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Commerce Department Agrees to Let ZTE Get Back to Business

Friday, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Trump administration has handed ZTE an olive branch, according to sources cited by the New York Times and Reuters. The Commerce Department has brokered a deal that will allow ZTE to resume operations as long as it agrees to pay a substantial fine, submit to American compliance officers, and wholly change is management team. If ZTE abides by these terms, the Commerce Department will lift its ban preventing U.S. companies from supplying ZTE with hardware and software. The Commerce Department socked ZTE with the ban last month after it discovered the company misrepresented actions concerning a previous settlement agreement. The Trump administration has been back-and-forth concerning ZTE’s fate over the last week and did not confirm the details of its recent trade meetings with China. Some U.S. lawmakers are not convinced ZTE should be allowed to resume operations and have been vocal in their opposition to any deal that sees ZTE allowed to buy U.S. technology.

T-Mobile Bug Exposed Customer Account Details

Friday, 9:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The personal account details of T-Mobile customers were easily accessible for an unknown time thanks to a bug in T-Mobile's web site. The site in question was a subdomain used by T-Mobile staff to access customer account information when performing customer service tasks. The subdomain, however, was not protected by a password and could be used by anyone who knew how to find it. Using T-Mobile customer phone numbers, anyone could have quickly discovered names, account numbers, addresses, tax information, account payment status, PINs, and more. Security researcher Ryan Stevenson discovered the vulnerability in April and alerted T-Mobile. T-Mobile pulled the API in question and fixed the bug. "The bug bounty program exists so that researchers can alert us to vulnerabilities, which is what happened here, and we support this type of responsible and coordinated disclosure," said T-Mobile in a statement provided to ZDNet. "The bug was patched as soon as possible and we have no evidence that any customer information was accessed." A similar bug was discovered on a different T-Mobile subdomain last year.

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Best Certified Phones for Verizon Wireless

Friday, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Have your eye on a shiny new phone, but it isn't sold by Verizon Wireless? Did you know that Big Red allows you to bring your own device to its network? There are a few things you need to know, though.

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Jury Says Samsung On the Hook for $539M Over Apple Designs

Thursday, 7:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A California jury today decided that Samsung must pay Apple $539 million for copying its smartphone designs. The decision comes after a retrial concerning the amount of damages owed for the 2012 case that found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple's design patents. A jury in that case initially awarded Apple $1.05 billion, though that amount was later reduced in subsequent appeals and hearings. The courts eventually decided to retry the damages portion of the case, as the original jury was improperly instructed on how to calculate damages. Samsung later paid Apple $399 million in December 2015. If today's award survives appeal, Samsung will owe Apple another $140 million to cover the entire $539 million figure. Apple said it was pleased with the outcome. "We believe deeply in the value of design," said the iPhone maker in a statement. "This case has always been about more than money." Samsung did not immediately say if it will appeal this latest decision, but it did say, "Today's decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages. We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers." Apple and Samsung eventually settled all outstanding lawsuits and patent fights other than this case.

Essential Cans Plans for New Phone, Puts Itself Up for Sale

Thursday, 4:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products is for sale, reports Bloomberg, and has cancelled plans to develop a new phone. The company has hired a financial firm in order to help advise it on a potential sale, according to Bloomberg's sources, who also say Essential has already received interest from one possible buyer. Essential, part of Andy Rubin's Playground Global tech incubator, announced the Essential Phone at about this time last year. The phone was unique thanks to its ceramic design, all-screen face, and magnetic mod system. The phone was sold by Sprint in the U.S., as well as unlocked directly from Essential. The $700 device struggled to find buyers, however, due to poor camera and call performance. Bloomberg's sources suggest as few as 150,000 Essential phones have sold since its August 2017 launch. Essential raised around $300 million in funding and spent about $100 million of it developing the Essential Phone. The company is exploring a sale of the entire company, including hardware, patents, a smart home product, and a camera attachment for the phone. It's not clear what might happen to Essential's employees. Andy Rubin is known for developing the initial Android platform. Essential did not comment on Bloomberg's story.

Facebook and Twitter Put Political Ad Policies Into Effect

Thursday, 2:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Two of the largest social networks are doing more to call out political advertisements. Both Facebook and Twitter today outlined their new policies, which should increase the visibility of ads that are purchased for political purposes. On Facebook, all election-related ads must be clearly labeled as such with a "Paid for" disclosure so viewers know what entity sponsored the ad. Moreover, advertisers that wish to run political ads will need to verify their identity and location in the U.S. Twitter is putting similar rules into effect. On Twitter, advertisers will need to identify themselves and certify that they are located in the U.S. Further, candidates for office will need to provide their federal election certifications and IDs. Twitter says handles used for political campaigning must adhere to stricter guidelines. For example, profile photos, header photos, and other online information must be consistent across the entity's online presence. Valid contact information is required, as are new badges and disclaimers that call out the content as an ad. The social networks hope these measures will provide clarity in the forthcoming election season and prevent the spread of misinformation.

BlackBerry Teases More of the BlackBerry Key2

Thursday, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today provided another speak peak at the forthcoming Key2 smartphone. Like the original, the phone will include a touch screen and physical QWERTY keyboard. The teaser video released today shows that the phone will include two cameras on the rear along with a dual-LED flash. The device is scheduled to be unveiled at an event on June 7.

Congressman Wants Hearings Over Securus and LocationSmart Data Leaks

Thursday, 1:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Representative Frank Pallone of New Jersey has asked Greg Walden, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, to hold a hearing concerning the recent location leaks from LocationSmart and Securus. Both companies were able to access real-time location data from wireless carriers and then allowed that data to be exposed. Pallone believes the leaks may have violated the Communications Act of 1996, which requires carries and their partners to safeguard consumer data and obtain consent before sharing it with others. "The issues raised by this incident mirror the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal and must be closely scrutinized," wrote Pallone in a letter to Walden. "A hearing on how this information was made available is necessary to better understand whether the privacy protections in the Communications Act were violated and whether Congress needs to take action to ensure users' data are protected." Earlier this month, Senator Ron Wyden asked the FCC to investigate the same issues.

Google, PayPal Extend Mobile and Online Payment Partnership

Thursday, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

PayPal today said it has deepened its relationship with Google and Google Pay in order to make it easier for people to make payments from their mobile devices and on the web. PayPal says people who add PayPal to any of Google's services will be able to pay across the entire Google ecosystem anywhere PayPal is offered as a payment option. For example, if a person adds PayPal to Google Pay, support for PayPal will be added to that person's other Google services, including Google Play and the Google Store, without additional logins. "PayPal and Google Pay share common goals of creating simple payment solutions across our platforms that enable people to shop more seamlessly," said PayPal. The two companies hope the new collaboration eases the pain points people often encounter when attempting to make mobile and online payments. The new Google Pay and PayPal integration will be live soon.

Facebook Simplifies Process for Two-Factor Authentication

Thursday, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has made it easier for people to secure their accounts. The company improved how it handles two-factor authentication. Previously, Facebook required people to supply their phone number to set up two-factor authentication and prevent lockouts. Moving forward, Facebook has made it possible to use third-party apps, such as Google Authenticator or Duo Security, for authentication purposes. A phone number is no longer required. Facebook recommends all users take advantage of two-factor authentication, which is viewed as a best-practice for adding a second layer of protection. Facebook users can turn on two-factor authentication via the "Security and Login" tab in the settings menu.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 710 Brings AI Smarts to Camera and Multimedia Apps In a Powerful SoC

Wednesday, 9:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon 710, the first system-on-a-chip in its 700 series mobile platform. The 710 finds space between the Snapdragon 600 series and Snapdragon 800 series for devices that need to balance performance and cost. The 710 is based on Qualcomm's Kryo 360 CPU, with six cores using a 10nm process. Two 2.2 GHz cores target high-power tasks and four 1.7 GHz cores target low-power tasks. The 710 is pared with the Adreno 616 GPU. Together, these contribute to a 20% boost in performance while dropping power draw by 40% for 4K video playback and gaming. Similar to the Snapdragon 845, the Snapdragon 710 brings artificial intelligence / machine learning to phones and their cameras. Qualcomm claims the 710 delivers platform-wide AI optimizations with the power to handle bokeh, animoji, face detection, and more. Together with the Spectra 250 image signal processor, 710-powered cameras will be able to support real-time noise reduction, active depth sensing, slow-motion video capture, video noise reduction, and image stabilization. The chip supports 10-bit color, 4K HDR video playback, Qualcomm's Aqstic, aptX, and Aqstic Voice UI, as well as displays up to quad HD+. On the connectivity front, the 710 includes Qualcomm's X15 modem with 4x4 MIMO and LAA for max download speeds of 800 Mbps. The chip also packs Bluetooth 5 and dual-band wifi. Other features include support for Qualcomm QuickCharge 4.0 and the Unity/Unreal gaming engines. Qualcomm says devices with the Snapdragon 710 will debut during the second quarter of the year.

Verizon Prepaid Brings TravelPass to More Countries

Wednesday, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said its Verizon prepaid customers now have access to TravelPass in 16 more countries. This expansion targets the Caribbean and adds TravelPass to Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, The Cayman Islands, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos, and more. TravelPass lets people access their talk, text, and data service when roaming for $5-$10 per day, depending on the country.

Verizon Details LG G7 ThinQ and Moto G6 Launches

Wednesday, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 8:52 AM

Verizon Wireless today provided more information about the forthcoming availability of the LG G7 ThinQ and the Motorola Moto G6. Verizon will begin taking preorders for the G7 ThinQ on May 24. Verizon is charging $31.25 per month for 24 months, or about $750 in total for the phone. Verizon says customers who finance the phone on a payment plan can score a $100 discount on the total price of the device, which will be applied equally via bill credits over the 24-month payment period. Verizon says this deal is stackable with its other trade-in offers. Verizon didn't say when the G7 ThinQ will hit stores. As for the Moto G6, it will be available online and in stores on May 24. Verizon is charging $10 per month for 24 months, or about $240 in total for the device.

Sprint Rolls Out LG G7 ThinQ BOGO Deal

Wednesday, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today highlighted its pricing and launch plans for the LG G7 ThinQ. Sprint will begin accepting preorders for the phone on May 25, with retail availability expected across all Sprint channels on June 1. The company is offering the phone for $0 down and $33 per month on a Sprint Flex lease. Sprint leases run for 18 months with the option to buy or return the phone after 18 payments. The Sprint Flex also allows people to upgrade their phone after making 12 payments. This requires people to turn in their old phone when leasing a new one. Customers who lease the G7 ThinQ during the preorder period will be given the option to lease two G7's for the $33 monthly price. Sprint says this promotion is available to new and upgrade-eligible customers for a limited time. Sprint points out that the G7 ThinQ supports its HPUE LTE service for better performance under certain conditions.

Samsung's 'Incredibles' AR Emoji Stickers Now Available

Wednesday, 12:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has made new AR emoji stickers available to its Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones. Owners of these devices can download an AR pack that contains characters from Disney's "The Incredibles" movies. The pack includes Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Violet, Dash, Jack-Jack, and Frozone. The S9/S9+ launched with access to several core Disney characters. The join the initial batch and Samsung says more are on the way. AR emoji allow people to animate cartoon characters using their own face in coordination with the front-facing camera. The new AR Emoji are free to download from Samsung.

Apple to Let People Download Everything It Knows About Them

Wednesday, 12:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple plans to give its customers a bit more control over their data. In order to comply with the pending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) going into effect in Europe, Apple is allowing customers in the European Union to download all their data. Such data includes files and information synced to iCloud, as well as activity on devices, Apple Music, AppleCare, the App Store, and other Apple services. Apple's new Data and Privacy web site also makes it easy for people to edit the data Apple stores, as well as delete it entirely. Apple warned that preparing the data download may take several days. While this tool is reaching European citizens first, Apple intends to make it available globally later this year.

Apple to Reimburse Some iPhone Owners Who Paid Full Price for New Batteries

Wednesday, 11:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple said it plans to reimburse customers who, between Jan. 1, 2017 and Dec. 28, 2017, paid full price for an out-of-warranty battery replacement for their iPhone 6 or later. The credit will amount to $50. On Dec. 28, 2017, Apple dropped the price of replacement batteries from $79 to $29 after it revealed that it throttled performance of older iPhones to manage battery life. The company agreed to step up its battery replacement program to alleviate the performance issue. Customers who paid full price to replace their battery during the designated period will need to have proof of purchase, and will need to have completed the repair at an authorized Apple service location. Apple will proactively reach out to these customers between now and the end of July. The credit will be applied to the credit card used to make the original battery replacement. Batteries replaced under warranty are not eligible for the $50 reimbursement.

Facebook Debuts Home Services Search in Marketplace

Wednesday, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made it easier to find a local plumber, electrician, or house cleaner. The social network says people in the U.S. are constantly asking friends for recommendations on home services providers. Facebook worked with companies such as HomeAdviser, Porch, and Handy to add home services recommendations to Facebook Marketplace. With this new tool, people can search through hundreds of thousands of professionals around the country, view credentials and ratings, describe projects, solicit quotes from multiple pros at once, and communicate with contractors via Messenger. Facebook say the new service is rolling out to Marketplace across the U.S. over the next few weeks. Marketplace is available in the Facebook mobile app and online.

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