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printed December 14, 2017
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Verizon to Offer iPhone 8, Galaxy S8 BOGO

Yesterday, 4:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless plans to let holiday shoppers score a smartphone for free with an upcoming buy-one, get-one deal. Beginning Friday, December 15, customers who buy an Apple iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus, or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ can get a second device for free. Both devices will need to be purchased on a payment plan and at least one must be a new line of service. The second phone must be from the same manufacturer and be of equal or lesser value. The cost of the second device will be reimbursed monthly over a 24-month period. Verizon says the offer is valid for existing customer upgrades, as well as those who switch to Verizon. The buy-one, get-one deal will be available for a limited time.


iOS 11.2.1 Arrives to Stomp Out Bugs

Yesterday, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 11.2.1 available to the iPhone and iPad in order to resolve performance issues. Specifically, the update tackles a problem that could disable remote access to shared users of the Home application. The update is rather lightweight at about 69 MB and it can be downloaded and installed over the air.


Google Making Assistant Available to Older Android Phones

Yesterday, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said older Android smartphones and tablets are gaining access to the Google Assistant. Until today, Assistant was only available to phones running Android 6 Marshmallow and up. Now, handsets that have Android 5.0 Lollipop support Assistant. Google says Assistant has started to roll out to all devices running Lollipop in English in the U.S., U.K., India, Australia, Canada, and Singapore, as well as in Spanish in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain. Further, for the first time Google Assistant is being made available to Android tablets. Android slates in the U.S. running Android 6 Marshmallow and Android 7 Nougat will be able to download Assistant over the coming weeks. Google Assistant is Google's voice-powered personal helper. It can be used to perform searches as well as initiate actions on mobile devices.

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T-Mobile to Buy Layer3 TV and Launch TV Service Next Year

Yesterday, 10:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has set its sights on the cable TV industry and hopes to disrupt that market beginning next year. The company today announced plans to acquire Layer3 TV, which already delivers internet-based television service in five markets around the country. T-Mobile will use Layer3 TV's technology to create and launch a new TV service that will be delivered over T-Mobile's LTE network. "People love their TV, but they hate their TV providers. And worse, they have no real choice but to simply take it — the crappy customer service, clunky technology and outrageous bills loaded with fees! That’s where we come in. We're gonna fix the pain points and bring real choice to consumers across the country," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. Legere insisted T-Mobile's TV service will be "disruptive" and will take full advantage of the latest technology and best content from today's top creators. In addition to T-Mobile's network, the as-yet-unnamed TV service will be supported by T-Mobile's retail stores, and sales and service organizations. Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3 TV, added, "No market needs Un-carrier-ing more than pay TV, so we’re completely stoked to join T-Mobile in disrupting the status quo!" T-Mobile did not say how much it will pay for Layer3 TV, nor when this television service might launch, not what it expects to charge per month. The company already allows people to stream as much video via LTE as they wish, and offers some customers Netflix for free. T-Mobile competitors AT&T and Verizon each have their own television services, both mobile and in-home. T-Mobile needs to enter the TV space in some capacity in order to offer customers a similar set of services.


Apple Awards Face ID Laser Company Finisar with $390 Million

Yesterday, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it plans to invest $390 million in Finisar, the Texas-based supplier of its VCSEL (vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers) wafers. Apple uses the VCSEL technology in the iPhone X to power Face ID, Animoji, and portrait photography in the TrueDepth camera. VCSELs are also found in the AirPods headphones for sensing proximity. The investment will allow Finisar to re-open a plant and employ 500 new engineers and technicians. Apple says 100% of the VCSELs it plans to purchase will be made in Texas. The plant, expected to be producing by mid-2018, will be powered entirely be renewable sources. The investment comes from a $1 billion fund Apple set aside to foster innovation and high-skilled jobs in the U.S. Earlier this year, Apple agreed to invest $200 million in Corning, the company behind Gorilla Glass.


AT&T Adds to International Roaming Options

Tuesday, 1:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 1:42 PM

AT&T today added to its selection of international roaming packages. To start, its $10-per-day option is still available. This legacy option gives people access to their own calling, messaging, and data plan for $10 per day when overseas. The new options are meant for people who would rather buy access in bulk. The first option costs $60 for a 30-day period and includes unlimited messaging and WiFi access, 1 GB of data, and $0.35/minute voice calls. This plan automatically expires or renews after 30 days, depending on the subscribers' needs. Those who require more data can opt for the 3 GB roaming plan, which costs $120 per 30 days and includes the same messaging, WiFi, and calling features. These plans are not available to cruise ship passengers, who are encouraged to use AT&T's dedicated cruise packages. AT&T's new international options are available starting today.


Twitter Unravels Thread Feature

Tuesday, 1:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today made it easier to publish tweet storms, or threads. The use of threads, a way to string together a series of tweets to tell a longer story, has risen in popularity over the last few years. In order to simplify the process of composing these threads, Twitter has a new "plus" button in the tweet composer that allows users to connect tweets and publish an entire thread all at once. Even after a thread is published, the author can add to it thanks to a new "add another tweet" button. Further, threads will be easier to discover thanks to new labels that point to complete tweet strings. Twitter says the new threading tool is rolling out to everyone on Android, iOS, and Twitter.com in the coming weeks.


YouTube TV Reaches 34 New Markets

Tuesday, 1:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube TV has expanded once again to 34 new markets around the country. The additional cities, some of which include Flint, Green Bay, New Orleans, Rochester, San Antonio, San Diego, Savannah, Shreveport, Tulsa, and Tucson, make for a total of 83 markets. YouTube TV originally launched in just five markets in April. YouTube TV costs $35 per month and includes up to six personal accounts all with unlimited DVR recordings and access. The number of channels is still limited to about 50. YouTube TV is available on Android and iOS mobile devices, as well as via the Chrome browser on desktop PCs. A YouTube TV app is expected to reach the Apple TV shortly.


Review: OnePlus 5T

Tuesday, 12:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The latest smartphone from OnePlus is an attractive, affordable premium device. The OnePlus 5T is the latest handset to adopt the 2:1 aspect ratio and offer a dual-camera array. With a Snapdragon 835 under the hood and OnePlus' tasteful tweaks to Android, the OnePlus 5T is an appealing blend of price and performance. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.

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Instagram Users Can Now Follow Hashtags

Tuesday, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today rolled out a new tool that allows people to follow hashtags in addition to individual accounts. The idea is to make it easier to discover photos, videos, and people. Hashtags are generally tied to subjects, events, locations, and other interests. The tool lets users search for hashtags and then follow the tag thanks to a new button that appears on the hashtag's main page. Instagram says posts that include the hashtag will then start to filter into users' main photo feed. People can unfollow hashtags whenever they wish. The tool is being added to the Android and iOS mobile apps over the days ahead.


Synaptics Says A 'Top Five' Phone Company to Use Its Under-the-Glass Fingerprint Reader

Tuesday, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Synaptics today said of the five largest phone manufacturers in the world has agreed to use its Clear ID FS9500 optical, in-display fingerprint sensor. The FS9500 can scan fingerprints through the full thickness of smartphone cover glass, which means device makers can create sleek, button-free designs and still include a fingerprint reader on the front. Synaptics says the FS9500 was designed with "bezel-free infinity displays" in mind. This latest generation of Synpatics' technology can read fingerprints on wet, dry, or cold fingers, and the reader is always protected by the glass, making it durable and waterproof. Synaptics claims its sensor is twice as fast as 3D facial recognition tools, and comes and goes only when needed to authenticate the user. Synaptics didn't name the phone maker, nor did it suggest when a device with the Clear ID FS9500 might come to market. According to IDC, the top five phone makers in the third quarter of 2017 were Samsung, Apple, Huawei, Oppo, and Xiaomi.


Apple to Let People Pre-Order Apps

Tuesday, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has made it possible for people to pre-order applications. Technically, the power is being given to developers, who can publish product pages and accept orders ahead of the app's release. Once the app is ready for download, customers will be notified and it will automatically download to their device. Developers can further advertise their apps by using the pre-order badges in their marketing materials. In another change, developers can now offer new customers discounted introductory pricing for auto-renewable subscriptions that are managed on the App Store. For example, digital magazines can offer the first three months of a 12-month subscription for a lower price. Developers can do this thanks to a new API in iOS 11.2 that allows them to configure introductory pricing. The new tools are available to developers today, and will reach end users soon.


Google Seeds Experimental Camera Apps for Android and iOS

Monday, 4:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today released three photography "appsperiments" that are meant to be fun ways to use your smartphone's camera. The new apps "rely on object recognition, person segmentation, stylization algorithms, efficient image encoding and decoding technologies" to create interesting and unique experiences. Storyboard, available only for Android, takes videos and turns them into single-page comic layouts. The app will automatically scan videos to select what it considers to be interesting video frames and then lay them out in one of six styles. The comics are easy to save or replace by filming new video. Selfissimo (pictured), available to Android and iOS devices, is a budding model's dream. The app is an automated selfie photographer that snaps shots as you move around and make poses. The app encourages you to pose as you go and will create a contact sheet with all the results. People can save individual images or the entire shoot. Last, Scrubbies, available only to iOS devices, lets people adjust video playback speed and direction quickly and easily with their fingers. It works sort of like a deejay turntable to create video loops that highlight action. Google says the appsperiments are in a trial phase and it welcomes feedback from early adopters.


BlackBerry KEYone $100 Off from Amazon and Best Buy

Monday, 12:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Both Amazon and Best Buy are rolling back the price of the BlackBerry KEYone starting today. The GSM and CDMA variants of the keyboard-equipped smartphone are on sale for $449, a savings of $100 off the normal retail price of $549. The KEYone has a 4.5-inch screen, 12-megapixel camera, Snapdragon 625 processor, Android 7.1 Nougat, and advanced security software. BlackBerry Mobile said the promotion will run though December 24, or as long as supplies last.


OnePlus 5T Scores OxygenOS 4.7.4 with Performance Tweaks

Monday, 12:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today made OxygenOS 4.7.4 available to its OnePlus 5T flagship smartphone. The update delivers optimizations to the camera and overall system. For example, 4.7.4 cleans up the camera app's user interface and also improves photo quality. After installing the update, people who own the 5T should experience better audio quality from the built-in speakers and from headphones. The face unlock and fingerprint tools should be more stable, and the wifi radio's battery performance and the vibrate alert's behavior should be improved as well. The update also makes further unspecified performance optimizations and bug fixes. It does not repair the DRM-based HD streaming deficiency reported earlier today. OxygenOS 4.7.4 is free to download over the air.


Apple Has Acquired Shazam

Monday, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced that it has acquired Shazam, the song-identifying service, for an undisclosed sum. The deal was first revealed last week in a report from TechCrunch. The Shazam mobile application is available to iOS and Android devices. "Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users," said an Apple spokesperson to Reuters. "We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement." Apple didn't say if the purchase would impact Shazam's availability on Android. Shazam has a worldwide user base of hundreds of millions of people. The deal will need to clear regulatory hurdles before it can be finalized.


Google Home Max Now Available for $399; Verizon Discounts LG V30

Monday, 10:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today began selling the Google Home Max in-home assistant and speaker. The Max relies on the same Google Assistant that powers the Google Home and Google Home Mini devices, but packages the voice-based tool in a larger, music-focused box. The Max has twin 4.5-inch woofers and can analyze the room to automatically adjust its tuning for the best possible sound. It supports streaming services such as Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, and Spotify, and can interact with Chromecasts and other cast-enabled devices. The Google Home Max is available online from Verizon and Best Buy. Verizon Wireless also rolled out a promotion for the LG V30. Customers can snag a $300 discount on the phone when purchased on a 24-month payment plan. The $300 discount is applied monthly until the phone is paid off. The LG V30 deal is only available online.


Essential's Andy Rubin Back to Work After Short Leave

Monday, 9:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Andy Rubin has returned to his duties as CEO of Essential Products after a very short leave of absence, reports Recode. Rubin took leave from Essential in late November after a relationship he had with a coworker during his time at Google became public. Rubin insists the relationship was consensual, though it involved an employee on his Android team at Google. Rubin was moved to a different division at Google and later left to found Playground Global, a venture capital firm, and Essential Products. Earlier this year, Essential debuted its first handset, the PH-1. The PH-1 is an all-screen Android device made from high-end materials and top specs.

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