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printed September 24, 2017
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Asus Brings ZenFone 4 Lineup to U.S.

Friday, 3:48 PM   by Rich Brome

Asus recently announced plans to bring its ZenFone 4 series of phones to the U.S. unlocked market this year. The lineup includes the flagship ZenFone 4 Pro, the mid-range ZenFone 4, and two versions of the ZenFone 4 Max, both of which have large batteries but otherwise lower-end specs. The ZenFone 4 Max 5.5" is available now, while the rest will go on sale in the coming months. All have basic support for AT&T and T-Mobile LTE networks, including bands 2, 4, 5, and 12.


T-Mobile, Sprint Reach Breakthrough On Potential Merger

Friday, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile and Sprint have made significant progress in ironing out merger terms, according to Reuters. T-Mobile and Sprint have made a "major breakthrough" on a merger between them. As it stands, SoftBank, Sprint's parent, would own between 40% and 50% of the combined company, with Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's parent, owning the majority stake. These terms are near final and will require due diligence before a deal is announced, which may happen as soon as the end of October, according to Reuters' sources. In addition to shareholder and board approval, the deal would face regulatory scrutiny from the U.S. government. SoftBank was forced to abandon an attempted merger with T-Mobile back in 2014 due to government pressure. The combined T-Mobile/Sprint entity would catapult to 130 million customers, putting it just behind rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile and Sprint declined to comment on Reuters' story.


Motorola Moto G5S Plus Hits Stores September 29

Thursday, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today opened up pre-orders for the Moto G5S Plus handset. Consumers can order the phone from Best Buy, B&H, Fry’s, Motorola.com, New Egg, Ting, and Walmart.com. The G5S Plus boasts a metal unibody design, 5.5-inch HD display, and a 3,000mAh battery. It includes a dual 13-megapixel arrangement with features such as selective focus, and black-and-white image capture. The G5S Plus adds an LED flash to the front of the phone for improved lighting via the 8-megapixel selfie cam. The phone includes the latest software features from Motorola, including Night Display and Quick Reply. The device will ship starting September 29. The Moto GS5 Plus comes in gray or rose gold. The 32 GB version costs $229 and the 64 GB version costs $299.


Google Intros 'Zero-Touch' Android Enterprise Deployments

Thursday, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier for businesses to configure and deploy Android handsets to employees with a new tool called zero-touch enrollment. Google says zero-touch lets companies configure purchased devices and ship them directly to employees completely preconfigured with corporate policies and controls all in place. Users need only sign in to gain access to their work apps and data. The new zero-touch enrollment tool is available on handsets purchased from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Google is working with Samsung, Huawei, Sony, LG, HMD Global, BlackBerry, HTC, Motorola, Honeywell, Zebra, and Sonim to ensure a wide selection of devices support zero-touch. Google indicated the Huawei Mate 10 and Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact will be among the first devices to support zero-touch in the coming weeks. Businesses will be able to use a wide range of enterprise device management tools from the likes of BlackBerry, MobileIron, IBM, Suite, and VMware to configure zero-touch. Google encouraged businesses that are interested in zero-touch to contact their carriers directly.


Instagram Adds Face Filters to Live Video

Thursday, 12:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible for those broadcasting live video to play with face filters in real time. Broadcasters need only tap the face icon in the bottom right corner before or during their live stream to add filters. Instagram says users can play around with as many filters during their broadcast as they like. Live broadcasts can be shared to stories for replaying or discarded. The feature is rolling out worldwide to Instagram mobile for Android and iOS over the next several weeks.


iOS 11 Muddies WiFi and Bluetooth Controls

Thursday, 12:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple's new mobile operating system, iOS 11, introduces some counterintuitive behaviors with respect to Control Center and the wireless radios. Tapping the WiFi or Bluetooth toggles in Control Center does not actually turn off these radios. "In iOS 11 and later, when you toggle the WiFi or Bluetooth buttons in Control Center, your device will immediately disconnect from WiFi and Bluetooth accessories. Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth will continue to be available," explained Apple in its documentation for iOS 11. In earlier versions of iOS, tapping these toggles did in fact turn the radios off. iPhone and iPad owners who wish to completely turn off their Bluetooth and WiFi radios will need to do so from the settings menu. According to Apple, disabled WiFi radios will wake back up under certain circumstances: when toggled on, when users encounter a new WiFi network, when the device is restarted, or automatically at 5am. Turning WiFi and Bluetooth off is often viewed as a good security practice. Apple did not rationalize these changes in behavior.


Google Partners with Bose for Assistant-Capable Headphones

Thursday, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced what it says are the first headphones optimized to work with Google Assistant. The Bose QC35 II wireless cans have a dedicated action button for interacting with Google Assistant. A quick press of the action button allows people to listen to incoming messages or check their calendar; access playlists, skip tracks, and listen to the news; or answer or make phone calls. The Bose QC35 II headphones are a modified version of last year's QC35s. They include active noise cancellation. Google said Assistant on the QC35 II will be available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Germany, France, and the U.K. Pricing and exact retail dates were not provided. For reference, the original QC35s cost $349. Other headset makers have already included Google Assistant in their own designs using APIs from Google, but these do not have dedicated action buttons.


Google to Buy HTC's Pixel Handset Team for $1.1 Billion

Wednesday, 9:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has agreed to purchase HTC's Pixel smartphone business, as well as acquire some employees and license intellectual property, for $1.1 billion in cash. HTC's Pixel engineers will be added to Google's existing hardware organization, where they will continue to work on the Pixel smartphone line. "In many ways, this agreement is a testament to the decade-long history of teamwork between HTC and Google," said Rick Osterloh, former Motorola executive and current senior vice president of Google's hardware business. "Together, we've achieved several mobile-industry firsts, including the first ever Android smartphone, the HTC Dream / T-Mobile G1; as well as the Nexus One in 2010, the Nexus 9 tablet in 2014, and the first Pixel smartphone just last year." Osterloh said Google will continue to focus on its core capabilities, creating hardware that takes advantage of Google's software. HTC will retain its actual smartphone business. In a statement, HTC said the company "will continue to have best-in-class engineering talent, which is currently working on the next flagship phone, following the successful launch of the HTC U11 earlier this year." HTC will also retain its Vive-branded virtual reality business and invest in next-generation technologies, such as the internet of things, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. The companies did not say when they expect the deal to close.


Apple 'Investigating Fix' for Faulty Watch 3 LTE Performance

Wednesday, 2:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today admitted that its new cellular-connected smartwatch has a problem. Early reviewers of the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE complained of intermittent or non-existent data connections when away from their iPhone. Testers from the Wall Street Journal and The Verge, for example, were unable to make or maintain voice calls, or stream music via LTE. According to Apple, the issue occurs when the new watch attempts to join "unauthenticated WiFi wireless networks without connectivity." In other words, the device is prioritizing WiFi over LTE and will drop LTE even when it latches onto shoddy WiFi that doesn't actually offer a connection. The company is "investigating a fix for a future software release." The Apple Watch Series 3, which starts at $399, includes an optional LTE radio for connecting to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The carriers are charging $5 or $10 per month to add the watch to existing data plans. The new smartwatch from Apple goes on sale Friday, Sept. 22.


Google Brings the Moto X4 with Android One to Project Fi

Wednesday, 10:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Project Fi just scored its first non-Nexus / Pixel handset. The company added the Motorola Moto X4 to the selection of devices compatible with Project Fi, which is Google's low-cost MVNO. The Moto X4, announced earlier this year, joins the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, and Pixel XL in Project Fi's lineup. Perhaps more importantly, the Moto X4 will run the Android One variant of Android. This represents the first time an Android One device is being made available in the U.S. Android One is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for inexpensive devices. The idea is to provide a core Android experience that performs well no matter the hardware's possible limitations. It includes Google Assistant, Google Duo, Google Play Protect, and the latest updates to Android Oreo. In fact, Google committed to updating the Android One Moto X4 to (previously unannounced) Android P. The Moto X4 for Project Fi sports a stylish design with a metal frame and curved glass, plus a 16-megapixel selfie camera and dual rear cameras, with one wide-angle lens. It also has a 5.2-inch screen, Snapdragon 630 processor, memory card slot, water resistance, 3.5mm audio jack, and USB-C connector. It supports Motorola's TurboPower rapid charging. The Android One Moto x4 is priced at $399, and comes in black and blue. It is available pre-order on the Project Fi web site starting today. Google said it will accept trade-ins of older Nexus phones for those wishing to upgrade.


Google Overhauls Snapseed Photo Editing App

Wednesday, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today revealed a refresh of Snapseed, its advanced photo-editing application. Snapseed 2.18 for Android and iOS features a brand new user interface that Google says speeds up the editing process. For example, Snapseed has moved the Looks tool, which consists of user-created filters, to the main screen for quicker access. Moreover, Snapseed gains 11 new preset filters that people can apply to their photos. The iOS version of Snapseed earns access to the Perspective tool, which lets editors adjust skewed lines of horizons or buildings. Snapseed 2.18 is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


HTC Halts Trading Shares Ahead of Major Announcement

Wednesday, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC will cease trading shares of its stock in anticipation of a significant announcement to be made tomorrow. The news was first revealed by the Taiwan Stock Exchange, which said "shares of HTC Corporation ... will be halted starting from Sept. 21, 2017 pending the release of material information." HTC confirmed the halt in share trading, but did not provide a reason behind the action. Earlier this month, Bloomberg suggested that Google might acquire HTC, or a portion thereof. It is possible that HTC plans to announce a takeover by Google during the announcement, which is being made town-hall style at its Taipei headquarters. The company's response to the Taiwan Stock Exchange alert read, "HTC does not comment on market rumor or speculation." HTC, once a dominant maker of Android handsets, has been fading for years in the face of competition from Samsung, LG, Huawei, ZTE, and others. The company's financial health has been in question many times due to weak sales. HTC never stopped making compelling smartphones, such as the One series, the U11, and Pixel devices for Google. Google may want to bring HTC's handset division under its wing for future Pixel smartphones.


LG V30 Launches In Korea This Week, North America Soon Thereafter

Tuesday, 8:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said it will begin shipping its V30 flagship handset to customers in South Korea this week. The phone will arrive in North America, Europe, and other markets "in the days and weeks to come." LG didn't provide an exact launch window for the U.S., and LG's U.S. carrier partners have yet to announce pricing plans for the high-end phone. The V30 is the latest to adopt LG's 18:9 FullVision display with a plastic OLED panel and Gorilla Glass 5 covering the quad HD+, 6-inch screen. The phone boasts a twin-camera design with wide-angle and standard view lenses, high-resolution audio capture, wireless charging, and support for Google Daydream VR. The V30 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and it runs Android 7 Nougat.


Apple Boosts Over-the-Air App Downloads to 150 MB

Tuesday, 4:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made it possible for iPhone owners to download larger applications via their cellular connections. "We’ve increased the cellular download limit from 100 MB to 150 MB," said Apple to developers, "letting customers download more apps from the App Store over their cellular network." Apple has slowly increased the size limit over the years to account for both the increase in app sizes and the improvement in network speeds. It's not uncommon to encounter apps that are larger than 100 MB. iPhone owners will have to find WiFi to download apps larger than 150 MB.


Apple Music for Android Updated to Match iOS 11

Tuesday, 3:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today updated its Apple Music application for the Android platform in order to ensure the experience is similar to that of the revised iOS version. Android device owners have access to the same iOS 11 Apple Music discovery feature that allows people to create public profiles and share playlists. The new music app also introduces support for voice search, which lets people say "OK Google" to find artists, albums, and songs. Apple Music gains a fresh widget that highlights music that was recently played, and a new tap-and-hold shortcut to quickly play Beats 1 Radio or start a new search. Apple Music is free to download from the Google Play Store, but the service requires a $10 monthly subscription.


T-Mobile Ups Throttling Threshold to 50 GB

Tuesday, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it will allow customers to use more LTE data before potentially throttling them. Previously, T-Mobile would slow the mobile internet speeds of the heaviest users after they surpassed 32 GB of mobile data in a single billing period. T-Mobile bumped that threshold by 50% to 50 GB effective immediately, which means T-Mobile subscribers can use more data before possibly being hit with slower mobile data speeds. To put this into context, 50 GB of data allows customers to stream 2 hours of (standard definition) Netflix content every day with plenty to spare at the end of the month. T-Mobile says customers who exceed the 50 GB threshold might see their top speeds dialed back only when the network is congested. T-Mobile anticipates this won't impact too many users (the top 1%). The 50 GB threshold resets each month. T-Mobile calls this practice "network prioritization" and says it is primarily used as a way to manage network load.


Apple Releases WatchOS 4.0 for the Apple Watch

Tuesday, 12:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made watchOS 4.0 available to the Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 wearables. The platform prioritizes the heart rate monitor. Apple Watches will now notify people when it senses a high heart rate if owners are not active. The new software can also look for atrial fibrillation and provide health alerts when necessary. WatchOS 4.0 includes the new Siri watch face that contains the owner's personalized data, such as commute times, calendar appointments, reminders, photo memories, weather updates, and more. The kaleidoscope watch face changes over time, and a wider selection of Disney characters are being added as watch faces. Activity notifications will be more personalized, including goal achievements. Apple says the new workout app makes it quicker to start workouts, such as swims, hikes, and runs. WatchOS 4.0 is more compatible with gym equipment for counting reps. The music player now supports multiple playlists and a wider selection of album art for workouts when using Apple EarPods. Moreover, music functionality will be much more accessible within workout apps. Other features include a new flashlight, a blinking light for nighttime visibility, and support for other sensors, such as glucose monitors. WatchOS 4.0 is free to download from Apple.


Apple Releases iOS 11 for iPhones and iPads

Tuesday, 12:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made new system software available to its smartphones and tablets. iPhone and iPad owners can download iOS 11, which introduces new lock screen behaviors, new control center behaviors, as well as new features for the camera, messages, maps and more. For the first time, iPhone owners will be able to use augmented reality thanks to the addition of ARKit and apps in the App Store. iOS 11 is free to download. Apple suggests users back up their devices before updating. iOS 11 is compatible with the iPhone 5SE, iPhone 6/6 Plus, 6s/6s Plus, and 7/7s Plus.


Google Search for iOS Adds Related Content Suggestions

Tuesday, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its mobile search application for iOS devices and made it easier for people to find similar articles or content. Moving forward, a pull-up tab will appear at the bottom of web pages with suggestions for related content. Once opened, iOS device users can scroll sideways through a carousel of content similar to the article they just read. For example, say someone searches for chili recipes and reads one of the initial results. The other recipe results will be fed into the pull-up tab, making it easier to jump to alternate recipes without returning to the search results screen. This feature is limited to English in the U.S. for now, but Google says it will expand to more languages and countries over time. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


ZTE Intros the $80 Tempo X for Boost Mobile

Sep 19, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Tempo X, an entry-level Android smartphone for Boost Mobile. This affordable handset features a 5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution and a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of memory and 8 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. ZTE gave the device a 5-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel front camera. Other hardware features include a 2,200mAh battery, Bluetooth, GPS, FM radio, and of course LTE 4G. The device ships with Android 7.1 Nougat and costs $80. It is available from Boost Mobile online starting today.


iOS 11 Won't Support Peer-to-Peer Apple Pay Right Away

Sep 18, 2017, 6:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today reiterated that iOS 11 will reach iPhones, iPads, and iPods Touch beginning September 19. Not all the new features will be available at launch, however, with Apple Pay on deck for later this year. According to Apple, the peer-to-peer mobile payment function is "coming this fall with an update to iOS 11 and watchOS 4." Once installed, Apple Pay users will be able to send and receive money from friends and family quickly, easily, and securely. Payments will work through the Messages app and/or Siri. The money is funneled into the Apple Pay Cash card, which is found in Apple Wallet. The funds can be used instantly to pay for goods and services through any credit or debit card stored in Apple Wallet. Apple has held back other features in previous iOS launches so the news that Apple Pay will arrive later than iOS 11 itself isn't uncommon.


Essential Says PH-1 to Get Oreo In Next Couple of Months

Sep 18, 2017, 6:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today indicated that its smartphone, the PH-1, will eventually receive the latest system update from Google. "Get your milk ready — #AndroidOreo is coming soon to Essential Phone. Watch for updates in the next couple months," said the company through its Twitter account. So far, Android 8 Oreo is only available to the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5X, and Nexus 6P handsets. Sony's Xperia XZ1 will ship with Oreo in several weeks. Motorola has committed to updating a slew of its mid-range and high-end phones to Oreo over the next few months. Other flagship makers, including Samsung and LG, have been less clear on when their high-end phones will see Oreo.


Google Surfaces Library eBooks In Search

Sep 18, 2017, 6:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it possible for people to discover what ebooks are available from their local library directly in search results. Readers in the U.S. who search for books will be shown various ways to find, purchase, or borrow the book in question. For some, that means reading them via digital platforms, such as those from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google Play Books. Beginning today, the info card for books will now also reveal whether or not the book can be borrowed in electronic format from the searcher's public library. The tool is available in the mobile Google Search app on Android handsets.


Gmail to Convert Numbers, Addresses, and Contacts to Clickable Links

Sep 18, 2017, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its G Suite customers will soon be able to take advantage of active hyperlinks in Gmail and Inbox that simplify the process of sending emails or making calls. Both mobile apps will convert text, such as phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses, into interactive links. That means people who click a street address link in Gmail will be taken to Google Maps. Similarly, people who click an email address will automatically be asked if they want to compose an email using the address, and people who click a phone number will initiate a call request. Google says the interact hyperlink feature for contact information will reach all G Suite Gmail and Inbox users on Android, iOS, and the web in the next few days.


Asus Reveals the ZenFone V for Verizon

Sep 18, 2017, 9:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus recently unwrapped the ZenFone V, an Android smartphone that's exclusive to Verizon Wireless. The ZenFone V features a metal chassis with 2.5D curved Gorilla Glass on the front. The handset sports a 5.2-inch AMOLED display with full HD resolution. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor, Qualcomm's 2016 flagship chip, with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera has a 23-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, dual-LED flash, an aperture of f/2.0, and phase detection autofocus. The front camera boast an 8-megapixel sensor with a GIF maker and aperture of f/2.0. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging, high-resolution audio, fingerprint reader, and USB-C. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat with Asus' ZenUI, and it comes in black. Pricing and availability have not yet been disclosed.


Software Update Lets Galaxy S8, S8+ and Note8 Owners Disable Bixby Home Button

Sep 18, 2017, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Owners of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note8 smartphones can now modify the behavior of their handset's dedicated Bixby button. The hardware key, located on the left edge of the phone, automatically calls up Bixby Home with a short press or Bixby Voice with a long press. A new software update that recently hit S8, S8+, and Note8 phones adds a toggle for controlling the Bixby button. Owners of these phones can opt to disable the short press function, which launches Bixby Home. This prevents accidental presses from opening the app. A long press still calls up Bixby Voice. The Bixby button has been a point of contention with some S8, S8+, and Note8 owners who'd prefer the button handled other tasks. The update from Samsung also makes a few performance tweaks.


Essential Phone Now Compatible with Verizon's Network

Sep 18, 2017, 8:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products says its smartphone, the PH-1, is now fully able to run on Verizon Wireless's network. The company announced the news via its Twitter account. Essential didn't say what changed, or what it might have updated to make the phone work more properly on Verizon's network. The handset is already for sale unlocked and from Sprint. Verizon does not actually sell the phone. The PH-1 is a high-end Android handset with a bezel-less design. It supports magnetic modules that attach on the back via magnets. It costs $699.


Apple Addresses Face ID and Safari Privacy Concerns

Sep 16, 2017, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 16, 2017, 9:20 AM

Apple this week provided more detail concerning some of the behaviors of its forthcoming Face ID tech on the iPhone X and Safari in iOS 11. Concerning the former, Apple executive Craig Federighi explained to Techcrunch that "[Apple does] not gather customer data when you enroll in Face ID, it stays on your device, we do not send it to the cloud for training data." Instead, all the data created by the dot projector is processed locally on the A11 bionic chip. Critically, the feature needs to see the user's eyes, nose, and mouth. Face ID will work with most sunglasses, though certain IR coatings can scramble Face ID. "If you’re a surgeon or someone who wears a garment that covers your face, it’s not going to work," explained Federighi. "But if you’re wearing a helmet or scarf, it works quite well." This means Face ID may not work with some masks required at work, or some religious head coverings. The feature works from multiple angles and distances, but it absolutely requires user attention: the owner must be looking at the iPhone X in order for Face ID to work. This means people can't unlock others' phones when they are sleeping. Last, people will be able to instantly disable Face ID by simultaneously squeezing the buttons on either side of the phone. Doing so will switch to the passcode backup. There are instances that will require a passcode, such as when the phone has been rebooted, if Face ID has not be used in 48 hours, or if there have been five failed attempts at Face ID. Concerning Safari, Apple recently took heat from advertisers because iOS 11 blocks intelligent cookies that track users across the web. The advertising groups in question maintain that this practice is vital for providing timely and relevant advertising. Apple thinks different. "Apple believes that people have a right to privacy ... and Intelligent Tracking Prevention is a more advanced method for protecting user privacy," said the company in a statement provided to The Loop. "Ad tracking technology has become so pervasive that it is possible for ad tracking companies to recreate the majority of a person’s web browsing history. This information is collected without permission. The new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature detects and eliminates cookies and other data used for this cross-site tracking, which means it helps keep a person’s browsing private." Apple further explained that Intelligent Tracking Prevention does not get in the way of ads that are served normally on the web. It can be disabled in Safari's settings if people wish.


Google Deletes Inactive Android Backups After 2 Months

Sep 15, 2017, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google will delete Android device backups that are left inactive for two months with little or no warning. The discovery was made by a Reddit user who left a Nexus 6P backup in his Google Drive Backup folder for more than two months, only to later find it had been deleted by Google automatically. Google Support documentation appears to confirm the behavior. "Your backup will remain as long as you use your device. If you don't use your device for 2 weeks, you may see an expiration date below your backup. Example: 'Expires in 54 days.'" The maximum limit for device backups appears to be 60 days, or two months. The short expiration date on device backups is odd, given how freely Google offers online storage to its users. Google has not addressed the discovery directly.


BMW Might Replace Car Keys with Smartphone App

Sep 15, 2017, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BMW is exploring whether or not it will continue to offer car keys to those who own its cars. Ian Robertson, speaking to Reuters, explained that all BMW owners already carry smartphones, which have access to the BMW App. The BMW App makes it possible to unlock BMW cars without a key. "Honestly, how many people really need [a key]," said Robertson. "They never take it out of their pocket, so why do I need to carry it around?" The company is exploring the idea, but has not made a definite decision. In addition to serving as car keys, smartphones may replace drivers licenses and auto insurance cards. Some U.S. states are in the early stages of drafting digital identification and proof of insurance tools that are carried via smartphone app.


Motorola Commits to Updating High-End Phones to Android Oreo

Sep 14, 2017, 3:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said it will update a significant number of its smartphones to Android 8 Oreo. Those devices on deck for the latest version of Android include the 2016 Moto Z, Z Droid, Z Force Droid, Z Play, and Z Play Droid, as well as the 2017 Moto Z2 Play, Z2 Force Edition, X4, G5, G5 Plus, G5S, and G5S Plus. It appears that Motorola's E and C series devices will not be updated to Oreo. Motorola said that in addition to the core Oreo code and Google Play Protect, the updates should improve handset speed, battery life, multitasking, text selection, notifications, and autofill behaviors. The updates will arrive on a per handset basis beginning later this fall.


Facebook Brings Crisis and Emergency Tools Under One Roof

Sep 14, 2017, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced Crisis Response, a single spot where users will be able to find information about a range of natural and man-made disasters, weather events, and more. Crisis Response houses existing Facebook tools such as Safety Check, Community Help, and Fundraisers. Moving forward, the Crisis Response center will also include links to articles, videos, and photos of events or emergencies posted by the community. Facebook says it continues to refine these tools based on user feedback. People have taken advantage of offerings such as Safety Check in recent weeks to mark themselves safe in the face of storms Harvey and Irma. In addition to informing friends and family of their safety, users can rely on Crisis Response to learn more about individual events, create or participate in fundraisers, and contribute information to ensure others know when and where help is available. Facebook said it is rolling out the new Crisis Response tool on desktop and mobile to all users over the next few weeks.


Powermat to Upgrade Starbucks Charging Mats to Support iPhone X

Sep 14, 2017, 11:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Powermat, which has deployed PMA-compliant wireless chargers at thousands of Starbucks locations around the U.S., plans to update its charging pads to support the iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone 8 from Apple. At the moment, there are two competing wireless charging standards, PMA and Qi. Handsets from Samsung and others typically support PMA, though some (Galaxy S8, Note8) support both PMA and Qi. Apple's new iPhones support only the Qi standard, which makes them incompatible with the wireless chargers at Starbucks. Speaking to Slashgear, Powermat CTO Itay Sherman explained that its Starbucks charging pads are connected to its cloud. This gives Powermat the ability to update them when necessary. "If there's a new standard, a new variant of the standard — you have PMA, you have Qi, you have Samsung’s Wireless Fast Charging — we can download new software to our points and support them," said Sherman to Slashgear. "The biggest difference between PMA and Qi is the communication protocols. We designed a controller which is software programable so we can integrate new communication protocols on this platform." Further, Powermat "designed the magnetic part to be as generic as possible to cover all standards if possible." Sherman did not say how quickly it will be able to update its Starbucks Powermat chargers with support for Qi, and conceded it will rely in part on the individual venues in question. This upgrade will not impact stand-alone, consumer Powermat chargers, which will remain limited to the PMA standard.


Google Schedules Oct. 4 Phone Event As Pixel 2 XL Swings by FCC

Sep 14, 2017, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 14, 2017, 7:57 AM

Google today kicked off a teaser campaign for a phone-based announcement that will take place on October 4. The company launched a web site with the address of madeby.google.com, and it specifically asks people what they want from their phones. A similar-themed billboard appeared in Boston in recent days, more or less confirming that the company will announce its 2017 smartphones on October 4. At the same time, a new handset from LG was recently approved by the FCC that could be a new Pixel model. Though the FCC documentation reveals no details about the handset itself, the FCC does potentially give away the name. The LG phone approved by the FCC this week carries the FCC ID of ZNFG011C, which is similar to that of the HTC-made NM8G011A. In this naming convention it is important to note that the first three digits are the manufacturer codes (ZNF for LG, NM8 for HTC) while the latter five digits (G011A and G011C) are the model numbers. The HTC G011A, approved by the FCC in August, is believed to be a Pixel-branded device for Google similar to the HTC U11. The newly-approved LG G011C could be a variant of the LG G6 or V30, or a completely new handset. Google has relied on both HTC and LG to make Nexus- and Pixel-branded handsets in the past.


Essential Phone Lands at Sprint Tomorrow

Sep 13, 2017, 2:39 PM   by Rich Brome

Sprint today announced that the Essential Phone will go on sale through all Sprint channels — including stores — on September 14th. The high-end, bezel-free phone is already available unlocked.


Apple Watch Series 3 Supports Carriers' One Number Calling and Messaging

Sep 13, 2017, 2:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple this week announced the Apple Watch Series 3 with an optional cellular radio. The LTE radio makes it possible for the smartwatch to connect to cellular networks on its own, without a nearby iPhone. According to AT&T, the Apple Watch Series 3 is compatible with its NumberSync service, allowing people to make and receive phone calls from their main mobile number on the wearable. In addition to calls, NumberSync allows people to send/receive text messages from their main number directly on the smartwatch. The phone does need to powered on somewhere in order for the service to work. NumberSync is built into AT&T's network, so it doesn't require third-party apps in order to function properly. AT&T charges a $10 per month fee to add the Apple Watch Series 3 to an existing data plan. NumberSync is included for free. AT&T said it will waive the customary activation fee for the Apple Watch Series 3. Verizon Wireless customers will enjoy similar functionality via Verizon's NumberShare technology, which also allows people to make calls and send messages directly from their wrist over the cellular network. Like AT&T, Verizon is charging $10 per month to add the Apple Watch Series 3 to an existing plan. T-Mobile, too, has a $10 Apple Watch Series 3 plan that includes one-number calling from either the phone or the watch. Sprint has not yet detailed a similar service. The Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE goes on sale September 22 for $399.


ACLU, EFF File Lawsuit Over Warrantless Phone Searches

Sep 13, 2017, 1:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have sued the Department of Homeland Security for searching American citizens' smartphones at the border without a warrant. Specifically, the groups say the Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies have delayed citizens' entry into the country lest they give up smartphone passwords. In some cases, Customs held onto the devices for weeks and months at a time. The ACLU and EFF, which have filed lawsuits on behalf of a dozen impacted Americans, say the searches violate the Fourth Amendment. "People now store their whole lives, including extremely sensitive personal and business matters, on their phones, tablets and laptops and it's reasonable for them to carry these with them when they travel," said foundation attorney Sophia Cope. "It's high time that the courts require the government to stop treating the border as a place where they can end-run the Constitution." The Department of Homeland Security contends it has a right to inspect all goods entering the country. Many U.S. courts have sided with the Fourth Amendment on this issue, requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching the contents of mobile devices. The ACLU and EFF filed their case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.


AppleCare+ for the iPhone X Costs $199

Sep 12, 2017, 6:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today debuted new pricing for AppleCare+ alongside the iPhone X. Adding AppleCare+ to the new device costs $199, a significant jump from the $129 Apple has charged in the past for the same protection. AppleCare+ extends warranty and support coverage for up to two years from the date of purchase. With AppleCare+, replacing a damaged screen will cost $29, while repairing any other type of damage will carry a fee of $99. AppleCare+ also gives iPhone X owners 24/7 access to Apple experts via chat or phone. The iPhone X costs $999 for the 64 GB model and $1,149 for the 256 GB model. AppleCare+ for the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus costs $129.


Apple Seeds iOS 11 GM to Developers and Public Testers

Sep 12, 2017, 2:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made the penultimate version of iOS 11 available to developers and those using the public betas. The company also made available gold masters of watchOS 4.0 and tvOS 11. All three platforms will push to iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices in final form beginning September 19. iOS 11 brings changes to the camera and messaging apps, App Store, as well as Control Center and multitasking. Apple watchOS 4.0 focuses on improving the heart rate monitor, while tvOS 11 tweaks the user interface and App Store experience.


Apple Adopts Qi Wireless Charging, Teases AirPower Charge Mat

Sep 12, 2017, 2:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 12, 2017, 2:21 PM

Apple today announced new iPhones that are for the first time capable of charging wirelessly. The company has adopted the Qi wireless charging standard for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. These new smartphones, which have glass rear panels, can charge on any Qi-compatible charging pad. Moreover, Apple showed off a forthcoming charging pad called AirPower that will be capable of charging an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and EarPods all at the same time. The AirPower mat is based on the Qi standard, but Apple has adapted it to handle charging multiple devices at once. Apple said it will work with the Wireless Power Consortium to help others adopt the multi-device Qi technology. The AirPower charging mat won't arrive until some point in 2018.

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