The Federal Communications Commission today indicated that T-Mobile USA has dropped a lawsuit filed against the FCC by the former MetroPCS. T-Mobile acquired MetroPCS earlier this month. The aim of the lawsuit was to scuttle the FCC's Open Internet rules. On his last day in office, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, "The FCC's widely supported open Internet framework has contributed to healthy growth in innovation and investment across the U.S. broadband economy. Since 2010, our strong and balanced rules have been protecting entrepreneurs and consumers, and have increased certainty and predictability for investors in Internet services as well as networks. The ongoing litigation – now pursued by a single company – only serves to reduce that certainty and predictability. I applaud T-Mobile's decision to withdraw from this litigation." Verizon Wireless is now the only company actively pursuing litigation against the FCC and its rules.
Nokia's new Lumia smartphone for Verizon Wireless is a variation on a theme. This Windows Phone is good, but not without some flaws.
Sprint today announced that it has finalized its purchase of spectrum and customers from U.S. Cellular in a handful of mid-western markets. The transaction gives Sprint 20MHz of spectrum in Chicago, South Bend, Ind., and Champaign, Ill., and 10MHz of spectrum in St. Louis. In addition to the spectrum, Sprint also gains about 420,000 U.S. Cellular subscribers. Sprint and U.S. Cellular have already notified the affected customers about the transition, which will take several months to complete. According to Sprint, it is offering those U.S. Cellular customers handset and service plan options from its Sprint, Virgin, Boost, and payLo brands at little to no extra cost. Sprint plans to use the newly-gained spectrum to enhance its capacity in those markets.
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Samsung today announced the availability of its revised TecTiles product. The first version of TecTiles that Samsung brought to market last year used an older protocol that preceded the finalized NFC specification. The effect is that newer devices, such as the Galaxy S 4, can not read those older tags. Samsung had to update its tags in order to be compatible with today's newer phones. In addition to the new TecTiles, Samsung has updated the TecTiles application, which is used to program the tags to initiate specific actions on smartphones and/or tablets. TecTiles can be ordered directly from Samsung.com, and the stickers will become available at select retails stores in June. They cost $14.99 for a pack of five.
Nokia recently announced Xpress Now, a companion app for its Xpress Browser that is meant to help users find content on the web. The app culls what content is being consumed by the 80 million users of the Xpress Browser to create recommendations based on trending stories and what it thinks each individual user might like to see. "Nokia Xpress Now is about discovering interesting stories and new content based on the wisdom of the crowd," explain Andy Kelm, Vice President, Nokia Xpress Services. "It's not a magazine, a story or a group of curated RSS feeds, but rather a collection of interesting web content that is always changing." The app presents content in three categories: What's Hot, You May Also Like, and Most Liked. The first delivers a raw feed of what's been most-viewed in the user's area, the second makes recommendations based on the user's interests, and the third provides a view of what other users have given the thumbs up. Nokia Xpress Now is being tested on Asha phones in India right now, and Nokia expects to expand its availability over time.
Dish Networks has filed a second request with the Federal Communications Commission asking the regulatory body to stop its review of Softbank's proposed equity acquisition of Sprint. This time around, Dish claims that Softbank is trying to block its attempt to buy Sprint though back-handed banking maneuvers. Last week, Reuters reported that Softbank threatened to keep Dish from participating in Alibaba's IPO if it didn't back down. "If SoftBank has the power to influence crucial financing decisions of a Chinese company and enlist those decisions in the service of its effort to acquire Sprint, then the proposed foreign ownership needs to be assessed in light of this Chinese company as well," said Dish. "SoftBank is trying to force its offer on Sprint's shareholders by underhandedly seeking to undermine a superior bid." The Securities and Exchange Commission has already given Softbank permission to move forward with its equity acquisition of Sprint and Sprint's shareholders are due to vote on the matter next month. The deal still needs to be approved by the FCC and U.S. Department of Justice. The FCC has not responded to Dish's request.
Verizon Wireless has quietly tweaked its prepaid plans, boosting the amount of data offered in each pricing tier. The new plans offer unlimited talk and text, and 2GB of data for $60 per month (previously only 500MB). For $70, prepaid customers get unlimited talk and text, and 4GB of data (previously only 2GB). The improved data allotments are available to existing customers now, and will be available to new customers beginning June 6.
Google employee Dori Storbeck, Community Manager for Hangouts and Chat, confirmed on her Google+ page that the new Google Hangouts application will soon support SMS messages, as well as IM. In addition to text messages, Google Hangouts will also eventually be able to make outbound calls. Storbeck didn't provide a timeframe on when these features might become available, other than to say "soon." Google Hangouts replaces Google Talk for most Android users and can be used for IM, voice, and video chats.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group announced that a future version of Android will support Bluetooth Smart Ready and Bluetooth Smart devices. To-date, Android has not included a built-in Bluetooth stack, which means device makers have been on their own to add Bluetooth. By adding support for Bluetooth Smart Ready (Bluetooth 4.0 on a dual-mode chip) and Bluetooth Smart, Android will be capable of interacting with nearly all Bluetooth devices (keyboards, mice, speakers, etc.). Developers and accessory makers will be able to use the core Android SDK and included APIs to access the Android devices' Bluetooth radio, rather than use multiple APIs and work-arounds as they do today. According to Bluetooth SIG, this new version of Android will arrive in the coming months.
AT&T customers who install the new Google Hangouts application on their Android devices cannot use one of the main features: video chats. When they attempt to start a video chat, a message appears prompting them to connect to a Wi-Fi network; the feature won't work on AT&T's cellular network. When reached for comment, AT&T explained that AT&T customers are free to download any third-party video chat app they wish and they'll work fine. Apps that come preloaded, however, must be enabled by the developer for use over AT&T's cellular network. AT&T did not address Google Hangouts directly, but it implied that 1. Google Hangouts qualifies as a "preloaded" app because it replaces the Google Talk app on Android handsets, and 2. Google did not follow the proper protocols required by AT&T in order for the app to function over its cellular network. Google Hangouts for iOS, which qualifies as a third-party download on the iPhone, functions properly over AT&T's cellular network. Google Hangouts for Android works fine on the cellular networks of other carriers. Google has not yet offered a clarification on the matter.
Google has sent a letter to Microsoft requesting that it remove from the Windows Phone Store a YouTube application written by Microsoft for its Windows Phone 8 platform. According to Google, the app violates its terms of service by allowing users to download videos from the app, it also disables advertising within videos. Google asked Microsoft to remove the app, and kill the functionality of the app on existing devices, by May 22. Microsoft has yet to publicly respond to Google's request.
Google today announced that it has integrated Google Wallet with Gmail, allowing Wallet users to securely email money directly to anyone else who has an email address. Money can be sent for free from checking accounts, and for low fees from credit or debit cards. The feature is slowly being made available to all Gmail users over the age of 18. Though the feature is primarily aimed at desktop users, money can be emailed from the smartphone and tablet mobile browser version of Google Wallet.
Google today announced a new version of its Google Maps app for both Android and iOS. The software now dynamically reroutes turn-by-turn driving directions if traffic conditions worsen on the road ahead. The service also shows and lets you see details of alerts for specific traffic-related incidents that might affect a trip. It will be available "this summer".
T-Mobile plans to aggressively expand the reach of MetroPCS' network footprint by 100 million points of presence over the next six quarters. The network will expand to 15 major metropolitan areas quickly, though the markets and exact timing were not revealed. T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter, speaking to investors, said that T-Mobile and MetroPCS have already finalized the integration of their back-office systems. T-Mobile will be pushing HSPA+ and LTE devices to MetroPCS stores within weeks. These devices will be sold under Metro's brand, but will operate on T-Mobile's network. Carter said that T-Mobile beat its mid-year goal of covering 170 million POPs with HSPA+ in its 1900MHz spectrum, and will easily hit 200 million by the end of the year. Braxton also indicated that T-Mobile will cover 100 million POPs with LTE by mid-year, and 200 million by year's end.
Google today announced updates to Google Now. The app now lets you set reminders based on time or location, and estimates commute times using public transit.
Google today announced a new version of Google+ Hangouts that pivots the service to compete more directly with Facebook Messenger. The app enables group conversations merging text, photos, emoticons, and video chat. The service includes a dedicated app for both iOS and Android, plus a web version is also available.
Google today announced that it will start directly selling a special version of Samsung's Galaxy S 4 flagship phone that is unlocked and ships with stock Android 4.2, essentially expanding the Nexus family of "pure Google" devices. The device sports LTE compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. It is bootloader-unlocked and will receive Android updates before most other phones, like Nexus devices. It ships June 26th for $649.
Google today launched a new streaming music service with a discovery engine for finding new music, to compete with Rdio and Spotify. Google Play Music All Access lets you start with any song and automatically build a custom streaming radio station of similar songs. Unwanted songs can be dismissed and re-ordered. The service is integrated into Google Play Music as Listen Now. The service works on Android phones and tablets, and the web, and integrates your own music library with the streaming catalog. The service launches today in the U.S. for $9.99/month, with a 30-day free trial. Users who sign up before June 30th can lock in a special $7.99 monthly rate.