Verizon Wireless today said it will not brick its customers' phones during the holiday season. Samsung this morning said it will update remaining Note7s over the next few weeks and kill the phone's ability to charge. Samsung believes this will coax remaining owners to return or exchange the device. Verizon disagrees with this strategy. "Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note7 users that do not have another device to switch to. We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation." Verizon says most of its Note7 customers have already returned the device. The carrier reiterates that any Note7s still in the wild need to be exchanged as soon as practical. The Note7 is subject to overheating and causing fires. The device was recalled and cancelled by Samsung.
Verizon Wireless today detailed a system update for its variants of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. The update primarily installs the latest security patches from Google, but also includes a number of software tweaks to improve performance. For example, it resolves several problems that prevented Pixel owners from seeing voicemail notification icons and accessing visual voicemail messages. It fixes a bug that impacted inbound call performance and another that garbled some on-screen text in the dialer. Last, the update lets people to choose cellular or WiFi as their preferred calling method when traveling overseas. The update is free to download and install over the air, but Verizon recommends users connect to WiFi first.
The FCC believes zero-rating content can hurt consumers and competition. The agency sent letters to AT&T and Verizon Wireless this week calling them out for exempting their own video services (DirecTV Now and go90, respectively) from customers' data caps. The agency believes the practice gives the carriers' own services an advantage over competing services. "We have therefore reached the preliminary conclusion that these practices inhibit competition, harm consumers, and interfere with the 'virtuous cycle' needed to assure the continuing benefits of the Open Internet," wrote FCC wireless bureau chief Jon Wilkins writes in the letter to AT&T. The FCC has already warned carriers that zero-rating content may be harmful. The regulatory body did not say if it intends to take steps or action against the carriers. The companies have until December 15 to respond to the FCC's letters. AT&T announced DirecTV Now earlier this week. The service is available to anyone who cares to pay for it, but only AT&T Mobility customers can watch via LTE without impacting their monthly data cap.
Verizon Wireless says its variant of the LG G5 smartphone is on deck for the Android 7 Nougat system update. The update adds new themes to the G5, the ability to retrieve deleted messages, multi-window support, enriched notifications, tweaked Quick Settings tools, simplified Settings Menu, and more sound settings. Verizon is encouraging G5 owners to download the system update via WiFi. Users will be notified once the update is ready for their phone. Verizon is rolling the update out in waves over the next few days.
Motorola today took the wraps off two additional Moto Mods for its Moto Z series of handsets. The first mod is a juice pack from Mophie (pictured) that packs a 3,000mAh power cell and 15W USB-C charging. A series of LED lights indicates how much power is within the juice pack and both the phone and the juice pack will charge when attached to one another and plugged in. The Mophie juice pack is available for preorder for $80 from Verizon Wireless' web site. The second mod is an in-car dock from Incipio. The $65 accessory holds, charges, and connects Moto Z handsets to most cars via the air conditioning fins. When docked, the phone automatically launches Android Auto for safer in-car use. Motorola didn't say when the two new mods will ship. The company did mention that it intends to release an average of four new mods per quarter moving through 2017.
Motorola said it will roll out Android 7.0 Nougat to the Moto Z and Moto Z Force starting this week. Both handsets will be updated from Android 6.1 to Android 7.0. Moreover, the update will make the Moto Z and Moto Z Force compatible with Daydream, Google's new virtual reality platform. According to Motorola, the Z and Z Force are the first non-Google handsets certified as Daydream ready. Daydream requires high-resolution screens, quick refresh rates, and fine-tuned sensors for accurate head tracking. Daydream also requires the Daydream VR headset and controller, which are sold separately at Verizon, Best Buy, and Google stores. The Nougat update will start reaching the Moto Z and Moto Z Force globally this week. More information on country- and carrier-specific upgrades is available from Motorola's web site. Motorola did not say if or when the Z Play might receive Android 7.
Samsung is allowing owners of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge to experience an early look at its Nougat builds through the Galaxy Beta Program. The program is meant more for Samsung's benefit than that of end users, as it will use feedback generated by beta users to improve the experience and reliability for all users. Samsung says beta testers will have an opportunity to see its latest user experience elements based on Android 7.0 Nougat. The company hopes for direct feedback about the betas' performance, stability, and usability as it prepares the software for general release next year. Samsung warns that beta software is not official and may cause unexpected errors or malfunction. It may also not have the full feature set when compared to the final version. People will be able to leave the beta program and return their devices to official, functional builds of Android 6. The program is open to the Sprint-, T-Mobile-, and Verizon-branded variants of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge only. People will be required to download the Galaxy Beta Program application from the Galaxy Apps store and apply via the registration menu. A Samsung account (free) is required. Samsung expects to ship test builds of Nougat between now and the end of December.
Verizon Wireless today expanded its selection of prepaid service plans with two new data options. Starting November 13, Verizon Prepaid customers will be able to select a 5 GB plan for $50 per month or a 10 GB plan for $70 per month. Both options include unlimited talk and text, mobile hotspot, international messaging, and carryover data. The $70 plan adds calling to Canada and Mexico. Verizon does not charge overages, but will throttle speeds for those who exceed their monthly data bucket.
Verizon Wireless today made Android 6.0 Marshmallow available to its version of the BlackBerry Priv. The new system software makes a significant number of changes to many apps and services on the phone. To start, it adds WiFi Calling, Now On Tap, and the Marshmallow runtime permissions. It also improves the BlackBerry Keyboard, floating phone icon, launcher, camera, and contact apps. The launcher, in particular, now allows owners to separate their work and personal apps from one another. Android 6 Marshmallow for the BlackBerry Priv is free to download via WiFi. AT&T updated its Priv to Marshmallow in July.
Motorola today said it has partnered with crowd-funding service Indiegogo in order to improve the selection of Moto Mods for its Z-series smartphones. Motorola is encouraging creators to share their Moto Mods ideas through its Moto Mods Developer contest. Motorola will reward select entrants with the Moto Mods Developer Kit, which includes a Moto Z phone. With the kit in hand, developers can then bring their prototypes to fruition with a small amount of help from Motorola. Mods that reach the working prototype stage can then apply to Indiegogo for initial funding. Motorola said it and partner Verizon Wireless will assist developers that make it this far by promoting the Indiegogo campaigns. Ten finalists will then have a chance to pitch their idea to Motorola and Verizon directly in Chicago. Winners will move on to production, shipping, and marketing, all of which will be aided in part by Motorola and Verizon. The Moto Z Play Droid, Moto Z, and Moto Z Force Droid are all compatible with Moto Mods, which are magnetic snap-on accessories. So far, some of the available Mods include a speaker from JBL, a camera from Hasselblad, and several battery packs.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless have recently made changes to their respective prepaid services and taken dramatically different approaches in the process. AT&T's GoPhone customers now have more options than ever, while Verizon Wireless Prepaid customers have even fewer options. Specifically, AT&T improved the data add-on plans for GoPhone. For example, the $30 GoPhone plan (which does not include any data) allows customers to buy data access in increments of 250 MB rather than increments of 100 MB. Similarly, the $45 GoPhone plan lets customers buy more access in 1 GB increments rather than 500 MB increments. The prices for the add-ons remain the same. Last, the $60 GoPhone plan now allows people to buy extra data in 1 GB and 3 GB allotments. These changes give GoPhone subscribers more flexibility to manage their plan on a monthly basis. Conversely, Verizon Wireless has removed entirely its entry-level $15 monthly plan for feature phones. Verizon also nixed its $30 prepaid plan for smartphones, which included unlimited talk and text, but no data (WiFi only). The only two Verizon Prepaid options that remain are the $45 and $60 plans. Verizon Wireless CFO Fran Shammo has gone on the record before saying the company does not intend to chase low-profit customers.
Google today said its Daydream virtual reality headset will go on sale November 10. The goggles will cost $79 and will be available at Best Buy and Verizon Wireless stores. Daydream is Google's new virtual reality push. Only a few handsets are initially compatible with Daydream, including the Pixel and Pixel XL, and the Nexus 6P. A number of Google's partners have prepared content for Daydream ahead of launch, such as the Wall Street Journal, Star Chart, YouTube, the New York Times, Google Play Movies, and several gaming companies. People who preordered the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones from Google in October will be given a promotional code for a free Daydream VR headset.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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 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.
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 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 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.com. 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.
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-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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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.