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printed July 29, 2016
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Republic Wireless Improves Android Lineup

Yesterday, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republic Wireless today said it has added nine modern smartphones to its lineup of Android devices. The new phones include the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge ($799), S7 ($699), J3 ($179), and S6 ($549); the Nexus 6P ($499) and 5X ($349); and the Motorola Moto X Pure Edition ($349), G4 ($199), and G4 Plus ($299). Republic customers can pay full price for the handsets, or elect to pay via monthly installments that range broadly from $11 to $48, based on the cost of the phone. Consumers who already own one of these unlocked handsets can pick up a Republic Wireless SIM card starting August 11. Republic's service plans start at $15 per month, which includes unlimited calling, texting, and WiFi data. Plans that include cellular data cost $20 per month for 1 GB, $30 for 2 GB, and $45 for 4 GB.


Google Partners Create Add-Ons for Docs and Sheets

Yesterday, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has worked with several partners to develop Android add-ons for its Docs and Sheets productivity apps. The add-ons extend the functionality of Docs and Sheets, allowing people to accomplish more from their mobile phones. For example, an add-on from DocuSign lets people add a signature to a document and save that document to Google Drive. Another add-on from Scanbot makes it possible to scan documents with the camera and, using the add-on's built-in object character recognition, insert the content into Docs as editable text. Google says eight such add-ons are available from various partners in the Google Play Store.

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Verizon Offering Bonus Data to Family Plan Subscribers

Yesterday, 10:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless says families of four can get 16 GB of mobile data for $150 per month thanks to a new bonus data promotion. Verizon charges $70 per month for its 8 GB (or, L) plan. Families that subscribe to the L, XL, and XXL plans can score an extra 2 GB of data per line. The bonus data is only available when customers activate a new line or upgrade an existing phone. Verizon says the bonus data will be available to each line as long as it remains active on Verizon's network. Bonus data will not carry over month-to-month. The $150 monthly price includes the $70 data charge, plus $80 in line access fees for four smartphones. Taxes and handset payments are not included. Verizon says the bonus data promotion will be available for a limited time. Customers who activate new lines of service will be eligible to receive a Samsung Galaxy J3 V handset for free ($7 bill credit applied on a monthly basis for 24 months). Verizon will allow new customers up to five free J3 Vs per account.


AT&T's Galaxy S7, S7 Edge Gain Security Patch

Yesterday, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is sending out the July 1 Android security patch to its variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge smartphones. Google made the security patch available earlier this month. It plugs a number of holes in the code, including some that could lead to remote code execution. In addition to the security update, the phones gain access to AT&T's WiFi Calling service. The update for the S7 and S7 Edge can be downloaded and installed over the air.


Here Maps Rebranded to Here WeGo

Yesterday, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Here has renamed and refreshed its core mobile mapping service for Android and iOS devices. Here Maps is now called Here WeGo. The company said it believed the original name was too generic. Along with the name change, the apps gain a significant revision. Here WeGo now prioritizes the search function for finding specific addresses or places. Users will be able to compare multiple different routes more easily, including car, public transit, cycling, and pedestrian options. Here WeGo also now displays options from car-sharing firm Car2Go, as well as regular taxi services with approximate fare rates and wait times. Last, Here WeGo improved bicycle route details with elevation profiles. Here WeGo is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


LG Says New V Series Phone Coming Soon

Yesterday, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today reported its second quarter earnings and took the opportunity to tease a forthcoming handset. LG's mobile business increased revenues 12% from the first quarter to $2.86 billion, but "somewhat slow" sales of its G5 flagship and the associated marketing costs led the unit to a loss of $132 million. Total device shipments were up 3% to 13.9 million during the three months ending June 30. The company expects things to get back on track during the next few months. "The launch of the new V series and expanding sales of mass-tier K and X series models are expected to improve the business unit's performance next quarter." LG brought the V10 handset to the U.S. last year. It was a semi-rugged phone with powerful cameras. LG didn't name the new V series handset, but it is likely a successor to the V10. The timing of the launch is unclear. LG's K series devices are mostly entry-level offerings, while the X series fill in the mid-range tier.


Hands-On with the BlackBerry DTEK50

Wednesday, 2:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry's DTEK50 may be a rebadge of the Alcatel Idol 4, but it still manages to look and feel like a BlackBerry. This slim slab should appeal most to those who need enterprise-class security for their business smartphone. Here are Phonescoop's first impressions of the DTEK50.

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Nextbit Adds Ember to Robin Roster, Video Backups to OS

Wednesday, 11:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nextbit today shared two bits of news concerning its Robin smartphone. First, the company is now selling an ember color variant. The ember model is being sold directly from Nextbit.com. Nexbit says only a limited number are available. The ember models costs $299. Second, the company is updating the Robin's software to include video backups. The new video-saving feature works the same as with photos; the file is moved off the device and into the cloud, but a thumbnail of the video remains on the device so the file can be retrieved when wanted. The video backup function is available first to beta testers. Nexbit said the planned August software update for all users will include the latest security patches from Google. Nexbit didn't say when the video backup feature will go live for everyone.


Google Debuts Family Library for Play Store Purchases

Wednesday, 10:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced the Google Play Family Library, which allows a single account holder to share purchases with up to six family members. Google says eligible app, game, movie, TV show, and book purchases from the Play Store can be shared across Android and iOS devices, as well as the web with no additional sign-up fee. Account holders will have control over what content is shared and what is not. Users can make their credit card available to other family members for purchases, too, and control/manage those purchases. The Google Play Family Library is free to use, but does not include access to Google Music. The fee for the Google Music family plan remains $15 per month. Google says the Family Library is going live in the U.S. and a handful of other countries beginning today.


Microsoft Develops Camera App for iPhone

Wednesday, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a camera app for the iPhone called Microsoft Pix. The app uses artificial intelligence to set parameters such as exposure, aperture, and color in order to get the best possible shot. The app has a long list of features. Microsoft says its AI includes face recognition so it automatically knows when it is photographing people to create better portraits. Pix can shoot regular photos and videos, as well as capture bursts. The app can bracket images, allowing users to pick the best one. Pix includes a GIF creator and timelapse mode, and syncs with the iPhone's camera roll in order to make for easier sharing. Microsoft Pix is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


LeEco Buys Vizio for $2 Billion

Tuesday, 2:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 5:32 PM

LeEco today announced plans to acquire Vizio for $2 billion. LeEco is a China-based TV, content, and phone maker, while Vizio is a U.S.-based TV maker. LeEco has been increasing its presence in the U.S. since early this year and the acquisition gives it an instant footprint in the U.S. electronics market. Vizio will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary from its existing Southern California location. Vizio's data business will be spun off as a separate entity, with current Vizio CEO William Wang maintaining a controlling share. LeEco expects to complete the transaction during the fourth quarter.


Twitter Adopts Night Mode In Android App

Tuesday, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today announced a new night mode tool for its Android app that should make viewing in the dark less stressful on the eyes. The refreshed app includes a slider tool in the settings menu that when activated changes the background from white to a deep blue. Twitter for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Twitter didn't immediately say if it will make this same feature available to iOS devices.


BlackBerry DTEK50 Is A Secured, Rebadged Alcatel Idol 4

Tuesday, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 10:22 AM

BlackBerry today announced the DTEK50 smartphone, a slab-style handset that runs Android and features BlackBerry's signature communications and security software. BlackBerry says the DTEK50 features FIPS-2 hardware encryption, rapid security patching, secure boot process, and a hardened Android OS core. It includes Android for Work and Google Play for Work, as well as support for BlackBerry's full enterprise mobility management suite. Other features include BBM, BlackBerry Hub, the BlackBerry intelligent keyboard, and a customizable action key. The hardware is a rebadged version of the Alcatel Idol 4, which was announced earlier this year. The DTEK50 has a 5.2-inch full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 617 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel camera main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, NFC, Cat 6 LTE, memory card slot, and Quick Charge 2.0. The phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The DTEK50 is available for preorder in the U.S. and other countries starting today for $299. BlackBerry said it will reveal shipping dates on a regional basis over the coming weeks.


T-Mobile Zero-Rates 16 More Services, Bringing Binge On to 100+

Tuesday, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today added 16 more video streaming services to its Binge On program, bring the total number of services to over 100. The new video services include ABC, Apple Music, Big Ten Network, CEEK VR, DISH Anywhere, Disney Channel, Disney Jr., Disney XD, D-PAN.TV, DramaFever, FOX NOW, FXNOW, NAT GEO TV, Shalom World, Sioeye, and Tubi TV. T-Mobile customers can now stream an unlimited amount of content from these services over T-Mobile's LTE network without impacting their monthly data allotment. Binge On content is streamed at 480p, rather than high-definition. Users may activate or deactivate Binge On at any time.


Opera Adds Video Downloader to Mini for Android

Tuesday, 7:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

People who use Opera Mini on Android devices now have the ability to download videos directly from the browser. Opera Software updated Mini with a tool for saving videos to a phone for offline playback. Opera says the downloader works on "some top video and social media web sites ... without their own built-in media players," such as Facebook, Instagram, and IMDb. Some regions and web sites may restrict video downloads. The download option appears once users tap the play button and allows people to choose where the video is stored (internal storage or memory card). The downloader doesn't require a separate app or web link. Opera Mini for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Nexus Phones Earn Spam Blocker from Google

Monday, 4:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is updating the Google Phone app on Nexus and Android One devices with a new spam-blocking tool. With the new app aboard, Nexus devices will warn owners about potential spam callers, as well as give them the ability to block or report suspected spam callers. Google says Nexus and Android One device owners will need to enable Caller ID in order to enjoy the new spam protection. The Google Phone app is free to Nexus and Android One devices and will be updated automatically by Google over the days ahead. Google's new app arrives just days after the FCC asked phone carriers to step up efforts to block robocalls.


Google Cleans Up Maps UI

Monday, 3:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out a fresh version of Maps for Android, iOS, and the web with a cleaner user interface. Google says it eliminated unnecessary UI elements, such a road outlines, while simplifying the typography for street names, points of interest, and more. Google Maps now treats areas of interest differently with orange shading. Users can readily spot and click on areas of interest to see things to do in that area. Last, the refreshed Google Maps relies on a new color scheme that Google says is easier to use to differentiate between man-made and natural map features. The new version of Google Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Ford to Add Android Auto, CarPlay to All 2017 Models

Monday, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ford today said it will push its Sync 3 connectivity platform, with support for Android Auto and CarPlay, across its entire lineup of 2017 vehicles. Sync 3 relies on new hardware and software that Ford says is faster and better able to connect to smartphones thanks to more conversational voice recognition. Android Auto and CarPlay allow smartphone users to access core functions, such as maps, music, messages, and the phone by using voice commands. Ford says the Escape, Fusion, Mustang and Explorer are already available as 2017 model-year vehicles. Others, including the F-150, Focus, and Edge, will arrive later this year.

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