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printed November 24, 2017
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FCC Chairman Reveals Full Plan to Kill Net Neutrality

Wednesday, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today published a draft order that details how he intends to roll back the current net neutrality regulations. Pai said the order "would return to the bipartisan consensus on light-touch regulation, ending utility-style regulation of the internet." The goal, says Pai, is to "promote future innovation and investment." To start, Pai would strip the internet of its current classification as a "utility" and reclassify it as an "information service." Pai would also reinstate the private mobile service classification of mobile broadband internet service. Rather than force ISPs to comply with bright-line rules, Pai would have them adopt "transparency requirements" to disclose information about their practices to consumers, entrepreneurs, and the Commission. The idea is that if they are open about their practices, it will be easy for consumers to choose their service. The order also would restore the FTC's oversight of the broadband industry, giving it the power to protect consumers online from any unfair, deceptive, and anticompetitive practices. With the order now public, the FCC will field comments over the next few weeks before it is expected to vote on the matter at its December 14 open meeting. Pai insists that today's net neutrality regulations are overly burdensome to ISPs and have dampened investment in new services. He believes removing these regulations will encourage investment and growth. The move is seen as a win for internet companies.


Motorola Rolls Out Savings On Smartphones And Mods

Wednesday, 8:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola is running a sale this week on a number of its products. Through Monday, November 27 the Moto Z is reduced from $499 to $399, the Moto Z2 Play is reduced from $499 to $399, the Moto X4 is reduced from $399 to $339, and the Moto E4 is reduced from $199 to $169. Motorola is also offering 25% of all Moto Mods. Moreover, most purchases made through Motorola.com qualify for free shipping.


Holiday Gift Guide 2017

Tuesday, 5:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

As the end of the year approaches so too does the season of giving. Holiday gifting lists are often filled with technology, but it isn't always easy to find that perfect item. We're here to help. Allow Phone Scoop's annual Holiday Gift Guide to be your helping hand this season. It's chock full of suggestions from handsets to headphones, in-home assistants, and everything in between.

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OnePlus 5T Available for Sale Today as OnePlus 5 Runs Out Of Stock

Tuesday, 3:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today said its OnePlus 5T flagship smartphone is now available for sale online. The device, announced earlier this month, in an update to the OnePlus 5. It stretches the screen to 6 inches, adopts the 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio, moves the fingerprint sensor to the rear of the phone, and changes up the camera configuration a bit. Otherwise, it offers the same basic specs and performance of the older OnePlus 5. The 5 has been available in hit-or-miss fashion over the last month, but is now officially discontinued by OnePlus. The 5T starts at $499 for the 6 GB / 64 GB model.


Instagram Now Lets People Request to Join Live Video

Tuesday, 2:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible for people to join the live video broadcasts of their friends. The app now includes a "request" button that will ping the person streaming live video. That person can review, accept, or reject incoming requests. Once accepted, users will be notified that they're about to go live. The joined live view jumps to split-screen with the original broadcaster in one window and you in the other. Either party can leave the shared video stream at any time. Facebook says live videos may be shared to stories or discarded immediately. The new feature is available to the Android and iOS mobile Instagram apps, which are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to Dismantle Net Neutrality

Tuesday, 11:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ajit Pai, the Republican Chairman of the FCC, today said he intends to abolish the net neutrality regulations put in place by the previous administration in favor of a "light touch" regulatory approach. "In 2015 the FCC ... imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the internet," argued Pai. "That decision was a mistake. It’s depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation." Pai provided no evidence to back this claim. "Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades." Pai says moving forward the FCC "would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them." Pai would also give control of privacy regulation back to the Federal Trade Commission, which would be responsible for policing internet providers and protecting consumers. The net neutrality rules as they stand today have bright-line rules about what ISPs can and cannot do in order to protect consumers and prevent prioritization schemes. Pai insists his approach will "unleash the digital revolution" that will benefit consumers. Pai plans to reveal his full plan later this week. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the matter at its next open meeting on December 14.


Sprint Shuffles Executive Deck, Plans New Office Environment

Tuesday, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint is adjusting its top ranks in an effort to streamline its management structure, according to an internal memo obtained by Fierce Wireless. To start, a number of executives are departing the company, including COO Günther Ottendorfer, who's been behind a lot of Sprint's network advancements. Ottendorfer framed the departure as a chance to return to his family in his home county of Austria. Other departures include Jeff Nelson and Jim Hyde. A handful of executives have been promoted, including Dow Draper, who is now the chief commercial officer, and Kevin Crull, who is now the chief strategy officer. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure has reduced the number of executives who report directly to him from 16 to nine, including Draper, Crull, COO Nestor Cano, President of Sprint Jan Geldmacher, and CTO John Saw. In addition to the management changes, Claure outlined plans to reimagine its corporate offices in a way that promotes teamwork. Claure and select executives are relocating to a new space on the Sprint campus to test the changes, which will be rolled out across Sprint offices nationwide if they function as hoped. "As we start this new chapter, we’re building an organization that is flatter, faster and closer than ever to our customers," said Claure to Sprint employees. "At the same time, we’re creating an environment where partners can collaborate more easily and are empowered to make the decisions that will enable Sprint’s success." The changes appear to be a response to the failed merger with T-Mobile.


Verizon Details Black Friday Deals with 50% Off Flagships

Tuesday, 8:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless is offering big discounts on this year's top phones through its Black Friday sale. Verizon will cover up to $378 off the price of the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, or Note8, the Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, or the Moto Z2 Force. Customers will need to sign up for Verizon's unlimited plan, but no trade-in is required. Customers will need to purchase the device, whether up front or financed, and Verizon will break down the $378 reimbursement in account credits over a period of 24 months. In other deals, Verizon will sell you a 32 GB iPad for $199 if you activate it on a two-year plan, or for $99 when purchased alongside an iPhone. These discounts are available online November 23 and in stores November 24 only. Verizon has other sales that begin Thursday and run through November 27. For example, customers can save $50 on a Google Home, $20 on a Google Home Mini, $20 on Google Daydream View, or $15 on a Chromecast Ultra. Verizon will discount the price of many Android handsets by $100 when activated with an unlimited plan. Last, Verizon is discounting tons of accessories, including FitBit wearables, Ultimate Ears and JBL Bluetooth speakers, and Nest smartphone products.


Gboards Speaks 40 New Languages, Including Japanese

Tuesday, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Gboard keyboard application for Android devices and added a handful of new features along the way. Primarily, the app gains support for 40 new languages, such as Japanese. The app also adds to the default Gboard sticker selection, fixes bugs, and improvements performance. Gboard is free to download from the Google Play Store.


DOJ Sues to Halt AT&T/Time Warner Merger

Monday, 5:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued to stop the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. The DOJ argues the combined entity would lead to higher TV content prices for consumers. The DOJ also suggests the deal would hurt AT&T/Time's rivals, "forcing them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for Time Warner's networks." The government agency is open to a settlement with AT&T and Time Warner, but suggests that divestments would be required. AT&T already owns DirecTV, which offers content nationwide via its satellite TV business. AT&T took issue with the lawsuit, calling it "a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent. Vertical mergers like this one are routinely approved because they benefit consumers without removing any competitor from the market. We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently." The company argues it is combining a content company with a delivery company, which should preclude it from antitrust regulation as neither is in direct competition with the other. "Fortunately, the Department of Justice doesn’t have the final say in this matter. Rather, it bears the burden of proving to the U.S. District Court that the transaction violates the law," concluded AT&T. AT&T first proposed the merger in October 2016.


Cricket Rolls Out Big Smartphone Savings

Monday, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 1:27 PM

Cricket Wireless is offering a number of free and discounted smartphones starting today. New customers who port in their number can snag either the LG Fortune or ZTE Overture 3 for free with an accompanying service plan. Customers looking for something slightly more powerful can grab the ZTE Blade X for $50 or the ZTE Blade X Max for $100. The discounts are available to new customers, though existing customers can get the same low prices if they pay a $25 upgrade fee. Other offers include the LG Fortune (free for switchers, $29.99 for existing customers), the LG X Charge ($49.99 for switchers, $99.99 for existing customers), LG Stylo 3 ($29.99 for switchers, $129.99 existing customers), and the LG Harmony ($9.99 for switchers, $59.99 for existing customers). Cricket says the sales prices are good through November 26 or as long as supplies last.


US Cellular Offering Free iPhone 8, Galaxy S8, or LG G6

Monday, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular today announced a holiday offering that will provide customers with a free flagship smartphone. The company will give customers a free Samsung Galaxy S8, iPhone 8, LG G6, or Motorola Moto Z Force when they sign up for an unlimited plan between November 22 and November 27. Customers will need to trade-in a recent flagship, such as the Galaxy S6, iPhone 6, or V20, to score the free phone. The free handset will be comped through monthly rebates over a period of 30 months. Customers who don't have a device to trade in can get a reduced-cost flagship for a monthly payment of just $10 in addition to the unlimited plan. U.S. Cellular's unlimited plan costs $70 for a single line, though multi-line discounts are available. U.S. Cellular offers up to 22 GB of high-speed data per billing cycle. Customers who exceed that limit will see speeds reduced to 2G for the remained of the month. The company is also offering discounts on Google Home, LG Tones, and Parrot Drones during its holiday sale. Last, customers who refer a family member or friend who signs up for service can score a $50 reward.


Google to Patch Pixel 2 Earpiece Buzz Within a Few Weeks

Monday, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google said it plans to resolve an issue plaguing the Pixel 2 earpiece in the near future. "We're rolling out a software update in the coming weeks which eliminates a faint buzzing sound on some Pixel 2 devices when the phone is placed to your ear during a phone call," said Google in a post on its support forums. Some Pixel 2 owners report hearing the buzzing or crackling sound when making calls. Google first acknowledged the issue in October, but hadn't specified when a fix might be offered. It now appears the resolution will arrive by early December.


Honor 7X Boasts Twin Cameras, 18:9 Display

Monday, 9:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Honor today announced the 7X, a budget-friendly handset that adopts the 18:9 aspect ratio for its screen while offering mid-range specs. The Honor 7X features a metal chassis and 2.5D curved glass on front. The screen measures 5.93 inches across the diagonal and offers full HD+ resolution. Huawei's 2.36 GHz octa-core Kirin 659 processor is under the hood with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. The dual-camera array on the rear features a 16-megapixel main sensor and a 2-megapixel secondary sensor. Together, they can create portrait images with blurred backgrounds. An 8-megapixel selfie camera adorns the front of the phone and includes its own portrait tools and gesture controls. A 3,340mAh battery is buried in the chassis and Huawei says it supports rapid charging. The phone includes a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, though it does not include NFC. The Honor 7X runs Huawei's EMUI 5.1, based on Android 7 Nougat. It comes in blue, gold, and black. Pricing and availability was not immediately revealed. Honor is Huawei's budget brand.


Android 8 Oreo Headed to OnePlus 3 and 3T

Monday, 8:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus said owners of its OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T smartphone are due for an Oreo treat. The smartphone makers begun pushing Android 8 out to the two handsets via OxygenOS 5.0. The new system build includes parallel apps, picture-in-picture, auto-fill, notification dots, and smart text selection from Oreo, as well as a redesigned Quick Settings menu, the September security patch, and a new app folder design from OnePlus. OxygenOS 5.0 with Android 8 Oreo is rolling out over the air, though OnePlus warns it is being distributed incrementally. It may take several days to reach all users.


Google Lens Reaches Pixel Handsets

Monday, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 8:23 AM

Google has updated Google Assistant on its Pixel smartphones and added the Google Lens tool it first announced back in May. Google Lens is an image-recognition function that relies on mobile cameras to perform searches. Google Lens is a significant advancement to the old Google Image Search app. Google says its neural networks are better than humans at recognizing most objects. Using Google Lens, Pixel owners can aim their camera at just about anything and Google will instantly perform a search and suggest results. The tool works within Google Assistant on the Pixel handsets, as well as within Google Photos. For example, users can snap a shot of an old car on the street and immediately gain information about that car and discover where it might be available for sale. Google Lens can recognize objects such as flowers, vehicles, gadgets, and more. The update to Pixel devices is rolling out now. Google hasn't said when Google Lens might reach other Android handsets.


ROK Mobile Offering 3 Months of Unlimited for $99

Nov 17, 2017, 9:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ROK Mobile has rolled out a new promotional rate plan that includes three months of unlimited service for $99. The offer is available to new customers only. After the three-month period ends, the plan reverts to the normal monthly rate of $45. ROK Mobile is an MVNO that offers service on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Customers can select which carrier they wish to use when they sign up for ROK Mobile. This allows people to use their own device. The $99 promo is only available to new customers who choose service on Sprint or Verizon. Those who select Sprint will be eligible for a free ZTE Prestige smartphone. ROK Mobile started out as a music-focused MVNO but has since transitioned to a more traditional MVNO. Service plans range from $20 to $50 per month, depending on the data bucket. ROK Mobile also offers what it calls Life Plans, a series of services including roadside assistance, accidental death and cremation insurance, family legal services, family telemedicine, and ID theft insurance. These Life Services can be added as extras to any of ROK Mobile's service plans. Pricing ranges from $5 to $15 per month depending on the package.


New York Court Says Police Must Get Warrant to Use Stingrays

Nov 17, 2017, 8:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Moving forward, New York law enforcement agencies will need to go before a judge and obtain an eavesdropping warrant if they wish to use stingrays to track suspects' cellphones. Stingrays spoof cell towers and fool cell phones into connecting with them. Police use them in cars or airplanes scanning entire neighborhoods seeking the phone of a single suspect. The issue is that the stingrays are imprecise and sweep up location, call, and messaging data of every cell phone in the vicinity. "The use of a cell-site simulator intrudes upon an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, acting as an instrument of eavesdropping, and requires a separate warrant supported by probable cause," wrote the Brooklyn judge overseeing the case. The ruling mirrors one made in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. Privacy advocates around the country are pushing back against the use of stingrays. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the NYPD used stingrays more than 1,000 times between 2008 and 2015, though generally only for the most serious offenses. The Brooklyn ruling will set the tone for cases involving the use of stingrays tried in New York.


Hands On with the T-Mobile REVVL Plus

Nov 17, 2017, 8:30 AM   by Rich Brome

T-Mobile's relatively new REVVL brand is all about affordability and popular features, like large screens and fingerprint readers. The REVVL Plus is the second in the series, made by Coolpad. It has a massive six-inch, 16:9 display, a fingerprint reader, and dual cameras. Otherwise, it's a pretty standard affordable Android phone. What's it like in person? We checked it out.

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Apple Releases iOS 11.1.2 to Clean Up More Bugs

Nov 16, 2017, 5:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 11.1.2 for the iPhone and iPad. This minor release primarily fixes bugs. Specifically, it resolves an issue where the iPhone X screen might temporarily freeze up or become unresponsive to touch input after a rapid decrease in temperature. It also addresses an issue that might result in blurry Live Photos captured with the iPhone X. The small update is free to download and install over the air.


Intel Debuts 5G Radios

Nov 16, 2017, 4:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel today announced a range of 5G modems for mobile devices that rely on various technologies to handle the transition from 4G to 5G. The XMM 8000 series will handle multi-mode operations on 600 MHz and mmWave band around the globe and will be ideal for PCs, phones, and fixed wireless equipment. The XMM 8060 will focus on 5G New Radio, though it will also be backward compatible with legacy 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. Intel expects this modem to ship by the middle of 2019. Last, the XMM 7660 is a Cat 19 LTE modem that can handle 1.6 Gbps speeds with MIMO, carrier aggregation, and broad spectrum support. This chip, too, will ship in mid-2019. Intel believes this portfolio of chips will help it remains competitive as wireless technology advances.


T-Mobile Says 5G Network On Deck for 2020

Nov 16, 2017, 4:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it will deploy 5G across much of the country within a few years using its low-band 600 MHz spectrum. “We’re committed to drive a 5G rollout by 2020 across the nation,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray during an investor conference. That doesn’t mean T-Mobile is ignoring high-band spectrum, which competitors AT&T and Verizon are pursuing. “There’s been a lot of discussion of millimeter wave and the kind of surgical, tactical deployments of 5G, and we’ll be there too. But we’ll deploy in the 600 MHz for 5G as we move into the next decade.” AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are all pushing to deploy 5G technologies as soon as possible even though the standard has not been defined. Al three are already pushing out gigabit LTE, a stepping stone to 5G. AT&T is its own 5G technology in Houston and Indianapolis. T-Mobile didn’t say what markets might see potential 5G service first.


Instagram Improves Mobile Web Features

Nov 16, 2017, 4:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made its mobile web site a bit more useful. Moving forward, people will be able to take and share photos from instagram.com when using their mobile devices even if the app is not installed. The mobile web also now supports adding text and color to images posted to stories, and saving others’ posts to their favorites. Instagram says these new features will roll out to instagram.com on the mobile web for all users over the next few weeks.


Hands On with the OnePlus 5T

Nov 16, 2017, 1:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus is the latest smartphone maker to adopt the 18:9 aspect ratio display. The OnePlus 5T, an update to the OnePlus 5, increases the screen size while also slimming down the bezels. It carries over most of its predecessor's top specs, including the Snapdragon 835 processor and twin camera array. The result is a more appealing device. Here are our first impressions.

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OnePlus 5T Stretches the Screen to 6 Inches with 2:1 Aspect Ratio

Nov 16, 2017, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 16, 2017, 12:05 PM

OnePlus today announced the OnePlus 5T, an update to its 2017 flagship handset that adopts the 2:1 aspect ratio for the display. The new OLED screen measures 6 inches from corner to corner and includes 2,160 by 1,080 pixels. In order to accommodate the new display, OnePlus relocated the fingerprint reader to the rear of the phone. The device adds a facial recognition tool for security. OnePlus says it takes only 0.4 seconds to recognize the owner’s face and unlock. Other than these changes, the 5T is similar in terms of design and specifications to the OnePlus 5 from earlier this year. The 5T boasts a metal unibody design with a slim and rounded profile. The phone carries over the alert slider, USB-C port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and dual-camera array from the OnePlus 5. The camera configuration is changed a bit. The main camera is the same 16-megapixel sensor as the 5, and the secondary relies on a 20-megapixel sensor. Rather than include a telephoto lens, the secondary camera adopts better low-light technology. Both lenses share the same focal length and f/1.7 aperture. The 5T is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor and the handset comes in two memory configurations: 6 GB of RAM with 64 GB of storage, and 8 GB of RAM with 128 GB of storage. Other specs include a 3,300mAh battery with Dash Charge, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, GPS, WiFi, and Cat 12 LTE with 3x carrier aggregation and support for 34 worldwide LTE bands. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat with the latest build of OnePlus' OxygenOS UI on top. OnePlus said the 5T will have access to Android 8 Oreo as a beta in December. The phone goes on sale November 21 for $499.


T-Mobile Rolls Out Buy-One, Get-One Deal On Flagship Phones

Nov 16, 2017, 9:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today revealed a holiday promotion that can net people a free flagship smartphone. Customers who purchase one new phone at full price will be able to snag a second for free, through monthly rebates. Handsets that qualify for the promotion include the Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Note8, and S8 Active, and the LG G6, V20, V30, and V30+. The first phone will need to be financed through T-Mobile's equipment installment plan. T-Mobile will then make the monthly payments on the second device over a 24-month period. T-Mobile said customers interested in the iPhone X can score up to $300 in rebates with an eligible trade-in, though there's no BOGO deal for the iPhone. The promotion kicks off November 17.


MetroPCS Offering a Year of Amazon Prime for Free

Nov 16, 2017, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said people who switch to MetroPCS and subscribe to an unlimited plan will enjoy a year of Amazon Prime for free. Amazon Prime gives people access to discounted shipping from Amazon.com, as well as access to Amazon's music and video streaming services, online photo storage, and other perks. Amazon Prime typically carries a cost of $99 per year. In addition to Amazon Prime for free, MetroPCS will give those who switch a free Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime smartphone. The free phone also requires customers subscribe to the unlimited plan. MetroPCS is offering four lines of unlimited service for $100. The J7 Prime has a 5.5-inch screen, 1.5 GHz octa-core processor, 8-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera, 16 GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery. The phone normally sells for $209. MetroPCS said the Amazon Prime and free J7 Prime promos will only be available for a limited time.


Asus ZenFone V Live Lets You Livestream Zit-Free Video

Nov 16, 2017, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless and Asus today announced the ZenFone V Live, a social media-focused handset that includes a real-time blemish remover. With the ZenFone V Live, people can take advantage of the selfie camera's beautification options to soften complexions and remove skin blemishes when livestreaming to Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. (Such effects are typically applied to still images after the fact.) Otherwise, the ZenFone V Live is a mid-range handset with curved glass and a metal body design. It has a 5-inch 720p HD display and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The 13-megapixel camera includes features such as panorama, slow-motion, time-lapse, and bokeh modes with boosted low-light performance. Additional features include a fingerprint reader, 3,000mAh battery, USB-C, and support for microSD memory cards. It runs Android 7 Nougat. Verizon is selling the Asus Zenfone V Live beginning today for $168, or $7 per month for 24 months.


Google Endows Assistant with More App Smarts

Nov 15, 2017, 3:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a comprehensive update to the Google Assistant. Most of the changes are meant for developers, but everyone will benefit from Assistant's improved ability to interact with third-party applications. To start, Assistant will help people find apps in a more seamless and natural way. For example, updates to the app directory will surface trending sections that change over time. New subcategories are on deck, as well, which will break down directories to provide more fine-tuned results. Google says it is able to do this by using the description developers provide for their apps and keyboard match that text with spoken voice queries made by end users. Finding apps will be aided by implicit discovery, as well, or the ability to connect with an app using contextual queries, such as "fix my bike." Developers will have access to badges that call out family-friendly apps, as well as expanded international support thanks to the addition of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. Other changes target how apps use Assistant to interact directly with people, such as transferring phone calls from the Google Home to a smartphone. Apps will have new powers for handling the end of conversations, such as providing polite or informative farewells, cancelling requests, and finding the right time to suggest account linking. Last, Google wants to ensure developers and their Assistant-powered apps are engaging with users. Moving forward, apps will be able to provide daily updates, gentle suggestions, and push notifications (thanks to a new API.) For example, Google says developers will be able to send alerts via Assistant about upcoming sales or discounts to those who've expressed interest. Google is encouraging developers to put these new tools to use within their Assistant-connected apps. Google hopes the end result will be more useful and informative apps for end users that are discovered and accessed via Google Assistant.


Google Refreshes Maps to Help Aid Navigation

Nov 15, 2017, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a significant change to the appearance of Google Maps. According to Google, it has updated the look of driving, navigation, and transit maps in a way so ancillary information is more visible, such as gas stations when driving or train stations when riding the rails. Maps now relies on a new color scheme to define its legend and (hopefully) make it easier for people to differentiate between points of interest based on color alone. For example, orange signifies food and drink options, while green is for outdoor spaces, and purple is for roadside services. Google believes once people understand the color scheme, they'll be able to spot what they want or need quicker when using Google Maps. Google says this change will impact all versions of Maps (mobile, desktop), as well as other Google services that rely on Maps, such as Assistant, Search, Earth, and Android Auto. The changes will be rolled out over the next few weeks.


Motorola, Polaroid Partner Up On Insta-Share Printer Moto Mod

Nov 15, 2017, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola and Polaroid today announced the Insta-Share Printer, a Moto Mod that lets people instantly print and share images captured with their Moto Z handset. The attachment includes its own dedicated camera button for snapping photos and can print directly from the camera roll, Facebook, Instagram, and Google Photos. The printer includes software for customizing photos with filters, borders, and text. The printer can spit out prints that measure 2 inches by 3 inches. The ink is smudge proof, according to Polaroid, and the adhesive-backed printer paper lets you stick photos anywhere. The Polaroid Insta-Share Printer will be available for $200 at Verizon stores and Motorola.com beginning November 17. Best Buy, B&H, Fry’s, and NewEgg will start taking pre-orders for the mod on December 6 with an expected in-store date of December 13. The Polaroid Insta-Share Printer is compatible with the Z series of devices from Motorola, including the Moto Z2 Play and Moto Z2 Force.


Sprint Adds Free Hulu to Unlimited Plan

Nov 15, 2017, 9:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and Hulu today said they've partnered together so Sprint customers can enjoy access to Hulu's content for free. New and existing Sprint Unlimited Freedom subscribers can add Hulu at no extra charge. Hulu has three services tiers: streaming with limited commercials for $8 per month, streaming with no commercials for $12 per month, and streaming with live TV for $40 per month. The Sprint promotion applies to Hulu's entry-level limited commercials plan. Sprint and Hulu hope to offer an upgrade option for Hulu's sports and news-focused live TV plan in the near future, but potential pricing wasn't revealed. Sprint Unlimited Freedom customers can stream HD content over the network, though only some of Hulu's content is available in HD. Sprint says customers can sign up for free access to Hulu starting November 17. The move by Sprint and Hulu mirrors a similar tie-up between T-Mobile and Netflix.


ITC to Investigate Another Complaint Against Apple

Nov 15, 2017, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The International Trade Commission today said it will investigate claims made by Aqua Connect and Strategic Technology Partners that Apple is infringing on its patents. The two California-based firms filed grievances with the ITC in October and assert Apple's Mac computers, iPhones, iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs violate their intellectual property. The specific technology in question was not immediately identified. The ITC will assign the case to an administrative law judge for review. The judge will make an initial ruling that will then be reviewed by the entire ITC panel. Aqua Connect and Strategic Technology Partners hope to ban Apple from selling the devices unless it pays up. The ITC is a popular venue for legal complaints between tech companies because it has the power to prevent them from importing devices into the country.


Essential Gains Oreo Beta, But Some Skill Needed to Install It

Nov 15, 2017, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products has made Android 8 Oreo available to its PH-1 smartphone in beta form. Essential hopes users will test the beta platform and report bugs or other problems so the code may be cleaned up ahead of the software's general release. The beta cannot be installed over the air and will require a bit of know-how to shoehorn onto the PH-1. Interested PH-1 owners will need to download the operating system to their PC and then sideload it to the handset via ADB. Anyone not familiar with that process should not attempt to install Android 8 Oreo on their PH-1. Essential did say that testers will be able to revert back to the latest production software if they find the beta too buggy. The beta will not negate the PH-1's warranty, though Essential warns that it has not been carrier tested. The instructions and necessary files are available from Essential's web site.


Google Overhauls Its Home Media App

Nov 14, 2017, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released a new version of Google Home, the mobile app smartphone owners use to interact with their Google Home speaker and Chromecast dongles. Google says the revised application should make it easier to find content to share with connected speakers and television sets. To start, the app has been given a full visual makeover that Google claims is more intuitive. It now recommends content from all the user's connected media services, such as Spotify or Netflix, so music and movies are simpler to start streaming. Search has been improved and can now handle keyword searches based on actor, artist, genre, or category. Google Home can now be used to cast movie trailers to a connected TV. Last, the app gives people more control over their entire viewing and listening experience. For example, the redesigned controllers give people the ability to tweak bass or treble on supported speakers, including the Google Home device. The Google Home companion app is free to download from the Play Store.


New iOS 11.2 Beta Squashes Bugs, Preps Apple Pay Cash

Nov 14, 2017, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has made iOS 11.2 beta 3 available to both developers and public testers of its mobile device platform. The main feature of iOS 11.2 appears to be the addition of Apple Pay Cash, which allows iPhone owners to pay one another directly via the iOS messaging application. iOS 11.2 beta 3 cleans up the code a bit. For example a bug impacting calculator operation has been swept under the rug, and several animations found in the calculator have been removed entirely. The update adds a warning screen that explains to end users the difference between disabling Bluetooth or WiFi via the Control Center versus doing the same thing from the Settings menu. The former puts the radios to sleep, while the latter turns them off entirely. iOS 11.2 beta 3 shows off new camera emoji and animations for Live Photos, as well as a way to see "now playing" content in the Control Center when using the iPhone as a remote for the Apple TV. New Live wallpapers on are deck, too. iOS 11.2 beta 3 is free for registered developers and beta testers to download and use.


T-Mobile's Revvl Plus Hits Stores November 17 for $200

Nov 14, 2017, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Revvl Plus, made by Coolpad, is the latest smartphone to carry the T-Mobile brand. This big brother to the Revvl offers big features at a small price. The Revvl Plus cranks the screen size up to 6 inches with full HD resolution. The phone is powered by a 2.0 GHz octa-core processor with 2 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The Revvl Plus boasts dual cameras on the rear, a rare feature for a phone at this price point. The main sensor captures 13-megapixel HDR images while the secondary sensor captures 5-megapixel shots. The front camera has its own 8-megapixel camera. Other features of the Revvl Plus include fingerprint sensor, LTE, expandable storage, and 3,380mAh battery. T-Mobile plans to sell the phone starting November 17. It will cost $200, or $8 per month for 24 months with an $8 down payment. The Revvl Plus runs Android 7.1 Nougat.


Google Home's Broadcast Feature Goes Live

Nov 13, 2017, 12:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today enabled the broadcast feature on Google Home devices in English in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada. Now, people with Google Home devices in their house can broadcast announcements or statements from their phone-based Google Assistant to their Home device. For example, parents can say “Ok Google, broadcast I’m on my way home!” to the Assistant on their phone, and it will broadcast to their Google Home for those to hear. People will need to be signed into the same Google Assistant account on all devices for this to work. Google first announced the broadcast feature earlier this year. Broadcast will become available to more languages and countries over time.


AT&T and Verizon Will Work Together On Future Cell Towers

Nov 13, 2017, 10:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and Verizon have tapped Tillman Infrastructure to build hundreds of small cell towers around the country. Tillman already builds, owns, and operates a series of towers and small cells. Tillman will build new towers for AT&T and Verizon, which have agreed to lease and co-anchor the towers. According to Verizon, the new towers will be added in areas where others don't already exist and will give AT&T and Verizon the opportunity to move equipment from old (expensive) towers to the new (cheaper) ones. Tillman is expected to begin work on the new towers as soon as the first quarter of 2018. AT&T and Verizon engineers will install networking equipment and turn the sites on as quickly as they can. Tillman will have the opportunity to build hundreds more sites if the initial batch are completed successfully. Neither AT&T nor Verizon said which network technologies will be installed on the towers. Separately, both companies are pursuing various paths towards 5G with technologies including mmWave.


Qualcomm Rejects Broadcom's Acquisition Offer

Nov 13, 2017, 8:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm's board of directors today unanimously rejected Broadcom's Nov. 6 offer to buy the company in a deal that would have been valued at approximately $130 billion. The "proposal is not in the best interests of shareholders and dramatically undervalues Qualcomm," said the Snapdragon maker in a prepared statement. Broadcom's offer was unsolicited, meaning Qualcomm isn't actively selling itself. What's unclear is how aggressive Broadcom will be about buying Qualcomm. It could raise its offer or back down. Broadcom hasn't yet publicly responded to Qualcomm's decision.


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