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printed August 30, 2015
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Microsoft Avoids Import Ban in InterDigital Case

Yesterday, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft escaped what could have been a harmful ban on its devices as the U.S. International Trade Commission decided not to block the import of Microsoft's smartphones into the U.S. Microsoft lost a patent case against InterDigital in April when it was found to be infringing on two patents. The individual trade judge who reached that decision recommended Microsoft's handsets be banned from import. The full ITC panel rejected that judge's decision on Friday, however, which means Microsoft will continue to be allowed to bring its handsets into the U.S. Microsoft expressed relief at the decision, while InterDigital voiced disappointment. Earlier this month, Microsoft filed an antitrust lawsuit against InterDigital, claiming the company charges exorbitant fees for standard-essential patents. Such patents must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discrimonatory rates. InterDigital is a patent-holding company and has had mixed success in suing companies such as Samsung, ZTE, and Huawei.


T-Mobile Needs Band 12 Phones to Also Support VoLTE, E911

Friday, 3:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has clarified its stance on Band 12 support in handsets that operate on its network. "We require phones using Band 12 on T-Mobile to support E911 and VoLTE in order to be certified on our network," said T-Mobile in a statement provided to Fierce Wireless. "We do this in the interest of our customers' overall experience and safety." T-Mobile does not, however, force phone makers to support Band 12. "Every OEM has the option to support VoLTE and E911 or not. It's their decision, though obviously, we hope that every OEM will choose to support these features and get certified on our network." The issue at hand is one of safety. Handsets that include Band 12 but don't also support VoLTE and E911 can run into roaming issues that may prevent 911 emergency calls from connecting properly. This would violate FCC regulations and might impact the outcome of emergency situations. The issue came to light when it was discovered the Moto E doesn't support VoLTE, E911, nor Band 12.


Motorola Updates Camera, Gallery Apps

Friday, 3:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola has in recent days updated its camera and gallery applications. The camera app brings QR and barcode scanning to some of Motorola's older handsets, such as the Moto X (2nd Gen.), Moto X Pro, DROID Turbo, and Moto Maxx/Turbo. The gallery app's primary new feature is the ability to move photo albums to microSD memory cards, which the newest Moto X and Moto G smartphones support. Both apps are free to download from the Google Play Store.


BlackBerry CEO Says Smartphone Biz Is On a Timer

Friday, 12:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

John S. Chen, CEO of BlackBerry, admitted that its recent handsets have not sold as well as he hoped. "By any definition it is not a runaway success," said Chen to Re/Code of BlackBerry's smartphone business. Chen put some of the blame on the lack of apps. The Blackberry World app store "[is] not competitive to Google Play or the iTunes store," said Chen. "We're working hard at that." BlackBerry handsets are able to run Android apps, but even that doesn't help. Recent reports have suggested the company is preparing a BlackBerry handset with Android on board, but Chen said, "It is a little more complex [than that], which is why it is not done." BlackBerry has already made significant cuts to its hardware business this year and plans to release just one or two handsets per year. Even so, the company may consider exiting smartphones altogether. "If I can't make money on the phone, I will be out of that telephone handset business. There is a timeline; I won't tell you when."


Nokia Forges China Joint Venture to Win Alca-Lu Approval

Friday, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia has signed a memorandum of understanding with a China government-backed investment company called Huaxin in order to encourage approval of its proposed acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. The acquisition has already been approved by U.S. and E.U. antitrust bodies, but is awaiting China's decision. The joint venture, named Nokia Shanghai Bell, will mirror one Alcatel-Lucent had in place with Huaxin and may facilitate China's approval of the deal. Nokia will hold 50% of the company plus one share, and Huaxin will hold the rest. Nokia believes merging with Alcatel-Lucent will allow it to better compete with companies such as Ericsson and ZTE, which also provide network operators with telecommunications equipment.


FCC Gives KanOkla Permission to Sell Spectrum to AT&T

Friday, 7:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has approved AT&T's proposed acquisition of several spectrum licenses from KanOkla Telephone Association. The transfer includes one Lower 700 MHz C Block license and the partial assignment of a second Lower 700 MHz C Block license, for a total of 12 megahertz, covering parts of two local market areas in Kansas and Oklahoma. Similar to a transaction the FCC approved earlier this week, the KanOkla spectrum buy will give AT&T control of more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in the stated ares. Even so, the FCC determined the transfer does not pose any competitive harm and will likely result in some benefits for consumers. AT&T and KanOkla Telephone Association did not place a dollar value on the spectrum sale. Such transactions are common in the industry.


Moto G 3rd Gen. Reaches U.S. Cellular

Friday, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular recently made the third-generation Moto G smartphone available from its web site. The carrier is charging $0 for those who sign a contract, $129 for those who prefer prepaid service, or will finance it for $8.99 per month under an installment plan. The Moto G has a 5-inch 720p screen, 13-megapixel camera, and support for LTE 4G. U.S. Cellular is only selling the black version. Consumers who want to customize the colors will need to order the phone through Motorola's Moto Maker web site.


Vine Adds Music to Video Loops

Friday, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine has updated its Android and iOS apps with a new feature allowing users to easily attach music to their videos. A function called Snap to Beat makes it easy to create what Vine refers to as perfect loops, or soundtracks that loop seamlessly with no breaks. Vine offers a selection of songs that can be attached to videos and it will then automatically trim it to the perfect length for each individual video. The soundtrack function also lets people edit music loops on their own for added control, as well as a handful of sound effects for dramatic impact. The music feature isn't just for adorning videos with songs. Users can discover music through a "featured tracks" tool, as well as easily find out the names of songs playing in other peoples' vine videos. Vine is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Turing Phone to Ship December 18

Thursday, 4:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Turing Robotic Industries today said its Turing Phone will ship to customers starting Dec. 18, more than four months later than the original Aug. 10 ship date. The company began accepting preorders on July 31 and expects people to pay for the phone in full Sept. 24, long before it ships. Turing named Foxconn as its official manufacturer. Turing also announced two special editions of the handset, called the Dark Wyvern and Dark Wyvern Glaedr, which will be available as upgrades. The standard Turing Phone costs $610 for 16 GB, $740 for 64 GB, and $870 for 128 GB. The special editions cost $999 and $1,299, respectively. The Turing phone is molded from Liquidmorphium that the company claims provides greater tensile strength than either titanium or steel. The handset has a fingerprint sensor built into the side edge for security and uses a magnetic charger to negate the need for ports. Turing says the Android-based handset offers completely secure phone calls and messaging. The device features a 5.5-inch full HD display and it is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The device has a 3,000mAh battery and supports a range of LTE networks around the world.


Sprint Offering DirecTV Customers a Free Year of Service

Thursday, 1:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint rolled out a promotion today that takes direct aim at rival AT&T. The company is offering DirecTV customers who switch to Sprint 12 months of free service. The offer includes unlimited talk and text and up to 2GB of LTE 4G data. Sprint said it will pay the ETFs for those who switch, as well as any remaining equipment payments up to $300. Customers will be responsible for a $36 activation charge and monthly taxes and fees. Once the 12-month promotion ends, users will be moved to a $50 monthly service plan (for a single line). The free year of service does not include Sprint's international services, and data overages are charged at $0.015 per MB. The promotion will be available from Aug. 28 through Sept. 30. DirecT was recently acquired by AT&T.


Apple Strikes Deal with PayAnywhere to Expand Apple Pay

Thursday, 12:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced that Apple Pay is now compatible with PayAnywhere, a type of credit card reader that's in use at about 300,000 locations around the U.S. Apple will sell the newest version of the PayAnywhere terminal to merchants through its own stores. The deal expands the availability of Apple Pay significantly. Apple said it hopes to see Apple Pay accepted at more than 1.5 million locations before year's end. In order to boost interest in the terminal, PayAnywhere is offering new customers $5,000 in free Apple Pay transactions. Apple Pay makes use of NFC to power tap-and-go payments at supporting terminals. Google and Samsung are on the cusp of releasing Android Pay and Samsung Pay, respectively, which will offer similar capabilities to Android handsets.


Instagram Permitting Landscape and Portrait Photos

Thursday, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram marked a major change today by adding support for portrait and landscape photos to its Android and iOS apps. Since its launch, Instagram has required all photos to be square. Some users circumvented the requirement by using third-party apps to make their landscape and portrait images comply with the square shape. Moving forward, photos pulled from the camera roll can be posted in their full size and aspect ratio or zoomed/cropped into a square. The default shape for capturing images within Instagram will still be square. The app, owned by Facebook, is free to download from the Google Play Store and Android App Store.


T-Mobile Opens Up LTE Roaming to CCA Data Hub

Thursday, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today added its network to the Competitive Carriers Association's LTE data roaming hub. The move gives CCA members and their customers access to T-Mobile's LTE 4G network for data roaming purposes. The Hub, which launched several years ago, is a collection of roaming agreements between small, rural carriers and large, national ones, such as Sprint and T-Mobile. The purpose of the Hub is to give larger carriers access to the rural networks of regional carriers, and give those regional carriers access to the metropolitan LTE 4G networks of larger carriers. T-Mobile has participated in the hub from a management perspective for some time, but had not yet contributed access to its own network. T-Mobile's network is strong in urban centers, but the carrier lacks the rural coverage available from other competitors.


Samsung Kicks Off Beta Testing for Samsung Pay

Thursday, 10:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung is inviting a select number of people to beta test Samsung Pay in the U.S. In order to trial the mobile payment platform, consumers need to have a Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note 5 smartphone. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular are supporting Samsung Pay at launch, Verizon Wireless is not. The beta requires users to have an active Samsung account and a MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust, or U.S. Bank. Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST for tap-and-go transactions. Apple Pay and Android Pay, in comparison, use only NFC. Consumers can request an invite to test Samsung Pay from Samsung.com.


Arro Aims to Connect New Yorkers with Taxis

Thursday, 10:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

New York City taxicabs are testing an app called Arro that will allow people to hail taxis from their smartphone. Arro will provide people with the taxi driver's name and the number of the cab so it can be identified when it arrives. Similarly, the taxi driver will be given the name of the passenger through the app and the pickup location. The app stores credit card information and passengers can pay for the ride from their phone automatically when it is complete. Arro is being beta tested in about 7,000 cabs and will eventually expand to 13,000 of New York's 20,000 yellow and green taxis. The app is meant to help the taxi industry compete with Uber, which also allows people to hail rides from their smartphone. Arro partnered with Creative Mobile Technologies, which controls the electronic payment service and video screens in 65% of New York's taxis. Arro said it has an advantage over Uber in that it is natively hooked into most taxis' credit card payment terminals. Moreover, Arro will not charge surge pricing; passengers will only pay the metered fare. The full launch is expected to occur in the next few weeks. Arro's developers said they hope to expand the app to all NYC taxis and eventually to other cities.


FCC Approves AT&T Spectrum Purchase from Kaplan

Thursday, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has given Kaplan Telephone Inc. permission to sell several spectrum licenses to AT&T. The two Lower 700 MHz C Block licenses and a Cellular B Block license cover parts of two local market areas in Louisiana. The transaction will give AT&T control of more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in the region, but the FCC determined that the transfer does not pose any competitive harm and will likely result in some benefits for consumers. AT&T and Kaplan did not place a dollar value on the spectrum sale.


Amazon Scales Back Fire Phone Hardware Team

Thursday, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has reduced the headcount at its Labs126 hardware division, according to the Wall Street Journal. The hardware division is responsible for products such as the Fire Phone and Kindle line of tablets. The unit employs about 3,000 people and the number of staff reductions isn't clear, though the Journal's sources suggest dozens have been let go. The Fire Phone, released last year, was Amazon's first smartphone. It ran a forked version of Android called FireOS and provided direct access to Amazon's book, music, and video content. Based on the job cuts, it does not appear as though there will be a follow up to the smartphone. Amazon did not comment on the Journal's story.


Facebook Testing Messenger-Based Personal Assistant

Wednesday, 1:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 1:22 PM

Facebook is trialling a smart personal assistant that will live inside its Messenger application and complete various tasks for users. For now, the assistant is called Facebook M and Facebook claims it will be superior to competing products. "Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf," explained Facebook VP David Marcus. "It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more." Facebook is testing M with a small number of people the Los Angeles area and, for now, its most complicated tasks will be overseen by real people. Facebook didn't say if or when it will expand testing to more users, nor when it will launch the product to everyone. M will join a crowded market of virtual assistants, which already includes Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Google's Now, and Microsoft's Cortana.


Amazon Underground Heralds 'Actually Free Apps'

Wednesday, 1:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today made available a new app that gives Android device owners access to totally free apps worth tens of thousands of dollars. Amazon Underground, which must be side-loaded directly from Amazon's web site, provides users with free versions of games and other apps that typically include fees of some sort. According to Amazon, it has cut a deal with the app developers wherein it pays them directly on a per-minute-of-use basis. This means users won't be hit up for in-app purchases or other hidden costs. Some of the free titles include OfficeSuite Professional 8, Goat Simulator, Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions, and Angry Birds Slingshot Stella. Amazon said the program is intended for the long haul and will be updated over time with new features and titles. Android Underground is free to download from Amazon.com.


YouTube Gaming Hits the Start Button

Wednesday, 12:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today fully launched its stand-alone YouTube Gaming site. The site features dedicated search algorithms so results focus on games. It includes landing pages for individual game franchises, and allows users to upload their gameplay, similar to Twitch. The service also supports clip highlights and lets users broadcast content easily. The YouTube Gaming web site is live, as is the dedicated mobile app for Android devices. The iOS app has yet to show up in the iTunes App Store. YouTube Gaming is free to access and use.


Verizon Supporting Non-Branded iPhone 6 and Nexus 6

Wednesday, 8:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless has made it somewhat easier to activate select non-Verizon smartphones on its network. People who own an iPhone 6 or Nexus 6 can add Verizon service to their handset as long as it meets several key criteria. A new support page on Verizon's web site provides step-by-step instructions that help people determine if their handset is compatible with Verizon's network. If it is, users will be able to insert a Verizon SIM card and initiate service. Verizon said the device has to be unlocked prior to activation. The idea is to make it easier for people to switch to Verizon by allowing them to use their existing equipment. The program also helps Verizon satisfy some regulatory requirements with regard to allowing non-branded devices access its LTE network.


Verizon's 'Hum' Goes Live Today, Brings Safety Service to Cars

Wednesday, 7:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Communications today made Hum, its connected car product, available in the U.S. The product was first revealed in January as Verizon Vehicle with an intended June launch time. Though a bit late, the device and service are now for sale. Hum is meant to bring online services to older cars that shipped without such connections built in. The module, which plugs into a car's diagnostic port, can diagnose mechanical problems, summon tow trucks or roadside assistance, or allow a live technician to access the car's computer remotely to suggest potential fixes. Hum may later add turn-by-turn navigation or concierge services. The module is compatible with some 9,000 models released since 1996. The starter kit, which includes an app, module, and Bluetooth speaker, costs $120. Service for the first car costs $14.99 per month. Verizon is waiving the equipment costs for now. People who add the service to three or more cars will be charged at $12.99 per car per month.


Gmail to Automatically Add Travel Events to Calendar

Wednesday, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google Apps users will soon have to spend less time managing their calendar thanks to a new feature headed to Gmail. Gmail will soon automatically populate Google Calendar with flight, hotel, and other travel information it sees in the inbox. Google will go beyond simply creating events; it will include location details, directions, flight numbers, and check-in times. Google says events added by Gmail will only be visible to the calendar owner, who will be able to delete unwanted events and alter visibility settings to include colleagues. When it becomes available, Google Calendar users will be greeted with a card on their handset followed by an email in Gmail explaining how it works. The feature can be turned off any time. Google Apps is the business version of Google's core productivity services, including Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and Drive. The feature won't be available to government users, and is not yet being made available to normal users. The new functions will roll out to all Google Apps users over the next few weeks.


AT&T Rebranding Mexico's Iusacell and Nextel to AT&T

Wednesday, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has begun rebranding its Iusacell and Nextel properties in Mexico under the AT&T name. Moving forward, people who visit Iusacell and Nextel stores will be buying AT&T Unidos service plans (Unidos con Todo and Unidos a tu Manera, respectively). Authorized resellers in Mexico will offer the same plans. AT&T said stores will begin rebranding by late this year and they should all be converted by late 2016. AT&T plans to invest in Iusacell and Nextel, starting with more advanced LTE 4G networks. With the new plans, new stores, and new network, AT&T believes it can better serve consumers in Mexico.


Facebook Moments App Now Auto-Creates Videos

Tuesday, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today added new support for video to its Moments photo-sharing application. This marks the first major update to the app since its June release for the iPhone. Moments will now automatically create videos for events that have more than six photos, and will even set the photos to music. People can then share the music videos just as easily as they would stand-alone images. The app adds a moment-creating tool to the main interface, as well. Other improvements include expanded support for 34 different languages, a photo upload progress bar, and general performance and bug fixes. The idea behind Facebook Moments is to make it easier for Facebook friends to share photos taken at the same event with one another by automatically creating shared albums. Moments is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


FCC Hands Out More AWS-3 Licenses to Auction Winners

Tuesday, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has delivered more licenses to winners of the AWS-3 spectrum auction, which concluded earlier this year. The bulk of licenses granted this week were given to Orion Wireless LLC and Geneseo Communications Services, and cover areas of Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The AWS-3 spectrum falls in the 1755-1780Mhz and 2155-2180Mhz bands. The FCC handed out the bulk of the licenses to auction winners earlier this year. The FCC, which recently determined that Dish Networks' designated entities don't qualify for small business discounts, has yet to give Dish its spectrum licenses. Dish Networks spent $13.3 billion in the auction.


Sony Says Next Xperia Will Offer 'Greater Focus'

Tuesday, 7:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony took to Twitter to tease a new Xperia-branded handset. "Get ready for a smartphone with greater focus," said the company. Sony has always placed an emphasis on it devices' cameras. "All will become clear on 09.02.2015." Sony is holding a press conference at the IFA trade show in Berlin on that day and is expected to reveal its next-generation flagship smartphone. The company announced the Z4v for the U.S. market earlier this year, but the phone has yet to land on Verizon's shelves despite a promised summer launch frame.


Twitter Rolls Out Message Notifications In the Browser

Tuesday, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

People using Twitter in their desktop browser can now opt to receive notifications when they receive direct messages. The notifications are opt-in and will flash in the upper-right corner of the browser when new direct messages arrive. Clicking on a notification opens the message in the messaging panel of Twitter.com.


Microsoft Trots Out Nokia 222 Feature Phone

Tuesday, 7:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the Nokia 222, a bar-style feature phone that runs Nokia Series 30+ and includes only the most essential functions. The Nokia 222's core apps include MSN Weather, Bing Search, Opera Mini, as well as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter. The device has a 2.4-inch QVGA display, an 1,100mAh battery, and a 2-megapixel camera. Other features include Bluetooth 3.0, stereo headphone jack and FM radio, support for 32GB memory cards, and SLAM photo-sharing technology. The Nokia 222 goes on sale in September and will cost about $37. Based on its limited dual-band 900/1800MHz GSM/EDGE support, the phone will likely not be sold in the U.S.


Queens Man Cited by FCC for Interfering with Sprint's Network

Aug 24, 2015, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has filed a citation against a Queens, New York, man for operating equipment in the 1900MHz band that is interfering with Sprint's network. Sprint filed a complaint about interference issues on March 10. The FCC investigated and determined the interference is being caused by an unknown device or devices on property owned in Queens by Jian Chang. "The device at this location is injecting noise into the Sprint network and degrading or blocking service to Sprint's customers," said the FCC. When asked for help, "Chang refused to assist the agents and refused to allow the inspection of any offending transmitter." The FCC sent Chang an official notice about the interference issue and received no response. The FCC says Chang is violating multiple rules, such as those prohibiting the "operation of an intentional, unintentional, or incidental radiator subject to the conditions that no harmful interference is caused. Any equipment or device subject to the provisions of this part [of the rules]…shall be made available for inspection by a Commission representative upon reasonable request." Chang has 30 days (from Aug. 19) to respond to the FCC's citation and inspection request. Chang may be fined up to $16,000 per day up to a total of $122,500 until the issue is resolved.


Microsoft Releases Cortana for Android in Beta Form

Aug 24, 2015, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made its Cortana voice-activated personal assistant available to Android users via the Google Play Store beta channel. The app had previously only been available through a closed beta, but is now accessible through an open beta program. Cortana for Android can be used to track flights and other calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, and monitor packages. Cortana can also supplant Google Now on Android handsets if users so wish. Cortana beta testers can set Cortana to launch with a long press of the home button, which makes it easier to use Cortana on Android phones. Cortana testers will still be able to interact with and launch Google Now on their handsets via other actions. Cortana for Android is free to download from Microsoft's beta site in the Google Play Store. Microsoft is still working to bring Cortana to iOS devices.


Cricket Expands Calling Plans to Central, South America

Aug 24, 2015, 11:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 24, 2015, 3:53 PM

Cricket Wireless today made more calling and messaging add-on plans available to a greater number of countries throughout Central and South America. For $10 per month, Cricket customers can add Columbia, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic to their plan. The plan provides 150, 100, and 100 voice minutes, respectively, as well as unlimited messaging (text, picture, video). For $15 per month, Cricket customers gain various amounts of voice minutes and unlimited messaging to El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Jamaica, Haiti, and Nicaragua. These options must be added to Cricket's $50 or $60 monthly plans. Cricket also improved its Canada plan. Subscribers to the $50 or $60 plans will receive unlimited talk and text to and from Canada (when roaming) for free. Cricket already offers similar unlimited calling and messaging to/from Mexico. The new international add-ons are available starting today.


Sprint Grows Direct 2 You Footprint By Six Cities

Aug 24, 2015, 10:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today expanded its Direct 2 You service to the metropolitan areas of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Orlando, Phoenix, St. Louis, San Antonio, and Seattle. The service is live in these cities and the surrounding areas. With Direct 2 You, a Sprint technician brings the store experience directly to the homes of customers who purchase a new phone. Customers still receive the same benefits as buying in stores, such as setting up a phone, transferring content, and device tutorials. Sprint's Direct 2 You service is offered free of charge. Sprint said more cities will be added throughout the year. It is already offered in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington, D.C. Sprint is also offering special promotions to Direct 2 You customers. Beginning today, people who complete a Direct 2 You appointment will receive a free gift, such as Motorola Bluetooth headphones or Harmon Kardon Bluetooth speaker. The promotion also includes a chance to win a cruise for two, or a paid-for trip to the Super Bowl next year. Every Direct 2 You customer will be entered to win a $250,000 cash prize if they post a picture of themselves with their Direct 2 You tech to Twitter or Instagram.


HTC Offering $100 Play Store Credit to One M9 Buyers

Aug 24, 2015, 9:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 24, 2015, 10:21 AM

HTC today kicked off a short promotion that will reward buyers of the One M9 smartphone with $100 in Google Play Store credit. Buyers will need to scoop up the phone from HTC.com no later than Oct. 31 to claim the $100 in free app, music, movie, and game content.


Qualcomm Talks Up Hexagon 680 Digital Signal Processor

Aug 24, 2015, 8:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today shared more information about the Hexagon 680 digital signal processor, a component that will be part of the forthcoming Snapdragon 820 application processor. Qualcomm says it relies on DSPs to offload some tasks from the main CPU in order to save power. The Hexagon 680 introduces a separate DSP for sensors, such as pedometers, gyroscopes, and accelerometers, so motion and other activities can be tracked without draining the battery. The other improvement over earlier DSPs is what Qualcomm calls the Hexagon Vector eXtensions, which are reserved for imaging and computer vision. The HVXs are paired with the Qualcomm Spectra image signal processor, for example, to adaptively improve low light areas in real time without sucking down energy. Qualcomm says devices with the Snapdragon 820 — and Hexagon 680 — are expected to reach consumers during the first half of 2016.


Oppo Shows Off R7 Plus and R5s Smartphones

Aug 24, 2015, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Oppo today announced two new handsets, the R7 Plus and the R5s (pictured). Both share thin and premium designs with internal specs such as 1.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processors, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and 13-megapixel Sony cameras.

The R7 Plus and R5s are available to North American buyers via the Oppo Style web site. The R7 Plus doesn't support U.S. LTE bands, but will run on the HSPA+ networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. It costs about $470. The R5s has limited support for U.S. LTE, and also runs on U.S. HSPA+ networks. It costs about $225. The phones are sold unlocked at full price.


Google to Trim Android Bloatware a Bit

Aug 24, 2015, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Android device owners will soon see fewer Google-branded apps on their smartphones. The company has altered its requirements and phone makers will no longer be forced to stick Google+, Play Games, Newsstand, and Play Books on their smartphones, according to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal. The change comes in response to an investigation the European Commission is conducting into Google's potential monopolistic business practices. Google has long required handset makers to include a series of core apps, such as Gmail, Google Maps, Calendar, and the Play Store. The list of these required apps has grown over the years. Unwanted apps — especially those that cannot be deleted — are often referred to as bloatware. The EU saw the presence of these unwanted and unremovable apps as unfair competition to third-party apps that do the same (or similar) thing. Google has not commented on the matter in any official way. The news was first reported by Android Central.


Apple to Replace Camera On Some iPhone 6 Plus Units

Aug 22, 2015, 6:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has launched an iSight camera replacement program for the iPhone 6 Plus. According to Apple, in a small percentage of iPhone 6 Plus devices the iSight camera has a component that may fail causing photos to look blurry. The affected units fall into a limited serial number range and were sold primarily between September 2014 and January 2015. Owners of the iPhone 6 Plus who experience blurry photos and purchased the device in the indicated date range can check to see if their camera is eligible for a free replacement. The repair can be completed at any Apple Store or authorized reseller.


Microsoft to Close Nokia Finnish Phone Production Site

Aug 21, 2015, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today confirmed it plans to fully close a facility in Salo, Finland, that was formerly used to create and produce mobile phones. Microsoft will leave the Nokia facilities in Espoo and Tampere open, but plans to cut about 2,300 jobs in Finland in total. Last month, Microsoft announced plans to slice 7,800 people from its headcount, including most of the phone hardware business it purchased from Nokia.


Project Ara: Just Joking About Those Drop Tests

Aug 21, 2015, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The folks running Google's Project Ara modular smartphone amended some comments made through its Twitter account to say its device in fact did not break apart when dropped. Earlier in the week, the team said, "No more electropermanent magnets," via its official Twitter account, followed by the hashtag #FailedTheDropTest. The implication was that the modular handset broke apart when dropped. It turns out that's not the case. "BTW #FailedTheDropTest was a joke. Didn't fail. We have been configuring a new solution. It's better too. Better camera? On that too. Better battery life? We're on it," said Project Ara in follow up Tweets. The team said it was "working on its humor."


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