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printed May 2, 2016
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Google Keyboard Lets Users Adjust Key Height

Today, 2:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is rolling out an update to the Google Keyboard application with a handful of new functions. To start, Android users can now adjust the height of the keyboard between short and tall, with five different heights available in between. This feature reflects what one seen on LG phones for several years. The keyboard can be set to left- or right-handed mode, allows full-word deletion, and adds a dedicated phone-like number pad for faster number entry. The Google Keyboard 5.0 is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Details May Security Update for Android

Today, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today highlighted its May security patch, which is first being delivered to Nexus smartphones and tablets. The patch resolves 25 issues, of which six are considered critical. The most severe could enable remote code execution via certain media files, as well as through a Qualcomm WiFi driver and an Nvidia video driver. Google says it discovered the vulnerabilities earlier this year and alerted its parters to the risks on April 4. Google has already made the patch available in factory image form via the Google Developer Site. It will release the associated new builds to the Android Open Source Project within the next 48 hours, and will push the update over the air to Nexus handsets in the next few days. Google said, as far it is aware, none of the vulnerabilities were exploited. Google provides monthly security updates to Nexus-branded Android handsets.

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HTC 10 System Update Tunes Camera, WiFi Performance

Today, 12:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 12:53 PM

HTC has begun distributing a system update to the 10 smartphone ahead of its general release that improves the camera and connectivity functions. Specifically, low-light images should be sharper and brighter, as should images captured outdoors. The laser-assisted autofocus user interface has been tweaked, and the HDR function has a wider range of light sensitivity. Last, purple noise should no longer be visible in photos captured in Pro Mode. WiFi performance is also improved thanks to Smart MIMO. This update is reaching unlocked European versions of the 10 first, and will soon hit the unlocked model that's for sale directly from HTC. U.S. carriers will begin to sell the 10 over the course of the next week. It's not clear how quickly this system update will be made to carrier models.


Nvidia and Samsung Strike Patent Deal, Drop Lawsuits

Today, 11:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nvidia today said it has settled its patent-related litigation with Samsung. The company first sued Samsung in 2014 over smartphone patents and was later sued in turn by Samsung. In October 2015, Samsung was cleared of violating Nvidia's patents. In December 2015, a law judge with the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Nvidia was guilty of violating Samsung's patents. That initial ruling was set to be reviewed today by the full ITC panel. The settlement sees each company licensing a few minor patents from one another, but it does not establish a broad cross-licensing agreement, nor does it establish large royalty payments. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.


Qualcomm Brings Machine Learning to Snapdragon 820

Today, 7:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Smartphones powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor are about to get a boost in intelligence. Qualcomm today introduced the Neural Processing Engine SDK for Snapdragon 820, which will allow smartphone makers to add their own machine learning programs to devices with the 820 aboard. The Neural Processing Engine SDK relies on Qualcomm's Zeroth Machine Intelligence Platform. Zeroth is already baked into the Snapdragon 820 where it helps detect malware. Qualcomm says the SDK will enable typical deep learning behaviors such as scene detection, text recognition, object tracking and avoidance, facial recognition, and natural language processing. Most importantly, devices that rely on Zeroth will not need a network connection to learn or execute these actions. The SDK itself will include a bevy of tools to help developers create and add such learning behaviors to their smartphones. Qualcomm expects the Neural Processing Engine SDK for Snapdragon 820 to become available during the second half of the year.


LG Innotek Devises Under-the-Glass Fingerprint Sensor

Today, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG Innotek revealed a new fingerprint sensor that works through glass, allowing LG and other smartphone makers to create devices free from buttons. LG Innotek was able to do this by carving a small furrow out of the back side of the glass. It then glued the sensor in this furrow with a new, strengthened adhesive. LG Innotek says the embedded fingerprint sensor is just as accurate and quick as those within physical buttons, and has a false positive rate of 0.002%. LG Innotek claims the cover panel glass is still impact resistant, despite the thinner area where the fingerprint sensor is located. The company believes the solution will give phone designers more freedom to innovate, for example, by creating waterproof, buttonless phones. LG Innotek did not say when it expects its under-the-glass fingerprint sensor to ship. Synaptics developed a similar solution last year.


Intel Cancels Several Phone Chips

Saturday, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel said it will discontinue a handful of processors meant for smartphones and tablets as it continues to shift its business toward more profitable products. In particular, Intel has cancelled plans to sell three of its SoFIA processor-baseband combination chips. The company also plans to can its ARM-based Broxton tablet processor. Two of the three SoFIA modules included support for LTE, which Intel has been slow to add to its lineup. Intel has struggled to compete against industry veteran Qualcomm and others. Early this month Intel announced a strategic shift away from mobile devices; instead, Intel plans to focus on products for PCs, servers, and the internet of things. Intel is also in the process of cutting some 11,000 jobs to trim expenses as it transforms its focus.


Review: Plantronics BackBeat Go 3

Friday, 3:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Plantronics BackBeat Go 3 are lightweight stereo Bluetooth headphones that offer a portable design and excellent battery life. This third-generation headset is ideal for use around town when you don't want wires dragging you down. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth review.

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Verizon Shares More HTC 10 Launch Details

Friday, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless says it will be the first U.S. carrier to stock the HTC 10 in retail stores, beginning May 5. Verizon began accepting preorders for the phone today and claims no other carrier will sell the device in stores before May 10. Verizon is offering the phone for monthly payments of $27 for 24 months, totaling $648. Verizon is also taking preorders for the Ice View Case for the HTC 10. The Ice View Case is semi-transparent and allows users to perform certain functions even with the front flap closed. The case costs $50, but Verizon didn't say when it will ship. Verizon highlighted several other cases that fit the HTC 10, all of which are eligible for the Case Loyalty Program, which entails increasingly larger discounts on multiple purchases of cases.


FCC Sets 126 MHz Clearing Target for Reverse Auction

Friday, 10:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today announced it has set an initial spectrum clearing target of 126 MHz during the reverse part of the auction for 600 MHz airwaves. Television broadcasters have agreed to part with this spectrum. The FCC then plans to offer 100 MHz in 10 near-nationwide paired blocks to wireless providers in the forward phase of the auction. The majority of the spectrum being given up by television broadcasters will qualify as Category 1, which means it has no or little interference. Some of the spectrum will fall under Category 2, which has a greater degree of interference but not so much that it can't be managed. The FCC is today notifying all the television broadcasters about the status of their applications to sell spectrum. The FCC plans a mock auction for May 24-25, and will kick off the actual reverse portion of the auction May 31. It's unclear how long the reverse auction will take place before the FCC is able to turn around and re-sell the spectrum to wireless companies. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all said they plan to participate in the hunt for low-band spectrum.


Sprint to Sell HTC 10 Starting May 13

Friday, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said the HTC 10 will reach its stores on May 13. Sprint is not offering a lease option for the HTC 10, as it does for Apple's iPhone or Samsung's Galaxy S phones. Instead, Sprint will finance the phone for 24 months with payments of $26. An unlocked version of the HTC 10 is already available for sale directly from HTC.com for $699. The phone includes a 5.2-inch quad HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 12-megapixel camera, fingerprint sensor, and high-quality sound. It runs Android 6 Marshmallow.


Periscope for iOS Lets You Draw On Your Live Video

Friday, 7:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Periscope users can now sketch on the screen during live broadcasts. Periscope added the feature in a recent update to the app, which it says "provides a new way to express yourself while broadcasting." The tool, which requires a long-press to access, lets users draw in red, green, or blue, or use a dropper to sample a color from the video. Sketching is limited to the iOS version of Periscope for now. Twitter, Periscope's parent company, didn't say if or when the feature might be carried over to the Android app. Periscope is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


LG Display to Step Up OLED Production

Friday, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG Display plans to invest $396 million to improve its ability to manufacture flexible OLED displays and OLED lighting panels. The company will sink about $272 million into an existing facility in order to boost production capacity, and about $123 million to build a new production line dedicated to OLED lighting. Last year, the company committed close to $1 billion to build a new OLED factory. LG uses flexible OLED displays in some of its smartphones and wearable devices. The G5, LG's latest flagship handset, uses an LCD panel rather than OLED.


Apple Music for Android Adds Music Videos

Friday, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple recently updated its Apple Music application for the Android platform and added access to music videos. Apple says thousands of music videos are now available to Android users, allowing subscribers to browse through new videos or search for specific songs or artists. The updated app also makes it possible to sign-up for or upgrade to a Family Membership, which supports up to six family members. Apple Music costs $10 per month for a single user or $15 for families. The app itself is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Brings Back Motorola's Osterloh to Head Hardware Unit

Thursday, 1:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Rick Osterloh, former CEO of Motorola, is returning to Google in order to run the company's new hardware division, which includes Nexus and Chromecast. Osterloh left Lenovo last month. Lenovo bought Motorola from Google in 2014. Osterloh will be responsible for working with Google's handset partners in designing Nexus phones and tablets, as well as Chromecast dongles and compatible products. Osterloh's role will also include oversight of Google Glass, ATAP, OnHub routers, Chrome-based PCs and the Android-based Pixel tablet line. Osterloh will serve as a senior vice president and report to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.


BBM for Android Gains Video Calling

Thursday, 12:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 12:45 PM

BlackBerry today said it is expanding BBM video calling to Android devices. The feature is rolling out in the U.S. and Canada first in beta. BlackBerry says Android users should be able to make video calls to other BBM users on Android and BlackBerry devices. The company plans to monitor how BBM video calling functions within the beta. Most Android users should be able to take advantage of the feature right away, and aren't required to sign up. Video calling in BBM will be expanded to the iPhone and other regions over time, with a global launch scheduled for July.


Latest Google Photos App Improves Search

Thursday, 10:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is rolling out an update to its Google Photos app for Android with a new search bar. The app places the search bar at the top, replacing the floating action button that previously adorned the lower corner of the app. Photos users can now search with a single tap and drop-down options make it easy to find faces, places, or photo types from the library. Google Photos also added the ability to customize the movies Photos automatically creates from events with additional photos, videos, and music. Last, the revised app makes it possible to rename or delete devices folders, and to manage photos stored on SD cards with moving and copying actions, and creating new folders. Google Photos for Android version 1.19 is free to download from the Google Play Store. Google say these changes will reach the iOS Google Photos app soon.


Instagram for Windows Grabs Huge Update

Thursday, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced three new apps for the Windows 10 platform, including a proper Instagram app for phones, and dedicated Facebook and Messenger apps for desktops. The Instagram app for Windows 10 Mobile includes features that have long been available only to the Android and iOS apps, including Instagram Direct, videos, the Explore tab, and more. Further, the Live Tile for Instagram now shows photo updates on the home screen. Instagram for Windows 10 Mobile will reach the Windows Store later today. Facebook said it plans to port the new Facebook and Messenger Windows 10 desktop apps to smartphones later this year.

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