Verizon has made its Advanced Calling 1.0 feature available to the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The free service will pass voice calls over Verizon's LTE 4G network rather than the cellular network. It offers high-quality voice calls and video calls. In order to enable the service, owners of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus need to use the settings tool to allow "voice & data" over LTE directly on their phone. Once enabled, the feature will appear as active in their Verizon account online. VoLTE calls only work between two Verizon VoLTE-enabled devices. The only other Verizon devices that support VoLTE right now are the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G2.
Microsoft has launched a limited promotion that will double OneDrive users' free storage to 30GB. Microsoft already offers 15GB of online storage for free. Those who sign into their OneDrive accounts between now and the end of September will see their free storage jump to 30GB. The offer is good for all users of OneDrive, including people using Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and Windows Phone devices. Microsoft also offers incremental amounts of additional storage (usually 3GB) when smartphone/tablet owners choose to backup their camera roll to OneDrive. Users who already have more than 30GB of free OneDrive storage will receive the additional 15GB of storage, too.
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Google today said that encryption will be turned on automatically in the next release of Android, which is expected to arrive next month. Encryption will make it harder for law enforcement to access user data on such devices. "For over three years Android has offered encryption, and keys are not stored off of the device, so they cannot be shared with law enforcement," said company spokeswoman Niki Christoff to the Washington Post. "As part of our next Android release, encryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won't even have to think about turning it on." With encryption turned on, only those who enter the correct password will be able to gain access the device and the information stored on it, such as photos and videos. New devices that ship with Android L will benefit from this immediately. In the mean time, Android device owners can turn on encryption manually in the settings menu. Earlier this week, Apple said it took similar steps with the latest release of its mobile operating system, iOS8, which is also encrypted.
Sony has hatched an ambitious plan to use its booming PlayStation and gaming business unit to support its other, money-losing efforts such as mobile devices. The company this week warned it would report steep loses in its handset division, which is struggling to sell devices. Sony's new plan is to use PlayStation as a hub for entertainment that it can stream to smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Andrew House, chief executive of the game unit, told The Wall Street Journal that it will likely offer its streaming service to non-Sony devices. "A streaming-based approach needs to have a very wide funnel of devices, and that inherently means a broad- and manufacturer-agnostic approach," said House. Sony recently unveiled a lineup of new smartphones, including the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact. Both of these devices will be certified to interact with the PlayStation 4, Sony's current gaming console. Sony said it will launch this streaming service in the U.S. before the end of the year.
Ericsson today said it will cease to make wireless modems for mobile devices and cut about 1,000 jobs as a result. Ericsson cited fierce competition in the space as playing a role in its decision. More and more handset companies are demanding modems that are built into application processors, such as those made by Qualcomm. Ericsson does not have its own application processor business, and has seen its share in the market drop accordingly. Ericsson said it will shift some employees from the modem business to an R&D facility in its networking and M2M business. Earlier this year, Broadcom made a similar decision to stop making basebands for cell phones.
Facebook updated its Messenger application for iOS devices. Facebook didn't call out any new features other than to say it is compatible with iOS8.
Twitter today updated its application for iOS devices. The new version of Twitter makes two major changes. First, it places a greater emphasis on user profiles, which are easier to see. Twitter explains that bios are visible as soon as you get to the profile page for any given user, it no longer requires a swipe to access. The improved profiles are visible to all devices running iOS7 and up. Second, Twitter for iOS8 takes advantage of some of the new features in the operating system from Apple. iPhone owners running iOS8 will be able to interact directly with push notifications from Twitter, meaning they can Retweet, favorite, and follow directly from the notifications as they appear on the screen. Twitter is free to download from the App Store.
Samsung today said it will begin accepting preorders for the Galaxy Note 4 on September 19. The device won't ship, however, until October 17. Samsung said the Note 4 will be available in black and white, and it will be carried by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular. Samsung said the phone will also be available at Samsung Experience Shops in Best Buy stores, as well as from Amazon, Costco, RadioShack, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart. Individual carriers and retailers will provide their own pricing and availability details in the near future. AT&T was first to announce those details. AT&T said the Note 4 will cost $34.42 per month with AT&T Next 18; $41.30 per month with AT&T Next 12; $299.99 with a two-year agreement; or $826 at full retail. AT&T is offering a $100 bill credit to new/existing customers who activate a new line of service with the Note 4. Verizon is offering the Note 4 for $299 with a new contract and said Verizon Edge installment pricing will also be available. T-Mobile isn't accepting preorders until September 24, and it is asking for $0 down followed by $31.24 a month for 24 months.
Verizon Wireless today announced it has expanded the reach of its "XLTE" footprint by 22 markets. Verizon's LTE network runs on 700MHz almost nationwide, but it has been adding coverage in the 1700MHz band throughout the year and marketing the dual-band 700/1700MHz coverage as XLTE. According to Verizon, four out of five of its LTE markets have access to this dual-band coverage, which is available in about 400 cities and towns across the country. Verizon didn't name the 22 new markets that launched today.
Amazon today announced a new version of its FireOS platform. FireOS 4 Sangria further integrates Amazon's devices with its cloud-based content offerings. The revised operating system has a redesigned user interface and adds individual Profiles, which allows family members to have their own email and social media accounts, as well as settings such as display brightness, bookmarks, and game levels. Fire OS includes ASAP (Advanced Streaming and Prediction), which Amazon says can predict the movies or TV shows the owner may want to watch and streams them instantly. Another feature called Smart Suspend will use individual user profiles to determine when the device is most often dormant and can then proactively take steps to conserve battery life, such as turning off the wireless radios. FireOS 4 adds a function called Family Library, which makes it easier for families to share apps, games, books, and other Amazon content. Last, FireOS 4 brings Firefly to Amazon's tablets. FireOS 4 ships on Amazon's newest fourth-generation Kindle Fire tablets and will be available for Amazon's third-generation tablets through an over-the-air system update. Amazon said Fire OS 4 will be available on Fire Phone early next year. FireOS 4 Sangria is based on Android 4.4 KitKat.
Apple's new iPhones will include a kill switch that owners can use to remotely lock or wipe them, reports Reuters. The feature has been part of iOS for several years, but the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will have the feature turned on by default. The feature can be installed on older iPhone models, as well. The news comes from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, rather than Apple itself. Earlier this year, Apple, Google, and Microsoft all agreed to add kill switches to their devices by July 2015. Most major wireless network operators in the U.S. have agreed to a similar framework. Lawmakers believe the presence of the kill switch will eventually deter street crime and reduce the thefts of smartphones. The logic behind the effort is to reduce the demand for stolen goods by allowing owners to render them useless and valueless to thieves.
Apple has delayed the release of HealthKit, which is part of iOS8, thanks to a bug. "We discovered a bug that prevents us from making HealthKit apps available on iOS 8 today. We're working quickly to have the bug fixed in a software update and have HealthKit apps available by the end of the month," said Apple. Users who install iOS8 will notice the Apple Health app has been added to their iPhone, but without associated apps it isn't of much use. HealthKit serves as the link between health/fitness apps and Apple Health on the iPhone. According to Reuters, apps developed by MyFitnessPal and WebMD were yanked from the App Store at the last moment today thanks to the bug.
Apple released iOS8 today and with the updated operating system comes a new feature many will surely relish: support for third-party keyboards. Though Apple took care to revise its own keyboard application, iOS devices can now install and use keyboard apps made by other companies. Some of the first to leave the gate are Swype and SwiftKey, two keyboards that are well known to Android device owners. Swype is available for $0.99 and the SwiftKey Keyboard is available for free. Swype includes several themes, supports a handful of languages, and supports personal dictionaries. iPhone owners can easily switch between the stock keyboard and Swype for easier typing. Swype works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. SwiftKey offers a similar feature set, including word predictions, enhanced autocorrect, and cloud-based learning for a more personal experience across devices. SwiftKey's one limitation is that the Flow (tracing) keyboard only works with the iPhone and iPod, but not the iPad. Flesky and Minuum are two other such apps.
Verizon Wireless has slowly begun to enable VoLTE on select devices on its network. To start, VoLTE is available to the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G3. In order to use the service, subscribers need to download an app called Advanced Calling 1.0. More devices will supported over time. In order for VoLTE to work, both parties need to have VoLTE-capable phones and access to Verizon's LTE 4G network. The service, which is free to use, offers high-quality calls that are passed over the data network rather than the traditional voice network. Separately, Verizon Wireless said that, like AT&T, it is going to wait until 2015 to launch Wi-Fi Calling. Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said it will eventually roll out the service, which is supported by the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but it is not a priority. "We built our voice platform so extensively [that] there was never a need for us to tell our customers, 'Oh, our network is not good enough so you need to go on Wi-Fi to complete your call,'" said Shammo. Both Sprint and T-Mobile offer Wi-Fi Calling to a growing number of handsets. T-Mobile just today launched its Personal CellSpot in order to help its customers experience better voice connectivity when in their homes.
Apple today released iOS8 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch (5th gen). iOS8 offers a number of refinements to Apple's mobile operating system. Some of the new features include a new word prediction engine and support for third-party keyboards; family sharing for iTunes content; Continuity for seamless messaging across devices; revised gallery and camera apps that make sharing and editing easier; improvements to Spotlight search; the ability to send audio clips within text messages; and Health for tracking fitness and health apps. iOS8 is compatible with the iPhone 4s, 5, 5s, and 5c, as well as most iPads. It comes preinstalled on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which go on sale September 19. The system update can be installed over Wi-Fi or via iTunes.
Republic Wireless has begun notifying customers that it will soon sell the Moto E smartphone from Motorola. The Moto E is Motorola's entry-level handset and features a 4.3-inch display with Gorilla Glass 3, a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon 200 processor with 1GB of RAM, and 4GB of internal storage. It comes with a 5-megapixel camera that can capture panoramas as well as 720p HD video. The phone also includes support for a microSD card up to 32GB, an FM radio, and a 1,980mAh battery that Motorola claims is good for a full day. The Moto E runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat, but is limited to 3G data. Republic said the Moto E will cost $99 when it launches in October.
Cricket Wireless today said it will sell the first-generation Moto G on September 19 for $150. The first-gen G has a 4.5-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, and Snapdragon 400 processor. It supports Cricket's LTE service.
Google said it is delivering Play Services 6.1 to most Android devices running 2.3 Gingerbread and up. This update targets three aspects of Play Services: analytics, Google Drive, and Google Fit. Developers will be able to use the Enhanced Ecommerce tools in Google Tag Manager to assess the success of their apps and ad campaigns. Google enhanced the Google Drive Android API with a new Completion Events feature. This lets developers see when their apps are talking to the server. The Drive API has also been updated with Material Design in the UI, and adds support for Recent and Starred views. Last, the Google Fit Developer Preview has been refreshed so developers can test their fitness apps on any Android device. Google expects to complete rolling out Play Services 6.1 over the coming days, at which point it will make the updated SDK available to developers.