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printed March 28, 2017
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Google Search App for iPhone Gains a Home Screen Widget

Today, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its main Search application for the iPhone and added a widget for the home screen. Technically, iOS doesn't support true home screen widgets other than those in the notification panel. In order to make it work, a 3D Touch of the Search app brings up a "Trending on Google" widget directly on the screen with breaking news, trends, and hot topics. A quick press of any of the cards takes users to the content in question. The widget doesn't support users' customized Google cards, which are still located in the main Google app. People interested in using the widget will need to turn it on manually in the app's settings. Google added other 3D Touch actions, as well. A hard press on the Google app icon opens a set of quick search actions from the home screen, but it now also lets people start a new search from within the Google app itself. A hard press of the G button on the bottom of the screen opens a new search immediately, and a hard press on search results can provide a preview of the content before opening it fully. The Google Search app also now works more seamlessly with Google's GBoard keyboard for the iPhone. Google Search is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Samsung Says No Refurbished Galaxy Note7s In the US

Today, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Galaxy Note7 fans in the U.S. will not be able to buy a refurbished model, reports Reuters. Samsung "will not be offering refurbished Galaxy Note7 devices for rent or sale in the U.S.," according to a statement provided by the company. On Monday, Samsung announced plans to sell reconditioned Note7s in select markets, though it has yet to say where. Phones that cannot be reconditioned will be broken down into their individual components so Samsung can scavenge them for use in other devices.

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T-Mobile Pitches Free MLB Content to Customers

Today, 8:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said baseball fans will be able to watch every regular season Major League Baseball game on their smartphones for free. T-Mobile has again partnered with MLB and is providing customers with access to a free year of MLB.TV Premium, which includes MLB.com At Bat Premium. T-Mobile customers can stream every out-of-market regular season game to their Apple or Google smartphone and tablet via the MLB.TV app. At Bat Premium is a mobile sports app for watching home and away broadcasts, and it also includes player stats, highlights, and other information. T-Mobile One customers don't need to worry about streaming on their plan thanks to unlimited data. T-Mobile says games will be streamed in standard definition by default, but can be viewed in HD if customers wish. The free year-long subscription will available for just 24 hours on April 4. T-Mobile customers will need to redeem the free subscription via the T-Mobile Tuesdays application and then sign up for MLB.TV Premium no later than April 11. T-Mobile made a similar offering to customers last year.


Facebook Folds More Snapchat Features Into Its Main Mobile App

Today, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today expanded the way people are able to share photos and videos by bringing new camera tools to its mobile application. First, the camera is more accessible from within Facebook. A tap will turn it on. The camera includes dozens of effects like masks, frames, and interactive filters that people can apply to their pictures or movies. Reactive effects, specifically for videos, let people interact with on-screen animations in real time. Facebook is partnering with several movie studios and visual artists to ensure that the selection of effects changes over time. Second, Facebook is bringing stories, pioneered by Snapchat and later adopted by Facebook's own Instagram, to the main app. Stories will appear above the news feed and disappear automatically after 24 hours. Stories do not show up directly on users' timelines unless they want them to. Third, the app includes more sharing tools. Stories, as well as regular photos and videos, can be shared directly with others for one-time viewing. Photos and videos sent via the new Direct tool can be seen once, though the recipient will be able to respond. These new features are available to the Android and iPhone versions of Facebook mobile this week. The apps are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


Apple Releases iOS 10.3 to Everyone

Yesterday, 12:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 12:39 PM

Apple today made iOS 10.3 available to the public after several months of beta testing. The most significant feature of iOS 10.3 is a tool called Find My AirPods, which helps people locate lost earbuds via an audio alert. The system update also adopts the Apple File System (APFS), refreshes the Apple ID profile behaviors, tweaks animations, and provides more details concerning iCloud storage use. Other features include wider HomeKit compatibility with connected lightswitches, alerts concerning out-of-date apps, more CarPlay actions, and refined SiriKit behaviors for voice-based payments and other activities. People who own an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch can download and install iOS 10.3 for free. Apple also released final, public builds of watchOS 3.2, tvOS 10.2, OS X Sierra 10.12.4, and Xcode 8.3.


Facebook Messenger Gains Live Location Sharing

Yesterday, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made it possible for people to share their real-time location with others using Messenger. The optional tool is available to both Android and iOS devices. Live Location can be shared for up to 60 minutes and turned on or off at any time. The location data will pinpoint people on a map and provide estimated time of arrival when en route to specific points. It can be used to share static locations, such as an address or place of interest. The tool also includes a clock that clearly counts down how much longer location data will be shared. Facebook has been testing the feature for a while and says it can be useful when coordinating meet-ups with family and friends. Facebook Messenger is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store. Google recently added a similar feature to Google Maps.


Samsung Plans to Sell Refurbished Galaxy Note7

Yesterday, 9:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 9:42 AM

Samsung plans to bring back the Galaxy Note7, despite the massive recall that spelled the phone's demise last year. The company will sell refurbished versions of the phone, though Samsung is still determining where via talks with regulatory authorities and carriers. Samsung didn't detail exactly how the phone has been refurbished. It was pulled from store shelves shortly after launch due to faulty batteries. Presumably any refurbished units would, at a minimum, include brand new batteries. Note7 units that aren't refurbished for sale will be broken down into individual components so Samsung can recover chips, camera modules, and rare metals found within the phone. Samsung did not say when it expects to resurrect the Note7.


Cortana for Android Now Works On the Lock Screen

Yesterday, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made it possible for Android device owners to access and use Cortana above the lock screen on their smartphones. Microsoft has been testing the feature since earlier this year and is now rolling it out to all users. People can swipe on the lock screen to see Cortana's basic information screen as well as ask Cortana questions, set reminders, and view their calendar appointments. These features are all usable without requiring people to unlock their devices. Microsoft also improved Cortana home on Android, which now includes more glanceable information about daily schedules, commute times, reminders, as well as shortcuts to creating reminders and calendar items. Last, Microsoft is making Cortana available to Android and iOS devices in Australia. The new version of Cortana with lock screen access for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


T-Mobile Adds Free AppleCare to Its Device Insurance Plan

Yesterday, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today improved its monthly insurance program by offering AppleCare at no additional cost. Customers who subscribe to T-Mobile's Premium Device Protection and Jump! with Premium Device Protection insurance plans will have access to T-Mobile's insurance benefits as well as those offered by AppleCare. T-Mobile's plans cover loss, theft, accidental damage, hardware coverage, and security. AppleCare is available for the newest iPhones and iPads, including the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and iPad 9.7. AppleCare includes 24/7 technical support from Apple and low fees for certain repairs at Apple Stores and certified Apple repair facilities. For example, screen replacement deductibles cost just $29, while battery replacement service is free. T-Mobile's Premium Device Protection and Jump! with Premium Device Protection insurance plans cost $12 per month.


Alcatel A30 Reaches Amazon Prime‚Äč for Just $60

Saturday, 9:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Saturday, 9:56 AM

Amazon recently added the Alcatel A30 to its roster of Prime Exclusives. This entry-level Android handset includes a 5-inch HD screen and a 1.1 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with time-lapse recording while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Alcatel says the phone's 2,460mAh battery provides all-day life. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is sold in both CDMA and GSM variants, with LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile. Amazon is selling the phone for $60 with lock screen ads or for $100 without ads. It goes on sale April 19.


Google to Strip SMS from Hangouts May 22

Friday, 11:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today outlined a number of changes to its various messaging services, including a dramatic shift for Hangouts. Starting May 22, Google Hangouts will no longer support SMS for text messaging between phones. Hangouts will continue to work as a messaging client, it just cannot be used to send SMS messages. Earlier this year Google said it plans to refocus Hangouts on enterprise communications. Google is now pushing the Android Messages app as its primary SMS client. The company is working with carriers to add RCS to the Android Messages, and Google expects to see the app become the default SMS tool on Android phones over time. RCS in Android Messages will support features like read receipts, group chat, hi-res photo sharing, and more. Google plans to notify Hangouts users about the change in the coming weeks and will recommend they download Android Messages. The shift to Android Messages will not impact Hangouts users' message history. More importantly, Google says Google Voice and Project Fi customers will continue to be able to use Hangouts for SMS for the foreseeable future. In other Google messaging news, Google said it plans to get rid of Google Talk within Gmail and replace it with Google Hangouts. It began doing this several years ago, but will finalize the transition in June. The legacy Google Talk Android app, which was replaced in 2013, will cease working when the transition takes place. All Google Talk users should expect to use Google Hangouts moving forward. Google is also retiring a number of Gmail Labs, including Authentication Icon, Google Voice Player, Picasa previews, Pictures in chat, Quick Links, Quote Selected Text, Smartlabels, and Yelp previews. Last, Google is removing some Google+ functionality from Gmail, specifically the ability to email Google+ profiles and the use of Google+ Circles. These changes will take place after April 24.


FCC Relaxes Rules Governing 800 MHz Spectrum

Friday, 9:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC this week made it easier for carriers to add LTE to their 800 MHz spectrum holdings. Rules concerning the 800 MHz band (CDMA Band Class 0, LTE Band 5) have been in place since 1981 and limit how much power carriers can use to transmit wireless signals across those airwaves. The effect has stymied wide-scale LTE deployments in the 800 MHz band. By relaxing the outdated regulations, the FCC is essentially making it possible for companies that have 800 MHz spectrum to repurpose it for LTE. Specifically, the Commission plans to allow 800 MHz licensees to transmit the same amount of power across the spectrum band, putting it in line with how other, similar spectrum bands are treated. The FCC will demand that carriers take care to prevent interference with public safety's use of 800 MHz spectrum, but the Commission will also eliminate what it calls unnecessary rules and burdens related to application filings and other red tape. Verizon Wireless, which will benefit most from the change, lauded the decision. "The FCC's unanimous adoption today of Cellular Service Reform rules is a big win for wireless consumers," said the company. "Today's order enables Verizon to accelerate the conversion of 850 MHz spectrum from 3G and put it to use for 4G LTE. The upside for consumers is big: Verizon Wireless will be able to provide 4G LTE coverage on cellular spectrum to 20%-30% more of the US geography and also increase peak 4G LTE speeds by as much as 40%." The change also benefits AT&T, though to a lesser degree.


T-Mobile Takes Steps to Block Scam Calls

Friday, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it is rolling out new network-based tools to help identify and block potential scam calls. Beginning on April 5, T-Mobile will begin to analyze every call that reaches the T-Mobile network against a global database of known scammers. T-Mobile claims it can perform this analysis in a matter of milliseconds. If the number matches that of a scammer, T-Mobile will identify the call as a potential scam when it rings the subscriber's phone. Subscribers can then choose to ignore the call. This feature, which will eventually be available to all T-Mobile customers, is called Scam ID. It is being rolled out to T-Mobile One subscribers automatically, but any T-Mobile postpaid customers can enroll by texting T-Mobile. T-Mobile is also offering the ability for customers to block scam calls entirely. Subscribing to the Scam Block tool will prevent suspected scam calls from ringing T-Mobile phones. T-Mobile says its database of known and suspected scammers is updated constantly and can prevent IRS, medicaid, and other fraudulent calls from reaching customers. Both Scam ID and Scam Block are free. T-Mobile says it will offer these tools to its MetroPCS prepaid customers later in April.


Review: Motorola Moto G5 Plus

Friday, 6:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Moto G5 Plus is a mid-range Android smartphone that covers the basics and then some. It represents the company's most refined and powerful G yet. If you're in the market for a visually appealing, unlocked handset that outperforms most others at the same price, the Moto G5 Plus should be at the top of your list. Here is Phone Scoop's full review.

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Moto G5 Plus Goes On Sale March 31 for $230-$300

Friday, 6:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said the Moto G5 Plus will be available to U.S. buyers starting March 31. The company is selling two variants of the phone. The first has 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage and costs $229, while the second has 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage and costs $299. The phone will be sold by Motorola itself as well as Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Costco, Flash Wireless, Frys, NewEgg, Republic Wireless, Target, Ting, and Walmart. Amazon Prime members can score a small discount on the phone, with the 2 GB model costing $185 and the 4 GB model costing $240. The Moto G5 Plus comes in gold or silver. It includes a 5.2-inch full HD display, Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel user-facing camera, and wide support for U.S. LTE networks. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat.


T-Mobile's LG K20 Plus Packs Better Specs

Thursday, 2:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 2:28 PM

T-Mobile recently rolled out its own variant of the LG K20 and the phone has somewhat better specifications when compared to the Verizon variant of the same handset. The T-Mobile K20 includes the same 5.3-inch 720p display and 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, but improves RAM to 2 GB of RAM and storage to 32 GB. The phone boasts a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel front camera with selfie flash. It can record video up to 1080p HD. Other features include a 2,700mAh removable battery, microSD memory card slot, and Android 7 Nougat. The LG K20 Plus is already for sale from T-Mobile for $200. The K20 Plus is also known as the K10 (2017).


LG K20 V Hits Verizon Today for $170

Thursday, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today added the low-cost LG K20 V to its lineup of Android smartphones. The K20 V features a metal frame and rear-mounted fingerprint reader for security. The phone has a 5.3-inch 720p display and it is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone boasts a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel front camera. It can record video up to 720p HD. Other features include a 2,800mAh removable battery, microSD memory card slot, and Android 7 Nougat. The phone is available in stores and online today. The full retail price is $168, but Verizon is asking for just $99 with a two-year activation.


Facebook Messenger Adds Message Reactions and @Replies

Mar 23, 2017, 10:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 23, 2017, 11:06 AM

Facebook today announced several new features for Messenger that should make the messaging application even more interactive. First, the app adds the ability to react to messages in one-on-one or group chats. Pressing and holding any message brings up the love, smile, wow, sad, angry, yes, and no emojis, which can then be applied to the highlighted message. These same reactions are already available for news feed items. Participants in the conversation will be alerted when their messages receive a reaction, such as notifications on the lock screen. Messenger also gains the ability to mention specific people in a group chat by using an @reply construction. Using the @ symbol and then a participant's Facebook name calls them out specifically within a conversation. Like the reactions, @replies added to messages will generate notifications for those mentioned in the thread. The new tools are reaching Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS in the days ahead.

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