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printed October 10, 2015
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Samsung Cleared In Nvidia Patent Case

Yesterday, 2:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung is not infringing on patents held by Nvidia, says the U.S. International Trade Commission. Nvidia filed the lawsuit more than a year ago, wherein it claimed Samsung's Exynos chips made use of Nvidia's technology without authorization or payment. Nvidia made similar claims against Qualcomm, targeting the company's Snapdragon processors. A law judge cleared Samsung of violating two of three Nvidia patents, and declared the third invalid. With an initial ruling in the books, the decision will be reviewed by the full ITC council before a final judgment is rendered. The ITC has the power to enact import bans and is often used as a venue for tech companies to play out patent-related squabbles.

Verizon Launches 5 Prepaid Plans for Tablets, Hotspots

Yesterday, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today revealed five new options for customers who want to connect their tablets or hotspots to Verizon's network on a no-contract basis. The month-to-month data plans cost $15 per week for 500MB, or $20 per month for 1GB, $35 for 2GB, $60 for 5GB, or $100 for 10GB. Customers can enroll in auto-pay to keep their accounts active, or top up only when needed. Verizon says customers can replenish their accounts directly on their device, online, or via refill cards. The plans are compatible with 3G/4G-equipped tablets and other mobile broadband devices.

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Unannounced OnePlus Handset Revealed by FCC

Yesterday, 10:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today revealed an unannounced smartphone from OnePlus. The model number listed by the FCC is One E1005. The device differs in design from the OnePlus One and OnePlus Two handsets in that it has round top and bottom edges and an off-set camera on the back. It resembles an iPhone to a certain degree, based on images included in the FCC documents. The FCC indicates the One E1005 has a 1.9GHz processor and support for LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, and FM radios. OnePlus handsets generally run Oxygen OS, a forked version of Android Lollipop. The FCC documents don't confirm what platform the E1005 runs. OnePlus has scheduled a media event for Oct. 12 in India, and it's possible the One E1005 will be announced at during that event.

Apple: A9-Driven Battery Variances Limited to 2-3%

Yesterday, 7:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has responded to a series of claims that suggest there are palpable differences in battery life produced by the Samsung- and TSMC-sourced A9 processor in its new iPhones. Both Samsung and TSMC are making the A9 processor for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Samsung's version uses a 14nm process and has a slightly smaller footprint than the TSMC 16nm chip. Several benchmark tests (AnTuTu, Geekbench, et al) imply that Samsung's A9 drains the battery up to two hours sooner than TSMC's A9. Apple says such tests aren't realistic and real-world variances are in the order of 2-3% — or about 12 to 15 minutes per day under normal usage. "Certain manufactured lab tests which run the processors with a continuous heavy workload until the battery depletes are not representative of real-world usage, since they spend an unrealistic amount of time at the highest CPU performance state," said Apple in a statement provided to Techcrunch. "It's a misleading way to measure real-world battery life. Our testing and customer data show the actual battery life of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, even taking into account variable component differences, vary within just 2-3% of each other." Such variances fall into acceptable norms for most consumer electronics.

Facebook Messenger Expands to Apple Watch

Yesterday, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple Watch owners can now read their incoming Facebook Messenger messages on their wearable. A recent update to the iOS app adds compatibility with Apple's smartwatch. People can also send voice clips, likes, and stickers. In addition to Apple Watch functionality, Facebook Messenger will now reveal contacts and conversations in the iPhone's search tool. Moreover, Facebook Messenger gains support for the iPad's split-screen multitasking capability. Facebook Messenger is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

California to Require Warrants for Stingrays

Yesterday, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law that prohibits the government from snooping on citizens' electronic communications without first obtaining a warrant. The law, called the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act, forbids the government from "accessing electronic device information by means of physical interaction or electronic communication with the device." For example, police will no longer be able to use stingrays unless they get permission from a judge to do so. Stingrays act like cell towers and trick phones into connecting with them. Once connected, police are able to pull location, call, messaging, and other data from handsets in bulk. One complaint about stingrays centers on the fact that they collect data on thousands of innocent citizens while police search for specific devices. The law was backed by the ACLU and tech companies including Airbnb, Apple, Facebook, and Google. Its broad language means it can be applied to future technologies if needed. "Governor Brown just signed a law that says 'no' to warrantless government snooping in our digital information. This is a landmark win for digital privacy and all Californians," said Nicole Ozer, an ACLU lawyer. California isn't the first to enact such legislation. Similar laws already exist in Minnesota, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. The law covers California-based law enforcement, but not federal organizations.

Apple Now Selling Unlocked iPhone 6s, 6s Plus

Yesterday, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has added the option to purchase SIM-free, unlocked iPhones to its web site. The iPhone 6s (model A1633) and iPhone 6s Plus (model A1634) are compatible with a wide range of LTE networks, including those of AT&T, T-Mobile, and can be used on any GSM network in the U.S. or abroad. The devices are sold at full cost, without carrier contracts or obligations.

Starbucks to Support Apple Pay Next Year

Thursday, 4:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 5:23 PM

iPhone owners will be able to pay for purchases at Starbucks shops beginning next year, reports Re/code. Apple Pay exec Jennifer Bailey said Apple and Starbucks will begin trialling Apple Pay in some stores this year, with the broader roll-out to all U.S. stores expected some time in 2016. Bailey did not say if Apple Pay will include Starbucks' customer loyalty program. Apple Pay is available on the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus. Apple's mobile payment service launched last October at 700,000 locations and has slowly added more retailers and banks over the last twelve months. Starbucks maintains its own mobile app and mobile payment service through which customers can earn rewards. Chili's and KFC also plan to support Apple Pay in 2016.

AT&T iPhone Owners Can Now Use WiFi Calling

Thursday, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 1:20 PM

AT&T today enabled WiFi calling on the iPhone. iPhone owners who've updated to iOS 9 can make and receive voice calls via WiFi rather than cellular networks. The feature is meant to help people remain connected when cellular coverage is poor. WiFi calling can be set up directly from the iPhone and requires several steps. AT&T says customers have to have a post-paid account set-up wth HD Voice in order to activate the feature. WiFi calling works automatically with the subscriber's existing phone number. The service is free to use. Earlier this week, the FCC granted AT&T permission to offer WiFi calling by approving a waiver concerning services for hard-of-hearing customers. Sprint and T-Mobile have offered WiFi calling for the better part of a year with no such waiver from the FCC. AT&T chided the FCC for failing to take any sort of corrective action against them.

AT&T and T-Mobile to Swap Some Spectrum

Thursday, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and T-Mobile have agreed to exchange some PCS and AWS-1 spectrum licenses in a handful of markets. The carriers said identical amounts of spectrum are being traded, so each carrier's spectrum position will remain unchanged in the covered markets. AT&T and T-Mobile claim the exchange will help them create larger 15x15 MHz or 20x20 MHz blocks of contiguous spectrum. Larger blocks of spectrum can be put to more effective use in providing capacity. The markets include Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Sacramento, and San Antonio. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The FCC will need to approve the transaction before the companies can exchange the spectrum licenses.

BlackBerry CEO Says 2016 May Be Last Year for Smartphones

Thursday, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen today said its smartphone business needs to generate a profit in 2016, "Otherwise, I have to think twice about what I do there." Chen's comments offer more insight into BlackBerry's frame of mind regarding smartphones. Just last week, the company announced the Priv, a vertical slider that will run Android rather than BlackBerry's own platform. Chen said if the company can port all of BlackBerry's security features to the Android platform, then it may drop BlackBerry OS completely. Chen has previously warned the company might cease making smartphones. "If I can't make money on the phone, I will be out of that telephone handset business," remarked Chen in August. In July, the company said it would make no more than one or two smartphones per year. The Priv is expected to arrive before the end of 2015.

Facebook to Test 'Reactions' Rather than 'Dislike'

Thursday, 10:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today said it is prepared to expand the way people interact with posts in the Newsfeed by providing more than just the Like button. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently hinted that the company is working on a way to show more emotional responses to posts. Reactions, which include Like, Love, Haha, Yay, Wow, Sad, and Angry, appear to be the answer. Facebook plans to test Reactions in Ireland and Spain starting this week to gauge how effective they are. Facebook said it will infer people who interact with posts — whether it be to like a story or share empathy — will want to to see similar posts more often. Facebook didn't say how long it plans to test the feature before rolling it out to everyone.

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Verizon to Raise Unlimited Data Plan By $20

Thursday, 8:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 9:42 AM

Verizon Wireless intends to increase the price of its grandfathered unlimited mobile data plan by $20 per month to a total of $49.99. The change affects only 1% of Verizon customers, who've held onto these unlimited plans for some time. Verizon doesn't offer unlimited plans to new customers any more, who instead need to purchase mobile data in buckets. Any customer who has an unlimited plan under contract will be able to keep the current pricing until the contract terms are fulfilled; however, the majority of people with unlimited data plans are off contract. The $49.99 includes unlimited data, but not voice/messaging services; those cost extra. To offset the increased price a little bit, Verizon will allow people with these old unlimited plans to purchase devices through an installment plan, rather than the full retail cost. Verizon currently offers data in S, M, L, XL, and XXL allotments in prices ranging from $30 for 1GB to $100 for 15GB. Verizon said the change will go into effect after Nov. 15. Government and corporate accounts will not be affected.

Samsung Says LoopPay Hack Didn't Harm Customer Data

Thursday, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung said a recent hack of subsidiary LoopPay did not impact Samsung Pay, its mobile payment service. Samsung purchased LoopPay in February to bolster its Samsung Pay product, which is able to use NFC and LoopPay's MST technology to make mobile purchases in retail stores. "Samsung Pay was not impacted and at no point was any personal payment information at risk," said Samsung in a statement. "This was an isolated incident that targeted the LoopPay office network, which is a physically separate network from Samsung Pay." Samsung Pay launched just a few weeks ago. It allows owners of the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5 to pay for goods and services at a wide range of businesses around the U.S. LoopPay's MST technology makes Samsung Pay much more widely available than Android Pay and Apple Pay, which are limited to terminals with NFC.

Minor Update to Google Search for iOS Adds GIF Playback

Thursday, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated its Search application for iOS devices and added a few new features along the way. The chief addition is the ability to play animated GIFs in photo search results. Other new functions allow users to add photos to reviews of local places and view maps results when searching for specific addresses. Google Search 9.0 is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Sony Buys Image Sensor Corp, to Sell Publishing Unit

Thursday, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony is making more moves to reorganize its varied businesses, including the purchase of an image sensor company and the potential sale of its music-publishing business. First, the company has acquired Softkinetic Systems, based in Belgium, for an undisclosed sum. Softkinetic's technology helps image sensors determine how long it takes light to bounce off an object and return to the sensor. Earlier this week, Sony said it plans to spin off its image sensor business into a separate company amidst strong demand for those products. Second, Sony is looking to sell its half of the Sony/ATV Music Publishing company. Sony and the estate of the late Michael Jackson have each owned 50% of the company since 1995. It is one of the largest music-publishing businesses in the world and boasts the catalogs of The Beatles, Taylor Swift, Marvin Gaye, and the Rolling Stones, among others. The business is valued at about $2 billion, but Sony has not yet put a price tag on it. Sony triggered a clause in its contract with the Jackson estate to sell its half. The Jackson estate will have the opportunity to purchase the entire business or allow it to be sold to a third party. Sony has spent more than year attempting to reinvigorate its numerous businesses as sales of core consumer electronics products such as televisions and smartphones have dropped.

Dish May Bid In 600MHz Auction Next Year

Wednesday, 4:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 7:48 AM

Dish Network is evaluating whether or not to participate in the FCC's 600MHz incentive auction next year, according to an executive. The company might bid on airwave licenses even though it was recently denied a $3.3 billion discount on licenses it won in this year's AWS-3 auction. The company did not say what it plans to do with the spectrum. Dish already owns a significant swath of spectrum, but has yet to deploy any sort of wireless network. Sprint recently said it will not participate in the auction, while T-Mobile has been very vocal about its plans to spend up to $10 billion securing country-wide 600MHz airwaves.

WhatsApp to Use Google Drive to Store Messages

Wednesday, 1:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said WhatsApp users will soon be able to back up their conversations, photos, voice messages, and videos to Google Drive. The data will be stored securely and can be used to restore chat histories to new devices. Google said it is rolling the feature out slowly over the next few months.

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