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printed July 27, 2016
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LeEco Buys Vizio for $2 Billion

Yesterday, 2:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 5:32 PM

LeEco today announced plans to acquire Vizio for $2 billion. LeEco is a China-based TV, content, and phone maker, while Vizio is a U.S.-based TV maker. LeEco has been increasing its presence in the U.S. since early this year and the acquisition gives it an instant footprint in the U.S. electronics market. Vizio will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary from its existing Southern California location. Vizio's data business will be spun off as a separate entity, with current Vizio CEO William Wang maintaining a controlling share. LeEco expects to complete the transaction during the fourth quarter.


Twitter Adopts Night Mode In Android App

Yesterday, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today announced a new night mode tool for its Android app that should make viewing in the dark less stressful on the eyes. The refreshed app includes a slider tool in the settings menu that when activated changes the background from white to a deep blue. Twitter for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Twitter didn't immediately say if it will make this same feature available to iOS devices.

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BlackBerry DTEK50 Is A Secured, Rebadged Alcatel Idol 4

Yesterday, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 10:22 AM

BlackBerry today announced the DTEK50 smartphone, a slab-style handset that runs Android and features BlackBerry's signature communications and security software. BlackBerry says the DTEK50 features FIPS-2 hardware encryption, rapid security patching, secure boot process, and a hardened Android OS core. It includes Android for Work and Google Play for Work, as well as support for BlackBerry's full enterprise mobility management suite. Other features include BBM, BlackBerry Hub, the BlackBerry intelligent keyboard, and a customizable action key. The hardware is a rebadged version of the Alcatel Idol 4, which was announced earlier this year. The DTEK50 has a 5.2-inch full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 617 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel camera main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, NFC, Cat 6 LTE, memory card slot, and Quick Charge 2.0. The phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The DTEK50 is available for preorder in the U.S. and other countries starting today for $299. BlackBerry said it will reveal shipping dates on a regional basis over the coming weeks.


T-Mobile Zero-Rates 16 More Services, Bringing Binge On to 100+

Yesterday, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today added 16 more video streaming services to its Binge On program, bring the total number of services to over 100. The new video services include ABC, Apple Music, Big Ten Network, CEEK VR, DISH Anywhere, Disney Channel, Disney Jr., Disney XD, D-PAN.TV, DramaFever, FOX NOW, FXNOW, NAT GEO TV, Shalom World, Sioeye, and Tubi TV. T-Mobile customers can now stream an unlimited amount of content from these services over T-Mobile's LTE network without impacting their monthly data allotment. Binge On content is streamed at 480p, rather than high-definition. Users may activate or deactivate Binge On at any time.


Opera Adds Video Downloader to Mini for Android

Yesterday, 7:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

People who use Opera Mini on Android devices now have the ability to download videos directly from the browser. Opera Software updated Mini with a tool for saving videos to a phone for offline playback. Opera says the downloader works on "some top video and social media web sites ... without their own built-in media players," such as Facebook, Instagram, and IMDb. Some regions and web sites may restrict video downloads. The download option appears once users tap the play button and allows people to choose where the video is stored (internal storage or memory card). The downloader doesn't require a separate app or web link. Opera Mini for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Nexus Phones Earn Spam Blocker from Google

Monday, 4:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is updating the Google Phone app on Nexus and Android One devices with a new spam-blocking tool. With the new app aboard, Nexus devices will warn owners about potential spam callers, as well as give them the ability to block or report suspected spam callers. Google says Nexus and Android One device owners will need to enable Caller ID in order to enjoy the new spam protection. The Google Phone app is free to Nexus and Android One devices and will be updated automatically by Google over the days ahead. Google's new app arrives just days after the FCC asked phone carriers to step up efforts to block robocalls.


Google Cleans Up Maps UI

Monday, 3:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out a fresh version of Maps for Android, iOS, and the web with a cleaner user interface. Google says it eliminated unnecessary UI elements, such a road outlines, while simplifying the typography for street names, points of interest, and more. Google Maps now treats areas of interest differently with orange shading. Users can readily spot and click on areas of interest to see things to do in that area. Last, the refreshed Google Maps relies on a new color scheme that Google says is easier to use to differentiate between man-made and natural map features. The new version of Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Ford to Add Android Auto, CarPlay to All 2017 Models

Monday, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ford today said it will push its Sync 3 connectivity platform, with support for Android Auto and CarPlay, across its entire lineup of 2017 vehicles. Sync 3 relies on new hardware and software that Ford says is faster and better able to connect to smartphones thanks to more conversational voice recognition. Android Auto and CarPlay allow smartphone users to access core functions, such as maps, music, messages, and the phone by using voice commands. Ford says the Escape, Fusion, Mustang and Explorer are already available as 2017 model-year vehicles. Others, including the F-150, Focus, and Edge, will arrive later this year.


Verizon to Buy Yahoo's Internet Business for $4.8B

Monday, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Communications today said that it has agreed to buy Yahoo's core internet and search businesses for $4.83 billion. Yahoo's properties will join AOL under Verizon's ownership, to be managed by Marni Walden, EVP and President of the Product Innovation and New Businesses organization at Verizon. Verizon has spent the last few years building up its media business units. Yahoo claims to have more than 1 billion active monthly users, of which 600 million are mobile. Combining Yahoo and AOL will give Verizon control over 25 established brands, including news sites, analytics engines, email services, and advertising platforms. The sale does not include Yahoo's stake in Alibaba, Yahoo Japan, and other entities. Post sale, the remaining business will be rebranded as it transforms into an investment company. Verizon and Yahoo expect the deal to close during the first quarter of 2017, pending regulatory and shareholder approval. Verizon Communications is the parent company of Verizon Wireless.


FCC Wants Carriers to Step Up Anti-Robocall Efforts

Friday, 1:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today asked the country's major telephone providers to improve consumer tools for blocking robocalls. The FCC said robocalls continue to be one of the top complaints filed by consumers. Wheeler sent letters to AT&T, Bandwidth Comms, Frontier, Level3, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon asking them to make blocking tools available to consumers as swiftly as possible. "Consumers want and deserve more control over the calls they receive," wrote Wheeler in a blog post. "I am calling on the carriers and standards groups to accelerate the development and deployment of technical standards that would prevent spoofing of caller ID and thus make blocking technologies more effective. All of these companies have been asked to respond within 30 days with their concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues." The FCC said it will continue to investigate consumer complaints against robocalls and prosecute whenever possible.


Review: Alcatel Idol 4S - Unlocked

Friday, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel's flagship Android handset strives to break through barriers with its high-end design and mid-range specs. The middle of the market is a tough space in which to play, and, rather than allowing the Idol 4S to stand on its own merits, Alcatel hopes a set of VR goggles, a case, and a pair of headphones will help sweeten the deal. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth review of the Alcatel Idol 4S.

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Samsung Hits Huawei with Handful of Complaints

Friday, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has sued Huawei in China for patent infringement. The Korean phone maker says several of Huawei's devices, including the Mate8 and Honor line, are violating six of its technology patents. Samsung is seeking $24 million in damages as well as a ban on the manufacture and sale of the devices in question. The lawsuit is a tit-for-tat response to a similar lawsuit filed by Huawei against Samsung earlier this year. Samsung said it attempted to resolve the matter through negotiation, but has been unable to strike a deal with Huawei. "It has regrettably become necessary to take legal action in order to defend our intellectual property," said Samsung. Tech firms often use patent-based lawsuits against rivals as a negotiation tactic.


Verizon to Cut Off Certain Customers Who Exceed 100GB Per Month

Friday, 7:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless confirmed plans to disconnect select customers who consume more than 100 GB of mobile data per month. Verizon is specifically targeting customers who have grandfathered-in unlimited data plans and are taking advantage to use extreme amounts of data. "Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a very small group of customers on unlimited plans who use an extraordinary amount of data that they must move to one of the new Verizon Plans by August 31, 2016," said Verizon in an email to Ars Technica. "These users are using data amounts well in excess of our largest plan size (100GB). While the Verizon Plan at 100GB is designed to be shared across multiple users, each line receiving notification to move to the new Verizon Plan is using well in excess of that on a single device." Customers who are cut off will be able to reactivate their account within 50 days as long as they agree to move to one of the current, metered service plans. Verizon hasn't offered unlimited plans since 2011, but customers have been able to hold onto them over the years. Not too long ago Verizon raised the prices of those plans by $20. In 2014 the company attempted to put in place a network optimization plan that would have throttled the heaviest users. The FCC fought Verizon's plan and the carrier eventually dropped it. Verizon says 99% of its postpaid customer base is subscribed to metered data plans.


Consumer Cellular Adds Alcatel Pop 3 and Others to Lineup

Jul 21, 2016, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumer Cellular recently added four phones to its roster of inexpensive devices, including the Alcatel Pop 3. The Pop 3 (pictured) has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 8 GB of storage, 5-megapixel camera, and FM radio. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and costs $100. Consumer Cellular also added the Samsung Galaxy J3 for $125, the ZTE Avid 828 (Avid Plus) for $70, and the Consumer Cellular 101 flip phone for $30.


T-Mobile Gives Away Free Service in Brazil for Olympics

Jul 21, 2016, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said its postpaid customers will have access to free mobile data and calling in Brazil for the entire month of August in honor of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. T-Mobile customers will not have to take any action to enjoy free roaming in Brazil. Those who travel to Brazil will have unlimited high-seed data, unlimited calling to the U.S., and unlimited texting worldwide during their visit. T-Mobile said it is supplying the families of Olympic athletes with free T-Mobile service and a Galaxy S7 Olympic Edition handset through October. AT&T debuted its own roaming plan for Brazil earlier this summer, but it costs $50 to add to an existing service plan. About 100,000 Americans are expected to make the trip to Brazil to watch and participate in the games.


Review: Motorola Z Droid, Z Force Droid for Verizon Wireless

Jul 21, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola's flagship smartphones for 2016 are the Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid for Verizon Wireless. These Android smartphone are unique thanks to their slim, metal designs and swappable modular back panels. Here is Phonescoop's full review of these handsome handsets.

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Verizon Kicks Off Preorders for Moto Z Droid and Z Force Droid

Jul 21, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 21, 2016, 8:19 AM

Verizon Wireless today began accepting preorders for the Motorola Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid, which will reach stores on July 28. The Moto Z costs $624 ($26 per month) and the Z Force costs $720 ($30 per month). Verizon customers may trade in their current flagship smartphone for up to $300 to put toward either Moto Z handset, or older phones for up to $200. Verizon Wireless also shared pricing details on the Moto Mods modular accessories that attach to the back of the Moto Z and Z Force: the JBL SoundBoost speaker costs $80, the Moto Insta-Share Projector costs $300, the Tumi power pack costs $60, the Kate Spade New York power pack costs $90, and Incipio's rear plates cost $15 each. The Moto Mods attach to the Moto Z and Z Force via magnets and enhance the capabilities of the phone. Verizon said that, for a limited time, customers who purchase one Mod with their Moto Z will receive 20% off any additional Mods they buy. The Moto Z and Z Force are Android smartphones. Each has a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, USB-C with QuickCharge, and fingerprint reader.


Latest Skype Update for iOS Improves Bot Discovery

Jul 21, 2016, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype recently updated its app for the iPhone and iPad to version 6.20. The refreshed app focuses on making bots easier to find and use. For example, Skype now includes a bot icon in the "recents" header. A simple tap takes you to an up-to-date list of bots for chatting. Skype users may now also mark their favorite bots so they are easier to return to. Skype says version 6.20 improves notification reliability and keeps muted conversations quiet. Skype is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

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