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.
Alcatel today marked the debut of the Idol 5S, the latest in its flagship series. Like its predecessors, the 5S features an aluminum frame, curved glass front and rear surfaces, powerful stereo speakers, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The phone has a 5.2-inch full HD screen and it is powered by the Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. As for photography, the Idol 5S includes a 12-megapixel main camera with two-tone flash, and f/2.0 aperture. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and f/2.0 aperture. Both cameras can shoot full HD video. The stereo speakers are backed by 3.6W amplifiers and the Idol 5S includes dual microphones to help reduce noise when capturing audio. Other features include Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi; USB-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack; and a 2,620mAh battery. LTE support for U.S. carriers is very good, as it includes Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 66, and 41. Alcatel said the phone will be compatible with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS at launch, with Sprint and Verizon to follow later this summer through a software update. The Alcatel Idol 5S runs Android 7.1 Nougat and includes the Google Assistant. The device costs $280 when purchased from Alcatel, but can be picked up for $200 through Amazon Prime Exclusives. The Amazon price requires users to view ads on the lock screen. The phone ships July 10.
Virgin Mobile USA, which is owned and operated by Sprint, transformed itself today into new provider much more closely aligned with the Virgin brand. Significantly, Virgin Mobile USA is now an iPhone-only carrier, meaning Apple's iPhones are the only phones Virgin will sell moving forward. Further, shoppers will be able to buy and activate an iPhone on Virgin Mobile USA at Apple Stores. Pricing for Virgin Mobile iPhones starts at $279 for the 32 GB iPhone SE and ranges up to $969 for the 256 GB iPhone 7 Plus. According to the company's web site, Virgin Mobile does not offer financing for iPhones and customers will have to pay full price. The company now offers only a single service plan. For $50 per month, Virgin Mobile USA provides unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S. International roaming add-ons start at $5 per month. There are limitations on Virgin's plan: video playback is capped at 480p, music is streamed at 500Kbps, and gaming is streamed at 1.5Mbps. Virgin says mobile data speeds will be suppressed when the network is congested. For a limited time, Virgin Mobile is offering up to 12 months of service for just $1. The $1 yearly service offer is only available to customers buying a new iPhone and activating it on Virgin's network. Customers will have to sign up by July 31, 2017 to score the $1 deal. At the end of the 12-month service plan for $1, customers will automatically be moved to the $50 plan. Last, the $1 yearly plan and iPhone purchase buy customers access to the Virgin Inner Circle. The Inner Circle is a promotional program that provides benefits with other Virgin-branded properties. For example, Inner Circle members who buy one plane ticket on Virgin Atlantic will be given a second ticket for free. Inner Circle members who book two nights at a Virgin-owned hotel will be able to cash in on a third night for free. Virgin says these offers will be made available to Inner Circle members every few weeks. Customers interested in this package can pre-order one of Virgin Mobile USA's iPhones starting today. The phones and Inner Circle will become available starting June 27. Last, Virgin said it will offer "pre-loved" iPhones starting in the fall, allowing customers to take advantage of more affordable prices.
Sprint today leveled a huge gun at the competition: it will give a year of free unlimited service to people who switch from other postpaid carriers to Sprint. The deal, detailed on Sprint's web site, requires switchers to jump through a lot of hoops and meet a wide variety of conditions. To start, the promotion will provide one year of free talk, text, and data with 10 GB of mobile hotspot per line. People who exceed the 10 GB mobile hotspot allotment will be throttled. Video can be streamed at up to full HD, music can be streamed at up to 1.5Mbps, and games can be streamed at up to 8Mbps. Sprint says it will throttle people during instances of network congestion, particularly those who exceed 23 GB per month. People who earn free service will still be on the hook for taxes and other monthly fees. In order to quality for the free service, potential switchers need to have compatible, unlocked handsets, and they'll need to purchase and activate Sprint SIM cards before porting their number to Sprint. Sprint says the SIM cards cost $3 each, with $10 shipping and handling. The actual SIM activation will be free. People who take advantage of the deal will not be able to upgrade to new devices for at least four months, and Sprint warns that phone features and network experience will vary depending on the handsets being used. Sprint will allow a total of five free lines per account. Tablets are not supported, nor are other connected devices. The promotion is available through June 30. The free service will expire July 31, 2018, after which Sprint will charge its normal rates for multi-line unlimited accounts. Auto-pay is required.
Essential Products has found a U.S. carrier to distribute its Essential PH-1 handset, and that carrier is Sprint. Essential still plans to offer the unlocked phone directly to consumers online, but the handset will also enjoy retail presence in Sprint stores, according to USAToday. "We like to bet with where we think the market is going as opposed to where the market was,” said Essential President Niccolo de Masi to USA Today. "I feel like we are a new brand and a new consumer electronics company and we are partnering with the network of the future." This isn't the only reason. Sprint is majority owned by SoftBank, and Andy Rubin, Essential's CEO, has a long history with Masayoshi Son, SoftBank's CEO. As recently as early this year, SoftBank was expected to make a $100 million investment in Essential, though it backed out for unknown reasons. "It's certainly conscious for us to work with partners that can make an investment in supporting our brand ambitions," continued to de Masi, "and it's an approach that obviously Andy Rubin has been very successful with in the past as well as a lot of our management team." The 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. The PH-1 is expected to go on sale later this summer for $699.
HTC said its U11 flagship smartphone is now shipping to those who may have preordered the handset. The unlocked model is available from Amazon.com and HTC.com and Sprint stores are stocking the U11 starting today. The phone has what HTC calls a "liquid surface" glass panel, squeezable Edge Sense actions, and customizable USonic headphones with active noise cancellation. The phone has a 5.5-inch quad HD display, Snapdragon 835 processor, 12-megapixel main camera, and Android 7.1 Nougat. It costs $649.
ZTE today announced two new connected devices for Sprint. The ZTE Warp Connect (pictured) is a mobile hotspot. It supports up to 10 devices via WiFi and has a 2,300mAh battery. Owners can take advantage of the 1.4-inch display to gauge connection strength, battery life, and more. The hotspot costs $144 and supports Sprint's newest LTE technology. The Sprint Phone Connect 4 by ZTE is a home phone replacement device. It lets people add their home phone as another line to their cellular plan. The device connects in the home and makes the landline number available to cellular devices. It costs $122.
Sprint today added the ZTE Max XL to is lineup of big-screened Android handsets. The Max XL, which is already available from Sprint-owned Boost Mobile, features a 6-inch full HD display and 3,990mAh battery. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass. The Max XL supports HPUE for better LTE speeds at the network edge. HPUE is a network upgrade Sprint is deploying this year. The Max XL's main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The device runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat and includes a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. Other specs include an octa-core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, support for memory cards, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and FM radio. Sprint is selling the ZTE Max XL for $192.
Sprint today said it will acquire 100 retail stores that it has operated in partnership with Dixons Carphone since last year. The two companies created a joint venture in February 2016 that relied on retail know-how from Dixons Carphone to sell Sprint goods and services. The joint venture saw the two firms open some 500 stores around the country, all of which were funded evenly between the two corporations. Now, Sprint is effectively buying out Dixons Carphone's stake in 100 of those stores in order to take full ownership. Sprint says the transaction will not change or impact the individual stores' operations. Sprint and Dixons Carphone will continue to operate the other 400 stores covered by the joint venture together. Sprint has spent the last two years bulking up its retail presence.
Sprint today said it is giving new and existing customers free access to the Tidal music streaming service for six months. The service is known for providing exclusive access to music from select artists. Tidal Premium normally costs $10 per month. After the six-month promotion expires, Sprint customers will need to pay the monthly fee. The promotion begins June 9 and is available to Android and iOS devices. Sprint is still offering switchers up to $650 in restitution to cover fees incurred by porting over. Moreover, Sprint is still offering four lines of unlimited talk, text, and data for $90 per month (with autopay), though the cost of that plan will jump to $130 after June 2018. Sprint allows unlimited customers to stream video up to 1080p HD, stream music up to 1.5Mbps, and stream games at up to 8Mbps. Sprint will throttle users when the network is congested.
TCL today announced that the BlackBerry KEYone, a smartphone it developed with BlackBerry Mobile, is now available for purchase online. The handset includes a 4.5-inch touch display, full QWERTY keyboard, Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megpixel camera, LTE, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Messenger. Both the unlocked GSM and CDMA variants of the phone are available online from BestBuy and Amazon. TCL says a limited number of KEYone's will be at select Best Buy retail stores around the country. Sprint plans to sell its own branded variant of the BlackBerry KEYone later this summer.
Sprint today said it is working with Qualcomm and SoftBank to develop 5G technologies, including the 3GPP New Radio (NR) standard, for Sprint's 2.5 GHz spectrum (Band 41). Sprint's 2.5 GHz airwaves offer a massive footprint around the country, making it ideal for providing coverage. Similar to T-Mobile's recent announcement, however, Band 41 is not among those being targeted for 5G. The FCC and ITU are looking mostly at high-band wavelengths, such as the 28 GHz, 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 64-71 GHz bands, for 5G. Sprint didn't say if it will also explore 5G in those bands. Sprint and its partners plan to launch commercial 5G service and devices by late 2019. Sprint's timeline is similar to those of its competitors.
Sprint recently added a low-cost 2 GB service plan to its offering. The plan costs $45 per month for a single line ($40 with autopay) and includes unlimited talk and text and 2 GB of data. Sprint says it will throttle users of this plan down to 2G speeds if they exceed the monthly limit. This lower-cost plan may be appealing to people who don't want or need Sprint's $60 unlimited plan, which Sprint claims has attracted more than 90% of its postpaid customers. In a statement provided to Fierce Wireless, Sprint said, "There is a subset of our customers who would like a plan that is a little more affordable and hence we are offering in addition to unlimited, a 2 GB plan for $40 (with autopay). As you’ve probably seen, this plan is not being advertised because our main focus is, and will remain, unlimited. This is what customers really want." The new 2 GB offering is already available from Sprint's web site.
Sprint is on the verge of offering a new version of its push-to-talk service, according to the company's web site. Direct Connect Plus, when it becomes available, will allow "a wide selection of feature phones, smartphones, and tablets" to make PTT calls via 3G, 4G LTE, and WiFi. The service will support real-time presence, broadcast calling, desktop-based dispatch operations, corporate administration tools, and Land Mobile Radio interoperability. Sprint's web site says Direct Connect Plus is coming soon. Sprint's existing PTT service is powered by Qualcomm technology, but clues suggest Sprint may be switching to Kodiak Networks as its PTT provider. As pointed out by Fierce Wireless, Kodiak lists Sprint as a carrier partner on its own web site. Moreover, Kodiak plainly says Sprint's Direct Connect Plus service "leverages the Kodiak platform." Neither Sprint nor Kodiak has confirmed the change, but the details shared on the companies' public web sites would appear to spill the beans. Earlier this week, Motorola Solutions announced plans to acquire Kodiak Networks for an undisclosed sum. There's no word if the deal will impact the launch of Sprint's new Direct Connect Plus launch.
Sprint today announced the Magic Box, a tool Sprint hopes consumers and businesses will use to help it densify its LTE network. The Magic Box is similar to a signal booster in that owners place it in a window. Sprint says the Magic Box is a plug-and-play, self-configuring small cell that requires no labor or rental costs. The Magic Box does not connect to an in-home broadband or WiFi network; it is fully cellular. It connects to a nearby Sprint cell site and improves coverage both indoors and outdoors. It can provide up to 30,000 square feet of coverage inside, and extends the signal outdoors up to 100 meters from the small cell. The Magic Box provides coverage in the 2.5 GHz band and relies on Sprint's network for backhaul. The Magic Box is not for just the owner, it provides coverage to everyone in the area. Sprint claims the Magic Box will provide immediate improvement to network access, speed, and capacity. Sprint has been testing the Magic Box in Denver, San Francisco, Indianapolis, New York, Chicago, and Houston, and says wireless speeds have improved significantly in areas where Magic Box is deployed. The Magic Box small cell will allow Sprint to improve coverage without forcing it to seek permission for outdoor, public cell site deployments. Consumers or businesses interested in the Magic Box can apply for one on Sprint's web site. Sprint didn't specify what criteria people will need to meet to qualify for the Magic Box.
TCL today announced that the BlackBerry Keyone, a smartphone it developed with BlackBerry Mobile, will be available to U.S. buyers starting May 31. The handset includes a 4.5-inch touch display and full QWERTY keyboard. Other features include a Snapdragon 625 processor, 12-megpixel camera, LTE, and Android 7.1 Nougat with BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Messenger. TCL plans to sell both the unlocked GSM and CDMA variants of the phone directly to consumers online for $549. The company noted that Sprint will sell the phone with service plans later this summer. TCL said more details about the Sprint version will be shared towards the end of May.
Sprint today made it more affordable for large families to enjoy its Unlimited Freedom service. Moving forward, the fifth line added to an Unlimited Freedom plan will be free. Sprint charges $50 per month for a single line of unlimited data, talk and text. Two lines cost $80 per month, four lines cost $120 per month, and now five lines also cost $120 per month. Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plans to face some serious caveats. To start, these monthly prices are only available through June 30, 2018. After that time subscribers will see monthly prices jump to $60 for a single line, $100 for two lines, and $130 for three-five lines. Further, these prices all reflect a $5 discount per line when the subscriber enrolls in AutoPay. Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan allows for full HD video streaming, 1.5 Mbps music streaming, and gaming at up to 8 Mbps, but customers will see their speeds slowed when the network is congested.
Sprint's prepaid brands Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile today launched the ZTE Prestige 2, an entry-level Android handset. The Prestige 2 has a 5-inch FWVGA display and it is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone has two 5-megapixel cameras, one on the front and one on the back. The main camera has a flash. Other specs include a 2,035mAh battery, memory card support, HD voice, roaming in Mexico, mobile hotspot, and LTE 4G. The phone costs $80, but Boost Mobile is selling it online for $52. Virgin Mobile is offering the ZTE Prestige 2 for $50. It runs Android 6 Marshmallow.
ZTE today announced the Max XL, a big-screened Android smartphone headed to Boost Mobile. The Max XL's defining features are the 6-inch full HD display and massive 3,990mAh battery. The screen is protected by Gorilla Glass. ZTE says the Max XL is also the first for Boost Mobile to include support for HPUE for better LTE speeds at the network edge. HPUE is a technology Boost Mobile parent company Sprint is working to deploy this year. The Max XL's main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The device runs Android 7.1.1 Nougat and includes a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. Other specs include an octa-core 1.4 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, support for memory cards, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and FM radio. The ZTE MAX XL smartphone is available online today at Boost Mobile for $129.99.
Sprint today finalized its retail plans for the Samsung Galaxy S8 and there's good news for consumers. The company is offering a two-for-one lease deal on the S8 with a new line activation and one upgrade, or two new line activations. New and existing customers can lease the S8 for $31.25 per month and receive a second leased phone at no additinal cost. The second monthly lease payment will be credited to the account each billing period. The Sprint Galaxy Forever lease program allows people to trade the phone in for the newest Galaxy handset after making 12 lease payments. The S8 and S8+ are both compatible with Sprint's new HPUE technology, which makes them perform much better on the company's 2.5 GHz spectrum. Sprint says this two-for-one lease deal for the Galaxy S8 is good only from April 21 through April 27.
Sprint today improved its international roaming plan, making it cheaper and more appealing to customers. Sprint customers can now enjoy free 2G data, free text messaging, and $0.20-per-minute voice calls in some 165 countries. Customers who want or need faster mobile data can pay for it on a daily basis directly from their phone. In Canada and Mexico, for example, LTE roaming costs $2 per day or $10 per week, while in most other countries LTE roaming cost $5 per day or $25 per week. Sprint says customers that subscribe to its Unlimited Freedom plan will receive free LTE high-speed data roaming, voice calling, and text messaging while traveling in Canada and Mexico. Sprint customers don't need to do anything ahead of time to take advantage of the free roaming services when traveling.
Sprint recently added the Samsung Galaxy J7 Perx to its lineup of inexpensive Android handset. The Perx appears to be a minor refresh of last year's J7. It carries over the 5.5-inch 720p HD display, but upgrades to a Snapdragon 625 processor and a 3,300mAh battery. The phone features an 8-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. It loses the J7's NFC radio, but includes an FM radio. Other specs include 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 256 GB; and Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and support for Sprint's LTE Plus network. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is capable of VoLTE and WiFi calling. The phone costs $264 at full retail or $11 per month for 24 months. The Samsung Galaxy J7 Perx is available from Sprint's web site. The FCC has recently approved variants of this phone for all four major carriers, though it has yet to appear elsewhere.
Sprint today announced a new program that will allow customers to help pay for wireless service for relatives and friends in Mexico and El Salvador. The new Plan Conectados, which is built into the Sprint World Top-Up app, makes it possible for Sprint customers to provide wireless access for $25 per month through a partnership with Movistar. Sprint customers who sign up for the plan will be billed each month and the money will be applied to their family’s or friend’s Movistar prepaid account in Mexico and El Salvador. Those who use the Movistar service in Mexico will have access to unlimited in-country calls, unlimited calls to the U.S., unlimited text messages, and 7 GB of data. Those who use the Movistar service in El Salvador will have access to unlimited in-country calls, 400 minutes of calls to the U.S., unlimited in-country text messages but no text messages to the U.S., and 4 GB of data. The Sprint Top-Up App also allows Sprint subscribers to add money to prepaid accounts in 23 other Latin American and Caribbean countries. The new Plan Conectados is available beginning today.
Samsung's new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones will cost $750 and $850, respectively. The phones share almost all features other than size and both ship with 64 GB of internal storage. All carriers are bundling in the new Gear VR with controller at no added cost ($129 value), and will upgrade the bundle to include a 256 GB memory card and Harmon Kardon headphones for $99. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ will be available for preorder starting March 30 and should reach stores April 21.
- AT&T: AT&T is offering a buy-one, get-one deal with the S8 and S8+. Monthly prices range from $28 to $36, depending on the length of the installment plan. Further, AT&T is selling the Gear S3 for $50 with an S8/S8+ purchase, provided the customer signs a two-year agreement. Last, AT&T is offering either the Galaxy Tab E or Gear S2 for 99 cents with a service agreement.
- T-Mobile: The S8 will cost $30 month on a T-Mobile installment plan, and the S8+ will cost $30 per month, too, with a $130 down payment. T-Mobile says MetroPCS customers will have access to the Galaxy S8 when it reaches stores April 21.
- Sprint: Sprint plans to lease the phones. The S8 will cost $31.25 per month for 18 months while the S8+ will cost $35.42 per month for 18 months. Customers will be able to upgrade to a newer Samsung phone after making 12 payments. People who preorder the phones from Sprint will be entered into a sweepstakes that includes prizes such as television sets. Sprint says Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile will offer the phone on April 21.
- Verizon Wireless: Verizon is offering the S8/S8+ for as low as $15 per month with an eligible (flagship-level) trade-in. Without a trade-in, the S8 will cost $30 per month and the S8+ will cost $35 per month for 24 months.
Sprint-owned Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA today both kicked off sales of the LG Stylo 3. The device, first announced late last year, features a 5.7-inch 720p display. It is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core processor from MediaTek with 3 GB RAM, 16 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 2 TB. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. Other features include a removable 3,200mAh battery, FM radio, and fingerprint sensor. The Stylo 3 includes a new stylus. LG said it improved screen feedback for a more natural feel. The revised pen-based software includes PenPop 2.0 (memos are never out of sight), Pen Keeper (warning system to prevent stylus loss), and Screen-Off Memo (note-taking even when the screen is off). Both prepaid carriers are asking $180 for the phone, which is available online and in stores.
Sprint today said it has debuted gigabit-class LTE in New Orleans. The gigabit LTE requires 3-channel carrier aggregation using 60 MHz of Sprint's 2.5 GHz spectrum (Band 41) with 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM modulation. This is what delivers Category 16 LTE download speeds via TDD-LTE. Sprint showcased the technology in New Orleans on an unannounced flagship smartphone from Motorola that uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor and Snapdragon X16 modem. Sprint plans to rely on its 2.5 GHz spectrum to add capacity and speed to its network around the country. The rollout of gigabit class LTE goes further than what Sprint's LTE Plus service already delivers (which reaches 100Mbps downloads). The gigabit LTE requires a series of incremental upgrades, says Sprint, that rely on the Cat 16 modem, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM. Sprint later plans to use massive MIMO and HPUE to boost performance at the cell edge, eventually pushing speeds beyond 1 Gbps. Sprint and Motorola did not say when the yet-to-be-named gigabit class LTE handset will be made available to consumers. The Snapdragon 835 processor and X16 modem aren't expected to be available in volume until April.
Google today said more wireless network operators and handset manufacturers will use Android Messages, its RCS-based messaging service, as the default SMS/MMS tool on their phones. (Android Messages was previously known as Google Messenger.) Some of the features of RCS, which is a global standard, include group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, advanced calling features, and read receipts. It has been improved lately with more interactive tools, such as the ability to check into flights. Google says a number of brands plan to use RCS in order to enhance their own services and help spur adoption. Some of the brands include Walgreens, Baskin-Robbins, FICO, Gamestop, Sonic, Subway, and Time. Moving forward, the Android Messages app with RCS will be preloaded by LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, HMD Global, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony, and Wiko, along with Google's own Pixel and Android One devices. Further, Google was already working with carriers Sprint, Rogers, and Telenor, and today added Vodafone, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Globe. Notably absent fro the list of phone makers is Samsung, while AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have also yet to commit. Phones with Android Messages on board will still be able to interact with Samsung handsets and those running on non-Sprint networks of course, but will lose the advanced features available via RCS. Samsung, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon haven't said if or when they might adopt Google's Android Messages, though T-Mobile and Verizon already use their own RCS-like messaging platforms.
Verizon Wireless today said it plans to trial 5G technology in 11 U.S. markets later this year. This "pre-commercial service" will be offered to a very limited number of customers and not necessarily made available to consumers. The tests will involve the 5GTF spec Verizon developed past year. The trial markets include Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville, Brockton, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Verizon competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are each testing their own variants of potential 5G technologies. The actual 5G spec has yet to be defined by the International Telecommunications Union, but carriers and telecom equipment makers around the world are hoping their technologies will be included in the final standard.