Sprint today announced a new unlimited plan that it says undercuts the competition. The plan, which will be available beginning August 22, provides a single line of service with unlimited talk, text, and data for $60 per month. Sprint claims the offering beats T-Mobile's best price by $20 per month, and that similar options aren't available from AT&T or Verizon Wireless. There is a catch. In order to qualify for the plan, customers need to either bring their own device, pay full retail for a device, or sign up for Sprint's Easy Pay financing plan. The Sprint $60 Unlimited Plan for single lines follows a complete overhaul of Sprint's family share plans, which offer savings to four or more lines of service.
Yahoo today made more content available to the Yahoo app for Android in the shape of digital magazines. The app now includes Yahoo Food, Tech, Travel, Movies, Beauty, and Health. The digital magazines use a visual storytelling style that Yahoo believes is more immersive. The app lets Android device owners access a wide range of content across Yahoo's properties. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store.
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T-Mobile today said it will give current customers unlimited LTE data for a full year if they convince an AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon customer to switch to T-Mobile. T-Mobile is likening the program to "throwing a lifeline" to those on competing networks. Not only does the current customer receive unlimited LTE for a year, but so does the new customer. Customers who already pay for unlimited data will receive a $10 monthly credit instead. The referral program kicks off August 29. Customers will then be able to enter their own number and the number of a friend who's ported their service, which must be reported within 30 days of the friend's activation. The referral program runs for a limited time, but T-Mobile didn't immediately indicate an end date. It doesn't apply to pre-paid plans, and is limited to one referral per account.
Opera Software today said it has struck a deal with Microsoft to supply the browser for Microsoft's feature phones. Opera Mini will replace the Nokia Xpress browser on Series 30, Series 40, and Asha phones moving forward. "All the current user base will be encouraged to upgrade to Opera Mini and all the new phones will come with Opera Mini pre-installed as a default browser," said Opera. Nokia developed the Xpress browser as a competitor to Opera Mini, which uses server-side compression to reduce mobile data use. Opera has long pitched its Mini browser as ideal for cost-concious consumers. Opera's browsers are available to a wide variety of desktops, tablets, and smartphones. The move shows that Microsoft is looking to save costs on developing its feature phone lines, which are mostly sold in developing markets.
Vine today pushed out an update to its iOS application that should make it easier for people to share videos. To start, users can now upload older videos from the camera roll on their iPhone. Previously, videos had to be shot new within the Vine app. The app also adds a number of new editing functions, such as the ability to duplicate clips, lock focus of either front/rear cameras, and delete the last video captured. Other tools include a level, shooting grid, and support for the flash for shooting in the dark. Vine for iOS is available for free from the iTunes App Store. A similar update should be available to Android devices soon.
Skype today announced a change to the way it handles notifications that should make users happier people. The idea is called Active Endpoint. Once rolled out, users will see Skype notifications only on the device they are actively using. In other words, people who use Skype on a tablet, smartphone, and laptop will only receive notifications on the smartphone if that's the device with which they're Skyping. The other devices will sit silently. If the user stops Skyping on their smartphone, future incoming alerts will sound on all three devices so the user doesn't miss messages/calls. If the user then opens Skype on their laptop, Skype notifications will stop pinging the smartphone and tablet, and so on. Active Endpoint will still allow for read notifications to sync across platforms and devices. According to Skype, users need to update their devices to the latest version of Skype in order to reap the benefits of Active Endpoint. Active Endpoint is being rolled out gradually.
Uber today announced the availability of an API for developers, as well as a handful of partners first putting the API to use. The API allows third-party companies to build Uber functionality into their own apps. Apps will be able to pass a destination address to the Uber app, display pickup times, provide fare estimates, access trip history, and more. Some of the first apps to integrate Uber include United Airlines, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, Starbucks, TimeOut, and Hyatt. The United mobile app, for example, can be used to show the ETAs of the closest drivers and fare estimates so flyers can get to the airport on time. Some of these initial supporters of Uber are offering new Uber users $30 in credit to use towards rides. Uber is a smartphone app and service that locates and hails taxis or other livery vehicles for transportation.
ZTE today announced it is bringing the Nubia 5S mini with LTE to the U.S. The 5S mini is a compact handset that's part of ZTE's premium line of Android smartphones. It has a 4.7-inch 720p HD IGZO display from Sharp, and it is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with an Adreno 305 GPU. The phone is equipped with a 13-megapixel main camera and a bevy of advanced controls for focus, light metering, and white balance. The five-element f/2.2 lens is protected by sapphire, and the camera has three shooting modes: Fun, Auto, and Pro. The 5S mini has a 5-megapixel user-facing camera, too, and can capture 720p HD video. Other hardware features include 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a memory card slot; Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and support for AT&T/T-Mobile LTE; and a 2,000mAh battery. ZTE is offering the Nubia 5S mini with LTE directly to consumers via Amazon, where the device costs $280 and ships unlocked. The phone is available for order today, and ships starting August 27.
AT&T chimed in this evening to say it, too, will carry the HTC One for Windows. AT&T said pricing and availability will be announced at a later date. Verizon is selling the phone starting tomorrow.
Sharp debuted its first phone for the U.S. market in years this week. The Aquos Crystal boasts a nearly bezel-less design in a compact form factor. Here are our initial impressions.
Steve Ballmer today resigned from his position on Microsoft's board of directors effective immediately. Ballmer left the company's CEO post just six months ago, but said in a letter to current CEO Satya Nadella he felt his new obligations as owner of the LA Clippers, among others, will keep him too busy to participate meaningfully on Microsoft's board moving forward. Ballmer succeeded Microsoft founder and CEO Bill Gates. He wished Nadella and Microsoft well, and will remain a large shareholder in the company.
Google today published a version of its Photo Sphere app for iOS. The app allows iPhone owners to stand in one spot and capture a 360-degree view of whatever is around them. Photo Spheres can be published to Google Maps or shared with various social networks. Before today, Photo Sphere was only available to Android smartphones (similar apps are already available to iPhones from other companies). Photo Sphere is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
HTC gives Windows Phone fans what they've always wanted: A premium device with Microsoft's operating system. Here are our initial thoughts on HTC's latest device.
HTC today announced the One for Windows Phone, a variant of the One (M8) that swaps Google's mobile platform for Microsoft's. The One for Windows Phone runs the latest operating system from Microsoft and carries over a few HTC apps, such as Blinkfeed, the HTC duo-camera, SenseTV, Video Highlights, and BoomSound. The One for Windows Phone adopts some of the M8's motion gestures, such as double-tap to wake, but also loses a few. Apart from the operating system, the hardware is identical to the One (M8) with Android. It has the same 5-inch 1080p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, Ultra-pixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera, and premium aluminum design. The HTC One for Windows Phone is exclusive to Verizon Wireless. It is available online from VerizonWireless.com beginning today and reaches Verizon stores August 20 for $99 with a new contract or $30 with Verizon Edge.
Sprint today announced the Sharp Aquos Crystal, a mid-range handset that it will sell later this year. The Sharp Aquos features a nearly bezel-less design, with narrow edges running along the top and sides of the phone. The screen measures 5 inches and offers 720p HD resolution. The device offers a handful of software features developed by Sharp, including Clip Now, which takes screen shots with a swipe and makes them easily sharable via link. Speaktoit Assistant is a natural language assistant that can perform a number of tasks, such as answer questions, open apps, place calls, and send texts. The device comes with Harman Kardon Clari-Fi and LiveStage audio technologies for improved music reproduction, and Direct Wave Receiver technology, which uses the display panel to create sound for phone calls. The device runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and includes the usual suite of Google services, in addition to OfficeSuite for editing Microsoft documents. Other hardware features include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The Aquos supports microSD cards up to 128GB. The camera captures 8-megapixel still images and 1080p HD video. It also has a 1.2-megapixel camera for selfies. The Aquos will cost $240 at full retail, or $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $10 with Sprint. Sprint subsidiaries Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA will also sell the device at the price of $150. Virgin and Boost do not require contracts.
The U.S. ITC recently upheld an earlier ruling that found ZTE innocent of violating patents held by Interdigital. Interdigital alleged that ZTE infringed on select patents related to mobile technology. The ITC made its initial determination clearing ZTE of wrongdoing in June. This week's decision puts the matter to rest. The ITC cleared ZTE in a separate case against Interdigital in December. ZTE said it was pleased with the ITC's decision and is committed to protecting its intellectual property. Patent-holding firms such as Interdigital often use litigation to generate revenue.
LG today announced plans to follow the trickle-down approach with its user interface. The company said it will push the UI found on this year's G3 handset, including the simplified camera software and adjustable keyboard, to its mid-range and entry-level handsets. LG said most devices released during the second half of the year, including smartphones and tablets, will adopt the newer user interface.
Sprint today announced new shared data plans that offer twice as much mobile data as comparable plans from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Sprint's Family Share Pack includes four lines with unlimited talk and text and 20GB of shared data for $160 per month. AT&T and Verizon have similarly-priced plans that include only 10GB of data. T-Mobile's shared plan costs $100 per month. Further, Sprint is offering a huge incentive to families that port their numbers from another carrier. Sprint will give families with up to 10 lines unlimited talk/text and 20GB of shared data for only $100 per month through 2015, plus an additional 2GB per line. Under this promotion, a family of four would have up to 28GB of data per month and a family of 10 would have up to 40GB of data per month. The promotional $100 plan pricing will be available from August 22 to September 30. Last, Sprint is offering to cover the ETFs - up to $350 per line - for families that break their contract to sign up with Sprint Family Share Pack. All new devices must be purchased through Sprint Easy Pay. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said the company will debut new plans for individuals later this week.