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printed April 25, 2017
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Sprint Offering Fifth Unlimited Line for Free

Today, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today made it more affordable for large families to enjoy its Unlimited Freedom service. Moving forward, the fifth line added to an Unlimited Freedom plan will be free. Sprint charges $50 per month for a single line of unlimited data, talk and text. Two lines cost $80 per month, four lines cost $120 per month, and now five lines also cost $120 per month. Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plans to face some serious caveats. To start, these monthly prices are only available through June 30, 2018. After that time subscribers will see monthly prices jump to $60 for a single line, $100 for two lines, and $130 for three-five lines. Further, these prices all reflect a $5 discount per line when the subscriber enrolls in AutoPay. Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan allows for full HD video streaming, 1.5 Mbps music streaming, and gaming at up to 8 Mbps, but customers will see their speeds slowed when the network is congested.


Verizon Debuts $80 Unlimited Plan for Prepaid Service

Today, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today added an unlimited data option to its series of prepaid plans. According to Verizon's web site, the new $80 plan includes unlimited high-speed service without a contract, though video is capped at 480p and prepaid customers may see slower speeds when the network is congested. Verizon did not say just how fast its unlimited prepaid LTE service is. The plan also includes unlimited talk and text in the U.S., unlimited messaging from the U.S. to 200 countries, and unlimited talk to Canada and Mexico. For those who don't need unlimited service, Verizon's other prepaid plans include 2 GB for $40 per month, 5 GB for $50 per month, or 10 GB for $70 per month. These plans all include carryover data, but will throttle customers who exceed their monthly data bucket. The new $80 unlimited prepaid plan is available starting today.

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AT&T Says '5G Evolution' to Reach 20 Markets This Year

Today, 10:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 10:56 AM

AT&T said customers who own the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ will have access to enhanced wireless service in Austin starting today. Austin serves as the first market for what AT&T is calling "5G Evolution" service, an effort to modernize and improve its network ahead of the official adoption of the 5G specification by international standards bodies. AT&T plans to take advantage of improved LTE 4G network technologies such as small cells, network densification, carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and 256 QAM to provide real-world speed and latency improvements. The company didn't provide any guidance on what sort of speeds S8 and S8+ owners in Austin will actually experience other than to indicate 5G Evolution will be up to twice as fast as its existing LTE 4G service. AT&T will light up 5G Evolution in Indianapolis this summer with markets including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Francisco, and others to go live by the end of the year. Further, AT&T said it will have "numerous other" 5G Evolution-capable devices available by the end of the year. All four major carriers are moving forward with 5G technology trials despite the fact that the final standard has not been ratified. AT&T's so-called 5G Evolution is "5G" in name only.


Inexpensive ZTE Prestige 2 Hits Boost and Virgin Mobile

Today, 9:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint's prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today launched the ZTE Prestige 2, an entry-level Android handset. The Prestige 2 has a 5-inch FWVGA display and it is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone has two 5-megapixel cameras, one on the front and one on the back. The main camera has a flash. Other specs include a 2,035mAh battery, memory card support, HD voice, roaming in Mexico, mobile hotspot, and LTE 4G. The phone costs $80, but Boost Mobile is selling it online for $52. Virgin Mobile is offering the ZTE Prestige 2 for $50. It runs Android 6 Marshmallow.


U.S. Cellular Lands the 6-Inch ZTE Blade Max 3

Today, 9:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular recently added the ZTE Blade Max 3 to its roster of Android smartphones. The Max 3 is similar to the Max XL in that it has a 6-inch full HD display with 2.5D Gorilla Glass and huge 4,000mAh battery. The handset is powered by a 2 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. The Max 3 includes dual rear 13-megapixel cameras, with one that captures full color and one that captures black-and-white to assist with contrast and focus. The user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, high-fidelity audio, USB-C, memory card support, and GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi radios. The ZTE Blade Max 3 is available from U.S. Cellular's web site for $200.


ZTE Max XL Packs 6-Inch Full HD Screen for $130

Today, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Max XL, a big-screened Android smartphone headed to Boost Mobile. The Max XL's defining features are the 6-inch full HD display and massive 3,990mAh battery. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass. ZTE says the Max XL is also the first for Boost Mobile to include support for HPUE for better LTE speeds at the network edge. HPUE is a technology Boost Mobile parent company Sprint is working to deploy this year. The Max XL's main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The device runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat and includes a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. Other specs include an octa-core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, support for memory cards, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and FM radio. The ZTE MAX XL smartphone is available online today at Boost Mobile for $129.99.

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LG G6 vs. Samsung Galaxy S8: Buying Points to Consider

Yesterday, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Can't decide between the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8? It's a tough choice, to be sure. These appealing Android smartphones represent the best from LG and Samsung by breaking new ground in design and refining core features along the way. Here are how these two phones compare head-to-head on a handful of essential buying points.

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Google to Automatically Translate Local Reviews

Yesterday, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said travelers will have access to a wider range of local reviews thanks to new translation features. Moving forward, Google said it will automatically translate reviews of restaurants, theaters, and other locations into the language you’ve set on your device. The translated reviews will be followed by the original. This feature is available to Google Search and Google Maps.


Apple Spits Out Fourth Round of iOS, WatchOS Betas

Yesterday, 12:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 10.3.2 Beta 4 available to developers. Apple hasn't provided any specific details about what's in iOS 10.3.2; it likely focuses on resolving bugs and smoothing over performance issues. Apple also made fourth betas of watchOS 3.2.2, macOS Sierra 10.12.5, and tvOS 10.2.1 available to developers. Apple hasn't indicated if or when these new in-progress operating systems will be released to public beta testers. Public betas typically drop a day or two after the developer betas. Consumers interested in testing pre-release software will need to register their Apple device, such as the iPhone 7, in order to receive beta builds of iOS and other platforms.


Sony's Mid-Range Xperia XA1 Goes On Sale May 1 for $300

Yesterday, 10:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced the XA1 will be available to purchase online starting May 1. Internet retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, BrandsMart, Fry’s, and others will offer the phone unlocked for $299.99. The XA1, announced earlier this year, has a 5-inch 720p screen and 2,300mAh battery. It is powered by a MediaTek octa-core Helio P20 processor with the Mali T880 GPU accompanied by 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The device supports microSD memory cards up to 256 GB. It has a 23-megapixel Exmor RS main camera with a 24mm lens and an aperture of f/2.0, and an 8-megapixel selfie cam. Other specs include USB-C, Qnovo adaptive charging, rapid charging, Cat 6 LTE, and Android 7 Nougat. It is being offered in white, black, pink, or gold.


Samsung to Issue Software Patches for Galaxy S8

Yesterday, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it will push two software updates to its Galaxy S8 smartphone to resolve issues with screen tint and WiFi connectivity. Some S8 owners claim their devices have a reddish tint to the screen, while others say they cannot connect to WiFi networks. Samsung insists there are no actual defects in the device itself and that the updates are being distributed "for consumer comfort." The first patch will address the tint issue, giving consumers "a further enhanced ability to adjust the color setting to their preference." The second patch targets phones sold by a specific carrier in South Korea and will be only be issued there. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ went on sale in the U.S. on April 21 and in S. Korea a few days before that. Samsung says pre-orders for the device have been strong, particularly in its home market of Korea. The company did not share first-weekend sales figures. The phones are the first high-end devices to ship from Samsung after its failed Note7 last year, which was recalled due to battery problems.


Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Amp Prime 2 Available from Cricket

Friday, 9:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today added two new Samsung handsets to its list of devices. First, the Galaxy S8 is available for purchase from Cricket stores. Cricket is charging $699.99 for the handset, a $50 savings off list price, when the S8 is activated on a new line. Second, Cricket debuted the Galaxy Amp Prime 2 (pictured), a low-cost Android phone. The Amp Prime 2 features a 5-inch 720p HD screen with a 1.35 GHz quad-core processor and 16 GB of storage. The phone includes 5- and 2-megapixel cameras on the back and front respectively, and a 2,600 mAh battery. Other features include LTE, Bluetooth WiFi, and support for memory cards up to 256 GB. The Samsung Galaxy Amp Prime 2 runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $150.


Google Play Music to Be Default Music Player on All Samsung Devices

Friday, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Samsung today said starting with the launch of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, Google Play Music will be the default music player and music service on Samsung phones and tablets globally. Consumers who buy the S8 or S8+ will receive a free three-month trial of Google Play Music, which offers ad-free access to some 40 million tracks. The trial also includes YouTube Red, an ad-free version of YouTube. Moreover, Samsung device owners will receive special features from Google. To start, S8 and S8+ buyers will be able to upload up to 100,000 of their own tracks to Google Play Music for safekeeping (double the standard amount.) Google says more custom features for Samsung phones are on the way. Last, Google Play Music will be compatible with Samsung's Bixby voice assistant when Bixby launchers later this spring. Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners will be able to ask Bixby to play their favorite song and it’ll start playing on Google Play Music instantly. The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ go on sale today.


Apple to Help Make Live Photos More Shareable On the Web

Apr 20, 2017, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released a new tool for developers that should make it easier for people to share their Live Photos with others. Specifically, the company made available the LivePhotoKit JS API. Apple says, "This new JavaScript-based API makes it easy to embed Live Photos on your web sites. In addition to enabling Live Photos on iOS and macOS, you can now let users display their Live Photos on the web." Live Photos, which are essentially short moving pictures, can be shared between iOS and macOS devices, but not so easily across platforms. Google solved this problem with its own Motion Stills app for iOS, which lets iPhone owners turn Live Photos into web-compatible GIFs. Apple says it will be up to individual developers and web sites to put the LivePhotoKit JS API to use on their own sites. Until they do, Google's Motion Stills app remains a viable alternative.


Lenovo Says Bug Preventing Moto G Plus from Making 911 Calls On Verizon

Apr 20, 2017, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo issued a notice this week warning that the Moto G5 Plus may not be able to connect 911 calls via VoLTE on Verizon's wireless network. The company has identified the bug and expects to issue a software patch in the next week or so. Until then, Lenovo suggests owners of the Moto G5 Plus disable VoLTE calling. This will enable the G5 Plus to make regular cellular calls to 911, though Lenovo reminds people that this will prevent Verizon customers from using voice and data at the same time.


Google Home Now Recognizes Individual Voices

Apr 20, 2017, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it possible for up to six people to get personalized results from its Google Home product. Using the refreshed Google Home mobile app, Home owners can train the device to recognize individual voices for everyone in your house. Google says it is able to do this through the use of neural networks. Once properly trained, people will be able to ask Google Home for their daily schedule, preferred news, commute details, and personal playlists. The functionality requires the latest Home app from Google on each associated account. This feature will start rolling out today for Google Home users in the U.S., but will expand to the U.K. in the coming months. Google Home is a $129 in-home connected speaker that relies on the same Google Assistant app found on Android handsets.


Sprint Offering Two-For-One Lease On Samsung Galaxy S8

Apr 20, 2017, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today finalized its retail plans for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and there's good news for consumers. The company is offering a two-for-one lease deal on the S8 with a new line activation and one upgrade, or two new line activations. New and existing customers can lease the S8 for $31.25 per month and receive a second leased phone at no additinal cost. The second monthly lease payment will be credited to the account each billing period. The Sprint Galaxy Forever lease program allows people to trade the phone in for the newest Galaxy handset after making 12 lease payments. The S8 and S8+ are both compatible with Sprint's new HPUE technology, which makes them perform much better on the company's 2.5 GHz spectrum. Sprint says this two-for-one lease deal for the Galaxy S8 is good only from April 21 through April 27.


Samsung's 2nd-Gen 10nm Process Delivers Performance Boost

Apr 20, 2017, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung this week said it has finished testing its second-generation 10nm FinFET process and is ready to produce the silicon in volume. The 10LPP (Low Power Plus) technology, used in conjunction with 3D transistors, improves speeds by about 10%, or power efficiency by about 15% when compared to the first-generation 10nm process. Some variants of the Samsung Galaxy S8 rely on the first-gen 10nm process in the Exynos 9 processor, though the U.S. model relies on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835. Samsung expects to begin producing the new 10nm 10LPP circuitry by the fourth quarter. The company didn't say what mobile processors might make use of the new technology.

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