Phone Scoop

printed July 1, 2015
See this page online at:
http://www.phonescoop.com/articles/news.php

Home  ›

News

Recent Archive  

CTIA Says Smartphones Better Protected Against Theft

Today, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Beginning today, most smartphones sold in the U.S. will include anti-theft security tools. July 1 marks the day by which phone makers and network operators agreed to implement free theft deterrents on smartphones. According to the CTIA, most of the industry has responded by placing remote lock/wipe capabilities on consumer devices. The addition of an activation lock on the Apple iPhone, for example, has dramatically reduced iPhone thefts in major cities. The activation lock prevents a stolen device from being activated by another person, thus making it useless to thieves. Remote wipe features allow people to erase the personal data from their handset if lost/stolen to protect their identity. The major participants in today's action include Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and ZTE. "Today's fulfillment of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is another example of the wireless industry proactively working together with policymakers and law enforcement to help protect consumers' smartphones in the event they are ever lost or stolen. We will continue to work with all interested parties to continue to deploy new technologies and tools to improve device theft-deterrence tools. We remind consumers to take a few minutes to use PINs, passwords, apps and other device features to protect their mobile devices and personal information." The industry was coerced into acting "voluntarily" when the FCC threatened to make such protective measures mandatory.


Yahoo's Aviate Launcher Gains 'Google Now' Feature

Today, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo updated its Aviate Android launcher with a new feature called Smart Stream. As described by Yahoo, Smart Stream "assembles relevant information" and adjusts it throughout the day based on where the user is and what they're doing. The information is presented clearly on cards in a way that makes it easy to find nearby restaurants and other points of interest, as well as glance at sports scores and add a soundtrack to your day. Yahoo says Smart Stream becomes smarter and more personal as people use it. Users can fine-tune Smart Stream to surface specific cards through the Focus menu, which lets people set preferences. Smart Stream mimics the behavior of Google's Google Now feature. Aviate is free to download from the Play Store. It is compatible with devices running Android 4.1 and up.


Sprint Allowed to Settle Cramming Charges for $50M

Today, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint has settled accusations with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that it over-billed customers for unwanted services. In May, the FCC fined Sprint $68 million for adding third-party services to customer bills without customer permission -- a practice known as cramming. A U.S. judge is allowing Sprint to escape with a $50 million settlement, rather than the full amount. The FCC fined Verizon for $90 million in May also, and this week's settlement marks the end of the ordeal for both companies. Last year, the FCC tagged AT&T for $105 million and T-Mobile for $90 million to settle cramming complaints.


YouTube Mobile App Supports 60fps Playback

Today, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has updated the Android and iOS YouTube apps with support for 60 frame-per-second video playback. The higher frame rate is already supported via desktop browsers. YouTube is free to download from the Play Store and iTunes App Store.


NSA Given Permission to Spy On Calls Again

Today, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court this week gave the NSA permission to resume spying on Americans' phone calls for a period of 180 days. In June, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which put an end to the bulk phone data collection. However, there was a provision in the act that allowed the program to be extended for a period of six months to give the government time to transition to another method of spying. In May, an appellate court ruled the NSA bulk phone data collection program was illegal. FISA said, "Congress deliberately carved out a 180-day period following the date of enactment in which such collection was specially authorized. For this reason, the Court approves the application in this case." In other words, the NSA is once again allowed to vacuum up the call data of every American.


Sprint Forced to Backtrack On Throttling After Outcry

Today, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint was forced to remove a speed limit on its new All-In plans after customers were quick to complain. On Tuesday, Sprint revealed a service plan called All-In that offers monthly service and phone payments bundled together for $80 per month. In the fine print, Sprint disclosed a policy to throttle mobile video speeds to 600kbps at all times for network management purposes. That didn't sit well with customers, who took to social media to voice their concerns. Sprint later admitted that it has slowed mobile video speeds for a period of two years. The practice runs afoul of the FCC's new net neutrality rules, which prohibit broadband providers -- wireless or wired -- from throttling speeds of select apps or services. After a drubbing from customers, Sprint changed its policy. "At Sprint, we strive to provide customers a great experience when using our network," said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure. "We heard you loud and clear, and we are removing the 600kbps limitation on streaming video." That doesn't mean Sprint won't protect its network from heavy users. "During certain times, like other wireless carriers, we might have to manage the network in order to reduce congestion and provide a better customer experience for the majority of our customers," said Claure. AT&T has been sued by the FTC and the FCC over its network throttling practices.


Sprint Found In Violation of Prism Patents

Yesterday, 3:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint was found culpable of infringing on two patents held by Prism Technologies. The patents in question pertain to accessing protected computer resources and were used by Sprint in its "Simply Everything" and "Everything Data" plans, according to Prism. Sprint was ordered to pay a fine of $30 million. Sprint rejects the decision and said it will appeal. "We believe the evidence is clear that Sprint does not infringe the patent. Sprint plans to pursue post-trial motions," said Roni Singleton, a spokeswoman for Sprint, in a statement provided to RCR Wireless. Prism has similar cases pending against T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular.


Facebook's Messenger Payment Service Now Widely Available

Yesterday, 2:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today said its Messenger-based, peer-to-peer mobile payment service is now available to everyone across the U.S. It was initially tested in New York City earlier this year. Messenger users need only add their MasterCard- or Visa-backed debit card to pay anyone else on Messenger. Money goes straight from the sender's checking account to the recipient's checking account. Sending money is free of transaction charges. Facebook says users can set up PINs to protect the service, and Apple device owners will be able to use TouchID to secure it. Sending money is possible from the Android, iOS, and web versions of Messenger.


Verizon Says Droid Turbo Lollipop 5.1 Update Pushing Wednesday

Yesterday, 2:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said the Motorola Droid Turbo will be updated to Android 5.1 Lollipop beginning the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1. The update will be delivered in phases over a few weeks. Customers will be able to manually update their phones over the air if they wish. The update is free.


Court Says Apple Conspired to Raise E-Book Prices

Yesterday, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A U.S. court of appeals today upheld a ruling from a lower court that found Apple guilty of conspiring with book publishers to raise the prices of e-books. Books were generally priced at $9.99 by companies such as Amazon. Following the launch of Apple's iBook store, prices eventually rose to $12.99 and $14.99 for many titles. The appeals court said the initial ruling was correct, as was the injunction imposed against Apple. Today's ruling means Apple is on the hook for a $450 million settlement with attorneys general in 33 states. One judge dissented, believing that Apple's arrival in the market challenged Amazon, which was at the time the dominant player in the e-book market. Apple did not immediately respond to the ruling, but it marks the final chapter of a lengthy legal case that Apple has not been able to beat.


ZTE's Axon Phone Swings By the FCC for Approval

Yesterday, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Documents spotted on the FCC site reveal more information about ZTE's forthcoming Axon phone. The company has been teasing the device on the web for several weeks and plans to reveal it in full at a July 14 event in New York City. The FCC details the Axon Phone's impressive support for wireless networks, especially AT&T and T-Mobile. For example, it supports LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, and 30 (AT&T's upcoming WCS 2.3GHz coverage). It also includes WCDMA bands 2, 4, and 5, and quad-band GSM. The FCC also reveals the Axon includes excellent support for hearing aids, and NFC. ZTE has already confirmed that the Axon Phone will have a dual-lens camera, 4K video capture, high-fidelity sound playback and audio recording, a fast processor, 4 GB of memory, and a large battery. The phone will be sold in blue, gold, or silver.


Apple Releases iOS 8.4 with Apple Music

Yesterday, 9:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made available iOS 8.4, a system update for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that installs Apple Music. Apple Music is Apple's new streaming music service and is part of an all-new Music app for iOS devices. The service is being offered for free on a trial basis for three months, after which it will cost $10 per month for individuals or $15 per month for families. Apple Music offers unlimited, ad-free streaming and access to Beats 1, Apple's global radio station. iOS 8.4 also makes improvements to iBooks application, and resolves some performance issues. iOS 8.4 is free to download and install.

Share   Comments


Sprint's All-In Plan Includes Phone and Service for $80

Yesterday, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today introduced a new plan that combines the cost of a service plan with the cost of a handset in one monthly payment. The Sprint All-In plan costs $80 per month and includes unlimited talk, text, and data, and a Sprint Lease on handsets such as the Apple iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6, and HTC One M9. There are no up-front phone costs aside from a one-time, $36 activation fee. The $80 monthly rate does not include taxes. Sprint believes this is the simplest, most straight-forward plan in the market. Sprint will use soccer star David Beckham to advertise the plan, which is available in Sprint stores beginning today.


European Union to Ban Roaming Charges

Yesterday, 7:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The European Commission today agreed to make cellphone roaming charges illegal beginning in 2017. The change in law means European wireless network operators will not be allowed to charge roaming fees for customers who travel across the 28-country continent. Additionally, the European Commission also adopted some net neutrality regulations to prevent service providers from discriminating between different types of internet traffic. European carriers, such as T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom, warn the rules will reduce investment across the region, but regulators see the new laws as a win for consumers, who are often charged high fees when they travel. The new rules are specific to Europeans who go to other European countries. U.S. residents traveling abroad can still expect AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless to charge roaming fees for accessing wireless networks in Europe and elsewhere.


Sony Looking to Raise Capital for Image Sensor Business

Yesterday, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony plans to issue new shares of stock for the first time in 26 years as it hopes to raise about $4 billion in capital. The company said it will spend the money on bolstering its image sensor business, which is seeing high demand from smartphone and tablet makers. Sony's image sensor business, along with its PlayStation unit, have helped push the company back to its feet in recent quarters. Earlier this year, Sony said it would ramp up production in its image sensor plants, but now admits that it is struggling to keep up with demand. The capital plan marks a wholesale change in strategy for Sony, which will now bank on the image sensor and PlayStation businesses to keep it afloat. Sony said it will continue to make other electronic devices, such as TVs, but it will reduce its investments in such products. Sony did not specifically address what it will do about its smartphone operations.


Qualcomm to Hold Onto Chip Biz for the Time Being

Yesterday, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm does not plan to sell off its mobile chip business, according to Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs. Investors have been putting pressure on Qualcomm to spin off the unit, which one called "worthless." Some would prefer that Qualcomm operate strictly as a patent-licensing business. "We've had that discussion for a long time, many years the board has looked at it but we still think the synergies of having the businesses together outweighs the dis-synergies," said Jacobs. Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors power hundreds of millions of devices every year and are often combined with wireless modems. Earlier this year, Qualcomm said it would expand its chip-building facilities through partnerships with firms in China. Jacobs did say the company may change its mind down the road if the right opportunity arises.


Google Hangouts for iOS Updated with Material Design

Yesterday, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has refreshed its Hangouts app for the iOS platform and given the messaging service a new look and feel. The app now makes use of Google's Material Design and gains a new quick compose button for starting conversations. The app improves how it handles emoji, the camera, and the photo gallery. Hangouts now lets people send more than one photo at a time. Google says it also took care of some bugs and made some performance improvements. Hangouts is free to download from iTunes.


Uber Buys Some of Microsoft's Bing Assets

Monday, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Uber has agreed to acquire about 100 engineers and other assets from Microsoft's Bing product. Specifically, Uber will take possession of Bing's "product image collection activities," according to TechCrunch. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the companies did say that Microsoft will hand over some employees and technology. Uber, the ride-finding service, has been looking for opportunities to improve its own map data. Adding some of Bing's assets can help it do that. Uber said it was "excited about the talent and technology this acquisition brings." Earlier this year, Uber had been named as a potential suitor for Nokia's HERE Maps business. Nokia has not yet sold HERE. Microsoft and Uber didn't say when the Bing transaction might be finalized.


Sprint Debuts Best Buy One Family Plan for $100

Monday, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today unwrapped a new option for customers looking to save money on family plans. The Best Buy One Family plan costs $100 per month and includes unlimited data, voice minutes, and messaging for two smartphones. Additional lines cost $40 each. Sprint says subscribers to the Best Buy One Family plan can lease handsets for as little as $20 per month, so a two-line plan would cost just $140 per month with the device payments added in (taxes and fees not included). The Best Buy One Family plan is available at Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores beginning today. Sprint already offers a Best Buy One plan for single lines.


Boost Mobile Scores LG Volt 2 and Tribute 2

Monday, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 11:24 AM

Boost Mobile today announced the LG Volt 2 and LG Tribute 2, updates to two of last year's big sellers for the prepaid carrier. Both devices share several hardware features, such as LG's signature rear-placed buttons, 1.2 GHz quad-core processors, LTE, Bluetooth, and WiFi. They also boast similar software, such as Android 5.1 Lollipop with LG's Knock Code, QuickMemo, and selfie camera tools.

The LG Volt 2 and Tribute 2 are available from Boost's web site beginning today. The Volt 2 cost $149.99 and the Tribute 2 cost $99.99.


Sprint's Direct 2 You Launches in More Cities

Monday, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today made good on its May promise to bring Direct 2 You to New York, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The service is now live in these cities and a number of smaller cities and towns in the surrounding metro areas. Sprint said it will expand Direct 2 You to Detroit, Washington, D.C., Tampa, and Dallas in early July. With Direct 2 You, a Sprint technician brings the store experience directly to the homes of customers who purchase a new phone. Customers can still receive the same benefits as buying in stores, such as setting up their phone, transferring content from their old phone, and tutorials to ensure the customer understands how to use their new device. Sprint's Direct 2 You service is offered free of charge.


Facebook Adds Fun Tools to Photo Uploader for iOS

Monday, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has updated the photo uploader in its iOS app and given users the ability to make creative edits as they go. The new uploader lets people preview and apply filters by swiping left and right, easily add text, and plaster images with stickers from the Facebook sticker store. The feature is not yet widely available, but it has appeared for a number of users. The new editing tools aren't yet available in the Facebook app for Android and it's not clear when they might show up. They are accessible from a tray of tools positioned at the bottom of the photo uploader screen.


Apple Music Arrives with iOS 8.4 June 30

Monday, 7:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple will distribute iOS 8.4 beginning at 8AM/11AM Pacific/Eastern on June 30, according to Apple Music Senior Director Ian Rogers. The updated operating system installs Apple Music, Apple's monthly music service. The service will be available for free on a trial basis for three months, after which it will cost $10 per month. June 30 also marks the launch of Beats 1, Apple's global radio station. iOS 8.4 will work with most iOS devices.


Google Agrees to Add Railroad Crossings to Maps

Monday, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has agreed to use data from the U.S. Federal Railroad Association (FRA) to add audio and visual alerts to drivers when they near railroad crossings. The idea is to make sure drivers are aware of railroad crossings when using Google Maps to navigate between points. The FRA also requested that Apple, Garmin, Tom Tom, and MapQuest make similar additions to their mapping and navigation services. In 2013, the most recent year with data, there were 2,096 car-train accidents at railroad crossings nationally that resulted in 288 deaths.


Samsung Researchers Make Battery Breakthrough

Monday, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A research team working at Samsung has discovered a new way to make lithium-ion batteries that could double the available battery life in devices such as smartphones. The method involves covering silicon nanoparticles with graphene, which prevents the formation of silicon carbide. "When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities [that are up to] 1.8 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries," explain the researchers. They believe this can serve as a prototype for eventually bringing the technology to market. The end result would be batteries that last almost twice as long as they do now. Samsung said this discovery is still in the early stages of development and did not provide a suggested timeline for commercial release.


Microsoft's OneDrive App Adds Chromecast Support

Monday, 6:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated its OneDrive app for Android devices. The revised app adds the ability to cast photos and videos from the app to a Chromecast-enabled TV. OneDrive is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Cricket Scores Distribution Deal with Meijer Stores

Jun 26, 2015, 10:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today said its goods and services will be available at 213 Meijer stores across the midwest beginning June 27. Consumers in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky will be able buy prepackaged phone kits from phone makers such as HTC, Samsung, and ZTE. The stores will also sell Cricket's universal SIM card kits for those who already have a compatible device. Cricket Wireless is owned and operated by AT&T.


BBM Gains Private Chat Mode

Jun 26, 2015, 10:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today pushed out an update to the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of its BBM app and added several new features. The main new addition is a private chatting mode that strips conversations of names and profile pictures. Private conversations are also ephemeral and will disappear after a short while. The Private Chat tool is in the new Privacy and Control Subscription, which costs $0.99 per month. It also includes timed messages and timed pictures, and the ability to retract and edit messages and pictures. The Privacy and Control Subscription replaces the Timed and Retracted Messages Subscription. BlackBerry says existing subscribers will be transitioned over to the new service automatically. Other new functions include a new way to organize sticker collections and a "quote messages" tool for referencing previous messages. Last, the iOS version of BBM has updated font rendering. BBM is free to download from the Play Store, BlackBerry Store, and iTunes App Store.


T-Mobile's GoSmart Mobile Debuts $30 Facebook Plan

Jun 26, 2015, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

GoSmart Mobile, a prepaid business operated by T-Mobile, introduced a new entry-level plan today that offers unlimited LTE access to Facebook. The plan costs $30 per month and also includes unlimited talk and text and up to 1GB of 3G data. Subscribers to the plan have unlimited tethering, though once they exceed their 1GB limit tethering speeds will be reduced to 2G. The no-contract plan includes all taxes and fees and will be available beginning June 28. GoSmart offers several other plans ranging from $25 to $45 per month.


AT&T's GoPhone Now Selling the ZTE Maven

Jun 26, 2015, 8:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's prepaid unit today added the ZTE Maven to its roster of inexpensive handsets. The Maven is a rebadged Overture 2, which is sold by AT&T's Cricket Wireless business. The Maven is an entry-level Android smartphone that it is selling for $59.99. The Maven features a 4.5-inch FWVGA display, 5-megapixel main camera, VGA user-facing camera, 8 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 32 GB. This handset also has a quad-core 1.2 GHz processor and a 2,100mAh battery. The Maven from ZTE runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and is compatible with AT&T's LTE 4G network.


Cricket Adds ZTE Sonata 2 to Low-Cost Lineup

Jun 26, 2015, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless has made the ZTE Sonata 2 available on its web site for $29.99. This inexpensive Android smartphone has a 4-inch WVGA screen protected by Dragontrail Glass and it is powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor. The ZTE Sonata 2 includes a 5-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera with a dedicated selfie app. The phone has 1 GB of memory and 4 GB of storage, and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. Connectivity options include 4G, Bluetooth, and WiFi. The phone has a 1,650mAh battery providing it with power and supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 1.0 for quicker charging. The Sonata 2 runs Android 4.4 KitKat.


Microsoft Releases New Build of Windows 10 Mobile

Jun 25, 2015, 4:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released another new build of the Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview. Build 10149 adds features and resolves several bugs from the previous build. Microsoft released build 10136 earlier this month, but it required users to backtrack to Windows Phone 8.1 first. Microsoft says testers who stayed on build 10080 will be able to update directly to 10149, skipping over build 10136 completely. Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview 10149 brings new branding to the Microsoft Edge browser, which relocated the address bar to the bottom and added the ability to view web sites in desktop or mobile views. Edge replaces Project Spartan, which was in previous builds. Build 10149 makes improvements to Cortana and the flashlight, as well as general user interface tweaks. Microsoft says the UI should be more responsive. The new build features an updated photos app that adds support for GIFs, and the camera can now be set to automatically upload images to OneDrive. Microsoft fixed a range of bugs impacting call and SMS filtering, text notifications, Podcast performance, and app installs. Microsoft listed a number of known issues still plaguing the preview. The Technical Preview is not meant for general consumers and shouldn't be installed on anyone's daily device. These builds are pre-beta status for the mobile OS, which won't be offered in final form until the fall months.


FCC Keeps Auction Reserve at 30 MHz

Jun 25, 2015, 1:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today finalized its proposed rules for next year's 600 MHz spectrum auction and kept the reserve for smaller carriers at 30 MHz. T-Mobile and others petitioned the FCC to raise the reserve to 40 MHz, but FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler believes the 30 MHz cap offers plenty of opportunity for those who may bid. "The Incentive Auction offers one of the last opportunities for competitors to acquire significant quantities of low-band spectrum," said Wheeler. "With more than 70% of low-band spectrum in the hands of just two providers, one of the Commission's priorities is to ensure that multiple providers have a meaningful opportunity to acquire these valuable airwaves, which is critical to competition among wireless carriers. This is why the Commission voted to set aside this reserve a year ago. The draft Order concludes that the current reserve size of 30 MHz balances the desire to make low-band spectrum available to parties with limited holdings while facilitating competitive bidding for all auction participants." AT&T and Verizon Wireless will not be allowed to bid on 30 MHz of the airwaves in each market, which will be set aside for companies with less scale and fewer resources. The FCC also proposed changes to how it handles bids from designated entities and will close a loophole exploited by Dish Networks earlier this year to score a discount on spectrum. Dish relied on small companies to bid in its stead during the AWS-3 auction. Because the entities were under a certain size, they earned a 25% discount on the licenses that amounted to $3 billion. Dish's competitors complained and the FCC said it will put new rules in place for the 600 MHz auction to prevent such misuse. "We must also make sure that small businesses receiving credits are exercising independent decision-making authority. We will not allow small businesses to serve as a stalking horse for another party," said Wheeler. The FCC will vote on the rules during its next open meeting, scheduled for July.


Yahoo Improves Search In Mobile Browsers

Jun 25, 2015, 12:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today said it has refreshed how it displays mobile search results in a way that will help people find what they're looking for quicker. Yahoo explains that rather than offer lists of links, the new search presents results -- including images, videos, news, and other details -- prominently in a way that's more useful. For example, Yahoo Search results for restaurants will offer directions, reviews, and the ability to make reservations directly from the results screen. Yahoo said the new Yahoo Search is available when using search.yahoo.com in mobile browsers. Yahoo suggests smartphone users set Yahoo (rather than Google or Bing) as their default search engine for the best results.


Justice Dept. Suggests FCC Limit AT&T, Verizon Auction Participation

Jun 25, 2015, 10:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 25, 2015, 10:06 AM

Officials at the Justice Department are concerned AT&T and Verizon will dominate the upcoming 600MHz auction if more protections aren't put in place by the FCC. The agency filed a letter with the FCC this week suggesting the FCC give more weight to the concerns of companies such as Sprint and T-Mobile, which seek to limit AT&T and Verizon's participation. "The Department recognizes that the Commission must balance competing policy priorities in setting the appropriate reserve levels," said the officials. "In balancing these priorities, the Department urges the Commission to give considerable weight in determining the amount of spectrum included in the reserve to protecting and promoting competition, and the well-established competition principle that those with market power may be willing to pay the most to reinforce a leading position." Sprint, T-Mobile and others have asked the FCC to set aside 40MHz of spectrum that cannot be bid upon by AT&T and Verizon. So far the FCC has agreed to a 30MHz reserve, though the rules aren't yet final. T-Mobile, in particular, has fired off plenty of rhetoric in opposition of the two larger carriers' participation in the auction. AT&T and Verizon have responded in kind. The Justice Department didn't explicitly state that the FCC should bump the reserve to 40MHz, but it strongly implied that might be the best course for the FCC to take. The FCC hopes to lock down the rules soon, but the auction won't take place until mid 2016.


T-Mobile Debuts 'Jump On Demand' for Free Phone Upgrades

Jun 25, 2015, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 25, 2015, 11:59 AM

T-Mobile today kicked off a new program called Jump On Demand, which will allow people to upgrade their phone for free up to three times per year. The Jump On Demand program builds on Uncarrier 2.0, which introduced the idea of early phone upgrades with Jump. Now customers can trade in their phone as many as three times per 12 months for a new handset at no additional cost as long as they continue to make the monthly phone payments. T-Mobile said customers can walk out of the store with no money out-of-pocket with Jump On Demand, though customers with poor credit may have to make a downpayment on their device. The monthly pricing for Jump On Demand will be about the same as before -- the price of the phone divided by 24. Jump On Demand does not carry the extra $10 monthly fee that's part of the original Jump program. Phone trade-ins will have to be in good working order to be accepted for a new handset. T-Mobile said only a few flagship devices are eligible for the program: Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, LG G4, and Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, and Note 4. Customers already enrolled in the Jump program can transition to Jump On Demand the next time they upgrade (as long as the balance of their current phone is paid off) and will no longer have to pay the $10 fee. Customers who join Jump On Demand and make 18 payments on their phone without upgrading will have the option of making one final payment to own the device or trade the device in. Customers can choose to pay the balance of their handset at any time. As part of the launch, T-Mobile is offering the 16GB iPhone 6 for $15 per month with Jump On Demand as long as an old phone is traded in at the same time. Jump On Demand will be available in T-Mobile stores beginning June 28.


Facebook Messenger No Longer Requires Facebook Account

Jun 24, 2015, 12:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook said beginning today people do not have to have a Facebook account to use Facebook Messenger. When first loading the app, users will have the option of signing in with a phone number rather than their Facebook account. Facebook says people who sign in via phone number will have all the same features as Facebook users, including photos, videos, group chats, voice and video calling, and stickers. Facebook still encourages people to sign in with their Facebook account, but it is no longer necessary. The new feature is launching first in Canada, the United States, Peru, and Venezuela.


T-Mobile Trying to Block AT&T's 700 MHz Purchase

Jun 24, 2015, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has filed a petition with the FCC in an attempt to prevent AT&T from purchasing select 700 MHz spectrum licenses. AT&T filed a request to transfer the licenses, which cover portions of Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, last month. The Lower 700 MHz C Block licenses are owned by East Kentucky Network and cover 20 counties in three Cellular Market Areas. If approved, AT&T stands to hold 113 to 145 MHz of spectrum in total, and 43 to 55 MHz of below-1-GHz spectrum in these three CMAs. T-Mobile wants the FCC to deny AT&T's request on the grounds that it believes AT&T already owns too much low-band spectrum. "The license assignments sought would result in AT&T holding more than one-third of the spectrum below 1 GHz in the Huntington-Ashland and Lexington-Fayette CMAs. Although six entities currently hold low-band spectrum in these Markets, this transaction, if approved, will eliminate one of them entirely," argued T-Mobile. The Uncarrier has about 42,000 customers and ranks last in the areas involved. AT&T responded by saying, "AT&T will not exceed the Commission's spectrum aggregation screen and -- because the spectrum at issue currently sits completely fallow and unused -- the deal will not reduce any actual competition." AT&T also accused T-Mobile of under-investing in rural markets, including the ones at stake. "T-Mobile has only limited plans to invest in the rural markets covered by these licenses, particularly those in West Virginia. T-Mobile has 20-30 MHz of AWS spectrum in all of these markets that it could use to serve these rural communities if it chose. Finally, if T-Mobile wants low band spectrum for these markets, it could buy the 700 MHz A block spectrum and deploy it. Yet, T-Mobile chooses to do none of these." The FCC hasn't said if it will approve the deal or not, but because the spectrum in question falls below 1 GHz it will apply look more closely at the proposed deal.


Axon Phone Teased for July Release

Jun 24, 2015, 10:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 24, 2015, 1:22 PM

An unnamed company is preparing to announce the "Axon Phone" July 14. A teaser web site provides some preliminary information about the handset, which runs Android. For example, the Axon Phone has a dual-lens camera that the company says assists with focus and allows owners to refocus images after they're taken. The phone can also record video at up to 4K resolution. Axon claims the phone has high-fidelity sound playback and high-quality audio recording thanks to two microphones and noise suppression techniques. Last, the Axon phone has a fast processor, 4 GB of memory, and a large battery. The phone will be sold in blue, gold, or silver. Axon said more details will be revealed next month; however, PCMag was able to dig up some details that shed new light on the Axon Phone. PCMag claims Axon is a "marketing scheme" cooked up by ZTE. ZTE branding and code is clearly seen in the Axon web site. Further, Axon's headquarters shares the same address with ZTE's U.S. headquarters. ZTE mostly sells low-cost handsets via prepaid carriers in the U.S., but has higher ambitions. The Axon Phone may be an attempt by the company to break into the U.S. market with different branding. ZTE hasn't commented on PCMag's assertions.


Office for Android Easier for Everyone to Download

Jun 24, 2015, 10:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Office Mobile fully available to everyone from the Google Play Store. The company released penultimate versions of the apps in May, but required interested users to join the Office for Android Community on Google+ in order to access them. Microsoft removed that requirement, which means anyone who wants Office can now download the suite of productivity apps. Office Mobile requires Android 4.4 and up, but is not compatible with Android M.


More articles in the Archive ›


What do you want to hear about? We're already working on a number of articles for the coming months, but we want to write about the things you're most interested in. So sound off: tell us what you want to know more about!

Subscribe to Phone Scoop News with RSS Follow @phonescoop on Twitter Phone Scoop on Facebook Subscribe to Phone Scoop on YouTube Follow on Instagram

 

All content Copyright 2001-2015 Phone Factor, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Content on this site may not be copied or republished without formal permission.
1