or even move the device itself for a stronger connection," explained Google. Google says most users of Google Wifi have an average of 18 devices connected. The new tool means people can explore how each is connecting to the network and then make adjustments to improve performance as needed. The new feature in Network Check will be available in the Google Wifi app in the next few weeks.


Twitter Working Smarter to Mute Trolls

May 15, 2018, 12:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter is stepping up its efforts to clean up conversations on its platform. The company is using a combination of human review processes, machine learning, and policies to find and hide tweets that "distort and detract from the public conversation." Specifically, it is seeking tweets that come from accounts that don't have any followers, or from people who sign up for multiple accounts at once, or that haven't verified their email address. Twitter says tweets from such accounts don't always violate its policies, so they won't be removed from Twitter. Instead, these tweets will not be visible in conversation threads and other places on Twitter. Twitter warns that they may become visible when people click "show more replies" to see an entire thread or conversation. In its early tests, Twitter says it saw a 4% drop in abuse reports from search and 8% fewer abuse reports from conversations. Twitter says it will continue to refine its review processes in order to make Twitter more enjoyable for people to use.


WhatsApp Improves Group Chat Tools

May 15, 2018, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

WhatsApp today added a handful of features to its group chat function that should improve the experience. For example, a new group description provides a short blurb that explains the purpose, topic, and guidelines behind each group. Admins have a fresh set of controls that allow them to restrict who can change the group's subject, icon, and description. Admins can also remove admin permissions from other participants, though group creators can no longer be removed from a group they created. A new function called group catch up lets people who've been away from a group for a while catch up on the conversation. Participants can more easily search for others in the group. Last, WhatsApp allows people to prevent themselves from being repeatedly re-added to groups they've chosen to leave. The new features are rolling out to WhatsApp for Android and iOS today. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook.


Google Updates Pixel Buds with New Tap Actions

May 15, 2018, 12:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has begun rolling out an update to its Pixel Bud wireless headphones that adds new gestures. With the update installed, a triple tap on the right earbud will manually turn the Pixel Buds on or off. Users can now customize what happens with a double tap. Previously, a double tap would cycle through incoming notifications. Now, users can opt to have the double tap gesture skip forward through music tracks instead. Last, Google is making it easier for people to switch from one audio source to another. Google says the update is available now and should reach all users by next week.


Sprint Puts NYC, Kansas City, Phoenix On Deck for 5G Launch

May 15, 2018, 10:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced more markets in which it expects to offer 5G service. The company earlier said it would kick off 5G in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Today, Sprint expanded its list of first 5G markets to include its home town of Kansas City, as well as New York City and Phoenix. The company expects to debut 5G service on its 2.5 GHz spectrum during the first half of 2019. The company plans to use Massive MIMO cells and other technologies to increase the speed and capacity of its existing LTE sites by a factor of 10. The company will later add its 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz spectrum to its 5G strategy.


Verizon Launches LTE-A Service in CBRS Band 48 Spectrum

May 15, 2018, 10:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it has successfully kicked off LTE-Advanced service using Band 48 spectrum, known as Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). This slice of 3.5 GHz spectrum has previously been reserved for government and military use. Using carrier aggregation, pairing its own AWS and 700 MHz spectrum with 50 MHz of the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum, and using advanced technologies such as 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM, Verizon was able to achieve peak speeds of 790 Mbps. Verizon has been testing this technology in its Texas labs since last year. It was able to deploy the service with gear from Ericsson and Qualcomm. Verizon says this marks the commercial launch of its LTE-A service in Band 48. The initial market with access to Band 48 service is Boca Raton, Fla. Verizon says its expects to debut devices with support for Band 48 later this year. Verizon didn't say what markets might be next to see Band 48 service go live.


Honor 10 Boasts Aurora Glass, a Notch, an AI Camera, and Ultrasonic Fingerprint Reader

May 15, 2018, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Honor, Huawei's budget brand, today announced the Honor 10 at an event in London. The phone serves as an affordable option to the P20 Pro and offers similar features. The device has what Honor calls Aurora Glass, a 15-layer nano optical coating on the 3D rear panel meant to provide brilliant color. The primary colors are phantom blue and phantom green, each of which dazzles in any light. This is similar to the rear panel of the P20 Pro. The Honor 10 has a 5.84-inch Full View display (19:9 aspect ratio at full HD+) with a notch. The phone is the first from Honor to include an under-the-glass fingerprint reader. Honor says its UItrasonic Fingerprint Sensor is hidden under the display in order to keep the design clean. The phone is powered by Huawei's flagship Kirin 970 processor with 4 GB of RAM and either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. The Kirin 970 means the Honor 10 includes Huawei's neural processing unit for AI-assisted scene detection in the camera. The rear of the phone features two cameras: a 24-megapixel main sensor and a 16-megapixel secondary sensor. Honor says the phone can recognize some 500 scenarios that fall under 22 categories in real-time. Moreover, the phone debuts Semantic Image Segmentation, which lets the Honor 10 identify multiple objects in a single image. The user-facing camera has a 24-megapixel sensor with 3D face recognition, studio lighting effects, portrait capture, and group selfies. The phone has a 3,400mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android 8 Oreo with Huawei's EMUI 8.1 skin on top. The device will be available for preorder in select European countries beginning today for about $475. Honor did not say if it intends to sell the Honor 10 in the U.S.


Samsung May Supply ZTE and Others with Mobile Processors

May 15, 2018, 7:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung is speaking with a number of device makers, including ZTE, about supplying its Exynos mobile application processors. Samsung wants to expand its processor business in a bid to be more competitive with Qualcomm, MediaTek, and others. Samsung uses the Exynos line in its own Galaxy smartphones. The company supplies Exynos chips to only one outside business: China's Meizu. "We are talking to all OEMs," including ZTE, said Inyup Kang, head of Samsung’s logic chip business. For the moment, U.S. companies such as Qualcomm are forbidden from supplying ZTE with components due a Commerce Department ban. ZTE has halted business operations as it wrangles with the U.S. government in an attempt to reverse the ban. The ban highlights the risk of relying on a single company for parts. ZTE could avert some problems by diversifying its suppliers. Samsung's Kang said the company expects to announce new clients for its Exynos chipsets in the first half of 2019.


Facebook Makes It Easier to Report Abusive Messenger Conversations

May 15, 2018, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has rolled out a change to Messenger that simplifies the process of reporting abusive conversations. Before today, the process involved using Facebook or Messenger on the web. Moving forward, the reporting tool can be accessed from within the Android and iOS Messenger mobile apps. Facebook says people need one tap the name of the person or group they'd like to report, scroll to the "Something's Wrong" option, and select from sub-categories, such as hate speech or harassment. As always, people can ignore or block those they are reporting. After completing a report, Facebook will confirm the report was received. Facebook encourages people to use these reporting tools in order to help keep the community safe.


Commerce Department May Relax ZTE's Punishment as Trump Defends Stance

May 14, 2018, 4:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Wilbur Ross, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, said his department is open to changing its ban impacting ZTE. The agency has forbid U.S. companies from selling hardware or software to ZTE for a period of seven years after the company was caught lying about an earlier settlement agreement. "ZTE did do some inappropriate things. They’ve admitted to that," said Ross speaking at a National Press Club event. "The question is: Are there alternative remedies to the one that we had originally put forward? And that’s the area we will be exploring very, very promptly." Ross didn't suggest how the Commerce Department might walk back its ban, which has effectively strangled ZTE's smartphone business. At the same time, President Donald Trump found himself defending his wish to help the company get back on its feet. "ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies," said Trump via Twitter. ZTE's main U.S. supplier is Qualcomm, which sells the company processors and cellular modems. ZTE also licenses the Android operating system from Google. "This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi [Jinping]." noted Trump. ZTE's 75,000 workers have been mostly idle since the ban was announced. Trump tweeted over the weekend that he wanted to help them get back to work. The Commerce Department insists its ban is just punishment for illegal behavior and not related to the on-going trade talks between the U.S. and China.


Apple Makes iOS 11.4 Beta 5 Available to Devs

May 14, 2018, 1:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 11.4 Beta 5 to registered developers. Most importantly, this build adds support for ClassKit, Apple's new set of developer tools that target educations. The build also re-introduces several features that were meant to be included in iOS 11.3, but didn't make the final release. These include AirPlay 2 and Messages on iCloud, which allows people to store their iMessage content in the cloud and sync it across devices. Developers should be able to download and install iOS 11.4 Beta 5 over the air. Apple will likely make the same beta available to public testers within several days.


Google Revamps Storage Options Under 'Google One' Name

May 14, 2018, 1:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today relaunched its online, cloud-based storage service as Google One. Along with the new name, Google One includes new storage tiers and pricing. Moving forward, all Google account holders continue to receive 15 GB of storage for free. Those who need more can opt for the 100 GB plan for $1.99 per month, 200 GB for $2.99, 2 TB for $9.99, 10 TB for $99.99, 20 TB for $199.99, or 30 TB for $299.99 per month. Google is allowing users to share storage allotments with up to five family members. Moreover, Google One will provide people with 24/7 access to Google Experts for help with Google's consumer-level products and services. Google says existing paid Google Drive subscribers will be upgraded to Google One automatically over the next few months. Everyone else will be able to access the new Google One later this year.


Gmail's 'Nudge' Feature Is Now Rolling Out

May 14, 2018, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google said its artificial assistant-powered "nudge" tool is going live for most Gmail users today. The tool is meant to remind people to respond to emails that may have fallen through the cracks. Gmail "will now 'nudge' users to reply to emails they may have missed and to follow up on emails for which they haven’t received a response," explained Google. The tool is being turned on by default, though it can be toggled off in Gmail's settings. Google says this feature should reach all users within a few days.


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