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printed September 24, 2016
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Verizon Prepaid Customers Gain HD Voice

Yesterday, 11:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said its prepaid subscribers will have access to VoLTE services, including HD Voice and video calls, starting September 25. Prepaid customers will need to add HD Voice to their account before they can make HD calls, but the add-on will be free. Calls are routed over Verizon's LTE data network rather than Verizon's legacy voice network. HD Voice supports six-way conference calls, one- or two-way video calls, and WiFi calling. As always, both the handset making the call and the handset receiving the call need to have the feature enabled and must be connected via LTE for HD Voice to function properly. Verizon said its prepaid customers HD Voice is available to more than two dozen newer iOS and Android smartphones. All WiFi calls made to U.S. phone numbers are free, but calls made to foreign numbers are billed at international long distance rates.

Apple Releases iOS 10.0.2 to Fix Bugs

Yesterday, 11:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.0.2 available to iPhones and iPads in order to resolve some bugs. According to Apple, the small update addresses a problem impacting audio controls, fixes an issue that prevents some app extensions from working, and solves a bug that caused Photos to crash. iOS 10.0.2 is free to download and install.

Hands On with Blu's Life One X2

Yesterday, 10:46 AM   by Rich Brome

Blu has a new Android phone offering desirable specs like a fingerprint reader, 5.2-inch, full-HD screen, 16-megapixel camera, fast charging, and memory card slot, all for under $200 unlocked. We spent a little time with it. Read on for our impressions.

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AT&T Settles with FCC Over Microwave License Violations

Yesterday, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said AT&T has agreed to pay a fine of $450,000 for operating microwave stations outside the parameters of its licenses to do so. Microwave stations are generally set up in point-to-point configurations to beam signals across terrain where it is uneconomical to run copper or fiber wires. Companies use them to serve as backbone connections on the telephone network, to connect cellular base stations to the larger network, or to relay television signals. According to the FCC, AT&T altered dozens of its microwave stations without filing the proper paperwork with the FCC to account for the variances. The FCC has been investigating this matter for several years and first announced its intent to fine AT&T in January 2015. Today's settlement marks an end to the investigation. In addition to the $450,000 fine, AT&T will also have to implement a compliance plan and conduct regular reviews of its wireless fixed microwave stations.

Charter Joins Comcast with Plans to Launch Wireless

Yesterday, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Charter Communications followed Comcast's lead this week and also disclosed plans to offer wireless service in the future. Charter's offering will mirror that of Comcast's. Charter has an agreement with Verizon Wireless that allows it to sell access to Verizon's network as a wholesaler. Charter will combine that with a network of WiFi access points to provide its cable TV customers with wireless service. Charter believes the wireless offer could convince more consumers to subscribe to its cable TV products. Charter did not say when such a service might launch. Comcast said it plans to launch its wireless service by the middle of 2017.

Novatel to Sell MiFi Business and Focus on IoT

Yesterday, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Novatel Wireless today announced plans to divest its mobile broadband business. The company has agreed to sell its MiFi branded hotspots and USB modem product lines to Hong Kong-based TCL Industries Holdings for $50 million in cash. Novatel was an early player in mobile internet products and provided modems for the Palm Pilot and other fledgling smartphones. The company later branched out into USB- and WiFi-based mobile hotspots. Novatel said it wants to focus on generating recurring revenue IoT solutions, rather than hardware sales. Some of its IoT business lines include Ctrack telematics, fleet management, asset tracking and monitoring, and Feeney Wireless business connectivity solutions. The deal is subject to customary closing conditions, but the firms expect to complete the transaction during the first quarter of 2017.

Apple Drops iOS 10.1 Beta for Public Testers

Thursday, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.1 beta available to those enrolled in the public beta testing program. The only known new feature of iOS 10.1 is Portrait Mode for the iPhone 7 Plus. Portrait Mode uses both the rear cameras of the 7 Plus to help blur the background of portrait images — creating a Bokeh effect. Apple already made iOS 10.1 beta available to developers. Apple hasn't said when iOS 10.1 will be released to all iPhones, but earlier indicated that Portrait Mode wouldn't reach the iPhone 7 Plus until October.

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Google's Daydream Developer Tools Exit Beta

Thursday, 12:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made Google VR SDK 1.0 with support for Daydream available to developers. The VR SDK, which has been in beta since earlier this year, gives developers the tools they need to create virtual reality content for Google's Daydream platform. Google says the SDK "simplifies common VR development tasks so [devs] can focus on building immersive, interactive mobile VR applications for Daydream-ready phones and headsets." The SDK supports integrated asynchronous reprojection, high fidelity spatialized audio, and interactions using the Daydream controller. Moreover, Google said it has partnered with Unity and Unreal so developers can make use of the Unity and Unreal gaming engines as they build their VR apps. The company is now accepting applications for its Daydream Access Program. Developers who rely on the Google VR SDK can ensure their apps will work seamlessly with all Daydream-compatible phones and headsets. Google expects the first Daydream devices to ship this fall.

Sony Reveals Xperia XZ and X Compact Pricing

Thursday, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today discussed pricing and availability details for the Xperia XZ and Xperia X Compact (pictured) smartphones. The XZ will cost $700 and it goes on sale via Amazon and other online retailers October 2. The X Compact will cost $500 and will reach Amazon and others September 25. The XZ is a flagship handset with 5.2-inch screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, and 23-megapixel camera, while the X Compact is a smaller sub-flagship with a 4.6-inch screen, Snapdragon 650 processor, and 23-megapixel camera. Both devices run Android 6 Marshmallow and are sold unlocked with AT&T/T-Mobile LTE compatibility.

Blu Shows Off the Life One X2

Thursday, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu today announced the Blu Life One X2, a successor to the Blu Life One X. The Life One X2 features a 5.2-inch full HD display with curved glass, a metal chassis, and a fingerprint reader for biometric security. The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 430 processor with 2 or 4 GB of RAM and 16 or 64 GB of storage. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with phase-detection autofocus and LED flash, and the selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with a forward-facing LED flash. The phone supports Qualcomm's QuickCharge technology for rapid power-ups. The Life One X2 supports LTE Bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17 for AT&T, MetroPCS, and T-Mobile. Preorders for the phone kick off today from Consumers who preorder Sept. 22 or 23 will receive a 10% discount. The 2 GB / 16 GB model costs $150 and the 4 GB / 64 GB model costs $200. Blu didn't say when the Life One X2 will ship.

Apple Releases New iOS, WatchOS Betas

Wednesday, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made a handful of beta operating systems available to developers. To start, the company releases iOS 10.1, which follows last week's public distribution of iOS 10. iOS 10.1 adds Portrait Mode to the iPhone 7 Plus and makes a resolves a number of bigs and performance issues. Along with iOS 10.1 Beta 1, Apple also released betas of watchOS 3.1, macOS Sierra 10.12.1, tvOS 10.0.1, and Xcode 8.1. Apple didn't discuss any details of the betas, such as new features. Registered developers can download these beta operating systems immediately. Apple is expected to make iOS 10.1 Beta 1 available to public beta testers by the end of the week.

Sprint and Verizon Resume Sales of Galaxy Note7

Wednesday, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and Verizon Wireless are once again selling the Samsung Galaxy Note7. Both companies' web sites list the device for sale and also reveal where the phone can be found at local stores. Supply of the device is limited, but determined consumers can buy the phone. Samsung and its carrier partners halted sales of the device early this month after Samsung discovered a quality issue with some batteries. About 2.5 million devices in total were recalled due to the possibility of fire risk, though the actual number of impacted devices isn't clear. Incidences of burns, fires, and explosions blamed on the phone have been reported in the media. On Tuesday, Samsung said about 500,000 replacement units are now available to original Note7 buyers who have yet to exchange their phones. Samsung and its carrier partners are pushing a software update to the Note7 so owners know whether or not their device is safe. Recalled devices will display an alert stating such, while safe devices will display a green power indicator in the status bar.

Instagram Makes It Possible to Save Drafts

Wednesday, 8:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram is pushing a small update to its mobile app that adds the ability for users to save drafts. People will need to add effects, filters, a caption, or their location to a photo before being given the option to save it for later. Draft posts will be accessible in the library folder upon reopening the app. The new version of Instagram will be made available to Android and iOS devices over the next few days. The app is free to download.

Google Releases Allo Messaging App for Android and iOS

Wednesday, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 7:09 AM

Google today made Allo, the messaging app it first revealed back in May, available to Android and iOS devices. Allo expands the ability for expression by tapping into the new Google Assistant, all while keeping conversations secure. The app supports emoji and stickers, and a tool called "whisper shout" that lets people shrink or expand the size of text to convey volume or impact. Allo supports drawing tools for marking up or annotating photos. It uses machine learning to guess or suggest responses that could be appropriate for the conversation — all without requiring users to type. Google says the app can do things such as help make dinner plans, find answers to basic searches, and share YouTube videos. Users need only type "@google" to bring the assistant into group chats. The app permits people to converse directly with the Google Assistant to, in effect, perform searches, such as sports scores and headlines. Incognito mode encrypts messages from end-to-end for privacy and offers private notifications and expiring chats. Further, when incognito conversation threads are deleted they are gone forever. Google says Allo can send simple SMS messages to people who don't use Allo, and can also send previews of Allo-stylized messages with a link to the app for download. Google Allo is free to download from the Google Play Store and from the iTunes App Store.

Samsung Says 500,000 Note7 Replacements Available

Tuesday, 3:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung Electronics America today said that 500,000 replacement Galaxy Note7 smartphones have been shipped to carrier and retail stores in the United States. The replacement devices will be made available starting September 21 to people who previously bought the Galaxy Note7 and need to exchange it for one with a known-safe battery. Further, Samsung plans to push a software update to all Note7s to help consumers identify safe devices from those that still might pose a fire risk. Once updated, new/safe Note7 units will display a green battery icon on the status bar found on the top right hand of the screen. Samsung and the U.S. CPSC urge everyone who bought a Note7 before September 15 to power down their device. A software update will be pushed to all recalled devices that will prompt owners with a safety notice urging them to turn the phone off and and exchange it. The notice will appear every time Note7 owners power up or charge their impacted phone. Note7 owners can visit Samsung's web site for more information.

T-Mobile Claims 5G Tests Reach 12 Gbps

Tuesday, 3:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile and Ericsson today said lab tests demonstrate the power of forthcoming 5G technology. The two firms pushed data speeds to 12 Gbps over a wireless connection, with latency as low as 2 milliseconds, in the 28 GHz band. The companies also conducted a voice call between 4G and 5G networks, and say 8x8 MIMO can transmit four 4K video streams over the network at the same time. T-Mobile and Ericsson expect to continue testing this technology in the lab and the field during the back half of 2016. T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray said, "At T-Mobile, we will put 5G to work for people, like we always have with new technologies. And, true wireless 5G on our network has the potential to change things radically, accelerating long-term trends, creating immersive experiences and increasing mobile productivity and entertainment for everyone." Ray doesn't expect 5G will begin to reach consumers until 2020.

Google Maps Replaces Directional Arrow with a Beam

Tuesday, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a minor change to Google Maps for Android that swaps out the direction arrow with a blue beam. Maps users will no longer see an arrow pointing in the direction of travel and will instead see a blue beam that indicates which way they are going. Google says the beam will also signal how accurate the phone's compass is: narrow beams indicate high accuracy, while wide beams suggest the compass needs calibration. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Comcast Targeting Mid-2017 for Wireless Network Launch

Tuesday, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts today said the company plans to offer wireless service as soon as the middle of 2017. The service will rely on some 15 million WiFi hotspots Comcast has located around the country, as well as cellular access via Verizon Wireless. The network will operate similar to Google's Project Fi, which prioritizes access via WiFi but relies on cellular when WiFi is not available. The company has had a wholesale agreement in place with Verizon since 2011, and Roberts suggested Comcast will be able to offer competitive pricing. Roberts made the comments at an investor conference this morning, but didn't provide more details about pricing, devices, and exact availability.

Sprint Says It Has Improved NYC Network Performance

Tuesday, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today talked up coverage improvements it has made across New York City. For example, using two-channel carrier aggregation Sprint has doubled the download speeds and capacity of its 2.5 GHz cell sites around the metropolitan area. Sprint said it is already working to bring three-channel carrier aggregation to NYC, which will eventually deliver download speeds in excess of 200 Mbps on compatible devices. The company has also stepped up coverage in transportation hubs, such as the Oculus, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Queens Midtown Tunnel. Sprint expects to add coverage to the Lincoln and Holland tunnels in the months ahead, as well as complete its deployment of LTE within the entire New York City subway system. Sprint is kicking off a major marketing campaign in the metro area today to call attention to its improved service.

HTC's Desire Series Goes Upscale with Desire 10 Pro and Desire 10 Lifestyle

Tuesday, 2:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today announced the Desire 10 series, a re-imagining of its mid-range handsets. Both the Desire 10 pro and Desire 10 lifestyle feature metal designs with matte finishes and gold highlights. Other shared features include 5.5-inch screens with Gorilla Glass, memory card support, and microUSB. The phones run Android 6 Marshmallow and include the latest version of HTC Sense for customizing the user interface.

The Desire 10 pro will hit the market in November, while the Desire 10 lifestyle will arrive in late September. Pricing was not shared. HTC said the devices will initially be made available to markets outside the U.S. and didn't say if or when the devices might be sold to U.S. consumers.

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Google Play Books Turns On Recommendations Engine

Sep 19, 2016, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today launched a new "Discover" tool within its Google Play Books app and service. Google says the tool is meant to help people find new books based on their interests and what's popular around the web. For example, the Discover section will reveal what books are being made into movies, or what lands on NPR's recommendations list. The tool looks for news, reviews, lists, and videos about books and delivers these recommendations to readers in a way that's easy to browse. Google will also look at recommendations based on users' reading history and preferences, and will also point people toward the latest book reviews and editorial showcases that center on specific authors and/or subjects. The new version of Google Play Books is headed to Android devices today and will reach iOS devices in the near future.

Google Says It's Now Easier to Share from Photos

Sep 19, 2016, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved the sharing options within its Google Photos service. Google Photos now circumvents the dialog box that requires people to choose which apps to use for sharing photos. "You pick the photos, tap 'share' and select the people you want to share with, instead of the apps — and we take care of the rest," explained Google in a blog post. People (recipients) who use Google Photos will receive a notification that new photos have been shared with them. People who don't use Google Photos will receive either an SMS or email with a link to Google Photos so they can view the images online or on their mobile device. Google said it is also working harder to automatically create movies and other photo compilations for Photos users. Google said it will suggest videos from summer vacations, events such as weddings, and more. These updates are rolling out today across Android, iOS, and the web. Google says more changes are headed to Photos in the near future.

Photos, Videos No Longer Count Toward Twitter Character Limit

Sep 19, 2016, 12:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today made good on a promise it made four months ago: moving forward, photos, videos, quoted tweets, and polls will not count towards the 140-character limit in tweets. This means people can now respond to others on Twitter as well as include photos or GIFs and still have 140 characters to write what they want. Twitter believes the changes will make the service easier to use for newcomers and less frustrating for seasoned veterans. The company first announced the change in May. Twitter didn't say whether or not users will need to upgrade their apps to take advantage of the relaxed character count restrictions.

Google Debuts 'Trips' Travel App for Android and iOS

Sep 19, 2016, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released a new application for Android and iOS devices that's meant to help people plan vacations and other trips. The app provides information about cities and points of interest, as well as all the details associated with traveling to and from those locations. The idea is to give people a single app where they can manage everything to do with their trips. For example, plane, train, bus, and hotel reservations are automatically added from Gmail so they are in a single place on the phone. The app will offer suggestions for day plans complete with maps, routes, and food/drink options along the way. The app can also provide suggestions for nearby attractions while travelers are on the go, or suggest places that might require a small amount of travel to find. Last, the app stores all data offline so it can be accessed when the phone has no internet connection. Google Trips is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Sprint to Sell MediaTek-Equipped Variant of LG X Power

Sep 16, 2016, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and Boost Mobile today revealed plans to sell the LG X power smartphone. The X power, announced by LG earlier this year, features a 4,100mAh battery that delivers up to two days of battery life. The version sold by Sprint and Boost Mobile differs from other versions of the phone in that it relies on a 1.8 GHz octa-core Helio P10 MediaTek processor, rather than a Snapdragon chip from Qualcomm. The 64-bit MediaTek processor is accompanied by 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The X power also includes a 5.3-inch 720p screen and runs Android 6 Marshmallow. Other specs include an 8-megapixel main camera with flash and 5-megapixel front camera with selfie light. The phone accepts memory cards up to 128 GB. The phone reaches Boost Mobile stores today for $130 and will hit Sprint stores September 23 for $150.

Hands-On with the Blu Vivo 5R

Sep 15, 2016, 10:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu recently announced the Vivo 5R, a well-spec'd device that it plans to sell directly to U.S. consumers. We spent a few moments with it today. Here are our initial thoughts.

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Hands-On with the Blu Studio Touch

Sep 15, 2016, 7:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 16, 2016, 12:33 AM

Blu's Studio Touch is another low-cost option that's available unlocked. It's not quite as polished as the Blu R1 HD, but it has a few surprising features. Here our our first impressions.

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Hands-On with the Blu R1 HD

Sep 15, 2016, 7:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu's R1 HD is a compact budget phone that offers a lot of bank for the proverbial buck. It's well made, attractive, and boasts some features that are hard to find at this prince point. Here are our initial thoughts.

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US Government Issues Recall for Samsung Galaxy Note7

Sep 15, 2016, 3:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 15, 2016, 4:27 PM

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a formal recall for the Samsung Galaxy Note7. The CSPC says consumers should immediately stop using and power down the recalled Galaxy Note7 devices purchased before September 15, 2016. The agency suggests consumers contact the carrier or other retailer from which they purchased the device to exchange the original Note7 for a new one with a different battery, refund, or other replacement. The recall applies to about 1 million devices shipped in the U.S. Prior to today's CPSC action, Samsung had recalled the device on its own. Samsung said, "We confirmed that new Note7 replacement devices will be available in the United States at most retail locations no later than September 21st, 2016." That means people waiting to exchange their Note7 for a new one will have to wait until next week. Consumers not willing to wait for a straight replacement can select another Samsung device, such as the Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, and receive cash back for the price differential.

Pandora Plus Gives Listeners More Control

Sep 15, 2016, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pandora today announced Pandora Plus, a revised version of its $5-per-month music streaming service. Pandora Plus offers ad-free listening with the ability to skip and replay songs, as well as listen offline. Pandora accomplishes offline listening by caching a selection of songs from users' top stations on the device. When users lose signal and can't stream over the network, Pandora Plus will switch to the cached station for uninterrupted listening. Moreover, Pandora is revising its ad-supported service to give people more functionality. For example, free listeners can skip more songs or replay a song if they agree to view a short video ad. Pandora Plus launches online today. The company said it will update its iOS and Android apps in the coming months. Customers who already subscribe to Pandora One will be transitioned to Pandora Plus. Last, Pandora said its fully interactive on-demand option is expected to launch later this year. Pandora competes with Apple Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, and other streaming services on phones, tablets, and PCs.

Apple Says iPhone 7 Plus Sold Out for Launch Day

Sep 15, 2016, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumers hoping to walk into an Apple Store on Friday and pick up an iPhone 7 Plus will come away disappointed. Apple says launch day supply for the larger iPhone is sold out. Moreover, only a small supply of the iPhone 7 will be available in stores. "Beginning Friday, limited quantities of iPhone 7 in silver, gold, rose gold, and black will be available for walk-in customers at Apple retail stores," said Apple in a statement provided to TechCrunch. "During the online pre-order period, initial quantities of iPhone 7 Plus in all finishes and iPhone 7 in jet black sold out and will not be available for walk-in customers." Customers have been able to preorder the iPhone since Sept. 9 and choose from home delivery or in-store pickup. The black models quickly saw shipping times slip to two to three weeks. Apple says its carrier and retail partners may have some iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus units on hand, but availability will vary. Apple recommends people who want an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus order the device online. "We sincerely appreciate our customers' patience as we work hard to get the new iPhone into the hands of everyone who wants one as quickly as possible." The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have larger batteries, improved cameras, faster processors, stereo speakers, and touch-sensitive home buttons. The devices lose the headphone jack, but are water resistant.

AT&T Stepping Up Three-Channel Carrier Aggregation

Sep 14, 2016, 3:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today confirmed to Fierce Wireless that, like its competitors, it is deploying three-channel carrier aggregation on its LTE 4G network. "We're currently in the process of deploying three-way carrier aggregation on our network," said AT&T spokesman Steven Schwadron in a statement given to Fierce. "We're also adding spectrum and equipment on an ongoing basis to further boost our network performance." Schwadron says AT&T began deploying LTE-A in 2014 and now the majority of its customers are covered by two-channel carrier aggregation. Three-channel carrier aggregation bundles together three slices of spectrum to boost capacity and speed. AT&T didn't say specifically which markets are getting three-channel aggregation first, but said it is targeting high-density, high-traffic areas. The company didn't say what spectrum bands it is using for three-channel carrier aggregation, either. AT&T lists some 26 devices as LTE-A capable, though it is not clear if these devices support two- and three-channel carrier aggregation. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all talked about three-channel carrier aggregation deployments in recent weeks.

Gmail to Optimize Emails for Viewing On Mobile Devices

Sep 14, 2016, 2:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it plans to support emails made with responsive design so they are easier to view and interact with on mobile devices. Responsive design allows emails to reformat themselves based on the screen size and shape, making text, links, and buttons bigger. This in turn makes it easier to tap or select items within emails. At the same time, Gmail on the desktop will better render emails formatted specifically for mobile. Google says it is rolling out support for responsive design to all versions of Gmail over the coming weeks.

MTA Asks NYers to Turn Off the Samsung Galaxy Note7

Sep 14, 2016, 1:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 15, 2016, 6:46 AM

The New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority is asking the public not to use their Galaxy Note7 smartphone on subways or buses. "MTA customers should turn off Samsung Galaxy Note 7 before entering station or boarding bus due to concerns device's battery can ignite," said the agency via its Twitter account. The MTA admits there have been no incidents on NYC's buses and subways, but it is asking customers and employees to avoid using the phone while transiting around the city. Earlier this month, the FAA asked airplane passengers to power the device down and avoid charging it while on board aircraft. Samsung issued a recall for the device after some Note7s overheated and caught fire. It recalled about 2.5 million units that might have shipped with a defective battery and could pose a risk of fire. The actual number of dangerous phones is likely much smaller. Samsung is offering customers a replacement device.

LG V20: First Phone To Support Band 66

Sep 14, 2016, 1:36 PM   by Rich Brome

FCC documents indicate that the LG V20 variants for Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile will be the first phones to support LTE in the new band 66. Band 66 includes the AWS-1, AWS-3, and AWS-4 frequencies. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all purchased new AWS-3 spectrum in 2015, but have yet to deploy it. When they do, it will require phones that support band 66. AWS-1 — also known as band 4 — is already deployed by all three companies. AWS-4 is owned by Dish Networks, which has yet to announce firm plans for that spectrum.

Kyocera DuraForce Pro Coming to Sprint

Sep 14, 2016, 1:15 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC has approved a new Kyocera smartphone with LTE bands unique to Sprint, and a model number indicating it's a variant of the recently-announced DuraForce Pro. The DuraForce Pro is a rugged, washable Android phone with dual rear cameras, a fingerprint reader, NFC, fast charging, and wireless charging. It went on sale with AT&T this week, and another FCC approval indicates it will come to Verizon as well. Past Kyocera models have rarely been offered on more than one or two carriers.

T-Mobile to Operate 2G Network Through 2020

Sep 14, 2016, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it plans to operate its 2G GSM network through the year 2020. The company has optimized its 2G network to run on less spectrum alongside its LTE 4G network. The vast majority of T-Mobile handsets connect via LTE. T-Mobile is keeping its 2G GSM network alive specifically for Internet of Things and machine-to-machine devices. As such, T-Mobile is attempting to lure away AT&T's IoT and M2M customers by offering free SIM cards and free 2G service through the end of the year to any subscribers that switch. Many IoT and M2M applications require little bandwidth and generally access the network only periodically. T-Mobile is going after AT&T because AT&T plans to shut down its 2G network at the end of this year.

Qualcomm Brings 'Clear Sight' Tech to Snapdragons

Sep 14, 2016, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced new camera technology that it says will help generate better photos on devices with the Snapdragon 820 and 821 processors. Qualcomm's Clear Sight relies on two imaging sensors to imitate the cones and rods within the human eye. One sensor captures color images and the other captures black and white images. Qualcomm says its Spectra ISP is able to take the data from both sensors and merge it into a single image. The black and white sensor, in particular, has had the color filter removed entirely, allowing it to capture three times more light. Qualcomm says this dramatically improves low-light imaging, resulting in photos with more contrast, improved sharpness, and less grain. Clear Sight is a single hardware module that contains two cameras and Qualcomm's low-light imaging algorithms that enable the Spectra ISP to take and merge photos instantly. Qualcomm says the Clear Sight module is available to hardware manufacturers.

Apple's watchOS 3.0 Available to Apple Watch

Sep 13, 2016, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made watchOS 3.0 available to the first-generation Apple Watch. WatchOS 3.0 allows apps to update quickly both in the background and when launched so they display new content as soon as opened. The UI includes a new dock accessed by the side button, and a new control center accessed by sliding up from the bottom of the screen. These new tools make it simpler to access apps and control toggles. Replying to messages now includes smart replies and scribbling directly on the screen. WatchOS makes it easier to switch and change watch faces; initiate workouts; and access notifications. WatchOS 3.0 adds an SOS function that will automatically call 911 with a long-press of the button in times of need. The revised platform allows users to share fitness data throughout the day. A new app included in WatchOS 3.0 called Breathe can be used to schedule and perform deep-breathing and calming exercises. WatchOS 3.0 is free to download. It requires an iPhone and 50% charge on the Watch.

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Final Build of iOS 10 Now Available to All

Sep 13, 2016, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 10 to the general public after months of testing. The refreshed platform, compatible with iPhones, iPads, and iPods Touch, brings with it a number of core changes and features. The most important new tool is third-party access to Apple's voice assistant, Siri. Moving forward, Siri will be able to do more with third-party apps installed on iOS devices. Apple also made design changes to iMessage, adding new animations, stickers, and emoji. A sticker store now accompanies iMessage, allowing people to download sticker packs. The keyboard also adds contextual suggestions; further, people can more easily switch between languages for multi-lingual typing. Apple News, Music, Maps (reservations, in-route search, smarter re-routing), and Photos also gain retooled designs and features. Apple Photos, in particular, is better at organizing photos thanks to improved facial recognition aided by artificial intelligence. Notifications now appear when users raise the phone, and notifications offer previews of images and videos. iOS 10 is free to download over the air. It is compatible with all iPhones from the 2012 iPhone 5 and up. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will ship with iOS 10 preinstalled.

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