Jay Y. Lee, a top executive at Samsung, has been arrested after a judge agreed that the special prosecutor's allegations of corruption warranted legal action. Lee has been under investigation for months over $37 million in payments that investigators say were used as bribes. The special prosecutor is also charging Lee with perjury, embezzlement, and hiding assets overseas. Lee has for the last several years been groomed to take over the company following the heart attack of his father. Some of the money, allege the prosecutors, was used to grease a contentious merger between two Samsung businesses that helped pave the way for Lee's ascension. The scandal has gripped South Korea since last year, as President Park Geun-hye is also involved. In a brief statement, Samsung said, "We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in future court proceedings." Lee wasn't necessarily involved in managing the day-to-day operations of the company, but was involved in top-level decision making. Samsung may have to reorganize its executive structure to account for Lee's potential absence.
South Korea's special prosecutor's office is taking another run at arresting and charging Samsung executive Jay Y. Lee. Lee faces possible embezzlement, bribery, and asset-related charges tied to S. Korea President Park Geun-hye. Specifically, the prosecutor's office believes Lee payed Park to facilitate a merger of two lesser Samsung businesses that, in turn, helped pave the way for Lee's succession within the organization. "Samsung has absolutely never bribed the president seeking something in return or sought illicit favors," said Samsung Group in a statement. Last month, a Seoul-based court rejected the procesutor's attempt to charge Lee. Lee is a member of the family that controls a majority stake in Samsung and has been groomed to lead the organization. A court will have to approve the presecutor's new request.
Apple has joined the Wireless Power Consortium, according to IHS Technologies and the WPC's own web site. Apple is listed as a backing member of the organization, which is behind the Qi wireless charging standard. This is the first time Apple has appeared to support either of the two competing standards. Apple is not backing the AirFuel Alliance (formerly the Power Matters Alliance) wireless charging standard, at least not according to the Alliance's web site, where Apple is not listed as a member. Apple's membership in the WPC does not necessarily mean the company plans to bring wireless charging technology to its mobile devices; rather, it means Apple can contribute its own technology to the standard, as well as take advantage of the standard's existing feature set. Many of Apple's competitors already back at least one of the two major wireless charging standards. Samsung, for example, supports both Qi and AirFuel, which makes its devices compatible with most wireless chargers. Wireless charging is one of a handful of technologies that Apple's iPhone has yet to adopt.
Google today said it has a handful of new programs for its YouTube Kids service on deck. Specifically, subscribers to YouTube Red (Google's ad-free version of YouTube) will be able to watch four kid-focused series called Hyperlinked, DanTDM Creates a Big Scene, The King of Atlantis, and Fruit Ninja: Frenzy Force. Google said it worked with Susanne Daniels to develop the shows, which are currently in production. Google expects these four shows to reach YouTube this spring with more originals to debut later this year. In addition to the new programming, Google plans to release a version of YouTube Kids for certain LG and Samsung Smart TVs. The Smart TV app will let children access their favorite YouTube Kids content — all with the same parental controls available to the mobile app — from their television set.
Verizon Wireless today announced a promotional trade-in offer that will give a free flagship-class phone to those who switch from other carriers. The offer requires users to select Verizon's new $80 monthly unlimited plan. It also requires a working trade-in that is fully paid off. Customers will need to port their number in from a competing service provider. Customers can then select the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel, Moto Z Droid, Moto Z Force Droid, Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, or LG V20. Verizon will provide up to $792 toward the cost of the phone spread out over 24 months. In order to get one of the above phones for free, switchers will need to trade-in the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung Galaxy S7 edge, Samsung Note 5, LG G5, LG V20, or the HTC 10. Customers who have an older phone to trade, such as the Apple iPhone SE, Samsung Note 4, Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G4, LG V10, or HTC M9, will need to pay $5 per month for the "free" phones being offered by Verizon. Verizon Wireless didn't say how long this promotion will be available.
T-Mobile today announced several promotions that customers can take advantage of over the next few weeks. To start, the company is offering a free pizza to customers who use its T-Mobile Tuesdays rewards program. T-Mobile said every line enrolled in T-Mobile Tuesdays can score a free pizza from Papa John's during one of the next four weeks. During the other three weeks, customers will be given a coupon for 25% off a regular menu item at Papa John's. On Feb. 14 (Valentine's Day), T-Mobile is also including a free Lyft ride and free movie rental from FandangoNOW. Separately, T-Mobile is bringing back its free tablet offer. Any customer who finances either an LG G Pad X 8.0 or Samsung Tab E on a T-Mobile Equipment Installment Plan is eligible for free monthly reimbursements over a two-year period. In order to get the free tablet, customers will have to put the device on a T-Mobile One or other mobile internet plan with at least 6 GB of high-speed data. T-Mobile said the free table offer is available for a limited time.
Google today made it possible for the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones to control some smart home products through the Google Assistant. Pixel owners can now interact with Belkin Wemo and Honeywell smart home products, for example. Users will need to add each smart home product manually to their Pixel via the app. Once added, people can utter requests such as, "Ok Google, turn the temperature up downstairs" to adjust the thermostat. This functionality requires the latest version of Google Play Services as well as the latest Google app.
In the wake of the Samsung Galaxy Note7 recall, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission hopes to see more safeguards put in place with respect to battery-powered products. The CPSC commended Samsung and its carrier partners for the successful recall of the Note7, which has so far enjoyed a 97% return rate, but noted that the majority of the annual 400 consumer product safety recalls "result in a frustratingly and dangerously low consumer response rate." The agency plans to improve its ability to asses high-density battery technology and spot gaps in safety standards moving forward, and at the same time warned that the agency has limited capacity to handle such tasks. "CPSC is a vital health and safety agency, but we have nowhere near the resources and people power that Samsung does. Not even close," said Chairman Elliot F. Kaye in a statement. "In fact, Samsung employed more engineers and staff to work on just this issue than CPSC has employees at our entire agency. At a minimum, industry needs to learn from this experience and improve consumer safety by putting more safeguards in place during the design and manufacturing stages to ensure that technologies run by lithium-ion batteries deliver their benefits without the serious safety risks." Samsung this week explained that the Note7 was impacted by two separate battery flaws. The flaws led the device to sometimes overheat and catch fire. The company was forced to cancel the device in September 2016 and recall some 2.5 million units worldwide.
T-Mobile said its T-Mobile One plan now includes all monthly taxes, surcharges, and fees. The company still charges those fees, but they are rolled into the advertised price of the plan in order to simplify what customers see on their bills each month. For example, a family of four that signs up today will pay $40 per line, or $160 total, with no additional fees visible on their monthly bill. Those fees are now included in the total price. The news was first announced earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Trade Show. T-Mobile has been promoting it heavily via television commercials the last few weeks. In other T-Mobile news, the company's prepaid brand, MetroPCS, announced a free phone promotion. Starting today, customers who upgrade their phone, add a line, or get a new phone number can snag one of 15 different phones for free. Some of the options include the LG Aristo, Samsung Galaxy On5, ZTE Avid Trio, and Alcatel Fierce XL. Customers who port a number to MetroPCS will be able to pick a more expensive free handset, such as the HTC Desire 530, ZTE ZMax Pro, or LG K10. Last, MetroPCS is offering free data to those who sign up for its $50 plan. Typically, the $50 plan includes 5 GB of data. For a limited time, people who choose that plan will have access to 8 GB of data each month for at least a year. Additional 8 GB lines added to the same account will cost $30 per month.
Samsung mobile chief Koh Dong-jin said the company does not plan to announce its 2017 flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, at next month's Mobile World Congress trade show. Samsung has in years past used the international event to show off new S-branded handsets, including the S6 in 2015 and S7 in 2016. Koh did not say when the Galaxy S8 will be announced, though it is widely expected to go on sale by April. Koh made the comments regarding the S8 to Reuters after the company announced the results of its probe into the Galaxy Note7 battery fire issue. Samsung blamed the fires on two separate battery defects. The company accepted responsibility for the issue and put in place an eight-step quality assurance program for assuring future batteries and smartphones are safe. "The lessons of this incident are deeply reflected in our culture and process," said Koh during the briefing. "Samsung Electronics will be working hard to regain consumer trust."
Samsung today said problems created during the manufacture of the Galaxy Note7's battery caused the phone to sometimes overheat and burst into flame. The company says two separate battery defects are at fault, but maintains nothing was wrong with the phone itself. In the first battery, a design flaw led the external casing to be too small to accommodate the internal components. The tight fit caused some electrodes to bend and others to break. This led the battery to short-circuit, overheat, and in some cases ignite. In the second battery, which was made by a third-party supplier, a welding defect introduced during manufacturing led to similar short-circuiting, overheating, and ignition problems. Samsung said this third-party battery was rushed to market, which may have played a role in creating the defect. Samsung tasked some 700 engineers to test some 200,000 Note7 smartphones for problems. The company checked various components, such as the USB port, wireless charging components, iris scanner, processor and radio, and other parts to ensure they didn't play a role in the phone's thermal problems. Samsung says three independent, external investigating firms reached the same conclusions. In sum, Samsung says the battery is to blame for the Galaxy Note7's fire problems and the resulting recall of the handset. The company has introduced new quality checks in its manufacturing processes — and demanded the same checks from its parts suppliers — to ensure problems like this do not arise again.
Samsung has detailed which handsets will receive the Android 7 Nougat operating system update. Some of the core changes to the platform include a refreshed Quick Settings panel, OS-level support for split screen multitasking, four new performance modes, and Samsung Pass, which allows people to secure various aspects of their Samsung account with a fingerprint. The company this week began distributing the new operating system to the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge. It also plans to update the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, Note 5, Tab A with S Pen, Tab S2 (LTE), Galaxy A3, and Galaxy A8 to Android 7. As for timing, Samsung said this collection of devices should see Nougat at some point during the first half of the year.
A court in South Korea today rejected a request to arrest Samsung executive Lee Jae-yong. Prosecutors in a government bribery case wanted Lee held on counts of bribery, embezzlement, and perjury. The Seoul Central District Court didn't provide a reason for rejecting the prosecutor's request. The investigation pertains to a possible $36 million bribe Lee is alleged to have paid Korea President Park Geun-hye in order to facilitate the merger of several Samsung business units. Lee is being groomed to take over the family-run company at some point down the road. His arrest would have put the succession plan in jeopardy.
Adding a flame-retardant to select elements of lithium ion batteries many prevent fires, according to researchers at Stanford University. The researchers figured out how to create a nonwoven electrospun separator out of triphenyl phosphate and coated it with a heat-activated polymer. The separator sits between the anode and cathode within batteries. The thermal-triggered coating would melt in the event a battery overheats, thus releasing the triphenyl phosphate flame retardant into the battery. The researchers claim this more or less suppresses combustion almost immediately. The researchers' method doesn't impact the battery under normal temperatures and can be fine-tuned to handle thermals generated under normal use. Such technology may have prevented the fire-catching Galaxy Note7 problem Samsung dealt with last year. The researchers note further safety testing is needed before the technology can be used in consumer devices.
Verizon Wireless is prepared to take another drastic step in order to convince thousands of customers still holding onto the Samsung Galaxy Note7 that it's time to return the phone. "In spite of our best efforts, there are still customers using the recalled phones who have not returned or exchanged their Note 7 to the point of purchase," said a Verizon spokesperson to Fortune. "The recalled Note 7s pose a safety risk to our customers and those around them." Verizon is prepared to put the handsets into a special category on its system that will allow them to call only 911 or Verizon customer service. Moreover, Verizon notes that in some cases the customers have already been reimbursed for the phone so Verizon might bill those customers the full retail cost. Verizon has already updated its variant of the Galaxy Note7 so the phone cannot be charged and is useless as mobile device. Samsung recalled the Note7 in September after a number of units overheated and caught fire.
Prosecutors in South Korea plan to arrest Lee Jae-yong, the heir to Samsung's massive array of businesses. The special prosecutor's office is recommending Lee be charged with bribery, embezzlement and perjury, though the warrant must be approved by a Korean court before it can be served. The bribery charges pertain to alleged actions that took place in 2015 between Lee and President Park Geun-hye, South Korea's leader. Lee is said to have paid Park's government a total of $36 million in bribes in order to facilitate government approval of the merger of two lower Samsung affiliates. The merger helped pave the way for Lee's succession plan, which has been in the works for several years. Samsung is a family run business, though it is also publicly traded. If Lee is arrested and held, three co-CEOs will continue to run Samsung's day-to-day business operations, but Lee's path to succession will become much less clear. President Park has already been impeached by the Korean government, which is weighing whether or not to remove her from office. It appears Park may be the real target here. "We believe the bribery is linked to the president," said a spokesperson for the special prosecutor's office. Park is said to have profited from widespread corruption since taking office. Lee's arrest would be another black mark in Samsung's book, which has suffered in recent months from the Note7 recall.
Samsung said this week that the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration are no longer requiring airlines to warn passengers about the Galaxy Note7 during boarding. Samsung says high participation of its refund and exchange program has helped it collect most outstanding devices. "By leveraging our digital technology to target each device, we've had over 96% of Galaxy Note7 phones returned to date," said the company in a statement. "Together with our wireless carriers, we have taken aggressive action to limit the remaining phones' ability to work as mobile devices, further enhancing participation in the recall." Over the last few weeks, U.S. carriers have distributed a system update to remaining Note7 handsets that prevents them from charging, effectively rendering them useless. Samsung thanked consumers, airlines, airports, and the government for their patience during the recall. Samsung was forced to cancel the phone after a number of units overheated and caught fire.
Samsung has followed through on a promise it made last year and made the Gear S2, S3 and Gear Fit2 compatible with iOS. iPhone owners can download the Gear S app to use with their Samsung-branded wearable. Samsung says the exact Gear S features available to iOS phones will vary a bit by device, but all users can expect to use the GPS, speedometer, and other sensor for tracking workouts and monitor fitness. Fitness tools include distance and route traveled, pace, calories, and heart rate. The Samsung Gear S application is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Samsung is bringing much of its acclaimed S-series design and features to its much more affordable A-series in 2017. In the A3, A5, and A7, you'll find a premium metal-and-glass design, water resistance, fingerprint security, Samsung Pay, Super AMOLED displays, and USB-C. What are they like in person? Read on for our first impressions.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy A7, A5, and A3, three new handsets that fill in the middle of Samsung's lineup of Android phones. All three phones feature metal frames, glass front and back panels, IP68 protection against water and dust, dedicated camera buttons, and support for Samsung Pay. Each phone ships with Android 6 Marshmallow and supports memory cards up to 256 GB.
- A7: The largest of the new Galaxy A series (pictured), the A7 has a 5.7-inch full HD display with a 1.9 GHz octa-core processor, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. It boasts front and rear 16-megapixel cameras, both of which have an aperture of f/1.9 for better low-light performance. The A7 includes a 3,600mAh battery with rapid charging.
- A5: The A5 lands in the middle of the Galaxy A series with a 5.2-inch full HD display, 1.9 GHz octa-core processor, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. It includes front and rear 16-megapixel cameras. The A5 packs a 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging.
- A3: The A3 is the smallest of the three Galaxy A handsets with a 4.7-inch 720p HD display, and a 1.6 GHz octa-core processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It includes a 13-megapixel main camera and an 8-megapixel front camera, both at f/1.9. The A3 includes a 2,350mAh battery with rapid charging.
Samsung recently made a new productivity app called Samsung Focus available to its Android devices. Focus handles basic productivity functions, including email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and memos all in a single application. Focus supports Exchange, IMAP, and POP email services with functions such as push synchronization (email, contacts, calendar events) and support for multiple accounts. People will be able to use their Outlook, Gmail, Hotmail, Exchange, Office 365, IBM Notes, and other email services with Focus. Users can easily join conference calls and add tasks/events from emails, and take advantage of unified search across all the functions. Samsung Focus is free to download from the Google Play Store for Samsung smartphones running Android 6.0.1 and up.
T-Mobile this week pushed a device-killing, over-the-air update to all remaining Galaxy Note7 devices still being used by its customers. The update prevents the battery from charging, effectively rendering the phone useless. The idea is to convince people still using the Note7 to trade it in immediately. The Note7 suffers from a battery issue that may lead to overheating and fires. In some cases, Note7 owners reported car fires and house fires. Samsung was forced to recall the device earlier this year. T-Mobile competitors AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all plan to deliver the same update during the first week of January. All carriers are offering replacement devices and/or refunds.
Qualcomm this week refuted accusations made by the Korea Fair Trade Commission that it has violated Korean antitrust laws. The KFTC says Qualcomm has abused its dominant position in the market with unfair and unnecessarily broad licensing practices for wireless technology and modems. The fine is the largest ever filed by South Korea against a single company. The Korean agency also says Qualcomm inhibited competition by refusing to license its standard essential patents to rivals, such as Intel, MediaTek, and Samsung. Qualcomm says the KFTC's accusations lack merit and it will fight the decision in court. It plans to ask for an immediate stay and will appeal the amount of the fine. In February 2015, Qualcomm was forced to settle with China's antitrust agency for $975 million. Later that same year, Qualcomm faced down the European Union over similar business practices. It may be years before the case with Korea is fully settled.
TDK Corp has agreed to acquire InvenSense for $1.33 billion in cash. TDK is a Japan-based maker of electronic components. InvenSense is a U.S. company that primarily makes gyroscopic motion sensors for mobile devices. Its sensors are most often found in smartphones from Apple and Samsung. The gyroscopes enable games and other apps that require movement calculations. TDK is already a large supplier of smartphone components. It expects to combine InvenSense's sensors with its own portfolio of magnetic, pressure, temperature, and microphone sensors. TDK sees the acquisition as a way to reach new customers. The deal has been approved by both companies' boards, but requires regulatory approval.
Verizon Wireless today updated its stance on Samsung's plan to brick remaining Galaxy Note7 handsets and will allow the update to go through on January 5. Earlier this month, Samsung announced plans to brick active Note7 units through a software update to be pushed December 19. The update will prevent the Note7 from charging and negate its ability to function as a mobile device. Verizon previously refused to allow the update as it didn't want to leave customers without a working handset. Now, it says it will allow the update to go through after the holidays. "We want to make sure you can contact family, first responders, and emergency medical professionals during the holiday travel season. However, we urge you to stop using your Note7, upgrade it to another device, and return the Note7 to us," said the company. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all plan to push the update, too.
Verizon Wireless today said it will not brick its customers' phones during the holiday season. Samsung this morning said it will update remaining Note7s over the next few weeks and kill the phone's ability to charge. Samsung believes this will coax remaining owners to return or exchange the device. Verizon disagrees with this strategy. "Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note7 users that do not have another device to switch to. We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation." Verizon says most of its Note7 customers have already returned the device. The carrier reiterates that any Note7s still in the wild need to be exchanged as soon as practical. The Note7 is subject to overheating and causing fires. The device was recalled and cancelled by Samsung.
Samsung today said it plans to take aggressive steps in order to convince Note7 owners to exchange their devices. Beginning December 19, Samsung will issue a software update that will prevent the Note7 from charging and kill its ability to work as a mobile device. "Together with our carrier partners, we will be notifying consumers through multiple touchpoints to encourage any remaining Galaxy Note7 owners to participate in the program and to take advantage of the financial incentives available," said the company in a statement. According to Samsung, about 93% of U.S. consumers who purchased a Note7 have returned and/or exchanged their device. The company implores remaining owners to shut the device down and turn it in as soon as possible. A number of Note7 units overheated and caught fire. The device was recalled in full and cancelled by Samsung.
Samsung today said a black pearl version of the Galaxy S7 Edge smartphone will go on sale in select markets starting December 9. The black pearl color will only be available with 128 GB of storage, which means the price will be in the neighborhood of $870. Samsung did not specify which markets will sell the black pearl S7 Edge, nor if any carriers will sell the black pearl version directly. Last month, Samsung introduced a blue coral color for the S7 Edge.
T-Mobile today announced Digits, a new service that will let customers use the same phone number across multiple devices, or multiple numbers on a single device. The service makes use of T-Mobile's LTE network and works with virtually all connected devices, including phones, tablets, wearables, and computers. Digits relies on an app. Users can sign in on whichever device is most convenient and immediately have access to their phone number, complete with voicemail, text messages, call history, and other features. The service allows a single handset to support up to five phone numbers without requiring additional SIM cards. Similarly, a single number can be used across up to five separate devices. T-Mobile believes Digits will be particularly appealing to business customers, which will be able to assign a T-Mobile Digits number to workers, regardless of the carrier the employee already uses. Digits can run on phones that connect via AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, et al. Digits works natively with the dialer in Samsung's newer smartphones, including the Galaxy S6, S7, Note 5, and others. T-Mobile customers who have iPhones or other Android phones will be able to use Digits through a mobile app. T-Mobile is allowing a limited number of postpaid customers to test Digits, which is available as a beta. T-Mobile did not say how much the service costs. The company expects to fully launch Digits early next year.
The U.S. Supreme Court today vacated a $399 million reward that Samsung had been ordered to pay Apple for violating the iPhone maker's designs. The court agreed with Samsung's position that it should not be forced to forfeit all the profits from the infringing devices because their design is just one aspect. The court said the lower courts had improperly calculated the fine and sent the case back to those courts for further deliberation. The case dates back to April 2011, when Apple first sued Samsung over its smartphones. An initial trial found Samsung guilty of willfully infringing on Apple's designs and rewarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages. That reward has been whittled down over the years in subsequent hearings.
Samsung today said it will consider a dramatic overhaul to its corporate structure, but it isn't making any immediate moves. The company is weighing whether or not it should split the firm into a holding company and operating company. The idea is to simplify its complicated structure while also appealing to shareholders to improve value. The company will weigh its options for the next six months before making any major decisions. Some items on the table include a new dividend program, a deep look at its cash holdings and investments, as well as new board-level directors for major business groups. Samsung is a family-run business and one of Korea's largest.
FreedomPop today said it plans to sell low-cost, reconditioned smartphones to consumers in the U.S., the U.K., Spain, and Mexico. The FreedomShop will be a single, online space for people to shop for certified used handsets from a wide range of phone makers. FreedomPop said it will look to compete with other markets for used devices by offering competitive prices (up to 80% off original MSRP) on more than 100 phones from the likes of Apple, LG, Samsung, and others. It has forged relationships with more than 200 suppliers of refurbished phones from around the world to ensure its selection is top notch. Importantly, FreedomPop will offer a 30-day "no questions asked" money-back guarantee for any handset purchased from its on line shop. FreedomPop offers free and very-low-cost wireless service in a handful of countries, including the U.S.
Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon 835 processor, a collaborative effort with Samsung, and Quick Charge 4.0 for even faster battery charging. The Snapdragon 835 is now Qualcomm's top-of-the-line chip. Qualcomm decided to rely on Samsung's 10nm FinFET process technology for the chip, which introduces a number of performance upgrades over Samsung's 14nm process. For example, it allows processors to be up to 30% smaller while also improving speeds by 27% or dropping power consumption by 40%. The reduced footprint and boosted speed/power efficiency gives hardware makers more flexibility to create long-lasting and powerful devices. The Snapdragon 835 is already in development and Qualcomm expects to see it in flagship designs during the first half of 2017. Quick Charge 4.0 was created with the Snapdragon 835 in mind. Critically, Quick Charge 4.0 officially supports the USB-C port that's becoming more widely available on today's high-end devices, as well as USB-PD (Power Delivery). Qualcomm said its goal in developing the technology was to deliver faster charges more efficiently. Quick Charge 4.0 was engineered to push five or more hours of use into a battery with only five minutes of charging. It relies on what Qualcomm calls Dual Charge, a parallel charging technique, to deliver 20% quicker charging with a 30% higher efficiency rating when compared to Quick Charge 3.0. Qualcomm expects Quick Charge 4.0 to reach devices alongside the Snapdragon 835 during the first half of 2017.
Samsung today said it has acquired NewNet Communication Technologies, a Canadian company that provides rich communication services (RCS) infrastructure. NewNet offers standards-based RCS tools that allow phone makers and network operators to deploy advanced messaging services, such as group chats, multimedia support, and enhanced calling. Samsung says the acquisition will allow it to add RCS to its own devices. The company also plans to offer RCS services to its network operator partners that don't have their own RCS infrastructure in place. NewNet will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samsung's Canadian business unit. Sprint and Google recently deployed a standards-based RCS service to the carrier's Android handsets. T-Mobile also offers a standards-based RCS service. AT&T and Verizon offer their own, proprietary RCS services that only work within their respective networks.
Samsung today announced the pending launch of Samsung Rewards, a loyalty program for its Samsung Pay mobile payment service. Moving forward, people who sign up for Samsung Rewards will be able to earn points with Samsung when they use Samsung Pay to pay for goods and services. The Samsung Pay rewards points can be redeemed for Samsung products, vouchers for Samsung.com, Samsung Rewards Visa Prepaid Cards, and gifts cards to select retailers. Samsung says it will let Samsung Rewards enrollees "double dip" with their credit card issuer. Samsung Pay users will earn rewards points via Samsung Rewards and may also earn rewards points through their credit card issuer. People who sign up for Samsung Rewards during November or December will receive double points on purchases made during those months. Samsung says its rewards program will eventually expand to include other Samsung products and services, like Samsung.com and S Health. Samsung Pay is limited to a small selection of Samsung's high-end smartphones, including the Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, and Galaxy Note 5.
Samsung is allowing owners of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge to experience an early look at its Nougat builds through the Galaxy Beta Program. The program is meant more for Samsung's benefit than that of end users, as it will use feedback generated by beta users to improve the experience and reliability for all users. Samsung says beta testers will have an opportunity to see its latest user experience elements based on Android 7.0 Nougat. The company hopes for direct feedback about the betas' performance, stability, and usability as it prepares the software for general release next year. Samsung warns that beta software is not official and may cause unexpected errors or malfunction. It may also not have the full feature set when compared to the final version. People will be able to leave the beta program and return their devices to official, functional builds of Android 6. The program is open to the Sprint-, T-Mobile-, and Verizon-branded variants of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge only. People will be required to download the Galaxy Beta Program application from the Galaxy Apps store and apply via the registration menu. A Samsung account (free) is required. Samsung expects to ship test builds of Nougat between now and the end of December.
A system update for the T-Mobile variants of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge should improve wireless speeds. Specifically, the update gives the built-in Snapdragon X12 LTE modem support for 256QAM on the downlink and 64QAM on the uplink. These wireless improvements are better table to take advantage of the 4x4 MIMO support pushed to the S7 and S7 Edge last month for a 133% increase in wireless speeds. The update is free to download over the air.
Samsung said its Galaxy S8 smartphone, due next year, will include a digital personal assistant to help owners with spoken requests. The assistant will rely on artificial intelligence technology that Samsung acquired last month when it closed its purchase of Viv. Beyond offering help with Samsung's own apps and services, Samsung said the personal assistant will work with third-party apps. "Developers can attach and upload services to our agent," said Samsung Executive Vice President Rhee Injong about the assistant. Samsung had previously said it would use Viv to add a personal assistant to its phones, but had not specifically named the Galaxy S8. The company hopes next year's flagship handset will revive its fortunes and offset the losses incurred during the Note7 recall.
Samsung is prepared to employ a more aggressive tactic in order to convince those who've not yet returned their Galaxy Note7 smartphone that they should do so soon. The company says about 85% of all Note7s sold in the U.S. have been safely returned, but 15% have not. "To further drive participation [in the Note7 Refund and Exchange Program], we will be releasing a software update in the coming days that will limit the phone's ability to charge beyond 60%, as well as issue a reminder pop-up notification every time a consumer charges, reboots, or turns on the screen of their Note7 device," said the company. Samsung says Note7 owners who still have their device should power it down immediately and bring it to the point of sale for a refund or exchange as soon as possible. Samsung ceased manufacturing the Note7 and issued a global recall for the phone after some of the devices overheated and sparked fires.
AT&T today said customers can place orders for the Samsung Gear S3 Frontier smartwatch beginning November 4. The wearable, announced by Samsung earlier this year, supports AT&T's NumberSync service, which allows owners to use their main number to make/receive calls and send/receive messages from the watch. AT&T also says the S3 Frontier is the first wearable to support controls for its DirecTV and Digital Life services. For example, the Gear S3 Frontier can serve as a remote for DirecTV, allowing subscribers to watch and record shows, change channels, and pause/rewind programming. Together with the AT&T Digital Life app, S3 Frontier owners can set alarms, view camera images, and lock doors. The Tizen-based Gear S3 features a 46mm face with 1.3-inch round display, Exynos 7270 processor powers, 768MB of RAM, 4 GB of storage, and a 380mAh battery that Samsung claims can provide three to four days of uptime. The Gear S3 adds full support for Samsung Pay, including NFC and MST for mobile payments. AT&T is offering the watch for $17.50 per month for 20 months when purchased on an AT&T Next plan, or for $49.99 when purchased with a two-year agreement and a Samsung Galaxy smartphone on an AT&T Next plan. AT&T didn't say when the wearable will ship.