FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today asked the country's major telephone providers to improve consumer tools for blocking robocalls. The FCC said robocalls continue to be one of the top complaints filed by consumers. Wheeler sent letters to AT&T, Bandwidth Comms, Frontier, Level3, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon asking them to make blocking tools available to consumers as swiftly as possible. "Consumers want and deserve more control over the calls they receive," wrote Wheeler in a blog post. "I am calling on the carriers and standards groups to accelerate the development and deployment of technical standards that would prevent spoofing of caller ID and thus make blocking technologies more effective. All of these companies have been asked to respond within 30 days with their concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues." The FCC said it will continue to investigate consumer complaints against robocalls and prosecute whenever possible.
Samsung has sued Huawei in China for patent infringement. The Korean phone maker says several of Huawei's devices, including the Mate8 and Honor line, are violating six of its technology patents. Samsung is seeking $24 million in damages as well as a ban on the manufacture and sale of the devices in question. The lawsuit is a tit-for-tat response to a similar lawsuit filed by Huawei against Samsung earlier this year. Samsung said it attempted to resolve the matter through negotiation, but has been unable to strike a deal with Huawei. "It has regrettably become necessary to take legal action in order to defend our intellectual property," said Samsung. Tech firms often use patent-based lawsuits against rivals as a negotiation tactic.
Verizon Wireless confirmed plans to disconnect select customers who consume more than 100 GB of mobile data per month. Verizon is specifically targeting customers who have grandfathered-in unlimited data plans and are taking advantage to use extreme amounts of data. "Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a very small group of customers on unlimited plans who use an extraordinary amount of data that they must move to one of the new Verizon Plans by August 31, 2016," said Verizon in an email to Ars Technica. "These users are using data amounts well in excess of our largest plan size (100GB). While the Verizon Plan at 100GB is designed to be shared across multiple users, each line receiving notification to move to the new Verizon Plan is using well in excess of that on a single device." Customers who are cut off will be able to reactivate their account within 50 days as long as they agree to move to one of the current, metered service plans. Verizon hasn't offered unlimited plans since 2011, but customers have been able to hold onto them over the years. Not too long ago Verizon raised the prices of those plans by $20. In 2014 the company attempted to put in place a network optimization plan that would have throttled the heaviest users. The FCC fought Verizon's plan and the carrier eventually dropped it. Verizon says 99% of its postpaid customer base is subscribed to metered data plans.
Consumer Cellular recently added four phones to its roster of inexpensive devices, including the Alcatel Pop 3. The Pop 3 (pictured) has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 8 GB of storage, 5-megapixel camera, and FM radio. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and costs $100. Consumer Cellular also added the Samsung Galaxy J3 for $125, the ZTE Avid 828 (Avid Plus) for $70, and the Consumer Cellular 101 flip phone for $30.
T-Mobile today said its postpaid customers will have access to free mobile data and calling in Brazil for the entire month of August in honor of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. T-Mobile customers will not have to take any action to enjoy free roaming in Brazil. Those who travel to Brazil will have unlimited high-seed data, unlimited calling to the U.S., and unlimited texting worldwide during their visit. T-Mobile said it is supplying the families of Olympic athletes with free T-Mobile service and a Galaxy S7 Olympic Edition handset through October. AT&T debuted its own roaming plan for Brazil earlier this summer, but it costs $50 to add to an existing service plan. About 100,000 Americans are expected to make the trip to Brazil to watch and participate in the games.
Verizon Wireless today began accepting preorders for the Motorola Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid, which will reach stores on July 28. The Moto Z costs $624 ($26 per month) and the Z Force costs $720 ($30 per month). Verizon customers may trade in their current flagship smartphone for up to $300 to put toward either Moto Z handset, or older phones for up to $200. Verizon Wireless also shared pricing details on the Moto Mods modular accessories that attach to the back of the Moto Z and Z Force: the JBL SoundBoost speaker costs $80, the Moto Insta-Share Projector costs $300, the Tumi power pack costs $60, the Kate Spade New York power pack costs $90, and Incipio's rear plates cost $15 each. The Moto Mods attach to the Moto Z and Z Force via magnets and enhance the capabilities of the phone. Verizon said that, for a limited time, customers who purchase one Mod with their Moto Z will receive 20% off any additional Mods they buy. The Moto Z and Z Force are Android smartphones. Each has a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, USB-C with QuickCharge, and fingerprint reader.
Skype recently updated its app for the iPhone and iPad to version 6.20. The refreshed app focuses on making bots easier to find and use. For example, Skype now includes a bot icon in the "recents" header. A simple tap takes you to an up-to-date list of bots for chatting. Skype users may now also mark their favorite bots so they are easier to return to. Skype says version 6.20 improves notification reliability and keeps muted conversations quiet. Skype is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Corning today announced Gorilla Glass 5, a new breed of toughened glass made to survive the everyday perils of drops. Gorilla Glass has long been able to handle sharp impacts, but drops from waist height are the most common way to break screens. Corning said it designed Gorilla Glass 5 specifically to handle drops from up to 5.25 feet (1.6m) onto rough surfaces. Corning's lab tests show Gorilla Glass 5 is four times more likely (or up to 80% of the time) than competing glass when dropped face-down from shoulder height onto rough surfaces. Corning is already manufacturing Gorilla Glass and expects it to be sold on commercial devices before the end of the year.
Apple today made iOS 10 Public Beta 2 available to those who've signed up to test the pre-release operating system. The beta, which Apple says contains bug fixes and other improvements, can be downloaded and installed over the air. Apple did not spell out any specific new features or improvements. The second public beta follows the third developer beta, which Apple released earlier this week. iOS 10 makes significant changes to the Music, Photos, and News apps, the lock screen and notifications, and iMessage.
Microsoft today said its Skype service will no longer be updated for Windows Phone 7 - 8.1 and older versions of Android and iOS. The company said it wants to "focus on the platforms of the future" which means it "must end support for some devices and operating systems." Skype will continue to support Windows 10 for Mobile, Windows 7, 8, XP, and Vista, Yosemite on Mac, iOS 8, and Android 4.03. Versions of Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android older than those named here will no longer be supported with updates. Skype says its service won't cease immediately on older platforms, but as the company continues to move Skype to the cloud, some features may become broken over time.
Twitter today streamlined the process for individuals seeking to verify their accounts. Users can now request a verified account through an online application. Twitter isn't handing out verified accounts to anyone. Interested users need to explain why their account should be verified as part of the application process. Verified accounts have typically been reserved for public figures, such as people in music, TV, film, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, and business. Verified accounts, signified by a blue dot, have been authenticated as genuine.
Deezer today made its music-streaming service available to anyone who wants it in the U.S. The service was previously limited to Cricket Wireless customers and those who owned Sonos home stereo equipment. Deezer's offering is similar to Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Music in that it provides access to millions of tracks, radio stations, and podcasts to mobile devices. Songs can be streamed or downloaded for offline playback. Deezer is available to Android, iOS, and Windows devices. The app itself is free to download, but the Premium+ experience requires a $10 monthly fee.
Cricket Wireless today announced plans to sell the Alcatel Idol 4 beginning next month. The Idol 4 is the smaller brother of the Idol 4S. The Idol 4 has the same basic appearance as the Idol 4S, with a metal frame and glass back, and features such as JBL stereo speakers and a reversible user interface. The Idol 4 has a 5.2-inch full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 617 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel camera main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, NFC, Cat 6 LTE, memory card slot, Android 6.0, and fast charging. Cricket says the Idol 4 will reach its stores on August 4 for $199 when activated on a service plan. The package includes Alcatel's virtual reality goggles. Alcatel is selling the larger Idol 4S directly to consumers through its web site for $349.
AT&T is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variant of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 smartphone. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. The security update for the Note 5 can be downloaded and installed over the air.
Microsoft has updated its Groove Music application for Android and iOS devices for the first time since September 2015. Microsoft says the refreshed application offers a number of performance and feature improvements. For example, playback should be more reliable, albums and songs should download faster, and a wider variety of screen sizes and resolutions are supported. The app gains a tool for exploring new releases and popular songs from top artists, as well as new sorting options for viewing music collections. Last, the sign-in process is quicker when using a Microsoft account. Microsoft warns that app will need to rebuild users' libraries from scratch to improve sync. This may take a few moments when the app is first launched. Groove Music is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
ZTE showed off the Z Max Pro today, a huge Android handset for MetroPCS. This phablet packs a reasonable set of specs for less than $100, including a 6-inch full HD screen and 13-megapixel camera. Here are our initial impressions of the Z Max Pro from ZTE.
ZTE today unveiled the ZMAX Pro, an inexpensive phablet bound for MetroPCS. The device boasts a 6-inch, full HD display with a Snapdragon 617 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. The phone offers a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera for snapping selfies. The ZMAX Pro packs a 3,400mAh battery with USB-C, Quick Charge, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The phone has a plastic frame, but uses design language similar to that of the Axon 7 flagship to give it a more premium appearance. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The device is available for preorder today. It ships August 1 for $99 (after in-store rebate).
Acer's Jade Liquid Primo landed in the Microsoft Store today for $649. The device runs Microsoft's Windows 10 platform with Cortana, OneDrive, and Office. The Jade Liquid Primo includes a 5.5-inch full HD screen and is powered by a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera captures 21-megapixel images and includes a dual-tone LED flash, while the selfie camera shoots 84-degree wide-angle images at 8-megapixels. Other specs include support for memory cards up to 128 GB, 2,870mAh battery, NFC, USB Type-C, GPS, Bluetooth, dual-band WiFi, and a bevy of sensors. The Acer Jade Liquid Primo is available directly from Microsoft's web site, unlocked with support for GSM-based networks (LTE Cat 6), for $649.
Google today made the fifth and final preview of Android 7 Nougat available to app developers and beta testers. Google says devices that are enrolled in the beta program should be able to update to the newest preview right away. The Nougat Developer Preview is available to the Nexus 6, 5X, 6P, 9, and Pixel C devices, as well as the Sony Xperia Z3. Google says the preview contains the latest bug fixes and optimizations across the system and in preinstalled apps. In addition to the operating system images for Nexus and other preview devices, the fifth developer preview contains an emulator for final app testing and the final Android 7 APIs. Google says it will release Android N later this summer.
Apple today made iOS 10 Developer Beta 3 available to registered app developers. The beta, which Apple says contains bug fixes and other improvements, can be downloaded and installed over the air. Apple did not spell out any specific new features or improvements. This is not the public beta. Apple will provide a separate update to the iOS 10 public beta in the near future.
AT&T today announced that its GoPhone prepaid customers can buy one eligible phone and receive a second for free. The buy one, get one deal goes into effect July 22 and includes phones such as the Samsung Galaxy Express Prime or LG Phoenix 2. The handsets must each cost at least $59.99 in order to be eligible for the buy one, get one deal. Customers must activate both devices on either the $45 or $60 monthly GoPhone plan. The promotion runs through September 22. GoPhone does not require credit checks or contracts.
AT&T today said it plans to launch the low-cost LG K10 on July 22. The K10, announced earlier this year, features rear-mounted volume controls and home screen button. It has a 5.3-inch HD screen with 2.5D arc glass, a 1.27 GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel selfie camera with flash. The K10 has 16 GB of storage and ships with a 2,300mAh battery. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The K10 will cost $6 per month for 30 months on an on AT&T Next plan. The full retail price is $179.99.
Opera Software today scrapped plans to sell its entire business to a consortium of Chinese companies and will instead sell to them its consumer browser business. The original deal, valued at $1.2 billion, would have seen a handful of China-based investment firms take over all of Opera's businesses. The deal was unable to win government approval in Opera's home country of Sweden and had to be scrapped. Opera and the firms in question reworked the deal to sell off Opera's browser business for $600 million. Under the terms of the deal, the consortium will get Opera's mobile browser, including versions co-branded by mobile network operators; Opera's desktop browser, and performance and privacy apps; Opera's technology licensing business; and Opera's 29.09% ownership of a nHorizon. The Chinese investment firms will be allowed to use the Opera brand on these consumer-facing products. Opera Software will hold onto its Opera Mediaworks, Opera Apps & Games, and Opera TV businesses. Opera CEO Lars Boilesen will serve as CEO for both Opera and the divested unit until December 31, after which he will remain with Opera Software. Opera believes this new transaction will be complete by the end of the third quarter.
Verizon Wireless added a feature called Always-On Data to its prepaid plans that will keep customers connected even if they use up all their LTE data. In short, people who subscribe to Verizon's prepaid smartphone plans will have access to an unlimited amount of free 2G surfing at 128Kbps once they've consumed their plan's LTE data bucket. Verizon says 2G surfing will be available through the rest of the billing cycle in order to keep customers connected, though many services, such as streaming mobile video, will be significantly curtailed. Verizon added Always-On Data to its prepaid plans on July 17. The move follows Verizon's recent price hike for its postpaid plans, which also provides unlimited 2G access for a $5 monthly fee.
SoftBank today announced plans to buy ARM Holdings for $32 billion. SoftBank runs one of Japan's largest wireless networks and is the parent company of Sprint in the U.S., while ARM designs and licenses the Cortex-branded mobile processors often found in today's smartphones and tablets. SoftBank's board of directors has fully approved the acquisition, which will be made in all cash. ARM's board and shareholders have yet to approve the deal. SoftBank believes its existing business relationships around the world will expand ARM's ability to license its technology in new markets. SoftBank said it will help ARM to continue to innovate in order to push into new categories, such as the Internet of Things, by increasing investment in ARM's research and development. The company believes SoftBank and ARM share a common culture and long-term vision, and can together create a strong combined entity moving forward. SoftBank said it is committed to ARM's U.K. operations, where it will double the number of employees over the next five years. "ARM will be an excellent strategic fit within the SoftBank group as we invest to capture the very significant opportunities provided by the Internet of Things," said SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son. The deal is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.
The FCC today published a list of the 62 bidders who've made upfront payments and qualified to bid in the reverse auction for low-band TV spectrum. As expected, the list contains familiar names, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. A significant number of small companies plan to bid, as well, such as Alaska Wireless and Cellular South. Collectively, bidders will need to cough up more than $86 billion to purchase the 126 MHz of 600 MHz airwaves up for auction. The forward portion of the auction begins August 16.
AT&T's prepaid brand, GoPhone, plans to sell the Kyocera Hydro Shore through Walmart stores beginning July 16. The Hydro Shore is water and dust proof, and the 5-inch qHD display supports wet finger tracking. It is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and comes with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The device includes a 2,160mAh battery and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. Walmart has priced the Kyocera Hydro Shore for GoPhone at $80. (AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless is selling the Hydro Shore as the Hydro View for $50, or as low as $30 with a new account.)
T-Mobile's prepaid brand, MetroPCS, is now selling the entire range of Apple iPhones at more than 5,000 of its stores around the country. The prepaid carrier first tested iPhone sales at a limited number of stores in Florida. MetroPCS is selling the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus for $649 and $749, respectively, and the iPhone SE and iPhone 5s for $349 and $199, respectively. MetroPCS does not require contracts and service plans start at $35 per month.
Google updated its Hangouts app for Android devices this week with a handful of new features. First and foremost, the app now allows Android owners to record and share video messages — a feature that's been in the iOS version of Hangouts for two years. Second, the app does away with merged SMS and Hangouts conversations. Moving forward, SMS messages and Hangouts will appear in separate threads even when they come from the same contact. Google says merger convos often led to confusion and thus weren't widely used. Third, Hangouts makes it possible to invite anyone to join a group chat by sharing a unique link. Via the group's options page, select the "enable joining by link" function to make it work. Last, Hangouts are more discoverable via on-device search for the group name or participant name. Google Hangouts for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Verizon Wireless is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge smartphones. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. The patch plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. These security updates can be downloaded and installed over the air. Verizon patched its versions of the Galaxy Note 5 and S6 edge+ earlier this week.
Android owners will soon be able to use their own mobile banking app — rather than Android Pay or Samsung Pay — to make tap-and-go payments in stores. Mastercard has expanded its Masterpass program to mobile devices so consumers can make contactless payments at various retailers. Mastercard first introduced Masterpass in 2014 to power in-app and online payments. Customer credit card data is stored in the cloud and tokenized for security, allowing people to make purchases with one click. Mastercard is extending Masterpass to its banking customers so those banks can add contactless payment capabilities to their own apps. Some of the first banks to support contactless payments include Bank of America, Capital One, Citi, Fifth Third Bank, KeyBank, People’s United Bank, and Virginia Credit Union. Mastercard says 17 banks in total plan to add mobile payments to their apps in the near future. (One glaring omission at launch is JPMorgan Chase, which has so far shunned Android Pay. Chase is working on its own mobile payment service that has yet to launch.) Contactless, Masterpass payments will be available at more than 5 million retail locations across 77 countries that accept contactless payments via NFC. In the U.S., BJ's Wholesale Club will be among the first to support the bank-based mobile payment tool, with JetBlue, Saks, Lord and Taylor, Subway, and The Cheesecake Factory to follow shortly. It will be up to the individual supporting banks, such as Citi, to add contactless payments to their mobile apps.
T-Mobile says starting July 19 customers will be able to play Pokemon Go on their smartphone without impacting their monthly data allotment. T-Mobile is adding Pokemon Go to its T-Mobile Tuesday customer appreciation program. Customers will need to take action to get the free Pokemon data. First, customers need to download the T-Mobile Tuesdays app from the Google Play Store or iTunes App Store. Once signed in, customers can claim the free zero-rated use of Pokemon on T-Mobile Tuesdays July 19, July 26, August 2, and August 9. Once claimed, Pokemon usage will not touch customers' high-speed data plan through August 2017. The zero-rated Pokemon promo is only available to claim for the next four Tuesdays and goes away after August 9. Beyond the Pokemon promo, on Tuesday, July 19 T-Mobile customers can claim a free Lyft ride of up $15, a free Frosty at Wendy's, and 50% off select accessories. Last, T-Mobile says 250 people will win $100 in PokeCoins, and five people will win a Pokemon Go hunting trip for two anywhere in the U.S.
The FCC has approved an unannounced handset from Samsung that is most likely the Galaxy Note 7. The device, model name SM-N930U, is banded identically to Samsung's Galaxy S7 smartphone, which marks the N930U as a probable flagship or other high-end phone. The device supports LTE 4G in the various bands used by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, as well as the corresponding carrier bands for WCDMA/CDMA 3G. Other technical features confirmed by the FCC include Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and WiFi radios. The FCC did not post images, user manuals, or any other details regarding the Samsung N930U, nor do the documents refer to the device as the Note 7. Samsung has scheduled an event on August 2 in New York where it is expected to announce the Galaxy Note 7 in full. The timing of the N930U's FCC approval falls in line with a potential August launch.
Facebook today brought Instant Articles to Messenger for the Android platform. Instant Articles load faster on mobile devices, up to 10x quicker than traditional mobile links. Facebook believes adding Instant Articles to Messenger will boost the number of interactions with web content shared through Messenger. Instant Articles are signified by a lightning bolt in the corner. Facebook expects to bring Instant Articles to Messenger for iOS in a few weeks.
Google today said the Unicode Technical Committee, the organization that oversees the development of emoji, has agreed to add some of the professional women emoji Google proposed earlier this year. Specifically, Unicode will add 11 (of the 13 suggested) professional female emoji in all skin colors. Google says together these will amount to more then 100 new emoji depicting women in a wider variety of roles at work. Unicode also agreed to add male and female versions to 33 existing emoji. Google says the new emoji will be included in future versions of Android and other platforms, such as iOS. In June, Unicode accepted 72 new emoji in the Unicode 9.0 standard. It's unclear how quickly Unicode will adopt these new emoji from Google.
The FCC today adopted a new set of rules that will govern next-generation 5G networks and technologies. Specifically, the FCC defined and opened up nearly 11 GHz of high-frequency spectrum above the 28 GHz band. The "Upper Microwave Flexible Use" service will exist in the 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 64-71 GHz bands for 5G in the U.S. Under the terms set forth by the FCC, the airwaves will be divided into exclusive use licensing, shared access, and unlicensed access to help meet the variety of potential 5G use cases. Opening up this set of airwaves completes what the FCC says is a balanced set of spectrum for wireless broadband in the low, mid, and high frequencies. Wireless companies are still developing the technologies that will eventually become 5G. AT&T and Verizon Wireless have been pushing their tech aggressively and expect to begin real-world trials as soon as late this year.
Verizon Wireless says it is aiming to wind down its 2G CDMA 1x network by the end of December 2019. Approximately 92% of Verizon's wireless traffic travels over LTE now. Those still using the 1x network are mostly legacy machine-to-machine and other business customers who only need occasional network access to deliver small amounts of data, such as remote water meters. Verizon is working with those customers to transition them over to LTE, though it won't abandon them. The December 2019 shutoff is more of a guideline than a hard kill date. Once the 1x shutoff is complete, Verizon will refarm the spectrum for LTE.
Google has updated its Google Keyboard application for Android devices to version 5.1. The improved keyboard now allows users to move the cursor by sliding their finger across the space bar. Other new actions include the ability to delete entire words by sliding left from the delete key, and remove learned or dictionary words by long pressing suggestions. New settings options make it possible to add key borders or symbol hints. Phablet owners will be happy to learn the keyboard now has a one-handed mode for typing on large phones. Last, the keyboard adds gesture typing for a number of new languages, including Afrikaans, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Estonian, Galician, Georgian, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Macedonian, Malay, Persian, Slovak, Swahili, Tagalog, Ukrainian, Uzbek, and Vietnamese. Google Keyboard 5.1 is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Facebook recently updated its Messenger application for iOS devices, adding support for 3D Touch to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. Owners of these devices can now long-press the screen to preview conversations, contacts, photos, links, stickers, videos, and locations. The update also refines performance for all iOS devices. Facebook Messenger is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are sending out the July 1 Android security patch to their variants of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ smartphones. Google made the security patch available last week. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. These security updates can be downloaded and installed over the air.
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