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printed August 26, 2016
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U.S. Cellular Adds More Data to Plans, But Also Bumps Prices

Today, 1:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular rolled out new Shared Connect plans that offer a pooled bucket of data to multiple lines. All the plans include unlimited talk and text in the U.S. The least expensive option costs $30 per month and includes 2 GB of data. Subsequent choices cost $45 per month for 4 GB, $60 for 8 GB, $80 for 16 GB, or $100 for 24 GB. The latter two plans include unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada. These prices don't include device access fees nor device payments. The new Shared Connect plans are available starting today.


Sprint Adds High-Quality Video Option to Unlimited Plan

Today, 9:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 9:56 AM

Sprint today moved to appease its video-loving customers with an add-on that provides unlimited HD video streaming. The Unlimited Freedom Premium plan costs $80 per month for a single line or $140 for two lines and includes 1080p HD high-quality video, music streaming at 1.5Mbps, and gaming at up to 8Mbps. The plan supplements the Unlimited Freedom plan, which costs $60 per month but includes only 480p standard-definition video streaming, 500Kbps music streaming, and 2Mbps gaming. Sprint said for a limited time customers who sign up for the Unlimited Freedom plan will be upgraded to the Unlimited Freedom Premium plan (through 10/31) at no extra cost.


Review: Samsung Galaxy Note7 for T-Mobile

Today, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung's Galaxy Note7 is one of the best phones of the year. This pricey phablet is a powerhouse of mobile computing. If you can afford it, there are few Android phones as feature-rich as the Note7.

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HTC Reveals Nougat Update Plans

Today, 6:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC revealed via its Twitter account that it plans to update some devices to Android 7.0 Nougat later this year. The unlocked HTC 10 will be first to receive Nougat at some point during the fourth quarter. HTC will follow that with the unlocked One M9 and unlocked One A9, but it didn't specify timing for these two phones. The carrier versions of all three of these devices will also see Nougat down the road, but again HTC didn't provide specifics. The news walks backs HTC's initial promise to provide Nougat to the HTC 10 within 15 days of Google's Nexus-branded devices (which received Nougat on Aug. 22). The company didn't explain why it isn't sticking to its earlier commitment.


Google Killing Off Device Assist Tool On Nexus Phones

Today, 6:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has begun informing owners of Nexus devices that it is shutting down the Device Assist app. The app, which first appeared in 2014, was meant to serve as a support tool for Nexus handsets. Google did not explain why it is discontinuing the tool. The change is effective immediately.


Apple Pushes iOS 9.3.5 to Patch Security Holes

Yesterday, 1:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 9.3.5 available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod. The update, according to Apple, resolves three security issues. Two of the problems could have led to remote code execution. Apple suggests all users update as soon as possible. The update is free to download over the air.


Google Adds Actual Games to Mobile Search

Yesterday, 9:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made several simple games available to play directly in search results. Performing a search for solitaire will bring up a playable version of the card game. Similarly, users can search for tic-tac-toe to strategize Xs and Os. Google also made a simple coin toss function available in search to help people settle bets. Google says more simple and fun games are headed to search in the near future. The games can be assessed via the desktop or mobile devices.


Samsung Releases Pink Gold Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge

Yesterday, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 2:36 PM

Samsung today announced a pink gold version of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. The new color will be available only at Best Buy stores in the U.S. For a limited time, customers who buy and activate the pink gold Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge from Best Buy will receive a $150 gift certificate to Best Buy. The pink gold handset goes on sale August 28. They be sold, carrier locked, to AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless customers.

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WhatsApp to Share User Data with Facebook

Yesterday, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

WhatsApp today updated its terms of service and revealed plans to share data with its parent company, Facebook. The company says coordinating with Facebook will allow it to better track metrics to do things like fight spam. It will use the information for advertising purposes, as well. "By connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them," explained WhatsApp in a blog post. Users will have the ability to opt out of sharing their data, but must do so proactively via WhatsApp's privacy tools.


Google Drive, Play Music See Updates on Android

Yesterday, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Google Drive and Google Play Music apps for Android devices, giving new features to both apps. Google Drive now allows people to set home screen shortcuts for their favorite or frequently-used files and folders. The update also makes it easier to control notifications and upgrade or change the storage plan. Google Play Music adds a sleep timer that people can use to control how long their device plays music. The app also features new control buttons and other minor tweaks. Google Drive and Google Play Music for Android are both free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Gives Nexus Phones Access to WiFi Assistant

Wednesday, 11:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 11:32 AM

Google this week made its WiFi Assistant feature available to all Nexus devices. The tool is a direct carryover from Google's Project Fi. The WiFi Assistant lets Nexus owners automatically and securely connect to more than one million free, open WiFi hotspots that are certified by Google. Users won't be required to sign in or set up accounts to access the WiFi. Moreover, Google manages the connection and ensures it is protected. Google says the tool can help improve average connection speeds and lower monthly data consumption, regardless of which wireless carrier provides cellular service to the phone. The Google WiFi Assistant is available to Nexus devices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Nordic countries. Google says it will roll out over the next few weeks. Project Fi relies on WiFi for calling and data, but also hops onto Sprint, T-Mobile, or U.S. Cellular when WiFi is not available.


Verizon to Bring VoLTE to Prepaid Later this Year

Wednesday, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 6:55 AM

Verizon Wireless plans to give its prepaid subscribers access to VoLTE services, including HD Voice and video calls in the near future. Prepaid customers will need to add HD Voice to their account before they can make HD calls, but the add-on will be free. Calls will be billed by the minute, even though they are routed over the LTE data network rather than Verizon's legacy voice network. HD Voice supports six-way conference calls, one- or two-way video calls, and WiFi calling. As always, both the handset making the call and the handset receiving the call need to have the feature enabled and must be connected via LTE for HD Voice to function properly. Verizon said it anticipates launching HD Voice for its prepaid customers early this fall.


Microsoft Adds GIF Search to Its iPhone Keyboard

Wednesday, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's Word Flow keyboard now features a search tool for finding GIFs, images, and emojis. The search functionality also allows iPhone owners to find contacts and look up restaurants. Microsoft says the app includes more predictions, including GIFs, that show up as users type. Word Flow now makes it possible to control the cursor placement with 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The app gains some accuracy improvements, particularly when in one-handed mode, and support for the iOS text replacement function. Last, Word Flow has even more themes that people can use to customize their keyboard. Word Flow from Microsoft is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Sony Talks Up Plans for Android 7 Nougat

Tuesday, 12:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today highlighted which devices it plans to update to Android 7 Nougat. Sony will make Nougat available to the: Xperia Z3+ and Z4 Tablet; Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact, and Z5 Premium; and the Xperia X, XA, XA Ultra, and X Performance. Sony said it is working to bring Nougat to these devices as quickly as it can, but reminds owners that availability will vary depending on region, carrier, and other factors. Sony will provide more detailed information as it becomes available.


Google to Tackle Annoying Popup Mobile Ads

Tuesday, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it plans to change how it ranks mobile search results in a way that will make content easier to find and consume. First, the company will remove the "optimized for mobile" tag that often accompanies results. Google says 85% of mobile search results already meet this criteria and it is no longer necessary to call it out. Removing the label will declutter search results and allow more results to be seen. Google is already in the process of removing the tag. Second, Google is going after web sites that take advantage of mobile search to serve interstitial popup ads. Specifically, Google will de-prioritize the rankings of sites that a show a popup that covers the content; display a standalone interstitial that must be dismissed before accessing the content; or use a layout where the above-the-fold portion looks like a standalone interstitial. Google says such ad practices often frustrate users and don't promote a good mobile experience. Google will begin lowering the search rank of web sites that use these frustrating ads January 10, 2017. Google says some interstitials are okay, such as those that require age verification, or those that use a reasonable amount of screen space, and are easily dismissed.


Opera Brings Its Mobile VPN to Android Devices

Tuesday, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera Software today launched a free VPN for Android devices that allows smartphone and tablet owners to browse the web more securely and access what might be prohibited content when using managed networks. The VPN removes ad trackers for privacy purposes and supports virtual locations (U.S., Canada, Germany, Singapore, and the Netherlands), which should let people get around some region-based restrictions. The VPN includes a WiFi tester that can detect the strength of WiFi security. If the VPN determines the network isn't secure, it will recommend users connect through the VPN. The WiFi sniffer also checks to see if the network its public or private, if it's encrypted, how many other devices are using it, if the IP address/location are exposed, and whether or not others can see your device. Opera imagines the VPN will be useful to students and office workers who are restricted from accessing social networks or other types of web sites when using campus or office WiFi. Opera VPN is free to downloaded from the Google Play Store. Opera made the same VPN available to iOS devices earlier this year.


Lenovo to Preload Microsoft Apps on Android Phones

Tuesday, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo has agreed to install Microsoft's core productivity applications on some of its Android-based devices. The apps include Microsoft Office, OneDrive, and Skype. Lenovo said the productivity apps will reach millions of customers over the next few years. The agreement between Lenovo and Microsoft also includes a patent cross-licensing accord, allowing Lenovo to use Microsoft patents on its own devices, as well as those that carry the Motorola brand. Microsoft has patent-licensing agreements in place with most Android device makers. Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.


Night Mode Reaches Twitter's iOS App

Monday, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today made its night mode tool available to devices running iOS. Twitter says night mode should make viewing the app in the dark less stressful on the eyes. The refreshed app includes a tool in the settings menu that, when activated, changes the background from white to a deep blue. Twitter for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Night mode has been available to Android devices since last month.

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