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printed August 31, 2015
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T-Mobile Targets Tethering Thieves In TOS Crackdown

Today, 7:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile is today taking action against a small percentage of customers abusing the mobile hotspot feature by enforcing its terms of service. T-Mobile customers who sign up for unlimited data plans are given 7GB of data allotted specifically for mobile hotspot use. Users who exceed that 7GB tethering cap experience reduced speeds for the remainder of the billing cycle. According to T-Mobile, some users are hiding their tethering activity to get around the limit and consuming far more than the allowed 7GB. "These violators are going out of their way with all kinds of workarounds to steal more LTE tethered data," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. "They’re downloading apps that hide their tether usage, rooting their phones, writing code to mask their activity, etc. They are 'hacking' the system to swipe high-speed tethered data. These aren't naive amateurs; they are clever hackers who are willfully stealing for their own selfish gain. It's a small group, but some of them are using as much as 2 terabytes (2,000GB!) of data in a month." Legere said T-Mobile is initially targeting about 3,000 customers. Beginning today, T-Mobile will notify this group of users about their terms-of-service violations with a warning. Those who don't alter their tethering usage will be dropped down to T-Mobile's entry-level plan. T-Mobile says the move is meant to help protect its network for all users.


T-Mobile Needs Band 12 Phones to Also Support VoLTE, E911

Friday, 3:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has clarified its stance on Band 12 support in handsets that operate on its network. "We require phones using Band 12 on T-Mobile to support E911 and VoLTE in order to be certified on our network," said T-Mobile in a statement provided to Fierce Wireless. "We do this in the interest of our customers' overall experience and safety." T-Mobile does not, however, force phone makers to support Band 12. "Every OEM has the option to support VoLTE and E911 or not. It's their decision, though obviously, we hope that every OEM will choose to support these features and get certified on our network." The issue at hand is one of safety. Handsets that include Band 12 but don't also support VoLTE and E911 can run into roaming issues that may prevent 911 emergency calls from connecting properly. This would violate FCC regulations and might impact the outcome of emergency situations. The issue came to light when it was discovered the Moto E doesn't support VoLTE, E911, nor Band 12.


T-Mobile Opens Up LTE Roaming to CCA Data Hub

Thursday, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today added its network to the Competitive Carriers Association's LTE data roaming hub. The move gives CCA members and their customers access to T-Mobile's LTE 4G network for data roaming purposes. The Hub, which launched several years ago, is a collection of roaming agreements between small, rural carriers and large, national ones, such as Sprint and T-Mobile. The purpose of the Hub is to give larger carriers access to the rural networks of regional carriers, and give those regional carriers access to the metropolitan LTE 4G networks of larger carriers. T-Mobile has participated in the hub from a management perspective for some time, but had not yet contributed access to its own network. T-Mobile's network is strong in urban centers, but the carrier lacks the rural coverage available from other competitors.


Samsung Kicks Off Beta Testing for Samsung Pay

Thursday, 10:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Oppo Shows Off R7 Plus and R5s Smartphones

Aug 24, 2015, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 R7 Plus and R5s are available to North American buyers via the Oppo Style web site. The R7 Plus doesn't support U.S. LTE bands, but will run on the HSPA+ networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. It costs about $470. The R5s has limited support for U.S. LTE, and also runs on U.S. HSPA+ networks. It costs about $225. The phones are sold unlocked at full price.


SoftBank Invests Another $73 Million in Sprint

Aug 19, 2015, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

SoftBank has purchased yet more shares of Sprint stock, boosting its stake in the company to just over 80%. SoftBank shelled out $73 million for about 16.8 million shares. Earlier this month, SoftBank made an $87 million investment in Sprint. The moves have helped Sprint's stock price rally, increasing the company's value by about $6 billion. SoftBank believes Sprint's turnaround plan will work and CEO Masayoshi Son said he sees the light at the end of the tunnel. Sprint recently fell behind T-Mobile in terms of subscribers.


Sprint to Cease Offering Contracts By Year's End

Aug 17, 2015, 3:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Sprint Intros 'iPhone Forever' Promo

Aug 17, 2015, 8:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 17, 2015, 8:09 AM

Sprint has kicked off a new program that lets customers upgrade to "the latest" iPhone at any time. Starting today, new or upgrade-eligible customers can lease a 16GB iPhone 6 for $22 per month. When a new iPhone becomes available (possibly in late September), those customers will be able to go into Sprint stores and swap their iPhone 6 for the new iPhone with no change in monthly lease payments. Sprint is offering to reduce the lease payment to $15 for customers who trade in old smartphones under several conditions. Current customers who are upgrade eligible and new customers who port to Sprint can get a new 16GB iPhone 6 today for $15 per month as long as they turn in an old smartphone. If these customers upgrade to the latest iPhone after Dec. 31, they will see their lease change to $22 per month. Separately, new or existing upgrade-eligible customers can turn in any smartphone and lease the 16GB iPhone 6 for $15 per month. If these customers then upgrade to the new iPhone before Dec. 31, they will get to keep the $15 monthly lease payment until their next upgrade. This promotion, which mirrors one recently revealed by T-Mobile, is meant to entice customers to sign up sooner rather than later. Sprint hopes prospective customers who may be waiting for Apple to reveal a new iPhone will jump on a new iPhone in the next few weeks. The iPhone Forever program is offering those new customers some protection, assuring them they'll be able to get the latest iPhone when it arrives later this year. Thee plans require customers to activate their iPhone on an individual unlimited plan or family share pack plan.


T-Mobile Embraces FM Radio In Phones

Aug 14, 2015, 4:06 PM   by Rich Brome

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.


Most Carriers to Sell Samsung Galaxy Note 5, S6 Edge+

Aug 13, 2015, 10:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Sinks More Money Into Sprint

Aug 13, 2015, 6:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

SoftBank has been snapping up shares of Sprint, increasing its stake recently by as much as $87 million. Despite SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son's misgivings about the overall acquisition of Sprint, SoftBank said it "is enthusiastic about Sprint's prospects. The SoftBank Group and Sprint teams have been working closely together on Sprint's network strategy to enhance Sprint's competitiveness and reduce its capital expenditures and operating costs." SoftBank didn't say if it plans to continue purchasing Sprint shares. The carrier recently fell behind T-Mobile in terms of subscribers in the U.S., making it the fourth-largest carrier.


Sprint Woes Weigh on SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son

Aug 12, 2015, 8:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Alcatel Bringing Smaller Idol 3 to US and Canada

Aug 10, 2015, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel OneTouch today announced that it will soon sell the 4.7-inch version of its Idol 3 flagship in the U.S. and Canada. The Idol 3 4.7 shares virtually all features with the larger 5.5-inch model, which has been available since May. As the name implies, the screen measures 4.7 inches across the diagonal and it has 720p HD resolution. The phone is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor with 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The Idol 3 4.7 has stereo JBL speakers with Clarify processing, and each speaker has its own dedicated 1.2W amplifier for full sound. The phone is reversible, meaning it can be held in any orientation and the user interface will rotate accordingly. The main camera uses a Sony sensor that rates 13 megapixels. It includes a variety of modes and video-capture options. The user-facing camera captures 5-megapixel images. Wireless radios include LTE for AT&T and T-Mobile, Bluetooth 4.1, FM radio, GPS, and WiFi. The Idol 3 4.7 supports microSD cards up to 128GB. The Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 4.7 will be available unlocked from Alcatel's web site and Amazon.com on Friday, Aug. 14. The retail price is $179.99.


FCC Finalizes 30MHz Reserve for 600MHz Auction

Aug 6, 2015, 9:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today formally rejected T-Mobile's bid to set aside more low-band spectrum for smaller carriers in next year's 600MHz auction. T-Mobile wanted to see a total of 40MHz of the valuable low-band airwaves set aside for carriers other than AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The FCC said in June it would likely keep the reserve at 30MHz, which it proposed last year, and today voted on the matter officially. The 600MHz auction will see television broadcasters voluntarily give up their spectrum licenses, which will then be bid on by mobile network operators. The FCC is still locking down some of the rules that will govern the auction. The auction is expected to begin in mid-2016.


ZTE Obsidian Lands on T-Mobile August 13

Aug 6, 2015, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today revealed the ZTE Obsidian, a compact entry-level Android smartphone. The Obsidian features a 4.5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution and a 1GHz quad-core processor with 1 GB of RAM. The Obsidian has a 5-megapixel main camera with flash and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. The phone supports T-Mobile's LTE 4G network and WiFi Calling feature, and has Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and WiFi. The Obsidian is limited to 4 GB of on-board storage, but it supports microSD memory cards up to 32 GB. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and costs $4.17 for 24 months or $99.99 at full retail. It goes on sale online and in stores beginning Aug. 13.


T-Mobile First to Drop Samsung Galaxy S6 Prices

Aug 5, 2015, 10:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has lowered the price points of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge a week after Samsung said it would drop the phones' prices. The Galaxy S6 now costs $580, $660, and $660 for the 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB models, respectively. Those reflect price drops of $100 to $200. The Galaxy S6 Edge has similar price cuts, and now costs $680, $760, and $760 for the 32 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB models, respectively. Samsung reported its second quarter earnings recently and indicated the S6 and S6 Edge were not selling as well as hoped. In response, Samsung said it "plans to firmly maintain its sale of premium smartphones by flexibly adjusting the price of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge." T-Mobile's competitors, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, have yet to follow the Uncarrier's lead, but they likely will in the near future.


AT&T Landline Issue Halts Southeast Wireless Networks

Aug 4, 2015, 8:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T said a problem with its wireline network was to blame for spotty cellular coverage in portions of Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee this evening. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers in those four states reported connectivity issues starting in the late afternoon. They took to social media in droves to complain about the lack of service. AT&T provides backhaul coverage for itself and its competitors in the region. "We've pinpointed the issue in the Southeast and are working to restore service as quickly as possible," said AT&T via its Twitter account. Sprint and Verizon took to their own social media accounts to assure customers that the issue will soon be resolved. "Verizon engineers worked with our vendors to identify and resolve the issue and service was restored by 8pm," said Verizon. AT&T has yet to provide specific details about the hardware issue that caused the problem.


Apple Says No MVNO In the Works

Aug 4, 2015, 11:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has denied a report suggesting it plans to sell phones and wireless service directly to consumers. Apple doesn't own any wireless spectrum, nor does it have any telecommunications infrastructure. The only way it could operate a wireless network would be as an MVNO, or by reselling access to the networks run by companies such as Sprint and T-Mobile. "We have not discussed nor do we have any plans to launch an MVNO," said Apple in a statement released to media. Apple very rarely comments on rumor and speculation, but was quick to denounce this particular report, which was published by Business Insider. Apple last year released the Apple SIM card, which lets owners of its iPad tablet easily switch between wireless network operators. The Apple SIM does not work with the Apple iPhone, however, and Apple recently agreed to work with the ITU in supporting electronic SIM cards that are permanently embedded in handsets.


Sprint Falls to Become No. 4 US Carrier

Aug 4, 2015, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint reported its second quarter earnings today and the numbers reveal it has fallen behind competitor T-Mobile in the total number of customers. T-Mobile, which gained a total of 2 million new customers during the second quarter, reported a total customer base on 58.9 million. Sprint saw net additions of 675,000 customers during the second quarter, but that left it with a total of 57 million. T-Mobile now ranks as the third-largest U.S. carrier in terms of customers, and Sprint ranks fourth. AT&T and Verizon Wireless still hold the top two spots. Sprint reported a financial loss for the quarter of $20 million on revenue of $8 billion. Despite the loss, Sprint reduced churn and ceded just 12,000 postpaid smartphone subscribers, which are considered the most lucrative to hold. The company said it continues to work aggressively to improve its network and cut costs. Sprint is mostly owned by SoftBank, based in Japan. CEO Marcelo Claure has been on board for just about a year. He recently shook up the executive suite and installed a new CFO and COO.


Verizon and T-Mobile Agree to $173M Spectrum Swap

Aug 3, 2015, 6:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile have agreed to exchange AWS-1 and PCS spectrum in dozens of markets around the country in a deal valued at $173 million. The spectrum in question covers portions of Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia. The companies will swap spectrum licenses only; the deal does not include the transfer of assets or customers. The exchange will allow Verizon and T-Mobile "to enjoy the efficiency benefits associated with larger blocks of contiguous spectrum and/or alignment of spectrum held in adjacent markets," according to regulatory filings. The companies expect the deal to close during the fourth quarter of the year. Companies often sell, buy, or swap spectrum from one another. Such deals require FCC approval.


Cricket Adds Calling and Messaging From Canada and Mexico

Jul 31, 2015, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today improved its international offering by adding the ability to make calls and send text messages from Canada and Mexico to the U.S. The change means Cricket customers who travel to Canada and Mexico will be able to stay in touch with family and friends in the U.S. while they are away. Cricket customers are already able to make unlimited calls and send unlimited messages from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico. Cricket said the "roundtrip" feature will be available to its Smart and Pro plans ($50 and $60 per month, respectively) for at no extra cost. The unlimited calling/SMS feature goes into effect for Mexico on August 2 and will go into effect for Canada later in August. Cricket's move follows similar calling plan changes made by parent company AT&T, as well as competitors T-Mobile and MetroPCS.


More Phone Makers, Carriers Support Android for Work

Jul 30, 2015, 8:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said support for its Android for Work program has swelled to 40 companies thanks to the addition of new carriers, phone makers, app developers, and management providers. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint in the U.S., and Rogers, Bell Canada, and Telus Mobility in Canada have thrown their weight behind Android for Work, marking the first time carriers have joined the program. This means people/businesses will be able to ask their carriers to provide the security, device management, and productivity tools included in Android for Work. Samsung is working with Android for Work, too, in conjunction with its own KNOX services. Silent Circle's forthcoming Blackphone 2 is another handset that will support Android for Work. Google says more than 10,000 businesses are testing, deploying, or using Android for Work. The program is meant to help offer secure connections to corporate information, the ability for IT to manage devices remotely, and access to Google's productivity apps.


T-Mobile Locks In $15 iPhone Pricing

Jul 28, 2015, 10:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today improved its iPhone leasing program. Anyone who leases the iPhone 6 before Labor Day will only have to pay $15 per month for the handset. Moreover, those customers will be able to keep the $15 monthly lease payment even if they upgrade to the next iPhone before the end of 2015. (This upgrade normally increases the lease payment to $27.) T-Mobile today also added Apple Music to its Music Freedom offering. This means people will be able to stream an unlimited amount of music from Apple over T-Mobile's network with no fear of it impacting their data usage. Both programs go into effect today.


T-Mobile One M9 Scores Modest Update

Jul 27, 2015, 3:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC has made a system update available to the T-Mobile variant of the One M9, and the phone earns some significant improvements with the new code. To start, it gains the camera enhancents given to the international edition earlier this year, as well as the kill switch required by California law. It also adds battery improvements and new support for Google Wallet. The update is being pushed out over the air.

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T-Mobile Launches RCS-Based Advanced Messaging

Jul 22, 2015, 11:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced Advanced Messaging, a refresh of its base messaging service that adds several powerful features. Advanced Messaging is based on Rich Communications Services (RCS), which allows T-Mobile to offer near real-time chatting. Users can see when people are typing responses, see exactly when messages are delivered, and see when messages are read. T-Mobile's Advanced Messaging lets people instantly share photo and video files up to 10MB, as well. Advanced Messaging will first be available on the Samsung Galaxy Core Prime. Owners of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6 can enable Advanced Messaging through a simple system update. T-Mobile said more phones will launch with Advanced Messaging throughout the year, and it expects the service to become a standard feature across its product portfolio. T-Mobile Advanced Messaging is built to work across all devices, makers, platforms, and wireless operators. RCS is a standards-based technology and T-Mobile expects to introduce other RCS products in the future. Advanced Messaging will help T-Mobile compete with over-the-top messaging services, such as Facebook, Skype, and WhatsApp, that offer many of the same features.


Kyocera 'Waves' Hello to T-Mobile and MetroPCS

Jul 22, 2015, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 22, 2015, 5:58 PM

Kyocera today announced the Hydro Wave, its newest Android handset for T-Mobile and MetroPCS. The Hydro Wave has an IP57 rating for protection against water/dust ingress and meets mil-spec 810G for resistance to abuse. The Wave includes wet screen tracking so the phone can be used when wet. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop but includes new software from Kyocera called Core Home, which simplifies the user interface for first-time users or those who prefer the look and feel of feature phone UIs. The Hydro Wave features a 5-inch qHD display, 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. The main camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with LED flash and can capture 720p HD video, while the user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. Wireless capabilities include WiFi with WiFi Direct and WiFi Calling, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, and LTE with VoLTE and HD Voice support. The Hydro Wave has a 2,300mAh battery and includes Kyocera's Eco Mode and MaxiMZR to enhance battery life. The Hydro Wave will go on sale in T-Mobile stores July 22, followed by MetroPCS stores July 27. The price is $149.99.


Ubik Relying On Kickstarter to Fund the Uno Android Phone

Jul 21, 2015, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ubik Mobile today announced the Uno, an affordable flagship smartphone that it is making available via Kickstarter. The handset runs a stock version of Android 5.1 Lollipop and features a 5.5-inch 1080p HD screen protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The display has minimal bezels along the sides, giving it an edge-to-edge look. The Uno is powered by a 2.2 GHz MediaTek octa-core processor with 3 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 20-megapixel sensor with autofocus, f/2.2 aperture, and 4K video capture, while the user-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. The Ubik Uno has 16 GB of storage, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, WiFi, and support for memory cards up to 64 GB. The Uno is sold for $345 unlocked and it supports GSM-based LTE networks, such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. The device will initially be sold through a Kickstarter campaign. The first 250 backers will get the Uno for $280, with other tiers priced at $299 and $320. The Kickstarter campaign has 44 days left and Ubik said it expects to ship the phone early in the fourth quarter. Ubik said the phone's software is nearly complete and, with production processes in place, it expects to test its manufacturing facilities soon. If Ubik Mobile doesn't hit its Kickstarter goal of $200,000, it may increase the price of the phone slightly and move forward anyway. The company said it will poll users through its web site as to what features it should include in future devices. They'll be able to choose from a bigger battery, thinner profile, and other potential features.


T-Mobile Fined $17.5 Million Over 911 Outage

Jul 17, 2015, 2:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has settled with the FCC regarding two separate 911 outages on its national wireless network that prevented customers from reaching emergency services for a period of three hours. T-Mobile agreed to pay the FCC $17.5 million in fines and take steps to improve the strength of its network and 911 services. The company will follow an action plan to prevent or minimize the impact of similar outages in the future. For example, it will identify risks that could result in disruptions to 911 service, protect against such risks, respond with remedial actions, and recover from such outages swiftly. "The Commission has no higher priority than ensuring the reliability and resilience of our nation's communications networks so that consumers can reach public safety in their time of need," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "Communications providers that do not take necessary steps to ensure that Americans can call 911 will be held to account." T-Mobile's competitors, including Verizon Wireless, have settled similar complaints with the FCC.


MetroPCS Wins Mexico Calling Plan of Its Own

Jul 15, 2015, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS today revealed a new plan for making calls to Mexico. The Mexico Unlimited package borrows a page from T-Mobile's Mobile Without Borders plan and offers unlimited calling and messaging to mobile and landlines in Mexico. Further, the plan allows MetroPCS customers to use their handsets freely in Mexico and make calls to the U.S., as well as Mexican lines without fear of roaming fees. MetroPCS customers can access their mobile data buckets while in Mexico, too. Mexico Unlimited is available beginning today. Customers who sign up for the plan before August 31 will get it at no extra charge for the rest of 2015. Mexico Unlimited costs $5 per month and requires a MetroPCS plan costing at least $40.


HTC Debuts New Desire 626 and 526/520 Range

Jul 15, 2015, 2:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today revealed a new family of Desire handsets. The 626 series (pictured) and 526/520 series share many features, though the former is a bit more mid-range and the latter is decidedly entry-level. Traits common to the 626, 626S, 526, and 520 include Qualcomm's 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor; 2,000mAh batteries; single-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, and GPS/GLONASS; support for 2 TB memory cards; and Android 5.1 Lollipop with HTC Sense.

  • 626/626S: In keeping with prior Desire designs, the 626/626S are formed of polycarbonate and have variable color combinations. These larger Desire handsets have 5-inch 720p HD screens and 8-megapixel main cameras with 720p video capture. The 626 has 16 GB of storage, 1.5GB of RAM, and a 5-megapixel user-facing camera. The 626S has 8 GB of storage, 1 GB of RAM, and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera.
  • 526/520:The 526 and 520 share most design features, but differ in some key specs. They have a simple appearance and cheaper materials. The 526, intended for Verizon, has a 4.7-inch qHD screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, and 1.5 GB of RAM. The 520, intended for Cricket Wireless, has a 4.5-inch FWVGA screen, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, 8 GB of storage, and 1 GB of RAM.
HTC said these phones will become broadly available from many U.S. carriers, including T-Mobile and MetroPCS, AT&T GoPhone and Cricket Wireless, Verizon Wireless, and Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile. Pricing, colors, and availability will vary by carrier.

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T-Mobile Offering New Family Plan with 10GB Per Line for $120

Jul 14, 2015, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced a new family plan that offers 10GB of data to each line, up to four lines. T-Mobile says $100 buys two lines with unlimited talk and text and 10GB of data per line. A third line with its own 10GB of data costs $20 more, and a fourth line with its own 10GB of data is available for free (limited promotion, taxes and fees still apply). That means a four-person family can have unlimited voice and messaging service, and a total of 40GB of data to use, with 10GB apportioned to each line. The plan includes WiFi calling, Music Freedom, Data Stash, and Mobile without Borders. The new family plan will be available starting July 15.


T-Mobile Makes It Free to Roam In Canada and Mexico

Jul 9, 2015, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 9, 2015, 8:59 AM

T-Mobile today announced Mobile Without Borders, a new program that lets customers use their T-Mobile line in Canada and Mexico free of roaming charges. Beginning July 15, all calls to, from, and between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada are included at no extra charge. Any data used when roaming will be pulled from customers' data buckets. Further, customers will be able to access Music Freedom and Wi-Fi calling and texting, too. T-Mobile said customers will be able to tap into their Data Stash data in Mexico and Canada later this year. All new Simple Choice plans (including prepaid) will have access to Mobile Without Borders for free. Existing customers can opt-in online, in stores or by phone.


ROK Mobile Expands Coverage and Retail Presence

Jul 8, 2015, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ROK Mobile, a music-focused MVNO, today said it has significantly expanded coverage by partnering with "the nation's largest 4G LTE network." ROK Mobile didn't name its new partner, but said customers can now enjoy cellular network access in more places. The carrier has already partnered with Sprint and T-Mobile, so the new partner is either AT&T or Verizon Wireless. ROK also announced plans to expand its retail availability across the country this month. ROK Mobile services will be available at "independently owned and operated" mobile phone stores nationwide starting in a few weeks. ROK didn't name its retail partners, but said it plans to be in 10,000 locations by the end of the year. ROK Mobile bundles wireless and music streaming services together for $49.99 per month. For that, users get 5GB of LTE 4G, unlimited calling and messaging, and unlimited access to ROK's 20 million tracks. Consumers interested in ROK Mobile need to supply their own Sprint- or T-Mobile-compatible handset. The service works on Android and iOS devices through ROK's mobile app.


Sony Z3+ Available to US Buyers Via Amazon

Jul 6, 2015, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony has made the Xperia Z3+ available through Amazon's U.S. web site. The phone is being sold unlocked and is compatible with GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless plans to sell a variant of the phone, called the Z3v, later this summer. It has a 5.2-inch full HD screen, 20.7-megapixel main camera, wide-angle 5-megapixel front camera, and a quad-core Snapdragon 810 processor with 3 GB of RAM. Amazon is selling it for about $640.


Sprint CEO Derides T-Mobile's 'Misleading' and 'Fake' Moves

Jul 2, 2015, 8:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure has had enough of T-Mobile CEO John Legere's brash attitude. Claure had harsh words for Legere after Legere poked fun at Sprint's latest promotion, the All-In calling plan. "I give credit to @sprint for swinging the bat when they do – but #allin is a swing and a miss, guys! #sprintlikehell," said Legere via his personal Twitter account. Claure responded by saying, "I am so tired of your Uncarrier [baloney] when you are worse than the other two carriers together. Your cheap misleading lease imitation is a joke. You trick people to believe that they have a $15 iPhone lease payment when it's not true. You tell them they can upgrade up to 3x but you don't tell them the price goes up to $27 when they do. You say one thing but behave completely different. It's all a fake show. So it's really #Tmobilelikehell." Legere did not respond to Claure's accusations. Legere is known for his direct approach and use of profanity to make fun of T-Mobile's competitors.


CTIA Says Smartphones Better Protected Against Theft

Jul 1, 2015, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Beginning today, most smartphones sold in the U.S. will include anti-theft security tools. July 1 marks the day by which phone makers and network operators agreed to implement free theft deterrents on smartphones. According to the CTIA, most of the industry has responded by placing remote lock/wipe capabilities on consumer devices. The addition of an activation lock on the Apple iPhone, for example, has dramatically reduced iPhone thefts in major cities. The activation lock prevents a stolen device from being activated by another person, thus making it useless to thieves. Remote wipe features allow people to erase the personal data from their handset if lost/stolen to protect their identity. The major participants in today's action include Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and ZTE. "Today's fulfillment of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is another example of the wireless industry proactively working together with policymakers and law enforcement to help protect consumers' smartphones in the event they are ever lost or stolen. We will continue to work with all interested parties to continue to deploy new technologies and tools to improve device theft-deterrence tools. We remind consumers to take a few minutes to use PINs, passwords, apps and other device features to protect their mobile devices and personal information." The industry was coerced into acting "voluntarily" when the FCC threatened to make such protective measures mandatory.


Sprint Allowed to Settle Cramming Charges for $50M

Jul 1, 2015, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint has settled accusations with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that it over-billed customers for unwanted services. In May, the FCC fined Sprint $68 million for adding third-party services to customer bills without customer permission — a practice known as cramming. A U.S. judge is allowing Sprint to escape with a $50 million settlement, rather than the full amount. The FCC fined Verizon for $90 million in May also, and this week's settlement marks the end of the ordeal for both companies. Last year, the FCC tagged AT&T for $105 million and T-Mobile for $90 million to settle cramming complaints.


Sprint Found In Violation of Prism Patents

Jun 30, 2015, 3:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint was found culpable of infringing on two patents held by Prism Technologies. The patents in question pertain to accessing protected computer resources and were used by Sprint in its "Simply Everything" and "Everything Data" plans, according to Prism. Sprint was ordered to pay a fine of $30 million. Sprint rejects the decision and said it will appeal. "We believe the evidence is clear that Sprint does not infringe the patent. Sprint plans to pursue post-trial motions," said Roni Singleton, a spokeswoman for Sprint, in a statement provided to RCR Wireless. Prism has similar cases pending against T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular.


ZTE's Axon Phone Swings By the FCC for Approval

Jun 30, 2015, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Documents spotted on the FCC site reveal more information about ZTE's forthcoming Axon phone. The company has been teasing the device on the web for several weeks and plans to reveal it in full at a July 14 event in New York City. The FCC details the Axon Phone's impressive support for wireless networks, especially AT&T and T-Mobile. For example, it supports LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, and 30 (AT&T's upcoming WCS 2.3GHz coverage). It also includes WCDMA bands 2, 4, and 5, and quad-band GSM. The FCC also reveals the Axon includes excellent support for hearing aids, and NFC. ZTE has already confirmed that the Axon Phone will have a dual-lens camera, 4K video capture, high-fidelity sound playback and audio recording, a fast processor, 4 GB of memory, and a large battery. The phone will be sold in blue, gold, or silver.


European Union to Ban Roaming Charges

Jun 30, 2015, 7:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The European Commission today agreed to make cellphone roaming charges illegal beginning in 2017. The change in law means European wireless network operators will not be allowed to charge roaming fees for customers who travel across the 28-country continent. Additionally, the European Commission also adopted some net neutrality regulations to prevent service providers from discriminating between different types of internet traffic. European carriers, such as T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom, warn the rules will reduce investment across the region, but regulators see the new laws as a win for consumers, who are often charged high fees when they travel. The new rules are specific to Europeans who go to other European countries. U.S. residents traveling abroad can still expect AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless to charge roaming fees for accessing wireless networks in Europe and elsewhere.


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