AT&T today enabled WiFi calling on the iPhone. iPhone owners who've updated to iOS 9 can make and receive voice calls via WiFi rather than cellular networks. The feature is meant to help people remain connected when cellular coverage is poor. WiFi calling can be set up directly from the iPhone and requires several steps. AT&T says customers have to have a post-paid account set-up wth HD Voice in order to activate the feature. WiFi calling works automatically with the subscriber's existing phone number. The service is free to use. Earlier this week, the FCC granted AT&T permission to offer WiFi calling by approving a waiver concerning services for hard-of-hearing customers. Sprint and T-Mobile have offered WiFi calling for the better part of a year with no such waiver from the FCC. AT&T chided the FCC for failing to take any sort of corrective action against them.
AT&T and T-Mobile have agreed to exchange some PCS and AWS-1 spectrum licenses in a handful of markets. The carriers said identical amounts of spectrum are being traded, so each carrier's spectrum position will remain unchanged in the covered markets. AT&T and T-Mobile claim the exchange will help them create larger 15x15 MHz or 20x20 MHz blocks of contiguous spectrum. Larger blocks of spectrum can be put to more effective use in providing capacity. The markets include Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Sacramento, and San Antonio. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The FCC will need to approve the transaction before the companies can exchange the spectrum licenses.
Dish Network is evaluating whether or not to participate in the FCC's 600MHz incentive auction next year, according to an executive. The company might bid on airwave licenses even though it was recently denied a $3.3 billion discount on licenses it won in this year's AWS-3 auction. The company did not say what it plans to do with the spectrum. Dish already owns a significant swath of spectrum, but has yet to deploy any sort of wireless network. Sprint recently said it will not participate in the auction, while T-Mobile has been very vocal about its plans to spend up to $10 billion securing country-wide 600MHz airwaves.
Virgin Mobile USA today announced Data Free Music, a program that lets customers stream an unlimited amount of music over the cellular network with no impact on their data plan. The idea is similar to one from T-Mobile. The feature is being added to Virgin's $35, $45, and $55 plans, which offer 1GB, 3GB, and 8GB of high-speed data, respectively. Customers who have these plans will be able to listen to as much music as they want from iHeartRadio, Pandora, and Slacker Radio. Virgin said it may add more music providers over time. Data consumed via these music streaming providers will not count against customers' monthly data limits. Data Free Music will be available beginning Oct. 9.
Cat today said the S40 smartphone is now for sale in the U.S. The phone, which Cat announced earlier this year, is a rugged, waterproof handheld that can handle drops and immersion in water. The S40 has a 4.7-inch qHD screen that's protected by Gorilla Glass 4 and can work with gloves and/or when wet. The phone is powered by a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The handset includes Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi, and has a high-capacity battery. The Cat S40 costs $399 and is sold unlocked. It is compatible with the GSM networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone is available through Quality One Wireless and Cat's web site.
The FCC today approved a waiver requested by AT&T that will allow it to launch WiFi calling. The waiver gives AT&T permission to deploy Real-Time Text (RTT) as an alternative to TTY technology, which is relied upon by the hard-of-hearing. AT&T requested the waiver earlier this year. TTY is unreliable when used over WiFi and AT&T required a rule change from the FCC before it could move forward with the substitute. AT&T said it was pleased to receive the waiver, though it is puzzled why the FCC isn't taking action against Sprint and T-Mobile, which both launched WiFi calling services without a waiver. "We're grateful the FCC has granted AT&T's waiver request so we can begin providing WiFi calling. At the same time we are left scratching our heads as to why the FCC still seems intent on excusing the behavior of T-Mobile and Sprint, who have been offering these services without a waiver for quite some time. Instead of initiating enforcement action against them, or at least opening an investigation, the agency has effectively invited them to now apply for similar waivers and implied that their prior flaunting of FCC rules will be ignored." AT&T did not say how quickly it will get WiFi calling up and running.
Verizon today voiced support for Samsung Pay and said the service will be added to compatible phones through a future software update. Samsung Pay initially launched with support from AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, but Verizon only said it was "consiodering" the mobile payment service. Verizon did not say what delayed its commitment to the app, but now it is on board. Samsung Pay will be added to the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, Note 5, and S6 Edge+. Verizon didn't say when it plans to deliver the update.
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.
T-Mobile today said the personal data of some 15 million customers and applicants was lifted through a hack of Experian, a third-party credit agency that performs services for T-Mobile. According to T-Mobile, the hack exposed customer and potential customer records, including names, addresses, birthdates, and social security numbers between September 2013 and September 2015. T-Mobile said it is working with Experian to take protective steps for the affected customers as swiftly as it can. "Obviously I am incredibly angry about this data breach," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. "Right now my top concern and first focus is assisting any and all consumers affected. I take our customer and prospective customer privacy very seriously." T-Mobile said its system was not breached in the hack. The company is offering customers two years of free credit monitoring through ProtectMyID.com. Customers who feel their data may be involved in the breach can reach out to T-Mobile customer service. "At T-Mobile, privacy and security is of utmost importance, so I will stay very close to this issue and I will do everything possible to continue to earn your trust every day," concluded Legere. T-Mobile said the 15 million records impacted may not all be customers, as the data includes credit applications filed by potential customers.
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.
T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter said the Uncarrier is making plans to participate in next year's incentive auction and it will be on the hunt for low-band spectrum. Carter indicated the company has as much as $10 billion to spend on spectrum, though it expects to spend much less than that to get what it needs to expand coverage. T-Mobile is being aided by the FCC, which set aside 30MHz of spectrum for smaller companies. "Never in the history of the U.S. has there been an auction where there has been a set aside of spectrum for the competitive carriers," said Carter. "It's such a victory for us" and "sets up amazing pricing dynamics. I think this will be a robust auction." T-Mobile hopes to score enough 600MHz spectrum to fill in the coverage gaps where it doesn't already have 700MHz low-band spectrum. T-Mobile's 700MHz A Block allows it to cover approximately 190 million people with LTE. The company's grand plan is to be able to provide a national footprint.
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.
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.
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.
T-Mobile said the Coolpad Rogue will soon join its lineup of inexpensive Android smartphones. The Rogue features a 4-inch WVGA screen, 1.1GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 4GB of storage. It supports memory cards up to 32GB. The main camera captures 2-megapixel images, while the user-facing camera is good for VGA selfies. The phone includes Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi, and support for WiFi Calling, but without LTE it is limited to HSPA+ data speeds. The Coolpad Rogue goes on sale Sept. 30. It runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and will cost $49.99.
T-Mobile said it will drop the Jump On Demand lease payment for the 16GB Apple iPhone 6s to just $5 if customers trade in an iPhone 6. Customers who trade in an iPhone 6 Plus can lease the 16GB iPhone 6s Plus for $9 per month. Without the trade-in, the lease payment is $20 per month for the 16GB 6s. T-Mobile says the out-the-door cost is $0, and the full price of the 16GB iPhone 6s totals $523.99 for customers who remain with T-Mobile for 18 months. By way of comparison, Sprint's iPhone lease program costs $15 per month with a trade-in or $22 without a trade-in. T-Mobile also said it will sell the Apple Watch Sport beginning Friday, Sept. 25, the same day the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus go on sale. T-Mobile is offering the wearable for $0 down and 24 monthly payments of about $14.50 for the 38mm Watch Sport ($349) and $17 for the 42mm Watch Sport ($399).
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.
T-Mobile today said LTE is now available on its Band 12 700MHz spectrum throughout the greater Miami area. T-Mobile is marketing such service as "Extended Range LTE" thanks to the signal propagation characteristics of 700MHz, which travels farther distances and penetrates buildings more easily. T-Mobile says it has deployed LTE on Band 12 700MHz in 170 markets around the country. The spectrum is available to T-Mobile customers in many communities across Florida, including Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Key West, Port St. Lucie, and West Palm Beach.
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 today expanded the availability of its Simple Global data roaming feature to a total of 145 countries. T-Mobile says postpaid customers can now use their T-Mobile handsets across all of Europe and all of South America, in addition to numerous other countries such as the Bahamas, without incurring data roaming charges. Data speeds when roaming are limited to 2G / EDGE. Customers who want access to high-speed data when roaming do need to pay extra. Simple Global also includes free texting and $0.20/minute voice calls.
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.
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.
Sprint today shared details about its iPhone 6s and 6s Plus launch plans and price points. To start, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus will both support carrier aggregation on Sprint's 2.5GHz spectrum (Band 41). Sprint claims cell sites with two-channel 2.5GHz carrier aggregation can deliver peak speeds of 100Mbps. The new iPhones will also include WiFi Calling, a feature already available to some older iPhone models. Sprint is offering the new handsets via its iPhone Forever program. New and existing customers who turn in an old smartphone will be able to lease the 16GB iPhone 6s for $15 per month — a price that undercuts T-Mobile's lease program by $5 and Apple's lease program by $17. Existing Sprint customers who already use the iPhone Forever program (with a 16GB iPhone 6) will be able to keep their $15 monthly payment if they upgrade to the 16GB iPhone 6s by Dec. 31. Sprint is offering to pay the ETFs of customers who switch from other carriers. Last, Sprint said it will open stores at 8am on Sept. 25, the day the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus go on sale, but it will also allow customers who prefer to avoid crowds to take advantage of Direct 2 You.
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.
ROK Mobile today said it plans to launch an all-you-can-eat mobile video service during the first quarter of 2016. The offering will include thousands of Hollywood movies and television shows, as well as small-studio content, such as anime, extreme sports, and other niche content. The company has not announced pricing for the service, but says it will be "affordable." It will be added to ROK's existing all-you-can-listen mobile music plan. ROK is partnering with SeaChange, an over-the-top video provider, to bring the mobile video content to Android and iOS devices. ROK Mobile is a music-focused MVNO that resells access to Sprint and T-Mobile's networks. 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.
T-Mobile said it has doubled the number of square miles covered by its LTE network over the last year, according to a blog post written by CEO John Legere. T-Mobile is on track to blanket another 600,000 square miles of area with LTE by the end of the year. The company claims it is covering 260,000 new homes with signal every week as it continues to build out its LTE network. Legere said T-Mobile has deployed Band 12 700MHz spectrum (what the company is branding as "T-Mobile Extended Range LTE") in 170 markets, which alone covers more than half of Americans. T-Mobile claims its total LTE footprint now blankets 290 million POPs. T-Mobile is so confident in the growing strength of its LTE network that it is introducing the T-Mobile Lifetime Coverage Guarantee. The new Apple iPhone 6s and 6s Plus support Band 12, which gives them greater access to T-Mobile's network than previous iPhones. As such, T-Mobile is guaranteeing that owners of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus will be satisfied with their coverage experience on T-Mobile as long as they own the phone. Unsatisfied customers can seek a full refund during the first month of ownership. Customers who report being unsatisfied after the first 30 days with the iPhone 6s/6s Plus will be able to unlock their device at no charge and maintain the equipment installment plan at standard prices. The unlocked phone can then be used on any competing network. The T-Mobile Lifetime Coverage Guarantee requires customers to purchase an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus via its Jump On Demand program. The T-Mobile Lifetime Coverage Guarantee is replacing the Un-Carrier 5.0 Test Drive offer, which launched in June 2014. Last, T-Mobile announced its pricing plans for Apple's new iPhones. It is offering the 16GB iPhone 6s for $20 per month for 18 months through Jump On Demand. The iPhone 6s Plus will cost $24 under the same terms. The Jump On Demand program does not mandate upfront costs and allows customers to trade in their handset up to three times per year. Moreover, T-Mobile said customers who lease the iPhone 6s through Jump On Demand will be able to purchase the device outright for $164 after they make 18 payments of $20. That puts the total device cost at $524, or about $125 less than Apple charges for the handset at full retail. The Apple iPhone 6s and 6s Plus will be available for pre-order beginning at 12am/3am September 12. The phone reaches stores Sept. 25.
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.
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.
T-Mobile today announced T-Mobile Video Calling, a service that works with the native phone dialer of select handsets without requiring special apps. Like VoLTE and HD Voice, T-Mobile Video Calling can move easily between LTE and WiFi with no dropped video. Video calls will be converted to voice calls, however, if one or both parties moves away from LTE or WiFi coverage. Video calls do count against monthly data buckets. T-Mobile subscribers will be able to see which of their contacts are available for video calls thanks to new icons being added directly to the contact application. The Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ are the first two handsets capable of making native T-Mobile Video Calls thanks to an update being disseminated this week. T-Mobile plans to add the feature to the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge next week, and to three other unnamed handsets later this year. T-Mobile said it is working with competing carriers to enable the feature across networks.
Samsung's latest wearable features a circular shape, rotating bezel, and the ability to make phone calls independent from a smartphone. The device comes in two basic models: the Gear S2 has a simpler, more modern look, while the Gear S2 Classic has a more traditional appearance. Both feature a 1.2-inch circular AMOLED screen with 360 by 360 pixels. The Gear S2 is powered by a dual-core 1.0GHz processor and has 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. Samsung says the 250mAh battery provides up to two days of battery life. Connectivity includes Bluetooth, NFC, and WiFi, and internal sensors include an accelerometer, gyroscope, heart rate monitor, ambient light, and barometer for tracking movement and otherl conditions. The Gear S2 runs Samsung's Tizen operating system and comes with a handful of tools for managing email, messaging, calendar appointments, and weather. Other functions include voice commands, S Health and Nike+ Running apps, a media player, and photo gallery. The Gear S2 is also available in a 3G variant with the ability to make calls and handle limited data when not around a smartphone. The 3G version has a larger 300mAh battery and a thicker chassis than the Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic. T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to voice support for the 3G version of the watch. For $5 per month (when added to a phone plan), Gear S2 owners will be able to make unlimited calls, send unlimited messages, and use 500MB of data from their smartwatch. Pricing and availability were not disclosed.
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 smartphone 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 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 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 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 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.
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.