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printed February 7, 2016
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Verizon Zero-Rates Its Go90 Video App

Friday, 4:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today updated its go90 video app and will allow customers to stream all the go90 content they want over LTE without it impacting their data bucket. The go90 app is making use of Verizon's FreeBee Data 360 sponsored data service, which Verizon launched last month. The go90 app includes music, sports, TV shows, original series, and live concerts. Verizon says go90 version 1.4 is available in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Verizon's foray into zero-rating go90 follows similar behavior from T-Mobile, which allows customers to stream music and video content from select partners without pulling from their monthly data allotment.

BlackBerry Trims More Workers

Friday, 2:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry has cut an unspecified number of employees at two facilities. The company confirmed that it let employees go at its Waterloo headquarters, as well as at a plant in Sunrise, Fla. "As BlackBerry continues to execute its turnaround plan, we remain focused on driving efficiencies across our global workforce," said the company in a statement. "This means finding new ways to enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities, while driving toward sustainable profitability across all parts of our business. As a result, a small number of employees have been impacted. It also means that BlackBerry is actively recruiting in those areas of our business that will drive growth." BlackBerry CEO John Chen has focused on BlackBerry's core BES communications and device management business while winding down its phone business. Chen recently said BlackBerry will release as few as one or two new handsets per year if it stays in the hardware game. Chen has been vocal about killing off its smartphone business entirely if it can't turn a profit. BlackBerry didn't say what areas of the company were affected by today's job cuts.

Apple Accepting Broken iPhones As Trade-Ins

Friday, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple will now accept damaged iPhones as trade-ins when people wish to upgrade to a new iPhone. Previously, Apple only accepted working iPhones as trade-ins, but will now take in iPhones with "damaged displays, cameras, and buttons within reason." Apple will credit people who turn in a damaged iPhone 5s with $50. The company will credit people $200 for a broken iPhone 6 and $250 for a broken iPhone 6 Plus. Phones that don't have cracked screens or broken buttons may be worth up to $350. Apple hopes the change in policy will convince people holding onto older, possibly busted devices to upgrade. The new Apple trade-in policy is available at Apple's retail stores, but not online.

Sharp and Foxconn to Settle Takeover Soon

Friday, 9:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Foxconn expects to seal a takeover deal with Sharp by the end of February. Executives from both companies met on Thursday and agreed on a number of items, but didn't sign any final agreements. Foxconn has been courting Sharp for a while now, and has offered $5.5 billion to buy the company. Sharp is also entertaining an offer from Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, a government-backed fund, but INCJ's offer is much lower than Foxconn's. Foxconn's CEO says the two cleared 90% of the hurdles during Thursday's meeting, but at least one legal issue prevented them from closing the deal. The two CEOs believe they can work out the remaining issues before the end of the month.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Clears FCC with Single Approval

Thursday, 1:44 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC this week approved a pair of new Samsung phones that are almost certainly the new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge (or equivalent). Unlike previous generations of the flagship phone, Samsung was able to have all U.S. carrier variants approved under a single FCC ID, indicating a new level of hardware standardization for the company. The phone will still come in specific variants for each carrier, each restricted to certain LTE bands, among other differences. The FCC documents reveal much about the network band and feature support of each variant. The phones are widely expected to be announced at a Samsung event scheduled for February 21st.

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Android Wear Gains Wider Support for Phone Calls

Thursday, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced Android Wear 1.4, which adds a fistful of new features. Chiefly, Android-based smartwatches can now make and take calls via Bluetooth when the wearable itself includes a speaker. Google says this is limited to the Huawei Watch and the ASUS ZenWatch 2 at the moment, but it expects more watches to ship with speakers and calling support over time. Watches with speakers can also be used to listen to audio messages from apps such as Glide. Android Wear 1.4 also expands the number of apps able to use voice actions to dictate and send messages, which now includes, Google Hangouts, Nextplus, Telegram, Viber, WeChat, and WhatsApp. Last, Google added a few new wrist gestures to the platform. For example, Android smartwatches can now expand cards, bring up the app drawer, or return home with a push, lift, or shake, respectively. Google says Android Wear 1.4 is rolling out to Android smartwatches over the next few days.

Verizon Improves Prepaid Data Buckets

Thursday, 10:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today increased the appeal of its prepaid plans by adding in a bit more data. The company offers two main Verizon-branded prepaid plans. The first costs $45 per month and includes up to 2 GB of data, while the second costs $60 and includes up to 5 GB. Customers who choose to enroll in auto-pay can score an extra 1 GB, which increases the $45 plan to 3 GB total and the $60 plan to 6 GB total. Both plans include unlimited talk and text in the U.S., as well as unlimited texting to Canada and Mexico.

Apple Pay Surges to 2 Million Retail Locations

Thursday, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Owners of newer iPhones can make mobile payments at more than 2 million retail stores, according to Apple. Some of the latest adoptees include Au Bon Pain, Chick-fil-A, and Crate & Barrel. The service is gaining traction within third-party apps, too, as companies including Zappos add Apple Pay to their own applications. Using Apple Pay within apps makes it easier to pay, as consumers don't have to fill in credit card details each time they make a purchase. Apple Pay launched at 700,000 locations in 2014. The company met its goal of reaching 1.5 million locations by the end of 2015, and is pushing for broader adoption by retailers around the globe. Apple Pay is available to the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus.

Sharp Leaning Toward Foxconn's $5.5B Bid

Thursday, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sharp is favoring an acquisition offer from Foxconn over a potential rescue from Japanese investors. Sharp has lost market share in the consumer electronics business over the last few years while prices for its display panels have sunk. The two combined have put Sharp in a precarious position; it has already been bailed out once. Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, a government-backed fund, has offered to inject capital into the company to keep it solvent. INCJ's offer, however, is about half that of a $5.5 billion take-over bid from Taiwan's Foxconn. Foxconn is more aggressively pursuing Sharp, says the Wall Street Journal, and is pressing the firm to accept its offer. Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou is traveling to Japan Thursday to meet with Sharp CEO Kozo Takahashi and the company's leadership team. Takahashi said, "The two offers are not equal," and that the company will focus on Foxconn's offer more so than INCJ's. Foxconn is known as one of Apple's primary manufacturing partners.

VAIO Trots Out A Windows 10 Handset

Thursday, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

VAIO has unveiled a smartphone running Microsoft's Windows 10 platform for its home market of Japan. The VAIO Phone Biz is a stylish handset with aluminum unibody construction and mid-range specifications. It includes a 5.5-inch full HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 16 GB of storage, 3 GB of RAM, and a 2800mAh battery. The Phone Biz offers a 13-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera. It can run Microsoft's Continuum software, which allows it to act like a full Windows 10 PC when hooked up to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. VAIO will sell the phone in Japan for approximately $424 beginning in April. VAIO is Sony's former PC business, which it spun off several years ago. The VAIO Phone Biz won't be sold in the U.S., but is notable due to its design and the fact that it is the first VAIO-branded Windows smartphone. The VAIO Phone Biz isn't as capable on a spec basis as Microsoft's own Lumia 950 and 950 XL phones, but it is more stylish and less expensive.

Apple Music for Android Can Store Songs on Memory Cards

Thursday, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 9:04 AM

Apple updated its Apple Music application for Android devices and added the ability for users to store music on microSD cards for offline playback. This is chiefly important for devices that have limited on-board storage. The app also now displays the full schedule of Beats 1 Radio programs, and makes it easier to browse through classical music and movie scores thanks to options for viewing composers and compilations. Apple Music and Beats 1 Radio are free to download and use, but the full service, which adds an ad-free, offline playback, and curated stations, requires a $10 monthly fee.

Apple Must Pay VirnetX $625 Million Over Patent Violations

Wednesday, 6:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has been ordered to compensate VirnetX $625 million for using one of the company's patents without permission. VirnetX's patent covers "the use of a domain-name service to set up virtual private networks." Under VirnetX's patent, the VPNs are then used by corporations to communicate with customers or employees. VirnetX claimed Apple used the patent in its iMessage and FaceTime apps, and a Texas jury agreed. The original complaint was filed years ago and has been bouncing around courts since 2012. VirnetX first won a judgement against Apple for $368 million in 2013, but that award was vacated in 2014. VirnetX sought $532 million in the trial that began January 25 of this year, but the jury decided Apple willfully violated the patent and upped the total award to $625 million. Apple immediately requested the judge declare a mistrial, saying VirnetX's lawyers confused and misled the jury during closing arguments. The judge didn't immediately respond to Apple's request. VirnetX, a patent-licensing firm, has filed similar complaints against other companies.

Google Taking More Steps to Protect Against Nefarious Ads

Wednesday, 4:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is expanding its Safe Browsing protection to further keep people safe when browsing the mobile web. Specifically, Google is now targeting social engineering attacks, which often trick users into downloading unwanted software or revealing personal data by looking like the device's native software. Google will go after ads that pretend to "act, or look and feel, like a trusted entity — like your own device, or browser" and those that attempt to "trick you into doing something you'd only for a trusted entity" such as sharing a password or phone number. Google turned on Safe Browsing in Chrome on Android devices by default last year. This improvement in Safe Browsing will add another layer of protection for mobile surfers.

LG Says G5 Set for February 21 Debut

Wednesday, 4:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG used its Twitter account to tease the G5, its next flagship phone. The handset will mark its debut at a press event to be held February 21 in Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress trade show. LG didn't provide any details about the phone itself, other than the G5 name.

Turing Says Sailfish Phone to Include Google Play Store

Wednesday, 10:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Turing today said the Turing Phone will allow owners to access the Play Store and standard Android apps, even though the phone runs Sailfish OS. "Turing Phone supports Google Play Store and Android apps via the Alien Dalvik engine running on the Sailfish OS 2.0," said Turing to Phonescoop in an email. The company has dropped Google's Android platform in favor of Sailfish OS for its security-focused smartphone, due later this year. Sailfish, based on Linux, was developed and is licensed by Jolla.

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T-Mobile Offers Families Unlimited Data for $150

Wednesday, 9:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today rolled out a new promotion that will give families of four unlimited talk, text, and data each for a total of $150 per month. Other options include four lines with 10 GB each for $120 per month, or two lines with 10 GB each for $100 per month. The promotion, which T-Mobile said will be available for a limited time, is open to new and existing customers and does not require port-ins, trade-ins, or handset purchases. T-Mobile said the new Family Match plan can be combined with the buy-one, get-one half-off offer currently available for certain phones.

Sprint Cuts PayLo and Broadband2Go Amidst Virgin Shakeup

Wednesday, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint is today discontinuing its PayLo and Broadband2Go sub-brands, which were operated through Virgin Mobile. The move comes mere days after Sprint said it was "de-emphasizing" the Virgin brand. PayLo chiefly offered talk/text plans to feature devices and Broadband2Go mainly sold data-only devices and services. Virgin said the PayLo brand attracted people seeking "burner phones" and it wants to move away from that association. The company is also adjusting the service plans available from Virgin Mobile. Starting today, Virgin will offer three plans. The entry-level plan costs $30 and includes unlimited talk/text and 500 MB of data. Stepping up to the $40 plan boosts data to 4 GB, while the $50 plan includes 6 GB. Sprint doesn't charge overages, but does throttle people who exceed their data limits. "We've kind of transitioned to focusing on those monthly unlimited plans, which are the more engaged, higher-ARPU subscribers," said Angela Rittgers, VP of Sprint's prepaid services, to Fierce Wireless. "I think what we'll find is that the net amount of money we get from customers will be the same, but these are just more attractive price points to subscribers." Sprint said it remains committed to its prepaid brands and customers. Sprint's other prepaid brand, Boost Mobile, recently revised its pricing, too.

Microsoft Buys SwiftKey Software Keyboard Maker

Wednesday, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 8:30 AM

Microsoft today said it has acquired SwiftKey, a company that develops software keyboards for Android and iOS devices. SwiftKey has strong word prediction capabilities, and is often able to suggest not only the word being typed, but what word might come next. Microsoft said SwiftKey's technology aligns with its own vision of "personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands." Microsoft also finds SwiftKey's use of artificial intelligence and prediction interesting. SwiftKey employees will be added to Microsoft's roster, where they will continue their work and enhance Microsoft's own Word Flow software keyboard for Windows. Microsoft said the SwiftKey app will continue to be available to Android and iOS devices. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Alcatel Web Site Spills Details Of Idol 4S and Idol 4

Tuesday, 8:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel OneTouch today inadvertently revealed details of the unannounced flagship Idol 4S and Idol 4 smartphones on its own web site. Similar to last year's Idol 3, the Idol 4S and 4 will be available in two different sizes. The Idol 4S has a 5.5-inch quad HD screen while the Idol 4 has a 5.2-inch full HD display. Shared features include support for LTE networks, dual-band WiFi, GPS, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.2. The phones include stereo speakers and Alcatel's reversible user interface, so they can be used upside down. Basic specs show the Idol 4S will ship with an octa-core Snapdragon 652 processor with 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 512 GB. The Idol 4S also includes a 16-megapixel main camera with slow-motion video capture, an 8-megapixel selfie cam, and a 3,000mAh battery. The Idol 4's specs are stepped down just a bit. It will ship with an octa-core Snapdragon 617 processor, 2 or 3 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and support for microSD cards. It packs a 13-megapixel main camera and a wide-angle 8-megapixel user-facing camera. It includes a 2,610mAh battery. Both phones will run Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box. Alcatel OneTouch has not officially announced these phones, so pricing and availability are not yet known.

Turing Phone Drops Android for Sailfish OS

Tuesday, 4:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Turing Robotics Industries today informed those who preordered its smartphone that the device will ship with Sailfish OS instead of Android. The Turing Phone was first announced last year. Turing Robotics pitched the phone as an ultra-secure handset for those seeking private communications. When first announced, Turing said the phone would run Android 5.1 Lollipop. In a newsletter emailed to supporters, however, Turing confirmed plans to drop Android for Jolla's Sailfish OS. Turing says its phone "will still be able to run Android Apps on the Sailfish OS without issue" and "an Android application store will be available for you to download your favorite apps." A Turing representative could not tell Phonescoop if the Android app store referenced in the newsletter is the Google Play Store or some other Android app store. Turing claims the phone runs very quickly with Sailfish OS on board and the company expects the phone to ship in April. Sailfish OS was created by Jolla, composed chiefly of former Nokia employees. Sailfish is based on the discarded Meego Linux platform. Late last year, Jolla ran into financial difficulties and laid off a significant portion of its staff. The company also cancelled its hardware plans, including a phone and tablet. Jolla now exists to license Sailfish OS to other OEMs. Turing is one of the first companies to voice support for the fledgling platform.

Yahoo to Consider 'Strategic Alternatives' for Internet Biz

Tuesday, 4:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 5:03 PM

Yahoo has announced plans to explore strategic options for its internet business, which has struggled to turn a profit in recent years. The company said it plans to improve consumer and advertiser product quality while also increasing the number of daily users. It is also looking to chop expenses, and will do so by reducing its workforce by 15%, or about 1,600 employees. Yahoo believes it can trim $400 in expenses by the end of the year. Importantly, Yahoo said it will "explore non-strategic asset divestitures that, if consummated, could generate in excess of $1 billion in cash." Yahoo said it is committed to its Yahoo Mail, Search, and Tumblr businesses, as well as its News, Sports, Finance, and Lifestyle verticals in select markets. Yahoo did not mention Flickr, its photo-sharing and -storing service, in its restructuring plans and its fate is unclear. Yahoo said it will "invest in features and experiences that engage users as both consumers and creators of content, encouraging them to do more with, and therefore spend more time on, the Yahoo network." Yahoo believes its mobile search business has the most potential to improve growth and financial performance. Yahoo did not explicitly put its internet business up for sale, but such a move is likely on the table with whatever other options are being considered. Verizon and private equity firms have expressed interest in acquiring some or all of Yahoo's internet assets, but none has made a formal offer.

Twitter Hopes Mobile Web Page Redesign Will Engage More Users

Tuesday, 3:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today hit refresh on its home screen experience when visited via mobile browsers. The new homepage makes it easier to follow Tweets and stories without requiring users to log into their account. Twitter says visitors will be able to follow breaking news stories, Tweets about sports games and other events, as well as popular conversations as they unfold in real time. The idea, says Twitter, it to make the service more appealing and easier to use for people who aren't logged in, which may in turn help it attract new users. Twitter says the redesigned homepage experience is available in 23 countries, including the U.S. The company is also expanding the same functionality to its desktop web site to a broader list of countries around the world.

Unannounced Alcatel Allura Headed to AT&T

Tuesday, 12:13 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC this week approved and made public the Alcatel one touch Allura, an unannounced Android phone for AT&T. The technical model number (5056) suggests a phone very similar to the Fierce XL (5054) for MetroPCS. The Fierce XL is a $139 phone at MetroPCS; it has a 5.5-inch screen, Snapdragon 210 processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front camera, and a memory card slot. FCC documents show that the Allura supports AT&T's LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 12 (17), and 30. The only Alcatel smartphone phone previously sold by AT&T was the C1, a considerably lower-end model. That makes the Allura a notable step forward for Alcatel's relationship with AT&T, the country's second-largest carrier.

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US Mobile Yanks Xiaomi and Meizu Phones

Feb 2, 2016, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi has forced MVNO US Mobile to backtrack on plans to sell several Xiaomi handsets to U.S. consumers. "Recent reports have indicated that Xiaomi products will be available in the U.S. Xiaomi only offers a small selection of accessories for sale in the U.S. through," said Xiaomi in a statement. However, "there are no plans to sell smartphones through any authorized distributors in the U.S. US Mobile is not authorized to sell Xiaomi products in the U.S." The small operator has pulled the selection of Xiaomi and Meizu phones from its web store. T-Mobile wants to put the phones, which don't operate on its LTE network, through extra certification procedures. US Mobile has not responded publicly to Xiaomi's statement.

Google, BlackBerry Make February Security Patch Available

Feb 2, 2016, 8:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is now delivering a security patch to Nexus smartphones and tablets. The patch resolves 10 issues, of which five are considered to be critical. The two most severe problems could allow for remote code execution through a WiFi driver and a media server. Google found the vulnerabilities in January and alerted its hardware partners to the problems. The security patch is available via factory images from Google's developer web site, but the company will push the update out over the air in the days ahead. Google plans to provide a new version of Android 6 Marshmallow to the Android Open Source Project in a day or two. Google says to the best of its knowledge that the security holes were not exploited. BlackBerry, too, is pushing the February security patch to the BlackBerry Priv smartphone. Other phone makers are expected to deliver the patch in the weeks ahead.

Sprint Can Commence WiMax Shutdown

Feb 2, 2016, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A Massachusetts court has given Sprint permission to turn off its WiMax network in stages over the next two months. Sprint will turn WiMax off in 16 cities, including New York, today, with 39 more to follow on February 29, and the remaining 25 cities on March 31. Sprint has been forced to keep the WiMax network running in order to give two non-profits more time to transition away from WiMax. Mobile Citizens and Mobile Beacon, which provide internet service to schools, sued Sprint last year over its planned WiMax shutdown. Sprint has been trying to get the groups to switch from WiMax to LTE, but the groups alleged Sprint is offering unreasonable terms. The groups convinced a court to enforce an injunction, which is being lifted in steps starting today. Sprint wants to refarm the 2.5 GHz WiMax spectrum for LTE.

Microsoft Pushing Windows 10 Build 10586.71

Feb 1, 2016, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released technical preview build 10586.71 for Windows 10 Mobile Insiders. The new platform build mostly fixes bugs, such as performance and stability, SD card detection, Edge browser PDF rendering, Bluetooth, Groove Music, and power usage. The fresh build also includes the small Configuration Update that Microsoft released last week. Microsoft hopes users will test the build and provide feedback.

Yahoo Expected to Announce Restructuring

Feb 1, 2016, 11:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo will unveil a plan to cut costs on Tuesday, reports the Wall Street Journal, which will include closing select business units and further trimming its workforce. Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer and CFO Ken Goldman will discuss the plans after announcing the company's fourth quarter results. Employee cuts may reach 15%, or around 1,600 people. The Journal's sources didn't say what business units might be shuttered, but Yahoo will put greater focus on Project Index, which targets improving search on mobile phones. Yahoo has been plagued by high costs and stagnant growth for years. The company has already cut numerous products and services from its roster, as well as thousands of employees. Yahoo will report earnings after the close of markets Tuesday afternoon.

US Mobile Selling Xiaomi and Meizu Handsets

Feb 1, 2016, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Mobile recently added several phones from Xiaomi and Meizu to its lineup, making it the first U.S. carrier to sell the Chinese handsets. Xiaomi and Meizu have both said they intend to enter the U.S. market, but have so far not landed any carrier deals. That changes today. U.S. Mobile is offering the Xiaomi Redmi 2 for $119, the Xiaomi Mi 3 for $139, the Xiaomi Mi 4i for $219, and the Meizu M2 Note for $149. U.S. Mobile is a prepaid carrier that resells access to T-Mobile's network. The phones from Xiaomi and Meizu run Android and can access T-Mobile's HSPA network, but not its LTE service. U.S. Mobile offers a wide assortment of service plans that can be customized to suit individual budgets. The Xiaomi and Meizu phone are available directly from U.S. Mobile's web site, where it sells an assortment of competing smartphones. "U.S. consumers have traditionally had to compromise to afford incredible devices," said Ahmed Khattak, founder and CEO of US Mobile. "Now, with the launch of our marketplace, we are thrilled to offer complete range of exceptional smartphones for low monthly payments and to give our customers access to exceptional phones otherwise not available in the U.S."

T-Mobile Offering Free Phone to New Prepaid Customers

Feb 1, 2016, 9:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile will give a free phone to new customers who sign up for one of its prepaid services. The free phone deal kicks off February 3 and includes the Coolpad Rogue, ZTE Obsidian, LG Leon, and Samsung Core Prime. Customers must select a Simply Prepaid, Simple Choice Prepaid, or Simple Choice No Credit plan valued at $40 per month and up in order to receive the free phone. Customers who opt for a Simple Choice No Credit plan can receive an extra $50 mail-in rebate when activating a second line. T-Mobile didn't say how long the free phone deal will be available.

Nokia and Samsung Settle Patent Licensing Deal

Feb 1, 2016, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it has reached an agreement with Samsung over the licensing of its wireless patents. The companies have been disputing the value of Nokia's patents since Nokia sold its handset division to Microsoft. Samsung said the sale violated the terms of the existing licensing agreement between the two. The firms have finally set new licensing terms, but did not disclose the financial details. Nokia is facing a similar issue with LG, and is expected to renegotiate licensing terms with Apple in the next few years. Even though Microsoft owns Nokia's former handset business, Nokia maintained ownership of its patent portfolio, which it continues to license out to other companies. Nokia's core business, however, is now its telecommunications networking equipment division. Nokia is currently integrating its telecom gear business with Alcatel-Lucent.

FCC Gives Verizon and Qualcomm Permission to Test LTE-U

Feb 1, 2016, 8:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC is allowing Verizon and Qualcomm to move forward with limited tests of LTE in unlicensed spectrum bands generally reserved for WiFi. Specifically, the companies are being allowed to perform small-scale tests at two Verizon facilities, one in Oklahoma City, Okla., and the other in Raleigh, N.C. Verizon, Qualcomm, and other companies in the cellular industry believe using LTE-U, rather than WiFi, in unlicensed spectrum can lead to better use of those airwaves for connecting devices. The WiFi Alliance and other companies in the WiFi industry believe LTE-U may result in interference and are interested in protecting what they view as their turf. The purpose of the LTE-U tests is to determine how well the technology works, and to gauge any potential for interference. "The success of the unlicensed bands as laboratories of innovation is largely the result of industry-driven coordination and we believe that this development is an encouraging step in continuing that success," said the FCC. The agency said there are many steps to complete before it will allow LTE-U to reach consumer devices, which will need to be tested and certified as safe just as all other wireless devices are tested. Verizon and Qualcomm are expected to share the results of their testing with the FCC for further evaluation.

Apple Complains About FCC's Hearing Aid Push

Jan 29, 2016, 5:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has filed comments with the FCC requesting the agency refrain from adopting new hearing aid rules. In November, the agency issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require all phones to be accessible to people who use hearing aids or have cochlear implants. Right now, phone makers only have to make a small selection of their handsets accessible to hearing-impaired persons. The FCC wants to see such people offered the same range of devices that are available to all consumers. Apple complies with current rules with its own hearing aid platform called Made for iPhone (MFi), but believes the FCC's new proposal goes too far. "The FCC has not in the past, and should not now, require that manufacturers ubiquitously implement coupling technologies that can function with every hearing aid," argued Apple. "To do so would undermine companies' ability to attract consumers with hearing loss by differentiating their products in the marketplace, and would severely constrain innovation." Further, Apple believes its Made for iPhone program should be more than adequate for its handsets. "Recognizing approaches such as the MFi hearing aid platform as compliant under the FCC's HAC rules will accelerate adoption, increase scale, and reduce cost of new technologies that can improve accessibility compared with today's HAC-compliant technologies." MFi supports voice calls, FaceTime, Siri, navigation, and multimedia. The FCC is still accepting comments on its proposal and has not said if or when any regulations might go into effect.

Huawei's Honor 5X Reaches the US January 31

Jan 29, 2016, 3:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 3:50 PM

Huawei today said the Honor 5X handset will be available as planned on January 31. The mid-range 5X supports AT&T and T-Mobile LTE 4G bands and has a unibody aluminum design. The phone includes a 5.5-inch full HD display, 13-megapixel camera, and 1.5 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 616 processor with 2 GB of RAM. The Honor 5X also includes a 3,000 mAh battery, rear fingerprint reader, and 5-megapixel front camera. It costs $200 and is available from,, and

Yahoo Rejiggers Browser-Based Search for iPhone

Jan 29, 2016, 1:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo says it has tweaked how it presents results to people who search from the iPhone's browser. iPhone owners who have Yahoo set as their default search engine will now see cleaner search results that display more data and make it easier to drill down into specifics. For example, searches for the Carolina Panthers will reveal scores, as well as schedule, roster, and individual players' performance details — all of which will be accessible from the main results page. Yahoo says the new results are available from any mobile browser on iOS devices as long as Yahoo is the default search tool.

U.S. Cellular Adjusts Prepaid Plan Pricing

Jan 29, 2016, 1:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular has tweaked its prepaid service plans, which range from $30 to $60 per month. The $30 entry-level plan is reserved for basic phones and includes 500 voice minutes and unlimited text. Stepping up to the $35 plan for smartphones nets unlimited talk and text, and 500MB of high-speed data. The $45 intermediate smartphone plan increases high-speed data to 2GB, and the $60 plan includes 5GB of data. The new plans are available immediately.

ZTE's Grand X 3 Hits Cricket Stores Today

Jan 29, 2016, 9:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless says the ZTE Grand X 3 is now available online and in Cricket stores for $130. The Grand X 3 includes a 5.5-inch HD screen, Cat. 4 LTE, and a USB Type-C connector, which is reversible. It has 2 GB of RAM and its 16 GB of storage is expandable via a memory card up to 64 GB. The Grand X 3's 8-megapixel camera shoots 720p HD video, and a 2-megapixel selfie camera is located on front. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. Cricket will knock $50 off the price for customers who switch from another carrier. Further, people who port their number to Cricket will receive a $50 gift card.

Ultrasound Could Replace Proximity Sensors In Phones

Jan 29, 2016, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Elliptic Labs recently launched new software that could negate the need to install proximity sensors in smartphones. The company proposes using ultrasound waves, generated by the phone's earpiece speaker and microphone, as a way to eliminate sensors. The ultrasound waves would be processed by Elliptic Labs' Beauty ultrasonic software, which is able to determine proximity based on changes in the waves when phone users' hands or face are near to the phone. Elliptic says Beauty is able to measure proximity at greater distances than physical sensors, and isn't confused by skin color or external temperatures, which can also impact physical sensors' reliability. The company further claims its technology can reduce the cost of smartphone hardware and manufacturing, free up internal space for other components, and allow for more cosmetically appealing designs. Elliptic Labs says it is working with phone makers to integrate Beauty into future handsets.

Banks Prepping Smartphone-Enabled ATMs

Jan 29, 2016, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

JPMorgan Chase and other banks are readying next-generation ATMs that will allow people to withdraw funds using their smartphone. Chase said the first series of new ATMs will grant access to cash through the Chase mobile app, and will require a code. The second series of new ATMs will support NFC, allowing smartphone owners to tap their handsets to ATMs in order to initiate transactions. These machines will continue to support ATM cards, but will offer mobile access as an option. Chase also plans to increase the amount of cash customers can withdraw during banking hours, as well as expand the list of services available at ATMs, such as cashing checks and completing mortgage payments. Bank of America and Wells Fargo have similar projects underway, reports TechCrunch. Jonathan Velline, who is in charge of Wells Fargo's ATM business, said, "We've been working on the technology that allows us to hook to digital wallets, leveraging NFC on mobile phones to replace the card at the transaction at the ATM. Right now the wallet that we support is Android Pay," Velline implied that Wells is also working on Apple Pay. Bank of America confirmed it is "currently developing a new cardless ATM solution. This solution will enable customers to leverage NFC technology on their smart phone in order to authenticate and complete transactions at a Bank of America ATM." Bank of America is targeting late February in select markets (New York, San Francisco, Boston) and will expand over time. Chase and Wells Fargo did not provide timelines for their smartphone-enabled ATMs.

Facebook to Kill Off Parse Developer Platform

Jan 28, 2016, 5:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today said it will wind down and shutter Parse, a developer service platform it purchased in 2013. Developers use Parse to help manage backend tasks so they can focus on user-facing features for mobile apps. Facebook initially hoped to Parse could become similar to Amazon Web Services, a giant platform that allows developers to create and host mobile and web-based services. Companies such as Orbitz use Parse and Facebook thought it could make money by hosting such companies' data. The plan never bore fruit. Kevin Lacker, co-founder of Parse, said the service will continue to run for a full year until January 2017, and Facebook will provide the tools developers need to migrate their data elsewhere. "We know that many of you have come to rely on Parse, and we are striving to make this transition as straightforward as possible," explained Lacker. Facebook rep Michael Kirkland said the company plans to "dedicate more resources to high-impact products and services in areas like analytics, monetization, discovery, and authentication."

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