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printed June 28, 2016
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Google's Cardboard-Based Expeditions Expand to All

Yesterday, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its Expeditions virtual reality application available to all Android devices. Expeditions lets people setup and participate in virtual tours of popular tourist spots, locations, and landmarks. At launch, the tool was limited to educational purposes. Today's expansion allows anyone and everyone to take virtual trips to more than 200 destinations with curated imagery and commentary. Google Expeditions is intended to work with the Google Cardboard VR viewer.


Google Makes New Google Cast SDK Available

Yesterday, 3:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today offered developers access to the Google Cast SDK version 3.0 for Android and iOS. Google first discussed changes to its casting platform at the I/O developer conference in May. Google Cast allows people to push content from smartphones, tablets, and laptops to other devices, such as television sets or media players. The revised Google Cast SDK is easier to use, more reliable, and quicker, says Google. Developers can make use of the SDK to add casting features to their own apps. The SDK is free for developers to access and use. Google believes the simplified SDK will convince more app writers to make content cast-able.


Facebook Wants People to Share More Videos

Yesterday, 3:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook is prepared to ease the process of creating compelling video posts with your pictures. The company today said it plans to relocate the Slideshow feature built into its Moments app and drop it into the main Facebook app for iOS. Once the feature is moved, it will automatically assemble photos and videos into small, easy-to-digest slideshow videos. In order to function, Slideshows will look for collections of at least five photos and/or videos posted within a 24-hour period. The tool adds themes, transitions, and music on its own, but users can customize them if they so wish. The feature is similar to Memories in Apple Photos and Movie Assistant in Google Photos. Facebook for iOS with Slideshows is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Google Sharpens Imagery In Maps and Earth

Yesterday, 10:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it has updated the satellite images in Google Maps and Google Earth with much higher-resolution pictures. The company put to use imagery captured by the Landsat 8 satellite, which launched in 2013, to improve the clarity, color, and resolution. Google says it also improved its processing techniques, using millions of images to create the clearest-possible mosaics through the same Earth Engine APIs that scientists use. Google parsed more than 700 trillion pixels culled from nearly a petabyte of Landsat imagery. Google says the new, sharper imagery is now available across all its mapping products.


Twitter Wants You to Dress Up Images with Stickers

Yesterday, 9:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today said it is bringing stickers to its Android and iOS mobile apps. Twitter users can browse through Twitter's library of hundreds of accessory, emoji, and prop stickers to "make your photos more fun." Twitter says people can use multiple stickers on a single photo, as well as resize and rotate the stickers to better fit the image. Once images are adorned with stickers, the sticker's name will be added to the image as a searchable hashtag, allowing everyone to search for stickers to see how they've been used on various photos. Twitter is rolling out stickers to mobile devices and the web gradually over the next few weeks. Stickers have become popular in messaging and social networking apps, including Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.


Qualcomm Develops 5G Test Platform

Yesterday, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm has created what it calls a prototype 5G system and trial platform. The 5G New Radio (NR) prototype is able to function across a wide range of spectrum bands, primarily below 6 GHz, and can achieve multi-gigabit per second data rates and low latency. Qualcomm says the prototype uses some of the designs that may be used in the final 3GPP standard for OFDM-based 5G NR air interface. The 3GPP is already studying the 5G NR, which may become a part of Release 15. The 5G NR includes a base station and end-user equipment for testing 5G technologies. It supports wide RF bandwidths over 100 MHz for testing speed, latency, and the various technologies that make these speeds possible. The prototype is something that telecommunications equipment vendors and wireless network operators will put to use as they work to develop and help define 5G. The FCC recently said more action is needed to push 5G forward. Some U.S. carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, plan to test 5G networks as soon as late 2016 and early 2017. The standard for 5G has not yet been defined, but technology firms of all stripes are hoping to contribute to the final standard.


Walmart Pay Now Available In 16 States

Friday, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart this week expanded the reach of its mobile payment service, Walmart Pay, to a total of 16 states. Walmart Pay was already available in Alabama. This week, the service went live in Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Walmart Pay works with Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Walmart said it expects to complete its rollout by the end of summer. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own.


YouTube to Enable Mobile Live Video Streaming

Friday, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google plans to add live video streaming to its YouTube mobile apps. Google says live streaming will be incorporated into the application's core and won't require a separate app or download. A "capture" button in the corner will initiate live recording. Users will be able to select a thumbnail image and even chat while streaming. Google says videos that are streamed live will have all the features available to videos that are uploaded regularly, such as search, recommendations, and playlists. Videos captured live will be automatically saved to YouTube for safekeeping. Google is bringing live video streaming to a handful of video content creators first with plans to expand availability to more people over time. The feature is a response to competing live-streaming apps from Periscope and Facebook.


Instagram to Begin Recommending Video Channels

Thursday, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today said it will start grouping video recommendations into channels in a new "Picked for You" feature. The recommendations will appear under the Explore tab and will be put together based on topics and user interests. Instagram says video consumption on the service has surged, so it is creating even more categories under the Explore section to improve discovery. The Picked for You feature will reach U.S. users first, with other regions to follow over time.


Nextbit Says OS Update to Tackle Battery Life In New Way

Thursday, 10:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 10:53 AM

Nextbit will bring the same thinking it used to create the Robin's dynamic storage functionality to the smartphone's battery in a future operating system update. "We can apply the same intelligence we've used for smart storage towards making your battery last significantly longer," said the company in a blog post. "We will launch a new version of Nextbit OS that gets to know your habits and optimizes functions at the system level to ensure you get the most screen time possible." Nextbit says its battery intelligence will work hand-in-hand with the existing power-saving tools in Android Marshmallow and the forthcoming features in Android N. The company didn't dive into specifics on how it will achieve battery gains, nor did to make any claims as to how much more battery life will be achieved through its technique. The operating system will be offered to members of the Nextibt Beta Program before it is released to all users in the fall. The Robin dynamically shifts photos, videos, and even apps from the phone to the cloud when needed to make room for new content.


T-Mobile Kicks Off Summer with Free LTE In Europe

Thursday, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said its customers will be able to use an unlimited amount of high-speed mobile data across Europe this summer. Specifically, customers can enjoy the highest-possible speed, up to and including LTE 4G, throughout the European Union between July 1 and August 31. T-Mobile customers can already use unlimited 2G data in more than 140 countries. The high-speed summer roaming includes unlimited free texting and $0.20-per-minute voice calls, but not tethering. T-Mobile may terminate or restrict service for misuse or excessive roaming. T-Mobile is also giving every person who flies in the U.S. this weekend (including AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon customers) a free hour of Gogo in-flight WiFi on their smartphone. The free WiFi offer is available from Friday, June 24 through Sunday, June 26 on all domestic flights that offer Gogo WiFi. Last, T-Mobile added Belize to its list of Simple Global countries, which means T-Mobile customers can use 2G data and send messages for free, and make low-cost calls when traveling to Belize. Free roaming in Belize begins July 1.


Instagram to Soon Include Translations

Thursday, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram said that it plans to add a translation button to its service over the coming month so users can read the profile bios, feed stories, and comments written in other languages. Tapping the button will automatically translate the content to the user's native language. Instagram didn't specify if the functionality will reach its web site, mobile apps, or both. "The Instagram community has grown faster and become more global than we ever imagined. And we're excited that you'll soon be able to understand the full story of a moment, no matter what language you speak," said the company in a blog post. The translation feature will be made available to most users. Instagram is owned by Facebook. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Innovative Keyboard Case is Both Wireless and Battery-Free

Jun 22, 2016, 5:20 PM   by Rich Brome

One2Touch has a new keyboard case for Android phones called SlimType that uses NFC technology in a unique way to connect to a phone. Most keyboard cases have a battery or physical connector that adds bulk. The SlimType, however, draws power from the phone using NFC, and also uses NFC to communicate with the phone, eliminating the need for a Bluetooth radio. The standard SlimType model is no thicker than a typical leather flip case. The current model is optimized for the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7, but can work with some other Android phones with NFC. A larger model adds a rigid kickstand. An even larger non-case model provides a full-size keyboard. The standard model is available now from Amazon for $40. Read on for our hands-on impressions and more about the clever technology behind it.

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AT&T's Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Note 5 Earn Marshmallow

Jun 22, 2016, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today began distributing the Android 6.0 Marshmallow system update to the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5. The update includes the standard list of Marshmallow features, such as Now On Tap, Doze, and improved permissions. It also adds support for AT&T Video Calling. The update resolves bugs and security issues and smoothes out performance, as well. AT&T says the update is being pushed out over the air and should be downloaded via WiFi. It may take a few days to reach all users.


Google Reveals When Nexus Phones Will Cease Receiving Android Updates

Jun 22, 2016, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google revised its Nexus support page and provided more information on how long Nexus-branded phones will receive future software updates. Google says Nexus devices will get Android version updates (Lollipop, Marshmallow, etc.) for at least two years from when the device became available on the Google Store. The Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, for example, will receive Android system updates at least through September 2017, while the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 will receive updates through October 2016. Security patches will be pushed out for three years from the original availability date or for 18 months after the device is removed from the Google Play Store (whichever is longer). Major Android update arrive generally once per year, while security patches are pushed through one per month. Android version N is expected to arrive later this summer.


Motorola's Jim Wicks, Design Chief, to Depart Company

Jun 21, 2016, 4:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jim Wicks, Motorola's head of design, plans to leave the company for a faculty position at Northwestern University, according to Crain's Chicago Business. Wick has led Motorola's design team for a dozen years, and has been with the company for more than 15. He's responsible for handsets such as the RAZR and Droid. "We greatly appreciate Jim's contributions in leading a consumer experience design team that delivered standout, iconic, and award-winning industrial design and user experiences for Moto's mobile and wearable products," said Lenovo in a statement provided to Crain's. Lenovo owns Motorola. The company said Ruben Caetano will take Wicks' place in Lenovo's Chicago office. Wicks' departure follows closely that of former Motorola CEO Rick Osterloh, who defected to Google earlier this year.


Microsoft Wallet Gains Tap-to-Pay Functionality

Jun 21, 2016, 1:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Microsoft Wallet app and gave Lumia smartphone owners the ability to make mobile payments at supporting retailers. Windows Mobile has long included a Wallet app, but until today it was reserved for loyalty cards and other retail programs. Now, people can add their credit or debit card to Microsoft Wallet and use the app for tap-and-go purchases. The app is available to the Lumia 950, 950 XL, and 650, and requires Windows Insider build 14360 or higher. The Windows Insider program is free to join and distributes pre-release versions of Windows 10 Mobile that are still in development. Microsoft says the tap-to-pay feature will be expanded to all users running stock builds of Windows 10 Mobile later this summer. Both MasterCard and Visa support Microsoft Wallet, along with financial institutions including Bank of America, Chase Manhattan, People's United Bank, Fifth Third Bank, US Bank, and others. Microsoft says mobile payments should work at any retail terminal that accepts contactless payments. Microsoft Wallet is free to download from the Windows Store.


Verizon Adds Casting Support to iOS go90 App

Jun 21, 2016, 12:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless updated its go90 mobile video app this week, making it possible to push content from the iPhone to TVs via Apple TV and Chromecast. Verizon says the app has a new design with simplified navigation, and now more visibly curates video content based on category, such as action, comedy, drama, or reality. go90 for iOS is more social than ever, allowing iPhone owners to share clips or full episodes via email, text, Facebook, and Twitter. Users willing to register the app will be able to save favorite shows and actors, as well as leave comments on episodes and clips. Verizon Wireless' go90 app is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Verizon hasn't said if a similar update is on deck for the Android version of go90. The service is free to most smartphone users, regardless of carrier.


Vine Making Major Changes, Expands Video Length

Jun 21, 2016, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine today announced a significant shakeup to its core product that it hopes will entice more people to use the video-looping app. Vine is now allowing people to capture and attach video up to 140 seconds, a huge increase from the 6-second limit that's been a core part of the service since it launched. Vine says people will still see 6-second looping videos, but some will be tagged with a "watch more" button. Video creators can make and attach longer videos to their Vines, in effect using the 6-second loop as a trailer for their longer video. The longer videos won't be limited to square shapes. Vine says the videos can be shot full screen in landscape or portrait orientations. Vine is calling all of these changes an experiment. Only some of Vine's most popular creators will be able to capture and post longer videos to start, though everyone will be able to view them. Vine hopes to expand the new video capturing feature to more creators over time. Moreover, Vine is prepared to share revenue with its popular video creators. Some of these changes will be reflected on Twitter, too. Twitter users will be able to attach videos up to 140 seconds to their Tweets (up from 30 seconds), and Twitter is adding a new Watch Mode to its mobile app that will collect and curate videos for users to watch. The changes to Vine and Twitter are rolling out over the next few days.


Ultimate Ears Adds Google Now and Siri to UE Boom 2 Speaker

Jun 21, 2016, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ultimate Ears' high-end Bluetooth speakers now allow Android and iPhone owners to use voice prompts to control their music. Ultimate Ears is rolling out a firmware update for the UE Boom 2 and UE Megaboom that adds Google Now and Siri support. The update must be installed via the Ultimate Ears mobile app. Once added, smartphone users can ask Google Now or Siri to play their favorite songs, albums, or playlists. According to Ultimate Ears, its speakers are simply acting as a microphone. Voice commands are based on those already supported by Google Now or Siri, which means people can address Google Now and Siri via the UE Boom 2 and Megaboom using any language those services support. Similarly, people can interact with any music apps Google Now and Siri support, such as Google Play Music, Spotify, iTunes, and Apple Music. A quick press of the Bluetooth button on the speaker itself puts the speaker in listening mode, allowing people to use voice commands to change songs. Ultimate Ears says its mobile app does not need to be running on the associated phone in order to use the feature. The Ultimate Ears mobile app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. The UE Boom 2 costs $180 and the UE Megaboom costs $250.


Google Simplifies 2-Step Verification

Jun 21, 2016, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made it easier for people to setup and use two-step verification to protect their accounts. Google already allowed users to tap a Security Key or enter a verification code sent to their phone. Now, users can also approve a new security prompt that pops up on the screen. According to Google, users can select any of these three methods for two-step verification via their Google account settings online. Android users will need the latest version of Google Play Services on their device, and iOS users will need the Google Search app. As the name implies, two-step verification adds a second layer of security to account logins.


Nextbit Drops Robin Price to $299 for Everyone

Jun 20, 2016, 1:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nextbit today said it has dropped the price of the Robin smartphone to $299 on its web site. The phone normally sells for $399, but has been available to U.S. buyers for $299 from Amazon.com. The price change on Nextbit.com means anyone — including those who live overseas — can buy the Robin at the reduced $299 price point. Shipping is included for free.


FCC Chair Says 5G Is a 'National Priority'

Jun 20, 2016, 12:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler plans to push the nation's 5G agenda forward this week by defining the spectrum that the wireless networks of the future will use. "I am circulating to my colleagues proposed new rules that will identify and open up vast amounts of spectrum for 5G applications," said Wheeler. "We call it the Spectrum Frontiers proceeding, and we will vote on it July 14th." Current networks already make decent use of low-band and mid-band spectrum, but have yet to take advantage of high-band spectrum. "High-band spectrum will be the focus of our decision next month. These bands offer huge swaths of spectrum for super-fast data rates with low latency, and are now becoming unlocked because of technological advances in computing and antennas." The FCC last year proposed using the 28GHz, 37GHz, 39GHz, and 64-71GHz bands for worldwide 5G and has been studying them since. Wheeler believes identifying the spectrum for 5G — even though 5G technology itself hasn't been fully defined — is an important step for the future. Wheeler will publish his proposal June 23.


Google Search to Improve Symptom Search Results

Jun 20, 2016, 11:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google plans to change the results shown when people search for symptom-based information. Moving forward Google will show a list of related conditions to symptoms like stuffy nose, cough, or headache. The results will provide a description of the symptom itself, list possible self-treatment options, and alert when symptoms warrant a doctor visit. "Our goal is to help you to navigate and explore health conditions related to your symptoms, and quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional," explained Google in a blog post. Google created a list of symptoms based on medical conditions that are often included in search results. The list was checked by medical professionals at the Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic in order to associate individual symptoms with potential ailments. Google warns that its search results are for informational purposes only and should not replace in-person consultations with physicians or other healthcare providers. The changed symptom-based search results will appear on mobile devices in the coming days.


AT&T Rolls Out Roaming Package for Rio Olympics

Jun 20, 2016, 9:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today unveiled a new roaming offer specifically for customers who plan to travel to Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The add-on costs $50 and includes 30 voice minutes, unlimited texting, 1 GB of data, and unlimited WiFi access at 1,000 hot spots around Rio de Janeiro (requires AT&T's hot spot app). Customers who exceed the usage limits will be billed on a per-use basis for the remainder of their stay in Rio. AT&T said customers can sign up starting June 22. The package is good for 30 days from initiation and runs through September 18. The package expires automatically.


Cricket Offering Bill Credits to Switchers

Jun 20, 2016, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless recently unveiled an offer meant to lure in customers of competing carriers. Through July 14, Cricket will reward consumers who port in their number with $50 in bill credits. Moreover, consumers who also bring their own device will receive an additional $35 in bill credits. Cricket says people who switch to Cricket will need to sign up for a service plan costing at least $40 per month and make two monthly payments before they are eligible to receive the bill credits. There is a small catch. Cricket is charging a $25 activation fee, as well as a $10 SIM card kit fee for those who bring their own device. The offer is available at Cricket retail stores as well as through Cricket's web site.


Boost and Virgin to Sell LG K3 for $80

Jun 17, 2016, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint's prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today announced plans to sell the LG K3 handset. The phone is available from both carriers' web sites today and will reach Boost Mobile stores next week. The phone runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and features a 4.5-inch screen, quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor clocked at 1.1 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and a 1,940mAh battery. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with flash, while the front camera has a VGA sensor and a selfie light. Both cameras include LG's shooting tools, such as Cheese Shutter and Gesture Shot. The LG K3 costs $79.99.


Verizon Pushing Security Patch to Samsung Galaxy Note 5

Jun 17, 2016, 8:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless has begun distributing a security update to its version of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. The phone is receiving the June security patch from Google, which resolves a number of vulnerabilities. Google published details of the June security patch earlier this month. It plugs 21 holes, of which a handful could have led to remote code execution. Verizon says the update also optimizes device performance and takes care of a few other bugs. The update will appear automatically, but may also be initiated manually from the phone. The update can be downloaded via WiFi or LTE. Verizon recently pushed the same update to the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.


Google Calendar, Sheets, Now On Tap Gain New Tools

Jun 17, 2016, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated a slew of its mobile apps this week, adding new features to Google Calendar, Sheets, and Now On Tap for Android devices. To start, Google Calendar made it easy to see when you're free when scheduling a new event. Google Sheets makes it possible to automatically save spreadsheets locally for offline´╗┐ editing. Last, the beta version of Now On Tap gain adds a second row of icons that provide access to a number of Google actions, such as set a reminder, create calendar events, or navigate to/from work. Google Calendar and Google Sheets are free to download from the Google Play Store. Now On Tap version 6 is available to beta testers running Android 6.0 Marshmallow.


Verizon Picks Up Samsung's Galaxy J3

Jun 17, 2016, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 17, 2016, 9:14 AM

Verizon Wireless has added the Samsung Galaxy J3 to its lineup of inexpensive smartphones. The J3, which has been for sale from Boost Mobile and other carriers since early this year, has a 5-inch 720p screen, 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 16 GB (postpaid) or 8 GB (prepaid) of storage, 5-megapixel main camera with flash, 2-megapixel front camera, and 2,600mAh battery. Notably, Verizon's version of the phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Earlier versions of the phone shipped with Lollipop. The phone costs $168 at full retail, which breaks down to $7 per month for 24 months. Verizon is also offering the phone for $40 with a two-year contract, or for $110 when purchased from Verizon's prepaid service. The Samsung Galaxy J3 is available online starting today. It will reach Verizon's stores on June 23.


LeEco Planning Big Fall Launch in U.S.

Jun 16, 2016, 8:25 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jun 16, 2016, 8:49 PM

Chinese technology firm and phone maker LeEco is in the midst of a hiring spree in the U.S., preparing to a make a big splash in the U.S. market in the fall, according to Todd Witkemper, LeEco Director of PR. The company plans to bring both phones and a video streaming service to the U.S. The company already offers streaming services with Chinese and Indian content, and phones for the global market. Its U.S. products will be distinct, targeted specifically at U.S. millennials. The company is currently negotiating with rights holders for U.S. video content — both recorded and live — to offer via its service, which will be featured in the interface of its phones. The phones will also support other, more established streaming services. The phones will be sold on the unlocked market. The company already has well over 400 U.S.-based employees, and aims to have 1,000 by the end of the year, spread across four west-coast locations. The company was previously known as LeTV, and made a splash with its Max Pro phone at CES, the first phone with the Snapdragon 820 processor. The company originally planned to bring the Max Pro to the U.S. early in 2016, but has refocused on this new strategy led by its U.S. team.


Walmart Kicks Off Walmart Pay Trial In Alabama

Jun 16, 2016, 2:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart today launched its mobile payment service, Walmart Pay, at 120 of its retail stores in Alabama. The service, announced late last year, works with Android and iOS smartphones. Rather than rely on NFC or MST for tap-and-go transactions, Walmart Pay involves the Walmart mobile app. Customers can add most any credit or debit card to the Walmart app for purchases. At checkout, users need to open the app and launch the camera. Using the camera, customers scan a code displayed at the register. This activates the transaction. The associate scans and bags the items and the final amount due is taken from the credit/debit card associated with the app. Customers will receive an electronic receipt that is saved in the app. Walmart initially expected to deploy the technology around the country by mid-year, but Alabama is the first statewide deployment so far. Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay all allow users to tap their phones on retail payment terminals to make purchases. Walmart has resisted supporting these competitive mobile payment services in favor of its own. CurrentC, another mobile payment app developed by the Merchant Customer Exchange, was recently cancelled. Apple and Google have both outlined plans to expand their mobile payment services to the web in the months ahead.


Google Photos Picks Up New Slideshow Feature

Jun 16, 2016, 1:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier to view photo albums online and on Android handsets with a new slideshow tool. Photos users need only open an album, click a picture, and select "slideshow" from the dropdown menu to initiate a slideshow of all the photos in that particular album. Slideshows will playback automatically in the browser or on Android devices. Further, users can cast slideshows from a PC or Android phone to a nearby TV. Google Photos for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Microsoft Picks Up Wand to Boost Bots

Jun 16, 2016, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it has acquired Wand Labs, a company that combines human language with machine intelligence. Microsoft said it plans to add Wand Labs' talent to its Bing, Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Windows platforms. "The Wand team's expertise around semantic ontologies, services mapping, third-party developer integration, and conversational interfaces make them a great fit ... especially with the work we're doing in the area of intelligent agents and chat bots," said David Ku, corporate vice president, Information Platform Group. Wand Labs was founded in 2013 by Vishal Sharma. The acquisition fits the roadmap unveiled earlier this year by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, which will focus on the "conversation as a platform."


T-Mobile Customers Overwhelm Dominos; No More Free Pizza

Jun 16, 2016, 12:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile CEO John Legere took to twitter to announce changes to the T-Mobile Tuesdays rewards program. Legere said the T-Mobile Tuesdays app has been downloaded by more than 2 million customers. This week, so many customers attempted to take advantage of the free Dominos pizza offer that Dominos locations became overwhelmed and unable to fill all the orders. The company saw between three and four times as many orders on Tuesday, June 14, when compared to a typical day. "Basically, T-Mobile customers love Dominos pizza so much, you broke them!" said Legere. Dominos is backing out of the T-Mobile Tuesday promotion and will not be supplying free pizza to T-Mobile customers on Tuesdays. To make up for the loss of free pizza, Legere says T-Mobile customers will have access to a free Vudu rental, free Frosty from Wendy's, $20 in gifts from MLB.com, and a free ride from Lyft (up to $15) on Tuesday, June 21. T-Mobile will cook up other ways to reward customers now that Dominos is no longer an option. Despite the hiccup, Legere promised that the company will continue to thank customers with free stuff.


Bluetooth SIG Provides More Details About Bluetooth 5

Jun 16, 2016, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group today announced Bluetooth 5, the next version of Bluetooth scheduled to launch late this year or early next year. The Bluetooth SIG says Bluetooth 5 quadruples the available range, doubles the speed, and improves data broadcasting capacity by 800%. This improved capacity will help Bluetooth "transmit richer, more intelligent data" to connected devices, such as beacons and Internet of Things products. Importantly, Bluetooth 5 will allow devices to connect and share information without pairing via specific applications. The Bluetooth SIG believes Bluetooth 5 will help companies bring richer, more capable Bluetooth products to the wearables, home automation, industrial, commercial, and enterprise markets.


Facebook Refreshes Messenger with New User Interface

Jun 16, 2016, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today showed off a new version of its Messenger application, which the company says is easier to use. Messenger now displays the most recent messages at the top of the screen, with a section showing the user's favorites below. Facebook says the favorites section will include the friends with whom people converse the most. Facebook has changed up the Active Now section to provide a clearer view of who's online and available for chats, and added reminders for events such as birthdays. Messenger also recently added an emoji-based soccer game, and an expanded set of emoji. Messenger is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.


Opera Ad Blocker Now Available to Android, iOS, Windows

Jun 16, 2016, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera updated several of its mobile browsers today, bringing its ad blocking tool to Android, iOS, and Windows handsets. First, Opera refreshed its main Opera browser for Android. In addition to the ad blocker, Opera for Android also gains support for web push notifications and multi-window support. Further, the browser's core was upgraded to Chromium 50. Opera for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store. Opera also updated Opera Mini for iOS and Opera Mini for Windows phones (8.1 and 10). Both platforms gain access to Opera's ad blocker. For all devices, the ad blocker is not on by default; users will need to activate it in the settings. Opera Mini for iOS and Windows is available from the iTunes App Store and Windows Store, respectively.


LG Adds Four New Handsets to X Series

Jun 16, 2016, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced four new X-branded Android smartphones to fill out its mid-tier range of devices. Like the X cam and X screen announced earlier this year, each of the new X phones has a single, enhanced feature that defines the device. The X power has a 4,100mAh battery with rapid charging for power-hungry users, while the X style has a curved design and slim body. The X mach boasts an LTE Cat 9 cellular radio, a 1.8 GHz processor, and a quad HD screen, while the X max includes an over-sized display for consuming media. LG said more details about the new X series, including pricing and availability, will be shared on a market-by-market basis. The X power, X style, X mach, and X max will go on sale around the world soon.


Samsung to Buy Cloud Company Joyent

Jun 16, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has agreed to acquire Joyent, a U.S.-based cloud services provider. Samsung will use Joyent's assets to support various products, including mobile devices, internet of things, and its own cloud-based software. Samsung's competitors, such as Apple and Microsoft, offer cloud services like iCloud and OneDrive to help tie together their respective ecosystems. Joyent will help Samsung fill that gap in its online services. Joyent will continue to operate as a standalone company and will retain its current client base. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions.


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