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printed December 4, 2016
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Apple Quickly Releases iOS 10.2 Beta 5

Friday, 2:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 10.2 beta 5 for developers, mere days after releasing beta 4. App writers can download and test beta 5 of iOS 10.2. Previous beta releases of iOS 10.2 show the platform includes Unicode 9 with a fresh batch of emoji, as well as new wallpapers, iMessage screen effects, camera settings, video widgets, and emergency contact alerts. Apple hasn't yet updated the public beta to match the developer beta.


FCC Unhappy with AT&T and Verizon's Zero-Rated Services

Friday, 12:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Friday, 2:38 PM

The FCC believes zero-rating content can hurt consumers and competition. The agency sent letters to AT&T and Verizon Wireless this week calling them out for exempting their own video services (DirecTV Now and go90, respectively) from customers' data caps. The agency believes the practice gives the carriers' own services an advantage over competing services. "We have therefore reached the preliminary conclusion that these practices inhibit competition, harm consumers, and interfere with the 'virtuous cycle' needed to assure the continuing benefits of the Open Internet," wrote FCC wireless bureau chief Jon Wilkins writes in the letter to AT&T. The FCC has already warned carriers that zero-rating content may be harmful. The regulatory body did not say if it intends to take steps or action against the carriers. The companies have until December 15 to respond to the FCC's letters. AT&T announced DirecTV Now earlier this week. The service is available to anyone who cares to pay for it, but only AT&T Mobility customers can watch via LTE without impacting their monthly data cap.


Verizon's LG G5 Receiving Android 7 Nougat

Thursday, 5:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless says its variant of the LG G5 smartphone is on deck for the Android 7 Nougat system update. The update adds new themes to the G5, the ability to retrieve deleted messages, multi-window support, enriched notifications, tweaked Quick Settings tools, simplified Settings Menu, and more sound settings. Verizon is encouraging G5 owners to download the system update via WiFi. Users will be notified once the update is ready for their phone. Verizon is rolling the update out in waves over the next few days.


Motorola: Wearables Don't Have Enough Appeal

Thursday, 5:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola does not plan to launch new smartwatches alongside the debut of Android Wear 2.0 early next year, reports The Verge. Shakil Barkat, Motorola's head of global product development, indicated the company will not release new hardware once Google's revised wearable platform hits the street. Motorola doesn't "see enough pull in the market to put [a new smartwatch] out at this time," said Barkat, though Motorola may revisit smartwatches down the road. "Wearables do not have broad enough appeal for us to continue to build on it year after year." Motorola's last wearable was the Moto 360 smartwatch, which debuted in September 2015. Since then, the company has focused chiefly on its mobile phones. Motorola hasn't written off wearables completely. "We believe the wrist still has value and there will be a point where they provide value to consumers more than they do today," noted Barkat. Huawei, too, has said it won't make more Android-based smartwatches, and Samsung swore off Android Wear in favor of its own Tizen platform some time ago. Google delayed the launch of Android Wear 2.0 from September to early in 2017.


Motorola Debuts Two New Mods for Moto Z Series

Thursday, 1:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today took the wraps off two additional Moto Mods for its Moto Z series of handsets. The first mod is a juice pack from Mophie (pictured) that packs a 3,000mAh power cell and 15W USB-C charging. A series of LED lights indicates how much power is within the juice pack and both the phone and the juice pack will charge when attached to one another and plugged in. The Mophie juice pack is available for preorder for $80 from Verizon Wireless' web site. The second mod is an in-car dock from Incipio. The $65 accessory holds, charges, and connects Moto Z handsets to most cars via the air conditioning fins. When docked, the phone automatically launches Android Auto for safer in-car use. Motorola didn't say when the two new mods will ship. The company did mention that it intends to release an average of four new mods per quarter moving through 2017.


BlackBerry Pushing Updates to Priv, DTEK50, DTEK60

Thursday, 12:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry's trio of Android smartphones can now download a series of system and software updates that add features and bolster performance. BlackBerry Hub+, for example, now allows users to hide specific accounts or stop them from syncing, as well as create custom views for emails from specific contacts. The BlackBerry Keyboard app has been improved with easier switching between languages, expanded Chinese language input, and support for fingerprint authentication (DTEK60 only). The BlackBerry Launcher has a new dark theme, and BlackBerry Password Keeper introduces a built-in browser, autofill tweaks, and support for non-Latin characters. Google says Priv, DTEK50, and DTEK60 owners should receive notifications once the updates are available to their handset.


Republic Wireless to Become Independent from Parent Corp

Thursday, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Bandwidth.com today said it will divest its Republic Wireless business, spinning the company off into a separate business. Republic Wireless has been selling low-cost service since 2011. It relies mostly on WiFi, but when WiFi is not available its customers are able to connect via the networks of Sprint and T-Mobile. Bandwidth.com also powers Alphabet's Fi service and Microsoft's Skype service. Bandwidth.com's leadership feel Republic has grown enough thanks to its 300,000 subscribers and $100 million in annual revenue, and its time the company stood on its own. Moreover, Republic competes with Bandwidth.com properties such as Fi and it no longer makes sense to house competing products under the same roof. Once the spin-off is complete, Bandwidth.com chief operating officer Chris Chuang will be named CEO of Republic Wireless. Republic does not intend to make any immediate chances to its existing service plans.


Nokia Pins Smartphone Comeback on HMD Global

Thursday, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it plans to return to the smartphone business during the first half of 2017 through its partnership with HMD Global. HMD Global recently completed a series of transactions between HMD, FIH Mobile Limited, and Microsoft that will allow it to make phones bearing the Nokia brand. The partnership between HMD and Nokia was first announced in May. HMD Global is a Finland-based business and will design smartphones that will then be manufactured exclusively by Foxconn. Foxconn is one of the world's largest device makers and manufactures the iPhone for Apple. HMD Global will pay Nokia licensing and royalty fees for smartphone and tablet sales. HMD Global boasts experienced Nokia veterans among its leadership team, but Nokia itself has no investment nor ownership stake in HMD. HMD Global and Nokia are relying on the know-how of the former Nokia execs at HMD's helm and the strength of the Nokia brand to return to the market. Nokia sold its smartphone business to Microsoft in 2014, which was then wholly based in Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Moving forward, Nokia-branded handsets will run Google's Android platform. "We've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm shown around the world for the return of the Nokia brand to smartphones," said Brad Rodrigues, interim president of Nokia Technologies.


Sony Pushing Nougat to Xperia XZ and X Performance

Thursday, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today said it has begin distributing the Android 7 Nougat operating system to its Xperia XZ and Xperia X Performance smartphones. The platform includes multi-window support, longer battery life, more messaging options, manual camera controls, and a revised home screen experience that includes Google Now. Sony said it is rolling the update out slowly. Owners of older Sony Xperia phones will be happy to learn that the company plans to make Android 7.0, Nougat available for the Xperia Z3+, Z4 Tablet, Z5, Z5 Compact, Z5 Premium, X, XA, XA Ultra, and X Compact. Sony didn't say when these devices will receive the update.


Motorola May Create Project Tango Mod for Moto Z

Wednesday, 4:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Moto Z series of handsets might be given the power of Project Tango through a modular accessory, according to Motorola CEO Aymar de Lencquesaing. Speaking to journalists today Lencquesaing said, "The tablet folks did a phablet and worked with Google, the Tango team, to come out with a Tango phablet." That device is the Lenovo Phab2 Pro. "Going forward, we'll have to address as a group how do we reconcile the products that are at the fringe? We're likely to have a Tango module to basically enable the Z to have Tango functionality." Project Tango as realized on the Phab2 Pro uses a series of cameras to measure the environment and then map over it with augmented reality content. Lencquesaing did not say if a module for the Z is already in the works, nor when such a module might be released.


OnePlus 3 Granted Android 7 Nougat Beta

Wednesday, 3:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus today made OxygenOS Open Beta 8 available to the OnePlus 3 smartphone. This new platform shifts from Marshmallow to Nougat and introduces a significant number of user interface changes. For example, the beta build refreshes the design of the notifications and setting menus. It also adds multi-window view, notification direct reply, status bar icon options, and quick launch for third-party applications. OnePlus says there are some known issues in the Nougat beta, which breaks Android Pay and introduces some stability and performance problems. OnePlus warns that the beta cannot be installed over-the-air and will instead need to be side loaded manually. Moreover, beta testers will not easily be able to return to earlier versions of Android/OxygenOS without reformatting their device. OnePlus said it is working to create a single software build for the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T based on Nougat. It expects to do that by the end of the year. Until then, the 3 and 3T will be updated separately. The company recently updated both handsets. The 3T, for example, was updated to OxygenOS 3.5.3 while the 3 was updated to OxygenOS 3.2.8. Both of these system builds are incremental updates that focus mainly on resolving bugs and performance issues. They are rolling out slowly as over-the-air installations.


Twitter Lets People Create Moments from their Phone

Wednesday, 1:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today made its Moments story-creation tool available on mobile phones. Moments, which has been available on the web since September, lets people assemble a series of Tweets about a subject or event into a single package that tells a complete story. Moments are found in a separate tab in the Android and iOS mobile Twitter apps. People can subscribe to Moments, which will be inserted into the timeline. Moments can be loaded with multimedia, such as photos or videos, to make them more engaging. Moments are displayed in chronological order, with discernible beginning, middle, and end segments. The feature is being rolled out to mobile users worldwide.


YouTube Kicks Off 4K Live Streams

Wednesday, 12:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube today said people can now livestream video at up to 4K resolution. YouTube has supported 4K playback since 2010, but today marks the first time users are able to stream 4K video live. People can stream both standard and 360-degree video in ultra high definition at up to 60 frames per second for smooth action. YouTube believes the option will benefit its creators.


Netflix Adds Support for Offline Viewing

Wednesday, 9:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 9:22 AM

Netflix today made it possible for U.S. customers to download and store movies and television shows on mobile devices for offline playback. Netflix made the announcement via its Twitter account and said, "Airplane mode. Road trip mode. Stuck-in-the-subway-for-20-minutes mode. Your favorite stories are now available for download any time." The initial selection of shows and movies that can be downloaded is rather small, but should expand over time. A new version of the Netflix app is being made available to Android and iOS devices today that supports offline playback. The feature does not cost extra to use. Competing services, such as Amazon Prime Video, have supported offline playback for some time.


Facebook Messenger Now Lets People Challenge Friends to Video Games

Tuesday, 12:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has added video games to its Messenger application. Launching in beta in 30 countries, Facebook users will be able to play Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, and 14 other games inside Messenger. The gaming feature lets people challenge one another and creates a score-based leaderboard with game results. The feature is available to newer Android and iOS devices and will be added to the newest version of the Messenger app. Facebook says it will add more titles and expand to more markets over time.


DirecTV Not Zero-Rated for Cricket Customers

Tuesday, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's prepaid service, Cricket Wireless, is offering customers a one-month free trial of DirecTV Now, the new internet-based television service from AT&T. Unlike AT&T, however, Cricket is not zero-rating DirecTV Now. This means Cricket customers cannot watch an unlimited amount of DirecTV Now via Cricket's wireless network. Instead, they will be encouraged to seek out WiFi whenever possible. Cricket says customers can use the Cricket WiFi app, which is preloaded on most phones, to find free WiFi hotspots. DirecTV Now includes four pricing tiers that range from $35 to $70 per month. For a limited time, early adopters can score 100 channels of content at the entry-level $35 price. HBO and Cinemax cost $5 extra.


Samsung to Weigh Restructuring

Tuesday, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it will consider a dramatic overhaul to its corporate structure, but it isn't making any immediate moves. The company is weighing whether or not it should split the firm into a holding company and operating company. The idea is to simplify its complicated structure while also appealing to shareholders to improve value. The company will weigh its options for the next six months before making any major decisions. Some items on the table include a new dividend program, a deep look at its cash holdings and investments, as well as new board-level directors for major business groups. Samsung is a family-run business and one of Korea's largest.


DirecTV Now: App Tour

Nov 28, 2016, 8:45 PM   by Rich Brome

A quick hands-on tour of the DirecTV Now app for Android. (An iOS version also available.) This is the boldest attempt yet to bring all of the major network and cable content to cord-cutters, and the full service is available from mobile apps, in addition to home streaming boxes. We took a quick look, and found a rich interface, but also a few annoyances. Read on for our impressions.

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AT&T Has Low-Cost Mobile TV Services to Bolster DirecTV Now

Nov 28, 2016, 4:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alongside its new DirecTV Now streaming television service, AT&T announced Fullscreen and FreeView. Fullscreen includes more than 1,500 hours of ad-free content (movies, television) for $6 per month, while FreeView includes ad-supported content for free. Fullscreen is a video-on-demand platform that's compatible with iPhone, iPad, select Android Phones, Chromecast, and Apple TV. For a limited time, AT&T will let new and existing customers access Fullscreen for a year for free. Like DirecTV Now, Fullscreen will not impact AT&T Mobility customers' data buckets. FreeView is a highly-curated, on-demand content platform from Audience. Both Fullscreen and FreeView are available within the DirecTV Now app and will launch November 30.


AT&T Announces 'DirecTV Now' Internet-Based TV Service

Nov 28, 2016, 4:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced an over-the-top television service called DirectTV Now. It includes a range of live, streamed television and on-demand content at a variety of price points. The $35 option includes 60+ channels. Customers will need to opt for the $50 plan for 80+ channels, the $60 plan for 100+ channels, or the $70 plan for 120+ channels. Premium movie channels, such as HBO and Cinemax, cost $5 per month extra. (No CBS/Showtime programming for now.) DirecTV Now will be streamed over internet connections, including both wired and wireless, and is available to most connected devices and platforms. The service launches November 30 and will be available to Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick; Android phones and tablets; iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV; Chromecast; Google Cast-enabled LeEco ecotvs and Vizio SmartCast Displays; as well as the web. AT&T said more platforms and devices will be available starting next year. At launch, early adopters will be able to score the 100+ channel option for $35 per month. This is a limited promotion, but those who sign up early will be grandfathered in. Moreover, AT&T is working with several hardware vendors, including Amazon, Apple, and LeEco, by offering between one and three months of service for free with select purchases. Last, AT&T is zero-rating DirecTV Now for its wireless customers, who won't see their data plans hit when streaming DirecTV Now content.


Apple Drops Beta 4 of iOS 10.2, watchOS 3.1.1

Nov 28, 2016, 1:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released a handful of new beta versions of its core operating systems. These betas are specifically for developers, rather than public beta testers. App writers can download and test beta 4 of iOS 10.2, watchOS 3.1.1, and macOS Sierra 10.12.2. Previous beta releases of iOS 10.2 show the platform includes Unicode 9 with a fresh batch of emoji, as well as new wallpapers, iMessage screen effects, camera settings, video widgets, and emergency contact alerts. The newest beta of watchOS 3.1 includes stability improvements. Apple typically makes the public beta available a day or two after the developer beta.


HTC's Unlocked 10 Snags Android 7 Update

Nov 25, 2016, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC said the unlocked variant of its HTC 10 smartphone should receive Android 7 Nougat beginning today. The update is being pushed out over-the-air to the U.S. version of the HTC 10, which was sold directly by HTC online. Beyond Nougat, the update also installs the latest Android security patches from Google and provides other system enhancements. The update measures 1.1 GB and should be downloaded via WiFi.


Holiday Gift Guide 2016

Nov 23, 2016, 2:07 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Nov 23, 2016, 2:07 PM

The giving season is upon us, and that means the next few weeks will be awash in the sights, sounds, and smells of myriad holiday celebrations across cultures. Nothing quite warms the soul like gathering with loved ones and friends to share the holiday spirit. We often celebrate the holidays by exchanging gifts with one another, which means we all have an opportunity to show how much we care.

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DOT Wants to Block Most Phone Apps In Moving Cars

Nov 23, 2016, 11:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The U.S. Department of Transportation wants phone makers to make it harder for drivers to use their smartphones when behind the wheel. The NHTSA today published new guidelines for phone and car makers that it believes will help cut back on instances of distracted driving. Specifically, the government wants phones to more proactively go into driving mode and to pair more seamlessly with cars' in-dash nav systems. Driving mode typically simplifies the user interface so it isn't as hard to use while driving. Driving mode also limits what features are available to the driver. Pairing would automatically connect phones to cars and route info through the in-dash system, which is often safer to use. Drivers would still be able to make calls and use navigation, but not enter text, view any sort of video, browse the internet, or view text/photos from messages. "Both pairing and diver mode will reduce the potential for unsafe driver distraction by limiting the time a driver's eyes are off the road, while at the same time preserving the full functionality of these devices when they are used at other times," said the government. The initiative has been under way for some time and this step represents phase 2. The NHTSA is seeking comment from the public and industry players before moving forward in implementing the guidelines. The NHTSA says driver distraction is to blame for a 10% surge in traffic deaths over the last year.


Latest SD Card Spec Targets App Performance

Nov 23, 2016, 8:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The SD Association this week unveiled the SD Specification 5.1, which will allow memory cards to better run applications. SD Specification 5.1 creates the new Application Performance Class so cards can store and run apps, as well as manage large stores of media, such as music, movies, and photos, quicker. Along with the new spec, the SD Association is debuting a new symbol for Application Performance Class cards so consumers can easily identify them. The SD Association plans to introduce App Performance Class 1, or A1, cards first. These will cover the most basic performance needs with sustained sequential read/write speeds of 10Mbps. Higher performance cards will be made available over time to meet demand. The SD Association did not say when SD Specification 5.1 and App Performance Class 1 cards will reach the market.


Google Releases Final Preview of Android 7.1

Nov 22, 2016, 1:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made an update to the Android 7.1 Developer Preview available to developers. Registered developers can download the refreshed operating system to their Nexus 6P or 5X smartphones, as well as the Nexus 9 and Pixel C tablets. System images for side loading are already available online, and the over-the-air downloads will appear within the next week. The most obvious new feature for end users is support for GIFs and animations within the keyboard. The Android keyboard can interact with third-party apps to create and apply stickers, videos, and other expressive content. Android 7.1 also adopts a 3D Touch-style interactive tool that will let people access up to five secondary actions or settings that can be reached directly from the launcher. Google calls this second preview "release ready" and says developers should rely on it to test their apps. Google expects to roll out Android 7.1.1 to the full lineup of supported devices, as well as Pixel and Pixel XL handsets, in December.


Nextbit Pushes Nougat to Robin Beta Testers

Nov 22, 2016, 1:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 22, 2016, 1:11 PM

Nextbit today said people signed up to beta test its software should soon receive a preview of Android 7.0 Nougat. According to Nexbit, the Nougat preview includes ideas from its own developer team along with those contributed by Paranoid Android. The result is a faster, less power-hungry operating system for the Robin. Beta testers should receive a notification within the next 24 hours or so, after which they'll be able to download and install the Nougat OS preview on their Robin handset. The Robin relies on continuous, smart cloud-syncing to ensure it always has storage for apps, media, and other content.


AT&T Claims Zero-Rated Content Is Good for Customers

Nov 22, 2016, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T says allowing its customers to stream certain content without incurring wireless data fees is beneficial. The comments were made in a letter to the FCC, which, earlier this month, asked AT&T to justify its practice of zero-rating DirecTV content. "These initiatives are precisely the kind of pro-consumer challenges to cable that the Commission heralded in approving AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV," wrote Robert Quinn, AT&T's policy chief. The FCC is wary of zero-rating practices and feels they may be out of step with existing net neutrality laws. In this case, AT&T owns DirecTV and is in effect giving its own service an advantage over competing services that do incur data fees when streamed over AT&T's wireless network. Verizon allows customers to stream its own go90 video service without impacting data allotments, and T-Mobile's Binge On program provides unlimited streaming of lower-resolution content from a handful of video partners. The FCC has been pondering zero-rated content for some time and has yet make any sort of official stance known to the public.


HTC to Sell the Bolt As the 10 Evo Overseas

Nov 22, 2016, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 22, 2016, 10:25 AM

HTC today announced the 10 evo, an international variant of the Bolt that will be sold in markets outside the U.S. The only significant difference between the Bolt and 10 evo is the latter's lesser support for LTE. It drops three-channel carrier aggregation and sticks to LTE bands more common in Europe and other markets. The HTC 10 evo is a unibody metal handset that boasts IP57 for protection against water and dust. It includes a 5.5-inch quad HD screen with curved glass, Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and support for microSD cards up to 2 TB. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.0. The user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and a selfie light. HTC gave the phone a 3,200mAh battery and the USB-C port supports Quick Charge 2.0 for rapid power-ups. The phone does not include HTC's trademarked BoomSound stereo speakers, but it does ship with BoomSound Adaptive Audio headphones. The 10 evo ships with Android 7 Nougat and the latest version of Sense UI from HTC. It goes on sale later this month.

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Google Play Services to Drop Support for Gingerbread

Nov 21, 2016, 4:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 21, 2016, 4:09 PM

Google today said the next iteration of Google Play Services will sever backward compatibility with devices running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. Today, Google Play Services — the core code behind app compatibility across Android platforms — is 10.0.0 and supports API level 9. The move to Google Play Services 10.2.0, expected in early 2017, will jump from API level 9 to API level 14. This means Play Services 10.2.0 will support Android 4.0.1 Ice Cream Sandwich and up, leaving Android 2.3 Gingerbread devices behind. "The Gingerbread platform is almost six years old. Many Android developers have already discontinued support for Gingerbread in their apps," explained Google in a blog post. "This helps them build better apps that make use of the newer capabilities of the Android platform. For us, the situation is the same. By making this change, we will be able to provide a more robust collection of tools for Android developers with greater speed." At last check, only 1.3% of all devices accessing the Google Play Store were still running Gingerbread. The majority of devices are running Android 4.4 KitKat (25.2%), Android 5.x Lollipop (34.1%), or Android 6.x Marshmallow (24%). The change in API level support will not impact that many devices. Google says developers can either move forward and target API level 14 at a minimum, or offer multiple APKs via the Play Store to support both older and newer devices. This latter method will not include support for newer APIs, however, and may occasionally lead to broken or non-functioning apps. Google Play Services is updated automatically across Android devices once every couple of months.


AT&T Prepping ZTE ZMax 3, According to FCC

Nov 21, 2016, 2:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is preparing to launch a ZTE smartphone called the ZMax 3, say documents found on the FCC web site. The ZMax 3 appears to be a variant of the Grand X 3, which AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless has sold since earlier this year. Most importantly, the AT&T-branded ZMax 3 adds NFC and carrier aggregation for quicker LTE speeds. The FCC documents don't reveal any other obvious changes between the two models. The Grand X 3 includes a 5.5-inch HD screen, Cat. 4 LTE, USB Type-C connector, 3,000 mAh battery, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It also features an 8-megapixel camera, shoots 720p HD video, and packs a 2-megapixel selfie camera. AT&T hasn't said if or when the ZTE ZMax 3 might go on sale.


Motorola Bringing Nougat and Daydream to Z and Z Force

Nov 21, 2016, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola said it will roll out Android 7.0 Nougat to the Moto Z and Moto Z Force starting this week. Both handsets will be updated from Android 6.1 to Android 7.0. Moreover, the update will make the Moto Z and Moto Z Force compatible with Daydream, Google's new virtual reality platform. According to Motorola, the Z and Z Force are the first non-Google handsets certified as Daydream ready. Daydream requires high-resolution screens, quick refresh rates, and fine-tuned sensors for accurate head tracking. Daydream also requires the Daydream VR headset and controller, which are sold separately at Verizon, Best Buy, and Google stores. The Nougat update will start reaching the Moto Z and Moto Z Force globally this week. More information on country- and carrier-specific upgrades is available from Motorola's web site. Motorola did not say if or when the Z Play might receive Android 7.


Instagram Intros Live Video and Disappearing Photos

Nov 21, 2016, 10:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today announced two new features for its mobile app that expand how people can share photos and videos. First, the social network is marking the debut of live video within Instagram Stories. Users can now broadcast live video to their followers through the Stories section of the app. Followers may opt to receive notifications when people share live video, and live video will be visibly earmarked as such. People will be able to leave comments throughout the video's duration, but live video is not stored or saved in users' feeds. Instagram says live video will be added to the Explore tab, too, allowing people to browse through live video that's being shared from around the world. In a move to combat Snapchat, Instagram is now allowing users to send disappearing photos and videos through its Direct Message function. Ephemeral media can be sent to individuals as well as groups, and creators will know when their photo/video has been seen and/or screen-captured. Once the content is viewed by the recipient, it disappears from the recipient's inbox and cannot be replayed. Instagram says disappearing photos and videos can only be sent to people who follow you. Disappearing content shared with groups will allow members to all see comments and responses. Instagram says the live video tool is rolling out globally over the next few weeks, while the disappearing photo/video feature is reaching all users today. Instagram is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.


ZTE Shows Off Enhanced Version of Axon 7

Nov 21, 2016, 9:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Axon 7 (6+128), a slightly improved version of its Axon 7 flagship handset. The new variant includes a Force Touch display, 6 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. The hardware changes push the cost from $399 to $499. ZTE did not say what the Force Touch screen is able to do. All other specs and features of the Axon 7 (6+128) are unchanged from the standard version. It includes a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 20-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel selfie camera, 3,250mAh battery, and support for many U.S. LTE bands. The limited edition Axon 7 (6+128) is available unlocked online starting today.


Apple to Replace Batteries On Some iPhone 6s Devices

Nov 21, 2016, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple will for free replace the battery on a small number of iPhone 6s smartphones that are experiencing power loss. "Apple has determined that a very small number of iPhone 6s devices may unexpectedly shut down," said Apple on its web site. The phones shut down even when the battery shows that it is half full or more. The issue impacts a limited number of iPhone 6s handsets that were manufactured in September and October 2015. Owners of the iPhone 6s who believe their device may be experiencing the issue can bring it to a local Apple Store or authorized retail facility for evaluation.


US Gives ZTE Another Reprieve On Exports

Nov 18, 2016, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE can continue to export U.S. goods for another three months due to an extension offered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Commerce Department alleged in March that ZTE violated trade sanctions in place against Iran by using shell companies to hide its exporting activities. The government initially banned ZTE from exporting any U.S. goods, parts, or components, but quickly offered a reprieve while ZTE worked with the government to resolve the issue. The initial reprieve gave ZTE until the end of June, but was then extended to the end of August, and now runs through Feb. 27, 2017. The ban would have disrupted ZTE's global supply chain had it been put into full effect.


Apple to Charge $149 to Repair 'Touch Disease' Afflicted iPhones

Nov 18, 2016, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has launched a repair program for the iPhone 6 Plus to fix what has become called touch disease. The issue, according to a class-action lawsuit filed against Apple, leaves the display unresponsive to finger-touch input. "Apple has determined that some iPhone 6 Plus devices may exhibit display flickering or Multi-Touch issues after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress on the device," said Apple on its web site. "If your iPhone 6 Plus is exhibiting the symptoms noted above, is in working order, and the screen is not cracked or broken, Apple will repair your device for a service price of $149." Owners of the iPhone 6 Plus who've already paid for a screen repair to resolve this issue will be refunded the difference between the price they paid for the original service and the new $149 repair amount. Apple's carrier partners are not participating in this program, so any and all repairs need to go through Apple directly.


YouTube Brings Blocking Tool to Kids App

Nov 17, 2016, 2:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its YouTube Kids application and gave parents a little bit more control over the content that's available to their youngsters. The latest version of the app lets parents block videos or channels when they are signed into the app. Google says videos and channels that are blocked in YouTube Kids will remain blocked across all devices as long as the parent is signed into their account on each device. Parents can choose to unblock videos one at a time, or all at once. Video and channel blocking is available to YouTube Kids in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and a handful of South America, African, and Asian countries.


AT&T Customers Will Be Able to Send Text Messages via Amazon Echo

Nov 17, 2016, 2:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 17, 2016, 5:10 PM

The AT&T Send Message Skill, set to be made available on November 19, will let AT&T customers send text messages by asking their Amazon Echo to do it for them. The skill we be added to the Amazon Alexa application (for Android and iOS). AT&T says it is the first carrier to bring messaging to Alexa and the Echo. Alexa is the artificial intelligence that powers the Amazon Echo in-home speaker and assistant. Echo-owning AT&T subscribers will need to enable the skill and can then add up to ten frequent contacts to the skill for messaging via voice command. Messages will appear as though they were sent by the account holder's main AT&T mobile number. The feature will be available to the original Amazon Echo as well as the Echo Dot. Alexa is already able to read news headlines, sports scores, and the weather report, as well as answer general trivia questions, play music, and pay bills. AT&T plans to sell the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot at its stores starting November 18.


FreedomPop to Sell Refurbished Phones

Nov 17, 2016, 10:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today said it plans to sell low-cost, reconditioned smartphones to consumers in the U.S., the U.K., Spain, and Mexico. The FreedomShop will be a single, online space for people to shop for certified used handsets from a wide range of phone makers. FreedomPop said it will look to compete with other markets for used devices by offering competitive prices (up to 80% off original MSRP) on more than 100 phones from the likes of Apple, LG, Samsung, and others. It has forged relationships with more than 200 suppliers of refurbished phones from around the world to ensure its selection is top notch. Importantly, FreedomPop will offer a 30-day "no questions asked" money-back guarantee for any handset purchased from its on line shop. FreedomPop offers free and very-low-cost wireless service in a handful of countries, including the U.S.


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