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printed February 8, 2016
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VAIO Trots Out A Windows 10 Handset

Thursday, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

VAIO has unveiled a smartphone running Microsoft's Windows 10 platform for its home market of Japan. The VAIO Phone Biz is a stylish handset with aluminum unibody construction and mid-range specifications. It includes a 5.5-inch full HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 16 GB of storage, 3 GB of RAM, and a 2800mAh battery. The Phone Biz offers a 13-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera. It can run Microsoft's Continuum software, which allows it to act like a full Windows 10 PC when hooked up to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. VAIO will sell the phone in Japan for approximately $424 beginning in April. VAIO is Sony's former PC business, which it spun off several years ago. The VAIO Phone Biz won't be sold in the U.S., but is notable due to its design and the fact that it is the first VAIO-branded Windows smartphone. The VAIO Phone Biz isn't as capable on a spec basis as Microsoft's own Lumia 950 and 950 XL phones, but it is more stylish and less expensive.


Microsoft Buys SwiftKey Software Keyboard Maker

Wednesday, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Wednesday, 8:30 AM

Microsoft today said it has acquired SwiftKey, a company that develops software keyboards for Android and iOS devices. SwiftKey has strong word prediction capabilities, and is often able to suggest not only the word being typed, but what word might come next. Microsoft said SwiftKey's technology aligns with its own vision of "personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands." Microsoft also finds SwiftKey's use of artificial intelligence and prediction interesting. SwiftKey employees will be added to Microsoft's roster, where they will continue their work and enhance Microsoft's own Word Flow software keyboard for Windows. Microsoft said the SwiftKey app will continue to be available to Android and iOS devices. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.


Turing Phone Drops Android for Sailfish OS

Feb 2, 2016, 4:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Turing Robotics Industries today informed those who preordered its smartphone that the device will ship with Sailfish OS instead of Android. The Turing Phone was first announced last year. Turing Robotics pitched the phone as an ultra-secure handset for those seeking private communications. When first announced, Turing said the phone would run Android 5.1 Lollipop. In a newsletter emailed to supporters, however, Turing confirmed plans to drop Android for Jolla's Sailfish OS. Turing says its phone "will still be able to run Android Apps on the Sailfish OS without issue" and "an Android application store will be available for you to download your favorite apps." A Turing representative could not tell Phonescoop if the Android app store referenced in the newsletter is the Google Play Store or some other Android app store. Turing claims the phone runs very quickly with Sailfish OS on board and the company expects the phone to ship in April. Sailfish OS was created by Jolla, composed chiefly of former Nokia employees. Sailfish is based on the discarded Meego Linux platform. Late last year, Jolla ran into financial difficulties and laid off a significant portion of its staff. The company also cancelled its hardware plans, including a phone and tablet. Jolla now exists to license Sailfish OS to other OEMs. Turing is one of the first companies to voice support for the fledgling platform.


Nokia and Samsung Settle Patent Licensing Deal

Feb 1, 2016, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it has reached an agreement with Samsung over the licensing of its wireless patents. The companies have been disputing the value of Nokia's patents since Nokia sold its handset division to Microsoft. Samsung said the sale violated the terms of the existing licensing agreement between the two. The firms have finally set new licensing terms, but did not disclose the financial details. Nokia is facing a similar issue with LG, and is expected to renegotiate licensing terms with Apple in the next few years. Even though Microsoft owns Nokia's former handset business, Nokia maintained ownership of its patent portfolio, which it continues to license out to other companies. Nokia's core business, however, is now its telecommunications networking equipment division. Nokia is currently integrating its telecom gear business with Alcatel-Lucent.


Microsoft Office for iOS Adds 3D Touch

Jan 21, 2016, 11:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Apple's iOS platform with a handful of new features. Most significantly, the Office productivity suite now supports 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, which can be used to call up actions such as opening or creating files. All three apps also gain support for the Apple Pencil for use with the iPad Pro, and compatibility with iOS 9's Spotlight Search tool. Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are free to download from the iTunes App Store, though some features require a subscription to Office 365.


Cricket Offers Discounted Phones to Switchers

Jan 21, 2016, 8:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless is looking to entice people to switch to its network by offering discounts on a number of smartphones. Beginning January 22, consumers who port their number to Cricket can buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 for $399.99, a savings of $100 over the normal retail price. Cricket is making similar discounts, ranging from $20 to $50, available to a dozen other devices, including the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 ($109.99), ZTE Grand X Max ($99.99), HTC Desire 626s ($89.99), and Microsoft Lumia 640 ($79.99). The promotion runs for a limited time. Cricket's service plans start at $40 per month. Wireless carriers are competing for customers fiercely. With most Americans already carrying a smartphone, the only way for carriers to score new customers is to steal them from rivals.


Nokia Gains Control of Alcatel-Lucent

Jan 4, 2016, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 4, 2016, 1:46 PM

Nokia today said it has officially taken the reigns of Alcatel-Lucent after its public exchange offer for Alcatel-Lucent was accepted by the French stock market authority. Nokia expects to merge the two companies in order to form a telecommunications powerhouse to compete against Ericsson, ZTE, and others. "We will move quickly to execute our integration plans," said Rajeev Suri, President and CEO of Nokia. "Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent will offer a combined end-to-end portfolio of the scope and scale to meet the needs of our global customers. We will have unparalleled R&D and innovation capabilities, which we will use to lead the world in creating next-generation technology and services." Nokia already divested its handset business to Microsoft and its HERE mapping business to a consortium of automakers. The telecommunications business is now Nokia's core focus.


Microsoft Nixes 'Hey, Cortana' from Android App

Dec 21, 2015, 3:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has removed the Hey, Cortana catchphrase from the Cortana app for Android devices. Uttering the phrase within earshot of an Android handset could launch Cortana. A bug, however, locked up Google Now on some users' devices an in some instances impeded the ability to make phone calls. A recent update to the Android Cortana removes the Hey, Cortana feature and makes several other tweaks, such as improving calling and messaging actions. Microsoft did not say if or when the feature might return. Cortona is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Jolla Rises from the Ashes With New Focus

Dec 18, 2015, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today said it has secured new financing and will thus continue operations. The company recently laid off a large percentage of workers after it appeared the funding wouldn't go through. Jolla didn't name its new investors, but said it has secured enough cash to move forward with a somewhat altered business model. "This investment enables the continuation of Sailfish OS development, the community activities, and other company operations," said Jolla co-founder and chairman Antti Saarnio. "It's clear that this recent struggle hit us hard and left some battle wounds, but most importantly this means that the development and life of Sailfish OS will continue strong." Jolla will now focus the bulk of its energy on improving and advancing Sailfish OS, and licensing the platform to hardware makers. Saarnio said good licensing opportunities exist in Russia, India, and China. Jolla will soon determine how best to resolve issues with its tablet. Jolla invested the bulk of the capital generated by crowd-funding efforts in the software, rather than the hardware. This has left Jolla unable to complete the tablet. Jolla wants to take care of its supporters, but hasn't yet figured out how. Jolla firmly believes the world needs an alternate mobile operating system to today's market leaders. "The mobile OS landscape is currently going through a very interesting phase. While many OS projects are fading, the need for alternative OS's is strong," said Saarnio. Sailfish OS is based on Linux, with code pulled from Nokia's discarded Maemo platform. The company, based in Finland, is chiefly composed of former Nokia employees.


Microsoft Pushes New Preview of Windows 10

Dec 16, 2015, 1:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released Windows 10 Technical Preview build 11082 to members of the Windows Insider program. According to Microsoft, this preview chiefly impacts the OneCore, which is the heart of Windows across all platforms. The updated OneCore code improves stability and performance for phones, tablets, and PCs. The changes to the OneCore will also make sure developers are able to code and check their own apps for Windows 10 devices. Microsoft says Windows Insiders can expect to see more frequent updates beginning January 2016.


Microsoft Updates Groove Music and Movie Apps

Dec 9, 2015, 3:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is delivering a significant update to its Groove music app for Windows 10 Mobile. The company is also updating the Movies and TV application. Groove for Windows 10 Mobile now automatically sorts songs by the date they were added, though it is easy to view by song, artist, and album as well. The secondary menu can be accessed by swiping from the left for improved one-handed use. A long press will scramble tracks within a playlist. The app shows download progress in the title bar and lets users access the download manager from the left navigation menu. Groove interacts with Cortana, which will respond to requests such as "Play Rock" to start listening to shuffled rock songs. The update also improves how Groove music performs through Continuum (when connected to monitors). The artist gallery now has better spacing and alignment, and the artist detail pages are improved with larger resolutions. Search results now look better at higher resolutions, too. The update to Microsoft Movies and TV applies to the universal app, which means smartphones, tablets, and PCs. It now shows cast and crew information, queues up sequential TV episodes, and features a better downloading experience. Groove music and Movies and TV are free to download from the Microsoft Store.


Microsoft Lumia 550 Goes On Sale

Dec 7, 2015, 8:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said its affordable Windows 10 Mobile handset, the Lumia 550, is now available in select markets. The 550 offers a 4.7-inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and 2-megapizel front camera. It uses a 1.1 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor and includes 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Microsoft hasn't announced a U.S. version of the Lumia 550, and it's unclear if it will ever be made available here. It costs $139.


Nokia Closes Sale of HERE Business to Car Companies

Dec 4, 2015, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it has closed the sale of its HERE Maps business to a consortium of automobile manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, and Daimler. The sale leaves its telecommunications equipment unit as Nokia's core concern moving forward. The company already divested its handset business to Microsoft, and expects to close its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent early next year.


Microsoft Adds Business Intelligence to Cortana's Bag of Tricks

Dec 1, 2015, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has given its business customers a new tool by integrating its Power BI product into Cortana. Power BI provides access to company-specific data, such as financial filings and performance reports. Together with Cortana, Power BI allows Windows 10 users to ask Cortana for information such as average sales prices of core products, or recent revenue numbers. Microsoft says the idea is to make it easier and more natural for people to ask for and receive data about their company. Microsoft is offering Power BI to Windows 10 desktop users as a preview. Microsoft didn't say if or when Power BI integration might reach Windows 10 Mobile.


Jolla Announces Layoffs Amidst Restructuring

Nov 20, 2015, 10:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today said the company is restructuring its finances and laying off the bulk of its employees. Jolla was launched by former Nokia employees and created Sailfish OS and several phones and tablets. The idea was to offer an alternative to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Sailfish was built from Nokia's old Moblin and Maemo Linux platforms. Jolla Chairman and Co-Founder Antti Saarnio says Sailfish OS is commercially mature and ready to be licensed to other hardware makers. Jolla has burned through most of its cash, however, and needs to take time to regroup. The company will let go of the majority of its employees while restructuring its debt, although it insists the layoffs are temporary. "In Finland we have very good laws for corporate restructuring. These enable the continuation of businesses through debt restructuring, which gives a company more time to take care of its financial liabilities," said Saarnio. "I believe that through this program Jolla can turn its business to be profitable in the future. Sailfish OS is a very valuable asset and worth fighting for." Saarnio claims Jolla has several large and small OEMs considering Sailfish OS for their own hardware. He did not suggest how long it might take for Jolla to get its finances back in order, nor when it might re-hire its employees.


Cricket Tempts Switchers with $100 Reward

Nov 20, 2015, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today kicked off a promotions to entice consumers to port their number to Cricket. People who switch to Cricket between today and Dec. 6 will earn a $100 Cricket Shopping Card. The card can be used for monthly service, handsets, and accessories at Cricket stores. Cricket said it will let new customers combine this deal with existing mail-in rebate promos on select phones to save even more money. For example, Cricket is offering the LG Risio, Motorola Moto E, Nokia Lumia 635, and the ZTE Overture 2 for free after rebates. The rebates are available to all customers through Jan. 7. The $100 gift card is only available to new customers.


Microsoft Delivers Another Preview of Windows 10 Mobile

Nov 19, 2015, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview build 10586 available to Windows Insiders. This build focuses on cleaning up bugs, according to Microsoft. For example, Microsoft resolved an issue that corrupted the Start screen. It also made it possible to set memory cards as the default storage location and cleaned up corruption issues that renamed memory cards. Messaging and Skype have been improved with conversation-loading fixes. The camera button on phones that have them should be working once more. Last, apps and games should download from the Microsoft Store more reliably. There are still some known issues in the preview, but Microsoft says the build performs well. Windows 10 Mobile is nearing public readiness. Microsoft has said the operating system will reach consumers in December. This week also marks the launch of the first Windows 10 Mobile smartphones. Microsoft has made the Lumia 950 and 950 XL available from its web site, and AT&T is selling the Lumia 950 in stores starting Friday.


Microsoft's Android-App-Porting Tool May Be Shelved

Nov 16, 2015, 8:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has dialed back efforts to port Android apps to the Windows 10 platform, reports Windows Central. In April, Microsoft announced plans to allow app writers to port iOS, web, Win32, and Android apps to the Windows 10 platform. The Android tool, called Project Astoria, is an emulator and not an actual port. This means Android apps would run in a software container on Windows devices, rather than on the device natively. Windows Central says Project Astoria forums have been silent for several months and Microsoft hasn't responded to Astoria-focused questions for some time, even to those under NDA. Moreover, recent Windows 10 Mobile Technical Previews have stripped out the Android subsystem. When asked for comment, Microsoft said, "We're committed to offering developers many options to bring their apps to the Windows Platform, including bridges available now for web and iOS, and soon Win32. The Astoria bridge is not ready yet, but other tools offer great options for developers." Microsoft didn't expressly say Project Astoria has been cancelled, but the Android port is clearly no longer a priority. The idea behind all these app-porting tools is to get more apps onto Windows-based handsets. One of the major critiques of Windows mobile phones has been the poor app experience when compared to Android and iOS devices.


Latest Windows 10 Preview from Microsoft Fixes Bugs

Oct 29, 2015, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released another technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile. Rather than stuff the release with new features, Microsoft said it focused on cleaning up bugs and improving performance. Chiefly, build 10581 will allow people to upgrade from earlier preview builds without first reverting to Windows Phone 8.1; testers can go straight from 10549 or 10572 to 10581. Microsoft resolved an issue that prevented "Hey, Cortana" from functioning on the Lumia 930 and 1520; made it possible to select photos for sharing through third-party messaging apps; and tweaked text prediction and auto-correct. Microsoft says battery life should be improved, as should video recording and visual voicemail syncing. The Windows 10 Mobile technical preview is not for consumers and is for testing purposes only. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 Mobile to the general public in December.


Microsoft May Give Windows 10 Mobile Payments

Oct 20, 2015, 2:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is weighing what to do with the mobile wallet app that's part of the Windows 10 Mobile platform. The operating system already has a basic wallet app (since Windows Phone 8) for storing credit card and loyalty card data, but it stops short of making mobile payments. Joe Belfiore, corporate VP of Microsoft's operating systems group, said, "Windows is going to have a wallet concept. You've seen it on phones before. We're going to continue to iterate it. We're going to think about the range of payment scenarios." Belfiore did not say if or when any type of mobile payment service might launch, nor what technology it might rely on. However, the spec page for the recently announced Lumia 950 says the smartphone includes "secure NFC for payment." When asked exactly what that referred to, Microsoft told Phone Scoop, "We have nothing to share." Belfiore admitted that mobile payments are not easy to implement. "[Mobile payments] is just one of these things that is a massive network of complexity," Belfiore said. "I think the biggest challenge is, what effect will cause enough of the right things to align that you’ll get a good experience with all the places that you want it to happen in?" Apple, Google, and Samsung all offer mobile payment platforms that vary a bit in how they function. Despite support from handset makers, carriers, retailers, and financial institutions, mobile payments have yet to go mainstream. Even so, it would behoove Microsoft to make sure its smartphone platform can compete with the industry leaders.

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China Approves Nokia's Alcatel-Lucent Acquisition

Oct 19, 2015, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia's attempt to acquire Alcatel-Lucent has cleared another hurdle now that it has won approval from China's Ministry of Commerce. The anti-monopoly body will allow the proposal to move forward under certain conditions, which mostly pertain to licensing standard essential patents. The deal has already won approval from most governmental bodies around the world and is awaiting only for approval from France, Alcatel-Lucent's home country. Nokia expects to close the deal during the first half of 2016.


Microsoft Pushes Another Preview to Windows 10 Phones

Oct 14, 2015, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview build 10549 available to testers in the Windows Insider program. Microsoft says a bug in the new preview mandates that devices first downgrade to Windows Phone 8.1, rather than install from the most recent technical preview (10536). People already using one of the technical previews can revert to Windows Phone 8.1 using the Windows Recovery Tool. Once WP8.1 is loaded and the Windows Insider app is re-installed, Fast Ring subscribers can update to 10549. The new build makes improvements to Cortana and the messaging application, and adds a more diverse set of emoji. Microsoft said it has resolved some bugs impacting the previous build, such as the camera, notifications, screenshots, and apps stored on memory cards. Microsoft also notes that pinch-to-zoom should work properly within maps, and some ringtone behaviors have been smoothed over. As always, the technical preview includes some known issues, and Microsoft warns that the build is for testing purposes only and not meant for consumers. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 Mobile to the general public in December.


Windows 10 to Reach Phones In December

Oct 7, 2015, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has revealed via its Facebook page that Windows 10 Mobile will be made available to a handful of Lumia phones in December. The initial list of handsets on deck to receive the update include the Lumia 430/435, 532, 535, 540, 635, 640/XL, 735, 830, and the Lumia 930. Microsoft said the devices will need to be running the Lumia Denim update to Windows Phone 8.1 in order to install Windows 10 Mobile. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL, available in November, will be the first handsets to ship with Windows 10 Mobile.


Hands On with the Lumia 550

Oct 6, 2015, 1:51 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 6, 2015, 2:04 PM

The 550 is Microsoft's new affordable Windows 10 phone. It has a remarkably low price for a device with an HD screen. How "affordable" does it feel in person? Read on to find out.

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Hands on with the Lumia 950 and XL

Oct 6, 2015, 12:56 PM   by Rich Brome

The Lumia 950 is Microsoft's flagship phone for Windows 10. It continues the Lumia line while showcasing the new, unified Windows 10. Not only can it run the same Universal apps that run on Windows 10 desktops, it can transform into a desktop computer itself with a dock accessory, running the same apps in desktop mode. It has high-end features and classic Lumia design. So how is it in person? Read on to find out.

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Microsoft Announces Affordable Lumia 550

Oct 6, 2015, 10:04 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 6, 2015, 10:46 AM

Microsoft today revealed a new, affordable Windows phone called the Lumia 550. For just $140, it offers a 4.7-inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5-megapixel camera, front camera, and Windows 10. It uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor. A version for US networks was not immediately announced. It will be available in December for $139.


Lumia 950 is Microsoft's Flagship Windows 10 Phone

Oct 6, 2015, 9:52 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 6, 2015, 10:48 AM

Microsoft today announced the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, its own flagship phones for its new OS, Windows 10. The phones support Windows Continuum for an optional full Windows Desktop experience when connected to a desktop monitor. The two models are similar, differing mostly in screen size; the 950 has a 5.2-inch screen, while the larger 950 XL has a 5.7-inch screen. Both screen offerings are OLED and Quad-HD resolution, the best available. Leveraging OLED technology, the phones also offer Lumia's low-power Glance notification display. Both phones also sport 20-megapixel cameras with Zeiss optics, triple-LED flash, optical image stabilization, and a dedicated camera button. Both phones also come with 32 GB of internal storage, plus a memory card slot supporting up to 2 TB. The phones are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 or 810 processors, with liquid cooling. The phones also sport USB Type-C connectors with fast data transfer and fast charging. A new Microsoft Display Dock accessory enables Windows Continuum. The Dock connects to the phone via USB-C, and to a desktop monitor via HDMI or DisplayPort. It also has tree USB ports for keyboard and accessories. Connected to the Dock, the phone can be used as a full Windows desktop running desktop versions of Windows Universal apps, including Office and Outlook. When using the Dock, the phone can access files on USB storage. Both phones will be available in November, for $549 and $649, for the 950 and 950 XL, respectively.

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New Microsoft Band has Curved Screen

Oct 6, 2015, 9:35 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced a new version of its Band wearable wrist device. The fitness-centric Band sports a curved color OLED display with Gorilla Glass, and a rubber strap. Like its predecessor, it tracks GPS coordinates, UV exposure, and heart rate. New in this version is a barometer for measuring altitude, and better integration with the Cortana assistant. Features include guided workouts, sleep tracking, calorie counting, and smart phone notifications. The Band integrates with the Microsoft Health app, which provides details fitness tracking and stats. The Band also has extensive golf functions, tracking swing information and more. It also supports apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Starbucks, RunKeeper, and more. The new Microsoft Band can be pre-ordered today and ships October 30. It will sell for $249.

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Facebook Commits to Windows 10

Oct 6, 2015, 9:13 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced that Facebook is building Windows Universal apps for Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram. The new apps will run natively on Windows 10 for Mobile phones.

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Wireless Companies Agree to Support More Remote Wipe Tools

Oct 2, 2015, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The CTIA today announced that a number of member companies have agreed to take on additional measures to help prevent cellphone thefts. Following recommendations made by the FCC, wireless companies will make anti-theft tools available to all consumers that also respect consumer choice and privacy. All new phones made after July 2016 will "make readily available to the authorized user an option that allows the authorized user to enable or disable the anti-theft solution at any time that the smartphone is connected and is in the authorized user's possession." Beyond this baseline tool, consumers will have the option to use other, third-party solutions to locate, wipe, or reinstate their devices if they so wish. Companies that have agreed to this include Apple, Asurion; AT&T; BlackBerry; Google; HTC; Huawei; LG; Microsoft; Motorola; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; Verizon, and ZTE. In response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "CTIA members' ... enhanced voluntary commitment to adopt anti-theft features and educate consumers demonstrates their resolve in combatting it. I am hopeful that this new voluntary commitment will make a meaningful difference for consumer safety. As the enhanced commitment recognizes, these solutions work only if they are adopted widely. The FCC will remain vigilant in this area by pushing for further improvements to the theft-prevention toolbox, and also by monitoring closely whether the efforts of industry and others are producing meaningful results." Apple's iOS and Google's Android already contain features that let device owners find and protect their mobile devices. The FCC hopes allowing people to download and use the protective measure of their choice will help encourage consumers to make broader use of the tool.


Google and Microsoft Bury the Patent Hatchet

Sep 30, 2015, 4:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Microsoft today announced that they have settled various patent squabbles and dropped about 20 lawsuits between them in the U.S. and Germany. The two companies have been tussling over mobile and wireless technology since 2010. In addition to putting their arguments to rest, the companies have agreed to work together on certain technologies, such as video compression, moving forward. "Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers," said the companies. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.


Microsoft Slips Up, Posts Lumia 950 and 950XL to Web Site

Sep 30, 2015, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft revealed a few details about the unannounced Lumia 950 and 950 XL smartphones on its UK-based web site. The phones will be the first to ship with Windows 10 Mobile on board, Microsoft's new operating system. The web site lists only a couple of specs. Shared features include 20-megapixel cameras with Zeiss optics, 32GB of storage, and support for 2TB memory cards. The 950 sports a 5.2-inch quad HD screen, while the 950 XL offers a larger 5.7-inch quad HD screen. Microsoft is expected to announce the handsets in full at an event in New York scheduled for Oct. 6.


Nokia's Alcatel-Lucent Acquisition Clears CFIUS

Sep 15, 2015, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has approved its proposed acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. CFIUS' approval was the last regulatory hurdle in the US, which has already been approved by the Justice Dept. Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent still have several other regulatory bodies to clear in other countries, as well as Nokia shareholders, but still believe the transaction will close during the first half of 2016.


Microsoft Releases New Windows 10 Mobile Preview

Sep 14, 2015, 6:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made a new version of the Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview available to Windows Insiders. The fresh operating system, build 10536, contains a wide array of bug fixes and performance tweaks, as well as a handful of new features. For example, build 10536 brings back the Insider Hub and mobile hotspot; updates voice input with support for Japanese and Indian English; resolves two-factor authentication issues and Start screen load problems; and fixes the quiet hours / do not disturb function. The photos app adds a folder view and brings faster photo viewing and context menus. Last, the build brings one-handed mode to phones of all sizes (not just large handsets). Microsoft warns that there are still a number of bugs plaguing the preview. For example, the camera app may no longer automatically upload images to OneDrive. Otherwise, Microsoft is pitching build 10536 as a much more stable and complete rendition of the operating system. The Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview is available to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring. Users will need to update their devices twice — first to Build 10514, then to Build 10536 — before the new preview is fully installed. Microsoft has yet to say when it will make a final version of Windows 10 Mobile available to the general public, though it has scheduled a media event in New York City on Oct. 6. It is possible Microsoft will share such details during that event.


Jolla Pushing Sailfish OS 2.0 to Early Adopters

Sep 9, 2015, 8:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today began distributing Sailfish OS 2.0 to members of its early access group. Jolla, a company formed by former Nokia employees, first revealed Sailfish OS 2.0 in March. The platform is more compatible with Android applications thanks to a stronger technical core. Jolla improved the platform's multitasking capabilities, tweaked the user interface, added privacy and personalization features, and simplified interacting with notifications thanks to swiping gestures. Jolla said the improved OS is meant to provide a more premium experience. This particular release introduces a carousel home screen and a new app grid that can be accessed from any screen. The buttons and icons have a fresher visual style, as do the calendar, store, clock, and email apps. Jolla took pains to improve the camera, which now records video in the H.264 format. The events tool offers more data regarding notifications, and an improved weather widget shows the five-day forecast. Jolla made changes specific to the tablet version of the operating system, as well. Jolla said members of the early access group should receive Sailfish OS 2.0 starting today. Sailfish was born from Nokia's discarded Maemo and Moblin Linux platforms. Earlier this summer the company separated its hardware and software businesses.


Verizon Looking to Be First to Deploy 5G

Sep 8, 2015, 8:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless wants to stay ahead of the curve and be among the first to launch fifth-generation (or 5G) wireless network technology. The company plans to begin field tests at its Innovation Centers, which are dedicated sandboxes for testing apps and services, located in San Francisco and Waltham, Mass., at some point in 2016. Verizon will use gear supplied by partners Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Samsung to conduct the trials. Moreover, Verizon expects to reach "some level of commercial deployment" as soon as 2017, according to Roger Gurnani, chief information and technology architect for Verizon. Verizon's timeline is ambitious, especially considering 5G hasn't been defined. The International Telecommunications Union only agreed on the basic framework for developing what will eventually become the 5G wireless data specification in June of this year. The 5G roadmap is being referred to as IMT-2020, which the ITU hopes to have finalized by the year 2020. The core definition of 5G will be wireless networks that can transmit data at speeds up to 20Gbps. Most of today's LTE networks are allowing for connections as fast as 50Mbps in real-world conditions. Verizon's Gurnani said the company is targeting real-world speeds that are 30 to 50 times faster than current LTE 4G. Verizon didn't say if it intends to adhere to the ITU's vision for what 5G technology should truly be. Verizon is the first U.S. network operator to put 5G on its public roadmap, but others are sure to follow quickly.


Microsoft Avoids Import Ban in InterDigital Case

Aug 29, 2015, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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


Nokia Forges China Joint Venture to Win Alca-Lu Approval

Aug 28, 2015, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia has signed a memorandum of understanding with a China government-backed investment company called Huaxin in order to encourage approval of its proposed acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. The acquisition has already been approved by U.S. and E.U. antitrust bodies, but is awaiting China's decision. The joint venture, named Nokia Shanghai Bell, will mirror one Alcatel-Lucent had in place with Huaxin and may facilitate China's approval of the deal. Nokia will hold 50% of the company plus one share, and Huaxin will hold the rest. Nokia believes merging with Alcatel-Lucent will allow it to better compete with companies such as Ericsson and ZTE, which also provide network operators with telecommunications equipment.


Microsoft Trots Out Nokia 222 Feature Phone

Aug 25, 2015, 7:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the Nokia 222, a bar-style feature phone that runs Nokia Series 30+ and includes only the most essential functions. The Nokia 222's core apps include MSN Weather, Bing Search, Opera Mini, as well as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter. The device has a 2.4-inch QVGA display, an 1,100mAh battery, and a 2-megapixel camera. Other features include Bluetooth 3.0, stereo headphone jack and FM radio, support for 32GB memory cards, and SLAM photo-sharing technology. The Nokia 222 goes on sale in September and will cost about $37. Based on its limited dual-band 900/1800MHz GSM/EDGE support, the phone will likely not be sold in the U.S.


Microsoft to Close Nokia Finnish Phone Production Site

Aug 21, 2015, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today confirmed it plans to fully close a facility in Salo, Finland, that was formerly used to create and produce mobile phones. Microsoft will leave the Nokia facilities in Espoo and Tampere open, but plans to cut about 2,300 jobs in Finland in total. Last month, Microsoft announced plans to slice 7,800 people from its headcount, including most of the phone hardware business it purchased from Nokia.


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