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printed July 8, 2015
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Sprint Kicks Off Sales of the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime On July 10

Yesterday, 2:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced that it will begin selling the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime on July 10. The phone has a 5-inch qHD display, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, and a 2,600mAh battery. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is compatible with Sprint's LTE 4G network. Other radios include Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi (with support for WiFi calling). Sprint said the phone will be available through its retail stores, web site, and telesales. The phone will cost $10 per month for 24 months with no money down; $30 (after $50 rebate) with a two-year contract; or for the full retail price of $240, sans contract. The Galaxy Grand Prime is already available from Cricket Wireless.


Republic Wireless to Refund Customers for Unused Data

Yesterday, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless today announced Republic Refund plans, which will reimburse customers for unused cellular data each month. The company is offering a range of new plans with varying data buckets. Any cellular data that goes unused will be credited on the customer's next bill. Republic's business banks on customers' proximity to WiFi hotspots. The entry-level plan costs $5 per month and includes unlimited WiFi calling, texting, and data. This $5 plan does not include cellular network access at all. The next step up costs $10 per month and adds unlimited calling and texting via cellular. The mid-range plan costs $17.50 per month and adds 500MB of cellular data. The $25 plan offers 1 GB of 4G data, and the $40 plan offers 2 GB of 4G data. Customers will be reimbursed and/or billed for mobile data at the rate of $15 per gigabyte. Republic says the vast majority of its customers use less than 1 GB of cellular data per month. Republic said its customers can keep their current plan or switch to the new Republic Refund plans if they wish.


Sony Mobile CEO Says Company Committed to Smartphones

Yesterday, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Hiroki Totoki, the President and CEO of Sony Mobile, said the company has no plans to exit the smartphone business. Totoki covered a wide range of topics during an interview with Arabian Business. He said the firm is working hard to turn its smartphone business around. By the end of 2016, Sony expects to reduce headcount by 20% and operating expenses by 30% to streamline the business and the product portfolio. Totoki said smartphones remain a vital part of the company. "Smartphones are completely connected to other devices, also connected to people's lives — deeply. And the opportunity for diversification is huge. We're heading to the IoT era and have to produce a number of new categories of products in this world, otherwise we could lose out on a very important business domain. In that sense we will never ever sell or exit from the current mobile business." Totoki said the company plans to respond to fierce competition from Chinese companies by developing new technologies to help its products stand out. Sony will also pay attention to providing a better experience through the software of its devices, too. Sony recently announced the Z3v for Verizon Wireless and the similar Z3+ for other markets.


Jolla Separates Software and Hardware Businesses

Yesterday, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today announced plans to split its operations into two separate companies. Moving forward, Jolla Ltd. will develop Sailfish OS and manage licensing for the platform. Jolla's hardware company will be spun off and reformed as its own entity. Antti Saarnio, Chairman of Board of Jolla, takes charge of leading Jolla Ltd. as CEO. Jolla's former CEO, Tomi Pienimäki, is leaving the company for another opportunity. Jolla said a new leader for the Jolla device business will appointed later this year. Jolla Ltd. will continue Sailfish OS and licensing operations immediately, but the company said the device business won't relaunch until the fall months. The company said it is still working to bring its Sailfish OS-based tablet to market. The tablet was offered through a crowdfunding effort. Jolla said the software is ready to go, but the company is having difficulties securing all the necessary hardware components. "Every young company has to find its clear focus at some time, and for Jolla that time is now," said Saarnio. "We have huge opportunities in the Sailfish OS licensing business, and I am very proud and excited to take responsibility of steering the Jolla ship to a new commercial phase. After three years of intensive Sailfish OS research and development we are now moving full speed to new bigger waters, which requires full focus on software from the team." Jolla was formed in 2011 by former Nokia employees. Sailfish OS is based on Nokia's discontinued MeeGo operating system.


Microsoft Rebrands Its Music Service as 'Groove'

Monday, 3:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today revealed details about the music service for Windows 10, which is now called Groove Music. Groove will be available across XBox and Windows devices, including PCs, tablets, and smartphones. The $10 monthly fee buys ad-free access to 40 million tracks, which can be streamed across platforms. People will also be able to create their own, custom radio stations. Microsoft says Groove will support music libraries uploaded to OneDrive, including tracks purchased via iTunes. The service will also be made available to Android and iOS devices in the near future. Groove Music is expected to launch in the weeks ahead.


Microsoft Releases Skype for Business App on Windows Phone

Monday, 2:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today replaced its Lync 2013 corporate messaging app with Skype for Business for Windows Phone. The app has a refreshed user interface for messaging, more emoticons, and improved interactions with the server. Microsoft says Skype for Business better manages notifications for conversation threads, and syncs them more consistently across other devices such as PCs and tablets. Users of Lync 2013 on devices running Windows Phone 8.1 will be updated to Skype for Business automatically. Microsoft said hardware running Windows Phone 8.0 and earlier should remain on Lync 2013 or Lync 2010.


Instagram to Improve Photo Resolution to 1080 Pixels

Monday, 1:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 1:11 PM

Instagram has confirmed that it will increase image resolution from 640 by 640 pixels to 1080 by 1080 pixels. Instagram's images have measured 640 pixels since launch. When the photo-sharing service first arrived, 640 pixels was appropriate based on screen and camera capabilities. Now that smartphones and tablets boast screen resolutions up to quad HD and cameras capturing 21-megapixels, the 640-pixel resolution was deemed inadequate. Instagram said the Android and iOS apps are being updated to upload 1080p images slowly, but would not say when all users will be able to see the higher-resolution imagery. The news was first reported by The Verge and later confirmed by CNET.


Walmart Selling ZTE Lever LTE Phablet for Straight Talk

Monday, 12:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart recently added the ZTE Lever LTE to its lineup of handsets for Straight Talk Wireless. The Lever LTE is a phablet boasting a 6-inch 720p display protected by Gorilla Glass. The phone has a 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone includes Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, and WiFi for connectivity, but it doesn't support mobile hotspots. The Lever LTE has an 8-megapixel main camera with autofocus and video capture, and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It supports microSD memory cards up to 32 GB. It packs a 3,200mAh battery and runs Android 4.4 KitKat. Walmart is selling the ZTE Lever LTE for $199.


Helio Quietly Reboots On Sprint and Verizon's Networks

Monday, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Helio, an MVNO that shuttered its doors years ago, is back. The company announced its return via Twitter and is once again offering prepaid service. The company operates on Sprint's network. Unlike before, however, Helio has a roaming agreement with Verizon Wireless, too, so customers will have greater network access when out and about. The basic service cost $29 per month, which includes unlimited voice, unlimited messaging (including international text), and unlimited 2G data capped at 128Kbps. Helio's web site does not say if or when it might offer 3G or 4G service. The $29 monthly plan includes all taxes and fees. The company supports a BYOD program, but requires handsets compatible with Sprint's network. It also sells a handful of older smartphones on its web site, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, for $249 and $299, respectively. Helio said it will sell its own branded handsets soon. Helio is offering the first month of service for free with no commitment. Helio was originally launched in 2006 as a joint venture between SK Telecom and Earthlink. It was folded into Virgin Mobile, another Sprint property, in 2008. Helio ceased all operations in 2010. Helio is now backed by a company called UBI.


Sony Z3+ Available to US Buyers Via Amazon

Monday, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony has made the Xperia Z3+ available through Amazon's U.S. web site. The phone is being sold unlocked and is compatible with GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless plans to sell a variant of the phone, called the Z3v, later this summer. It has a 5.2-inch full HD screen, 20.7-megapixel main camera, wide-angle 5-megapixel front camera, and a quad-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of RAM. Amazon is selling it for about $640.


Microsoft, Kyocera Expand Patent-Licensing Deal

Jul 2, 2015, 4:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said that it has expanded the scale of a patent cross-licensing agreement with Kyocera. Microsoft and Kyocera are now able to use a broader range of one another's technologies in a variety of products. The licensing agreement also resolves a patent infringement lawsuit filed earlier this year. Microsoft did not disclose the terms of the agreement. Microsoft holds a number of smartphone-related patents and most makers of Android smartphones pay Microsoft royalties to license those patents.


Turing Phone Available for Preorder Starting July 31

Jul 2, 2015, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Turing Robotic Industries today said it will begin accepting preorders for the Turing Phone on July 31, which is about three weeks later than originally planned. The company will make 10,000 units available initially. The phone, sold unlocked, will cost $610 for 16 GB, $740 for 64 GB, and $870 for 128 GB. Turing said it will announce three different colors on July 22 and release an SDK for the phone in August. Turing did not say if it plans to stick to the original Aug. 10 shipping date. The Turing phone is molded from Liquidmorphium that the company claims provides greater tensile strength than either titanium or steel. The handset has a fingerprint sensor built into the side edge for security and uses a magnetic charger to negate the need for ports. Turing says the Android-based handset offers completely secure phone calls and messaging. The device features a 5.5-inch full HD display and it is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The device has a 3,000mAh battery and supports a range of LTE networks around the world.


Sprint CEO Derides T-Mobile's 'Misleading' and 'Fake' Moves

Jul 2, 2015, 8:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure has had enough of T-Mobile CEO John Legere's brash attitude. Claure had harsh words for Legere after Legere poked fun at Sprint's latest promotion, the All-In calling plan. "I give credit to @sprint for swinging the bat when they do – but #allin is a swing and a miss, guys! #sprintlikehell," said Legere via his personal Twitter account. Claure responded by saying, "I am so tired of your Uncarrier [baloney] when you are worse than the other two carriers together. Your cheap misleading lease imitation is a joke. You trick people to believe that they have a $15 iPhone lease payment when it's not true. You tell them they can upgrade up to 3x but you don't tell them the price goes up to $27 when they do. You say one thing but behave completely different. It's all a fake show. So it's really #Tmobilelikehell." Legere did not respond to Claure's accusations. Legere is known for his direct approach and use of profanity to make fun of T-Mobile's competitors.


Sprint to Test New Stores with Dixons Carphone

Jul 2, 2015, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new partnership with Europe's Dixons Carphone that will see the companies test 20 new retail stores in various markets around the U.S. Dixons Carphone is a renowned electronics retailer. Under the terms of the agreement, Sprint will open and staff 20 retail stores that will be managed by Dixons Carphone Connected World Services (CWS) division. Sprint said it will also adopt some of CWS's best practices across its own retail stores, web site, and telesales. The end goal is to provide a better shopping experience for Sprint customers. If the pilot is successful, CWS will be given the responsibility to run more of Sprint's stores under an equally-funded joint venture. Sprint also recently expanded its retail footprint to 4,500 locations thanks to the addition of 1,435 RadioShack stores. Sprint says about 300 locations will include a store-within-a-store layout this month, with the rest to follow by the end of the year. The stores are co-branded RadioShack and Sprint, and include new signage and new interior designs that more closely resemble Sprint stores. Sprint acquired RadioShack's stores earlier this year.


TracFone Settles with FCC Over Locked Phones

Jul 1, 2015, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TracFone has reached an agreement with the FCC concerning its policies for unlocking handsets. In February of this year it became mandatory for all carriers to unlock customer handsets and to properly disclose their unlocking policies to customers. TracFone did not have any sort of process for unlocking handsets in place, nor did it inform customers of their rights. Even so, TracFone later told the FCC multiple times that it was in compliance with the law. In order to settle with the FCC, TracFone agreed to transition to unlockable phones. It will allow eligible customers to receive new unlocked handsets, receive credit towards a new handset, or receive a partial cash refund in exchange for an unlocked handset. "Unlocking of cell phones has been widely embraced by the wireless industry and by consumers across the country," said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. "Today's agreement ensures that millions of eligible TracFone customers will be able to use their phones on any compatible network they choose." TracFone has about 8 million customers, many of which should be able to benefit from today's enforcement action. TracFone has until September 1 to clearly notify customers about its new policies and when those customers will be eligible for unlocked devices. By May 2016, TracFone will need to launch some unlockable handsets and allow eligible customers to trade-in or receive credit. By December 2016, all phones launched by TracFone must be capable of being unlocked.


CTIA Says Smartphones Better Protected Against Theft

Jul 1, 2015, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Beginning today, most smartphones sold in the U.S. will include anti-theft security tools. July 1 marks the day by which phone makers and network operators agreed to implement free theft deterrents on smartphones. According to the CTIA, most of the industry has responded by placing remote lock/wipe capabilities on consumer devices. The addition of an activation lock on the Apple iPhone, for example, has dramatically reduced iPhone thefts in major cities. The activation lock prevents a stolen device from being activated by another person, thus making it useless to thieves. Remote wipe features allow people to erase the personal data from their handset if lost/stolen to protect their identity. The major participants in today's action include Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and ZTE. "Today's fulfillment of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is another example of the wireless industry proactively working together with policymakers and law enforcement to help protect consumers' smartphones in the event they are ever lost or stolen. We will continue to work with all interested parties to continue to deploy new technologies and tools to improve device theft-deterrence tools. We remind consumers to take a few minutes to use PINs, passwords, apps and other device features to protect their mobile devices and personal information." The industry was coerced into acting "voluntarily" when the FCC threatened to make such protective measures mandatory.


Yahoo's Aviate Launcher Gains 'Google Now' Feature

Jul 1, 2015, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo updated its Aviate Android launcher with a new feature called Smart Stream. As described by Yahoo, Smart Stream "assembles relevant information" and adjusts it throughout the day based on where the user is and what they're doing. The information is presented clearly on cards in a way that makes it easy to find nearby restaurants and other points of interest, as well as glance at sports scores and add a soundtrack to your day. Yahoo says Smart Stream becomes smarter and more personal as people use it. Users can fine-tune Smart Stream to surface specific cards through the Focus menu, which lets people set preferences. Smart Stream mimics the behavior of Google's Google Now feature. Aviate is free to download from the Play Store. It is compatible with devices running Android 4.1 and up.


Sprint Allowed to Settle Cramming Charges for $50M

Jul 1, 2015, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint has settled accusations with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that it over-billed customers for unwanted services. In May, the FCC fined Sprint $68 million for adding third-party services to customer bills without customer permission -- a practice known as cramming. A U.S. judge is allowing Sprint to escape with a $50 million settlement, rather than the full amount. The FCC fined Verizon for $90 million in May also, and this week's settlement marks the end of the ordeal for both companies. Last year, the FCC tagged AT&T for $105 million and T-Mobile for $90 million to settle cramming complaints.


YouTube Mobile App Supports 60fps Playback

Jul 1, 2015, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated the Android and iOS YouTube apps with support for 60 frame-per-second video playback. The higher frame rate is already supported via desktop browsers. YouTube is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.


NSA Given Permission to Spy On Calls Again

Jul 1, 2015, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court this week gave the NSA permission to resume spying on Americans' phone calls for a period of 180 days. In June, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which put an end to the bulk phone data collection. However, there was a provision in the act that allowed the program to be extended for a period of six months to give the government time to transition to another method of spying. In May, an appellate court ruled the NSA bulk phone data collection program was illegal. FISA said, "Congress deliberately carved out a 180-day period following the date of enactment in which such collection was specially authorized. For this reason, the Court approves the application in this case." In other words, the NSA is once again allowed to vacuum up the call data of every American.


Sprint Forced to Backtrack On Throttling After Outcry

Jul 1, 2015, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint was forced to remove a speed limit on its new All-In plans after customers were quick to complain. On Tuesday, Sprint revealed a service plan called All-In that offers monthly service and phone payments bundled together for $80 per month. In the fine print, Sprint disclosed a policy to throttle mobile video speeds to 600kbps at all times for network management purposes. That didn't sit well with customers, who took to social media to voice their concerns. Sprint later admitted that it has slowed mobile video speeds for a period of two years. The practice runs afoul of the FCC's new net neutrality rules, which prohibit broadband providers -- wireless or wired -- from throttling speeds of select apps or services. After a drubbing from customers, Sprint changed its policy. "At Sprint, we strive to provide customers a great experience when using our network," said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. "We heard you loud and clear, and we are removing the 600kbps limitation on streaming video." That doesn't mean Sprint won't protect its network from heavy users. "During certain times, like other wireless carriers, we might have to manage the network in order to reduce congestion and provide a better customer experience for the majority of our customers," said Claure. AT&T has been sued by the FTC and the FCC over its network throttling practices.


Sprint Found In Violation of Prism Patents

Jun 30, 2015, 3:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint was found culpable of infringing on two patents held by Prism Technologies. The patents in question pertain to accessing protected computer resources and were used by Sprint in its "Simply Everything" and "Everything Data" plans, according to Prism. Sprint was ordered to pay a fine of $30 million. Sprint rejects the decision and said it will appeal. "We believe the evidence is clear that Sprint does not infringe the patent. Sprint plans to pursue post-trial motions," said Roni Singleton, a spokeswoman for Sprint, in a statement provided to RCR Wireless. Prism has similar cases pending against T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular.


Facebook's Messenger Payment Service Now Widely Available

Jun 30, 2015, 2:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today said its Messenger-based, peer-to-peer mobile payment service is now available to everyone across the U.S. It was initially tested in New York City earlier this year. Messenger users need only add their MasterCard- or Visa-backed debit card to pay anyone else on Messenger. Money goes straight from the sender's checking account to the recipient's checking account. Sending money is free of transaction charges. Facebook says users can set up PINs to protect the service, and Apple device owners will be able to use TouchID to secure it. Sending money is possible from the Android, iOS, and web versions of Messenger.


Verizon Says Droid Turbo Lollipop 5.1 Update Pushing Wednesday

Jun 30, 2015, 2:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said the Motorola Droid Turbo will be updated to Android 5.1 Lollipop beginning the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1. The update will be delivered in phases over a few weeks. Customers will be able to manually update their phones over the air if they wish. The update is free.


Court Says Apple Conspired to Raise E-Book Prices

Jun 30, 2015, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A U.S. court of appeals today upheld a ruling from a lower court that found Apple guilty of conspiring with book publishers to raise the prices of e-books. Books were generally priced at $9.99 by companies such as Amazon. Following the launch of Apple's iBook store, prices eventually rose to $12.99 and $14.99 for many titles. The appeals court said the initial ruling was correct, as was the injunction imposed against Apple. Today's ruling means Apple is on the hook for a $450 million settlement with attorneys general in 33 states. One judge dissented, believing that Apple's arrival in the market challenged Amazon, which was at the time the dominant player in the e-book market. Apple did not immediately respond to the ruling, but it marks the final chapter of a lengthy legal case that Apple has not been able to beat.


ZTE's Axon Phone Swings By the FCC for Approval

Jun 30, 2015, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Documents spotted on the FCC site reveal more information about ZTE's forthcoming Axon phone. The company has been teasing the device on the web for several weeks and plans to reveal it in full at a July 14 event in New York City. The FCC details the Axon Phone's impressive support for wireless networks, especially AT&T and T-Mobile. For example, it supports LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, and 30 (AT&T's upcoming WCS 2.3GHz coverage). It also includes WCDMA bands 2, 4, and 5, and quad-band GSM. The FCC also reveals the Axon includes excellent support for hearing aids, and NFC. ZTE has already confirmed that the Axon Phone will have a dual-lens camera, 4K video capture, high-fidelity sound playback and audio recording, a fast processor, 4 GB of memory, and a large battery. The phone will be sold in blue, gold, or silver.


Apple Releases iOS 8.4 with Apple Music

Jun 30, 2015, 9:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made available iOS 8.4, a system update for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that installs Apple Music. Apple Music is Apple's new streaming music service and is part of an all-new Music app for iOS devices. The service is being offered for free on a trial basis for three months, after which it will cost $10 per month for individuals or $15 per month for families. Apple Music offers unlimited, ad-free streaming and access to Beats 1, Apple's global radio station. iOS 8.4 also makes improvements to iBooks application, and resolves some performance issues. iOS 8.4 is free to download and install.

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Sprint's All-In Plan Includes Phone and Service for $80

Jun 30, 2015, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today introduced a new plan that combines the cost of a service plan with the cost of a handset in one monthly payment. The Sprint All-In plan costs $80 per month and includes unlimited talk, text, and data, and a Sprint Lease on handsets such as the Apple iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6, and HTC One M9. There are no up-front phone costs aside from a one-time, $36 activation fee. The $80 monthly rate does not include taxes. Sprint believes this is the simplest, most straight-forward plan in the market. Sprint will use soccer star David Beckham to advertise the plan, which is available in Sprint stores beginning today.


European Union to Ban Roaming Charges

Jun 30, 2015, 7:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The European Commission today agreed to make cellphone roaming charges illegal beginning in 2017. The change in law means European wireless network operators will not be allowed to charge roaming fees for customers who travel across the 28-country continent. Additionally, the European Commission also adopted some net neutrality regulations to prevent service providers from discriminating between different types of internet traffic. European carriers, such as T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom, warn the rules will reduce investment across the region, but regulators see the new laws as a win for consumers, who are often charged high fees when they travel. The new rules are specific to Europeans who go to other European countries. U.S. residents traveling abroad can still expect AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless to charge roaming fees for accessing wireless networks in Europe and elsewhere.


Sony Looking to Raise Capital for Image Sensor Business

Jun 30, 2015, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony plans to issue new shares of stock for the first time in 26 years as it hopes to raise about $4 billion in capital. The company said it will spend the money on bolstering its image sensor business, which is seeing high demand from smartphone and tablet makers. Sony's image sensor business, along with its PlayStation unit, have helped push the company back to its feet in recent quarters. Earlier this year, Sony said it would ramp up production in its image sensor plants, but now admits that it is struggling to keep up with demand. The capital plan marks a wholesale change in strategy for Sony, which will now bank on the image sensor and PlayStation businesses to keep it afloat. Sony said it will continue to make other electronic devices, such as TVs, but it will reduce its investments in such products. Sony did not specifically address what it will do about its smartphone operations.


Qualcomm to Hold Onto Chip Biz for the Time Being

Jun 30, 2015, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm does not plan to sell off its mobile chip business, according to Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs. Investors have been putting pressure on Qualcomm to spin off the unit, which one called "worthless." Some would prefer that Qualcomm operate strictly as a patent-licensing business. "We've had that discussion for a long time, many years the board has looked at it but we still think the synergies of having the businesses together outweighs the dis-synergies," said Jacobs. Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors power hundreds of millions of devices every year and are often combined with wireless modems. Earlier this year, Qualcomm said it would expand its chip-building facilities through partnerships with firms in China. Jacobs did say the company may change its mind down the road if the right opportunity arises.


Google Hangouts for iOS Updated with Material Design

Jun 30, 2015, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has refreshed its Hangouts app for the iOS platform and given the messaging service a new look and feel. The app now makes use of Google's Material Design and gains a new quick compose button for starting conversations. The app improves how it handles emoji, the camera, and the photo gallery. Hangouts now lets people send more than one photo at a time. Google says it also took care of some bugs and made some performance improvements. Hangouts is free to download from iTunes.


Uber Buys Some of Microsoft's Bing Assets

Jun 29, 2015, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Uber has agreed to acquire about 100 engineers and other assets from Microsoft's Bing product. Specifically, Uber will take possession of Bing's "product image collection activities," according to TechCrunch. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the companies did say that Microsoft will hand over some employees and technology. Uber, the ride-finding service, has been looking for opportunities to improve its own map data. Adding some of Bing's assets can help it do that. Uber said it was "excited about the talent and technology this acquisition brings." Earlier this year, Uber had been named as a potential suitor for Nokia's HERE Maps business. Nokia has not yet sold HERE. Microsoft and Uber didn't say when the Bing transaction might be finalized.


Sprint Debuts Best Buy One Family Plan for $100

Jun 29, 2015, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today unwrapped a new option for customers looking to save money on family plans. The Best Buy One Family plan costs $100 per month and includes unlimited data, voice minutes, and messaging for two smartphones. Additional lines cost $40 each. Sprint says subscribers to the Best Buy One Family plan can lease handsets for as little as $20 per month, so a two-line plan would cost just $140 per month with the device payments added in (taxes and fees not included). The Best Buy One Family plan is available at Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores beginning today. Sprint already offers a Best Buy One plan for single lines.


Boost Mobile Scores LG Volt 2 and Tribute 2

Jun 29, 2015, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 29, 2015, 11:24 AM

Boost Mobile today announced the LG Volt 2 and LG Tribute 2, updates to two of last year's big sellers for the prepaid carrier. Both devices share several hardware features, such as LG's signature rear-placed buttons, 1.2 GHz quad-core processors, LTE, Bluetooth, and WiFi. They also boast similar software, such as Android 5.1 Lollipop with LG's Knock Code, QuickMemo, and selfie camera tools.

The LG Volt 2 and Tribute 2 are available from Boost's web site beginning today. The Volt 2 cost $149.99 and the Tribute 2 cost $99.99.


Sprint's Direct 2 You Launches in More Cities

Jun 29, 2015, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today made good on its May promise to bring Direct 2 You to New York, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The service is now live in these cities and a number of smaller cities and towns in the surrounding metro areas. Sprint said it will expand Direct 2 You to Detroit, Washington, D.C., Tampa, and Dallas in early July. With Direct 2 You, a Sprint technician brings the store experience directly to the homes of customers who purchase a new phone. Customers can still receive the same benefits as buying in stores, such as setting up their phone, transferring content from their old phone, and tutorials to ensure the customer understands how to use their new device. Sprint's Direct 2 You service is offered free of charge.


Facebook Adds Fun Tools to Photo Uploader for iOS

Jun 29, 2015, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has updated the photo uploader in its iOS app and given users the ability to make creative edits as they go. The new uploader lets people preview and apply filters by swiping left and right, easily add text, and plaster images with stickers from the Facebook sticker store. The feature is not yet widely available, but it has appeared for a number of users. The new editing tools aren't yet available in the Facebook app for Android and it's not clear when they might show up. They are accessible from a tray of tools positioned at the bottom of the photo uploader screen.


Apple Music Arrives with iOS 8.4 June 30

Jun 29, 2015, 7:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple will distribute iOS 8.4 beginning at 8AM/11AM Pacific/Eastern on June 30, according to Apple Music Senior Director Ian Rogers. The updated operating system installs Apple Music, Apple's monthly music service. The service will be available for free on a trial basis for three months, after which it will cost $10 per month. June 30 also marks the launch of Beats 1, Apple's global radio station. iOS 8.4 will work with most iOS devices.


Google Agrees to Add Railroad Crossings to Maps

Jun 29, 2015, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has agreed to use data from the U.S. Federal Railroad Association (FRA) to add audio and visual alerts to drivers when they near railroad crossings. The idea is to make sure drivers are aware of railroad crossings when using Google Maps to navigate between points. The FRA also requested that Apple, Garmin, Tom Tom, and MapQuest make similar additions to their mapping and navigation services. In 2013, the most recent year with data, there were 2,096 car-train accidents at railroad crossings nationally that resulted in 288 deaths.


Samsung Researchers Make Battery Breakthrough

Jun 29, 2015, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A research team working at Samsung has discovered a new way to make lithium-ion batteries that could double the available battery life in devices such as smartphones. The method involves covering silicon nanoparticles with graphene, which prevents the formation of silicon carbide. "When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities [that are up to] 1.8 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries," explain the researchers. They believe this can serve as a prototype for eventually bringing the technology to market. The end result would be batteries that last almost twice as long as they do now. Samsung said this discovery is still in the early stages of development and did not provide a suggested timeline for commercial release.


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