Andy Rubin is taking some time away from Essential Products, where he is CEO. The company's day-to-day operations will be handled by president Niccolo de Masi during Rubin's absence. The timing of Rubin's leave coincides with a report from The Information that said Rubin had an inappropriate relationship with an employee during his time at Google. Google investigated the relationship in 2013 and concluded that "Rubin’s behavior was improper and showed bad judgement." He was moved after the investigation from the Android team to Google's robotics division. Rubin later left Google and founded Essential Products. Essential insists the timing of Rubin's leave is not related to The Information's report. "At our last regularly scheduled board meeting earlier in November, Andy asked for a leave of absence to deal with personal matters," said the company in a statement provided to The Verge. Essential makes the PH-1 smartphone, a high-end Android handset. The PH-1 went on sale earlier this year for $699, but has since been discounted to $499 amidst slow sales. The device is available unlocked from Essential, and it is also sold by Sprint.
The HTC U11 is on deck to receive Android 8 Oreo beginning today, according to HTC exec Mo Versi. He tweeted the news over the holiday weekend. The unlocked version of the U11 will be first to see the Android 8 Oreo upgrade, though Versi said other variants, including Sprint, shouldn't be too far behind. Other HTC handsets that will receive Android 8 Oreo include the 10, U Ultra, and U11 Life. Versi didn't say when Oreo will be available for those devices
Sprint is adjusting its top ranks in an effort to streamline its management structure, according to an internal memo obtained by Fierce Wireless. To start, a number of executives are departing the company, including COO Günther Ottendorfer, who's been behind a lot of Sprint's network advancements. Ottendorfer framed the departure as a chance to return to his family in his home county of Austria. Other departures include Jeff Nelson and Jim Hyde. A handful of executives have been promoted, including Dow Draper, who is now the chief commercial officer, and Kevin Crull, who is now the chief strategy officer. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure has reduced the number of executives who report directly to him from 16 to nine, including Draper, Crull, COO Nestor Cano, President of Sprint Jan Geldmacher, and CTO John Saw. In addition to the management changes, Claure outlined plans to reimagine its corporate offices in a way that promotes teamwork. Claure and select executives are relocating to a new space on the Sprint campus to test the changes, which will be rolled out across Sprint offices nationwide if they function as hoped. "As we start this new chapter, we’re building an organization that is flatter, faster and closer than ever to our customers," said Claure to Sprint employees. "At the same time, we’re creating an environment where partners can collaborate more easily and are empowered to make the decisions that will enable Sprint’s success." The changes appear to be a response to the failed merger with T-Mobile.
ROK Mobile has rolled out a new promotional rate plan that includes three months of unlimited service for $99. The offer is available to new customers only. After the three-month period ends, the plan reverts to the normal monthly rate of $45. ROK Mobile is an MVNO that offers service on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Customers can select which carrier they wish to use when they sign up for ROK Mobile. This allows people to use their own device. The $99 promo is only available to new customers who choose service on Sprint or Verizon. Those who select Sprint will be eligible for a free ZTE Prestige smartphone. ROK Mobile started out as a music-focused MVNO but has since transitioned to a more traditional MVNO. Service plans range from $20 to $50 per month, depending on the data bucket. ROK Mobile also offers what it calls Life Plans, a series of services including roadside assistance, accidental death and cremation insurance, family legal services, family telemedicine, and ID theft insurance. These Life Services can be added as extras to any of ROK Mobile's service plans. Pricing ranges from $5 to $15 per month depending on the package.
Sprint and Hulu today said they've partnered together so Sprint customers can enjoy access to Hulu's content for free. New and existing Sprint Unlimited Freedom subscribers can add Hulu at no extra charge. Hulu has three services tiers: streaming with limited commercials for $8 per month, streaming with no commercials for $12 per month, and streaming with live TV for $40 per month. The Sprint promotion applies to Hulu's entry-level limited commercials plan. Sprint and Hulu hope to offer an upgrade option for Hulu's sports and news-focused live TV plan in the near future, but potential pricing wasn't revealed. Sprint Unlimited Freedom customers can stream HD content over the network, though only some of Hulu's content is available in HD. Sprint says customers can sign up for free access to Hulu starting November 17. The move by Sprint and Hulu mirrors a similar tie-up between T-Mobile and Netflix.
Samsung today said it will sell the Deepsea Blue color variant of the Galaxy Note8 smartphone in the U.S. Since launch, the device has only be available to U.S. buyers in black or gray. Other than the color, everything about the Deepsee Blue Note8 is identical to the black and gray versions. The phone will be available from Best Buy stores, BestBuy.com, and Samsung.com beginning November 16. Customers will be able to select an AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, or unlocked model. The Note8 has a 6.3-inch Infinity Display, Snapdragon 835 processor, dual camera system, S Pen stylus, 6 GB of RAM, and fast wireless charging. The phone Galaxy Note8 runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $929.
Samsung today said its rugged Galaxy S8 Active will soon be sold by T-Mobile and Sprint. The phone has been available from AT&T since earlier this year. Notably, the T-Mobile variant of the S8 Active supports Band 71, or 600 MHz spectrum, which T-Mobile is slowly lighting up with service in rural areas. Otherwise, the device is unchanged from the AT&T variant. The S8 Active has a metal frame with bumpers that are able to withstand drops up to 5 feet. Samsung says the phone meets mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse in addition to IP68 for protection against water. The phone has a 5.8-inch quad HD+ display with 18.5:9 aspect ratio, but drops the S8's curved glass for a flat piece of hardened glass. Other features unique to the S8 Active include a larger 4,000mAh battery, and Samsung's Activity Zone software for tracking workouts and other activities. The S8 Active is powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor, boasts 12-megapixel main camera and 8-megapixel front camera, and includes a dedicated Bixby key. T-Mobile says the Galaxy S8 Active will require a $100 down payment followed by $30 monthly payments for 24 months. Alternately, customers can lease the phone for $100 down and $29 per month for 18 months. It will be available from T-Mobile's web site starting November 17 and should hit stores November 22. Sprint has yet to share pricing and availability details.
Sprint has signed an agreement with Altice USA to resell Sprint service as an MVNO. Sprint is calling the deal a first-of-its-kind arrangement, as it will see the companies sharing services. Altice USA is the parent company of both the Optimum and Suddenlink brands, which provide internet, TV, WiFi, and telephone services to a combined 4.9 million customers in various markets throughout the country. Altice is currently building a next-generation fiber network. With the Sprint agreement, Altice USA plans to offer mobile voice and data services under its own brand. What's unique is that Altice will be able to connect directly to Sprint's network. Sprint will provide cellular connectivity to Altice MVNO wireless subscribers. On the flip side, Sprint will rely on Altice USA's broadband platform to help densify its own backhaul network. Sprint believes this differentiated network operating model will benefit both companies and help ease with integrating their services. Sprint may pursue similar agreements moving forward. Terms of the deal were not made public. The move comes just a day after Sprint and T-Mobile said the two wireless companies will abandon merger talks.
T-Mobile and Sprint today said they have ceased talks to merge into a single entity. The companies said they could not find mutually agreement terms. T-Mobile and Sprint have flirted with the idea of merging since 2014. Talks ramped up again earlier this year, but it appears the two companies weren't able to find a deal that worked for both organizations. "The prospect of combining with Sprint has been compelling for a variety of reasons," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. "However, we have been clear all along that a deal with anyone will have to result in superior long-term value for T-Mobile’s shareholders compared to our outstanding stand-alone performance and track record. Going forward, T-Mobile will continue disrupting this industry and bringing our proven Un-carrier strategy to more customers and new categories — ultimately redefining the mobile Internet as we know it." T-Mobile and Sprint have vast spectrum resources, but combining them would have been difficult. Moreover, T-Mobile is worth twice as much as Sprint from a market capitalization perspective and that threw a wrench in how the merged company would be led. Marcelo Claure, Sprint's CEO, said, "While we couldn’t reach an agreement to combine our companies, we certainly recognize the benefits of scale through a potential combination. We have agreed that it is best to move forward on our own. We know we have significant assets, including our rich spectrum holdings, and are accelerating significant investments in our network to ensure our continued growth. We look forward to continuing to take the fight to the duopoly and newly emerging competitors." AT&T and Verizon Wireless, the two industry leaders, each have about twice as many customers as both T-Mobile and Sprint.
T-Mobile has approached Sprint with a new proposal, reports the Wall Street Journal, in an attempt to keep the potential merger of the two companies alive. Talks failed earlier this week when Masayoshi Son, CEO of Sprint parent SoftBank, appeared to walk away from the deal over a disagreement concerning which company would own the other. The terms of T-Mobile's new proposal are unknown, but Sprint is considering them according to the Journal's unnamed sources. T-Mobile CEO John Legere and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure have been in direct contact since Wednesday. T-Mobile ($49 billion) has twice the market capitalization of Sprint ($26 billion). This should put T-Mobile in the driver's seat concerning the terms of the merger agreement and ownership. The Journal's sources say a new deal could be reached within weeks, though they were certain to note talks could always fall through.
Blu Products recently announced the S1, an inexpensive Android smartphone that's available unlocked from Amazon.com and BestBuy.com. One of the chief benefits of the S1 is its wide compatibility with U.S. LTE networks. It supports AT&T and T-Mobile, and, unusually, Sprint, as well as their prepaid services including Cricket Wireless, Boost Mobile, and MetroPCS. Blu says it also offers SIM kits for the S1 from Tracfone, Net10, and H2O. The S1 features a curved glass front with metallic paint on the smooth rear panel. The 5.2-inch display offers 720p HD resolution in a 16:9 aspect ratio, and the phone is powered by an octa-core 1.5 GHz MediaTek 6750 processor with 2 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and an LED flash, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other features include Bluetooth, FM radio, GPS, and WiFi; 16 GB of storage and support for microSD memory cards; front-mounted fingerprint sensor; and a 2,800mAh battery. The Blu S1 runs Android 7 Nougat and is available online for $130 from Amazon and $180 from Best Buy.
Sprint and T-Mobile may not be merging after all. SoftBank, the majority owner of Sprint, plans to break off merger talks, according to Reuters. SoftBank and T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom haven't been able to agree on who will own the combined company. T-Mobile and Sprint are the country's third- and fourth-largest carriers, when measured by customers. The merged entity would have been better able to compete with market leaders AT&T and Verizon. SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom had widely been expected to announced merger details by the end of the month. Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile commented on Reuters' report.
Virgin Mobile USA today said it will offer customers the Apple iPhone X starting November 10. The company will accept preorders beginning November 3, which happens to be the same day the handset reaches Apple retail stores and those of Virgin's owner, Sprint. Virgin did not reveal pricing details for the iPhone X, but it will likely charge customers the full retail price of $999 for the 64 GB model and $1,049 for the 256 GB model. iPhone X owners on Virgin Mobile can get unlimited talk, text and data at up to 4G LTE speeds for just $50 per month.
The recent release of the Google Pixel 2 means Sprint customers have access to 10 handsets that support HPUE. Sprint has been deploying HPUE tech on its 2.5 GHz spectrum since late last year. The primary benefit is better performance (higher speeds, more capacity) at the cell edge. The result is a wireless experience more like that of Sprint's mid-band 1.9 GHz spectrum. The devices able to access HPUE include the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+, and Note8; the LG G6, V30+, and X Charge; the ZTE Max XL and Warp 8; the Motorola Z2 Force; the HTC U11; and the Pixel 2. Apple has yet to release any iPhones that support HPUE. Sprint said it expects to offer many more HPUE devices before long.
Essential Products today dropped the price of its PH-1 smartphone by $200. In order to score the new price, consumers will need to order the phone from Essential.com. The company thanked its early supporters, who are being offered a $200 friends and family gift card toward the purchase of an Essential 360 Camera or another Essential PH-1. "At Essential, one of our driving principles is that premium craftsmanship and the latest technologies shouldn’t be for the few," explained the company in a blog post. "We could have created a massive TV campaign to capture your attention, but we think making it easier for people to get their hands on our first products is a better way to get to know us." Essential Products is spearheaded by Andy Rubin, who helped create the Android operating system. The PH-1 is a high-end handset with a large screen, bezel-less design, and top specs. The phone received mixed reviews when it went on sale earlier this year, mainly due to the camera. Essential has pushed several updates to improve the camera since its release. Sprint is the only U.S. operator that sells the Essential. The company has been offering a half-off lease program on the PH-1 for several weeks. "At $14.58 per month on Sprint Flex, Sprint still offers a better value on Essential Phone" than even Essential's new lower price. "Our current offer is 50% off the standard lease price," said Sprint to Phone Scoop via email. Sprint's lease program for the Essential PH-1 lasts 18 months.
Sprint today debuted a new resource for parents called Safe & Found. It allows parents to view their child's smartphone location any time, as well as set controls over apps and usage. The service includes real-time geolocation and geofencing, which allows parents to create safe zones in which their children are permitted to travel. If the child's phone departs the geofenced area, parents will receive alerts. The service includes an SOS button, which will send an emergency alert with the child's location to all family members. Alternately, if the phone is lost Safe & Found lets subscribers find, lock, or wipe it remotely. Parental controls give mom and dad the ability to restrict calls to trusted numbers, install age-appropriate apps, and regulate usage based on the time of day. The service includes content restrictions, too, so inappropriate web content and apps are blocked from kid phones. Safe & Found costs $6.99 per line per month and it is compatible with Android and iOS devices.
Sprint today rolled out a new lease offer for the Apple iPhone 8 and 8 Plus that sees discounts up to $350 off the list price with an eligible trade-in. For example, customers can snag the 64 GB iPhone 8 for $0 down and $9.72 per month after bill credits. The same monthly price is available for the 256 GB iPhone 8, but it requires a $150 down payment. Lease prices for the iPhone 8 Plus are a few dollars more at $13.89 per month with $0 down for the 64 GB model and $150 down for the 256 GB model. Device trade-ins must be fairly new and in working order. Eligible devices include the Apple iPhone 6, 6s, 7, 6 Plus, 6s Plus, and 7 Plus; the Samsung Galaxy S7, S8, S8+; the LG G5, G6, or V20; the Motorola Z Droid, Z Play, Z Force Droid, Z2 Play, or Z2 Force; the Google Pixel or Pixel XL; the BlackBerry KEYone; or the HTC U11. Trades must be owned outright and not under any form of payments. Sprint allows lessees to upgrade their device after 12 monthly payments.
Samsung today said its Gear Sport smartwatch and Icon X 2018 headphones will be available for pre-order starting October 13, with general retail availability to follow October 27. The Gear Sport, a fitness-focused smartwatch that runs Samsung's Tizen platform, costs $299.99. It will initially be sold by Samsung.com and BestBuy.com, and will later expand to Amazon, Macy's, and U.S. Cellular. The watch has a 1.2-inch screen, GPS, rotating bezel for controlling the user interface, and waterproof chassis for recording swim workouts. The Gear Icon X 2018, wireless earbuds with heart rate detection and other fitness features, costs $199.99. The Icon X will initially be sold only by Samsung.com, with Amazon, BestBuy.com, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular to follow later. The Icon X 2018 are second-generation Bluetooth headphones that can interact with Samsung's Bixby personal assistant. The devices were announced earlier this year.
ZTE today announced the Blade Force smartphone for Boost Mobile. This Android handset includes support for Sprint's High Performance User Equipment technology and two-channel carrier aggregation for better performance near the cell edge. The Blade Force has a 5.5-inch 720p HD display and it is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 427 processor with 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports external storage cards up to 128 GB. The rear camera has an 8-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a 5-megapixel camera. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and FM radio. The phone runs Android 7.1 Nougat and is available online starting today for $130.
Sprint will offer LG's new flagship V30+ phone starting on October 13th. The V30+ is exclusive to Sprint in the U.S.; other carriers will offer the standard V30. The V30+ has 128 GB of internal storage, twice that of the standard V30. It will also come with LG QuadPlay high-quality earbuds. For a limited time, it will also come with a free Google Daydream VR headset. The V30 is one of the first LG-branded phones compatible with Daydream. Sprint is selling the phone for $912, or leasing it for $38/month. For a limited time, Sprint is offering 2-for-1 on the $38/month lease.
T-Mobile and Sprint have made significant progress in ironing out merger terms, according to Reuters. T-Mobile and Sprint have made a "major breakthrough" on a merger between them. As it stands, SoftBank, Sprint's parent, would own between 40% and 50% of the combined company, with Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile's parent, owning the majority stake. These terms are near final and will require due diligence before a deal is announced, which may happen as soon as the end of October, according to Reuters' sources. In addition to shareholder and board approval, the deal would face regulatory scrutiny from the U.S. government. SoftBank was forced to abandon an attempted merger with T-Mobile back in 2014 due to government pressure. The combined T-Mobile/Sprint entity would catapult to 130 million customers, putting it just behind rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile and Sprint declined to comment on Reuters' story.
Google today made it easier for businesses to configure and deploy Android handsets to employees with a new tool called zero-touch enrollment. Google says zero-touch lets companies configure purchased devices and ship them directly to employees completely preconfigured with corporate policies and controls all in place. Users need only sign in to gain access to their work apps and data. The new zero-touch enrollment tool is available on handsets purchased from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Google is working with Samsung, Huawei, Sony, LG, HMD Global, BlackBerry, HTC, Motorola, Honeywell, Zebra, and Sonim to ensure a wide selection of devices support zero-touch. Google indicated the Huawei Mate 10 and Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact will be among the first devices to support zero-touch in the coming weeks. Businesses will be able to use a wide range of enterprise device management tools from the likes of BlackBerry, MobileIron, IBM, Suite, and VMware to configure zero-touch. Google encouraged businesses that are interested in zero-touch to contact their carriers directly.
Essential Products says its smartphone, the PH-1, is now fully able to run on Verizon Wireless's network. The company announced the news via its Twitter account. Essential didn't say what changed, or what it might have updated to make the phone work more properly on Verizon's network. The handset is already for sale unlocked and from Sprint. Verizon does not actually sell the phone. The PH-1 is a high-end Android handset with a bezel-less design. It supports magnetic modules that attach on the back via magnets. It costs $699.
Sprint today announced that the Essential Phone will go on sale through all Sprint channels — including stores — on September 14th. The high-end, bezel-free phone is already available unlocked.
Apple this week announced the Apple Watch Series 3 with an optional cellular radio. The LTE radio makes it possible for the smartwatch to connect to cellular networks on its own, without a nearby iPhone. According to AT&T, the Apple Watch Series 3 is compatible with its NumberSync service, allowing people to make and receive phone calls from their main mobile number on the wearable. In addition to calls, NumberSync allows people to send/receive text messages from their main number directly on the smartwatch. The phone does need to powered on somewhere in order for the service to work. NumberSync is built into AT&T's network, so it doesn't require third-party apps in order to function properly. AT&T charges a $10 per month fee to add the Apple Watch Series 3 to an existing data plan. NumberSync is included for free. AT&T said it will waive the customary activation fee for the Apple Watch Series 3. Verizon Wireless customers will enjoy similar functionality via Verizon's NumberShare technology, which also allows people to make calls and send messages directly from their wrist over the cellular network. Like AT&T, Verizon is charging $10 per month to add the Apple Watch Series 3 to an existing plan. T-Mobile, too, has a $10 Apple Watch Series 3 plan that includes one-number calling from either the phone or the watch. Sprint has not yet detailed a similar service. The Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE goes on sale September 22 for $399.
Mobile operators in the U.S. today said they will work together to help customers more easily manage app and account authentication while also protecting consumers' privacy and identity. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless announced the Mobile Authentication Taskforce, which will create a mobile authentication solution for consumer and business customers alike next year. The carriers are going to pool resources and analyze customer data and activity patterns on their respective mobile networks to accurately predict if people are who they say they are. They'll parse insights such as geo-location, network-based device behaviors, and SIM card recognition to determine identity and authenticate users. The four carriers are taking an open approach to the Mobile Authentication Taskforce and hope third-party organizations and developers will participate. The group didn't say exactly when it expects to roll out the initial offering. Finding new and secure ways to authenticate end users is becoming increasingly important as more personal information is available on mobile devices.
Sprint-owned Boost Mobile today said taxes and fees are now included in the cost of its monthly service plans for new and existing customers. Boost's current customers will not need to do anything to reap the benefits of this change, which will be automatically adopted on all bills after September 8. Moreover, Boost Mobile is rolling out a promotion to entice consumers to switch. The company is offering those who port to Boost Mobile four lines for $100 with unlimited talk, text, and data on all four lines. International services will cost extra. Sprint says streaming for all Boost customers is mobile optimized with video up to 480p and music up to 500 Kbps. Games are limited to streams of 2 Mbps. Sprint will slow down speeds when the network is congested. Boost Mobile's plans start at $25 per month.
Sprint and T-Mobile today both introduced promotions that make LG's flagship handsets more affordable. Sprint, for example, dropped the lease price of the G6 from $29.50 per month to $20 per month. That cuts the full cost of the phone from about $700 to $480, or a savings of $220 over time. T-Mobile is offering a buy-one, get-one promo on the G6 and V20. Customers who buy either phone on an equipment installment plan can get a second for free with the activation of a new line. T-Mobile sells the G6 for $20 down and $20 per month, or $500 in total. It sells the V20 for $0 down and $20 per month, or $480 in total. Customers will need to buy both devices and then register to receive a rebate to cover the cost of the second phone. The rebate comes in the form of a prepaid MasterCard for up to $500. LG is widely expected to replace the V20 with its new V30 flagship later this month.
Sprint today began accepting preorders for the Essential PH-1 smartphone. Sprint is offering the phone at a significant savings through its lease program when compared to buying the phone outright directly from Essential. The PH-1 is available to Sprint customers for $14.58 per month through a Sprint Flex 18-Month Lease, which totals about $260 under the full retail cost of $699. At the end of the lease period, Essential lessees can opt to pay off the balance or turn the phone in for something else. Sprint is also offering the Essential 360-degree modular camera attachment for $199, or $16.67 per month for 12 months on an installment plan. The black version will be available in stores within a few weeks, according to Sprint, with the white model following at a later date. Sprint says the phone supports three-channel carrier aggregation on its network and can hit theoretical download speeds in excess of 200 Mbps. Essential recently emailed customers who preordered the phone and informed them that the PH-1 will ship in about a week. The Essential PH-1 has a bezelless design, a magnetic mod system, dual cameras, and a Snapdragon 835 processor.
Essential Products today began emailing customers who preordered the PH-1 smartphone with news of the device's imminent arrival. "Great news, your phone has been built! We now just need your payment details and we will ship within 7 days," reads the email in part. Customers who've preordered the black version of the phone can expect to receive their phone within a week of paying for it. The white version, however, is not yet ready. Customers who preordered the white model are receiving a different email that says, "As shipment of your Pure White device is still a couple of weeks away, we want to give you the option to change your order from a Pure White to a Black Moon device, which will ship [sooner.]" People who preordered the Pure White model can contact Essential's support team to opt for the Black Moon color if they wish. The phone will also be sold by Amazon.com and Best Buy in the U.S. in addition to Sprint, which is the only U.S. carrier that has agreed to distribute the phone. Essential hasn't yet said when retail units would be available. The Essential PH-1 has a bezelless design, a magnetic mod system, dual cameras, and a Snapdragon 835 processor. It is priced at $699. Essential told customers who preordered the modular 360-degree camera that they'll be contacted via email separately when the camera is ready.
Boost Mobile today rolled out a new "back to school" service offer that gives families less-costly unlimited service. The new Unlimited Gigs plan costs $50 for one line, which includes unlimited talk and text; 8 GB of mobile hotspot; optimized video, gaming, and music streams; and unlimited 4G LTE data for most everything else. Additional lines on the Unlimited Gigs family plan cost $25 each, up to a total of five lines. The pricing matches that exactly of a recent promotion kicked off by competitor MetroPCS. The new Unlimited Gigs offer will be available starting August 22. Boost Mobile continues to offer its 3 GB plan for $35 per month. Additional lines on the 3 GB plan cost $25 each. Boost Mobile is owned and operated by Sprint.
Essential Products says it will reveal the launch date of its PH-1 smartphone within one week, according to the Wall Street Journal. The company first said the phone would launch within 30 days of its initial debut, which took place back in May. When the phone hadn't appeared by mid July, CEO Andy Rubin said the Essential Phone would arrive "in a few weeks." That time frame has come and gone and there's still no firm release date for the phone. Beyond the launch date, Essential confirmed to the Journal that the phone will be sold by Amazon.com and Best Buy in the U.S. in addition to Sprint, which is the only U.S. carrier that has agreed to distribute the phone. The Essential PH-1 has a bezelless design, a magnetic mod system, dual cameras, and a Snapdragon 835 processor. It is priced at $699.
Motorola today said the Moto E4 Plus, which it announced in June, will reach various sales channels later this week. The unlocked variant will be available from Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Fry's, Newegg, and Motorola.com starting August 3 for $180. Verizon Wireless plans to sell its own version of the Moto E4 Plus on August 3 too, though Verizon's pricing wasn't immediately available. Sprint, Ting, and other U.S. retailers will stock the Moto E4 Plus beginning August 11, with Republic Wireless to follow August 14. Motorola will also sell an Amazon Prime Exclusive version of the Moto E4 Plus, though pricing on the Amazon model wasn't announced. The Moto E4 Plus boasts a metal design, and improves the screen size compared to the standard E4 to 5.5 inches (still 720p HD) and the battery to a massive 5,000mAh. The phone ships with a 10W charger for rapid power-ups. The E4 Plus also packs a 13-megapixel main camera with f/2.0 aperture, LED flash, and autofocus, and a 5-megapixel front camera with selfie flash.
Motorola announced the Z2 Force today, which replaces both the Z and Z Force from last year. The phone will be sold by most U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. Motorola said the Verizon variant will not include the "Droid" branding that was found on last year's phones. Motorola is sticking with a single device name across carriers. Verizon did not provide comment on the name change. Motorola plans to sell the phone unlocked from Motorola.com, but there is no single unlocked model, according to Rudi Kalil, vice president and general manager at Motorola. Kalil said Motorola will offer unlocked variants for each carrier due to the specific cellular radio requirements for forthcoming 1 Gbps service that's under development from the carriers. The Moto Z2 Force is available for preorder today and will ship starting August 10.
Andy Rubin today provided an update concerning the expected arrival of his new company's Essential PH-1 smartphone. "We’ve been hard at work getting everything ready and the good news is that we’re now going through certification and testing with multiple U.S. and international carriers," said Rubin in an email to supporters. "You might be getting impatient to get your hands on your new Essential Phone (and I’m also impatient to get it to you!) but rest assured that you will have a device in your hands in a few weeks." Rubin said his team is "sweating the details and working long hours to get this device shipped." Rubin had previously committed to shipping the phone by the end of June. It now appears the device will arrive in August. The Essential PH-1 has a unique, magnet-based system for accepting modular attachments, such as a 360-degree camera, on the back panel. It includes a 5.7-inch quad HD screen with curved corners, Snapdragon 835 processor, and dual rear cameras. It will run a near-stock version of Android 7 Nougat and ship completely devoid of brand names or logos. Essential will sell the PH-1 directly to consumers, though Sprint also plans to carry the phone. It costs $699.
Samsung today said the Coral Blue variant of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets will become available to U.S. buyers starting July 21. According to Samsung, carrier-specific versions for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon will be available at Best Buy stores, while the unlocked version will be available at Best Buy and Samsung.com. Customers looking to save some money can take advantage of a promotion at Best Buy stores between July 21 and July 29 that offers up to $400 off the cost of the handset with a carrier activation. Samsung said consumers can save up to $150 of the price of either handset when purchasing the phone directly from Samsung, as well as take advantage of Samsung's trade-on promo. Details concerning the promotions are available from Samsung's web site. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are already available in black, silver, and gray.
Sprint plans to expand its phone leasing program to all the handsets in its lineup. Until now, Sprint has reserved its leasing program for Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxies. The new program, called Sprint Flex, provides customers with several options. The iPhone Forever and Galaxy Forever leasing programs remain in place as-is and offer annual upgrades at no extra cost. For every other device, Sprint will allow customers to upgrade after 12 consecutive on-time lease payments for an extra fee of $5 per month. Those who don't want or need to upgrade each 12 months can revisit their phone lease at the 18-month mark when they can return the device for a new one, pay the phone off in a lump sum to own it, or make six more payments to own it. Sprint is also rolling out a program called Sprint Deals, which offers low-cost monthly payments on Sprint's selection of affordable phones. This program lets people finance handset costs with or without a credit check. Entry-level devices require a $25 down payment and $5 payments per month, while pricer phones will require a $30 down payment and $10 per month. Those with poor or no credit can score a discount on some of these phones if activated on a Sprint Forward prepaid plan. Sprint hopes affordable lease rates on its handsets will entice customers to sign up. "We want to give full flexibility to our customers because you don’t want to get stuck with an old phone," said Sprint SVP of Leasing Robert Hackl in an interview with Reuters. Sprint is the nation's fourth-largest carrier in terms of customers. It has rolled out a number of promotions and changes to its service plans in an effort to gain more subscribers.
Sprint today said that the BlackBerry KEYone smartphone will go on sale July 14. It will initially be available online and via telesales. The phone won't reach stores until later this month. Sprint is charging $528 for the handset, or $22 per month on a payment plan. The KEYone, made by TCL, the parent company of Alcatel, combines a 4.5-inch touch screen with a physical QWERTY keyboard. Other features include a Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megapixel camera, 3,505mAh battery, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry's DTEK security suite.
Sprint has pushed a firmware update to its variant of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and in so doing improved the phone's LTE download speeds by about 20%. According to PCMag, the update resolves a software bug that prevented the S8 from properly connecting to Sprint's Band 41 LTE. Sprint says about 85% of its S8 customers have already applied the update, which was pushed last month. Sprint delivered a similar update to the HTC U11, which also gained a performance boost in download speeds.
Google today expanded the availability of Project Fi to its G Suite customers. G Suite users are those associated with businesses and use Google's email, calendar, contacts, and other products through their employer. Until today Project Fi has been available to individual users and families or other small groups, but moving forward G Suite customers can sign up for the monthly wireless service. Google says Project Fi is still limited to just six users per group plan, so it is not a viable option for medium or large enterprises. Google said Project Fi will be available to all G Suite users in the U.S. within the next few weeks. Project Fi relies on WiFi and LTE service from Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular to find the strongest/best signal. Project Fi only charges customers for data they use, rather than a large bucket. Plans start at $30 per month for talk, text, and 1 GB of data. A Pixel or Nexus Android smartphone is required.