The FCC today voted on party lines to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality regulations. The vote was led by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who was supported by his fellow Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O'Reilly. Pai insists the standing rules were overly burdensome to businesses and reduced investment in internet services. Pai believes the industry should regulate itself and suggests the Federal Trade Commission has the wherewithal to protect consumers from corporate abuses. Many disagree. Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel offered scathing dissents. "This decision puts the Federal Communications Commission on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public," said Rosenworcel in a rebuke to Pai. "History will not be kind to this vote to destroy Internet openness. But this is not over. I'm not stopping here or now — and neither should you. Let's keep up the fight. Let's keep raising a ruckus. The future depends on it," concluded Rosenworcel. Millions of Americans submitted comments to the FCC in favor of keeping net neutrality. Those comments were largely ignored by Pai. Broadband providers such as AT&T and Comcast applauded the change. Consumer-focused organizations such as the ACLU and FreePress have vowed to fight today's vote through legal action. It's not clear how quickly the FCC will be able to put its proposed changes into effect.
Blu Products today announced the Life One X3, a mid-range handset from the unlocked phone maker. The One X3 has a curved-edge glass screen and an aluminum frame painted in matte black. The display measures 5.5 inches and offers full HD resolution. Blu gave the One X3 an octa-core MediaTek 6753 processor at 1.3 GHz with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. An impressively large 5,000mAh battery lurks within in the chassis to provide more than a day of battery life. The One X3 sports two 13-megapixel cameras, one on front and one on back. Both cameras have their own flash and can capture full HD video. Other specs include Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 28) for moderate compatibility with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone ships with Android 7 Nougat. Blu says the One X3 is available from Amazon.com starting today. The standard retail price is $250, but the Life One X3 will be available for a limited time at $150.
T-Mobile has set its sights on the cable TV industry and hopes to disrupt that market beginning next year. The company today announced plans to acquire Layer3 TV, which already delivers internet-based television service in five markets around the country. T-Mobile will use Layer3 TV's technology to create and launch a new TV service that will be delivered over T-Mobile's LTE network. "People love their TV, but they hate their TV providers. And worse, they have no real choice but to simply take it — the crappy customer service, clunky technology and outrageous bills loaded with fees! That’s where we come in. We're gonna fix the pain points and bring real choice to consumers across the country," said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile. Legere insisted T-Mobile's TV service will be "disruptive" and will take full advantage of the latest technology and best content from today's top creators. In addition to T-Mobile's network, the as-yet-unnamed TV service will be supported by T-Mobile's retail stores, and sales and service organizations. Jeff Binder, CEO of Layer3 TV, added, "No market needs Un-carrier-ing more than pay TV, so we’re completely stoked to join T-Mobile in disrupting the status quo!" T-Mobile did not say how much it will pay for Layer3 TV, nor when this television service might launch, not what it expects to charge per month. The company already allows people to stream as much video via LTE as they wish, and offers some customers Netflix for free. T-Mobile competitors AT&T and Verizon each have their own television services, both mobile and in-home. T-Mobile needs to enter the TV space in some capacity in order to offer customers a similar set of services.
AT&T today added to its selection of international roaming packages. To start, its $10-per-day option is still available. This legacy option gives people access to their own calling, messaging, and data plan for $10 per day when overseas. The new options are meant for people who would rather buy access in bulk. The first option costs $60 for a 30-day period and includes unlimited messaging and WiFi access, 1 GB of data, and $0.35/minute voice calls. This plan automatically expires or renews after 30 days, depending on the subscribers' needs. Those who require more data can opt for the 3 GB roaming plan, which costs $120 per 30 days and includes the same messaging, WiFi, and calling features. These plans are not available to cruise ship passengers, who are encouraged to use AT&T's dedicated cruise packages. AT&T's new international options are available starting today.
Huawei said its Honor 7X handset will be available to U.S. consumers beginning today. Anyone interested in the phone can pre-order it from the Honor web site. Available in black, gold, and blue, the Honor 7X costs $199 and is sold unlocked with support for GSM networks such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The 7X has an aluminum unibody chassis with 2.5D curved glass and a 5.9-inch 2:1 aspect ratio display. It is powered by Huawei's Kirin 659 processor and has dual cameras, a fingerprint reader, a 3,340mAh battery, and Cat 6 LTE. It runs Android 7 Nougat with Huawei's EMUI 5.1 user interface on board.
The U.S. Department of Justice has sued to stop the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. The DOJ argues the combined entity would lead to higher TV content prices for consumers. The DOJ also suggests the deal would hurt AT&T/Time's rivals, "forcing them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more per year for Time Warner's networks." The government agency is open to a settlement with AT&T and Time Warner, but suggests that divestments would be required. AT&T already owns DirecTV, which offers content nationwide via its satellite TV business. AT&T took issue with the lawsuit, calling it "a radical and inexplicable departure from decades of antitrust precedent. Vertical mergers like this one are routinely approved because they benefit consumers without removing any competitor from the market. We see no legitimate reason for our merger to be treated differently." The company argues it is combining a content company with a delivery company, which should preclude it from antitrust regulation as neither is in direct competition with the other. "Fortunately, the Department of Justice doesn’t have the final say in this matter. Rather, it bears the burden of proving to the U.S. District Court that the transaction violates the law," concluded AT&T. AT&T first proposed the merger in October 2016.
ROK Mobile has rolled out a new promotional rate plan that includes three months of unlimited service for $99. The offer is available to new customers only. After the three-month period ends, the plan reverts to the normal monthly rate of $45. ROK Mobile is an MVNO that offers service on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Customers can select which carrier they wish to use when they sign up for ROK Mobile. This allows people to use their own device. The $99 promo is only available to new customers who choose service on Sprint or Verizon. Those who select Sprint will be eligible for a free ZTE Prestige smartphone. ROK Mobile started out as a music-focused MVNO but has since transitioned to a more traditional MVNO. Service plans range from $20 to $50 per month, depending on the data bucket. ROK Mobile also offers what it calls Life Plans, a series of services including roadside assistance, accidental death and cremation insurance, family legal services, family telemedicine, and ID theft insurance. These Life Services can be added as extras to any of ROK Mobile's service plans. Pricing ranges from $5 to $15 per month depending on the package.
T-Mobile today said it will deploy 5G across much of the country within a few years using its low-band 600 MHz spectrum. “We’re committed to drive a 5G rollout by 2020 across the nation,” said T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray during an investor conference. That doesn’t mean T-Mobile is ignoring high-band spectrum, which competitors AT&T and Verizon are pursuing. “There’s been a lot of discussion of millimeter wave and the kind of surgical, tactical deployments of 5G, and we’ll be there too. But we’ll deploy in the 600 MHz for 5G as we move into the next decade.” AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are all pushing to deploy 5G technologies as soon as possible even though the standard has not been defined. Al three are already pushing out gigabit LTE, a stepping stone to 5G. AT&T is its own 5G technology in Houston and Indianapolis. T-Mobile didn’t say what markets might see potential 5G service first.
AT&T and Verizon have tapped Tillman Infrastructure to build hundreds of small cell towers around the country. Tillman already builds, owns, and operates a series of towers and small cells. Tillman will build new towers for AT&T and Verizon, which have agreed to lease and co-anchor the towers. According to Verizon, the new towers will be added in areas where others don't already exist and will give AT&T and Verizon the opportunity to move equipment from old (expensive) towers to the new (cheaper) ones. Tillman is expected to begin work on the new towers as soon as the first quarter of 2018. AT&T and Verizon engineers will install networking equipment and turn the sites on as quickly as they can. Tillman will have the opportunity to build hundreds more sites if the initial batch are completed successfully. Neither AT&T nor Verizon said which network technologies will be installed on the towers. Separately, both companies are pursuing various paths towards 5G with technologies including mmWave.
Samsung today said it will sell the Deepsea Blue color variant of the Galaxy Note8 smartphone in the U.S. Since launch, the device has only be available to U.S. buyers in black or gray. Other than the color, everything about the Deepsee Blue Note8 is identical to the black and gray versions. The phone will be available from Best Buy stores, BestBuy.com, and Samsung.com beginning November 16. Customers will be able to select an AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, or unlocked model. The Note8 has a 6.3-inch Infinity Display, Snapdragon 835 processor, dual camera system, S Pen stylus, 6 GB of RAM, and fast wireless charging. The phone Galaxy Note8 runs Android 7 Nougat and costs $929.
Cricket Wireless today announced the pending availability of the QuickFlip, a simple feature phone made by Alcatel. The QuickFlip is already being sold by AT&T as the Cingular Flip 2. It includes a 2.8-inch screen, 1,350mAh battery, Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor with 512 MB of memory and 4 GB of storage, and a 2-megapixel camera. The phone includes support for WiFi and LTE, and can make VoLTE-based HD Voice calls over Cricket's cellular network. Other features include a loud speakerphone, FM radio, productivity apps (calendar, calculator, email), GPS, Bluetooth, and color outer display. The Alcatel QuickFlip goes on sale November 10 for $30.
Blu Products recently announced the S1, an inexpensive Android smartphone that's available unlocked from Amazon.com and BestBuy.com. One of the chief benefits of the S1 is its wide compatibility with U.S. LTE networks. It supports AT&T and T-Mobile, and, unusually, Sprint, as well as their prepaid services including Cricket Wireless, Boost Mobile, and MetroPCS. Blu says it also offers SIM kits for the S1 from Tracfone, Net10, and H2O. The S1 features a curved glass front with metallic paint on the smooth rear panel. The 5.2-inch display offers 720p HD resolution in a 16:9 aspect ratio, and the phone is powered by an octa-core 1.5 GHz MediaTek 6750 processor with 2 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and an LED flash, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other features include Bluetooth, FM radio, GPS, and WiFi; 16 GB of storage and support for microSD memory cards; front-mounted fingerprint sensor; and a 2,800mAh battery. The Blu S1 runs Android 7 Nougat and is available online for $130 from Amazon and $180 from Best Buy.
AT&T today said it will open preorders for the ZTE Axon M starting November 1. The company expects the dual-screened handset to go on sale in retail stores on November 17. The Axon M is unique in that it has twin 5.2-inch displays that fold out to create one large, 6.9-inch screen. The design bring with it incredible improvements to multitasking, allowing people to run two full-screen apps side by side, as well as more easily share content with others in mirror mode. The ZTE Axon M costs $24.17 per month on AT&T Next for 30 months, or about $725.
Amazon today announced that it will soon offer a slew of LG Android smartphones through its Amazon Prime Exclusives program. Among them is the LG Q6 (pictured), marking the first time this particular phone is being made available to U.S. consumers. The Q6, announced in July, features a 5.5-inch, 18:9 display with full HD+ resolution, curved aluminum frame, and minimized bezels. It runs Android 7.1 Nougat and includes Google Assistant and facial recognition for unlocking the phone. The main camera has a standard-angle 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 100-degree, wide-angle 5-megapixel sensor. The Q6 is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor and includes a 3,000mAh battery and NFC. The Q6 costs $300, but Amazon Prime members can buy it for $230 through Amazon Prime Exclusives. Handsets sold under the Prime Exclusives banner cost less because users agree to view advertisements on the lock screen. Amazon said the Q6 will become available in the coming months. Amazon is also slated to sell the LG G6 ($400), G6+ ($500), and X charge ($150), all of which have been for sale directly from carriers since earlier this year. All four phones are sold unlocked with support for AT&T and T-Mobile.
AT&T today announced the Netgear Nighthawk Mobile Hotspot Router, what it calls the first 5G evolution mobile hotspot. The device supports AT&T's test 5G networks in select markets, such as Austin, Texas, and AT&T's existing LTE 4G network everywhere else. In the 5G test markets, wireless data speeds are capable of reaching twice the download rates of standard LTE. The Nighthawk can connect up to 20 devices to the network via 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz WiFi. The hotspot features a 5,040mAh battery that provides up to 24 hours of LTE surfing. It can also charge mobile devices thanks to a USB-A out port. Other features include password protection, content filtering, scheduling, parental controls, SIM security, USB-C, ethernet, and an LCD display for gleaning key data points. The Netgear Nighthawk Mobile Hotspot Router goes on sale October 27. AT&T is offering it for $50 when purchased with a two-year agreement.
Blu Products today announced the Vivo 8L, an update to the Vivo 8 that boasts a powerful selfie camera. The Vivo 8L is based around a 5.3-inch 720p HD screen with curved Gorilla Glass 3. Blu put a 1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6753 processor under the hood with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage. The selfie camera has a 20-megapixel, wide-angle sensor with a f/2.0 aperture, LED flash, and features such as smart scene detection and face beautification software. The main camera is based on a 13-megapixel Sony IMX258 sensor with f/2.0 aperture, LED flash, HDR, PDAF/laser focus, and slow-motion video capture. Other features include Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, WiFi, fingerprint reader, and 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android 7 Nougat and is sold unlocked with basic support for AT&T and T-Mobile. The Blu Vivo 8L costs $200, but Amazon.com is offering it for $150 starting today.
HMD Global, the maker of Nokia-branded handsets, today said the 3310 3G will be available in the U.S. through Best Buy. The phone can be preordered online starting today and it will reach stores October 29. It costs $60 and is sold unlocked without a contract. The 3310 3G is a retro, bar-style feature phone with a 2-megapixel camera, a memory card slot, Bluetooth, and FM radio. This U.S. variant of the phone has quad-band GSM and WCDMA 1/2/5/8, which supports AT&T's network.
ZTE is trying something different with the Axon M. Rather than push out another boring slab, ZTE created an interesting Android smartphone with twin folding displays that can be set in a number of different and useful configurations. Need extra screen real estate in that document, or want to run two full-screen apps side by side? The Axon M does that and more. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of this AT&T-exclusive handset.
Alongside the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, Google today introduced a new version of its Daydream View VR headset. Both new Pixel phones are Daydream-ready and function perfectly with the revised viewing hardware. Google says the lenses have been improved in order to create a wider, clearer field of view. The headset carries over the soft fabric covering and controller of the original, and it comes in fog, charcoal, and coral. Google says more than 250 Daydream titles are available to Android devices, and the amount of content available through YouTube VR has grown exponentially over the last year. Google's new Pixel handsets support ARCore augmented reality, too, and Google expects fun add-ons such as sticker packs will help people get off the ground with AR content. The new Google Daydream View will be available later this year for $99 from the Google Store, Verizon, Best Buy, AT&T, and Amazon.
LG and its carrier partners today announced pricing and availability for the V30 smartphone. Preorders for the handset commence October 5th, with an expected ship and in-store date of October 6th for AT&T, or 13th for T-Mobile. Exact pricing varies a bit by carrier, but the average retail price of the phone comes in at $800. T-Mobile, for example, is seeking $80 down and $30 a month on T-Mobile’s Equipment Installment Plan. AT&T is charging $27 per month for 30 months on AT&T Next. AT&T has a limited buy-one, get-one deal on the V30, though it requires at least one port in and a subscription to DirecTV. The V30 is LG's camera-focused flagship. It has a 6-inch FullVision display, glass-and-metal design, and twin rear-mounted cameras.
HMD Global today announced the Nokia 3310 3G, an updated version of its retro feature phone announced earlier this year. The new model is slightly larger and has a new interface, but externally looks like the 2G version of this year's 3310. The design is inspired by the 3110 that was one of Nokia's best-selling GSM phones when cell phones were first taking off globally. The 3310 3G comes in two versions, one of which has quad-band GSM and WCDMA 1/2/5/8, which would support AT&T's network in the US. It also has a 2-megapixel camera, a memory card slot, Bluetooth, and and FM radio. It will go on sale next month, first in Australia.
LG's X Venture was originally exclusive to AT&T, but is now available from U.S. Cellular as well. The mid-range Android phone has a large 4,100 mAh battery and a rugged design.
Asus recently announced plans to bring its ZenFone 4 series of phones to the U.S. unlocked market this year. The lineup includes the flagship ZenFone 4 Pro, the mid-range ZenFone 4, and two versions of the ZenFone 4 Max, both of which have large batteries but otherwise lower-end specs. The ZenFone 4 Max 5.5" is available now, while the rest will go on sale in the coming months. All have basic support for AT&T and T-Mobile LTE networks, including bands 2, 4, 5, and 12.
- ZenFone 4 Max 5.2": Has a 4,100 mAh battery, 5.2-inch HD LCD display, Snapdragon 425 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. Also includes a fingerprint reader, memory card slot, 13 megapixel camera, 5-megapixel wide-angle camera, and 8-megapixel front camera.
- ZenFone 4 Max 5.5": Has a 5,000 mAh battery, 5.5-inch HD LCD display, Snapdragon 430 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a metal body. Other features are the same as the 5.2" version. (shown)
- ZenFone 4: Has a 3,300 mAh battery, 5.5-inch Full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 630 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and a glass back. It also sports NFC, USB-C, Cat. 12 LTE, and a better main camera with OIS and 4K video recording. Like the rest of the series, it has dual rear cameras and the touch screen works through gloves.
- ZenFone 4 Pro: A flagship-class phone with all of the features of the ZenFone 4, plus a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6 GB of RAM, an AMOLED screen, 3,600 mAh battery, fast charging, auto-focus front camera, 16-megapixel telephoto camera (instead of a wide-angle camera), laser focusing, and better support for AT&T's LTE network with bands 29 and 30.
Google today made it easier for businesses to configure and deploy Android handsets to employees with a new tool called zero-touch enrollment. Google says zero-touch lets companies configure purchased devices and ship them directly to employees completely preconfigured with corporate policies and controls all in place. Users need only sign in to gain access to their work apps and data. The new zero-touch enrollment tool is available on handsets purchased from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Google is working with Samsung, Huawei, Sony, LG, HMD Global, BlackBerry, HTC, Motorola, Honeywell, Zebra, and Sonim to ensure a wide selection of devices support zero-touch. Google indicated the Huawei Mate 10 and Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact will be among the first devices to support zero-touch in the coming weeks. Businesses will be able to use a wide range of enterprise device management tools from the likes of BlackBerry, MobileIron, IBM, Suite, and VMware to configure zero-touch. Google encouraged businesses that are interested in zero-touch to contact their carriers directly.
Apple this week announced the Apple Watch Series 3 with an optional cellular radio. The LTE radio makes it possible for the smartwatch to connect to cellular networks on its own, without a nearby iPhone. According to AT&T, the Apple Watch Series 3 is compatible with its NumberSync service, allowing people to make and receive phone calls from their main mobile number on the wearable. In addition to calls, NumberSync allows people to send/receive text messages from their main number directly on the smartwatch. The phone does need to powered on somewhere in order for the service to work. NumberSync is built into AT&T's network, so it doesn't require third-party apps in order to function properly. AT&T charges a $10 per month fee to add the Apple Watch Series 3 to an existing data plan. NumberSync is included for free. AT&T said it will waive the customary activation fee for the Apple Watch Series 3. Verizon Wireless customers will enjoy similar functionality via Verizon's NumberShare technology, which also allows people to make calls and send messages directly from their wrist over the cellular network. Like AT&T, Verizon is charging $10 per month to add the Apple Watch Series 3 to an existing plan. T-Mobile, too, has a $10 Apple Watch Series 3 plan that includes one-number calling from either the phone or the watch. Sprint has not yet detailed a similar service. The Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE goes on sale September 22 for $399.
Apple today updated its smartwatch with several new features. Notably, the Apple Watch Series 3 gains an optional LTE radio for connections when phones aren't around or available. The Watch includes an e-SIM to save space, and uses the display itself to act as the cellular antenna. The LTE radio will require a data plan from carriers, such as AT&T or Verizon. People will be able to sync and control apps without their iPhone, as well as make voice calls. Apple says the cellular connection supports streaming from Apple Music and works with Apple's EarPods for on-the-go listening during workouts. The Watch Series 3 contains a new W2 wireless chip from Apple to enable Bluetooth and other connections and a refreshed dual-core processor that's 70% faster than Series 2. It comes in a variety of casings and bands, including a new sport loop made from breathable fabric. The ceramic option is now available in white and gray. The Apple Watch Series 3 costs $329 sans cellular and $399 with cellular. Apple will continue to sell the Series 1 for $249. Preorders begin September 15 and the Apple Watch Series 3 goes on sale September 22.
AT&T today said customers who subscribe to its Unlimited Choice wireless plan will be given free access to HBO. There are three ways to watch HBO for free. First, customers who already subscribe to HBO through an AT&T video service (DirecTV, U-Verse) will now get HBO at no cost as long as they also subscribe to Unlimited Choice. HBO will refund the monthly fee directly on customers' bills. Second, AT&T video and wireless customers who don't already subscribe to HBO will automatically receive access to HBO's premium channels through that video service for free. Last, customers who have AT&T Unlimited Choice, but don't use an AT&T-branded video service, will be able to access HBO via DirecTV Now or the HBO Go apps at no cost. The AT&T Unlimited Choice plan includes a $25 monthly video credit that can be applied to any AT&T video service. Subscribers to this plan have access to unlimited data service, but at slower speeds. For example, LTE 4G data is capped at 3 Mbps and video streams are capped at 480p.
French phone maker Avenir Telecom has licensed the Energizer brand for a range of large-battery phones, which it aims to bring to the U.S. by the end of the year. One model is the Energizer Power Max P600S, which has a tall-aspect-ratio display much like Samsung and LG's flagship phones this year, as well as LG's Q-series. Avenir hopes to sell the P600S starting at $330. The phone has a 4,500 mAh battery with fast charging over USB-C, as well as the ability to charge other devices. Its display has full-HD+ resolution, and it also features a fingerprint reader, dual rear cameras, a MediaTek P25 processor, 3 GB of RAM, a memory card slot, and Android 7.0. Its network support includes LTE 2/4/7/17, for basic support on AT&T's network. Its design has a metal frame, curved-edge glass on the front, and a rounded plastic back with a carbon-fiber design. A very early prototype was shown off at the MWC Americas event in San Francisco this week. (See photos.) The company also showed off two models with rugged bodies and large batteries: the Energizer HardCase H550S and HardCase Energy E520 LTE. Both are water-proof, shock-proof, and have 4,000 mAh batteries. Avenir is still looking for distribution and retail partners to bring these phones to the U.S. market.
Mobile operators in the U.S. today said they will work together to help customers more easily manage app and account authentication while also protecting consumers' privacy and identity. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless announced the Mobile Authentication Taskforce, which will create a mobile authentication solution for consumer and business customers alike next year. The carriers are going to pool resources and analyze customer data and activity patterns on their respective mobile networks to accurately predict if people are who they say they are. They'll parse insights such as geo-location, network-based device behaviors, and SIM card recognition to determine identity and authenticate users. The four carriers are taking an open approach to the Mobile Authentication Taskforce and hope third-party organizations and developers will participate. The group didn't say exactly when it expects to roll out the initial offering. Finding new and secure ways to authenticate end users is becoming increasingly important as more personal information is available on mobile devices.
AT&T today said its DirecTV Now streaming television service has access to even more live local channels, including 25 new ABC, NBC, and FOX affiliates. Some of the new markets include Buffalo, N.Y., Grand Rapids, Mich., Little Rock, Ark., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Palm Springs, Calif, and Tulsa, Okla. AT&T claims to offer 130 local stations across more than 70 markets. DirecTV starts at $25 per month and is available to AT&T wireless customers for a heavy discount. AT&T wireless customers can stream an unlimited amount of DirecTV Now television content to their handset without impacting their monthly data allotment.
AT&T today said it plans to test its fixed 5G wireless technology with consumers and businesses in a handful of new markets. It kicked off 5G trials earlier this year in Austin and will expand to Waco, Texas; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and South Bend, Ind. by the end of the year. The company says it has already gained valuable insight regarding millimeter wave (mmWave) technology from its Austin trials, including how well the signal propagates around objects and how it is impacted by weather. It is consistently seeing maximum download speeds of 1 Gbps, though latency is stuck at 10 nanoseconds. AT&T is testing a handful of applications and services. For example, AT&T is allowing DirecTV Now customers to stream live television over this 5G connection using Ericsson's 5G RAN and Intel's 5G Mobile Trial Platform. AT&T didn't say what spectrum it is using to conduct these trials, nor what consumer equipment is involved. The mmWave technology is just one of many candidate 5G technologies being considered by the 3GPP and ITU. The 5G standard has not yet been technically defined by the international community, but that hasn't stopped carriers and telecom equipment manufacturers from forging ahead. The goal with tests such as these is to make enough technical progress so AT&T can contribute to the final 5G spec and get a jump on deployment. AT&T says it expects to deliver 5G speeds as early as late 2018.
TCT Mobile and AT&T today announced that the BlackBerry KEYone phone will launch with AT&T on Friday, September 1st, in an exclusive Space Black color. The KEYone was previously only available unlocked or from Sprint. AT&T is selling the phone for $500. The last BlackBerry-brand phone offered by AT&T was the Priv, released in late 2015. The KEYone is the first phone designed and marketed by TCT Mobile — a division of TCL — under an exclusive arrangement with BlackBerry. BlackBerry is involved in the design and software of the phones, but the effort is led by TCT. TCT also operates the Alcatel brand for mobile phones.
AT&T today improved its DirecTV Now television service with the addition of CBS and other channels. DirecTV Now has offered content from ABC, FOX, and NBC since launch, but not CBS. Today's news means DirecTV Now subscribers in 25 metro regions will have access to live CBS and The CW programming. The initial batch of markets includes New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas – Ft. Worth San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Boston, Detroit, and others. In addition to CBS, DirecTV Now also gains CBS Sports Network, Showtime, and Pop. AT&T said it plans to add 30 more live ABC, FOX, and NBC channels to markets around the country. The new content rollouts to DirecTV Now are scheduled to begin this week. AT&T allows its wireless customers to stream an unlimited amount of DirecTV Now over the mobile network without impacting their monthly data limit.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy S8 Active, a rugged version of the S8 that will initially be sold by AT&T. The phone does away with the attractive, curved design of the S8 in favor of a more rugged metal frame with bumpers that are able to withstand drops up to 5 feet. Samsung says the phone meets mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse. The S8 Active offers the same protection from water and dust as the standard S8 thanks to an IP68 rating. The phone carries over the S8's 5.8-inch quad HD+ display with 18.5:9 aspect ratio, but relies on a flat piece of hardened glass. Other features unique to the S8 Active include a larger 4,000mAh battery, and Samsung's Activity Zone software for tracking workouts and other activities. The S8 Active carries over the S8's Snapdragon 835 processor, 12-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, and dedicated Bixby key. The Samsung Galaxy S8 Active will be available for preorder from AT&T starting August 11. AT&T is offering a range of promotions and deals along with the S8 Active. It includes discounts on DirecTV service, as well as myriad AT&T apps and services, such as NumberSync, Advanced Calling, Advanced Messaging, and push-to-talk. The phone costs $28.34 per month for 30 months, or about $850.
AT&T today said its DirecTV Now television service offers more than 100 live local channels. Local affiliates of ABC, NBC, and FOX (but not CBS) are available in markets including Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. AT&T says it will soon triple the number of live channels available compared to when the service launched in November 2016. Nationwide, DirecTV Now subscribers have access to up to 120 channels, more than 25,000 on-demand titles, as well as premium channels. DirecTV Now starts at $35 per month and ramps up to $70 depending on the package. AT&T offers a $25 monthly discount to its mobile customers, who can stream DirecTV Now live television to their mobile devices without impacting their monthly data limit.
Motorola announced the Z2 Force today, which replaces both the Z and Z Force from last year. The phone will be sold by most U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. Motorola said the Verizon variant will not include the "Droid" branding that was found on last year's phones. Motorola is sticking with a single device name across carriers. Verizon did not provide comment on the name change. Motorola plans to sell the phone unlocked from Motorola.com, but there is no single unlocked model, according to Rudi Kalil, vice president and general manager at Motorola. Kalil said Motorola will offer unlocked variants for each carrier due to the specific cellular radio requirements for forthcoming 1 Gbps service that's under development from the carriers. The Moto Z2 Force is available for preorder today and will ship starting August 10.
Samsung today added the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 to its list of unlocked smartphones. The two inexpensive handsets will be available to purchase directly from Samsung's web site as well as select retailers starting July 28. The J7 (pictured) is the larger, costlier of the two with a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and $220 price tag. It also has a 3,300mAh battery, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel front camera with flash. The smaller J3 has a 5-inch 720p HD display and a $150 price point. The J3 also has a 2,600mAh battery, 5-megapixel main camera, and 2-megapixel front camera. Both phones support expandable memory cards, support U.S. 3G/4G networks, and run Android 7 Nougat. They have been available from several U.S. carriers (AT&T/Cricket, T-Mobile/MetroPCS) for several months.
Samsung today said the Coral Blue variant of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets will become available to U.S. buyers starting July 21. According to Samsung, carrier-specific versions for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon will be available at Best Buy stores, while the unlocked version will be available at Best Buy and Samsung.com. Customers looking to save some money can take advantage of a promotion at Best Buy stores between July 21 and July 29 that offers up to $400 off the cost of the handset with a carrier activation. Samsung said consumers can save up to $150 of the price of either handset when purchasing the phone directly from Samsung, as well as take advantage of Samsung's trade-on promo. Details concerning the promotions are available from Samsung's web site. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are already available in black, silver, and gray.
AT&T hopes taking advantage of numerous, local data centers will enable the low-latency, high-speed features of 5G. The company is exploring a model called edge computing in order to balance the power needs of mobile devices with those of data center number crunching. AT&T points out that future applications such as autonomous cars and augmented/virtual reality will need incredible amounts of real-time computing. Much of this computing is too much for mobile devices to handle, and is often off-loaded to data centers. The issue is the time it takes data to travel from a car or handset to the data center (often hundreds of miles away) and back. In order to reduce latency while also powering rapid calculations, AT&T plans to deploy tens of thousands of central offices, macro towers, and small cells all over the country — many of which will be within a few miles of customers. The shorter distance from the car or phone to the data center means faster turnaround times for data, or lower latency. AT&T calls these small installations edge computing facilities. AT&T is already testing edge computing with some of its business customers and plans to bake the computing model into its 5G network. AT&T and other carriers are expected to begin deploying 5G technologies as soon as 2018 or 2019.
ZTE today announced the Blade Spark, an inexpensive Android handset for AT&T Prepaid. The Blade Spark boasts a 5.5-inch 720p HD display with Gorilla Glass 3, and it is powered by a Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. Standout features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader and Dolby Audio. The phone also offers a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and full HD video capture, and a 5-megapixel front camera with a dedicated shortcut for selfies. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, expandable storage, and a 3,140mAh battery. The ZTE Blade Spark ships with Android 7.1 Nougat. It is available online for $99. AT&T Prepaid was recently rebranded from GoPhone.