Samsung today launched a free music streaming service explicitly for owners of its Galaxy-branded smartphones and tablets. The service, called Milk, is powered by Slacker and includes more than 200 curated radio stations, as well as the ability for people to create, listen to, and save their own stations. The service doesn't cost anything, and doesn't include ads. Milk is only available to Samsung phones and tablets, and can be downloaded directly from the Google Play Store.
AT&T has improved its LTE network in Chicago and several other markets by using an LTE-Advanced technique called Carrier Aggregation. GigaOm confirmed the soft launch with AT&T SVP of Network Technologies Kris Rinne. With Carrier Aggregation, AT&T has combined the channels of its existing spectrum to double the capacity. AT&T is running LTE in both the 700MHz and AWS bands in Chicago. By aggregating the channels together, AT&T can deliver theoretical peak download speeds of 110Mbps to devices with the proper radio support. At the moment, AT&T is selling only one device with Carrier Aggregation, the Unite mobile hotspot. The Samsung Galaxy S5 is expected to be the first smartphone to support Carrier Aggregation in the U.S. AT&T did not name the other two markets that have access to Carrier Aggregation, but said that more markets on are on the way. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are all in various stages of deploying Carrier Aggregation in their own LTE networks.
Apple's request to ban an array of Samsung smartphones and tablets was denied by a U.S. District Judge. Apple already won a guilty verdict against 26 different Samsung devices that were found to infringe on its patents. A jury awarded Apple more than $1 billion in damages, but Apple still sought to prevent Samsung from selling the infringing products in the U.S. Though Apples' request was denied, the damages owed to Apple by Samsung were finalized by the judge overseeing the case. The Korean company must now fork over about $930 million for violating Apple's patents.
Sprint today said it will update a handful of its Samsung smartphones to Android 4.4 KitKat. The company is already pushing KitKat to the Galaxy S4 and Note 3, but will also deliver updates to the Galaxy Note II, GS4 mini, GS III, Galaxy Mega, and Galaxy Tab 3 7.0. According to Sprint, the update includes the standard check list of KitKat goodies, and also adds a new lockscreen shortcut to the camera. The timing of the updates will vary by device.
FreedomPop today announced the Privacy Phone, what it bills as a secure smartphone to protect users from hackers, government agencies, and spyware. The Privacy Phone uses 128-bit encryption to secure voice calls and text messages. It provides anonymous internet browsing and prevents online marketers from tracking web activity. The Privacy Phone also prevents data monitoring from third parties, and bypasses web site restrictions so it can connect to any site. FreedomPop says the Privacy Phone shields users from viruses and malware, blocks malicious web sites, and prevents phishing attacks. The Privacy Phone is a Samsung Galaxy S II that FreedomPop has refurbished with its own software. The device costs $189 and is offered without a contract. FreedomPop is providing three months of unlimited voice and messaging with 500MB of data for free, after which the service plan will cost $10 per month.
Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA today both announced plans to sell the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone. Both companies, which are owned and operated by Sprint, said the GS5 will be compatible with Sprint's Spark LTE service. Pricing was not discussed, but the prepaid carriers said the GS5 will arrive during the second quarter with contract-free, flexible service options.
Samsung recently announced two additions to its family of Exynos mobile processors. The Exynos 5 Octa 5422 is an eight-core processor meant for premium devices. It uses a big.LITTLE configuration with four ARM Cortex A15 cores at 2.1GHz for intensive calculations and four ARM Cortex A7 cores at 1.5GHz for low-power calculations. According to Samsung, the 5422 can support displays with greater-than-HD resolutions, such as WQHD (2560 x 1440), as well as image processing techniques that help reduce power requirements by 10%. The 5422 was developed with a 28nm processes and will be available for mass production during the first quarter. Samsung also announced the Exynos 5 Hexa 5260, a six-core chip that targets mid-level devices. It includes two ARM Cortex A15s at 1.7GHz and four ARM Cortex A7s at 1.3GHz. Samsung claims this chip makes a significant jump in performance when compared to the previous generation chip, and it can support up to WQXGA screens, full 1080p HD video capture/playback, and external displays. The Exynos 5260 is already in volume production.
Samsung hopes its new smartwatches will make enticing companions to the Galaxy S5 and other smartphones. The Gear 2 is a re-do of Samsung's original smartwatch, while the Gear Fit is a fresh take on wearables.
Samsung today made new SDKs available to app writers seeking to target the Galaxy S5 smartphone and Gear 2 and Gear Fit smartwatches. The software developer kits, which are free to download starting today, provide developers with the tools they need to create apps for the devices. The Samsung Mobile SDK 1.5 adds APIs that can hook into the GS5's fingerprint scanner, as well as the motion-detection function, and split-screen mode for developing apps that can operate on TV and mobile devices at the same time. Samsung's S Health service gets its own SDK, which will allow developers to latch their own apps into the fitness and health functions of the GS5. There are separate SDKs for the Gear 2 and Gear Fit. The Gear 2 runs Samsung's Tizen operating system, but the Gear Fit runs a proprietary operating system. Apps for the Gear Fit will be more limited in scope.
Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S5 smartphone today in Barcelona. Those expecting a great leap forward are bound to be disappointed, but the Galaxy S5 makes progress all the same. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions.
AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile each today affirmed that it will off the Samsung Galaxy S5 when it goes on sale in April. Exact sales dates and pricing were not shared by the carriers.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy Gear Fit, a health-focused wearable that offers a simpler experience than the more capable Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo smartwatches. The Gear Fit has a curved 1.84-inch display with 432 x 128 pixels. The Fit has a number of sensors and can track steps, exercise, heart rate, and sleep. It includes a stopwatch, timer, schedule, relay, and media controller. The plastic strap is changeable, and it is resistant to water and dust thanks to its IP67 rating. It connects to smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy and comes with a 210mAh battery that provides three to four days of battery life. The Fit can keep owners up to date thanks to notifications from Galaxy smartphones, such as incoming calls, emails, text messages, alarms, and other apps. The Gear Fit will be available globally starting from April.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy S5, the fifth-generation of its flagship smartphone. It borrows a bit from the design language of the Galaxy Note 3 in that it is less round around the edges and more square - what Samsung calls the "modern glam look." The phone is more refined, but is also clearly a member of the Galaxy S family. Samsung worked to improve the camera, which rates 16 megapixels. The autofocus function has been sped up to help improve time-to-capture, as has the HDR function which can now work with video. Samsung has added a depth of field control to help blur the background, called Selective Focus. The video camera can capture 4K Ultra HD video. The GS5 puts more of an emphasis on health and fitness with revised S Health apps and services. S Health interacts with a built-in pedometer to help track activity, and a heart rate monitor tracks the owner's heart health. Samsung also has worked to incorporate S Health with third-party apps. The phone features a 5.1-inch 1080p HD screen, dual-band Wi-Fi with 2x2 MIMO, and Category 4 LTE speeds. The GS5 has what Samsung calls a Download Booster, which uses Wi-Fi and LTE together to increase download speeds over the air. Like the GS4 Active, the GS5 is water and dust resistant thanks to an ingress protection rating of IP67. The device has a 2,800mAh battery and Ultra Power Saving Mode, which turns the display black and white and shuts down all but the most essential apps and services to save battery life. It is powered by a quad-core 2.5GHz Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM; NFC and Bluetooth 4.0; and it comes with either 16GB or 32GB of storage. It supports microSD cards up to 128GB. Last, the GS5 adds a fingerprint scanner for biometric security and a trick swipe-to-pay feature. The device will be available globally beginning in April.
Samsung's Unpacked events are always big news, usually revealing a new Galaxy S flagship, or a new Galaxy Note. With heavy emphasis on the number five, everyone is expecting to see the Galaxy S 5 revealed. We'll bring you the news as it happens, right here.
Sprint today announced that its juiced-up 4G network, called Sprint Spark, is now available in Salt Lake City and Jacksonville, Fla. Sprint Spark uses tri-band LTE to help improve access to, and the performance of, its 4G network. In order to use Sprint Spark, Sprint customers must have Spark-compatible smartphones. Only a handful of Sprint's smartphones work with Spark, including the LG G2, the HTC One max, the Samsung Galaxy Mega, and a newer version of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Sprint Spark is available in 16 markets, and Sprint plans to cover 100 markets by the end of the year. Sprint claims Spark enables peak download speeds of 60Mbps. Sprint also said that its LTE network has expanded to a total of 382 markets, including Detroit; Rochester, N.Y.; Manchester, N.H.; and Winston-Salem, N.C.
The Tizen Association today announced that it is promoting two new versions of the Tizen OS software. One is designed for televisions, and the other is targeted at wearables. Samsung is the using the wearable version in its new Galaxy Gear watches. Tizen previously had two versions: for phones and for vehicle information and entertainment systems.
Samsung today announced the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, two new smartwatches that run Samsung's Tizen operating system rather than Android. Where the original Gear device relied on Android 4.2.2 and used select Android-based apps, both the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo adopt Samsung's home-grown, Linux-based platform. Samsung says that despite the OS switch, several dozen apps will be available for the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo at launch. Some apps that Samsung has developed include CNN, Expedia, eBay, Evernote, Feedly, Path, PayPal, and The Weather Channel. Both new watches appear similar to the original watch, but the camera has been moved from the strap to the body of the watch itself. They also feature swappable wrist bands, which are offered in several colors, and are water resistant. The watches include an IR port and can act as a remote for home theater equipment. The watches now include an on-board music player so they can be used to play music without requiring a smartphone to be nearby. They also include a handful of fitness apps and sensors to assist with exercising. The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo each include a 1.63-inch touch display with 320 x 320 pixels, 1GHz dual-core processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage, Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, and a 300mAh battery that's good for two or three days of use. The only difference between the two is that the Gear 2 Neo does not include a camera. The Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo will be available worldwide in April. Pricing was not announced.
Sprint today announced the availability of Wi-Fi calling from select smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy Mega and the Galaxy S4 Mini will be the first two handsets able to use the service. Sprint says Wi-Fi calls can be made over any Wi-Fi network, such as those in the home, office, or in public. The Wi-Fi calling service includes unlimited, free voice calls and messaging in the U.S. Sprint says the ability to use Wi-Fi networks rather than its cellular network resolves issues such as in-building coverage. The application and service can be set up by device owners in a few simple steps. Galaxy Mega and S4 Mini owners will be notified through an over-the-air update when the service is available to them. Sprint said the update will be pushed out over the coming weeks. Sprint expects to add more phones to the service throughout the rest of the year.
Sprint today indicated via its support site that Android 4.4 KitKat is now available to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The system upgrade will be made available over the air during the next few days.
Samsung today announced that it plans to update a significant number of its U.S. Galaxy-branded smartphones and tablets to Android 4.4.2 KitKat. The list of phones includes the Galaxy Note II and 3; the Galaxy S4, S4 mini, S4 Active, and S4 zoom; the Galaxy S III and S III mini; and the Galaxy Mega and Galaxy Light. Samsung will also update the Galaxy Note 8, Tab 3, Note 10.1, and Note 10.1 2014 Edition tablets. Samsung said the timing of the updates will vary by carrier, but they will begin today and continue to be pushed out for several months.
Samsung today revealed the Galaxy Core LTE, a mid-range Android smartphone with support for 4G networks. The device features a 4.5-inch qHD screen; dual-core 1.2GHz processor with 1GB of RAM; 8GB of internal storage; a 5-megapixel/VGA camera configuration; and Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.0. The phone runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and offers the typical suite of Samsung apps and services, such as ChatON, S Voice, S Translator, and others. The Galaxy Core LTE will be sold across Europe, Russia, and other Asia countries. Samsung did not express plans to bring the phone to the U.S., nor did it discuss pricing.
Four U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would force handset makers to include a kill switch in all their devices. The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act was put forward by Senators Amy Klobuchar, Barbara Mikulski, Richard Blumenthal, and Mazie Hirono. It would require all phones sold in the U.S. to include a free-to-use kill switch that would allow device owners "to wipe their personal data off the phone, render the phone permanently inoperable to anyone but the owner, and prevent it from being reactivated on a network by anyone but the owner." The legislation follows a similar bill introduced in California. According to Sen. Klobuchar, the new bill has wide support from law enforcement officials. Lawmakers in California and New York worked with Samsung to develop a kill switch last year, but the network operators refused to implement it. Cell phone thefts have risen dramatically in recent years, and lawmakers believe device owners should be able to protect their data in such an event.
Sprint today announced that its juiced-up 4G network, called Sprint Spark, is now available in Baltimore and Philadelphia. Sprint Spark uses tri-band LTE to help improve access to, and the performance of, its 4G network. In order to use Sprint Spark, Sprint customers must have Spark-compatible smartphones. Only a handful of Sprint's smartphones work with Spark, including the LG G2, the HTC One max, the Samsung Galaxy Mega, and a newer version of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Sprint Spark is available in 14 markets, and Sprint plans to cover 100 markets by the end of the year. Sprint claims Spark enables peak download speeds of 60Mbps.
The U.S Department of Justice today halted an investigation into Samsung's use of standard essential patents in litigation. The Justice Department was looking to ascertain if Samsung was abusing its standard essential patents, which must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. The Justice Department had opened the investigation after Samsung sued Apple via the U.S. International Trade Commission. The ITC initially ordered a ban of select Apple products in the U.S., but the ban was overturned by the Obama Administration in September. Since the ban was overturned, the Justice Department's invesgiation became moot. The Justice Department will, however, continue to monitor Samsung's patent litigation in the U.S.
California has decided to legislate what the wireless network operators won't do voluntarily. California State Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon are expected to introduce legislation today that will require all phones sold in the state to be equipped with an antitheft solution or kill switch. Gascon worked with New York lawmakers and Samsung to craft such a solution, but the carriers balked at the idea of implementing it. Leno and Gascon believe stronger measures are needed to deter cell phone thefts and to protect consumers. They want the law to go into effect January 1, 2015, and have proposed penalties of $2,500 for each phone sold in the state thereafter. "With robberies of smartphones reaching an all-time high, California cannot continue to stand by when a solution to the problem is readily available," said Leno. "Today we are officially stepping in and requiring the cellphone industry to take the necessary steps to curb violent smartphone thefts and protect the safety of the very consumers they rely upon to support their businesses."
Sprint today expanded the number of handsets that are able to take advantage of its Direct Connect push-to-talk service. Sprint offers the service through a dedicated application called Direct Connect Now. Beginning today, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note 3, the LG G2, G Flex, and Optimus F3, and the Kyocera Hydro Edge can all download the Direct Connect Now app from the Google Play Store and use it for PTT calls. Sprint plans to add more devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, Galaxy Mega, and GS4 with Sprint Spark, soon. Sprint says its Direct Connect Now app has been updated with a new user interface, and it is now interoperable with older Sprint Direct Connect phones. The app also has TeamDC and opt-in TeamDC closed group calling; call alerts to notify others you want to talk; displays contact image for speaker; syncs contacts with device address book; and lets users create favorite Direct Connect contacts. The app and service are free to download for most LTE 4G phones, though Sprint charges $5 per month for some handsets.
Samsung and Ericsson have reached a patent-licensing deal that will put an end to litigation between the two companies. The deal concerns telecommunications patents that Samsung previously licensed from Ericsson. The original agreement between the two companies ended in 2011, and Ericsson sued Samsung in 2012 after the two failed to come to terms over the value of the patents. The new cross-licensing agreement covers an unknown number of patents, some of which are deemed to be standard essential. The companies did not disclose terms.
Samsung and Google today announced that they have struck a wide-ranging patent-licensing agreement. According to the terms of the agreement, both companies will license both their existing patent portfolios, as well as patents to be filed over the course of the next 10 years. The patents are not limited to mobile technology, and instead cover a number of different product categories. "By working together on agreements like this, companies can reduce the potential for litigation and focus instead on innovation," said Google deputy general counsel Allen Lo.
Rockstar, a patent consortium jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson, and Sony, has dropped its patent infringement lawsuit against Huawei. The suit was originally filed last year, and included co-defendents Google, Samsung, and HTC. Rockstar believes the companies are violating its patents. Neither Rockstar nor Huawei indicated why the suit was dropped, nor whether or not Huawei signed a licensing agreement with Rocktar. The lawsuit still stands against the other companies. Google, in particular, is accused of infringing on seven different patents that pertain to internet search terms and advertising. Rockstar is seeking damages from Google, which it says is violating the patents willfully. Rockstar is a group of companies that together purchased thousands of patents from bankrupt Nortel. The firms spent a total of $4.5 billion on the patents.
Apple was handed two minor victories by the judge overseeing the forthcoming patent case between the iPhone maker and Samsung. Federal Judge Lucy Koh, who has handled the bulk of the litigation between the two companies in the U.S., ruled that some Samsung devices infringed on an Apple patent for word recommendations, or auto-correct. Further, Koh deemed another Samsung patent, pertaining to multimedia syncing across devices, invalid. Samsung expressed frustration with the decisions. The rulings put Apple in a better legal standing ahead of the trial, which is scheduled to start in March. The March trial is separate from the one that took place in August 2012, and covers Samsung's more recent devices, including the Galaxy S III.
NTT DoCoMo has shelved plans to launch Tizen-based smartphones. It was expected to debut the first such handsets as soon as March, but now the plans have been put on hold indefinitely. According to NTT DoCoMo, the Japanese market is not big enough to support three smartphone operating systems. Android and iOS dominate the Japanese handset landscape. NTT's change of heart regarding Tizen is a setback for Samsung, which is the major handset company behind the fledgling operating system. Neither Samsung nor the Tizen Association responded publicly to NTT DoCoMo's sudden change in plans.
Samsung today announced the availability of its Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games mobile app, Wireless Olympic Works (WOW). The app, which can be downloaded and used by all Android phones, lets smartphone owners follow the games more closely and share the experience through their social networks. The app offers detailed event schedules, game times, medal counts, and live results. It allows users to push text and picture messages from the app to Facebook and other social networks. It provides tutorials on all 15 Winter Olympic events. Last, it offers detailed travel information to those who make the trip to Sochi, including recommended restaurants and tourist destinations. Samsung's WOW app is free to download from the Samsung App Store or the Google Play Store.
Samsung indicated this week that it will not launch Tizen devices in the U.S., at least not any time soon. "We don't feel the U.S. is a great test market for those kinds of products," said Ryan Bidan, Samsung's director of product marketing, in an interview with Fierce Wireless. "The U.S. market is pretty mature. Bringing a new entrant here that doesn't meet a certain performance bar would be a challenge. Recognizing that, we don't want to set ourselves up for failure." Tizen is an open-source platform that Samsung is developing jointly with Intel and others. Bidan said that the company will launch Tizen products in other parts of the world. The first such devices are expected to reach the market during the first quarter of 2014.
The leaders of both Apple and Samsung have agreed to meet one another next month to discuss settling their on-going patent battles. They are scheduled to enter the courtroom in March anew concerning a second batch of patents. The meeting will be an attempt to settle their differences amicably ahead of that trial. The two companies have faced one another countless times over patents during the course of the last few years. Apple has won about $930 million in damages from Samsung already. The trial scheduled for March is an entirely new case, however, and will likely drag out for months if the companies can't agree to terms.
Samsung today announced a new offering it believes will convince large businesses to adopt its mobile devices and services. Samsung Enterprise Services is meant to give companies a complete package for deploying and maintaining smartphones and tablets. It provides IT the tools it needs to perform system and app updates, as well as protect devices from malware and threats. The new service builds on Samsung Knox, its existing business security suite, and also introduces Samsung MobileCare, which will do some of the heavy lifting for businesses, such as management support, training, repairs, and warranty care. This new set of services from Samsung could help it push Apple and BlackBerry out of the enterprise.
Samsung dominates CES like no other company. Some years, they announce new phones. Tune in to our liveblog right here for any and all phone-related news from their press conference the second it's announced.
Samsung today announced a new memory chip for smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The module is an 8Gb, low power double data rate 4 (LPDDR4) DRAM chip on a single 1GB die. It is fabricated with a 20nm processes. According to Samsung, four can be combined together to form a single 4GB RAM module. The 8Gb LPDDR4 DRAM chip uses a Low Voltage Swing Terminated Logic (LVSTL) I/O interface. Samsung says this enables data transfer rates of 3.2Gbps per pin, which is twice the speed of today's LPDDR3 DRAM modules. Samsung claims its new chip offers 50% higher performance, but uses 40% less energy, making it ideal for high-end UHD smartphones and tablets. The chip will reach volume production next year.
Verizon Wireless has made Android 4.3 Jelly Bean available to its variant of the Samsung Galaxy Note II. In addition to the system update, the new operating system brings with it support for the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. The update makes a wide number of improvements to the performance of the Note II, including battery life for Exchange users, Google Maps, Wi-Fi, and voicemail notifications. Apps can now be moved to the SD card. The PenUp and Multi-window functions have been updated to the same version that runs on the Note 3, the Sound and Shot feature works better, and Bluetooth Low Energy has been enhanced. The update is being pushed out over the air in phases.
California Senator Mark Leno and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon plan to introduce legislation that will force smartphone makers and wireless network operators to add a kill switch to mobile devices. The bill, which will be formally introduced early next year, is a response to the carriers' reluctance to add a kill switch voluntarily. Carriers argue that kill switches could be used by hackers to disable phones, but lawmakers believe they could be used to protect people from prying thieves. Gascon worked with Samsung to add a kill switch to its smartphones, but carriers shot the idea down earlier this year. Gascon also believes that giving smartphone owners the ability to kill lost/stolen devices remotely will help reduce theft of the devices in the first place.
Samsung today announced that it is expanding the compatibility of its HomeSync storage device beyond its own hardware. Non-Samsung devices can download the HomeSync application from the Google Play Store and use that to interact with the HomeSync remotely. Previously, HomeSync compatibility was limited to just a handful of Samsung devices. The HomeSync includes 1TB of internal storage and connects to HDTVs via HDMI. HomeSync supports up to eight separate accounts and can be used to store music, videos, and photos, as well as play that content on an HDTV. The HomeSync also allows devices to access their stored content when they are away from home. Samsung HomeSync went on sale earlier this year. It costs $299.