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printed December 17, 2017
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Google to Kill Off Project Tango in Favor of ARCore

Friday, 3:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has decided to wind down Project Tango, its ambitious augmented reality platform that used on-device cameras and sensors to blend reality with computer-generated content. "As we focus on bringing augmented reality to the entire Android ecosystem with ARCore, we’re turning down support of Tango," said Google. The company will officially cease to support Project Tango on March 1, 2018. The company worked with several hardware partners to create Project Tango handsets, which were laden with special equipment to make the platform work. The most recent such device was the Asus ZenFone AR, sold by Verizon Wireless. Moving forward, Google will push its ARCore platform as a means for generating and consuming augmented reality content on Android handsets. To that end, Google today released ARCore Developer Preview 2, an update to its augmented reality toolset for app writers. "We've taken everything we learned from [Project Tango] to build ARCore. Whereas Tango required special hardware, ARCore is a fast, performant, Android-scale SDK that enables high-quality augmented reality across millions of qualified mobile devices." The updated ARCore Developer Preview includes a new C API for use with the Android NDK. Google says this dovetails nicely with its existing Java, Unity, and Unreal SDKs. Another addition is the ability for AR apps to pause and resume without losing their spot in order to allow people to perform actions such as answering calls. Last, the new developer preview improves accuracy and runtime efficiency. Developers interested in the new ARCore Developer Preview can find it through Google's developer web site. Google says it expects ARCore-based apps will reach the Play Store before too long.


Google Maps Will Now Tell You When to Get Off Your Bus or Train

Friday, 2:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated Maps for Android with a new feature meant to ensure people don't miss their stop when using public transportation, such as buses or trains. Google says the new tool supplies not only departure times and ETAs, but it can also alert people when it is time to get off a bus or train in order to make a transfer or arrive at their destination. The new transit functionality lets people track their progress in real time, just as when driving or walking. Google says in order to use the feature people will need to set destinations and navigate via the public transportation tab in Maps. Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store.

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Facebook to Let You Snooze Annoying Friends and Pages

Friday, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today rolled out a new feature for its News Feed that will allow people to temporarily silence friends, pages, and other content they don't want to see. Selecting the new Snooze tool, which appears in the drop-down menu on individual posts, lets people unfollow any person or page for 30 days. The move is not permanent, and your account will automatically re-follow the Snoozed person or page after a month. Facebook says it will not notify those who've been Snoozed, but it will notify people when the Snooze period for pages is about to expire. Snoozed pages can be re-followed manually at any time. The tool is rolling out over the next several weeks.


Wireless Users May Eventually Receive Government 'Blue Alerts'

Friday, 9:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has added a new type of alert to the Emergency Alert System that is specifically meant for law enforcement officers and other first responders. Joining the Amber Alert and Silver Alert, the new Blue Alert can be used by state and local authorities to notify the public of threats to law enforcement and request help in apprehending suspects. "Blue Alerts warn the public when there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, or when there is an imminent credible threat to an officer," said the FCC. "A Blue Alert could quickly warn you if a violent suspect may be in your community, along with providing instructions on what to do if you spot the suspect and how to stay safe." Local authorities may send Blue Alerts through broadcast, cable, satellite, and wireline video providers, as well as via the Wireless Emergency Alert system directly to consumers' cellular phones. The FCC said it expects it to take up to 12 months to implement Blue Alerts for the Emergency Alert System and 18 months to implement Blue Alerts for the Wireless Emergency Alert System.


BlackBerry to Cease Monthly Updates for the Priv, Launch Trade-Up Program

Friday, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry said this week that it will no longer provide monthly system and security updates to its BlackBerry Priv smartphone. The company originally committed to providing updates for a period of two years. "Having now stepped outside the original two-year window, we will no longer be delivering monthly updates for the Priv moving forward," said the company. That doesn't mean all support for the phone will stop. The company said it will still honor any warranty obligations it has for hardware repairs. Moreover, BlackBerry claims that its handsets are inherently more secure than most other Android devices thanks to the hardened core and monthly updates up until this point. BlackBerry said if a critical vulnerability is exposed in the Priv, it will work to correct the problem as needed. Last, BlackBerry said it has partnered with BlackBerry Mobile to help legacy BlackBerry owners upgrade to newer hardware. Customers still using the Priv or other BB10 or BBOS devices will soon be able to upgrade to a BlackBerry KEYone or BlackBerry Motion smartphone. Specific details regarding the trade-in program are still in the works.


State Attorneys Respond to FCC Net Neutrality Vote with Lawsuits

Friday, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A number of lawmakers and public officials at the state level have promised to fight the FCC's Dec. 14 vote to overturn net neutrality rules. The Republican-led FCC voted along party lines to eliminate the existing rules, suggesting they limited investment in broadband services. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was among the first to promise to sue the agency. "We will be filing a claim to preserve protections for New Yorkers and all Americans. And we’ll be working aggressively to stop the FCC’s leadership from doing any further damage to the internet and to our economy," said Schneiderman in a statement. Schneiderman has led efforts to uncover suspected foul play in the FCC's commenting system, where he found more than two million fraudulent comments. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stymied Schneiderman's attempt to investigate the issue in depth. Schneiderman was supported by 18 attorneys general from around the country. On Thursday, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced his own plans to sue the FCC, and Ferguson will also support the actions of New York State. "Allowing internet service providers to discriminate based on content undermines a free and open internet. Today’s action will seriously harm consumers, innovation and small businesses," said Ferguson. A number of senators and representatives from states around the country announced similar plans following the FCC's vote.


Apple's Indoor Maps Land in 30 New Airports Around the Globe

Friday, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple recently improved the selection of indoor airport maps in Apple Maps with an expansion to 30 new structures. Apple worked with each individual airport and the associated airlines in order to provide the most accurate data possible, including directions to gates, details about food courts and other amenities, and the ability to jump between floors/levels. A button tagged "look inside" clues users it to the availability of indoor maps at the supported airports. According to TechCrunch, Apple relies on WiFi inside each airport to help triangulate the user's iPhone and accuracy is to within a few meters. The new indoor maps are available at major airports including Amsterdam Schiphol, Baltimore/Washington International, Berlin Tegel, Chicago O’Hare and Midway, Denver, Detroit, Geneva, Hong Kong, Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas McCarran, London Heathrow and Gatwick, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Nashville, New York JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, and Vancouver. Apple plans to add more airports over time.


FCC Votes to Scrap Net Neutrality Protections

Thursday, 1:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today voted on party lines to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The vote was led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was supported by his fellow Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O'Reilly. Pai insists the standing rules were overly burdensome to businesses and reduced investment in internet services. Pai believes the industry should regulate itself and suggests the Federal Trade Commission has the wherewithal to protect consumers from corporate abuses. Many disagree. Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel offered scathing dissents. "This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public," said Rosenworcel in a rebuke to Pai. "History will not be kind to this vote to destroy Internet openness. But this is not over. I'm not stopping here or now — and neither should you. Let's keep up the fight. Let's keep raising a ruckus. The future depends on it," concluded Rosenworcel. Millions of Americans submitted comments to the FCC in favor of keeping net neutrality. Those comments were largely ignored by Pai. Broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast applauded the change. Consumer-focused organizations such as the ACLU and FreePress have vowed to fight today's vote through legal action. It's not clear how quickly the FCC will be able to put its proposed changes into effect.


Google Just Made It Easier to Save Money on Flights and Hotels

Thursday, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated several of its travel tools in ways that should help people find the best, least-expensive options when traveling. Google Flights, for example, now includes tips under search results, such as when prices are abnormally low or high. Google Flights can also let you know that prices are unlikely to change, so it is safe to book most any time. These tools are powered by machine learning, and can alert people who opt to track flight prices via email. Google added similar tools to its hotel search function, which will tell people when room rates are higher than usual, or if the area is busier than normal due to some local event. The hotel price tracking feature also gains the ability to send email alerts when prices change. The Google Trips app adds a handful of new functions. For example, Trips' new Discounts feature tells people when it is best to book tickets for attractions and other activities, such as visiting Alcatraz during a trip to San Francisco. This is specifically meant to help save money. Moreover, a "trending destinations" tool lets people know where other people want to go on vacation for specific time periods and/or holiday weekends. This may help people avoid over-crowded destinations. Google Flights and Google Trips are free to download from the Google Play Store.


Instagram Gains More Silly Stuff for the Holidays

Thursday, 12:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out another wave of creative tools for social media aficionados. First, the Superzoom tool offers more zoom options and sound effects for overly-dramatic videos. Next, the app marks the debut of three new holiday-themed face filters, which include balloons bursting with confetti, winter makeup, hearts, and more. Last, the app is boosting its collection of stickers with additions for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Instagram says users can search for stickers using keywords (English only). These new creative options are available as part of Instagram 26 for Android and iOS. The updated mobile apps will roll out to the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store over the next few weeks.


Snapchat's Lens Studio Lets Anyone Create Lenses

Thursday, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today debuted Lens Studio, a desktop application that makes it easy for anyone to design and create Lenses for the Snapchat community. Snapchat says Lens Studio is free to Mac and Windows, and guides creative types through the process of animating their ideas for mobile devices. Artists can then use a special Snapcode to share their creations with others who can unlock the Lens. Snapchat hopes developers and other creators will put Lens Studio to use in making more personal and more diverse Lenses available to all Snapchat users.


Pandora Spins a New Tune with Video Ads to Unlock Premium Sessions

Thursday, 11:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pandora today rolled out a new way to enjoy streaming music on mobile devices. Moving forward, people who use Pandora's free, ad-supported service will be able to listen to a specific song, album, or playlist after viewing a 15-second video ad. Before today, searching for a specific song only created a radio station based on that search. The video ad unlocks Pandora Premium for a limited time, meaning people can search for and listen to other songs directly after viewing the ad. Pandora says the idea is to offer premium on-demand features even to users who don't pay for its monthly listening plans. Beyond on-demand listening to specific songs or artists, ad-supported listeners can take advantage of personalized, automated playlists, and background music playback when multitasking. Pandora offers two paid tiers. Customers who pay $5 per month gain an ad-free experience with higher-quality playback, unlimited skips, and up to four offline stations. People who subscribe to Pandora Premium for $10 per month enjoy the ability to search for and play any song, album or artist, create personal playlists, and download customized playlists for offline listening. The new video ad experience will be available within the Android and iOS apps over the next few days.


Review: Edifer MP200 Bluetooth Speaker

Thursday, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

If you want a Bluetooth speaker that's small, portable, powerful, and fun, the Edifer MP200 may fit the bill. This simple compact music maker includes a few unique features that set it apart from other inexpensive offerings. Here is Phone Scoop's review.

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Blu Life One X3 Adopts Metal-and-Glass Design and Packs 5,000mAh Battery

Thursday, 6:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 11:34 PM

Blu Products today announced the Life One X3, a mid-range handset from the unlocked phone maker. The One X3 has a curved-edge glass screen and an aluminum frame painted in matte black. The display measures 5.5 inches and offers full HD resolution. Blu gave the One X3 an octa-core MediaTek 6753 processor at 1.3 GHz with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. An impressively large 5,000mAh battery lurks within in the chassis to provide more than a day of battery life. The One X3 sports two 13-megapixel cameras, one on front and one on back. Both cameras have their own flash and can capture full HD video. Other specs include Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 28) for moderate compatibility with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone ships with Android 7 Nougat. Blu says the One X3 is available from Amazon.com starting today. The standard retail price is $250, but the Life One X3 will be available for a limited time at $150.


Verizon to Offer iPhone 8, Galaxy S8 BOGO

Wednesday, 4:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless plans to let holiday shoppers score a smartphone for free with an upcoming buy-one, get-one deal. Beginning Friday, December 15, customers who buy an Apple iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ can get a second device for free. Both devices will need to be purchased on a payment plan and at least one must be a new line of service. The second phone must be from the same manufacturer and be of equal or lesser value. The cost of the second device will be reimbursed monthly over a 24-month period. Verizon says the offer is valid for existing customer upgrades, as well as those who switch to Verizon. The buy-one, get-one deal will be available for a limited time.


iOS 11.2.1 Arrives to Stomp Out Bugs

Wednesday, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 11.2.1 available to the iPhone and iPad in order to resolve performance issues. Specifically, the update tackles a problem that could disable remote access to shared users of the Home application. The update is rather lightweight at about 69 MB and it can be downloaded and installed over the air.


Google Making Assistant Available to Older Android Phones

Wednesday, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said older Android smartphones and tablets are gaining access to the Google Assistant. Until today, Assistant was only available to phones running Android 6 Marshmallow and up. Now, handsets that have Android 5.0 Lollipop support Assistant. Google says Assistant has started to roll out to all devices running Lollipop in English in the U.S., U.K., India, Australia, Canada, and Singapore, as well as in Spanish in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain. Further, for the first time Google Assistant is being made available to Android tablets. Android slates in the U.S. running Android 6 Marshmallow and Android 7 Nougat will be able to download Assistant over the coming weeks. Google Assistant is Google's voice-powered personal helper. It can be used to perform searches as well as initiate actions on mobile devices.


T-Mobile to Buy Layer3 TV and Launch TV Service Next Year

Wednesday, 10:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has set its sights on the cable TV industry and hopes to disrupt that market beginning next year. The company today announced plans to acquire Layer3 TV, which already delivers internet-based television service in five markets around the country. T-Mobile will use Layer3 TV's technology to create and launch a new TV service that will be delivered over T-Mobile's LTE network. "People love their TV, but they hate their TV providers. And worse, they have no real choice but to simply take it — the crappy customer service, clunky technology and outrageous bills loaded with fees! That’s where we come in. We're gonna fix the pain points and bring real choice to consumers across the country," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. Legere insisted T-Mobile's TV service will be "disruptive" and will take full advantage of the latest technology and best content from today's top creators. In addition to T-Mobile's network, the as-yet-unnamed TV service will be supported by T-Mobile's retail stores, and sales and service organizations. Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3 TV, added, "No market needs Un-carrier-ing more than pay TV, so we’re completely stoked to join T-Mobile in disrupting the status quo!" T-Mobile did not say how much it will pay for Layer3 TV, nor when this television service might launch, not what it expects to charge per month. The company already allows people to stream as much video via LTE as they wish, and offers some customers Netflix for free. T-Mobile competitors AT&T and Verizon each have their own television services, both mobile and in-home. T-Mobile needs to enter the TV space in some capacity in order to offer customers a similar set of services.

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