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printed October 21, 2016
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iPhone 7 Plus Intel Modem Not Equal to Qualcomm Modem

Yesterday, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Under poor network conditions, the iPhone 7 Plus with Intel inside does not perform as well as the iPhone 7 Plus with Qualcomm inside. Apple sourced the iPhone 7 Plus modem from both Intel and Qualcomm. This represents a major change for the company, which has relied solely on Qualcomm modems for years. The Intel modem (XMM7360) is found in the AT&T and T-Mobile variants of the iPhone 7, while the Qualcomm modem (MDM9645M) is found in the Sprint, Verizon, and unlocked variants of the iPhone 7. Cellular Insights conducted extensive signal tests on the iPhone 7 Plus in LTE Bands 12, 7, and 4 to see if any performance differences exist between the two modems. Under optimal network conditions both the Intel- and Qualcomm-equipped iPhones demonstrated an equal level of performance in speed and maintaining a connection. Under weak network conditions, however, the Intel-equipped iPhone 7 Plus posted speeds that were on average 30% slower than those of the Qualcomm-equipped iPhone 7 Plus. The slower speeds at the cell edge mean the Intel-based iPhone 7 Plus may be more likely to experience dropped VoLTE calls and other, similar behaviors. "In all tests, the iPhone 7 Plus with the Qualcomm modem had a significant performance edge over the iPhone 7 Plus with the Intel modem," said Cellular Insights in its report. Apple has not said why it selected modems from two separate suppliers for the iPhone 7 Plus.

Google Pixel Hits Verizon Stores Today, But Pixel XL 128 GB Sold Out

Yesterday, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said the Google Pixel and Pixel XL are available at its stores today. The Pixel 32 GB ($650) and 128 GB ($750), and the Pixel XL 32 GB ($770) are in stores in black, white, and blue. The Pixel XL 128 GB ($870) is sold out and not available. Monthly pricing over two years breaks down to $27.08, $31.24, $32.08, and $36.24, respectively, for the Pixel 32 GB, Pixel 128 GB, Pixel XL 32 GB, and Pixel XL 128 GB. Verizon will offer up to $300 for select trade-ins, including the HTC One M9, iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, LG G4 or V10, Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+ or Note 5. Customers who buy either Pixel device may also preorder the Daydream View virtual reality headset.

Verizon Shares Final LG V20 Launch Details

Wednesday, 2:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today finalized pricing and availability info regarding the LG V20 handset. The device will be available for preorder starting 10/20 and reach stores on 10/27. The V20 will cost $28 per month for 24 months, or $672 at full retail. Verizon has several promotions associated with the V20. To start, customers who trade in select phones can receive up to $300 off the V20 when purchased on a payment plan. Further, Verizon customers can score a free pair of Bang & Olufsen H3 headphones with a V20 purchase. Last, customers who purchase a V20 can get the LG Stylo 2 V for just $1 per month for 24 months.

Verizon Adds a 'V' to the LG Stylo 2

Wednesday, 2:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it will kick off sales of the LG Stylo 2 V on Oct. 20. The phone will cost $240, or $10 per month for 24 months. The Stylo 2 V, like the variants already sold by Boost and Cricket, has a 5.7-inch screen with stylus, a 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel selfie camera, memory card slot, and 3,000mAh battery. The phone is powered by an octa-core 1.8 GHz Snapdragon processor, which is a change from the other versions, with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The Stylo 2 V runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Verizon Offers Unlimited Data for $3 Per Hour

Oct 14, 2016, 11:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless recently introduced a new service called PopData that allows customers to access an unlimited amount of LTE 4G data for 30 or 60 minutes. Verizon is charging $2 for a 30-minute session and $3 for a 60-minute session. "PopData is a new time-based 4G LTE data option that gives customers even more options and control of their wireless plans," said Verizon to Fierce Wireless via email. "PopData gives us an opportunity to learn more about how time-based data options resonate with our customers and how they engage with a digital-only experience through the My Verizon app." Verizon is pitching the option as a faster and more secure alternative to laggy public WiFi, though PopData will not be available if the network is congested. The service is being offered in beta status. Verizon did not say if or when it might become a permanent feature.

FCC Reverse Auction Drops Clearing Price to $54.6B

Oct 14, 2016, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has wrapped up the initial phase of stage two of its incentive auction for 600 MHz airwaves, and drastically lowered the price for that spectrum. The initial clearing cost for all the 600 MHz spectrum was $86.4 billion, but bidders failed to come even close during the first round of bidding. Bidders offered up about $23 billion instead. The FCC was forced to go back to the spectrum license holders — in this case, broadcast television stations — and renegotiate a series of minimum prices for those licenses. The new clearing cost for stage two of the auction is $54.6 billion. Bidding will resume on Oct. 19. Most industry watchers assumed the reverse auction would need several rounds to reach completion. The 600 MHz airwaves are valuable due to their signal propagation characteristics. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are participating in the auction, but Sprint is not.

Verizon Says Its Pixel Will Receive System Updates At the Same Time as Other Pixels

Oct 12, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 12, 2016, 1:31 PM

Verizon Wireless will not stymie system updates for the Google Pixel phones, according to Ars Technica. Earlier this month, Google said Verizon would be responsible for pushing system updates to its variants of the Pixel and Pixel XL. Typically, carriers are slow to push system updates. Verizon wants users to know that it will not delay updates for the Pixel. "First and foremost, all operating system and security updates to the Pixel devices will happen in partnership with Google. In other words, when Google releases an update, Verizon phones will receive the same update at the same time (much like iOS updates)," said the carrier. "Verizon will not stand in the way of any major updates and users will get all updates at the same time as Google." Verizon went on to note that its model will be carrier unlocked and will come with only three preloaded apps: My Account, Go90, and Verizon Messages — all three of which can be deleted. Google confirmed Verizon's statement, noting "OS updates and monthly security patches will be updated on all Pixel devices (Verizon and non-Verizon versions) simultaneously."

Sprint Is Last Major Carrier to Cease Note7 Sales

Oct 10, 2016, 2:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today followed AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in discontinuing the Samsung Galaxy Note7. "Given recent issues reported in the media, Sprint is halting sales of replacement Note7 devices pending the conclusion of the investigation by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Samsung," said the company in statement provided to media. "If a Sprint customer with a replacement Note7 has any concerns, we will exchange it for any other device." Sprint's competitors halted sales of the Note7 a day earlier. Samsung said it has "adjusted" production of the Note7 as it continues to investigate the device's safety. All consumers who have a Note7 are urged to power it down and return it for a new phone.

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Samsung 'Adjusts' Note7 Production; Verizon Halts Exchanges

Oct 10, 2016, 6:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today stopped short of saying it has halted production of the Galaxy Note7 and instead said it is making changes for safety reasons. "We are temporarily adjusting the Galaxy Note7 production schedule in order to take further steps to ensure quality and safety matters," said the company in a statement provided to Android Central. The admission comes after a number of media sites claimed on Sunday that Samsung had halted production of the phone altogether. The Note7 was recalled on Sept. 2 after various owners reported fires and burns. Replacement devices were make available to consumers on Sept. 21, but over the course of the last week several replacement Note7s have also caused fires. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon halted their replacement programs Sunday. "Samsung is working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to investigate the safety of replacement Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphones. While the investigation is underway, Verizon is suspending the exchange of replacement Note7 smartphones," said Verizon in a statement provided to The Verge. "Any Verizon customer concerned about the safety of their replacement Note7 smartphone may take it back to the original point of purchase to exchange it for another smartphone. Verizon online customers may also exchange their replacement Note7 smartphones at Verizon stores."

T-Mobile, Too, Halts Note7 Replacements

Oct 9, 2016, 7:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile this evening joined AT&T in putting a stop to exchanges, replacements, and sales of the Samsung Galaxy Note7. "While Samsung investigates multiple reports of issues, T-Mobile is temporarily suspending all sales of the new Note7 and exchanges for replacement Note7 devices," said the company. Customers can bring their new and/or replacement Note7 (along with any purchased accessories) to a T-Mobile store for a full refund and choose from any device in T-Mobile's inventory. The company said it will waive restocking fees, as well as allow those who preordered the Note7 to keep the free Netflix subscription, Gear FT, or SD card they might have received as a gift with the phone. Last, T-Mobile will give all Note7 customers a one-time $25 bill credit for the hassle. The carrier encourages all customers to stop using the Note7, power it down, and return it to T-Mobile as soon as practical. Sprint and Verizon are still selling the device.

AT&T Stops Exchanging the Galaxy Note7

Oct 9, 2016, 2:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T says it will not swap out the original Note7 for replacement devices. "Based on recent reports, we're no longer exchanging new Note7s at this time, pending further investigation of these reported incidents," said the company in a statement provided to media. "We still encourage customers with a recalled Note7 to visit an AT&T location to exchange that device for another Samsung smartphone or other smartphone of their choice." All four major carriers have said customers may bring their Note7 — original or replacement — to stores for a refund or exchange. The Note7 has vanished from the web sites of AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, but it is still available from Verizon hasn't said if or when it might halt sales/exchanges. Anyone with a Note7 should power it down and bring it bak to the point of sale as soon as possible.

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Verizon Trims Store Employees

Oct 8, 2016, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless this week let go of an unspecified number of store-based employees around the country. Tim Dubnau, a union representative with the Communications Workers of America, placed the job cuts in the "hundreds or even thousands," but Verizon spokesperson Kin Ancin called that estimate "an exaggeration." According to Dubnau, Verizon combined the previously separate roles of inventory stocker and customer service specialist into one, which is how it trimmed store-based headcount. Verizon has about 162,000 employees in the U.S.

AT&T, T-Mo, Verizon to Allow Note7 Replacement Exchanges, Too

Oct 7, 2016, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless followed Sprint's lead today and said customers who have a replacement Samsung Galaxy Note7 can exchange the phone for any other sold in carrier stores. T-Mobile specified that any customer can return any phone within the initial 14-day trial period, and that includes both replacement and new Note7 handsets. AT&T and Verizon will accept any replacement Note7, regardless of replacement/purchase date. Sprint implemented a similar exchange program late Thursday. The latest action is a response to a replacement Note7 that caused a fire aboard an aircraft.

Verizon - Not Google - to Manage Pixel System Updates

Oct 6, 2016, 4:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said that Verizon will be in control of system-level updates for the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. This means the Verizon-branded Pixels may not receive significant system updates alongside the unlocked versions sold by Google itself. "Monthly security updates will come from Google (for all models), and system updates will be managed by Verizon for Verizon models, and Google for unlocked models bought from Google Store," said Google in a statement provided to 9to5Google. Google typically exercises control over its own branded devices and distributes system updates when it wants to. In fact, this is the primary benefit of purchasing a Google Pixel/Nexus handset rather than a carrier model. Consumers who buy the Verizon-branded Pixel will be losing this benefit. Verizon also intends to install third-party apps — often called bloatware — on its version of the Pixel, though Verizon contends that users will be able to delete unwanted apps. Moreover, the Verizon variant will ship with a locked bootloader, which prevents owners from side loading their own system builds. The Pixel and Pixel XL are available unlocked from Google, and Google is offering financing for those who don't want to pay the full retail price up front.

Verizon to Be Exclusive Carrier Selling Google Pixel Phone

Oct 4, 2016, 12:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 4, 2016, 12:42 PM

Google today named Verizon Wireless as its exclusive carrier partner for the new Pixel smartphones. Verizon is accepting preorders for the Pixel and Pixel XL starting today. The Pixel 32 GB costs $650, the Pixel 128 GB costs $750, the Pixel XL 32 GB costs $770, and the Pixel XL 128 GB costs $870. Verizon is selling the black and white variants of the phone. Monthly pricing is available, too, which breaks down the cost over 24 months. Separately, Google is selling the Pixel and Pixel XL unlocked online. The unlocked model is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile.

Lenovo Announces Layoffs, Remains 'Committed' to Motorola

Sep 26, 2016, 4:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 26, 2016, 4:17 PM

Lenovo today announced a workforce reduction that will see close to 2% of the company's 55,000 employees losing their jobs. Most of the more-than-1,000 cuts impact Lenovo-owned Motorola. Lenovo said the job cuts are "part of the ongoing strategic integration between Lenovo and its Motorola smartphone business." The company is still working to align its businesses and streamline its product portfolio. The company claims it is "making adjustments in other areas of the business" to manage costs and improve efficiencies. It insists the job cuts are necessary to ensure the company's long-term future. Lenovo said it "is absolutely committed to Chicago and we plan to maintain our Motorola Mobility headquarters there" where it will pursue research and development for its smartphone business. "We expect to take advantage of local talent to continue developing Moto products there." Lenovo bought Motorola from Google in 2014 for $2.91 billion. It has already cut more than 3,000 people from Motorola's payroll. Motorola's most recent handsets are the Moto Z, Z Force, and Z Play, which are sold unlocked as well as via Verizon Wireless under the Droid brand.

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Verizon Prepaid Customers Gain HD Voice

Sep 23, 2016, 11:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said its prepaid subscribers will have access to VoLTE services, including HD Voice and video calls, starting September 25. Prepaid customers will need to add HD Voice to their account before they can make HD calls, but the add-on will be free. Calls are routed over Verizon's LTE data network rather than Verizon's legacy voice network. HD Voice supports six-way conference calls, one- or two-way video calls, and WiFi calling. As always, both the handset making the call and the handset receiving the call need to have the feature enabled and must be connected via LTE for HD Voice to function properly. Verizon said its prepaid customers HD Voice is available to more than two dozen newer iOS and Android smartphones. All WiFi calls made to U.S. phone numbers are free, but calls made to foreign numbers are billed at international long distance rates.

Charter Joins Comcast with Plans to Launch Wireless

Sep 23, 2016, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Charter Communications followed Comcast's lead this week and also disclosed plans to offer wireless service in the future. Charter's offering will mirror that of Comcast's. Charter has an agreement with Verizon Wireless that allows it to sell access to Verizon's network as a wholesaler. Charter will combine that with a network of WiFi access points to provide its cable TV customers with wireless service. Charter believes the wireless offer could convince more consumers to subscribe to its cable TV products. Charter did not say when such a service might launch. Comcast said it plans to launch its wireless service by the middle of 2017.

Sprint and Verizon Resume Sales of Galaxy Note7

Sep 21, 2016, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint and Verizon Wireless are once again selling the Samsung Galaxy Note7. Both companies' web sites list the device for sale and also reveal where the phone can be found at local stores. Supply of the device is limited, but determined consumers can buy the phone. Samsung and its carrier partners halted sales of the device early this month after Samsung discovered a quality issue with some batteries. About 2.5 million devices in total were recalled due to the possibility of fire risk, though the actual number of impacted devices isn't clear. Incidences of burns, fires, and explosions blamed on the phone have been reported in the media. On Tuesday, Samsung said about 500,000 replacement units are now available to original Note7 buyers who have yet to exchange their phones. Samsung and its carrier partners are pushing a software update to the Note7 so owners know whether or not their device is safe. Recalled devices will display an alert stating such, while safe devices will display a green power indicator in the status bar.

Comcast Targeting Mid-2017 for Wireless Network Launch

Sep 20, 2016, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts today said the company plans to offer wireless service as soon as the middle of 2017. The service will rely on some 15 million WiFi hotspots Comcast has located around the country, as well as cellular access via Verizon Wireless. The network will operate similar to Google's Project Fi, which prioritizes access via WiFi but relies on cellular when WiFi is not available. The company has had a wholesale agreement in place with Verizon since 2011, and Roberts suggested Comcast will be able to offer competitive pricing. Roberts made the comments at an investor conference this morning, but didn't provide more details about pricing, devices, and exact availability.

LG V20: First Phone To Support Band 66

Sep 14, 2016, 1:36 PM   by Rich Brome

FCC documents indicate that the LG V20 variants for Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile will be the first phones to support LTE in the new band 66. Band 66 includes the AWS-1, AWS-3, and AWS-4 frequencies. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all purchased new AWS-3 spectrum in 2015, but have yet to deploy it. When they do, it will require phones that support band 66. AWS-1 — also known as band 4 — is already deployed by all three companies. AWS-4 is owned by Dish Networks, which has yet to announce firm plans for that spectrum.

Motorola to Sell Moto G4 Play Starting Sept. 15

Sep 6, 2016, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola today said it will make its low-cost Moto G4 Play handset available unlocked to U.S. buyers beginning September 15. The G4 Play is the least-expensive variant of the G4 family, which also includes the Moto G4 and Moto G4 Plus. The G4 Play has a 5-inch display at 720p HD, a 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 410, and an 8-megapixel main camera at f/2.2. The battery holds 2800mAh and supports rapid charging, but the charger is not included with the phone. Other features include LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, sensors, and micro USB. Motorola said the G4 Play is available for preorder today from the web sites of Amazon, B&H, and Motorola. The phone sells for $149.99. Verizon Wireless plans to make the G4 Play available to its prepaid customers in the coming weeks. Last, Amazon plans to offer a Prime version of the Moto G4 Play for $99.99. Amazon's lower price requires users to view ads on the lock screen.

Incentive Auction Fails to Attract Big Spenders

Aug 31, 2016, 5:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC's 600MHz incentive auction is proceeding slowly and may need to be reset. After 27 rounds of bidding, the total amount bid has reached only $23 billion, far short of the $88.4 billion clearing cost set during the reverse part of the auction earlier this year. The FCC will likely end bidding on the licenses that attracted the most interest and then go back to the television broadcasters to reset the clearing costs for the remaining licenses to drive demand. Some analysts believe the auction made need to reset prices several times before it can come to an end. The 600MHz airwaves are the last low-band spectrum that will be made available to wireless carriers. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are participating, as is Dish Networks and myriad other entities. The spectrum is being sold by television broadcasters, many of which have had the spectrum for decades.

Verizon Debuts LTE Advanced with 50% Faster Speeds

Aug 29, 2016, 10:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it has launched LTE Advanced service in 461 markets around the country, covering some 288 million POPs or 90% of Americans. Verizon's LTE Advanced relies on two- and three-channel carrier aggregation to boost speed and capacity. Verizon says LTE Advanced delivers a 50% improvement in download and upload speeds compared to its traditional LTE network. Close to 40 devices sold by Verizon are compatible with LTE Advanced. Many of the newest phones (Galaxy Note7, Moto Z Droid) will support LTE Advanced out of the box, though some devices will require system updates. Verizon customers can take advantage of LTE Advanced's faster speeds at no additional cost.

Verizon to Bring VoLTE to Prepaid Later this Year

Aug 24, 2016, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 25, 2016, 6:55 AM

Verizon Wireless plans to give its prepaid subscribers access to VoLTE services, including HD Voice and video calls in the near future. Prepaid customers will need to add HD Voice to their account before they can make HD calls, but the add-on will be free. Calls will be billed by the minute, even though they are routed over the LTE data network rather than Verizon's legacy voice network. HD Voice supports six-way conference calls, one- or two-way video calls, and WiFi calling. As always, both the handset making the call and the handset receiving the call need to have the feature enabled and must be connected via LTE for HD Voice to function properly. Verizon said it anticipates launching HD Voice for its prepaid customers early this fall.

AT&T Signs Interconnect Agreement with Cuba Carrier

Aug 22, 2016, 9:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it has signed an interconnect agreement with Cuba's Empresa De Telecomunicaciones De Cuba (ETECSA). The agreement will eventually allow AT&T customers to roam on ETESCA's network when traveling to Cuba. AT&T hasn't said when it will make such roaming available and will announce pricing at a later date. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless already have similar agreements in place with ETESCA.

AT&T Spearheading Robocall 'Strike Force'

Aug 19, 2016, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and dozens of other companies are escalating the war on robocalls with a new Strike Force aimed at disrupting spammers' ability to call and pester consumers. AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson says carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers, regulators, and lawmakers will all need to work together to create a play book to tackle the problem. "In parallel with technological solutions, we need our regulatory and law enforcement agencies to go after the bad actors. Shutting down the bad guys is a necessary step, and a powerful example to others. Our goal isn't complicated: Stop unwanted robocalls. Easy to say. Hard to do," said Stephenson in remarks made at the FCC's first meeting of the Robocall Strike Force. Industry player are gathering today to discuss initial plans and are expected to report back with more solid short- and long-term plans on October 19. Some of the companies participating in the Strike Force include AT&T, Apple, Blackberry, Comcast, Ericsson, Google, LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.

Samsung Accessories Land Alongside Note7

Aug 19, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Samsung Galaxy Note7 reaches U.S. stores today and with it some interesting accessories and companion products from Samsung. The new Gear VR headset, which is compatible with the Note7 and other recent Galaxy phones, has a new look, new color, and expanded field of view. It's available for $100 at carrier stores, as well as Amazon, Best Buy, and Samsung. The Gear 360 camera (pictured), able to shoot 360-degree photos and video, will only be available online for $350. Samsung's Gear IconX wireless earbuds are available, too. These $200 headphones are fully wireless, have built-in memory, and can track workouts. The less expensive Samsung Level Active headphones are sweat proof and can control music/calls for $100. Last, the Samsung Connect auto provides an AT&T-backed in-car hotspot via the OBD II port. The Connect auto can also send alerts to the driver and improve driving safety/efficiency. AT&T will sell the Samsung Connect auto online and in stores. The Galaxy Note7 is Samsung's flagship phablet for the year. It has a 5.7-inch screen, 12-megapixel main camera, Snapdragon 820 processor, 64 GB of storage, and the S Pen stylus. The Note7 is available from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

Kyocera DuraForce Pro for Verizon Approved by FCC

Aug 11, 2016, 2:54 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC today approved new Kyocera phones that seem to match the just-announced DuraForce Pro. One supports both CDMA and LTE 2/4/5/13, a combination unique to Verizon. A separate version compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile networks was also approved today.

Kyocera's New Flagship Rugged Android Phone is the DuraForce Pro

Aug 10, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 10, 2016, 12:43 PM

Kyocera today announced the DuraForce Pro, its new rugged Android phone. The DuraForce is positioned as a significantly upgraded replacement for both the DuraForce and the Brigadier models, and comes in versions both with and without CDMA. That implies the phone may come to both AT&T and Verizon, although Kyocera is not announcing carrier partners at this time, just that it will be released "in the coming months." Most specs have been upgraded compared to the DuraForce/Brigadier. The main camera steps up to 13 megapixels, and is accompanied by a wide-angle "action camera" with 135-degree lens and 5 megapixels, plus 5-megapixel front camera. A fingerprint reader has been added to the side, which works with NFC. It's just as rugged and waterproof, but also fully washable (unaffected by soap). The screen can be used while wet and the camera has an underwater mode. The screen is larger (5 inches) and higher-resolution (full HD). The processor is a faster Snapdragon 617. It also has a larger 3,240 mAh battery and both fast charging and wireless charging. Other features a 3.5mm audio jack, memory card slot, PTT, dual front speakers, and barometer. For business users, it supports enhanced MDM, enterprise Wi-Fi, and advanced VPN capability. Its rugged specs include IP68 and U.S. Military rating for dust, shock, vibration, temperature extremes, temperature shock, blowing rain, low pressure, sun, salt fog, humidity, water immersion (up to 2 meters for 30 minutes), and icing freezing rain. The DuraForce Pro runs Android 6.0 (Marshmallow).

Verizon Kicks Off Sales of HTC Desire 530

Aug 5, 2016, 7:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless has followed T-Mobile in making the HTC Desire 530 available for sale. The stand-out feature of the Desire 530 is the unique "micro splash" effect applied to the polycarbonate rear shell. HTC says no two Desire 530s will have the same pattern. Beyond the appearance, the Desire 530 includes a 5-inch HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, and Android 6.0. The main camera has an 8-megapixel BSI sensor and includes tools such as burst shot and panorama. The 5-megapixel front camera includes Auto Selfie and Voice Selfie modes for easier picture taking. Verizon is selling the phone for $144 at full retail or $6 per month on a payment plan.

Verizon Names New Wireless Exec

Aug 2, 2016, 2:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Communications today said it has put former O2 UK executive Ronan Dunne in charge of its wireless business. Dunne will serve as executive vice president and group president of Verizon Wireless, effective in September. Dunne will be responsible for all of Verizon Wireless' operations, such as marketing, wireless, network, customer care, and digital. Dunne will report to EVP John Stratton.

Verizon To Offer Rewards to Note7 Buyers

Aug 2, 2016, 11:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said customers who preorder the Samsung Galaxy Note7 or S7 Edge can snag a free Gear Fit2 fitness band or 256 GB memory card with their purchase. Verizon plans to sell other Note7-related accessories, such as the Gear VR, Gear 360 camera, and Gear IconX wireless headphones online and in stores beginning August 19. Verizon did not detail pricing information for its variant of the Note7.

Verizon Offering Bonus Data to Family Plan Subscribers

Jul 28, 2016, 10:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless says families of four can get 16 GB of mobile data for $150 per month thanks to a new bonus data promotion. Verizon charges $70 per month for its 8 GB (or, L) plan. Families that subscribe to the L, XL, and XXL plans can score an extra 2 GB of data per line. The bonus data is only available when customers activate a new line or upgrade an existing phone. Verizon says the bonus data will be available to each line as long as it remains active on Verizon's network. Bonus data will not carry over month-to-month. The $150 monthly price includes the $70 data charge, plus $80 in line access fees for four smartphones. Taxes and handset payments are not included. Verizon says the bonus data promotion will be available for a limited time. Customers who activate new lines of service will be eligible to receive a Samsung Galaxy J3 V handset for free ($7 bill credit applied on a monthly basis for 24 months). Verizon will allow new customers up to five free J3 Vs per account.

Verizon to Buy Yahoo's Internet Business for $4.8B

Jul 25, 2016, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Communications today said that it has agreed to buy Yahoo's core internet and search businesses for $4.83 billion. Yahoo's properties will join AOL under Verizon's ownership, to be managed by Marni Walden, EVP and President of the Product Innovation and New Businesses organization at Verizon. Verizon has spent the last few years building up its media business units. Yahoo claims to have more than 1 billion active monthly users, of which 600 million are mobile. Combining Yahoo and AOL will give Verizon control over 25 established brands, including news sites, analytics engines, email services, and advertising platforms. The sale does not include Yahoo's stake in Alibaba, Yahoo Japan, and other entities. Post sale, the remaining business will be rebranded as it transforms into an investment company. Verizon and Yahoo expect the deal to close during the first quarter of 2017, pending regulatory and shareholder approval. Verizon Communications is the parent company of Verizon Wireless.

FCC Wants Carriers to Step Up Anti-Robocall Efforts

Jul 22, 2016, 1:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today asked the country's major telephone providers to improve consumer tools for blocking robocalls. The FCC said robocalls continue to be one of the top complaints filed by consumers. Wheeler sent letters to AT&T, Bandwidth Comms, Frontier, Level3, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon asking them to make blocking tools available to consumers as swiftly as possible. "Consumers want and deserve more control over the calls they receive," wrote Wheeler in a blog post. "I am calling on the carriers and standards groups to accelerate the development and deployment of technical standards that would prevent spoofing of caller ID and thus make blocking technologies more effective. All of these companies have been asked to respond within 30 days with their concrete, actionable solutions to address these issues." The FCC said it will continue to investigate consumer complaints against robocalls and prosecute whenever possible.

Verizon to Cut Off Certain Customers Who Exceed 100GB Per Month

Jul 22, 2016, 7:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless confirmed plans to disconnect select customers who consume more than 100 GB of mobile data per month. Verizon is specifically targeting customers who have grandfathered-in unlimited data plans and are taking advantage to use extreme amounts of data. "Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a very small group of customers on unlimited plans who use an extraordinary amount of data that they must move to one of the new Verizon Plans by August 31, 2016," said Verizon in an email to Ars Technica. "These users are using data amounts well in excess of our largest plan size (100GB). While the Verizon Plan at 100GB is designed to be shared across multiple users, each line receiving notification to move to the new Verizon Plan is using well in excess of that on a single device." Customers who are cut off will be able to reactivate their account within 50 days as long as they agree to move to one of the current, metered service plans. Verizon hasn't offered unlimited plans since 2011, but customers have been able to hold onto them over the years. Not too long ago Verizon raised the prices of those plans by $20. In 2014 the company attempted to put in place a network optimization plan that would have throttled the heaviest users. The FCC fought Verizon's plan and the carrier eventually dropped it. Verizon says 99% of its postpaid customer base is subscribed to metered data plans.

Verizon Kicks Off Preorders for Moto Z Droid and Z Force Droid

Jul 21, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 21, 2016, 8:19 AM

Verizon Wireless today began accepting preorders for the Motorola Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid, which will reach stores on July 28. The Moto Z costs $624 ($26 per month) and the Z Force costs $720 ($30 per month). Verizon customers may trade in their current flagship smartphone for up to $300 to put toward either Moto Z handset, or older phones for up to $200. Verizon Wireless also shared pricing details on the Moto Mods modular accessories that attach to the back of the Moto Z and Z Force: the JBL SoundBoost speaker costs $80, the Moto Insta-Share Projector costs $300, the Tumi power pack costs $60, the Kate Spade New York power pack costs $90, and Incipio's rear plates cost $15 each. The Moto Mods attach to the Moto Z and Z Force via magnets and enhance the capabilities of the phone. Verizon said that, for a limited time, customers who purchase one Mod with their Moto Z will receive 20% off any additional Mods they buy. The Moto Z and Z Force are Android smartphones. Each has a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, USB-C with QuickCharge, and fingerprint reader.

Verizon Turns On 'Always-On Data' for Prepaid Subs

Jul 18, 2016, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless added a feature called Always-On Data to its prepaid plans that will keep customers connected even if they use up all their LTE data. In short, people who subscribe to Verizon's prepaid smartphone plans will have access to an unlimited amount of free 2G surfing at 128Kbps once they've consumed their plan's LTE data bucket. Verizon says 2G surfing will be available through the rest of the billing cycle in order to keep customers connected, though many services, such as streaming mobile video, will be significantly curtailed. Verizon added Always-On Data to its prepaid plans on July 17. The move follows Verizon's recent price hike for its postpaid plans, which also provides unlimited 2G access for a $5 monthly fee.

FCC Names Final Set of Reverse Auction Bidders

Jul 15, 2016, 2:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today published a list of the 62 bidders who've made upfront payments and qualified to bid in the reverse auction for low-band TV spectrum. As expected, the list contains familiar names, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. A significant number of small companies plan to bid, as well, such as Alaska Wireless and Cellular South. Collectively, bidders will need to cough up more than $86 billion to purchase the 126 MHz of 600 MHz airwaves up for auction. The forward portion of the auction begins August 16.

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