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Google Says More Daydream VR Phones Are On the Way

Tuesday, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company's handset partners have new Daydream-compatible devices in the pipeline and there should be a total of 11 such phones available by the end of the year. At the moment, only four phones are able to use Google's virtual reality headsets, including the Pixel and Pixel XL, ZTE Axon 7, Motorola Z, and Huawei Mate 9. It's not clear if Pichai was including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, which are primed to receive Daydream compatibility through a software update. The figure likely does include Google's 2017 Pixel devices, whatever they may be. Daydream has certain hardware requirements, particularly where the display is concerned. For example, the display must be between 4.7 and 6 inches, must have a 60 Hz or greater refresh rate with low-persistence mode, and must have at least full HD resolution, with quad HD preferred. Companies including Motorola, HMD Global, Samsung, Sony, Huawei, and LG all have major device announcements lined up between now and early September. It is possible these forthcoming handsets will be among those supporting Google Daydream.


Samsung Makes the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 Available Unlocked

Monday, 3:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today added the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 to its list of unlocked smartphones. The two inexpensive handsets will be available to purchase directly from Samsung's web site as well as select retailers starting July 28. The J7 (pictured) is the larger, costlier of the two with a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and $220 price tag. It also has a 3,300mAh battery, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel front camera with flash. The smaller J3 has a 5-inch 720p HD display and a $150 price point. The J3 also has a 2,600mAh battery, 5-megapixel main camera, and 2-megapixel front camera. Both phones support expandable memory cards, support U.S. 3G/4G networks, and run Android 7 Nougat. They have been available from several U.S. carriers (AT&T/Cricket, T-Mobile/MetroPCS) for several months.


Cricket Offering 2 Lines of Unlimited Service for $80

Jul 20, 2017, 4:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today annouced new service and handset promotions meant to entice customers to sign up for the prepaid carrier. To start, Cricket is offering new and existing customers two lines of unlimited service for $80 per month. That includes unlimited mobile data, messaging, and voice calls. Cricket caps data speeds at 3 Mbps, and will throttle unlimited customers who exceed 22 GB of data per billing period. In addition to the new service promo, Cricket has a number of deals on smartphones. For example, the Alcatel PulseMix is $80 with a new activation, or just $30 with a port-in. Similarly, the LG x charge is $130 with a new activation or just $100 with a port-in. Other phones with available discounts include the ZTE Sonata 3 and Blade X Max; LG Fortune, Harmony, and Stylo 3; and the Samsung Galaxy Amp 2. Cricket said the promos are available for a limited time.


T-Mobile Says 600 MHz Service Kicks Off In August

Jul 19, 2017, 3:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 19, 2017, 4:25 PM

T-Mobile today said it plans to begin offering service through its 600 MHz spectrum next month. The company revealed the news in its second quarter earnings statement. T-Mobile claims it will have 10 MHz of 600 MHz spectrum with LTE service blanketing 1.2 million square miles by the end of the year, with devices from LG and Samsung on deck to take advantage of the airwaves. T-Mobile says it plans to deploy 5G service on its 600 MHz spectrum holdings in the 2019/2020 timeframe. T-Mobile claims its 700 MHz deployment is essentially complete, with some 575 markets live around the country. T-Mobile's LTE network covers a total of 315 million people, and the Uncarrier will push coverage to 321 million across its various spectrum bands by the end of the year. The company is on target to open 3,000 stores this year, with 1,500 T-Mobile-branded locations and another 1,500 MetroPCS-branded locations. T-Mobile will have 17,000 points-of-sale available throughout the country by the end of the year. During the second quarter, T-Mobile says it added 1.3 million net connections, with 786,000 postpaid phone customers. The company recorded revenues of $10.2 billion with net income of $581 million.


Coral Blue Galaxy S8 and S8+ Go On Sale In US July 21

Jul 19, 2017, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said the Coral Blue variant of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets will become available to U.S. buyers starting July 21. According to Samsung, carrier-specific versions for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon will be available at Best Buy stores, while the unlocked version will be available at Best Buy and Samsung.com. Customers looking to save some money can take advantage of a promotion at Best Buy stores between July 21 and July 29 that offers up to $400 off the cost of the handset with a carrier activation. Samsung said consumers can save up to $150 of the price of either handset when purchasing the phone directly from Samsung, as well as take advantage of Samsung's trade-on promo. Details concerning the promotions are available from Samsung's web site. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are already available in black, silver, and gray.


Bixby Finally Speaks English, Launching on Galaxy S8 and S8+ In the US Today

Jul 19, 2017, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 19, 2017, 7:30 AM

Samsung today said Bixby now speaks English well enough and is ready for launch in the U.S. Bixby has been available in Samsung's home market of Korea since earlier this spring, but had been delayed in the U.S. because the company didn't have enough data for English. The company opened an English preview of Bixby to select testers in the U.S. last month. A software update will be available to owners of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ as soon as today, which installs the "consumer" version of Bixby on Samsung's smartphones. With Bixby Voice is installed, Galaxy S8 owners will be able to press the dedicated Bixby button and talk themselves through the entire user interface of select apps, rather than just issue short commands for one-time actions. Bixby Voice fully supports 10 apps at launch, including the gallery, messages, settings, phone, contacts, weather, calculator, reminders, Bixby Vision, and the camera. Samsung is preparing more apps for Bixby, including Samsung Pay, Samsung Health, notes, My Files, email, and the internet browser, along with third-party apps such as WhatsApp, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and YouTube. Samsung didn't say when Bixby compatibility will reach these apps on consumer devices. Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners can expect to see Bixby Voice arrive shortly.


Google Play Music Searches Reveal Playable Results

Jul 18, 2017, 7:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Play Music app for Android devices and made it possible to play songs directly from search results. Now, when users search for a song, album, or artist, the top three results include a "play" button that lets them jump immediately to those songs. Google's own auto-generated search suggestions now appear further down the screen. Playing any of the results pushes the music player controls to the bottom of the screen. Google added this functionality to the Play Music web site earlier this year. In another change, Google Play Music has expanded the availability of the New Release Radio playlist tool (initially an exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+) to all Android devices. Google Play Music is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Samsung Commits to Recycling Parts from Galaxy Note7

Jul 18, 2017, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung plans to extensively reuse, recycle, and recover, parts and materials found in last year's failed Galaxy Note7 smartphone. The company confirmed plans to recycle the phone earlier this year, but has now provided more details on exactly what it hopes to accomplish. Samsung said it will reuse parts such as the OLED display, memory components, and camera modules in future devices. Other components will be sold. Further, Samsung claims it can recover some 157 tons of gold, silver, cobalt, and copper from the recalled handsets. The company says it is committed to pursuing these efforts in ways that are eco-friendly. Samsung will begin the process of recycling the Galaxy Note7 this month. The phone was recalled last year after manufacturing flaws led to overheating batteries and fires. The news comes mere weeks before Samsung is expected to announced the Galaxy Note 8.


Samsung Pay Rings Up Support for PayPal

Jul 17, 2017, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung and PayPal today announced that Galaxy smartphone owners can now use PayPal as a funding source for Samsung Pay. Samsung said all Samsung Pay users in the U.S. will have access to PayPal as a funding source, and it can be used to make purchases anywhere Samsung Pay is accepted. Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST technology and works at most retail credit card terminals. Beyond retail locations, Samsung says a partnership with Braintree means Samsung Pay users can take advantage of PayPal to fund in-app and online purchases as well. PayPal support is being rolled out to the Samsung Pay service this week. Samsung Pay is available to Samsung's high-end handsets, such as the Galaxy S6, S7, S8, and variants, and Galaxy Note 5. Apple added support for PayPal to Apple Pay earlier this month.


Sprint to Open Up Leasing to All Phones

Jul 14, 2017, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 14, 2017, 9:33 AM

Sprint plans to expand its phone leasing program to all the handsets in its lineup. Until now, Sprint has reserved its leasing program for Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxies. The new program, called Sprint Flex, provides customers with several options. The iPhone Forever and Galaxy Forever leasing programs remain in place as-is and offer annual upgrades at no extra cost. For every other device, Sprint will allow customers to upgrade after 12 consecutive on-time lease payments for an extra fee of $5 per month. Those who don't want or need to upgrade each 12 months can revisit their phone lease at the 18-month mark when they can return the device for a new one, pay the phone off in a lump sum to own it, or make six more payments to own it. Sprint is also rolling out a program called Sprint Deals, which offers low-cost monthly payments on Sprint's selection of affordable phones. This program lets people finance handset costs with or without a credit check. Entry-level devices require a $25 down payment and $5 payments per month, while pricer phones will require a $30 down payment and $10 per month. Those with poor or no credit can score a discount on some of these phones if activated on a Sprint Forward prepaid plan. Sprint hopes affordable lease rates on its handsets will entice customers to sign up. "We want to give full flexibility to our customers because you don’t want to get stuck with an old phone," said Sprint SVP of Leasing Robert Hackl in an interview with Reuters. Sprint is the nation's fourth-largest carrier in terms of customers. It has rolled out a number of promotions and changes to its service plans in an effort to gain more subscribers.


Sprint Gave Its Galaxy S8 a Speed Boost

Jul 12, 2017, 3:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint has pushed a firmware update to its variant of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and in so doing improved the phone's LTE download speeds by about 20%. According to PCMag, the update resolves a software bug that prevented the S8 from properly connecting to Sprint's Band 41 LTE. Sprint says about 85% of its S8 customers have already applied the update, which was pushed last month. Sprint delivered a similar update to the HTC U11, which also gained a performance boost in download speeds.


Samsung Commits Another $18 Billion to Chip Production

Jul 5, 2017, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung's new semiconductor fabrication line in Pyeongtaek, Korea has kicked off production of memory products and is shipping its first batch of modules to customers. Samsung broke ground on the plant two years ago to help expand its production capabilities of V-NAND chips. The company has invested about $13.5 billion in the plant and said it will pump another $18 billion into Pyeongtaek to ensure the facility can meet future demand for memory products. Samsung's memory chips are used by other manufacturers in devices such as smartphones and tablets. Samsung also plans to improve its manufacturing capabilities across a number of other business lines, including semiconductors, extreme ultra violet equipment, and OLED displays.


FCC Approves What Is Likely the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active

Jul 3, 2017, 7:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC recently approved a Samsung handset that has all the basic markings of an "Active" variant of the Galaxy S8. The SM-G892A supports AT&T's LTE bands, in addition to Bluetooth and WiFi. The documentation concerning the FCC label location depicts a drawing of the device in question, and the shape clearly resembles that of previous Active-branded handsets from Samsung. The drawing also includes the AT&T logo. Samsung's Galaxy S Active handsets are typically AT&T exclusives. The FCC documents don't reveal any other details about the phone, such as the screen size, processor type, or even the operating system. Samsung and AT&T have over the past few years bought an Active variant of the Galaxy S series to market several months after the regular model arrives. The timing is about right for the S8 Active to make its debut, but so far AT&T and Samsung have remained quiet about the phone.

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Samsung Resurrects the Note 7 'Fan Edition' for Korea

Jul 3, 2017, 6:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has brought the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 back from the grave as the Note 7 Fan Edition. The Note 7 is infamous for battery problems that led to smoke, burns, fires, and other catastrophes. Samsung was forced to recall the phone and later determined two separate flaws impacted the battery, one pertaining to design and the other pertaining to manufacturing. Samsung decided to scavenge the recalled devices to create a new handset with a new, smaller 3,200mAh battery and its latest software, including the Bixby voice assistant. Samsung is manufacturing only 400,000 Galaxy Note 7 Fan Edition handsets, which will be made available exclusively in Samsung's home market of South Korea. The company is widely expected to announce the Galaxy Note 8 within the next two months, which will serve as Samsung's high-end, professional-grade smartphone with stylus pen input.


Samsung Halo Sticks a Perfect Landing On Cricket's Web Site

Jun 30, 2017, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless recently added the Samsung Halo to its collection of inexpensive smartphones. The Halo harkens back to the design language of older Samsung handsets. It features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and it is powered by a 1.6 GHz octa-core processor with 16 GB of storage. The main camera captures 8-megapixel images and full HD video assisted by an LED flash, while the front camera snaps 5-megapixel pictures. Other features include Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, WiFi, and LTE 4G. Cricket said the phone is compatible with most of its data plans and it supports HD Voice. The Samsung Halo runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $180.


Samsung Refreshes Its Line of Isocell Camera Modules

Jun 28, 2017, 6:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today introduced a range of camera modules in its Isocell series of imaging sensors. Samsung's Isocell technology isolates individual pixels from one another with physical barriers. This prevents color crosstalk between neighboring pixels, increases light sensitivity, and improves color fidelity in all lighting conditions. The four new sensors target different use cases. For example, the Iscocell Bright sensor is meant to deliver sharpness and color in low light; Isocell Fast is meant to sharply focus on moving objects; Isocell Slim targets the thinnest smartphones; and Isocell Dual sensors can be mixed and matched with other sensors to create unique camera experiences. Samsung didn't specify when these camera sensor groups will reach consumer devices.


Samsung Pushes Security Update to Galaxy S8 and S8+

Jun 19, 2017, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung recently seeded a software update to its Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones. The update applies the June security patches from Google, stabilizes memory card performance, and adjusts some user interface elements of Bixby. The update comes in at about 150MB and can be downloaded and installed over the air.

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Samsung Opens Up Limited Preview of Bixby for Testing

Jun 16, 2017, 11:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced that U.S. owners of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones can begin to test the voice powers of Bixby. Bixby is more than a simple voice assistant, as people can use it to interact with all facets of the phone's user interface. Samsung calls Bixby an intelligent interface, one that it hopes will help people interact with various types of technology and not just phones. Anyone who owns the Galaxy S8 or S8+ can register with Samsung to test the early preview of Bixby. According to Samsung, the number of testers will be limited. The sign-up is available from Samsung's website. Bixby was originally intended to launch on the Galaxy phones when they went on sale earlier this year. Samsung was forced to delay Bixby, however, and has since said Bixby will arrive later this summer.


T-Mobile Rolls Out Buy-One, Get-One Offer for Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6

Jun 16, 2017, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile said shoppers will be able to score a free Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+, or LG G6 or V20 (pictured) through a new buy-one, get-one offer that kicks off June 16. Existing T-Mobile customers need to buy both phones on an installment plan and subscribe to an unlimited data service plan in order to qualify. New T-Mobile customers will need to activate both phones on the T-Mobile One plan. The BOGO offer requires customers to mail in a rebate form. T-Mobile will then mail a prepaid gift card within about eight weeks to cover the cost of the second handset. T-Mobile says it will reimburse customers for the cost of the lesser of whichever phones they purchase, up to $500 for the LG G6 or V20 and up to $790 for the Galaxy S8 or S8+. Customers will need to pay sales tax on both devices at the point of sale. The offer is contingent on customers staying through the 24 month installment plan. Those who leave T-Mobile before 24 months will need to cover the remaining balance of the two phones. T-Mobile warns that video is streamed at 480p and the top 3% of users may experience reduced speeds during network congestion.


T-Mobile to Light Up 600 MHz LTE This Summer

Jun 15, 2017, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it plans to begin testing its newly acquired 600 MHz spectrum as soon as this summer. The FCC granted licenses for the spectrum this week following the years-long incentive auction process. T-Mobile won an average of 31 MHz (ranging from 20 MHz to 50 MHz) of the 70 MHz low-band spectrum auctioned off by TV stations and the FCC earlier this year, giving T-Mobile 100% coverage of the U.S. and Puerto Rico. T-Mobile had already voiced its intent to use some of its 600 MHz holdings for LTE service, and it is now preparing to do exactly that. The company expects to test LTE 4G on its 600 MHz this summer and commence commercial operations later this year "when new 600 MHz smartphones from Samsung and other manufacturers are anticipated to arrive." T-Mobile didn't say anything specific about the devices that will be able to access the 600 MHz spectrum, but the Samsung handset in question may be the Galaxy Note 8 flagship, which is expected by the end of summer. T-Mobile plans to cover more than 1 million square miles with LTE 4G in the 600 MHz band by the end of the year. T-Mobile is reserving some of its 600 MHz spectrum to operate some form of 5G service beginning in 2019.


5 Reasons to Buy the Unlocked Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus

Jun 2, 2017, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Living the unlocked life is living the best life, at least when it comes to your smartphone. Many handset makers offer unlocked versions of their top devices, including, as of this week, Samsung. If you're in the market for a Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus, here are a few reasons why buying the unlocked variant may be worth the little bit of extra effort.

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Samsung Makes Good On Promise to Sell Unlocked Galaxy S8 and S8+

May 31, 2017, 1:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today made unlocked versions of its flagship Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ smartphones available for sale. People interested in the unlocked phones can pick them up at select Best Buy retail stores, as well as BestBuy.com and Samsung.com. Samsung says the unlocked variants of the S8 and S8+ are compatible with most wireless networks around the world, including those operated by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Samsung-branded apps and services are aboard the unlocked S8 and S8+, but carrier-branded bloatware is absent. Samsung's Bixby voice-based assistant is still not ready, though Samsung expects it to arrive in the next month or so. Best Buy and Samsung will permit phone trade-ins, as well as 24-month financing, to help defray the cost of the device. The Galaxy S8 costs $725 and the Galaxy S8+ costs $825. The unlocked phones are only available in midnight black.


Samsung Adds Chromecast Support to Its Gear VR Headset

May 31, 2017, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

People who own the Gear VR can now cast content from the headset to their cast-enabled television sets. A fresh software update from Oculus adds Chromecast support to the Gear VR. Selecting the new cast button will call up a list of nearby cast devices, allowing VR users to push their experience to TVs, monitors, and other devices while remaining within their VR environment. Oculus said Samsung handsets should see the software update arrive in the next day or two. Google recently added cast support to its DayDream platform for similar VR sharing.


ARM's Cortex A75 and A55 Processor Cores Target AI

May 30, 2017, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ARM recently announced the Cortex-A75 and Cortex-A55 processor cores, the first to support its DynamIQ technology. ARM first revealed DynamIQ earlier this year, an advancement of its big.LITTLE technology that allows paired sets of high-power and low-power processor cores to tackle specific tasks based on the computing requirements at hand. Most significantly, DynamIQ doesn't require evenly matched pairs; instead, it can handle one high-power processor with seven low-power processors and other combinations to give device makers more granular control over how the cores handle computing operations. ARM claims the Cortex-A75 core improves multicore performance by 50%, providing enough processor power for laptops and even servers, while only requiring the energy from a smartphone. Compared to the A73, the A75 can handle 20% more calculations at clock speeds up to 3.0 GHz and deliver 15% more memory throughput. The A75 is meant for high-intensity use cases, such as 3D gaming and virtual reality. The Cortex-A55 targets a wide range of computing tasks. ARM says the A55 is ten times more scalable than the A53, meaning it can ramp up from ultra low-intensity tasks to super high-intensity tasks. It's also 15% more power efficient and twice as good as handling memory. The company says together, these advancements make the A55 two and a half times more efficient than the A53 when measuring performance-per-milliwatt. This will be a boon for mid-range smartphones. ARM also debuted the new Mali-G72 GPU, which targets virtual reality, gaming, and machine learning on high-end devices. It delivers a 40% improvement in performance when compared to the previous generation GPU. ARM sees the A75, A55, and Mali-G72 complimenting one another in multi-core designs, such as those created by Qualcomm (Snapdragon) or Samsung (Exynos). ARM has made these components available to companies that design processors. It's not clear when the A75 and A55 will be built into future processor designs.


Samsung Itself Offering T-Mobile Galaxy S8 BOGO

May 22, 2017, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has rolled out a simpler and more direct buy-one, get-one offer for the Galaxy S8 smartphone. Under the terms of Samsung's deal, customers must buy two Galaxy S8 handsets for full price and activate at least one on T-Mobile's network via Samsung.com. Samsung will then issue a rebate for up to $750 to cover the cost of one Galaxy S8 within seven to 10 days after the purchase is made. The rebate is applied as a refund directly to the original payment method, excluding taxes, shipping, or other fees. T-Mobile's buy-one, get-one offer, in comparison, requires new/upgrading customers to sign up for its monthly installment plan for both devices and wait up to eight weeks for a rebate card that can be applied to the second device. Samsung's offer lets customers pay off the second phone almost immediately. Moreover, it can be combined with the free entertainment kit offer, which includes the Gear VR with Controller headset and six free months of Netflix.


Google Says Samsung Galaxy S8 to Get Daydream

May 17, 2017, 1:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said Samsung will update the Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets later this summer in order to make them compatible with Google's Daydream virtual reality platform. Daydream is Google's year-old VR service that runs on select handsets. It includes a dedicated VR headset. Google also mentioned that a forthcoming flagship handset from LG will be Daydream compatible. Google is working with partners such as Qualcomm, HTC, Lenovo, and others to create more standalone Daydream headsets that should arrive later this year.


Intel, Samsung Pile On Qualcomm By Supporting FTC Lawsuit

May 15, 2017, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel and Samsung support the Federal Trade Commission's antitrust investigation against Qualcomm and have filed amicus briefs to air their own complaints. The FTC hit Qualcomm with legal action in January and suggested that the company's patent licensing practices may violate monopoly regulations. Intel and Samsung, it would seem, agree. "Intel is ready, willing, and able to compete on the merits in this market that Qualcomm has dominated for years. But Qualcomm has maintained an interlocking web of abusive patent and commercial practices that subverts competition on the merits," said Intel in a blog on its web site. Intel has been unable to crack the smartphone market, which sees more than 1 billion devices ship annually. Samsung, for its part, suggests Qualcomm's unwillingness to play fairly has held back its in-house processor business. "Despite having requested a license from Qualcomm, Samsung cannot sell licensed Exynos chipsets to non-Samsung entities because Qualcomm has refused to license Samsung to make and sell licensed chipsets." Qualcomm argued that the FTC's case is weak and should be dismissed. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for June. Apple filed its own lawsuit against Qualcomm shortly after the FTC concerning the chip-maker's "onerous, unreasonable and costly" licensing terms.


T-Mobile Rolls Out Buy-One, Get-One Galaxy S8 Deal

May 12, 2017, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 13, 2017, 4:02 PM

T-Mobile today introduced a buy-one, get-one promotion for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. Customers who add a line and finance both phones on an equipment installment plan will receive a gift card for the value of the second phone. The S8 costs $750. T-Mobile is asking for $30 down followed by $30 per month for 24 months. The larger S8+ costs $850, and for that model, T-Mobile is asking for $130 down followed by the same $30 per month for 24 months. In order to score the deal, customers may be hit with a $25 SIM starter kit or $20 line upgrade fee. T-Mobile says sales tax on both devices is due at the time of purchase. The prepaid MasterCard rebate may take as long as eight weeks to arrive and customers will be responsible for making all device payments. Customers who leave T-Mobile before the end of the 24-month financing program will need to pay the device balance. The BOGO deal is available starting today.


Samsung Forges New Business Explicitly for Contract Chips

May 12, 2017, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has split its processor manufacturing business into two units so the company can better handle outside clients. Samsung makes a lot of silicon and much of it, such as the Exynos processor line, ends up in Samsung smartphones, tablets, and other products. The company also manufactures components for outside clients, including Qualcomm and Nvidia. The move effectively divides Samsung's foundry and system chip operations. The change will help Samsung manage its manufacturing processes more efficiently while also giving outside clients some peace of mind with respect to the safety and security of their designs. Samsung executive Kim Ki-nam will oversee both businesses.


Cricket Wireless Improves Data Offering

May 11, 2017, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today made its base $40 plan more attractive thanks to more data. Moving forward the plan includes 4 GB of high-speed data, which is up from 3 GB. Customers who sign up for Auto Pay can get the plan for $35 per month. Customers who already subscribe to the $40 plan will be upgraded to the new data limit automatically at the start of their next billing cycle. Cricket is also offering significant discounts on a number of its phones. For example, the Alcatel Streak, ZTE Sonata 3, Samsung Amp 2, and LG Fortune are all free to those who port in their number. These same devices can be purchases at low prices for those upgrading a line. Other deals include the LG Escape 3 for $20, the Samsung Amp Prime for $30, the LG X Power for $50, the LG Stylo 2 for $80, and the Alcatel Idol 4 for $130. Again, these prices are offered to those porting in a number from a competing carrier.


Samsung Says Unlocked Galaxy S8, S8+ Go On Sale May 31

May 9, 2017, 7:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said unlocked versions of its flagship Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ smartphones will be available online later this month. People interested in the unlocked phones can pre-order them from BestBuy.com and Samsung.com beginning today. Samsung says the unlocked variants of the S8 and S8+ are compatible with most wireless networks around the world, including those operated by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Samsung says its own apps and services will be aboard the unlocked S8 and S8+, but carrier-branded bloatware will be absent. Both Best Buy and Samsung will allow phone trade-ins, as well as 24-month financing, to help defray the cost of the device. The Galaxy S8 costs $725 and the Galaxy S8+ costs $825. Samsung expects the unlocked phones to begin shipping May 31.


Cricket Wireless Debuts HD Voice for Select Phones

May 5, 2017, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless recently added HD Voice to its service offering. HD Voice, which requires both the caller and receiver to have compatible devices connected to Cricket's LTE network, delivers significantly improved voice clarity. HD Voice reduces background noise and permits people to talk and browse at the same time while on LTE 4G. The list of compatible handsets is rather limited at launch. The four devices that support HD Voice include the Alcatel Idol 4, LG Escape 3, Samsung Galaxy Sol 2, and the ZTE Grand X 4 — all of which need to be updated to most recent software build. The company didn't indicate if or when new phones will gain access to HD Voice. Cricket says HD Voice may not be available when the network is congested. HD Voice is free for Cricket customers to access and use.


Nougat Reaches Smattering of AT&T's Galaxy S6 Variants

May 5, 2017, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T this week began distributing Android 7 Nougat to the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, and S6 Active. Along with the new version of Android, the update introduces Samsung Cloud, Samsung Pass, and a wide range of bug fixes and performance improvements. According to AT&T, the update will remove the AT&T Address Book and MobiTV apps, while it brings the security patch level up to April 1, 2017. The new operating system is rolling out to these phones already. AT&T updated the Galaxy S6 edge+ to Nougat earlier this year.


Samsung Rolls Out Bixby Voice In Korea; U.S. Launch Still Unknown

May 1, 2017, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today began distributing the Bixby Voice user interface to Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets in its home market of South Korea. Bixby was included on the S8/S8+ at launch without support for the voice functionality. For the moment, Bixby is limited to generating information cards and creating reminders. Once Bixby Voice is installed, Galaxy S8 owners will be able to talk themselves through the entire user interface of select apps, rather than just issue short commands for one-time actions. Bixby Voice fully supports 10 apps at launch, including the gallery, messages, settings, phone, contacts, weather, calculator, reminders, Bixby Vision, and the camera. Samsung says people will be able to test Bixby with 20 more apps through its Bixby Labs program. Some of those apps include Samsung Pay, Samsung Health, notes, My Files, email, and the internet browser, and third-party apps such as WhatsApp, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and YouTube. Applications still in the Bixby Labs will come to Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets over time. Samsung did not provide details concerning the U.S. launch of Bixby Voice. For now, the launch is still slated for later this spring.


AT&T Says '5G Evolution' to Reach 20 Markets This Year

Apr 25, 2017, 10:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 25, 2017, 10:56 AM

AT&T said customers who own the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ will have access to enhanced wireless service in Austin starting today. Austin serves as the first market for what AT&T is calling "5G Evolution" service, an effort to modernize and improve its network ahead of the official adoption of the 5G specification by international standards bodies. AT&T plans to take advantage of improved LTE 4G network technologies such as small cells, network densification, carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and 256 QAM to provide real-world speed and latency improvements. The company didn't provide any guidance on what sort of speeds S8 and S8+ owners in Austin will actually experience other than to indicate 5G Evolution will be up to twice as fast as its existing LTE 4G service. AT&T will light up 5G Evolution in Indianapolis this summer with markets including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Francisco, and others to go live by the end of the year. Further, AT&T said it will have "numerous other" 5G Evolution-capable devices available by the end of the year. All four major carriers are moving forward with 5G technology trials despite the fact that the final standard has not been ratified. AT&T's so-called 5G Evolution is "5G" in name only.


LG G6 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8: Buying Points to Consider

Apr 24, 2017, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Can't decide between the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8? It's a tough choice, to be sure. These appealing Android smartphones represent the best from LG and Samsung by breaking new ground in design and refining core features along the way. Here are how these two phones compare head-to-head on a handful of essential buying points.

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Samsung to Issue Software Patches for Galaxy S8

Apr 24, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it will push two software updates to its Galaxy S8 smartphone to resolve issues with screen tint and WiFi connectivity. Some S8 owners claim their devices have a reddish tint to the screen, while others say they cannot connect to WiFi networks. Samsung insists there are no actual defects in the device itself and that the updates are being distributed "for consumer comfort." The first patch will address the tint issue, giving consumers "a further enhanced ability to adjust the color setting to their preference." The second patch targets phones sold by a specific carrier in South Korea and will be only be issued there. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ went on sale in the U.S. on April 21 and in S. Korea a few days before that. Samsung says pre-orders for the device have been strong, particularly in its home market of Korea. The company did not share first-weekend sales figures. The phones are the first high-end devices to ship from Samsung after its failed Note7 last year, which was recalled due to battery problems.


Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Amp Prime 2 Available from Cricket

Apr 21, 2017, 9:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today added two new Samsung handsets to its list of devices. First, the Galaxy S8 is available for purchase from Cricket stores. Cricket is charging $699.99 for the handset, a $50 savings off list price, when the S8 is activated on a new line. Second, Cricket debuted the Galaxy Amp Prime 2 (pictured), a low-cost Android phone. The Amp Prime 2 features a 5-inch 720p HD screen with a 1.35 GHz quad-core processor and 16 GB of storage. The phone includes 5- and 2-megapixel cameras on the back and front respectively, and a 2,600 mAh battery. Other features include LTE, Bluetooth WiFi, and support for memory cards up to 256 GB. The Samsung Galaxy Amp Prime 2 runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $150.


Google Play Music to Be Default Music Player on All Samsung Devices

Apr 21, 2017, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Samsung today said starting with the launch of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, Google Play Music will be the default music player and music service on Samsung phones and tablets globally. Consumers who buy the S8 or S8+ will receive a free three-month trial of Google Play Music, which offers ad-free access to some 40 million tracks. The trial also includes YouTube Red, an ad-free version of YouTube. Moreover, Samsung device owners will receive special features from Google. To start, S8 and S8+ buyers will be able to upload up to 100,000 of their own tracks to Google Play Music for safekeeping (double the standard amount.) Google says more custom features for Samsung phones are on the way. Last, Google Play Music will be compatible with Samsung's Bixby voice assistant when Bixby launchers later this spring. Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners will be able to ask Bixby to play their favorite song and it’ll start playing on Google Play Music instantly. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ go on sale today.


Sprint Offering Two-For-One Lease On Samsung Galaxy S8

Apr 20, 2017, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today finalized its retail plans for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and there's good news for consumers. The company is offering a two-for-one lease deal on the S8 with a new line activation and one upgrade, or two new line activations. New and existing customers can lease the S8 for $31.25 per month and receive a second leased phone at no additinal cost. The second monthly lease payment will be credited to the account each billing period. The Sprint Galaxy Forever lease program allows people to trade the phone in for the newest Galaxy handset after making 12 lease payments. The S8 and S8+ are both compatible with Sprint's new HPUE technology, which makes them perform much better on the company's 2.5 GHz spectrum. Sprint says this two-for-one lease deal for the Galaxy S8 is good only from April 21 through April 27.


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