Huawei's survival in America is facing a new threat: a criminal investigation over whether or not it violated sanctions preventing the sale or export of select goods to Iran. The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into Huawei's dealings with Iran to see if it broke U.S. law, though it's unclear how far along the probe is and what specific allegations are being made. The investigation "follows administrative subpoenas on sanctions-related issues from both the Commerce Department and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control," reports the Wall Street Journal. If Huawei is found to have violated U.S. law, it could be hit with severe penalties. The U.S government has already targeted the company this year, suggesting it is a security threat. AT&T and Verizon Wireless backed out of distribution deals with Huawei after being pressured by the U.S. government, and lawmakers have proposed to make it illegal for government employees to use Huawei phones. Huawei, the world's third-largest maker of phones, did not comment on the new assault. Last year, Huawei rival ZTE settled a similar lawsuit over sanction violations.
Google believes its Tasks mobile application for Android and iOS devices will help users manage and complete tasks more efficiently. The app lets people create tasks lists; view, edit, and manage tasks from any device; and control tasks created in Gmail, Google Calendar, or on the web from mobile devices. It supports granular details within individual tasks, as well as subtasks and the ability to check off progress as parts of tasks are completed. People can create tasks directly from an email in Gmail, view tasks in the side panel of Gmail, and trace tasks back to their source email. Further, the app lets people set due dates for their tasks, organize them by date or priority, and receive notifications to help stay on track. Google Tasks also integrates with Google's G Suite business email service. The mobile app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
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Google Adds a Dash of AI to Gmail with High-Priority Notifications On Mobile and Smart Replies on the Web
Google today introduced new features to Gmail both on the web and on mobile devices. The web version of Gmail sees the largest number of changes and adds smart features meant to help people move through their email more efficiently. The interface has been refreshed with a new design, new controls, and dedicated access to Calendar, Tasks, and Keep. Gmail users can now click on attachments such as documents and photos without scrolling through entire threads, as well as use a new snooze button to put off emails for later. Gmail's Smart Reply feature, which has been available in mobile Gmail for some time, now comes to the web. Gmail will suggest quick replies to help people push out responses faster. In the same vein, Google will "nudge" people to respond to emails if they sit unanswered for several days with gentle reminders. New security features are on deck as well, such as the ability to restrict emails and attachments from being copied, printed, or forwarded. Further, Gmail users can make a message expire after a set period of time to help them stay in control of their information. Gmail will be a bit more proactive about notifying people about potential scam messages. On mobile devices, the new Gmail adds high-priority notifications that will notify people of important incoming messages, allowing them to ignore the rest. Last, Gmail on mobile devices will be more proactive about helping people unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters. The new Gmail for the web is rolling out now with some of the new features. The Gmail mobile apps for Android and iOS are available from the Play Store and App Store today.
ZTE today said it is preparing to take "certain actions" within the scope of U.S. law to fight the Commerce Department's ban against the company. Earlier this month, the Commerce Department banned U.S. companies from selling ZTE hardware or software, such as mobile processors and the Android operating system, for a period of seven years. The move puts ZTE's survival as a phone company at critical risk. Without access to Android, in particular, ZTE will not be able to sell phones in the U.S., where it has found a comfortable niche with prepaid carriers including Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. The ban was put into effect because ZTE broke a 2017 settlement agreement concerning its sale of forbidden items to Iran. ZTE did not spell out exactly what actions it will take. Late last week a member of the Commerce Department said it will allow ZTE to argue its case via unofficial channels.
LG says its forthcoming flagship will have a redesigned FullVision display that adds a number of new technologies. The screen measures 6.1 inches across the diagonal at a new aspect ratio of 19.5:9 to account for the additional screen real estate forming the notch. The company says it reduced the size of the bottom bezel by 50% when compared to the G6 to give the phone even more screen real estate on front. The display packs 3,210 by 1,440 pixels for quad HD+ resolution. The G7 ThinQ uses LG's Super Bright Display LCD technology and claims to have a brightness of 1000 nits, making it one of the brighter displays available on a modern phone. LG says this "allows users the convenience of operating the phone in almost any lighting condition, notably under bright sunlight while reducing power consumption by as much as 30 percent than the LG G6." LG claims the screen can automatically adapt to six screen color settings depending on the content, such as movies, sports, games, and such. The phone analyzes the owner's activity and switches screen color profiles to match on the fly in order to conserve power. Beyond this automatic tool, owners will be able to take full control over the display's color profiles through dedicated RGB sliders. The LG G7 ThinQ is expected to be announced at an event next month.
OnePlus said it will announce its next flagship phone at an event planned for May 16 in London. The company has recently been teasing features of the phone and earlier this week said the device will have a metal-and-glass design with a glass rear panel. The company has not shared any other details about the phone. More information will be available next month.
Instagram has brought a new tool to its web site: the ability for users to download all their data. Instagram says users can request the information if they want. "We'll email you a link to a file with your photos, comments, profile information and more," explained the company. Instagram says it may take up to 48 hours for it to collect the data and put it into downloadable form. Instagram is owned by Facebook. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook itself recently made it easier for users to download their data. Facebook is now offering that same tool to users of its Instagram service.
Apple has distributed iOS 11.3.1 to iPhones and iPads in order to solve a problem with third-party displays. In some instances, screens of the iPhone 8 repaired with non-Apple displays became unresponsive to the touch. iOS 11.3.1 takes care of that issue. The update also, according to Apple, improves the security of all iPhones and iPads. iOS 11.3.1 is free to download.
Instagram today improved the way its mobile app handles story uploads. The latest version of Instagram makes it possible to upload up to 10 photos or videos from your gallery at a time. Users can select each individual photo to make changes, apply stickers, and perform edits. Once done preparing the pix or vids, the group can be uploaded all at once rather than separately. The media are added to your story in the order they were selected. Moreover, Instagram is better at remembering location data so it can help users properly tag photos with location stickers even if the user has moved somewhere else. Instagram says these changes are reaching Android devices today with iOS to follow in the coming weeks.
Spotify today raised the volume on a change to its free service offering that takes advantage of machine learning to recommend tunes to music fans as they listen. The changes apply mostly to the mobile app. When customers first sign up for Spotify, they will be asked to name their favorite artists so Spotify's machine learning algorithms can begin to churn out recommendations. Spotify's free listeners will gain access to the songs they want when they want them, so long as the tunes fall into the 15 personalized playlists created by Spotify. Each playlist holds 50 songs, providing free listeners with access to up 750 on-demand tracks that can be listed to over and over. Previously, Spotify's free tier didn't have access to on-demand tracks. Spotify will use what it calls "assisted playlisting" to help, which means as people search for songs Spotify will automatically show them similar songs right away. This takes advantage of user interests as they build playlists for themselves. Last, Spotify introduced a low-data mode to help conserve mobile data when on the go. Spotify claims low-data mode reduces over-the-network data use by as much as 75% while maintaining quality. Spotify is rolling out the revised mobile app and experience to free users over the next few days. In the long run, Spotify hopes the improved free tools will entice more people to subscribe to its $10-per-month premium service.
The Mophie Charge Stream Pad+ is a universal wireless charger that accommodates iPhones and Galaxies alike. This slim, disk-shaped charger works with most phones and offers rapid power-ups. If you're looking for a single charging pad that does it all, this could be it.
The European Commission is holding up Apple's planned acquisition of Shazam. "The Commission is concerned that the merger could reduce choice for users of music streaming services," said the Commission in a statement. Shazam is used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide to query song identities. It is available to Android and iOS devices alike. Margrethe Vestager, in charge of the EU's antitrust unit, said the Commission wants to "ensure that music fans will continue to enjoy attractive music streaming offers and won't face less choice as a result of this proposed merger." The EU is also concerned about consumer data Apple will gain. The $400 million deal was first made public in December. The European Commission is going to investigate the transaction to see if it might create unfair competition. Apple didn't immediately comment on the Commission's decision.
Cricket Wireless today said its service plans have new names. The new names corresponded to changes the company made to its service offerings on April 22. For the sake of clarity, the former Cricket Unlimited plan is now called the Cricket Unlimited Max plan. It costs $60 per month and provides unlimited high-speed data (up to 22 GB per month) with unlimited calls, texts, and picture messages between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The Cricket Unlimited 2 plan is now called Cricket Unlimited2. This plan costs $55 per month and provides unlimited data at speeds up to 3Mbps, and video streams capped at SD quality (480p). Like the Max plan, the Unlimited2 plan provides unlimited calls, texts, and picture messages between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Cricket subscribers can save $5 per month on either plan if they enroll in autopay. These new plans are available now.
OnePlus is expected to announce the OnePlus 6 flagship phone in the coming weeks and today it shared some information about the design. Taking the company's blog, CEO Pete Lau described in detail the company's design philosophy. With respect to the OnePlu6, Lau said, "OnePlus 6's glass design is centered around creating a 'sense of value' and 'premium hand-feel.' People relate deeply to the products they use. We gave a lot of thought to how users should feel when they use the OnePlus 6. The advantages of glass over metal are manifold: glass communicates a transparent, bright, and pure feeling." Lau said OnePlus tested more than 70 different glass prototypes before selecting one. After selecting the glass, OnePlus refined it for hand feel extensively. "The OnePlus 6's glass back contains five printed layers of Nanotech Coating, a first in the smartphone industry." Three layers is normal. "The degree of separation between each layer is extremely subtle and tough to discern. However, the additional layers give the back of the device a stronger impression of depth that our most demanding users will surely appreciate." The phone will continue to make use of OnePlus' "horizon" design philosophy, which OnePlus has refined to fit the metal-and-gass materials. "Although OnePlus is not the first manufacturer to use glass, we are confident that we are providing users with our interpretation of a familiar material," said Lau. The OnePlus 6 is slated to arrive in May.
ZTE will have an opportunity to ask the U.S. Commerce Department to change its mind regarding the government's decision to ban U.S. corporations from selling hardware or software to ZTE for a period of seven years. An official at the Commerce Department said the agency has given ZTE permission to present more information regarding the actions it took in the wake of its 2017 settlement. ZTE agreed to pay a hefty fine and reprimand 35 executives. The Commerce Department says ZTE did not reprimand those execs and then misrepresented the facts. The agency said this created a breach of trust and it announced the ban earlier this week. According to the Wall Street Journal, "ZTE doesn’t have administrative appeal rights under agency regulations, but the agency had agreed to receive the evidence through informal procedures in the near future." It's unclear what these informal procedures are, nor what impact they might have on the Commercel Department's decision. The ban will prevent ZTE from using mobile processors from Qualcomm and perhaps the Android operating system from Google. ZTE itself said the ban will severely impact the company's chance of survival. Google hasn't commented on the matter directly.
The GSMA telecommunications group today said it will pause work on the eSIM standard while the U.S. Justice Department completes its investigation over the technology. The Justice Department alleges that AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and the GSMA have been colluding to make it more difficult for consumers to take advantage of the benefit of eSIMs. eSIMs act as an electronic version of the physical SIM cards most phones use to identify the subscriber on the network. The original idea behind the cards was to make it easier for consumers to switch network providers via software. Apple and other companies complained to the U.S. government that AT&T, Verizon, and the GSMA are in fact doing the opposite, and making it more difficult for eSIM devices to be used on competing networks. Apple uses its own Apple SIM, which works like an eSIM, in some iPads. Verizon said the inquiry was "much ado about nothing." AT&T and Apple have not commented on the matter.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating AT&T and Verizon for secretly colluding to put carrier-locking ability into the new eSIM industry standard, according to the New York Times. eSIM technology eliminates the physical SIM card that gives a phone its number and identity on the network, replacing it with a virtual SIM that can be loaded and replaced over the network. The Apple Watch and Pixel 2 already include eSIM, but the standard is new and evolving. As originally designed, eSIM could make it easier for consumers to switch their existing phone to a different wireless carrier. AT&T and Verizon are accused of secretly colluding with the GSMA standards group to alter the standard so that eSIM phones could be locked to one carrier. Such a move could be harmful to smaller carriers, and thus the alleged collusion could run afoul of antitrust laws. The Justice Department investigation started when both a phone maker and another carrier filed formal complaints.
The Moto e5 Play is the latest truly entry-level phone from Motorola / Lenovo. There's nothing fancy about it, but it does manage to fit in a fingerprint reader and an HD display. We checked it out in person. Here are our first impressions.