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printed August 30, 2015
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Microsoft Avoids Import Ban in InterDigital Case

Yesterday, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft escaped what could have been a harmful ban on its devices as the U.S. International Trade Commission decided not to block the import of Microsoft's smartphones into the U.S. Microsoft lost a patent case against InterDigital in April when it was found to be infringing on two patents. The individual trade judge who reached that decision recommended Microsoft's handsets be banned from import. The full ITC panel rejected that judge's decision on Friday, however, which means Microsoft will continue to be allowed to bring its handsets into the U.S. Microsoft expressed relief at the decision, while InterDigital voiced disappointment. Earlier this month, Microsoft filed an antitrust lawsuit against InterDigital, claiming the company charges exorbitant fees for standard-essential patents. Such patents must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discrimonatory rates. InterDigital is a patent-holding company and has had mixed success in suing companies such as Samsung, ZTE, and Huawei.


Apple Strikes Deal with PayAnywhere to Expand Apple Pay

Thursday, 12:37 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced that Apple Pay is now compatible with PayAnywhere, a type of credit card reader that's in use at about 300,000 locations around the U.S. Apple will sell the newest version of the PayAnywhere terminal to merchants through its own stores. The deal expands the availability of Apple Pay significantly. Apple said it hopes to see Apple Pay accepted at more than 1.5 million locations before year's end. In order to boost interest in the terminal, PayAnywhere is offering new customers $5,000 in free Apple Pay transactions. Apple Pay makes use of NFC to power tap-and-go payments at supporting terminals. Google and Samsung are on the cusp of releasing Android Pay and Samsung Pay, respectively, which will offer similar capabilities to Android handsets.


Samsung Kicks Off Beta Testing for Samsung Pay

Thursday, 10:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung is inviting a select number of people to beta test Samsung Pay in the U.S. In order to trial the mobile payment platform, consumers need to have a Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note 5 smartphone. AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular are supporting Samsung Pay at launch, Verizon Wireless is not. The beta requires users to have an active Samsung account and a MasterCard or Visa credit/debit card from Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, U.S. Trust, or U.S. Bank. Samsung Pay uses both NFC and MST for tap-and-go transactions. Apple Pay and Android Pay, in comparison, use only NFC. Consumers can request an invite to test Samsung Pay from Samsung.com.


Microsoft Accuses InterDigital of Antitrust Behavior

Aug 21, 2015, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has filed an antitrust lawsuit against InterDigital, a patent-licensing firm, for charging exorbitant rates to license standard-essential patents. The two companies have been embroiled in patent litigation for years. Earlier this year, Microsoft was found by the U.S. ITC to be violating two wireless patents owned by InterDigital. The judge in that case recommended Microsoft's handsets be banned from import. Microsoft says InterDigital is using this potential import ban as a bargaining chip to jack up licensing rates. Patents deemed essential must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. Microsoft charges that InterDigital's "abusive licensing practices" violate federal antitrust law. InterDigital has taken ZTE, Nokia, Huawei, Samsung, and others to court over patents with mixed success.


Samsung Offers Test Drive to iPhone Owners

Aug 21, 2015, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has unfurled the "ultimate test drive" in order to tempt iPhone owners to switch to a new Samsung handset. The company is letting iPhone users test drive a Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+, or Galaxy S6 Edge for 30 days for just $1. Samsung will send a handset and an active SIM card to those who register for the promotion from an iPhone. The rental must be returned at the end of a month and borrowers will be on the hook for any damage incurred during the trial (cracked screens, etc.). People who don't return the handset will be charged the full retail amount. The test drive promotion is only available to U.S. residents.


Samsung to Take Apple Patent Case to Supreme Court

Aug 20, 2015, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung wants the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal regarding on-going patent litigation with Apple. Last week, a federal U.S. court refused to hear Samsung's appeal and upheld a lower court's decision. Taking the case to the U.S. Supreme Court is Samsung's last avenue of defense in order to escape paying Apple hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. The original case was decided by a jury in 2012 and awarded Apple more than $1 billion. The total amount of damages has been reduced to about $548 million, but Samsung still wants to avoid paying it. "The questions present issues of enormous importance to patent litigation and the scope of innovation, especially in high-technology industries," said Samsung in paperwork filed this week. The Supreme Court may decide to hear the case in mid 2016.


LG Display to Invest More In OLED Technology

Aug 17, 2015, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG Display today said it plans to invest about $8.5 billion in OLED displays for television sets, smartphones, and wearables. The company wants to boost its capabilities with the technology to stay ahead of the adoption curve as OLED becomes more mainstream. OLED screens offer improved color and are more power efficient than LCDs, but they are more costly to manufacture at the present. Making large panels for television sets is particularly pricey. LG Display plans to improve its abilities in order to lower the cost for manufacturing OLED screens for TVs, while also making flexible OLED panels for smartphones and wearables. It eventually hopes to push OLED adoption to other form factors, such as signage and automobiles. LG Electronics uses OLED is some of its products, but the majority of its smartphones still use LCD panels. Samsung has adopted OLED screens across a much wider swath of its handsets and tablets.


Court Blocks Samsung's Attempt to Appeal Apple Ruling

Aug 14, 2015, 7:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A federal appeals court has shut down Samsung's hopes of overturning a jury verdict that found it guilty of violating Apple's patents. In 2012, a jury found Samsung had willfully violated a number of Apple patents in handsets such as the Galaxy S and S2. The jury awarded Apple $1 billion in damages, though that figure has since been sliced down to about $548 million. The U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals this week upheld the core of Apple's allegations and refused to alter the lower court's decision. Samsung's only option left in this particular case is to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. A second patent case between Samsung and Apple, which Apple also won, is still winding its way through the appeals process. Apple and Samsung have settled a handful of other cases.


Hands On with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+

Aug 13, 2015, 12:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung's new flagship phablets are here and they are impressive. They adopt the high-quality design of Samsung's S6 smartphone and toss in a number of compelling new features to help give them their own identity. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+

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Samsung Note 5, S6 Edge+ Play Better with Others

Aug 13, 2015, 10:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung's Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+ offer a few new applications to make connecting to other devices and sharing content easier. The phones include a new feature called HD Live Broadcast, which lets owners stream live video from their Note 5 or S6 Edge+ directly to others or the public YouTube Live. The live YouTube broadcasts can be viewed from any phone, tablet, or PC. Samsung also debuted a connectivity tool called SideSync 4.0. This lets the Note 5 and S6 Edge+ connect wirelessly to PCs for sharing files, responding to text messages, or answering calls. SideSync 4.0 is compatible with Windows 10 and Apple OS X.

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

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

The majority of U.S. wireless network operators will offer the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge+. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless all plan to sell the new handsets from Samsung. The Note 5 and S6 Edge+ will also be sold by Amazon.com, Best Buy, Costco, Sam's Club, Target, and some Walmart stores. Carriers and retailers will confirm specific pricing and availability details.


Samsung Pay Launches In September

Aug 13, 2015, 10:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 13, 2015, 10:40 AM

Samsung today said its mobile payment service will launch in the U.S. next month. Samsung claims the service will be available nearly everywhere, thanks to its support for NFC and MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission) technologies. MST is located in most retail environments and will allow Samsung Pay users to make tap-and-go payments virtually anywhere. Samsung Pay is protected by Samsung Knox, fingerprint verification, and digital tokenization to anonymize user information. Samsung has partnered with major payment network operators American Express, MasterCard, and Visa, as well as a selection of financial institutions, including Bank of America, Chase, Citibank, USBank, First Data, and Synchrony. The service is available to the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, Note 5, and S6 Edge+. It goes live September 28.


Samsung Updates Note Series with Metal and Glass Design

Aug 13, 2015, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 13, 2015, 10:03 AM

Samsung today announced the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 Edge+. Both handsets adopt the design language seen on the Galaxy S6/S6 Edge, which were announced earlier this year. They feature metallic frames and dual-Gorilla Glass 4 surfaces. The Note 5 carries forward the stylus with dedicated productivity apps, while the S6 Edge+ is essentially a larger version of the S6 Edge. The S6 Edge+ does not have a stylus, but features dual curved screens with content that is visible on the side panels. The Note 5 an S6 Edge+ specs mirror those of the smaller handsets closely. The Note 5 and S6 Edge+ measure 7.6mm and 6.9mm thick, respectively. The Super AMOLED display measures 5.7 inches across the diagonal and includes 2560 by 1440 pixels (quad HD). The 16-megapixel main camera boasts optical image stabilization, auto HDR, and a Quick Launch feature that starts the camera app in less than a second. The user-facing camera rates 5-megpaixels; both have an aperture of f/1.9 for better low-light performance. The two handsets rely on Samsung's 64-bit Exynos 7420 octa-core processor. It pairs two banks of quad-core processors, one clocked at 2.1GHz and the other clocked at 1.5GHz. The processor is paired with 4GB of LPDDR4 memory and UFS 2.0 flash for faster storage performance. The phone includes a 3,000mAh battery that supports both the WPC and PMA wireless charging standards, in addition to quick charging. Other specs include Category 6 LTE, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, ultra power-savings mode and Android 5.1 Lollipop. The Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ will be available in 32GB and 64GB internal storage options. The Note 5 comes in either black or white, and the S6 Edge+ comes in either black or gold. Preorders for the phones start today and they ship August 21.

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MCX Set to Test CurrentC Mobile Payment Service

Aug 12, 2015, 9:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

CurrentC, the mobile payment service backed by Best Buy, Target, and Walmart, will commence significant testing in the next few weeks. The tests will be offered to consumers in a handful of stores in the Columbus, Ohio, area. "We are currently in a beta with several of our merchants and employees, and we will now extend that beta to the public in the next few weeks," said MCX CEO Brian Mooney. CurrentC, under development by the Merchant Customer Exchange for several years, generates a scannable code on smartphone screens to initiate mobile payments. It is a rival to services such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay. MCX has about 40 merchant partners that operate 110,000 retail locations. MCX signees Best Buy and Rite-Aid recently said their stores will also support the competing Apple Pay service. MCX doesn't expect CurrentC to launch fully until next year. Consumers have been slow to adopt mobile payments. Android Pay and Samsung Pay are set to launch in the weeks and months ahead, and may help spur adoption of the technology.


TextNow Scores More Smartphones and Payment Locations

Aug 11, 2015, 2:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

TextNow today announced the availability of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG Volt, two new additions to its roster of handsets. TextNow is selling the Galaxy S5 for $399 new or $299 refurbished. The LG Volt is just $13.99. Both handsets are more than a year old. The company said its phones, starting with the Moto G, are now available at all Fry's Electronics location. Moreover, TextNow will soon accept cash payments at more than 10,000 varied retail locations around the country, including Gates Petroleum, Sunoco, NMart, and Circle K stores, among others. TextNow Wireless offers all customers unlimited talk and text and up to 500MB of 4G data for $18.99 per month. TextNow runs on Sprint's cellular network but defaults to WiFi whenever possible. TextNow Wireless already offers a number of new and refurbished Sprint devices, including the LG Optimus F3, Samsung Galaxy S3, and Samsung Galaxy S4.


Rite Aid to Accept Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Android Pay

Aug 11, 2015, 10:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Rite Aid today said it will begin accepting Apple Pay and Google Wallet in its 4,600 U.S. stores. Rite Aid will also accept Android Pay when it launches later this year. Rite Aid had originally voiced support for the Merchant Customer Exchange-developed CurrentC mobile payments service, but CurrentC has yet to launch. Rite Aid did not say if it still plans to support CurrentC if/when it goes live, nor did it say if it will support Samsung's forthcoming Samsung Pay service, expected later this year. Rite Aid customers who have Apple Pay and/or Google Wallet activated on their handsets will be able to make tap-and-go mobile payments beginning August 15. In other Apple Pay news, Apple recently said American Express Corporate cardholders can use their cards with Apple Pay. Further, Apple Pay is now available to Bellco cardholders in Colorado.


Motorola to Issue Stagefright Fix to Most Phones

Aug 9, 2015, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola has said it, too, will push a security patch to resolve the Stagefright vulnerability found on its Android smartphones. Motorola's newest phones, the Moto X Style, Moto X Play, and Moto G (3rd Gen) will have the patches installed in the factory. Motorola is actively building patches for the Moto X, G, and E (1st Gen, 2nd Gen); Moto X Pro; Moto Maxx/Turbo; and Droid Turbo and Droid Ultra/Mini/Maxx. Motorola will begin handing the patch to its carrier partners on August 10, but it will be up to carriers to deliver the final version of the patch to end users via over-the-air software updates. Google, Samsung, Alcatel OneTouch, and LG have all said they plan to issue Stagefright security patches in the near future.


Samsung to Use $3 Billion to Boost Display Production

Aug 7, 2015, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung Display, a subsidiary of Samsung electronics, plans to invest heavily in its Vietnam manufacturing facility in order to increase production. The company already spent $1 billion on its OLED plant in Vietnam earlier this year, which is less expensive to operate than some of its other plants. The additional investment comes as demand for display modules continues to rise.


HTC to Trim Headcount and Handsets

Aug 6, 2015, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC today said it plans to make cuts to its employee base and reduce the number of handsets it releases in a bid to become more competitive with market leaders Apple and Samsung. "The cuts will be across the board," said HTC CFO Chialin Chang. "They will be significant." The company reported earnings today and recorded a loss for the second quarter. It predicted that it will lose money in the third quarter, as well. The company will trim jobs through the first quarter of 2016 in order to get a handle on expenses. HTC said it will bank on high-end models in emerging markets, such as India, where it has a solid share of handsets priced between $250 and $400. HTC didn't specify which handsets it might drop. The HTC One M9 is the company's flagship smartphone. It also sells the Desire 626s and Desire 520/526 entry-level phones.


Samsung to Issue Security Fixes Monthly

Aug 5, 2015, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it is introducing a new policy to distribute security patches to its mobile devices once per month. The company said the change will help protect its device owners. "With the recent security issues, we have been rethinking the approach to getting security updates to our devices in a more timely manner," explained Samsung. "Since software is constantly exploited in new ways, developing a fast response process to deliver security patches to our devices is critical to keep them protected." Samsung said it will work with its carrier partners to make sure the patches are distributed as soon as possible. Samsung recently fast-tracked a security update for its newest Galaxy smartphones to repair the Android Stagefright vulnerability. The patch is being distributed to some Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones.


T-Mobile First to Drop Samsung Galaxy S6 Prices

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

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


Qualcomm Exonerated In ParkerVision Case

Jul 31, 2015, 9:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ParkerVision today said it lost an appeal of allegations that Qualcomm was infringing on some of its patents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a district court ruling maintaining that ParkerVision did not prove infringement of its patents by Qualcomm. The appeals court also agreed with the district court in denying Qualcomm's attempt to invalidate one of the patents. ParkerVision said, however, that the appeals court reversed the lower courts decision regarding the validity of ParkerVision's other claims. "We are highly disappointed with the appellate court's decision both with regard to infringement and validity of certain of our patent claims," said Jeffrey Parker, ParkerVision's Chairman and CEO. "Despite this setback, we will consider further options on appeal, and will move forward in our second infringement case against Qualcomm, HTC and Samsung." ParkerVision designs radio-frequency technology for wireless devices.


Samsung and MasterCard to Bring Samsung Pay to Europe

Jul 31, 2015, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung won't launch Samsung Pay in the U.S. until later this summer, but the company is already looking to expand the service to other markets. Samsung today said it has partnered with MasterCard and the two will together offer the service to financial partners and retailers across the continent. Samsung Pay can take advantage of two different technologies, including NFC and MST, for mobile payments. NFC-equipped terminals are still somewhat limited in the U.S., but magnetic stripe technology is available in most retail environments. Samsung is already trialling the service in its home country of Korea. It is expected to arrive in the U.S. with the Galaxy Note 5, which Samsung is believed to be revealing at an Aug. 13 event. Samsung Pay will also be made available to the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge via software updates. Samsung didn't say when it expects to launch Samsung Pay in Europe.


More Phone Makers, Carriers Support Android for Work

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

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


Samsung to Adjust Price of Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

Jul 30, 2015, 7:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung reported its second quarter earnings today and signaled some changes in its handset strategy. Despite the release of its flagship handsets during the quarter, Samsung's mobile phone business saw a 38% decline in profits when compared to the year-ago quarter. The company admitted that it misjudged supply for the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge handsets. It made too many of the flat-screened S6 and not enough of the curved S6 Edge. The phones did not sell as well as Samsung hoped. In response, Samsung it "plans to firmly maintain its sale of premium smartphones by flexibly adjusting the price of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and launching a new model with a larger screen." Samsung has invited media to attend an event on August 13, where it is expected to reveal the Galaxy Note 5 along with a larger version of the S6 Edge. Samsung has in years past launched its Galaxy Note handsets during the first week of September at the IFA trade show. Samsung did not spell out exactly how it might alter the price of the S6 and S6 Edge moving forward. As a whole, Samsung recorded a second-quarter profit of $4.93 billion, a drop of about 8% year-over-year, on revenues of $41.7 billion.


Samsung Debuts 1.0μm Pixel Camera Module for Phones

Jul 29, 2015, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has begun to mass produce a thinner camera module for high-end phones. The S5K3P3 uses pixels that are 1.0μm in size. The smaller pixels allow Samsung to shrink the depth of the sensor module by 20% to less than 5mm, making it ideal to use in thin designs. The S5K3P3 is a 16-megapixel sensor and Samsung claims it captures images that are on par with sensors with larger 1.12μm pixels. The S5K3P3 also uses Samsung's ISOCELL technology, which isolates the individual pixels from one another with physical barriers. This prevents color crosstalk between neighboring pixels, increases light sensitivity, and improves color fidelity in all lighting conditions. The S5K3P3 is already available in volume.


T-Mobile Launches RCS-Based Advanced Messaging

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

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


Samsung Reveals the Galaxy J1 for TracFone

Jul 16, 2015, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today published details about the Galaxy J1, an entry-level handset headed to TracFone. The J1 features a 4.3-inch screen, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 5-megapixel main camera with LED flash, and 2-megapixel user-facing camera. The J1 can capture 720p HD video. The phone supports Bluetooth and WiFi. It ships with Android 4.4 KitKat. Pricing and availability details weren't immediately released. TracFone is a prepaid provider that sells phones via Walmart stores.


Apple, Samsung to Adopt GSMA-Backed Electronic SIMs

Jul 16, 2015, 10:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The GSMA said it is in advanced talks with Apple and Samsung to adopt the nearly-finalized electronic SIM card standard moving forward. The GSMA has been working with the industry on electronic SIMs for some time and is close to announcing a final standard. "We have got everyone back on one point, with Apple and Samsung agreeing to be part of that specification," said GSMA CEO Anne Bouverot. "We have been working with them and others to create an industry solution for machines and will agree on a solution for consumer electronics." Electronic SIMs would replace the plastic SIM cards used in today's cellphones. Electronic SIMs will make it far easier for consumers to change carriers and service plans without futzing with the physical SIMs. AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa, Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone have already voiced support for the forthcoming standard. "With the majority of operators on board, the plan is to finalize the technical architecture that will be used in the development of an end-to-end remote SIM solution for consumer devices, with delivery anticipated by 2016," said the GSMA. Apple developed is own universal SIM card last year, but it was not widely adopted. The new electronic SIM will not appear in the new iPhones expected in September, according to the Financial Times. Apple and Samsung did not comment on the GSMA's statements.


ZTE Reveals the Axon Flagship Phone for the US In Full

Jul 14, 2015, 1:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 14, 2015, 1:35 PM

ZTE today announced the Axon phone, the first in what will be a line of flagship smartphones. ZTE will use the Axon brand in a way similar to how Samsung uses the Galaxy brand for its best phones. The Axon phone, says ZTE, was "Made in the U.S., for the U.S." The phone had a 5.5-inch quad-HD display protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The Axon is powered by an octa-core 2.0 GHz Snapdragon 810 processor, with an Adreno 450 GPU and 4 GB of system memory. It has 32 GB of built-in storage. ZTE gave the phone a 3,000mAh battery with Qualcomm's QuickCharge technology for speedy recharging. The main camera captures 13-megapixel images and is joined by a 2-megapixel secondary camera to aid in focus and capture depth-of-field data. The main lens has an aperture of f/1.8, can shoot with shutter speeds as quick as 1/90,000th of a second, and captures 4K video. The selfie camera boasts 8-megapixels and an 88-degree field of view. Axon says the phone has high-fidelity sound playback and high-quality audio recording thanks to two microphones and software-based noise suppression techniques. It has two, dedicated chipsets (digital-to-analog and analog-to-digital converters). The phone was designed with what ZTE calls "Urban Prestige," which it claims "grabs your attention without shouting." The company perceives itself as becoming known for high style. It is made from metal and will be sold in blue, gold, or silver. It will be available via ZTEUSA.com, Amazon, eBay, and Newegg starting July 27. The ZTE Axon, sold unlocked, will cost $449.88. Customers who order soon will receive a free pair of headphones (value $50).

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Samsung Aiming for 11K Phone Displays

Jul 10, 2015, 10:12 AM   by Rich Brome

Samsung Display has started working on a mobile phone display that is over four times sharper than today's highest-resolution (quad-HD) displays. The new display would have a pixel density of 2,250 ppi (pixels per inch), compared to just over 500 ppi for today's quad-HD displays. By another measurement, if quad-HD qualifies as "2K", this new display would be "11K" resolution, with far more pixels than today's 4K UHD televisions. Samsung claims this sharpness would enable a 3D effect without glasses. The company hopes to have a prototype ready by early 2018. If used in VR applications - such as a phone paired with Samsung's Gear VR accessory - such a display would dramatically improve visible resolution. The lenses in VR goggles magnify the display such that pixels are clearly visible even with today's best quad-HD displays. Samsung displays are also used in Oculus Rift VR goggles.


New Group Working on Practical 5G

Jul 10, 2015, 9:34 AM   by Rich Brome

A large and diverse group of mobile companies have formed a new group to work on potential 5G radio technology. The group is focusing specifically on technologies that will work below 6 GHz, near the frequency bands of current mobile networks. Some recent "5G" demos have relied on much higher millimeter wave (mmW) frequencies, which have short range and cannot pass through walls. Many major players are exploring including mmW technology in 5G, but it is not expected to be the core of the standard. The new group - called FANTASTIC-5G (Flexible Air iNTerfAce for Scalable service delivery wiThin wIreless Communication networks of the 5th Generation) - includes Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, Samsung, Sequans Communications, and Wings ICT Solutions, as well as several European mobile operators and research institutes. Their goal is a new air interface to replace LTE that is more efficient and flexible, supporting diverse needs from fast broadband to small, low-power sensors.


BlackBerry Debuts BES 12.2

Jul 8, 2015, 11:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today made BES 12.2 available to its business customers. The improved mobile device management platform adds a handful of features, especially those aimed at platforms other than BlackBerry. For example, BES 12.2 adds support for Samsung KNOX Workplace and Google's Android for Work, both of which are now integrated with BlackBerry Secure Connect Plus. BES 12.2 also adds support for the Apple Device Enrollment Program, which makes it easier for IT admins to add iPhones to BES. BlackBerry is focusing efforts on its software services businesses. The company recently reduced the number of employees designing smartphones.


Sprint Kicks Off Sales of the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime On July 10

Jul 7, 2015, 2:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced that it will begin selling the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime on July 10. The phone has a 5-inch qHD display, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 8-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, and a 2,600mAh battery. The phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and is compatible with Sprint's LTE 4G network. Other radios include Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi (with support for WiFi calling). Sprint said the phone will be available through its retail stores, web site, and telesales. The phone will cost $10 per month for 24 months with no money down; $30 (after $50 rebate) with a two-year contract; or for the full retail price of $240, sans contract. The Galaxy Grand Prime is already available from Cricket Wireless.


Helio Quietly Reboots On Sprint and Verizon's Networks

Jul 6, 2015, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Helio, an MVNO that shuttered its doors years ago, is back. The company announced its return via Twitter and is once again offering prepaid service. The company operates on Sprint's network. Unlike before, however, Helio has a roaming agreement with Verizon Wireless, too, so customers will have greater network access when out and about. The basic service cost $29 per month, which includes unlimited voice, unlimited messaging (including international text), and unlimited 2G data capped at 128Kbps. Helio's web site does not say if or when it might offer 3G or 4G service. The $29 monthly plan includes all taxes and fees. The company supports a BYOD program, but requires handsets compatible with Sprint's network. It also sells a handful of older smartphones on its web site, including the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, for $249 and $299, respectively. Helio said it will sell its own branded handsets soon. Helio is offering the first month of service for free with no commitment. Helio was originally launched in 2006 as a joint venture between SK Telecom and Earthlink. It was folded into Virgin Mobile, another Sprint property, in 2008. Helio ceased all operations in 2010. Helio is now backed by a company called UBI.


CTIA Says Smartphones Better Protected Against Theft

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

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


Sprint's All-In Plan Includes Phone and Service for $80

Jun 30, 2015, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today introduced a new plan that combines the cost of a service plan with the cost of a handset in one monthly payment. The Sprint All-In plan costs $80 per month and includes unlimited talk, text, and data, and a Sprint Lease on handsets such as the Apple iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6, and HTC One M9. There are no up-front phone costs aside from a one-time, $36 activation fee. The $80 monthly rate does not include taxes. Sprint believes this is the simplest, most straight-forward plan in the market. Sprint will use soccer star David Beckham to advertise the plan, which is available in Sprint stores beginning today.


Samsung Researchers Make Battery Breakthrough

Jun 29, 2015, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A research team working at Samsung has discovered a new way to make lithium-ion batteries that could double the available battery life in devices such as smartphones. The method involves covering silicon nanoparticles with graphene, which prevents the formation of silicon carbide. "When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities [that are up to] 1.8 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries," explain the researchers. They believe this can serve as a prototype for eventually bringing the technology to market. The end result would be batteries that last almost twice as long as they do now. Samsung said this discovery is still in the early stages of development and did not provide a suggested timeline for commercial release.


Cricket Scores Distribution Deal with Meijer Stores

Jun 26, 2015, 10:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today said its goods and services will be available at 213 Meijer stores across the midwest beginning June 27. Consumers in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky will be able buy prepackaged phone kits from phone makers such as HTC, Samsung, and ZTE. The stores will also sell Cricket's universal SIM card kits for those who already have a compatible device. Cricket Wireless is owned and operated by AT&T.


Qualcomm Partners Up with Chinese Makers for 14nm Chips

Jun 24, 2015, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm plans to form a joint venture with Semiconductor Manufacturing International in China to develop 14nm chips. China's Huawei and Belgium's Imec will also participate in the venture. Competition in the semiconductor space is fierce and companies such as Samsung are trying to muscle their way in with improved manufacturing techniques of their own. Moreover, Qualcomm ran afoul of Chinese antitrust regulators earlier this year and was forced to pay a fine and reduce royalty rates. Partnering with Chinese companies is a way to help Qualcomm repair its image. Many of today's smartphones and tablets use chips made by Qualcomm. The denser the chip, the more efficient it can be. Focusing on the 14nm processes is vital for Qualcomm.


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