Responding to reports of poor WiFi performance in homes with Chromecast devices, Google plans to issue a patch that should resolve the issue. "We’re aware of an issue where Chromecast built-in devices may be affecting WiFi network performance," said Google. "In certain situations, a bug in the Cast software on Android phones may incorrectly send a large amount of network traffic which can slow down or temporarily impact WiFi networks." Google says the bug primarily affects those who have an Android handset and a device with Chromecast built in, such as a Google Home product, running on the same WiFi network. Google says it has identified the problem and will roll out a patch through Google Play Services beginning January 18. Until then, the company suggests people experiencing slow WiFi reboot their Android phone and update their WiFi router's software.
Google says it plans to down-rank mobile web sites that deliver slow loading times. The search giant hopes to improve how mobile search behaves on devices and will prioritize mobile web sites that load quickly over those that do not. Google is calling this the "Speed Update" and it will apply to all web pages, no matter the technology used to build the site. The company is encouraging those who develop mobile web sites to tweak performance in order to keep their ranking higher. (Developers can find guidelines from Lighthouse, PageSpeed Insights, and the Chrome User Experience Report.) Google plans to implement the page speed ranking factor for mobile searches in July 2018.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission today said it is investigating potential anticompetitive negotiating tactics used by Broadcom. Of note, the FTC believes Broadcom has altered its practices by requiring some customers to buy a certain percentage of its production items, rather than an absolute number or quantity. This can lead to companies overbuying. The FTC has issued subpoenas seeking more information from Broadcom on the matter. In a brief statement, Broadcom insisted the investigation will not impact its wireless business nor its attempt to buy Qualcomm. Qualcomm is itself the focus of a separate FTC antitrust investigation.
Apple today outlined plans to contribute up to $350 billion to the U.S. economy across various avenues over the next five years. The company will invest some $30 billion in capital expenditures by opening a new campus and creating 20,000 new jobs. Apple already employs about 84,000 people in the U.S. The new Apple campus (location to be announced at a later date) will house technical support for customers. The company will invest $10 billion in data centers around the courtly, such as a new facility that broke ground today in Reno, Nev. Apple will power these facilities with 100% renewable energy. Apple said it is increasing the size of its Advanced Manufacturing Fund, first announced last spring, from $1 billion to $5 billion. The fund will continue to support ingenuity from American manufacturers. Further, Apple said it will work closer with its American suppliers to procure parts and materials for its own products. The company intends to provide more direct support to coding and science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education. For example, it will expand initiatives such as its Swift Playgrounds coding app for kids. The company hopes these efforts will eventually pay off for developers. Apple claims the iOS app economy alone has created 1.6 million jobs and generated $5 billion in revenue for U.S companies in 2017 alone. "Apple is a success story that could only have happened in America, and we are proud to build on our long history of support for the U.S. economy," said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. "We believe deeply in the power of American ingenuity, and we are focusing our investments in areas where we can have a direct impact on job creation and job preparedness."
Google today rolled out a new plan for its Project Fi wireless service that lets people use more mobile data at a lower cost. Since launch, Project Fi has charged $10 per gigabyte, pro-rated so people pay for exactly the amount of data they use. For example, those who consumed 2.3 GB in a given month were charged $23. This system works well for those who use data sparingly, but it adds up quickly for heavy users. Moving forward, the new Bill Protection plan caps the monthly mobile data expenditure at $60, no matter how much is used. People who exceed 6 GB of data in a given month will still be able to use high-speed data, but once they reach 15 GB in a single billing period they may experience slower speeds. Customers who need more than 15 GB of high-speed data per month can continue to pay the $10-per-gigabyte rate if they wish. Moreover, the unlimited plan still pro-rated data. People who use 1.4 GB of data in a month — even if they're using Bill Protection — will be charged $14 for that data. Last, Bill Protection applies to roaming in more than 135 countries and with data-only SIMs in tablets or laptops. Google says Bill Protection is rolling out today to individual and group plan subscribers. Project Fi is compatible with Google's Nexus and Pixel smartphones, and the Moto X4.
Sprint will once again, and for a limited time, give a year of free unlimited service to people who switch from other postpaid carriers to Sprint. The deal, detailed on Sprint's web site, requires switchers to jump through a lot of hoops and meet a wide variety of conditions. In order to quality for the free service, potential switchers need to have compatible, unlocked handsets, and they'll need to purchase and activate Sprint SIM cards before porting their number to Sprint. Sprint says the SIM cards cost $3 each, with $10 shipping and handling. The actual SIM activation will be free. People who take advantage of the deal will not be able to upgrade to new devices for at least four months, and Sprint warns that some phone features and network experiences will vary depending on the handsets in question. The promotion will provide one year of free talk, text, and data with 10 GB of mobile hotspot per line. People who exceed the 10 GB mobile hotspot allotment will be throttled. Video can be streamed at up to full HD, music can be streamed at up to 1.5Mbps, and games can be streamed at up to 8Mbps. Sprint says it will throttle people during instances of network congestion, particularly those who exceed 23 GB per month. People who earn free service will still be on the hook for taxes and other monthly fees. Sprint will allow a total of five free lines per account. Tablets are not supported, nor are other connected devices. The promotion is available through January 31. The free service will expire January 31, 2019, after which Sprint will charge its normal rates for multi-line unlimited accounts. Auto-pay is required.
Samsung has announced the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games Limited Edition of the Galaxy Note8. The phone maker often supports the Olympic Games and this year created a special version of the Note8 in honor of the Games being held in its home country of Korea. The core features of the phone are unchanged compared to the normal variants. The Olympic-themed version features a new white glass rear panel, wallpapers created from imagery of PyeongChang, and apps meant to help participants make the most of PyeongChang. Samsung plans to distribute some 4,000 Galaxy Note8 handsets to athletes and staff members. The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Games officials begin February 8.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson today, along with the attorneys general of 20 other states and the District of Columbia, filed a petition to block the FCC's attempt to repeal net neutrality. The FCC voted in December to scrap Obama-era rules that prohibit internet service providers from prioritizing some web sites and services over others. The FCC calls these measures draconian and believes abolishing them is the best course forward. Many disagree. "Allowing powerful special interests to act as the internet’s gatekeepers harms consumers, innovation, and small businesses," said Ferguson in a statement. "We believe the FCC acted unlawfully when it gutted net neutrality, and I look forward to holding the FCC accountable to the rule of law." Washington Governor Jay Inslee agreed, saying, "Protecting net neutrality is as critical as protecting free speech. The FCC’s attack on the open internet is bad for Washingtonians, bad for business and a major step backward." Ferguson and the other attorneys general say the FCC's decision violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which oversees the process for federal agency rulemaking, in addition to Constitution, and the Communications Act of 1934. Technically, the group filed a Protective Petition for Review, which puts them in line for a court date along with others suing the FCC over the reversal. Today's action coincides with news from the Free Press that 50 Senators want to vote on halting the FCC's actions and make Congress responsible for net neutrality rules.
Cricket Wireless recently added the Alcatel Verso, a minor upgrade to the Alcatel Ideal Xcite, to its lineup of entry-level Android handsets. This $30 smartphone offers low-end specs to keep the price down. It starts with a 5-inch FWVGA (854 x 480) display with scratch-resistant Dragontrail Glass. The phone is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 16 GB of storage and support for memory cards up to 128 GB. The main camera boasts a 5-megapixel sensor with flash and HD video capture while the front camera touts a 2-megapixel camera. Other specs include a 2,050mAh battery, LTE with HD voice and mobile hotspot, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, and WiFi. The Alcatel Verso runs Android 7 Nougat. The phone is available online from Cricket Wireless for $30 for new and existing customers.
Sprint recently launched its Direct Connect Plus push-to-talk service. Direct Connect Plus powers walkie-talkie style conversations with instant connections between users. The service relies on Kodiak's LTE network-based technology, rather than Sprint's discontinued iDEN network. It supports one-to-one and group conversations. Features include presence status, support for tablets, and corporate control over contacts and groups. Sprint's Direct Connect Plus service is available to most Android and iOS smartphones and tablets via mobile app for $5 per month. Several handsets in Sprint's line-up, including the Kyocera DuraXTP, DuraForce Pro, and DuraTR, include physical PTT buttons and native support for Direct Connect Plus. The service is aimed at business customers.
The number of Senators who've put their support behind protecting net neutrality has reached 50. Last week, Sen. Ed Markey (D) mustered support from 39 co-sponsors to force a vote in the issue. Today, that number has grown to 50 Senators, says the Free Press, including the entire Democratic caucus, several Independents, and Republican Senator Susan Collins (Maine). The idea is to put the fate of net neutrality into Congress' hands, rather than those of the FCC. With Collins siding with Democrats, the Republicans would need Vice President Mike Pence to break a tie in a vote. The FCC voted to repeal net neutrality last month. The order would reclassify broadband internet as an information service, rather than a utility, and would erase the bright line rules that prohibit throttling and blocking. "It’s no surprise that more Washington lawmakers are listening at last to the strong, bipartisan backing for net neutrality," said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press. "Constituents have already logged more than a million calls to Congress to reject FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s decision. Regardless of party affiliation, all members of Congress should stand with those who’ve elected them and restore the 2015 protections that give internet users control over their online choices."
Some people who work for the U.S. government don't want AT&T and other firms doing business with Huawei, according to Reuters. Unnamed U.S. lawmakers are "urging" AT&T "to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei" due to national security concerns. The lawmakers in question suggested that AT&T cease working with Huawei on the development of the 5G network standard. Moreover, the lawmakers don't want AT&T or its discount subsidiary Cricket Wireless to sell Huawei handsets. The lawmakers, including members of the Senate and the House, further suggested that any U.S. firm doing business with Huawei may see its ability to do business with the U.S. government hindered. Earlier this month, AT&T canned plans to sell the Huawei Mate 10 Pro smartphone due to government pressure. The two companies were widely expected to kick off sales of the phone at the Consumer Electronics Show. The phone will still be made available to U.S. consumers directly from Huawei online. Neither AT&T nor Huawei commented on Reuters' story. Huawei is the world's third-largest supplied of handsets and the largest supplier of telecommunications gear. Reuters suggests the change in tone with respect to Chinese technology firms comes from the Trump Administration. The U.S. has recently blocked a handful of other Chinese acquisitions, and is actively seeking to prevent China Mobile from dipping its toe in the U.S. market. Last week, lawmakers introduced legislation that would prevent the U.S. government from using equipment or devices from Huawei and ZTE.
OnePlus said it is taking customer complaints about compromised credit card data seriously and is investigating around the clock. Nearly 200 people who purchased products from OnePlus' web site reported fraudulent activity on their credit cards afterwards. As a precaution, the company has disabled credit card payments on its web site and is only accepting PayPal for the moment. The company insists that customer card data is never processed or saved on OnePlus.net; instead, it is sent directly to its PCI-DSS-compliant payment processing partner over an encrypted connection where it is processed on secure servers. While the company investigates, OnePlus suggests all customers contact their credit card issuer and/or check their statements to ensure there is no fraudulent activity. OnePlus concluded by saying, "This is an ongoing investigation. We are working with our third-party providers, and will update you on our findings as they surface. Information security is a very serious topic, and it has always been one of our top priorities." OnePlus smartphones, such as the OnePlus 5T, are only available to purchase from the company's web site.
SoftBank Group, the parent company of Sprint, is weighing whether or not to offer shares in its own Japan-based wireless company. Under the direction of CEO Masayoshi Sun, SoftBank has transformed itself in recent years into an investor in technology companies. The goal of the IPO would be to raise about $18 billion in funds so SoftBank Group could continue to invest in other entities. SoftBank Corp., the wireless company in question, is Japan's third-largest provider of wireless services behind KDDI and NTT DoCoMo. SoftBank is exploring a fall listing on the Tokyo stock exchange and may also list sales in London. The plans are not final and may change. The potential IPO should not impact SoftBank's ownership and management of Sprint. SoftBank also has large investments in Alibaba and ARM Holdings.
A new bill introduced by Texas Representative Michael Conaway (R) would prevent any part of the U.S government from using equipment from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. The "Defending U.S. Government Communications Act" (H.R. 4747) explicitly prohibits the government from "using or contracting with an entity that uses certain telecommunications services or equipment" from Huawei and ZTE. Conaway cited a number of reports that link both companies to China's communist party as the chief reason for introducing the bill. The idea is to protect the security of government communications, according to Conaway. Last year, ZTE was hit with a temporary ban after it was discovered the company supplied some equipment to Iran in violation of international sanctions. Just this week, Huawei's plans to distribute its Mate 10 Pro flagship device via AT&T fell apart due to government pressure. Huawei is the world's third-largest maker of smartphones and the world's number one maker of telecommunications equipment. Representative Elizabeth Cheney (R) from Wyoming co-sponsored the bill. The bill will need to approved by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform before it can be sent to the House for a vote.
Facebook's messaging application for children, announced late last year, is now available from the Amazon App Store. The application can be installed and used on Amazon's Fire tablets. Messenger Kids is a mobile app that gives kids under the age of 13 the power to communicate via text and video with approved family members and friends. The app works on smartphones and tablets, but is controlled through the parent's Facebook account. Messenger Kids was first made available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The app has yet to reach Android devices, though it is expected to soon. The app is free to download and use from Amazon.
OnePlus is looking to grow its business beyond the enthusiast crowd. Speaking to CNET, OnePlus CEO Pete Lau said, "If the right opportunity and right timing come along, we'll be very happy to experiment" with a distribution deal with U.S. carriers. OnePlus handsets are available only from the company itself. Striking a distribution deal with a U.S. carrier would give the brand far more visibility. For now, OnePlus believes it can earn more sales via its reputation. Lau also noted the company's next handset is arriving toward the end of the second quarter and it will make use of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. "Of course, there's no other choice," Lau said. OnePlus is not sure if it will produce two flagship handsets in 2018, as it has done the two previous years. Last, OnePlus expects to bring the Face Unlock feature, first offered on the 5T, to its older 3 and 3T handsets. "There's no reason to withhold features we can easily implement," said OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei.
Facebook has more changes in store for the News Feed in an effort to promote meaningful interactions between people. In the simplest terms, Facebook said its algorithms will prioritize posts from friends and family over public content. That means people should see more stuff from their Facebook contacts. Facebook also hopes to predict which posts will spark conversations between friends and will place those higher in the News Feed. As a result, Facebook says people will likely see fewer posts from Pages they follow, including, for example, brands, celebrities, and media companies. Page content will not be eliminated from the News Feed, but less of it will appear and/or be prioritized. Facebook noted that video, particularly live video, often generates the most conversation between users. It's possible that video may become even more prominent in users' News Feeds. These changes are being put into effect over the next few months.
CES is the world's big consumer tech show. Every year we head out to Vegas to check out everything in person. We honor the standouts with our Best of CES awards. This year, five products really caught our eye.
In a shift of strategy, LG this week said it will cease bringing new flagship devices to market each year as it has done the last five or so years. “We will unveil new smartphones when it is needed. But we will not launch it just because other rivals do,” said Cho Sung-jin, LG Electronics Vice Chairman, during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. "We plan to retain existing models longer by, for instance, unveiling more variant models of the G series or V series." The LG G6 is nearing its first birthday, while the V30 is not quite six months old. The company earlier said it will also change the naming conventions for these flagship devices going forward. LG's mobile business has lost money 11 quarters in a row. Budget phones, rather than flagships, generate the bulk of LG's mobile business earnings. The company is estimated to have lost about $650 million during the last three months of 2017. At CES 2018, the only phones on display at LG's booth were last year's V30 and V30+.
Vivo has a phone at CES that includes a fingerprint sensor buried under the display glass. The technology was developed by Synpatics and Vivo is among the first to put it to use. We took a quick look at the experience to see what the future holds for (hopefully) all smartphones.
Razer had sort of a throw-back product on hand, the Project Linda Laptop Concept. This device merges the Razer smartphone with a laptop dock to create a single device that can do several things at once. Here is a quick look at the basic features of the Project Linda.
Kyocera has quietly launched the DuraTR, a ruggedized bar phone intended for Sprint's Direct Connect service. The DuraTR meets mil-spec 810G for protection from drops, bumps, scrapes, and bruises. It can handle immersion in water, as well as exposure to fog, heat, moisture, dust, and cold. It is also certified for use in some hazardous environments. Stand out features include a user-assignable action button, extra-loud speakerphone, non-slip finish, and a standard numeric key pad. As far as specs go, the DuraTR includes a 2.4-inch screen, quad-core Qualcomm processor, 1 GB of memory, 8 GB of storage, and a 2,900mAh removable battery. It packs a 5-megapixel camera with LED flash and HD video capture. Software features include messaging, email, mobile browser, and enterprise-focused software, such as time sheets. Sprint is selling the phone through its business web site. Sprint's Direct Connect service is not yet live, though it is expected to become available later this month. Direct Connect uses Kodiak's service to power push-to-talk over the LTE 4G network, rather than a dedicated PTT network. Once Direct Connect goes live, DuraTR owners will be able to activate the service through a software update.
Sgnl, a Korean company, demonstrated a new way to take phone calls and listen to music this week in Las Vegas. Sgnl's wrist-worn band uses body conduction to pass sound through your fingertips to your ear. Does it work? We found out.
Apple has caught the ire of Sen. John Thune (R) who wants to know more about Apple's throttling of older iPhones. The company admitted last month that it sometimes slowed down older iPhones with aging batteries in order to prevent shutdowns. Apple insisted the strategy was meant to keep phones up and running, rather than allowing them to crash and reboot from overheated batteries. Others don't see it that way and the company has been the subject of harsh criticism. A number of lawsuits have been filed against Apple in the U.S. and other regions. In a letter sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook, Thune said, "The large volume of consumer criticism leveled against the company in light of its admission suggests that there should have been better transparency.” Thune serves as the chairman of a U.S. Senate committee overseeing business issues. He believes Apple should have been more upfront with consumers with respect to this business practice. In response to the issue, Apple dropped the price of replacing iPhone batteries from $79 to $29. Replacing batteries in older iPhones mitigates the need to slow down their performance. Apple has yet to publicly comment on Thune's request for more information.
Samsung will ensure that at least some of its future U.S. smartphones ship with active FM radios, says NextRadio. Sometimes Samsung and/or its carrier partners leave FM radios, which are included in nearly all phones, inert. That will change. FM radio makes it possible for hundreds of millions of people to find and listen to local broadcasts for free. NextRadio allows people to listen to local radio stations via their phone's FM radio, in addition to stations from all over the country through their phone's data connection. NextRadio says gaining access to the FM radio on Samsung's phones will translate to huge power and data savings for end users. NextRadio can access FM signals even when cellular data networks are not available. Neither Samsung nor NextRadio said which phones might be the first to benefit from this partnership. Alcatel, LG, and Motorola have already enabled FM radios on their handsets.
T-Mobile today announced a buy-one, get-one deal that sees major discounts on top phones. T-Mobile says 12 flagship devices from the likes of Apple, LG, and Samsung qualify for the promotion, including the iPhone 7, iPhone 8, iPhone X, G6, V30, S8, Note8 and others. To qualify, customers will have to activate one new line of service and buy both phones on a monthly installment plan. T-Mobile will make monthly payments for the second device (up to $750) over the course of two years. Customers who want a deal on a single handset can earn a $150 rebate plus the value of a trade-in. Accepted trades include recent flagships from LG and Samsung. Last, T-Mobile is targeting Verizon Wireless customers. It will give Verizon subscribers who leave big red up to $650 and pay off the balance of their Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ and other popular smartphones. Those who switch will need to subscribe to a T-Mobile One Plus plan to get the reimbursement for old phones. All three promotions go into effect January 12.
Samsung plans to announce its 2018 flagship handset at next month's Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. Some had speculated the company would reveal the phone at CES, but JD Koh, president of Samsung's mobile business, confirmed to ZDNet that the Galaxy S9 will arrive in February. Samsung has used MWC on several occasions to launch is flagship Galaxy S series, most recently the Galaxy S7 in 2016. The Galaxy S8 marked its debut at a stand-alone event in New York City on March 29, 2017. Sales of the new Galaxy S9 could could begin as soon as March of this year. Some reports suggest the new phone will be an upgraded version of the S8 design, with a relocated fingerprint sensor and dual cameras. Samsung has not confirmed any feature of the phone. Koh also noted that Samsung plans to release a foldable smartphone at some point in 2019.
Asus is back with another smartphone for the U.S. market. The ZenFone Max Plus (M1) is an entry-level device that offers dual cameras, a large battery, and stock Android. Here is our first look at this low-cost smartphone.
Motorola's partner Livermorium announced plans to bring its $99 slide-out QWERTY keyboard to market. Is this the accessory or your typing dreams? Here are our impressions of the latest Mod for the Moto Z family of smartphones.
Sony debuted several new smartphones at CES this week in Las Vegas, including the Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra, and L2. The XA2 and XA2 Ultra share nearly every feature other than screen size and battery capacity. Here is an early look at the latest from Sony.
Huawei today announced a range of efforts it is taking to increase visibility for its Mate 10 Pro flagship smartphone. To start, the device will be available for pre-order between February 7 and February 17, with a ship date of February 18. The phone will retail for $799 and will be sold online, unlocked from Amazon.com, Best Buy, Newegg, B&H, and Microsoft. The phone will not be sold by any U.S. carriers, at least not in the near future, but it is compatible with the GSM-based networks of AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. People who pre-order the phone during the initial 10-day window will receive a $150 gift card from the associated retailer. Huawei said it plans to increase its marketing in the U.S. in order to help sell the phone. To start, it has partnered with "Wonder Woman" actor Gal Gadot to serve as the brand's Chief Experience Officer. Gadot has long used Huawei phones, according to the company, and has offered the firm honest feedback over the years. Moreover, Huawei plans to increase its advertising budget in the U.S. to raise awareness of the brand and the Mate 10 Pro. It has already begun to put up billboards with the "the best phone you never heard of" slogan around the U.S. Huawei was expected to announced a distribution deal with AT&T this week, but the arrangement fell apart in recent days for unspecified reasons. Huawei is also making the Porsche Design Mate 10 variant available through the same channels as the standard version. The Porsche Design model costs $1,225.
Some members of the Senate hope they can overturn the FCC's attempt to repeal current net neutrality regulations. Sen. Ed Markey (D) said he has found support from 39 co-sponsors to force a vote in the issue. The idea is to put the fate of net neutrality in Congress' hands, rather than those of the FCC. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) agrees with the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality, as does President Trump. Republicans hold 51 of the 100 seats in the Senate. The Democrats hope to to make net neutrality a campaign issue during 2018. "There will be a political price to pay for those who are on the wrong side of history," said Markey. The FCC voted to repeal net neutrality last month. The order would reclassify broadband internet as an information service, rather than a utility, and would erase the bright line rules that prohibit throttling and blocking. The repeal faced large public opposition, but the Republican-controlled FCC voted in favor of the repeal anyway.
Google today said its Google Assistant is about to be available in far more places than it is today. To start, Google Assistant is headed to Android Auto — both the in-car version and the stand-alone Android app. With Google Assistant available in Android Auto, drivers will be able to listen to their playlists from apps like Spotify or Google Play Music, get quick directions from Google Maps or Waze, and send or receive messages from services like WhatsApp. Google Assistant will soon be available from far more headphones, too. Companies including Jaybird, JBL, LG, and Sony announced Assistant integration with various headphones this week during the Consumer Electronics Show. The experience is optimized for the Google Assistant, which will be easily accessible with the touch of an earbud. Google says Android Assistant is headed to more Android TV devices, as well, including the Nvidia Shield TV, and Sony TVs. Assistant will reach smart TVs from Changhong, Element, Funai, Haier, Hisense, and Westinghouse. Assistant is now compatible with a wider range of smart home products, including some 1,500 devices from 225 brands. Last, Google wants the Assistant's powers to be more obvious to end users. That's why it is calling out Google Actions (similar to Alexa skills) that can be discovered through a new directory. People will be able to explore the Assistant's potential powers from the Assistant app on their Android device or iPhone. The Google Assistant is an AI-powered, voice-activated tool that handles a wide range of queries and requests.
Razer today revealed Project Linda, a smartphone and laptop hybrid concept that would pair the Razer handset with a laptop shell to create a single device. The Linda itself features a 13.3-inch 120 Hz screen, full keyboard, customized buttons, an internal battery and storage, and several ports (USB-A, USB-C, 3.5mm). The Razer slides into the bottom half of Project Linda where the trackpad would be on a regular laptop. From there, the Razer and Project Linda work together to bring a Windows-style user interface that's based on Android. The Razer Phone, which has a Snapdragon 835 processor and 6 GB of RAM, has more than enough horsepower to drive the laptop accessory. The Razer's 5.7-inch display can be used as a touchpad, or as a second screen for access to apps, tools, and more. Specs and features have not been fully finalized. Razer said it will weigh feedback over the next few months before it settles on the shipping version the laptop dock.
Motorola today announced the pending availability of the Livermorium Slider Keyboard Moto Mod, an attachment that gives the Moto Z family a physical QWERTY keyboard for typing. The keyboard slides out and can tilt the handset up to 60 degrees for miniature-laptop-style typing. The Livermorium was initially an Indiegogo project and has since gained the support of Lenovo and Motorola. The slide-out keyboard will be available later this winter for $99. Motorola continues to encourage developers to support the Moto Mod program. Motorola is taking submissions for Moto Mod concepts and those whose ideas are selected will receive a Moto Z handset, the Moto Mod Development Kit, and support from Indiegogo.
Lenovo and Vital USA today announced the Vital Moto Mod, a modular attachment for the Moto Z line of smartphones that can measure a range of health stats. Vital USA says the Vital Modo Mod can monitor heart rate, respiratory rate, pulse oximetry, non-contact body temperature, and blood pressure. The Mod works with the Vital App, a HIPAA-compliant application, to parse the data and create a complete health picture. The mod includes a finger cuff with an inflatable bladder along with other sensors to make the measurements. Vital USA says the measurements take about three to five minutes to complete, and they are then stored in the app where they can be shared and/or analyzed. The company claims all five measurements are made as accurately as they might be with dedicated medical equipment. Pricing and availability were not immediately disclosed.
Apple this week said it will improve the tools parents can use to control how much time their children spend on iPhones and iPads. The move is a response to investor criticism that suggested screen time is highly damaging to kids. “We have new features and enhancements planned for the future, to add functionality and make these tools even more robust," said Apple in a statement provided to the Wall Street Journal. "We think deeply about how our products are used and the impact they have on users and the people around them. We take this responsibility very seriously and we are committed to meeting and exceeding our customers’ expectations, especially when it comes to protecting kids." Apple already provides a series of parental controls for iPhone and iPad use, such as moderating what content is accessible by children and what apps are downloaded. Apple did not specifically state what new features it plans to introduce.
Nextbit this week warned owners of its Robin smartphone that it plans to shut down its Cloud Storage service on March 1. The company revealed the news in an email to customers. Nexbit recommends Robin owners take the time to download anything and everything they had backed up to the Nextbit cloud, including apps and photos. Nextbit said it will automatically sign all users out of the Cloud Storage service on March 1, though people will be able to download their photos through April 1. After that date, everything stored in Cloud Storage will be lost and inaccessible. Nextbit and its Robin phone were unique in that they relied on dynamic backups to the cloud that could offload apps in order to ensure there was enough storage space on the handset itself. Nextbit sold its handset assets to Razer.
Razer today said it has struck a deal with Netflix that will allow its Razer smartphone to stream Netflix content with HDR+ video and 5.1 surround sound. Razer claims its phone is the first to offer both these capabilities. One of the Razer's primary features is a display with a 120 Hz refresh rate. Moreover, the device has high-quality stereo speakers. In this case, the 5.1 surround sound will be created virtually using the stereo speakers (or headphones, if attached). The capabilities will be added through a software update planned for later this month.
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