Microsoft escaped what could have been a harmful ban on its devices as the U.S. International Trade Commission decided not to block the import of Microsoft's smartphones into the U.S. Microsoft lost a patent case against InterDigital in April when it was found to be infringing on two patents. The individual trade judge who reached that decision recommended Microsoft's handsets be banned from import. The full ITC panel rejected that judge's decision on Friday, however, which means Microsoft will continue to be allowed to bring its handsets into the U.S. Microsoft expressed relief at the decision, while InterDigital voiced disappointment. Earlier this month, Microsoft filed an antitrust lawsuit against InterDigital, claiming the company charges exorbitant fees for standard-essential patents. Such patents must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discrimonatory rates. InterDigital is a patent-holding company and has had mixed success in suing companies such as Samsung, ZTE, and Huawei.
T-Mobile has clarified its stance on Band 12 support in handsets that operate on its network. "We require phones using Band 12 on T-Mobile to support E911 and VoLTE in order to be certified on our network," said T-Mobile in a statement provided to Fierce Wireless. "We do this in the interest of our customers' overall experience and safety." T-Mobile does not, however, force phone makers to support Band 12. "Every OEM has the option to support VoLTE and E911 or not. It's their decision, though obviously, we hope that every OEM will choose to support these features and get certified on our network." The issue at hand is one of safety. Handsets that include Band 12 but don't also support VoLTE and E911 can run into roaming issues that may prevent 911 emergency calls from connecting properly. This would violate FCC regulations and might impact the outcome of emergency situations. The issue came to light when it was discovered the Moto E doesn't support VoLTE, E911, nor Band 12.
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Motorola has in recent days updated its camera and gallery applications. The camera app brings QR and barcode scanning to some of Motorola's older handsets, such as the Moto X (2nd Gen.), Moto X Pro, DROID Turbo, and Moto Maxx/Turbo. The gallery app's primary new feature is the ability to move photo albums to microSD memory cards, which the newest Moto X and Moto G smartphones support. Both apps are free to download from the Google Play Store.
John S. Chen, CEO of BlackBerry, admitted that its recent handsets have not sold as well as he hoped. "By any definition it is not a runaway success," said Chen to Re/Code of BlackBerry's smartphone business. Chen put some of the blame on the lack of apps. The Blackberry World app store "[is] not competitive to Google Play or the iTunes store," said Chen. "We're working hard at that." BlackBerry handsets are able to run Android apps, but even that doesn't help. Recent reports have suggested the company is preparing a BlackBerry handset with Android on board, but Chen said, "It is a little more complex [than that], which is why it is not done." BlackBerry has already made significant cuts to its hardware business this year and plans to release just one or two handsets per year. Even so, the company may consider exiting smartphones altogether. "If I can't make money on the phone, I will be out of that telephone handset business. There is a timeline; I won't tell you when."
Nokia has signed a memorandum of understanding with a China government-backed investment company called Huaxin in order to encourage approval of its proposed acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. The acquisition has already been approved by U.S. and E.U. antitrust bodies, but is awaiting China's decision. The joint venture, named Nokia Shanghai Bell, will mirror one Alcatel-Lucent had in place with Huaxin and may facilitate China's approval of the deal. Nokia will hold 50% of the company plus one share, and Huaxin will hold the rest. Nokia believes merging with Alcatel-Lucent will allow it to better compete with companies such as Ericsson and ZTE, which also provide network operators with telecommunications equipment.
The FCC has approved AT&T's proposed acquisition of several spectrum licenses from KanOkla Telephone Association. The transfer includes one Lower 700 MHz C Block license and the partial assignment of a second Lower 700 MHz C Block license, for a total of 12 megahertz, covering parts of two local market areas in Kansas and Oklahoma. Similar to a transaction the FCC approved earlier this week, the KanOkla spectrum buy will give AT&T control of more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in the stated ares. Even so, the FCC determined the transfer does not pose any competitive harm and will likely result in some benefits for consumers. AT&T and KanOkla Telephone Association did not place a dollar value on the spectrum sale. Such transactions are common in the industry.
U.S. Cellular recently made the third-generation Moto G smartphone available from its web site. The carrier is charging $0 for those who sign a contract, $129 for those who prefer prepaid service, or will finance it for $8.99 per month under an installment plan. The Moto G has a 5-inch 720p screen, 13-megapixel camera, and support for LTE 4G. U.S. Cellular is only selling the black version. Consumers who want to customize the colors will need to order the phone through Motorola's Moto Maker web site.
Vine has updated its Android and iOS apps with a new feature allowing users to easily attach music to their videos. A function called Snap to Beat makes it easy to create what Vine refers to as perfect loops, or soundtracks that loop seamlessly with no breaks. Vine offers a selection of songs that can be attached to videos and it will then automatically trim it to the perfect length for each individual video. The soundtrack function also lets people edit music loops on their own for added control, as well as a handful of sound effects for dramatic impact. The music feature isn't just for adorning videos with songs. Users can discover music through a "featured tracks" tool, as well as easily find out the names of songs playing in other peoples' vine videos. Vine is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Samsung's top-of-the-line smartphone impresses with its classy design and blistering performance. The Galaxy Note 5 is a compelling Android device with its big screen, fast processor, and capable camera. Here is Phone Scoop's full report.
Turing Robotic Industries today said its Turing Phone will ship to customers starting Dec. 18, more than four months later than the original Aug. 10 ship date. The company began accepting preorders on July 31 and expects people to pay for the phone in full Sept. 24, long before it ships. Turing named Foxconn as its official manufacturer. Turing also announced two special editions of the handset, called the Dark Wyvern and Dark Wyvern Glaedr, which will be available as upgrades. The standard Turing Phone costs $610 for 16 GB, $740 for 64 GB, and $870 for 128 GB. The special editions cost $999 and $1,299, respectively. The Turing phone is molded from Liquidmorphium that the company claims provides greater tensile strength than either titanium or steel. The handset has a fingerprint sensor built into the side edge for security and uses a magnetic charger to negate the need for ports. Turing says the Android-based handset offers completely secure phone calls and messaging. The device features a 5.5-inch full HD display and it is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The device has a 3,000mAh battery and supports a range of LTE networks around the world.
Sprint rolled out a promotion today that takes direct aim at rival AT&T. The company is offering DirecTV customers who switch to Sprint 12 months of free service. The offer includes unlimited talk and text and up to 2GB of LTE 4G data. Sprint said it will pay the ETFs for those who switch, as well as any remaining equipment payments up to $300. Customers will be responsible for a $36 activation charge and monthly taxes and fees. Once the 12-month promotion ends, users will be moved to a $50 monthly service plan (for a single line). The free year of service does not include Sprint's international services, and data overages are charged at $0.015 per MB. The promotion will be available from Aug. 28 through Sept. 30. DirecT was recently acquired by AT&T.
Apple today announced that Apple Pay is now compatible with PayAnywhere, a type of credit card reader that's in use at about 300,000 locations around the U.S. Apple will sell the newest version of the PayAnywhere terminal to merchants through its own stores. The deal expands the availability of Apple Pay significantly. Apple said it hopes to see Apple Pay accepted at more than 1.5 million locations before year's end. In order to boost interest in the terminal, PayAnywhere is offering new customers $5,000 in free Apple Pay transactions. Apple Pay makes use of NFC to power tap-and-go payments at supporting terminals. Google and Samsung are on the cusp of releasing Android Pay and Samsung Pay, respectively, which will offer similar capabilities to Android handsets.
Instagram marked a major change today by adding support for portrait and landscape photos to its Android and iOS apps. Since its launch, Instagram has required all photos to be square. Some users circumvented the requirement by using third-party apps to make their landscape and portrait images comply with the square shape. Moving forward, photos pulled from the camera roll can be posted in their full size and aspect ratio or zoomed/cropped into a square. The default shape for capturing images within Instagram will still be square. The app, owned by Facebook, is free to download from the Google Play Store and Android App Store.
T-Mobile today added its network to the Competitive Carriers Association's LTE data roaming hub. The move gives CCA members and their customers access to T-Mobile's LTE 4G network for data roaming purposes. The Hub, which launched several years ago, is a collection of roaming agreements between small, rural carriers and large, national ones, such as Sprint and T-Mobile. The purpose of the Hub is to give larger carriers access to the rural networks of regional carriers, and give those regional carriers access to the metropolitan LTE 4G networks of larger carriers. T-Mobile has participated in the hub from a management perspective for some time, but had not yet contributed access to its own network. T-Mobile's network is strong in urban centers, but the carrier lacks the rural coverage available from other competitors.
Samsung is inviting a select number of people to beta test Samsung Pay in the U.S. In order to trial the mobile payment platform, consumers need to have a Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note 5 smartphone. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular are supporting Samsung Pay at launch, Verizon Wireless is not. The beta requires users to have an active Samsung account and a MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust, or U.S. Bank. Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST for tap-and-go transactions. Apple Pay and Android Pay, in comparison, use only NFC. Consumers can request an invite to test Samsung Pay from Samsung.com.
New York City taxicabs are testing an app called Arro that will allow people to hail taxis from their smartphone. Arro will provide people with the taxi driver's name and the number of the cab so it can be identified when it arrives. Similarly, the taxi driver will be given the name of the passenger through the app and the pickup location. The app stores credit card information and passengers can pay for the ride from their phone automatically when it is complete. Arro is being beta tested in about 7,000 cabs and will eventually expand to 13,000 of New York's 20,000 yellow and green taxis. The app is meant to help the taxi industry compete with Uber, which also allows people to hail rides from their smartphone. Arro partnered with Creative Mobile Technologies, which controls the electronic payment service and video screens in 65% of New York's taxis. Arro said it has an advantage over Uber in that it is natively hooked into most taxis' credit card payment terminals. Moreover, Arro will not charge surge pricing; passengers will only pay the metered fare. The full launch is expected to occur in the next few weeks. Arro's developers said they hope to expand the app to all NYC taxis and eventually to other cities.
The FCC has given Kaplan Telephone Inc. permission to sell several spectrum licenses to AT&T. The two Lower 700 MHz C Block licenses and a Cellular B Block license cover parts of two local market areas in Louisiana. The transaction will give AT&T control of more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in the region, but the FCC determined that the transfer does not pose any competitive harm and will likely result in some benefits for consumers. AT&T and Kaplan did not place a dollar value on the spectrum sale.
Amazon has reduced the headcount at its Labs126 hardware division, according to the Wall Street Journal. The hardware division is responsible for products such as the Fire Phone and Kindle line of tablets. The unit employs about 3,000 people and the number of staff reductions isn't clear, though the Journal's sources suggest dozens have been let go. The Fire Phone, released last year, was Amazon's first smartphone. It ran a forked version of Android called FireOS and provided direct access to Amazon's book, music, and video content. Based on the job cuts, it does not appear as though there will be a follow up to the smartphone. Amazon did not comment on the Journal's story.