Samsung today said it will begin accepting preorders for the Galaxy Note 4 on September 19. The device won't ship, however, until October 17. Samsung said the Note 4 will be available in black and white, and it will be carried by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and U.S. Cellular. Samsung said the phone will also be available at Samsung Experience Shops in Best Buy stores, as well as from Amazon, Costco, RadioShack, Sam's Club, Target, and Walmart. Individual carriers and retailers will provide their own pricing and availability details in the near future. AT&T was first to announce those details. AT&T said the Note 4 will cost $34.42 per month with AT&T Next 18; $41.30 per month with AT&T Next 12; $299.99 with a two-year agreement; or $826 at full retail. AT&T is offering a $100 bill credit to new/existing customers who activate a new line of service with the Note 4. Verizon is offering the Note 4 for $299 with a new contract and said Verizon Edge installment pricing will also be available. T-Mobile isn't accepting preorders until September 24, and it is asking for $0 down followed by $31.24 a month for 24 months.
Subway today announced it has partnered with Softcard and will begin accepting Softcard-based mobile payments on October 1. Softcard, which launched last year as Isis, is backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. The service allows smartphone owners to link their credit card to the Softcard app on their phone and use it to make mobile payments at select retailers nationwide. Subway said it will accept Softcard at 26,000 locations around the U.S. Further, the company is offering $1 back on every purchase made with American Express Serve through 12/31. Last, Subway will eventually add its Subway Card Rewards Program to the Softcard app, which will let customers earn rewards points when making mobile payments. Softcard is available to a wide number of Android smartphones through a dedicated application.
AT&T chimed in today to say it, too, will offer the LG G3 Vigor to subscribers. AT&T didn't specify how much the device will cost, nor when it will go on sale. Sprint also plans to sell the Vigor.
Motorola today said consumers can order some of its new products beginning September 16. The Moto X for AT&T and the Moto X Pure Edition will both be available for ordering on Tuesday. The AT&T Moto X costs $99 with a new contract, and the Moto X Pure Edition - which runs stock Android 4.4 KitKat and features an unlocked bootloader - costs $499. Other carriers plan to announce availability soon. In addition to these handsets, the Moto Hint wireless earbud and the Moto Turbo Charger will also be available. The Hint costs $149 and the Turbo Charger costs $35. Last, Motorola said the Moto 360 smart watch will be back in stock on Tuesday, though quantities are limited.
Sprint today confirmed that it will skip an upcoming spectrum auction. "Sprint has decided not to participate in the FCC's AWS-3 auction, but will continue to evaluate the opportunities presented by the upcoming 600MHz incentive auction," said Sprint spokesman Jeffrey Silva to Bloomberg. Auction 97 will see 1,614 spectrum licenses sold by the government to wireless network operators. The auction will start November 13, with a trial auction scheduled for November 10. The spectrum includes 65MHz in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands. AT&T, Dish Networks, Verizon Wireless, and many smaller companies plan to participate in the auction. The FCC has another auction, for 600MHz spectrum, scheduled for mid 2015. AT&T and Verizon already have significant low-band spectrum holdings, while Sprint does not. Sprint is more interested in the 600MHz spectrum for this reason. Low-band spectrum is valued for its propagation characteristics.
AT&T's top exec today said the company won't offer WiFi calling on its devices until next year. WiFi Calling has been around for years, but was highlighted by Apple this week as a new feature in the iPhone 6/6 Plus. Further, T-Mobile announced this week plans to expand WiFi calling to all its smartphones with a new in-home hotspot. T-Mobile's WiFi service goes live soon, but AT&T is in no rush to compete. "We're very focused on making sure it's a great experience for customers, but we see it as a complement, not a replacement," said CEO Ralph de la Vega. "We feel good about a great nationwide network with unlimited talk and text." WiFi calling passes voice calls and text messages over a local WiFi network rather than the macro cellular network.
RadioShack is considering whether or not to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as its cash reserves dwindle. The company ended its most recent quarter with just $30.5 million in cash on hand, with debts totaling $658 million. It has lost money 10 quarters in a row as electronics buyers shun the chain for larger retailers or the web. Filing for bankruptcy would help protect RadioShack's remaining cash reserves, and could set the stage for a reorganization of the firm. The company is also weighing taking on investments and cited liquidation as a last resort. Earlier this year RadioShack announced plans to close 1,100 stores, but later reduced that number to 200 after investors balked. RadioShack sells wireless service from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, as well as several prepaid brands.
AT&T today confirmed it will sell the Nokia Lumia 830 later this year. The device, announced in Berlin last week, is a mid-range smartphone that includes compelling camera software. AT&T didn't say when it will go on sale, nor how much it will cost.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today suggested the agency will take a long, hard look at any proposed mergers between wireless companies. "We will continue to be skeptical of efforts to achieve scale through the consolidation of major players," said Wheeler at the CTIA trade show in Las Vegas. Sprint and its parent company SoftBank abandoned plans to acquire T-Mobile just last month after meeting with resistance from lawmakers. The FCC also shot down AT&T's attempted purchase of T-Mobile in 2011. The FCC has repeatedly suggested it prefers to have four national wireless network operators for increased competition. Wheeler also warned operators that the FCC may yet take a more active interest in regulating how they manage their networks. "One of the constant themes on the record is how consumers increasingly rely on mobile broadband as an important pathway to access the internet," said Wheeler. According to Wheeler, Microsoft agrees. It said there is "no question that mobile broadband access services must be subject to the same legal framework as fixed broadband access services." The FCC has new net neutrality rules on deck for approval in the months ahead.
Softcard, the mobile payment venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, today said it is "actively working with Apple to enable Softcard on the iPhone in 2015," according to CEO Michael Abbott. Softcard said Apple's decision to support NFC is "very significant and sets the stage for rapid scale adoption of mobile commerce." Softcard (the new brand name for Isis) has been available to Android smartphones since November 2013 and the iPhone via a special case since early 2014. Apple today separately announced its own mobile payment service called Apple Pay. Apple Pay will use NFC and properly-equipped retail terminals to power tap-and-go payments. Apple Pay launches in October with support from a number of banks and retailers.
Sprint today matched T-Mobile's move to increase the appeal of its trade-in program. Beginning immediately, Sprint will meet or beat all AT&T's, T-Mobile's, and Verizon's buyback pricing on all new lines of service to ensure the best trade-in values. T-Mobile on Monday said it would meet or beat competitors' trade-in programs, as well as give customers a $50 credit if they find a better deal. According to Sprint, T-Mobile's program is limited to one trade-in per line. Sprint's program isn't offering $50 in additional credit, but Sprint will accept up to three trade-ins per line and up to five trade-ins per calendar year. Further, Sprint customers can trade in old devices any time. Sprint offers up to $300 for trade-ins, depending on the phone and its condition, which can be put towards new purchases or account credit. Sprint has always been serious about accepting device trade-ins and has a significant recycling program.
AT&T today announced that it has teamed up with Telefonica to expand the reach of its Digital Life platform. Digital Life is the home automation program AT&T has been pitching for several years. Telefonica is licensing Digital Life platform on a trial basis. Whether or not Telefonica will contribute to the platform is unclear, and the companies wouldn't say if the platform will be available to others. Part of the Digital Life program also includes a new goal of helping take care of the elderly. Digital Life Care's intent is to enable caregivers to better provide for their aging relatives, friends, or charges. It will incorporate new mobile tools accessible from smartphones, all powered by the Digital Life platform. The company is starting in-house trials this year with a launch planned for next year.
AT&T today said owners of the Timex Ironman One GPS+ watch will receive one year of data connectivity for free with the purchase of the watch. Thereafter, AT&T will charge $40 per year to keep the device running (messaging and data) on AT&T's network. The Timex Ironman One GPS+ goes on sale later this year for $399. It is available for preorder directly from Timex.
Cricket Wireless today said it has reached a distribution agreement with GameStop. The gaming retailer will sell Cricket phones and service in more than 2,800 stores around the U.S. The two companies trailed the service in 10 markets over the last few months and will begin to expand to more stores in the weeks ahead. Cricket, which offers prepaid, no-contract wireless service, is owned and operated by AT&T.
Amazon and AT&T today announced the Fire Phone is now available for the price of $0.99 with a new two-year contract. The Fire Phone was sold for $200 on contract when it launched just two months ago. Alternately, consumers can pick it up for $0 down and $18.75 per month (for 24 months) with AT&T Next 18. The Fire Phone runs FireOS, a forked version of Android, and uses Amazon's services rather than Google's. It has several distinctive features, such as FireFly for searching/shopping; Dynamic Perspective, which provides a 3D-like user interface; and a free year of Amazon Prime.
Motorola today announced the 2nd-generation Moto X. The new Moto X sports a larger, 5.2-inch AMOLED full-HD screen, Snapdragon 801 processor, and 13-megapixel camera with 4K video capture. It's also thinner and sports an aluminum frame and sides and Gorilla Glass front with a curved beveled edge. The new Moto X is available with custom color combinations and materials through Moto Maker, now including leather backs and custom accent colors on the front. New infrared sensors allow the phone to automatically wake up and show the time when your hand is near the front, and wave gestures silence calls and alarms. The hands-free voice activation phrase can now be customized to something other than "OK Google Now". Turbo charging can add eight hours of battery life in just 15 minutes. A best-shot feature captures several photos before you press the shutter, and uses face recognition to automatically suggests a better shot if you were late to capture. The new Moto X will be available with Moto Maker customization on both AT&T and Verizon. It will cost $99 on contract or $499 unlocked and ship later this month.
AT&T today said the Windows Phone 8.1 system update is now available to the Nokia Lumia 920 and Lumia 820. Both devices gain Cortana and a host of other features with the new operating system. It is free to download and install.
AT&T today said the footprint of its LTE 4G network now covers 300 million points-of-prepense. The growth comes months ahead of schedule for AT&T, which now blankets about 95.5% of Americans with 4G. AT&T's LTE network will eventually reach 97% of the population.
Isis, the mobile payment venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, today said its new name will be Softcard. The service will remain the same, only the name is changing. Isis announced its intent to rebrand earlier this year to avoid any association with ISIS.
AT&T today rekindled a $100 credit offer to new and existing customers who add a new line of service with a smartphone on an AT&T Next plan. The Next plans allow customers to pay for devices over time, don't require upgrade/activation fees, and don't require annual service contracts. AT&T Next plans are available in two options: AT&T Next 12 and AT&T Next 18, which break up device payments by 20 and 24 months, respectively. The $100 credit is available starting today at AT&T retail stores and online. The offer ends September 30. AT&T said the offer can be combined with other promotions to realize even more savings.
T-Mobile today voiced support for the HTC One for Windows on its web site. The company will sell the device in the weeks ahead. It is already sold by Verizon Wireless, and will also soon be sold by AT&T. The One for Windows runs Windows Phone rather than Android.
Cricket Wireless, which is owned by AT&T, today announced a new incentive to win over T-Mobile and other customers. Cricket is offering five lines for $100 per month. The plan includes one more line than T-Mobile's current promotion (four lines for $100). Cricket said, "People can sign up for the five lines for $100 up until January 2, and enjoy the promotion long after." It didn't provide an actual end date. Each line gets unlimited talk/text and 500MB of data. The pricing is based on five lines of service with an eligible $40 base plan. Each successive line gains a greater discount. For example, line two receives a $10 monthly discount; line three receives a $20 monthly discount; line four receives a $30 monthly discount; and line five receives a $40 monthly discount. The promotion is available to new and existing customers (in good standing, with two eligible lines of service). Accounts with multiple lines will automatically be enrolled into the new promotion. The $100 monthly cost includes all taxes and fees.
HTC said via Twitter that owners of the AT&T variant of the One (M8) can download Android 4.4.3 beginning today. The minor system update, which fixes bugs and improves performance (esp. GPS), can be installed over the air.
AT&T today made some changes in its executive ranks and has replaced Ralph de la Vega as the CEO of AT&T Mobility. Taking de la Vega's place is Glenn Lurie, a longtime AT&T vet who was instrumental in bringing the Apple iPhone to AT&T back in 2007. Lurie most recently oversaw AT&T's connect home business. He will head the entire wireless group moving forward, but AT&T also indicated it is merging its wireless and enterprise solutions groups. The new, merged business unit will be managed by de la Vega. His new title is CEO Mobile & Business Solutions. The executive changes are effective immediately. AT&T Mobility's change of CEO follows closely that of Sprint's, which replaced Dan Hesse with Marcelo Claure.
HTC took to Twitter today to tout the pending arrival of Sense 6.0 for the AT&T variant of the One mini. The update makes changes to the camera app, Blinkfeed, and various other functions. More specifics weren't provided.
Cricket Wireless is borrowing a play from T-Mobile by offering a $100 credit to customers who switch from the UNcarrier or MetroPCS to AT&T-owned Cricket. The $100 bill credit offer is available from August 24 to October 19 at Cricket stores nationwide and online. According to Cricket, there is no limit on the number of lines a customer can switch to Cricket. Each line transferred from T-Mobile/MetroPCS is eligible for the $100 bill credit. Cricket's prepaid Basic, Smart, and Pro plans cost $40, $50, and $60, respectively, per month. Each plan offers a $5 monthly reduction when customers choose to use auto-pay.
Sprint today announced a new unlimited plan that it says undercuts the competition. The plan, which will be available beginning August 22, provides a single line of service with unlimited talk, text, and data for $60 per month. Sprint claims the offering beats T-Mobile's best price by $20 per month, and that similar options aren't available from AT&T or Verizon Wireless. There is a catch. In order to qualify for the plan, customers need to either bring their own device, pay full retail for a device, or sign up for Sprint's Easy Pay financing plan. The Sprint $60 Unlimited Plan for single lines follows a complete overhaul of Sprint's family share plans, which offer savings to four or more lines of service.
T-Mobile today said it will give current customers unlimited LTE data for a full year if they convince an AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon customer to switch to T-Mobile. T-Mobile is likening the program to "throwing a lifeline" to those on competing networks. Not only does the current customer receive unlimited LTE for a year, but so does the new customer. Customers who already pay for unlimited data will receive a $10 monthly credit instead. The referral program kicks off August 29. Customers will then be able to enter their own number and the number of a friend who's ported their service, which must be reported within 30 days of the friend's activation. The referral program runs for a limited time, but T-Mobile didn't immediately indicate an end date. It doesn't apply to pre-paid plans, and is limited to one referral per account.
ZTE today announced it is bringing the Nubia 5S mini with LTE to the U.S. The 5S mini is a compact handset that's part of ZTE's premium line of Android smartphones. It has a 4.7-inch 720p HD IGZO display from Sharp, and it is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with an Adreno 305 GPU. The phone is equipped with a 13-megapixel main camera and a bevy of advanced controls for focus, light metering, and white balance. The five-element f/2.2 lens is protected by sapphire, and the camera has three shooting modes: Fun, Auto, and Pro. The 5S mini has a 5-megapixel user-facing camera, too, and can capture 720p HD video. Other hardware features include 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and a memory card slot; Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and support for AT&T/T-Mobile LTE; and a 2,000mAh battery. ZTE is offering the Nubia 5S mini with LTE directly to consumers via Amazon, where the device costs $280 and ships unlocked. The phone is available for order today, and ships starting August 27.
AT&T chimed in this evening to say it, too, will carry the HTC One for Windows. AT&T said pricing and availability will be announced at a later date. Verizon is selling the phone starting tomorrow.
Sprint today announced new shared data plans that offer twice as much mobile data as comparable plans from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Sprint's Family Share Pack includes four lines with unlimited talk and text and 20GB of shared data for $160 per month. AT&T and Verizon have similarly-priced plans that include only 10GB of data. T-Mobile's shared plan costs $100 per month. Further, Sprint is offering a huge incentive to families that port their numbers from another carrier. Sprint will give families with up to 10 lines unlimited talk/text and 20GB of shared data for only $100 per month through 2015, plus an additional 2GB per line. Under this promotion, a family of four would have up to 28GB of data per month and a family of 10 would have up to 40GB of data per month. The promotional $100 plan pricing will be available from August 22 to September 30. Last, Sprint is offering to cover the ETFs - up to $350 per line - for families that break their contract to sign up with Sprint Family Share Pack. All new devices must be purchased through Sprint Easy Pay. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said the company will debut new plans for individuals later this week.
AT&T today said owners of the Lumia 1020 can download and install the Windows Phone 8.1 update. The improved operating system adds Cortana, Action Center, the Word Flow keyboard and other features. The system update is free.
Cellular One has indicated it plans to cease offering wireless service in the states of Montana and Wyoming. Cellular One has advised its customers there to find an alternate provider before August 31, which is when it plans to halt operations. Cellular One is endorsing AT&T and waiving ETFs so customers can switch their service. AT&T is offering Cellular One customers a $100 gift card, and will wave activation fees. Cellular One's retail outlets in Montana and Wyoming will be rebranded to AT&T. In a letter sent to customers earlier this summer, Cellular One said its business model "simply did not support the significant capital investment required to upgrade its Montana network to the 4G technology needed to remain competitive with the large national service providers." Sprint has assumed Cellular One's cell tower leasing rights, though it hasn't purchased any of Cellular One's spectrum, equipment, or customers. Small, regional carriers are finding it increasingly hard to compete against the national providers, which have enough revenue to invest in their networks on a country-wide level.
Two low-cost providers, RadioShack No Contract and Spot Mobile, have decided to call it quits. RadioShack didn't operate a traditional MVNO, but branded and resold Cricket Wireless' service as its own. Now that Cricket is owned by AT&T, and RadioShack No Contract struggled to win over customers, the company will cease selling the service. According to RadioShack, customers who purchased the service will be able to continue using their device and will be transitioned to Cricket Wireless. RadioShack will honor its 30-day return policy so those who recently purchased a RadioShack No Contract device can get a refund. RadioShack's retail business is also hurting and the company plans to close a wide number of stores this year. Separately, Spot Mobile, an MVNO that resold access to T-Mobile's network, also decided to shut down. Spot Mobile has already ceased processing account refills, and will shut down service altogether September 7. Spot Mobile said customers can port their number out to their carrier of choice.
HTC today expanded the availability of the Desire 816 and Desire 610 in the U.S. First, Virgin Mobile has committed to selling the Desire 816, which will be available beginning August 12 for $299. The 816 is an inexpensive phablet, which features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, plastic shell, and BoomSound speakers. Virgin Mobile does not require contracts. Second, HTC is making the Desire 816 and Desire 610 available to U.S. consumers directly via its web site. The 610 has a 4.7-inch screen and BoomSound speakers. The 610 is also available from AT&T's GoPhone prepaid brand for $200. Both devices run the latest version of Android and HTC Sense 6.0.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today indicated the agency has sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile with questions pertaining to their network management policies. The issue bubbled to the surface recently when Verizon announced plans to throttle its heaviest unlimited LTE subscribers. In a letter to Verizon, Wheeler called the policy management criteria "deeply troubling." Verizon responded and claimed its policies do not differ from those of its competitors. Wheeler is not convinced. "'All the kids do it' was never something that worked for me when I was growing up," said Wheeler. "My concern in this instance - and it's not just with Verizon, by the way, we've written to all the carriers - is that it is moving from a technology and engineering issue to the business issues ... such as choosing between different subscribers based on your economic relationship with them." AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have not yet responded publicly to the FCC's query.
The FCC today formally adopted rules that will require all providers of messaging services to enable their apps with text-to-911 capabilities. Earlier this year the FCC said industry players outside the four major wireless network operators need to get on board. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless began accepting text-to-911 in select markets around the country in May. The FCC recognized, however, that not all consumers subscribe to the four major carriers, nor do all consumers make use of traditional SMS messaging services. The new rules apply to nearly all messaging apps and services, including over-the-top apps such as WhatsApp, as well as the remaining wireless network operators. The FCC wants apps and operators to enable text-to-911 by the end of the year. Some messaging services will be exempt, such as those that function within games or social networks. The FCC feels this is an essential service and keeps in step with how consumers prefer to communicate. The CTIA Wireless Association, which represents the wireless network operators, voiced displeasure with the new rules. "While the wireless industry remains committed to collaborating with public safety to make text-to-911 available in the near-term, we are disappointed that the FCC acted today to codify a voluntary agreement to deploy an interim technological solution across all wireless carriers and interconnected 'over the top' text providers. The chilling effect of the Commission's proposed enforcement role is particularly worrisome in situations where, as here, the voluntary agreement involves new services that face challenging obstacles to implementation." Earlier this week, AT&T also took issue with the FCC's plan in a post published to its public policy blog. According to AT&T, the FCC's plan is ill-conceived and presents new challenges to network operators.
AT&T today announced it will soon sell the LG G Vista, an inexpensive Android smartphone that offers a big-screen experience. The G Vista, which is already available from Verizon Wireless, has a 5.7-inch display with qHD (960 x 540) resolution. The volume and lock screen buttons are placed on the back of the device, similar to the G3. The G Vista is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 1.5GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. It includes an 8-megapixel main camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 1.3-megapixel user-facing camera. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, NFC and Isis for mobile payments, and a 3,200mAh battery. The LG G Vista runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The G Vista will cost $14.80 per month with AT&T Next 18, $17.75 per month with AT&T Next 12, $50 with a new two-year contract, or $355 at full retail. It will be available beginning August 22.
AT&T today added a bright green option to its lineup of Lumia 1520s. The green 1520 ships with Windows Phone 8.1 preinstalled, which is the latest version of Windows Phone and includes Cortana. AT&T is offering the green 1520 for $24.28 per month with AT&T Next 18 or $29.95 per month with Next 12. Alternately, the 1520 costs $200 with a new two-year contract or $585 at full retail. The red, black, yellow, and white versions are also available.
AT&T today improved its myAT&T service for GoPhone customers through the addition of an account management function. The improved service allows GoPhone customers to refill their accounts, add voice/messaging packages, and change their rate plans, as well as see voice/data usage and account history details. The service also includes device tutorials and troubleshooting tips. All these features can be found on the myAT&T app on GoPhones.