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printed October 22, 2016
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T-Mobile Customers Can Now Roam In Cuba

Yesterday, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today kicked off roaming cellular service in Cuba. T-Mobile customers will be able to use their T-Mobile phones to make calls, send messages, and surf the 'net when traveling in the Caribbean island nation. Voice calls cost $2 per minute, text and multimedia messages cost $0.50 to send but are free to receive, and data costs $2 per megabyte. T-Mobile's Cuba roaming costs are slightly cheaper than AT&T's, which also became available this week. T-Mobile says customers can use WiFi networks in Cuba to call back to the U.S. for free. T-Mobile customers have been able to place calls from the U.S. to Cuba since May.

Alcatel's Pop 4 and Pixi 4 Series Reach Amazon and Best Buy

Thursday, 6:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today said and Best Buy have agreed to sell four of its low-cost Android smartphones from the Pop and Pixi families. The Pop 4S costs $170, the Pop 4 Plus costs $120, the Pixi 4 (6-inch) costs $120, and the Pixi 4 (5-inch) costs $80. All four handsets are being sold unlocked with support for GSM/LTE networks such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. The phones were announced earlier this year.

ZTE's Project CSX Picks Eyeball-Controlled, Sticky Phone

Thursday, 5:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced that the winning entry of its Project CSX crowd-sourced competition is an eye-controlled smartphone. Owners of the device, which will be built by ZTE over the course of the next year, will be able to control the handset by moving their eyes around. The phone will also include a self-adhesive rear panel so it sticks to surfaces like car dashboards without help. Thousands of voters selected from dozens of initial entries that were narrowed down to five entries this week. "We are overwhelmed with the amount of consumer participation and positive reception to Project CSX," said Lixin Cheng, chairman and CEO of ZTE USA. "As the first smartphone manufacturer to take on crowdsourcing its next mobile device from start to finish, we are proud of how this project pushed the envelope, and that consumers from around the world have chosen to be part of this industry-disrupting process." The eye-controlled, self-adhesive phone won with 36% of the vote. ZTE will work with the winner to design, engineer, and manufacture the device, which it hopes to bring to market by late 2017.

iPhone 7 Plus Intel Modem Not Equal to Qualcomm Modem

Thursday, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Under poor network conditions, the iPhone 7 Plus with Intel inside does not perform as well as the iPhone 7 Plus with Qualcomm inside. Apple sourced the iPhone 7 Plus modem from both Intel and Qualcomm. This represents a major change for the company, which has relied solely on Qualcomm modems for years. The Intel modem (XMM7360) is found in the AT&T and T-Mobile variants of the iPhone 7, while the Qualcomm modem (MDM9645M) is found in the Sprint, Verizon, and unlocked variants of the iPhone 7. Cellular Insights conducted extensive signal tests on the iPhone 7 Plus in LTE Bands 12, 7, and 4 to see if any performance differences exist between the two modems. Under optimal network conditions both the Intel- and Qualcomm-equipped iPhones demonstrated an equal level of performance in speed and maintaining a connection. Under weak network conditions, however, the Intel-equipped iPhone 7 Plus posted speeds that were on average 30% slower than those of the Qualcomm-equipped iPhone 7 Plus. The slower speeds at the cell edge mean the Intel-based iPhone 7 Plus may be more likely to experience dropped VoLTE calls and other, similar behaviors. "In all tests, the iPhone 7 Plus with the Qualcomm modem had a significant performance edge over the iPhone 7 Plus with the Intel modem," said Cellular Insights in its report. Apple has not said why it selected modems from two separate suppliers for the iPhone 7 Plus.

Google Pixel Hits Verizon Stores Today, But Pixel XL 128 GB Sold Out

Thursday, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are available at its stores today. The Pixel 32 GB ($650) and 128 GB ($750), and the Pixel XL 32 GB ($770) are in stores in black, white, and blue. The Pixel XL 128 GB ($870) is sold out and not available. Monthly pricing over two years breaks down to $27.08, $31.24, $32.08, and $36.24, respectively, for the Pixel 32 GB, Pixel 128 GB, Pixel XL 32 GB, and Pixel XL 128 GB. Verizon will offer up to $300 for select trade-ins, including the HTC One M9, iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, LG G4 or V10, Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ or Note 5. Customers who buy either Pixel device may also preorder the Daydream View virtual reality headset.

BlackBerry Updates Hub+ and Other Android Apps

Thursday, 9:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today announced an update to its Hub+ subscription service for Android devices. Hub+ users will now be able add Facebook Messenger to Hub+ and manage Messenger communications directly in the Hub. Hub+ also makes it easier to save inline images and improves support for admin-defined signatures for business users. Beyond Hub+, BlackBerry updated the BlackBerry Android Keyboard, BlackBerry Launcher, and Password Keeper apps. The Keyboard gains new ways to switch languages and global gesture support. The Launcher now includes a dynamic calendar icon that will show the current date. BlackBerry's Password Keeper adds secure lists and support for fingerprint sensors, and makes organizational changes to the settings panel. In addition to the new features, all the apps gain performance improvements. BlackBerry's own Priv and DTEK50 handsets will see speed enhancements in the camera app. BlackBerry's Hub+ and other Android apps are available from the Google Play Store. Hub+ requires a monthly subscription.

Gboard for iPhone Adds 3D Touch Support

Thursday, 7:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Gboard keyboard app for the iPhone with new 3D Touch-based features. A hard press on the keyboard puts it in cursor mode, allowing users to more easily and accurately move the cursor around the screen for editing. The refreshed app also gains new themes and contacts search. Last, Gboard now includes all the iOS 10 emoji. Gboard is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Google Keep Lets Users Pin Notes

Thursday, 7:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Keep app for Android handsets, giving it the power to pin notes. A pin icon is now visible within the app and tapping it will pin kept notes to a new section of the app for quick retrieval. Google Keep is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Kodak Ektra Is More Camera Than Phone

Thursday, 7:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Bullitt Group today announced the Kodak Ektra, an Android smartphone that focuses on providing a steady camera experience. Bullitt is the company behind CAT phones and made another Kodak-branded phone earlier this year. The Ektra more closely resembles a camera than a phone thanks to its large camera module and dedicated shutter button. The Bullitt-made phone has a 21-megapixel IMX230 imaging sensor from Sony with an aperture of f/2.0 and dual LED flash. It includes optical image stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, and can capture 4K video. The front-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor. The phone includes a 5-inch full HD screen, MediaTek Helio X20 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. The Ektra runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and has an advanced camera application with features such as bokeh, HDR, panorama, and manual mode. The devices goes on sale in select markets later this year for about $500. Bullitt didn't say if the phone will be sold in the U.S.

Google Releases Android 7.1 Developer Preview

Wednesday, 4:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today followed through on its recent promise to make a preview version of Android 7.1 Nougat available to developers. Registered developers can download the refreshed operating system to their Nexus 6P or 5X devices, as well as snag the latest developer tools from Google, including Android Studio and associated SDKs. The most forward-facing new feature for end users is support for GIFs and animations within the keyboard. The Android keyboard can interact with third-party apps to create and apply stickers, videos, and other expressive content. Android 7.1 also adopts a 3D Touch-style interactive tool that will let people access up to five secondary actions or settings that can be reached directly from the launcher. The preview can be downloaded over the air. Google expects to release another developer preview in November with the final build scheduled for December.

Second Round of FCC Incentive Auction Fizzles Out

Wednesday, 3:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The second round of the FCC's reverse auction ended suddenly in just a few hours due to lack of demand. Earlier this month the FCC lowered the targeted clearing cost of the spectrum licenses to $54.6 billion. Today's bids reached about $20.5 billion, falling far short and leaving the round nowhere else to go. The FCC will now have to go back to television broadcasters and renegotiate prices for their licenses before kicking off round three. The FCC said bidding may stretch into 2017 before the auction ends. The original clearing price was an astronomical $86 billion. Television stations have agreed to give up their valuable 600 MHz spectrum licenses and sell them to wireless carriers. So far, carriers haven't been biting very hard.

Verizon Shares Final LG V20 Launch Details

Wednesday, 2:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today finalized pricing and availability info regarding the LG V20 handset. The device will be available for preorder starting 10/20 and reach stores on 10/27. The V20 will cost $28 per month for 24 months, or $672 at full retail. Verizon has several promotions associated with the V20. To start, customers who trade in select phones can receive up to $300 off the V20 when purchased on a payment plan. Further, Verizon customers can score a free pair of Bang & Olufsen H3 headphones with a V20 purchase. Last, customers who purchase a V20 can get the LG Stylo 2 V for just $1 per month for 24 months.

Verizon Adds a 'V' to the LG Stylo 2

Wednesday, 2:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it will kick off sales of the LG Stylo 2 V on Oct. 20. The phone will cost $240, or $10 per month for 24 months. The Stylo 2 V, like the variants already sold by Boost and Cricket, has a 5.7-inch screen with stylus, a 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel selfie camera, memory card slot, and 3,000mAh battery. The phone is powered by an octa-core 1.8 GHz Snapdragon processor, which is a change from the other versions, with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The Stylo 2 V runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

LeEco Breezes Through S3 Announcement

Wednesday, 1:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 2:55 PM

LeEco today quickly showed off the S3 smartphone during an event in San Francisco. This affordable handset boasts a unibody metal design and comes in gold, gray, and rose gold. It has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, Snapdragon 652 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, 16-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, 3,000mAh battery with Quick Charge 3.0, fingerprint sensor, and USB Type-C. The LeEco S3 runs Android with LeEco's EUI user-interface skin. LeEco said the LeS3 will cost $249 and it should go on sale via LeEco's LeMall online retail space in early November.

LeEco Details the LePro3 with Snapdragon 821

Wednesday, 12:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 2:58 PM

LeEco today announced the LePro3 smartphone, an Android-based flagship that includes the Snapdragon 821 processor and a 4,070mAh battery. LeEco says the large power cell provides 33 hours of talk time or up to 49 hours o media playback. The battery supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 for rapid charging, and it can ingest a 33% charge in 20 minutes. Other specs include 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage; 5.5-inch full HD display; stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos; 16-megapixel main camera with 4K video capture and 8-megapixel front camera; and fingerprint sensor. The LePro3 is made from brushed aluminum and boasts 2D, curved glass. It will be available in gray and gold. The LePro3 costs $399. It will be available online from LeMall starting Nov. 2.

Apple Releases iOS 10.1 Beta 5 for Devs and Public Testers

Wednesday, 11:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 12:23 PM

Apple today made iOS 10.1 Beta 5 available to registered developers and public beta testers alike. This fifth beta follows the release of the fourth beta by just two days, implying that some urgent bug fixes may be contained within. Apple otherwise didn't say what's new in this beta release. iOS 10.1 primarily adds Portrait Mode (bokeh effect) to the iPhone 7 Plus. Apple still hasn't indicated when iOS 10.1 might reach the public other than to say "October."

T-Mobile Fined by FCC for Limits on "Unlimited" Plans

Wednesday, 9:53 AM   by Rich Brome

The FCC today announced a $48 million settlement with T-Mobile over T-Mobile's failure to adequately disclose limits on data plans that they had marketed as "unlimited". The plans actually capped users at 17 GB per month, after which users experienced throttled speeds when and where the network was congested. The FCC felt these limits were inadequately disclosed and fined the company $7.5 million directly. T-Mobile is also required to give up to $35.5 million in discounts to affected customers, and give $5 million to schools. Going forward, the company has agreed to new rules regarding "unlimited" plans. It will be required to advertise such limits more clearly and alert users when they are approaching those limits.

Microsoft Debuts Skype Sign-In Across Services

Tuesday, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made it possible for Skype users to sign into other Microsoft services with their Skype username and password. For example, people who have Skype credentials will be able to use them to log into Xbox, Office, or OneDrive. Moreover, people will be able to use those services across devices and platforms with this new single sign-in, negating the need to enter separate usernames and passwords for each Microsoft service across their devices. Microsoft is now wholly managing the Skype sign-in screen, password change, and account recovery flow, but none of these changes impact how people access and use Skype. Microsoft says the single sign-in tool will be available in the newest versions of the Skype app across platforms in the days ahead.

Instagram Stories to Show Up In Explore Tab

Tuesday, 12:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today said it will begin to show Instagram Stories under the Explore tab in its mobile app. Instagram Stories, which are ephemeral like Snapchat posts, let people share everyday moments as photos and/or video clips strung together. Instagram is adding Stories to the Explore tab so it is easier to discover the stories being shared across the social network. Moreover, a Suggested Stories section will highlight what Instagram believes are the most interesting stories being told from around the world. Instagram is free to download for Android and iOS devices.

AT&T Roams Into Cuba

Tuesday, 9:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today launched roaming in Cuba. AT&T customers can talk, text, and use data when traveling to Cuba. Roaming in Cuba isn't cheap, however: calls cost $3 per minute, texts cost $0.50 each, MMS messages cost $1.30 each, and data costs $2.05 per megabyte.

Qualcomm Says Snapdragon X50 Modem Is a 5G First

Tuesday, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon X50 5G modem, what it claims is the first "commercial 5G modem chipset" for mobile device makers. The Snapdragon X50 isn't necessarily intended to reach consumer-grade devices. Instead, it is meant to help companies build potential 5G cellular devices and also help network operators with their 5G trials. The modem targets millimeter wave operation in the 28 GHz spectrum band. It boasts MIMO antenna technology with adaptive beamforming and beam tracking techniques. These are meant to help maintain connections when the device does not have a direct line-of-site to the cell tower or signal source. The Snapdragon X50 boasts download speeds up to 5 Gbps. Qualcomm says the X50 can be paired with most any Snapdragon processor and will support multi-mode 4G/5G operation. Qualcomm believes making the Snapdragon X50 5G modem available to phone makers and network operators is vital in moving 5G forward through lab tests, field trials, early deployments, and, eventually, standardization. Phone makers, in particular, might benefit from testing the X50 early so they can optimize their devices to function with mmWave technology. The Snapdragon X50 5G development platform will include transceivers, power management chips, and the modem. Qualcomm expects the platform to sample during the second half of 2017 with commercial products appearing in the first half of 2018.

Qualcomm Intros New Snapdragon 600 and 400 Processors

Tuesday, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced new Snapdragon application processors for mid-range and volume mobile devices. The Snapdragon 653, Snapdragon 626, and Snapdragon 427 are all paired with Qualcomm's X9 LTE modem with Cat 7 download (300Mbps) and Cat 13 upload (150Mbps) speeds; 2x20 MHz Carrier Aggregation; 64-QAM on the uplink; and VoLTE with Enhanced Voice Services. The Snapdragon 653 improves upon the Snapdragon 652 with faster CPU/GPU performance and double the RAM (now 8 GB). The Snapdragon 626 improves upon the Snapdragon 625 with quicker CPU performance, a better antenna, and wider software compatibility. The Snapdragon 427 is an update to the Snapdragon 425 with better CPU/GPU speeds and Qualcomm's TruSignal antenna tuning. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 653 and 626 will reach mobile devices before the end of the year, but the 427 won't arrive until early 2017.

Samsung to Pay Note7 Suppliers for Unused Parts

Tuesday, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it will pay its component suppliers for any Galaxy Note7 parts they may have already made. The company will also compensate suppliers for in-progress or unfinished parts, as well as any materials those suppliers purchased to manufacture the parts. Further, Samsung will look to give those suppliers orders for future devices to soften the economic impact of cancelling the phone. "Samsung will determine the inventory levels for the partner companies and carry out compensation quickly," said the company. It did not provide details on how much it might spend to compensate its parts suppliers. Samsung already said it expects the cancelled phone to cost it some $5.5 billion in profit between the fourth quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2017. Samsung was forced to fully cease production of the phone and recall all units after defective batteries led to burns and fires.

Amazon Invites People to Share Photos with Family Vault

Tuesday, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today announced Family Vault, a new service for Amazon Prime members that allow them to share photos with family members and friends. Family Vault supports the Prime subscriber plus up to five invitees, be they friends, family, colleagues, or others. Invitees will have access to free unlimited online photo storage along with 5 GB for videos and other files. Members of Family Vault can add photos and videos one-by-one as they go, or automatically from most any mobile device or PC. Prime Photos includes technology to help find people, places, or things, as well as keyword search for general photo subjects (sunsets, et al.) or filter by location or date. Last, Prime Photos and Family Vault include photo printing services. Customers can create intricate photo albums or print individual photos. Amazon says print products start at 9 cents per photo and delivers to Prime members is free. Family Vault is available within the Prime Photos mobile app for Android and iOS devices.

Samsung Sets Up In-Airport Kiosks to Facilitate Note7 Returns

Tuesday, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has begun accepting Galaxy Note7 returns at airports in several countries. The action follows the recent ban from the Dept. of Transportation that makes it a federal crime to bring the Note7 on any airplane. Other countries have put similar bans in place. Samsung began accepting Note7 returns at airports on its home market of Korea, followed by Australia and some locations in the U.S., including San Francisco International Airport. The idea is to help prevent travelers from carrying the Note7 onto planes, which poses a safety risk, while also providing them with a replacement device (even if only temporarily). The booths are located before security checkpoints at "high-traffic" terminals. Samsung has not provided a list for U.S. airports, nor said if it will expand beyond those already in operation.

Apple Drops iOS 10.1 Beta 4 for Developers

Monday, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.1 Beta 4 available to registered developers. Apple didn't say what's new in this beta release. iOS 10.1 primarily adds Portrait Mode (bokeh effect) to the iPhone 7 Plus. Apple typically releases public betas a day or two after the developer beta. Apple still hasn't indicated when iOS 10.1 might reach the public other than to say "October."

Apple Releases iOS 10.0.3 to Resolve iPhone 7 Connectivity Bug

Oct 17, 2016, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.0.3 available to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. This update is targeted at Apple's newest iPhones and resolves an issue that impacted cellular connectivity. Apple recommends all iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus owners apply the update when possible.

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Google Makes Tracking Flight Pricing Easier

Oct 17, 2016, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved its Google Flights tool with new ways to track not only flight times, but flight pricing. Moving forward, Google Flights will alert users about potential price increases. For example, as people search for flights Google will clearly display when it expects prices to change and what the price differential might be. Moreover, users can elect to receive alerts when prices are about to change, either up or down, as well as track any potential changes in departure/arrival times. Google Flights will also provide tips based on routes, with recommendations concerning alternate airports and best travel dates for flying between two cities. Google improved the usability of its Google Hotels search function, too, which can reveal when specific hotels are offering rate discounts and more. Google Flights and Google Hotels are available for free via the browser. Google says both should now be easier to use from mobile devices.

T-Mobile Shares Pricing Details for LG V20

Oct 17, 2016, 7:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today offered customers more information about its planned launch of the LG V20 handset. Customers may preorder the phone starting today. T-Mobile is asking for a down payment of $50, followed by 24 monthly payments of $30 per month. The full retail price of the handset from T-Mobile is $770. Customers that take advantage of T-Mobile's Jump! On Demand program can get the V20 for $0 up front and $34 a month over 18 months. T-Mobile is offering several promotions alongside its launch of the V20. To start, customers can receive a minimum $200 in credit toward the V20 when they trade in any working LTE smartphone. T-Mobile is also giving away a pair of Bang & Olufsen H3 headphones ($149 value) to those who buy the V20. The headphone offer must be redeemed online. The V20 is a follow-up to last year's V10. Its defining feature is a small second screen on the front for notifications and app shortcuts. The device is semi-rugged and includes a 5.7-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 16-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel secondary camera (wide-angle), and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The T-Mobile variant is the first to support LTE in Band 66. The phone will also be among the first to ship with Android 7 Nougat and a new search tool from Google called In Apps. The device goes on sale October 28.

Samsung Kicks Off Production of 10nm SoCs

Oct 17, 2016, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has begun producing systems-on-a-chip using its 10nm FinFET process. The SoCs will eventually be used in application processors for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Samsung's 10nm FinFET process relies on 3D transistors and new methods such as triple-patterning to generate significant improvements over its 14nm process. For example, SoCs made with the 10nm process are 30% smaller, require 40% less power, and can boost performance by up to 27%. Samsung believes the first devices to rely on its 10nm FinFET process will reach the market it early 2017, with more to follow throughout the year.

Qualcomm Says First MulteFire Connection a Success

Oct 17, 2016, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said it made the world's first over-the-air connection using MulteFire. MulteFire is a new, more advanced version of LTE that uses a technology called listen-before-talk (LBT) to operate on unlicensed spectrum. MulteFire is based on the 3GPP Licensed Assisted Access standard. The LBT technology within MulteFire is vital to ensure there's little or no interference with other equipment that operates on unlicensed spectrum. Unlicensed spectrum is most often reserved for WiFi. Qualcomm said its test proved that MulteFire can coexist fairly with WiFi in the 5 GHz channel. Companies that make cellular equipment want to bring LTE technology to unlicensed spectrum to help alleviate the pressure on existing licensed airwaves, which are operated by cellular networks. Companies that make WiFi equipment and sell WiFi-based services often claim competing technologies such as MulteFire will cause ruinous interference and threaten their businesses. Both LTE and WiFi makers are attempting to find a balance in the use of unlicensed spectrum. MulteFire has the potential to strike that balance.

DoT Bans Galaxy Note7 From All Flights

Oct 14, 2016, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumers who still own a Samsung Galaxy Note7 will not be allowed to bring them onto airplanes at all beginning noon on Oct. 15. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation today classified the Note7 as a forbidden hazardous material under the Federal Hazardous Material Regulations. Passengers cannot transport the phone on their person, in their carry-on bags, or in their checked bags on any/all flights in the U.S. "We recognize that banning these phones from airlines will inconvenience some passengers, but the safety of all those aboard an aircraft must take priority," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "We are taking this additional step because even one fire incident inflight poses a high risk of severe personal injury and puts many lives at risk." The FAA had previously asked Note7 owners to keep the devices powered off while aboard aircraft. This new ban replaces the previous action. The Dept. of Transportation said travelers who attempt to fly with the phone may face fines and criminal prosecution. Moreover, those who attempt to hide the phone in baggage will likely see the device confiscated. Flight crews will be instructed to keep an eye out for the device and take action if necessary.

Verizon Offers Unlimited Data for $3 Per Hour

Oct 14, 2016, 11:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless recently introduced a new service called PopData that allows customers to access an unlimited amount of LTE 4G data for 30 or 60 minutes. Verizon is charging $2 for a 30-minute session and $3 for a 60-minute session. "PopData is a new time-based 4G LTE data option that gives customers even more options and control of their wireless plans," said Verizon to Fierce Wireless via email. "PopData gives us an opportunity to learn more about how time-based data options resonate with our customers and how they engage with a digital-only experience through the My Verizon app." Verizon is pitching the option as a faster and more secure alternative to laggy public WiFi, though PopData will not be available if the network is congested. The service is being offered in beta status. Verizon did not say if or when it might become a permanent feature.

Google News to More Clearly Mark 'Fact-Check' Articles

Oct 14, 2016, 7:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says it will work harder to call attention to fact-check articles within Google News. Google believes fact-check style articles have become an important type of journalism, especially in the context of the presidential election. Moving forward, a "Fact Check" tag will clearly highlight which stories examine claims made by politicians, celebrities, and other pundits. Such articles will be clearly labeled in Google News online and in the Google News Android and iOS mobile apps. Further, Google is offering publishers more tools to help them tag their articles as fact-check style pieces so they can be found more easily within Google News. Google News is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

FCC Reverse Auction Drops Clearing Price to $54.6B

Oct 14, 2016, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has wrapped up the initial phase of stage two of its incentive auction for 600 MHz airwaves, and drastically lowered the price for that spectrum. The initial clearing cost for all the 600 MHz spectrum was $86.4 billion, but bidders failed to come even close during the first round of bidding. Bidders offered up about $23 billion instead. The FCC was forced to go back to the spectrum license holders — in this case, broadcast television stations — and renegotiate a series of minimum prices for those licenses. The new clearing cost for stage two of the auction is $54.6 billion. Bidding will resume on Oct. 19. Most industry watchers assumed the reverse auction would need several rounds to reach completion. The 600 MHz airwaves are valuable due to their signal propagation characteristics. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are participating in the auction, but Sprint is not.

Apple Offering SIM-Free iPhone 7s Online

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

Apple has made SIM-free versions of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus available for sale on its web site. The SIM-free versions differ from the carrier versions only in that they are unlocked and don't carry any obligations to carriers. Customers can purchase the SIM-free iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and put any SIM card in it. Carrier financing is not available on SIM-free models, but consumers may use Apple Pay, PayPal, and Apple Store Gift Cards to purchase unlocked iPhones. Some financing options are available from Apple and its banking partners. The iPhone 7 starts at $649 and the iPhone 7 Plus starts at $769.

Facebook Brings Video Casting to Mobile Devices

Oct 13, 2016, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 13, 2016, 3:26 PM

Facebook today made it possible to cast video straight from the News Feed to television sets. iPhone owners and web users can push News Feed video to their Apple TV or Google Chromecast starting today. Android devices will be able to push News Feed view to a Chromecast device in the near future, though Facebook didn't say exactly when. Mobile device owners will be able to browse through their Facebook News Feed while casting videos from their phone to their TV and queue up more videos if they wish. The feature supports Facebook Live Video, too, and will show live reactions and comments on the TV just as it does in the mobile app. Casting is controlled via a small "TV" icon that appears in the upper corner of the app. Facebook for iOS and Android is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

Google Photos Gets a Boost from AI

Oct 13, 2016, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today is rolling out an update to Google Photos that introduces some new AI-assisted tools. First, Photos will reach deep into users' libraries to pair old photos of people with the newest photos of those same people so you can reconnect with those older memories. Second, Photos plans to automatically assemble highlights from selections of recent photos of users' children or friends. These two tools make use of facial recognition technology. Third, Photos will begin to scan users' videos and automatically create short, shareable highlight videos from those larger pieces. Last, Photos will find sideways or other improperly-oriented photos and suggest they be righted. The new features are available to Google Photos for Android, iOS, and the web.

Samsung to Reward Note7 Owners' Loyalty with Cash

Oct 13, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung is offering a cash incentive to Galaxy Note7 owners if they stick with the Samsung brand. U.S. consumers who exchange their Note7 for any other Samsung handset will be rewarded with $100 in bill credits. Consumers who exchange their Note7 for a phone made by another company will be given $25 in bill credits. The financial incentive arrives as Samsung expands its recall of the Note7 to all devices, both the original and the replacement. The number of Note7s being recalled in the U.S. stands at about 1.9 million. Samsung hasn't said how many have even returned/exchanged. "We appreciate the patience of our consumers, carriers, and retail partners for carrying the burden during these challenging times," said Samsung Electronics America COO Tim Baxter. "We are committed to doing everything we can to make this right." There have been 96 documented cases of the Note7 overheating in the U.S., according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, with 15 of those coming from supposed safe devices.

Consumer Cellular Adds Moto G4 and G4 Play to Its Device Roster

Oct 12, 2016, 1:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumer Cellular today added the Motorola Moto G4 and Moto G4 Play to its lineup of Android handsets. Consumer Cellular is selling the G4 for $150 and the G4 Play for $100. The G4 has a 5.5-inch full HD screen and 13-megapixel camera while the G 4 Play has a 5-inch 720p HD screen and 8-megapixel camera. Both phones run Android 6 Marshmallow. Consumer Cellular also sells the older Moto G (3rd ed.) and the Moto E LTE.

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