Verizon Wireless today said it will not move forward with a "network optimization" plan that would have throttled the mobile data speeds of its heaviest users. Verizon announced its intent to slow down the speeds of grandfathered-in unlimited data customers based on monthly usage and local cell-site conditions, but met with resistance from both the government and customers. The company has apparently had a change of heart. "Verizon is committed to providing its customers with an unparalleled mobile network experience," said the company in a statement. "At a time of ever-increasing mobile broadband data usage, we not only take pride in the way we manage our network resources, but also take seriously our responsibility to deliver exceptional mobile service to every customer. We've greatly valued the ongoing dialogue over the past several months concerning network optimization and we've decided not to move forward with the planned implementation of network optimization for 4G LTE customers on unlimited plans. Exceptional network service will always be our priority and we remain committed to working closely with industry stakeholders to manage broadband issues so that American consumers get the world-class mobile service they expect and value." Earlier today, Verizon Wireless boosted its highest data plan allowance from 50GB per month to 100GB per month, a sign that the company's network isn't hitting the capacity constraints it earlier implied were the reason behind the plan to throttle customers.
Verizon Wireless today followed AT&T and Sprint with its own limited big data offering. Beginning October 2, Verizon customers with shared lines can increase their data allotments significantly. Shared lines with 12GB of data can jump to 15GB of data for the same $110 monthly fee. Similarly, the 16GB plan jumps to 30GB, the 20GB plan jumps to 40GB, the 30GB plan jumps to 60GB, the 40GB plan jumps to 80GB, and the 50GB plan jumps to 100GB. Monthly prices range all the way up to $375 for the (now) 100GB plan. Customers who choose Verizon Edge when purchasing or upgrading their smartphone using these promotions, or who bring their own device, can add those phones to More Everything plans for $15 per month in addition to the plan fees. The doubled-data promotion is available until October 31.
Consumer Cellular today announced the immediate availability of the Huawei Ascend Mate 2 and Vision 2. The Mate 2 has been available to U.S. consumers unlocked directly from Huawei for several months. It features a 6.1-inch 720p HD screen. The Vision 2 (pictured), however, is a new handset. The Vision 2 features a 4-inch WVGA display and dual-core 1.2GHz processor. It has a 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, 4GB of internal storage, and memory card support up to 32GB. The Vision 2 is compatible with HSPA cellular networks and includes Bluetooth, GPS, and Wi-Fi radios. The device features Consumer Cellular's Easy Mode, which the company believes is ideal for first-time smartphone buyers. It runs Android 4.3. The Vision 2 costs $100. The Ascend Mate 2 costs either $250 at full retail, or $100 followed by six payments of $25. Last, starting today, customers will now have either 30 days, 300 minutes, 300 texts, or 300 MB of data to use, whichever comes first.
Sprint today moved to counter a mobile data promotion recently launched by AT&T by debuting its own. Beginning today, subscribers to Sprint's Family Share Pack plans will be able to double their data allotments. Families with the 32, 40, and 80GB plans will receive 60, 80, and 120GB, respectively, for the same monthly fee they're already paying. Customers have to visit Sprint stores or call in to customer support by October 31 to receive the new data packages. Additionally, Sprint is waiving the access charge for handsets, tablets, and mobile broadband devices on 20GB or higher data allowances for customers who switch their number to Sprint. Sprint is offering a similar double-data promotion to its business customers, as well.
FreedomPop today announced a new direction for the company, as it plans to sell more low-cost hardware using its own brand. The first device to bear the FreedomPop name is the Liberty, a tablet that has a 6.7-inch screen with 1024 x 600 resolution. The Liberty includes a dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex A9 processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. The main camera captures 4-megapixel images and the selfie camera captures VGA images. The Liberty supports memory cards and includes a 2,400mAh battery. FreedomPop is marketing the Liberty as a phablet, but it is limited to Wi-Fi and does not include cellular capabilities. Liberty owners will receive 200 voice minutes and 500 messages for free; both services will require an active Wi-Fi network to function. (Some of FreedomPop's devices include cellular capabilities and roam onto Sprint's network.) Liberty said a larger, 10-inch tablet with LTE, called the Frenzy, will arrive next month. Further, a FreedomPop-branded, LTE-equipped Android smartphone will show up at some point down the road. The FreedomPop Liberty costs $89 and ships today. Last, FreedomPop said it plans to offer the Samsung Galaxy Note II and Note 3 in the days ahead for low prices.
LG today announced the F60, what it calls an affordable handset with LTE 4G on board. The F60 features a 4.5-inch WVGA display and 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM and either 4 or 8GB of internal storage. The device has a 5-megapixel main camera with Gesture Shot and Touch & Shot, and a 1.3-megapixel selfie camera with a user-facing light for improved selfies. The device includes Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and GPS, and relies on a 2,100mAh for power. The F60 features a number of LG's signature capabilities, such as Knock Code. The F60 runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and will go on sale in the weeks ahead. U.S carriers have not announced support for the phone yet, but LG said it will be sold in the Americas.
Microsoft today announced the next version of Windows will be called Windows 10. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will encompass "one product family, one platform, one store." Windows 10 will run on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. Microsoft says the operating system will offer users a seamless experience across multiple different form factors with varied input types (mouse, pen, touch). One of the key components will be the shared code so developers can create apps that run on any of the supported form factors with little customization. Microsoft shied away from sharing too many specifics as far as features go, but noted that preview builds of the desktop platform will reach consumers in early 2015. The company didn't make any commitments as to when then next version of Windows Phone will be available.
Pebble today announced a software update for its devices and lowered the prices of its hardware. The software update targets health and fitness apps, and allows Pebble smart watches to track activity in the background. For starters, Misfit, Jawbone, and Swim.com have updated their apps to take advantage of the new health and fitness powers. Jawbone's new Up app will mirror some of the functionality offered by its own fitness tracking wearables, and Swim.com will allow swimmers to track distance, pace, strokes, and efficiency in their workouts. In order to boost appeal of its wearables, Pebble is dropping prices. Beginning today, Pebble costs $99 and Pebble Steel costs $199 (both prices reflect a $50 drop). Last, Pebble's wearables will be sold from a wider selection of stores, such as Sam's Club, Fry's, and Sprint.
U.S. Cellular today said it will soon offer the LG G3. The flagship device, which boasts a 5.5-inch quad HD display and 13-megapixel camera, will go on sale in October, though U.S. Cellular didn't say exactly when. U.S. Cellular said the phone will be available for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments for well-qualified customers. The company didn't disclose the full retail price of the G3. The G3 has been available from other carriers for several months.
Microsoft today re-launched its MSN web portal. The site has been redesigned from the ground up and provides one-click access to many tools, such as OneDrive, Outlook email, OneNote, and Skype. Microsoft says the new MSN will look and behave the same across all devices, be they PCs, tablets, or smartphones. Microsoft said it is pulling in content from a wider range of sources in order to appeal to as many users as possible. It is also localizing news content, so people in the US will have content that differs from the content offered in Japan, India, and other regions. The new MSN is free to visit on the web. Along with the reboot of MSN, Microsoft said it is updating a handful of its apps for Windows Phone, including Health & Fitness and Weather. Both apps gain new lock screen features. Health & Fitness, for example, will be able to provide GPS data and a step counter on the lock screen so users won't have to launch the individual app to see their workout stats. Similarly, the new weather app will offer real-time weather updates on the lock screen. Both apps are free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
eBay today announced plans to separate its online auction business from its online payments business. eBay will spin off PayPal into its own company, a move it expects to complete during the second half of 2015. eBay and PayPal have long worked hand-in-hand to let people make online purchases easily with just their email address. PayPal has expanded its scope beyond simple online transactions, but will need to push further into the mobile space to combat the likes of Apple Pay and Softcard. "For more than a decade eBay and PayPal have mutually benefited from being part of one company, creating substantial shareholder value," said eBay CEO John Donahoe. "However, a thorough strategic review with our board shows that keeping eBay and PayPal together beyond 2015 clearly becomes less advantageous to each business strategically and competitively." Activist investor Carl Icahn long pushed for eBay and PayPal to separate, but eBay resisted the move until today. Devin Wenig, eBay Marketplace President, will be the new eBay's CEO. eBay has tapped American Express executive Dan Schulman to run the new PayPal. He is joining PayPal immediately. Donahoe will oversee the separation of the two companies, and will then step aside.
Alcatel revealed two new Android smartphones headed to Tracfone later this year, the Pop Mega and the Pop Star. Here are a few thoughts on these low-cost cell phones.
BlackBerry says "We're back!" with the Passport, a smartphone that breaks new ground in some respects. Here are our first thoughts.
T-Mobile continues to chase 700MHz A Block spectrum across the country. According to recent filings with the FCC, T-Mobile's newest target is a batch of licenses held by Triad 700 LLC. Triad holds four licenses covering Anchorage, Alaska; Salisbury, Md.; Reno, Nev., and Erie, Pa. The spectrum blankets about 2.43 million POPs in those markets, according to AllNet Labs. All told, T-Mobile has initiated 700MHz A Block spectrum purchases that cover just under 18 million POPs. T-Mobile plans to use the 700MHz spectrum to enhance its LTE network. Terms of the latest deal were not disclosed.
Microsoft today released a new version of OneDrive for Android smartphones and tablets. The updated cloud storage app includes what Microsoft calls the All Photos View, which makes it easier to browse and see photos across OneDrive. OneDrive also adds new business tools, including a search function and a file viewer to find documents that colleagues have shared with the user. The updated app for Android devices is free to download from the Google Play Store. Microsoft recently doubled the amount of free storage from 15GB to 30GB - as long as users choose to automatically upload photos from their phone to OneDrive.
AT&T today launched a limited promotion that doubles the amount of monthly data available to certain plans for no extra charge. Customers who subscribe to one of AT&T's Mobile Share Value plans with 15, 20, 30, 40, or 50GB of data can upgrade their data to 30, 40, 60, 80, or 100GB, respectively, for free. The upgrade works with plans that include between two and 10 lines and already subscribe to a minimum of 15GB ($160 per month). The promotion, which is available to new and existing customers, runs between today and October 31. AT&T said the promotional data allotments will not expire, and customers can keep them as long as they subscribe to a Mobile Share Value plan.
A major RadioShack shareholder plans to invest more cash in the business in order to improve its liquidity. RadioShack is facing a cash crisis. As of last month it had just $30.5 million in the cash and owed creditors $658 million. Standard General is still discussing the particulars with RadioShack and its other creditors. The hedge fund, along with new, unnamed investors, believe they can buy out RadioShack's loans and get the company back on its feet. Standard General raised its stake in RadioShack from 7.08% to 9.8%, making it the single largest shareholder. The investors hope to shore up RadioShack ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season. RadioShack sells cell phones and wireless service from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless alongside other consumer electronics.
Vine today updated its Android application and brought it closer to parity with the iOS version thereof. The chief new feature in Vine for Android is support for the camera roll, which allows Vine users to import video they've already shot (rather than record live). Vine users are free to piece together multiple segments from their phone to create 6-second masterpieces. Vine for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Yahoo today announced another round of product closures as its narrows its focus on core business units. One of the closures is a mobile app called Qwiki. Qwiki was able to take the photos stored on smartphones' camera rolls and convert them to short videos. The Qwiki app and service will cease operating on November 1. Yahoo suggests users download their stored content before the shutdown. Yahoo also said it plans to close Yahoo Education and Yahoo Directories, two web-based services for desktop machines. "At Yahoo, focus is an important part of accomplishing our mission: to make the world's daily habits more entertaining and inspiring," said Jay Rossiter, Yahoo SVP, Cloud Platform Group. "To achieve this focus, we have sunset more than 60 products and services over the past two years, and redirected those resources toward products that are aligned with our vision."
Pantech, based in Korea, has staked a For Sale sign in its front lawn. The company, which declared the equivalent of bankruptcy last month, is seeking a buyer to scoop up the entire business. Pantech has been facing trouble all year long. It twice sought delays in debt payments and entered into court receivership in August. The company believes it will fetch a higher price if sold as a single entity (approx. $366 million) rather than broken up and sold in pieces (approx. $181 million). Bids for the company are due in early October. Pantech found itself unable to compete with Samsung and LG, which are also based in Korea. It faced financial losses six quarters in a row, which led to its debt problems and eventual bankruptcy.
Intel today said it has forged an agreement with Tsinghua Unigroup to co-develop processors for mobile devices. Tsinghua runs both Spreadtrum and RDA, which are fabless semiconductor companies that develop 2G-, 3G-, and 4G-enabled mobile chipset platforms for smart phones, feature phones, and other consumer electronics products. In particular, Spreadtrum will create and sell a family of Intel Architecture-based system-on-chips (SoCs). The companies said Intel-based SoCs will appear in consumer products during the second half of next year. Further, Intel is investing $1.5 billion in Tsinghua, giving it a 20% stake in the company. Intel has its own family of mobile processors, but it has struggled against stronger competitors such as Qualcomm, which often combines application processors with wireless baseband radios. Combo chips are often more attractive to handset makers.
Apple today made available iOS 8.0.2, an update that Apple says fixes an issue in iOS 8.0.1 that impacted cellular network connectivity and Touch ID on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. In addition to resolving the cellular connectivity issue, the update also repairs a number of other issues. For example, it fixes a bug so HealthKit apps can now be made available in the App Store. It also: addresses an issue where third party keyboards could become deselected when a user enters their passcode; fixes an issue that prevented some apps from accessing photos from the Photo Library; improves the reliability of the Reachability feature on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus; fixes an issue that could cause unexpected cellular data usage when receiving SMS/MMS messages; fixes an issue where ringtones were sometimes not restored from iCloud backups; and fixes a bug that prevented uploading photos and videos from Safari. iOS 8.0.2 is free to download and install over the air, or via iTunes.
Hyperlapse is today releasing an updated version of its application with one major new feature: support for the user-facing camera. Users can now take timelapse videos with themselves as the star. The app also introduces a new design for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and resolves some bugs. Hyperlapse, which is made by Instagram, is free to download from the App Store.
Apple today issued a statement concerning reports of bent iPhones. It said bent iPhones are "extremely rare" under normal use, and the company has only received nine such compliants from customers. Videos and images have spread across the internet in recent days depicting iPhones 6 Plus handsets that nave been bent. Apple said the device has undergone rigorous durability tests and consumers have no reason to worry.
Flipboard recently shed its beta status and launched as a full app in the Windows Phone Store. The app was promised more than a year ago and arrives without the "flipping" gesture that made the app so popular with iOS and Android users. It is a socially-connected newsreader that creates digital magazines on the fly using web content. Flipboard is free to download, but requires Windows Phone 8.1.
Verizon Wireless today announced that its variant of the Moto X will be available beginning Friday, September 26. Customers can order preconfigured versions of the device, or use Moto Maker to design their own. Verizon is selling the 16-GB model for $99 with a new contract and the 32-GB version for $150 with a new contract. Verizon also plans to sell the Moto X through its Verizon Edge plans, which require monthly fees. Last, customers who sign up for a More Everything plan with at least 1GB of data will receive an extra 1GB of data per month for up to 24 months.
DirecTV's shareholders today voted overwhelmingly in favor of merging with AT&T. The vote of confidence from DirecTV's shareholders is just one of several the deal faces. It is still undergoing review from both the FCC and the Department of Justice. DirecTV says it expects the deal to close during the first half of 2015. AT&T and DirecTV believe together they can offer more competitive content delivery services.
Apple published directions on its support web site that iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners can use to revert their devices to iOS 8 from iOS 8.0.1. The work-around restores cellular connectivity, which had been broken by the yanked iOS 8.0.1 update. It involves downloading the .ipsw file from Apple and using it in conjunction with iTunes on a computer to install a clean version of iOS 8. Apple also noted that it is preparing iOS 8.0.2, which will also resolve the cellular issue as well as resolve the bugs iOS 8.0.1 was meant to fix.
Apple released a new version of iOS 8 this afternoon only to yank it shortly thereafter. The purpose of iOS 8.0.1 was to resolve a wide range of bugs impacting iOS devices, such as the inability to download HealthKit apps from the App Store. Instead, the update caused even more grief as it disabled cellular service on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus across multiple carriers. The update also broke Touch ID functionality. Once users reported losing cellular service on their devices, Apple removed the update from its servers. "We have received reports of an issue with the iOS 8.0.1 update," said Apple in a statement. "We are actively investigating these reports and will provide information as quickly as we can. In the meantime we have pulled back the iOS 8.0.1 update." iPhone owners who've lost cellular service due to the update should be able to regain access to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon by restoring their iPhone to iOS 8.
Verizon Wireless is weighing whether or not to sell its cell towers to a third party, reports Reuters. Earlier this month Verizon's Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo indicated the company is interested in such an idea. Verizon has hired TAP Advisors to help it plan for and execute the sale, according to sources cited by Reuters. AT&T sold its cell towers to Crown Castle last year for $4.85 billion. Sprint has also divested the management of its cell towers. Verizon has yet to make any official announcements.
BlackBerry today fully revealed the Passport, its first smartphone to debut since February. The Passport has a unique shape, providing a large, square screen with a full, physical QWERTY keyboard below. The phone has a steel frame that BlackBerry claims lends it great strength. The screen measures 4.5 inches across the diagonal and has 1,440 x 1,440 pixels. BlackBerry says the square aspect ratio helps fit more content across the screen when compared to 16:9 displays. The company took special care to develop the keyboard, which it claims is faster and more reliable than software keyboards. The keyboard is touch-enabled and lets users brush their fingers over the keys to scroll through information on the screen. Users can also flick up on the keyboard to use next-word suggestions, and swipe from right to left on the keyboard to delete the full last word. Under the hood, the Passport has a 2.2GHz Snapdragon processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. It supports microSD memory cards and has a 3,450mAh battery. The phone comes with a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization. The device runs BlackBerry OS 10.3 with support the Amazon App Store for applications. Alongside the Passport, BlackBerry also introduced BlackBerry Assistant, a voice-activated tool similar to Siri, Google Now, and Cortana that can perform select actions on the Passport. BlackBerry claims Assistant is more powerful than rivals because it can access information behind corporate firewalls. BlackBerry is selling the Passport directly to U.S. consumers from its web site. The phone costs $599 and is being sold without a contract. It is compatible with HSPA/LTE networks, such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile.
Samsung recently said AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless will all offer its Gear S smartwatch "this fall." Samsung didn't say when the device will actually go on sale. The Gear S differs from Samsung's other wearables in that it has a cellular radio inside and can make/receive phone calls and messages. Pricing has yet to be revealed for the device itself, as well as for the plans connecting it to cellular networks. In an email, T-Mobile said the Gear S will be available for purchase on its Equipment Installment Plan, which breaks down payments over time.
Google today rebranded and relaunched its Google Currents app for iPhones and iPads. The new name of the magazine and news service is called Google Play Newsstand - a named markedly similar to Apple's own Newsstand app. Along with the new name, Google redesigned the app. It features new navigation tools to help users find articles more quickly; a 'read now' tool for jumping to fresh articles amongst the user's subscriptions; and an expanded library that stores all the user's articles in one spot. Google Play Newsstand is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Karma, an MVNO that resells access to Sprint's network, today announced the Karma Go, an LTE 4G hotspot. Karma's first hotspot relied on Sprint's WiMax network. The company announced plans to transition to LTE late last year. The Karma Go is available for preorder beginning today. It will be $99 for a limited time, and heavily discounted for existing Karma customers. The MSRP of the device is $149. Karma expects the new hotspot to ship in December.
T-Mobile has its eye on the 700MHz spectrum owned by Frontier Communications and a person named Thomas Kurian. The Frontier spectrum in question covers 1.51 million POPs around Rochester, N.Y., and the deal with Kurian covers around 620,000 POPs in Grand Forks and Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota and Minnesota. Financial terms of the transactions weren't disclosed. T-Mobile did say the acquisition will help it improve coverage and its level of service to customers in the markets covered.
Google recently updated the tools available to Chrome App for Mobile developers, who can now add more native-app functionality to their web apps. Chrome App for Mobile, which was launched earlier this year, gives developers a way to package up web apps and make them available in the Play Store or App Store. According to Google, it has added Chrome APIs for managing identity, Google Cloud Messaging, and rich notifications. This means developers will be able to take advantage of these new capabilities and build them into their Chrome-based web apps for Android and iOS devices. Google said it also improved developer workflow and extended the modern WebView capabilities to versions of Android back to Ice Cream Sandwich. Developers are free to access the new tools through Google's Chromium developer portal.
Google has updated its Chrome browser for iOS devices. The latest version of Chrome adds support for iOS8, and with it support for extensions. App extensions will allow web sites and developers to enable more ways to post and share content between Chrome and third-party apps. The update also makes stability improvements and fixes bugs. Chrome for iOS is free to download from the App Store.
AT&T today confirmed it will begin to sell the LG G3 Vigor on September 26. AT&T is asking for $335 for the G3 Vigor with no contract, $13.96 a month with Next 18, $16.75 a month with Next 12, or $50 with a new two-year contract. The Vigor has a 5-inch 720p HD screen, 8-megapixel camera, and LG's customized apps and software.
Consumer Cellular today said it plans to offer the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus beginning September 26. Consumer Cellular is asking for a down payment of $150 for the 16-GB iPhone 6, followed by 20 monthly payments of $25. The 64-GB and 128-GB models require down payments of $250 and $350, respectively, but keep the same $25 monthly payment. The 16-GB iPhone 6 Plus requires a down payment of $200 followed by 22 monthly payments of $25. The The 64-GB and 128-GB 6 Plus models require down payments of $300 and $400, respectively, but also keep the $25 monthly payment. Consumer Cellular said it will continue to sell the iPhone 5s and 5c, as well.
AT&T today said it will offer the Samsung Galaxy Alpha beginning September 26. The device, which was announced earlier this year, features a metal frame and 4.7-inch 720p HD display. AT&T is asking $199 with a new contract, $25.55 per month with AT&T Next 18, $30.65 per month with AT&T Next 12, or $613 at full retail.
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