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Google's ARCore 1.0 Released to Public, Google Lens Hits More Handsets

Yesterday, 11:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made ARCore 1.0 available to developers and the public, bringing augmented reality to some 100 million smartphones around the world. Handsets compatible with ARCore include Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; Samsung’s Galaxy S8, S8+, Note8, S7, and S7 edge; LGE’s V30 and V30+; Asus’s Zenfone AR; and OnePlus’s OnePlus 5. More devices from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Asus, Xiaomi, HMD/Nokia, ZTE, Sony Mobile, and Vivo will be compatible with ARCore later this year. The 1.0 release gives developers an updated set of tools to create virtual content. For example, it features improved environmental understanding that lets people put virtual objects on surfaces like posters, furniture, toy boxes, books, cans, and more. The refreshed Android Studio Beta supports ARCore in the Emulator, so developers can get to work right away. Some of the first brands to offer ARCore content include Porsche, FC Barcelona, and Sotheby's. Google says it is expanding the availability of the Google Lens Preview, which lets you take a picture and gather information about what's in the image. Google says Lens will hit all Google Photos English-language users over the coming weeks. Further, Google is going to add Google Lens to its Google Assistant on select Android flagship devices. Lens lets people create contacts from business cards, recognize plants and animals, and add events to their calendar by taking photos.


Android Messages with RCS to Reach More Phones On More Carriers

Yesterday, 10:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.


T-Mobile and Nokia Hit 1.3Gbps Downloads Using LAA

Yesterday, 10:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Moble says it has attained download speeds of 1.3 Gbps using LTE-LAA technology from Nokia. The result was reached in a lab using Nokia's commercial Nokia AirScale Micro RRH platform. The companies paired licensed and unlicensed bands using five-channel carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO, and LAA on 14 antenna layers. LTE-LAA is a stepping stone between today's 4G and future 5G networks. T-Mobile says it plans to deploy LTE-LAA in small cell configurations in high-traffic urban locations to help densify its network, boost speeds, and improve capacity. T-Mobile didn't say what markets might gain access to this network technology, nor what devices might support it.


Google Working with Carriers and Phone Makers to Expand Assistant's Reach and Capabilities

Yesterday, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said the Google Assistant is prepared to grow in a number of significant ways. First, the voice-activated tool is picking up some new languages. Google says Assistant will speak Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai on Android phones and iPhones in the next few months, with more languages on the way. Google expects Assistant to understand as many as 30 languages by the end of the year. Further, Google Assistant will be able to understand multiple languages at a time, meaning people can speak both English and German to their Assistant without changing settings. This feature will first be available between English, French, and German, with other languages to follow. Google also noted that it is working more directly from carriers and phone makers to improve Assistant. For example, LG, Sony, and Xiaomi are all prepared to rollout device-specific commands and features based on Google Assistant. Moreover, carriers Sprint, Koodo, Telus, and Vodafone are developing integrations with Assistant. Between the phone makers and carriers, Google expects Assistant to support individual device features, customer service queries, and more. Last, Google Assistant is adding two new tools to help people manage their day. Routines let people issue one command and set off a chain of actions. For example, say "Hey Google, I’m home" and the Assistant on Google Home or phone can turn on the lights, share any home reminders, play your favorite music, and more. Location-based reminders have now expanded to Google Home speakers. People can tell Assistant on their speaker to set reminders for specific locations, such as to get milk when at the store, and the alert will popup when appropriate. Google expects to bring even more features to Assistant throughout the year.


Samsung Max Offers Data Savings and Security for Android

Yesterday, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced Samsung Max, a free app for Android devices that will provide new data conservation and security tools. The app, a reborn version of the former Opera Max app, includes Data Saving Mode to help people stretch their mobile data buckets a bit further each month. The app can monitor which apps are using data and alert users to apps that consume too much. It also helps by actively compressing images, videos, music files, and web pages within apps and the browser to keep data consumption down. People can fine-tune how Data Saving Mode polices other apps in the advanced settings tools. On the security front, Samsung Max includes Privacy Protection Mode, a VPN for securing phones when on WiFi. It encrypts WiFi traffic with a single tap, blocks trackers and cookies, and includes a Domain Name System masking service to hide the user's location. Samsung says Samsung Max will reach the Google Play Store on February 23. The company will also preinstall it on some devices later this year.


Google Says New Android Oreo Go and Android One Phones On Deck for MWC

Thursday, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today highlighted some forthcoming announcements that should have Android fans excited. To start, the company says a number of its handset partners are bringing new Android Oreo Go devices to market, and that the phones will be available for purchase soon. Android Oreo Go is a lightweight version of Android that can run on inexpensive devices with 1G of RAM or less. Google has built light versions of Gmail, YouTube, Search, and other apps so people with Android Go devices can still access information and entertainment on the go. Further, Google's hardware partners have new Android One phones in the works. Android One is a pure version of the platform that includes a streamlined user interface, regular security updates, major system upgrades, and solid performance. Google said it also has news regarding Google Assistant, Google Lens, and its RCS efforts for mobile messaging. Specific announcements are expected as soon as Sunday, February 25.


Cat's Rugged S61 Improves Thermal Camera

Thursday, 11:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cat Phones today unveiled the S61, an update to the S60. The S61 is a fully rugged Android smartphone that is waterproof, dirtproof, and able to handle temperature extremes, drops, vibration, and salt water. The S61 provides a major upgrade to the FLIR Lepton thermal imaging camera, which now offers higher resolution imagery (up to full HD) and a wider range of readable temperatures (-20C to 400C). Owners can even livestream thermal video to Facebook if they wish. A new indoor air quality sensor alerts people to high levels of indoor air pollutants, such as paints or solvents, and will sound an alarm of levels become dangerous. The S61 packs a laser-assisted distance/area measuring tool that has a range of 32 feet. The S61 includes a 5.2-inch full HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, glove sensitivity, and wet-finger tracking. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. A standard 16-megapixel camera adorns the back and an 8-megapixel shooter is on front. Other specs include USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack, FM radio, Bluetooth 5.0, and a 4,500mAh battery with Quick Charge 4.0. Cat says the S61 will go on sale during the second quarter. Pricing in the U.S. is expected to be in excess of $1,000.


Net Neutrality Repeal Goes Into Effect April 23

Thursday, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today published its "Restoring Internet Freedom" rules governing net neutrality in the Federal Register. Per the filing, the agency will repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules effective April 23. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai believes the open market, rather than actual rules, will prevent telecommunications companies from acting in bad faith. Pai is doing away with bright-line rules that prevent throttling and paid-prioritization and suggests that as long as companies are transparent about their policies all will be good. Further, the FCC believes the FTC should take on a greater role in protecting consumers. The FTC, however, is a reactionary body that takes steps only after grievances have occurred. The move is seen as a victory for telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon. April 23 may mark the official end of net neutrality rules, but the FCC's order is the target of litigation. The attorneys general from 21 states plan to sue the FCC in a bid to overturn the reversal. Further, the governors of Montana, New Jersey, and New York have introduced their own rules that compel telecommunications firms to abide by at least some elements to treat web traffic equally. Similarly, some 50 senators have agreed to introduce legislation that would keep net neutrality rules in place, as well as give control over the matter to Congress. Many consumer groups have also vowed to fight the new rules.


Intel Targeting 2019 5G Launch in Phones and PCs

Thursday, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel today announced a range of efforts in the 5G space, including its timeline for bringing new Intel-powered 5G devices to market. The company says it has been developing 5G technology for some now, including virtualized network functionality and software defined networks. It is relying on the 3GPP 5G NR spec and is working with vendors and partners to create an ecosystem of products to support 5G as it rolls out. One of the primary pieces of the 5G puzzle is Intel's recently announced Xeon D-2100 system-on-a-chip (SoC) processor. It can handle intensive compute and network workloads demanded by 5G at the network edge. Further, Intel has partnered with China's Unigroup Spreadtrum and will pair a Spreadtrum processor with its own XMM 8000 5G modem. Intel expects to see phones packing the combined Spreadtrum/Intel SoC during the second half of 2019. PCs with embedded 5G are on the horizon, too. PC makers Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft all plan to enable their mobile computers to support 5G connections with the Intel XMM 8060 modem. Intel and its partners will have some concepts on display at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress trade show. They also expect to bring these concepts to market during the second half of 2019.


LG Refreshes K8 and K10 Series Phones

Thursday, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today revealed two new handsets, 2018 updates to its K8 and K10 mid-range series. Both phones carry over the previous generations' pebble-shaped contours and 2.5D arc glass, but make advancements in the materials. The K10, for example, has a U-shaped metal frame while the K8 relies on polycarbonate. Shared features between the new K8 and K10 include improved low-light photography thanks to Low Light Noise reduction that's combined with HDR to eliminate grain and provide more luminosity and contrast. The cameras also gain a new Timer Helper feature that uses the flash as a visual guide during timer countdowns. The Flash Jump Shot feature takes one photo every three seconds and pastes them together into a shareable GIF. Shared specs include LTE, GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, FM radio, microUSB, and Android 7 Nougat.

LG says both phones will be sold globally, though it didn't specify if the K8 or K10 will reach North America. The phones come in blue, black, or gold. LG didn't say when the phones will go on sale.


Samsung Will Manufacture Qualcomm's 5G Chips

Thursday, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said it has expanded its long-standing agreement with Samsung to use the company's foundries to manufacture Snapdragon 5G mobile chipsets. Samsung's new 7-nanometer, low power plus (LPP), extreme ultra violet (EUV) lithography techniques produce significantly smaller chips that give phone makers more space in their designs. The 7LPP process also provides significant improvements to battery life. Compared to Samsung's older 10nm FinFET process, the 7LPP EUV process boosts chip efficiency by 40%, with a 10% increase in performance or a 35% drop in power consumption. Neither company provided a timeline for expected manufacturing of the chips, nor did they suggest when such chips might reach phones or other mobile devices.


Broadcom Lowers Offer for Qualcomm, Qualcomm Says No Way

Thursday, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Broadcom revised its offer to acquire Qualcomm downward by $3 per share after Qualcomm increased its own bid to buy NXP Semiconductors. Broadcom said, "Qualcomm's board acted against the best interests of its stockholders by unilaterally transferring excessive value to NXP's activist stockholders." Broadcom would have preferred to see Qualcomm act together with Broadcom to broker the right deal for NXP while still allowing Broadcom to move forward with its own offer to buy Qualcomm. Qualcomm wasn't impressed with Broadcom's revised offer. "Broadcom’s reduced proposal has made an inadequate offer even worse despite the clear increase in value to Qualcomm stockholders from providing certainty around the NXP acquisition," said the company in a statement. "Broadcom has refused and continues to refuse to engage with Qualcomm on price." Broadcom says it is still committed to buying Qualcomm, but Qualcomm feels Broadcom's current plan doesn't properly value Qualcomm and, most importantly, has little chance of success.


Apple Seeds Third Public Beta of iOS 11.3

Wednesday, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 11.3 Beta 3 available to those signed up to test pre-release versions of the platform. iOS 11.3 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. Other new features of iOS 11.3 include new animoji, new business chat functions in iMessages, and an update version of Apple’s ARKit augmented reality. Of note, the AirPlay 2 features that appeared in the second beta has been removed for the time being. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Earlier this week, the company released iOS 11.2.6 to resolve several bugs. Apple also released tvOS 11.3 Beta 3 and macOS 10.13 Beta 3.


Google Highlights Phones It Recommends for Business Users

Wednesday, 12:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced the Android Enterprise Recommended program and an initial batch of handsets that meet the qualifications. Google says the Android Enterprise Recommended program “establishes best practices and common requirements for devices and services, backed by a thorough testing process conducted by Google.” In order to qualify, devices have to meet a number of specifications concerning their hardware, deployment, security updates, and user help programs. For example, devices approved must run at least Android 7 Nougat, and receive security updates no later than 90 days from their release from Google. Further, device makers must commit to offering security patches to unlocked devices for a minimum of three years. Some of the initial devices that meet the requirements — and are thus recommended for business users — include the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; the BlackBerry KEYone and Motion; the Huawei Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro; the LG V30 and G6; the Motorola X4 and Z2 ; the Nokia 8; and the Sony Xperia XZ1, XZ Premium, XA2, and XA2 Ultra. Google says it will update the requirements with each new Android platform release to “raise the bar to ensure we are delivering the best experience for our enterprise customers.”


T-Mobile Rolls Out Another Deal for iPhones and Apple Watch

Wednesday, 11:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has a new promotion targeting Apple products. First, T-Mobile is offering a $200 rebate to those who purchase an iPhone X, 8, 8 Plus, 7, or 7 Plus. The rebate is being offered in addition to the value of a trade-in. People who trade a device in at T-Mobile stores will be given instant credit for the trade, though T-Mobile will accept trades sent via mail. Further, T-Mobile is offering a buy-one, get-one deal on iPhones. Customers who buy two iPhones and port-in or activate a new line of service on at least one device can receive the second device for free (via monthly bill credits). Customers will have to pay tax on purchases at the point of sale. People who cancel service will be responsible for paying the balance of any devices on their account. Last, T-Mobile is offering a deal on the Apple Watch 3. Those who buy one Apple Watch 3 can snag a second for half price ($215). These promotions kick off on February 23 and will be available for a limited time.


Blu Vivo X Boasts 4 Cameras, 6-Inch 18:9 Display

Wednesday, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 6:48 PM

Blu Products today announced the Vivo X, a flagship handset that costs less than $300. The phone is among the first from Blu to jump to the 18:9 aspect ratio for its 6-inch 1440 by 720p display. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3. A MediaTek Helio P25 processor powers the phone with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage. The Vivo X features two sets of dual cameras. A 13-megapixel main camera adorns the rear of the phone with LED flash, f/2.0 aperture, PDAF, and full HD video capture. The secondary camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Together, they can produce bokeh-style images. On the front, the Vivo X features a 20-megapixel standard-angle camera with user-facing LED flash, f/2.0 aperture, and face unlock, and an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera. Other features include a 4,010mAh battery with rapid charging, fingerprint reader, MaxxAudio speakers, dual SIM card support, Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi, GPS, and support for GSM networks in the U.S. It runs Android 7 Nougat. Blu is selling the Vivo X unlocked from its own web site as well as Amazon for $249.


Facebook Makes It Easy to Add People to Video Calls

Wednesday, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today improved the video call tool in Facebook Messenger by making it a snap to add more people to the conversation. As it works today, creating group video calls requires people to initiate the call as such from the onset. With the new update, people who have an in-progress call with one person can simply add others without interrupting the existing call. A new button makes it easy to find and add other Messenger contacts. Facebook says this new feature is rolling out to its Facebook Messenger app for Android and iOS devices worldwide.


AT&T Names First Three 5G Markets On Deck for 2018 Launch

Wednesday, 8:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said Dallas and Waco, Texas, and Atlanta will be its first three mobile 5G markets and it plans to launch before the end of the year. AT&T has more markets prepped for mobile 5G and will name them later. AT&T said it will offer 5G based on the current 3GPP 5G NR spec, which has yet to be fully finalized. The company will use mmWave spectrum, though it didn’t specify which bands. AT&T expects to offer a puck-style mobile hotspot as its first 5G device and will bring 5G-capable phones to market in early 2019. As part of its 5G rollout, AT&T is relying on software-defined network (SDN) technology. It expects to rely on SDN on as much as 75% of its network by 2020. AT&T says its mobile 5G service will eventually deliver multi-gigabit-per-second speeds and incredibly low latency. In the meantime, AT&T has expanded the reach of its LTE-LAA technology, which is available in Indianapolis, Los Angelas, Chicago, and San Francisco. AT&T and competitors Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are racing to be the first to deploy 5G and all have adopted aggressive rollout schedules.


Qualcomm's Broadcast Audio and TrueWireless Stereo Promise to Make Bluetooth Buds Way Better

Wednesday, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today introduced two improvements to audio technology that should improve the experience of listening to music wirelessly. First, Broadast Audio will let people stream Bluetooth to more devices. The one-to-many streaming technology, which is proprietary to the Snapdragon 845 mobile platform, allows one Bluetooth source to stream audio to numerous headsets or speakers with "near perfect" synchronization. The idea is to allow one person to push music via Bluetooth to multiple speakers, headphones, or other devices. Qualcomm claims Broadcast Audio delivers simpler pairing, connecting, and managing devices; support for dozens of devices in range; and automatic retransmission and packet-loss concealment for a drop-out-free listening experience. Qualcomm's TrueWireless Stereo technology is the second audio tech on deck and is meant for truly wireless products, such as ear buds. The technology broadcasts Bluetooth content to each bud independently to eliminate the need for any wires whatsoever. (Many ear buds maintain one Bluetooth connection between the phone and the primary bud, and retransmit from the main bud to the secondary bud.) TrueWireless Stereo can deliver a good experience no matter the smartphone platform, and gives people the option to switch the role of earbuds between primary and secondary in order to balance power consumption for improved playback time. Qualcomm's TrueWireless Stereo tech is meant to be used with the recently-announced QCC5100 series Bluetooth SoC, which can help reduce power needs for voice calls and streaming audio by 65%. Broadcast Audio and TrueWireless Stereo are already available to developers and device makers.


Qualcomm Drops 802.11ax WiFi Modem with WPA3 Security for Phones

Wednesday, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the WCN3998, a pre-standard 802.11ax WiFi radio for smartphones, tablets, and notebooks. Qualcomm says the WCN3998 is faster, more power efficient, and more secure than previous designs. To start, the 802.11ax spec allows for more throughput for each user, thanks to 8x8 MU-MIMO, even on congested access points. This ensures that end users see an increase of speeds by a factor of two. Moreover, the WCN3998 puts strict power management algorithms to work in order to reduce power consumption by up to 67%. The WiFi radio is among the first to adopt WPA3 encryption from the WiFi Alliance. WPA3 provides a much greater degree of security on home, public, and enterprise networks, and can even protect those who fail to pick strong passwords. Last, the WCN3998 adopts Bluetooth 5.1 with extended data rate and low energy mode. This makes for more robust wireless audio connections and battery life improvements of up to 75%. Qualcomm says the WCN3998 supports pre-draft access points that it expects to reach the market later this year and early next year. The WiFi radio will find its way into flagship smartphones by the end of 2018.


Qualcomm Retools the Snapdragon 820 for IoT Projects

Wednesday, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon 820E embedded platform, a variant of its former flagship mobile processor meant to power internet-of-things equipment. The Snapdragon 820E is intended for connected computing, or devices that need a network connection and powerful processing at the same time. Qualcomm suggests the Snapdragon 820E would be good for virtual reality applications, digital signage, smart retail, robotics, and more. In addition to the 820E, Qualcomm is offering the DragonBoard 820c development board so developers can design and test their applications and/or inventions ahead of receiving the 820E. Qualcomm says developers will have access to off-the-shelf and custom modules when building their 820E embedded platform. The 820E joins the Snapdragon 410E and 600E as a top-tier offering, compared to the entry-level and mid-range capabilities of the other platforms, respectively. Qualcomm says developers can express interest in the Snapdragon 820E through Arrow Electronics.


Qualcomm Reveals Artificial Intelligence Engine for Devs

Wednesday, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence Engine, a package of hardware and software components meant to help developers bring AI-assisted apps and services to Qualcomm-powered handsets. The AI Engine is supported on the Snapdragon 845, 835, 820, and 660 mobile platforms, though it shines brightest on the 845, which has its own AI processing built in. The AI Engine relies on three core hardware components: the Hexagon Vector Processor, the Adreno GPU, and the Kryo CPU. On the software side, Qualcomm's AI Engine runs on the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine, software that was created so developers can target the exact core they want powering their apps. The NPE supports Tensorflow, Caffe and Caffe2, and the Open Neural Network Exchange for developers. The AI Engine supports the Android Neural Networks API, which is baked into Android 8 Oreo, and gives developers access to Snapdragon hardware directly through the Android operating system. Last, the AI Engine banks on the Hexagon Neural Network Library so developers can run AI algorithms directly on the Hexagon Vector Processor. This powers machine learning and accelerates AI operations. Qualcomm says the sum of all these parts is real-time responsiveness, improved privacy, and enhanced reliability on the supported Snapdragon mobile platforms. Phone companies including Xiaomi, OnePlus, Vivo, Oppo, Motorola, Asus, ZTE, Nubia, Smartisan, and Blackshark were among the first to commit to using the AI Engine on future handsets. Qualcomm will be demonstrating the technology at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress trade show.


FCC's Net Neutrality Reversal to Go Into Effect Thursday

Tuesday, 7:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 7:31 PM

The FCC is prepared to publish its order abolishing Obama-era net neutrality rules in the Federal Register on Thursday, the last act needed to put the change into effect. The rules will be made public in their final form on Wednesday, according to an unnamed source cited by Reuters, and will appear in the Federal Register the following day. In December, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to do away with the previous administration's rules governing openness on the web. The move was seen as a victory for telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon. The attorneys general from 21 states plan to sue the FCC in a bid to overturn the reversal once the rules reach the Federal Register. Further, the governors of Montana, New Jersey, and New York have introduced their own rules that compel telecommunications firms to abide by at least some elements to treat web traffic equally. Similarly, some 50 senators have agreed to introduce legislation that would keep net neutrality rules in place, as well as give control over the matter to congress. Without a simply majority, however, it's doubtful the democratic effort will make much headway.


AT&T’s Prepaid Plans Gain Access to Sponsored Data Program

Tuesday, 3:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 3:08 PM

AT&T’s prepaid customers are being given access to the company’s sponsored data program. The sponsored data program allows companies to sponsor the data usage for specific content on behalf of eligible AT&T wireless customers, meaning customers can consume select content and not be charged for it. This program has been available to AT&T’s postpaid customers for some time. AT&T’s prepaid customers can now, for example, make use of the DirecTV Now streaming video service without it impacting their monthly data allotment. The sponsored data program also applies to other AT&T-owned services, such as U-Verse. Customers who subscribe to AT&T’s $35 and $45 prepaid plans are automatically opted in to the sponsored data program. AT&T gives customers the ability to opt out if they so wish. AT&T has been notifying customers of the change via text message since last week.


Snapchat Works In Giphy Support, Debuts Tabs

Tuesday, 1:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat is pushing an update to its mobile app that adds several new features, including support for Giphy stickers and Tabs. With Giphy on board, Snapchat users can add GIF stickers to their snaps by tapping the sticker button. The GIF stickers can be placed anywhere on the photo or video, as well as resized and pinned in place. The Tabs tool is meant to help people keep tabs on their preferred stories. The Tabs section is built into the Friends and Discover pages. It lets people sift through the active stories and group chats shared by their friends. Giphy support is available in the latest version of Snapchat for Android and iOS, while the Tabs tool is rolling in phases over the next few weeks.


Apple Releases Third Developer Beta of iOS 11.3

Tuesday, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made a new beta version of iOS 11.3 available to developers. iOS 11.3 Beta 3 tweaks performance and includes the battery health meter for certain devices. The tool is meant to help people balance battery life and speed/performance of older iPhones. The public version of iOS 11.3 will likely be released later this week. Apple said the final version of iOS 11.3 will be available to all consumers this spring. Earlier this week, the company released iOS 11.2.6 to resolve several bugs.


Google Pay Arrives to Fully Replace Android Pay and Google Wallet

Tuesday, 9:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released Google Pay, the revised payment application and service that replaces Android Pay. Google Pay encompasses most features of Google Wallet and Android Pay in a single app, allowing people to use Google Pay to make payments online and via mobile devices. Google Pay is already accepted on some apps and web sites, including Airbnb, Dice, Fandango, HungryHouse, and Instacart. Google expects Google Pay to become more widely available online quickly, as developers don't have to do much to alter their existing Google Wallet- and Android Pay-backed services for full Google Pay integration. Google Pay for Android features information about nearby stores, recent purchases, and access to rewards. A new tab helps users collect and organize their loyalty and membership cards. Google Pay supports mass transit payments in Kiev, London, and Portland, with more cities coming soon. The Google Wallet app is being rebranded to Google Pay Send and will soon allow people in the U.S. and U.K. to send/request money to/from their peers. Google Pay is available from the Google Play Store.


Nuance Puts Swipe+Dragon In the App Graveyard

Tuesday, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nuance says its Swype+Dragon application for Android and iOS has reached end of development. "Nuance will no longer be updating the Swype+Dragon keyboard for Android. We’re sorry to leave the direct-to-consumer keyboard business, but this change is necessary to allow us to concentrate on developing our AI solutions for sale directly to businesses," confirmed Nuance to XDA Developers. Swype was an early leader in the swiping-keyboard space. It started as an independent app, but was later acquired by Nuance. Nuance continued to develop the app and eventually integrated the swiping keyboard with its own Dragon voice dictation technology. The space is competitive, however, and Google's own GBoard application has garnered quick adoption on many Android devices. Swype+Dragon is still available from the Play Store for the time being, but it will no longer receive updates.


Qualcomm Raises Its Bid for NXP

Tuesday, 8:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today increased its offer to acquire NXP Semiconductors to $127.50 per share, or about $44 billion. The new offer reflects the increased value of each company, both of which have grown since the deal originated. Qualcomm first proposed to acquire NXP in October of 2016. The process of gaining shareholder approval and clearing regulatory hurdles has consumed more than a year. The new deal was approved by the boards of both Qualcomm and NXP. NXP is a co-inventor and key patent holder of NFC technology. Qualcomm already integrates NXP secure element technology into its Snapdragon chips. NXP is the fifth-largest semiconductor maker (excluding memory chips). NXP is also a leader in chips for automotive networks, IoT, and most types of wireless radios. Qualcomm believes this new offer will find support within the ranks of NXP's shareholders.


iOS 11.2.6 Fixes Character-Based Messaging Bug

Monday, 4:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 11.2.6 to resolve several bugs. Primarily, the minor update tackles an issue where using certain characters could cause apps such as iMessage and WhatsApp to crash. The update also patches a problem where some third-party apps could fail to connect to external accessories. The iOS 11.2.6 is free to download over the air.


Microsoft Disabling Notifications for Windows Phone 7.5 and 8

Monday, 11:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft says devices running Windows Phone 7.5 and 8.0 have reached end-of-life status and will no longer be supported. Beginning February 20, Microsoft will turn off push notification services for Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8.0. This means devices running those platforms will no longer receive notifications, will not receive live tile updates, and will not be able to use Find My Phone to locate the device. Microsoft says Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile remain fully supported for the time being. Devices running Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8.0 were originally sold in the 2011 and 2012 timeframe.


Essential Selling Halo Gray Essential Phone with Alexa via Amazon

Feb 16, 2018, 2:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today outed a fourth new color of its PH-1 Essential Phone that's exclusive to Amazon. The Halo Gray version of the Essential Phone is available for preorder from Amazon.com for $449 starting today. In addition to the fresh coat of paint, this Amazon exclusive ships with the Alexa app preinstalled. It will ship starting February 21. Essential recently revealed new black, blue, and gray models that are for sale directly from Essential's web site. The Essential Phone includes an edge-to-edge display, 13-megapixel rear cameras, 128 GB of storage, Snapdragon 835 processor, and magnetic connectors for modular attachments.


Verizon Adjusts Prepaid Pricing and Adds Travel Pass for $5

Feb 16, 2018, 10:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today changed up its prepaid service offerings by adding a new low-cost option and other features previously reserved for postpaid customers. Verizon Prepaid service now starts at $30 per month, which buys unlimited talk and text with 500 MB of data. Verizon Prepaid also offers 3 GB of data for $40 per month, 7 GB for $50, or 10 GB for $60. Verizon says all its prepaid plans include carryover data (for one month), mobile hotspot, and unlimited international texting to 200 countries. Customers who subscribe to the Prepaid Unlimited plan, which costs $75 per month, will enjoy unlimited use of mobile hotspot at 3G speeds (600 Kbps). Prepaid customers who travel to Canada or Mexico will be happy to learn that Verizon now offers Travel Pass for $5 per day. Customers who tack on Travel Pass when in Canada or Mexico will have access to unlimited talk and text, and their normal monthly data allotment. Verizon suggests customers should add Travel Pass via the My Verizon app before they travel. New customers who switch to Verizon Prepaid and subscribe to a $50 plan or higher will receive a $50 bill credit. These new options will be available to Verizon Prepaid customers starting February 20.


Qualcomm Says Broadcom's Overtures Not Striking Right Notes

Feb 16, 2018, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said Broadcom's acquisition offer simply isn't good enough as currently proposed. The companies met earlier this week to go over some of the finer points of Broadcom's $121 billion bid to purchase Qualcomm, and Qualcomm still came away leery that the deal won't work out. To start, Broadcom reiterated that its offer of $82 per share is its best offer, a figure that Qualcomm insists undervalues the company. Further, Qualcomm said Broadcom resisted the idea of agreeing to "commitments that could be expected to be required by ... government regulatory bodies." Moreover, Broadcom refused to discuss how it would treat Qualcomm's licensing business, a matter that would make predicting antitrust-related issues difficult. Broadcom insisted on controlling all materials regarding the licensing business between signing the deal and closing the deal — something Qualcomm says violates antitrust laws. Last, Qualcomm called Broadcom's breakup fee, should the deal not pass regulatory muster, far short of what might be needed to compensate Qualcomm stockholders for the risks involved. Qualcomm concluded by saying, "The current Broadcom proposal is unacceptable." As it did earlier, however, Qualcomm left the door open for Broadcom to improve its offer. Qualcomm said it would meet with Broadcom again should Broadcom up the ante and make more assurances concerning the risks involved.


Apple Prepping Fix for Message Bug that Crashes iPhones

Feb 16, 2018, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple says it has a patch in the works that will counter a bug causing iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and even Macs to crash. The bug occurs when people receive a message with certain Indian language characters in apps including iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. According to The Verge, Apple will push the patch "soon." This means the bug will be fixed through a minor update (iOS 11.2.x) rather than the larger iOS 11.3 update expected later this spring. Apple also plans to issue patches for macOS and watchOS to resolve the issue on those devices.


Google to Acquire IoT Firm Xivley

Feb 16, 2018, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google announced plans to acquire Xively, an internet-of-things provider, from LogMeIn. The company's technology will be added to Google's Cloud IoT Core unit, helping it with device management, messaging, and dashboard features. Google says its customers will reap the rewards of Xively's flexible, secure platform as they bring IoT products based on Clout IoT Core to market. Together with Google Cloud's data analytics and machine learning, Google expects the acquisition to benefit IoT device makers and service providers, as well as the customers of those companies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It is subject to regulatory approval.


Apple Puts Its Foot Down, Will Require Apps Support iPhone X

Feb 15, 2018, 4:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 15, 2018, 4:55 PM

Apple today told developers that soon all new apps submitted to the iTunes App Store must support the screen of the latest iPhone. "Starting April 2018, all new iOS apps submitted to the App Store must be built with the iOS 11 SDK, included in Xcode 9 or later," said Apple in an email to developers. "All new apps for iPhone, including universal apps, must support the Super Retina display of iPhone X." The iPhone X display swaps the 16:9 aspect ratio found on the iPhone 6, 7, and 8 for a 2:1 aspect ratio with a notch at the top. It also boosts the resolution beyond full HD. Apps that haven't yet been updated for the iPhone X often have black bars at the top and bottom, which look unsightly. Developers can find the iOS 11 SDK on Apple's developer web site.


Google Releases Lightweight Gmail Go for Low-End Android Phones

Feb 15, 2018, 4:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made a light and quick version of Gmail available to select handsets. Gmail Go is a slimmed-down version of Gmail that works better on devices with limited resources or spotty network connections. The app consumes less space on devices and requires less storage for email messages. It includes many of Gmail's signature features, including 15 GB of online storage, notifications, focused inbox, spam protection, and support for multiple accounts (IMAP/POP). Gmail Go is free to download from the Google Play Store, though Google hasn't specified which devices are able to use it. The majority fo Google's "Go" apps are reserved for entry-level devices in emerging markets. Gmail Go is not compatible with many of today's high-end phones.


Nokia Weighing Whether Withings-Based Health Biz Still Worth It

Feb 15, 2018, 3:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it is weighing strategic options for its Digital Health business. Nokia acquired wearable-maker Withings in 2016 and used that as the basis of its Digital Health business, with is part of the Nokia Technologies group. The Digital Health unit is responsible for smartwatches, scales, and other digital health devices for both consumers and businesses. "The strategic review of the Digital Health business may or may not result in any transaction or other changes," said the company. "Any further announcements about the Digital Health business will be made if and when appropriate." Nokia didn't say if or when it might make a decision. Nokia's main business is in developing and selling telecommunications gear.


Google Maps for iOS Gains One-Tap Access to Commute Info

Feb 15, 2018, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps for iOS devices with new real-time tools to make finding information on the go even quicker. iPhone owners can now swipe up when using Google Maps to open three tabs: explore, driving, and transit. These tabs contain information about nearby restaurants, real-time traffic conditions, and train/bus schedules. These features have been available to Google Maps for Android since last year. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


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