T-Mobile has begun to repurpose some of the spectrum it acquired with MetroPCS to supplement its LTE network. Late last month, T-Mobile turned on LTE service in what was formerly MetroPCS's spectrum in northern Dallas, according to AllThingsD. Combining its own spectrum with that of MetroPCS, T-Mobile is able to offer 20MHz-by-20MHz of bandwidth to customers in that area, which significantly improves capacity. T-Mobile said that it eventually plans to offer similar LTE bandwidth increases to 90% of the country's top 25 markets beginning next year. It also hopes to offer 10MHz-by-10MHz LTE to 40 of the top 50 markets by the end of 2014. Verizon Wireless is undertaking a similar task, using AWS spectrum it acquired from cable providers to supplement its 700MHz-based LTE network.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler today offered some thoughts on how the FCC will proceed with the planned incentive auction for the 600MHz television spectrum. Wheeler noted that the FCC wants the auction process to work smoothly for all parties involved, and the FCC understands just how complex the process will be. With that in mind, Wheeler believes the FCC and other parties involved with the procedures can hold the auction by the middle of 2015. This is later than the FCC originally believed it could hold the auction, representing a delay. The auction is a reverse auction that will offer television channels money to give up the rights to their broadcast spectrum. The winners of the auction will gain slices of 600MHz airwaves, which are to be used for mobile broadband services. A special Task Force will present an in-depth series of steps, including timelines and milestones, next month. This incentive auction is separate from another auction, for H Block spectrum, that's scheduled to begin in late January.
Apple plans to launch its iBeacon service at 254 of its U.S. stores today, reports the Associated Press. iBeacon uses Bluetooth transmitters inside Apple Stores to track the exact location of shoppers. Customers must download the most recent version of the Apple Store application, and turn their Bluetooth radios on in order for iBeacon to track them. When shoppers move about the Apple Store, iBeacon can sense if they are standing next to a table of iPhones, for example, and will send a message to ask if the customer is interested in an upgrade. The app can also direct shoppers to the check-out counter, or alert them when purchases are ready for pickup. Apple Stores will also be able to send alerts concerning sales or deals to shoppers in the vicinity. iOS device owners need to agree to allow Apple to track them in order for iBeacon to work. Apple has not updated the Apple Store application since early November, and it is unclear exactly when iBeacon will come online.
Google has pushed out minor updates to a handful of its Android applications in recent days. Google Voice Search has learned new languages. It can now understand and respond in French, German, and Japanese in addition to English. Google said support for more languages is on the way. Google also updated the Play Music app. Play Music now lets users store cached music on SD cards for devices running Android 4.4 KitKat. Play Music also added ability to shuffle all songs from an artist and made it simpler to share links of songs, artists, and albums to various social networks. Both apps are free to download from the Google Play Store.
Verizon Wireless today indicated that it plans to launch VoLTE service next year. As recently as October 8, Verizon said that VoLTE handsets and service would launch this year. The news regarding the delay was buried in a press release about the third anniversary of Verizon's LTE network launch. Specifically, Verizon said, "Next year, customers will be able to experience VoLTE, a 4G LTE technology that can enable a host of advanced services, including HD Voice and video chat." Verizon didn't provide an explanation for the apparent change of schedule.
Verizon Wireless has activated LTE 4G on its AWS spectrum in dozens of markets, reports GigaOm. Verizon Wireless lit up AWS-based LTE in New York City earlier this year, but has recently expanded the number of markets to include many of the major metro areas east of the Mississippi River, as well as a number along the west coast. In the majority of these new markets on the east coast (Atlanta, Boston, Washington, D.C., et al.), Verizon has tripled capacity, while in several western markets (Los Angeles, San Francisco) it has boosted capacity by 150%. This means more people can connect to the network in the same location and can access data at faster speeds. A handful of Verizon's existing smartphones (Apple iPhone 5s and 5c, Samsung Galaxy S4, Motorola Droid Maxx, Mini, and Ultra) can already access Verizon's AWS-based LTE network, and Verizon said software updates will add this functionality to others. Moving forward, most new Verizon smartphones will be able to reach LTE in both the AWS and 700MHz bands.
HTC today announced a promotional plan that will allow consumers to finance the cost of the HTC One smartphone over a period of 24 months. The device is being offered at the full retail price, and thus comes unlocked (GSM only) and without a carrier contract. It is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. Customers with good credit can order the One through HTC's web site for no money down and then make 24 payments of $25, totaling $600 over two years. The model comes with 32GB of storage and Android 4.4 KitKat installed.
Google today began distributing Android 4.4.1 to the Nexus 5. The update primarily improves performance of the phone's camera with speed enhancements, better focusing, and HDR+ mode.
Foursquare today made version 7.0 of its application available for iPhones. The newest rendition of the popular location-sharing social network takes on iOS7's design language with new themes and colors throughout. Foursquare 7.0 now makes more real-time recommendations to users. For example, it will suggest food orders when users enter a specific restaurant based on the feedback provided by other users. The app also changes constantly, updating as users move about, offering information on as many of the nearby venues as it can. Foursquare also refreshed the news feed, making it easier to keep tabs on friends through Foursquare. Foursquare 7.0 is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Zact Mobile today announced that it is offering parents a customized version of the ZTE Awe that includes content from Disney and extensive parental controls. This kids' version of the Awe will feature Disney apps, as well as access to Disney music and video programming. It offers Spanish-language Disney content, too. The parental controls allow parents to remotely control when the phone can used, which apps can be used, who the child can contact, as well as cease service, and more. Parents will need to download a separate Zact Control app for their own iPhone or Android smartphone in order to give them control over the Awe. The ZTE Awe is an entry-level Android smartphone priced at $99. Zact's monthly service plans start as low as $3.49.
Google will soon push out an update to the Nexus 5 that will provide a wide range of fixes to the phone's camera performance. Google admitted last month that an update was on the way, but more concrete details have emerged. The update will arrive within Android 4.4.1 and will be released very soon, according to The Verge. David Burke, Google's Director of Engineering for Android, said the update focuses on improving the speed of the camera across the board. The autofocus function now dials much faster, and the camera is faster to launch. Google made other adjustments that improve contrast, low-light performance, exposure, and white balance. It also added a progress bar to the HDR mode. Burke indicated that Android 4.4.1 represents the first of several forthcoming updates to the native Android camera software. It hopes to make the user interface and controls more intuitive down the line. For now, Google wanted to improve performance. Google didn't say exactly when Android 4.4.1 will arrive, but implied that the release is imminent.
AT&T is mulling a bid for Verizon's unused 700MHz A Block spectrum, reports the Wall Street Journal. The A Block would complement AT&T's own 700MHz spectrum holdings and could be used to bolster its LTE network. Last month, Reuters reported that T-Mobile is interested in the same parcel of spectrum. Verizon CFO Fran Shammo confirmed that it would sell its A Block spectrum for the right amount. The company paid $2.4 billion for the airwaves and the Journal believes Verizon will ask at least $2.75 billion to sell them to a competitor. With two companies pursuing the spectrum, it's more likely that Verizon will sell it.
In conjunction with its new Mobile Share Value Plans, AT&T, added a new AT&T Next plan that has an 18-month device upgrade option rather than a 12-month upgrade cycle. According to AT&T, the value proposition behind the new plan is lower monthly payments for the device. The payments are spread out over a period of 26 months and let customers upgrade to new devices every 18 months for no down payment, no upgrade fee, no activation fee, and no financing fee. The new 18-month AT&T Next plan will be available beginning December 8. Customers who choose to finance their device with an AT&T Next plan will also enjoy a $15 monthly savings on the cost of their service.
AT&T today announced new Mobile Share Value Plans. As part of the new plans, AT&T is separating the cost of service from the cost of the device. According to AT&T, customers who aren't subsidizing a device through their plan will need to pay only $25 to add that device to a Mobile Share Value Plan rather than $40. AT&T will automatically drop the monthly service charge down by $15 once a customer completes their contract, recognizing that the device has been paid off. Looking at the new Mobile Share Value Plans as an example, an on-contract smartphone costs $40 to add to the plan, but devices being paid off through AT&T Next, devices that are paid for in full price, devices that customers bring themselves are all eligible for the lower monthly charge of $25.
AT&T today announced a brand new set of Mobile Share Value Plans. The plans, which go into effect Sunday, December 8, offer more value for less money. As before, all the Mobile Share plans offer unlimited voice minutes, unlimited messaging, and video chatting for one or more devices. Customers can then choose what amount of data they want each month and add devices accordingly. AT&T has dropped many of the data bucket prices, which now range from as little as 300MB per month to 50GB per month. AT&T added a new 8GB bucket between the 6GB and 10GB buckets to give customers more choice. The 300MB plan starts at $20 per month, which is the same as before, but instead of adding $50 per month for a smartphone, customers will pay only $40 per smartphone. The 1GB plan costs $45 per month, the 2GB plan costs $55 per month, and so on up to the 50GB plan, which costs $375 per month. Mobile Share Value Plans are available to new and old customers, and allow for up to 10 devices for consumers. The plans include access to AT&T's Wi-Fi network. Tablets cost only $10 to add to each plan, and feature phones cost only $20.
The Federal Communications Commission today approved a key provision in Verizon Communication's attempt to buy Vodafone Groups stake in Verizon Wireless. The FCC said that it will be acceptable for more than 25% of Verizon's ownership to come from foreign investors after the deal closes. There is a limit on the amount to 25% because Verizon controls spectrum access licenses in the U.S. Due to the way the deal is structured, foreign ownership of Verizon Communications may at times exceed that percentage, but the FCC won't oppose it. This was the only approval Verizon needed from the FCC, though the deal still requires shareholder approval. Verizon Wireless is a joint venture that is 55% owned by Verizon Communications and 45% owned by Vodafone Group. Verizon Communications agreed in September to buy out Vodafone Group's stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion. Verizon will pay Vodafone primarily in cash and stocks. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014.
The European Commission today approved Microsoft's proposed purchase of Nokia's handset business. After assessing any overlap between the two companies' businesses, as well as how the merger might affect each companies' existing business relationships, the EU believes the merged entity won't be a threat to competition or choice in the industry. Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Nokia recently garnered approval from U.S. regulators.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group today announced Bluetooth 4.1, a revised specification that adds several new features to the short-range radio technology. The Bluetooth SIG characterizes this update as an evolutionary one that will still have a significant impact on consumers thanks to the changes. For example, the new spec improves compatibility with worldwide LTE bands so that it won't interfere with connections as often. It also improves device-to-device connections. According to the Bluetooth SIG, devices with 4.1 on board can automatically reconnect to recently-used devices upon coming back into range without requiring user feedback. The spec speeds up bulk data transfer so information from sensors (such as exercise gear) can be transferred more efficiently to other Bluetooth equipment when the user returns home. Bluetooth 4.1 includes new developer tools that will let them take advantage of dual-mode topology features. The spec also future proofs Bluetooth by laying the groundwork for IP-based communications. Bluetooth 4.1 devices will be able to setup dedicated communications channels allowing them to integrate with the "internet of things." The Bluetooth SIG didn't say when it expects Bluetooth 4.1 to reach end-user devices, but it did say that hardware can be updated over-the-air to include the new features.
The USB Implemeters Forum and the USB 3.0 Promoters Group today announced that they have begun development on the next-generation of USB connectors. According to the USB-IF the new USB connector, referred to as Type-C, will be based on the existing USB 3.1 and 2.0 specifications, but will use an entirely new design that is smaller and more apt to work with slim electronics. The new connector will do away with the fixed orientation of today's USB 2.0 and 3.0 plugs, and will use a unidirectional connector that can be inserted either way. The Type-C connector will also support scalable power charging and will be future-proofed so it can meet increased bus performance and speeds in the future. The new plug will not be backward compatible with older devices, so the standards groups will also create a series of adapters to work with the Type-C connector. The USB-IF says the specification should be drafted by the end of the first quarter of 2014 and finalized by the middle of next year.
LG today announced that the G Flex curved smartphone will go on sale outside of South Korea beginning this week. The phone will reach Singapore on December 8 and Hong Kong on December 13. According to LG, the G Flex will be sold at carrier stores as well as by electronics retailers. The G Flex is noteworthy for its curved design and healing skin. LG will push the G Flex to other Asian markets by the end of the year, followed by other, unnamed regions in 2014. U.S. carriers have not yet announced plans to sell the G Flex.
LG today announced that its future television sets will have Qualcomm's AllJoyn technology built-in. AllJoyn is a platform-agnostic tool that lets mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, control and connect to other non-smart devices, such as TV sets. AllJoyn offers a standard text, image, and multimedia notification service that allows media streaming between devices using open standards, and it allows devices to push their media player's user interface to other devices. According to LG, several mobile devices can participate in the same multiplayer game on an LG Smart TV even if they are running disparate operating systems. AllJoyn will be added to LG's Smart TV line beginning next year.
BlackBerry today announced the availability of its BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10.2 software. The mobile device management suite for companies adds a handful of new features, including expanded support for Android and iOS devices. Companies that use BES 10.2 will be able to control app and system updates pushed to Android and iOS devices, as well as sandbox and secure work data separately from personnel data on devices owned by employees. BES 10.2 gives end users self-service options in order to help reduce calls to IT, and lets businesses manage more devices (up to 100,000) for less money. BES 10.2 can be downloaded directly from BlackBerry.
Ultra Mobile today expanded the reach of its Ultra Zero plan to include 1,000 free voice minutes to more than 70 countries around the world. The plan also provides unlimited SMS to more than 190 countries. The Ultra Mobile plan, which was first introduced in August, costs $19 per month. Some of the new countries include Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, and Thailand. Ultra Mobile is an MVNO that operates on T-Mobile's network and serves those who regularly communicate with people outside the U.S.
Zact Mobile today announced the addition of the ZTE Awe to its roster of smartphones. The Awe, which is also sold by Virgin Mobile USA, is an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean device that features a 4-inch WVGA display, 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. Zact Mobile is selling the phone for $89, and its customizable prepaid service plans start as low as $3.49 per month.
Consumer Cellular today announced that it will soon offer the Apple iPhone 5s, 5c, and 4s. The devices, which can be paired with most of Consumer Cellular's service plans, will require down payments of $150, $100, and $50, respectively. Customers are then expected to make payments of $25 per month until the remaining balance of the phone is paid off. The iPhone 5s, 5c, and 4S will go on sale Friday, December 13.
The U.S Federal Trade Commission today approved Microsoft's proposed $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia's handset business. Microsoft first announced the plan in early September. With the U.S. government on board, Microsoft is one step closer to absorbing Nokia's phone-making capabilities. Nokia's shareholders have already approved the deal. Nokia switched to Microsoft's Windows Phone platform in 2011 and has since become the world's foremost supplier of Windows Phone handsets. Nokia will continue to run its networking business and will retain rights to the Nokia brand.
Oppo today announced that it will offer its N1 Android-based smartphone to U.S. consumers beginning December 10. Oppo, which is a Chinese hardware maker, is selling the N1 with a choice of operating systems. Consumers can pick Oppo's ColorOS Android skin, CyanogenMod, or both. The phone will allow users to switch from ColorOS to CyanogenMod if they wish with no hacking required. The other stand-out feature of the N1 is a swiveling 13-megapixel camera that can be aimed either at the user or away from the user. Other features include a 5.9-inch 1080p HD display, a 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 processor with 2GB of RAM, and either 16GB or 32GB of storage. The N1 also includes a touch panel on the back for one-handed use. The phone will cost $599, and will be sold unlocked and without a contract.
The CTIA Wireless Association today announced that the major network operators in the U.S. have completed work on a stolen phone database. "The global, multi-carrier, common database for LTE smartphones has been finalized and implemented in advance of the November 30, 2013 deadline," said CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent. "The matter of stolen devices is extremely important to the wireless providers, which is why they worked so hard over the last year to meet each deadline on time. As more countries and more carriers around the world participate in the 3G and 4G/LTE databases, criminals will have fewer outlets since these stolen phones would be blacklisted and could not be reactivated." Largent went on to remind consumers that they should play their own role in deterring theft by exercising caution when using their devices out in public and by using apps that can remotely lock or wipe their device. He also called on network operators outside the U.S. to participate in the stolen phone database to help prevent criminals from selling stolen devices internationally. "By working together with everyone – from the wireless companies, law enforcement, policymakers and consumers – we will make a difference," added Largent.
The wood-paneled variant of the Moto X should hit Motorola's Moto Maker site in the coming weeks, according to Reuters reporter Sinead Carew. The Moto X was first announced this summer and can be designed with custom colors, accents, wallpapers, and inscriptions. Once available, customers will be able to select from several different woods to form the rear cover of the phone.
Nokia today revealed the Lumia 525, an update to the 520/521 that increases system memory from 512MB to 1GB. The upgrade will let the device run more apps at a time. Most other features of the device remain unchanged. The Lumia 525 has a 4-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera, dual-core 1GHz Snapdragon S4 processor, and swappable rear shells. The Lumia 525 is first slated to reach select markets later this month for $199. There's no word yet if the 525 will be made available to U.S. buyers.
Phone Scoop's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide is the only tool the discerning shopper needs to pick out the perfect phone. Whether the intended recipients have been naughty or nice, everyone needs a phone. Here are options for every carrier, every device style, and every budget.
BlackBerry today said that BBM Channels has graduated from beta status and will begin rolling out this afternoon to all BlackBerries running OS 5 and up. BBM Channels acts similar to social networks in that users can subscribe to channels, which are based on certain topics or brands, and receive updates when the channels have new content. Users can create their own channels and push updates to select groups of followers or users in a manner similar to Twitter. BlackBerry imagines that it will be best-used by companies and brands looking to connect with fans. BBM Channels will be available for download from the BlackBerry World store starting at 3pm Eastern Time.
The U.S. Department of Defense came to an agreement with the National Association of Broadcasters about clearing some airwaves for mobile broadband networks. Specifically, the Defense Department will vacate the 1755MHz to 1780MHz band and relocate those operations to the 2025MHz to 2110MHz band. That band is used by television broadcasters for remote TV operations, but the broadcasters have agreed to share it with the military. This move will leave the 1755MHz open for mobile broadband. The National Telecommunications and Information Association believes the 1755MHz block can be paired with the 2155MHz to 2180MHz block to offer uplink and downlink operations. The FCC is already planning to auction the 2155MHz block by 2015. It's not clear how long it will take the military to vacate the 1755MHz block and when the airwaves will become free for the FCC to auction away.
Motorola today made the Moto G Android smartphone available for sale through its web site. Consumers can buy the device directly from Motorola. The Moto G costs $179 for the 8GB model and $199 for the 16GB model. The Moto G was announced earlier this month. It has a 4.5-inch 720p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, and 5-megapixel camera. The Moto G ships with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, but it will be updated to Android 4.4 KitKat early next year. Motorola is selling the unlocked GSM model only. Wireless network operators will sell the CDMA variant in January.
Google confirmed that the company is developing a fix for the Nexus 5's camera. "The team is aware of the issues and is working on a software update that will be available shortly," said Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano in a statement provided to CNET. The Nexus 5's camera performance leaves a lot to be desired. In addition to the Nexus 5 camera fix, Scigliano also confirmed that Google is working to add support for RAW imaging to the Android platform. "Android's latest camera HAL (hardware abstraction layer) and framework supports RAW and burst-mode photography. We will expose a developer API in a future release to expose more of the HAL functionality," said Scigliano. Google has laid the groundwork to permit RAW imaging, but has yet to provide developers with the tools they need to access it. Nokia recently added RAW imaging support to the Lumia 1520, and will soon add it to the Lumia 1020. RAW imaging provides photographers with an uncompressed digital negative that gives them more control over the end product.
Samsung recently updated its ChatOn messaging application for Android devices and gave it the ability to send SMS/MMS messages as well as instant messages. ChatOn is a cross-platform messaging app that uses data networks to send messages back and forth rather than SMS. This new feature allows users to set ChatOn as their text/picture messaging inbox. The app combines IM and SMS/MMS threads so all the messages sent and received from a single contact are in the same place. For the moment, this feature is only available in Germany and Brazil. Samsung has not said if it will expand the feature to more regions or more platforms.
The federal judge overseeing the Samsung-Apple patent case has denied an emergency motion made by Samsung that would have delayed the proceedings. Samsung wanted the trial put on hold because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is exploring the validity of Apple's pinch-to-zoom patent. "This decision by the [patent office] jeopardizes the jury's findings in the damages trial and may render all of the post-trial proceedings a waste of time and resources," argued Samsung. District Judge Lucy Koh disagreed and fired back, "If Samsung is truly concerned about efficiency, the court encourages Samsung to discuss with Apple an agreement to forgo post-trial motions so that the parties can expeditiously appeal this entire case to the Federal Circuit." The emergency motion was made last week before a jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple an additional $290 million in damages for violating its smartphone patents. Apple and Samsung have been battling one another in courtrooms around the globe for more than two years.
Nokia today announced a major update to its HERE Drive navigation application. HERE Drive, which is available to all Windows Phone 8 devices, offers step-by-step, voice-guided navigation. When planning routes, the app now shows a list of all the turns before the driver begins navigating. The app now also provides an overview of the entire route with real-time traffic included, so drivers can see ahead of time whether or not they should take an alternate route. The live traffic feature is available in all views of the map. HERE Drive is now better at calculating estimated time of arrival thanks to the more accurate, real-time traffic data. Last, Nokia has added a feature that automatically geotags the driver's parking spot when they complete a door-to-door route. The driver can then use HERE Maps' LiveSight feature to find their car, or view it on a map. HERE Maps is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Google announced that the Play Edition versions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 should receive the Android 4.4 KitKat system update in the coming days. The Play Edition versions don't have HTC's Sense nor Samsung's TouchWiz user interfaces, respectively. Instead, they run a stock version of Android, like Nexus devices.
GoSmart Mobile today announced the Coolpad Flo, an inexpensive Android smartphone that is available without signing an annual contract. The Flo runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and features a 4.5-inch display with 854 x 480 pixels, a 1GHz dual-core processor with 4GB of internal storage, and a 5-megapixel main camera. The Flo includes HSPA+ data, but no LTE. It also features a VGA user-facing camera; support for 32GB microSD cards; Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth radios; and an 1,880mAh battery. The CoolPad Flo is available for $99.
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