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printed February 24, 2017
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Samsung Makes Its Secure Folder A Downloadable App

Today, 1:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today released its Secure Folder through the Galaxy Apps Store. Secure Folder is a protected space for smartphones that can store files, documents, images, videos, or other content that the owner wishes to lock away. Samsung says the Secure Folder can act as a way for people to set up separate profiles for apps on the phone, as well, ensuring that only the protected content is available to those profiles. Samsung expects people will use standard tools such as PIN, pattern, passcode, or biometric verification (fingerprint) to access and manage the Secure Folder. The Samsung Secure Folder has ben around for a while, but it has always been preloaded directly to devices by Samsung. This marks the first time the app is available on its own as a separate download. Samsung is making the app available to the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge first, with other models to follow later.


ITU Targets 20 Gbps for 5G Specification

Today, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The International Telecommunications Union today released a draft report for what might eventually become the 5G specification. IMT-2020 is the working name for the 5G standard and the ITU has laid out a basic framework it wants to see technology companies meet. For example, the ITU wants a single cell site to support download speeds of at least 20 Gbps shared across the site. Real-world speeds would be on the order of 100 Mbps down and 50 Mbps up for every user connected to the cell site. Each cell site will also need to support maximum latency (network response time) of 4ms with 1ms available most of the time, and support up to 1 million connected devices to square kilometer. Further, 5G will need to be available to mobile devices traveling between 0 and 300mph with 0ms latency when mobile devices switch between cell sites. Last, the ITU wants to see 5G become more efficient with respect to mobile device power needs, and more efficient at delivering a raw number of megabits per hertz of spectrum. The ITU expects to discuss the specification over the next six months and finalize the standard by November. It will then be up to technology companies to make it happen. Many U.S. network operators and their telecommunications equipment partners are testing various ways to deliver 5G-like performance via LTE this year.

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More Carriers and Phone Makers Agree to Adopt Google's RCS-Based 'Android Messages' Service

Today, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said more wireless network operators and handset manufacturers will use Android Messages, its RCS-based messaging service, as the default SMS/MMS tool on their phones. (Android Messages was previously known as Google Messenger.) Some of the features of RCS, which is a global standard, include group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, advanced calling features, and read receipts. It has been improved lately with more interactive tools, such as the ability to check into flights. Google says a number of brands plan to use RCS in order to enhance their own services and help spur adoption. Some of the brands include Walgreens, Baskin-Robbins, FICO, Gamestop, Sonic, Subway, and Time. Moving forward, the Android Messages app with RCS will be preloaded by LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, HMD Global, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony, and Wiko, along with Google's own Pixel and Android One devices. Further, Google was already working with carriers Sprint, Rogers, and Telenor, and today added Vodafone, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Globe. Notably absent fro the list of phone makers is Samsung, while AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have also yet to commit. Phones with Android Messages on board will still be able to interact with Samsung handsets and those running on non-Sprint networks of course, but will lose the advanced features available via RCS. Samsung, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon haven't said if or when they might adopt Google's Android Messages, though T-Mobile and Verizon already use their own RCS-like messaging platforms.


LG's X Power 2 Packs a 4,500mAh Battery

Today, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced the X power2, a follow up to last year's bountiful, battery-boasting handset. The X power2 features an embedded 4,500mAh battery that LG says delivers 15 hours of video playback, 14 hours of real-time navigations, or 18 hours of web surfing. It included rapid charging and soaks up 50% of its capacity when plugged in for just one hour. Other specs include a 5.5-inch HD display, 1.5 GHz, octa-core processor with 1.5/2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, LTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS. The phone has a 13-megapixel main camera and a wide-angle, 5-megapixel user-facing camera with selfie flash. LG says the phone comes in black, gray, gold, and blue. It will ship to several regions, including the U.S. later this year. Pricing was not disclosed.


LeEco EUI Update Adds App Drawer to Le Pro3 and Le S3

Yesterday, 3:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LeEco today gave its Le Pro3 and Le S3 smartphones an app drawer. The company is pushing the latest build of its Ecosystem User Interface to the Le Pro3 and Le S3, and the update includes a handful of new features. Based on user feedback, LeEco decided to install an app drawer on the home screen, which allows ecophone owners to find and access all their apps in a single space. The app drawer has been added to the dock at the bottom of the screen just above the home button. Both devices also receive a boost in camera performance. The Le Pro3 gains faster HDR capturing and processing, while the S3 gains improvements in low-light photography. LeEco also tweaked fingerprint sensor feedback, added parental controls, streamlined the Live app interface, improved Bluetooth reliability, and increased WiFi speeds (S3 only). LeEco says the update will be made available to ecophone users over the next few days.


Commerce Dept. Extends ZTE Sanction Relief Again

Yesterday, 1:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE can continue to export U.S. goods for another month due to an extension offered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department first alleged in March 2016 that ZTE had violated trade sanctions in place against Iran by using shell companies to hide its exporting activities. The government initially banned ZTE from exporting any U.S. goods, parts, or components, but quickly offered a reprieve while ZTE worked with the government to resolve the issue. The initial reprieve gave ZTE until the end of June 2016, but was then extended to the end of August 2016, and then again to Feb 27 of this year. Now the extension runs through March 29. In prior actions, the Department of Commerce extended the relief by 90 days at a time. Reuters suggests the short, 30-day extension indicates a full settlement may be adopted in the near future.


Samsung's Exynos 9 Chip Uses 10nm Process, Boasts Gigabit Modem

Yesterday, 11:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Exynos 9 Series 8895 application processor for premium mobile devices. The chip relies on Samsung's 10nm FinFET process with 3D transistors. This results in a 27% performance boost while chewing through 40% less power when put up against Samsung's 14nm tech. The 8895 bakes in support for Category 16 LTE with 5xCA for 1 Gbps downloads, and Cat 13 LTE with 2xCA for 225 Mbps uploads. Samsung says the Exynos 9 Series 8895 has an octa-core design with four of Samsung's own CPUs paired with four ARM Cortex A53 cores. It supports the ARM Mali G71 GPU for 3D graphics, 4K quality virtual reality, and 4K video playback up to 120fps. A separate processing unit handles biometric security (iris and fingerprint) for protecting mobile payments, and a Vision Processing Unit is able to scan and recognize its surroundings for panoramic image processing and machine vision. The Exynos 9 Series 8895 is already in mass production and Samsung said it will appear in devices soon. The company is widely expected to debut its 2017 flagship phone, the Galaxy S8, in March. The Galaxy S8 will likely rely on the Exynos 9 Series 8895 processor.


Google's GBoard Keyboard for iPhone Finally Lands Dictation

Yesterday, 8:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a significant update to GBoard, its advanced keyboard application or the iPhone. Voice dictation is the most significant new feature added to the tool, allowing GBoard users to press a microphone and speak their messages rather than type them. GBoard also gains support for 15 more languages, a wider set of emoji, and Google Doodles. The emoji, in particular, include the entire set of characters from iOS 10. GBoard is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Instagram Now Lets You Add Up to 10 Photos to a Single Post

Wednesday, 2:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible for users to create posts with up to 10 photos. The idea is to allow people to publish a single event that includes multiple pictures and videos, rather than post a string of single images to their feed. Instagram says users will have full control over each image shared in the event post, including order and image appearance. Once live, people will be able to swipe through the events to see all the photos. Multi-image posts will be highlighted with a little icon in the corner. Instagram says event photos/videos will be limited to square shapes for now, and support only a single caption for the lot. Android and iOS users will see the new feature in an update rolling out over the next few days.


T-Mobile Rolling Out LTE-U

Wednesday, 1:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it is beginning to upgrade its 4G network with LTE-U this spring. LTE-U allows LTE to operate on the unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band, which is typically reserved for WiFi. Devices equipped with LTE-U will take advantage of available 5 GHz spectrum when needed to boost speed and capacity. If or when that 5 GHz spectrum experiences an uptick in WiFi use, the LTE-U devices will scale back their presence on the unlicensed spectrum and return to T-Mobile's cellular network for coverage. T-Mobile is relying on equipment from Ericsson and Nokia to make LTE-U a reality. At the same time, the FCC today approved the first devices to operate on LTE-U. The FCC's chief concern is that LTE-U doesn't interfere with the WiFi operation of 5 GHz equipment in the shared spectrum. The LTE-U Forum, WiFi Alliance, and myriad other technology players have helped shape LTE-U over the last few years. T-Mobile expects LTE-U to help it eventually deliver gigabit speeds over its wireless network. T-Mobile didn't say what mobile devices might have access to LTE-U once it goes live.


Verizon to Test 5G In 11 Cities By Mid-Year

Wednesday, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it plans to trial 5G technology in 11 U.S. markets later this year. This "pre-commercial service" will be offered to a very limited number of customers and not necessarily made available to consumers. The tests will involve the 5GTF spec Verizon developed past year. The trial markets include Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville, Brockton, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Verizon competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are each testing their own variants of potential 5G technologies. The actual 5G spec has yet to be defined by the International Telecommunications Union, but carriers and telecom equipment makers around the world are hoping their technologies will be included in the final standard.

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Intel Claims LTE Modem to Deliver 1 Gigabit Speeds

Tuesday, 12:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel today announced the XMM 7560 LTE modem, a fifth-generation wireless radio that can produce broadband-like speeds in a variety of mobile devices. The XMM 7560 is manufactured using Intel's 14nm process and supports LTE Advanced Category 16 for downloads up to 1 Gbps and Category 13 for uploads up to 225 Mbps. The Intel XMM 7560 modem supports 5x carrier aggregation for up to 100 MHz combined bandwidth on the downlink, and 3xCA for up to 60 MHz on the uplink. It also supports 4x4 MIMO and 256QAM. Intel says the XMM 7560 works well with its SMARTi 7 RF transceiver, which supports up to 35 LTE bands and 230 carrier aggregation combinations for worldwide compatibility. The XMM 7560 also packs envelope tracking and other power optimization features to improve battery life in smartphones, tablets, and PCs. The Intel XMM 7560 will sample during the first half of the year and Intel expects to see it in consumer devices shortly thereafter. Separately, Intel this week announced new efforts in its push toward 5G. It is working with Nokia, AT&T, Telefonica, 5TONIC, Ericsson, and others to define, prototype, and deliver early 5G products.


Review: Logitech ZeroTouch Alexa-Powered Car Mount

Tuesday, 10:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Logitech ZeroTouch car phone holder brings the power of Amazon's Alexa to your car. The ZeroTouch combines a car mount, mobile app, and Alexa so you can not only make calls and send texts, but access your smarthome settings safely from behind the wheel.

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Qualcomm Targets IoT Anew with Snapdragon 210 and SoC

Tuesday, 9:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today revealed two new sets of products design with the Internet of Things in mind. First, the company plans to add support for the Android Things operating system to its Snapdragon 210 processors and X5 LTE modems. Android Things is Google's IoT platform. Qualcomm says the the Snapdragon 210 and X5 combo will be the most powerful processor/modem available to Android Things, allowing developers and hardware makers to design more capable devices and services. Some possible use cases include electronic signage, video monitoring, and asset tracking, as well as smart home assistants and smart appliances. The Snapdragon 210 and X5 SoC for Android Things will be available later this year. Separately, Qualcomm said it is sampling two new SoCs for IoT that combine three radios into a single package. The QCA4020 includes Bluetooth Low Energy 5, Dual-band Wi-Fi, and 802.15.4-based technologies, including ZigBee and Thread. The QCA4024 integrates Bluetooth Low Energy 5 and 802.15.4 tech. These modules will support a wide range of IoT platforms, including Apple's HomeKit, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Open Connectivity Foundation. Qualcomm expects to see them put to use in smart cities, toys, home control and automation, networking, and home entertainment. The QCA4020 and QCA4024 are sampling now and will reach consumer devices later this year,


Qualcomm Fine Tunes RF Antennas for Snapdragon 835

Tuesday, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today introduced a new range of RF front-end products that will complement advanced processors such as the Snapdragon 835. The new family of radios are the first gallium arsenide (GaAs) power amplifier modules to come from Qualcomm. The company says the QPA546x and QPA436x are multimode, multiband power amplifier (MMPA) modules that are designed for superior cell-edge performance, which also makes them the first MMPA modules optimized for High Power User Equipment (HPUE) operation. Sprint plans to use HPUE later this year to improve the performance of its 2.5GHz spectrum to boost speed and capacity at the cell edge. The module family supports a range of other technologies, including Qualcomm TruSignal antenna performance. Qualcomm says its newest TruSignal design is better able to support carrier aggregation while also maximizing power efficiency over LTE. Consumers should see more consistent voice and data performance both indoors and out. The QAT35xx antenna is ready for the Snapdragon 835, while the QPA546x and QPA436x are sampling now with the expectation that they'll reach consumer devices later this year.


Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 Modem Powers 1.2Gbps Speeds

Tuesday, 8:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, which it says is the first Category 18 modem capable of download speeds up to 1.2Gbps. The X20 is manufactured using a 10nm FinFET process. It supports up to 5x20 MHz carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and up to three aggregated LTE carriers. The X20 LTE modem uses a new RF transceiver that Qualcomm claims is capable of receiving up to 12 spatial streams of LTE data. Each downlink supports 256QAM, while uplinks support 64QAM. Other features include all major carrier technologies, more than 40 LTE frequency bands, LTE Broadcast, and VoLTE with support for Ultra HD Voice. Last, the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem supports Dual SIM Dual VoLTE for advanced use cases. Qualcomm believes the X20 will be ideal for Gigabit LTE networks, which are expected to bridge the gap between today's 4G networks and what will eventually become 5G networks. Qualcomm says the X20 is already sampling, but it won't ship on consumer products until the first half of 2018.


Verizon to Pay $350M Less for Yahoo After Privacy Breach

Tuesday, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon and Yahoo today said they've amended the terms of their acquisition, first announced in July 2016, which will see the sale price drop by $350 million. The deal has been in jeopardy since December when Yahoo disclosed a material security breach that impacted more than 1 billion users. According to Yahoo, an outside party was able to steal names, email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords, and some security questions/answers of users back in August 2013. Verizon had originally agreed to pay $4.8 billion for Yahoo's core internet business and customer base. The total sale price is now closer to $4.48 billion. Moreover, the two companies agreed to terms with respect to any investigations over Yahoo's security breaches. The remaining Yahoo business that exists after the transaction will be held accountable for 50% of any cash liabilities from non-SEC or third-party investigations and all the liabilities of SEC and shareholder lawsuits. "The amended terms of the agreement provide a fair and favorable outcome for shareholders. It provides protections for both sides and delivers a clear path to close the transaction in the second quarter," said Marni Walden, Verizon executive vice president and president of Product Innovation and New Businesses.


Apple Pushes Third iOS 10.3 Beta to Developers

Monday, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 3:26 PM

Apple today made iOS 10.3 beta 3 available to developers. The most notable new feature of iOS 10.3 is a tool called Find My AirPods, which helps people locate lost earbuds via an audio alert. iOS 10.3 also makes the jump to the Apple File System (APFS), refreshes the Apple ID profile, tweaks animations, and provides more details concerning iCloud storage use. This latest beta is meant for developers. Apple normally makes public beta builds available a day or two after it releases developer betas. Apple also released new betas of macOS 10.12.4, watchOS 3.2, tvOS 10.2, and Xcode 8.3.

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