T-Mobile today said its postpaid customers will have access to free, high-speed mobile data throughout South America and select European countries for the rest of 2016. T-Mobile customers will not have to take any action to enjoy free international roaming in these countries. Travelers will have unlimited high-seed data, unlimited texting, and low-cost voice calls when abroad. The free roaming applies to all of South America, as well as Armenia, Austria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom in Europe. The promotion runs through Dec. 31, 2016. T-Mobile's Simple Global program has given travelers free access to 2G mobile data since 2013.
BlackBerry today said it will no longer make and sell its own smartphones. Instead, it will rely on original device manufacturers to design and make devices that will carry BlackBerry branding and software. The company employed this strategy earlier this year with the DTEK50, which was a rebranded Alcatel Idol 4. BlackBerry uses Google's Android platform as a base and hardens it with respect to bugs and security. It then packages this with its BlackBerry Suite of apps and services. "We are reaching an inflection point with our strategy," said CEO John Chen. "Our financial foundation is strong, and our pivot to software is taking hold. Under this strategy, we are focusing on software development, including security and applications. The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners." BlackBerry calls this its Mobility Solutions strategy. The company has already forged a licensing agreement with a telecom joint venture in Indonesia. BlackBerry announced the news along with its fiscal 2017 second quarter earnings report. The company generated $352 million in revenue, of which $156 million came from its software business.
BlackBerry today made its BlackBerry Hub+ suite of enterprise applications available to a wider range of devices. At the same time, it added five more apps to the suite. BlackBerry released Hub+ last month as a free trial for Android Marshmallow devices, but it was limited to the Hub, Calendar, and Password Keeper apps. Today, Hub+ becomes available to devices running Android 5 Lollipop and low-res Android 6 phones. Moreover, Hub+ now includes BlackBerry's Contacts, Tasks, Device Search, Notes, and Launcher apps. Hub+ is being offered to Android users for a free 30-day trial period and for 99 cents a month thereafter. For those not interested in the monthly fee, an ad-supported version of BlackBerry Hub, Calendar, Password Keeper, and Launcher will remain available. The Hub+ is the same software BlackBerry's own Priv and DTEK50 smartphones use for communications. The Hub+ provides a central place to manage email, text, IM, and social media messages. BlackBerry said it is still working to bring Hub+ to iOS.
AT&T and dozens of other companies are escalating the war on robocalls with a new Strike Force aimed at disrupting spammers' ability to call and pester consumers. AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson says carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers, regulators, and lawmakers will all need to work together to create a play book to tackle the problem. "In parallel with technological solutions, we need our regulatory and law enforcement agencies to go after the bad actors. Shutting down the bad guys is a necessary step, and a powerful example to others. Our goal isn't complicated: Stop unwanted robocalls. Easy to say. Hard to do," said Stephenson in remarks made at the FCC's first meeting of the Robocall Strike Force. Industry player are gathering today to discuss initial plans and are expected to report back with more solid short- and long-term plans on October 19. Some of the companies participating in the Strike Force include AT&T, Apple, Blackberry, Comcast, Ericsson, Google, LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.
BlackBerry today began rolling out a series of software updates to its Android-based handsets, the Priv and DTEK50. The upgraded software adds new features and improves functionality across various apps. The Hub gains pinch-to-filter, quick send, Viber integration, and Twitter refresh along with WhatsApp and other, general performance improvements, such as quicker load times for long email threads. BlackBerry tweaked the BlackBerry keyboard with quicker language switching, Chinese support, and an on-screen pointer mode for the Priv. The camera app now includes remote shutter triggering, video preview imagery, manual control settings, and a toggle for managing video capture resolution. The calendar adds support for free/busy suggestions for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync users and cleans up the event invite user interface. BlackBerry said Priv and DTEK50 owners can update these apps individually via the Google Play Store.
BlackBerry today announced BlackBerry Hub+, a software offering that brings the company's BBOS 10-based messaging control center to all Android devices running 6.0 Marshmallow and up. The bundle includes BlackBerry Hub, Calendar, and Password Keeper and is available on a trial basis for free for 30 days. After the trial ends, people can continue to use the suite for free as long as they agree to view some ads. Alternately, people can subscribe to BlackBerry Hub+ for $0.99 per month. The for-pay subscription adds Contacts, Tasks, Device Search, Notes, and Launcher to BlackBerry Hub+. The Hub+ is the same software BlackBerry's own Priv and DTEK50 use for communications. The one-stop-shop provides a central place to manage email, text, IM, and social media messages. BlackBerry says BlackBerry Hub+ will reach the Google Play Store later today. BlackBerry said it is working to bring Hub+ to devices running Android Lollipop and iOS.
BlackBerry's DTEK50 may be a rebadge of the Alcatel Idol 4, but it still manages to look and feel like a BlackBerry. This slim slab should appeal most to those who need enterprise-class security for their business smartphone. Here are Phonescoop's first impressions of the DTEK50.
BlackBerry today announced the DTEK50 smartphone, a slab-style handset that runs Android and features BlackBerry's signature communications and security software. BlackBerry says the DTEK50 features FIPS-2 hardware encryption, rapid security patching, secure boot process, and a hardened Android OS core. It includes Android for Work and Google Play for Work, as well as support for BlackBerry's full enterprise mobility management suite. Other features include BBM, BlackBerry Hub, the BlackBerry intelligent keyboard, and a customizable action key. The hardware is a rebadged version of the Alcatel Idol 4, which was announced earlier this year. The DTEK50 has a 5.2-inch full-HD LCD display, Snapdragon 617 processor with 3 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. It has a 13-megapixel camera main camera, 8-megapixel front camera, NFC, Cat 6 LTE, memory card slot, and Quick Charge 2.0. The phone ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The DTEK50 is available for preorder in the U.S. and other countries starting today for $299. BlackBerry said it will reveal shipping dates on a regional basis over the coming weeks.
AT&T is rolling out the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update to its variant of the BlackBerry Priv smartphone. The update includes core Marshmallow features, such as Doze and Now On Tap, as well as the June security update from Google. BlackBerry made its own security improvements, updated the keyboard and notifications, and refined battery life. The update is free download over the air.
Google today provided some information about its July security patch for Android devices. Notably, the patch will be separated into two moving forward. As per normal, the standard patch plugs a number of security holes that threaten all Android devices. Google found 22 vulnerabilities, of which it classified two as critical, or able to remotely execute code. Google is pushing a patch dated July 1 to cover these vulnerabilities. As always, it is pushing the patch directly to Nexus-branded devices and has already provided factory images for download. BlackBerry was among the first OEMs to commit to offering the patch to its own hardware. Google, however, detailed a second set of patches dated July 5 that cover hardware vulnerabilities on Nexus devices. For example, the July 5 patch fixes issues with Qualcomm, MediaTek, Nvidia, and other hardware drivers specific to Nexus phones, seven of which were classified as critical. Google said that, as far as it is aware, none of these holes have been exploited for nefarious purposes. Google has already given the patch to its OEM partners. It will be up to them to offer the patch to their own devices.
BlackBerry today said it will cease manufacturing the BlackBerry Classic handset. The Classic debuted in December 2014 and is one of the last devices from BlackBerry to run BlackBerry OS. The device featured a traditional BlackBerry design with a touchscreen and physical QWERTY keyboard. "It has been an incredible workhorse device for customers, exceeding all expectations," said BlackBerry. "But, the Classic has long surpassed the average lifespan for a smartphone in today's market. We are ready for this change so we can give our customers something better – entrenched in our legacy in security and pedigree in making the most productive smartphones." BlackBerry says it will continue to support the Classic and expects to roll out BBOS 10.3.3 in August. The device is still available online from select retailers. BlackBerry's most recent smartphone is the Priv, which runs Android. The Priv debuted in late 2015.
Responding to user feedback, Facebook plans to change how it ranks posts that appear in the news feed. Facebook says items posted by family and friends will be ranked higher than other content and thus should appear higher up in the news feed. Facebook explained how it approaches the news feed with a system of values. For example, friends and family come first. Facebook also wants the news feed to inform and to entertain — things its research says people want. At the same time, Facebook believes the news feed should be a platform for all ideas that generates engaging conversations while still leaving users in control. "Our top priority is keeping you connected to the people, places and things you want to be connected to — starting with the people you are friends with on Facebook," said the company in a blog post. The latest iteration to the news feed will roll out to all users over the coming weeks.
Google plans to change the results shown when people search for symptom-based information. Moving forward Google will show a list of related conditions to symptoms like stuffy nose, cough, or headache. The results will provide a description of the symptom itself, list possible self-treatment options, and alert when symptoms warrant a doctor visit. "Our goal is to help you to navigate and explore health conditions related to your symptoms, and quickly get to the point where you can do more in-depth research on the web or talk to a health professional," explained Google in a blog post. Google created a list of symptoms based on medical conditions that are often included in search results. The list was checked by medical professionals at the Harvard Medical School and Mayo Clinic in order to associate individual symptoms with potential ailments. Google warns that its search results are for informational purposes only and should not replace in-person consultations with physicians or other healthcare providers. The changed symptom-based search results will appear on mobile devices in the coming days.
Apple today showed off a new version of iMessage bound for iOS 10 that should help the app compete with the likes of Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. The new iMessage app makes it far easier to find and use emoji, which now appear bigger on the screen. A tool can automatically find every word that can be "emojified" and a simple tap will convert those words to the corresponding emoji. iMessage gains new emotion bubbles that convey the intensity of messages with small, medium, large, and huge text/animations. Users can create new stylized photos, and recipients can now react to those photos with "likes" and such. Apple Music previews shared through iMessage are playable without leaving iMessage. Most importantly, iMessage is now open to third-party developers. Apple believes developers can do really interesting things by adding their own extensions and functions to iMessage. For example, iMessage can support stickers that can be moved around and placed on photos before they are shared. Apple also showed off an app that makes it possible to collaborate on a lunch order through iMessage. The new iMessage is available on the iPhone and iPad, while the Mac and Apple Watch can receive (though not create) the richer messages.
Lenovo today announced the Phab 2 Pro, a smartphone aimed at helping people capture virtual and augmented reality content. It builds on the foundation set by the first Project Tango tablet, but is a smaller and more refined device. Lenovo designed the Phab 2 Pro in partnership with Google, which heads Project Tango. The device is a premium handset with an aluminum design, a 6.4-inch quad HD display, and a Snapdragon 652 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone has four cameras: an 8-megapixel selfie camera, a 16-megapixel main camera, a depth camera, and a motion-tracking camera. Lenovo says these latter two are core to helping create virtual/augmented reality content. The phone includes Dolby Atmos sound and is able to capture audio with Dolby 5.1 for more immersive sound. The Phab 2 Pro includes a 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging. It runs Android and will be available in September at Best Buy stores for $499.
Verizon Wireless said it will discontinue its $2.99 Visual Voicemail service come July 8. All customers who use the Visual Voicemail app will be transitioned to Verizon's free, basic voicemail service. Verizon says customers won't lose their existing voicemails, but may need to make room in their voicemail inbox, as well as reset their voicemail greeting. The list of phones impacted by the change is significant, including old and new models from BlackBerry, Casio, HTC, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Pantech, and Samsung. Verizon did not say why it is discontinuing the Visual Voicemail service.
Researchers at the University of Michigan have created software that adds 3D Touch-like functionality to just about any device. The software emits a high-frequency sound from the speaker and uses the microphone to listen to and analyze the sound. The sound changes as people interact with the device and can tell the difference between a light touch and a more firm press, or what happens when the phone is squeezed in various pattern. The benefit of the ForcePhone software is that it doesn't rely on special sensors or technology, and instead uses what's already available inside the phone. "Now this functionality can be realized on any phone," said Kang Shin, Professor of Computer Science in the U-M Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. "ForcePhone increases the vocabulary between the phone and the user. I think we're offering a natural interface, like how you turn a knob. It's the next step forward from a basic touch interface and it can complement other gestured communication channels and voice." Tung plans to demonstrate the technology next month, but hasn't announced any plans to commercialize it. The idea is nearly identical to one implemented by Elliptic Labs earlier this year.
BlackBerry today made software updates available to the Priv smartphone. The revised apps mostly fixes bugs, but also improves how well the camera and keyboard perform. For example, the camera app now includes manual mode so lets users adjust shutter speed, ISO, focus, white balance, and exposure. BlackBerry created some physical keyboard shortcuts for the camera, too, such as press-and-hold the letter A to return to auto mode, and press the spacebar to take a picture. The Priv's keyboard gains support for new languages, such as Vietnamese and Korean, and shortcuts such as CTRL + B to bold text or CTRL + U to underline text. BlackBerry says the new apps are available in the Google Play Store and will reach Priv devices over the next few days.
PayPal today said it will sunset its Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Amazon Fire Phone apps on June 30. After that date, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Fire Phone users will not be able to login to or use the Paypal mobile app. PayPay says these users will be able to sign in to PayPal.com via the browser of their device and conduct transactions online. PayPal further said all Android and iOS users of its mobile app need to upgrade to version 6.0 between June 3 and June 30. Version 6.0 of the PayPal mobile app has a fresh design. PayPal said it gave more prominent placement to features its customers use most, such as send and request money, PayPal balance, and transaction history. PayPal is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.
Google today said it has streamlined the developer tools needed to add Android Pay support to mobile apps and web sites. The company revised the APIs used by developers, who should now be able to enable Android Pay with just a few lines of code. Google hopes easing the process will convince more developers to adopt the burgeoning mobile payment service. Google recently expanded Android Pay to the UK, and plans to reach Australia and Singapore soon. Android Pay will soon add loyalty cards and promotions, as well.
The FCC and FTC today asked carriers and phone manufacturers how they handle security updates for their devices. The FCC sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and other carriers, while the FTC queried Apple, Blackberry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung. In particular, the agencies want to know: the factors carriers/OEMs consider in deciding whether to patch a vulnerability on a particular phone; data on the specific phones sold in the U.S. since August 2013; the vulnerabilities that have affected those devices; and whether and when the company patched such vulnerabilities. The government said the line of inquiry is to help it further understand how these companies do or do not protect consumers. "Consumers may be left unprotected, for long periods of time or even indefinitely, by any delays in patching vulnerabilities once they are discovered," said the FCC. "To date, operating system providers, original equipment manufacturers, and mobile service providers have responded to address vulnerabilities as they arise. There are, however, significant delays in delivering patches to actual devices — and that older devices may never be patched." Google provides monthly security updates to Nexus-branded Android devices, but individual phone makers lag badly. Apple provides occasional updates.
BlackBerry today said Ralph Pini will serve as the company's new Chief Operating Officer and General Manager for Devices. That puts Pini in charge of BlackBerry's smartphones. Pino takes over for Ron Louks, who recently left the company. Pini's priorities, according to BlackBerry, are to support customers using BlackBerry 10 handsets but also increase the selection of Android smartphones. The company believes it can rely on its security tools to increase the appeal of its smartphones over competitive devices. "BlackBerry is uniquely positioned to elevate Android as a more viable, hardened option to meet the demands of government and enterprise customers who need the highest levels of security. The bottom line, I want to give enterprise decision-makers everything they need," said Pini. Pini, who previously helped design the Motorola RAZR, reports to BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen.
Microsoft recently demonstrated new touchscreen technology that can anticipate users' actions and call up different controls, options, or menus to suit the current task. Pre-touch sensing helps the phone determine how the user is gripping the phone, as well as where the user's fingers are approaching the display. Using these cues, the device is able to provide adaptive user interfaces that are specific to the context of how the phone is being held and used. In a video, Ken Hinckley, principal researcher at Microsoft, shows how users can access video controls that vary depending on if the phone is being held in one or both hands. Pre-touch sensing can also help better differentiate between flicking gestures, selecting text, and highlighting content. The technology is in a developmental stage and Microsoft hasn't said if or when it may bring pre-touch sensing to consumer devices.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has agreed to investigate a complaint from Creative Technology / Creative Labs that accuses eight different smartphone makers of infringing on patents. The ITC is prepared to look at phones made by BlackBerry, HTC, Lenovo, LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony, and ZTE. Creative Labs says these companies are violating a patent related to media playback on mobile devices. The ITC did not say when it might make an initial ruling on the matter. Companies often use the ITC as a venue to settle trade disagreements because the ITC has the power to institute import bans.
BlackBerry Priv smartphone owners can now swipe across the keyboard to input text, rather than press individual letters. BlackBerry says Priv owners have to turn on Type By Swipe manually, and can choose to swipe either on the software keyboard or the physical keyboard. Turning on swipe, however, disables the existing swiping gestures (for accessing symbols, deleting entire words, etc.) that are part of the Priv's physical keyboard. BlackBerry said it is looking at ways to allow Type By Swipe and its other swiping gestures to work at the same time. The Type By Swipe input tool was added to the Priv with the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update. Privs still running Android 5.1 can access these features by installing a new version of the BlackBerry keyboard app, available in the Google Play Store.
BlackBerry today said it is expanding BBM video calling to Android devices. The feature is rolling out in the U.S. and Canada first in beta. BlackBerry says Android users should be able to make video calls to other BBM users on Android and BlackBerry devices. The company plans to monitor how BBM video calling functions within the beta. Most Android users should be able to take advantage of the feature right away, and aren't required to sign up. Video calling in BBM will be expanded to the iPhone and other regions over time, with a global launch scheduled for July.
BlackBerry today said Priv owners can expect to see the Android 6.0 Marshmallow system update hit their devices in the days ahead. BlackBerry has been testing Marshmallow on the Priv for a couple of weeks. In addition to all the usual Marshmallow trappings, the update brings with it 200 new emoji, more keyboard gestures, and enhanced word prediction. BlackBerry took steps to improve the launcher, which now offers more control over the home screen, and increase the number of apps compatible with BlackBerry Hub. The update includes the latest security patches from BlackBerry, allowing Priv owners to set custom personal data permissions, better manage notifications for privacy purposes, and make use of S/MIME for adding digital signatures and encryption to emails. Last, BlackBerry added several new options to the camera, including a wider range of video frame rates, such as slow-motion. BlackBerry said unlocked, non-carrier devices will see the update first, but all Priv's should receive Marshmallow shortly.
Microsoft is looking to clear inventory of the Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950 smartphones, which means consumers can buy one at full price and get the second one for free. The deal is available via Microsoft's U.S. web store. Specifically, people who purchase the 950 XL at $649 will receive a Lumia 950, valued at $549, for free. Both devices are being sold unlocked with support for GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The promotion is available while supplies last through May 2. Microsoft reported shipments of about 2.3 million Lumia phones in its most recent financial documents, which represents a steep drop from the 8.6 million it shipped in the year-ago period. The company admitted it is sitting on a lot of excess inventory of its flagship Windows 10 Mobile devices. Moreover, the company expects "year over year revenue declines to deepen as we work through our Lumia channel position." Cricket Wireless is expected to launch Microsoft's mid-range model, the Lumia 650, early next month. Microsoft has recently pushed a significant update to its Windows 10 Mobile platform and updated core apps such as email, Groove Music, and the Edge browser.
BlackBerry said AT&T has lowered the price of the the Priv smartphone by $100. The phone now costs $640 at full retail, instead of $740, or $199 with a two-year contract, instead of $250. The lowered monthly installment plan prices are $26.67 with AT&T Next 18, $31 with AT&T Next 12, or $16 with AT&T Next 12 with a downpayment of $192. The Priv has been available since late last year. It is a slider with a full QWERTY keyboard. The Priv runs Android rather than BlackBerry's own operating system.
Sprint appears to have had second thoughts about selling the BlackBerry Priv smartphone. In January, BlackBerry CEO John Chen said the device — initially an AT&T exclusive — would reach Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Since then, T-Mobile and Verizon have launched the Android-based slider. Sprint has not. When questioned on Twitter, the official SprintCares account told consumers, "Sorry to say but we will no longer carry the BlackBerry Priv. If this changes in the future we will update customers." When asked directly, a Sprint representative said to Phonescoop, "At this time, Sprint does not have an availability date to share for bringing a smartphone from BlackBerry into our device lineup." BlackBerry has not commented on Sprint's change in plans. BlackBerry sold only 600,000 smartphones during its most recent quarter and cut the Priv's retail price from $699 to $649.
BlackBerry has given the Priv a price cut. The smartphone maker dropped the price of the phone from $699 to $649. The company hopes the price drop will spur interest in the Android-based slider. The company sold about 600,000 smartphones during its most recent quarter, which was below expectations. BlackBerry has been transforming itself from a hardware business to a software and services business, but the company still needs hardware sales to generate revenue. BlackBerry CEO John Chen has said if the company cannot make money selling smartphones, it will exit the smartphone business entirely.
BlackBerry is opening the Android OS in Beta Zone program so consumers can download and test Android 6.0 Marshmallow on the Priv smartphone. BlackBerry says space in the beta program is limited. Consumers who bought their Priv directly from ShopBlackBerry, Amazon.com, or Carphone Warehouse will be admitted into the beta program first. Those who purchased the Priv through a wireless network operator will have to wait. Registration will be open for the next two weeks. BlackBerry expects to push the first beta to devices over-the-air during the second week of April. The program will last between four and eight weeks. BlackBerry said beta testers will be expected to enable background diagnostic reporting so performance data can be analyzed by BlackBerry's development team. BlackBerry hopes beta testers will also provide direct feedback concerning speed, stability, and other factors. Android 6.0 Marshmallow adds features such as Doze and Now On Tap.
BBM users now have more control over their messages thanks to an update BlackBerry made available to Android, BlackBerry, and iOS devices. All three platforms now have unlimited use of the Retract and Timer features. Retract lets users retract messages and images they no longer want the recipient to see. Timer gives users control over how long messages, pictures, or location details can be viewed by a message recipient. Previously, these features were reserved for BBM Premium subscribers, which carries a monthly fee. BlackBerry added other tools to BBM, including Private Chat (removes names and avatars) and Edit (allows editing of sent messages) functions, message forwarding, and bug fixes. Changes specific to Android include the ability to mute notifications, scroll through pictures, and save pictures to camera roll. The update adds support for Android 6.0 and improves BBM voice call quality. For Blackberry devices, the latest BBM makes it possible to retract or edit messages sent to groups, as well as delete messages from just the sender's view of the conversation. For iOS devices, BBM refreshes the chat screen experience, allows users to capture and share larger videos, adds support for multi-select mode to handle bulk tasks, and makes it possible to save images to the camera roll. BBM is free to download from the Google Play Store, BlackBerry World, and iTunes App Store.
Facebook has decided to cease supporting the BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS platforms. The company has chosen to discontinue its essential APIs for BlackBerry, effectively breaking the existing app. Earlier this week, the company updated the official BlackBerry Facebook app that replaced the native app with a simple web interface. BlackBerry users face a mandatory update to the Facebook app by March 31, at which point the app will cease to work on BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry 7.1 handsets. The change will impact BlackBerry 10 users more significantly, as Facebook functions will no longer be available through the BlackBerry Hub. This means messages, comments, notifications, and other content won't be pushed to the phone. Moreover, BB10 handsets will no longer be able to integrate Facebook contacts with their BlackBerry contacts, and won't be able to share photos and other content directly to Facebook. BlackBerry expressed disappointment with Facebook's decision. Last month, WhatsApp also announced plans to stop supporting BlackBerry.
Verizon Wireless has made a Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge buy-one, get-one deal of its own available to smartphone shoppers. Beginning today, customers who buy one Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge can receive a second one for free as long as the second one is activated on a new line. Both phones must be purchased through an installment plan. Verizon will give buyers a prepaid card for the value of the phone. Verizon customers who've already bought a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge are also eligible for a free phone if they choose to activate a new line. AT&T and T-Mobile have similar promotions running right now.
Verizon Wireless is now offering the BlackBerry Priv to customers. The device is available for purchase online beginning today, and will reach retail stores March 11. Verizon is selling the phone for $30 per month with an installment plan or at the full retail cost of $720. The Priv runs Android and has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The Priv is already available from AT&T and T-Mobile.
BlackBerry has updated several apps for the Priv smartphone and added several compelling features along the way. The Priv Launcher now includes separate views of personal and work apps, allows users to remove shortcuts from the home screen via flicking gestures, enables pop-up widgets by default, and improves overlays so users can see more information about apps and other settings. The Priv Camera gains better slow-motion video capture, which can now record at 120 frames per second. The Priv Keyboard app (for the on-screen software keyboard) improves predictive typing accuracy and control. For example, predictive typing can now learn words with numbers, and can suggest names from the contact app when users address emails. The keyboard app also gains refined cursor control and full-word delete. All three apps are free to download from the Google Play Store.
WhatsApp plans to cease supporting a handful of older mobile operating systems by the end of the year. WhatsApp will stop working on devices running Android 2.1 and 2.2; all BlackBerry OSes, including BlackBerry 10; Nokia's S40 and Symbian S60 platforms; and Windows Phone 7.1. "While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don't offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app's features in the future," explained WhatsApp in a blog post. WhatsApp suggests people relying on devices that run this operating systems upgrade to newer hardware if they wish to continue using WhatsApp. Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014 for $16 billion. Facebook says WhatsApp has more than 1 billion users worldwide.
More tech companies are backing Apple's position in the locked phone case against the FBI. Google and Facebook have said they'll file motions in support of Apple with the court, while Microsoft said it will file an amicus brief with the U.S. Department of Justice. Apple is refusing to help the FBI unlock a phone owned by the terrorist in the San Bernardino shootings. Apple believes doing so will put all iPhone owners at risk. A court has ordered Apple to unlock the device. The matter will reach court on March 1.
OmniVision today announced the OV13870, a camera sensor for mid-range and high-end smartphones that records full HD resolution video at 240 frames per second for the ultimate in slow motion playback. It can also capture 4K/2K video at 60 fps or 720p HD video at 300 fps. The OV13870 is a 13-megapixel sensor built on OmniVision's PureCel Plus-S pixel architecture, which are larger pixels meant to help improve low-light performance. The sensor has a 12-bit analog-to-digital converter, uses phase detection auto focus, and supports dual-camera functionality. The OV13870 is already sampling and is expected to enter mass production during the second quarter of the year.