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printed November 26, 2015
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T-Mobile Offers $200 to Sprint Customers

Yesterday, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said Sprint customers can score $200 when porting their lines to T-Mobile during the holidays. T-Mobile will give Sprint, Boost, and Virgin subscribers an extra $200 for every line they switch to a T-Mobile Simple Choice plan, with no trade-in required. T-Mobile is also targeting subscribers to Sprint's unlimited plan. These customers can get access to T-Mobile's unlimited LTE plan for $45 per line for a family of four. These offerings will be available starting Nov. 26.

Google Encouraging Android Pay Adoption with Donations

Tuesday, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes the prospect of charitable giving will spur more people to use Android Pay for purchases during the holiday season. The company today said it will donate $1 for every Android Pay transaction between now and Dec. 31 to special needs education projects. Google is committing to offer up to $1 million, and will donate $2 for every Android Pay transaction made on Black Friday, Nov. 27. Android Pay is available to most NFC-equipped smartphones (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) and is accepted at more than one million retail locations around the country.

T-Mobile Gifting Customers with Free Unlimited Data

Monday, 4:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 5:18 PM

T-Mobile today said every postpaid Simple Choice customer will have access to unlimited high-speed data for the next three months. All customers with postpaid plans effective Nov. 23 or earlier are eligible. Customers will have unlimited LTE 4G data, even if they use up all their data and their Data Stash, demo Dec. 1, 2015 through March 1, 2016. T-Mobile is also offering a wide range of deals on smartphones and accessories during the holidays. T-Mobile said the promotions will change over the next few weeks and it encourages customers and prospective customers to check back regularly.

ZTE Selling the ZMax 2 Unlocked

Monday, 11:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said it is making the ZMax 2 smartphone available to consumers unlocked. The phone was originally sold via TracFone earlier this year, but is now online directly from ZTE. The full price of the phone is $179.99, but ZTE is running a limited sale price of $129.99. The ZMax 2 has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen; quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage; 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. The ZMax 2 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is compatible with the networks operated by AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid businesses, Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS, respectively.

FCC Chair: T-Mobile's Binge On No Threat to Net Neutrality

Nov 20, 2015, 8:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has essentially approved T-Mobile's Binge On program, which allows people to stream video over the network without impacting their data plans. "It's clear in the Open Internet Order that we said we are pro-competition and pro-innovation," said Wheeler during the agency's recent open meeting. "Clearly [Binge On] meets both of those criteria. It's highly innovative and highly competitive." The comments more or less give T-Mobile permission to move forward with the program despite concerns over its impact on net neutrality. Customers don't need to pay extra to stream video, and video providers don't need to pay T-Mobile to join the service. T-Mobile has approved 24 service providers, but quality is capped at 480p. YouTube is not among those taking part in Binge On. Consumer advocates believe T-Mobile's customers should be able to choose which video services are zero-rated, while others charge the program may distort how people use the internet. Wheeler said the agency will keep an eye on Binge On to see how it plays out in the market.

Sprint Offering 50% Off Competitors' Rates

Nov 18, 2015, 11:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 18, 2015, 11:18 AM

Sprint said beginning November 20, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon customers who switch their number to Sprint will save 50% off their old rate plan. The 50% savings will be available to switchers through Jan. 8, 2018. Sprint is also offering up to $650 in reimbursement for ETFs and other fees, but requires new customers to trade in their old smartphone. The promotion is limited to a maximum of 10 lines per account. Subsidized devices require an extra $25 per month fee. The half-rate plan does not extend to unlimited music/video streaming, data carryover, tethering, or cloud services. Mobile hotspot consumption is pulled from the shared data plan. The discount does not apply to taxes, surcharges, add-ons, apps, premium content, or international services. Discounts vary based on the rates charged by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Not all competitor rate plans apply. Sprint offered a similar promotion last year.

T-Mobile Sells 600 Towers to Phoenix Tower

Nov 17, 2015, 1:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has finalized the sale of some 600 cell towers to Phoenix Tower International. The deal, first announced in August, transferred ownership and management rights to Phoenix Tower. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. T-Mobile is preparing its finances for next year's incentive auction. The sale could provide T-Mobile with some of the cash needed for the spectrum licenses. T-Mobile said it would spend up to $10 billion for the valuable low-band airwaves.

Microsoft Taking Orders for Lumia 950 XL Online

Nov 16, 2015, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is allowing U.S. consumers to order the Lumia 950 XL, unlocked, from its web site for $649. Microsoft lists a ship date of Nov. 25 for orders placed today. The 950 XL comes with a free Microsoft Display Dock (while supplies last), which transforms the handset into a full PC when attached to a keyboard, mouse, and display. The 950 XL is the larger brother of the 950. It has a 5.7-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 810 processor with 3GB of RAM, 20-/5-megapixel camera arrangement, and a 3,340mAh battery. It runs Windows 10 Mobile and is compatible with the LTE networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.

T-Mobile Gives MetroPCS Unlimited Music Streaming, Too

Nov 16, 2015, 9:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS today announced a handful of new features that mirror services offered by its parent company, T-Mobile. First, MetroPCS customers now have access to Music Unlimited, which, like T-Mobile's Music Freedom, lets customers stream unlimited music over LTE without impacting their monthly data allotment. Music Unlimited is compatible with 33 different streaming music services and is available to customers on the $40, $50, or $60 plans. Second, MetroPCS is now offering a service called Data Maximizer, which delivers a three-fold increase in the amount of video users can stream over LTE 4G. With Data Maximizer turned on, customers can watch more video each month at DVD quality (480p). Video consumption is not unlimited, however; the Data Maximizer compression tool simply reduces the amount of video data transmitted over the network so it impacts customer plans less. Customers can toggle Data Maximizer on/off whenever they want. Third, and last, MetroPCS has added more data to its service plans. Moving forward, there are four plans for single/family lines. The entry level plan costs $30 per month and includes unlimited talk and text, and 1GB of data. The $40 plan bumps data to 3GB (from 2GB) and includes Music Unlimited/Data Maximizer. The $50 plan bumps data to 5GB (from 4GB) and includes Music Unlimited/Data Maximizer. The $60 plan includes unlimited data, 8GB of mobile hotspot data (up from 6GB), and Music Unlimited/Data Maximizer. Family plans cost $5 less per line when two or more lines are associated with a single account. Music Unlimited, Data Maximizer, and the new prepaid plans will be available Nov. 19.

Verizon to Start Tacking $20 Fee to New Lines

Nov 13, 2015, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless will soon begin charging a $20 activation fee for new customers who sign up for one of its contract-free device payment plans. The fee goes into effect Nov. 15. Previously, Verizon waived activation fees for customers who purchased devices via monthly installment plans. Verizon already charges a $40 activation fee to customers signing contracts. Though Verizon no longer offers contracts, it will still charge that $40 fee to grandfathered contract customers who add a new line of service. Verizon said the new $20 fee covers costs associated with adding a line, such as pairing the customer's phone number with their SIM card. Part of the initial appeal of monthly installment plans was the "$0 down" promise from carriers. Verizon's new fee effectively reneges on that policy. AT&T's installment plan customers now pay a $15 fee, too, when adding a new line. Sprint charges $36 for all new lines of service, and T-Mobile charges $15 for its SIM starter kit.

Technical Issue Keeping YouTube Out of T-Mobile's Binge On

Nov 13, 2015, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile introduced Binge On earlier this week, a program that lets customers stream unlimited video over T-Mobile's LTE network without impacting their data plans. The service works with 24 different video providers, with one major exception: YouTube. Google's YouTube accounts for one out of every five bits traveling through wireless networks. T-Mobile, speaking to the Wall Street Journal, said Binge On doesn't support YouTube for technical reasons. T-Mobile's proprietary software for detecting and downgrading video to 480p needs to be able to detect that it is receiving actual video content, rather than audio or static image content. The majority of YouTube traffic uses https, which T-Mobile is able to identify. However, some YouTube content relies on the UDP protocol, and T-Mobile's software can't always detect it accurately. Without the ability to determine the exact nature of the content, T-Mobile may unintentionally charge customers against their data plans. "YouTube is a little difficult," said Grant Castle, vice president of engineering at T-Mobile. Castle said T-Mobile and YouTube have held preliminary talks, but more work is required to suss out a solution. Binge On will be available to new T-Mobile customers starting Nov. 15, and all customers Nov. 19.

Transit Wireless Brings Service to 20 Stations In the Bronx

Nov 12, 2015, 1:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 12, 2015, 1:52 PM

Transit Wireless today said it has completed Phase 4 of its project to bring cellular and WiFi service to subway stations across New York City. Phase 4 adds coverage to 20 stations in the Bronx, as well as 17 stations in Manhattan. Some of the new stations include 53rd St./Lexington Ave. (6,E,M) and 59th/Lex. (4,5,6,N,Q,R) in Manhattan, and 149th S. Grand Concourse (2,4,5), and 125th St. (4,5,6) in the Bronx. Transit says it provides service to more than 140 stations throughout the New York City subway system. Service is available to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and now Verizon Wireless customers.

FCC Fines T-Mobile $60,000 for Failing to Secure Antennas

Nov 12, 2015, 1:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today proposed a fine of $60,000 against T-Mobile, which it says failed to adequately warn and prevent the public from stepping too close to cellular antennas. Specifically, T-Mobile didn't properly block off nor place signs near three antennas (2 AWS, 1 PCS) on a building in Phoenix, Ariz. The FCC ascertained that anyone could easily access the area directly in front of the antennas, and discovered evidence (cigarette butts, pens, graffiti on the antennas) suggesting people had done exactly that. The FCC measured the signal strength in front of the antennas and found it exceeded between 175% and 300% of the FCC's maximum recommended exposure to radio frequencies. Wireless network operators are required by law to prevent people from standing in front of cellular antennas, as well as fully warn people about RF exposure in the area. T-Mobile did neither of this in this case. "T-Mobile bears the responsibility to restrict access to the noncompliant areas that exceed the public RF exposure limits, with barriers, markings, and appropriate signage, or to modify the facility and operation so as to bring its stations' operations within the RF exposure limits prior to public or worker access to the impacted area. Because T-Mobile failed to do so, we find that T-Mobile ... exceeded the general population/uncontrolled RF limits." T-Mobile has 30 days to make the $60,000 payment.

AT&T Seeking 20MHz Block of 600MHz Spectrum

Nov 12, 2015, 12:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T is making plans to participate in next year's incentive auction, according to CFO John Stephens. "Spectrum is a scare asset, and so we would expect to participate," said Stephens, speaking at technology conference. "I won't suggest at what level, but we plan in our business plans to do that, and we'll see how it plays out, what's available. Certainly, getting a nationwide opportunity is what we've talked about in the past. A 2x10 MHz nationwide capability is something that works very well with our network planning and our network team, but we will see how this develops." AT&T already has significant low-band spectrum holdings in the 700MHz range. The incentive auction, planned for the middle of next year, will see television broadcasters turn in their spectrum licenses which will then be auctioned off to wireless broadband providers. AT&T's participation in the auction is somewhat limited thanks to a reserve for smaller carriers put in place by the FCC. T-Mobile has said it will spend up to $10 billion to get the low-band spectrum it needs to better compete with AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Sprint is sitting the auction out. Verizon hasn't discussed its plans in detail.

T-Mobile Increasing Unlimited Data Plan Price by $15

Nov 11, 2015, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile is prepared to debut new pricing for its unlimited data plan beginning Nov. 15. The price will increase from $80 per month to $95 per month, a jump of $15. In exchange for the price increase, T-Mobile has doubled the amount of mobile hotspot data available to unlimited customers from 7GB per month to 14GB per month. Customers who exceed 14GB of hotspot data will see that feature throttled through the rest of the billing period. T-Mobile is rehashing its single and family plans, as well. The entry-level, single-line plan costs $50 and includes unlimited talk/text and 2GB of data, up from 1GB. The $65 plan bumps data from 3GB to 6GB, but also increases the price $5 compared to the previous offer. The $70 plan doubles data from 5GB to 10GB and maintains the same price point. T-Mobile's two-line family plan with 10GB of data per line increases from $100 to $120. These changes go into effect the same day T-Mobile launches Binge On, its free video-streaming program.

T-Mobile's Uncarrier X Event Heralds Free Video Streaming

Nov 10, 2015, 2:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 10, 2015, 3:44 PM

T-Mobile today announced free wireless data streaming at an event in Los Angeles. The Uncarrier program mirrors that of T-Mobile's Music Freedom, which lets customers stream music over its network without impacting data allotments. The free streaming video program is called Binge On and works in much the same way. The service is compatible with 24 video services at launch, such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go/Now, Showtime, Vevo, and others. T-Mobile said video will be optimized via proprietary technology to reduce how much data it consumes as it transits the network. T-Mobile said the service is open to any video service that meets its technical requirements. Video is streamed at DVD quality, which means 480p, not 720p or 1080p high definition. Customers can toggle between free 480p video or data-consuming HD at any time. T-Mobile also "doubled the data" available in each of its data buckets for families and businesses at no additional cost. The data plans available are 2GB, 6GB, and 10GB. The base Simple Choice plan costs $50 per month and now includes 2GB of data. The second line costs $30 and each additional line after that is $10. Customers who subscribe to T-Mobile's unlimited LTE 4G plan now have access to 14GB of mobile hotspot data. The new plans will be available Sunday, Nov. 15. New customers will have early access to Binge On beginning that day. The rest of T-Mobile's customers will have access to Binge On starting Nov. 22.

T-Mobile Partner Experian Hit with Class Action Lawsuits

Nov 10, 2015, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Experian has been served with a number of lawsuits related to its privacy breach of T-Mobile customers. The company maintains that the breach was isolated and only impacted a single server. Experian's U.S. consumer credit division was not affected, and none of the information stolen contained payment information or bank details. Experian is working with U.S. law enforcement to investigate the theft. T-Mobile used Experian to run credit checks on potential customers, and the breach exposed the data of some 15 million consumers between September 2013 and September 2015. T-Mobile and Experian are offering consumers free credit-monitoring services.

T-Mobile Announces In-Home LTE CellSpot

Nov 2, 2015, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today showed off the 4G LTE CellSpot, a "mini cell tower" meant for in-home or in-office use. Similar to T-Mobile's WiFi CellSpot Router, the LTE CellSpot provides full LTE coverage in small buildings up to 3,000 square feet. The CellSpot supports VoLTE, HD voice, advanced messaging, video calling, and fast data. It can manage up to 16 calls at one time and works with any 3G, 4G, or LTE device compatible with T-Mobile’s network. The device requires an internet connection, but self-configures for easy setup. The 4G LTE CellSpot is free to Simple Choice postpaid customers with a $25 deposit. It will be available in stores Nov. 4.

LG Says V10 Now On Sale

Oct 30, 2015, 7:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 30, 2015, 9:51 AM

LG today marked the official arrival of the V10 smartphone, which has dual-front cameras and a secondary display. The device is on sale in the U.S., as well as China and Hong Kong. Today's launch will be followed in other markets across North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East throughout the fourth quarter. T-Mobile is the lone U.S. carrier selling the V10 in stores today, though AT&T and Verizon are accepting orders online. AT&T plans to stock the device in stores Nov 6.

Alcatel Reveals the Fierce XL for MetroPCS and T-Mobile

Oct 29, 2015, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel OneTouch today announced the Fierce XL, a budget phablet headed to MetroPCS and T-Mobile. The XL is the third Fierce-branded handset from Alcatel and features a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen. The phone is powered by a 1.1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32GB. The main camera features an 8-megapixel sensor with flash and a Polaroid shooting mode, which can apply filters, borders, and text tags, as well as assemble photos into double or multi-shot layouts. The front camera has a 2-megapixel sensor. The Fierce XL supports LTE 4G along with VoLTE, HD voice, and WiFi calling. Alcatel said the Fierce XL reaches MetroPCS stores starting Nov. 2. T-Mobile will carry the phone in the months ahead. The Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL costs $139.

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T-Mobile's LTE Network Covers 300 Million People

Oct 28, 2015, 12:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile said its LTE 4G network now reaches 300 million Americans, a significant milestone for the Uncarrier. The company says it is ahead of schedule, and will add coverage to one million square miles this year. For example, the carrier recently lit up Missoula, Kalispell, Butte, Helena, and Anaconda, Montana, and plans to light up many more cities around the country. The company has long been playing a game of coverage catch-up with larger rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless, both of which cover more than 310 million people with their LTE networks. T-Mobile recently reported quarterly earnings, and recorded 2.3 million new connections, with 1.1 million new post-paid customers. The company generated revenue of about $1.9 billion and a net profit of $138 million.

Samsung Pay Wins Support from More Banks

Oct 27, 2015, 12:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 27, 2015, 12:25 PM

Samsung today said Samsung Pay will soon be supported by more financial institutions. This means a broader range of consumers will be able to add their credit or debit cards to Samsung Pay. Some of the new banks include Chase, PNC Bank, TD Bank, SunTrust, Fifth Third Bank, First Hawaiian, Key Bank, Silicon Valley Bank, Security Service Federal Credit Union, Navy Federal Credit Union, Virginia Credit Union, Associated Bank, Randolph Brooks Federal Credit Union, and People’s United Bank. Each of these card issuers will be added to Samsung Pay over the next few months. The American Express, MasterCard, and Visa payment networks already support Samsung Pay, and Samsung said Discover will join early next year. Moreover, Samsung Pay will soon add support for gift cards, loyalty cards, and store-issued credit cards. Samsung Pay is compatible with NFC- and MST-equipped terminals, unlike Apple Pay and Android Pay, which only work with NFC. Samsung says about three-quarters of payments made so far via Samsung Pay have been at MST-equipped terminals. Samsung Pay is available to the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5 on AT&T, Sprint. T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.

Android Pay to Gain Loyalty Rewards, Other Promotions

Oct 27, 2015, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google said customer loyalty programs and other consumer-facing benefits are headed to Android Pay. Speaking at a finance conference in Las Vegas, Google's SVP of ads and commerce, Sridhar Ramaswamy, said the service has signed up "millions" of people since launch. Despite linking a credit or debit card with Android Pay, more than 60% of these newcomers have yet to use the service. In order to entice usage, Google and Coke are rolling out a rewards program. Consumers who use Android Pay to purchase beverages at Coke's NFC-equipped vending machines will earn points towards future purchases. Similar promotions with other vendors are in the works. Google is also looking to its carrier partners to drum up support for Android Pay. Retail reps at AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon stores are expected to mention Android Pay to consumers who purchase Android handsets. Android Pay launched last month and competes with Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Like Apple Pay, Android Pay relies on NFC-equipped payment terminals at supporting retailers. Android Pay has the support of American Express, MasterCard, and Visa, but lacks support from some of the largest card issuers, including JPMorgan Chase. Chase recently announced its own mobile payment service.

AT&T, T-Mobile Reveal LG V10 Launch Plans

Oct 26, 2015, 8:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 26, 2015, 8:48 AM

AT&T and T-Mobile today provided details about their respective plans to sell the LG V10 smartphone. AT&T will begin accepting orders online Oct. 27, and the V10 will reach stores Nov. 6. AT&T is offering a 200GB memory card with the V10 purchase. AT&T is asking for $23.34 per month with a Next 24 plan, or $29.17 with Next 18, $35 with Next 12, or $249.99 with a two-year contract. T-Mobile will commence online sales of the LG V10 on Oct. 28 and in-store sales on Oct. 30. T-Mobile is asking for a monthly payment of $25 when enrolled in Jump On Demand. Alternately, customers can pay $599.99 up front, which T-Mobile says is $100 off the list price of $699.99. The V10 is notable thanks to its extra front display, used for revealing alerts and select controls. The V10 has a 5.7-inch had HD screen, 16-megapixel main camera, dual 5-megapixel front-facing cameras. The phone has a hardened exterior for shock resistance and is powered by a Snapdragon 808 processor. It ships with Android 5.1 Lollipop.

BlackBerry Priv Runs Android, Costs $699, Ships November 6

Oct 23, 2015, 9:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today made the Priv, its first Android smartphone, available for preorder. The device is a vertical slider that includes a touchscreen and a physical QWERTY keyboard. Like the BlackBerry Passport, the Priv's keyboard can be used to move the cursor around and scroll through web sites, emails, and documents. The Android operating system includes exclusive BlackBerry apps and DTEK for managing privacy. DTEK gives owners granular control over device permissions and what personal data is shared with third parties. The phone includes BlackBerry Hub for managing email, BBM, text messages, and other communications. The Priv has a 5.4-inch quad HD screen with curved edges. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 808 processor with two cores at 1.8GHz and four cores at 1.2GHz. The processor is accompanied by an Adreno 418 GPU, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. The camera has an 18-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.2, optical image stabilization, two-tone LED flash, and HDR, panorama, and burst modes. It can capture 4K video. The user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel camera with wide-angle selfie mode. The Priv packs an integrated 3,410mAh battery, which supports rapid charging and provides more than 22 hours of mixed user. Wireless radios include Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, NFC, WiFi, and LTE (AT&T/T-Mobile). The phone costs $699 and will begin shipping Nov. 6.

Sprint to Start Throttling Heaviest Users

Oct 16, 2015, 11:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it will begin slowing the data speeds of its heaviest users, which amounts to a massive policy change for the carrier. Sprint has long sought to differentiate itself from competitors by maintaining an unlimited plan with no throttling or overage charges. Beginning today, however, customers who exceed 23GB of data in a single billing period will see their data speeds reduced when cell sites are congested or constrained. "This QoS practice is intended to protect against a small minority of unlimited customers who use high volumes of data and unreasonably take up network resources during times when the network is constrained," explained Sprint. "It's important to note that this QoS technique operates in real-time and only applies if a cell site is constrained. Prioritization is applied or removed every 20 milliseconds. And performance for the affected customer returns to normal as soon as traffic on the cell site also returns to normal, or the customer moves to a non-constrained site." Sprint says the new policy will protect the network for the 97% of customers who don't use excessive amounts of data. Sprint claims the 23GB threshold is far more than most customers ever use, and can be used to load 600 photos, stream 60 hours of music, or stream 50 hours of video. T-Mobile has a similar QoS policy in place.

Hands On with the Blu Studio Selfie for T-Mobile

Oct 16, 2015, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Blu is a fast-growing name in the U.S. phone market. To date, they've focused on selling unlocked phone to be used with T-Mobile and MetroPCS. Now, for the first time, they are offering phones officially certified by T-Mobile, that will be sold by official T-Mobile dealers. This is increasingly important for good LTE service with T-Mobile. The Studio Selfie is the first such phone. We spent some time with it, as well as the incredibly thin Vivo Air and Studio Energy 2 with its massive battery. Read on to find out what they're like in person.

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Verizon Brings WiFi Calling to iPhone Via Message+ App

Oct 16, 2015, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 16, 2015, 7:23 AM

Verizon Wireless updated its Verizon Message+ app for iPhones, adding the ability to make phone calls over WiFi. In order for WiFi calling to work, Verizon iPhone owners will need to switch on the advanced calling function of their phone. WiFi calls can only be completed via the Verizon Message+ app. Using the native iOS dialer still passes calls through Verizon's cellular network. The app also adds electronic gifting, improved media search, and scheduled messaging for sending texts at specific times/dates. WiFi calling is available to the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 6s, and 6s Plus. Verizon hasn't said if or when it might make WiFi calling available to Android handsets. The Verizon Message+ app is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Verizon's offering trails that of its competitors. AT&T launched WiFi calling last week, while Sprint and T-Mobile have offered the feature for about a year. WiFi calling is useful for making calls when cellular network coverage is poor.

T-Mobile Says Samsung Gear S2 Reaches Stores Nov. 15

Oct 15, 2015, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile said customers can buy the Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch online and in stores starting Nov. 15. T-Mobile is charging $360 for the watch, but also offers it for $15 per month for 24 months. Service costs $5 per month.

T-Mobile Working On 'NumberSync' Too

Oct 15, 2015, 7:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 15, 2015, 7:38 AM

T-Mobile plans to roll out a service similar to AT&T's NumberSync at some point, according to CTO Mike Sievert. "What we are working on will make this version one offering from AT&T look small," said Sievert to Re/code. "Our strategy is to ask customers what they want and need, and then build it. AT&T's is to build or buy things, and then try to convince customers they asked for it." NumberSync, from AT&T, will let customers use a single number across multiple devices, such as phones, tablets, and smartwatches. The basic principle is to make it easy for people with multiple devices in a single account use them all for calls and messaging. AT&T's NumberSync will arrive later this month. T-Mobile didn't say when it's version of this feature will arrive.

T-Mobile Brings Back 10GB for $120 Family Promo

Oct 14, 2015, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 14, 2015, 8:12 AM

T-Mobile today resurrected its "10gigs4all" promotion, which includes 10GB of LTE 4G data, unlimited talked and text, and all the Uncarrier benefits for four lines for a total of $120 per month. Two lines can snag the 10GB offering for $100 per month. T-Mobile normally charges $20 per each additional line. Under the terms of this promotion, the fourth line is essentially "free." T-Mobile says customers who sign up for this plan can keep it for as long as they remain T-Mobile customers.

T-Mobile Cuts iPhone Incentive

Oct 13, 2015, 12:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has dropped one of the promotions it ran for the iPhone 6s, which means the device is now costlier to lease for some customers. When the device first went on sale in September, T-Mobile offered customers the 16GB model for a lease of $20 per month without requiring a trade-in. That offer is no longer available. "The introductory pricing for iPhone 6s without trade-in has ended," said T-Mobile in a statement, "but customers can still take advantage of our other introductory offer and get a new iPhone 6s for just $5 per month with trade-in of iPhone 6 or other newer model phones, or $15 per month with trade-in of iPhone 5, 5c and 5s among others." T-Mobile customers must trade in a newer, functional device to score these low lease payments. Sprint is still offering the iPhone 6s for a lease price of $1 per month. Sprint has not said if/when that promotion might end.

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AT&T iPhone Owners Can Now Use WiFi Calling

Oct 8, 2015, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 8, 2015, 1:20 PM

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 to Swap Some Spectrum

Oct 8, 2015, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 May Bid In 600MHz Auction Next Year

Oct 7, 2015, 4:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 8, 2015, 7:48 AM

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 Offering Unlimited Cellular Music Streaming

Oct 7, 2015, 9:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Bringing Rugged S40 to U.S. Market

Oct 7, 2015, 7:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

FCC Gives AT&T Permission to Offer WiFi Calling

Oct 6, 2015, 2:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Says Support for Samsung Pay On the Way

Oct 6, 2015, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

Wireless Companies Agree to Support More Remote Wipe Tools

Oct 2, 2015, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

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