Phone Scoop

printed May 26, 2016
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ZTE Taps BMW to Help Design the Axon 7 Flagship

Today, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 1:37 PM

ZTE today announced the Axon 7, its flagship smartphone for 2016. ZTE designed the phone with the help of BMW Group's Designworks studio. The Axon 7 has a unibody aluminum design and clean lines; it comes in gold and silver finishes. The device features a 5.5-inch quad HD display with 2.5D curved glass. The phone is powered by a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 820 processor with either 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM. The processor and 3,140mAh battery together support Quick Charge 3.0 and can deliver a 50% charge in 30 minutes. The main camera includes a 20-megapixel sensor from Samsung with optical and electronic image stabilization, sapphire lens, and an aperture of f/1.8. The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel camera. The phone can capture video up to 4K. Other standout features include dual AKM HiFi audio chipsets with Dolby Atmos software and stereo speakers, support for Google's Daydream virtual reality platform, support for memory cards, and a quick fingerprint sensor located on the back. The device adopts a USB Type-C connector. The Axon 7 ships with Android 6 Marshmallow and MiFavor 4.0 user interface, portions of which BMW's Designworks helped configure. The phone supports all U.S. LTE bands. It will be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile and launch, with Sprint and Verizon compatibility coming later in the year. The Axon 7 is sold with Axon Passport 2.0, ZTE's two-year warranty plan that protects consumers from busted screens and other damage. The Axon 7 goes on sale in China today, but will reach the U.S. soon. The phone is priced under $500 and will be sold directly to consumers via ZTEusa.com, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, ebay, and Newegg.

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T-Mobile to Buy Chicago-Area Spectrum to Boost Coverage

Yesterday, 8:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it has agreed to buy 700 MHz spectrum from Leap in order to bring its "extended-range LTE" coverage to the Chicago metropolitan area. Specifically, T-Mobile is snagging A-Block 700 MHz spectrum covering Chicago, Elgin, Joliet, Waukegan, Evanston, Naperville, Aurora, Gary, Rockford, De Kalb, Janesville, Bloomington, Normal, Kankakee, Kenosha, and others. Leap Licenseco, the company that holds the spectrum licenses, is owned by AT&T. T-Mobile will turn on LTE in the low-band spectrum once the transaction is completed. T-Mobile has been using 700 MHz spectrum to supplement its main LTE network for some time. This deal will allow it to offer low-band coverage to 269 million Americans, including the top 10 U.S. markets. T-Mobile already offers LTE in the Chicago area via its AWS spectrum. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal must be reviewed by the FCC.


AT&T's GoPhone Service Adds More Data to Plans

Tuesday, 4:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today made its GoPhone prepaid service plans more attractive by adding more high-speed data without changing the price points. The $45 plan improves from 2 GB of LTE data each month to 3 GB, and the $60 plan improves from 5 GB to 6 GB. The latter also includes unlimited talk and text from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada, as well as talk, text, and data roaming in the same two countries. The new data allotments will be applied to all accounts automatically. Customers who enroll in auto-pay will receive a $5 service credit each month.


Freetel Kiwami and Priori3 Up for Preorder

Monday, 11:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Freetel Wireless today made the Kiwami and Priori3 handsets available for preorder. The Kiwami is a flagship-class device with a 6-inch quad HD screen and 21-megapixel camera. The device costs $350. The Priori3 is more of an entry-level device with a 4.5-inch screen and 8-megapixel camera. The Priori3 costs $89. Both phones support LTE in the 2, 4, 7, and 17 bands, which means they are partially compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile's 4G networks. Freetel said the devices will ship beginning in June. The Freetel Musashi flip phone will be available later this summer.


AT&T to Revamp Phone Purchasing Options

Monday, 10:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it intends to reduce the number of handset financing options from four down to two. Beginning June 9, AT&T will offer new and existing customers the AT&T Next Every Year plan and the AT&T Next plan. The first will allow customers to upgrade to a new device every year, as long as 50% of the phone is paid off at the time of upgrade. Device payments are broken up over 24 months, but customers trade in the device at 12 months for a new phone. The second option, AT&T Next, lets customers upgrade every two years as long as 80% of the device is paid off at the time of upgrade. Device payments are broken up over 30 months. AT&T said customers can always choose to trade in old phones for credit toward new devices, and may also choose to make a down payment on new phones to help reduce monthly payment amounts. Customers who cancel service will need to make the balance of device payments. Customers with low credit may need to leave a deposit.


AT&T Resurrects the 'Cingular' Brand for Flip Phone

Monday, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T recently added the Cingular Flip to its lineup of inexpensive feature phones. The phone is made by TeleEpoch and bears the model number M3620, but AT&T named it the Cingular Flip to give it some visibility. The Flip is a basic feature phone with a large keypad, 2.8-inch screen, and 2-megapixel camera with video capture. The phone has user-programmable keys, large text options, and a basic web browser. Other features include Bluetooth 2.1, UMTS 3G, and a single-core MediaTek processor with 64 MB of RAM and 128 MB of storage. The Cingular Flip runs the Nucleas Plus 2.1 operating system and simple apps such as calendar, alarms, address book, and text messaging. The Cingular Flip is available online and in stores for $60.


AT&T Adds More Phones to Extended BOGO Promo

May 20, 2016, 10:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today added a handful of new handsets to a buy one, get one free offer the carrier has had in place since February. The extended BOGO promotion now applies to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, the Microsoft Lumia 950, the HTC One A9, and the Kyocera DuraForce. The other handsets already included in the offer are the Apple iPhone 6s, 6s Plus; Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, S6 Active, and Note 5; and LG G5 and V10. The offer lets new and existing customers buy one phone at full price and receive a second one for free. The two handsets must come from the same manufacturer. 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 months. The offer is available through June 30.


AT&T's Highest-Paying Customers Gain Mexico/Canada Roaming

May 16, 2016, 9:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said some of its customers will soon be able to roam in Mexico and Canada at no extra charge. Customers who subscribe to AT&T's 15 GB Mobile Share plan can text, talk, and surf in Mexico as if they were at home in the U.S. Customers who subscribe to AT&T's Unlimited Mobile Share plan and AT&T TV service can talk, text, and surf in Mexico and Canada. Even though roaming does not cost extra, customers need to add the AT&T Roam North America feature each phone and tablet in their plans before traveling. AT&T said customers who consume more than 50% of their minutes, messages, or data in Mexico two or more billing periods in a row may lose roaming access. People who surpass 22 GB of LTE data in a given billing period will be throttled. The company said other fees and restrictions apply, but did not spell them all out. The AT&T Roam North American feature will be available to regular and business customers starting May 20.


AT&T's GoPhone Adds the LG Phoenix 2

May 13, 2016, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service recently made the LG Phoenix 2 available from its web site. This entry-level Android smartphone includes a 5-inch 720p HD screen and is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1.5 GB of RAM. The Phoenix 2 has an 8-megapixel main camera with LED flash, burst shot and gesture shot, and a 5-megapixel front camera. The phone has 16 GB of storage and supports memory cards up to 32 GB for additional storage. The Phoenix 2 ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and LG included some of its core software tools, such as KnockON, Knock Code, Quick Memo, and QSlide apps. It has a removable 2,125mAh battery and features LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and WiFi radios. The phone costs $99. GoPhone does not require contracts.


AT&T's HTC One M8 and M9 Get Marshmallow Today

May 12, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T will begin distributing Android 6.0 Marshmallow to its variants of the HTC One M8 and One M9. HTC's VP of Product, Mo Versi, shared the news via his Twitter account. The update brings the two phones inline with the software seen on the HTC 10. The update will be pushed out over the air, which should be downloaded via WiFi. AT&T customers who own the M8 or M9 can check for the update through the settings menu.


FCC, FTC Query Carriers and Phone Makers Over Security

May 9, 2016, 12:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC and FTC today asked carriers and phone manufacturers how they handle security updates for their devices. The FCC sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and other carriers, while the FTC queried Apple, Blackberry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung. In particular, the agencies want to know: the factors carriers/OEMs consider in deciding whether to patch a vulnerability on a particular phone; data on the specific phones sold in the U.S. since August 2013; the vulnerabilities that have affected those devices; and whether and when the company patched such vulnerabilities. The government said the line of inquiry is to help it further understand how these companies do or do not protect consumers. "Consumers may be left unprotected, for long periods of time or even indefinitely, by any delays in patching vulnerabilities once they are discovered," said the FCC. "To date, operating system providers, original equipment manufacturers, and mobile service providers have responded to address vulnerabilities as they arise. There are, however, significant delays in delivering patches to actual devices — and that older devices may never be patched." Google provides monthly security updates to Nexus-branded Android devices, but individual phone makers lag badly. Apple provides occasional updates.


FCC Sets 126 MHz Clearing Target for Reverse Auction

Apr 29, 2016, 10:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today announced it has set an initial spectrum clearing target of 126 MHz during the reverse part of the auction for 600 MHz airwaves. Television broadcasters have agreed to part with this spectrum. The FCC then plans to offer 100 MHz in 10 near-nationwide paired blocks to wireless providers in the forward phase of the auction. The majority of the spectrum being given up by television broadcasters will qualify as Category 1, which means it has no or little interference. Some of the spectrum will fall under Category 2, which has a greater degree of interference but not so much that it can't be managed. The FCC is today notifying all the television broadcasters about the status of their applications to sell spectrum. The FCC plans a mock auction for May 24-25, and will kick off the actual reverse portion of the auction May 31. It's unclear how long the reverse auction will take place before the FCC is able to turn around and re-sell the spectrum to wireless companies. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all said they plan to participate in the hunt for low-band spectrum.


AT&T to Turn Off 2G Network By End of 2016

Apr 27, 2016, 3:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T will shut down its 2G network ahead of schedule. In 2012, AT&T said it would operate 2G into 2017. This week, however, AT&T CFO John Stevens said the 2G network will be decommissioned by the end of 2016. The company has already moved 6 million customers off 2G over the last twelve months. The bulk of the remaining 2G devices (AT&T didn't say how many) in use are internet-of-things connected devices. Nearly all phones that connect to AT&T's network do so via 3G or 4G. "There still is a lot of cost that is left just to operate even a piece of the 2G network," remarked Stevens during a call with investors. "So we are anxious to capture that savings and use it to continue a strong story for our wireless business." Once decommissioned, the spectrum on which the 2G network operates will be refarmed for LTE.


Microsoft Rolls Out Lumia 950 BOGO Offer

Apr 25, 2016, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is looking to clear inventory of the Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950 smartphones, which means consumers can buy one at full price and get the second one for free. The deal is available via Microsoft's U.S. web store. Specifically, people who purchase the 950 XL at $649 will receive a Lumia 950, valued at $549, for free. Both devices are being sold unlocked with support for GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The promotion is available while supplies last through May 2. Microsoft reported shipments of about 2.3 million Lumia phones in its most recent financial documents, which represents a steep drop from the 8.6 million it shipped in the year-ago period. The company admitted it is sitting on a lot of excess inventory of its flagship Windows 10 Mobile devices. Moreover, the company expects "year over year revenue declines to deepen as we work through our Lumia channel position." Cricket Wireless is expected to launch Microsoft's mid-range model, the Lumia 650, early next month. Microsoft has recently pushed a significant update to its Windows 10 Mobile platform and updated core apps such as email, Groove Music, and the Edge browser.


AT&T Drops BlackBerry Priv Price to $640

Apr 22, 2016, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry said AT&T has lowered the price of the the Priv smartphone by $100. The phone now costs $640 at full retail, instead of $740, or $199 with a two-year contract, instead of $250. The lowered monthly installment plan prices are $26.67 with AT&T Next 18, $31 with AT&T Next 12, or $16 with AT&T Next 12 with a downpayment of $192. The Priv has been available since late last year. It is a slider with a full QWERTY keyboard. The Priv runs Android rather than BlackBerry's own operating system.


DeWalt Debuts MD501 Rugged Smartphone

Apr 22, 2016, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

DeWalt recently announced the MD501, a fully rugged Android smartphone aimed at those who work outdoors. DeWalt is not making the device itself; instead, it partnered with Global Mobile Communications to make the device. Global Mobile is licensing the DeWalt name. Cat uses a similar strategy for its rugged smartphones. The MD501 meets mil-spec 810g and IP68 for protection against drops to concrete, dust, water, dirt, fog, humidity, and extreme temperatures. The 5-inch HD screen is extra bright for outdoor visibility and it can be used with gloves. The phone is powered by a MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It accepts micro SD cards up to 64 GB. The main camera features a 13-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera features a 5-megapixel sensor. The MD501 includes a 3950mAh battery with Qi wireless charging. The phone does not support U.S. LTE bands, but does support quad-band HSPA that is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. DeWalt hasn't said when the device will go on sale. It is expected to cost about $544.


Review: WeBoost Eqo In-Home Signal Booster

Apr 20, 2016, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

WeBoost's Eqo signal booster promises to improve cellular coverage in your home or apartment. Consisting of a booster and antenna, the whole system fits most average dwellings. If you need a few more bars to connect calls, the WeBoost may be what you need. Here is Phonescoop's in-depth report.

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Cricket Debuts Unlimited Plan for $70

Apr 15, 2016, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today announced a new service plan that includes unlimited talk, text, and LTE data for $70 per month. That price includes all taxes and fees. Cricket customers who enroll in auto-pay can reduce their monthly cost to $65. Along with the new plan, Cricket Wireless said it will reward T-Mobile subscribers who switch to Cricket with a $100 bill credit. Cricket operates on AT&T's network, but LTE speeds are capped at 8 Mbps. The new plan will be available beginning April 17.


AT&T Bumps Activation Fee By $5 to Match Verizon

Apr 7, 2016, 3:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has increased the cost of its activation fee from $15 to $20. The move follows the establishment of a similar fee by Verizon Wireless in recent days. AT&T's fee applies to people activating or upgrading to a new device through an AT&T Next installment plan and for those who bring their own device. Customers who sign a two year contract are hit with a $45 activation fee. AT&T won't charge a fee for customers who pay for their new device in full.


Microsoft Now Selling the Lumia 650

Apr 1, 2016, 10:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made the Lumia 650 available for purchase from its U.S. web site. The phone runs Windows 10 Mobile and features a metal-frame design with a 5-inch HD OLED display, 8-megapixel camera, memory card slot, and removable battery. Microsoft is selling the phone unlocked for $199. It is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile.


FCC Pushes Privacy Rules Forward

Apr 1, 2016, 7:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC on Thursday followed through on plans to tackle consumer privacy. The agency issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to govern the use of consumer data by broadband providers, both wired and wireless. The FCC's goal is to help protect the data generated by millions of people who use internet services every day. The FCC wants broadband providers to obtain permission from customers before sharing their data with others, including advertisers. The rules would apply to companies such as AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon — including each company's wireless units. The FCC also believes consumers should be able to opt-out when they wish. "[This] proposal would give all consumers the tools we need to make informed decisions about how our ISPs use and share our data," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, "and confidence that ISPs are keeping their customers' data secure." Internet providers argue the rules would reduce their ability to sell advertisements to consumers. The FCC will continue to shape the policy over the next few months and present it in more final form before fully adopting it.


Walmart Slashes Price of iPhone By $100, Galaxy By $150

Apr 1, 2016, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart today said customers can save big bucks on Apple's iPhone and Samsung's Galaxy phones for the next three months. Walmart has cut the price of all iPhones by $100 (including the new iPhone SE) and all Galaxy phones (including the Galaxy S7) by $150. The rollback begins today and lasts through the end of June. The reduced prices will be available only in Walmart stores, and only to customers of AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile is not participating in the rollback program.

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FCC Says Netflix Throttling Actions Aren't Its Concern

Mar 31, 2016, 4:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today said the agency doesn't intend to investigate Netflix's throttling practices for customers of AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Wheeler said web sites and other edge providers fall outside its purview and didn't violate any regulations. Netflix admitted to throttling the speed of video streamed by AT&T and Verizon customers due to those carriers' data overage policies. Netflix doesn't throttle the speeds of video streamed by Sprint and T-Mobile customers.


Verizon Confirms Pending $20 Upgrade Fee

Mar 31, 2016, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today confirmed to Phonescoop that it plans to charge customers $20 to upgrade to new devices beginning April 4. The fee will apply to customers who buy handsets with installment plans, or buy phones at full price. Verizon will assess the fee at third-party retailers, too, such as purchases made at the Apple Store or Best Buy. "The upgrade fee helps cover our increased support costs associated with customers switching devices," explained a Verizon spokesperson to Phonescoop via email. "Customers can pay the charge when they upgrade, bill it to their account, or trade in an old device to offset the cost. The fee for upgrading on device payment is still half of the two-year contract upgrade fee." Verizon charges contract customers $40 when upgrading devices. AT&T instituted its own device upgrade fee of $15 last year. Sprint recently lowered its upgrade fee from $36 to $30. T-Mobile charges $20 for a SIM card starter pack, which is widely seen as an upgrade fee. Verizon's new $20 upgrade fee was first uncovered by MacRumors.

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AT&T, DirecTV to Reward Galaxy S7 Buyers with Free TV

Mar 31, 2016, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and DirecTV customers who buy a Samsung Galaxy S7 may become eligible for a free Samsung 48-inch TV. Consumers who buy a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, and sign up for AT&T and DirecTV are eligible for the free TV, as are existing AT&T customers who join DirectTV, and existing DirecTV customers who join AT&T. Consumers who already subscribe to AT&T and DirecTV are not eligible. The S7 or S7 Edge must be purchased on an AT&T Next plan, and people must have both AT&T and DirecTV to qualify — at least one of which must be new. The free TV offer will be available through April 30.


LG G5 Officially Goes On Sale March 31

Mar 30, 2016, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG said its G5 smartphone will be available for sale in Korea starting March 31, with the U.S. to follow April 1. The G5 will reach other regions, including Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, over time. LG says more than 200 carriers plan to sell the phone. In the U.S., that includes AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, all of which will offer the phone on April 1. Along with the G5 itself, LG plans to sell the accompanying modules and accessories, called LG Friends. The two most notable Friends as the CAM Plus and Hi-Fi Plus, which are modules that plug directly into the bottom of the G5. The CAM Plus will be available in the U.S., but LG hasn't said if the Hi-Fi Plus will also be available. Other Friends include the 360 VR headset, 360 CAM, Rolling Bot, Tone Platinum, and H3 by B&O. Pricing for the LG G5 varies by carrier. The phone has a 5.3-inch quad HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 16-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C.


FCC's Incentive Auction Starts Tonight

Mar 29, 2016, 2:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC said its incentive auction for 600 MHz airwaves officially gets under way at 6p.m. this evening, when broadcasters will need to commit to participating. The auction will see television broadcasters give up their airwaves, which will then be sold to bidding wireless companies and other companies. "In just a few hours, we mark the beginning of the world's first Incentive Auction," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, "which will align the use of the public airwaves to meet America's 21st century spectrum needs. The auction promises to free up more capacity to meet Americans' skyrocketing demand for wireless data while preserving the valuable service that broadcast TV stations provide to their communities." AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are taking part in the auction along with about 100 other entities. T-Mobile has promised to pursue the low-band spectrum aggressively. The auction is expected to last several months.


AT&T Debuts Rugged Mobile Hotspot

Mar 28, 2016, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 28, 2016, 11:42 AM

AT&T today announced the Unite Explore, a mobile hotspot that's been ruggedized to withstand abuse. The hotspot has earned the mil-spec 810G and IR65 ratings for protection against shock, temperature extremes, vibration, water, and dust. The device boasts dual-band WiFi and some LTE-Advanced features to provide the fastest speeds available. Owners can manage the device thanks to a touchscreen-based user interface. Controls can set up and limit guest access, and parents can set content filters for age-appropriate surfing. AT&T says the battery provides 22 hours of hotspot time for up to 15 devices. The AT&T Unite Explore reaches stores April 1 and costs $49.99 with a two-year agreement.


Netflix Says It Throttles Video on AT&T and Verizon

Mar 24, 2016, 6:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Netflix today said that it has limited its video speeds on most carriers worldwide for years, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. The issue came to light when T-Mobile accused AT&T and Verizon of throttling Netflix. Mobile video practices have been under a microscope since the December launch of T-Mobile's Binge On program, which zero-rates the video content from some providers. Netflix admitted that it is throttling its own service on purpose to about 600Kbps to "protect consumers from exceeding mobile data caps." Netflix says it has throttled video speeds for as long as five years, but leaves video streamed by Sprint and T-Mobile customers alone due to those carriers' less onerous policies. Netflix, which claims to be a proponent of net neutrality, says it is exploring new ways to stream video in such a way that it consumes less data. AT&T and Verizon were not pleased with the revelation. "We're outraged to learn that Netflix is apparently throttling video for their AT&T customers without their knowledge or consent," said AT&T.


Verizon Taking Preorders for LG Watch Urbane 2nd Ed.

Mar 24, 2016, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Following AT&T, Verizon Wireless today said customers can place orders for the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition with LTE. This wearable, delayed by several months due to manufacturing issues, has its own cellular connection to Verizon's network and can be used fully independent from a smartphone. It can make calls and send messages from the owner's main cell number. The wearable runs Android Wear and costs $499. Verizon will drop the price by $50 for those willing to sign a contract. It costs $5 per month to add the watch to an existing service plan. For a limited time, Verizon will sell the watch for $399 when purchased with the LG G5 or V10 smartphones.


AT&T iPhones Gain International WiFi Calling Via iOS 9.3

Mar 23, 2016, 9:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T customers who have newer iPhones can now make WiFi calls when traveling abroad. The company enabled international WiFi calling with the iOS 9.3 update from Apple and refreshed carrier settings. AT&T says international calls made via WiFi will be charged at its standard rates. The feature also allows people to send text messages via WiFi, which are counted the same as regular text messages. WiFi calling, which must be turned on in the system settings, is available to the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus. WiFi calling has been available for domestic calls since last year and can provide voice/messaging connectivity in areas with poor cellular coverage.


AT&T Taking Preorders for LG G5 with BOGO Deal; Brings Back LG Watch Urbane

Mar 21, 2016, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T customers interested in the LG G5 can preorder the modular smartphone starting today. The device will reach AT&T stores on April 1. AT&T is offering the G5 for $22.97 on an AT&T Next 24 installment plan (30 payments). Customers who want two LG G5 handsets can score the second for free as long as one of the two phones is activated on a new line and both are financed on the AT&T Next 24 plan. AT&T will reimburse the cost of the second phone spread out over the 30 monthly payments. The full retail price is $689. AT&T is also bringing back the LG Watch Urbane 2nd Edition with LTE. This wearable supports AT&T's NumberSync service and can be used with the customer's phone for taking calls and sending messages all from the same wireless number. AT&T will sell the LG smartwatch to customers for $99.99 with a two-year agreement when purchased with an LG G5 on an AT&T Next plan. Alternately, customers can purchase the watch for $0 down with 20 payments of $18. LG halted sales of the watch last year after discovering manufacturing problems. The issues have since been resolved.


Verizon Rolls Out Galaxy S7 BOGO Offer

Mar 18, 2016, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless has made a Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge buy-one, get-one deal of its own available to smartphone shoppers. Beginning today, customers who buy one Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge can receive a second one for free as long as the second one is activated on a new line. Both phones must be purchased through an installment plan. Verizon will give buyers a prepaid card for the value of the phone. Verizon customers who've already bought a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge are also eligible for a free phone if they choose to activate a new line. AT&T and T-Mobile have similar promotions running right now.

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Nextbit Shelves CDMA Variant of Its Robin Phone

Mar 17, 2016, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nextbit has canceled plans to bring a version of its Robin smartphone to Sprint and Verizon Wireless. The company cited the slow carrier approval process and ballooning expenses as reasons behind its decision. "What people at the carriers, in good faith given our need for quick answers, thought would take 'weeks' has turned into 'months'," explained Nextbit CEO Tom Moss. "What they thought would cost 'hundreds of thousands of dollars' has turned into 'millions'. And we're still not there." The company is refunding those who pre-ordered the CDMA version of the Robin, and is also offering those customers 25% off the GSM version of the Robin should they want it. The Robin runs Android and proactively offloads apps and files to the cloud in order to conserve storage. It is sold unlocked and works with AT&T and T-Mobile.


AT&T Sidesteps Class-Action Suit Over Throttling

Mar 14, 2016, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A federal judge sided with AT&T and said consumers suing the carrier over its throttling practices cannot work together as a group. Instead, customers must pursue individual arbitration with the carrier, per their signed user agreements. AT&T stands accused of throttling customers who paid for unlimited data plans once they consumed a certain amount of data each month. Some customers were throttled after they reached 3 GB per month, while others were throttled after they reached 5 GB. AT&T is believed to have throttled the speeds of some 3.5 million customers between 2011 and 2015. AT&T now allows customers with unlimited plans to use 22 GB of data per month before throttling them, and only does so when the network is congested. A class-action lawsuit would have been costly for AT&T. The majority of consumers likely won't pursue individual arbitration due to the related expenses. AT&T may have dodged the class-action lawsuit, but it is still facing legal action from the Federal Trade Commission over the same issue. The FTC case is winding its way through federal courts and is due for another round in June.


FCC Girds for Privacy Battle with Internet Firms

Mar 10, 2016, 6:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC is prepared to propose new rules governing the use of consumer data by broadband providers, both wired and wireless. The proposal is meant to help protect the data generated by millions of people who use internet services every day. The FCC wants broadband providers to obtain permission from customers before sharing their data with others, including advertisers. "Consumers should have effective control over how their personal information is used and shared," said an FCC official. The rules would apply to companies such as AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon — including each company's wireless units. Firms such as Alphabet (neé, Google) and Facebook would be exempt, which instead fall under the purview of the FTC. The FCC is expected to propose the rules later this month, when they'll be provisionally approved. Internet providers argue the rules would reduce their ability to sell advertisements to consumers. The FCC's next meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 31.


LG G5 to Make US Debut In Early April

Mar 10, 2016, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said U.S. consumers can expect to see the G5 smartphone reach stores in early April. The modular smartphone will be available via AT&T, Best Buy, B&H, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. LG said carriers will be responsible for announcing their own release dates and pricing. The G5 has a removable bottom hatch that allows users to access the battery as well as add modules called LG Friends. The first two modules are a camera grip and stereo DAC. The phone also boasts dual rear cameras and a Snapdragon 820 processor. It runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow.


AT&T Extends BOGO Offer to Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge

Mar 8, 2016, 3:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, which reach stores March 11, will be eligible for a buy one, get one promotion the carrier has been running since last month. Both phones must be purchased via an 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. AT&T didn't say how long the BOGO offer will be available.


Alcatel's Go Play Handset Available for Sale Starting Today

Mar 4, 2016, 2:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today made the Go Play available for sale on its web site for $199.99. The phone is being sold unlocked and is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile's LTE networks. The Go Play has a 5-inch 720p HD screen and 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. The Go Play has an 8-megapixel main camera, a 5-megapixel front camera, and can record full HD video. The phone features an IP67 rating for protection against water and dust, and can be used to take underwater images. Other features include GPS, an FM radio, and 2,500mAh battery. The Go Play runs Android Lollipop. Alcatel is including a free rugged case with the phone through the end of the month.


Boost Mobile Rolls Out Offer for AT&T, T-Mo, Verizon Customers

Mar 3, 2016, 10:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Boost Mobile today announced its own promotion aimed at converting customers from competing carriers to Boost. Boost says AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers who port their numbers to a Boost Mobile family plan can see monthly savings up to 50%. Boost is offering 10 GB of high-speed data per line starting at $60 for two lines, $85 for three lines, and $110 for four lines. Further, Boost says it will provide a free phone (or $50 discount) for every line ported to Boost Mobile from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon. Customers can get up to four free phones when activated with a new family plan. Boost Mobile said this offers will be available for a limited time, but didn't set a specific end date. Boost Mobile's parent company, Sprint, has offered a similar promotion for several months.


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