Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.
The FCC is prepared to publish its order abolishing Obama-era net neutrality rules in the Federal Register on Thursday, the last act needed to put the change into effect. The rules will be made public in their final form on Wednesday, according to an unnamed source cited by Reuters, and will appear in the Federal Register the following day. In December, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to do away with the previous administration's rules governing openness on the web. The move was seen as a victory for telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon. The attorneys general from 21 states plan to sue the FCC in a bid to overturn the reversal once the rules reach the Federal Register. Further, the governors of Montana, New Jersey, and New York have introduced their own rules that compel telecommunications firms to abide by at least some elements to treat web traffic equally. Similarly, some 50 senators have agreed to introduce legislation that would keep net neutrality rules in place, as well as give control over the matter to congress. Without a simply majority, however, it's doubtful the democratic effort will make much headway.
Verizon Wireless today changed up its prepaid service offerings by adding a new low-cost option and other features previously reserved for postpaid customers. Verizon Prepaid service now starts at $30 per month, which buys unlimited talk and text with 500 MB of data. Verizon Prepaid also offers 3 GB of data for $40 per month, 7 GB for $50, or 10 GB for $60. Verizon says all its prepaid plans include carryover data (for one month), mobile hotspot, and unlimited international texting to 200 countries. Customers who subscribe to the Prepaid Unlimited plan, which costs $75 per month, will enjoy unlimited use of mobile hotspot at 3G speeds (600 Kbps). Prepaid customers who travel to Canada or Mexico will be happy to learn that Verizon now offers Travel Pass for $5 per day. Customers who tack on Travel Pass when in Canada or Mexico will have access to unlimited talk and text, and their normal monthly data allotment. Verizon suggests customers should add Travel Pass via the My Verizon app before they travel. New customers who switch to Verizon Prepaid and subscribe to a $50 plan or higher will receive a $50 bill credit. These new options will be available to Verizon Prepaid customers starting February 20.
Sprint expects to deploy voice over LTE across its network starting this fall. Sprint competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless already offer VoLTE across the bulk of their footprints, making Spring the last major carrier to deploy the upgraded voice technology. "For more than a year we’ve been testing VoLTE and preseeding our customer base with VoLTE-capable devices in preparation for our commercial deployment starting this fall," said Sprint to Fierce Wireless. "Our network today offers a great HD Voice experience on a very efficient 1x platform, and our goal with VoLTE is to match this same high-quality experience that our customers have today." VoLTE allows devices to connect voice calls over carriers' data networks, rather than legacy voice networks, and delivers as much as three times the clarity. Sprint didn't say which devices support VoLTE, nor did it say if its VoLTE service will be compatible with those of other network operators. AT&T and Verizon, for example, allow some customers on some devices to connect VoLTE calls across carriers, though typically VoLTE calls are limited to intra-carrier connections.
ZTE says American consumers have no reason to fear its cell phones. The company issued a statement after the heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA and other intelligence groups suggested that Americans should not purchase phones made by ZTE and Huawei. "ZTE is proud of the innovation and security of our products in the U.S. market. As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards," said the company. ZTE has carrier deals, unlike Huawei, and sells many of its phone via prepaid operators Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. "Our mobile phones and other devices incorporate U.S.-made chipsets, U.S.-made operating systems and other components. ZTE takes cybersecurity and privacy seriously and remains a trusted partner to our U.S. suppliers, U.S. customers and the people who use our high quality and affordable products for their communications needs," argued the company. Some in the government characterize phones and telecommunications gear sold by ZTE and Huawei as security risks. Pressure from the government recently put the kibosh in planned deals between Huawei and AT&T, and Verizon Wireless. Moreover, Republican senators and congressmen have put forth bills that would make it illegal for the government to purchase or use equipment from Huawei and ZTE. Neither of these bills has been voted upon yet. For the time being, ZTE's handsets continue to be available in the U.S. at carrier stores and online. Huawei's devices are available online.
Intelligence agency leaders have suggested that U.S. consumers not buy phones from Huawei or ZTE, according to a report from CNBC. The six intelligence chiefs, including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the director of national intelligence made the remarks at a recent security hearing. "We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," said FBI Director Chris Wray. All six intel heads said plainly they don't think American citizens should use phones or other products from Huawei and ZTE. Huawei recently saw plans to sell its flagship Mate 10 Pro device via AT&T and Verizon Wireless thwarted at the last moment by pressure from the U.S. government. Lawmakers in the House and the Senate have since introduced bills that would make it illegal for the government to use any equipment from Huawei or ZTE. Huawei said it is "aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor." ZTE didn't provide a response. Nearly all mobile devices, including Apple iPhones, are made in China.
Qualcomm today outlined some of the technologies it is testing as it pushes the 3GPP 5G NR standard closer to reality. The company completed one of the first 5G cellular voice calls with partners Verizon Wireless and Nokia earlier this month. The company is also working on over-the-air spectrum sharing. The use of such sharing technologies will allow licensed and unlicensed 5G spectrum to work as one. The company is targeting IoT with some 5G technologies, too, such as private 5G networks for businesses that can power wireless ethernet for large industrial spaces. Last, Qualcomm is looking at 5G NR Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) as a way to power autonomous driving. C-V2X requires high throughout and the lowest-possible latency. Qualcomm expects these and other 5G technologies will be ready some time in 2019.
Verizon Wireless says it has made the first phone call using 3GPP-compliant 5G New Radio technologies over licensed spectrum. The company used a prototype mobile device from Qualcomm with the chip maker's 5G NR radio on board. Verizon didn't specify if the device made use of Qualcomm's Snapdragon X50 modem. The call was passed from the mobile device over Verizon's millimeter wave spectrum using Nokia's AirFrame server and AirScale Cloud RAN with 5G NR-compliant software. The call was completed at Nokia's lab in Murray Hill, N.J. The companies all say the successful test will help them push forward as they develop and deploy 5G networks.
Verizon Wireless plans to lock its handsets in order to cut down on theft. Verizon claims its unlocked phones are a big target, often stolen when in transit to Verizon stores or to consumers. Unlocked phones, particularly Apple iPhones, are easier to sell on the black market because they can be used virtually anywhere. Verizon's devices will be locked when first flashed with the operating system and will remain locked until the point of purchase. When consumers buy the phone, a software update will unlock the device. Later this spring, however, Verizon will keep phones locked to its network for an unknown period of time — even after activation. This move will prevent people from signing up for service with fake identities and then absconding with the device. "We're taking steps to combat this theft and reduce fraud," said Tami Erwin, executive vice president of wireless operations for Verizon, in a statement provided to CNET. "These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals." Verizon claims consumers won't really be impacted by the change in policy. The company says it will unlock phones upon request after the initial locked period expires, even if the phone is not yet fully paid for. It will also continue to allow customers to bring their own unlocked handsets to its network. Verizon didn't say how soon the policy change will go into effect. Verizon has sold unlocked devices since it launched 4G LTE. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all require people to pay the balance of their phone and wait 14 to 60 days before they'll agree to unlock it.
Qualcomm today said various network operators plan to use its Snapdragon X50 5G modem in trials this year, while a number of device makers have selected the X50 for mobile gear due next year. According to Qualcomm, the carriers committed to the X50 include AT&T, British Telecom, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, NTT DoCoMo, Orange, Singtel, SK Telecom, Sprint, Telstra, Verizon, and others. They will all rely on the Snapdragon X50 to test mobile 5G. A notable exception is T-Mobile in the U.S. The tests will occur in sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum bands and will be based on the 3GPP Release 15 5G NR standard. Qualcomm says the X50 will allow the carriers to test the modem within hardware that has the size, power, and limitations of a smartphone. This will help operators fine-tune their pre-launch 5G networks accordingly. Further, Qualcomm says the Snapdragon X50 will wind up in commercial mobile devices as soon as the first half of 2019. Device makers including Asus, Fujitsu, HMD Global, HTC, LG, Netgear, Oppo, Sharp, Sierra Wireless, Sony Mobile, vivo, Xiaomi, ZTE, and others all plan to bring 5G devices to market with the Snapdragon X50 5G NR providing the connectivity. Notable abesntees from the list include Apple and Huawei. Qualcomm believes the Snapdragon X50 will be ideal for smartphones, always-connected PCs, mobile broadband, and extended-, virtual-, and augmented-reality applications. The goal for 5G is to deliver multi-gigabit per second speeds and ultra-low latency — something Qualcomm asserts that the X50 can do. Network operators in the U.S. including AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless have all committed to launching some form of 5G over the next 10 to 18 months.
Republican Senators today introduced a new bill that would prevent the U.S. government from using telecommunications equipment from either Huawei or ZTE. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Florida Senator Marco Rubio proposed the bill, citing security concerns. "Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices," said Cotton. "There are plenty of other companies that can meet our technology needs, and we shouldn't make it any easier for China to spy on us." The bill is similar to one proposed last month by Texas Representative Michael Conaway and Wyoming Representative Elizabeth Cheney. Last month, AT&T and Verizon Wireless scrapped plans to sell Huawei's flagship Mate 10 Pro smartphone due to government pressure. Last year, ZTE was hit with a temporary ban after it was discovered the company supplied some equipment to Iran in violation of international sanctions. Both Huawei and ZTE deny any connection to the Chinese government. ZTE's handsets are widely available from prepaid carriers in the U.S., including Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. Huawei sells its phone to U.S. consumers directly without a carrier distribution deal.
Verizon said it is kicking off several new promotions this week that should save customers some money. Starting February 1, customers who subscribe or upgrade to both Verizon’s unlimited wireless plan and its FiOS Gigabit Connection plan will receive a $20 discount per month ($10 off the wireless and $10 off the FiOS.) Verizon said customers will be able keep this discount as long as they remain on both services. The unlimited and Gigabit Connection plans are Verizon’s most expensive. Verizon also plans to discount several products. New and existing customers can score the Samsung Galaxy Note8 for $200 less than the normal price. Customers can save $50 on the JBL Link 10 speaker, as well as save $30 on the Lifeprint Photo & Video printer. These deals will be available through February.
Verizon Wireless has cancelled any and all plans it had to sell handsets from Chinese phone maker Huawei due to pressure from the federal government, according to sources cited by Bloomberg. Verizon Wireless was on deck to sell Huawei's flagship device, the Mate 10 Pro, but has bowed to the government's wishes. AT&T bagged plans to sell the Mate 10 Pro earlier this month. Some members of the federal government label Huawei a threat and suggest it has ties to the Chinese government. Huawei is the third-largest maker of phones in the world, and the largest maker of telecommunications gear. While some U.S. network operators offer handsets from Huawei's rival ZTE, none use either Huawei's or ZTE's telecommunications gear. The news coincides with word that some in the Trump administration at one point sought to create a government-run, national 5G network in order to protect from supposed Chinese threats. The administration later said the proposal was never seriously considered. Verizon and Huawei declined to comment on Bloomberg's story regarding the Mate 10 Pro.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today said he disagrees with national security advisors' idea that the government should take control of 5G. "I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network," said Pai in a statement. People advising the Trump administration recently suggested that the government should build and run a 5G network in order to protect the country from Chinese spying. "The main lesson to draw from the wireless sector’s development over the past three decades — including American leadership in 4G — is that the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment. What government can and should do is to push spectrum into the commercial marketplace and set rules that encourage the private sector to develop and deploy next-generation infrastructure. Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future." U.S.-based mobile network operators are already developing 5G technology, devices, and services. AT&T and Verizon have committed to releasing 5G in some form by the end of 2018.
Verizon Wireless said customers can save big on select iPhones with a new offer that kicks off January 29. New and existing customers who add a new line of Verizon Unlimited service will be able to buy the iPhone 8, iPhone 8+, or iPhone X and get a $699 discount off a second iPhone 8, 8+, or X. In order to qualify for the offer, both devices will need to be purchased on a monthly installment plan. The promo also requires a trade-in, the value of which can be put toward the purchase price of the new iPhones. Verizon will provide the $699 discount on the second iPhone via monthly bill credits over the course of 24 months. This Verizon deal is similar to one it rolled out for Android handsets earlier this month. Verizon said this iPhone promo will only be available for a limited time.
AT&T today said that like its competitors T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, it will offer customers the opportunity to use their mobile devices during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at no extra cost. Specifically, AT&T will waive the $10 fee normally charged for the AT&T International Day Pass. The Pass gives AT&T customers access to their data, calling, and messaging plan from more than 100 countries around the world for $10 per day. Data consumed when roaming comes out of customers' normal monthly data buckets. Americans who travel to South Korea to attend the games won't have to pay the $10 daily fee from February 1 through March 20.
Americans traveling to South Korea to attend the 2018 Winter Olympic Games will be able to roam for free if they subscribe to T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile says its customers can take advantage of free unlimited high-speed data, unlimited calls within South Korea and back to the U.S., as well as free texting while attending the games. The service will be made available automatically to T-Mobile customers visiting South Korea between February 7 and March 20. T-Mobile customers will need to be on a post-paid plan to roam in South Korea at no cost. No other actions are required. Verizon says its customers can roam in South Korea for free during the games, too, but its subscribers will have to jump through some hoops. To start, Verizon customers will have to enroll in the Verizon Up rewards program by January 28 and then sign up for the company's Travel Pass service. Verizon Up provides access to rewards, such as event tickets, though it also opens Verizon customers up to more targeted advertising based on location and browsing habits. Travel Pass normally costs $10 per day when roaming, but Verizon will waive the fee for those who sign up for Verizon Up and register with TravelPass before they leave for South Korea. Verizon is offering customers 500 MB of high-speed data per day while in South Korea. Verizon customers will need to have a world phone in order to roam in Korea.
Qualcomm today said it has devised what it calls a 5G Tunable RF front-end. This radio module is designed to let phone makers create unique 5G products that are thinner and perform better. Qualcomm has added the 5G Tunable RF front-end to its 5G roadmap, though the company didn't say how soon this module will be available to phone makers. Carriers in the U.S. and elsewhere are moving forward with 5G, despite the standard's infancy. The 3GPP has defined the basics of the 5G New Radio spec, though it has yet to be ratified in final form. Companies such as AT&T and Verizon insist they will launch some form of 5G service by the end of the year.
Verizon Wireless said customers can save big on select smartphones with a new buy-one, get-one offer that kicks off January 23. New and existing customers who add a new line of Verizon Unlimited service will be able to buy the Google Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy S8, Motorola Moto Z2 Force, or LG V30 and get a second one for free. In order to qualify for the offer, both devices will need to be purchased on a monthly installment plan. The BOGO deal also requires a trade-in, the value of which can be put toward the purchase price of the new phones. Verizon will cover the cost of the second phone via monthly bill credits over the course of 24 months. Customers won't be able to mix and match: the second phone must come from the same manufacturer as the first, though people can opt for the larger Pixel 2 XL or Galaxy S8+ and cover the difference in cost on the second device. The Verizon BOGO deal counters a similar one launched by T-Mobile earlier this month.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock today signed an executive order that would force internet service providers to comply with several basic tenets of net neutrality. Specifically, Bullock said any ISP that has a contract with the state government cannot block web sites or create for-pay fast lanes that would impact its other customers. "If you want to do business with Montana, there are standards on net neutrality you will have to follow," said Gov. Bullock. Mega ISPs including AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, and Verizon all have contracts with the Montana state government, according to the New York Times. The executive order, which will apply to new and renewed contracts, goes into effect July 1, 2018. The move, meant to circumvent the FCC, could face legal hurdles. Bullock's decision is likely to face pushback from internet providers that do business in Montana. The FCC's order itself is facing plenty of opposition. In December, the FCC voted to do away with net neutrality protections. Recently, the attorneys general from 22 states filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the vote. Multiple civil rights organizations and other groups have filed similar lawsuits against the FCC, all seeking to keep net neutrality in place. The FCC maintains that net neutrality rules have slowed investment in new technology, while proponents believe a free and open internet is vital for protecting communication and access to information.
Verizon Wireless today said subscribers to its Verizon Go Unlimited plan will soon be able to bring their unlimited calls, texts, and data with them when roaming in Mexico and Canada at no extra cost. Go Unlimited subscribers may also place unlimited calls from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada. (Customers of the Beyond Unlimited plan already have access to Mexico and Canada roaming.) Verizon says Go Unlimited subscribers will see high-speed data capped at 500 MB per day when roaming in Canada or Mexico. Customers who use more than 500 MB of high-speed data on a single day will see speeds slowed to 2G rates until midnight. The new roaming features for Verizon Go Unlimited plans will be available starting January 25.
Xfinity Mobile today said customers can now use their old iPhones on its service. The company introduced a bring-your-own-device program for select, unlocked iPhones. Xfinity Internet subscribers can bring their unlocked iPhone to an Xfinity Mobile store to have it activated on the mobile network. Xfinity says incompatible devices may be traded in for a gift card that can help defray the cost of upgrading to a new device. Xfinity Mobile, run by Comcast, will be able to accept BYOD phones from more manufacturers later this year. Xfinity offers two basic plan, by the gigabyte or unlimited. The former costs $12 per 1 GB of data, which is shared across all lines. The latter costs $45 per month per line for up to 20 GB of high-speed service. Xfinity Mobile does not charge per-line access fees. Taxes and fees are included in the pricing. Xfinity operates on Verizon's network, but offloads data traffic to Comcast-owned WiFi hotspots when they are available. Xfinity says it has 18 million such hotspots positioned around the country.
T-Mobile today announced a buy-one, get-one deal that sees major discounts on top phones. T-Mobile says 12 flagship devices from the likes of Apple, LG, and Samsung qualify for the promotion, including the iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X, G6, V30, S8, Note8 and others. To qualify, customers will have to activate one new line of service and buy both phones on a monthly installment plan. T-Mobile will make monthly payments for the second device (up to $750) over the course of two years. Customers who want a deal on a single handset can earn a $150 rebate plus the value of a trade-in. Accepted trades include recent flagships from LG and Samsung. Last, T-Mobile is targeting Verizon Wireless customers. It will give Verizon subscribers who leave big red up to $650 and pay off the balance of their Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ and other popular smartphones. Those who switch will need to subscribe to a T-Mobile One Plus plan to get the reimbursement for old phones. All three promotions go into effect January 12.
Verizon Wireless plans to adjust the cost structure of its Total Mobile Protection device insurance program. Subscribers will see their monthly costs go up, but will see savings on select repairs. Beginning January 25, new customers will be charged $13 per month for Total Mobile Protection, which includes Tech Coach. Existing customers won't see the price increase until March 6, when it jumps from $11 to $13. Some of the benefits include access to in-home repairs and more than 300 authorized repair centers around the country. Customers can also ship their phone to Verizon for repair if needed. Once the new monthly pricing goes into effect, the cost to replace a cracked screen will drop to $29.
Asus today announced the ZenFone Max Plus (M1), a new Android handset that goes big. The phone has a metal exterior and 2.5D curved glass on front to help give it a modern look. The phone includes a 5.7-inch screen at 720p resolution and it is powered by an octa-core processor with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The phone adopts two cameras on the rear, one standard view and the other wide angle. The main sensor captures 16-megapixel images and can take advantage of PDAF, HDR, and an LED flash. The secondary sensor captures 8-megapixel images at 120-degrees wide. The front camera is either 8 megapixels or 16 megapixels, depending on the market. It comes with Asus' beautification software tools. Asus stuffed a 4,130mAh battery into the chassis, which provides long battery life. Other features include a fingerprint sensor, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and an FM radio. It runs Android 7 Nougat with ZenUI 4.0 on top. The phone supports LTE Bands 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 17, 28, which gives it basic support for U.S. networks. Asus said the phone will be sold in the U.S., though it didn't say if that would be direct to consumers or via carrier. (Verizon sells the ZenFone V Live.) The ZenFone Max Plus (M1) is priced at $229.
Verizon Wireless today began rolling out the Android 8 Oreo system update to the Motorola Moto Z2 Force. In addition to the core Oreo features, including notification dots and picture-in-picture, the update makes improvements to productivity, performance, and notifications. For example, apps should now run quicker and smoother. The update also include Google's new rounded emoji characters and a new calling screen in the phone app. The update can be downloaded and installed over the air.
Google today said it has decided to wind down Project Tango, its ambitious augmented reality platform that used on-device cameras and sensors to blend reality with computer-generated content. "As we focus on bringing augmented reality to the entire Android ecosystem with ARCore, we’re turning down support of Tango," said Google. The company will officially cease to support Project Tango on March 1, 2018. The company worked with several hardware partners to create Project Tango handsets, which were laden with special equipment to make the platform work. The most recent such device was the Asus ZenFone AR, sold by Verizon Wireless. Moving forward, Google will push its ARCore platform as a means for generating and consuming augmented reality content on Android handsets. To that end, Google today released ARCore Developer Preview 2, an update to its augmented reality toolset for app writers. "We've taken everything we learned from [Project Tango] to build ARCore. Whereas Tango required special hardware, ARCore is a fast, performant, Android-scale SDK that enables high-quality augmented reality across millions of qualified mobile devices." The updated ARCore Developer Preview includes a new C API for use with the Android NDK. Google says this dovetails nicely with its existing Java, Unity, and Unreal SDKs. Another addition is the ability for AR apps to pause and resume without losing their spot in order to allow people to perform actions such as answering calls. Last, the new developer preview improves accuracy and runtime efficiency. Developers interested in the new ARCore Developer Preview can find it through Google's developer web site. Google says it expects ARCore-based apps will reach the Play Store before too long.
Verizon Wireless plans to let holiday shoppers score a smartphone for free with an upcoming buy-one, get-one deal. Beginning Friday, December 15, customers who buy an Apple iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ can get a second device for free. Both devices will need to be purchased on a payment plan and at least one must be a new line of service. The second phone must be from the same manufacturer and be of equal or lesser value. The cost of the second device will be reimbursed monthly over a 24-month period. Verizon says the offer is valid for existing customer upgrades, as well as those who switch to Verizon. The buy-one, get-one deal will be available for a limited time.
T-Mobile has set its sights on the cable TV industry and hopes to disrupt that market beginning next year. The company today announced plans to acquire Layer3 TV, which already delivers internet-based television service in five markets around the country. T-Mobile will use Layer3 TV's technology to create and launch a new TV service that will be delivered over T-Mobile's LTE network. "People love their TV, but they hate their TV providers. And worse, they have no real choice but to simply take it — the crappy customer service, clunky technology and outrageous bills loaded with fees! That’s where we come in. We're gonna fix the pain points and bring real choice to consumers across the country," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. Legere insisted T-Mobile's TV service will be "disruptive" and will take full advantage of the latest technology and best content from today's top creators. In addition to T-Mobile's network, the as-yet-unnamed TV service will be supported by T-Mobile's retail stores, and sales and service organizations. Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3 TV, added, "No market needs Un-carrier-ing more than pay TV, so we’re completely stoked to join T-Mobile in disrupting the status quo!" T-Mobile did not say how much it will pay for Layer3 TV, nor when this television service might launch, not what it expects to charge per month. The company already allows people to stream as much video via LTE as they wish, and offers some customers Netflix for free. T-Mobile competitors AT&T and Verizon each have their own television services, both mobile and in-home. T-Mobile needs to enter the TV space in some capacity in order to offer customers a similar set of services.
Verizon Wireless today began selling the Google Home Max in-home assistant and speaker. The Max relies on the same Google Assistant that powers the Google Home and Google Home Mini devices, but packages the voice-based tool in a larger, music-focused box. The Max has twin 4.5-inch woofers and can analyze the room to automatically adjust its tuning for the best possible sound. It supports streaming services such as Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, and Spotify, and can interact with Chromecasts and other cast-enabled devices. The Google Home Max is available online from Verizon and Best Buy. Verizon Wireless also rolled out a promotion for the LG V30. Customers can snag a $300 discount on the phone when purchased on a 24-month payment plan. The $300 discount is applied monthly until the phone is paid off. The LG V30 deal is only available online.
Verizon and the NFL today said they've agreed to a new multi-year deal that will see NFL content reach more people on mobile devices. Verizon says it will stream national and local football games across several of its media properties to fans on any mobile network. Via the Yahoo, Yahoo Sports, go90, and NFL mobile apps, people will be able to watch pre-season, regular season, playoff games, and the Super Bowl from their smartphone. The partnership kicks off in January with this season's playoffs. Beyond weekly games, Verizon will give fans access to NFL highlight reels, news, and other content throughout the year, such as the NFL Draft. Last, Verizon said it intends to work with NFL teams to deploy smart stadium technology in their stadiums for better on-site mobile experiences. The new live mobile NFL experience will first be available from the Yahoo Sports app for iOS and Android in January. The partnership is valued at more than $1.5 billion.
Verizon Wireless today announced the Samsung 4G LTE Network Extender 2, a device meant to improve wireless coverage at your house or small business. Like many network extenders, the Samsung 4G LTE Network Extender 2 plugs into your home's wired broadband service. It then provides about 7,500 square feet of LTE coverage, with support for up to 14 simultaneous connections. The extender supports LTE service only, and does not provide 1X or CDMA coverage in the home. The device costs $249, but there is no monthly service fee associated with its use. In other Verizon news, the company rolled out a new promotion for the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones. The company will cut the price of either phone by $300 when purchased on a device payment plan. Customers will need to finance the entire cost of the handset. Verizon will then contribute $300 in total over the course of 24 monthly payments (about $12.50 per month). The Pixel 2 promo kicks off on Sunday.
Verizon Wireless today said it will launch 5G service next year in up to five markets around the country. Rather than provide wireless service, however, the 5G will be offered to residential customers as an alternative to copper or fiber for in-home broadband. Verizon has been testing this service in 11 markets so far this year and will kick off 5G residential broadband service in Sacramento, Calif., during the second half of 2018. Verizon didn't name the other markets. The service will rely on millimeter wave spectrum and technology. The move will help Verizon avoid the cost of deploying wired broadband to these markets. Verizon and its competitors are racing to develop 5G wireless technology for mobile devices and most plan limited launches in the 2019 timeframe.
Verizon Wireless is offering big discounts on this year's top phones through its Black Friday sale. Verizon will cover up to $378 off the price of the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, or Note8, the Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, or the Moto Z2 Force. Customers will need to sign up for Verizon's unlimited plan, but no trade-in is required. Customers will need to purchase the device, whether up front or financed, and Verizon will break down the $378 reimbursement in account credits over a period of 24 months. In other deals, Verizon will sell you a 32 GB iPad for $199 if you activate it on a two-year plan, or for $99 when purchased alongside an iPhone. These discounts are available online November 23 and in stores November 24 only. Verizon has other sales that begin Thursday and run through November 27. For example, customers can save $50 on a Google Home, $20 on a Google Home Mini, $20 on Google Daydream View, or $15 on a Chromecast Ultra. Verizon will discount the price of many Android handsets by $100 when activated with an unlimited plan. Last, Verizon is discounting tons of accessories, including FitBit wearables, Ultimate Ears and JBL Bluetooth speakers, and Nest smartphone products.
ROK Mobile has rolled out a new promotional rate plan that includes three months of unlimited service for $99. The offer is available to new customers only. After the three-month period ends, the plan reverts to the normal monthly rate of $45. ROK Mobile is an MVNO that offers service on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Customers can select which carrier they wish to use when they sign up for ROK Mobile. This allows people to use their own device. The $99 promo is only available to new customers who choose service on Sprint or Verizon. Those who select Sprint will be eligible for a free ZTE Prestige smartphone. ROK Mobile started out as a music-focused MVNO but has since transitioned to a more traditional MVNO. Service plans range from $20 to $50 per month, depending on the data bucket. ROK Mobile also offers what it calls Life Plans, a series of services including roadside assistance, accidental death and cremation insurance, family legal services, family telemedicine, and ID theft insurance. These Life Services can be added as extras to any of ROK Mobile's service plans. Pricing ranges from $5 to $15 per month depending on the package.
T-Mobile today said it will deploy 5G across much of the country within a few years using its low-band 600 MHz spectrum. “We’re committed to drive a 5G rollout by 2020 across the nation,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray during an investor conference. That doesn’t mean T-Mobile is ignoring high-band spectrum, which competitors AT&T and Verizon are pursuing. “There’s been a lot of discussion of millimeter wave and the kind of surgical, tactical deployments of 5G, and we’ll be there too. But we’ll deploy in the 600 MHz for 5G as we move into the next decade.” AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are all pushing to deploy 5G technologies as soon as possible even though the standard has not been defined. Al three are already pushing out gigabit LTE, a stepping stone to 5G. AT&T is its own 5G technology in Houston and Indianapolis. T-Mobile didn’t say what markets might see potential 5G service first.
Verizon Wireless and Asus today announced the ZenFone V Live, a social media-focused handset that includes a real-time blemish remover. With the ZenFone V Live, people can take advantage of the selfie camera's beautification options to soften complexions and remove skin blemishes when livestreaming to Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. (Such effects are typically applied to still images after the fact.) Otherwise, the ZenFone V Live is a mid-range handset with curved glass and a metal body design. It has a 5-inch 720p HD display and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The 13-megapixel camera includes features such as panorama, slow-motion, time-lapse, and bokeh modes with boosted low-light performance. Additional features include a fingerprint reader, 3,000mAh battery, USB-C, and support for microSD memory cards. It runs Android 7 Nougat. Verizon is selling the Asus Zenfone V Live beginning today for $168, or $7 per month for 24 months.
AT&T and Verizon have tapped Tillman Infrastructure to build hundreds of small cell towers around the country. Tillman already builds, owns, and operates a series of towers and small cells. Tillman will build new towers for AT&T and Verizon, which have agreed to lease and co-anchor the towers. According to Verizon, the new towers will be added in areas where others don't already exist and will give AT&T and Verizon the opportunity to move equipment from old (expensive) towers to the new (cheaper) ones. Tillman is expected to begin work on the new towers as soon as the first quarter of 2018. AT&T and Verizon engineers will install networking equipment and turn the sites on as quickly as they can. Tillman will have the opportunity to build hundreds more sites if the initial batch are completed successfully. Neither AT&T nor Verizon said which network technologies will be installed on the towers. Separately, both companies are pursuing various paths towards 5G with technologies including mmWave.
Samsung today said it will sell the Deepsea Blue color variant of the Galaxy Note8 smartphone in the U.S. Since launch, the device has only be available to U.S. buyers in black or gray. Other than the color, everything about the Deepsee Blue Note8 is identical to the black and gray versions. The phone will be available from Best Buy stores, BestBuy.com, and Samsung.com beginning November 16. Customers will be able to select an AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, or unlocked model. The Note8 has a 6.3-inch Infinity Display, Snapdragon 835 processor, dual camera system, S Pen stylus, 6 GB of RAM, and fast wireless charging. The phone Galaxy Note8 runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $929.
Motorola today said the Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa will become available over the coming week. Amazon, Best Buy, and Motorola will each kick off pre-orders for the modular attachment starting November 7, with general sales commencing November 13. The device will be available from Verizon by November 16. Motorola is charging $150 for the smart speaker, which lets Moto Z owners access Alexa when on the go. The Smart Speaker can be used to play music and interact with Alexa just like at home with an Amazon Echo speaker. The mod includes its own battery that can deliver up to 15 hours of listening without impacting the phone's power source. It includes a charging dock that works together with the Moto Z to provide a nightstand mode with active Alexa listening. It is compatible with all Moto Mod handsets, including the newer Moto Z2 Play and Z2 Force.