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

Today, 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

Today, 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

Today, 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

Today, 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

Today, 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

Today, 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

Yesterday, 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

Yesterday, 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

Yesterday, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 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

Yesterday, 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

Yesterday, 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

Yesterday, 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

Yesterday, 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

Yesterday, 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.

FreedomPop Creates New MVNO, Unreal Mobile, to Target Sprint and T-Mobile Customers

Yesterday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today announced the launch of Unreal Mobile, a new MVNO that it says will offer the most competitive unlimited plans available. The company is specifically targeting Sprint and T-Mobile customers ahead of the two corporations' planned merger. "Unreal Mobile is able to provide consumers [with unlimited plans that start at just $15 per month] because of the market conditions created by the proposed merger," explained FreedomPop. "Specifically, while Sprint and T-Mobile are currently working to prove to regulators that competition will flourish under consolidation, they are compelled to accept MVNO models and pricing that historically would have been seen as too competitive to their retail businesses." FreedomPop relies on VoIP and streamlined customer service to compete with Sprint-owned Boost Mobile and AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless. Unreal Mobile, which will run on FreedomPop's platform, will compete directly with Sprint and T-Mobile's postpaid businesses. The company is offering unlimited LTE-based service starting at $15 per month, which includes a VPN, mobile ad blocking, and the ability to use the Unreal phone number on tablets, phones, and computers. FreedomPop says Unreal Mobile will offer top-tier devices, flexible service, and live-agent customer service. Unreal Mobile expects to launch during the summer of 2018. It is accepting beta testers via its web site.

Hands On with the HTC U12+

Yesterday, 3:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC's 2018 flagship is the U12+, a phone that aims directly at competing devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S9+, LG G7, and iPhone X. The U12+ sees HTC adopting the 2:1 screen aspect ratio, dialing back the bezels, and carrying over the luscious liquid design from last year's phone. With top specs under the hood, the U12+ is a compelling Android phone. We spent some time with it in person.

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HTC U12+ Jumps to 2:1 Screen, Improves Edge Sense, Refines Speakers, Adds Sonic Zoom

Yesterday, 3:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today announced the U12+, its flagship handset for the year. The phone carries over the "liquid design" from last year's U11, but updates the color selection for the metal-and-glass chassis. The device is rated IP68 and can handle short dunks in water. HTC created new digital controls along the side edges to help seal up the chassis. The U12+ also improves the Edge Sense pressure-sensitive sides with new controls and actions. The U12+ sees HTC catching up to its competitors with a 2:1 aspect screen. The display measures 6 inches and offers quad HD+ resolution (2,880 by 1,440 pixels). The Super LCD 6 panel is protected by Gorilla Glass and supports HDR 10 video playback. Like most of today's flagship devices, the U12+ is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. The phone includes 6 GB of RAM and comes with either 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. It supports microSD memory cards up to 2 TB. HTC made big changes to the camera. The U12+ features dual cameras on the rear and the front. On back, the main camera has a 12-megapixel, wide-angle sensor at f/1.75 and a secondary 16-megapixel telephoto sensor at f/2.6. HTC says the camera includes UltraSpeed Autofocus 2, which is a hybrid of phase detection and laser autofocus. The phone supports optical zoom up to 2x and digital zoom up to 10x. Other camera features include HDR, bokeh portraits, face detection, and pro mode with RAW capture. The front has two identical 8-megapixel cameras at f/2.0 with support for bokeh portraits, HDR, face unlock, live makeup, AR stickers, and panorama selfies. The video camera includes a feature called Sonic Zoom, which will tweak the microphones to focus more narrowly when users zoom in on a subject. It can capture 4K video and includes OIS, 360-degree 3D audio capture, slow-motion, and time-lapse. Like the U11, the U12+ includes both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, which can be called up via the Edge Sense gestures. HTC tweaked its BoomSound speaker system to deliver 30% more sound and a better balance between the top and bottom speakers. The phone ships with HTC's USonic headphones with active noise cancellation. Other specs include NFC, Bluetooth 5, USB-C, 3,500mAh battery with rapid charging, and dual-band WiFi. As for network support, the U12+ is being sold as a single global unit with wide support for LTE networks. It includes Cat 18 LTE with support for U.S. bands such as 29 for AT&T and 66 for T-Mobile. HTC says the phone is fully certified to run on Verizon's network. The U12+ will go on sale over the course of the next few weeks. Pricing will be in line with other flagship devices, says HTC.

Boost Founder Wants to See Boost/MetroPCS Divested If Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Goes Through

Tuesday, 4:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

At least one person thinks Sprint and T-Mobile should be required to divest their respective prepaid businesses if they are allowed to merge. Peter Adderton, founder and former CEO of Boost Mobile, firmly believes the market will become less competitive — particularly in the prepaid space — if Sprint and T-Mobile are allowed to merge without any divestitures. “If this merger is approved without the divesture of Boost Mobile and/or MetroPCS, the new combined entity will hold a 40% market share in the prepaid segment — which I would argue has the effect of being a monopoly or extreme dominance in the category,” said Adderton in a press release. “This level of market domination virtually always leads to rising prices, more onerous terms and conditions and lower service quality, and young and credit-challenged prepaid subscribers simply can’t afford that.” Sprint owns and operates Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA, while T-Mobile owns and operates MetroPCS. Sprint and T-Mobile “will have significant incentive to restrict network access to competing MVNOs. If that happens, MVNOs, who already run on extremely tight margins, have little or no opportunity to make a profit, and we can expect many of them to close their doors,” argued Adderton. Boost, Virgin, and MetroPCS do not own or operate their own networks, so it’s unclear how Adderton believes such a divestiture could work. Each would have to be given spectrum and other assets to launch functioning service around the U.S. Though Adderton said “I would love to take control of it, that’s not the driver here.” Instead, he insists his goal is to ensure the wireless market remains competitive. Adderton plans to take his case to Congress as well as the public. Sprint and T-Mobile believe their proposed merger will pass regulatory scrutiny, but the government has yet to make its case.

Google Reveals Enterprise Features in Android P

Tuesday, 3:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today provided more information about business features baked into Android P. To start, Android P makes it easier for businesses to set up, manage, and keep separate work and personal profiles. For example, work apps now have a dedicated tab in the app launcher, allowing employees to easily access their work apps and data. Android P also makes it easy for shared devices to host multiple employee profiles. For example, a work tablet can support two or more employees’ work accounts. Users need only sign out at the end of their shift, hand the device over, and the other can sign in and instantly access all their data. The tool also makes it possible for people with a single device to easily turn off their work profile so they can focus on home life. The revised kiosk mode makes it possible to lock Android devices into running only a few dedicated apps. For example, a restaurant could create a kiosk that supports a mobile ordering app and a payment app while keeping internal device settings, such as network connectivity, safe from accidental or intentional changes. The kiosk can be customized however businesses wish. Last, Android P includes a number of new security functions. For example, IT admins can require different PINs for personal and work propfiles, and force security timeouts for either. Additional policies make it easier for businesses to ensure that work data is not shared from the work profile to the employee’s personal profile. Android P is currently in developer beta. It is expected to arrive in full later this year. Google is encouraging its business customers to take the new enterprise features for a spin.

Google's Revised YouTube Music Rolling Out Today

Tuesday, 11:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google said its wholly refreshed YouTube Music app and service are being made available starting today. The app has been rebuilt with a new recommendation engine with a home screen that dynamically adapts based on listening habits. The service includes thousands of playlists across most genres, moods, and activities. The app supports keyword- and lyric-based search to boost discovery. It packs music videos, official albums, remixes, live performances, and singles, along with the newest and trending videos. Paid members will be able to download a YouTube Music mixtape for offline, ad-free listening. The service costs $9.99 per month and is included in the new YouTube Premium service. Google is rolling the new app out in stages.

LG's K30 Lands On Amazon As a Prime Exclusive for $140

Tuesday, 10:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 11:15 AM

Amazon has added the LG K30 to its list of Amazon Prime Exclusives for the low price of $140. The K30 is a rebadged variant of the K10, which LG announced earlier this year. The K30 has a U-shaped metal frame and a 5.3-inch 720p display and a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor. While T-Mobile's version has a 13-megapixel camera, Amazon's has an 8 megapixel camera. The front camera is 5 megapixel. Photo tools include bokeh/portraits and a Low Light Noise mode that works with HDR to reduce grain and provide more contrast in low-light shots. Other features include a 2,880mAh battery and fingerprint reader; LTE with support for Band 71 (600 MHz), GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, and FM radio; and a microUSB port. It comes in black, ships with Android 7 Nougat, and is sold unlocked.

Instagram Lets You Mute Your Friends

Tuesday, 9:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out a new tool called mute, what is describes as a new way for people to control what they see in their Instagram feed. "The new feature lets you hide posts in [your] feed from certain accounts, without unfollowing them. With this change, you can make your feed even more personalized to what matters to you," explained Instagram. People can opt to mute posts, or posts and stories. Muted accounts are still visible via the profile page, and will still push notifications about comments or tagged posts. Instagram says muted account holders will not be notified that they've been muted, and users can unmute accounts at any time. The new feature is being added to the Android and iOS version of Instagram, which is free to download.

Twitter Changing Up Emoji to Improve Experience On Android Phones

Tuesday, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter is dropping support for native emojis from platform vendors such as Google and Samsung in its Android app and replacing them with Twemoji. At issue is compatibility with old devices. Phones running Android 7.x and below often have trouble displaying updated emoji and instead show generic characters instead of the intended graphic. Twitter is adopting Twemoji for its Android app, targeting devices running Android 4.x KitKat through 7.x Nougat. Android devices running Android 8 Oreo should not experience a change, as Oreo includes native support for the latest emoji. Twitter confirmed to Emojipedia that it has been testing the switch to Twemoji with select users since March and is now rolling it out for all users of the official Twitter app. The change also brings the Android app inline with what users see on Twitter.com.

Google Photos Adds Stars and Hearts to Mark Your Faves

Tuesday, 7:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is making Google Photos a little bit more personal. The company this week made it possible to mark your own photos with stars in order to signify them as favorites. Google Photos will collect all your starred photos in once place so you can easily browse through your favorite pix. Further, Google Photos now lets others offer feedback on shared photos. Moving forward, users can mark shared images with hearts to let the sender know they enjoyed the picture. The hearts tool works on individual photos as well as shared folders. The latest version of Google Photos is rolling out to Android and iOS devices over the days ahead.

Alcatel's 3V to Go On Sale in the US for $150

Tuesday, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced that its Alcatel 3V phone, first revealed earlier this year, will be available for sale in the weeks ahead. The Alcatel 3V has a 6-inch, 18:9 display and includes a quad-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The rear camera has a 12-megapixel main sensor and 2-megapixel secondary sensor for bokeh-style photos. The phone includes Social Mode photo tool, such as quick editing, and side-by-side comparing in the 2:1 screen. Instant Collage lets people combine their best pix into a single image, and Photo Booth acts like an old-school photo booth by creating four images in a strip. The 3V includes a fingerprint reader and runs Android 8 Oreo. The Alcatel 3V is unlocked to GSM networks and will be available in the U.S. in black for $149.99 on Amazon next week, with availability at Best Buy and Walmart stores to follow in the coming weeks.

US and China Working to Settle ZTE Ban, But Opposition Remains

Tuesday, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The U.S. and China are near to reaching a deal that would offer ZTE reprieve from the seven-year ban enacted against it by the Commerce Department. Sources cited by the Wall Street Journal and Reuters suggest the negotiations are close to complete, but not finalized. Under the framework of the new deal, ZTE will have to pay a penalty and largely change the makeup of its board of directors and other leadership posts. The company was banned from using components and software from the U.S. because it violated an earlier settlement regarding its illegal sale of goods to Iran and North Korea. As a result, ZTE has largely been put out of business. The company has some 75,000 employees, mostly in Shenzhen, China. The talks come as President Trump's administration tries to hammer out a broader trade deal between the U.S. and China. Some congressmen are not happy with Trump's stance, as the Commerce Department believes its action was a fair penalty for illegal behavior. Republican Senator Marco Rubio blasted Trump's moves. "Making changes to their board and a fine won’t stop them from spying and stealing from us. But this is too important to be over. We will begin working on veto-proof congressional action," he argued via Twitter. On May 18, the House Appropriations Committee voted on an amendment that upholds the Commerce Department's sanctions against ZTE. Specifically, the amendment prevents the U.S. Commerce Department from renegotiating its sanctions against ZTE in order to prevent ZTE from gaining access to hardware and software from its U.S. suppliers. Other aspects of the Trump deal with China would see cuts in import tariffs for cars and car parts, and a change in the amount of U.S. agricultural products allowed into China. None of the parties involved commented on the matter, as any deal to lift the ban against ZTE has not been finalized.

Hands On with the OnePlus 6

Tuesday, 6:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 9:00 AM

The OnePlus 6 is here to convince you that no one needs a $700, $800, $900, or $1,000 smartphone. Heck, you don't even need a $600 smartphone. The OnePlus 6 is a metal-and-glass beauty that checks most of the right boxes in terms of features and capabilities. Moreover, this two-SIM phone is a rarity in the U.S. market, and is sold unlocked with excellent support for U.S carriers. Here is Phone Scoop's first look at the latest from OnePlus.

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Latest Version of Google Maps for iOS Lets You Customize Your Car

Monday, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

iPhone owners can now have some fun with Google Maps by selecting a new navigation icon. Maps historically relies on a blue navigation arrow to indicate the user's location and direction of travel. Tapping the arrow will bring up a menu that allows people to select a car, pickup, or SUV to customize the experience. Earlier this year, Google let Android users opt for a Mario-style car for driving directions. Google says the latest version of Google Maps for iOS, with optional car graphics, is free to download from the iTuns App Store.

T-Mobile Prices the LG G7 ThinQ at $750

Monday, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today revealed launch plans for the LG G7 ThinQ. Pre-sales for the phone begin Friday, May 25, with general retail availability starting June 1. T-Mobile said the LG G7 ThinQ will cost $750. It is asking customers for a $30 down payment followed by monthly payments of $30 for 24 months. Notably, the G7 ThinQ supports T-Mobile's 600 MHz spectrum, on which the carrier is deploying LTE across the nation. The phone supports 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM for fast wireless performance. During the pre-sale period, T-Mobile is offering a buy-one, get-one deal on the LG G7 ThinQ. Both phones will need to be financed on an equipment installment plan. T-Mobile will make the monthly payments for the second device over a two-year period. T-Mobile says it is the only carrier offering the G7 ThinQ in raspberry rose.

HMD Global Raises $100M to Expand Nokia Phone Business

Monday, 8:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global today said it has raised $100 million in funding in order to help the company grow. HMD Global is the sole licensee of the Nokia brand and makes and sells Nokia-branded phones that run Google's Android operating system. The company brought its first phones to market in early 2017 and has seen modest success in overseas markets. The company claims to have sold more than 70 million phones in over 80 countries at some 250,000 retail outlets. This year, HMD Global plans to "aggressively expand its portfolio of Nokia smartphones" while also finding more places in which it can sell those phones. "It is our ambition to deliver great smartphones that delight our fans while staying true to our Finnish roots and the hallmarks that the Nokia brand has always been known for," said Florian Seiche, CEO of HMD Global. "We aim to be among the top smartphone players globally and our success to date gives us the confidence to further continue on a growth path in 2018 and beyond." The company has released 11 phones to date. HMD Global was created by former Nokia employees. Its phones are manufactured in China. The most recent Nokia phone made available to U.S. buyers is the Nokia 6 (2018), which can be purchased from Amazon.

Qualcomm Debuts 5G NR Small Cell for Carriers

Monday, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the FSM100xx, a 5G NR product designed for small cells and remote radio heads. Qualcomm says the FSM100xx builds on its existing Qualcomm FSM Platform for 3G and 4G small cells. It supports 5G NR in sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum, allowing network operators to make use of whatever spectrum is available to them in a given location. Qualcomm designed the FSM Platform for flexibility. It is based on 10nm mobile technologies for controlling power consumption while allowing for fast performance. Qualcomm says the FSM100xx can address the propagation characteristics of mmWave spectrum in real time, particularly in indoor spaces where small cells are most often deployed. Further, it supports MIMO and multi-gigabit throughout, as well as power-over-ethernet for broader outdoor deployments. Last, the FSM100xx includes a software-defined modem, which gives carriers the flexibility to control and update their hardware when needed to comply with future 3GPP releases of the 5G NR spec. Qualcomm says it expects the FSM100xx to begin sampling in 2019. Meanwhile, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all claim they will launch 5G in select markets by the end of 2018.

LG Adds High-End Features to the Q Series' New Q7

Monday, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the Q7, the 2018 version of its mid-range Q Series Android phones. The Q7 picks up where last year's Q6 left off, with updated specs and features. There are three models, the Q7, the Q7+, and the Q7α. The series carries over the 2.5D curved 5.5-inch FullVision Display with full HD+ resolution. The phones have a metal frame and metal rear panel. Updates to the series includes IP68 protection from water and dust and mil-spec 810G compliance, rear-mounted fingerprint scanner, HiFi Quad DAC, DTS:X 3D Surround Sound, face recognition, portrait shooting, and the QLens for image-based visual search. The devices run either a 1.5 GHz or 1.8 GHz octa-core processor.

Other shared specs between the three phones include a 3,000mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, WiFi, and USB Type-C. All three ship with Android 8 Oreo. LG says the Q7 range will go on sale in Europe beginning in June with other key regions, including the Americas, to follow later.

FCC to Investigate Web Site that Exposed Phone Locations

May 18, 2018, 1:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said it is investigating reports that a web site leaked the location data of millions of U.S. cell phones. A security researcher claims a company called LocationSmart suffered a leak and made it possible track the whereabouts of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers without their consent. Accuracy of the location data was as good as a few hundred yards. On her Twitter account today FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, "The @FCC needs to investigate. No ifs, ands, or buts." Senator Ron Wyden agreed, saying, "This leak, only days after the lax security at Securus was exposed, shows how little companies throughout the wireless ecosystem value Americans’ security. Wireless carriers and LocationSmart appear to have allowed nearly any hacker with a basic knowledge of web sites to track the location of any American with a cell phone. A hacker could have used this site to know when you were in your house so they would know when to rob it. A predator could have tracked your child’s cell phone to know when they were alone." Wyden demanded an investigation and the FCC appears to agree. The agency has pushed the matter to its enforcement bureau to investigate.

Google Home Now Lets You Control Play Movies Via Voice

May 18, 2018, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

As promised, Google has added voice control support to its own video service, Google Play Movies & TV, to Google Home. People who own Google Home products can now speak voice commands to access movies and television shows purchased or rented through the Google Play Store and have that content play on Chromecast-connected television sets. Google says people won't have to change any settings or reconfigure their device to access this feature, as it has been added automatically on the backend. Google Home has for some time allowed people to use voice commands to access Netflix and other third-party streaming video content. The tool lets people start movies and shows, fast-forward, rewind, pause, and more.

Qualcomm to Add WPA3 to Mobile Devices This Summer

May 18, 2018, 8:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm this week laid out its plan to adopt the latest wifi security protocol in future products. The company said it will apply the Wifi Alliance's Wifi Protected Access (WPA3) across its portfolio of mobile and networking products starting this summer. The core feature of WPA3 is stronger protection when users choose weak passwords. WPA3 also simplifies the process of securing access points that don't have a display or interface. The standard provides individualized data encryption to protect data as it moves from computers, tablets, and phones to access points. Further, it includes a 192-bit security suite to help businesses and governments adopt the highest levels of protection. Qualcomm says it has already added WPA3 to its WCN3998 wifi radio and IPQ807x AP platform. The company says phons based on the Snapdragon 845 mobile application processor will be the first to support WPA3. The chip and phones that rely on it will gain WPA3 this summer, with Qualcomm's portfolio of networking devices to follow soon thereafter.

Apple Pushes iOS 11.4 Beta 6 to Developers and Public Testers

May 18, 2018, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has released iOS 11.4 Beta 6 to both registered developers and public beta testers. The release comes just several days after Apple pushed iOS 11.4 Beta 5. Apple didn't provide a reason for the quick iteration. iOS 11.4 primarily adds support for ClassKit, Apple's new set of developer tools that target educations. It also re-introduces several features that were meant to be included in iOS 11.3, but didn't make the final release. These include AirPlay 2 and Messages on iCloud, which allows people to store their iMessage content in the cloud and sync it across devices. Developers and public testers alike should be able to download and install iOS 11.4 Beta 6 over the air.

House Committee Votes to Keep ZTE Ban In Place

May 18, 2018, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The House Appropriations Committee this week voted on an amendment that upholds the Commerce Department's sanctions against ZTE. Specifically, the amendment prevents the U.S. Commerce Department from renegotiating its sanctions against ZTE in order to prevent ZTE from gaining access to hardware and software from its U.S. suppliers. The Commerce Department slapped ZTE with the ban last month after it discovered that ZTE misrepresented the actions it took in a 2017 settlement. Over the weekend, President Donald Trump surprisingly tweeted in support of ZTE, suggesting the Commerce Department help ZTE "get back into business, fast." ZTE has largely ceased operations and idled some 75,000 employees in the wake of the ban. The amendment voted on by the house will "prevent a foreign company that is beholden to its government — and that ignores embargoes — from infiltrating the devices and networks that are now indispensable to American life," said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) in a statement. "This amendment, which passed with the unanimous support of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, shows that, when the United States enacts sanctions, we stand behind them." The bill was coauthored by Ruppersberger and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.).

Instagram Now Lets You Share Feed Posts to Stories

May 17, 2018, 11:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible to share feed posts directly to stories. The latest version of the app includes tools that make it easy to share a post published in your feed to your own story as a sticker where your friends and followers can see and interact with it. Posts shared to stories will display the original poster's username and a link so viewers can see the original post and learn more about the original poster. Instagram says users can only share posts from public accounts, and users who don't want their posts shared in others' stories can opt out. The new Instagram is available for Android devices today and will reach iOS devices in the coming days.

Essential Updates Its Camera App with a New Look

May 17, 2018, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential today said it has published a new version of the camera app for its PH-1 phone. Most significantly, the app has been given a fresh coat of paint with new icons that should make it easier to see and switch between photos, videos, and other modes. The app renames the Monochrome shooting mode as Black & White, which Essential says is "a bit more familiar" to end users. Last, the app gains stability and performance tweaks. The Essential camera application is free for owners of the PH-1 to download from the Google Play Store.

Sprint Offering Lower Cost Service to Those Over 55

May 17, 2018, 9:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today refreshed its offering for customers age 55 and up. Starting Friday, May 18, new customers who are over 55 can get two lines of unlimited talk, text, and data for $70 per month. Sprint says the first line costs $50 and the second line costs $20. Autopay is required to score this price. The offer includes Sprint Global Roaming, which provides basic text and data at no additional charge in more than 185 countries. The Unlimited 55+ plan provides unlimited mobile hotspot at 3G speeds, but limits video streaming to standard definition (480p), limits music streaming to 500 Kbps, and limits game streaming to 2 Mbps. Sprint says this offer for those aged 55 and up will be available for a limited time.

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