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printed October 21, 2017
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Nokia 3310 3G Hits Best Buy This Month for $60

Yesterday, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HMD Global, the maker of Nokia-branded handsets, today said the 3310 3G will be available in the U.S. through Best Buy. The phone can be preordered online starting today and it will reach stores October 29. It costs $60 and is sold unlocked without a contract. The 3310 3G is a retro, bar-style feature phone with a 2-megapixel camera, a memory card slot, Bluetooth, and FM radio. This U.S. variant of the phone has quad-band GSM and WCDMA 1/2/5/8, which supports AT&T's network.


Hands On with the ZTE Axon M

Tuesday, 9:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 9:05 AM

ZTE is trying something different with the Axon M. Rather than push out another boring slab, ZTE created an interesting Android smartphone with twin folding displays that can be set in a number of different and useful configurations. Need extra screen real estate in that document, or want to run two full-screen apps side by side? The Axon M does that and more. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of this AT&T-exclusive handset.

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Google Refocuses Daydream View Headset

Oct 4, 2017, 3:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alongside the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, Google today introduced a new version of its Daydream View VR headset. Both new Pixel phones are Daydream-ready and function perfectly with the revised viewing hardware. Google says the lenses have been improved in order to create a wider, clearer field of view. The headset carries over the soft fabric covering and controller of the original, and it comes in fog, charcoal, and coral. Google says more than 250 Daydream titles are available to Android devices, and the amount of content available through YouTube VR has grown exponentially over the last year. Google's new Pixel handsets support ARCore augmented reality, too, and Google expects fun add-ons such as sticker packs will help people get off the ground with AR content. The new Google Daydream View will be available later this year for $99 from the Google Store, Verizon, Best Buy, AT&T, and Amazon.


LG V30 Goes on Sale October 6 for About $800

Sep 28, 2017, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 28, 2017, 7:37 PM

LG and its carrier partners today announced pricing and availability for the V30 smartphone. Preorders for the handset commence October 5th, with an expected ship and in-store date of October 6th for AT&T, or 13th for T-Mobile. Exact pricing varies a bit by carrier, but the average retail price of the phone comes in at $800. T-Mobile, for example, is seeking $80 down and $30 a month on T-Mobile’s Equipment Installment Plan. AT&T is charging $27 per month for 30 months on AT&T Next. AT&T has a limited buy-one, get-one deal on the V30, though it requires at least one port in and a subscription to DirecTV. The V30 is LG's camera-focused flagship. It has a 6-inch FullVision display, glass-and-metal design, and twin rear-mounted cameras.


Nokia Adds 3G and US Support to Retro 3310

Sep 28, 2017, 7:47 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Sep 28, 2017, 8:57 AM

HMD Global today announced the Nokia 3310 3G, an updated version of its retro feature phone announced earlier this year. The new model is slightly larger and has a new interface, but externally looks like the 2G version of this year's 3310. The design is inspired by the 3110 that was one of Nokia's best-selling GSM phones when cell phones were first taking off globally. The 3310 3G comes in two versions, one of which has quad-band GSM and WCDMA 1/2/5/8, which would support AT&T's network in the US. It also has a 2-megapixel camera, a memory card slot, Bluetooth, and and FM radio. It will go on sale next month, first in Australia.


LG X Venture Lands at U.S. Cellular

Sep 25, 2017, 1:02 PM   by Rich Brome

LG's X Venture was originally exclusive to AT&T, but is now available from U.S. Cellular as well. The mid-range Android phone has a large 4,100 mAh battery and a rugged design.


Asus Brings ZenFone 4 Lineup to U.S.

Sep 22, 2017, 3:48 PM   by Rich Brome

Asus recently announced plans to bring its ZenFone 4 series of phones to the U.S. unlocked market this year. The lineup includes the flagship ZenFone 4 Pro, the mid-range ZenFone 4, and two versions of the ZenFone 4 Max, both of which have large batteries but otherwise lower-end specs. The ZenFone 4 Max 5.5" is available now, while the rest will go on sale in the coming months. All have basic support for AT&T and T-Mobile LTE networks, including bands 2, 4, 5, and 12.

  • ZenFone 4 Max 5.2": Has a 4,100 mAh battery, 5.2-inch HD LCD display, Snapdragon 425 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. Also includes a fingerprint reader, memory card slot, 13 megapixel camera, 5-megapixel wide-angle camera, and 8-megapixel front camera.
  • ZenFone 4 Max 5.5": Has a 5,000 mAh battery, 5.5-inch HD LCD display, Snapdragon 430 processor, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a metal body. Other features are the same as the 5.2" version. (shown)
  • ZenFone 4: Has a 3,300 mAh battery, 5.5-inch Full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 630 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, and a glass back. It also sports NFC, USB-C, Cat. 12 LTE, and a better main camera with OIS and 4K video recording. Like the rest of the series, it has dual rear cameras and the touch screen works through gloves.
  • ZenFone 4 Pro: A flagship-class phone with all of the features of the ZenFone 4, plus a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6 GB of RAM, an AMOLED screen, 3,600 mAh battery, fast charging, auto-focus front camera, 16-megapixel telephoto camera (instead of a wide-angle camera), laser focusing, and better support for AT&T's LTE network with bands 29 and 30.


Google Intros 'Zero-Touch' Android Enterprise Deployments

Sep 21, 2017, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it easier for businesses to configure and deploy Android handsets to employees with a new tool called zero-touch enrollment. Google says zero-touch lets companies configure purchased devices and ship them directly to employees completely preconfigured with corporate policies and controls all in place. Users need only sign in to gain access to their work apps and data. The new zero-touch enrollment tool is available on handsets purchased from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless in the U.S. Google is working with Samsung, Huawei, Sony, LG, HMD Global, BlackBerry, HTC, Motorola, Honeywell, Zebra, and Sonim to ensure a wide selection of devices support zero-touch. Google indicated the Huawei Mate 10 and Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ1 Compact will be among the first devices to support zero-touch in the coming weeks. Businesses will be able to use a wide range of enterprise device management tools from the likes of BlackBerry, MobileIron, IBM, Suite, and VMware to configure zero-touch. Google encouraged businesses that are interested in zero-touch to contact their carriers directly.


Apple Watch Series 3 Supports Carriers' One Number Calling and Messaging

Sep 13, 2017, 2:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple this week announced the Apple Watch Series 3 with an optional cellular radio. The LTE radio makes it possible for the smartwatch to connect to cellular networks on its own, without a nearby iPhone. According to AT&T, the Apple Watch Series 3 is compatible with its NumberSync service, allowing people to make and receive phone calls from their main mobile number on the wearable. In addition to calls, NumberSync allows people to send/receive text messages from their main number directly on the smartwatch. The phone does need to powered on somewhere in order for the service to work. NumberSync is built into AT&T's network, so it doesn't require third-party apps in order to function properly. AT&T charges a $10 per month fee to add the Apple Watch Series 3 to an existing data plan. NumberSync is included for free. AT&T said it will waive the customary activation fee for the Apple Watch Series 3. Verizon Wireless customers will enjoy similar functionality via Verizon's NumberShare technology, which also allows people to make calls and send messages directly from their wrist over the cellular network. Like AT&T, Verizon is charging $10 per month to add the Apple Watch Series 3 to an existing plan. T-Mobile, too, has a $10 Apple Watch Series 3 plan that includes one-number calling from either the phone or the watch. Sprint has not yet detailed a similar service. The Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE goes on sale September 22 for $399.


Apple Refreshes the Apple Watch with LTE

Sep 12, 2017, 12:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 12, 2017, 2:12 PM

Apple today updated its smartwatch with several new features. Notably, the Apple Watch Series 3 gains an optional LTE radio for connections when phones aren't around or available. The Watch includes an e-SIM to save space, and uses the display itself to act as the cellular antenna. The LTE radio will require a data plan from carriers, such as AT&T or Verizon. People will be able to sync and control apps without their iPhone, as well as make voice calls. Apple says the cellular connection supports streaming from Apple Music and works with Apple's EarPods for on-the-go listening during workouts. The Watch Series 3 contains a new W2 wireless chip from Apple to enable Bluetooth and other connections and a refreshed dual-core processor that's 70% faster than Series 2. It comes in a variety of casings and bands, including a new sport loop made from breathable fabric. The ceramic option is now available in white and gray. The Apple Watch Series 3 costs $329 sans cellular and $399 with cellular. Apple will continue to sell the Series 1 for $249. Preorders begin September 15 and the Apple Watch Series 3 goes on sale September 22.


AT&T's Throttled Unlimited Plan Scores HBO

Sep 12, 2017, 10:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said customers who subscribe to its Unlimited Choice wireless plan will be given free access to HBO. There are three ways to watch HBO for free. First, customers who already subscribe to HBO through an AT&T video service (DirecTV, U-Verse) will now get HBO at no cost as long as they also subscribe to Unlimited Choice. HBO will refund the monthly fee directly on customers' bills. Second, AT&T video and wireless customers who don't already subscribe to HBO will automatically receive access to HBO's premium channels through that video service for free. Last, customers who have AT&T Unlimited Choice, but don't use an AT&T-branded video service, will be able to access HBO via DirecTV Now or the HBO Go apps at no cost. The AT&T Unlimited Choice plan includes a $25 monthly video credit that can be applied to any AT&T video service. Subscribers to this plan have access to unlimited data service, but at slower speeds. For example, LTE 4G data is capped at 3 Mbps and video streams are capped at 480p.


Energizer Power Max P600S Has 2:1 Display, Huge Battery

Sep 12, 2017, 10:31 AM   by Rich Brome

French phone maker Avenir Telecom has licensed the Energizer brand for a range of large-battery phones, which it aims to bring to the U.S. by the end of the year. One model is the Energizer Power Max P600S, which has a tall-aspect-ratio display much like Samsung and LG's flagship phones this year, as well as LG's Q-series. Avenir hopes to sell the P600S starting at $330. The phone has a 4,500 mAh battery with fast charging over USB-C, as well as the ability to charge other devices. Its display has full-HD+ resolution, and it also features a fingerprint reader, dual rear cameras, a MediaTek P25 processor, 3 GB of RAM, a memory card slot, and Android 7.0. Its network support includes LTE 2/4/7/17, for basic support on AT&T's network. Its design has a metal frame, curved-edge glass on the front, and a rounded plastic back with a carbon-fiber design. A very early prototype was shown off at the MWC Americas event in San Francisco this week. (See photos.) The company also showed off two models with rugged bodies and large batteries: the Energizer HardCase H550S and HardCase Energy E520 LTE. Both are water-proof, shock-proof, and have 4,000 mAh batteries. Avenir is still looking for distribution and retail partners to bring these phones to the U.S. market.

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U.S. Carriers Create Mobile Authentication Taskforce

Sep 8, 2017, 11:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Mobile operators in the U.S. today said they will work together to help customers more easily manage app and account authentication while also protecting consumers' privacy and identity. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless announced the Mobile Authentication Taskforce, which will create a mobile authentication solution for consumer and business customers alike next year. The carriers are going to pool resources and analyze customer data and activity patterns on their respective mobile networks to accurately predict if people are who they say they are. They'll parse insights such as geo-location, network-based device behaviors, and SIM card recognition to determine identity and authenticate users. The four carriers are taking an open approach to the Mobile Authentication Taskforce and hope third-party organizations and developers will participate. The group didn't say exactly when it expects to roll out the initial offering. Finding new and secure ways to authenticate end users is becoming increasingly important as more personal information is available on mobile devices.


AT&T Adds More Live Local Channels to DirecTV Now

Aug 30, 2017, 12:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said its DirecTV Now streaming television service has access to even more live local channels, including 25 new ABC, NBC, and FOX affiliates. Some of the new markets include Buffalo, N.Y., Grand Rapids, Mich., Little Rock, Ark., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Palm Springs, Calif, and Tulsa, Okla. AT&T claims to offer 130 local stations across more than 70 markets. DirecTV starts at $25 per month and is available to AT&T wireless customers for a heavy discount. AT&T wireless customers can stream an unlimited amount of DirecTV Now television content to their handset without impacting their monthly data allotment.


AT&T Expanding 5G Trials to More Markets

Aug 30, 2017, 9:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it plans to test its fixed 5G wireless technology with consumers and businesses in a handful of new markets. It kicked off 5G trials earlier this year in Austin and will expand to Waco, Texas; Kalamazoo, Mich.; and South Bend, Ind. by the end of the year. The company says it has already gained valuable insight regarding millimeter wave (mmWave) technology from its Austin trials, including how well the signal propagates around objects and how it is impacted by weather. It is consistently seeing maximum download speeds of 1 Gbps, though latency is stuck at 10 nanoseconds. AT&T is testing a handful of applications and services. For example, AT&T is allowing DirecTV Now customers to stream live television over this 5G connection using Ericsson's 5G RAN and Intel's 5G Mobile Trial Platform. AT&T didn't say what spectrum it is using to conduct these trials, nor what consumer equipment is involved. The mmWave technology is just one of many candidate 5G technologies being considered by the 3GPP and ITU. The 5G standard has not yet been technically defined by the international community, but that hasn't stopped carriers and telecom equipment manufacturers from forging ahead. The goal with tests such as these is to make enough technical progress so AT&T can contribute to the final 5G spec and get a jump on deployment. AT&T says it expects to deliver 5G speeds as early as late 2018.


BlackBerry KEYone Coming To AT&T

Aug 24, 2017, 11:06 AM   by Rich Brome

TCT Mobile and AT&T today announced that the BlackBerry KEYone phone will launch with AT&T on Friday, September 1st, in an exclusive Space Black color. The KEYone was previously only available unlocked or from Sprint. AT&T is selling the phone for $500. The last BlackBerry-brand phone offered by AT&T was the Priv, released in late 2015. The KEYone is the first phone designed and marketed by TCT Mobile — a division of TCL — under an exclusive arrangement with BlackBerry. BlackBerry is involved in the design and software of the phones, but the effort is led by TCT. TCT also operates the Alcatel brand for mobile phones.


DirecTV Now Adds CBS, The CW, Other Channels

Aug 7, 2017, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today improved its DirecTV Now television service with the addition of CBS and other channels. DirecTV Now has offered content from ABC, FOX, and NBC since launch, but not CBS. Today's news means DirecTV Now subscribers in 25 metro regions will have access to live CBS and The CW programming. The initial batch of markets includes New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas – Ft. Worth San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Boston, Detroit, and others. In addition to CBS, DirecTV Now also gains CBS Sports Network, Showtime, and Pop. AT&T said it plans to add 30 more live ABC, FOX, and NBC channels to markets around the country. The new content rollouts to DirecTV Now are scheduled to begin this week. AT&T allows its wireless customers to stream an unlimited amount of DirecTV Now over the mobile network without impacting their monthly data limit.


Samsung's Galaxy S8 Active Boasts Tougher, Less-Refined Design

Aug 7, 2017, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 7, 2017, 11:01 AM

Samsung today announced the Galaxy S8 Active, a rugged version of the S8 that will initially be sold by AT&T. The phone does away with the attractive, curved design of the S8 in favor of a more rugged metal frame with bumpers that are able to withstand drops up to 5 feet. Samsung says the phone meets mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse. The S8 Active offers the same protection from water and dust as the standard S8 thanks to an IP68 rating. The phone carries over the S8's 5.8-inch quad HD+ display with 18.5:9 aspect ratio, but relies on a flat piece of hardened glass. Other features unique to the S8 Active include a larger 4,000mAh battery, and Samsung's Activity Zone software for tracking workouts and other activities. The S8 Active carries over the S8's Snapdragon 835 processor, 12-megapixel main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, and dedicated Bixby key. The Samsung Galaxy S8 Active will be available for preorder from AT&T starting August 11. AT&T is offering a range of promotions and deals along with the S8 Active. It includes discounts on DirecTV service, as well as myriad AT&T apps and services, such as NumberSync, Advanced Calling, Advanced Messaging, and push-to-talk. The phone costs $28.34 per month for 30 months, or about $850.


AT&T Boosts DirecTV Now Live Channel Lineup

Jul 27, 2017, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said its DirecTV Now television service offers more than 100 live local channels. Local affiliates of ABC, NBC, and FOX (but not CBS) are available in markets including Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. AT&T says it will soon triple the number of live channels available compared to when the service launched in November 2016. Nationwide, DirecTV Now subscribers have access to up to 120 channels, more than 25,000 on-demand titles, as well as premium channels. DirecTV Now starts at $35 per month and ramps up to $70 depending on the package. AT&T offers a $25 monthly discount to its mobile customers, who can stream DirecTV Now live television to their mobile devices without impacting their monthly data limit.


Moto Z2 Force Drops 'Droid' Branding On Verizon

Jul 25, 2017, 11:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola announced the Z2 Force today, which replaces both the Z and Z Force from last year. The phone will be sold by most U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. Motorola said the Verizon variant will not include the "Droid" branding that was found on last year's phones. Motorola is sticking with a single device name across carriers. Verizon did not provide comment on the name change. Motorola plans to sell the phone unlocked from Motorola.com, but there is no single unlocked model, according to Rudi Kalil, vice president and general manager at Motorola. Kalil said Motorola will offer unlocked variants for each carrier due to the specific cellular radio requirements for forthcoming 1 Gbps service that's under development from the carriers. The Moto Z2 Force is available for preorder today and will ship starting August 10.


Samsung Makes the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 Available Unlocked

Jul 24, 2017, 3:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today added the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 to its list of unlocked smartphones. The two inexpensive handsets will be available to purchase directly from Samsung's web site as well as select retailers starting July 28. The J7 (pictured) is the larger, costlier of the two with a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and $220 price tag. It also has a 3,300mAh battery, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel front camera with flash. The smaller J3 has a 5-inch 720p HD display and a $150 price point. The J3 also has a 2,600mAh battery, 5-megapixel main camera, and 2-megapixel front camera. Both phones support expandable memory cards, support U.S. 3G/4G networks, and run Android 7 Nougat. They have been available from several U.S. carriers (AT&T/Cricket, T-Mobile/MetroPCS) for several months.


Coral Blue Galaxy S8 and S8+ Go On Sale In US July 21

Jul 19, 2017, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said the Coral Blue variant of the Galaxy S8 and S8+ handsets will become available to U.S. buyers starting July 21. According to Samsung, carrier-specific versions for AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon will be available at Best Buy stores, while the unlocked version will be available at Best Buy and Samsung.com. Customers looking to save some money can take advantage of a promotion at Best Buy stores between July 21 and July 29 that offers up to $400 off the cost of the handset with a carrier activation. Samsung said consumers can save up to $150 of the price of either handset when purchasing the phone directly from Samsung, as well as take advantage of Samsung's trade-on promo. Details concerning the promotions are available from Samsung's web site. The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are already available in black, silver, and gray.


AT&T Says Edge Computing to Power 5G Experiences

Jul 18, 2017, 11:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T hopes taking advantage of numerous, local data centers will enable the low-latency, high-speed features of 5G. The company is exploring a model called edge computing in order to balance the power needs of mobile devices with those of data center number crunching. AT&T points out that future applications such as autonomous cars and augmented/virtual reality will need incredible amounts of real-time computing. Much of this computing is too much for mobile devices to handle, and is often off-loaded to data centers. The issue is the time it takes data to travel from a car or handset to the data center (often hundreds of miles away) and back. In order to reduce latency while also powering rapid calculations, AT&T plans to deploy tens of thousands of central offices, macro towers, and small cells all over the country — many of which will be within a few miles of customers. The shorter distance from the car or phone to the data center means faster turnaround times for data, or lower latency. AT&T calls these small installations edge computing facilities. AT&T is already testing edge computing with some of its business customers and plans to bake the computing model into its 5G network. AT&T and other carriers are expected to begin deploying 5G technologies as soon as 2018 or 2019.


ZTE Blade Spark Lands On AT&T Prepaid for $99

Jul 14, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today announced the Blade Spark, an inexpensive Android handset for AT&T Prepaid. The Blade Spark boasts a 5.5-inch 720p HD display with Gorilla Glass 3, and it is powered by a Snapdragon 425 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. Standout features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader and Dolby Audio. The phone also offers a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and full HD video capture, and a 5-megapixel front camera with a dedicated shortcut for selfies. Other specs include Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, expandable storage, and a 3,140mAh battery. The ZTE Blade Spark ships with Android 7.1 Nougat. It is available online for $99. AT&T Prepaid was recently rebranded from GoPhone.


AT&T's DirecTV Now Service Testing a Cloud DVR

Jul 13, 2017, 11:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it plans to roll out its next-generation video platform later this year, though DirecTV Now customers can get an early taste of some of the best features. DirecTV Now allows people to stream live TV to their mobile device, PC, or TV over the internet. AT&T mobile customers can stream DirecTV Now shows to their handset without impacting their data plan. AT&T's new television platform will, like DirecTV Now, be software based rather than hardware based, and that means it will be more accessible across devices. AT&T says the cloud DVR will be available to select DirecTV Now customers later this summer. It will let people record shows and watch 4K and HD shows from virtually anywhere. AT&T says its service has up to 30,000 on-demand titles. Other features on the way include live TV pausing and parental controls. AT&T expects to debut its new television platform before the end of the year. Looking ahead, AT&T will add user profiles, downloadable content, and 4K HDR in 2018.


AT&T Rebrands GoPhone as 'AT&T Prepaid'

Jul 12, 2017, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today relaunched its GoPhone prepaid service under the brand name AT&T Prepaid. AT&T Prepaid does not require contracts, activation fees, or credit checks, and allows customers to take advantage of month-to-month service. As part of the rebrand, AT&T is offering two months of free service to those who activate and keep a new line of service for a year. AT&T says the 3rd and 12th months of service will be free for those who sign up for the new prepaid brand. The two basic service offerings include an unlimited plan for $65 per month and a 6 GB plan for $45 per month. Both are eligible for a $5-per-month discount when customers enroll in autopay, though AT&T says taxes are extra. The plans include service in Canada and Mexico. Data speeds are capped at 3 Mbps, video streaming is limited to 1.5 Mbps at standard definition, and tethering is not permitted. Unlimited customers who use more than 22 GB of data per billing period may be throttled, while 6 GB customers who exceed their data bucket will be throttled. AT&T says its prepaid service has a selection of handsets for less than $50.


FCC Approves What Is Likely the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active

Jul 3, 2017, 7:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC recently approved a Samsung handset that has all the basic markings of an "Active" variant of the Galaxy S8. The SM-G892A supports AT&T's LTE bands, in addition to Bluetooth and WiFi. The documentation concerning the FCC label location depicts a drawing of the device in question, and the shape clearly resembles that of previous Active-branded handsets from Samsung. The drawing also includes the AT&T logo. Samsung's Galaxy S Active handsets are typically AT&T exclusives. The FCC documents don't reveal any other details about the phone, such as the screen size, processor type, or even the operating system. Samsung and AT&T have over the past few years bought an Active variant of the Galaxy S series to market several months after the regular model arrives. The timing is about right for the S8 Active to make its debut, but so far AT&T and Samsung have remained quiet about the phone.

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AT&T Says More Local Channels Coming to DirecTV Now

Jun 30, 2017, 9:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said more major broadcasters around the country are supporting DirecTV Now, it's mobile- and internet-based television service. According to AT&T, ABC is available in 30 new markets, NBC is available in 4 new markets, and FOX has expanded to one new market. The company claims that DirecTV Now provides local coverage to almost 70% of U.S. households. Further, AT&T says by the end of August it will have tripled the number of local live ABC, NBC, and FOX channels available since the service launched in November 2016. Pricing for DirecTV Now starts at $35 per month. AT&T's wireless customers can stream DirecTV via LTE without impacting their mobile data plans.


AT&T Testing Millimeter Wave 5G Tech in Austin

Jun 27, 2017, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it has kicked off a second trial of mmWave technology in Austin, providing fixed wireless broadband to consumers and businesses alike with speeds up to 1 Gbps. AT&T is testing a handful of applications and services. For example, AT&T is allowing DirecTV Now customers to stream live television over this "5G" connection using Ericsson's 5G RAN and Intel's 5G Mobile Trial Platform. AT&T had previously made it possible to stream DirecTV Now via mmWave in its Middletown, N.J., laboratory. AT&T expects the trial will last for several months. AT&T didn't say what spectrum it is using to conduct this trial, nor what consumer equipment. The mmWave technology is just one of many candidate 5G technologies being considered by the 3GPP and ITU. The 5G standard has not yet been technically defined by the international community, but that hasn't stopped carriers and telecom equipment manufacturers from forging ahead. The goal with tests such as this is to make enough technical progress so AT&T can contribute to the final 5G spec and get a jump on deployment. AT&T says it expects to "deliver 5G speeds as early as late 2018."


Alcatel's A30 Plus Bumps Up the Screen, Processor, Camera and Battery

Jun 27, 2017, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today announced the A30 Plus, an improved version of the A30 we saw earlier this year. This entry-level Android handset includes a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen (up from 5.0 inches) and a 1.5 GHz quad-core MediaTek processor (up from 1.1 GHz) with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor (up from 8mp) with time-lapse recording while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Alcatel says the phone's larger 3,000mAh battery (up from 2,460mAh) provides all-day life. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat and is sold with LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile via Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, and 17. Alcatel is selling the phone for $130, but it is also available via Amazon's Prime Exclusive program for $80. The Prime version requires owners to view ads on the lock screen. The Alcatel A30 Plus ships July 10.


Alcatel's Modular A50 Parties with Light Up LED Accessory

Jun 27, 2017, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today followed through on its promise to bring the A5 LED to the U.S., though it has changed the phone's name to simply the Alcatel A50. The phone, first revealed in February, is compatible with a handful of modular accessories, the most significant of which features an LED-covere panel that can blink a few dozen LEDs with color. The LEDs can be used to serve as notifications for incoming calls, messages, or alarms. The included Color Catching 2.0 app lets owners create unique LED patterns and themes. Last, the LEDs can provide a light show when listening to music. Other modular accessories include a snap-on stereo speaker and a snap-on battery pack. These are sold separately. The A50 has a quad-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of RAM, 5.2-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera with Face Beauty software. Other specs include Bluetooth, FM, GPS, and WiFi radios, and a 2,800mAh battery. It runs Android 7. LTE support is limited to Bands 2, 4, 5, 7, and 12, which makes it moderately compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone costs $150, or $190 with the LED rear cover. The phone is being distributed through the Amazon Prime Exclusive program for $100, or $130 with the LED rear cover. The Prime Exclusive program requires owners to view ads on the lock screen. The Alcatel A50 ships July 10.


Alcatel Announces the Idol 5S with Stereo Speakers

Jun 27, 2017, 8:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today marked the debut of the Idol 5S, the latest in its flagship series. Like its predecessors, the 5S features an aluminum frame, curved glass front and rear surfaces, powerful stereo speakers, and a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The phone has a 5.2-inch full HD screen and it is powered by the Snapdragon 625 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. As for photography, the Idol 5S includes a 12-megapixel main camera with two-tone flash, and f/2.0 aperture. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and f/2.0 aperture. Both cameras can shoot full HD video. The stereo speakers are backed by 3.6W amplifiers and the Idol 5S includes dual microphones to help reduce noise when capturing audio. Other features include Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi; USB-C and a 3.5mm headphone jack; and a 2,620mAh battery. LTE support for U.S. carriers is very good, as it includes Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 66, and 41. Alcatel said the phone will be compatible with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS at launch, with Sprint and Verizon to follow later this summer through a software update. The Alcatel Idol 5S runs Android 7.1 Nougat and includes the Google Assistant. The device costs $280 when purchased from Alcatel, but can be picked up for $200 through Amazon Prime Exclusives. The Amazon price requires users to view ads on the lock screen. The phone ships July 10.


AT&T Says Its LTE-LAA Trials Breach 650 Mbps

Jun 26, 2017, 2:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it and partner Ericsson have reached LTE-LAA download speeds in excess of 650 Mbps in live field trials. The trials were conducted in downtown San Francisco. LTE-LAA is an advanced wireless technology that combines licensed and unlicensed spectrum via carrier aggregation. It will play a key role in bridging today's 4G networks with the 5G networks of the future. AT&T expects its LTE-LAA technology to reach speeds near 1 Gbps and it will deploy the tech in some small cells by the end of the year.


Nokia 6 to Be Available from Amazon Next Month

Jun 26, 2017, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 26, 2017, 8:24 AM

HMD Global, the company that makes Nokia-branded handsets, today said it will sell the Nokia 6 smartphone in the U.S. via Amazon. The 6 is the best of the three Nokia Android phones currently available, though it still falls in the entry-level segment. The Nokia 6 runs Android 7 Nougat, has a 5.5-inch full HD screen, includes stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos sound, relies on a Snapdragon 430 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and a boasts a 16-megapixel main camera with an 8-megapixel front camera. It packs a 3,000mAh battery, as well as Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi, fingerprint sensor, 3.5mm headphone jack, and microUSB. LTE 4G support for U.S. networks is limited at best. It supports LTE Bands 2, 3, 4, 7, 12/17, 28, 38. It is only partially compatible with AT&T's 4G network because it is missing LTE Bands 29 and 30. The Nokia 6 is more compatible with T-Mobile's LTE 4G network. The matte black and silver color options are expected to go on sale in July for $229, with the blue and copper colors arriving later.


AT&T's Throttled Unlimited Plan Scores a DirecTV Discount

Jun 1, 2017, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced a new promotion that gives its Unlimited Choice subscribers DirecTV Now for $10 per month. AT&T Unlimited Choice, which provides unlimited data at speeds up to 3Mbps and video streamed at standard definition, costs $60 per month with autopay and paperless billing. Starting today, those customers can add DirecTV Now's Live a Little package for $10 more, or a total of $70. The Live a Little package, which includes more than 60 channels, typically costs $35 per month. AT&T's Unlimited Plus customers, who have access to full-speed mobile data and high-definition video streaming, can apply a similar $25 video credit toward DirecTV Now, regular DirecTV service, or AT&T's U-Verse TV service. Unlimited Plus customers also gain access to HBO for free. The Unlimited Plus plan cots $90 after autopay and paperless billing. In addition to unlimited data, Unlimited Plus includes 10 GB of mobile hotspot or tethering.


Kodak Ektra Improves Camera and Lowers Price As It Makes US Debut

May 26, 2017, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Eastman Kodak and Bullitt Group this week launched the Ektra smartphone in the U.S. The handset was first announced in October 2016. Bullitt Group, which manufactures the Ektra, is the company behind other brand-name handsets, such as CAT. The Kodak Ektra is a camera-first smartphone and features a retro design. The Ektra has a 21-megapixel Sony IMX230 sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and dual LED flash. It includes optical image stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, and can capture 4K video. The front-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor. The phone includes a 5-inch full HD screen, MediaTek Helio X20 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. Kodak and Bullitt have improved the phone since it was first announced, particularly where the camera is concerned. The phone now includes support for RAW image capture, and has improved auto-focus, white balance, and color performance. Perhaps more importantly, Kodak and Bullitt have reduced the price significantly. In January, the companies said the phone would go on sale in April for $549. This week, the phone reached Kodak's web site for just $399, which makes it a much more compelling and affordable option. The Kodak Ektra is sold unlocked with support for the LTE networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid brands.


LG X Venture Delivers Inexpensive, Rugged Performance

May 22, 2017, 9:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 22, 2017, 9:57 AM

LG today announced the X venture, an affordable Android smartphone that can take a beating. The phone has an IP68 rating for protection against water and dust, and a mil-spec 810g rating for durability against drops, bumps, scrapes, and other abuse. The phone features a 5.2-inch full HD screen with glove mode. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. LG says the main camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with a standard field of view, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with a wide-angle lens. The phone packs a massive 4,100mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0 for all-day battery life. Other specs include barometer with outdoorsy software, as well as Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, FM radio, and NFC. The phone supports memory cards up to 2 TB and it charges via microUSB. The X venture runs Android 7 Nougat. AT&T plans to sell the LG X venture starting May 26, with support for its ePTT service, for $11 per month for 30 months, or about $330.


Verizon Outbids AT&T for Straight Path

May 11, 2017, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Communications has won a bidding war for Straight Path Communications. AT&T announced plans to acquire Straight path for $1.6 billion last month. Straight Path has significant spectrum holdings in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz millimeter wave bands, which will be put to use by some 5G technologies down the road. Once the AT&T deal was announced, Verizon entered its own offer for the spectrum company. Verizon and AT&T have traded bids over the last few weeks. Straight Path this week said it has received an offer of $3.1 billion from a large communications company. While it didn't name Verizon specifically, Straight Path said it will terminate the agreement it had with AT&T. Verizon will pay AT&T a $38 million cancellation fee on behalf of Straight Path. Straight Path didn't indicate when it expects the new agreement to close.


FTC Gets Second Shot Against AT&T Over Throttling Case

May 10, 2017, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FTC has earned another chance to prove AT&T illegally throttled customers' data speeds. An appeals court this week reinstated the FTC's case against AT&T, which was originally dismissed last summer. The case was dismissed on grounds that the FTC didn't have jurisdiction over internet providers due to their common carrier status. The reversal, if successfully argued by the FTC, could give the agency more control over broadband providers. In the original 2014 case the FTC claimed that AT&T slowed down the data speeds of customers on unlimited plans without proper notice or warning. The original case may have been dismissed, but AT&T still changed its behavior and began warning customers that they might experience slower speeds once they surpass certain usage thresholds. AT&T said it looks forward to arguing the case in court.


Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Goes On Sale for $329

May 9, 2017, 3:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus today made the ZenFone 3 Zoom available from its web site for $329. The phone was first announced in January. The device relies on two cameras much like the iPhone 7 Plus to create a zooming effect. Both the standard and 25mm and 59mm lenses have 12-megapixel Sony IMX362 sensors. The main lens has an aperture of f/1.7. Other camera features include portrait mode, OIS, laser focusing, PDAF, RAW support, and a dedicated color sensor for improved white balance. The phone's user-facing camera has a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 sensor with a 140-degree panorama mode. The 3 Zoom includes a 5,000 mAh battery that can be used to charge other devices via USB-C. Specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 5.5-in full-HD display with Gorilla Glass 5, fingerprint sensor, memory card slot, and 3.5mm audio jack. It ships with Android 6 Marshmallow, but Asus indicated that Android 7 will reach the phone via update soon. The ZenFone 3 Zoom supports GSM/LTE networks, including AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone is sold unlocked.


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