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printed February 13, 2016
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Google to Sit Out Incentive Auction

Yesterday, 3:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google will not participate in next month's spectrum auction, says the company. The deadline to file applications for the auction passed on February 10. "Like all those interested in improved connectivity and equitable access, we'll be following the upcoming spectrum auction closely. That said, we have not filed to participate," explained a spokesperson in a statement provided to Reuters. Carriers AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all indicated an interest in the auction, although Sprint will not participate. The reverse auction will see television broadcasters sell their 600 MHz airwaves to wireless network operators. Google did participate in the 700 MHz auction several years ago.


AT&T Rolls Out Smartphone BOGO Offer

Yesterday, 9:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 9:17 AM

AT&T is allowing new and existing customers to buy one phone at full price and receive a second one for free. The two handsets must come from the same manufacturer. Qualifying devices include: Apple iPhone 6, 6s Plus; Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, S6 Active, and Note 5; and LG G4 and V10. AT&T says both phones must be purchased via its AT&T Next installment plan. The first phone can be a new line or an upgrade, but the second phone must be a new line purchased with an AT&T Next 24 plan (req's 30 payments). Both phones must be added to a qualified plan, such as Mobile Share Value, which starts at $70 for two lines. Customers will need to pay sales tax on the two phones at the time of purchase and may need to make several monthly payments on both before AT&T credits up to $650 for the second phone spread out over the 30 month AT&T Next 24 plan. Subscribers who leave AT&T before they've made the 30 payments will need to pay for the remaining balance of the phone. The iPhone BOGO deal is running for a limited time, but AT&T didn't provide an end date.


Immersion Hits Apple with 3D Touch Lawsuit

Yesterday, 8:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Immersion has filed multiple lawsuits against Apple and AT&T, claiming the two violate its haptic feedback patents. Specifically, Immersion believes the Apple iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPhone 6s/6s Plus, Apple Watch, Watch Sport, and Watch Edition make use to two patents pertaining to "haptic feedback system with stored effects" and "method and apparatus for providing tactile sensations." The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are further accused of infringing a third patent for "interactivity model for shared feedback on mobile devices" — or 3D Touch, the defining feature of the two phones. Immersion didn't immediately make clear AT&T's role in the complaint. The company filed lawsuits with the U.S. International Trade Commission seeking a ban on the devices, as well as a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware seeking monetary damages. Immersion develops and makes touch-based feedback systems for mobile devices.


AT&T: Our 5G Network Will Be 100 Times Quicker than LTE

Yesterday, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today revealed its plans to test and eventually deploy 5G wireless technology, which it says will offer performance 10 to 100 times faster than today's LTE. AT&T is working with Ericsson and Intel to test 5G in its labs during the second quarter of the year, with field tests to follow over the summer months. AT&T and its partners hope to offer some level of 5G service to "fixed locations" in Austin before 2016 comes to a close. They will use technologies including millimeter waves, network function virtualization (NFV), and software-defined networking (SDN) to guide their path. AT&T claims 5G will deliver speeds measured in gigabits per second, not megabits, and latency will drop to 1 to 5 milliseconds. AT&T says 5G will be ideal for bandwidth-hungry applications, as it will support multiple radio interfaces and make better use of spectrum via SDN and NFV. The International Telecommunications Union and 3GPP have not defined what 5G will actually be, and AT&T said it expects the trials will help guide its recommendations to the ITU and set what may become part of the standard. The standards bodies aren't expected to complete the basic spec for 5G until 2018, with the standard reaching final form in 2020. AT&T believes its work on 5G now will allow it to deploy 5G in large scale when the technology is ready. In the mean time, AT&T will continue to evolve its LTE 4G network to meet the growing demands of customers.


Unannounced Alcatel Allura Headed to AT&T

Feb 2, 2016, 12:13 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC this week approved and made public the Alcatel one touch Allura, an unannounced Android phone for AT&T. The technical model number (5056) suggests a phone very similar to the Fierce XL (5054) for MetroPCS. The Fierce XL is a $139 phone at MetroPCS; it has a 5.5-inch screen, Snapdragon 210 processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front camera, and a memory card slot. FCC documents show that the Allura supports AT&T's LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 12 (17), and 30. The only Alcatel smartphone phone previously sold by AT&T was the C1, a considerably lower-end model. That makes the Allura a notable step forward for Alcatel's relationship with AT&T, the country's second-largest carrier.

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Huawei's Honor 5X Reaches the US January 31

Jan 29, 2016, 3:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 3, 2016, 3:50 PM

Huawei today said the Honor 5X handset will be available as planned on January 31. The mid-range 5X supports AT&T and T-Mobile LTE 4G bands and has a unibody aluminum design. The phone includes a 5.5-inch full HD display, 13-megapixel camera, and 1.5 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 616 processor with 2 GB of RAM. The Honor 5X also includes a 3,000 mAh battery, rear fingerprint reader, and 5-megapixel front camera. It costs $200 and is available from HiHonor.com, Amazon.com, and Newegg.com.


FCC Greenlights AT&T Spectrum Deal

Jan 28, 2016, 4:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has approved AT&T's request to purchase two Cellular A Block licenses and microwave point-to-point spectrum from Cellular Properties Inc. The spectrum covers 11 counties and parts of two Cellular Market Areas in Illinois. The deal also transfers CPI's assets and customers to AT&T. Even though the Cellular A Block spectrum falls under the 1 GHz threshold, the FCC does not believe the transaction will result in any competitive harm. Moreover, the improved performance of AT&T's network in the region may in fact benefit local consumers. The agency has thus given AT&T permission to move forward with the acquisition. Small transactions such as this are common between companies. AT&T did not place a dollar value on the spectrum transfer.


Sprint Planning Virgin Mobile Revamp

Jan 26, 2016, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint says it has a new strategy in mind for its prepaid brand Virgin Mobile. During a call with analysts today, Sprint execs said the company is de-emphasizing Virgin at the moment in favor of Boost Mobile, and has gone so far as to pull Virgin advertising ahead of a the new strategy's debut. Sprint did not say what it plans to do with Virgin, though it did admit it is not pursuing the pre-paid space as aggressively as rivals Cricket and MetroPCS. "You've got to figure out where do you want to fight and where do you want to grow," said CEO Marcelo Claure. "We are keeping the customers that matter." Claure also took the opportunity to reassure investors and customers that its network improvement plan will not be disruptive. "This is not a rip-and-replace strategy," said Claure, calling the implementation a "progressive build" that will make changes for the better. The company is expected to relocate some cell towers and make greater use of small/macro cells to densify its network. It may also shift some backhaul operations to microwave in order to cut down the fiber carriage fees it pays to AT&T and Verizon. Claure still believes Sprint can become the No. 1 or No. 2 network in terms of absolute performance in 80% of the country's markets within two years.


Consumer Groups Demand Broadband Privacy Laws

Jan 20, 2016, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Dozens of consumer action groups have petitioned the FCC to install regulations that would protect the privacy of the nation's wired and wireless broadband users. The groups believe broadband providers — including AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon, and others — should be subject to tough privacy standards. These companies already collect an incredible amount of data from customers in order to serve ads. "This can create a chilling effect on speech and increase the potential for discriminatory practices derived from data use," said the groups in their letter to the FCC. Some of the signees include the ACLU, Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Public Citizen. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler agrees that broadband providers need to secure any consumer data they collect, and should make sure consumers know what is being collected and give them the choice whether or not to participate. Late last year, however, the FCC shot down a proposal that would have forced companies to honor "do not track" requests. The FCC did not immediately comment on the group's letter.


Cricket Wireless Picks A New Leader

Jan 15, 2016, 10:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today appointed John Dwyer as president and head of operations. Dwyer replaces Jennifer Van Buskirk, who has moved to another position within Cricket's parent company, AT&T. Dwyer will be responsible for Cricket's day-to-day operations, long-term planning, and strategy. Dwyer previously worked in various sales and marketing positions within AT&T.


FCC Says AT&T Can Buy 700 MHz Licenses from Peoples

Jan 14, 2016, 2:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has approved AT&T's request to purchase two Lower 700 MHz C Block licenses from Peoples Wireless in Texas. The transaction gives AT&T 24 MHz of contiguous, paired Lower 700 MHz spectrum in two cellular market areas. AT&T says this will let it deploy 10x10 MHz LTE carrier aggregation and improve coverage/performance. The two CMAs cover 17 counties across Texas. Despite the fact that the transaction falls below the 1 GHz threshold and will give AT&T control over more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in the named markets, the FCC feels there is little chance of competitive harm. Moreover, the improved performance of AT&T's network in the region may in fact benefit consumers. The agency has thus given AT&T permission to move forward with the acquisition. Small transactions such as this are common between companies. AT&T did not place a dollar value on the spectrum transfer.


Sony Says Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact Reaching US February 7

Jan 14, 2016, 10:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 14, 2016, 10:38 AM

Sony today announced that the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 smartphones will go on sale in the U.S. on February 7. The Z5 will cost $599.99 and the Z5 Compact (pictured) will cost $499.99. The handsets will be sold unlocked with support for AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. The two high-end Android smartphones were first announced in September last year. The Z5 series features premium metal-and-glass designs, 23-megapixel cameras, and water resistance to 3 feet. Sony will sell the phones directly to consumers online via Amazon.com, Best Buy, and B&H Photo Video.


FCC Says Applications for Incentive Auction Due Today

Jan 12, 2016, 2:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Today marks the deadline for companies planning to participate in the upcoming reverse auction to file their applications. The FCC will accept entries until the end of the day. In February, the agency will release a tutorial for participants to learn how to bid in the auction, and the auction itself will begin March 29. Television broadcasters are being encouraged to offer up their 600MHz spectrum, which will in turn be auctioned off to wireless companies. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon are expected to participate, though Sprint will sit the auction out. The National Association of Broadcasters commended the FCC on its hard work. "NAB expects robust broadcaster participation in the reverse auction, and we hope to see similarly robust participation from wireless bidders in the forward auction," said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton. The FCC expects the auction will take several months to complete.


AT&T Brings Back Unlimited Data for TV Customers

Jan 11, 2016, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said new and existing customers can once again select an unlimited data mobile plan — as long as they are also a customer of AT&T-owned DirecTV or U-Verse. The unlimited plan includes unlimited LTE 4G, unlimited voice, and unlimited messaging. The first line costs $100 per month, with the second and third lines costing $40 each. Adding a fourth line would be free. Other devices may be added to the unlimited plan as well, such as tablets ($40), watches ($10), and feature phones ($25). AT&T says the unlimited plan is "the first of many integrated video and mobility offers the company plans to announce in 2016." AT&T's television customers who aren't yet wireless customers are eligible to receive up to $500 in credits when switching to AT&T with a trade-in. On the flip side, AT&T wireless customers who aren't already television customers can receive discounted service for the first year. AT&T and Verizon Wireless haven't offered unlimited data plans for several years, preferring instead to sell customers buckets of data access. T-Mobile and Sprint still offer unlimited data packages, but have raised prices in recent months. AT&T didn't say if the new unlimited plan is a permanent addition to its offering, or a limited promotion.


Polaroid Shows Off Two Android Smartphones

Jan 6, 2016, 5:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Polaroid today announced the Power and Snap smartphones, two Android handsets that will be sold to U.S. consumers online. Polaroid did not make these phones; instead, it licensed its brand to Southern Telecom, which designed and manufactured the handsets. The phones offer attractive price points and will be sold unlocked. Each runs Android 5.1 Lollipop, has LTE compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile, and supports microSD memory cards.

  • Polaroid Power: The Power (pictured) is the company's high-end offering. It has a 6-inch full HD screen, 64-bit octa-core processor with 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of internal storage. The rear camera rates 13 megapixels with dual LED flash, and the front camera rates 8 megapixels paired with a selfie flash. The Power has a 3,000mAh battery and will cost $249.99.
  • Polaroid Snap: The Snap is a series of phones that will come in 5-, 5.5-, and 6-inch variants. All versions have a quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage, and 720p HD displays. The rear camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with flash and the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with selfie flash. Pricing will range from $129.99 to $179.99, depending on screen size.
The Polaroid Power and Snap are expected to reach the U.S. in the spring and February, respectively. Polaroid said more details will be available closer to release.


Sprint Extends 50% Rate Promo Through February 11

Jan 6, 2016, 4:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint will continue to offer AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers a 50% reduction in service plan costs if they switch to Sprint. The promotion, first introduced in November, was set to expire January 8 and now runs through February 11. Sprint is also offering up to $650 per line to reimburse ETFs and other fees for those who port their number to Sprint. Sprint said the promotion has been well received by consumers, which is why it extended the program.


AT&T Ups Data for GoPhone Customers

Jan 6, 2016, 11:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today increased the amount of data available to its prepaid GoPhone subscribers. The $45 plan moves from 1.5 GB to 2 GB and the $60 plan moves from 4 GB to 5 GB. People who choose the $60 plan can also roam in Canada and Mexico. Both plans support rollover data, and customers who subscribe to autopay will receive a $5 monthly discount. The new data allotments go into effect January 8.


Macate Intros the Secure GATCA Elite Smartphone

Jan 6, 2016, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 6, 2016, 2:48 PM

Macate today announced the GATCA Elite, a smartphone that boasts advanced security tools. The phone was designed with VIPs in mind. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and offers 256-bit or 512-bit encryption, which goes beyond government-grade security. It relies on biometrics (facial recognition) to secure the handset. The facial recognition can't be fooled by a photograph thanks to "liveliness detection." The GATCA Elite has advanced controls over files, folders, location, and even the SIM card slot. For example, the phone can be set to automatically shut down if an unknown SIM card is inserted. The phone ships with a suite of pre-installed apps for securing basic communications, including calls, email, and messaging — all of which are encrypted from end to end. It includes a video conferencing app that supports up to 20 participants. The handset has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and is powered by a 1.3 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6735 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixl rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera. It includes LTE Bands 2, 4, 5, 12, and 17 for compatibility with AT&T and T-Mobile. Macate is selling the GATCA Elite online for $850.

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Freetel Sets Sites On US Market with Japanese Handsets

Jan 6, 2016, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Freetel today announced plans to sell its smartphones in the U.S. Freetel is one of the larger wireless network operators in Japan and also makes its own smartphones. The company believes the time is ripe to enter the U.S. based on the growing sales of unlocked handsets. Freetel will initially launch three phones during the first quarter, including the flagship Kiwami, the mid-range Miyabi, and the entry-level Priori3. The Kiwami is a high-end metal phone with a 6-inch quad HD screen, 21-megapixel Sony camera, 3,400mAh battery, fingerprint sensor, and rapid charging. It costs $389. The Miyabi has a 5-inch screen, 13-megapixel camera with image stabilization, and a metallic frame. It will cost $199. The Priori3 is a smaller, plastic handset that will cost $99. All three run Android, support LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile, and will be sold unlocked. Later in the year, Freetel hopes to bring the Musashi (pictured) to the U.S. This unique Android handset is a clamshell that features dual 4-inch touchscreen displays with a full numeric keypad. Pricing for the Musashi was not revealed.


WeBoost, SureCall Roll Out In-Home Signal Boosters

Jan 6, 2016, 1:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

WeBoost and SureCall both used CES as an opportunity to show off new cell signal boosters. Both products work in a similar fashion: they collect cell signals from nearby cell towers, amplify them, and rebroadcast them within the home to improve coverage and signal strength. Each has two components — an antenna that is aimed at a cell tower and a broadcaster for supplying in-home coverage. WeBoost's product is called the eqo and resembles a WiFi router. WeBoost says the eqo is improved over its older products because the antenna can be kept indoors, rather than installed outside. This makes it more convenient for apartment dwellers. It can improve coverage over an area of about 1,200 square feet and costs $349. The SureCall EZ 4G is similar. Its antenna resembles a radar dish. The SureCall EZ 4G also provides one to two rooms of coverage and costs $399.99. The eqo and EZ 4G support CDMA, GSM, and LTE, and are compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.


Ford to Add AT&T LTE to 10 Million Cars

Jan 5, 2016, 1:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ford today said it plans to bring connectivity to a large percentage of its cars over the next few years. The company will add its Sync Connect feature to as many as 10 million Ford cars by 2020. Sync Connect provides owners with a variety of features for interacting with their cars, such as unlocking the doors, locating parked vehicles, checking the fuel status and/or tire pressure, and remotely starting the engine. AT&T will provide five years of complimentary wireless service to new cars, beginning with the Escape this spring and expanding across the lineup over time. Network connectivity has been a feature for many Ford cars since 2011, but today's commitment will see LTE added to a broader range of vehicles along with vehicle management tools.


Hands-On with Kyocera DuraXE and DuraForce XD

Jan 5, 2016, 1:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Kyocera kicked off CES with two new phones for AT&T. The DuraXE is a rugged flip and the DuraForce XD is a rugged phablet. Both are practically unbreakable and come with business and consumer-friendly features. Here are our first impressions of these two handsome handsets.

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Asus Says Zenfone Zoom to Reach US In February

Jan 4, 2016, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus today announced plans to bring the Zenfone Zoom to the U.S. The Zoom was first announced a full year ago at CES 2015. This Android smartphone features a 13-megapixel camera with a 10-element lens, 3x optical zoom, laser focusing, optical image stabilization, and macro mode. The Zoom camera app sports a full manual mode with control over white balance, focus, and exposure. The front camera is 5 megapixels. The Zoom has a 5.5-inch full HD display and runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. It supports LTE bands compatible with AT&T and has a 3000 mAh battery. It will be available beginning in February for $399.

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Kyocera Delivers Rugged DuraXE Flip Phone to AT&T

Jan 4, 2016, 11:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 4, 2016, 11:50 AM

Kyocera and AT&T today announced the DuraXE, an ultra-rugged feature phone that includes PTT and hotspot capabilities. The DuraXE is rated mil-spec 810G for durability and IP68 for protection against water and dust. The phone can handle shock, vibrations, blowing rain, temperature extremes, high humidity, and immersion in 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The DuraXE has dual screens, including a 1.08-inch external monochrome display and a 2.6-inch main color display. The phone is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor and includes 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The phone runs on AT&T's LTE network and includes GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi. It can serve as a mobile hotspot for up to 10 other devices, which is novel for a non-smart phone. Kyocera says the 1500mAh battery provides extended standby time. AT&T will begin selling the DuraXE January 8. It will cost $13.50 per month for 20 months on an AT&T installment plan. AT&T will also sell the DuraForce XD phablet, announced several months ago, on January 8. The DuraForce XD will cost $14.97 per month with an AT&T Next 24 plan. Contract pricing is available only to business customers.


Lumia 550 Reaches the U.S. Unlocked

Jan 4, 2016, 10:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made the Lumia 550 available to U.S. buyers through its web store. The 550 launched in international markets last month. The 550 includes a 4.7-inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and 2-megapizel front camera. It uses a 1.1 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor and includes 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The device, available in black, is being sold unlocked. It supports the LTE networks of both AT&T and T-Mobile. The Lumia 550 costs $139.


AT&T Confirms Plans to Ditch Contracts

Dec 30, 2015, 2:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T says beginning January 8, it will rely on AT&T Next as the primary avenue through which customers will purchase handsets. AT&T has historically sold handsets with two-year contracts attached to the purchase, but in recent years added the AT&T Next installment plan option. Customers have always been able to pay full price for handsets up front. AT&T Next plans allow people to break up the device payment over 18 to 30 months to defray the cost. "With $0 down for well-qualified customers, the ability to upgrade early and down payment options available with even lower monthly installments, our customers are overwhelmingly choosing AT&T Next," said AT&T in an email to Phonescoop. "Starting January 8, AT&T Next will be the primary way to get a new smartphone at AT&T. This does not apply to business customers under a qualified wireless service agreement." Contracts will no longer be available from AT&T. Customers can buy smartphones via AT&T Next or pay full price. Verizon and T-Mobile have already done away with contracts. The news was first reported by Engadget.

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AT&T Says VoLTE Available to 295 Million Americans

Dec 29, 2015, 10:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it has reached a new milestone in expanding VoLTE service. As 2015 comes to a close, VoLTE is available to a footprint covering some 295 million POPs, says AT&T, and the service has won over 27 million active users. VoLTE permits HD voice and video calls, which are higher quality than those placed over AT&T's legacy voice network. In another milestone, AT&T says it has completed VoLTE calls between its customers and customers of a competing carrier in select markets. The company plans to expand inter-carrier VoLTE over time. Separately, AT&T confirmed to Light Reading that it has brought Carrier IQ in house. "We've acquired the rights to Carrier IQ's software, and some CIQ employees moved to AT&T. We use CIQ software solely to improve the customer's network and wireless service experience. This is in line with our Privacy Policy and provides a great benefit to users of our network." Carrier IQ came to light in 2011 when consumers discovered the company's software could lead to personal identifying data being shared with third parties.


FCC Queries AT&T, T-Mobile, Comcast Over Free Streaming

Dec 17, 2015, 6:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC has sent letters to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Comcast seeking more details about various programs offered by the three companies that allow customers to stream select services at no cost. AT&T offers sponsored data to some customers in limited form. The data is paid for by third parties and customers are not charged against their data plans when using those specific apps and/or services. T-Mobile allows customers to stream music and video content over its LTE network without impacting their monthly data allotments via its Music Freedom and Binge On programs. Comcast has a similar offering for its wired broadband service. At issue is whether or not the zero-rated services violate net neutrality or if they conflict with the "Commission's goal of maintaining a free and open internet while incentivizing innovation and investment from all sources." The companies said they will comply with the FCC's request while maintaining the position that they are not guilty of any wrongdoing.


AT&T's NumberSync Hits Gear S2 Smartwatch

Dec 15, 2015, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said the Samsung Gear S2 now supports NumberSync. The service lets AT&T customers send and receive texts, as well as make and receive calls on the wearable from their primary phone number. AT&T plans to add the feature through a system update being pushed out today. The Samsung Gear S2 is on sale for $99 with a two-year agreement. Service costs $10 per month when added to a Mobile Share Value plan.


AT&T Rolls Out Galaxy, iPhone BOGO Offer

Dec 11, 2015, 4:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today debuted a buy-one, get-one deal for the Samsung Galaxy S6, iPhone 6s, and a few other handsets. In order to score a free handset, customers have to buy one smartphone at full price on an AT&T Next 24 installment plan. The second (free) handset must be added as a new line of service. AT&T will cover the monthly device payments for the second device. Customers will be responsible for the balance of payments if service is cancelled before the device is paid off. Other eligible phones include the Galaxy S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and Note 5. The BOGO deal is available through Dec. 31.


Verizon to Offer Sponsored Data

Dec 9, 2015, 4:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless is prepared to test sponsored data, according to vice president Marni Walden. The program will allow businesses to sponsor apps or content that is accessed by customers on Verizon's network. The sponsored data will not count against the customer's monthly data allotment. "The capabilities we've built allow us to break down any byte that is carried across our network and have all or a portion of that sponsored," said Walden to Re/code. Verizon said it will roll out sponsored data in a limited fashion over the coming days and will expand it on a commercial basis during the first quarter of 2016. AT&T already has a similar program in place.


AT&T's GoPhone Rolls Out Handset Discounts

Dec 7, 2015, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

GoPhone, AT&T's prepaid brand, today dropped the prices of several handsets. Customers who activate a plan costing $45 or more can snag the ZTE Maven for free, or receive $40 off a small selection of other devices. After the new-line discount, for example, the Asus Zenfone 2E costs $59.99, the Microsoft Lumia 640 costs $19.99, the Motorola Moto E costs $14.99, and the ZTE ZMax 2 costs $89.99. AT&T did not say how long the discounts will be available, but they kick off beginning today.


T-Mobile Offers Discounted iPhone to AT&T Customers

Dec 3, 2015, 9:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile is targeting AT&T customers once again with a new promotion that cuts $200 from the price of the iPhone 6s 128GB. AT&T, Cricket, and GoPhone customers who port their number to T-Mobile can buy the 128GB iPhone for the same price as the 16GB iPhone. T-Mobile is also offering to cut the price of select accessories by up to 50%. For example, smartwatches, Bluetooth speakers, and fitness trackers are eligible for discounts when purchased in-store. The discounted iPhone will be available to AT&T customers between Dec. 4. and Dec. 13. T-Mobile says the promotion can be combined with Carrier Freedom, which offers to pay ETFs and other fees up to $650 per line to those who switch from AT&T to T-Mobile. T-Mobile offered a similar promotion to Sprint customers last week, and says Verizon customers will have their own promo in the weeks ahead.


Cricket Names New President

Dec 2, 2015, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today announced that John Dwyer will replace Jennifer Van Buskirk as president. Dwyer will be responsible for the brand's day-to-day operations and long-term strategy. Before joining Cricket, Dwyer worked at AT&T Mobile, Cingular, and Pacific Bell. Van Buskirk has been named president of AT&T's northeast region. Cricket is owned and operated by AT&T.


AT&T to Raise Unlimited Plan Pricing by $5 in February

Nov 30, 2015, 4:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 30, 2015, 6:50 PM

AT&T today confirmed reports that it plans to increase the cost of its old, grandfathered unlimited plan early next year. The rate will change from $30 per month to $35 per month, and marks the first increase this plan has seen in seven years. The change goes into effect in February. T-Mobile and Verizon have increased the prices of their unlimited plans in recent weeks, too. T-Mobile's unlimited data plan jumped from $30 per month to $45 per month, while Verizon's hopped from $30 to $50. AT&T no longer offers unlimited data to customers, and instead charges for defined buckets of LTE 4G access. Only customers who've maintained their old data plan over the years still have access to unlimited data. AT&T throttles the speeds of unlimited customers who surpass 22GB of usage in a single billing period.

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Google Encouraging Android Pay Adoption with Donations

Nov 24, 2015, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes the prospect of charitable giving will spur more people to use Android Pay for purchases during the holiday season. The company today said it will donate $1 for every Android Pay transaction between now and Dec. 31 to special needs education projects. Google is committing to offer up to $1 million, and will donate $2 for every Android Pay transaction made on Black Friday, Nov. 27. Android Pay is available to most NFC-equipped smartphones (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) and is accepted at more than one million retail locations around the country.


ZTE Selling the ZMax 2 Unlocked

Nov 23, 2015, 11:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said it is making the ZMax 2 smartphone available to consumers unlocked. The phone was originally sold via TracFone earlier this year, but is now online directly from ZTE. The full price of the phone is $179.99, but ZTE is running a limited sale price of $129.99. The ZMax 2 has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen; quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage; 8-megapixel main camera with full HD vide capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi, and LTE radios. The phone packs a 3,000 mAh battery. The ZMax 2 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is compatible with the networks operated by AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid businesses, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS, respectively.


LG Nixes Watch Urbane 2nd Edition At Last Minute

Nov 19, 2015, 6:15 PM   by Rich Brome

AT&T today started issuing refunds to customers that pre-ordered LG's latest smartwatch, the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition. LG later elaborated that it has postponed launch plans for the device indefinitely. The Watch Urbane 2nd Edition was to be the first watch to support the new built-in cellular connectivity features in the newest version of Android Wear. The watch included 4G LTE and was to be available first with AT&T and Verizon, as well as in Korea. A statement from LG reads "the decision was made to cancel the rollout of the Urbane 2nd Edition LTE due to the complicated nature of the issue. Whether the device will be available in the future will be decided at a later time. For now, our top priority is to ensure that only products that meet our very specific quality standards are available for purchase."


FCC Wants All Cell Phones Hearing Aid Compatible

Nov 19, 2015, 12:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today expanded the scale of hearing aid compatibility in cell phones to include IP-based communications, such as WiFi and VoLTE. AT&T and Verizon Wireless recently sought and received waivers to offer WiFi calling along with an alternate to the legacy technology called RTT (real-time text). The rules require handset makers to design phones that comply with both current and future technologies. The FCC wants phone makers to consider hearing aid compatibility as early as possible during the design process. The FCC also issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to help define a path toward making all phones accessible to people who use hearing aids or have cochlear implants. Right now, phone makers only have to make a small selection of their handsets accessible to hearing-impaired persons. The FCC wants to see such people offered the same range of devices that are available to all consumers. The FCC is seeking comment on its proposal, which was developed together with consumer and industry representatives.


Microsoft Delivers Another Preview of Windows 10 Mobile

Nov 19, 2015, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview build 10586 available to Windows Insiders. This build focuses on cleaning up bugs, according to Microsoft. For example, Microsoft resolved an issue that corrupted the Start screen. It also made it possible to set memory cards as the default storage location and cleaned up corruption issues that renamed memory cards. Messaging and Skype have been improved with conversation-loading fixes. The camera button on phones that have them should be working once more. Last, apps and games should download from the Microsoft Store more reliably. There are still some known issues in the preview, but Microsoft says the build performs well. Windows 10 Mobile is nearing public readiness. Microsoft has said the operating system will reach consumers in December. This week also marks the launch of the first Windows 10 Mobile smartphones. Microsoft has made the Lumia 950 and 950 XL available from its web site, and AT&T is selling the Lumia 950 in stores starting Friday.


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