Amazon is kicking off sales of the Nexbit Robin with a limited price. Anyone who buys the phone from Amazon between May 4 and May 10 will pay $299, rather than $399. The sale price is only available in the U.S. Nextbit will continue to sell the phone directly at the full price of $499 through its own web site. Nextbit recently updated the Robin handset, making improvements to speed, reliability, the camera, and sound quality. The Robin was designed by former HTC employees and is unique in that it dynamically offloads files and apps to make room for new content.
Twitter today announced a new tool meant to make it easier to find new people and accounts to follow. The "connect" tab will appear on Twitter for the web, and in the Android and iOS mobile apps beginning today, where Twitter will curate a list of accounts it believe users might like to follow. Twitter says it makes recommendations based on who users already follow, which tweets they like, global events, and what's popular nearby. Twitter says it will refine its recommendations over time. The connect tab also integrates with the user's address book, making it simple to follow contacts en masse. Twitter says the connect tab is rolling out for all users. Twitter is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
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Dish today launched a new service called Smart Phone Repair that involves technicians making house calls. Smart Phone Repair is available to Dish and non-Dish consumers. Dish charges a $35 travel fee to send a tech, who can replace broken screens or dead batteries for the Apple iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus. Dish says techs can fix one or many phones once on site, and pricing for the repairs will be the same nationwide. Dish plans to expand the service to other handsets over time. Dish mentioned that it uses "respected third-party replacement parts," which means it does not use genuine Apple screens or batteries. Dish offers next-day appointments, available seven days a week, in all 50 states. The company is pitching the service as a more convenient way to deal with phone repairs. Pricing varies by model.
BlackBerry Priv smartphone owners can now swipe across the keyboard to input text, rather than press individual letters. BlackBerry says Priv owners have to turn on Type By Swipe manually, and can choose to swipe either on the software keyboard or the physical keyboard. Turning on swipe, however, disables the existing swiping gestures (for accessing symbols, deleting entire words, etc.) that are part of the Priv's physical keyboard. BlackBerry said it is looking at ways to allow Type By Swipe and its other swiping gestures to work at the same time. The Type By Swipe input tool was added to the Priv with the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update. Privs still running Android 5.1 can access these features by installing a new version of the BlackBerry keyboard app, available in the Google Play Store.
T-Mobile is pushing a minor update to its variants of the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge that improves performance of several features. Specifically, the revised system should offer enhanced voice services on both phones. A bug impacting the volume and power buttons has been eradicated. Last, the update makes unspecified changes to Samsung Pay. The update is available as an over-the-air download. T-Mobile suggests S7 and S7 Edge owners download it via WiFi. The update may take a few days to reach all devices.
Microsoft has updated its Bing search application for the iPhone and added the ability to search for images captured by the camera. The tool, similar to Google Goggles, lets users take a picture and then use the picture to perform a search. Bing will examine the image and return results that include more pictures of the same thing, as well as information about it. The updated search app can now also provide alerts about movie availability, and help find bus routes and schedules. Microsoft took time to improve the app's launch time, too, and stomped out several bugs. Bing search for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Google is rolling out an update to the Google Keyboard application with a handful of new functions. To start, Android users can now adjust the height of the keyboard between short and tall, with five different heights available in between. This feature reflects what one seen on LG phones for several years. The keyboard can be set to left- or right-handed mode, allows full-word deletion, and adds a dedicated phone-like number pad for faster number entry. The Google Keyboard 5.0 is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Google today highlighted its May security patch, which is first being delivered to Nexus smartphones and tablets. The patch resolves 25 issues, of which six are considered critical. The most severe could enable remote code execution via certain media files, as well as through a Qualcomm WiFi driver and an Nvidia video driver. Google says it discovered the vulnerabilities earlier this year and alerted its parters to the risks on April 4. Google has already made the patch available in factory image form via the Google Developer Site. It will release the associated new builds to the Android Open Source Project within the next 48 hours, and will push the update over the air to Nexus handsets in the next few days. Google said, as far it is aware, none of the vulnerabilities were exploited. Google provides monthly security updates to Nexus-branded Android handsets.
HTC has begun distributing a system update to the 10 smartphone ahead of its general release that improves the camera and connectivity functions. Specifically, low-light images should be sharper and brighter, as should images captured outdoors. The laser-assisted autofocus user interface has been tweaked, and the HDR function has a wider range of light sensitivity. Last, purple noise should no longer be visible in photos captured in Pro Mode. WiFi performance is also improved thanks to Smart MIMO. This update is reaching unlocked European versions of the 10 first, and will soon hit the unlocked model that's for sale directly from HTC. U.S. carriers will begin to sell the 10 over the course of the next week. It's not clear how quickly this system update will be made to carrier models.
Nvidia today said it has settled its patent-related litigation with Samsung. The company first sued Samsung in 2014 over smartphone patents and was later sued in turn by Samsung. In October 2015, Samsung was cleared of violating Nvidia's patents. In December 2015, a law judge with the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Nvidia was guilty of violating Samsung's patents. That initial ruling was set to be reviewed today by the full ITC panel. The settlement sees each company licensing a few minor patents from one another, but it does not establish a broad cross-licensing agreement, nor does it establish large royalty payments. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Smartphones powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor are about to get a boost in intelligence. Qualcomm today introduced the Neural Processing Engine SDK for Snapdragon 820, which will allow smartphone makers to add their own machine learning programs to devices with the 820 aboard. The Neural Processing Engine SDK relies on Qualcomm's Zeroth Machine Intelligence Platform. Zeroth is already baked into the Snapdragon 820 where it helps detect malware. Qualcomm says the SDK will enable typical deep learning behaviors such as scene detection, text recognition, object tracking and avoidance, facial recognition, and natural language processing. Most importantly, devices that rely on Zeroth will not need a network connection to learn or execute these actions. The SDK itself will include a bevy of tools to help developers create and add such learning behaviors to their smartphones. Qualcomm expects the Neural Processing Engine SDK for Snapdragon 820 to become available during the second half of the year.
LG Innotek revealed a new fingerprint sensor that works through glass, allowing LG and other smartphone makers to create devices free from buttons. LG Innotek was able to do this by carving a small furrow out of the back side of the glass. It then glued the sensor in this furrow with a new, strengthened adhesive. LG Innotek says the embedded fingerprint sensor is just as accurate and quick as those within physical buttons, and has a false positive rate of 0.002%. LG Innotek claims the cover panel glass is still impact resistant, despite the thinner area where the fingerprint sensor is located. The company believes the solution will give phone designers more freedom to innovate, for example, by creating waterproof, buttonless phones. LG Innotek did not say when it expects its under-the-glass fingerprint sensor to ship. Synaptics developed a similar solution last year.
Intel said it will discontinue a handful of processors meant for smartphones and tablets as it continues to shift its business toward more profitable products. In particular, Intel has cancelled plans to sell three of its SoFIA processor-baseband combination chips. The company also plans to can its ARM-based Broxton tablet processor. Two of the three SoFIA modules included support for LTE, which Intel has been slow to add to its lineup. Intel has struggled to compete against industry veteran Qualcomm and others. Early this month Intel announced a strategic shift away from mobile devices; instead, Intel plans to focus on products for PCs, servers, and the internet of things. Intel is also in the process of cutting some 11,000 jobs to trim expenses as it transforms its focus.
The Plantronics BackBeat Go 3 are lightweight stereo Bluetooth headphones that offer a portable design and excellent battery life. This third-generation headset is ideal for use around town when you don't want wires dragging you down. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth review.
Verizon Wireless says it will be the first U.S. carrier to stock the HTC 10 in retail stores, beginning May 5. Verizon began accepting preorders for the phone today and claims no other carrier will sell the device in stores before May 10. Verizon is offering the phone for monthly payments of $27 for 24 months, totaling $648. Verizon is also taking preorders for the Ice View Case for the HTC 10. The Ice View Case is semi-transparent and allows users to perform certain functions even with the front flap closed. The case costs $50, but Verizon didn't say when it will ship. Verizon highlighted several other cases that fit the HTC 10, all of which are eligible for the Case Loyalty Program, which entails increasingly larger discounts on multiple purchases of cases.
The FCC today announced it has set an initial spectrum clearing target of 126 MHz during the reverse part of the auction for 600 MHz airwaves. Television broadcasters have agreed to part with this spectrum. The FCC then plans to offer 100 MHz in 10 near-nationwide paired blocks to wireless providers in the forward phase of the auction. The majority of the spectrum being given up by television broadcasters will qualify as Category 1, which means it has no or little interference. Some of the spectrum will fall under Category 2, which has a greater degree of interference but not so much that it can't be managed. The FCC is today notifying all the television broadcasters about the status of their applications to sell spectrum. The FCC plans a mock auction for May 24-25, and will kick off the actual reverse portion of the auction May 31. It's unclear how long the reverse auction will take place before the FCC is able to turn around and re-sell the spectrum to wireless companies. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all said they plan to participate in the hunt for low-band spectrum.
Sprint today said the HTC 10 will reach its stores on May 13. Sprint is not offering a lease option for the HTC 10, as it does for Apple's iPhone or Samsung's Galaxy S phones. Instead, Sprint will finance the phone for 24 months with payments of $26. An unlocked version of the HTC 10 is already available for sale directly from HTC.com for $699. The phone includes a 5.2-inch quad HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 12-megapixel camera, fingerprint sensor, and high-quality sound. It runs Android 6 Marshmallow.
Periscope users can now sketch on the screen during live broadcasts. Periscope added the feature in a recent update to the app, which it says "provides a new way to express yourself while broadcasting." The tool, which requires a long-press to access, lets users draw in red, green, or blue, or use a dropper to sample a color from the video. Sketching is limited to the iOS version of Periscope for now. Twitter, Periscope's parent company, didn't say if or when the feature might be carried over to the Android app. Periscope is free to download from the iTunes App Store.