The FCC this week made it easier for carriers to add LTE to their 800 MHz spectrum holdings. Rules concerning the 800 MHz band (CDMA Band Class 0, LTE Band 5) have been in place since 1981 and limit how much power carriers can use to transmit wireless signals across those airwaves. The effect has stymied wide-scale LTE deployments in the 800 MHz band. By relaxing the outdated regulations, the FCC is essentially making it possible for companies that have 800 MHz spectrum to repurpose it for LTE. Specifically, the Commission plans to allow 800 MHz licensees to transmit the same amount of power across the spectrum band, putting it in line with how other, similar spectrum bands are treated. The FCC will demand that carriers take care to prevent interference with public safety's use of 800 MHz spectrum, but the Commission will also eliminate what it calls unnecessary rules and burdens related to application filings and other red tape. Verizon Wireless, which will benefit most from the change, lauded the decision. "The FCC's unanimous adoption today of Cellular Service Reform rules is a big win for wireless consumers," said the company. "Today's order enables Verizon to accelerate the conversion of 850 MHz spectrum from 3G and put it to use for 4G LTE. The upside for consumers is big: Verizon Wireless will be able to provide 4G LTE coverage on cellular spectrum to 20%-30% more of the US geography and also increase peak 4G LTE speeds by as much as 40%." The change also benefits AT&T, though to a lesser degree.
Verizon Wireless today added the low-cost LG K20 V to its lineup of Android smartphones. The K20 V features a metal frame and rear-mounted fingerprint reader for security. The phone has a 5.3-inch 720p display and it is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone boasts a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel front camera. It can record video up to 720p HD. Other features include a 2,800mAh removable battery, microSD memory card slot, and Android 7 Nougat. The phone is available in stores and online today. The full retail price is $168, but Verizon is asking for just $99 with a two-year activation.
Verizon today announced a revamp of its Hum line of connected car devices. Moving forward, consumers can choose one of three new options to keep their car in touch with Verizon's network. The HumX is the top-tier product and includes an OBD-II device as well as a Bluetooth speaker. The ODB-II unit provides WiFi hotspot connectivity for up to 10 devices, and also hooks into the car's diagnostics to monitor support functions. It can deliver roadside assistance and connect people to emergency services when needed. The Bluetooth speaker supports HD voice calls. The existing Hum product is being rebranded as the Hum+ and will continue to be available for monitoring auto health and diagnostics, driving history, speed alerts, location, and more. Last, Verizon is rolling out a free Android and iOS mobile app that provides an introductory level of Hum service. The app includes safety score calculations based on driver behaviors (cornering, braking, accelerating), in addition to voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. The Hum mobile app is free, but the Hum+ and HumX require hardware and monthly service fees. All three launch March 23.
Verizon Wireless' launch plans for the LG G6 include a free LG television set. To start, Verizon is asking $28 per month for 24 months, or about $672 in total for the LG G6. For a limited time, customers can get a free LG 43-inch Smart TV when activating an LG G6 on a new Verizon Unlimited service plan. In order to get the TV, customers need to remain with Verizon for at least six months and then submit a claim. The TV will be shipped 8 to 10 weeks after the claim is made. Verizon Wireless is also offering up to $200 on select trade-ins. The trade-ins must be in good, working condition and are limited to the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus and SE; the HTC 10; the LG G4, G5, V10, or V20; or the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or 5, S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, S7, and S7 edge. Last, LG G6 buyers qualify for a free Google Home from LG. Preorders begin March 17 and Verizon will begin shipping the LG G6 on March 30.
Verizon Wireless today said the company's Fios home internet and television customers can stream an unlimited amount of live and recorded shows over LTE without impacting their monthly data allotment. Specifically, Fios customers can use the Fios Mobile app on their smartphones and tablets to watch 140 channels of live television, movies, and stored DVR content. The app provides access to on-demand programming, as well as premium channels (subscription required). Customers can watch live television on their mobile device anywhere Verizon offers LTE service. The Fios Mobile app can be used to remotely managed DVR recordings, view TV listings, and act as a set-top box remote control. Verizon says customers will need to download the latest version of the Fios Mobile App to take advantage of the zero-rated video streaming. Verizon didn't say if the quality of the content is standard or high definition. The Verizon Fios Mobile app is free from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Verizon Wireless is distributing the Android 7 Nougat system update to the Moto Z Droid Play handset. Nougat includes several marquee features, such as native split-screen multitasking and more granular control over the home screen experience. The Moto Z Droid Play smartphone scores a number of new features with the improved OS. Some include fast app switching, bundled notifications, expanded emoji selection, data saver, and improved doze mode. Nougat users will also enjoy greater control over notifications, the Quick Settings panel, and the main settings tools. Android 7 Nougat is free to download over WiFi. The update is being rolled out over the next few days.
Verizon Wireless today made Android 7 Nougat available to its variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge smartphones. Android 7 brings native split-screen multitasking, and myriad other features to the year-old Galaxy devices. Some of the new tools include: better battery management software; photo effects previews; more ways to customize the always-on display; Samsung Pass for additional fingerprint-based security; performance mode for adjusting processor output; a revised keyboard with more language options; and more control over mobile hotspot connections. Notably, the update also removes Verizon's go90 mobile video application. Verizon recommends users download the operating system update via WiFi. Android 7 Nougat is rolling out the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge over the next few days.
Verizon will give up to $500 to people who combine Verizon Wireless with Verizon FiOS service. People new to both companies will receive a $250 gift card and another $250 in the form of bill credits when switching to Verizon Unlimited and signing up for FiOS TV, internet, and phone service. People who already have either Verizon Wireless or Verizon FiOS will receive $250 in gift cards or bill credits for joining the other. Verizon says the offer will be available for a limited time.
Samsung today revealed a number of 5G-related projects it is working on, including a home router, a base station, core network infrastructure, and a mobile chipset. The 5G Home Router is of particular interest, as Samsung said it would serve as an in-home replacement for fiber-to-the-home for broadband service. The router would sit in a window and communicate with a nearby 5G Radio Base Station and deliver 1 Gbps speeds to the home. Samsung likened the setup to today's LTE small cells, which have helped carriers densify their networks in urban areas. Verizon Wireless personnel joined Samsung on stage during the presentation and mentioned that the company hopes to see a phone able to use Samsung's 5G in-home gear by this time next year. Verizon is already planning to trial its own fixed 5G service in 11 markets in the new few weeks. Samsung went on to say that it will use 3GPP Release 16 specs for now while the ITU continues its work on the 5G standard. Samsung hopes to be able to upgrade its equipment along the way until the 5G standard is ratified.
Google today said more wireless network operators and handset manufacturers will use Android Messages, its RCS-based messaging service, as the default SMS/MMS tool on their phones. (Android Messages was previously known as Google Messenger.) Some of the features of RCS, which is a global standard, include group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, advanced calling features, and read receipts. It has been improved lately with more interactive tools, such as the ability to check into flights. Google says a number of brands plan to use RCS in order to enhance their own services and help spur adoption. Some of the brands include Walgreens, Baskin-Robbins, FICO, Gamestop, Sonic, Subway, and Time. Moving forward, the Android Messages app with RCS will be preloaded by LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, HMD Global, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony, and Wiko, along with Google's own Pixel and Android One devices. Further, Google was already working with carriers Sprint, Rogers, and Telenor, and today added Vodafone, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Globe. Notably absent fro the list of phone makers is Samsung, while AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon have also yet to commit. Phones with Android Messages on board will still be able to interact with Samsung handsets and those running on non-Sprint networks of course, but will lose the advanced features available via RCS. Samsung, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon haven't said if or when they might adopt Google's Android Messages, though T-Mobile and Verizon already use their own RCS-like messaging platforms.
Verizon Wireless today said it plans to trial 5G technology in 11 U.S. markets later this year. This "pre-commercial service" will be offered to a very limited number of customers and not necessarily made available to consumers. The tests will involve the 5GTF spec Verizon developed past year. The trial markets include Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Bernardsville, Brockton, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Miami, Sacramento, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. Verizon competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are each testing their own variants of potential 5G technologies. The actual 5G spec has yet to be defined by the International Telecommunications Union, but carriers and telecom equipment makers around the world are hoping their technologies will be included in the final standard.
Verizon and Yahoo today said they've amended the terms of their acquisition, first announced in July 2016, which will see the sale price drop by $350 million. The deal has been in jeopardy since December when Yahoo disclosed a material security breach that impacted more than 1 billion users. According to Yahoo, an outside party was able to steal names, email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords, and some security questions/answers of users back in August 2013. Verizon had originally agreed to pay $4.8 billion for Yahoo's core internet business and customer base. The total sale price is now closer to $4.48 billion. Moreover, the two companies agreed to terms with respect to any investigations over Yahoo's security breaches. The remaining Yahoo business that exists after the transaction will be held accountable for 50% of any cash liabilities from non-SEC or third-party investigations and all the liabilities of SEC and shareholder lawsuits. "The amended terms of the agreement provide a fair and favorable outcome for shareholders. It provides protections for both sides and delivers a clear path to close the transaction in the second quarter," said Marni Walden, Verizon executive vice president and president of Product Innovation and New Businesses.
Verizon Wireless today announced a new service plan for its prepaid business, offering 2 GB of data for $40 per month. The plan includes unlimited texting and, for customers who make on-time payments, carry-over data from month to month. Customers who exceed the 2 GB limit will see speeds reduced to 128 Kbps for the remainder of the billing period. Verizon also offers a $30 prepaid service plan for feature phones, as well as a 5 GB plan for $50 and a 10 GB plan for $70. The new $40 plan will be available starting Feb. 21.
Verizon Wireless and AwesomenessTV no longer plan to develop premium video content for mobile devices. Verizon invested in a 24.5% stake in AwesomenessTV last year with the intent of introducing new programming for millennials that would stand apart from Verizon's existing go90 video product. These plans have been shelved. "The most important part of the Awesomeness/Verizon go90 partnership is our premium content, and the success of 'Guidance' and 'T@gged' have shown what we can do together," said Verizon in a statement provided to Variety. "Rather than launch a new and separate venture, we decided to instead double down on the Awesomeness episodic series output for go90 and also extend the term of our relationship to best build on the momentum we are seeing with our Gen Z target audience." The change in strategy comes a month after Verizon laid off some 155 people from its go90 team. The go90 product has struggled to find traction with users and Verizon is revamping it.
Verizon Wireless today announced a promotional trade-in offer that will give a free flagship-class phone to those who switch from other carriers. The offer requires users to select Verizon's new $80 monthly unlimited plan. It also requires a working trade-in that is fully paid off. Customers will need to port their number in from a competing service provider. Customers can then select the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel, Moto Z Droid, Moto Z Force Droid, Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, or LG V20. Verizon will provide up to $792 toward the cost of the phone spread out over 24 months. In order to get one of the above phones for free, switchers will need to trade-in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Samsung Note 5, LG G5, LG V20, or the HTC 10. Customers who have an older phone to trade, such as the Apple iPhone SE, Samsung Note 4, Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G4, LG V10, or HTC M9, will need to pay $5 per month for the "free" phones being offered by Verizon. Verizon Wireless didn't say how long this promotion will be available.
Verizon Wireless will on Monday offer unlimited data plans to its customers for the first time since 2011. Verizon's new offer costs $80 per month for a single line with unlimited talk, text, and data; mobile hotspot; calling/texting to Mexico and Canada; and 500 MB of 4G LTE data per day when roaming in Mexico and Canada. The total monthly cost for two lines (before taxes and fees) is $120, the cost for three lines is $160, and the cost for four lines is $180. Lines five through 10 will cost an additional $20 each. Paperless billing and auto-pay are required to qualify for these prices. Verizon says domestic mobile hotspot usage is limited to 10 GB per month; customers who exceed that limit during a single billing period will see their speeds dropped to 3G for the remainder of the month. Verizon says unlimited data customers who consume more than 22 GB of data during any single billing period may see throttled speeds when the network is congested. "While we don’t expect to do that very often, network management is a crucial tool that benefits all Verizon customers," said Verizon Wireless. Connected devices such as smartwatches and the GizmoPal can be aded for $5 per month. For roaming countries other than Mexico and Canada, Verizon still offers its TravelPass data plan, which costs $10 per day for 500 MB in most countries. Verizon will continue to offer its 5 GB, small, medium, and large service plans. Verizon's new unlimited plan will be available from Feb. 13.
Verizon Wireless today said customers who subscribe to its Total Mobile Protection plan can take advantage of same-day screen repairs at some 220 Verizon Stores across 34 states. Many of the company's most popular phones are eligible for same-day repairs, including the Apple iPhone SE, 5c, 5s, 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus; Samsung Galaxy S5, S6, S7, Note 4, and 5; and the Motorola Droid Turbo and Droid Maxx. Verizon says it will add more devices to this list over time. Customers who don't live near one of the 220 stores may be eligible for same-day repairs completed by an in-home mobile technician. The Total Mobile Protection plan costs $11 per month for smartphones and $9 per month for tablets/feature phones. Families can protect multiple lines: the first three lines are $11 each, but lines 4-10 can be added at no additional charge. Cracked screen repairs require a $79 deductible, but Verizon upped the number of yearly claims from two to three per line. All lines can take advantage of Verizon's Tech Coach for personal/technical assistance. The new Verizon Wireless Total Mobile Protection plan is available beginning today.
Verizon Wireless is preparing its own branded Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch, called the Wear24, for a March release. The company announced the wearable alongside the LG Watch Sport today. It has a slim, modern design as opposed to the chunky, sporty style of the LG Watch Sport. The Wear24 is compatible with Verizon's LTE network and can share a phone number with smartphones for seamless messaging and calls. The smartwatch has a 1.39-inch display with 360 by 360 pixels. According to Verizon, the watch also includes NFC with support for Android Pay, a 450mAh battery, and a rating of IP67 for water resistance up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water. The watch will cost $300 with a two-year activation. Verizon didn't say what the full retail price will be, nor did it reveal what company is manufacturing the watch. Verizon subscribers can add the Wear24 watch to their existing plan for $5 per month. Otherwise, the Wear24 requires Verizon's $10 Single Device Plan, which provides unlimited talk and text, and up to 1 GB of LTE data per month.
The FCC today said it will drop its review of sponsored data programs from the likes of AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Under former Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC determined the nation's two largest carriers were likely violating net neutrality rules by zero-rating some video services. Now, under the leadership of Chairman Ajit Pai, the agency has reversed course and will drop the investigations. "The Commission finally puts an end to the past Commission’s zero-rating inquiries and recommits to permissionless innovation," said Commissioner Michael O'Rielly in a statement. "While this is just a first step, these companies, and others, can now safely invest in and introduce highly popular products and services without fear of Commission intervention based on newly invented legal theories."
Comcast intends to sell wireless service alongside its internet, TV, and home phone offerings later this year. Comcast has not built its own wireless network; rather, it is making good on a reseller agreement it signed with Verizon Wireless back in 2012. Comcast will offer its own branded service and phones, but the service will run on Verizon's network. Comcast will, in effect, be operating the wireless service as an MVNO. Comcast sold Verizon a large chunk of spectrum in 2012 as part of the reseller agreement. It will target on triple- and quadruple-play bundles. "We plan to include wireless in our multi-product bundles in a way that is designed to add value to our customers, improve retention, and ultimately benefit lifetime customer economics for us," said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts during the company's recent earnings call. "Our offering will give customers access to a world-class wireless network, benefiting from our WiFi hotspots, with the best mobile devices and a simple, transparent experience, all for a great value." Comcast's in-home routers often serve as open WiFi hotspots to other Comcast customers. Comcast said it will deploy the wireless service slowly and adapt as needed in response to customer feedback. It expects to launch by mid-2017.
Verizon Wireless today made available a new service plan for connected devices other than smartphones. The plan costs $15 per month ($10 with auto-pay) and provides 1 GB of LTE date in addition to unlimited talk and text for select devices. Verizon envisions the plan will be ideal for hardware such as tablets, smartwatches, mobile hotspots, connected security cameras, and gear such as the kid-focused GizmoGadget. The service plan can stand on its own and doesn't need to be associated with another line. There is no line-based access charge, but taxes and fees are not included.
Verizon Wireless has begun distributing a minor system update to the Motorola Moto Z Droid and Moto Z Force Droid. According to the change log, the update applies the most recent security patch (Jan. 1, 2017) and also improves the notification volume. The update is free to download and install over the air.
Verizon Wireless today announced the Unlimited Together - World calling plan. The monthly add-on provides unlimited minutes to landlines in over 70 countries, unlimited minutes to cell phones in nearly 40 countries, and discounted calling to an additional 160 countries. The Unlimited Together - World calling plan costs $15 per month and can be added to any of Verizon's post-paid service plans.
AT&T confirmed to Phonescoop that it has raised the cost of activating a new line of service and upgrading an existing line from $20 to $25. The increase is effective today, according to AT&T. The increase was first reported by Droid-Life. AT&T's move follows closely a similar increase made by Verizon, which bumped activation fees from $20 to $30. Activation fees are largely seen as a way for carriers to pad profits.
The FCC today said the close of the fourth stage will mark the end of bidding in the auction for 600 MHz airwaves. The auction has been in progress since last May and worked its way through several stages. Television broadcasters agreed to give up portions of their spectrum holdings, which were then sold to wireless carriers. The repurposed airwaves will eventually be used for mobile broadband services and the TV stations relocated. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler called the auction a success, but it fell far short of initial projections as far as generating revenue is concerned. "The world's first spectrum incentive auction has delivered on its ambitious promise. Reaching the Final Stage Rule means the benefits of the auction are indisputable," said Wheeler. "We will repurpose 70 MHz of high-value, completely clear low-band spectrum for mobile broadband on a nationwide basis. On top of that, 14 MHz of new unlicensed spectrum — the test bed for wireless innovation — will be available for consumer devices and new services. The auction will provide $10.05 billion to broadcast television licensees who participated and billions towards deficit reduction." Broadcasters had expected to see as much as $86 billion for 126 MHz of licenses. When bidding in rounds two and three bottomed out, the amount of spectrum offered by broadcasters was reduced accordingly. "There is still a long road ahead to successfully implement the post-auction transition of broadcast stations to their new channels and bring the new wireless and unlicensed spectrum to market," noted Wheeler. "This will be an extremely important task for my successor and the new Commission; I wish them well." Wheeler is leaving his post at the FCC as President-Elect Donald Trumps takes office. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless all participated, but Sprint did not. The FCC hasn't said what new spectrum licenses the carriers and other bidders have won.
Verizon Wireless is prepared to take another drastic step in order to convince thousands of customers still holding onto the Samsung Galaxy Note7 that it's time to return the phone. "In spite of our best efforts, there are still customers using the recalled phones who have not returned or exchanged their Note 7 to the point of purchase," said a Verizon spokesperson to Fortune. "The recalled Note 7s pose a safety risk to our customers and those around them." Verizon is prepared to put the handsets into a special category on its system that will allow them to call only 911 or Verizon customer service. Moreover, Verizon notes that in some cases the customers have already been reimbursed for the phone so Verizon might bill those customers the full retail cost. Verizon has already updated its variant of the Galaxy Note7 so the phone cannot be charged and is useless as mobile device. Samsung recalled the Note7 in September after a number of units overheated and caught fire.
Verizon Wireless this week announced the MiFi 7730L Jetpack, a global mobile hotspot that provides wireless access to WiFi devices in the U.S. and around the world. Verizon says the 7730L supports Cat 9 LTE-Advanced with carrier aggregation for speeds that are up to 50% quicker in some 450 U.S. markets. It supports a wide array of LTE bands for overseas markets, as well as CDMA 1x, GSM, and HSPA/HSPA+. The dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac radio helps offer connectivity to up to 15 WiFi devices at a time. The 7730L has a 4,400mAh internal battery that can be charged rapidly via Quick Charge, but it can also be put to use charging phones and accessories via the USB-C port when needed. The Jetpack has a 2.4-inch touch screen for managing settings, and supports mass storage access. The MiFi 7730L Jetpack, made by Novatel, costs $200 at full retail or $50 with a two-year contract.
The FCC today took AT&T and Verizon to task for their zero-rated video services and said they may in fact be harmful to the market. The agency has spent time evaluating each of the zero-rated offerings from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. While the agency has no quibble with zero-rated services, per se, AT&T and Verizon's offerings may cross a certain line with respect to competition. "We ... have found that two of the plans present significant risks to consumers and competition in downstream industry sectors because of network operators' potentially unreasonable discrimination in favor of their own affiliates," said the agency in today's report. The FCC judged the offerings based on whether or not they amount to blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization, and if they don't violate those tenets, whether or not the services violate the general conduct rule with respect to data caps, transparency, and user choice. T-Mobile's BingeOn service, for example, is in the clear because it is open to all customers and all third-party services. AT&T's Data Perks program is okay, too, but its Sponsored Data program crosses the line because it likely violates the general conduct rule. The same is true of Verizon's go90 offering. "We are aware of no safeguards that would prevent [Verizon or AT&T] from offering substantially more costly or restrictive terms to enable unaffiliated edge providers to offer services comparable to [go90 and Sponsored Data] on a zero-rated basis," noted the agency. The FCC believes companies such as AT&T and Verizon that own both the content and the delivery mechanism may cause real harm to consumers and competition. The FCC didn't say what, if any, actions it might take next.
Verizon Wireless plans to cut off customers who use 200 GB of data in any given month, even if those customers are grandfathered in on unlimited plans. These customers will have to agree to switch to a more limited plan or face loss of service. "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 small group of customers on unlimited plans who use more than 200GB a month that they must move to a Verizon Plan by February 16, 2017," said Verizon via email to Ars Technica. Verizon hasn't offered unlimited plans since 2011, so the new policy impacts only those who've held onto old, old plans. Verizon made a similar move in August 2016, but set a higher 500 GB cap at that time. This new, lower cap will be applied to customers who use more than 200 GB per month for several months in a row. Those who don't agree to move to a limited plan and are disconnected will have 50 days to re-activate their account on a limited plan. Verizon throttles data speeds once customers exceed their monthly data allotment. Verizon's largest plan includes 100 GB per month and costs $450.
Verizon Wireless no longer offers two-year contracts with device subsidies, and has raised the cost of activating new devices by $10. The changes, confirmed by Fierce Wireless, were put into effect January 5. Moving forward, all post-paid customers will need to pay for devices via monthly equipment installment plans. Such plans break down the cost of phones and other devices over a course of two years, separating the price of the phone from the price of the service plan. Customers aren't locked into contracts, but they are on the hook for the full price of the phone if they choose to leave Verizon before the device is paid in full. Verizon Wireless has also increased the price of activating new lines of service from $20 to $30.
Verizon Wireless has added the Kyocera DuraForce Pro to its lineup of rugged handsets. The phone is available to Verizon customers starting Jan. 5. It has been for sale from AT&T and Sprint since last year, but the Verizon variant is the only one to include Sapphire Shield, a near unbreakable piece of glass protecting the display. The DuraForce Pro includes a 5-inch full HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel wide-angle secondary camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The phone offers a fingerprint reader, NFC, Snapdragon 617 processor, 3,240mAh battery, memory card slot, dual front speakers, and push-to-talk. It goes without saying that the device is fully ruggedized, washable, and can sit in 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The DuraForce Pro runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It costs $408 at full retail or $17 per month on a payment plan.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless vigorously defended their sponsored data programs in separate letters to the FCC this week. The agency asked both companies to offer some rationale for their DirecTV Now and FreeBee programs, respectively, which the FCC views as violating its net neutrality rules. The programs each allow customers to enjoy video content streamed over LTE without impacting their monthly data buckets. "The Bureau's approach would deny consumers a service they value, raise prices, lower consumption, and curb the disruptive potential ... all in the name of preserving profit margins for individual ... rivals," argued AT&T. Verizon took a different approach. "It's similar to the over-the-air broadcast TV model, where advertisers pick up the expenses, and to newspapers, where the bulk of the costs are covered by advertisers," said the company. Both AT&T and Verizon say they are committed to "an open and free internet" and suggest their programs are beneficial to consumers rather than harmful. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler plans to resign once president-elect Donald Trump takes office in January 2017, and democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel's appointment was not renewed. It's likely no action will be taken against either company until after a new chairman and commissioner, appointed by Trump, are brought on board.
The FCC this week adopted rules that will allow carriers to replace their existing (but aging) TTY systems with the more modern RTT (real-time text) service. The move is meant to expand the tools for the deaf, hard of hearing, and blind. Phone makers and carriers are required to offer text services to the deaf and hard of hearing. The new ruling means they'll be able to update their systems with the newest technology, though they'll have to continue to also support TTY for the time being. Real-time text allows characters to be sent as they are created without hitting a 'send' button. This allows text to be sent at the same time as voice communications, which the FCC sees as a more conversation-friendly service. The FCC has already given AT&T and Verizon waivers to use RTT. RTT is easy to deploy on modern smartphones.
Verizon Wireless today updated its stance on Samsung's plan to brick remaining Galaxy Note7 handsets and will allow the update to go through on January 5. Earlier this month, Samsung announced plans to brick active Note7 units through a software update to be pushed December 19. The update will prevent the Note7 from charging and negate its ability to function as a mobile device. Verizon previously refused to allow the update as it didn't want to leave customers without a working handset. Now, it says it will allow the update to go through after the holidays. "We want to make sure you can contact family, first responders, and emergency medical professionals during the holiday travel season. However, we urge you to stop using your Note7, upgrade it to another device, and return the Note7 to us," said the company. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all plan to push the update, too.
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.