The Asus ZenFone V Live claims to have a unique trick up its sleeve: it can process real-time beautification effects when broadcasting live video to certain social networks. When it's not doing that, the V Live a solid entry-level Android smartphone that has a respectable set of specs keeping things humming under the hood.
The FCC today voted on party lines to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The vote was led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was supported by his fellow Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O'Reilly. Pai insists the standing rules were overly burdensome to businesses and reduced investment in internet services. Pai believes the industry should regulate itself and suggests the Federal Trade Commission has the wherewithal to protect consumers from corporate abuses. Many disagree. Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel offered scathing dissents. "This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public," said Rosenworcel in a rebuke to Pai. "History will not be kind to this vote to destroy Internet openness. But this is not over. I'm not stopping here or now — and neither should you. Let's keep up the fight. Let's keep raising a ruckus. The future depends on it," concluded Rosenworcel. Millions of Americans submitted comments to the FCC in favor of keeping net neutrality. Those comments were largely ignored by Pai. Broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast applauded the change. Consumer-focused organizations such as the ACLU and FreePress have vowed to fight today's vote through legal action. It's not clear how quickly the FCC will be able to put its proposed changes into effect.
Google today updated several of its travel tools in ways that should help people find the best, least-expensive options when traveling. Google Flights, for example, now includes tips under search results, such as when prices are abnormally low or high. Google Flights can also let you know that prices are unlikely to change, so it is safe to book most any time. These tools are powered by machine learning, and can alert people who opt to track flight prices via email. Google added similar tools to its hotel search function, which will tell people when room rates are higher than usual, or if the area is busier than normal due to some local event. The hotel price tracking feature also gains the ability to send email alerts when prices change. The Google Trips app adds a handful of new functions. For example, Trips' new Discounts feature tells people when it is best to book tickets for attractions and other activities, such as visiting Alcatraz during a trip to San Francisco. This is specifically meant to help save money. Moreover, a "trending destinations" tool lets people know where other people want to go on vacation for specific time periods and/or holiday weekends. This may help people avoid over-crowded destinations. Google Flights and Google Trips are free to download from the Google Play Store.
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Instagram today rolled out another wave of creative tools for social media aficionados. First, the Superzoom tool offers more zoom options and sound effects for overly-dramatic videos. Next, the app marks the debut of three new holiday-themed face filters, which include balloons bursting with confetti, winter makeup, hearts, and more. Last, the app is boosting its collection of stickers with additions for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Instagram says users can search for stickers using keywords (English only). These new creative options are available as part of Instagram 26 for Android and iOS. The updated mobile apps will roll out to the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store over the next few weeks.
Snapchat today debuted Lens Studio, a desktop application that makes it easy for anyone to design and create Lenses for the Snapchat community. Snapchat says Lens Studio is free to Mac and Windows, and guides creative types through the process of animating their ideas for mobile devices. Artists can then use a special Snapcode to share their creations with others who can unlock the Lens. Snapchat hopes developers and other creators will put Lens Studio to use in making more personal and more diverse Lenses available to all Snapchat users.
Pandora today rolled out a new way to enjoy streaming music on mobile devices. Moving forward, people who use Pandora's free, ad-supported service will be able to listen to a specific song, album, or playlist after viewing a 15-second video ad. Before today, searching for a specific song only created a radio station based on that search. The video ad unlocks Pandora Premium for a limited time, meaning people can search for and listen to other songs directly after viewing the ad. Pandora says the idea is to offer premium on-demand features even to users who don't pay for its monthly listening plans. Beyond on-demand listening to specific songs or artists, ad-supported listeners can take advantage of personalized, automated playlists, and background music playback when multitasking. Pandora offers two paid tiers. Customers who pay $5 per month gain an ad-free experience with higher-quality playback, unlimited skips, and up to four offline stations. People who subscribe to Pandora Premium for $10 per month enjoy the ability to search for and play any song, album or artist, create personal playlists, and download customized playlists for offline listening. The new video ad experience will be available within the Android and iOS apps over the next few days.
If you want a Bluetooth speaker that's small, portable, powerful, and fun, the Edifer MP200 may fit the bill. This simple compact music maker includes a few unique features that set it apart from other inexpensive offerings. Here is Phone Scoop's review.
Blu Products today announced the One X3, a mid-range handset from the unlocked phone maker. The One X3 has a curved-edge glass screen and an aluminum frame painted in matte black. The display measures 5.5 inches and offers full HD resolution. Blu gave the One X3 an octa-core MediaTek 6753 processor at 1.3 GHz with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. An impressively large 5,000mAh battery lurks within in the chassis to provide more than a day of battery life. The One X3 sports two 13-megapixel cameras, one on front and one on back. Both cameras have their own flash and can capture full HD video. Other specs include Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 28) for moderate compatibility with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone ships with Android 7 Nougat. Blu says the One X3 is available from Amazon.com starting today. The standard retail price is $250, but the One X3 will be available for a limited time at $150.
Verizon Wireless plans to let holiday shoppers score a smartphone for free with an upcoming buy-one, get-one deal. Beginning Friday, December 15, customers who buy an Apple iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ can get a second device for free. Both devices will need to be purchased on a payment plan and at least one must be a new line of service. The second phone must be from the same manufacturer and be of equal or lesser value. The cost of the second device will be reimbursed monthly over a 24-month period. Verizon says the offer is valid for existing customer upgrades, as well as those who switch to Verizon. The buy-one, get-one deal will be available for a limited time.
Apple today made iOS 11.2.1 available to the iPhone and iPad in order to resolve performance issues. Specifically, the update tackles a problem that could disable remote access to shared users of the Home application. The update is rather lightweight at about 69 MB and it can be downloaded and installed over the air.
Google today said older Android smartphones and tablets are gaining access to the Google Assistant. Until today, Assistant was only available to phones running Android 6 Marshmallow and up. Now, handsets that have Android 5.0 Lollipop support Assistant. Google says Assistant has started to roll out to all devices running Lollipop in English in the U.S., U.K., India, Australia, Canada, and Singapore, as well as in Spanish in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain. Further, for the first time Google Assistant is being made available to Android tablets. Android slates in the U.S. running Android 6 Marshmallow and Android 7 Nougat will be able to download Assistant over the coming weeks. Google Assistant is Google's voice-powered personal helper. It can be used to perform searches as well as initiate actions on mobile devices.
T-Mobile has set its sights on the cable TV industry and hopes to disrupt that market beginning next year. The company today announced plans to acquire Layer3 TV, which already delivers internet-based television service in five markets around the country. T-Mobile will use Layer3 TV's technology to create and launch a new TV service that will be delivered over T-Mobile's LTE network. "People love their TV, but they hate their TV providers. And worse, they have no real choice but to simply take it — the crappy customer service, clunky technology and outrageous bills loaded with fees! That’s where we come in. We're gonna fix the pain points and bring real choice to consumers across the country," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. Legere insisted T-Mobile's TV service will be "disruptive" and will take full advantage of the latest technology and best content from today's top creators. In addition to T-Mobile's network, the as-yet-unnamed TV service will be supported by T-Mobile's retail stores, and sales and service organizations. Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3 TV, added, "No market needs Un-carrier-ing more than pay TV, so we’re completely stoked to join T-Mobile in disrupting the status quo!" T-Mobile did not say how much it will pay for Layer3 TV, nor when this television service might launch, not what it expects to charge per month. The company already allows people to stream as much video via LTE as they wish, and offers some customers Netflix for free. T-Mobile competitors AT&T and Verizon each have their own television services, both mobile and in-home. T-Mobile needs to enter the TV space in some capacity in order to offer customers a similar set of services.
Apple today said it plans to invest $390 million in Finisar, the Texas-based supplier of its VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers) wafers. Apple uses the VCSEL technology in the iPhone X to power Face ID, Animoji, and portrait photography in the TrueDepth camera. VCSELs are also found in the AirPods headphones for sensing proximity. The investment will allow Finisar to re-open a plant and employ 500 new engineers and technicians. Apple says 100% of the VCSELs it plans to purchase will be made in Texas. The plant, expected to be producing by mid-2018, will be powered entirely be renewable sources. The investment comes from a $1 billion fund Apple set aside to foster innovation and high-skilled jobs in the U.S. Earlier this year, Apple agreed to invest $200 million in Corning, the company behind Gorilla Glass.
AT&T today added to its selection of international roaming packages. To start, its $10-per-day option is still available. This legacy option gives people access to their own calling, messaging, and data plan for $10 per day when overseas. The new options are meant for people who would rather buy access in bulk. The first option costs $60 for a 30-day period and includes unlimited messaging and WiFi access, 1 GB of data, and $0.35/minute voice calls. This plan automatically expires or renews after 30 days, depending on the subscribers' needs. Those who require more data can opt for the 3 GB roaming plan, which costs $120 per 30 days and includes the same messaging, WiFi, and calling features. These plans are not available to cruise ship passengers, who are encouraged to use AT&T's dedicated cruise packages. AT&T's new international options are available starting today.
Twitter today made it easier to publish tweet storms, or threads. The use of threads, a way to string together a series of tweets to tell a longer story, has risen in popularity over the last few years. In order to simplify the process of composing these threads, Twitter has a new "plus" button in the tweet composer that allows users to connect tweets and publish an entire thread all at once. Even after a thread is published, the author can add to it thanks to a new "add another tweet" button. Further, threads will be easier to discover thanks to new labels that point to complete tweet strings. Twitter says the new threading tool is rolling out to everyone on Android, iOS, and Twitter.com in the coming weeks.
YouTube TV has expanded once again to 34 new markets around the country. The additional cities, some of which include Flint, Green Bay, New Orleans, Rochester, San Antonio, San Diego, Savannah, Shreveport, Tulsa, and Tucson, make for a total of 83 markets. YouTube TV originally launched in just five markets in April. YouTube TV costs $35 per month and includes up to six personal accounts all with unlimited DVR recordings and access. The number of channels is still limited to about 50. YouTube TV is available on Android and iOS mobile devices, as well as via the Chrome browser on desktop PCs. A YouTube TV app is expected to reach the Apple TV shortly.
The latest smartphone from OnePlus is an attractive, affordable premium device. The OnePlus 5T is the latest handset to adopt the 2:1 aspect ratio and offer a dual-camera array. With a Snapdragon 835 under the hood and OnePlus' tasteful tweaks to Android, the OnePlus 5T is an appealing blend of price and performance. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.
Instagram today rolled out a new tool that allows people to follow hashtags in addition to individual accounts. The idea is to make it easier to discover photos, videos, and people. Hashtags are generally tied to subjects, events, locations, and other interests. The tool lets users search for hashtags and then follow the tag thanks to a new button that appears on the hashtag's main page. Instagram says posts that include the hashtag will then start to filter into users' main photo feed. People can unfollow hashtags whenever they wish. The tool is being added to the Android and iOS mobile apps over the days ahead.
Synaptics today said of the five largest phone manufacturers in the world has agreed to use its Clear ID FS9500 optical, in-display fingerprint sensor. The FS9500 can scan fingerprints through the full thickness of smartphone cover glass, which means device makers can create sleek, button-free designs and still include a fingerprint reader on the front. Synaptics says the FS9500 was designed with "bezel-free infinity displays" in mind. This latest generation of Synpatics' technology can read fingerprints on wet, dry, or cold fingers, and the reader is always protected by the glass, making it durable and waterproof. Synaptics claims its sensor is twice as fast as 3D facial recognition tools, and comes and goes only when needed to authenticate the user. Synaptics didn't name the phone maker, nor did it suggest when a device with the Clear ID FS9500 might come to market. According to IDC, the top five phone makers in the third quarter of 2017 were Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi.