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printed February 11, 2016
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Google Keep's Web and Mobile Settings Merged

Today, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Keep note-taking app for Android devices and on the web. Now, the app and web offer a more consistent experience for creating notes, setting reminders, sharing, and managing lists. With the same control panel appearing online and on mobile devices, Keep users should have an easier time managing their notes. Users can now also set specific start times for morning, afternoon, and evening, rather than rely on Google's definitions for those periods. Last, web users can add a shortcut to Google Keep to their account panel. Google Keep is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Chrome for Android Gains Eddystone Beacon Smarts

Today, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says the latest release of Chrome for Android supports Eddystone Bluetooth beacons and can surface what's known as "physical web" content to nearby devices. Google's Eddystone beacons can now broadcast web content, such as URLs, to Android devices within range. Google says this means developers will be able to make Android users aware of this content through notifications, which will let people see a list of web sites pertaining to nearby points of interest. For example, the Golden State Warriors basketball team is pushing highlight videos and other content to fans who attend games at Oracle Arena. This new capability is reaching Chrome 49 in the beta channel first. It will eventually be pushed out to all Android devices through the Plat Store.

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Snapdragon Wear to Serve as Qualcomm's Smartwatch Platform

Today, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced Snapdragon Wear, a new platform for wearable devices. The Snapdragon Wear 2100 system-on-a-chip is the first product in the Snapdragon Wear platform and is meant to improve next-generation smartwatches. The Wear 2100 replaces the Snapdragon 400. The new SoC is 30% smaller than the Snapdragon 400, which can lead to slimmer designs, and reduces power needs by 25%, which can help improve battery life. The Wear 2100 includes a low-power sensor hub for managing input, and can be paired with WiFi and LTE radios for connectivity. The system-on-a-chip supports Google's Android Wear operating system, as well as Android itself. Qualcomm sees the Snapdragon Wear 2100 forming the core of advanced smartwatches and basic smartwatches alike, as well as smart bands, smart eyewear, and headsets. Qualcomm says Snapdragon Wear 2100 is available to its hardware partners immediately.

Qualcomm Intros a Trio of Snapdragons and an LTE Modem

Today, 8:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced a handful of processors alongside a new LTE modem for mobile devices. The Snapdragon 625, 435, and 425 all support LTE with carrier aggregation, 802.11ac with MU-MIMO, Quick Charge, and Qualcomm's TruSignal and Hexagon technology for better call and audio quality. The 625 is made with Qualcomm's 14nm process, which drops power use by 35%. It runs eight ARM Cortex A53 cores, and includes Qualcomm's X9 LTE modem supporting peak uploads of 150Mbps. It can handle 4K video capture in low light, and cameras up to 24 megapixels on the back and 13 megapixels on the front. It is paired with an Adreno 506 GPU. The Snapdragon 425 also runs eight ARM Cortex A53 cores, but drops to an X8 LTE modem. It can deliver peak uploads of 100Mbps and supports full HD video capture with a maximum 21-megapixel camera. It is paired with an Adreno 505 GPU. The 425 is the new mass-market processor from Qualcomm and includes four ARM Cortex A53 cores, an X6 LTE modem, and an Adreno 308 GPU. It pushes max uploads of 75Mbps and supports full HD video with cameras up to 16 megapixels. Qualcomm also debuted the X16 LTE modem, which supports Licensed Assisted Access, and LTE Advanced Pro 3GPP Release 13 for next-generation LTE 4G networks. Qualcomm says the X16 can reach gigabit-class LTE speeds thanks to 4x4 MIMO, and 3x20MHz carrier aggregation with throughputs of 75Mbps to 100Mbps per channel. The Snapdragon 625, 435, and 425 processors, and the X16 modem are expected to ship during the second half of the year.

Microsoft Makes Fresh Windows 10 Preview Available

Yesterday, 1:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile for Windows Insiders. Build 10586.107 is a cumulative update and only makes some bug fixes and performance improvements. Microsoft called out adjustments to missing Start screen tiles, narrator behavior, and the reset experience. Microsoft also noted it will release technical previews in three stages moving forward, rather than two. Before today, it offered updates first to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring followed by Insiders in the Slow Ring. Now, it has added the Release Preview ring, which Microsoft says is "best for Insiders who enjoy getting early access to updates for the Current Branch, Microsoft applications, and drivers, with minimal risk to their devices." The latest preview will hit the Lumia 950 and 950 XL first. Microsoft is still working to bring Windows 10 to existing Windows 8.1 handsets, which it was expected to do late last year.

Twitter Tweaks Timelines Yet Again

Yesterday, 9:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter is debuting a change to how its timeline works that will include more "best" Tweets at the top of users' feeds. The idea is similar to the "while you were away" function that Twitter added to the service last year, but it includes a broader array of Tweets displayed in reverse chronological order. Twitter is making use of algorithms to impart the change, which is aimed at making the service more appealing. The idea is to let heavy users who follow lots of people see what they may have missed from their favorite accounts since they last used the app. "Our goal was to refine the product and make it absolutely delightful for our core users — the people for which Twitter plays a great role in their life — and if we're able to make it even more powerful for them they become our microphone," said Jeff Seibert, Twitter's head of consumer product. The revised timelines will show a dozen or so "best" Tweets to users when they first open the app, which is more than the five Tweets it shows via the "while you were away" tool. The changed timeline is opt-in for now, and users who scroll down far enough will encounter their regular timeline.

T-Mobile Selling LG K7 for $140

Yesterday, 9:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today made the LG K7 available for sale from its web site. The phone, announced last month, has a 5-inch screen, quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor, 5-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel selfie camera, and LTE 4G. T-mobile is selling the handset for $139.99 at full retail or for $5.84 for 24 months. Boost Mobile is selling the K7 as the Tribute 5.

Alcatel Windows 10 Fierce XL Hits T-Mobile's Site

Yesterday, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has made the Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL with Windows 10 available from its web site. The phone, announced earlier this year, has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, a 1.1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor, an 8-megapixel main camera with flash, and a 2-megapixel front camera. The Fierce XL supports LTE 4G along with VoLTE, HD voice, and WiFi calling. T-Mobile is selling the phone for $139.99 or 24 payments of $5.84. T-Mobile hasn't indicated yet if the Fierce XL with Windows is available in stores. T-Mobile also sells an Android variant of the Fierce XL.

Walmart Adds 10GB Plan and 'Binge On' Service

Yesterday, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart Family Mobile has rolled out a new plan that includes unlimited talk, text, and 10GB of LTE 4G data for $49.88 per month. Users who surpass the 10 GB cap will be throttled down to 2G speeds. In addition to the high-capacity plan, Walmart Family Mobile also debuted a feature called Data Saver, which mimics T-Mobile's Binge On service. With Data Saver enabled, Walmart Family Mobile customers can watch compressed, DVD-quality video to reduce data consumption. Data Saver can be turned on or off at will. Walmart Family Mobile is an MVNO that operates on T-Mobile's network. The new 10 GB plan with Data Saver will be available only for a limited time. Walmart Family Mobile also offers a 1 GB plan for $30 per month and a 5 GB plan for $40 per month.

LG Teases the G5's 'Always On' Feature

Yesterday, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG touted another aspect of the unannounced G5, which will boast an "always on" display. In a picture posted to its Facebook page, the silhouette of a mobile device shows the clock, date, and notifications on the lock screen, similar to Motorola's Active Display. LG's own V10 handset has an always-on screen, though it is limited to a small, secondary panel above the main display. LG is expected to fully reveal the G5 at an event planned for February 21.

Opera Sings Praises for Chinese Buyout Bid

Yesterday, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A consortium of Chinese companies has bid $1.2 billion for Opera Software, maker of web browsers and other mobile services. The collection of companies includes game-maker Kunlun, security firm Qihoo, and private investment firms Yonglian and Golden Brick. Qihoo has its own browser and would combine Opera's technology with its own. Opera's board unanimously recommended the company accept the deal. "There is strong strategic and industrial logic to the acquisition of Opera by the consortium," said Opera CEO Lars Boilesen in a statement. "We believe that the consortium, with its breadth of expertise and strong market position in emerging markets, will be a strong owner of Opera, [will] serve our users, and [will] accelerate our plans of expansion and growth." Opera also offers data compression products directly to mobile network operators, and consumer-grade compression through its Opera Max app. The Opera browser is the sixth-most popular browser in the world.

Gmail to Call Out Insecure Emails

Tuesday, 12:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is hoping to protect Gmail users by making them more aware of secure and insecure messages. Moving forward, Gmail will display an open lock icon for Google Apps users who receive messages from email services that don't support an encrypted connection. The same applies when users are about to send an email through unprotected servers. Google says people sending messages between Google-hosted domains won't see the open lock icon because Gmail operates through secure servers. Further, if Google can't authenticate the sender of an email via Sender Policy Framework or DKIM, it will replace the sender's profile photo with a question mark. Google believes these visual clues will help people tread more carefully when opening and responding to emails. Google also suggests Gmail users take advantage of two-step verification, activate Data Loss Prevention, check and fine-tune spam settings, and enforce mobile device policies. These changes will role out to Google Apps users (business accounts) over the next few weeks.

Twitter to Place Higher Priority On Ads

Tuesday, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today is rolling out a new product for advertisers that will give them the top spot in users' timelines. Called First View, the marketing product will push promoted video Tweets to the top of feeds on mobile devices, visible when users first open the app. Twitter calls this its "most valuable real estate" and will sell it at a premium to brands looking to make a big impact. The advertising product is rolling out in the U.S. first, with global markets to follow over time. Twitter didn't say if users will be able to opt-out of the video ads, which can drive up mobile data use, or set them to auto-play only when on WiFi.

Instagram App Now Supports Multiple Accounts

Monday, 2:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today updated its Android and iOS apps with support for multiple accounts. Once the latest version is installed, users can add a second account and then quickly jump between them. Instagram says it clearly shows the profile pic for each account so people know which account is the one currently being used. Instagram 7.15 will be made available to Android and iOS devices over the next few days.

Apple Pushes Out New iOS, WatchOS, tvOS Betas

Monday, 1:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made several new beta operating system available to developers. First up is iOS 9.3 beta 3. Apple didn't spell out what's new in build 13E5200d, aside from performance tweaks. iOS 9.3's previously disclosed new features include richer tools for education, Night Shift to reduce eye strain, as well as new behaviors to Notes and Health. WatchOS 2.2 beta 3 updates the map app and makes it possible to pair the Apple Watch with more than a single iPhone. Last, tvOS 9.2 adds support for Bluetooth keyboards. The betas are available to developers to download starting today. Apple generally makes public betas available to consumers a day or two after it releases developer betas.

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CTIA Issues RFP for Stolen Device Database

Monday, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The CTIA is looking for companies to help it with the Mobile Device Information Portal and issued a request for proposal to that effect. The portal is to be a central tool that consumers, carriers, and law enforcement can use to ascertain whether or not phones have been reported lost or stolen. The idea is curb phone thefts by making it easy for everyone involved to report missing devices and check that database, thereby limiting the black market for resale of stolen goods. The Mobile Device Information Portal was recommended by the FCC's Mobile Device Theft Prevention Working Group as a key facet of reducing theft. The CTIA will oversee the Mobile Device Information Portal.

Sprint Offering $200 In Credit for Trade-Ins

Monday, 10:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today is kicking off a limited promotion that will reward new and existing customers with $200 in credit towards a new device when they trade in a working smartphone. The credit can be applied to the Samsung Galaxy S6 or Galaxy Note 5. Sprint says the $200 credit drops the monthly lease cost of the GS6 to $9.76 per month and the Note 5 to $16.67 per month. The $200 trade-in credit is available to shoppers at Sprint's retail stores starting today, and will be available online and via phone by the end of the week. Sprint says the device being traded in cannot be a lease, and existing customers must be upgrade-eligible to score the $200 trade-in credit. The offer can be combined with Sprint's current half-off rate plans to customers who switch from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless.

Pebble Watches and Apps Updated for Android and iOS

Monday, 9:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pebble recently pushed out a significant update to its Pebble Time smartwatches and the associated Android and iOS apps. The smartwatches gain new health-tracking powers thanks to the revised Pebble Health API, which makes tracking workouts more accurate. It also allows users to switch between miles and kilometers. The watch platform shows more information with incoming MMS messages, too, and makes various improvements to watch, battery, and stability performance. On the handset side of the equation, the Pebble app for Android now lets owners initiate text messages from their smartwatch as well as reply to incoming calls via SMS. The Pebble app for iOS devices adds the ability to set custom text replies. Both mobile apps also pick up performance and stability tweaks.

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