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printed November 29, 2015
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Microsoft Pushing Cortana to iOS Beta Testers

Yesterday, 9:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made good on its promise to make Cortana available to iOS devices. The company polled Windows Insiders earlier this month to gauge interest in the idea and received enough feedback that it has begun rolling out Cortana in beta form to those interested in testing. Cortana is Microsoft's virtual assistant, which first debuted in Windows Phone 8.1. Cortana for iOS can be used to track flights and calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, and monitor packages. Microsoft said testers will not be able to launch Cortana with the "Hey, Cortana" catch phrase, but most other features are intact. Cortana testers will still be able to interact with Siri, Apple's own personal assistant. Eligible beta testers will receive an email with information on how to download the app. The beta software is being distributed through Apple's TestFlight program, which functions apart from the iTunes App Store. TestFlight allows beta-class apps to be installed on iOS devices. Typically, iPhone apps can only be installed directly from the App Store. TestFlight limits beta testers to a maximum of 2,000. Cortana is already available to Android devices.

LG Shuffles Execs, Makes Huge OLED Investment

Friday, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG Electronics is restructuring its business to make it lighter on its feet and better able to respond to changes in the market. Moving forward, each of LG's core businesses will have their own, independent leaders. Juno Cho has been appointed President and CEO of LG's Mobile Communications business, while Jo Seong-jin has been selected to serve as President and CEO of Home Appliances & Air Solutions, and David Jung will serve as President and CFO. LG Electronics Vice Chairman and CEO Koo Bon-joon will transition to LG Corp, LG Electronics' parent organization. The appointments are effective Dec 1. LG Display, an affiliate of LG Electronics, said it will invest $8.71 billion in a new plant to manufacture OLED panels for smartwatches, TVs, and other devices. The majority of LG's smartphones use LCD panels, which the company makes for itself and competitors. LG Display's large commitment to developing OLED technology represents a shift in strategy. The plant is expected to become operational during the first half of 2018.

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Huawei's Mate 8 Uses Custom Kirin Processor

Thursday, 8:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today announced the Mate 8, a flagship phablet that runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The Mate 8 features a 6-inch full HD display and Huawei's new processor, the Kirin 950. The 950 is an octa-core chip with four Cortex ARM A72 cores at 2.3GHz and four A53 cores at 1.8GHz. The Kirin 950 is aided by Huawei's i5 coprocessor for low-power tasks, such as managing always-on sensors. Huawei didn't provide details about the Mate 8's camera, but the phone offers some intelligent tools like voice controls, a firewall, a defragmenter, and mobile payment capabilities. The Mate 8 runs Huawei's EMUI 4.0 skin. Huawei said the phone will be revealed in full at CES in January and made available in China during the first quarter of 2016.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2015

Wednesday, 3:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The holiday season is upon us once again, and it is time to think about our closest friends and family members. Picking the right phone can be a chore, but Phone Scoop's annual Holiday Gift Guide is here to lend a helping hand. We curated a fine list of phones for every type of device and every budget. If you need a recommendation or two, look no further.

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T-Mobile Offers $200 to Sprint Customers

Wednesday, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said Sprint customers can score $200 when porting their lines to T-Mobile during the holidays. T-Mobile will give Sprint, Boost, and Virgin subscribers an extra $200 for every line they switch to a T-Mobile Simple Choice plan, with no trade-in required. T-Mobile is also targeting subscribers to Sprint's unlimited plan. These customers can get access to T-Mobile's unlimited LTE plan for $45 per line for a family of four. These offerings will be available starting Nov. 26.

BlackBerry Loses Sales Exec

Wednesday, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry confirmed that Eric Johnson, the executive in charge of sales for business and government customers, has departed the company. BlackBerry's core business is providing device management software to exactly these types of customers. BlackBerry did not elaborate on the terms of Johnson's departure, but he filled a vital role in the company. BlackBerry has spent years attempting to rebuild its business. BlackBerry's handset division may have recently released the Android-based Priv smartphone, but sales of handsets have dwindled to fewer than one million devices per quarter. The bulk of BlackBerry's revenue comes from its BES product suite.

Vine Loops Now Playing On An Apple Watch Near You

Tuesday, 4:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine has updated its iOS app and made it compatible with the Apple Watch. The app lets people watch Vines from creators labeled as favorites as well as featured loops curated by Vine. Users can also like and revine loops from the Apple Watch, as well as see cumulative loop counts. The included Vine watch face lets users jump into the app quickly from the watch's home screen. Vine is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Unwired Planet Bests Samsung and Huawei In Patent Trial

Tuesday, 1:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Unwired Planet landed its first courtroom victory in the U.K. this week after a judge agreed that Samsung and Huawei are violating patents owned by the company. Unwired Planet has 16 employees and 2,000 patents it purchased from Ericsson in 2013. The company filed a similar suit against Google, but Google settled the charges. The judge overseeing the Samsung/Huawei case deemed the patents "essential" to 4G communications, however, which means they must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. Unwired Planet said the ruling "goes a considerable way towards validating [our] portfolio." Samsung maintains that it is not violating the patents. Huawei didn't immediately comment on the decision. Tech companies often use patent-based litigation to win fees from competitors. Unwired Planet is a patent-holding company and doesn't make or sell telecommunications equipment or mobile phones.

Verizon Allowing Customers to Send Data as a Gift

Tuesday, 12:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today made it possible for subscribers to send one another the gift of data access. Verizon customers can send 1GB of LTE 4G data to family/friends for $10. Gifted data will be billed directly to the sender's account. The data can be purchased through the Verizon Messages app or Verizon's web site. Verizon said an update to the Verizon Messages app for Android, being pushed out today, adds the data-gifting feature.

Google Encouraging Android Pay Adoption with Donations

Tuesday, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes the prospect of charitable giving will spur more people to use Android Pay for purchases during the holiday season. The company today said it will donate $1 for every Android Pay transaction between now and Dec. 31 to special needs education projects. Google is committing to offer up to $1 million, and will donate $2 for every Android Pay transaction made on Black Friday, Nov. 27. Android Pay is available to most NFC-equipped smartphones (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) and is accepted at more than one million retail locations around the country.

Researchers Create Low-Power, High-Resolution Display Tech

Tuesday, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Scientists at the University of Oxford have discovered new display technology that can be used to make bright, high-resolution screens while hardly drawing any power. Oxford is bullish enough on the technology that it formed a new company, called Bodle Technologies, to commercialize the discovery. According to Bodle, its "smart material" is able to filter, steer, or dim light by using electrical, optical, or mechanical switches. Bodle says once the switch is flicked, the smart material uses almost no power. "This technology is capable of providing vivid colour displays which appear similar to paper, yet with very high resolution," said Professor Harish Bhaskaran. "It is also capable of rendering extremely high-resolution videos that can be seen in bright sunlight." The technology can also be used to create a glaze for glass panels, which can be used to control heat and light transmission into buildings. Bodle is in the process of filing patents, gathering capital, and speaking to potential manufacturing partners. The researchers did not say when they expect to be able to bring the advanced optoelectronic framework to market. Improving the efficiency of smartphone screens could lead to dramatically improved battery life, as screens are what draw the most power.

Xiaomi Adds Fingerprint Sensor to Redmi Note 3

Tuesday, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi today announced the Redmi Note 3, a big-screened smartphone that includes several firsts. The Redmi Note 3 is the first phone from Xiaomi made from metal, and also the first to offer a fingerprint sensor for securing the handset. Xiaomi says the fingerprint sensor can read prints in 0.3 seconds. The Redmi Note 3 has a 5.5-inch full HD screen and is powered by a MediaTek Helio X10 processor. The main camera features a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with dozens of beauty modes for selfies. The Redmi Note 3 packs a 4,000mAh battery, WiFi, Bluetooth, and dual SIM slots. It will be sold in two variants, 2GB RAM with 16GB of storage ($140) and 3GB of RAM with 32GB of storage ($172). The phone runs Xiaomi's MIUI 7 operating system, which is based on Android. Xiaomi did not announce plans to bring the handset to the U.S.

T-Mobile Gifting Customers with Free Unlimited Data

Nov 23, 2015, 4:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 23, 2015, 5:18 PM

T-Mobile today said every postpaid Simple Choice customer will have access to unlimited high-speed data for the next three months. All customers with postpaid plans effective Nov. 23 or earlier are eligible. Customers will have unlimited LTE 4G data, even if they use up all their data and their Data Stash, demo Dec. 1, 2015 through March 1, 2016. T-Mobile is also offering a wide range of deals on smartphones and accessories during the holidays. T-Mobile said the promotions will change over the next few weeks and it encourages customers and prospective customers to check back regularly.

ZTE Selling the ZMax 2 Unlocked

Nov 23, 2015, 11:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said it is making the ZMax 2 smartphone available to consumers unlocked. The phone was originally sold via TracFone earlier this year, but is now online directly from ZTE. The full price of the phone is $179.99, but ZTE is running a limited sale price of $129.99. The ZMax 2 has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen; quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage; 8-megapixel main camera with full HD vide capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi, and LTE radios. The phone packs a 3,000 mAh battery. The ZMax 2 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is compatible with the networks operated by AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid businesses, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS, respectively.

Samsung Pay Gains Support for Chase Cards

Nov 23, 2015, 9:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

JPMorgan Chase account holders can now use their cards with Samsung Pay. Samsung has added support for Visa-backed Chase credit/debit cards to its mobile payment service. Chase was one of several prominent banks missing from the service at launch. Samsung Pay is more widely available than Apple Pay and Android Pay because it uses both NFC and MST technology to interact with retail payment terminals. NFC is more limited in scale, while MST is practically everywhere. Samsung Pay is available to the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5.

Skype for iPhone Adds Number and Address Detection

Nov 23, 2015, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype improved its app for the iPhone and iPad today with support for call and calendar actions. Skype 6.6 now highlights phone numbers, addresses, times, and dates. Tapping on highlighted text starts the corresponding action. For example, tapping a phone number within a message will bring up the Skype dialpad with the number preloaded, or tapping an address will open Apple Maps and search for the location. Similar actions are available for the calendar, as well. Skype will automatically set up events and pull in any relevant details from the message thread. The calendar appointment will include a Skype chat URL in the notes, too, that goes back to the message. Last, Skype 6.6 improves multitasking by making it easier to return to Skype audio/video calls from the instant messaging or contact sections of the app. Skype 6.6 for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

C Spire Debuts Combo Plans that Bundle Phone and Service

Nov 23, 2015, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

C Spire today rolled out a series of new combination plans that package together service and device costs. The company claims the idea behind the plans is to make it easier for customers to see where their money is going. All the combo plans include unlimited talk, text, and picture messaging. In order to "protect" customers from overages, C Spire will notify subscribers when they've reached their monthly data limit and ask permission to charge for additional data. There are seven basic combo plans, each of which can be customized to adjust the down payment and monthly fee. For example, customers can get an iPhone 6s (16GB) with 3 GB of LTE data for $60 per month and $170 down. Or, customers can nab a Galaxy S6 Edge (32GB) with 3 GB of LTE data for $65 per month and $0 down. A third option includes an iPhone 6s (16GB) with 8 GB of LTE data for $75 per month and $170 down. Technically, the downpayment goes toward device financing costs, which will vary depending in the handset. The iPhone 6s (16GB), for example, costs $20 per month with the $170 downpayment, as $479 of the full retail price is financed over 24 months. The monthly device fee, however, is combined with the service plan payment in the first example above so customers see only one fee of $60. C Spire's new combo plans are available beginning today.

Microsoft Lets Android Owners Compare Apps

Nov 23, 2015, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has released a new tool aimed at helping people switch from an Android smartphone to a Windows smartphone. AppComparison, an app for Android handsets, scans the device for apps and then finds the corresponding Windows apps. If the app can't find exact matches, it suggests the Windows Phone equivalent. For example, since Google Drive is not available to Windows Phones, the AppComparison tool points people to Microsoft's OneDrive app instead. The idea is to show Android owners which of their favorite apps are available to Windows handsets. The app also shows off some of the most popular Windows Phone apps in the Microsoft Store. Microsoft's AppComparison tool is free to download from the Google Play Store.

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