Google continues to make small improvements to its Chrome browser for the Android platform and today it was updated to version 27. The latest stable release changes the search omnibox to show the search terms rather than the search URL, and makes it easier to jump to other searches in the search history. The app now also allows for full-screen browsing. Last, Google says the browser loads pages 5% faster. Google said that a new version of Chrome will soon be available to Apple's iPhone and iPad, and will bring with it voice search tools built into the browser. Google also updated the Google Play Magazines application and gave it a brand new user interface for the magazine library. Both Chrome and Play Magazines for Android are free to download from the Google Play Store.
Twitter today increased the security it offers to users of its microblogging platform by adding two-step authentication to the sign-in process. The process requires that users add a mobile phone number to their account. With the two-step authentication enabled, Twitter will send an SMS to that number with a code that must be entered in addition to the username and password in order to gain access to the Twitter account. The code will be sent each time the person logs in via the web, but is not required for subsequent sign-ins through Twitter apps. This new security feature is optional.
Verizon Wireless today announced a new company called Viva Movil, which is meant to help address the Latino population in the U.S. The company was founded by Jennifer Lopez, who serves as its chief marketing officer. Viva Movil is a partnership between Brightstar Solutions, for distribution, and Moorehead Communications, a Verizon Wireless retailer. The company will use social networking and online commerce to connect with the Latino population. The company is a retail chain that sells Verizon phones and tablets on Verizon's network with Verizon service plans. The stores will be designed in a way so that they are appealing to the Latino community, and all staffers will be bilingual. The company's web site is up and taking orders, and the first Viva Movil retail store will open on June 15 in New York City. Other markets, such as Los Angeles and Miami, will follow throughout the year.
Cricket today showed a sneak peek of two Samsung phones coming this summer. The Admire 2 sports a 4-inch screen and 4G LTE, while the Galaxy Discover is more basic with its 3.5-inch screen and stock Android interface. We checked them out. Read on for our first impressions.
Google today announced the availability of a new version of its Drive app for Android devices. Google Drive has been updated with a number of user interface tweaks to make it easier and faster to access files and documents. Documents are now laid out in cards that offer large previews of the content within the document. Users can swipe from card to card and document to document, viewing previews as they go. The app now also lets users download and store copies of files to their Android device. Another new feature of Google Drive lets Android device users snap photos of documents, which are then converted into PDFs and automatically uploaded to Drive for safe keeping. Google says that Drive's optical character recognition feature will allow the text of those documents to be searchable. Last, Google Drive for Android updates the editing tools for spreadsheets, making it less cumbersome to make changes from mobile devices. The new version of Google Drive for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Samsung today confirmed that it has made a $48 million investment in competitor Pantech, which gives it 10% ownership of the company. "The investment is aimed at solidifying our relationship with Pantech, a key component customer of Samsung," said the company in a statement. "Samsung will have no involvement in Pantech’s business management in any way or form." The two competitors already collaborate on semiconductor and display technologies. Pantech sells a mix of feature phones and smartphones in the U.S. through AT&T.
Clearwire's board of directors has approved Sprint's increased bid for the company. It is recommending that shareholders vote in favor of accepting the bid and allowing Sprint to purchase the remaining portion of Clearwire that it does not already own. Sprint increased its offer for Clearwire from $2 billion to $2.5 billion to win over investors unhappy with the original offer.
At a press briefing this morning, Cricket revealed that it plans to enable LTE roaming later this year on bands 4 (1700) and 25 (1900). Band 25 LTE is used exclusively by Sprint in the U.S. Band 4 (AWS) is used by many carriers, including T-Mobile, AT&T, and soon, Verizon. The Samsung Galaxy S 4 will be Cricket's first phone to support band 25 roaming.
Cricket today announced plans to offer two new Samsung Android phones this summer: the Admire 2 and the Galaxy Discover (already offered in a GSM variant by Net10.)
- The Admire 2 is a new, mid-range Android phone with 4G LTE, 4-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and Samsung's TouchWiz interface and camera features on top of Android 4.1. U.S. Cellular carries it as the Axiom.
- The Galaxy Discover is a basic Android phone with a 3.5-inch display, 3-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and stock Android 4.0 interface.
Cricket today announced that it will start selling the Samsung Galaxy S 4 on June 7 for $599.99. A financing option starts with a $59.99 down payment, plus monthly payments.
Verizon Wireless has begun selling more specific data generated by its customers to third-party companies, reports the Wall Street Journal. The data being offered includes details such as locations, travels, demographics, and web-browsing habits. The data is anonymized, so it can't be identified to individual customers, and is packaged in groups of customers rather than by person. The data, which is compiled by a company called Precision Media Insights, is sold to organizations such as the government, malls, billboard owners, and stadiums, which can then gain a better understanding about the people who frequent their businesses, what they're doing, and the general area in which they live. Verizon warned customers in 2011 that it might use their data in this manner. The Journal reports that subscribers can opt out via Verizon's web site. Information about government and corporate clients is not shared, and Verizon says that it complies with applicable laws regarding customer privacy. The Journal says that AT&T is looking to sell similar customer location data, but has not yet chosen to do so.
Coolpad announced the Quattro II on the sly during an event at the CTIA trade show. Phone Scoop took a quick look at the company's latest low-cost wonder.
Coolpad today revealed the Quattro II 4G, an Android smartphone slated to land at C Spire Wireless in the next few weeks. It features a 4.5-inch qND display, dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM, and 5-megapixel camera. It will run on LTE 4G and is capable of VoLTE calls. It offers 4GB of storage and included supports microSD cards for expanded storage. It ships with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.
We spent some time with the new Lumia 620 for Aio, AT&T's new prepaid experiment. This cute little phone has a unique design. Here's what we thought of it.
We spent some time with Nokia's new flagship phone, coming soon to T-Mobile USA. The Lumia 925 displays an evolution of Nokia's industrial design that uses more metal to achieve a thinner, lighter body. Find out how it stacks up against the competition in our hands-on.
Nokia today revealed that its LiveSight augmented reality technology is now being in both its HERE Maps and in a new version of Foursquare for Windows Phone. LiveSight is already available in Nokia City Lens, and uses object recognition to provide additional information and details about what the device owner is looking at through the camera. Within HERE Maps, LiveSight acts similar to Google's Street View feature, which gives people an on-the-ground view of locations and points of interest on any given map. It is also able to tag places such as restaurants, shops, and other locations. The same technology has been added to the Foursquare application for Windows Phone, though it is only accessible from Nokia's Lumia devices. The Foursquare app takes advantage of LiveSight to help users seek out and find venues with the help of image recognition.
Powermat today announced that it has merged with PowerKiss. Powermat, based in the U.S., makes and markets wireless charging accessories. It backs the standard supported by the Power Matters Alliance. Before today, PowerKiss, which is based in Finland, backed a competing standard. Now that the two companies are one, they are together throwing their weight behind the PMA wireless charging standard. The PMA is mounting a challenge to competing standards Qi and the Alliance for Wireless Power. Earlier this year, the PMA won support from AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, Kyocera, LG, Samsung, Starbucks, and ZTE. Further, AT&T mandated that its handset partners incorporate the PMA wireless charging standard into their devices by 2014. Verizon Wireless supports the Qi standard. The consumer electronics industry has yet to settle on a single standard.
CAT today announced the availability of the B15, a rugged Android smartphone. The device, which debuted earlier this year, runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and has a 4-inch WVGA display that works with wet fingers. It also includes a 5-megapixel camera, a MediaTek dual-core 1GHz processor, GPS, Wi-Fi, and support for microSD cards. The device is fully ruggedized and can withstand up to 30 minutes in three feet of water as well as multiple drops to concrete from six feet. CAT says it is "impervious" to dust and dirt. The B15 is being built and distributed for CAT by Bullitt Mobile. It costs $349 and can be used on the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile USA.
Sprint today announced plans to offer its first tri-band LTE products later this summer. The three devices include the Novatel Wireless MiFi 500 LTE, the Netgear Zing Mobile Hotspot, and the Netgear 341U USB Modem. All three devices will be able to access LTE in the 800MHz, 1900MHz, and 2.5GHz bands. Right now, Sprint is primarily deploying LTE in the 1900MHz band, but it will begin to offer LTE in the 800MHz band starting later this year after Sprint shuts down its iDEN network on June 30. The 800MHz spectrum will offer better in-building coverage when compared to the 1900MHz spectrum. Sprint has officially launched LTE in 88 markets, but it says it will cover 170 markets in the coming months. The 2.5GHz spectrum is currently owned by Clearwire, and Sprint says it will eventually be used to offer high-speed service in densely populated regions. The exact pricing and availability details of the three tri-band LTE devices will be announced at a later time. Sprint has not yet said when it will offer tri-band LTE smartphones.
Verizon Wireless today announced plans to use small cells to supplement its LTE 4G network in select areas around the country beginning in the second half of the year. Verizon calls the use of small cells a "balanced approach to network capacity." They will be deployed in areas where capacity is constrained due to high concentrations of users, such as shopping malls and business districts. Verizon will use small cell equipment from Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent. Verizon did not specify any exact locations where the cells would be added. According to Verizon, its LTE 4G network already covers 95% of its existing 3G footprint in some 497 markets.
Sprint today announced that its prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will both offer the Samsung Galaxy S III beginning in June. The GSIII will include support for Sprint's LTE 4G network. Pricing and exact availability was not shared.
Opera today announced that its WebKit-based Android browser has graduated from beta status and is now available to all from the Google Play Store. The browser had been in testing for the last several months so Opera could fine-tune the WebKit rendering engine. Previously, Opera used its own Presto rendering engine. Opera's customizations include a revised Speed Dial screen, simplified tab management, and deep browsing history support. The browser also offers server-side compressions should users wish to conserve mobile data usage. The browser is free to download and runs on devices with Android 2.3 and up.
Boost Mobile today announced a new mobile wallet application for its Android smartphones. Boost Mobile Wallet is a mobile banking service targeted at the underbanked that lets Boost Mobile customers send money to people in 135 countries, pay bills, top-up prepaid wireless accounts, transfer funds between accounts, as well as deposit checks directly from the phone. The app is accompanied by a re-loadable prepaid Visa debit card that can be used for transactions at retailers around the country. The application itself is free to download from the Google Play Store. The wallet app can be used to make payments directly at select retailers in Los Angeles, San Diego, and portions of New Jersey. Boost expects to roll the payment service out nationwide beginning this summer.
Sprint today submitted a revised offer for Clearwire and increased its bid from $2.97 per share to $3.40 per share, now totaling about $2.5 billion. Sprint hopes the improved offer will give Clearwire's board and investors the incentive they need to approval the deal. Sprint is looking to purchase the 50% of Clearwire that it does not already own in order to gain control over the company's 2.5GHz spectrum holdings, as well as ease SoftBank's 70% equity acquisition of Sprint. SoftBank had initially limited Sprint's bid to $2.97, but has approved the new offer. Though Clearwire's board approved the initial offer, it met fierce resistance from several large shareholders who were unhappy with the terms. Clearwire's board will assess the new proposal and make a new recommendation to shareholders, who will vote on the matter May 30.
Kyocera's new Hydro XTRM for U.S. Cellular sits at the high end of the Hydro lineup, with upgraded features like 4G and extra durability. You could also think of it as a "Torque Lite". Read on for our first impressions of this interesting new Android phone.
Kyocera's water-proof Hydro gains a better-equipped cousin in the Hydro Edge for Sprint and Boost. Packing better tech into a thinner profile, the Edge is a step up on paper, but how does it stack up in person? We take it for a quick spin in our hands-on report.
Kyocera today announced the Hydro Edge and Hydro XTRM, building on the success of the original Hydro. Like the original, the new models are affordable Android phones that are fully water-proof. The new models are slightly higher-end, however, both sporting a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus processor, 4-inch glass display, 5-megapixel auto-focus camera, and Android 4.1. Both models also feature the unique Smart Sonic Receiver tissue-conduction speaker technology found in the Torque. Both have 1 GB of RAM, 4 GB of built-in storage, and a memory card slot.
- Hydro Edge: Coming to Sprint and Boost this summer, this CDMA model also sports HD Voice and a back-side-illuminated camera sensor. Its processor clocks in at 1 GHz.
- Hydro XTRM: On sale with U.S. Cellular starting today, this model steps up with 4G LTE, a 1.2 Ghz processor, a front camera, shock (drop) resistance to military standards, and a large 2,000 mAh battery.
Sprint today announced that SoftBank granted it a waiver to hold further negotiations with Dish. The waiver means Sprint has permission to divulge non-public information to Dish as part of its due diligence in exploring Dish's competing offer for Sprint. The waiver also gives Sprint permission to terminate its existing merger agreement with SoftBank if it turns out there is a superior offer on the table. Sprint said that its board will explore Dish's offer in depth per its fiduciary duty to obtain the best sale price for the company. However, Sprint's board does not endorse the Dish offer, and continues to endorse SoftBank's offer. The U.S. Department of Justice has approved SoftBank's offer, and the matter will be voted on by Sprint's investors on June 12. Sprint did not say if or when it might make a decision regarding Dish's competing offer.
Yahoo today made available a completely revised version of its Flickr application for Google's Android platform. The new app carries over changes made to the iOS Flickr app late last year. The new user interface provides a better view of photos and the photos are available in higher resolutions. Users can take photos from within the application itself and edit or geotag them. The new Flickr app promotes sharing to other social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, and makes it easier to explore photos, including those taken near the user. It also adds full support for Flickr Groups and filters for customizing photos. In addition to the new app, Yahoo announced that all Flickr users now have access to 1 terabyte of online storage for free.
AT&T today provided a new statement regarding the use of pre-installed apps and third-party apps to conduct video chats. The statement serves to update its position after it was discovered last week that the new Google Hangouts application cannot conduct two-way video chats over AT&T's cellular network. "For video chat apps that come pre-loaded on devices," explained AT&T, "we currently give all OS and device makers the ability for those apps to work over cellular for our customers who are on Mobile Share or Tiered plans. Apple, Samsung and Blackberry have chosen to enable this for their pre-loaded video chat apps." This includes FaceTime, ChatOn, and BlackBerry Messenger. Google Hangouts, which replaces Google Talk, technically qualifies as a pre-loaded app and Google has not sought to enable Hangouts over cellular with AT&T. "Throughout the second half of this year," continued AT&T, "we plan to enable pre-loaded video chat apps over cellular for all our customers, regardless of data plan or device; that work is expected to be complete by yearend." Customers are still able to download third-party apps such as Skype, Viber, Kik, and others, to conduct video chats over cellular.
Google today made available a new version of Google+ to devices running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The focus of today's update is to improve the app's photo features. According to Google, the app is now better at automatically uploading photos from Android smartphones to Google+ for safekeeping. Once uploaded, new tools automatically sort the images to "select the top shots" in each series, as well as auto-enhance the photos to make "subtle improvements" to the people and places the user captures. Last, the app adds the ability to create animations and panoramas from the photos in the user's collection. Google+ for Android 4.2 devices is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today sought to provide more information about its new Google Hangouts tool and the evolution of its messaging and voice products. Hangouts was announced last week, and encompasses instant messaging (old Google Talk) and video chats on the web, and Android and iOS devices. According to Google, the current version of Hangouts does not support outbound calls from Gmail (via desktop browsers), but it does support inbound calls to Google Voice numbers. Google Hangouts will soon support inbound and outbound calls via desktop-based Hangouts. Google suggests that people who rely on this Gmail feature continue to use the older Google Talks tool (those who update to the new Hangouts will lose the functionality temporarily). Further, Google said "Hangouts is designed to be the future of Google Voice" and that more seamless integration between Google Voice and Google Hangouts is on the way.
The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the Federal Communications Commission regarding a dispute over cell towers. Wireless industry players complained to the FCC that local governments are often slowing down the process to adjust existing cell towers or install new ones. The FCC recommends that local jurisdictions should act on amendments to existing towers within three months and on new towers within five months. The Supreme Court agrees. Several cities had challenged the FCC's authority on the matter. The Supreme Court voted 6-3 in the FCC's favor, rejecting the cities' claims.
Jolla today announced its first device, a smartphone called the Jolla. Jolla is based in Finland and took over the remnants of Nokia's Meego operating system. It has been working to create a new, gesture-based operating system based on Meego called Sailfish. The smartphone announced today is the fruit of its labors. The Jolla device features a 4.5-inch HD display, a dual-core processor, support for LTE 4G networks, an 8-megapixel autofocus camera, and will include a user-replaceable battery. The Jolla also features exchangeable shells, which allow owners to customize the appearance of their device. Last, the Jolla's Sailfish operating system will be able to run Android applications. Jolla said the device, which costs 399 Euros, will ship by the end of the year.
Sprint today announced that it has acquired Handspring/OneLouder, a Kansas City-based company that it will add to its own Pinsight Media+ advertising business. Handspring has developed smartphone applications for more than a decade, and targeted platforms such as Palm OS and Windows Mobile with its informative and useful apps. The company later paired with OneLouder, an advertising business, to expand its offering. "Bringing the capabilities of Handmark and OneLouder in-house is an exciting move as we position Sprint for market leadership in emerging mobile products and services," said Mike Cooley, vice president of New Ventures at Sprint. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. There was no immediate word on what will happen to Handspring's mobile apps, but the OneLouder team will join Sprint's Pinsight Media+ arm.
Yahoo today announced that it has agreed to purchase Tumblr for $1.1 billion in cash. Tumblr is a blogging platform that, by Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer's own admission, "couldn’t be more different" than Yahoo. Despite the differences, Meyer believes the two companies will be complementary to one another in the long run. Yahoo made a distinct promise "not to screw up" Tumblr. It will be operated as a separate company, and its leadership team will remain intact. Tumblr CEO David Karp said, "Our team isn't changing. Our roadmap isn't changing. And our mission – to empower creators to make their best work and get it in front of the audience they deserve – certainly isn't changing." Tumblr is accessible from the web, and also via dedicated smartphone applications for the Android, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms. The Tumblr apps can be used to view the blog, as well as create posts, upload photos, make comments, and more.
The Federal Communications Commission today indicated that T-Mobile USA has dropped a lawsuit filed against the FCC by the former MetroPCS. T-Mobile acquired MetroPCS earlier this month. The aim of the lawsuit was to scuttle the FCC's Open Internet rules. On his last day in office, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, "The FCC's widely supported open Internet framework has contributed to healthy growth in innovation and investment across the U.S. broadband economy. Since 2010, our strong and balanced rules have been protecting entrepreneurs and consumers, and have increased certainty and predictability for investors in Internet services as well as networks. The ongoing litigation – now pursued by a single company – only serves to reduce that certainty and predictability. I applaud T-Mobile's decision to withdraw from this litigation." Verizon Wireless is now the only company actively pursuing litigation against the FCC and its rules.
Sprint today announced that it has finalized its purchase of spectrum and customers from U.S. Cellular in a handful of mid-western markets. The transaction gives Sprint 20MHz of spectrum in Chicago, South Bend, Ind., and Champaign, Ill., and 10MHz of spectrum in St. Louis. In addition to the spectrum, Sprint also gains about 420,000 U.S. Cellular subscribers. Sprint and U.S. Cellular have already notified the affected customers about the transition, which will take several months to complete. According to Sprint, it is offering those U.S. Cellular customers handset and service plan options from its Sprint, Virgin, Boost, and payLo brands at little to no extra cost. Sprint plans to use the newly-gained spectrum to enhance its capacity in those markets.
Samsung today announced the availability of its revised TecTiles product. The first version of TecTiles that Samsung brought to market last year used an older protocol that preceded the finalized NFC specification. The effect is that newer devices, such as the Galaxy S 4, can not read those older tags. Samsung had to update its tags in order to be compatible with today's newer phones. In addition to the new TecTiles, Samsung has updated the TecTiles application, which is used to program the tags to initiate specific actions on smartphones and/or tablets. TecTiles can be ordered directly from Samsung.com, and the stickers will become available at select retails stores in June. They cost $14.99 for a pack of five.
What do you want to hear about? We're already working on a number of articles for the coming months, but we want to write about the things you're most interested in. So sound off: tell us what you want to know more about!