The Federal Communications Commission today indicated that T-Mobile USA has dropped a lawsuit filed against the FCC by the former MetroPCS. T-Mobile acquired MetroPCS earlier this month. The aim of the lawsuit was to scuttle the FCC's Open Internet rules. On his last day in office, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, "The FCC's widely supported open Internet framework has contributed to healthy growth in innovation and investment across the U.S. broadband economy. Since 2010, our strong and balanced rules have been protecting entrepreneurs and consumers, and have increased certainty and predictability for investors in Internet services as well as networks. The ongoing litigation – now pursued by a single company – only serves to reduce that certainty and predictability. I applaud T-Mobile's decision to withdraw from this litigation." Verizon Wireless is now the only company actively pursuing litigation against the FCC and its rules.
Sprint today announced that it has finalized its purchase of spectrum and customers from U.S. Cellular in a handful of mid-western markets. The transaction gives Sprint 20MHz of spectrum in Chicago, South Bend, Ind., and Champaign, Ill., and 10MHz of spectrum in St. Louis. In addition to the spectrum, Sprint also gains about 420,000 U.S. Cellular subscribers. Sprint and U.S. Cellular have already notified the affected customers about the transition, which will take several months to complete. According to Sprint, it is offering those U.S. Cellular customers handset and service plan options from its Sprint, Virgin, Boost, and payLo brands at little to no extra cost. Sprint plans to use the newly-gained spectrum to enhance its capacity in those markets.
Samsung today announced the availability of its revised TecTiles product. The first version of TecTiles that Samsung brought to market last year used an older protocol that preceded the finalized NFC specification. The effect is that newer devices, such as the Galaxy S 4, can not read those older tags. Samsung had to update its tags in order to be compatible with today's newer phones. In addition to the new TecTiles, Samsung has updated the TecTiles application, which is used to program the tags to initiate specific actions on smartphones and/or tablets. TecTiles can be ordered directly from Samsung.com, and the stickers will become available at select retails stores in June. They cost $14.99 for a pack of five.
Nokia recently announced Xpress Now, a companion app for its Xpress Browser that is meant to help users find content on the web. The app culls what content is being consumed by the 80 million users of the Xpress Browser to create recommendations based on trending stories and what it thinks each individual user might like to see. "Nokia Xpress Now is about discovering interesting stories and new content based on the wisdom of the crowd," explain Andy Kelm, Vice President, Nokia Xpress Services. "It's not a magazine, a story or a group of curated RSS feeds, but rather a collection of interesting web content that is always changing." The app presents content in three categories: What's Hot, You May Also Like, and Most Liked. The first delivers a raw feed of what's been most-viewed in the user's area, the second makes recommendations based on the user's interests, and the third provides a view of what other users have given the thumbs up. Nokia Xpress Now is being tested on Asha phones in India right now, and Nokia expects to expand its availability over time.
Dish Networks has filed a second request with the Federal Communications Commission asking the regulatory body to stop its review of Softbank's proposed equity acquisition of Sprint. This time around, Dish claims that Softbank is trying to block its attempt to buy Sprint though back-handed banking maneuvers. Last week, Reuters reported that Softbank threatened to keep Dish from participating in Alibaba's IPO if it didn't back down. "If SoftBank has the power to influence crucial financing decisions of a Chinese company and enlist those decisions in the service of its effort to acquire Sprint, then the proposed foreign ownership needs to be assessed in light of this Chinese company as well," said Dish. "SoftBank is trying to force its offer on Sprint's shareholders by underhandedly seeking to undermine a superior bid." The Securities and Exchange Commission has already given Softbank permission to move forward with its equity acquisition of Sprint and Sprint's shareholders are due to vote on the matter next month. The deal still needs to be approved by the FCC and U.S. Department of Justice. The FCC has not responded to Dish's request.
Verizon Wireless has quietly tweaked its prepaid plans, boosting the amount of data offered in each pricing tier. The new plans offer unlimited talk and text, and 2GB of data for $60 per month (previously only 500MB). For $70, prepaid customers get unlimited talk and text, and 4GB of data (previously only 2GB). The improved data allotments are available to existing customers now, and will be available to new customers beginning June 6.
Google employee Dori Storbeck, Community Manager for Hangouts and Chat, confirmed on her Google+ page that the new Google Hangouts application will soon support SMS messages, as well as IM. In addition to text messages, Google Hangouts will also eventually be able to make outbound calls. Storbeck didn't provide a timeframe on when these features might become available, other than to say "soon." Google Hangouts replaces Google Talk for most Android users and can be used for IM, voice, and video chats.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group announced that a future version of Android will support Bluetooth Smart Ready and Bluetooth Smart devices. To-date, Android has not included a built-in Bluetooth stack, which means device makers have been on their own to add Bluetooth. By adding support for Bluetooth Smart Ready (Bluetooth 4.0 on a dual-mode chip) and Bluetooth Smart, Android will be capable of interacting with nearly all Bluetooth devices (keyboards, mice, speakers, etc.). Developers and accessory makers will be able to use the core Android SDK and included APIs to access the Android devices' Bluetooth radio, rather than use multiple APIs and work-arounds as they do today. According to Bluetooth SIG, this new version of Android will arrive in the coming months.
AT&T customers who install the new Google Hangouts application on their Android devices cannot use one of the main features: video chats. When they attempt to start a video chat, a message appears prompting them to connect to a Wi-Fi network; the feature won't work on AT&T's cellular network. When reached for comment, AT&T explained that AT&T customers are free to download any third-party video chat app they wish and they'll work fine. Apps that come preloaded, however, must be enabled by the developer for use over AT&T's cellular network. AT&T did not address Google Hangouts directly, but it implied that 1. Google Hangouts qualifies as a "preloaded" app because it replaces the Google Talk app on Android handsets, and 2. Google did not follow the proper protocols required by AT&T in order for the app to function over its cellular network. Google Hangouts for iOS, which qualifies as a third-party download on the iPhone, functions properly over AT&T's cellular network. Google Hangouts for Android works fine on the cellular networks of other carriers. Google has not yet offered a clarification on the matter.
Google has sent a letter to Microsoft requesting that it remove from the Windows Phone Store a YouTube application written by Microsoft for its Windows Phone 8 platform. According to Google, the app violates its terms of service by allowing users to download videos from the app, it also disables advertising within videos. Google asked Microsoft to remove the app, and kill the functionality of the app on existing devices, by May 22. Microsoft has yet to publicly respond to Google's request.
Google today announced that it has integrated Google Wallet with Gmail, allowing Wallet users to securely email money directly to anyone else who has an email address. Money can be sent for free from checking accounts, and for low fees from credit or debit cards. The feature is slowly being made available to all Gmail users over the age of 18. Though the feature is primarily aimed at desktop users, money can be emailed from the smartphone and tablet mobile browser version of Google Wallet.
Google today announced a new version of its Google Maps app for both Android and iOS. The software now dynamically reroutes turn-by-turn driving directions if traffic conditions worsen on the road ahead. The service also shows and lets you see details of alerts for specific traffic-related incidents that might affect a trip. It will be available "this summer".
T-Mobile plans to aggressively expand the reach of MetroPCS' network footprint by 100 million points of presence over the next six quarters. The network will expand to 15 major metropolitan areas quickly, though the markets and exact timing were not revealed. T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter, speaking to investors, said that T-Mobile and MetroPCS have already finalized the integration of their back-office systems. T-Mobile will be pushing HSPA+ and LTE devices to MetroPCS stores within weeks. These devices will be sold under Metro's brand, but will operate on T-Mobile's network. Carter said that T-Mobile beat its mid-year goal of covering 170 million POPs with HSPA+ in its 1900MHz spectrum, and will easily hit 200 million by the end of the year. Braxton also indicated that T-Mobile will cover 100 million POPs with LTE by mid-year, and 200 million by year's end.
Google today announced updates to Google Now. The app now lets you set reminders based on time or location, and estimates commute times using public transit.
Google today announced a new version of Google+ Hangouts that pivots the service to compete more directly with Facebook Messenger. The app enables group conversations merging text, photos, emoticons, and video chat. The service includes a dedicated app for both iOS and Android, plus a web version is also available.
Google today announced that it will start directly selling a special version of Samsung's Galaxy S 4 flagship phone that is unlocked and ships with stock Android 4.2, essentially expanding the Nexus family of "pure Google" devices. The device sports LTE compatible with both AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. It is bootloader-unlocked and will receive Android updates before most other phones, like Nexus devices. It ships June 26th for $649.
Google today launched a new streaming music service with a discovery engine for finding new music, to compete with Rdio and Spotify. Google Play Music All Access lets you start with any song and automatically build a custom streaming radio station of similar songs. Unwanted songs can be dismissed and re-ordered. The service is integrated into Google Play Music as Listen Now. The service works on Android phones and tablets, and the web, and integrates your own music library with the streaming catalog. The service launches today in the U.S. for $9.99/month, with a 30-day free trial. Users who sign up before June 30th can lock in a special $7.99 monthly rate.
Google today announced its gaming service to compete with Apple's Game Center for iOS. The new Google Play Game Services enables games to save game progress to the cloud, and easily enables multi-player gaming. The service also includes achievements and leaderboards both globally and among friends in Google+ Circles. Cloud save, achievements and leaderboards work cross-platform, across Android, iOS, and the web.
Google today announced an update to its Google Cloud Messaging service, the behind-the-scenes system that allows apps to communicate with web services, and for those services to push notifications to Android devices even when the app is not running. The new service syncs notifications across devices, so that when a user dismisses a notification on their Android phone, it's dismissed on their Android tablet as well. The upgraded service is also now two-way, allowing apps to send data "upstream" from the app to a web service. As part of Google Play Services, the new features launch today and do not require a new version of Android.
Google today announced new Google Play Services for location-based services that Android developers can integrate into their apps. A new Geofencing API allows apps to be notified and take action when the user enters or leaves specified areas. An Activity Recognition API automatically recognizes certain activities such as walking, running, and driving, and gives that information to relevant apps. Finally, a new Fused Location API allows apps to determine the phone's geographic location in ways that are faster, more accurate and use much less battery life. As these APIs are Google Play Services, they are updated independently of the Android OS version.
ZTE today announced the Grand X2, an Android smartphone that uses Intel's 2.0GHz Z2580 Atom processor with 1GB of RAM. The Grand X2 features a 4.5-inch 720p HD IPS LCD screen that ZTE says measures 0.7mm thick, helping to keep the profile of the device thin. The Grand X2's camera captures 8-megapixel images and can shoot bursts of up to 24 pictures per second, It also includes a flash and face and scene recognition. The user-facing camera is 1 megapixel. The Grand X2 includes 8GB of on-board storage and supports microSD cards up to 32GB. The battery weighs in at 2,000mAh. The Grand X2 runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and is expected to go on sale in select markets during the third quarter.
Microsoft today announced that it plans to push a system update to devices running Windows Phone 8 this summer. The update brings back support for FM radios, expands the availability of Data Sense to more carriers around the world, and makes it easier to interact with XBox Music, including pinning tunes to the Start screen. The update also brings with it support for CarDAV and CalDAV, which are contact and calendar syncing protocols necessary for Windows Phone 8 devices to play nice with Google Contacts and Google Calendar. The update will be pushed out to the majority of devices that run Windows Phone 8. Timing will depend on region, carrier, and exact handset model.
BlackBerry announced the Q5 today and we spent a few moments checking it out. Here are our initial impressions.
BlackBerry today announced that it will make versions of its BlackBerry Messenger application for both the Android and iOS platforms. The application and service will be available to the iPhone and Android devices later this summer. Basic messaging and groups support will arrive first, and other features, including BlackBerry Voice, BlackBerry Video, and screen sharing. Additionally, BlackBerry expects that iOS and Android users will also be able to use the just-announced BBM Channels later this year. BlackBerry Messenger has to-date been a BlackBerry exclusive app and service.
BlackBerry today announced a new piece of its BlackBerry Messenger platform called BBM Channels. It acts similar to social networks in that users can subscribe to channels, which are based on certain topics or brands, and receive updates when the channels have new content. Users can create their own channels and push updates to select groups of followers or users in a manner similar to Twitter. BlackBerry imagines that it will be best-used by companies and brands looking to connect with fans.
BlackBerry today announced that the BlackBerry 10.1 operating system will be distributed to the Z10 smartphone beginning today. International variants will receive the update first over the coming weeks, followed by U.S. variants by the end of May. BlackBerry 10 makes it easier to manage Hub conversations, personalize notifications (vibrate, sounds, and indication light), and click-to-call BBM contacts. It also improves image capture with the camera and provides other bug fixes. Last, the 10.1 update will also enable Skype on BlackBerry Z10 handsets. (Skype is available for all BlackBerry devices beginning today, too.) The update will be available on a carrier-by-carrier basis.
Blackberry today announced a new, mid-range BlackBerry handset with a QWERTY keyboard called the Q5. The device will come in pink, white, black, and red. It features a 3.1-inch touch screen, camera, and the BlackBerry 10.1 operating system. The device will ship in select markets, including Europe, Asia, and Latin America, beginning in July. BlackBerry did not specify that the Q5 would come to the U.S.
Verizon Wireless today announced that the BlackBerry Q10 will be available for preorder in the coming weeks, and will reach store shelves in June. Verizon didn't announce pricing. Sprint followed Verizon' announcement to say that it would launch the Q10 in "late summer." Sprint didn't announce pricing, either. Both variants will include LTE 4G support.
AT&T today announced a significant expansion of its It Can Wait program, which aims to educate consumers about the dangers of texting while driving. AT&T's competitors Sprint, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless all agreed to join the campaign, as did more than 200 other organizations. The campaign will make a concerted effort to raise awareness of the issue between Memorial Day and Labor Day, which AT&T says are the 100 deadliest days of the year for young drivers. The message will be spread via TV, radio, digital and social media and will feature stories of real-life survivors of text-message-related accidents. "Texting while driving is a deadly habit that makes you 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash," said AT&T Chairman & CEO Randall Stephenson. "Awareness of the dangers of texting and driving has increased, but people are still doing it. With this expanded effort, we hope to change behavior. Together, we can help save lives." Using handheld devices when behind the wheel is illegal in many states. The campaign kicks off May 20 and continues through September 19.
Nokia today added the Lumia 925 to its lineup of Windows Phone 8 smartphones. It shares many features with the Lumia 920/928, but stuffs them into a much thinner and lighter body that has an aluminum frame with a removable polycarbonate panel on the back and glass on the front. The result is a phone that's 8.5mm thick with a weight of 4.9 ounces (the Lumia 920 is 10.7mm thick and weighs 6.53 ounces). Nokia said that by adding metal to the external frame, it was able to make improvements to the antenna technology inside the phone. Aside from the new design, Nokia took care to add some of its most advanced imaging features to the 925, which has an 8.7-megapixel PureView camera with optical image stabilization, dual LED flash, and a wide-angle 1.2-megapixel user-facing camera. The camera includes improved optics for sharper pictures, and new software that allows people to take 10 quick shots and then use Nokia's on-board software to edit them. Other hardware features are similar to the Lumia 920/928. The 925 has a 4.5-inch AMOLED display with 1280 x 768 pixels, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC, 1.5 Ghz dual-core Snapdragon processor, GPS/GLONASS, and 2,000mAh battery. The Nokia Lumia 925 reaches European markets in June, and will follow in the U.S. later this summer. It will be sold by T-Mobile USA, but pricing and exact release date have not be shared.
T-Mobile today confirmed a report that originally appeared in TMoNews.com suggesting that the company had raised the price of the Apple iPhone 5. During the first month of availability, T-Mobile sold the iPhone 5 for a down payment of just $99, followed by 24 monthly payments of $20 each. Apparently, this was a promotional rate."As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile is committed to introducing the hottest new smartphones at unbeatable promotional prices--but we all know promotions are temporary," the company said in a statement to FierceWireless. "The great news here is that well-qualified customers, on approved credit, can still buy (16GB) iPhone 5 from T-Mobile for $149.99 down starting Monday, May 13." Now that the iPhone has been available for more than 30 days, T-Mobile is charging a higher down payment price, though the monthly payments remain unchanged.
Verizon Wireless today announced that its variant of the Samsung Galaxy S 4 will be available online and in stores beginning May 23. The Galaxy S 4 will cost $199.99 with a new contract.
A new service provider called Zact today announced its unique plan offerings. The company offers a large range of sizes for voice, text messaging, and data buckets that can be mixed and matched in any way. Any custom plan can be shared among any number of devices for $5 per device. Plans can be managed and changed at any time via an app on the Android phone. The company uses the Sprint 4G LTE network and offers two phones: the LG Viper for $399 and LG Optimus Elite for $199. A "Never Overpay Guarantee" automatically bills you only for the cheapest plan that fits your usage, even if you picked a more expensive plan for that month. Example rates include $24.22 for 1 GB of data, $64.31 for 3 GB of data, $5.28 for 1,000 text messages, and $9.43 for 500 voice minutes. The company also offers app-specific unlimited data, such as $5/month for Facebook, $1/month for Candy Crush Saga, or $5/month for maps and navigation. The company also offers parental controls that work directly via the Zact app. Parents can set limits and curfews, and even approve contacts. Phones will start shipping in June.
Google has discontinued its SMS-based search product. SMS Search was a way to perform a Google Search from any cell phone by sending the query to a Google shortcode. Google would then return the results via SMS. In a short message posted to the Google Search forum, Google said the product was dropped in order to streamline its offerings and help it focus on other, more important products.
Sony today revealed the Xperia ZR, its latest semi-rugged and waterproof smartphone that's capable of filming HD video in water up to 1.5 meters deep. The ZR features a 13-megapixel camera with Sony's Exmor RS for Mobile chip, which can capture HDR stills and HDR video. The ZR has a 4.6-inch 720p HD display with Sony's Bravia Engine 2. The phone is powered by a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor with 2GB RAM. Other features of the ZR include Sony's Stamina Mode for power management, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, Walkman with 3D Surround Sound, noise suppression, 8 GB of internal storage, support for microSD cards up to 32GB, and support for various HSPA+ and LTE bands. It runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The Sony Xperia ZR will be available in select markets beginning in the third quarter.
Documents on the Federal Communications Commission web site provide a peek at an unannounced handset from Motorola. The XT 1058 was certified with AT&T's unique LTE bands, in addition to 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC -- all hallmarks of a high-end smartphone. Motorola has not released a handset for AT&T since last year's Atrix HD. The most recent batch of high-end smartphones made by Motorola were all sold by Verizon Wireless under the Droid brand. The FCC documents provide a rough sketch of the XT 1058, but no other specific details beyond the wireless certifications.
Nokia today announced the Lumia 928, a new Windows Phone smartphone for Verizon Wireless. The Lumia 928 features powerful imaging capabilities with Carl Zeiss optics and optical image stabilization to improve image sharpness. The camera rates 8.7 megapixels and has an aperture of f/2 for improved low-light image capture. It also includes a Xenon flash. The video camera, which has its own LED light, will be aided by three microphones that can handle high-volume, high-pressure events, such as concerts, and still offer clear, distortion-free recordings. It captures video at 1080p HD. There is also a 1.2-megapixel user-facing camera that can capture 720p HD video. The Lumia 928 includes a 4.5-inch OLED 1280 x 768 HD Clearblack display that is protected by Gorilla Glass. Nokia says the display as a pixel density of 334ppi and it offers 500 nit brightness. Other features include wireless charging, a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm processor with 1GB of RAM, LTE 4G, a polycarbonate design, Nokia's HERE suite of location-based apps, and 32GB of internal storage. The Nokia Lumia 928 will be available online and in stores May 16 for $99.99 with a new contract after $50 mail-in rebate. For a limited time, Lumia 928 buyers will get a $25 credit for Windows Phone apps and games with the purchase of the phone.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal in San Jose ordered Google to disclose to Apple the search terms it is using to discover documents requested as part of Apple's lawsuit against Samsung. Apple had requested the terms earlier this week and Google balked, suggesting that the information could give Apple an advantage in the future. "The court cannot help but note the irony that Google, a pioneer in searching the Internet, is arguing that it would be unduly burdened by producing a list of how it searched its own files," said Judge Grewal. Google has two days to disclose the search terms to Apple. Apple believes that Google's Android operating system provides the "underlying functionality" in a number of Samsung smartphones that Apple alleges are infringing on its patents.
Representative Zoe Lofgren from California today proposed a new bill that would amend the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in a way that would make it legal to unlock devices such as cell phones. The "Unlocking Technology Act of 2013" would amend Section 1201 Title 17 of the DMCA, which currently says that it is a violation of copyright law for a device to be unlocked by its owner. Specifically, Rep. Lofgren proposes to add the statement: "It shall not be a violation of this section to circumvent a technological measure in connection with a work protected under this title if the purpose of such circumvention is to engage in a use that is not an infringement of copyright under this title" to the first paragraph of the DMCA. This and other proposed alterations to the DMCA would, in effect, let owners unlock their devices as long as the intent is not to infringe on the copyright, as well as legalize third-party unlocking tools and services. It specifically changes copyright law so that unlocking cell phones would no longer be illegal. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives today. It has been illegal to unlock cell phones since January of this year, when an exception granted by the Library of Congress with respect to device unlocking expired.
BlackBerry today said that the Twitter and LinkedIn apps for its BlackBerry 10 platform have both been updated with new features. Twitter for BB10 now offers more up-to-date content in the Universal Search bar, and fits more content onto each screen. The app also supports automatic caching, so content is available faster when users first start up the app. LinkedIn sees a much more significant update compared to Twitter. With the new version of LinkedIn, BlackBerry 10 users will be able to import their local BlackBerry contacts into the LinkedIn app. The app has been given a visual overhaul, making it easier to refresh content with pull-down gestures, and receive tactile feedback via haptics. LinkedIn for BlackBerries makes it easier to search for companies and lets users see how they may be connected to those companies. Last, the inbox gains several new abilities, such as archiving and deleting messages, and improved inbox search. Twitter and LinkedIn for BlackBerry 10 are both free to download from BlackBerry World.
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