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printed July 30, 2016
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Trade Groups Renew Attack On Net Neutrality

Yesterday, 10:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Several trade organizations are asking a U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse a decision made last month that upheld the FCC's open internet order. A three-judge panel voted 2-1 in favor of the FCC's net neutrality rules, which reclassify internet service providers as common carriers and bar them from blocking or prioritizing content. The CTIA Wireless Association, which speaks for the wireless network operators, is the main force behind the push to reverse the court's decision. Other groups, including USTelecoms and CenturyLink, have also asked for the decision to be reconsidered. In response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "It comes as no surprise that the big dogs have challenged the three-judge panel's decision. We are confident that the full court will agree with the panel's affirmation of the FCC's clear authority to enact its strong Open Internet rules, the reasoned decision-making upon which they are based, and the adequacy of the record from which they were developed." The net neutrality rules went into effect last year and have been challenged in court repeatedly. So far, the rules have held steadfast against legal attacks.


Nest Thermostat Can Now Be Controlled by Apple Watch

Yesterday, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nest recently updated its iOS app and added support for the Apple Watch. With the update installed, Nest owners can control their Nest Thermostat from their wrist. The app also makes it easier to view various spaces by grouping Nest products together by room. When connected to WiFi, the app automatically shows live views of all associated cameras. Users can now share a password-protected live view of their camera with others online. Last, the Dropcam Pro gains support for 1080p HD video, and video quality will adjust automatically to provide the clearest possible picture. The Nest app is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

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Microsoft to Trim Another 2,850 Employees

Yesterday, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft revealed more job cuts on Thursday as it continues to wind down its mobile phone business. The company plans to reduce headcount by 2,850 employees, primarily in its mobile phone and sales businesses. These cuts are in addition to the 1,850 job eliminations announced in May, also in the phone unit. Microsoft expects to finalize the cuts by the middle of 2017. Windows Phone's presence in the smartphone market has been hovering around 1% for the last few quarters.


Review: ZTE ZMax Pro for MetroPCS

Yesterday, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The ZMax Pro is an Android smartphone that delivers a premium experience and powerful performance at an affordable price point. This budget-minded handset is no cheap simpleton. The ZMax Pro is a well-rounded addition to MetroPCS' roster of phones. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth repot.

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Republic Wireless Improves Android Lineup

Thursday, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless today said it has added nine modern smartphones to its lineup of Android devices. The new phones include the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge ($799), S7 ($699), J3 ($179), and S6 ($549); the Nexus 6P ($499) and 5X ($349); and the Motorola Moto X Pure Edition ($349), G4 ($199), and G4 Plus ($299). Republic customers can pay full price for the handsets, or elect to pay via monthly installments that range broadly from $11 to $48, based on the cost of the phone. Consumers who already own one of these unlocked handsets can pick up a Republic Wireless SIM card starting August 11. Republic's service plans start at $15 per month, which includes unlimited calling, texting, and WiFi data. Plans that include cellular data cost $20 per month for 1 GB, $30 for 2 GB, and $45 for 4 GB.


Google Partners Create Add-Ons for Docs and Sheets

Thursday, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has worked with several partners to develop Android add-ons for its Docs and Sheets productivity apps. The add-ons extend the functionality of Docs and Sheets, allowing people to accomplish more from their mobile phones. For example, an add-on from DocuSign lets people add a signature to a document and save that document to Google Drive. Another add-on from Scanbot makes it possible to scan documents with the camera and, using the add-on's built-in object character recognition, insert the content into Docs as editable text. Google says eight such add-ons are available from various partners in the Google Play Store.


Verizon Offering Bonus Data to Family Plan Subscribers

Thursday, 10:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless says families of four can get 16 GB of mobile data for $150 per month thanks to a new bonus data promotion. Verizon charges $70 per month for its 8 GB (or, L) plan. Families that subscribe to the L, XL, and XXL plans can score an extra 2 GB of data per line. The bonus data is only available when customers activate a new line or upgrade an existing phone. Verizon says the bonus data will be available to each line as long as it remains active on Verizon's network. Bonus data will not carry over month-to-month. The $150 monthly price includes the $70 data charge, plus $80 in line access fees for four smartphones. Taxes and handset payments are not included. Verizon says the bonus data promotion will be available for a limited time. Customers who activate new lines of service will be eligible to receive a Samsung Galaxy J3 V handset for free ($7 bill credit applied on a monthly basis for 24 months). Verizon will allow new customers up to five free J3 Vs per account.


AT&T's Galaxy S7, S7 Edge Gain Security Patch

Thursday, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. In addition to the security update, the phones gain access to AT&T's WiFi Calling service. The update for the S7 and S7 Edge can be downloaded and installed over the air.


Here Maps Rebranded to Here WeGo

Thursday, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Here has renamed and refreshed its core mobile mapping service for Android and iOS devices. Here Maps is now called Here WeGo. The company said it believed the original name was too generic. Along with the name change, the apps gain a significant revision. Here WeGo now prioritizes the search function for finding specific addresses or places. Users will be able to compare multiple different routes more easily, including car, public transit, cycling, and pedestrian options. Here WeGo also now displays options from car-sharing firm Car2Go, as well as regular taxi services with approximate fare rates and wait times. Last, Here WeGo improved bicycle route details with elevation profiles. Here WeGo is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


LG Says New V Series Phone Coming Soon

Thursday, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today reported its second quarter earnings and took the opportunity to tease a forthcoming handset. LG's mobile business increased revenues 12% from the first quarter to $2.86 billion, but "somewhat slow" sales of its G5 flagship and the associated marketing costs led the unit to a loss of $132 million. Total device shipments were up 3% to 13.9 million during the three months ending June 30. The company expects things to get back on track during the next few months. "The launch of the new V series and expanding sales of mass-tier K and X series models are expected to improve the business unit's performance next quarter." LG brought the V10 handset to the U.S. last year. It was a semi-rugged phone with powerful cameras. LG didn't name the new V series handset, but it is likely a successor to the V10. The timing of the launch is unclear. LG's K series devices are mostly entry-level offerings, while the X series fill in the mid-range tier.


Hands-On with the BlackBerry DTEK50

Wednesday, 2:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry's DTEK50 may be a rebadge of the Alcatel Idol 4, but it still manages to look and feel like a BlackBerry. This slim slab should appeal most to those who need enterprise-class security for their business smartphone. Here are Phonescoop's first impressions of the DTEK50.

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Nextbit Adds Ember to Robin Roster, Video Backups to OS

Wednesday, 11:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nextbit today shared two bits of news concerning its Robin smartphone. First, the company is now selling an ember color variant. The ember model is being sold directly from Nextbit.com. Nexbit says only a limited number are available. The ember models costs $299. Second, the company is updating the Robin's software to include video backups. The new video-saving feature works the same as with photos; the file is moved off the device and into the cloud, but a thumbnail of the video remains on the device so the file can be retrieved when wanted. The video backup function is available first to beta testers. Nexbit said the planned August software update for all users will include the latest security patches from Google. Nexbit didn't say when the video backup feature will go live for everyone.


Google Debuts Family Library for Play Store Purchases

Wednesday, 10:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced the Google Play Family Library, which allows a single account holder to share purchases with up to six family members. Google says eligible app, game, movie, TV show, and book purchases from the Play Store can be shared across Android and iOS devices, as well as the web with no additional sign-up fee. Account holders will have control over what content is shared and what is not. Users can make their credit card available to other family members for purchases, too, and control/manage those purchases. The Google Play Family Library is free to use, but does not include access to Google Music. The fee for the Google Music family plan remains $15 per month. Google says the Family Library is going live in the U.S. and a handful of other countries beginning today.


Microsoft Develops Camera App for iPhone

Wednesday, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a camera app for the iPhone called Microsoft Pix. The app uses artificial intelligence to set parameters such as exposure, aperture, and color in order to get the best possible shot. The app has a long list of features. Microsoft says its AI includes face recognition so it automatically knows when it is photographing people to create better portraits. Pix can shoot regular photos and videos, as well as capture bursts. The app can bracket images, allowing users to pick the best one. Pix includes a GIF creator and timelapse mode, and syncs with the iPhone's camera roll in order to make for easier sharing. Microsoft Pix is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


LeEco Buys Vizio for $2 Billion

Tuesday, 2:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 5:32 PM

LeEco today announced plans to acquire Vizio for $2 billion. LeEco is a China-based TV, content, and phone maker, while Vizio is a U.S.-based TV maker. LeEco has been increasing its presence in the U.S. since early this year and the acquisition gives it an instant footprint in the U.S. electronics market. Vizio will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary from its existing Southern California location. Vizio's data business will be spun off as a separate entity, with current Vizio CEO William Wang maintaining a controlling share. LeEco expects to complete the transaction during the fourth quarter.


Twitter Adopts Night Mode In Android App

Tuesday, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today announced a new night mode tool for its Android app that should make viewing in the dark less stressful on the eyes. The refreshed app includes a slider tool in the settings menu that when activated changes the background from white to a deep blue. Twitter for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Twitter didn't immediately say if it will make this same feature available to iOS devices.


BlackBerry DTEK50 Is A Secured, Rebadged Alcatel Idol 4

Tuesday, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 10:22 AM

BlackBerry today announced the DTEK50 smartphone, a slab-style handset that runs Android and features BlackBerry's signature communications and security software. BlackBerry says the DTEK50 features FIPS-2 hardware encryption, rapid security patching, secure boot process, and a hardened Android OS core. It includes Android for Work and Google Play for Work, as well as support for BlackBerry's full enterprise mobility management suite. Other features include BBM, BlackBerry Hub, the BlackBerry intelligent keyboard, and a customizable action key. The hardware is a rebadged version of the Alcatel Idol 4, which was announced earlier this year. The DTEK50 has a 5.2-inch full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 617 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel camera main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, NFC, Cat 6 LTE, memory card slot, and Quick Charge 2.0. The phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The DTEK50 is available for preorder in the U.S. and other countries starting today for $299. BlackBerry said it will reveal shipping dates on a regional basis over the coming weeks.


T-Mobile Zero-Rates 16 More Services, Bringing Binge On to 100+

Tuesday, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today added 16 more video streaming services to its Binge On program, bring the total number of services to over 100. The new video services include ABC, Apple Music, Big Ten Network, CEEK VR, DISH Anywhere, Disney Channel, Disney Jr., Disney XD, D-PAN.TV, DramaFever, FOX NOW, FXNOW, NAT GEO TV, Shalom World, Sioeye, and Tubi TV. T-Mobile customers can now stream an unlimited amount of content from these services over T-Mobile's LTE network without impacting their monthly data allotment. Binge On content is streamed at 480p, rather than high-definition. Users may activate or deactivate Binge On at any time.

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