Phone Scoop

printed November 25, 2015
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Vine Loops Now Playing On An Apple Watch Near You

Yesterday, 4:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine has updated its iOS app and made it compatible with the Apple Watch. The app lets people watch Vines from creators labeled as favorites as well as featured loops curated by Vine. Users can also like and revine loops from the Apple Watch, as well as see cumulative loop counts. The included Vine watch face lets users jump into the app quickly from the watch's home screen. Vine is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Unwired Planet Bests Samsung and Huawei In Patent Trial

Yesterday, 1:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Unwired Planet landed its first courtroom victory in the U.K. this week after a judge agreed that Samsung and Huawei are violating patents owned by the company. Unwired Planet has 16 employees and 2,000 patents it purchased from Ericsson in 2013. The company filed a similar suit against Google, but Google settled the charges. The judge overseeing the Samsung/Huawei case deemed the patents "essential" to 4G communications, however, which means they must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. Unwired Planet said the ruling "goes a considerable way towards validating [our] portfolio." Samsung maintains that it is not violating the patents. Huawei didn't immediately comment on the decision. Tech companies often use patent-based litigation to win fees from competitors. Unwired Planet is a patent-holding company and doesn't make or sell telecommunications equipment or mobile phones.

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Verizon Allowing Customers to Send Data as a Gift

Yesterday, 12:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today made it possible for subscribers to send one another the gift of data access. Verizon customers can send 1GB of LTE 4G data to family/friends for $10. Gifted data will be billed directly to the sender's account. The data can be purchased through the Verizon Messages app or Verizon's web site. Verizon said an update to the Verizon Messages app for Android, being pushed out today, adds the data-gifting feature.

Google Encouraging Android Pay Adoption with Donations

Yesterday, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes the prospect of charitable giving will spur more people to use Android Pay for purchases during the holiday season. The company today said it will donate $1 for every Android Pay transaction between now and Dec. 31 to special needs education projects. Google is committing to offer up to $1 million, and will donate $2 for every Android Pay transaction made on Black Friday, Nov. 27. Android Pay is available to most NFC-equipped smartphones (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) and is accepted at more than one million retail locations around the country.

Researchers Create Low-Power, High-Resolution Display Tech

Yesterday, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Scientists at the University of Oxford have discovered new display technology that can be used to make bright, high-resolution screens while hardly drawing any power. Oxford is bullish enough on the technology that it formed a new company, called Bodle Technologies, to commercialize the discovery. According to Bodle, its "smart material" is able to filter, steer, or dim light by using electrical, optical, or mechanical switches. Bodle says once the switch is flicked, the smart material uses almost no power. "This technology is capable of providing vivid colour displays which appear similar to paper, yet with very high resolution," said Professor Harish Bhaskaran. "It is also capable of rendering extremely high-resolution videos that can be seen in bright sunlight." The technology can also be used to create a glaze for glass panels, which can be used to control heat and light transmission into buildings. Bodle is in the process of filing patents, gathering capital, and speaking to potential manufacturing partners. The researchers did not say when they expect to be able to bring the advanced optoelectronic framework to market. Improving the efficiency of smartphone screens could lead to dramatically improved battery life, as screens are what draw the most power.

Xiaomi Adds Fingerprint Sensor to Redmi Note 3

Yesterday, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi today announced the Redmi Note 3, a big-screened smartphone that includes several firsts. The Redmi Note 3 is the first phone from Xiaomi made from metal, and also the first to offer a fingerprint sensor for securing the handset. Xiaomi says the fingerprint sensor can read prints in 0.3 seconds. The Redmi Note 3 has a 5.5-inch full HD screen and is powered by a MediaTek Helio X10 processor. The main camera features a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with dozens of beauty modes for selfies. The Redmi Note 3 packs a 4,000mAh battery, WiFi, Bluetooth, and dual SIM slots. It will be sold in two variants, 2GB RAM with 16GB of storage ($140) and 3GB of RAM with 32GB of storage ($172). The phone runs Xiaomi's MIUI 7 operating system, which is based on Android. Xiaomi did not announce plans to bring the handset to the U.S.

T-Mobile Gifting Customers with Free Unlimited Data

Monday, 4:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 5:18 PM

T-Mobile today said every postpaid Simple Choice customer will have access to unlimited high-speed data for the next three months. All customers with postpaid plans effective Nov. 23 or earlier are eligible. Customers will have unlimited LTE 4G data, even if they use up all their data and their Data Stash, demo Dec. 1, 2015 through March 1, 2016. T-Mobile is also offering a wide range of deals on smartphones and accessories during the holidays. T-Mobile said the promotions will change over the next few weeks and it encourages customers and prospective customers to check back regularly.

ZTE Selling the ZMax 2 Unlocked

Monday, 11:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said it is making the ZMax 2 smartphone available to consumers unlocked. The phone was originally sold via TracFone earlier this year, but is now online directly from ZTE. The full price of the phone is $179.99, but ZTE is running a limited sale price of $129.99. The ZMax 2 has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen; quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage; 8-megapixel main camera with full HD vide capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi, and LTE radios. The phone packs a 3,000 mAh battery. The ZMax 2 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is compatible with the networks operated by AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid businesses, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS, respectively.

Samsung Pay Gains Support for Chase Cards

Monday, 9:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

JPMorgan Chase account holders can now use their cards with Samsung Pay. Samsung has added support for Visa-backed Chase credit/debit cards to its mobile payment service. Chase was one of several prominent banks missing from the service at launch. Samsung Pay is more widely available than Apple Pay and Android Pay because it uses both NFC and MST technology to interact with retail payment terminals. NFC is more limited in scale, while MST is practically everywhere. Samsung Pay is available to the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5.

Skype for iPhone Adds Number and Address Detection

Monday, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype improved its app for the iPhone and iPad today with support for call and calendar actions. Skype 6.6 now highlights phone numbers, addresses, times, and dates. Tapping on highlighted text starts the corresponding action. For example, tapping a phone number within a message will bring up the Skype dialpad with the number preloaded, or tapping an address will open Apple Maps and search for the location. Similar actions are available for the calendar, as well. Skype will automatically set up events and pull in any relevant details from the message thread. The calendar appointment will include a Skype chat URL in the notes, too, that goes back to the message. Last, Skype 6.6 improves multitasking by making it easier to return to Skype audio/video calls from the instant messaging or contact sections of the app. Skype 6.6 for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

C Spire Debuts Combo Plans that Bundle Phone and Service

Monday, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

C Spire today rolled out a series of new combination plans that package together service and device costs. The company claims the idea behind the plans is to make it easier for customers to see where their money is going. All the combo plans include unlimited talk, text, and picture messaging. In order to "protect" customers from overages, C Spire will notify subscribers when they've reached their monthly data limit and ask permission to charge for additional data. There are seven basic combo plans, each of which can be customized to adjust the down payment and monthly fee. For example, customers can get an iPhone 6s (16GB) with 3 GB of LTE data for $60 per month and $170 down. Or, customers can nab a Galaxy S6 Edge (32GB) with 3 GB of LTE data for $65 per month and $0 down. A third option includes an iPhone 6s (16GB) with 8 GB of LTE data for $75 per month and $170 down. Technically, the downpayment goes toward device financing costs, which will vary depending in the handset. The iPhone 6s (16GB), for example, costs $20 per month with the $170 downpayment, as $479 of the full retail price is financed over 24 months. The monthly device fee, however, is combined with the service plan payment in the first example above so customers see only one fee of $60. C Spire's new combo plans are available beginning today.

Microsoft Lets Android Owners Compare Apps

Monday, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has released a new tool aimed at helping people switch from an Android smartphone to a Windows smartphone. AppComparison, an app for Android handsets, scans the device for apps and then finds the corresponding Windows apps. If the app can't find exact matches, it suggests the Windows Phone equivalent. For example, since Google Drive is not available to Windows Phones, the AppComparison tool points people to Microsoft's OneDrive app instead. The idea is to show Android owners which of their favorite apps are available to Windows handsets. The app also shows off some of the most popular Windows Phone apps in the Microsoft Store. Microsoft's AppComparison tool is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Rdio to Begin Cancelling Subscriptions Today

Monday, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Rdio, which is being acquired by Pandora, has warned customers that it will begin cancelling their subscriptions. Paying customers will be able to listen through the end of their current billing period, after which their account will be closed. Rdio said all customers can listen to ad-supported stations on their mobile phone until the service goes offline completely. Beginning today, however, Rdio is no longer accepting new paid customers. Rdio said it will contact customers via email as the nature of their account changes. Rdio is declaring bankruptcy and Pandora is picking up some of the pieces. The bankruptcy deal still needs to be approved by courts. Pandora's acquisition of Rdio's assets isn't excepted to be complete until mid-2016.

Opera Max Improved with Music App Compression

Monday, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera Software today released a new version of Opera Max, its data compression tool, making it compatible with music apps. Max is already able to compress video from YouTube and Netflix when streamed over cellular networks, and can now also compress music streamed from YouTube Music, Pandora, Slacker Radio, Gaana, and Saavn. People who download Opera Max will be able to cut down on their data usage up to 50% when streaming music (and other apps) over cellular. Opera said it is using streaming audio optimization technology from Rocket Optimizer, which converts streams into the more efficient AAC+ codec without losing quality. Opera hopes to add more music services over time. Opera Max for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Review: LG V10 for AT&T

Friday, 4:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The V10 from LG includes a secondary display and advanced camera features. This massive Android smartphone is a flagship-class device thanks to good specs, solid build quality, and decent all-around performance. In Phone Scoop's full report we assess the usefulness of the second screen. Read on for our verdict.

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Jolla Announces Layoffs Amidst Restructuring

Friday, 10:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today said the company is restructuring its finances and laying off the bulk of its employees. Jolla was launched by former Nokia employees and created Sailfish OS and several phones and tablets. The idea was to offer an alternative to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Sailfish was built from Nokia's old Moblin and Maemo Linux platforms. Jolla Chairman and Co-Founder Antti Saarnio says Sailfish OS is commercially mature and ready to be licensed to other hardware makers. Jolla has burned through most of its cash, however, and needs to take time to regroup. The company will let go of the majority of its employees while restructuring its debt, although it insists the layoffs are temporary. "In Finland we have very good laws for corporate restructuring. These enable the continuation of businesses through debt restructuring, which gives a company more time to take care of its financial liabilities," said Saarnio. "I believe that through this program Jolla can turn its business to be profitable in the future. Sailfish OS is a very valuable asset and worth fighting for." Saarnio claims Jolla has several large and small OEMs considering Sailfish OS for their own hardware. He did not suggest how long it might take for Jolla to get its finances back in order, nor when it might re-hire its employees.

Cricket Tempts Switchers with $100 Reward

Friday, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today kicked off a promotions to entice consumers to port their number to Cricket. People who switch to Cricket between today and Dec. 6 will earn a $100 Cricket Shopping Card. The card can be used for monthly service, handsets, and accessories at Cricket stores. Cricket said it will let new customers combine this deal with existing mail-in rebate promos on select phones to save even more money. For example, Cricket is offering the LG Risio, Motorola Moto E, Nokia Lumia 635, and the ZTE Overture 2 for free after rebates. The rebates are available to all customers through Jan. 7. The $100 gift card is only available to new customers.

Verizon Offering 1GB of Free Data for the Holidays

Friday, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless customers can snag an extra 1GB of mobile data this month from Big Red. The promotional data offer can be redeemed online and will be added to the account holder's existing data allotment for the current billing period. Verizon said customers can get another free 1GB of data for their next billing period, too. Verizon is offering a range of other freebies to its customers in what it calls its "Thanksgetting" promotion. For example, people who shop online Nov. 25 can get a $5 iTunes gift card or a 30-day trial of Pandora One. Other freebies come from Lyft, Boingo, Gogo, and Amazon.

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