Essential Products today dropped the price of its PH-1 smartphone by $200. In order to score the new price, consumers will need to order the phone from Essential.com. The company thanked its early supporters, who are being offered a $200 friends and family gift card toward the purchase of an Essential 360 Camera or another Essential PH-1. "At Essential, one of our driving principles is that premium craftsmanship and the latest technologies shouldn’t be for the few," explained the company in a blog post. "We could have created a massive TV campaign to capture your attention, but we think making it easier for people to get their hands on our first products is a better way to get to know us." Essential Products is spearheaded by Andy Rubin, who helped create the Android operating system. The PH-1 is a high-end handset with a large screen, bezel-less design, and top specs. The phone received mixed reviews when it went on sale earlier this year, mainly due to the camera. Essential has pushed several updates to improve the camera since its release. Sprint is the only U.S. operator selling the Essential, though it is still charging the original $699 price. It's not clear if or when Sprint will match Essential's price drop. Sprint didn't immediately respond to our request for a comment.
Documents seen on the FCC web site suggest the Galaxy S8 Active will be Samsung's first Band 71-compatible smartphone for T-Mobile. The government agency recently approved a new version of the SM-G892U, already sold as the Galaxy S8 Active by AT&T, this time with Band 66 and Band 71 aboard. These bands are only used by T-Mobile in the U.S. Band 71, in particular, is the new 600 MHz spectrum that T-Mobile is slowly deploying this year. T-Mobile had promised to release Band 71 devices from LG and Samsung before the end of the year. The V30 from LG was the first to arrive and it appears the Galaxy S8 Active from Samsung is the second. Neither Samsung nor T-Mobile has publicly announced this device and there's no indication of when it might go on sale.
Facebook Messenger and PayPal today made it possible for people to use their PayPal account as a source of funds when paying friends and family. Facebook Messenger has supported P2P payments for some time now, but previously required people to rely on their debit card for funds. Moving forward, Messenger users can take advantage of PayPal if they wish. A blue plus icon appears in the Messenger app that takes them to the payments tool. Once added to the app, PayPal will appear as an option when paying friends or family. PayPal integration with Facebook Messenger is rolling out to U.S. users starting today. PayPal also announced a new customer service bot for Messenger. PayPal customers can access and interact with the bot via Messenger to help with customer service, such as resetting passwords or handing account inquiries. The PayPal bot can easily be found via the Messenger search field.
ZTE and Cricket Wireless today announced the Blade X, an affordable Android smartphone with a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The Blade X sports a 5.5-inch 720 HD screen with 2.5D Dragontail glass. The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425 with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It supports high-capacity microSD memory cards. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash and features such as manual, panorama, and time-lapse. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with digital zoom. ZTE gave the Blade X a large 3,000mAh battery with support for Quick Charge 1.0 for quicker powerups. Other features include mobile hotspot, HD Voice, Dolby Audio, FM Radio, USB-C, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Blade X runs Android 7.1 Nougat. It is available online and in stores today for $120.
HMD Global, the maker of Nokia-branded handsets, today said the 3310 3G will be available in the U.S. through Best Buy. The phone can be preordered online starting today and it will reach stores October 29. It costs $60 and is sold unlocked without a contract. The 3310 3G is a retro, bar-style feature phone with a 2-megapixel camera, a memory card slot, Bluetooth, and FM radio. This U.S. variant of the phone has quad-band GSM and WCDMA 1/2/5/8, which supports AT&T's network.
Updated to include the new band 71. Band 12? AWS? Lower 700 MHz? What does it all mean? We explain the arcane world of the radio frequency bands used for mobile phones in the US, in this one-of-a-kind, interactive, visual guide.
Google today outlined a number of improvements it has made to the Play Store in order to help both consumers and developers make the most of Android apps and games. The most significant user-facing change is the addition of a "Try It Now" button that accompanies Instant Apps in the Play Store. This allows people to jump right into the app for sampling purposes without downloading or installing the full application. The idea is to give people a taste of what the app or game delivers without requiring them to download or pay for it right away. Google believes this will boost download numbers for developers. The Play Store now includes trailers for games and expanded screenshots depicting gameplay, as well as previews for upcoming releases. The curated Editors' Choice section is now live in 17 countries, providing the best apps and games with even more visibility on end-user devices. Google has made changes to the way it handles subscriptions, though these changes mostly benefit developers. For example, developers can now offer shorter free trials (minimum of three days), as well as enforce one free trial to reduce the potential for abuse. Moreover, beginning in January the subscription fee expense for developers will drop from 30% to 15% for customers who stick around for more than 12 months for any given subscription.
Repairing a cracked smartphone display just got cheaper. Verizon Wireless today said those who subscribe to its Total Mobile Protection device insurance program will be charged $29 per screen repair, down from the previous charge of $49. Verizon is holding an open enrollment for its Total Mobile Protection program beginning today. Customers can enroll any phone purchased during the last 24 months in the insurance program, which covers the cost of damage, loss, or theft. Total Mobile Protection includes next-day replacement phones when the circumstances warrant. Verizon says the company has 296 certified repair stores scattered around the country for screen repairs, though customers in 152 cities can choose to have a certified technician meet them at their home or office. Total Mobile Protection provides coverage for up to three claims per year, but it isn't cheap. The monthly cost for simple phones and tablets is $9, while most smartphones cost $11, and a family of devices costs $33. Insuring a single smartphone will cost $132 for a year. Open enrollment for Total Mobile Protection lasts through November 17. By way of comparison, AppleCare+ costs between $129 and $199 per year per iPhone, and screen repairs from Apple carry a $29 fee.
Samsung today said it will work with Google to bring Google's ARCore augmented reality content to a wider range of its smartphones, including the Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note8. Using the ARCore SDK, developers will be able to create augmented reality experiences for millions of Galaxy handsets. Google announced ARCore in August. The effort will see less-demanding hardware requirements for running AR apps on Android devices, expanding AR's reach to some 100 million phones. In addition to its stance on AR, Samsung also provided an update on its efforts in the virtual reality space. For example, it continues to iterate on its Gear VR headset for Galaxy smartphones and recently introduced the Samsung Internet VR, a browser optimized for the Gear VR. Another app called Samsung PhoneCast VR lets people translate 2D apps into 3D AR through mirroring for improved gameplay. Samsung offers developers the Samsung Gear VR Framework, an open-source VR rendering engine with a Java interface. The Java UI gives developers a familiar environment in which to create without forcing them to learn new SDKs. Samsung says it will continue to work with partners such as Google and Facebook/Oculus to push mobile-based AR and VR forward.
Samsung today announced a major update to its Bixby personal assistant service. Samsung calls Bixby 2.0 a "bold reinvention" of the platform that will be available not only on phones, but other smart devices, such as TVs, refrigerators, and speakers. Bixby 2.0 will feature enhanced natural language processing for more natural commands and feedback. The assistant will be able to differentiate between multiple users' voices as well as their individual preferences and settings. Moreover, Samsung is opening Bixby up to third-party app developers. The company has made a private beta of the Bixby SDK available to select developers to test the platform and explore how it can be put to work in sports, food, entertainment, travel, and other apps. Samsung will slowly allow more developers to access Bixby over time and eventually expects to make the Bixby SDK available to all developers. "Bixby 2.0 will ultimately be a marketplace, for intelligence," said Samsung. "A new channel for developers to reach users with their service, not just on mobile devices, but through all devices." Bixby launched on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ earlier this year. It goes beyond the simpler types of requests available to Siri and Google Assistant by allowing Samsung smartphone owners to issue intricate commands that control applications.
Motorola today announced the Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa, a new modular attachment that lets Moto Z owners access Alexa when on the go. The Smart Speaker includes four microphones and Motorola says it can detect voices and respond to requests in most environments. The Smart Speaker can be used to play music and interact with Alexa just like at home with an Amazon Echo speaker. Moto Z owners can ask Alexa for the news headlines, directions, commute details, calendar appointments, list items, and more. In addition to voice responses, the Moto Z can display information, such to-do lists and weather reports, directly on the screen. The speaker includes its own battery that can deliver up to 15 hours of listening without impacting the phone's battery. It includes a charging dock that works together with the Moto Z to provide a nightstand mode with active Alexa listening. The Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa will be available for $150 starting in November. It is compatible with all Moto Mod handsets, including the newer Moto Z2 Play and Z2 Force.
Amazon today said it will soon offer the Motorola Moto X4 through its Prime Exclusives program. Devices sold under the Prime Exclusives banner are offered at a discount in exchange for viewing ads on the lock screen. The phone will be available for preorder starting today for $330, a discount of $70 off the full list price of $400. Amazon is offering both the black and blue colors and says the phone will start shipping on October 26. The Moto X4 is a mid-range phone with dual cameras, including a 12-megapixel main camera with PDAF, and a 120-degree wide-angle second camera with 8-megapixel resolution. The LCD screen measures 5.2 inches with full HD resolution. The phone is rated IP68 for water-resistance, and has a metal frame with Gorilla Glass on the front and back. The X4 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor and the 3,000 mAh battery supports Turbo Charging. Motorola says the Moto X4 will be generally available in the U.S. for pre-order beginning October 19 at Best Buy, BestBuy.com, B&H, Fry's, Jet.com, Motorola.com, Newegg, Republic Wireless, and Ting. Like the Amazon variant, Motorola expects its retail partners to ship the standard Moto X4 beginning October 26
Twitter plans to implement much stricter rules regarding abusive posts and those that contain words or images of hatred and violence. Despite previous efforts to do the same, the social network has come under fire in recent months for not doing enough to protect users from abuse. In an email sent to employees, Twitter said, "Hateful imagery, hate symbols, etc., will now be considered sensitive media." Twitter sets a higher bar for how it handles sensitive media and can take swift action to remove it. Further, Twitter "will take enforcement action against organizations that use/have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause." The company plans to update its rules concerning non-consensual nudity, unwanted sexual advances, and threats of violence directed against individuals/groups. "We realize that a more aggressive policy and enforcement approach will result in the removal of more content from our service," said Twitter, but "we are comfortable making this decision, assuming that we will only be removing abusive content that violates our Rules." The company will bulk up its team to help improve its appeals and review process for those who feel their content was removed unjustly. Twitter didn't say how soon users will begin to see a reduction in tweets containing hatred and violence.
Google is allowing people to use their non-Gmail email service within the Gmail app for iOS. Apple's own iOS email app and Microsoft's Outlook email app both already support multiple email services, as does Gmail on Android handsets. This will be the first time Google has brought the feature to its iOS Gmail app. Those interested in testing the feature can sign up with Google to take the beta app for a spin. The beta app will be distributed through TestFlight, rather than the iTunes App Store. Google hasn't said how long the feature might be in testing before it reaches final form.
Cricket Wirelss today said it has expanded its retail footprint to 122 post exchanges on U.S. military bases. This includes 83 Army and Air Force bases, 14 Marine exchanges, and 26 Navy exchanges. Servicemen and servicewomen will be able to purchase Cricket Wireless handsets, including the Risio 2, CoolPad, HTC Desire 550, and Sol 2, at their local exchange and enroll in Cricket’s low-cost, prepaid wireless service. Post exchanges will also offer SIM cards for bring-your-own customers.
Google today updated its YouTube TV and Google Home products, giving them the ability to speak with one another. Moving forward, YouTube TV subscribers will be able to control YouTube TV on their television set via Google Home. People will need to link their YouTube TV account with their Google Home (or Chromecast). Once that step is complete, they can utter requests such as “Play last week’s ‘NCIS’” or “Play the MLB game” and Google Home will take care of the rest. YouTube TV costs $35 per month and is available in many U.S. cities. Television stations are limited to about 50 in total, though that includes live broadcasts from most major networks. Google Home and Chromecast are additional hardware purchases.
Google today revealed the Pixel Visual Core, a custom-designed co-processor that is built into every Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphone. The Image Processing Unit has eight cores, each with 512 arithmetic logic units (ALUs) that can handle some three trillion calculations per second. Google claims the Pixel Visual Core with HDR+ can run five times faster and at less than one-tenth the energy than running directly on the application processor. The Pixel Visual Core is laying dormant for the time being, but Google says it will turn the co-processor on soon. Google created advanced software to manage the Pixel’s ability to capture rich photos and it wants to extend that to other photo apps. The Pixel Visual Core will eventually allow third-party apps to use the Pixel’s HDR+ technology. Google plans to enable the Pixel Visual Core as a developer option in the developer preview of Android Oreo 8.1 (MR1) in the coming weeks. Later, Google will let third-party camera apps access it using the Android Camera API, giving them access to the Pixel 2’s HDR+ technology. The end result should be much better photos on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL when using photo apps other than the stock camera.
Qualcomm has added to its roster of mobile processors with the Snapdragon 636 Mobile Platform, a high-performance chip that is meant for phones with less-than-flagship price points. The platform is built on a 14nm FinFet process and relies on the Kryo 260 CPU, which Qualcomm says is 40% faster than the Snapdragon 630 it replaces. The 636 was designed with 18:9, full HD+ displays in mind, and puts Qualcomm's TruPalette and EcoPix tools to work along with the Adreno visual processing subsystem to create dynamic screen experiences. The Adreno 509 GPU boosts gaming performance by about 10% and also improves 3D rendering. Qualcomm says the 636 processor is paired with the Snapdragon X12 LTE modem, with peak download speeds of 600 Mbps. On the imaging front, the 636 includes the 14-bit Qualcomm Spectra 160 ISP, which supports capture of up to 24 megapixels. Last, the Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec supports HiFi audio, with up to 192kHz/24bit support and the ability to playback lossless audio files. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 636 is already in production and will reach commercially available devices bt November.
ZTE is trying something different with the Axon M. Rather than push out another boring slab, ZTE created an interesting Android smartphone with twin folding displays that can be set in a number of different and useful configurations. Need extra screen real estate in that document, or want to run two full-screen apps side by side? The Axon M does that and more. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of this AT&T-exclusive handset.
ZTE today announced the Axon M, a unique Android smartphone that has two full-sized displays that can unfold to create one larger screen for multitasking and viewing video. ZTE calls the Axon M a flagship handset, and it includes solid specs under the foldable aluminum chassis. Both screens measure 5.2 inches across the diagonal with full HD resolution. When fully opened, the combined screen real estate stretches 6.9 inches across the diagonal with 1,920 by 2,160 resolution. The displays are each covered by 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5. The Axon M includes three viewing modes suited to different tasks, such as running two apps at the same time, expanding the size of any given app, or sharing video with another person. ZTE says a decent number of apps will support the new viewing modes at launch, but it is releasing a series of tools to developers so they may adjust their apps to the Axom M form factor. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 256 GB. The Axon M has a single 20-megapixel sensor that doubles as the main and selfie cameras. Imaging features include an aperture of f/1.8, phase-detection autofocus, image stabilization for photos/videos, as well as dual LED flash. The M carries over the Axon line's high-quality audio thanks to Dolby Atmos, the AKM 4962 audio chipset, and powerful stereo speakers. Other hardware features include Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, LTE, rapid charging, and USB-C. The device runs Android 7. 1 Nougat, but ZTE said an update to Oreo isn't too far off. The Axon M will be an AT&T exclusive in the U.S. ZTE said it expects the phone will reach stores in time for the holiday shopping season. AT&T said it will charge $24 per month for 30 months for the phone, or about $725.
Qualcomm is expanding the number of LTE bands supported by its cellular antennas. Specifically, the company has designed a new RF front-end to support 600 MHz spectrum, or LTE Band 71. T-Mobile will be the primary beneficiary of the suite of RF modules. T-Mobile has a nationwide footprint of this low-band spectrum, which it has already begun to deploy in some rural areas, including Wyoming. Low-band spectrum has greater propagation characteristics when compared to mid-band spectrum, which means it travels further and can penetrate walls more easily. Qualcomm says its new RF module will also benefit IoT devices that use 600 MHz airwaves. Primarily, the QPM2622 and variants are designed for devices based on the Snapdragon 800 Mobile Platform, while the QAT3516 and variants can be used with the Snapdragon 800, 600, 400, and 200 Mobile Platforms. Qualcomm says its new RF front-ends are already sampling with select customers and it expects to see the modules in commercial devices by the end of the year.
Qualcomm says it has created a 5G modem that's small enough for mobile devices. The Snapdragon X50 5G chipset, which Qualcomm tested in its San Diego lab, reached gigabit speeds using 28 GHz mmWave radio frequencies. In order to reach those speeds, Qualcomm used several 100 MHz 5G carriers using the 5G New Radio standard. Moreover, Qualcomm debuted its first 5G smartphone reference design, a piece of hardware that can be used to test and optimize 5G technology in a form factor that is bound by the constraints of a typical smartphone. Qualcomm hopes the chipset and reference design will help accelerate the adoption of 5G NR, which most expect to see reach commercial deployments in 2019.
A company called Keyssa has filed an intellectual property lawsuit against Essential, the maker of the PH-1 smartphone, backed by former Google exec Andy Rubin. The lawsuit pertains to magnetic wireless connectors that can pass information and current from one device to another, such as the magnetic module accessory system used on the PH-1. According to Keyssa, Essential worked with the company for period of 10 months on the magnetic technology and was given trade secrets under non-disclosure agreement during that time. Eventually the relationship between the two companies dissolved and Essential picked magnetic components from a third company called SiBEAM for the PH-1. Keyssa alleges that even though Essential is using different hardware for its phone, the technology couldn't have been recreated without Keyssa's protected intellectual property. "Keyssa has not been compensated for Essential’s use of this guidance and know-how," said Keyssa in a statement provided to Reuters. "We are pursuing this action because our attempts to resolve this matter through discussions with Essential have not been successful." Keyssa is backed by Tony Fadell, who co-created the iPad when at Apple. Keyssa filed the lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco. Essential did not offer an immediate comment on the matter.
Google today made it easier for pet lovers to manage pictures of their feline or canine companions. Google says Photos will now treat pets as the family members they are, grouping them alongside people and allowing users to name and/or label them. Google believes this will improve search and discoverability of pet pictures within Google Photos. Moreover, Google Photos can now sort between breeds to help separate pictures of different dogs. Accordingly, Google Assistant has been improved with the ability to create albums, collages, and movies of pets. Google Photos users can, of course, make their own pet creations whenever they wish. Google Photos' new pet recognition feature is rolling out to most users worldwide today.
Huawei is taking aim at Apple, Samsung, and LG with its latest flagship handsets, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro. These high-quality devices feature stunning hardware, top specs, and table-stakes features such as fingerprint readers. Huawei is banking on its NPU-based artificial intelligence to take the phones' dual camera systems to the next level. The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro run Android 8 Oreo with EMUI 8 from Huawei to take advantage of the powerful Kirin processor. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of Hauwei's new smartphones.
Huawei today announced the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, the Chinese company's flagship smartphones heading into the end of the year. The Mate 10 (left) and Mate 10 Pro (right) are high-end devices with curved glass panels front and back, and a metal frame in between. Huawei created a distinct reflective band that runs across the rear of the phones to call out the cameras. The phones share nearly all features and primarily differ with respect to screen aspect ratio and resolution. Where the Mate 10 has a quad HD 5.9-inch LCD panel with a 16:9 aspect ratio, the Mate 10 Pro has an HD+ 6-inch OLED panel with an 18:9 aspect ratio. The Mate 10's fingerprint reader is located on the front and the phone supports microSD memory cards, where the Mate 10 Pro's fingerprint reader is on the back and the phone doesn't support memory cards. The phones rely on Huawei's new Kirin 970 processor, its homegrown 8-core CPU, which includes a 12-core GPU and dedicated neural network processing unit, or NPU. The NPU is primarily put to use with the camera, where it is able to recognize objects and adjust the camera's parameters accordingly. At launch, the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro will, for example, be able to recognize the difference between flowers and plants, or cats and dogs in order to more accurately capture photos. The phones feature a dual-camera system on the back with a 12-megapixel RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel monochrome sensor, both at f/1.6. Some of the tools include scene recognition, bokeh, optical image stabilization, and AI-assisted focusing and zooming. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor at f/2.0. The phone will launch with Android 8 Oreo and EMUI 8, a new version of Huawei's Android skin. EMUI 8 was built to take advantage of the Kirin 970 and supports advanced split screen multitasking and a full desktop computing experience sans dock. The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro also include 4,000mAh batteries with rapid and wireless charging, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, high-definition audio, USB-C, and high-speed LTE. The Mate 10 is available only with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage, while the Mate 10 Pro is available in either a 4 GB / 64 GB or 6 GB / 128 GB configuration. Pricing and availability was not disclosed.
Researchers say they've found a serious gap in the WPA2 security protocol that can allow hackers to use key reinstallation attacks (KRACKs) to compromise most WiFi devices. The researchers say the method allows hackers to read encrypted information transiting via WiFi, including passwords, emails, photos, credit card numbers, and more. KRACKs can access nearly all WiFi traffic and, depending on the individual network safety configuration, insert code and alter data, such as send malware. The researchers claim the weakness is in the WiFi standard itself, and not in individual products, which is why the vulnerability is so widespread. Devices running Android, iOS, Linux, Windows, macOS, and other platforms are impacted. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) agreed with the researchers' assessment and warned, "The impact of exploiting these vulnerabilities includes decryption, packet replay, TCP connection hijacking, HTTP content injection, and others. Note that as protocol-level issues, most or all correct implementations of the standard will be affected." In other words, even if WiFi devices are being used properly, with passwords, they are still vulnerable. Google said it is aware of the issue and will patch the vulnerability in a future security update. The WiFi Alliance has not yet responded to the researcher's revelations.
OnePlus has made OxygenOS Open Beta 25, based on Android 8 Oreo, available to the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T smartphones. Owners of these phones can, if they wish, download the beta build for pre-release testing. The beta includes core Android 8 Oreo features, such as the new Quick Settings design, auto-fill, smart text selection, PiP, and notification dots. Items specific to OxygenOS include new a OnePlus account login for access to Shot on OnePlus, as well as the ability to upload photos directly to Shot on OnePlus through wallpapers. OnePlus warns there are some bugs in the beta build, including slow downs with the fingerprint reader, stability issues with NFC and Bluetooth, and the loss of the camera shortcut to Google Photos. OxygenOS Open Beta 25 is free to download for those signed up with OnePlus' beta program. OnePlus says users will be able to downgrade to the Nougat-based version of OxygenOS if they find Open Beta 25 too unstable.
Samsung today announced the Connect Tag, a wireless fob that you can attach to just about anything to monitor its location. Samsung envisions the Connect Tag will work best on kids' backpacks, car keys, dog collars, or even tossed inside cars. The Connect Tag relies on narrowband network technology (NB-IoT) to manage wireless connections efficiently. It includes GPS, WiFi, and Cat M1, which was designed specifically for low-power use cases. The Connect Tag works with Samsung's SmartThings ecosystem and includes advanced features such as geofencing, smart home scripts, as well as an on-demand live location requests via the associated smartphone app. Alternately, Connect Tag wearers can voluntarily broadcast their real-time location if they become lost, providing parents with a popup alert along with the exact spot on a map. The Connect Tag is small at 4.21 by 1.19 centimeters, is waterproof and rugged, and the internal battery can last up to seven days on a single change. The Samsung Connect Tag will go on sale in the coming months. Pricing wasn't disclosed.
Google has made it possible for people to control media playback on their Chromecast devices through their smartphone. The new behavior is available via Google Assistant on Android and iOS devices. People can issue voice-based commands on their mobile phone to play music and/or videos directly on Chromecast dongles, whether the dongles be attached to speakers, television sets, or embedded in boomboxes. People who own multiple Chromecast dongles can specify which one their phone controls. Prior to this change, a Google Home was required to control Chromecast dongles from a phone. Now, Google Home is no longer needed. The feature has been rolling out slowly, but Google confirmed that it is now available to everyone.
T-Mobile is shifting gears on the amount of data it offers to customers who travel to Canada and Mexico. Beginning November 12, customers on the T-Mobile One Simple Choice North American plan will only be able to use a maximum of 5 GB of 4G LTE, even if they have an unlimited data bucket at home. Customers who reach the 5 GB limit while roaming in Canada or Mexico will see their speeds limited to 128 Kbps until they return to the U.S. (Subscribers to the T-Mobile One Plus plan will see their roaming speeds cut to 256 Kbps.) Customers who have data buckets that are smaller than unlimited at home will have access to less than 5 GB of 4G LTE when roaming. T-Mobile said it is being forced to make the change in order to curb abuse. T-Mobile believes the change will impact less than 1% of customers who travel to Canada or Mexico.
Qualcomm has filed more lawsuits against Apple, this time seeking to prevent Apple from manufacturing and selling the iPhone in China. The fresh litigation was filed in an intellectual property court in Beijing. The two companies are embroiled in a series of legal battles over licensing fees. Apple insists that Qualcomm overcharges by requiring compensation not only for the actual chips, but also for licensing the technology in the chips. Qualcomm often demands that hardware makers pay it a percentage of the total device sale, rather than just a per-chip or per-license fee. As a result of the on-going litigation, Apple has withheld more than $1 billion in royalty payments from Qualcomm. Qualcomm's technology licensing practices have run afoul of several governments, including the U.S., China, and Korea.
Sprint today debuted a new resource for parents called Safe & Found. It allows parents to view their child's smartphone location any time, as well as set controls over apps and usage. The service includes real-time geolocation and geofencing, which allows parents to create safe zones in which their children are permitted to travel. If the child's phone departs the geofenced area, parents will receive alerts. The service includes an SOS button, which will send an emergency alert with the child's location to all family members. Alternately, if the phone is lost Safe & Found lets subscribers find, lock, or wipe it remotely. Parental controls give mom and dad the ability to restrict calls to trusted numbers, install age-appropriate apps, and regulate usage based on the time of day. The service includes content restrictions, too, so inappropriate web content and apps are blocked from kid phones. Safe & Found costs $6.99 per line per month and it is compatible with Android and iOS devices.
Facebook today made it possible for Android, iOS, and web users to order food for takeout or delivery without leaving the app. The social network has partnered with a number of food delivery services, including Delivery.com, DoorDash, ChowNow, EatStreet, Slice, and Olo, as well as a handful of restaurants, including Papa John’s, Wingstop, Panera, Jack in the Box, TGI Friday’s, Denny’s, Chipotle, and Five Guys. A new "Order Food" option appears under the Explore menu. Facebook users will be able to search for food by cuisine or location, read reviews from friends, and order directly from within Facebook. People can select the delivery service that works for them, or sign up for a delivery service if they've never used one before. Facebook says the new service is available everywhere in the U.S.
Sprint today rolled out a new lease offer for the Apple iPhone 8 and 8 Plus that sees discounts up to $350 off the list price with an eligible trade-in. For example, customers can snag the 64 GB iPhone 8 for $0 down and $9.72 per month after bill credits. The same monthly price is available for the 256 GB iPhone 8, but it requires a $150 down payment. Lease prices for the iPhone 8 Plus are a few dollars more at $13.89 per month with $0 down for the 64 GB model and $150 down for the 256 GB model. Device trade-ins must be fairly new and in working order. Eligible devices include the Apple iPhone 6, 6s, 7, 6 Plus, 6s Plus, and 7 Plus; the Samsung Galaxy S7, S8, S8+; the LG G5, G6, or V20; the Motorola Z Droid, Z Play, Z Force Droid, Z2 Play, or Z2 Force; the Google Pixel or Pixel XL; the BlackBerry KEYone; or the HTC U11. Trades must be owned outright and not under any form of payments. Sprint allows lessees to upgrade their device after 12 monthly payments.
Kwon Oh-hyun, CEO and Vice President of Samsung Electronics Corp., today announced plans to step down from his leadership role with the company. "As we are confronted with unprecedented crisis inside out, I believe that time has now come for the company start anew, with a new spirit and young leadership to better respond to challenges arising from the rapidly changing IT industry," said Kwon in an email sent to employees. Kwon was expected to absorb more duties after the bribery arrest and incarceration of Samsung scion Jay Y. Lee. "It is something I had been thinking long and hard about for quite some time. It has not been an easy decision, but I feel I can no longer put it off," said Kwon, citing the need for new thinking with the company. Samsung Electronics Corp. is the business unit responsible for making chips and displays. At the same time, the company said it expects to break revenue and earnings records when it reports quarterly financials later this month. Samsung has not said how it expects to replace Kwon and Yee.
Samsung today said its Gear Sport smartwatch and Icon X 2018 headphones will be available for pre-order starting October 13, with general retail availability to follow October 27. The Gear Sport, a fitness-focused smartwatch that runs Samsung's Tizen platform, costs $299.99. It will initially be sold by Samsung.com and BestBuy.com, and will later expand to Amazon, Macy's, and U.S. Cellular. The watch has a 1.2-inch screen, GPS, rotating bezel for controlling the user interface, and waterproof chassis for recording swim workouts. The Gear Icon X 2018, wireless earbuds with heart rate detection and other fitness features, costs $199.99. The Icon X will initially be sold only by Samsung.com, with Amazon, BestBuy.com, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular to follow later. The Icon X 2018 are second-generation Bluetooth headphones that can interact with Samsung's Bixby personal assistant. The devices were announced earlier this year.
Google today expanded the scale of its Google Express service with the addition of Target stores nationwide. Starting immediately, people who live in the 48 contiguous states can ask Google Assistant on the Google Home product to purchase items from Target. Target offers two-day delivery of most items, and orders over $35 ship for free. Google says the device will soon support the Target RedCard for discounted shopping, as well as common purchases for easy reordering. Google is bringing this same voice-based support for Google Express to Google Assistant on Android and iOS smartphones in the near future. People will be able to say something like "Ok Google, buy a kids bomber jacket from Target," and Google Assistant will call up a selection of jackets on the phone with purchase links. Google says some 50 retailers support Google Express. The company didn't specify how soon Google Express will reach phones.
Samsung this week announced two new Isocell image sensors for smartphones and IoT devices. The first is the Isocell Fast 2L9 with Dual Pixel technology, a 12-megapixel sensor with pixels that measure 1.28-micrometers (μm). Samsung says this particular sensor has two photodiodes in each pixel, rather than one, which helps the sensor lock focus on the smallest objects even in low light. The Dual Pixels also help create bokeh effects. Moreover, the Fast 2L9's slim design will allow it to fit into smartphones without creating a camera bump on the exterior of the phone. The Isocell Slim 2X7 sensor is the first to have a pixel size below 1.0μm, according to Samsung; its pixels measure just 0.9μm. Samsung says despite the small pixel size, the Slim 2X7 is still able to capture accurate color with less noise thanks to its deep trench isolation, which reduces crosstalk between the pixels. The Slim 2X7 also boasts Tetracell technology, which lets the sensor take brighter photographs in the dark. The incredibly small size will allow the Slim 2X7 to easily fit into smartphones and other consumer electronics without contributing to size or thickness. Samsung didn't say when the Fast 2L9 and Slim 2X7 will ship.
Google has made Google Opinion Rewards available to iOS users through a new app. As it does on Android handsets, Google Opinion Rewards will send surveys to iOS devices that people can complete for cash rewards. Google says surveys have between one and 10 questions, and always take less than 30 seconds to complete. iPhone owners can earn up to $1 for each completed survey. Google says iPhone users will have to link their PayPal account to make use of the rewards (on Android, the rewards are deposited into users' Google Play accounts.) The Google Opinion Rewards app is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
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