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printed December 4, 2016
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Apple Quickly Releases iOS 10.2 Beta 5

Friday, 2:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 10.2 beta 5 for developers, mere days after releasing beta 4. App writers can download and test beta 5 of iOS 10.2. Previous beta releases of iOS 10.2 show the platform includes Unicode 9 with a fresh batch of emoji, as well as new wallpapers, iMessage screen effects, camera settings, video widgets, and emergency contact alerts. Apple hasn't yet updated the public beta to match the developer beta.


Review: Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and Project Tango

Friday, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Phab 2 Pro is the first Project Tango handset to reach the market and sets the stage for our augmented reality-filled future. This massive Android smartphone features four cameras and the ability to track motion and measure distances. These help bring AR environments to life on the giant screen. Here is Phonescoop's report.

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FCC Unhappy with AT&T and Verizon's Zero-Rated Services

Friday, 12:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Friday, 2:38 PM

The FCC believes zero-rating content can hurt consumers and competition. The agency sent letters to AT&T and Verizon Wireless this week calling them out for exempting their own video services (DirecTV Now and go90, respectively) from customers' data caps. The agency believes the practice gives the carriers' own services an advantage over competing services. "We have therefore reached the preliminary conclusion that these practices inhibit competition, harm consumers, and interfere with the 'virtuous cycle' needed to assure the continuing benefits of the Open Internet," wrote FCC wireless bureau chief Jon Wilkins writes in the letter to AT&T. The FCC has already warned carriers that zero-rating content may be harmful. The regulatory body did not say if it intends to take steps or action against the carriers. The companies have until December 15 to respond to the FCC's letters. AT&T announced DirecTV Now earlier this week. The service is available to anyone who cares to pay for it, but only AT&T Mobility customers can watch via LTE without impacting their monthly data cap.

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Verizon's LG G5 Receiving Android 7 Nougat

Thursday, 5:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless says its variant of the LG G5 smartphone is on deck for the Android 7 Nougat system update. The update adds new themes to the G5, the ability to retrieve deleted messages, multi-window support, enriched notifications, tweaked Quick Settings tools, simplified Settings Menu, and more sound settings. Verizon is encouraging G5 owners to download the system update via WiFi. Users will be notified once the update is ready for their phone. Verizon is rolling the update out in waves over the next few days.


Motorola: Wearables Don't Have Enough Appeal

Thursday, 5:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola does not plan to launch new smartwatches alongside the debut of Android Wear 2.0 early next year, reports The Verge. Shakil Barkat, Motorola's head of global product development, indicated the company will not release new hardware once Google's revised wearable platform hits the street. Motorola doesn't "see enough pull in the market to put [a new smartwatch] out at this time," said Barkat, though Motorola may revisit smartwatches down the road. "Wearables do not have broad enough appeal for us to continue to build on it year after year." Motorola's last wearable was the Moto 360 smartwatch, which debuted in September 2015. Since then, the company has focused chiefly on its mobile phones. Motorola hasn't written off wearables completely. "We believe the wrist still has value and there will be a point where they provide value to consumers more than they do today," noted Barkat. Huawei, too, has said it won't make more Android-based smartwatches, and Samsung swore off Android Wear in favor of its own Tizen platform some time ago. Google delayed the launch of Android Wear 2.0 from September to early in 2017.


Motorola Debuts Two New Mods for Moto Z Series

Thursday, 1:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today took the wraps off two additional Moto Mods for its Moto Z series of handsets. The first mod is a juice pack from Mophie (pictured) that packs a 3,000mAh power cell and 15W USB-C charging. A series of LED lights indicates how much power is within the juice pack and both the phone and the juice pack will charge when attached to one another and plugged in. The Mophie juice pack is available for preorder for $80 from Verizon Wireless' web site. The second mod is an in-car dock from Incipio. The $65 accessory holds, charges, and connects Moto Z handsets to most cars via the air conditioning fins. When docked, the phone automatically launches Android Auto for safer in-car use. Motorola didn't say when the two new mods will ship. The company did mention that it intends to release an average of four new mods per quarter moving through 2017.


BlackBerry Pushing Updates to Priv, DTEK50, DTEK60

Thursday, 12:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry's trio of Android smartphones can now download a series of system and software updates that add features and bolster performance. BlackBerry Hub+, for example, now allows users to hide specific accounts or stop them from syncing, as well as create custom views for emails from specific contacts. The BlackBerry Keyboard app has been improved with easier switching between languages, expanded Chinese language input, and support for fingerprint authentication (DTEK60 only). The BlackBerry Launcher has a new dark theme, and BlackBerry Password Keeper introduces a built-in browser, autofill tweaks, and support for non-Latin characters. Google says Priv, DTEK50, and DTEK60 owners should receive notifications once the updates are available to their handset.


Republic Wireless to Become Independent from Parent Corp

Thursday, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Bandwidth.com today said it will divest its Republic Wireless business, spinning the company off into a separate business. Republic Wireless has been selling low-cost service since 2011. It relies mostly on WiFi, but when WiFi is not available its customers are able to connect via the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile. Bandwidth.com also powers Alphabet's Fi service and Microsoft's Skype service. Bandwidth.com's leadership feel Republic has grown enough thanks to its 300,000 subscribers and $100 million in annual revenue, and its time the company stood on its own. Moreover, Republic competes with Bandwidth.com properties such as Fi and it no longer makes sense to house competing products under the same roof. Once the spin-off is complete, Bandwidth.com chief operating officer Chris Chuang will be named CEO of Republic Wireless. Republic does not intend to make any immediate chances to its existing service plans.


Nokia Pins Smartphone Comeback on HMD Global

Thursday, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it plans to return to the smartphone business during the first half of 2017 through its partnership with HMD Global. HMD Global recently completed a series of transactions between HMD, FIH Mobile Limited, and Microsoft that will allow it to make phones bearing the Nokia brand. The partnership between HMD and Nokia was first announced in May. HMD Global is a Finland-based business and will design smartphones that will then be manufactured exclusively by Foxconn. Foxconn is one of the world's largest device makers and manufactures the iPhone for Apple. HMD Global will pay Nokia licensing and royalty fees for smartphone and tablet sales. HMD Global boasts experienced Nokia veterans among its leadership team, but Nokia itself has no investment nor ownership stake in HMD. HMD Global and Nokia are relying on the know-how of the former Nokia execs at HMD's helm and the strength of the Nokia brand to return to the market. Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft in 2014, which was then wholly based in Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Moving forward, Nokia-branded handsets will run Google's Android platform. "We've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown around the world for the return of the Nokia brand to smartphones," said Brad Rodrigues, interim president of Nokia Technologies.


Sony Pushing Nougat to Xperia XZ and X Performance

Thursday, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today said it has begin distributing the Android 7 Nougat operating system to its Xperia XZ and Xperia X Performance smartphones. The platform includes multi-window support, longer battery life, more messaging options, manual camera controls, and a revised home screen experience that includes Google Now. Sony said it is rolling the update out slowly. Owners of older Sony Xperia phones will be happy to learn that the company plans to make Android 7.0, Nougat available for the Xperia Z3+, Z4 Tablet, Z5, Z5 Compact, Z5 Premium, X, XA, XA Ultra, and X Compact. Sony didn't say when these devices will receive the update.


Motorola May Create Project Tango Mod for Moto Z

Wednesday, 4:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Moto Z series of handsets might be given the power of Project Tango through a modular accessory, according to Motorola CEO Aymar de Lencquesaing. Speaking to journalists today Lencquesaing said, "The tablet folks did a phablet and worked with Google, the Tango team, to come out with a Tango phablet." That device is the Lenovo Phab2 Pro. "Going forward, we'll have to address as a group how do we reconcile the products that are at the fringe? We're likely to have a Tango module to basically enable the Z to have Tango functionality." Project Tango as realized on the Phab2 Pro uses a series of cameras to measure the environment and then map over it with augmented reality content. Lencquesaing did not say if a module for the Z is already in the works, nor when such a module might be released.


OnePlus 3 Granted Android 7 Nougat Beta

Wednesday, 3:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today made OxygenOS Open Beta 8 available to the OnePlus 3 smartphone. This new platform shifts from Marshmallow to Nougat and introduces a significant number of user interface changes. For example, the beta build refreshes the design of the notifications and setting menus. It also adds multi-window view, notification direct reply, status bar icon options, and quick launch for third-party applications. OnePlus says there are some known issues in the Nougat beta, which breaks Android Pay and introduces some stability and performance problems. OnePlus warns that the beta cannot be installed over-the-air and will instead need to be side loaded manually. Moreover, beta testers will not easily be able to return to earlier versions of Android/OxygenOS without reformatting their device. OnePlus said it is working to create a single software build for the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T based on Nougat. It expects to do that by the end of the year. Until then, the 3 and 3T will be updated separately. The company recently updated both handsets. The 3T, for example, was updated to OxygenOS 3.5.3 while the 3 was updated to OxygenOS 3.2.8. Both of these system builds are incremental updates that focus mainly on resolving bugs and performance issues. They are rolling out slowly as over-the-air installations.


Twitter Lets People Create Moments from their Phone

Wednesday, 1:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today made its Moments story-creation tool available on mobile phones. Moments, which has been available on the web since September, lets people assemble a series of Tweets about a subject or event into a single package that tells a complete story. Moments are found in a separate tab in the Android and iOS mobile Twitter apps. People can subscribe to Moments, which will be inserted into the timeline. Moments can be loaded with multimedia, such as photos or videos, to make them more engaging. Moments are displayed in chronological order, with discernible beginning, middle, and end segments. The feature is being rolled out to mobile users worldwide.


YouTube Kicks Off 4K Live Streams

Wednesday, 12:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube today said people can now livestream video at up to 4K resolution. YouTube has supported 4K playback since 2010, but today marks the first time users are able to stream 4K video live. People can stream both standard and 360-degree video in ultra high definition at up to 60 frames per second for smooth action. YouTube believes the option will benefit its creators.


Netflix Adds Support for Offline Viewing

Wednesday, 9:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 9:22 AM

Netflix today made it possible for U.S. customers to download and store movies and television shows on mobile devices for offline playback. Netflix made the announcement via its Twitter account and said, "Airplane mode. Road trip mode. Stuck-in-the-subway-for-20-minutes mode. Your favorite stories are now available for download any time." The initial selection of shows and movies that can be downloaded is rather small, but should expand over time. A new version of the Netflix app is being made available to Android and iOS devices today that supports offline playback. The feature does not cost extra to use. Competing services, such as Amazon Prime Video, have supported offline playback for some time.


Review: JLab Audio Crasher XL Bluetooth Speaker

Tuesday, 4:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Crasher XL is a heavy-duty, waterproof Bluetooth speaker from JLab Audio. It boasts an attractive industrial design, killer battery life, and huge amounts of powerful sound. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth review.

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Facebook Messenger Now Lets People Challenge Friends to Video Games

Tuesday, 12:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has added video games to its Messenger application. Launching in beta in 30 countries, Facebook users will be able to play Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, and 14 other games inside Messenger. The gaming feature lets people challenge one another and creates a score-based leaderboard with game results. The feature is available to newer Android and iOS devices and will be added to the newest version of the Messenger app. Facebook says it will add more titles and expand to more markets over time.


DirecTV Not Zero-Rated for Cricket Customers

Tuesday, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's prepaid service, Cricket Wireless, is offering customers a one-month free trial of DirecTV Now, the new internet-based television service from AT&T. Unlike AT&T, however, Cricket is not zero-rating DirecTV Now. This means Cricket customers cannot watch an unlimited amount of DirecTV Now via Cricket's wireless network. Instead, they will be encouraged to seek out WiFi whenever possible. Cricket says customers can use the Cricket WiFi app, which is preloaded on most phones, to find free WiFi hotspots. DirecTV Now includes four pricing tiers that range from $35 to $70 per month. For a limited time, early adopters can score 100 channels of content at the entry-level $35 price. HBO and Cinemax cost $5 extra.

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