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AT&T to Also Drop Location-Data Sales to Third Parties

Today, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it, too, will cease the sale of subscriber location information to outside companies. The move follows an identical change made by Verizon earlier today. "Our top priority is to protect our customers’ information, and, to that end, we will be ending our work with aggregators for these services as soon as practical in a way that preserves important, potential lifesaving services like emergency roadside assistance," said AT&T in a statement provided to The Verge. Carriers are under fire because one of the third-party companies exposed the real-time location data of millions of wireless customers without their knowledge or consent. The matter is being investigated by the FCC. Sprint and T-Mobile have yet to make the same commitment.

Apple Releases iOS 12 Beta 2 to Developers

Today, 12:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 12 Beta 2 available to developers. This build focuses on resolving bugs and performance problems found in the first beta. Those who write apps for Apple devices can download the update over the air. Apple hasn't said when it will launch the public beta program for iOS 12. The new platform will run on iPhones back to the 2013-era iPhone 5s. The final version of iOS 12 won't arrive until the fall. iOS 12 includes a number of new features, such as improved notifications, memoji for the iPhone X, and more.

Verizon to Cease Sharing Phone Location with Other Companies

Today, 11:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Communications today said it will stop making customer location data available to third-party apps and services. The decision follows last month's revelation that third-party companies didn't always properly protect this data. LocationSmart, for example, exposed the real-time location of millions of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers without their consent. Accuracy of the location data was as good as a few hundred yards. The breach caught the attention of lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Wyden, who wanted the matter invested. "When these issues were brought to our attention, we took immediate steps to stop it," said Verizon spokesperson Rich Young. Wyden thanked Verizon for changing its policy, but pointed out that AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have left their location-sharing practices in place.

T-Mobile and Sprint Make Big Claims About Merger Benefits

Today, 10:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 10:30 AM

T-Mobile and Sprint today officially petitioned the FCC for permission to merge. The companies filed a Public Interest Statement with the agency that makes lofty claims about why the merger a good idea. To start, the companies promise to "build a world-class nationwide 5G network" that will surpass the capacity of AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile and Sprint believe they can do this faster if combined. The two also believe prices will go down as a result. "T-Mobile and Sprint coming together ... will spur Verizon and AT&T to invest in a huge capacity increase that will drive down the price per gigabyte across the entire industry," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. He claims consumers will see a 55% drop in the price per GB. The two firms believe its future 5G network will supplant the need for wired services in the home and let millions cut the cord (and thus save money.) The New T-Mobile is committed to bringing increased broadband coverage to rural communities using its 600 MHz holdings, which will be served by 600 new stores and dedicated call centers. Sprint and T-Mobile also suggest it will offer stronger products to business and video customers. Last, the two believe the merger will create jobs. "We will create more than 3,000 direct jobs initially," said Sprint Chairman Marcelo Claure. "In just a few years, that will increase to more than 11,000 jobs. And, thousands more jobs will be created to support our 5G network build-out." This last point contradicts one of the most basic outcomes of many mergers: job reductions. Sprint and T-Mobile first proposed the merger in April. It's unclear what steps the government, and the FCC in particular, will take to review the deal.

Yahoo Overhauls Yahoo Mail for the Web, Debuts Lightweight Android Go Yahoo Mail App

Today, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today relaunched its mobile email product for smartphones on several fronts. First, the company has wholly rebuilt its mobile web app. The browser-based Yahoo Mail experience now mirrors that of the Yahoo Mail app for phones. For example, it lets people swipe through their inbox, customize the look and feel of the inbox, organize email via folders, take advantage of auto-complete and auto-suggest, and initiate more quick actions. Yahoo says the web-based app supports a home screen icon for Android and iOS alike. Yahoo rebuilt its mobile web app using web standards such as JavaScript, PHP, Apache, and AJAX. At the same time, Yahoo is rolling out a version of Yahoo Mail for Android Go. Android Go is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for very-low-cost phones. Typically, devices running Android Go have 1 GB of RAM or less. Yahoo Mail for Android Go offers all the same features of the full-fledged Yahoo Mail app, but boasts an install size of less than 10 MB and RAM usage of less than 50 MB. The app uses the same architecture as the standard Yahoo Mail app. The new Yahoo Mail web experience is available from most mobile browsers, while the new Yahoo Mail for Android Go app is available from the Google Play Store.

Samsung Brings More Disney Emoji to Galaxy S9

Today, 6:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has made new AR emoji stickers available to its Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones. Owners of these devices can download an AR pack that contains Disney's Daisy Duck and Goofy. The S9/S9+ launched with access to several core Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck, and later added characters from The Incredibles. AR emoji allow people to animate cartoon characters using their own face in coordination with the front-facing camera. The new AR Emoji are free to download from Samsung.

Senate Votes to Uphold ZTE Ban in Defense Bill

Today, 6:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Senate approved legislation that would see the ban against ZTE remain in place. The chamber on Monday voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill passed by the Senate every year. Republican Senator Tom Cotton and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen introduced a measure to the bill earlier this month that restores the penalties against ZTE. ZTE was sanctioned for violating the terms of a 2017 settlement agreement over unlawful sales to Iran and North Korea. Beginning in April, the company was cut off from U.S.-made hardware and software for a period of seven years. The company has largely been idle since. The Trump administration sought to help ZTE and the Commerce Department reached an agreement with the company. Under the terms of the arrangement, the Chinese phone maker must pay a $1 billion fine, put $400 million into escrow, wholly change its top leadership within 30 days, an accept a U.S.-led compliance officer. Now that the NDAA has passed in the Senate, it has to be reconciled with the House of Congress' version of the NDAA and later signed by the President. It's unclear how the Senate, House, and President will resolve the issue.

Google Says Android Messages Now Fully Available On the Web

Yesterday, 1:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today outlined some new functionalities headed to its Android Messages app. First, Messages users will be able to send and receive messages from their desktop PCs. Users will need to enable "Messages for web" in the mobile app. Once turned on, they'll be able to access stickers, emoji, and more from their PC. The Android Messages mobile app earns new support for GIFs, which are accessible from the composition bar. Google is adding its smart reply feature to Android Messages. This tool offers English-based, quick-response text/emoji suggestions. Google says more languages will be supported over time. Moving forward, Android Messages will bake in support for link previews. This way link recipients will be able to view an inline peek at linked info. Another new feature will provide people with instant copy access to one-time passwords received via text message. Android Messages on the web is rolling out today, with the rest of the features reaching the mobile app over the weeks ahead.

Google Says YouTube Music and YouTube Premium Now Available

Yesterday, 10:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its new YouTube Music and YouTube Premium apps and services available in 17 countries. YouTube Music is the new music service that is built around streaming with revised recommendations, playlists, stations, search, new/trending videos, exclusives, and downloads for offline playback to paying subscribers. It's available as an app and on the web. YouTube Premium is the rebranded YouTube Red service. It offers an ad-free viewing experience on YouTube, as well as access to background play, originals, and downloads. YouTube Music costs $10 per month, while YouTube Premium, which includes YouTube Music, costs $12 per month. The two are available in Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as the U.S, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and South Korea.

MetroPCS Adds LG Stylo 4 to Lineup

Yesterday, 10:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS has kicked off sales of the LG Stylo 4, a rebadged variant of the LG Q Stylus announced earlier this month. The Stylo 4 includes a stylus and has a metal body with mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse and IP68 protection against water and dust. The Stylo 4 has a 6.2-inch screen with LG's 2:1 Full Vision (2,160 x 1,080) resolution. The phone is powered by a 1.8 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 450 processor with 2 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The phone comes with a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera with a wide-angle lens. The Stylo 4 has a 3,300mAh battery and specs including USB-C, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, wifi, and LTE 4G. The fingerprint scanner is located on the rear surface. The phone ships with Android 8 Oreo and LG's pen-based software tools, such as memos and notes. MetroPCS is selling the phone for $179 with offers (regular rice $239). Versions of the LG Q Stylus / Stylo 4 for other carriers, including AT&T/Cricket, Sprint/Boost, and U.S. Cellular, have passed through the FCC in recent weeks.

Google Updates Datally with More Ways to Manage Data

Yesterday, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a refresh to its Datally app that should help people take more control over their mobile data use. First up is guest mode. This lets people set a limit on how much data someone else is allowed to use when the phone is being lent. A new daily limit feature helps people control their data use over time by setting limits for each day. This feature will offer warnings before users breach their limits and will even let people block themselves from using their mobile data if they've exceeded their daily limit. Datally will take charge of unused apps' data use. The tool shows people the apps they aren't using and helps guide them through the process of uninstalling or disabling apps so the app can't consume data in the background. Last, Datally adds a wifi map that shows the location and quality of nearby wifi access points. The new Datally app is being made available today.

iOS 12 to Give 911 Precise iPhone Location During Emergencies

Yesterday, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said iPhones will soon provide 911 emergency services with more exact locations of callers. Since 2015, Apple has relied on HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location), which uses cellular, GPS, and wifi access points to estimate 911 callers' locations. This system is not always perfect. Starting with the release of iOS 12 in the fall, Apple will use RapidSOS's internet protocol-based pipeline to share HELO location data with 911 centers quickly and securely. Apple says this new system will integrate with 911 centers' existing software to more finely pinpoint location. Importantly, Apple says user location data cannot be used for non-emergency purposes and 911 centers will only have access to location during 911 emergency calls. By law, wireless network operators are required to locate callers within 50 meters 80% of the time, but not until 2021. Apple says its new feature exceeds this requirement today. "This new functionality is an example of how companies and first responders can use technology to dramatically improve public safety,” said Tom Wheeler, former chairman at the FCC. "Lives will be saved thanks to this effort by Apple and RapidSOS." iOS 12 is expected to reach iPhones and iPads in September or October.

AT&T Rolls Out iPhone X BOGO for Father's Day

Friday, 3:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today made it possible to buy one iPhone X and get a second iPhone for free. The offer is available to new and existing customers, and requires both phones to be purchased on an AT&T Next installment plan (24 or 30 months). The first line can be new or an upgrade, but the second line — with the free iPhone — must be a new line. The second free iPhone can be the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone X. After approximately three billing periods, AT&T will begin making the monthly device payments spread out over 30 months. Customers will be responsible for taxes and activation fees on both phones at the point of sale. The offer ends June 19.

Sprint and T-Mobile Filing with the FCC On June 18

Friday, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC revealed that it expects Sprint and T-Mobile to file on Monday June 18 the necessary paperwork needed for Sprint to transfer control of its spectrum licenses and other assets to T-Mobile. The FCC opened a docket ahead of the expected action. At the same time the FCC filed a protective order concerning the docket. This means much of the information shared between Sprint, T-Mobile, and the FCC will remain confidential as the agency considers whether or not to allow the transaction to take place. The companies announced their intent to merge in April. The deal requires government approval.

Apple Partners with Oprah On Video

Friday, 12:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it has forged an agreement with Oprah Winfrey to "create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world." Winfrey is known for her talk show, movie roles, television network, and philanthropy. The content will be released as part of Apple's forthcoming lineup of original shows and distributed through Apple's platform. The deal will be in place for at least several years. Apple didn't say how quickly the partnership will begin to bear fruit.

Broadcom Lays Off 1,100 to Cut Costs

Friday, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Broadcom says it has let go of about 1,100 employees in the wake of its $5.5 billion acquisition of Brocade. The Brocade deal closed in November 2017 and the firm has since been working to integrate the two. The company let employees go from a number of its business lines and is still evaluating whether or not more cuts are needed. The firm says it has so far incurred $143 million in restructuring costs related to the layoffs. One of the primary reasons to acquire or merge two companies is to create efficiencies within. This often translates to job losses. Broadcom heavily targeted Qualcomm in the latter months of 2017 and early months of 2018, but was eventually rebuffed. Broadcom makes components and devices for wireless communications, storage, and infrastructure.

Gmail for iOS Intros Notifications for High-Priority Messages Only

Friday, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is rolling out a feature to its iOS Gmail app that will let people receive notifications only for messages deemed high priority. Google says the optional feature relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify messages that the recipient may want to read first. A new "High Priority Only" option appears in the Notifications drop-down in Gmail's settings. Users will need to select it if they wish to test the scaled-back notifications. The feature is already available to the latest Gmail app for iOS and will reach Gmail for Android devices soon.

AT&T Finalizes Acquisition of Time Warner

Thursday, 7:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it has completed its purchase of Time Warner, a deal originally valued at $85.4 billion when it was announced in October 2016. Earlier this week, a U.S. judge sided with AT&T after the Justice Department sued the company to block the deal. After losing the case, the Justice Department made no further recommendations against the deal and AT&T wrapped up the legal paperwork quickly. Time Warner — and now AT&T — owns Warner Bros., HBO, and Turner, which in turn owns CNN and other media properties. "Combine [Warner's content] with AT&T’s strengths in direct-to-consumer distribution, and we offer customers a differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience," said Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T in a prepared statement. “We’re going to bring a fresh approach to how the media and entertainment industry works for consumers, content creators, distributors and advertisers." Many fear the deal will lead to less choice and higher prices for consumers. Moving forward, AT&T will consist of four core businesses: AT&T Communications (mobile, broadband), AT&T media (Turner, HBO), AT&T International (mobile in Mexico), and AT&T's advertising and analytics. AT&T says it will create a formal name for this last business unit later in the year. John Donovan will serve as CEO of AT&T Communications, John Stankey will serve as CEO of AT&T’s media business, Lori Lee will serve as CEO of AT&T International, and Brian Lesser will serve as CEO of AT&T’s ad and analytics business. All four will report to Randall Stephenson, who remains chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc.

3GPP Approves Spec for Standalone 5G New Radio

Jun 14, 2018, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The 3GPP today ratified another piece of the 5G specification, termed the Standalone 5G New Radio, or SA 5G NR. This spec is for 5G networks that are developed on their own, apart from legacy or pre-existing networks. The Non-Standalone portion of the 5G spec was ratified late last year and covers 5G that hooks into existing LTE 4G systems. "The freeze of Standalone 5G NR radio specifications represents a major milestone in the quest of the wireless industry towards realizing the holistic 5G vision," said Balázs Bertényi, chairman of 3GPP RAN. "5G NR Standalone systems not only dramatically increase the mobile broadband speeds and capacity, but also open the door for new industries beyond telecommunications that are looking to revolutionize their ecosystem through 5G." The SA 5G NR and the NSA 5G NR standards will together include the technology used by commercial entities, the air interface, and end users. The spec was approved by more than 600 delegates from the world's leading carrier, handset, and silicon vendors. Some participants included AT&T, DISH, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Kyocera, LG, MediaTek, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, SoftBank/Sprint, Sony, Verizon, Xiaomi, and ZTE. The 3GPP said the technical specifications for the ratified SA 5G NR will be published in the days ahead.

Google Releases App Maker to Education and Small Business Customers

Jun 14, 2018, 11:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 14, 2018, 11:43 AM

Google today moved its App Maker tool out of beta and made the simple coding service available to educational institutions and small businesses. The idea, says Google, is to help schools and SMBs to create custom apps that work more directly for them. Beyond building the apps, schools and businesses that put App Maker to use will be able to deploy and manage those apps through simple controls. App Maker now supports Cloud SQL, OAuth, drag-and-drop templates, and G Suite integration. Schools and businesses interested in testing App Maker can reach out to Google directly.

Verizon Intros More Flexible Mix-and-Match Unlimited Plans

Jun 14, 2018, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today overhauled its unlimited postpaid service plans. The company now offers three tiers of unlimited service that each has its own features. All three plans included unlimited talk and text, Verizon Up Rewards, and Canada/Mexico calling and texting. The base plan, called go unlimited, includes unlimited LTE data, DVD-quality video streams (480p), and 600 kbps mobile hotspot service. The beyond unlimited plan bumps high-speed service to 22 GB per month, improves video streaming to HD (720p), and boosts mobile hotspot to 15 GB per month at LTE speeds. The new above unlimited plan lets people use up to 75 GB of high-speed data, carries over HD video streaming, and improves mobile hotspot to 20 GB per month at LTE speeds. The above unlimited plan also adds five travel passes for use when roaming abroad, and 500 GB of Verizon cloud storage. Pricing is where things get interesting, but is why Verizon is calling it a mix-and-match plan. Families can pick a different unlimited plan for each member. A single line costs $75, $85, or $95 for the go unlimited, beyond unlimited, and above unlimited plans, respectively. Adding lines — no matter to which plan — offers a discount. For example, a three-person family could get one line of go unlimited for $50, one line of beyond unlimited at $60, and one line of above unlimited for $70. Adding a fourth family member would drop the per-line prices for these plans to $40, $50, and $60 and the family could select whichever makes the most sense for that person. Families can also add a Hum X, tablet, or jetpack for $20 per month, or a connected smartwatch for $10 per month. Verizon says these prices don't include taxes, fees, or device payments, and require account holders to enroll in autopay. Verizon's new unlimited plans will be available starting June 18.

Apple Confirms It Will Lock iPhone Lightning Port to Protect Users from Law Enforcement

Jun 13, 2018, 3:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it will change the behavior of iPhones in order to protect its users. The company plans to alter its software to lock the Lightning port of iOS devices that are not used for an hour. The function, called USB Restricted Mode, prevents data transfer via USB, though the phone can still charge through a Lightning cable. The idea is to thwart law enforcement use of GrayShift and Cellebrite boxes, which are able to crack iOS security using a direct USB connection through the Lightning port. The devices work by disabling the number of times passwords/PINs can be guessed by the machine before the iPhone is locked or erased. "We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data," said Apple in a statement to Reuters. "We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs." The Lightning port will be re-enabled for data transfer once the owner enters their password, PIN, fingerprint, or Face ID. Apple primarily expects the feature to protect consumers "in countries where police seize phones at will." Researchers discovered USB Restricted Mode in beta builds of iOS 10.4 last month. Apple told Reuters that it will be added permanently to iOS in a future release.

Twitter Aims to Make Discovery Simpler and More Rewarding

Jun 13, 2018, 11:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today announced a number of changes to the way it arranges tweets, trends, and topics in order to help people find and read about the things that interest them. For example, breaking news will now be added to the Happening Now tool that appears at the top of users' feeds. Twitter says it is expanding this function from local sports teams to include breaking and personalized news and videos. Similarly, Twitter also intends to test sending notifications about breaking news based on user interests. Twitter says people will be able to turn these notifications off if they wish. Twitter is overhauling the Explore tab. As it stands, the tab is organized by content type (videos, links). Moving forward, Twitter will organize the tab by topic to help people see what's happening in news and entertainment. The search tool gains improvements, too, as it will display information (news, events, stories) that is related to search queries in order to provide a broader picture. Last, Twitter is reorganizing the Moments tab. The new look trades horizontal swiping for vertical scrolling to improve usability. Moments will also gain multiple timelines in order to surface more tweets about the subject, highlighting the latest commentary. Twitter says these changes are rolling out piecemeal to Android and iOS devices over the next few weeks.

Verizon and Nokia Complete Outdoor 5G Tests

Jun 13, 2018, 10:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it successfully completed 5G data sessions in an outdoor environment and pushed speeds as high as 1.8 Gbps. The company, together with partner Nokia, transmitted multiple live virtual reality sessions and 4K video streams over 28 GHz spectrum using the 3GPP New Radio 5G standard. Verizon claims it saw latency as low as 1.5 milliseconds. Verizon completed the tests outdoors at its Basking Ridge facility. Previous tests were undertaken in labs. Verizon says the VR and 4K streams are activities it envisions will be common for consumers to enjoy with 5G service. The companies also successfully used 4CC (component carrier aggregation) to reach speeds up to 1.8 Gbps. In order to do this, it combined Verizon's mmWave spectrum over four channels to boost throughput. Verizon plans to deploy 5G-based broadband service in four markets during the second half of the year with mobile 5G service to follow later. Verizon and its competitors are all rushing to be first to launch 5G service. T-Mobile recently completed two-way 5G data transmissions in its lab and says it will debut 5G service later this year.

Nokia 3.1 Is Up for Preorder from Amazon

Jun 13, 2018, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon.com has listed the Nokia 3.1 on its site for $159. The phone, announced last month, is available for preorder from the online retailer, but it won't ship until July 2. The 3.1 has a 5.2-inch full HD+ screen with the 2:1 aspect ratio and Gorilla Glass. It is powered by a MediaTek 6750N processor and includes 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage with support for memory cards up to 128 GB. The primary camera has a 13-megapixel sensor at f/2 with LED flash, while the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor at f/2.2. Other specs include a 2,990mAh battery and Bluetooth 5.0. The Nokia 3.1 comes in black, blue, and white. Nokia-branded phones are made by HMD Global.

Apple Bars Apps from Storing Friend Data

Jun 12, 2018, 4:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple is taking more steps to protect its users' data. In its latest App Store Guidelines, Apple forbids developers from creating databases from contacts, photos, or other apps/APIs that can access user information. "Apps should not attempt to surreptitiously build a user profile based on collected data and may not attempt, facilitate, or encourage others to identify anonymous users or reconstruct user profiles based on data collected from Apple-provided APIs," said Apple in its guidelines. The new rules specifically call out use of the contacts and photos apps, which developers are not allowed to cull to build a contact database for their own or commercial purposes. Developers may also not contact people using the information collected from the contacts/photos apps. Further, any data pulled from Apple's various APIs (HomeKit, HealthKit, MovementDisorder, Camera, Photo, or Consumer Health Records) may not be used for marketing or advertising purposes. Apple made a number of changes to its App Store guidelines earlier this month as developers build apps for iOS 12, watchOS 5, and macOS 10.14.

Judge Says AT&T Can Buy Time Warner

Jun 12, 2018, 3:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today was given permission to buy Time Warmer with no conditions and no divestitures. The ruling was handed down by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon. The ruling settles the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has opposed the deal from the start. The Justice Department believes AT&T will use Time Warner's content as a weapon against consumers, raising prices and limiting competition. AT&T says it needs to acquire Time Warner in order to compete with Verizon Communications. The government will not require AT&T to meet any special conditions to finalize the merger, nor sell any properties. In a last-minute twist, Justice Department attorney Craig Conrath asked the judge to take some protective measures, such as concessions, should he allow the deal to proceed. It appears as though Leon did not feel this tactic was warranted. The deal is valued at $85.4 billion. Time Warner owns HBO and CNN.

Google's Family Link Tool to Recommend Teacher-Approved Apps

Jun 12, 2018, 1:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes a new feature in its Family Link app will help parents find apps that are recommended by educators. Google says it is adding a new card to the Family Link app that highlights what Google calls "nutritious" apps, or apps recommended by teachers. Parents can read more about recommended apps on their own phone and then tap to download those they approve to their child's phone or tablet. Google says the new Family Link card is available in the U.S. with a focus on apps for kids ages 6 through 9. Google expects to expand the tool to more countries over time.

Apple Refreshes Public Beta of iOS 11.4.1

Jun 12, 2018, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Registered developers and public testers alike can download the latest versions of iOS and watchOS from Apple. Apple made both iOS 11.4.1 beta 2 and watchOS 4.3.2 beta 2 available for download. There's no word on what changes are built nto the latest code, though changes are likely confined to bug fixes and performance improvements. Apple released iOS 11.4 to the general public last month. iOS 11.4 introduced iMessage in the Cloud and AirPlay 2 to iPhones and iPads. Apple is also beta testing iOS 12 and watchOS 5, but hasn't distributed new builds since earlier this month. The final versions of iOS 12 and watchOS 5 won't arrive until the fall. iOS 11.4.1 is likely the last build of 11.4 before Apple releases iOS 12.

Google Brings Offline Neural Machine Translations to Mobile

Jun 12, 2018, 1:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its neural machine translation (NMT) technology available to Google Translate even when mobile devices are offline. Google says NMT will run on Android and iOS phones in Google Translate, powering accurate translations when there's no internet connection. NMT translates text entire sentences at once, rather than word by word or phrase by phrase. This means translations sound more like they would if spoken by a real person. This is particularly helpful with longer sections of text, such as paragraphs or articles. Users will need to download the specific language pack they want/need to their device in order to access offline NMT. Most languages are between 35 MB and 45 MB, so they don't take up too much space. Google Translate is adding offline NMT support for 59 languages around the world over the next few days, with more in the works.

Google Expands Enterprise Recommendation Program to More Phones

Jun 12, 2018, 11:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said more phone makers now part of its Android Enterprise Recommended program. The Android Enterprise Recommended program, which was launched in February of this year, "establishes best practices and common requirements for devices and services, backed by a thorough testing process conducted by Google." In order to qualify, devices have to meet a number of specifications concerning their hardware, deployment, security updates, and user help programs. For example, devices approved must run at least Android 7 Nougat, and receive security updates no later than 90 days from their release from Google. A handful of new phones makers and devices are now recommended by Google, making for a total of 39 devices from nine device makers. New entries include the Sonim XP8; Sharp Aquos SH 10-K; Sony Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact; Motorola Moto G6, Moto G6 Plus, and Z3 Play; Huawei P20 and P20 Pro; BlackBerry KEY2; and HMD Global Nokia 3.1, 5.1, 6, 7 Plus, and 8 Sirocco. Several tablets have been certified for Android Enterprise Recommended, too, including the Huawei M5 8.4 and 10.8. Google says it will continue to update the list of devices recommended for business users as more phone makers commit to the requirements of the Android Enterprise Recommended program.

Apple Previews Apple Books App, Which Will Replace iBooks In the Fall

Jun 12, 2018, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has a brand new reading app in store for iPhones and iPads later this year. The company offered a brief look at the new Apple Books app during its recent Worldwide Developers Conference, but is now more fully revealing the app and its features. For example, the new Reading Now tab includes a collection of the books being read or listened to by users. The Want to Read tool lets people manage wishlists of books, while the Complete the Series function offers suggestions based on previously read books. Apple Books will more prominently call out audiobooks, simplifying the process of listening on an iPhone, iPad, or via CarPlay. The Book Store tab includes new ways to browse via best-seller charts, staff picks, editorial recommendations, and special offers. Apple says the more people browser, buy, read, and listen via the app, the better the Apple Books store will be able to offer personalized recommendations. The new Apple Books app will be available in 51 countries later this fall with iOS 12.

Instagram Brings Shopping to Stories

Jun 12, 2018, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today said it is expanding the availability of its shopping service to stories. Instagram already allows brands to include shopping links in their new feed posts. Moving forward, brands and retailers can add buying experiences to their ephemeral stories, signified by a shopping bag sticker that appears on images and videos. Shopping will be available from a select number of brands in stories to start, including Adidas, Aritzia, and Louis Vuitton, with more to follow over time.

Snapchat's 'Clear Chats' Tool Lets You Unsend Messages

Jun 12, 2018, 7:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat is rolling out a new feature over the next few weeks that will allow people to unsend messages. The tool, called Clear Chats, lets users retract messages. Users wishing to delete a note will need to do so directly from the thread by pressing and holding the message they want to get rid of. The operation is not perfect. Snapchat says it will do what it can to retract messages, but it may not be able to if the recipient isn't connected to the internet or doesn't have the most recent version of the app installed. The recipient will be notified that they received a message and that it was retracted. The tool still doesn't protect against screen shots. Snapchat says it should reach all users globally soon.

Apple Says Apps Can't Be Used to Mine Cryptocurrency

Jun 12, 2018, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple doesn't want iPhones and iPads to be used by developers to mine Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. The company recently updated its App Store guidelines with specific bans on mining. "Apps may not mine for cryptocurrencies unless the processing is performed off device" such as in the cloud, said Apple. Some apps have hidden cryptocurrency mining in their background processes, using mobile and other devices to mine the currencies unbeknownst to device owners. This is now forbidden. Apple is still allowing apps to facilitate transactions or transmissions of cryptocurrency on an approved exchange, as well as facilitate Initial Coin Offerings as long as they come from established banks. Google has put a similar cryptocurrency mining ban in place in its Chrome Web Store.

Sony Stops Development of Its Xperia Home Launcher

Jun 12, 2018, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony this week said it putting its Xperia Home launcher, used on its mobile phones, into maintenance phase. The company said this means it won't add any new features to the launcher, though it will offer minor bug and security updates as warranted. The company is also closing the Xperia Home beta community, which will shut down in a few weeks. Along with the news, Sony released Xperia Home version 11.3.A.0.17, which focuses on resolving problems. For example, it corrects an issue that prevented widgets from updating, corrects wallpaper blurring, and improves search card visibility. The update also fixes a crash in photo search, and now better handles display size changes with respect to shortcut icons. Owners of Xperia-branded phones should expect to see the update hit their phones in the next few weeks, depending on device, carrier, and region.

ZTE Not Out of the Woods Yet, Senate to Vote On Upholding Ban

Jun 11, 2018, 6:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE's roller-coaster ride with the U.S. government has taken another turn. The Senate may vote on legislation this week that would negate the Trump administration's deal to get ZTE back to work. Last week the Commerce Department said it had reached an agreement with ZTE. Under the terms of the arrangement, the Chinese phone maker must pay a $1 billion fine, put $400 million into escrow, wholly change its top leadership within 30 days, an accept a U.S.-led compliance officer. The ban will remain in place until ZTE makes the payments, which it has yet to do. Republican Senator Tom Cotton and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen today introduced the measure, which would restore the penalties against ZTE, to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a bill voted on by the Senate every year. Reuters says the measure could be added to non-controversial portions the NDAA, or areas that don't come under heavy debate in the Senate. If the measure is passed in the Senate, it would have to be reconciled with the House of Congress' version of the NDAA and later signed by the President. ZTE was sanctioned for violating the terms of a 2017 settlement agreement over unlawful sales to Iran and North Korea. Beginning in April, the company was cut off from U.S.-made hardware and software for a period of seven years. The company has largely been idle since.

Google Waffles On Android WearOS Power Management

Jun 11, 2018, 2:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has reversed course on some ideas it had for managing battery life on WearOS devices in Android P. The company's original intent was to limit certain background operations, particularly alarms and jobs, in order to conserve power. It appears as though developers felt too limited by the limits. "From the outset of the Wear OS by Google developer preview, battery life has been a major focus area," explained Google. "When we talked to the developer community, the update that attracted the most feedback was the disabling of alarms and jobs for background apps. After listening to developer feedback and reviewing the battery statistics, we are reversing this change." The company said the strict on/off settings got in the way of general usage and negatively changed how people used their wearables. Moving down the road, Google says it will let developers use the App Standby Buckets tool in Android P to manage background and foreground tasks to balance power needs. Google says developers won't need to reinstall the platform on their developer devices, as the changes are being made on the back end. Google hopes WearOS developers continue to provide feedback so it can refine the platform ahead of its eventual release.

Facebook's 'Memories' Page Lets You Recall the Good Times

Jun 11, 2018, 2:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today began rolling out a new way for people to view older posts. Memories is a single place on Facebook where people can find old status updates, photos, budding friendships, and life events. The tool makes use of Facebook's On This Day tool and others so people can revisit specific moments. It includes a section reserved for a list of friends made on any given date in the past, including photo/video collages. The tool will offer recaps of memories grouped by month or season, as well has display items that may have been missed in recent weeks. Facebook says it has done its best to ensure that the memories resurfaced are positive ones. Facebook users can see memories in their News Feed, and by visiting facebook.com/memories.

Asus ZenFone 5Q Hits US Retail Today

Jun 11, 2018, 1:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus today revealed that its ZenFone 5Q phone, first announced in February, is now available for sale in the U.S. The ZenFone 5Q has 2.5D curved class on the front and rear with a plastic frame in between. It boasts a 6-inch full HD+ 18:9 display. The Zenfone 5Q has four cameras, with an ultra-wide, 120-degree lens on each side. The main sensor on the rear captures 16-megapixel images, while the selfie camera has a Sony 20-megapixel sensor. The 5Q features a number of shooting modes, including portrait/bokeh. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor and comes with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. The phone ships with a 3,300mAh battery. Other features include NFC, dual SIM, face unlock, Bluetooth 4.1, dual-band wifi, fingerprint reader, speaker, and microUSB. Asus didn't spell out which LTE bands are supported but says the phone is compatible with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo with Asus ZenUI 5.0. Asus says the ZenFone 5Q in midnight black is immediately available from Abt, Amazon, B&H, Best Buy, and Newegg for $299, while the moonlight white variant is available from Amazon, B&H, and Newegg for the same price.

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