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printed September 19, 2017
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ZTE Intros the $80 Tempo X for Boost Mobile

Today, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Tempo X, an entry-level Android smartphone for Boost Mobile. This affordable handset features a 5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution and a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of memory and 8 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. ZTE gave the device a 5-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel front camera. Other hardware features include a 2,200mAh battery, Bluetooth, GPS, FM radio, and of course LTE 4G. The device ships with Android 7.1 Nougat and costs $80. It is available from Boost Mobile online starting today.


iOS 11 Won't Support Peer-to-Peer Apple Pay Right Away

Yesterday, 6:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today reiterated that iOS 11 will reach iPhones, iPads, and iPods Touch beginning September 19. Not all the new features will be available at launch, however, with Apple Pay on deck for later this year. According to Apple, the peer-to-peer mobile payment function is "coming this fall with an update to iOS 11 and watchOS 4." Once installed, Apple Pay users will be able to send and receive money from friends and family quickly, easily, and securely. Payments will work through the Messages app and/or Siri. The money is funneled into the Apple Pay Cash card, which is found in Apple Wallet. The funds can be used instantly to pay for goods and services through any credit or debit card stored in Apple Wallet. Apple has held back other features in previous iOS launches so the news that Apple Pay will arrive later than iOS 11 itself isn't uncommon.

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Essential Says PH-1 to Get Oreo In Next Couple of Months

Yesterday, 6:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today indicated that its smartphone, the PH-1, will eventually receive the latest system update from Google. "Get your milk ready — #AndroidOreo is coming soon to Essential Phone. Watch for updates in the next couple months," said the company through its Twitter account. So far, Android 8 Oreo is only available to the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P handsets. Sony's Xperia XZ1 will ship with Oreo in several weeks. Motorola has committed to updating a slew of its mid-range and high-end phones to Oreo over the next few months. Other flagship makers, including Samsung and LG, have been less clear on when their high-end phones will see Oreo.


Google Surfaces Library eBooks In Search

Yesterday, 6:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it possible for people to discover what ebooks are available from their local library directly in search results. Readers in the U.S. who search for books will be shown various ways to find, purchase, or borrow the book in question. For some, that means reading them via digital platforms, such as those from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play Books. Beginning today, the info card for books will now also reveal whether or not the book can be borrowed in electronic format from the searcher's public library. The tool is available in the mobile Google Search app on Android handsets.


Gmail to Convert Numbers, Addresses, and Contacts to Clickable Links

Yesterday, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its G Suite customers will soon be able to take advantage of active hyperlinks in Gmail and Inbox that simplify the process of sending emails or making calls. Both mobile apps will convert text, such as phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses, into interactive links. That means people who click a street address link in Gmail will be taken to Google Maps. Similarly, people who click an email address will automatically be asked if they want to compose an email using the address, and people who click a phone number will initiate a call request. Google says the interact hyperlink feature for contact information will reach all G Suite Gmail and Inbox users on Android, iOS, and the web in the next few days.


Asus Reveals the ZenFone V for Verizon

Yesterday, 9:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus recently unwrapped the ZenFone V, an Android smartphone that's exclusive to Verizon Wireless. The ZenFone V features a metal chassis with 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass on the front. The handset sports a 5.2-inch AMOLED display with full HD resolution. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor, Qualcomm's 2016 flagship chip, with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera has a 23-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash, an aperture of f/2.0, and phase detection autofocus. The front camera boast an 8-megapixel sensor with a GIF maker and aperture of f/2.0. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging, high-resolution audio, fingerprint reader, and USB-C. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat with Asus' ZenUI, and it comes in black. Pricing and availability have not yet been disclosed.


Software Update Lets Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note8 Owners Disable Bixby Home Button

Yesterday, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Owners of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note8 smartphones can now modify the behavior of their handset's dedicated Bixby button. The hardware key, located on the left edge of the phone, automatically calls up Bixby Home with a short press or Bixby Voice with a long press. A new software update that recently hit S8, S8+, and Note8 phones adds a toggle for controlling the Bixby button. Owners of these phones can opt to disable the short press function, which launches Bixby Home. This prevents accidental presses from opening the app. A long press still calls up Bixby Voice. The Bixby button has been a point of contention with some S8, S8+, and Note8 owners who'd prefer the button handled other tasks. The update from Samsung also makes a few performance tweaks.


Essential Phone Now Compatible with Verizon's Network

Yesterday, 8:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products says its smartphone, the PH-1, is now fully able to run on Verizon Wireless's network. The company announced the news via its Twitter account. Essential didn't say what changed, or what it might have updated to make the phone work more properly on Verizon's network. The handset is already for sale unlocked and from Sprint. Verizon does not actually sell the phone. The PH-1 is a high-end Android handset with a bezel-less design. It supports magnetic modules that attach on the back via magnets. It costs $699.


Apple Addresses Face ID and Safari Privacy Concerns

Saturday, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Saturday, 9:20 AM

Apple this week provided more detail concerning some of the behaviors of its forthcoming Face ID tech on the iPhone X and Safari in iOS 11. Concerning the former, Apple executive Craig Federighi explained to Techcrunch that "[Apple does] not gather customer data when you enroll in Face ID, it stays on your device, we do not send it to the cloud for training data." Instead, all the data created by the dot projector is processed locally on the A11 bionic chip. Critically, the feature needs to see the user's eyes, nose, and mouth. Face ID will work with most sunglasses, though certain IR coatings can scramble Face ID. "If you’re a surgeon or someone who wears a garment that covers your face, it’s not going to work," explained Federighi. "But if you’re wearing a helmet or scarf, it works quite well." This means Face ID may not work with some masks required at work, or some religious head coverings. The feature works from multiple angles and distances, but it absolutely requires user attention: the owner must be looking at the iPhone X in order for Face ID to work. This means people can't unlock others' phones when they are sleeping. Last, people will be able to instantly disable Face ID by simultaneously squeezing the buttons on either side of the phone. Doing so will switch to the passcode backup. There are instances that will require a passcode, such as when the phone has been rebooted, if Face ID has not be used in 48 hours, or if there have been five failed attempts at Face ID. Concerning Safari, Apple recently took heat from advertisers because iOS 11 blocks intelligent cookies that track users across the web. The advertising groups in question maintain that this practice is vital for providing timely and relevant advertising. Apple thinks different. "Apple believes that people have a right to privacy ... and Intelligent Tracking Prevention is a more advanced method for protecting user privacy," said the company in a statement provided to The Loop. "Ad tracking technology has become so pervasive that it is possible for ad tracking companies to recreate the majority of a person’s web browsing history. This information is collected without permission. The new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature detects and eliminates cookies and other data used for this cross-site tracking, which means it helps keep a person’s browsing private." Apple further explained that Intelligent Tracking Prevention does not get in the way of ads that are served normally on the web. It can be disabled in Safari's settings if people wish.


Review: Samsung Alcantara Case for Galaxy Note8

Friday, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 is now on sale in the U.S. Though third-party cases are widely available, Samsung has its own, high-end Alcantara case for the phone. If you place style ahead of practicality, the Alcantara case is one option for protecting your Note8.

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Review: ZTE Blade Z Max for MetroPCS

Friday, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Looking for the biggest possible screen on the least expensive smartphone? The Blade Z Max may be what you seek, thanks to its IMAX-sized display, insane battery, dual cameras, and affordable price point. Here is Phone Scoop's review of ZTE's latest Android handset for MetroPCS.

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Google Deletes Inactive Android Backups After 2 Months

Friday, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google will delete Android device backups that are left inactive for two months with little or no warning. The discovery was made by a Reddit user who left a Nexus 6P backup in his Google Drive Backup folder for more than two months, only to later find it had been deleted by Google automatically. Google Support documentation appears to confirm the behavior. "Your backup will remain as long as you use your device. If you don't use your device for 2 weeks, you may see an expiration date below your backup. Example: 'Expires in 54 days.'" The maximum limit for device backups appears to be 60 days, or two months. The short expiration date on device backups is odd, given how freely Google offers online storage to its users. Google has not addressed the discovery directly.


BMW Might Replace Car Keys with Smartphone App

Friday, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BMW is exploring whether or not it will continue to offer car keys to those who own its cars. Ian Robertson, speaking to Reuters, explained that all BMW owners already carry smartphones, which have access to the BMW App. The BMW App makes it possible to unlock BMW cars without a key. "Honestly, how many people really need [a key]," said Robertson. "They never take it out of their pocket, so why do I need to carry it around?" The company is exploring the idea, but has not made a definite decision. In addition to serving as car keys, smartphones may replace drivers licenses and auto insurance cards. Some U.S. states are in the early stages of drafting digital identification and proof of insurance tools that are carried via smartphone app.


Motorola Commits to Updating High-End Phones to Android Oreo

Thursday, 3:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said it will update a significant number of its smartphones to Android 8 Oreo. Those devices on deck for the latest version of Android include the 2016 Moto Z, Z Droid, Z Force Droid, Z Play, and Z Play Droid, as well as the 2017 Moto Z2 Play, Z2 Force Edition, X4, G5, G5 Plus, G5S, and G5S Plus. It appears that Motorola's E and C series devices will not be updated to Oreo. Motorola said that in addition to the core Oreo code and Google Play Protect, the updates should improve handset speed, battery life, multitasking, text selection, notifications, and autofill behaviors. The updates will arrive on a per handset basis beginning later this fall.


Facebook Brings Crisis and Emergency Tools Under One Roof

Thursday, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced Crisis Response, a single spot where users will be able to find information about a range of natural and man-made disasters, weather events, and more. Crisis Response houses existing Facebook tools such as Safety Check, Community Help, and Fundraisers. Moving forward, the Crisis Response center will also include links to articles, videos, and photos of events or emergencies posted by the community. Facebook says it continues to refine these tools based on user feedback. People have taken advantage of offerings such as Safety Check in recent weeks to mark themselves safe in the face of storms Harvey and Irma. In addition to informing friends and family of their safety, users can rely on Crisis Response to learn more about individual events, create or participate in fundraisers, and contribute information to ensure others know when and where help is available. Facebook said it is rolling out the new Crisis Response tool on desktop and mobile to all users over the next few weeks.


Powermat to Upgrade Starbucks Charging Mats to Support iPhone X

Thursday, 11:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Powermat, which has deployed PMA-compliant wireless chargers at thousands of Starbucks locations around the U.S., plans to update its charging pads to support the iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone 8 from Apple. At the moment, there are two competing wireless charging standards, PMA and Qi. Handsets from Samsung and others typically support PMA, though some (Galaxy S8, Note8) support both PMA and Qi. Apple's new iPhones support only the Qi standard, which makes them incompatible with the wireless chargers at Starbucks. Speaking to Slashgear, Powermat CTO Itay Sherman explained that its Starbucks charging pads are connected to its cloud. This gives Powermat the ability to update them when necessary. "If there's a new standard, a new variant of the standard — you have PMA, you have Qi, you have Samsung’s Wireless Fast Charging — we can download new software to our points and support them," said Sherman to Slashgear. "The biggest difference between PMA and Qi is the communication protocols. We designed a controller which is software programable so we can integrate new communication protocols on this platform." Further, Powermat "designed the magnetic part to be as generic as possible to cover all standards if possible." Sherman did not say how quickly it will be able to update its Starbucks Powermat chargers with support for Qi, and conceded it will rely in part on the individual venues in question. This upgrade will not impact stand-alone, consumer Powermat chargers, which will remain limited to the PMA standard.


Google Schedules Oct. 4 Phone Event As Pixel 2 XL Swings by FCC

Sep 14, 2017, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 14, 2017, 7:57 AM

Google today kicked off a teaser campaign for a phone-based announcement that will take place on October 4. The company launched a web site with the address of madeby.google.com, and it specifically asks people what they want from their phones. A similar-themed billboard appeared in Boston in recent days, more or less confirming that the company will announce its 2017 smartphones on October 4. At the same time, a new handset from LG was recently approved by the FCC that could be a new Pixel model. Though the FCC documentation reveals no details about the handset itself, the FCC does potentially give away the name. The LG phone approved by the FCC this week carries the FCC ID of ZNFG011C, which is similar to that of the HTC-made NM8G011A. In this naming convention it is important to note that the first three digits are the manufacturer codes (ZNF for LG, NM8 for HTC) while the latter five digits (G011A and G011C) are the model numbers. The HTC G011A, approved by the FCC in August, is believed to be a Pixel-branded device for Google similar to the HTC U11. The newly-approved LG G011C could be a variant of the LG G6 or V30, or a completely new handset. Google has relied on both HTC and LG to make Nexus- and Pixel-branded handsets in the past.


Essential Phone Lands at Sprint Tomorrow

Sep 13, 2017, 2:39 PM   by Rich Brome

Sprint today announced that the Essential Phone will go on sale through all Sprint channels — including stores — on September 14th. The high-end, bezel-free phone is already available unlocked.

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