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printed August 18, 2017
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Google Home Speaker Now Bluetooth Compatible

Today, 12:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google updated its Google Home speaker with the ability to connect to Bluetooth devices. The search giant first announced the feature at its I/O developer conference earlier this year and has just now enabled the functionality. Using the Google Home app on mobile devices, Home owners can connect to the speaker via Bluetooth for streaming music or other media files. Until now, Home could only stream music through Google Cast connections (over WiFi). Google also enabled free Spotify accounts through Google Home this week. People who use the free version of Spotify can set the music provider as their default streaming service when listening via Google Home. Previously, Google Home only supported the paid Spotify Premium streaming service.


Sprint, T-Mobile Discount LG G6 and V20

Today, 11:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and T-Mobile today both introduced promotions that make LG's flagship handsets more affordable. Sprint, for example, dropped the lease price of the G6 from $29.50 per month to $20 per month. That cuts the full cost of the phone from about $700 to $480, or a savings of $220 over time. T-Mobile is offering a buy-one, get-one promo on the G6 and V20. Customers who buy either phone on an equipment installment plan can get a second for free with the activation of a new line. T-Mobile sells the G6 for $20 down and $20 per month, or $500 in total. It sells the V20 for $0 down and $20 per month, or $480 in total. Customers will need to buy both devices and then register to receive a rebate to cover the cost of the second phone. The rebate comes in the form of a prepaid MasterCard for up to $500. LG is widely expected to replace the V20 with its new V30 flagship later this month.

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Google Syncs Android O Reveal with Solar Eclipse

Today, 10:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google plans to reveal the name of Android 8 on August 21. The company has timed the revelation with the total solar eclipse that will occur in North America on that day. Google has so far only indicated that Android 8 will start with the letter "O" and guesses range far and wide as to what the name will be. Google typically names major Android versions after desserts, such as Nougat, Marshmallow, and Lollipop. Some believe the new version of Android will be called Oreo, while others think it will be Orangina or Oatmeal. Google released a penultimate version of Android O through its developer channel earlier this summer and is expected to release the final version of the operating system when the name is revealed next week. As per the norm, Google-branded Nexus and Pixel devices will be the first to receive the new operating system. Google will make the announcement at 2:40pm Eastern Time.


iOS 11 Lets Users Temporarily Disable Touch ID

Yesterday, 5:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A new setting discovered in iOS allows iPhone owners to quickly and temporarily disable Touch ID. Pressing the power button rapidly five times activates SOS Emergency mode. The purpose of this mode is to let people bypass the lock tools to make an emergency phone call. A byproduct of entering SOS Emergency mode is disabling Touch ID. The only way to unlock the phone once Touch ID has been disabled is via the PIN or password. Because users are able to do this quickly and discreetly, it could be useful to help safeguard the iPhone in a situation when the owner might be compelled to provide their fingerprint. The feature was first spotted on Twitter and later verified by The Verge. iOS 11 is still in beta testing. It should be rolled out the general public next month.


YouTube TV Jumps to Another 14 Markets

Yesterday, 5:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its YouTube TV streaming video service is expanding to 14 new markets this week, with another 17 to follow in the weeks ahead. The new markets going live today include: Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Columbus, Jacksonville-Brunswick, Las Vegas, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Seattle-Tacoma, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota, and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce. These markets, together with the 10 markets already active, bring YouTube TV service to about half of Americans. YouTube said it struck a deal with Sinclair so it can air ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC affiliates in nine of the 14 new markets. The 17 markets on deck for YouTube TV in the near future include: Austin, Birmingham, Cleveland-Akron, Denver, Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek, Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem, Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York, Hartford-New Haven, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Oklahoma City, Raleigh-Durham, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and St. Louis. The same deal with Sinclair brings live ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC to 11 of these 17 markets. YouTube TV costs $35 per month, includes up to six personal accounts all with unlimited DVR recordings and access. The number of channels is still limited to about 50.


Instagram Adds Photo Replies and Face Filters

Yesterday, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram has rolled out several new ways to interact with friends on the photo-sharing social network. First, Instagram made it possible to reply with a photo or video to specific photos, videos, and reshared posts in the Direct messages feature. The reply tool automatically includes a snapshot of the original photo and overlays it on the reply. It also supports split-screen replies, allowing people to mix up their own selfie response with the original image. Editing tools let users add graphics, text, and doodles on the replies, as well. Instagram also released a new set of customizable face filters that target fashion from the 1960s. Using the filters, users can tap the accessories to explore different hats, glasses, and outfits and mix and match them however they wish. The new face filter is accessible via a new face button that appears in the lower corner of the camera. Both the photo reply and face filter tools are rolling out in the latest version of Instagram for Android and iOS devices.


Sprint Taking Preorders for the Essential PH-1

Yesterday, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today began accepting preorders for the Essential PH-1 smartphone. Sprint is offering the phone at a significant savings through its lease program when compared to buying the phone outright directly from Essential. The PH-1 is available to Sprint customers for $14.58 per month through a Sprint Flex 18-Month Lease, which totals about $260 under the full retail cost of $699. At the end of the lease period, Essential lessees can opt to pay off the balance or turn the phone in for something else. Sprint is also offering the Essential 360-degree modular camera attachment for $199, or $16.67 per month for 12 months on an installment plan. The black version will be available in stores within a few weeks, according to Sprint, with the white model following at a later date. Sprint says the phone supports three-channel carrier aggregation on its network and can hit theoretical download speeds in excess of 200 Mbps. Essential recently emailed customers who preordered the phone and informed them that the PH-1 will ship in about a week. The Essential PH-1 has a bezelless design, a magnetic mod system, dual cameras, and a Snapdragon 835 processor.


Xfinity Says It's Now Available In All Comcast Markets

Yesterday, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xfinity, Comcast's wireless service, today said it has expanded its availability to every market in which Comcast has a presence. The low-cost service launched in April, but was limited to just a small selection of markets. Now, Comcast customers can take advantage of the wireless offering and tie it to their existing internet and television service. Xfinity has also tweaked its service plans. Moving forward, the company offers unlimited service (up to 20 GB of high-speed LTE 4G) for $45 per line per month. It also sells access for $12 per 1 GB, which can be shared across all the lines in a plan. Xfinity offers all customers unlimited talk and text and a base 100 MB of data to get them started. Taxes and fees are included in the pricing structure. Xfinity operates on Verizon's network, but will offload data traffic to Comcast-owned WiFi hotspots when they are available. Xfinity says it has 18 million such hotspots positioned around the country. Xfinity offers a number of popular phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Apple iPhone 7. Customers can pay full price up front or over time via monthly installments.


HMD Global Intros Nokia 8 Flagship Smartphone

Wednesday, 2:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global, the sole licensee of the Nokia brand, today announced the Nokia 8 flagship Android smartphone. The handset is milled from 6000 series aluminum and polished to a high-gloss finish in black, blue, silver, and copper. The Nokia 8 boasts a 5.3-inch quad HD screen with curved Gorilla Glass 5, and it is powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor with 4 or 6 GB of RAM, and 64 or 128 GB of storage (depending on color selection.) All versions support microSD memory cards up to 128 GB. Like many modern flagships, the Nokia 8 adopts a dual-camera configuration with two 13-megapixel cameras on the rear with LED flash. One camera captures full color images and the other captures monochrome images along with depth and contrast information. Both feature Zeiss optics. The front camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, too, with a display-based flash. All three cameras have f/2.0 lenses. The Nokia 8 includes software that allows people to shoot photos and/or video with both the front and rear cameras at the same time. Other specs include a 3.090mAh battery, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, NFC, and Cat 9 LTE. The phone runs Android 7.1 Nougat and costs $700. HMD Global didn't immediately specify where the Nokia 8 will be sold.


Google Home Owners Can Now Make Free Calls

Wednesday, 1:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today enabled free voice calls from its Google Home speaker. Google Home is powered by the Google Assistant. Google says Home owners in the U.S. and Canada can initiate free voice calls to anyone in their contacts, as well as any business, by simply asking Google Home to make the call. The calls are completed over the Home's WiFi connection. For now, those who receive a call made via Google Home will see "unknown" or "no caller ID" when it rings their number, though Google hopes to let people display their mobile device number in Home calls by the end of the year. People who subscribe to Google Voice or Project Fi can use their Google number with Home right away.


Google Brings Q&A Feature to Maps and Search

Wednesday, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it is adding a question-and-answer tool to Google Maps and Google Search for Android devices. Users need only search for and open business listings within Maps or Search to see the Q&A feature, which taps into data provided by Google Local Guides and others. Google says existing answers will be visible first, but people can ask (or answer) their own questions. Questions posed by users may be answered by the community at large or the business owner in particular. Google suggests business owners post their own FAQs and/or answers to common questions that might concern hours, accessibility, and so on. Google says the new Q&A feature is rolling out on Maps and Search for Android worldwide.


Google Improves Collaborative Tools In Docs, Sheets, Slides

Wednesday, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a significant update to its G Suite productivity apps, including Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets. Specifically, the apps gain new powers for collaborating with others. First, users can now save version numbers of documents in order to keep track of their progression from initial draft to final. Users can also preview what the clean version of the document will look like, as well as accept or reject all suggested changes at once. When it comes to mobile devices, Docs, Sheets, and Slides now allow Android and iOS users to suggest changes from their phone or tablet. Google says new templates should help speed up the process of creating documents and spreadsheets, and users can now create their own templates with the proper add-ons. Last, enterprise and education users gain access to a new cloud search tool that integrates across G Suite properties, including Drive, Gmail, Calendar, and others. The new features are rolling out over the next few weeks.


T-Mobile Targets Rural Areas for 600 MHz Service, Starting with Cheyenne

Wednesday, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it has activated its first 600 MHz cell site in Cheyenne, Wyo. T-Mobile is using Nokia equipment to provide LTE coverage across Cheyenne in the 600 MHz band. The Un-carrier plans to light up 600 MHz service in rural areas around the country first. Markets that can expect to see 600 MHz service by the end of the year include Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, Western North Dakota, Maine, Coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia, and Eastern Washington. T-Mobile says deploying LTE on 600 MHz in these markets will improve its coverage from 315 million POPs today to 321 million by year's end. T-Mobile won the spectrum licenses in the reverse auction that concluded earlier this year. The government gave T-Mobile the licenses just two months ago. The company plans to deploy service on the 600 MHz airwaves as quickly as it can to help shore up weak coverage areas. The service may be up and running, but there are no devices yet that can use it. According to T-Mobile, Samsung and LG plan to release compatible handsets during the fourth quarter of the year.


FCC Docs Point to HTC-Made Pixel Phone with 'Active Edge'

Wednesday, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 9:27 AM

The FCC recently approved a handset made by HTC that could be the next Pixel smartphone from Google. HTC manufactured last year's Pixel and Pixel XL handsets for Google. The FCC confirms that the new model in question, G011A, includes LTE support for all four major U.S. carriers via bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 30, 41, and 66. The phone supports CDMA BC 0/1/10, providing full support for Sprint voice service. The FCC also confirms that the phone will have Bluetooth, GPS, and dual-band WiFi. Some sample screenshots provided by HTC for the phone's FCC e-label provide a few more details about the device. The G011A runs Android 8.0.1. Google-branded handsets, including the Nexus series and Pixel series, will be the first to run Android 8, suggesting the G011A could be a Pixel. According to these same screen shots, the device runs a baseband radio (Qualcomm part MW8998) that would only be paired with the Snapdragon 835 processor (Qualcomm part MSM8998). The wide LTE band support and potential Snapdragon 835 processor earmark the G011A as a flagship handset of some sort. Last, the screenshots from HTC reference something called "Active Edge" that can be used to "squeeze for your Assistant." The Active Edge sounds a lot like the Edge Sense that HTC pioneered on the U11 smartphone from earlier this year. On the G011A, Active Edge may activate the Google Assistant. Neither HTC nor Google has confirmed any aspect of the G011A or 2017 Pixel.


Essential Says Black PH-1 Shipping Within A Week, White PH-1 Not Ready Yet

Wednesday, 6:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today began emailing customers who preordered the PH-1 smartphone with news of the device's imminent arrival. "Great news, your phone has been built! We now just need your payment details and we will ship within 7 days," reads the email in part. Customers who've preordered the black version of the phone can expect to receive their phone within a week of paying for it. The white version, however, is not yet ready. Customers who preordered the white model are receiving a different email that says, "As shipment of your Pure White device is still a couple of weeks away, we want to give you the option to change your order from a Pure White to a Black Moon device, which will ship [sooner.]" People who preordered the Pure White model can contact Essential's support team to opt for the Black Moon color if they wish. The phone will also be sold by Amazon.com and Best Buy in the U.S. in addition to Sprint, which is the only U.S. carrier that has agreed to distribute the phone. Essential hasn't yet said when retail units would be available. The Essential PH-1 has a bezelless design, a magnetic mod system, dual cameras, and a Snapdragon 835 processor. It is priced at $699. Essential told customers who preordered the modular 360-degree camera that they'll be contacted via email separately when the camera is ready.


Review: Nuheara IQbuds Bluetooth Headphones

Tuesday, 3:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Fully wireless Bluetooth earbuds are still a new concept, and yet the next generation is already at hand. A small number of companies are preparing advanced noise-cancellation tools to give users full control over just how much background noise reaches your ears. Nuheara's IQbuds are an early entrant. Here are our thoughts.

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Decorating with the Asus ZenFone AR

Tuesday, 2:24 PM   by Rich Brome

The Asus ZenFone AR for Verizon is the first phone in the U.S. to support Google Tango, the advanced AR (augmented reality) platform for Android. It supports a small variety of apps so far. The most useful so far are online shopping apps that display virtual items for sale (such as furniture, decorations, fixtures, and appliances) in the room you're currently it. We take it for a spin by decorating a dingy subway station. Check out the full video to see Tango in action.

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Instagram Ties Comments Into Threads

Tuesday, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram hopes threaded conversations will improve the experience of commenting on photos, videos, and other posts. Moving forward, replying to a specific comment will line up the response directly under that comment in an on-going thread. Instagram believes this new layout will make it easier to respond to and keep track of conversations as they unfold. The new threaded commenting behavior is being rolled out globally via Instagram v.24 to both Android and iOS devices over the coming weeks.

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