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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.

Newest Phones Deliver Peak LTE Speeds

Jun 11, 2014, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 11, 2014, 11:38 AM

Data collected by PCMag for its Fastest Mobile Networks shows the latest smartphones are best able to take advantage of the country's LTE networks. PCMag received crowd-sourced data from 323 different devices across 822 metro areas in the U.S. The key in attaining the best speeds is support for more LTE bands. Specifically, devices that support Sprint Spark and Verizon XLTE showed significantly better performance than devices that don't. For example, PCMag contends that Spark-compatible phones offer twice the LTE performance of non-Spark phones on Sprint's network. Sprint Spark makes use of three different LTE bands to improve capacity and coverage. Similarly, Verizon's XLTE uses two bands to provide capacity and coverage. Older phones, such as the Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3, may be available at bargain prices, but they don't match the network prowess of devices such as the iPhone 5s/5c and Galaxy S4/S5.

Samsung Warns Music Hub Customers to Download Tracks

Jun 10, 2014, 6:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung recently began to email customers in an effort to alert them about the pending shut-down of its Music Hub service. The service will officially go offline July 1. Samsung is warning customers that their music library will not be available after that date. It suggests customers download all their purchased music and use any remaining vouchers for Samsung Music before July 1. Samsung noted all songs sold through the Music Hub are free of DRM and can be played, stored, and transferred to other devices. Samsung suggests users switch to its own Milk Music service, which is powered by Slacker, or to Google Play Music All Access. Samsung first revealed plans to shutter the Music Hub last month. Music Hub was preinstalled on many of Samsung's Galaxy-branded smartphones.

ZTE Hopes High-End Phones Will Increase Sales

Jun 9, 2014, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said it plans to push into the high-end smartphone market controlled by the likes of Apple, HTC, LG, Samsung, and Sony. According to Reuters, sales of ZTE's mid-range and entry-level handsets are strong, but margins are too thin. The company wants to use high-end handsets to help increase its margins. "We will make more and more premium smartphones," said ZTE's Zeng Xuezong to Reuters. The company wants to trade its image as a low-cost phone maker for one that rivals the current market leaders. "There is indeed a gap between the brand awareness of Chinese companies and those top global brands, and this is what our team is trying to build for consumers" with handsets such as the Nubia Z5, said Zeng. ZTE believes it can increase is worldwide sales from 40 million units in 2013 to as much as 100 million units by 2016. In the U.S., it is seeking to raise its marketshare from 6% to 10% by 2017 with the help of premium devices and by spending more money on marketing. Most of the ZTE handsets available in the U.S. are entry-level devices sold by prepaid or low-cost carriers.

T-Mobile Debuts 'Underground' Store

Jun 6, 2014, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile recently pulled back the velvet curtain to reveal Underground, a new storefront for those seeking hard-to-get devices. T-Mobile Underground is a web site where "true enthusiasts" will find limited-stock devices and accessories. In addition to exclusive and performance-centric devices, T-Mobile Underground will offer "news and reviews from the tech literati." At launch, the only device available through T-Mobile Underground is the limited-edition Samsung Galaxy S5 Gold. T-Mobile didn't say if or when other devices will be added to the Underground roster.

Samsung and InterDigital Strike Patent Accord

Jun 3, 2014, 6:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

InterDigital today announced it has reached a patent licensing agreement with Samsung. The agreement, which InterDigital called "mutually beneficial," also puts to rest all pending litigation between the two companies. InterDigital is a patent assertion firm and makes money by pursuing such agreements with companies it believes is violating its intellectual property. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but InterDigital said it involved 3G, 4G and "certain future generation" wireless products. Last year, the U.S. International Trade Commission exonerated Huawei, Nokia, and ZTE of violating IntgerDigital patents.

Samsung Introduces the Z, Its First Tizen Phone

Jun 2, 2014, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Samsung Z, the first smartphone to run its home-grown Tizen platform. The phone strongly resembles Samsung's Android smartphones and will launch in Russia during the third quarter of the year. Samsung has spent years developing Tizen as an alternative to Android, though it has delayed the launch of Tizen-based phones several times. According to Samsung, the Z's Tizen operating system offers fast start-up times, 3D graphics, ultra power savings mode, multitasking, multi-colored themes, and a customizable home screen. It comes with Samsung's S Health software, as well as its own app store. Since the Z runs Tizen, it does not include apps and services normally found on Android devices, such as Gmail and Google Maps. Samsung has developed its own alternatives to these apps. The Samsung Z's hardware features a 4.8-inch 720p HD screen, 2.3GHz quad-core processor, and an 8-megapixel main camera with dual-shot, panorama, best photo, and mini mode. Other hardware features include a fingerprint scanner, 2.1-megapixel user-facing camera, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and support for microSD cards up to 64GB. Radio support includes Cat 4 LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, dual-band Wi-Fi, GPS/GLONASS, NFC, and infrared. Samsung said though the Z will first be sold in Russia, it expects to expand availability to other markets over time. Pricing is expected to be less than that of Samsung's Android devices.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Active Amps Up the Tough

May 29, 2014, 11:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 29, 2014, 11:06 PM

AT&T and Samsung today announced the Galaxy S5 Active, a ruggedized variant of Samsung's flagship smartphone. The GS5 Active carries over many of the GS5's key specs, including the 5.1-inch FHD screen, 2.5GHz quad-core processor, 16-megapixel camera, and built-in heart rate monitor with S Health software. The GS5 Active has, however, been wrapped in a tougher exterior to provide extra protection from the elements. The GS5 Active meets mil-spec 810G, which means it can withstand high heat, extreme cold, shock, vibration, high altitude, and humidity. The GS5 Active can also sit in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Samsung added one neat software trick to the GS5 Active: a press of the convenience key on the side will launch all the apps related to outdoor activity on a single screen. The Samsung Galaxy S5 Active costs $200 with a new two-year contract, $27.50 per month on AT&T Next 18, or $35.75 per month on AT&T Next 12. It can be ordered online and in stores beginning today.

GreatCall Debuts Jitterbug 5

May 28, 2014, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 28, 2014, 12:08 PM

GreatCall today announced the Jitterbug 5, its latest senior-friendly handset. The Jitterbug 5 is a traditional flip phone, but it has access to GreatCall's health and wellness services, such as 5Star, medication reminders, brain games, urgent care, and check-in calls. The device has a 1.3-inch external screen that displays a clock and notifications, and a larger 2.2-inch main screen. The Jitterbug 5 includes a 1.3-megapixel camera, speakerphone, and large buttons for easy use. It has a standard microUSB port for charging and a 3.5mm headset jack. The Jitterbug 5, which is made by Samsung, costs $99 and service plans start at $15 per month.

Samsung to Shutter Its Music Hub and E-Book Service

May 23, 2014, 10:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today confirmed it will close its Music Hub and e-book store on July 1. The Music Hub served alongside the Samsung Hub - which sold music, videos, books, games, and educational content - on last year's Galaxy S4 handset. The Music Hub was a full music store, much like Google Play Music or the Amazon MP3 Store. It allowed users to buy individual tracks and albums. The same was true of the e-book store, which duplicated Google's own offering, in addition to those of other providers, such as Amazon. Samsung didn't explain the rationale behind its decision to shutter the music and e-book stores other than to say it was "striving for service differentiation and customer value enhancement." The Samsung Hub itself will also go away, and is no longer preinstalled on this year's Galaxy S5. Instead, Samsung's surviving services - movies, games, and educational content - will remain available as stand-alone apps. Samsung's music and e-book services will still be available to consumers in its home market of Korea.

T-Mobile Debuts VoLTE in Seattle

May 22, 2014, 11:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 22, 2014, 11:48 AM

T-Mobile today announced that it has launched VoLTE service in its home market of Seattle. T-Mobile claims that VoLTE service offers both voice and data in the same radio layer and offers call set-up times that are twice as quick. T-Mobile's VoLTE service includes HD Voice, though T-Mobile has offered HD Voice separately since last year. In order for HD Voice to work, both handsets need to be HD Voice-capable. According to T-Mobile, its VoLTE service uses Enhanced Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (eSRVCC) to make sure calls don't drop when leaving LTE coverage regions. This is an LTE Advanced feature that assures seamless voice service no matter the technology used to connect the call. VoLTE will first be available to the LG G Flex, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and Galaxy Light handsets. Owners of these devices will need to update the software of their phone in order to make use of VoLTE. T-Mobile said its VoLTE service will expand to new regions and devices over the months ahead. AT&T is launching VoLTE this week, and Verizon plans to launch VoLTE later this year.

FreedomPop Adds Three LTE Samsung Phones to Lineup

May 22, 2014, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today expanded its smartphone roster to include several high-end Samsung handsets. Beginning today, FreedomPop customers can choose from the Samsung Galaxy Victory, Galaxy S4, and Galaxy S III to access LTE service. FreedomPop, an MVNO that offers free and low-cost service, is marking the availability of these devices as its official jump from Sprint's WiMAX 4G network to Sprint's LTE 4G network. In addition to the new phones, FreedomPop announced a new $20 plan that includes unlimited voice and text, and 1GB of 4G speeds (throttled to 3G speeds thereafter). Last, FreedomPop is making its FreedomPop Free Voice and Text application available to Android-based devices. The app provides any Android device with free voice, text, and voicemail. FreedomPop is pitching the app as a potential source of savings for Android users stuck in contracts with other providers. For example, it suggests Android owners downgrade their contract plan and make use of its app instead. FreedomPop Free Voice and Text is already available to the iPhone. Pricing of the new handsets wasn't immediately available.

Samsung Gives Its T-Mobile GS5 the Midas Touch

May 21, 2014, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced the upcoming limited availability of a gold-colored Galaxy S5. The gold GS5 will be sold online and in select stores beginning May 30. Pricing for the Limited Edition Gold Galaxy S5 is the same as the black or white models. T-Mobile also said that it is now taking online pre-orders for Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) tablet. T-Mobile is asking for $99.99 down for the tablet followed by 24 monthly payments of $23 on T-Mobile's Equipment Installment Plan.

FCC Busts California Company for Importing Illegal Phones

May 20, 2014, 8:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Federal Communications Commission today cited a company based in California, called Panasystem, for importing and marketing counterfeit smartphones. The devices, which were fake Samsung Galaxy S Duos, Samsung Galaxy Ace, and BlackBerry 9790 smartphones, were all stamped with unauthorized and invalid FCC identifiers. Each and every device that emits radio signals must be tested and certified by the FCC before they can be legally sold in the U.S. This is so the FCC can ascertain their safety for public use. Devices that meet the criteria have a unique identifier code that is often plainly visible on the device somewhere. Most cell phones stamp the FCC ID under the battery. Devices that have enclosed batteries put the FCC ID out the outside casing, typically on the back. "We will not tolerate the importation and marketing of counterfeit devices," said Travis LeBlanc, Acting Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. "The trafficking of these devices not only robs the intellectual property of legitimate manufacturers, it harms consumers by failing to provide them with safe and certified smartphones that comply with the FCC's equipment authorization process." The FCC said Panasystem must cease importing fake phones with fake FCC IDs, lest it face significant fines, equipment seizures, criminal sanctions and/or imprisonment.

AT&T Says Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini to Street May 23

May 19, 2014, 1:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today formally announced that the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini will go on sale May 23, coinciding with the launch of AT&T's HD Voice service. AT&T is asking $50 for the GS4 Mini with a two-year contract. Alternately, customers can choose 18 payments of $14.24 or 12 payments of $18.50 with zero down via an AT&T Next plan. AT&T's HD Voice will be available in a very limited number of markets at launch, centered around the Minneapolis and Chicago metro areas. Samsung first announced the GS4 Mini in 2013. The GS4 Mini has a 4.3-inch 1080p HD screen, 1.7GHz dual-core processor, 8-megapixel camera, NFC, and 16GB of internal storage.

Verizon Brands Its Dual-Band LTE Markets as 'XLTE'

May 19, 2014, 9:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced the launch of XLTE service, which is a new way for the company to market its dual-band LTE network. Verizon Wireless initially deployed LTE in the 700MHz band. Verizon's build-out of LTE in the 700MHz band is functionally complete. Verizon began rolling out LTE on its 1700MHz AWS spectrum late last year, and has been slowly adding markets over time. As of today, Verizon says it has initiated service on its AWS spectrum in half its existing LTE footprint. Moving forward, Verizon Wireless will market its dual-band LTE coverage as XLTE in much the same way that Sprint is marketing its tri-band LTE service as Sprint Spark. According to Verizon, XLTE markets offer consumers far more headroom thanks to dramatically improved capacity. With twice the spectrum to work with, XLTE markets can deliver faster peak data speeds when compared to Verizon's 700MHz-only LTE markets. Verizon said a number of its most popular devices are already compatible with its XLTE service, including the Samsung Galaxy S4, S5, and Note 3; the Apple iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c; and the Motorola Droid Maxx, Ultra, and Mini. Customers who own these devices don't need to do anything in order to take advantage of XLTE. They'll automatically connect to Verizon's dual-band LTE network where it is available. Non-XLTE devices will still be able to access Verizon's LTE network as normal. Verizon will continue to roll out XLTE to more markets over time. Verizon didn't say how long it will take to build-out its AWS LTE coverage. Verizon acquired the AWS spectrum from a consortium of cable companies in 2012.

Samsung to Push Biometrics to Low-Cost Phones

May 19, 2014, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung executive Rhee In-jong today said the company plans to increase the use of biometrics in its mobile devices and will eventually make them available to low-cost smartphones. Samsung recently added a fingerprint scanner to the Galaxy S5 as one of several security options. Owners can choose to use their fingerprint, rather than a password, to lock and protect their device. The Apple iPhone 5s also has a fingerprint scanner. Both devices are flagship models, however, and aren't necessarily affordable to everyone. Samsung wants to make biometrics available to all its devices, though Rhee didn't say just how quickly Samsung will accomplish this goal. Rhee did indicate the company is also looking at iris detection as a means of securing mobile devices. The motivation behind these efforts is to drive adoption of Samsung's Knox enterprise security platform, which Samsung believes will help it sell devices to corporate clients.

AT&T to Launch VoLTE-Based HD Voice Service May 23

May 15, 2014, 7:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 23, 2014, 3:08 PM

AT&T today announced the limited launch of HD Voice service in select markets around the country beginning on May 23. AT&T's HD Voice service uses VoLTE to pass high-definition calls through its LTE data network rather than its voice network. To start, the only device capable of delivering HD Voice calls is the Samsung Galaxy S 4 mini, though AT&T says more devices will follow shortly. AT&T provided few details about the requirements of the service, such as whether or not both devices need to be HD Voice-compatible and located in markets that support HD Voice. Nor did AT&T say if it will charge extra for HD Voice service. AT&T did say that its network can support concurrent use of HD Voice and LTE 4G data, so customers will be able to surf while they talk. HD Voice will first be available in select areas of Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. AT&T will add more markets over time. AT&T's web site lists the Galaxy S4 mini as "coming soon," though AT&T told Phone Scoop the device will be available when the service goes live on the 23rd.

Court Tells Samsung It Won't Retry Apple Case

May 14, 2014, 11:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A U.S. appeals court today sided with the International Trade Commission and agreed that Apple is innocent of violating three Samsung patents. The decision, reached by the ITC in June 2013, stands as is and the ITC will not be forced to revive the case. The ITC case is entirely separate from the trial that took place between Apple and Samsung in California last month. Last month's case involved different patents. Apple was awarded $119 million in damages after a jury found Samsung guilty of infringing three smartphone patents.

Software Update from AT&T Adds Yellow Pages to GS5

May 12, 2014, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said owners of the Samsung Galaxy S5 can expect to see a small update hit their device in the coming days. The sole purpose of the update is to push AT&T's Yellow Pages application to the device, as well as AT&T's Find My Phone. The Find My Phone app includes several useful features, such finding a lost phone on a map, remotely locking a lost phone, and ringing a lost phone. Both apps are free, and cannot be removed once installed.

Samsung Replaces Mobile Design Chief

May 8, 2014, 7:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The head of Samsung's mobile design team, Chang Dong-hoon, has been reassigned by the electronics giant. According to Reuters, Chang had offered to resign from the company, but was instead moved to a different position within Samsung. The move is being made due to weak consumer interest in the Galaxy S5 smartphone, says Reuters, which pointed out criticisms of the flagship's cheap plastic design. "The realignment will enable Chang to focus more on his role as head of the Design Strategy Team, the company's corporate design center which is responsible for long-term design strategy across all of Samsung's businesses," said Samsung in a statement. Chang will be replaced by Lee Min-hyouk, vice president for mobile design. The change is effective immediately.

Samsung Makes Knox 2.0 Available to Galaxy S5

May 7, 2014, 7:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced that its second-generation business security suite is now available to the Galaxy S5. One of the core features of the improved software is support for split billing. Knox 2.0 can determine the amount of monthly data used by personal apps and the data used by business apps and split the bill so businesses only have to pay for the portion generated by actual work. Knox 2.0 also improves compatibility with other applications so they can be secured or sandboxed. The suite has a new series of cloud-based services, as well, such as a dedicated store for enterprise applications, and tools for IT to manage and control employee devices. Knox 2.0 is only available to the GS5, but Samsung said it will become available to more Galaxy devices in the months ahead. Samsung created Knox to help generate more appeal for its devices within businesses. It competes with BlackBerry's BES product.

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