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printed March 29, 2017
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Android Wear 2.0 Begins Slow Rollout

Today, 3:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google confirmed this week that some Android Wear devices will see the 2.0 update in the coming days. Specifically, the Fossil Q Founder, Casio Smart Outdoor Watch, and Tag Heuer Connected should all begin to receive Android Wear 2.0 today, with the majority of devices updated by April 4. Google first announced Android Wear in May 2016, but didn't ship the wearable platform until early February. Google hasn't said if or when other existing Android-based smartwatches will see the update. A small handful of new smartwatches are shipping with the refreshed platform, including the LG G Watch Style an G Watch Sport.


Galaxy S8 to Cost $750, S8+ to Cost $850: Carriers Share Launch Details

Today, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 3:29 PM

Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones will cost $750 and $850, respectively. The phones share almost all features other than size and both ship with 64 GB of internal storage. All carriers are bundling in the new Gear VR with controller at no added cost ($129 value), and will upgrade the bundle to include a 256 GB memory card and Harmon Kardon headphones for $99. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be available for preorder starting March 30 and should reach stores April 21.

  • AT&T: AT&T is offering a buy-one, get-one deal with the S8 and S8+. Monthly prices range from $28 to $36, depending on the length of the installment plan. Further, AT&T is selling the Gear S3 for $50 with an S8/S8+ purchase, provided the customer signs a two-year agreement. Last, AT&T is offering either the Galaxy Tab E or Gear S2 for 99 cents with a service agreement.
  • T-Mobile: The S8 will cost $30 month on a T-Mobile installment plan, and the S8+ will cost $30 per month, too, with a $130 down payment. T-Mobile says MetroPCS customers will have access to the Galaxy S8 when it reaches stores April 21.
  • Sprint: Sprint plans to lease the phones. The S8 will cost $31.25 per month for 18 months while the S8+ will cost $35.42 per month for 18 months. Customers will be able to upgrade to a newer Samsung phone after making 12 payments. People who preorder the phones from Sprint will be entered into a sweepstakes that includes prizes such as television sets. Sprint says Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile will offer the phone on April 21.
  • Verizon Wireless: Verizon is offering the S8/S8+ for as low as $15 per month with an eligible (flagship-level) trade-in. Without a trade-in, the S8 will cost $30 per month and the S8+ will cost $35 per month for 24 months.
The Galaxy S8 and S8+ have 5.8- and 6.2-inch screens, respectively, Snapdragon 835 processors, 12-megapixel cameras, and Samsung's Bixby voice interface.

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Samsung Galaxy S8 to Be First Gigabit LTE Phone

Today, 10:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 3:23 PM

Samsung and Qualcomm today said the Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be the first handsets to ship with Gigabit LTE capabilities. The high-speed data connection is possible thanks in part to the Snapdragon 835 processor and accompanying X16 LTE modem. Together with Qualcomm's TruSignal adaptive antenna tuning technology, 4x4 MIMO, carrier aggregation and 256 QAM, the S8 and S8+ will feature the fastest-possible cellular data speeds. AT&T and T-Mobile said the S8 will be able to take advantage of these higher speeds on their pre-5G networks later this year. Sprint, also indicated that its variant of the phone will support HPUE for better 2.5 GHz LTE performance.


Samsung DeX Turns Galaxy S8 Into an Android Desktop

Today, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 3:38 PM

Samsung today announced DeX, a desktop accessory for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ that allows them to function as computers when attached to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. DeX is similar in concept to Microsoft's Continuum product. For the S8 and S8+, the DeX includes HDMI, USB, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and cooling functions. The software relies on features baked into Nougat to help scale the Android user interface for desktop screens. It supports full multitasking with moveable windows and runs most standard Android apps. Phone apps, text messaging, and other essential mobile communications will all function normally. DeX and the S8/S8+ support Microsoft Office, with Adobe Lightroom and PhotoShop Express coming soon. A special Samsung browser provides a full desktop internet experience. Pricing and availability of the DeX are to be announced at a later date.


Samsung's Bixby Is Far More than A Voice Assistant for the Galaxy S8

Today, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones feature Bixby, a voice-based user interface developed by Samsung. It's more advanced than a simple voice assistant, as it voice-enables every function of an app. At its core, anything you can do with touch on the phone you can do with voice through Bixby. That means opening apps, but then also selecting menu items or other on-screen controls within those apps. Bixby is also able to take advantage of the camera for what Samsung calls Bixby Vision. It can translate languages, read business cards, recognize landmarks, and read QR codes. Samsung said it developed Bixby in order to minimize friction between the user and the phone in terms of how voice commands are issued and understood. Samsung calls Bixby a user interface that relies on artificial intelligence. Samsung adapted Bixby's ability to listen and understand commands based on how people speak, rather than force people to issue specific commands. Bixby embraces something it calls "completeness" — meaning if an app is Bixby enabled, Bixby will be able to interact with nearly every task that app is capable of completing. Bixby is contextual, which means it will work seamlessly in voice mode or touch screen mode without forcing people to start over or lose their place within a command sequence. Last, Bixby will include cognitive tolerance, or the ability to "understand commands with incomplete information and execute the commanded task to the best of its knowledge." The Galaxy S8 and S8+ each include a dedicated Bixby button. Owners can press the Bixby button and issue the command they want without first unlocking the phone. Samsung says a small subset of apps on the Galaxy S8 are Bixby-enabeld at launch, though it expects to add more over time. The company will release an SDK so third-party developers can add Bixby functionality to their own apps.

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Hands On with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+

Today, 10:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Today, 11:24 AM

The S8 is Samsung's flagship phone for 2017, and it combines absolutely every idea Samsung has ever come up with for a high-end phone, plus a couple of new ones. From the extra-tall curved display to the iris scanner, to a new voice assistant, Samsung is throwing down the gauntlet. It aims to be a sexy, no-compromise monster. How well does it deliver? We find out in our hands-on. Read on.

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Samsung's Galaxy S8 and S8+ Go for Broke

Today, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Galaxy S8 and S8+, its flagship smartphones for 2017. The phones marry aluminum frames to curved glass panels as they adopt what Samsung calls its Infinity Display. The Infinity Display moves from the industry standard 16:9 aspect ratio to a taller 18.5:9 ratio with 2,960 by 1,440 pixels. The devices share nearly all features other than size and battery capacity. Where the S8 has a 5.8-inch display and 3,000mAh battery, the S8+ boasts a massive 6.2-inch screen and 3,500mAh battery. The phones see Samsung drop the physical home button that has long adorned the front of its handsets in favor of on-screen controls and a virtual home button that's unmarked in the area below the screen. This allowed Samsung to reduce bezels along the top, sides, and bottom edges, meaning the front is 83% display. Samsung says the displays are mobile HDR certified and offer more room for multitasking. Core features include Snapdragon 835 processors with 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and support for memory cards. The phones are rated IP68 for protection against water and dust. They include rear-mounted fingerprint readers, front-mounted iris scanners, as well as wireless and rapid charging. The main camera has a 12-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization and an aperture of f/1.7. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and also an aperture of f/1.7 with autofocus and face detection. Ports include USB-C and 3.5mm headphone jack. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ run Android 7 Nougat with Samsung's new Bixby voice-enabled user interface, as well as improved Samsung Health, Samsung Connect, and Samsung Knox apps. The U.S. version will come in black, silver, or purple. The phone is expected to go on sale next month. Pricing will be set by carriers.

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Apple Drops First Beta of iOS 10.3.2

Yesterday, 1:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.3.2 Beta One available to developers. The beta arrives just one day after the public release of iOS 10.3. Apple has not provided any details about what's contained in iOS 10.3.2, but it is likely a bug-fixing update. Apple also made fresh betas of macOS Sierra 10.12.5, watchOS 3.2.2, and tvOS 10.2.1 available to developers. Apple hasn't indicated if or when these new in-progress operating systems will be released to public beta testers.


Google Assistant Works with More Connected Home Gear

Yesterday, 12:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved Google Assistant on Android devices and its Google Home product. The assistant can now talk with a wider range of internet-of-things devices for the home, allowing people to take control over more things around their house through voice commands. Specifically, Google Assistant can connect to Best Buy Insignia, LIFX, TP-Link, and Wink products. People can say "Ok Google, turn on the fan," and Google Assistant will do that via the Best Buy Insignia WiFi Smart Plug. People can also control LIFX and TP-Link lighting, as well as adjust their Wink-connected thermostat. Taking advantage of these tools requires turning them on in the Google Home App on a smartphone. Google Assistant is available to most Android 6 Marshmallow and Android 7 Nougat phones.


Google Search App for iPhone Gains a Home Screen Widget

Yesterday, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its main Search application for the iPhone and added a widget for the home screen. Technically, iOS doesn't support true home screen widgets other than those in the notification panel. In order to make it work, a 3D Touch of the Search app brings up a "Trending on Google" widget directly on the screen with breaking news, trends, and hot topics. A quick press of any of the cards takes users to the content in question. The widget doesn't support users' customized Google cards, which are still located in the main Google app. People interested in using the widget will need to turn it on manually in the app's settings. Google added other 3D Touch actions, as well. A hard press on the Google app icon opens a set of quick search actions from the home screen, but it now also lets people start a new search from within the Google app itself. A hard press of the G button on the bottom of the screen opens a new search immediately, and a hard press on search results can provide a preview of the content before opening it fully. The Google Search app also now works more seamlessly with Google's GBoard keyboard for the iPhone. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Samsung Says No Refurbished Galaxy Note7s In the US

Yesterday, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Galaxy Note7 fans in the U.S. will not be able to buy a refurbished model, reports Reuters. Samsung "will not be offering refurbished Galaxy Note7 devices for rent or sale in the U.S.," according to a statement provided by the company. On Monday, Samsung announced plans to sell reconditioned Note7s in select markets, though it has yet to say where. Phones that cannot be reconditioned will be broken down into their individual components so Samsung can scavenge them for use in other devices.


T-Mobile Pitches Free MLB Content to Customers

Yesterday, 8:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said baseball fans will be able to watch every regular season Major League Baseball game on their smartphones for free. T-Mobile has again partnered with MLB and is providing customers with access to a free year of MLB.TV Premium, which includes MLB.com At Bat Premium. T-Mobile customers can stream every out-of-market regular season game to their Apple or Google smartphone and tablet via the MLB.TV app. At Bat Premium is a mobile sports app for watching home and away broadcasts, and it also includes player stats, highlights, and other information. T-Mobile One customers don't need to worry about streaming on their plan thanks to unlimited data. T-Mobile says games will be streamed in standard definition by default, but can be viewed in HD if customers wish. The free year-long subscription will available for just 24 hours on April 4. T-Mobile customers will need to redeem the free subscription via the T-Mobile Tuesdays application and then sign up for MLB.TV Premium no later than April 11. T-Mobile made a similar offering to customers last year.


Facebook Folds More Snapchat Features Into Its Main Mobile App

Yesterday, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today expanded the way people are able to share photos and videos by bringing new camera tools to its mobile application. First, the camera is more accessible from within Facebook. A tap will turn it on. The camera includes dozens of effects like masks, frames, and interactive filters that people can apply to their pictures or movies. Reactive effects, specifically for videos, let people interact with on-screen animations in real time. Facebook is partnering with several movie studios and visual artists to ensure that the selection of effects changes over time. Second, Facebook is bringing stories, pioneered by Snapchat and later adopted by Facebook's own Instagram, to the main app. Stories will appear above the news feed and disappear automatically after 24 hours. Stories do not show up directly on users' timelines unless they want them to. Third, the app includes more sharing tools. Stories, as well as regular photos and videos, can be shared directly with others for one-time viewing. Photos and videos sent via the new Direct tool can be seen once, though the recipient will be able to respond. These new features are available to the Android and iPhone versions of Facebook mobile this week. The apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


Apple Releases iOS 10.3 to Everyone

Monday, 12:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 12:39 PM

Apple today made iOS 10.3 available to the public after several months of beta testing. The most significant feature of iOS 10.3 is a tool called Find My AirPods, which helps people locate lost earbuds via an audio alert. The system update also adopts the Apple File System (APFS), refreshes the Apple ID profile behaviors, tweaks animations, and provides more details concerning iCloud storage use. Other features include wider HomeKit compatibility with connected lightswitches, alerts concerning out-of-date apps, more CarPlay actions, and refined SiriKit behaviors for voice-based payments and other activities. People who own an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch can download and install iOS 10.3 for free. Apple also released final, public builds of watchOS 3.2, tvOS 10.2, OS X Sierra 10.12.4, and Xcode 8.3.


Facebook Messenger Gains Live Location Sharing

Monday, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made it possible for people to share their real-time location with others using Messenger. The optional tool is available to both Android and iOS devices. Live Location can be shared for up to 60 minutes and turned on or off at any time. The location data will pinpoint people on a map and provide estimated time of arrival when en route to specific points. It can be used to share static locations, such as an address or place of interest. The tool also includes a clock that clearly counts down how much longer location data will be shared. Facebook has been testing the feature for a while and says it can be useful when coordinating meet-ups with family and friends. Facebook Messenger is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store. Google recently added a similar feature to Google Maps.


Samsung Plans to Sell Refurbished Galaxy Note7

Monday, 9:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 9:42 AM

Samsung plans to bring back the Galaxy Note7, despite the massive recall that spelled the phone's demise last year. The company will sell refurbished versions of the phone, though Samsung is still determining where via talks with regulatory authorities and carriers. Samsung didn't detail exactly how the phone has been refurbished. It was pulled from store shelves shortly after launch due to faulty batteries. Presumably any refurbished units would, at a minimum, include brand new batteries. Note7 units that aren't refurbished for sale will be broken down into individual components so Samsung can recover chips, camera modules, and rare metals found within the phone. Samsung did not say when it expects to resurrect the Note7.


Cortana for Android Now Works On the Lock Screen

Monday, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made it possible for Android device owners to access and use Cortana above the lock screen on their smartphones. Microsoft has been testing the feature since earlier this year and is now rolling it out to all users. People can swipe on the lock screen to see Cortana's basic information screen as well as ask Cortana questions, set reminders, and view their calendar appointments. These features are all usable without requiring people to unlock their devices. Microsoft also improved Cortana home on Android, which now includes more glanceable information about daily schedules, commute times, reminders, as well as shortcuts to creating reminders and calendar items. Last, Microsoft is making Cortana available to Android and iOS devices in Australia. The new version of Cortana with lock screen access for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


T-Mobile Adds Free AppleCare to Its Device Insurance Plan

Monday, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today improved its monthly insurance program by offering AppleCare at no additional cost. Customers who subscribe to T-Mobile's Premium Device Protection and Jump! with Premium Device Protection insurance plans will have access to T-Mobile's insurance benefits as well as those offered by AppleCare. T-Mobile's plans cover loss, theft, accidental damage, hardware coverage, and security. AppleCare is available for the newest iPhones and iPads, including the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and iPad 9.7. AppleCare includes 24/7 technical support from Apple and low fees for certain repairs at Apple Stores and certified Apple repair facilities. For example, screen replacement deductibles cost just $29, while battery replacement service is free. T-Mobile's Premium Device Protection and Jump! with Premium Device Protection insurance plans cost $12 per month.

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