ZTE today said it appointed Cheng Lixin, the executive behind the company's North American mobile phone business, to run its global mobile phone business. The move comes after ZTE settled with the U.S. government over allegations that it violated international trade sanctions against Iran. ZTE paid a $900 million fine to make the allegations go away. Lixin has led ZTE's mobile efforts in the U.S. since 2010. The company has grown its marketshare in the U.S. during that time thanks to low-cost handsets, which it sells through pre-paid carriers such as Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and MetroPCS. Lixin's predecessor has taken a seat on the company's corporate board. The change is effective immediately. ZTE has not yet named a new executive for the U.S. market.
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.
T-Mobile today said it is rolling out new network-based tools to help identify and block potential scam calls. Beginning on April 5, T-Mobile will begin to analyze every call that reaches the T-Mobile network against a global database of known scammers. T-Mobile claims it can perform this analysis in a matter of milliseconds. If the number matches that of a scammer, T-Mobile will identify the call as a potential scam when it rings the subscriber's phone. Subscribers can then choose to ignore the call. This feature, which will eventually be available to all T-Mobile customers, is called Scam ID. It is being rolled out to T-Mobile One subscribers automatically, but any T-Mobile postpaid customers can enroll by texting T-Mobile. T-Mobile is also offering the ability for customers to block scam calls entirely. Subscribing to the Scam Block tool will prevent suspected scam calls from ringing T-Mobile phones. T-Mobile says its database of known and suspected scammers is updated constantly and can prevent IRS, medicaid, and other fraudulent calls from reaching customers. Both Scam ID and Scam Block are free. T-Mobile says it will offer these tools to its MetroPCS prepaid customers later in April.
T-Mobile recently rolled out its own variant of the LG K20 and the phone has somewhat better specifications when compared to the Verizon variant of the same handset. The T-Mobile K20 includes the same 5.3-inch 720p display and 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, but improves RAM to 2 GB of RAM and storage to 32 GB. The phone boasts a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel front camera with selfie flash. It can record video up to 1080p HD. Other features include a 2,700mAh removable battery, microSD memory card slot, and Android 7 Nougat. The LG K20 Plus is already for sale from T-Mobile for $200. The K20 Plus is also known as the K10 (2017).
U.S. Cellular recently added the LG K8 (2017) to its roster of inexpensive Android smartphones. The K8 features a 5-inch 720p HD screen and it is powered by a 1.9 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425 processor. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with flash and the user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Both cameras include LG's gesture controls. Other specs include 16 GB of storage with support for memory cards, 2,500mAh battery, Bluetooth, WiFi, LTE, and Android 7 Nougat. The LG K8 costs $50. The K8 is also sold by MetroPCS. In other U.S. Cellular news, the company recently added an unlimited plan to its service offerings. The plan costs $60 per month and includes unlimited talk, text, and data with all taxes and fees included. U.S. Cellular doesn't charge overages, but will slow the speeds of customers who use excessive amounts of data (>22GB). Other options include 6 GB for $50 per month or 2 GB for $40 per month. Monthly discounts are available for additional lines. Autopay and paperless billing are required to qualify for these prices.
Blu today announced the Vivo XL2, a sequel its popular Vivo XL phablet. Like its predecessor, the XL2 is an affordable, unlocked Android handset that's available to consumers directly online. The XL2 has a 5.5-inch 720p HD display and the phone is powered by a MediaTek 6737T quad-core processor with Mali T720 GPU, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. The 13-megapixel main camera is assistant by phase-detection autofocus, an aperture of f/2.2, and an LED flash. The user-facing camera boasts a wide-angle lens and an 8-megapixel sensor. The XL2 can record video up to 1080p HD. Blu ensured the Vivo XL2 can support AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS by including LTE Bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17. The phone also offers WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and an infrared blaster. The Vivo XL2 runs Android 6 Marshmallow and is supported by a 3,150mAh battery. The phone goes on sale today via Amazon.com for $150.
T-Mobile said its T-Mobile One plan now includes all monthly taxes, surcharges, and fees. The company still charges those fees, but they are rolled into the advertised price of the plan in order to simplify what customers see on their bills each month. For example, a family of four that signs up today will pay $40 per line, or $160 total, with no additional fees visible on their monthly bill. Those fees are now included in the total price. The news was first announced earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Trade Show. T-Mobile has been promoting it heavily via television commercials the last few weeks. In other T-Mobile news, the company's prepaid brand, MetroPCS, announced a free phone promotion. Starting today, customers who upgrade their phone, add a line, or get a new phone number can snag one of 15 different phones for free. Some of the options include the LG Aristo, Samsung Galaxy On5, ZTE Avid Trio, and Alcatel Fierce XL. Customers who port a number to MetroPCS will be able to pick a more expensive free handset, such as the HTC Desire 530, ZTE ZMax Pro, or LG K10. Last, MetroPCS is offering free data to those who sign up for its $50 plan. Typically, the $50 plan includes 5 GB of data. For a limited time, people who choose that plan will have access to 8 GB of data each month for at least a year. Additional 8 GB lines added to the same account will cost $30 per month.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS both plan to sell the LG Aristo starting later this month. The handset is an entry-level device running Android 7 Nougat. Specs include a 5-inch HD display, 1.4 GHz quad-core processor, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, and 16 GB of storage. Other features include microUSB, headphone jack, speakerphone, and WiFi Calling/VoLTE. The LG Aristo will reach T-Mobile stores on Jan. 25. It will cost $144, or $6 per month on a payment plan. The Aristo will hit MetroPCS stores on Jan. 23 at a cost of $59 after instant rebate.
T-Mobile today began selling the ZTE ZMax Pro — an affordable Android phablet with a 6-inch, full-HD screen, fingerprint reader, 32 GB of storage, 13-megapixel camera, and Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor — for $180. The company started selling the phone under the MetroPCS brand in August, but is now bringing it to the T-Mobile lineup. The phone also includes a 3,400 mAh battery, front glass with curved edges, memory card slot, 5-megapixel front camera, and FM radio.
Blu today announced the Blu Life One X2, a successor to the Blu Life One X. The Life One X2 features a 5.2-inch full HD display with curved glass, a metal chassis, and a fingerprint reader for biometric security. The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 430 processor with 2 or 4 GB of RAM and 16 or 64 GB of storage. The main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with phase-detection autofocus and LED flash, and the selfie camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with a forward-facing LED flash. The phone supports Qualcomm's QuickCharge technology for rapid power-ups. The Life One X2 supports LTE Bands 2, 4, 7, 12, and 17 for AT&T, MetroPCS, and T-Mobile. Preorders for the phone kick off today from Amazon.com. Consumers who preorder Sept. 22 or 23 will receive a 10% discount. The 2 GB / 16 GB model costs $150 and the 4 GB / 64 GB model costs $200. Blu didn't say when the Life One X2 will ship.
T-Mobile will give a free Apple iPhone 7 to customers who trade in an iPhone 6 or newer when they preorder the new phone. The offer is being made available to new and existing customers. T-Mobile says an iPhone 6 trade-in (any storage capacity) will net a 32 GB iPhone 7. Customers have to own the trade-in outright, it must power on, and it must be free of water and screen damage. Customers who trade in a device with more memory (or an iPhone 6s, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s Plus) will be given extra credit towards purchases of the 128 GB iPhone 7, etc. T-Mobile says customers may also elect to pay some cash up front for pricier models. For example, customers who trade in an iPhone 6 but want the iPhone 7 Plus will need to pay $120 up front. The free device is being offered through bill credits over a period of 24 months. After 24 months, the customers will own the iPhone 7. Customers can walk away from T-Mobile at any time during the 24-month period by paying off the phone balance or giving the phone back to T-Mobile. T-Mobile also said it will carry the Apple Watch Series 2 (online only) and the new Beats Powerbeats headphones in an exclusive magenta color. Last, MetroPCS will carry the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus beginning September 23. T-Mobile pre-orders for the new iPhones kick off Friday, September 9th at 12:01a.m. Pacific Time.
Alcatel today announced the Fierce 4, a large, budget-conscious Android smartphone that will be sold by MetroPCS. The Fierce 4 features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and is powered by a quad-core, 1.1 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone has an 8-megapixel main camera with autofocus and a 5-megapixel front camera with an extra-wide 84-degree field of view for more inclusive selfies. The phone supports memory cards up to 128 GB; runs on Metro's LTE 4G network; includes a 2,500mAh battery; and runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The Alcatel Fierce 4 will be available nationwide at MetroPCS stores beginning today for $69. Alcatel says the Fierce 4 will reach T-Mobile later this fall.
Alcatel today announced the Tru, an inexpensive Android smartphone for MetroPCS. The phone features a faux leather rear, a 5-inch FWVGA display, and quad-core 1.1 GHz Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The Tru offers a 5-megapixel main camera with Polaroid software and 2-megapixel selfie camera. It includes expandable storage up to 32 GB, a 2,000mAh battery, and support for LTE (Bands 2, 4, and 12.) The Alcatel Tru runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and costs $29 after rebates. The phone is available beginning today.
ZTE showed off the Z Max Pro today, a huge Android handset for MetroPCS. This phablet packs a reasonable set of specs for less than $100, including a 6-inch full HD screen and 13-megapixel camera. Here are our initial impressions of the Z Max Pro from ZTE.
ZTE today unveiled the ZMAX Pro, an inexpensive phablet bound for MetroPCS. The device boasts a 6-inch, full HD display with a Snapdragon 617 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. The phone offers a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera for snapping selfies. The ZMAX Pro packs a 3,400mAh battery with USB-C, Quick Charge, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The phone has a plastic frame, but uses design language similar to that of the Axon 7 flagship to give it a more premium appearance. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The device is available for preorder today. It ships August 1 for $99 (after in-store rebate).
T-Mobile's prepaid brand, MetroPCS, is now selling the entire range of Apple iPhones at more than 5,000 of its stores around the country. The prepaid carrier first tested iPhone sales at a limited number of stores in Florida. MetroPCS is selling the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus for $649 and $749, respectively, and the iPhone SE and iPhone 5s for $349 and $199, respectively. MetroPCS does not require contracts and service plans start at $35 per month.
MetroPCS recently added the LG Stylo 2 Plus to its web site with a list price of $149. The Stylus 2 Plus was announced earlier this year, but the U.S. variant, the Stylo 2 Plus, doesn't include quite the same feature set. For example, the Stylo 2 Plus has a fingerprint sensor and NFC, but does not bump the resolution to 1080p, like the international version. The Stylo 2 Plus has a 5.7-inch display and 1.4 GHz Snapdragon 430 octa-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The rear camera has a 13-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The phone has a 2,900mAh battery and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The Stylo 2 Plus runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It can be purchased directly from MetroPCS' web site.
MetroPCS today unrolled a handful of promotions that may appeal to customers with multiple lines. For example, people who port in their number to MetroPCS will receive $60 to spend on any smartphone that MetroPCS sells. The company says this means nine of its handsets, such as the Samsung Galaxy On5, will effectively be free to switchers. New lines added to existing family plans can receive 5 GB of LTE data for $25 per month as long as one of the other lines has equal or more data. MetroPCS claims its new plan offerings can save Sprint, Boost, and Virgin Mobile customers up to $180 per year if they switch. The promotions go into effect on July 7.
T-Mobile's prepaid brand, MetroPCS, today said it will soon sell the entire range of iPhones from Apple. MetroPCS plans to kick off iPhone sales at select stores in Florida on July 1, but will expand to all stores around the nation soon. MetroPCS will sell the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus for $649 and $749, respectively, and the iPhone SE and iPhone 5s for $349 and $199, respectively. MetroPCS did not indicate how quickly the iPhone will be made available to stores outside of Florida. MetroPCS does not require contracts and service plans start at $35 per month.
T-Mobile today said it and its prepaid brand MetroPCS will kick off sales of the Samsung Galaxy On5 later this month. The On5 is an inexpensive Android smartphone with a 5-inch 720p HD display, 5-megapixel main camera with LED flash, and 2-megapixel front camera. The On5 is powered by a quad-core Samsung Exynos processor, and the phone includes 1.5 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. A memory card slot lets users expand storage up to 128 GB. The phone runs Android 6 Marshmallow with Samsung's TouchWiz user interface, including East Home. Samsung gave the On5 a 2,600mAh battery. MetroPCS will sell the Galaxy On5 starting June 27 for $59 (after $70 rebate) and T-Mobile will sell the phone starting June 29 for $140, or $5.83 per month for 24 months.
- K10: The K10 relies on LG's older design language and features rear-mounted volume controls. It has a 5.3-inch HD screen with 2.5D arc glass, a 1.27 GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel selfie camera with flash. The K10 has 16 GB of storage and ships with a 2,200mAh battery. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow and costs $160, but MetroPCS is selling the LG K10 for $99 after rebates.
- Galaxy J7: The J7 is a mid-range phone that resembles many of Samsung's inexpensive handsets. The J7 has a 5.5-inch HD screen, 1.5 GHz octa-core processor, 13-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel selfie camera — both with an LED flash. The J7 offers 16 GB of storage and ships with a 3,000mAh battery. It also runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. MetroPCS is selling the Galaxy J7 for $180 after a $50 rebate.
Coolpad today said T-Mobile has agreed to sell its Catalyst Android smartphone. The Catalyst will be the first Coolpad phone sold to postpaid customers in the U.S. The phone features a 5-inch, 854 by 480 screen, 5-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel selfie camera, and support for T-Mobile's LTE 4G network. Other features include Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, and 2,200mAh battery. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and will cost $100 at T-Mobile retail stores. The phone goes on sale at T-Mobile shops on June 7, with MetroPCS stores to follow on July 11. Coolpad is a Chinese manufacturer that has sold a few handsets in the U.S. in recent years.
MetroPCS is offering families a new deal that starts at $60 per month for two lines. The refreshed family plan includes unlimited talk, text, 6 GB of data, Music Unlimited, and mobile hotspot for each line. Additional lines cost $30 each, up to a maximum of five lines. MetroPCS says lines three through five only get 3 GB of data unless one of them is ported from another carrier. If one of the (up to) five lines is ported, all five have access to 6 GB of LTE data each month. Taxes and fees are included in the price. MetroPCS says customers can keep these rates for as long as they remain with MetroPCS. The new family plan pricing, which is a limited promotion, is available starting today.
Sprint says it has a new strategy in mind for its prepaid brand Virgin Mobile. During a call with analysts today, Sprint execs said the company is de-emphasizing Virgin at the moment in favor of Boost Mobile, and has gone so far as to pull Virgin advertising ahead of a the new strategy's debut. Sprint did not say what it plans to do with Virgin, though it did admit it is not pursuing the pre-paid space as aggressively as rivals Cricket and MetroPCS. "You've got to figure out where do you want to fight and where do you want to grow," said CEO Marcelo Claure. "We are keeping the customers that matter." Claure also took the opportunity to reassure investors and customers that its network improvement plan will not be disruptive. "This is not a rip-and-replace strategy," said Claure, calling the implementation a "progressive build" that will make changes for the better. The company is expected to relocate some cell towers and make greater use of small/macro cells to densify its network. It may also shift some backhaul operations to microwave in order to cut down the fiber carriage fees it pays to AT&T and Verizon. Claure still believes Sprint can become the No. 1 or No. 2 network in terms of absolute performance in 80% of the country's markets within two years.
T-Mobile-owned MetroPCS is targeting Sprint customers with new service and handset discounts. Starting January 21, Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile customers who switch to MetroPCS can save up to 50% off Sprint's Family Share Pack pricing. For example, a single ported line can save between 22% and 48%, while two or more lines can save between 23% and 50%, depending on a number of variables such as existing plan cost, new plan pricing, and local taxes. Customers who switch can keep the low rate plans as long as they remain with MetroPCS. The promotion includes unlimited talk and text, Music Unlimited, Data Maximizer and mobile hotspot. MetroPCS is offering switchers a free LG Leon LTE, Kyocera Hydro Wave, Samsung Core Prime, LG K7, or $50 rebate that can be applied to any phone sold by MetroPCS. Last, MetroPCS is offering its existing customers a $20 discount when adding an extra 5GB line. T-Mobile said the promotion will be available for a limited time, but didn't provide an end date.
T-Mobile and MetroPCS will both sell the K7 Android phone recently announced by LG. LG previously announced that Boost would carry the same phone branded as the Tribute 5.
ZTE today announced the Avid Plus, an entry-level Android phone for T-Mobile and MetroPCS that will sell for just $115. It sports a 5-inch screen, Cat. 4 LTE, 5-megapixel main camera and 2-megapixel front camera. It can record video at 720p HD resolution. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM. Its 8 GB of storage can be expanded with memory cards up to 32 GB. It also supports Wi-Fi Calling. The Avid Plus is a follow-up to the Avid, which was last sold by MetroPCS in 2013. It had a much smaller 4-inch screen and was designed for MetroPCS's old CDMA/LTE network. The new Avid Plus will go on sale January 20 with both T-Mobile and MetroPCS.
MetroPCS today announced the North America Unlimited add-on, which gives customers the ability to roam in Canada and Mexico for $5 per month. With this plan, customers can talk, text, and use LTE data across North America. The new plan expands upon the Mexico Unlimited add-on, which was released earlier this year. People who subscribe to the Mexico Unlimited plan will gain roaming in Canada at no extra charge. The service provides unlimited calling and messaging between Canadian, Mexican, and U.S. lines. LTE data consumed abroad is counted against subscribers' monthly MetroPCS data plan, but there are no additional data roaming charges. The North America Unlimited add-on is available beginning today.
ZTE is pushing system updates to its Axon and Axon Pro smartphones. Both phones gain a camera quick-launch button, Google security patches, Qualcomm modem patches, and better support for MetroPCS. The Axon's camera should zoom more effectively, and the Axon Pro's camera will focus faster in low light and deliver better white balance. The Pro also earns T-Mobile WiFi calling. ZTE said the system updates will be delivered over the air.
ZTE today said it is making the ZMax 2 smartphone available to consumers unlocked. The phone was originally sold via TracFone earlier this year, but is now online directly from ZTE. The full price of the phone is $179.99, but ZTE is running a limited sale price of $129.99. The ZMax 2 has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen; quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage; 8-megapixel main camera with full HD vide capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi, and LTE radios. The phone packs a 3,000 mAh battery. The ZMax 2 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is compatible with the networks operated by AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid businesses, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS, respectively.
MetroPCS today announced a handful of new features that mirror services offered by its parent company, T-Mobile. First, MetroPCS customers now have access to Music Unlimited, which, like T-Mobile's Music Freedom, lets customers stream unlimited music over LTE without impacting their monthly data allotment. Music Unlimited is compatible with 33 different streaming music services and is available to customers on the $40, $50, or $60 plans. Second, MetroPCS is now offering a service called Data Maximizer, which delivers a three-fold increase in the amount of video users can stream over LTE 4G. With Data Maximizer turned on, customers can watch more video each month at DVD quality (480p). Video consumption is not unlimited, however; the Data Maximizer compression tool simply reduces the amount of video data transmitted over the network so it impacts customer plans less. Customers can toggle Data Maximizer on/off whenever they want. Third, and last, MetroPCS has added more data to its service plans. Moving forward, there are four plans for single/family lines. The entry level plan costs $30 per month and includes unlimited talk and text, and 1GB of data. The $40 plan bumps data to 3GB (from 2GB) and includes Music Unlimited/Data Maximizer. The $50 plan bumps data to 5GB (from 4GB) and includes Music Unlimited/Data Maximizer. The $60 plan includes unlimited data, 8GB of mobile hotspot data (up from 6GB), and Music Unlimited/Data Maximizer. Family plans cost $5 less per line when two or more lines are associated with a single account. Music Unlimited, Data Maximizer, and the new prepaid plans will be available Nov. 19.
Alcatel OneTouch today announced the Fierce XL, a budget phablet headed to MetroPCS and T-Mobile. The XL is the third Fierce-branded handset from Alcatel and features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen. The phone is powered by a 1.1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32GB. The main camera features an 8-megapixel sensor with flash and a Polaroid shooting mode, which can apply filters, borders, and text tags, as well as assemble photos into double or multi-shot layouts. The front camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The Fierce XL supports LTE 4G along with VoLTE, HD voice, and WiFi calling. Alcatel said the Fierce XL reaches MetroPCS stores starting Nov. 2. T-Mobile will carry the phone in the months ahead. The Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL costs $139.
Blu is a fast-growing name in the U.S. phone market. To date, they've focused on selling unlocked phone to be used with T-Mobile and MetroPCS. Now, for the first time, they are offering phones officially certified by T-Mobile, that will be sold by official T-Mobile dealers. This is increasingly important for good LTE service with T-Mobile. The Studio Selfie is the first such phone. We spent some time with it, as well as the incredibly thin Vivo Air and Studio Energy 2 with its massive battery. Read on to find out what they're like in person.
Cricket Wireless says the vast majority of customers have transitioned away from its legacy CDMA network ahead of tomorrow's planned shutdown. AT&T has been moving Cricket customers from the older CDMA network to its own GSM-based network since it acquired the carrier several years ago. Earlier this summer, Cricket said 97% of its customers have made the jump to GSM handsets with lower-than-expected churn rates. Some CDMA customers remain active in California and a few other locations, according to Cricket, though the prepaid carrier declined to say exactly how many. Once the shutdown commences, those customers will lose network access. Cricket has been notifying customers for nearly 18 months of the impending shutdown via text messages, mailers, and emails. Cricket customers using older CDMA-based phones should upgrade their phone as soon as possible in order to maintain service. Cricket's CDMA shutdown follows that of MetroPCS, which T-Mobile shuttered earlier this year.
Cricket Wireless today improved its international offering by adding the ability to make calls and send text messages from Canada and Mexico to the U.S. The change means Cricket customers who travel to Canada and Mexico will be able to stay in touch with family and friends in the U.S. while they are away. Cricket customers are already able to make unlimited calls and send unlimited messages from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico. Cricket said the "roundtrip" feature will be available to its Smart and Pro plans ($50 and $60 per month, respectively) for at no extra cost. The unlimited calling/SMS feature goes into effect for Mexico on August 2 and will go into effect for Canada later in August. Cricket's move follows similar calling plan changes made by parent company AT&T, as well as competitors T-Mobile and MetroPCS.
Kyocera today announced the Hydro Wave, its newest Android handset for T-Mobile and MetroPCS. The Hydro Wave has an IP57 rating for protection against water/dust ingress and meets mil-spec 810G for resistance to abuse. The Wave includes wet screen tracking so the phone can be used when wet. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop but includes new software from Kyocera called Core Home, which simplifies the user interface for first-time users or those who prefer the look and feel of feature phone UIs. The Hydro Wave features a 5-inch qHD display, 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with LED flash and can capture 720p HD video, while the user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. Wireless capabilities include WiFi with WiFi Direct and WiFi Calling, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, and LTE with VoLTE and HD Voice support. The Hydro Wave has a 2,300mAh battery and includes Kyocera's Eco Mode and MaxiMZR to enhance battery life. The Hydro Wave will go on sale in T-Mobile stores July 22, followed by MetroPCS stores July 27. The price is $149.99.
MetroPCS today announced several promotions meant to entice consumers to ditch their carrier in favor of MetroPCS. For starters, customers who activate a new line on a $40 or higher service plan will receive an extra 1GB of LTE data per month on top of whatever data bucket they choose. The extra 1GB will remain with the line as long as the customer sticks with MetroPCS. Customers who port their number will be eligible for a $50 rebate on a new phone. MetroPCS is also offering a package deal on the LG Leon. MetroPCS is selling the Leon with a month of service (unlimited talk, text, and 1GB of data) for $59 after a mail-in rebate. Today's promotions are available only in stores.
MetroPCS today revealed a new plan for making calls to Mexico. The Mexico Unlimited package borrows a page from T-Mobile's Mobile Without Borders plan and offers unlimited calling and messaging to mobile and landlines in Mexico. Further, the plan allows MetroPCS customers to use their handsets freely in Mexico and make calls to the U.S., as well as Mexican lines without fear of roaming fees. MetroPCS customers can access their mobile data buckets while in Mexico, too. Mexico Unlimited is available beginning today. Customers who sign up for the plan before August 31 will get it at no extra charge for the rest of 2015. Mexico Unlimited costs $5 per month and requires a MetroPCS plan costing at least $40.
HTC today revealed a new family of Desire handsets. The 626 series (pictured) and 526/520 series share many features, though the former is a bit more mid-range and the latter is decidedly entry-level. Traits common to the 626, 626S, 526, and 520 include Qualcomm's 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor; 2,000mAh batteries; single-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, and GPS/GLONASS; support for 2 TB memory cards; and Android 5.1 Lollipop with HTC Sense.
- 626/626S: In keeping with prior Desire designs, the 626/626S are formed of polycarbonate and have variable color combinations. These larger Desire handsets have 5-inch 720p HD screens and 8-megapixel main cameras with 720p video capture. The 626 has 16 GB of storage, 1.5GB of RAM, and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The 626S has 8 GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM, and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera.
- 526/520:The 526 and 520 share most design features, but differ in some key specs. They have a simple appearance and cheaper materials. The 526, intended for Verizon, has a 4.7-inch qHD screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, and 1.5 GB of RAM. The 520, intended for Cricket Wireless, has a 4.5-inch FWVGA screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, and 1 GB of RAM.
MetroPCS plans to switch off its legacy CDMA network on June 21. MetroPCS parent T-Mobile says about 190,000 customers are still using CDMA handsets in the three markets that offer CDMA coverage, down from 300,000 about a month ago. T-Mobile has been transitioning CDMA customers to its GSM-based network aggressively for more than a year. "Any MetroPCS customer using a CDMA handset in a migration market [is] eligible for our HSPA/LTE device Upgrade Program," said T-Mobile to FierceWireless. "In order to take advantage of the new network, all customers need to do is bring their active phone to a participating MetroPCS store, choose a new phone, apply their trade-in credit toward that phone, and start using the new network right away." Some MetroPCS customers will quality for upgrade credits between $32 and $299 depending on their existing CDMA handset. Customers who don't pick up a new phone before June 21 will lose service entirely when MetroPCS shuts down the CDMA network. T-Mobile plans to re-use the CDMA spectrum to supplement its LTE 4G network.