As the end of the year approaches so too does the season of giving. Holiday gifting lists are often filled with technology, but it isn't always easy to find that perfect item. We're here to help. Allow Phone Scoop's annual Holiday Gift Guide to be your helping hand this season. It's chock full of suggestions from handsets to headphones, in-home assistants, and everything in between.
OnePlus today said its OnePlus 5T flagship smartphone is now available for sale online. The device, announced earlier this month, in an update to the OnePlus 5. It stretches the screen to 6 inches, adopts the 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio, moves the fingerprint sensor to the rear of the phone, and changes up the camera configuration a bit. Otherwise, it offers the same basic specs and performance of the older OnePlus 5. The 5 has been available in hit-or-miss fashion over the last month, but is now officially discontinued by OnePlus. The 5T starts at $499 for the 6 GB / 64 GB model.
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Instagram today made it possible for people to join the live video broadcasts of their friends. The app now includes a "request" button that will ping the person streaming live video. That person can review, accept, or reject incoming requests. Once accepted, users will be notified that they're about to go live. The joined live view jumps to split-screen with the original broadcaster in one window and you in the other. Either party can leave the shared video stream at any time. Facebook says live videos may be shared to stories or discarded immediately. The new feature is available to the Android and iOS mobile Instagram apps, which are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.
Ajit Pai, the Republican Chairman of the FCC, today said he intends to abolish the net neutrality regulations put in place by the previous administration in favor of a "light touch" regulatory approach. "In 2015 the FCC ... imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the internet," argued Pai. "That decision was a mistake. It’s depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation." Pai provided no evidence to back this claim. "Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades." Pai says moving forward the FCC "would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them." Pai would also give control of privacy regulation back to the Federal Trade Commission, which would be responsible for policing internet providers and protecting consumers. The net neutrality rules as they stand today have bright-line rules about what ISPs can and cannot do in order to protect consumers and prevent prioritization schemes. Pai insists his approach will "unleash the digital revolution" that will benefit consumers. Pai plans to reveal his full plan later this week. The FCC is scheduled to vote on the matter at its next open meeting on December 14.
Sprint is adjusting its top ranks in an effort to streamline its management structure, according to an internal memo obtained by Fierce Wireless. To start, a number of executives are departing the company, including COO Günther Ottendorfer, who's been behind a lot of Sprint's network advancements. Ottendorfer framed the departure as a chance to return to his family in his home county of Austria. Other departures include Jeff Nelson and Jim Hyde. A handful of executives have been promoted, including Dow Draper, who is now the chief commercial officer, and Kevin Crull, who is now the chief strategy officer. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure has reduced the number of executives who report directly to him from 16 to nine, including Draper, Crull, COO Nestor Cano, President of Sprint Jan Geldmacher, and CTO John Saw. In addition to the management changes, Claure outlined plans to reimagine its corporate offices in a way that promotes teamwork. Claure and select executives are relocating to a new space on the Sprint campus to test the changes, which will be rolled out across Sprint offices nationwide if they function as hoped. "As we start this new chapter, we’re building an organization that is flatter, faster and closer than ever to our customers," said Claure to Sprint employees. "At the same time, we’re creating an environment where partners can collaborate more easily and are empowered to make the decisions that will enable Sprint’s success." The changes appear to be a response to the failed merger with T-Mobile.
Verizon Wireless is offering big discounts on this year's top phones through its Black Friday sale. Verizon will cover up to $378 off the price of the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, or Note8, the Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, or the Moto Z2 Force. Customers will need to sign up for Verizon's unlimited plan, but no trade-in is required. Customers will need to purchase the device, whether up front or financed, and Verizon will break down the $378 reimbursement in account credits over a period of 24 months. In other deals, Verizon will sell you a 32 GB iPad for $199 if you activate it on a two-year plan, or for $99 when purchased alongside an iPhone. These discounts are available online November 23 and in stores November 24 only. Verizon has other sales that begin Thursday and run through November 27. For example, customers can save $50 on a Google Home, $20 on a Google Home Mini, $20 on Google Daydream View, or $15 on a Chromecast Ultra. Verizon will discount the price of many Android handsets by $100 when activated with an unlimited plan. Last, Verizon is discounting tons of accessories, including FitBit wearables, Ultimate Ears and JBL Bluetooth speakers, and Nest smartphone products.
Google has updated its Gboard keyboard application for Android devices and added a handful of new features along the way. Primarily, the app gains support for 40 new languages, such as Japanese. The app also adds to the default Gboard sticker selection, fixes bugs, and improvements performance. Gboard is free to download from the Google Play Store.
The U.S. Department of Justice has sued to stop the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. The DOJ argues the combined entity would lead to higher TV content prices for consumers. The DOJ also suggests the deal would hurt AT&T/Time's rivals, "forcing them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for Time Warner's networks." The government agency is open to a settlement with AT&T and Time Warner, but suggests that divestments would be required. AT&T already owns DirecTV, which offers content nationwide via its satellite TV business. AT&T took issue with the lawsuit, calling it "a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent. Vertical mergers like this one are routinely approved because they benefit consumers without removing any competitor from the market. We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently." The company argues it is combining a content company with a delivery company, which should preclude it from antitrust regulation as neither is in direct competition with the other. "Fortunately, the Department of Justice doesn’t have the final say in this matter. Rather, it bears the burden of proving to the U.S. District Court that the transaction violates the law," concluded AT&T. AT&T first proposed the merger in October 2016.
Cricket Wireless is offering a number of free and discounted smartphones starting today. New customers who port in their number can snag either the LG Fortune or ZTE Overture 3 for free with an accompanying service plan. Customers looking for something slightly more powerful can grab the ZTE Blade X for $50 or the ZTE Blade X Max for $100. The discounts are available to new customers, though existing customers can get the same low prices if they pay a $25 upgrade fee. Other offers include the LG Fortune (free for switchers, $29.99 for existing customers), the LG X Charge ($49.99 for switchers, $99.99 for existing customers), LG Stylo 3 ($29.99 for switchers, $129.99 existing customers), and the LG Harmony ($9.99 for switchers, $59.99 for existing customers). Cricket says the sales prices are good through November 26 or as long as supplies last.
U.S. Cellular today announced a holiday offering that will provide customers with a free flagship smartphone. The company will give customers a free Samsung Galaxy S8, iPhone 8, LG G6, or Motorola Moto Z Force when they sign up for an unlimited plan between November 22 and November 27. Customers will need to trade-in a recent flagship, such as the Galaxy S6, iPhone 6, or V20, to score the free phone. The free handset will be comped through monthly rebates over a period of 30 months. Customers who don't have a device to trade in can get a reduced-cost flagship for a monthly payment of just $10 in addition to the unlimited plan. U.S. Cellular's unlimited plan costs $70 for a single line, though multi-line discounts are available. U.S. Cellular offers up to 22 GB of high-speed data per billing cycle. Customers who exceed that limit will see speeds reduced to 2G for the remained of the month. The company is also offering discounts on Google Home, LG Tones, and Parrot Drones during its holiday sale. Last, customers who refer a family member or friend who signs up for service can score a $50 reward.
Google said it plans to resolve an issue plaguing the Pixel 2 earpiece in the near future. "We're rolling out a software update in the coming weeks which eliminates a faint buzzing sound on some Pixel 2 devices when the phone is placed to your ear during a phone call," said Google in a post on its support forums. Some Pixel 2 owners report hearing the buzzing or crackling sound when making calls. Google first acknowledged the issue in October, but hadn't specified when a fix might be offered. It now appears the resolution will arrive by early December.
Honor today announced the 7X, a budget-friendly handset that adopts the 18:9 aspect ratio for its screen while offering mid-range specs. The Honor 7X features a metal chassis and 2.5D curved glass on front. The screen measures 5.93 inches across the diagonal and offers full HD+ resolution. Huawei's 2.36 GHz octa-core Kirin 659 processor is under the hood with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. The dual-camera array on the rear features a 16-megapixel main sensor and a 2-megapixel secondary sensor. Together, they can create portrait images with blurred backgrounds. An 8-megapixel selfie camera adorns the front of the phone and includes its own portrait tools and gesture controls. A 3,340mAh battery is buried in the chassis and Huawei says it supports rapid charging. The phone includes a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, though it does not include NFC. The Honor 7X runs Huawei's EMUI 5.1, based on Android 7 Nougat. It comes in blue, gold, and black. Pricing and availability was not immediately revealed. Honor is Huawei's budget brand.
OnePlus said owners of its OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T smartphone are due for an Oreo treat. The smartphone makers begun pushing Android 8 out to the two handsets via OxygenOS 5.0. The new system build includes parallel apps, picture-in-picture, auto-fill, notification dots, and smart text selection from Oreo, as well as a redesigned Quick Settings menu, the September security patch, and a new app folder design from OnePlus. OxygenOS 5.0 with Android 8 Oreo is rolling out over the air, though OnePlus warns it is being distributed incrementally. It may take several days to reach all users.
Google has updated Google Assistant on its Pixel smartphones and added the Google Lens tool it first announced back in May. Google Lens is an image-recognition function that relies on mobile cameras to perform searches. Google Lens is a significant advancement to the old Google Image Search app. Google says its neural networks are better than humans at recognizing most objects. Using Google Lens, Pixel owners can aim their camera at just about anything and Google will instantly perform a search and suggest results. The tool works within Google Assistant on the Pixel handsets, as well as within Google Photos. For example, users can snap a shot of an old car on the street and immediately gain information about that car and discover where it might be available for sale. Google Lens can recognize objects such as flowers, vehicles, gadgets, and more. The update to Pixel devices is rolling out now. Google hasn't said when Google Lens might reach other Android handsets.
Huawei is targeting Apple, Samsung, and LG with its latest flagship handset, the Mate 10 Pro. This high-quality device features classy hardware, top specs, and must-have tools. The phone includes twin cameras for extra photography firepower, and makes the jump to the 18:9 aspect ratio for the display. With Android 8 Oreo and EMUI 8 from Huawei aboard, the Mate 10 Pro packs a serious software punch. Here is Phone Scoop's full review.
ROK Mobile has rolled out a new promotional rate plan that includes three months of unlimited service for $99. The offer is available to new customers only. After the three-month period ends, the plan reverts to the normal monthly rate of $45. ROK Mobile is an MVNO that offers service on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Customers can select which carrier they wish to use when they sign up for ROK Mobile. This allows people to use their own device. The $99 promo is only available to new customers who choose service on Sprint or Verizon. Those who select Sprint will be eligible for a free ZTE Prestige smartphone. ROK Mobile started out as a music-focused MVNO but has since transitioned to a more traditional MVNO. Service plans range from $20 to $50 per month, depending on the data bucket. ROK Mobile also offers what it calls Life Plans, a series of services including roadside assistance, accidental death and cremation insurance, family legal services, family telemedicine, and ID theft insurance. These Life Services can be added as extras to any of ROK Mobile's service plans. Pricing ranges from $5 to $15 per month depending on the package.
Moving forward, New York law enforcement agencies will need to go before a judge and obtain an eavesdropping warrant if they wish to use stingrays to track suspects' cellphones. Stingrays spoof cell towers and fool cell phones into connecting with them. Police use them in cars or airplanes scanning entire neighborhoods seeking the phone of a single suspect. The issue is that the stingrays are imprecise and sweep up location, call, and messaging data of every cell phone in the vicinity. "The use of a cell-site simulator intrudes upon an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, acting as an instrument of eavesdropping, and requires a separate warrant supported by probable cause," wrote the Brooklyn judge overseeing the case. The ruling mirrors one made in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. Privacy advocates around the country are pushing back against the use of stingrays. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the NYPD used stingrays more than 1,000 times between 2008 and 2015, though generally only for the most serious offenses. The Brooklyn ruling will set the tone for cases involving the use of stingrays tried in New York.
T-Mobile's relatively new REVVL brand is all about affordability and popular features, like large screens and fingerprint readers. The REVVL Plus is the second in the series, made by Coolpad. It has a massive six-inch, 16:9 display, a fingerprint reader, and dual cameras. Otherwise, it's a pretty standard affordable Android phone. What's it like in person? We checked it out.