The CTIA today announced that a number of member companies have agreed to take on additional measures to help prevent cellphone thefts. Following recommendations made by the FCC, wireless companies will make anti-theft tools available to all consumers that also respect consumer choice and privacy. All new phones made after July 2016 will "make readily available to the authorized user an option that allows the authorized user to enable or disable the anti-theft solution at any time that the smartphone is connected and is in the authorized user's possession." Beyond this baseline tool, consumers will have the option to use other, third-party solutions to locate, wipe, or reinstate their devices if they so wish. Companies that have agreed to this include Apple, Asurion; AT&T; BlackBerry; Google; HTC; Huawei; LG; Microsoft; Motorola; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; Verizon, and ZTE. In response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "CTIA members' ... enhanced voluntary commitment to adopt anti-theft features and educate consumers demonstrates their resolve in combatting it. I am hopeful that this new voluntary commitment will make a meaningful difference for consumer safety. As the enhanced commitment recognizes, these solutions work only if they are adopted widely. The FCC will remain vigilant in this area by pushing for further improvements to the theft-prevention toolbox, and also by monitoring closely whether the efforts of industry and others are producing meaningful results." Apple's iOS and Google's Android already contain features that let device owners find and protect their mobile devices. The FCC hopes allowing people to download and use the protective measure of their choice will help encourage consumers to make broader use of the tool.
AT&T recently filed a complaint with the FCC over WiFi calling services on the iPhone, which it says it cannot offer due to certain regulations. AT&T competitors Sprint and T-Mobile have offered WiFi calling for the better part of a year, and AT&T insists they are doing so against FCC regulations. "AT&T intended to introduce WiFi calling services [on Sept. 25] in competition with ... T-Mobile and Sprint," said AT&T in its filing. "Those carriers have been offering WiFi calling services for a significant period of time. Neither of those carriers has approached the FCC to request a waiver of the TTY rules. Because the commission has not granted AT&T's waiver petition, we are not in a position to provide WiFi calling services to our customers even while our competitors provide those services in defiance of the commission's rules." AT&T requested a waiver from the FCC in June, but is still waiting for approval. AT&T says WiFi calling is not 100% reliable with TTY technology and wants to use RTT technology instead. Technically, AT&T says the FCC has to approve the technology switch before it can offer the service and remain in compliance with the law. In a rebuttal, T-Mobile said RTT technology is not necessary and the company has thus offered WiFi calling since last year. "AT&T urges the commission to seize this opportunity to grant AT&T's waiver request without further delay," said AT&T. "Doing so will enable AT&T to offer its customers Wi-Fi calling capabilities and correct the asymmetry that today exists between AT&T and its mobile services competitors." iOS 9, which Apple recently distributed to iPhone owners, has built-in support for WiFi calling. AT&T customers are unable to use the service, however, until AT&T gets the waiver from the FCC.
Nextbit's Robin smartphone won the financial support of more than 3,600 people who invested $1.36 million in the Kickstarter campaign. Nextbit said it received enough interest in the Robin to move forward with manufacturing. It has closed the Kickstarter campaign and is now working to bring the device to market, expected during the first quarter of 2016. According to Nextbit, most of the investment came from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, the U.K., and Singapore. The Robin is an Android phone that uses the cloud to manage on-board storage availability. It can seamlessly offload and reload content — including applications — when needed to free up space. It was designed by former HTC employees and costs $399. The phone will be available in GSM and CDMA variants, supporting the networks of AT&T and T-Mobile, and Sprint and Verizon.
Sprint is prepared to reduce expenses by as much as $2.5 billion over the next year, reports the Wall Street Journal, and is likely to cut jobs to help it reach that goal. An internal memo sent to staff by CFO Tarek Robbiati obtained by the Journal said the cuts "inevitably will result in job reductions." Sprint had about 31,000 employees as of March. Robbiati said the company is still exploring how best to reduce costs. "The main thing to consider when requesting to spend money is to take an owner's mindset by treating every dollar as if it were your own," he said. Sprint has already trimmed expenses by about $1.5 billion over the last 12 months. The company recently said it will not participate in next year's 600MHz incentive auction, citing its existing spectrum resources and the cost to obtain more spectrum. Sprint has struggled in recent years to compete with AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
LG today said the V10 will be sold in the U.S. by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Pricing and availability will be announced individually by each carrier. The phone is expected to arrive in the weeks ahead.
Samsung today said its latest set of smartwatches, the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic (pictured), will reach U.S. stores on Friday, Oct. 2. The S2 will cost $299.99 and the S2 Classic will cost $349.99. The wearable will first be sold at a select number of retailers, including Samsung.com, Amazon.com, Best Buy, and Macy's. According to Samsung, the cellular variant of the S2 and S2 Classic will be available from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless later this year. Pricing for the wireless model has not yet been revealed. The second-generation Gear smartwatches run Samsung's Tizen operating system and feature a unique rotating bezel that cycles through the user interface.
Following Sprint's decision to skip next year's 600MHz incentive auction, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai had harsh words for the FCC's plans. "Sprint's decision highlights the folly of the FCC's attempt to pick winners and losers before the auction begins," said Pai, in reference to the rules being assigned to the auction. "It also intensifies doubts about how competitive the bidding will be for set-aside spectrum and whether American taxpayers will receive fair compensation for that scarce public resource," said Pai. The FCC has agreed to set aside 30MHz of spectrum for smaller entities that market leaders AT&T and Verizon Wireless will not be allowed to bid on. "Sprint's announcement only strengthens my belief that the FCC should not have granted a spectrum giveaway in this auction or placed artificial limits on carriers' participation." Pai is part of the Republican minority in the five-person FCC and is often at odds with his Democrat peers. The auction, scheduled to start in March 2016, will see television broadcasters sell their spectrum licenses to the government, which will in turn auction them off to wireless companies.
Samsung today made its mobile payment service, Samsung Pay, available to U.S. consumers. The service is compatible with only a few phones, including the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+, S6 Edge, and S6. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular support Samsung pay, but Verizon Wireless does not. Consumers can add their American Express, Bank of America, Citibank, or USBank MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card to the service, but it lacks support for Chase at launch. Samsung Pay differs from Apple Pay and Android Pay in one significant respect: it supports both NFC and MST transactions. MST, in particular, is more widely available than NFC and works with most regular credit card terminals used by retailers around the country. Samsung Pay is secured via fingerprint, and credit card information is tokenized so it is protected during transactions. Samsung will reward Note 5 and S6 Edge+ owners who activate Samsung Pay with a free wireless charger or a free wallet flip cover (through Oct. 11). Samsung Pay is free to set up and use.
Samsung said it will make several monthly device payments for people who buy a new Galaxy Note 5, S6 Edge+, S6 Edge, or S6. Under the terms of the promotion, Samsung will reward customers with up to $120 in payments towards their new phone as long as they register with Samsung and buy the device through an installment plan with their carrier. Customers must purchase the Galaxy smartphone between Sept. 25 and Oct. 9, and claim the promotion by Oct. 16. Samsung will then cover device payments through the end of the year. Further, Samsung is offer a $100 Google Play gift card to anyone who turns in a working iPhone (4s and up) when they purchase the new Galaxy handset. The offer is valid with most U.S. wireless network operators, with the exception of AT&T.
Sprint today said it will not participate in the 600MHz reverse auction planned for next year. The company believes its spectrum position is "sufficient to provide its current and future customers great network coverage." Sprint owns significant amounts of spectrum, but much of it is concentrated in the 2.5GHz range. Such spectrum is good for capacity, but not for covering large areas. The 600MHz spectrum up for auction is highly valued for its propagation characteristics. Sprint is set to embark on another network overhaul that it believes will resolve many of the problems its network has faced in recent years. Sprint's finances may have played a role in its decision. The company has not turned a profit since 2007 and has been bleeding cash in recent quarters. A Sprint spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal it is "prioritizing its financial resources to improve network coverage, capacity, speed and reliability now and over the next few years—and we already have the spectrum we need to do so. That is more important for Sprint and its customers than investing in [this] spectrum that wont benefit our subscribers until 2020 at the earliest." T-Mobile plans to participate in the auction, and it is likely AT&T and Verizon will, too. The FCC expects to start the auction in March 2016.
ZTE today announced the ZMax 2, a follow-up to its big-screened phone from early this year. The phone has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, which is smaller than the original's 5.7-inch screen. The device is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32GB. The ZMax 2 features an 8-megapixel main camera with full HD vide capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It includes Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi, and LTE radios. The phone packs a 3,000 mAh battery, which is smaller than the original's 3,400 mAh battery. The ZMax 2 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. It will be sold by AT&T's GoPhone prepaid service (beginning Sept. 25) as well as TracFone.
Verizon Wireless today took the time to tout the benefits of Android Pay, the new mobile payment app and service from Google. Android Pay is a relaunch of Softcard, which Google bought from Verizon (and AT&T/T-Mobile) earlier this year. Verizon subscribers who own NFC-equipped Android handsets can download the Android Pay app from the Google Play Store, associate their debit/credit card, and make payments at a number of participating retailers, such as Macy's and Jamba Juice. Verizon said it is still evaluating whether or not it will support Samsung's mobile payment service, called Samsung Pay. Verizon already supports Apple Pay on the iPhone.
AT&T this week sued three former workers, alleging they aided in the theft of cell phone unlock codes. Kyra Evans, Nguyen Lam, and Marc Sapatin, who all worked at AT&T's Bothell, Wash., site, are accused of installing malware on AT&T computers that was used to obtain hundreds of thousands of unlock codes. The codes were then given to a company called SwiftUnlocks.com, which sold the unlock codes for $10 to $50 to consumers wishing to unlock their handsets. AT&T also filed suit against SwiftUnlocks.com and its proprietors, as well as 50 John Doe defendants AT&T believes played a role in developing the malware. Wireless carriers are required by law to unlock handsets, but only once those handsets have been paid for in full and are no longer under contract. Unlocking handsets allows them to be used on the networks of competing carriers. AT&T is suing the defendants for unspecified damages related to financial losses incurred while investigating the matter and losses generated by failing to recoup handset subsidies, as well as for harming/infecting AT&T computers and internal systems, and damaging AT&T's reputation. AT&T discovered the scheme in 2013 following an unusual spike in unlock requests tied to the defendants' logins.
The iOS 9 update, made available by Apple this week, added a WiFi Calling option to AT&T's version of the Apple iPhone. Despite the feature's appearance on the handset, the service isn't quite ready. AT&T is waiting for the FCC to grant a waiver with respect to real-time text (RTT) as an alternative for the out-going TTY technology used by the hard-of-hearing. AT&T requested the waiver earlier this year. The company wants to use WiFi to supplement its cellular network in some areas, but TTY is unreliable when used over WiFi. The RTT technology to replace it is nearly ready, but requires a rule change from the FCC before AT&T can move forward. "AT&T tested WiFi Calling through the iOS 9 beta and we are prepared to support commercial launch of the service once approved by the FCC," said AT&T in an email to Phone Scoop. AT&T customers who signed up for WiFi Calling through the iOS 9 beta are still able to use it, even though the service isn't officially available. Such beta testers will be notified when the service goes live for everyone. The FCC hasn't said if or when it may approve AT&T's request. WiFi Calling has been available to Sprint and T-Mobile iPhones for some time.
Best Buy has added the Motorola Moto X Pure Edition to its selection of smartphones. Best Buy is offering the 16GB and 32GB variants in several different colors — including bamboo — for $399 to $475, depending on options. The Moto X Pure Edition is sold unlocked and is compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless.
T-Mobile and the Competitive Carrier Association are asking the FCC to deny AT&T's proposed acquisition of 700 MHz B Block licenses from Club 42. AT&T first filed its request with the FCC last year and now says T-Mobile and the CCA are trying to sink the deal for no good reason. "Without offering any cogent argument or justification, CCA and T-Mobile have opposed the deal, arguing that the Commission should simply prohibit any incremental low-band spectrum aggregation by AT&T and Verizon. Period," said AT&T representative Joan Marsh in a blog post. "They essentially assert that low band spectrum transactions should be deemed presumptively unlawful for any company named AT&T or Verizon." The deal, which AT&T refers to as routine and uncontroversial, will give AT&T a 10x10MHz spectrum configuration in the named markets, which is more spectrally efficient than the current 5x5Mhz arrangement. If approved, AT&T will own more than 45MHz of low-band spectrum in the area. AT&T contends the spectrum is not being used right now and can benefit its customers. T-Mobile and the CCA disagree. "Despite being given every opportunity imaginable, AT&T has yet to meet its burden of proving why it needs so much low-band spectrum in rural markets and how this transaction significantly benefits the public interest," said CCA President Steve Berry in a statement provided to Fierce Wireless. T-Mobile pre Kathleen Ham added, "AT&T simply wants to grab more low-band spectrum to depress competition, reduce investment and stifle innovation." The FCC has yet to step in and say how it will proceed with AT&Ts request.
AT&T has revised its network management policies in a way that benefits select customers. Moving forward, subscribers with legacy unlimited data plans can safely consume 22GB of data before encountering potential throttling. AT&T still reserves the right to protect its network from abuse, but the company appears to understand that times have changed. "Our network management practices assure that our network resources are used for the benefit of all our mobile broadband customers especially during periods when network demand exceeds available network resources," said the company on its web site. "These network management practices have continued to evolve over time to benefit our customers. We recently revised our practices such that Unlimited Data Plan smartphone customers can now use 22GB of high-speed data during a billing period before becoming subject to network management practices that might result in reduced data speeds and increased latency." As before, AT&T will warn such customers when they reach 75% of their allowed amount, or, in the case of unlimited data, when they hit 16.5GB of data in a single billing period. Customers with unlimited data plans who exceed 22GB of data consumption in a single billing period will see their speeds reduced only when the network is congested.
AT&T today said it has partnered with Best Buy to create a dedicated space inside Best Buy stores that's unique to AT&T. The AT&T-themed section will resemble the store-within-a-store format already used in Best Buy stores by Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung. Customers will be able to shop all AT&T products, whether they be wireless phones, Digital Life home TV services, or connected car gear. The AT&T sections will have dedicated staff trained on AT&T's products who will be able to demonstrate AT&T's portfolio and help customers make more informed purchases. The AT&T space, varying between 90 and 180 square feet, should reach 250 Best Buy stores by the end of the year. Similarly, Verizon is expected to add its own Experience Stores to about 100 Best Buy locations by the end of this month, ramping up to 250 by the end of the year. Verizon's store-within-a-store locations will focus on the company's wireless products, such as smartphones, tablets, and connected accessories.
Cricket Wireless says the vast majority of customers have transitioned away from its legacy CDMA network ahead of tomorrow's planned shutdown. AT&T has been moving Cricket customers from the older CDMA network to its own GSM-based network since it acquired the carrier several years ago. Earlier this summer, Cricket said 97% of its customers have made the jump to GSM handsets with lower-than-expected churn rates. Some CDMA customers remain active in California and a few other locations, according to Cricket, though the prepaid carrier declined to say exactly how many. Once the shutdown commences, those customers will lose network access. Cricket has been notifying customers for nearly 18 months of the impending shutdown via text messages, mailers, and emails. Cricket customers using older CDMA-based phones should upgrade their phone as soon as possible in order to maintain service. Cricket's CDMA shutdown follows that of MetroPCS, which T-Mobile shuttered earlier this year.
Google said it is making Android Pay, its reborn mobile payment service, available to Android handsets beginning today. The app will be pushed to small batches of users over the next week, according to Google. The app will let most NFC-equipped Android handsets running Android 4.4 KitKat and up make tap-and-go mobile payments at more than one million participating vendors across the country. Owners of American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa credit/debit cards will be able to add their accounts to Android Pay. Some of the first wave of banks supporting Android Pay include Bank of America, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC, Regions Bank, USAA, and U.S. Bank. Citi and Wells Fargo will be available in the next few days, says Google, and Capital One is coming soon. A notable exception at launch appears to be Chase, which is one of the nation's largest banks. Some of the participating retailers include American Eagle, Babies'R'Us, Macys, Game Stop, OfficeMax, Subway, BJs, Petco, Sports Authority, and Walgreens. Android Pay uses the same tokenization feature Apple relies on in Apple Pay, which protects transactions. Android Pay is available to AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon subscribers. Google said more banks, more retailers, and more features — including support for loyalty cards — are headed to Android Pay in the months ahead. Google is in the midst of a shift of its mobile payment and money management services. Google's original mobile payment app was called Google Wallet. Just yesterday, Google relaunched Wallet as a simpler money-sending service that lets people deliver cash to anyone with an email address. Google Wallet can also be used to manage the Google Wallet Card, which is a debit card linked to the account. Android Pay is replacing the original Google Wallet app for mobile payments at retailers. Earlier this year, Google bought the Softcard mobile payment platform from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. It is the Softcard platform that is behind the new Android Pay service.
AT&T has begun deploying LTE on its 2.3GHz WCS spectrum in a handful of markets around the country. Earlier this year, AT&T said it would begin the deployment by summer, and it is just meeting that commitment. Phones with LTE band 30 are able to take advantage of the new network capacity. AT&T did not specify which markets are gaining WCS coverage, nor how quickly it will build out coverage around the country. AT&T is, however, expected to start with markets that have more capacity requirements. The WCS spectrum is helpful in adding capacity in markets that rely chiefly on 700MHz for LTE. In a separate announcement, AT&T said it plans to begin trailing LTE-U technology late this year or early next year. LTE-U delivers LTE over unlicensed spectrum normally reserved for WiFi. Tom Keathley, senior vice president of wireless network architecture and design with AT&T, said the carrier will use the tests to determine whether or not it will deploy LTE-U on a broader scale. "There will be no devices until early next year anyway," said Keathley to Fierce Wireless. "So the timing is reasonable." One issue facing LTE-U is sharing the spectrum in a way that's fair. AT&T said it wants assurances that it will be able to avoid interference before committing to LTE-U in a meaningful way. Critics of LTE-U, however, worry that carriers will have too much control over the balance of spectrum used for LTE when compared to the amount reserved for WiFi. T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are also exploring LTE-U.
Blu updated the Vivo Air today to include 4G LTE for AT&T, T-Mobile, and other GSM providers. The Vivo Air LTE is machined from aluminum and maintains a slim profile at 5.1mm thick. The phone weighs a mere 3.42 ounces. The Vivo Air LTE includes a 4.8-inch 720p AMOLED HD screen protected by Gorilla Glass 2. The Vivo Air LTE is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera includes an 8-megapixel sensor with LED flash and 1080p HD video capture, and the user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other features include a 2,050mAh battery, HD sound, and global 3G support. LTE compatibility for AT&T is limited to markets that include bands 2 and 4. The phone ships with Android 5.0 Lollipop, but will be updated to Android 6.0 Marshmallow in the first quarter of 2016. Blu is selling the device unlocked via Amazon. Pre-orders begin today and it ships Sept. 22. The Blu Vivo Air LTE costs $199.99.
Blu Products unwrapped a new phablet called the Pure XL, which has a refined design and solid spec sheet. The Pure XL features a quad HD screen measuring 6 inches across the diagonal. The display uses Super AMOLED technology and is protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The phone is powered by a 2.0GHz octa-core MediaTek Helio X10 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 64GB. The main camera has six lens elements with a sapphire cover and captures 24-megapixel images. The selfie camera captures 8-megapixel photos. A fingerprint reader is positioned on the back for securing the handset and the 3,500mAh battery supports quick charge technology. Other features include DTS surround sound, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and support for LTE networks such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop. Availability was not immediately disclosed. The Pure XL costs $350.
AT&T today announced the ZTE Mobley, a mobile hotspot for cars that connects via the OBD-II port. The Mobley is compatible with most cars model year 1996 and later and turns on automatically whenever the car is on. It can support up to five connected devices in the car via WiFi. The Mobley costs $100 with no commitment, and is also available for $0 down with a two-year commitment. AT&T says it can be added to Mobile Share Value plans for a $10 monthly access charge. Data Connect plans are available, too, which cost $20 for 1GB of LTE 4G data or $30 for 3GB. The Mobley is a simple hotspot and doesn't offer advanced support functions, such as roadside assistance, like those available via the Verizon Hum.
The Doro Liberto 825 is a smartphone for people who don’t like smartphones. It’s an Android phone with a an unique, extra-simple interface, that can still run any Android apps you like. It has a huge screen and huge physical buttons. It has extensive remote-management features to enable good ol’ family tech support. There’s a large, dedicated emergency button on the back. Is this the phone to get grandma? Read on for our hands-on report.
Alcatel OneTouch today announced the Go Play, a new series that fills the gap between its flagship Idol series and its lower Pop and Pixi series. The Go Play is nearly identical to the Conquest, which is already sold in the U.S. by Boost Mobile. Alcatel will be selling the Go Play unlocked, directly to consumers via its web site. The Go Play has a 5-inch 720p HD screen with Dragontrail Glass and 1.2GHz quad-core processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. The Go Play supports AT&T/T-Mobile LTE, and 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 thanks to dedicated filters. Other features include GPS, an FM radio, and 2,500mAh battery. The phone is also drop proof. The Go Play, which will be sold in eight colors, runs Android Lollipop. Alcatel will sell the handset in the sub-$150 range later this year.
Sprint adjusted its offer to DirecTV customers and added more data options. The original pitch included unlimited talk and text and just 2 GB of data per month for a year for free for DirecTV customers who port to Sprint. Now, those customers will be able to improve their data bucket to 4 GB for $10 per month or 6 GB for $20 per month. Customers will be also responsible for a $36 activation charge and monthly taxes and fees. Once the 12-month promotion ends, users will be moved to a $50 monthly service plan (for a single line). The free year of service does not include Sprint's international services, and data overages are charged at $0.015 per MB. Data speeds may also be reduced at congested cell sites during peak hours. The promotion is available through Sept. 30. DirecTV was acquired by AT&T last month.
The FCC has approved AT&T's proposed acquisition of several spectrum licenses from KanOkla Telephone Association. The transfer includes one Lower 700 MHz C Block license and the partial assignment of a second Lower 700 MHz C Block license, for a total of 12 megahertz, covering parts of two local market areas in Kansas and Oklahoma. Similar to a transaction the FCC approved earlier this week, the KanOkla spectrum buy will give AT&T control of more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in the stated ares. Even so, the FCC determined the transfer does not pose any competitive harm and will likely result in some benefits for consumers. AT&T and KanOkla Telephone Association did not place a dollar value on the spectrum sale. Such transactions are common in the industry.
Sprint rolled out a promotion today that takes direct aim at rival AT&T. The company is offering DirecTV customers who switch to Sprint 12 months of free service. The offer includes unlimited talk and text and up to 2GB of LTE 4G data. Sprint said it will pay the ETFs for those who switch, as well as any remaining equipment payments up to $300. Customers will be responsible for a $36 activation charge and monthly taxes and fees. Once the 12-month promotion ends, users will be moved to a $50 monthly service plan (for a single line). The free year of service does not include Sprint's international services, and data overages are charged at $0.015 per MB. The promotion will be available from Aug. 28 through Sept. 30. DirecT was recently acquired by AT&T.
Samsung is inviting a select number of people to beta test Samsung Pay in the U.S. In order to trial the mobile payment platform, consumers need to have a Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note 5 smartphone. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular are supporting Samsung Pay at launch, Verizon Wireless is not. The beta requires users to have an active Samsung account and a MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust, or U.S. Bank. Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST for tap-and-go transactions. Apple Pay and Android Pay, in comparison, use only NFC. Consumers can request an invite to test Samsung Pay from Samsung.com.
The FCC has given Kaplan Telephone Inc. permission to sell several spectrum licenses to AT&T. The two Lower 700 MHz C Block licenses and a Cellular B Block license cover parts of two local market areas in Louisiana. The transaction will give AT&T control of more than one-third of the low-band spectrum in the region, but the FCC determined that the transfer does not pose any competitive harm and will likely result in some benefits for consumers. AT&T and Kaplan did not place a dollar value on the spectrum sale.
AT&T has begun rebranding its Iusacell and Nextel properties in Mexico under the AT&T name. Moving forward, people who visit Iusacell and Nextel stores will be buying AT&T Unidos service plans (Unidos con Todo and Unidos a tu Manera, respectively). Authorized resellers in Mexico will offer the same plans. AT&T said stores will begin rebranding by late this year and they should all be converted by late 2016. AT&T plans to invest in Iusacell and Nextel, starting with more advanced LTE 4G networks. With the new plans, new stores, and new network, AT&T believes it can better serve consumers in Mexico.
Oppo today announced two new handsets, the R7 Plus and the R5s (pictured). Both share thin and premium designs with internal specs such as 1.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processors, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and 13-megapixel Sony cameras.
- R7 Plus: The larger of the two phones has a 6-inch, full HD AMOLED screen protected by Gorilla Glass 3, a 4,100mAh battery, and an 8-megapixel user-facing camera. The R7 Plus runs ColorOS 2.1, which is based on Android 5.1 Lollipop.
- R5s: The smaller of the two handsets is an update to the R5 and has a 5.2-inch full HD screen, 2,000mAh battery, and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The R5s runs ColorOS 2.0, which is based on Android 4.4 KitKat.
The FCC has officially and unanimously rejected Dish Network's $3.3 billion in AWS-3 spectrum auction discounts. Dish used three smaller companies, in which it owned an 85% stake each, to place bids on its behalf. The smaller companies, known as designated entities, qualified as small businesses and received a significant discount on their $13.1 billion auction tally. Dish competitors AT&T and Verizon Wireless cried foul over Dish's bidding techniques. Dish maintains that it adhered to the auction rules and expressed disappointment over the FCC's decision. Dish owns significant swaths of spectrum, but has yet to deploy any sort of wireless network. Last month, the FCC voted in new rules that prevent such discounts in the future.
Sprint will soon stop asking customers to sign two-year contracts when purchasing new phones, says the Wall Street Journal. The change coincides with moves made by its competitors, including T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure told the Journal that it will move to a phone-leasing/financing model, such as the one it debuted earlier today for the iPhone, before January. Claure suggested that its parent company, SoftBank, will help it offset some of the costs associated with leasing — rather than selling — handsets to customers. SoftBank last week spoke of plans to create a subsidiary that might help finance some of Sprint's handset-related costs. The wireless industry has been transitioning from the subsidized, contract model to leasing and/or financing programs since T-Mobile announced its first Uncarrier move in 2013. AT&T is the lone national carrier still offering yearly contracts in addition to financing plans.
AT&T is being called a "highly collaborative" partner of the NSA, and showed the government agency an "extreme willingness to help" spy on Americans, suggests a new report published by the New York Times. The Times based its report on documents supplied by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who first revealed the government's mass-scale spying efforts two years ago. AT&T has allowed the government to snoop on its customers for well more than a decade. It has been handing the government customer emails and call records since 2001 or 2002. In 2011, AT&T stepped up and began handing the NSA more than 1.1 billion cell phone call records per day. The NSA documents do not call AT&T by name, but descriptions of the company, its size, facilities, and customers more or less confirm its identity. "We don't comment on matters of national security," said an AT&T spokesperson in response to the report. In June, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which put an end to the bulk phone data collection. However, there was a provision in the act that allowed the program to be extended for a period of six months to give the government time to transition to another method of spying. The NSA resumed collecting call records July 1.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere announced today on Twitter that the company will "push" its phone manufacturers partners to include and enable FM radio features on T-Mobile phones. The move comes two weeks after AT&T announced a similar initiative. Most phones include some FM radio circuitry in the main chipset, but may not include all of the necessary connections to enable the feature. It is considered a relatively cheap and easy feature to include. Most phones with the feature use the cord of connected wired headphones as the FM radio antenna. The makers of the third-party FM radio app NextRadio have been campaigning recently for more phones to include the necessary hardware support. FM radio uses less battery and data than streaming music services, and of course the broadcasts are free to anyone in range.
AT&T today adjusted the monthly data allotments available in its Mobile Share Value plans. The least-expensive plan costs $20 per month and includes 300MB. Stepping up to $30 buys 2GB, $50 buys 5GB, $100 buys 15GB, and $140 buys 20GB. These new amounts/prices are a slightly better value than they were before. The first three options require $25 monthly access fees per line, while the latter two only require $15. The latter two also get unlimited calling and messaging to Mexico and Canada as a bonus feature. AT&T said customers who need more than 20GB can talk to sales reps about its 25GB, 30GB, 40GB, and 50GB plans. All plans continue to offer unlimited voice minutes and messaging both in the U.S. and to international numbers. They also include Data Rollover. The new AT&T Mobile Share Value plans will be available starting Aug. 14.
The majority of U.S. wireless network operators will offer the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless all plan to sell the new handsets from Samsung. The Note 5 and S6 Edge+ will also be sold by Amazon.com, Best Buy, Costco, Sam's Club, Target, and some Walmart stores. Carriers and retailers will confirm specific pricing and availability details.
SoftBank's plans for Sprint have not unfolded as CEO Masayoshi Son hoped. Son initially believed a merger with competitor T-Mobile would serve the carrier, but was dismayed when U.S. antitrust regulators shot the idea down. "I was thinking to myself: 'I made one of the biggest mistakes in my life,' which was the misjudgment of the U.S. regulatory environment," said Son. SoftBank closed its equity stake in Sprint just two years ago, and the company has already considered selling Sprint to Comcast in the U.S. or Altice in Europe, according to the Wall Street Journal. Son's plan to sell Sprint went nowhere. Son also considered writing off the acquisition as a total loss. Now, SoftBank is facing the costly prospect of improving Sprint's network to entice back customers it has lost to rivals over the years. Sprint plans to install tens of thousands of small cells to improve the density of its network around the country, but is burning cash at an alarming rate and may go broke by mid 2016 if it doesn't reduce expenditures. For legal reasons, SoftBank's hands are tied; it cannot invest too much more money in Sprint's turnaround. It is considering forming two stand-alone entities to help finance Sprint's network and handset-leasing expenses to keep debt off Sprint's balance sheet. Son replaced Sprint CEO Dan Hesse a year ago with Marcelo Claure, who has made some progress in retaining customers, but the carrier still has a long way to go. It recently fell behind T-Mobile, which now stands as the country's third-largest carrier, behind AT&T and Verizon. Masayoshi Son and Claure hope the network densification plan and more consumer-friendly service plans will help put the carrier on a more positive track.