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printed August 29, 2014
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Samsung to Offer Nokia's HERE Maps to Galaxy Devices

Today, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia and Samsung today announced that HERE Maps will soon be available to Samsung's Galaxy smartphones for free. HERE Maps allows users to download entire countries or regions, which makes the maps available even when the device is offline. Downloaded maps perform faster when panning and zooming since new segments don't need to be loaded from an internet connection. HERE Maps for Galaxy devices will include free, voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. Users can plan routes via car, public transport, or foot. Live traffic updates and real-time transit schedules will require a data connection. Nokia says maps are available for about 200 countries with turn-by-turn directions available in about 100. Transit maps are available in 750 metro areas across 40 different countries, with more being added all the time. In addition to HERE Maps for Galaxy phones, Samsung's Gear S smartwatch (announced this week) will also receive HERE Maps. Further, HERE Maps will allow Galaxy device owners to share their location with others via Glympse. HERE for Galaxy phones will be available once the Gear S goes on sale in early October.


Sprint Gives Samsung GS4 International Wi-Fi Calling

Yesterday, 10:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said an over-the-air software update to the Samsung Galaxy S4 with Sprint Spark will allow owners to use Sprint's Wi-Fi Calling service when traveling abroad. The service lets people connect calls for free over Wi-Fi networks. Wi-Fi calls don't count against plan minutes.


Sprint Adds Avatars to Visual Voicemail

Yesterday, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new service that will allow customers to add animations and avatars to their voicemail messages. The service is available to Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile USA customers with select Android handsets. The base service includes 12 free avatars and 12 free backgrounds that can be paired together in any combination along with voice effects in order to create unique animations. The avatars are lip-synced with the caller's voicemail (up to 20 seconds for free, up to two minutes with premium subscription). According to Sprint, the content library will be updated often, with new free and paid avatars and backgrounds appearing each week. Sprint customers can use their own voice, or an optional voice effect with variable pitch to make the message more fun. The avatar messages can be shared via voicemail, email, SMS, and even posted to Facebook. Further, messages can be sent to any user on any network, and can also be viewed on the web from desktops or tablets. Devices compatible with the service will receive an update to the visual voicemail application beginning this month. The initial list of compatible devices includes the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, and S5, and Note 2; the HTC EVO 4G LTE and HTC One. Sprint said more devices will be made compatible with the service over time.


Samsung's Latest Smartwatch Can Make Voice Calls

Yesterday, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 8:50 AM

Samsung debuted a new smartwatch that can make and receive voice calls, as well as send and receive messages thanks to built-in 3G radios. The Gear S is based on Samsung's Tizen platform and features a 2-inch, curved Super AMOLED display with 360 x 480 pixels. In addition to 3G, the Gear S includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Samsung says it can transition between cellular and Bluetooth connections seamlessly so it can function with and without a nearby smartphone. It includes Samsung's S Voice service for voice commands, and has an on-screen keyboard for composing messages. Other features include Samsung's S Health and fitness apps, music player and gallery apps, and the ability to receive notifications from a variety of services. The Gear S is powered by a dual-core 1.0GHz processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. It has a 300mAh battery, which Samsung claims provides for two days of usage per charge. Samsung said the Gear S will be available in global markets beginning in October. Samsung didn't say how much the Gear S will cost.


Apple Denied Injunction Bid Against Samsung

Wednesday, 3:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple lost in its attempt to ban the sale of select Samsung devices today, as U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh denied Apple's request. The company sought a ban on devices found to infringe on its patents at trial earlier this year. "Apple has not demonstrated that it will suffer irreparable harm to its reputation or goodwill as an innovator without an injunction," wrote Judge Koh in her ruling. Apple was also denied a bid to ban sales of older Samsung phones in the 2012 patent trial that it won. Juries awarded Apple damages of $120 million and $930 million in the 2014 and 2012 cases, respectively. Samsung is still appealing to have the damages reduced or overturned. Earlier this year, Apple and Samsung resolve all their patent issues outside the U.S., leaving only these two cases unresolved.


T-Mobile Dials Music Freedom Up to 13

Wednesday, 8:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 8:10 AM

T-Mobile today expanded the availability of its Music Freedom program to include six new music services. Music Freedom already allows T-Mobile customers to stream music from iHeartRadio, iTunesRadio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Samsung Milk, Slacker, and Spotify for free. The music streamed across T-Mobile's LTE network doesn't count against customers' data buckets. Beginning today, customers will be able to stream music from AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, Radio Paradise, Rdio, and Songza, too. Further, T-Mobile said Google's Play Music service, chosen by T-Mobile customers through a poll, will be available later this year. T-Mobile claims its customers have streamed 7,000 terabytes of music across its network since Music Freedom began in June.


Huawei: No Tizen and No More Windows Phone for Us

Monday, 11:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei recently said it has no plans to release a Tizen-based smartphone, and also said it will no longer make smartphones using Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. "Some telecom carriers are pushing us to design Tizen phones but I say 'no' to them. In the past we had a team to do research on Tizen but I canceled it," said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, to The Wall Street Journal. "We feel Tizen has no chance to be successful. Even for Windows Phone it's difficult to be successful." Tizen is a Linux-based platform created by Samsung and Intel. Samsung, Tizen's primary backer, has delayed plans to realize a Tizen phone indefinitely as it builds up the app ecosystem. Huawei remains a member of the Tizen Association, but its new stance on the platform further clouds Tizen's potential. As for Windows Phone, Huawei complained of losing money on the platform for two years. "We have tried using the Windows Phone OS. But it has been difficult to persuade consumers to buy a Windows phone," said Yu. "It wasn't profitable for us. So for now we've decided to put any releases of new Windows phones on hold. We have worries about Android being the only option, but we have no choice. And we have a good collaboration with Google." Google's Android platform holds about 85% of the global smartphone market, with Apple's iOS holding 11% and Windows Phone holding 2.5%. BlackBerry's share of the market is less than 1%.


Samsung to Buy SmartThings

Aug 15, 2014, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung said it has agreed to purchase a startup called SmartThings. SmartThings, which is based in Washington, develops technology for the Internet of Things. It sells a home controller device for $99, but has also created an online service to help developers design and create their own internet-enabled and smartphone-controlled gadgets. The company claims 8,000 apps and 1,000 devices use its platform. SmartThings will move its operations to Palo Alto, Calif., where Samsung has a developer facility, but SmartThings' CEO Alex Hawkinson said the company will be run independently. The move is largely seen as a way for Samsung to counter steps made by Google and Apple to expand the functionality of their smartphones and tablets to control household items. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.


OmniVision Receives Buyout Offer from Chinese Investors

Aug 14, 2014, 10:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OmniVision today indicated it has received an acquisition offer from China-based venture capitalists. Hua Capital Management offered $29 per share for OmniVision, which values the company at about $1.67 billion. OmniVision makes camera sensors for smartphones and tablets. Its chips are found in devices such as the Apple iPhone. OmniVision's products compete with those from Sony, Samsung, and others. OmniVision, which is based in California, said it is evaluating the offer.


Samsung Intros New Exynos Processor Alongside Alpha

Aug 14, 2014, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has debuted a new mobile application processor dubbed the Exynos 5430. The 5430 falls in the Exynos 5 Octa family and uses a big.LITTLE chip configuration. The processor has two banks of four chips each. One bank uses four ARM Cortex A15s at 1.8GHz for intense calculations, and the other bank uses for ARM Cortex A7s at 1.3GHz for low-power tasks. Samsung said the Exynos 5430 is its first mobile processor built using 20nm low-power High-K Metal Gate (HKMG) process technology. Samsung claims this delivers a boost in performance while also reducing power consumption needs by 25% compared to its 28nm chips. The 5430 is capable of powering WQHD (2560 x 1440) and WQXGA (2560 x 1600) displays, as well as supporting a range of high-definition media capture and playback capabilities. The Exynos 5430 will first appear in the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, which is expected to ship in September.


HTC to Offer Zoe, Other Apps to All Android Phones

Aug 13, 2014, 7:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC is prepared to make a version of its Zoe application available in the Google Play Store. The app is intended for all Android devices, which will be able to shoot their own Zoes and share the creative video-making process with others. HTC's Zoe is a camera feature specific to a select few of its smartphones, such as the HTC One (both M7 and M8). The new app will allow Samsung, LG, and other Android devices to shoot video clips and pair them with themes and pictures to create 30-second masterpieces. The critical element of the new app is the ability to share Zoes online and contribute to them. For example, HTC envisions multiple people using Zoe to capture an event, such as a wedding, and then adding their own clips to a longer community video that provides for a more compete representation of the event. Zoe will reach the Play Store later this week. HTC is not stopping at Zoe, according to Re/Code. HTC plans to make other apps available to all Android devices. The company has already broken out some of its proprietary apps, such as the gallery and calendar, so they may be updated more frequently outside of full OS upgrades. HTC has assembled a team of 260 people, collectively called HTC Creative Labs, to work on its apps both for HTC and non-HTC phones. HTC didn't say which apps might arrive next.


Samsung Refreshes Its Design Language with Galaxy Alpha

Aug 13, 2014, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Galaxy Alpha, an Android smartphone that breaks ties with Samsung's plastic past and introduces metal. The Galaxy Alpha has a metallic frame forming the four outer edges of the device, which has a glass front and textured plastic back panel. At 6.7mm thick, the Alpha is one of Samsung's thinnest phones. The Alpha features a 4.7-inch 720p display and is powered by an octa-core processor (four 1.8GHz cores and four 1.3GHz cores). It includes 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, but does not support microSD cards. The Alpha has a 12-megapixel main camera and 2.1-megapixel user-facing camera along with a wide number of Samsung's camera tools, such as Shot & More, Selective Focus, and Beauty Face. It can shoot 4K (Ultra HD) video. Connectivity functions include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and NFC. The Alpha also offers Ultra Power Savings Mode, Download Booster, Quick Connect, and Private Mode, which can be secured with a fingerprint thanks to the fingerprint scanner built into the home button. Samsung said the Galaxy Alpha will ship beginning in September. It will be sold in a variety of colors. Samsung did not detail which markets will see the Alpha first.


Pantech Files for Bankruptcy

Aug 12, 2014, 7:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pantech filed for court receivership today, which is the South Korean equivalent of declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company has seen its share of the global market drop precipitously. More importantly, it is no longer able to compete against the likes of LG and Samsung in its home market, according to The Wall Street Journal, where a month long sales ban further crippled the company. Pantech has spent the last few years juggling with its finances. Last year, it accepted investments from Samsung and Qualcomm, which own 10% and 12% of the company, respectively. Even with these investments, Pantech owes creditors about $961 million - or double the amount of assets its has. Pantech only brought three models to the U.S. in 2013, and hasn't brought any in 2014. If Pantech's court receivership is accepted by the bank, it will have about a year to come up with a restructuring plan.


Verizon Adding PTT to Select Phones Via New App

Aug 7, 2014, 10:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless is offering a handful of its handsets the ability to include push-to-talk, walkie-talkie features. The service, called Push To Talk Plus, is available to smartphones including the Motorola Droid Maxx, Samsung Galaxy S5, and Casio G'zOne Commando beginning today. Other phones, such as the Kyocera Brigadier, will gain the feature down the road. According to Verizon, the service is powered by Kodiak Networks and offers fast call setup times, improved voice quality, and encrypted calls. Users will be able to join existing PTT calls, as well as rejoin calls they left. The service is being offered to business customers, who need to reach out to their sales representatives to initiate service. Push To Talk Plus costs $5 per month per line, though Verizon is offering six months for free to those who sign up soon.


Apple and Samsung Drop Lawsuits Outside US

Aug 6, 2014, 7:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple and Samsung said they will cease squabbling over patents in various courts around the world. "Apple and Samsung have agreed to drop all litigation between the two companies outside the United States," they said in a statement. "This agreement does not involve any licensing arrangements, and the companies are continuing to pursue the existing cases in U.S. courts." Apple and Samsung have been slugging it out in courts for years over smartphone patents in countries around the globe, including Australia, Germany, Korea, the Netherlands, and the U.K. The two companies still have ongoing unresolved court cases in the U.S. Apple won a major victory in 2012 and a smaller one earlier this year, though the cases are in various stages of appeal.


Best Buy Scores Electric Blue Galaxy S5

Aug 5, 2014, 12:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 5, 2014, 12:48 PM

Best Buy today announced the August 17 availability of an electric blue Samsung Galaxy S5, a color exclusive to the big box retailer. The blue GS5 will be available to AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless customers for $99 with a new two-year contract, which represents a savings of $100 off the normal contract price. Customers who'd rather use one of the carriers' monthly installment plans will be able to pick up the blue GS5 for $0 down and still receive a $100 Best Buy gift card. The promotional price will be available until August 23.


AT&T Announces Ruggedized Samsung Rugby 4

Aug 4, 2014, 1:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it will sell the Samsung Rugby 4 beginning later this year. Samsung's Rugby series devices are ruggedized flip phones that include push-to-talk via AT&T's Enhanced PTT service. The Rugby 4 builds on the Rugby series' basics by adding Wi-Fi and noise suppression, and improving the speaker. The Rugby 4 boasts a mil-spec rating for toughness and GPS for navigation. AT&T declined to provide pricing details, nor did it say exactly when the Samsung Rugby 4 will go on sale.


Microsoft Takes Samsung to Court for Abandoning Patent Agreement

Aug 1, 2014, 5:23 PM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today filed suit against Samsung for failing to comply with a 2011 agreement on Android patent royalties. Samsung had been paying Microsoft a certain amount for each Android phone sold, but has threatened to stop since Microsoft closed its acquisition of Nokia's device business.


Samsung's Milk Music Service Gains a Premium Version

Jul 31, 2014, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung this week updated its Milk music service, which gives Galaxy device owners the ability to stream music to their handset. The update introduces Milk Premium for $4 per month. The premium service adds unlimited song skips, device-side caching for offline playback, turning on/off DJ commentary, and app pausing with the Sleep Timer. The update also adds bug fixes and makes stability improvements. Samsung Milk, which is based on Slacker, is only available in the U.S. The standard version is still free to use.


T-Mobile Adds Samsung Galaxy Avant to Roster

Jul 30, 2014, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced the Samsung Galaxy Avant, which is a low-cost Android smartphone. The device features a 4.5-inch qHD screen, quad-core 1.2GHz processor with 1.5GB of RAM, 5-megapixel camera, and 16GB of storage with support for microSD cards up to 64GB. Other features include an FM radio, S Voice, NFC, Easy Mode, and Wi-Fi calling. The Samsung Galaxy Avant is available starting today for $216 or $0 down followed by 24 payments of $9 each.


Samsung Delays Tizen Phone Yet Again

Jul 28, 2014, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today further delayed the launch of its first Tizen phone in Russia. The company said it needs to "further enhance [the] Tizen ecosystem" before the phone can be released, which strongly suggests there aren't enough apps for the platform. The device was expected to debut at a developer conference in Moscow earlier this month, but its unveiling was scrapped at the last moment. At the time, Samsung said, "The smartphone will appear on the Russian market later, when we can offer our users a fullest portfolio of applications." Tizen is Samsung's home-grown smartphone platform based on Linux and other open standards. The company planned to launch a Tizen device in Japan early this year, but that launch, too, was cancelled at the last minute. Samsung did not say when it plans to launch its Tizen phone, which was supposed to reach the market this quarter. Without apps, Samsung's Tizen device won't be able to compete with established competitors.


Samsung's Tizen Phone Suffers Another Setback

Jul 11, 2014, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung this week delayed plans to launch its Tizen-based smartphone in Russia. The Samsung Z, which the company announced in June, was expected to make an appearance at a Tizen developer conference held in Moscow this week. Samsung cancelled the device's debut at the last minute, saying only "the smartphone will appear on the Russian market later, when we can offer our users a fullest portfolio of applications." The Wall Street Journal reports that developers have not created enough apps for the Tizen operating system to adequately fill the Tizen app store on the Z. Tizen is Samsung's home-grown smartphone platform based on Linux and other open standards. The company planned to launch a Tizen device in Japan early this year, but that launch, too, was cancelled at the last minute. Samsung remains committed to Tizen and to delivering the Z to the market, but it's no longer clear when that will happen. Without developer support, the Z will be unable to truly compete with established platforms such as Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.


Samsung Rebrands Its App Store to 'Galaxy Apps'

Jul 11, 2014, 6:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 11, 2014, 7:13 AM

Samsung announced a change to its application storefront for smartphones and tablets that it hopes will set its offerings apart from Google's as well as reduce consumer confusion. What was previously called Samsung Apps will now be called Galaxy Apps. Samsung said the Galaxy Apps store will offer hundreds of applications exclusive to Samsung's smartphones. Further, the store will include sections and apps exclusive to specific Galaxy-branded devices. One section will include apps made specifically with Samsung's SDKs. Samsung has already redesigned its online app portal to reflect the new branding. It plans to roll out the redesigned Galaxy Apps store to its smartphones and tablets over the coming weeks.


Samsung Touts Exynos ModAP Chip

Jul 10, 2014, 1:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Exynos ModAP, an application processor and modem system-on-a-chip. Samsung says the Exynos ModAP was manufactured using a 28nm processes and supports a wide range of wireless networking technologies. The combo chip has a dedicated image signal processor to handle high-quality image and video capture/playback, all while conserving power. In addition to the SoC, Samsung introduced a 300 Series modem, which supports legacy 2G and 3G networks, such as GSM, HSPA+, and TD-SCDMA, in addition to LTE, and LTE-Advanced with features such as Carrier Aggregation. Last, Samsung revealed the Exynos RF companion chip. The Exynos RF IC is a baseband RF transceiver that supports multi-band and multimode LTE networks. Samsung didn't say when it expects these chips to reach consumer devices. The ModAP, in particular, will compete more directly with Qualcomm's high-end Snapdragon processors, which often integrate the AP and modem into a single chip.


Cricket Offering Lumia 630 for Free and Other Deals

Jul 10, 2014, 10:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless, which is owned by AT&T, today announced the availability of the Nokia Lumia 630 smartphone. The 630, which is a variant of the Lumia 635 (being sold by T-Mobile and MetroPCS), will reach Cricket stores on July 11. Cricket is offering the Lumia 630 for free with a $50 mail-in rebate card. The device is an entry-level Windows Phone with a 4.5-inch screen and 5-megapixel camera. Cricket is also offering discounts ranging from $20 to $50 on a wide selection of handsets, including the ZTE Sonata 4G, Prelude, and Overture 4G; the Moto G; the Nokia 520 and 1320; and the Samsung Galaxy Express 4G. Cricket is the new brand name being used by AT&T's former Aio Wireless unit. AT&T is transitioning Cricket's CDMA customers to its GSM network so it can eventually repurpose Cricket's spectrum. All the devices covered by Cricket's new promotion operate on AT&T's GSM network.


Google Camera Adds Android Wear Shutter Button

Jul 10, 2014, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google pushed out a small update to its Android camera application this week that makes it compatible with Android Wear devices. Specifically, owners of the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live will be able to remotely trigger their smartphone's camera from their smartwatch. The functionality includes a countdown timer, but not a viewfinder. Google Camera is free to download from the Play Store.


Google Brings Screen Mirroring to Chromecast

Jul 9, 2014, 11:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said its Chromecast HDTV plugin device can now mirror the screens of nearby Android smartphones and tablets. With screen mirroring, anything that appears on the phone or tablet's screen will appear on the TV. The feature can be used to share photos or view/interact with apps on the big screen. According to Google, screen mirroring is available as a beta to Nexus devices and select phones from Samsung, HTC, and LG. Mirroring requires the Chromecast app version 1.7, which should reach the Play Store in the coming days. The Chromecast is a HDMI dongle that plugs directly into TV sets. Users can cast content, such as music and movies, from select apps to the Chromecast via Wi-Fi.


Samsung, Dell, Intel, Others Form Internet of Things Consortium

Jul 8, 2014, 9:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced that it and several other companies have created a group called the Open Interconnect Consortium. The OIC's goal is to create a connection protocol for what is commonly referred to as the Internet of Things. Some of the other companies include Dell, Atmel, Intel, Broadcom, and Wind River. The group is focused on delivering a specification, an open source implementation, and a certification program for wirelessly connecting devices, such as smartphones, tablets, PCs, and various other bits of gear. The group will first target hardware common to homes and home offices, such as thermostats and refrigerators, and will expand from there. The OIC is competing with a similar group supported by Qualcomm and Microsoft.


Samsung to Kill Off Video Hub July 31

Jul 2, 2014, 2:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has begun informing customers that it will cease operating its Video Hub effective July 31. The closure follows closely those of Samsung's Music Hub and Book Hub, which went dark this week. The Video Hub was a digital storefront through which Samsung Galaxy device owners could purchase or rent movies and television shows. Samsung said customers who've made video purchases will still be able to access their content thanks to a partnership with M-Go. Samsung said users will need to transfer their content to M-Go before July 31 if they want to keep it. Samsung is in the middle of re-imagining its content businesses, but didn't say what, if anything, will succeed the Video Hub on its devices. Samsung replaced its Music Hub with Milk, a streaming service that it offers for free.


Galaxy S5 Mini Carries Over Most of Flagship's Features

Jul 1, 2014, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Galaxy S5 mini, a smaller version of its 2014 flagship handset. The GS5 mini manages to include several of the GS5's main features, such as the heart rate monitor, water and dust resistance, fingerprint sensor, private/kid mode, and Ultra Power Savings Mode. Samsung did, however, downgrade many of the specs in order to make the smaller, less-expensive mini. The device has a 4.5-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED display. It is powered by a quad-core 1.4GHz processor with 1.5GB of RAM. The main camera captures up to 8 megapixels, while the secondary camera captures 2.1 megapixels. The camera offers Samsung functions such as Shot & More, Virtual Tour Shot, and S Studio. The phone has 16GB of internal storage and supports microSD cards up to 64GB. Connectivity options include HSPA/LTE, NFC, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and infrared. The Galaxy S5 mini will launch first in Russia this month, and Samsung said it will eventually expand to global markets over time. The Galaxy S5 mini will be offered in four colors: Charcoal Black, Shimmery White, Electric Blue and Copper Gold. Pricing and availability in the U.S. was not specified. AT&T only recently launched the Galaxy S4 mini, which was announced last year.


GIV Mobile Offering Free Phone to Customers

Jun 26, 2014, 12:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

GIV Mobile today said it is offering potential customers a free Android smartphone when they prepay for two months of service. GIV is an MVNO that operates on T-Mobile's network. Its plans cost $40 and $50, and include unlimited talk and text and up to either 250MB or 2.5GB of 3G/4G data per month, respectively. GIV is giving away the Alcatel OneTouch for free, but also sells older flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the LG G2 at reduced prices. GIV is unique in that it earmarks 8% of customers' bills for donation to various charities. Customers are able to select up to three charities to which their donations can be sent. GIV launched in May 2013.


Google Separates Personal and Work Data in Android

Jun 25, 2014, 1:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today introduced Android for Work, a new capability of Android that will allow people to separate their personal and business information and keep them secure. Android for Work is based in part on Samsung's Knox enterprise security platform. It will function without requiring developers to recode their apps. It gives business IT admins the ability to bulk install apps on remote employee devices, as well as manage IT policies and wipe/lock devices as needed. Android for Work is compatible with all versions of Android running Ice Cream Sandwich and up.

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Google Shows More Details of Android Wear

Jun 25, 2014, 12:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today provided a deeper look at what Android Wear - its platform for wearable devices - will be able to do. Android Wear will first be deployed on smart watches, with LG, Samsung, and Motorola making the first wave of hardware. Much of Android Wear's functionality comes from Google Now and its voice-controlled searches and actions. The user interface includes multiple screens that are accessed by swiping up and down, and back and forth. Many of Android Wear's initial powers will center on interacting with smartphone-based notifications. The Google Now functionality adds tools such as voice reminders, voice search, and similar powers to the platform. Android Wear supports third-party apps thanks to the full SDK, which Google made available to developers today. The apps are automatically installed on Wear when the corresponding version is installed on the associated smartphone. The LG G watch and the Samsung Gear Live will be available for sale later today, with the Moto 360 arriving later this summer. Google didn't provide details about the hardware, but they can be ordered via the Google Play Store.

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AT&T Launches Spanish and Chinese Translation Service

Jun 25, 2014, 8:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today made available two new services developed by a company called Muuzii that can translate messages and speech between two phones in real-time. Muuzii Message lets subscribers enter a phrase via text message and instantly see the translation for sending. Similarly, Muuzii Speak records a snippet of speech and returns an audio file with the translated response complete with pronunciation guide. According to Muuzii, its service doesn't rely on canned or preformed responses, it translates free-spoken languages using the correct and/or correlative jargon, phrases, and terminology. The service translates English to Spanish, Spanish to English, and English to Chinese. Muuzii Message costs AT&T subscribers $2.99 per month and Muuzii Speak costs $3.99 per month. The service is compatible with all phones, not just smartphones Muuzii said it hopes to expand to other North American operators over time. The service competes with the likes of Google Translate and Samsung's S Translator, which are both free to use but are limited to Android smart devices.


Hands On with Samsung's Galaxy S5 Sport for Sprint

Jun 23, 2014, 12:58 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jun 23, 2014, 3:20 PM

Sprint today revealed the Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport. Sitting somewhere between the standard S5 and the Active model, the Sport gives you physical keys and a distinctive design. We take it for a quick spin.

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Samsung Galaxy S5 Sport Exclusive to Sprint

Jun 23, 2014, 11:37 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Jun 23, 2014, 11:40 AM

Sprint today announced that it will offer the Galaxy S5 Sport, a variant of the Galaxy S5 with rubber grips and physical front buttons. The Sport includes fitness apps such as MapMyFitness with a free year of MVP service. Sprint is also offering $50 off the Galaxy Gear Fit plus 50% off certain sport headphones. Like the standard Galaxy S5, the Sport is water- and dust-resistant. Other features and specs are the same, including 16-megapixel camera, heart rate monitor, full HD display, and 2.5 GHz processor. The Sport can be pre-ordered today and will ship July 25th. It costs $650, or $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $27.09 each. It's available in both Electric Blue and Cherry Red.

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Samsung, Nokia Field Their Own Android Launchers

Jun 19, 2014, 11:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung and Nokia have both recently made available launchers for Android devices that serve as alternatives to their normal approach for home screen behavior. Terrain (pictured) comes from a Samsung-sponsored developer and is free to download from the Google Play Store. It features a customizable sidebar that can be used to house all the owner's favorites, including apps, web sites, contacts, and so on. The launcher includes interchangeable cards that can hold separate apps, shortcuts, and data. Terrain also includes a phone search tool that it claims is faster for finding things stored on the device. Terrain's main goal is to help Android users personalize their handset in ways the stock Android tools don't allow for, while streamlining the experience and making it quicker to reach apps and services. Terrain was built using HTML5 and the company is offering developers an API so they can contribute their own cards to a Terrain-backed store, which will launch later this year. Similarly, Nokia released Z Launcher as a limited beta. (Nokia offers several Android handsets, which are now being sold by Microsoft.) Z Launcher is a learning launcher that adjusts what it shows the phone owner on the home screen throughout the day depending on their pattern of behavior. For example, in the morning Z Launcher will present apps such as email and the calendar, while in the evening it will present apps such as Facebook and Spotify. Nokia says Z Launcher improves its predictions over time. Further, Z Launcher includes a gesture search tool that lets users initiate searches from the home screen by tracing letters on the glass. Z Launcher can be downloaded directly from Nokia.


Samsung Bumps Galaxy S 5 Specs in Korea

Jun 18, 2014, 8:31 AM   by Rich Brome

Samsung today introduced a new version of of its flagship Galaxy S 5 phone with a faster processor and higher-resolution display. The Galaxy S 5 LTE-A has a quad-HD display like the rival LG G3, the new Snapdragon 805 processor, and support for LTE-Advanced at speeds up to 225 Mbps. For now, it's available only in Samsung's home country Korea; no plans for global release were announced.


Virgin Offering $25 Monthly Smartphone Plan

Jun 17, 2014, 9:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Virgin Mobile USA today announced a limited-time offer that drops the price of its entry-level smartphone plan to $25 per month. The Unlimited Talk and Text plan is available to select Android smartphones, including the LG Volt, LG Optimus F3, Kyocera Hydro Vibe, and several others. The plan provides unlimited domestic voice minutes and domestic messaging, but no data. Virgin says the devices all include Wi-Fi and can access data through hotspots. The idea is to give customers many of the benefits smartphones offer without the associated monthly cost. The plan is available to new customers only through September 2. Virgin is also offering a $5 Daily Mobile Hotspot plan that allows select handsets to act as mobile hotspots for up to five devices. The plan provides 250MB of data access and is compatible with the HTC Desire and EVO V 4G, iPhone 4s/5/5s, Kyocera Hydro Vibe, LG Volt, and Samsung Galaxy S5. Customers need to subscribe to Virgin's Beyond Talk monthly plan in order to use the $5 Daily Mobile Hotspot feature.


Europe and Korea Look to Define 5G

Jun 16, 2014, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 16, 2014, 8:00 AM

The European Commission and South Korea today announced plans to together define the future 5G wireless standard, as well as develop the technologies to support it. The two bodies signed a Joint Declaration on Strategic Cooperation in Information Communications Technology (ICT) and 5G to increase the discussions and research around the topic. A wide number of companies will participate, including Alcatel-Lucent, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Nokia, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telenor, and Telefonica from Europe, as well as Samsung, LG, SK Telecom, and others in Korea. One of the key ideas behind 5G is not to just increase speeds, but to significantly boost capacity. Capacity improvements will help the 5G networks of the future handle all the potential devices connecting to them, such as phones, tablets, wearables, vehicles, and the broader Internet of Things. The collaboration has three main goals: First, to develop a broad definition of the key functionalities of 5G and create a time table for its creation by the end of 2015; Second, to kick off joint research in the pursuit of 5G by 2016 in coordination with 3GPP and ITU: and Third, to agree on global radio frequency bands for 5G in order to promote interoperability and roaming between carriers and countries. "5G will become the new lifeblood of the digital economy and digital society once it is established. Both Europe and Korea recognize this," said Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda. "This is the first time ever that public authorities have joined together in this way, with the support of private industry, to push forward the process of standardization. Today's declaration signals the our commitment to being global digital leaders." LTE, which is what most 4G networks use, has some room for growth in terms of speeds, but capacity is limited and the potential for global roaming is limited due to the wide number of spectrum bands used by carriers around the world. It is these and other issues that the EU and S. Korea hope to resolve in their pursuit of 5G.


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