T-Mobile today agreed to pay the FTC and FCC a total of $90 million to settle accusations that the company was complicit in allowing third-parties to charge customers for unwanted services. An FTC and FCC investigation found T-Mobile guilty of breaking the law by "engaging in an unjust and unreasonable practice of billing consumers for products or services they had not authorized; and failing to provide a brief, clear, non-misleading, plain language description of the third-party charges on the telephone bills sent to consumers." A minimum of $67.5 million of the fine will be set aside to repay customers who claim they were overcharged. T-Mobile will also pay $18 million to all fifty U.S. states and the District of Columbia, in addition to $4.5 million to the U.S. Treasury. As part of the consent decree, T-Mobile is prohibited from charging customers for third-party PSMS products or services. It also requires T-Mobile to create a system so customers can verify third-party service charges before they appear on bills. T-Mobile will have to block third-party charges for free; make it easier for customers to identify possible fraudulent charges; and train customer service staff to properly resolve customer complaints regarding unauthorized charges. "Cramming is a significant problem," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "For too long, millions of consumers have been scammed -- billed for bogus charges on their phone bills for services they didn’t request. This is unacceptable. Today's settlement is a win for consumers who have been victimized by cramming. It means compensation for T-Mobile customers who were fraudulently billed for third-party services that they did not want or authorize. And it goes one step further. Today’s action will also help protect all of T-Mobile's customers from bogus third-party charges in the future." Sprint was recently sued for similar practices. AT&T settled cramming charges with the FCC for $105 million earlier this year.
The FCC today granted T-Mobile's petition that the agency "provide guidance on the application of the commercial reasonableness standard" with respect to data roaming rates. T-Mobile filed the petition earlier this year in order to help it and other carriers negotiate better roaming rates with larger rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Since 2011, the FCC has mandated that all carriers allow competing devices to roam onto their networks at fair prices. The FCC did not suggest or otherwise imply what those fair prices should be. T-Mobile argued the FCC's 2011 mandate did not provide enough guidance for setting rates and the result has been what T-Mobile calls exorbitant fees charged by AT&T and Verizon to roam onto their networks. Sprint and other members of the Competitive Carriers Association supported T-Mobile's position, while AT&T and Verizon Wireless opposed it vehemently. The two larger carriers argued any such guidance could result in reduced rates over the long term and would serve as unnecessary regulation. After weighing the arguments, the FCC agreed with T-Mobile's position that it should offer guidance on reasonable pricing. Specifically, the FCC will adopt T-Mobile's four proposed benchmarks when assessing the reasonableness standard: 1. retail rates; 2. international roaming rates; 3. MVNO/resale rates; and 4. roaming rates charged by other providers. "In our view, the additional guidance we provide under the standard set forth ... will facilitate the ability of parties to negotiate successful data roaming agreements, which in turn will promote the provision of high quality advanced broadband services by multiple service providers in urban, suburban, and rural areas to the benefit of American consumers," said the FCC.
AT&T today said it will support the BlackBerry Classic, though pricing and availability aren't yet available. BlackBerry is already selling the phone directly to consumers for $449.
AT&T recently pushed out a system update to the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. The primary new feature added to the phone is support for AT&T's VoLTE service. The update must be downloaded and installed via WiFi, but it is free. AT&T expanded the availability of its VoLTE service earlier this week. It is now available in select regions across 18 states.
The FCC is prepared to hit Sprint with a massive fine over alleged cramming practices, according to the Wall Street Journal. The FCC says Sprint played a "willful" role in charging customers for text message alerts, horoscopes, sports scores, ring tones, and other unwanted services. The FCC said Sprint was hit with 35,000 complaints over cramming charges during a three-month window in the middle of 2013. The FCC hasn't finalized the fine against Sprint, but three of the five commissioners are prepared to vote in favor of the penalty. AT&T settled with the FCC for a similar amount over cramming earlier this year, and the FTC is suing T-Mobile for the same practice.
Apple Pay has garnered more support from banks and retailers around the country, according to the New York Times. SunTrust, Barclaycard, and USAA have already agreed to support Apple Pay with their cards, and 10 more banks, including TD Bank North America and Commerce Bank, are adding support for Apple Pay beginning today. With the new financial institutions on board, a significantly larger percentage of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners can use Apple Pay to make mobile payments at participating retailers. More retailers are interested in Apple Pay, too. Staples will begin accepting Apple Pay at its 1,400 stores beginning today, and Amway Center, where the Orlando Magic basketball team plays, will begin accepting Apple Pay at concessions stands during games. Apple Pay uses an NFC radio embedded in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to power tap-and-go payments at more than 220,000 retail outlets around the U.S. iPhone owners use their fingerprint to approve purchases, which are secured thanks to unique codes assigned to each transaction. Apple Pay launched Oct. 20. Competing services, such as Softcard, are available to select Android and Windows Phones sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.
AT&T today said its VoLTE service is now available in a wider number of markets around the country. AT&T first deployed VoLTE in a limited number of midwestern cities earlier this year. Since then, it has been testing VoLTE and believes the service is performing well. Today, AT&T expanded VoLTE and HD Voice to select areas in the District of Columbia, as well as portions of Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Customers can use a coverage map to find out if VoLTE and HD Voice are available where they live. VoLTE does not cost extra to use, but requires compatible handsets and LTE coverage for both parties on the call. AT&T reiterated that it is working to expand VoLTE to new markets, and expects to eventually offer inter-carrier VoLTE service with Verizon Wireless and other network operators next year.
AT&T and U.S. Cellular have asked the FCC for permission to exchange spectrum licenses in select areas around the country. The proposed transaction includes 122 counties across 39 Cellular Market Areas. If approved, AT&T would receive PCS spectrum in 104 counties in 32 CMAs, while U.S. Cellular would receive PCS spectrum in 18 counties in seven CMAs. AT&T expects to hold 76 to 185MHz in the areas covered post transaction, and U.S. Cellular expects to hold 34 to 91MHz. AT&T says the transaction will allow it to "increase its system capacity to enhance existing services, better accommodate its overall growth, and facilitate the provision of additional products and services." As for U.S. Cellular, it believes the transaction will let it "carry out its current business and operational plans while divesting spectrum that is not strategic to its long term success." The companies will not exchange customers or networking assets. The FCC has accepted the initial applications for review. Companies routinely propose such spectrum swaps.
AT&T today said beginning Dec. 10 all Alltel stores and services across Georgia will be rebranded under the AT&T name. Further, AT&T says more than 100,000 former Alltel wireless customers in Georgia will begin using new devices that work on AT&T's network early next year. AT&T completed its acquisition of Alltel in late 2013. Alltel ran a CDMA network, but AT&T has been transitioning Alltel customers to its own GSM-based network. In order to gain FCC approval of the Alltel acquisition last year, AT&T agreed to launch LTE to Alltel customers within 15 months of completing the sale. It also agreed to run Alltel's CDMA network through June 15, 2015. AT&T didn't say how many Georgia customers are still using the old CDMA network. AT&T is encouraging any remaining Alltel customers to visit the new AT&T stores and switch to AT&T's handsets and services.
AT&T and Samsung today announced the availability of the Gear VR Innovator Edition, a virtual reality headset that works with the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone. Samsung, which worked with Oculus, announced the Gear VR earlier this year. It is a headset that encompasses the Galaxy Note 4 and uses it to create a 3D, 360-degree environment that can be explored. The sample content that ships with the Gear VR was made by Oculus and additional content can be downloaded from Oculus' platform. Samsung and Oculus hope early adopters will buy the Gear VR and use the available SDK to create their own apps and experiences for the headset. AT&T and Samsung are both selling the Gear VR online for $199 ($249 with recommended Bluetooth controller). It won't be sold in stores. The Galaxy Note 4 (required) is sold separately.
The FCC today altered how it is conducting the auction for AWS-3 spectrum as fewer bids arrive for each round. Before today, the FCC offered four one-hour bidding windows per day. Moving forward, the FCC is offering six 30-minute bidding windows, giving bidders less time to react to each round. Total bids for the auction now exceed $40 billion. The auction, which began Nov. 13, had an initial reserve of $10.56 billion. With the number of new bids slowing down, it is possible the auction could end soon. AT&T, Dish Networks, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and dozens of other entities are participating in the bidding.
AT&T recently cancelled a limited-time promotion wherein it offered 15GB of shareable data for the cost of 10GB. The promotion started Nov. 18 and lasted 13 days, ending Nov. 30. Limited promos are nothing new, but ending one so swiftly is atypical. AT&T didn't say why it ended the promotion so quickly.
Sprint recently indicated that its years-long Network Vision project is coming to a close. Sprint's 1900MHz LTE network covers 260 million POPs, according to Sprint CFO Joe Euteneuer, who made the comments at a Bank of America investor conference this week. Sprint's 2.5GHz LTE network covers 92 million POPs and its 800MHz LTE network will cover 100 million POPs by the end if the year. "I think from a network standpoint we have been waiting to get to this point of having a network that is substantially complete," said Euteneuer. Sprint said it will continue to add coverage in the 1900MHz band as its obtains more spectrum. All Sprint smartphones support tri-band LTE, which Sprint markets as Sprint Spark. Spark-compatible handsets are able to use whichever of the three spectrum bands (800MHz, 1900MHz, 2.5GHz) offers the strongest coverage in areas where all three bands are available. Sprint had previously said Sprint Spark would be available to 100 million people by the close of 2014, and it now appears that goal depends on deploying LTE to its 800MHz spectrum. All the major carriers are supplementing their LTE networks with additional capacity in other spectrum bands. For example, Verizon operates LTE in the 700MHz and AWS bands. AT&T and Verizon cover about 300 million POPs each with LTE. T-Mobile covers about 250 million. Sprint's Euteneuer also noted that Sprint will push an over-the-air update to the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in the next two to three months to enable Wi-Fi calling.
Sprint plans to go after AT&T and Verizon customers with an aggressive and enticing campaign. Beginning Friday, Sprint will offer rate plans to AT&T and Verizon customers that are half what they're already paying. For example, an AT&T customer who pays $300 per month will be offered a comparable Sprint plan that costs only $150 per month. The offer only extends to the service costs, including minutes, messaging, and data. It does not include subsidies for device payments. Sprint will waive activation fees and pay up to $350 to cover the ETFs of those who switch, though the new customers will need to turn in their old devices. In order to score the half-price plan, new Sprint customers will need to buy a device from Sprint at full retail price or finance it through Sprint Easy Pay. They'll also have to provide a copy of their most recent wireless bill for verification of the monthly cost. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure hinted via Twitter that the company intends to "launch one of our most exciting promotions ever, especially designed for Verizon and att customers who love to save money." The promotion does not apply to T-Mobile or current Sprint customers.
C Spire Wireless has introduced new service plans that include rollover data. The trio of plans allows customers to carryover unused data from one month to the next in order to avoid overage charges during months they may need more access. All three plans include unlimited voice minutes and messaging. The $40 option buys 2GB of data, the $55 option buys 4GB, and the $65 option buys 6GB. Customers can roll their entire monthly data allotment to the next month if it goes unused. These plans do not include device financing and assume users are supplying their own hardware. The same three plans cost $65, $80, and $90 per month when paired with a subsidized smartphone purchase. C Spire seemingly borrowed the idea from AT&T, which marketed rollover voice minutes for a long time.
Motorola today said it will replace a few hundred Nexus 6 handsets sent to some AT&T customers. "We delivered a small number of Nexus 6 smartphones with incorrect software to AT&T customers who pre-ordered," said Motorola in a statement. "The incorrect software prevents the phone from starting up properly. We will provide replacements for consumers whose phones are affected. The problem has been corrected and the phones currently shipping are fine." When asked, Motorola denied that shipments were halted or recalled because of the bug. The issue appears to only affect the AT&T variant of the Nexus 6. "If a consumer sees the 'welcome' after the first time they turn on the phone, then their device isn't affected and they should use it as normal," said Motorola in an email to Phone Scoop. "People can call [Motorola's] customer service if they have questions."
AT&T today announced the immediate availability of the Sonim XP6. The XP6 is a highly rugged Android smartphone that includes buttons and controls like a feature phone. It is certified to mil-spec 810G for protection against drops, vibration, temperature extremes, and humidity. The IP68 rating means it is protected again water and dust intrusion, as well. The XP6 is compatible with AT&T's enhanced PTT service, and has an extremely loud speaker at 103dB. The phone has a 2.64-inch display with 320 x 424 pixels. It runs Android 4.4 KitKat. Specs include a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage; 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture; an extra large 4,820mAh battery; and Bluetooth, GPS, LTE, and WiFi radios. AT&T is selling the Sonim XP6 through its business sales channels. The Sonim XP6 is available for $0 down at $17.50 per month on AT&T Next 24; $21.88 on AT&T Next 18; $26.25 on AT&T Next 12; $149.99 with a standard two-year contract; or $524.99 with no commitment. Business and government customers can buy the XP6 for $100 with a two-year contract as long as they also sign up for EPTT service.
AT&T recently added an option to its selection of prepaid plans. Splitting the difference between the existing $40 and $60 plans is a new $45 plan. It includes unlimited calling in the U.S. and unlimited messaging. As for data, the plan offers 1GB of high-speed data. Customers who exceed the monthly limit will be throttled down to 128Kbps for the remainder of the billing period. Alternately, customers can purchase another 1GB of data for $10. The $40 plan includes only 500MB of data, while the $60 plan includes 2.5GB. The new $45 GoPhone plan is already available.
Starbucks has begun to deploy wireless charging stations at select coffee shops in the San Francisco Bay Area. The company said 200 stores now offer wireless charging spots on tables and coffee bars. Customers with compatible handsets can place their devices on the spots to receive a power boost while sipping a latte. Starbucks is working with Powermat, which uses the inductive charging standard developed by the Power Matters Alliance. Some phones in the market use the PMA standard for wireless charging, but many do not. Powermat makes a wide array of sleeves and other accessories for devices that don't support wireless charging on their own. Starbucks will allow customers to buy or borrow a special Powermat Ring, which is PMA compliant and plugs into phones via USB. The Powermat Ring costs $10, or can be used for free when purchasing food or beverages. Earlier this year, Starbucks said it will add about a dozen wireless charging stations to each of its 7,500 locations in the U.S., though many of the deployments won't take place until 2015. There are still competing standards in the wireless charging space. Qi, the standard created by the Wireless Power Consortium, still has strong support in some quarters and is supported by a number of phones. Starbucks' wireless charging project is being supported by AT&T, which is a member of the PMA.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel today said the government has received bids totaling $12 billion for AWS-3 spectrum licenses. The auction kicked off November 13 with a reserve price of $10.6 billion. Today's revelation means the government has already exceeded its minimum for the auction. At stake are more than 1,600 licenses around the country covering 65MHz of AWS-3 spectrum. The FCC didn't say how long it expects the bidding to continue. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are among 70 entities approved to participate in the auction.
AT&T today announced yet another promotional data offering. Beginning November 18, Mobile Share Value plan customers can get 15GB of data for the price of 10GB. The monthly data charge is $100, which doesn't include per-line access charges for smartphones, tablets, and other devices connected to the plan. AT&T charges $15 per month for smartphones and $10 per month for tablets on AT&T Next plans, or $40 per month for traditional contract customers. AT&T said the promotion will run for a limited time, but didn't say for exactly how long. The improved data offering is available to new and existing customers. Additionally, AT&T customers can get unlimited international messaging (text, picture and video) on all Mobile Share Value plans for no additional cost. AT&T is still offering the promotional Mobile Share Value plan with 30GB of data for $130 per month.
The CTIA Wireless Association recently announced that its largest members have agreed to a preliminary timeframe for improving the accuracy of 911 calls made from indoors. In February, the FCC demanded that wireless network operators increase 911 location data accuracy to cover larger buildings. It wants network operators to provide X, Y, and Z coordinates to help place callers as accurately as a specific room inside a building. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have decided how they will approach the FCC's demands, and when they plan to meet select milestones. For example, they will verify technologies and vendor performance for indoor and outdoor technologies in a test bed in order to make sure gear sold by different companies all provide the same results. They will speed up the ability to provide dispatchable locations (street address plus floor, suite, or apartment) using indoor technologies, as well as create a database of each handset's performance in this regard. They will also improve all location technologies and tune them for better indoor and outdoor location fixes. The CTIA members said they will provide dispatchable locations for 40% of all wireless 911 calls within two years and 50% within three years. They will also provide dispatchable locations for 75% of all VoLTE calls within five years and 80% within six years. The FCC hasn't responded publicly to the CTIA's suggested framework.
Wireless and other companies began bidding on AWS-3 spectrum licenses today, which are being auctioned off by the FCC. The initial round of bidding totaled about $1.77 billion for 1,012 of the 1,614 available licenses. The FCC's reserve price for the entire auction is $10.56 billion. Major network operators such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are participating, as are other entities such as Dish Networks. Seventy total groups were approved to participate in the auction. Spectrum blocks in New York City and Los Angeles received the most attention today, with one J Block license in NYC scoring a high bid of $88 million. Bidding is expected to continue for several weeks at least. The AWS-3 spectrum includes 65MHz in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands.
United Airlines today announced that owners of its MileagePlus credit cards can now add them to their Softcard account and make mobile payments. The cards are backed by Chase bank, which is one of the handful of financial institutions supporting Softcard. In order to entice cardholders to sign up, United is offering 2,500 miles to customers who activate their MileagePlus card on Softcard by February 28, 2015. Further, United will add 500 more miles every month (up to total of 4,000 miles) to the MileagePlus accounts of cardholders who use Softcard at least once per month for mobile purchases. Softcard is backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless and is compatible with many Android smartphones and select Windows Phones.
AT&T today said it will put on hold a plan to bring fiber-based broadband to 100 cities. It is hitting "pause" said CEO Randall Stephenson thanks to the recently heated up debate over net neutrality. "We can't go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed," he said. "We think it is prudent to just pause and make sure we have line of sight and understanding as to what those rules would look like." AT&T has not yet said if it plans to pause any investments in its wireless network. For example, AT&T still plans to participate in this week's AWS-3 spectrum auction, which kicks off Thursday. The debate over net neutrality was sparked anew this week when President Obama weighed in and asked the FCC to create a free and open internet.
AT&T today announced that it will begin accepting preorders for the Nexus 6 smartphone on November 12. AT&T is offering the device through several payment avenues. The full retail price of the phone is $683, but customers who sign a two-year agreement can pick up the Nexus 6 for $250. The device is also available via AT&T Next monthly installment plans. It costs $22.77 with Next 24, $28.46 with Next 18, and $34.15 with Next 12. For a limited time, AT&T is offering new and existing customers a $50 discount on the Moto 360 smartwatch when purchased with the Nexus 6. AT&T didn't say when the Nexus 6 will actually ship or reach stores.
AT&T today said it has cancelled plans to offer in-flight connectivity to mobile devices. The company initially thought it could take on incumbent in-flight supplier GoGo with its own, competing wireless service. AT&T has since committed sizable financial resources to purchase DirecTV and Iusacell. AT&T said a review of its finances prompted today's decision.
AT&T today announced that customers with the Samsung Ativ S Neo handset can update their devices to Windows Phone 8.1. The system update includes Cortana, expanded home screen panels, action center, new lock screen widgets, word flow keyboard and other improvements. The update is free and can be installed over the air.
Following the White House's request to reclassify the internet as a utility, a number of industry organizations have fielded responses. First to respond was FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. Wheeler "welcomed" Obama's comments and said the agency would add them to the existing public discourse regarding the subject. He stopped well short of saying the agency would adopt such measures. "The more deeply we examined the issues around the various legal options, the more it has become plain that there is more work to do. The approaches before us raise substantive legal questions. We found we would need more time to examine these to ensure that whatever approach is taken, it can withstand any legal challenges it may face," said Wheeler. The CTIA Wireless Association, which lobbies for the wireless industry's interests in Washington, disagreed with Obama's proposal in the strongest terms. "Imposing antiquated common carrier regulation on the vibrant mobile wireless ecosystem would be a gross overreaction that would impose inappropriate regulation on a dynamic industry and would threaten mobile providers' ability to invest and innovate, all to the detriment of consumers. CTIA strongly opposes such an approach," wrote CTIA President Meredith Atwell Baker. AT&T went a step further and threatened legal action. "Today's announcement by the White House, if acted upon by the FCC, would be a mistake that will do tremendous harm to the Internet and to U.S. national interests. If the FCC puts such rules in place, we would expect to participate in a legal challenge to such action," said Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President, External & Legislative Affairs. Verizon Wireless issued a statement similar to AT&T's. "Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open internet, competition and innovation. That course will likely also face strong legal challenges and would likely not stand up in court," said the company in a post on its public policy blog.
T-Mobile has begun selling the HTC One (M8) for Windows smartphone on its web site. T-Mobile is offering the device for $0 down with monthly payments of $24.40, or for $585.60 at full retail. The phone recently reached AT&T and it is already sold by Verizon.
AT&T today announced it has agreed to acquire Mexican wireless company Iusacell for $2.5 billion. Iusacell offers wireless service under its own name and the Unefon brand name. It has 8.6 million subscribers, but covers about 70% of Mexico's population of 120 million. AT&T will gain the subscribers, spectrum licenses, network assets, and retail operations of Iusacell. The deal requires that Grupo Salinas, which currently owns just 50% of Iusacell, complete its acquisition of the portion of the company it does not already own. Once it does, AT&T will buy Iusacell from Grupo Salinas. AT&T said it plans to expand Iusacell's network to cover more Mexicans. The company believes the deal makes sense for a number of reasons. Iusacell runs a GSM/UMTS network and owns 800MHz and 1900MHz spectrum in select portions Mexico. "Iusacell represents a natural geographic expansion of [our] wireless footprint into a country with a growing economy that is interdependent with the U.S. economy," said AT&T. "Recent changes to government policies in Mexico have created a friendly climate for foreign investment. This transaction gives AT&T the assets necessary to create a first-ever North American Mobile Service area for U.S. customers calling or visiting Mexico, and Mexican customers calling or visiting the United States –whether they live near the border or thousands of miles away." AT&T sees the acquisition as a long-term growth opportunity. Iusacell will remain headquartered in Mexico City. AT&T said it expects the deal to gain the necessary regulatory approvals before the end of the first quarter of 2015.
Verizon Wireless today revealed pricing and availability details for its version of the Samsung Gear S smartwatch. The device is available starting today. Verizon is charging $349 for the smartwatch with a new activation. Service plans for the device, which include voice minutes and limited data, start at $5 per month when paired with a More Everything plan. The Gear S runs Samsung's Tizen platform and is capable of making voice calls independent of a smartphone. AT&T and Sprint are also selling the Gear S beginning today, and T-Mobile will begin selling it November 9. Verizon's competitors are offering the watch at reduced pricing with a service contract as well as via monthly installment plans.
RadioShack recently launched Defense Mobile, wireless service meant exclusively for members of the U.S. armed forces, their families, and veterans. Defense Mobile resells access to AT&T and Sprint's networks, and offers the most popular devices available, including the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5. According to RadioShack, Defense Mobile is supported by a 100% veteran-staffed Member Care organization and offers perks to active members of the military. Defense Mobile offers prepaid individual plans that start at $30 per month and family plans with scalable data for up to six lines starting at $110 per month. Defense Mobile includes bonus services for military members, such as a banking application associated with a pre-paid MasterCard, an app that helps military members and their families find veteran benefits, and a free email service that's associated with their branch of the armed forces. Defense Mobile service is available at 2,500 RadioShack locations around the country.
Motorola recently began accepting preorders for the Nexus 6 on its U.S. web site. Both the white and blue models are available in 32GB and 64GB variants for $649 and $699, respectively. Motorola is selling the unlocked GSM model at the moment. Google is also selling the Nexus 6, though its supply is currently exhausted. The Nexus 6 will be made available from wireless network operators, including AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, later this month. Shipping times have yet to be announced.
AT&T today announced that it will sell the FiLIP 2 beginning November 7 for $100. The FiLIP 2 is a second generation wearable for children (aged 4 to 11) that includes a rudimentary cell phone and GPS locator. Most of the changes to the FiLIP 2 pertain to the wearable aspect of the device. For example, the FiLIP 2 has an improved wristband that has adjustable sizing in order to make it more comfortable. The device is also more durable to withstand physical activity and it comes in more colors. AT&T said the FiLIP mobile app for smartphones has been improved with a new user interface and a simplified set-up process. The FiLIP lets parents use their smartphone to call the FiLIP and locate their kids easily on a map. The device stores up to five phone numbers that can be called by children from the FiLIP. The FiLIP can receive text messages from parents, but cannot return messages. In addition to pinpointing location, parents can also set Safe Zones in which their child is allowed to roam via geofencing. If the child leaves the Safe Zone, the FiLIP will send an alert to the parent. Last, the FiLIP includes an emergency function for calling parents and/or emergency services. FiLIP plans cost $10 per month.
Verizon Wireless and AT&T have both admitted to using a tool called supercookies to track the web usage of their customers. The supercookies log which web sites Verizon and AT&T customers visit, generating data that Verizon and AT&T can sell to advertisers. The supercookies allow Verizon and AT&T to monitor customers who've opted out of traditional cookie-based tracking. The supercookies can't be erased, nor evaded by using private browsing modes as they aren't stored on phones. Instead, they're stored on Verizon's network. Verizon says it notified customers about the supercookies, though the effectiveness of the outreach has been called to question. Verizon also says it has taken steps to protect customer privacy. For example, the supercookie codes are a random string of numbers and letters that are changed regularly. Verizon says the data generated by its supercookies are only available to participants of its Precision Markets Insights advertising program. AT&T's supercookie codes are changed every day, but its program is still in the trial stage and not yet fully deployed. The companies contend the codes are anonymous, but security researchers cited by The Washington Post say the data can be de-anonymized to reveal identity info. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has reached out to the FCC about the legality of the tracking tools. It is weighing whether or not to take legal action to prevent the carriers from using them.
Softcard recently expanded to Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Softcard, formerly Isis, is a mobile payment service backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Windows Phone owners can associate a credit card from select financial institutions with Softcard on their phone and use it for mobile payments. According to Softcard, its app is accepted at more than 200,000 retail locations around the U.S. Softcard is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, but it requires a secure SIM card from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless in order to function properly.
AT&T today announced AT&T Next 24, a third option for breaking down device payments into smaller monthly chunks. As with AT&T Next 12 and AT&T Next 18, the new plan lets customers join AT&T without requiring a contract. Customers can acquire a phone for $0 down followed by monthly payments that vary according to the phone's cost. With Next 24, customers can upgrade to a new device after making 24 payments, and the device is paid off after 30 total payments. In order to get a new phone with no downpayment, customers will need to turn in their old device when they choose to upgrade after 24 payments. In addition to the new financing option, customers who switch to AT&T and activate a new line of service with a smartphone on AT&T Next will receive a $150 bill credit.
Verizon Wireless and AT&T today said the companies are working together to make interoperable VoLTE calls a reality. Both carriers offer VoLTE to their subscribers, but those calls can only pass between two VoLTE-enabled devices covered by an LTE network run by the same carrier. In other words, Verizon customers can only call Verizon customers via VolTE and AT&T customers can only call AT&T customers. Engineers from both companies are working to create a set of requirements needed and then plan to move to field trials before a full deployment. Once VoLTE calls are interoperable between the two carriers, they'll work on other services, such as video calls and rich messaging. The two said customers can expect to see VoLTE interoperability for voice calls between Verizon and AT&T in 2015. T-Mobile also offers VoLTE to its customers, but it appears as though the Uncarrier has been left out of this partnership for now.
AT&T today announced the pending availability of the Kyocera DuraForce, a ruggedized Android smartphone. Like many of Kyocera's rugged devices, the DuraForce is mil-spec 810G and IP-68 certified. This means it is protected from drops, shock, temperature, dust, and vibration, and it can sit in up to six feet of water for up to 30 minutes. It also uses Kyocera's Smart Sonic Receiver, which makes it easier to hear in noisy environments. The phone features a 4.5-inch 720p HD screen, 1.4GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, 3,100mAh battery, and 16GB of internal storage. The DuraForce runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and supports AT&T's LTE network and its Enhanced Push-to-Talk (EPTT) service. The no-commitment price of the Kyocera DuraForce is $390. AT&T is offering the DuraForce for $50 with a two-year contract, $19.95 per month with AT&T Next 12, or $16.63 per month with AT&T Next 18. It will be available online November 7 and in stores November 21.