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printed November 29, 2015
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BlackBerry Loses Sales Exec

Wednesday, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry confirmed that Eric Johnson, the executive in charge of sales for business and government customers, has departed the company. BlackBerry's core business is providing device management software to exactly these types of customers. BlackBerry did not elaborate on the terms of Johnson's departure, but he filled a vital role in the company. BlackBerry has spent years attempting to rebuild its business. BlackBerry's handset division may have recently released the Android-based Priv smartphone, but sales of handsets have dwindled to fewer than one million devices per quarter. The bulk of BlackBerry's revenue comes from its BES product suite.

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.

Verizon Offering 1GB of Free Data for the Holidays

Nov 20, 2015, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless customers can snag an extra 1GB of mobile data this month from Big Red. The promotional data offer can be redeemed online and will be added to the account holder's existing data allotment for the current billing period. Verizon said customers can get another free 1GB of data for their next billing period, too. Verizon is offering a range of other freebies to its customers in what it calls its "Thanksgetting" promotion. For example, people who shop online Nov. 25 can get a $5 iTunes gift card or a 30-day trial of Pandora One. Other freebies come from Lyft, Boingo, Gogo, and Amazon.

Hands On with the BlackBerry Priv

Nov 19, 2015, 8:17 PM   by Rich Brome

The Priv is BlackBerry's new flagship phone, but it's also much more than that. As the company's first phone to use Google's Android instead of a BlackBerry OS, it represents a major new strategic direction. It also comes as the company is considering whether or not to continue making phones at all, so its success is crucial. The Priv has a premium design with a slide-out keyboard, curved-edge screen, and high-end camera. How is it in person? Read on to find out.

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Sprint Offering 50% Off Competitors' Rates

Nov 18, 2015, 11:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 18, 2015, 11:18 AM

Sprint said beginning November 20, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon customers who switch their number to Sprint will save 50% off their old rate plan. The 50% savings will be available to switchers through Jan. 8, 2018. Sprint is also offering up to $650 in reimbursement for ETFs and other fees, but requires new customers to trade in their old smartphone. The promotion is limited to a maximum of 10 lines per account. Subsidized devices require an extra $25 per month fee. The half-rate plan does not extend to unlimited music/video streaming, data carryover, tethering, or cloud services. Mobile hotspot consumption is pulled from the shared data plan. The discount does not apply to taxes, surcharges, add-ons, apps, premium content, or international services. Discounts vary based on the rates charged by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Not all competitor rate plans apply. Sprint offered a similar promotion last year.

Verizon Says BlackBerry Priv 'Coming Soon'

Nov 8, 2015, 10:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless took to its Twitter account to tease the BlackBerry Priv smartphone. "Priv by BlackBerry. The first-ever BlackBerry powered by Android. Coming soon," said the company. A link in the Tweet leads to a landing page on Verizon's web site where people can register for updates concerning the Priv. The Priv went on sale in the U.S. this week. It is a vertical slider with a 5.4-inch screen, physical QWERTY keyboard, and an 18-megapixel camera. It costs $699.

Sprint Offering Smartphone Buyers Free Amazon Prime

Nov 6, 2015, 9:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today unfurled a promotion that will award customers a year of Amazon Prime for free with the purchase of a new Samsung smartphone. Customers need to purchase or lease one of the newer Samsung smartphones, including the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note 5. Sprint will then send a text message with a link to Amazon Prime, which customers may redeem for free. Amazon Prime normally carries a price of $99 per year. Prime includes free two-day shipping, unlimited access to streaming Prime Videos and Prime Music, as well as unlimited storage in Prime Photos. Sprint is also offering to lease the Galaxy S6 for $10 per month with a qualifying trade-in. This offer will be available for a limited time.

BlackBerry to Actively Patch the Priv Android Phone

Nov 4, 2015, 3:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry laid out its plans to secure the Priv in a blog post today. The company has devised a three-pronged approach to keeping the Priv secure in the face of outside threats. First, BlackBerry will issue the monthly security patches offered by Google. It will do so directly to handsets as well as through carriers and other reseller partners. Second, BlackBerry will force feed hotfixes directly to devices — circumventing carriers — when critical flaws need immediate resolution. Third, BlackBerry will give IT admins the ability to control which devices receive security updates and when those updates are delivered. Blackberry said it is committed to maintaining the security of its first Android handset, which is available for order online.

AT&T to Sell BlackBerry Priv November 6

Nov 2, 2015, 11:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today revealed its launch plans for the BlackBerry Priv smartphone, which reaches stores Nov. 6. Customers will have several purchasing options for the phone. The Priv will cost $24.67 per month with a Next 24 plan, $30.84 with a Next 18 plan, or $37 with a Next 12 plan. Alternately, customers can pay $249.99 with a two-year contract, or the full retail price of $699. The Priv is BlackBerry's first Android smartphone. It is a vertical slider that has a 5.4-inch curved display, 18-mnegapixel camera, and 3,410mAh battery.

BlackBerry Finalizes Acquisition of Good Technology

Nov 2, 2015, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it has completed its $425 million purchase of Good Technology. Good Technology provides mobile email products as well as mobile device management tools to businesses. BlackBerry said the acquisition "is aligned with BlackBerry's strategy to offer [businesses] the most complete, end-to-end solution that secures the entire mobile enterprise, across all platforms." Good's Technology is available to iPhones and Android handsets, which BlackBerry now also manages under its BlackBerry Enterprise Server. BlackBerry recently debuted its first Android handset, which it is pitching as a highly-secure smartphone for business customers.

BlackBerry Priv Runs Android, Costs $699, Ships November 6

Oct 23, 2015, 9:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today made the Priv, its first Android smartphone, available for preorder. The device is a vertical slider that includes a touchscreen and a physical QWERTY keyboard. Like the BlackBerry Passport, the Priv's keyboard can be used to move the cursor around and scroll through web sites, emails, and documents. The Android operating system includes exclusive BlackBerry apps and DTEK for managing privacy. DTEK gives owners granular control over device permissions and what personal data is shared with third parties. The phone includes BlackBerry Hub for managing email, BBM, text messages, and other communications. The Priv has a 5.4-inch quad HD screen with curved edges. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 808 processor with two cores at 1.8GHz and four cores at 1.2GHz. The processor is accompanied by an Adreno 418 GPU, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. The camera has an 18-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.2, optical image stabilization, two-tone LED flash, and HDR, panorama, and burst modes. It can capture 4K video. The user-facing camera has a 2-megapixel camera with wide-angle selfie mode. The Priv packs an integrated 3,410mAh battery, which supports rapid charging and provides more than 22 hours of mixed user. Wireless radios include Bluetooth 4.1, GPS, NFC, WiFi, and LTE (AT&T/T-Mobile). The phone costs $699 and will begin shipping Nov. 6.

Jury Says Apple Owes University $234 Million

Oct 16, 2015, 5:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A Wisconsin jury said Apple owes $234 million for using the university's patented technology without permission. Apple was found to violate the patents, owned by the Wisconsin Academic Research Fund (WARF), earlier this week. The technology helps improve the efficiency of chips and is found in Apple's A7, A8, and A8X processors. WARF claimed Apple willfully violated the patents and sought more than $800 million. Apple argued it should pay less than the $110 million amount Intel paid to settle a similar lawsuit in 2009. Apple plans to appeal the verdict.

BlackBerry CEO Says 2016 May Be Last Year for Smartphones

Oct 8, 2015, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen today said its smartphone business needs to generate a profit in 2016, "Otherwise, I have to think twice about what I do there." Chen's comments offer more insight into BlackBerry's frame of mind regarding smartphones. Just last week, the company announced the Priv, a vertical slider that will run Android rather than BlackBerry's own platform. Chen said if the company can port all of BlackBerry's security features to the Android platform, then it may drop BlackBerry OS completely. Chen has previously warned the company might cease making smartphones. "If I can't make money on the phone, I will be out of that telephone handset business," remarked Chen in August. In July, the company said it would make no more than one or two smartphones per year. The Priv is expected to arrive before the end of 2015.

BBM Gains PayPal for Android, BlackBerry, iOS

Oct 5, 2015, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today added a handful of new features to its cross-platform messaging service. All versions of BBM (Android, BlackBerry, iOS) earn the ability to send money to BBM contacts using PayPal. This feature had been in testing on BlackBerries, but is now available to all three smartphone platforms. All versions of the app also allow users to subscribe to the BBM Sticker Club, which BlackBerry says is a great way to build sticker collections. Android users, in particular, can re-order sticker packs and place their favorites in easy-to-reach positions. Android users can also customize the font size within the app, and make use of pinch-to-zoom. iOS devices have been given access to the Quick Reply function (iOS 9 only); the ability to send videos as attachments; and the ability to view, like, and comment on group pictures/events. Last, BBM now works on the Apple Watch, where it can be used to read messages as well as fire off quick replies. BBM is free to download from the Google Play Store, BlackBerry World, and iTunes App Store.

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.

BlackBerry Shows Off the Priv

Sep 29, 2015, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today posted some official images of the forthcoming Priv smartphone. The Priv is a vertical slider that runs Android. It offers a full QWERTY keyboard and can be managed by BlackBerry's enterprise software, making it a secure handset for business users. The images shared by BlackBerry clearly reveal a curved display, similar to that of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. BlackBerry will share more details about the phone in the weeks ahead.

BlackBerry Confirms 'Priv' Android Slider

Sep 25, 2015, 6:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it will make a handset based on Google's Android operating system that also offers business users enterprise-class security features. "We are focused on making faster progress to achieve profitability in our handset business," said CEO John S. Chen. "I am confirming our plans to launch Priv, an Android device named after BlackBerry's heritage and core mission of protecting our customers' privacy. Priv combines the best of BlackBerry security and productivity with the expansive mobile application ecosystem available on the Android platform." BlackBerry said the phone will go on sale in stores and online by the end of the calendar year, and that more details will be made available in the coming weeks. At the same time, BlackBerry said it will continue to develop security and privacy updates for its own BlackBerry 10 platform, and expects to release 10.3.3 in March 2016. The news was shared as part of BlackBerry's quarterly earnings report, which showed the company lost $66 million on revenue of $490 million.

BlackBerry to Buy Good Technology

Sep 4, 2015, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 4, 2015, 7:25 AM

BlackBerry today said it has agreed to purchase Good Technology for $425 million. Good Technology makes and sells mobile email products as well as mobile device management tools. The company said the acquisition "is aligned with BlackBerry's strategy to offer [businesses] the most complete, end-to-end solution that secures the entire mobile enterprise, across all platforms." Good Technology was purchased by Visto in 2009. Prior to that, it was owned by Motorola. At one time, Visto successfully sued BlackBerry (then Research In Motion) for patent infringement. BlackBerry said it expects to close the acquisition during its 2016 fiscal their quarter.

BlackBerry CEO Says Smartphone Biz Is On a Timer

Aug 28, 2015, 12:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

John S. Chen, CEO of BlackBerry, admitted that its recent handsets have not sold as well as he hoped. "By any definition it is not a runaway success," said Chen to Re/Code of BlackBerry's smartphone business. Chen put some of the blame on the lack of apps. The Blackberry World app store "[is] not competitive to Google Play or the iTunes store," said Chen. "We're working hard at that." BlackBerry handsets are able to run Android apps, but even that doesn't help. Recent reports have suggested the company is preparing a BlackBerry handset with Android on board, but Chen said, "It is a little more complex [than that], which is why it is not done." BlackBerry has already made significant cuts to its hardware business this year and plans to release just one or two handsets per year. Even so, the company may consider exiting smartphones altogether. "If I can't make money on the phone, I will be out of that telephone handset business. There is a timeline; I won't tell you when."

Qualcomm Talks Up Hexagon 680 Digital Signal Processor

Aug 24, 2015, 8:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today shared more information about the Hexagon 680 digital signal processor, a component that will be part of the forthcoming Snapdragon 820 application processor. Qualcomm says it relies on DSPs to offload some tasks from the main CPU in order to save power. The Hexagon 680 introduces a separate DSP for sensors, such as pedometers, gyroscopes, and accelerometers, so motion and other activities can be tracked without draining the battery. The other improvement over earlier DSPs is what Qualcomm calls the Hexagon Vector eXtensions, which are reserved for imaging and computer vision. The HVXs are paired with the Qualcomm Spectra image signal processor, for example, to adaptively improve low light areas in real time without sucking down energy. Qualcomm says devices with the Snapdragon 820 — and Hexagon 680 — are expected to reach consumers during the first half of 2016.

Samsung Offers Test Drive to iPhone Owners

Aug 21, 2015, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has unfurled the "ultimate test drive" in order to tempt iPhone owners to switch to a new Samsung handset. The company is letting iPhone users test drive a Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+, or Galaxy S6 Edge for 30 days for just $1. Samsung will send a handset and an active SIM card to those who register for the promotion from an iPhone. The rental must be returned at the end of a month and borrowers will be on the hook for any damage incurred during the trial (cracked screens, etc.). People who don't return the handset will be charged the full retail amount. The test drive promotion is only available to U.S. residents.

WhatsApp Web Reaches iOS; Windows Phone App Updated

Aug 20, 2015, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

WhatsApp has extended its WhatsApp Web functionality to iOS devices. It previously only supported Android, BlackBerry, and Windows handsets. With WhatsApp Web, users are able to send messages from their desktop browser in addition to their mobile device. Setting it up requires users to scan a QR code from within the WhatsApp application on their handset. They are then able to unlock the browser-based desktop client, where they'll be able to message their WhatsApp contacts. In addition to expanding WhatsApp Web to iOS, WhatsApp also updated its Windows Phone app. The app adds quite a handful of new features. For example, users can mark chats read or unread, as well as set custom notifications, vibrate alerts, and ringtones for individual conversations. Contact Cards are now easier to integrate into WhatsApp's contacts database for quicker replies. The app adds a significant number of new emoji and the ability to adjust the emojis' colors. Last, the app makes it possible to set limits on the app's mobile data usage. WhatsApp is free to download from the Windows Store.

BBM Adds PayPal-Based Money Transfers

Aug 12, 2015, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today expanded BBM's money-sending feature by adding support for PayPal. Users need only connect their PayPal account to their BBM account to send and receive money. Both the sender and the recipient will need to have PayPal accounts in order to transfers to go through. The feature is being offered as a beta service to the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of the BBM app in Canada. BlackBerry expects to expand the feature to other regions in the coming weeks.

DirecTV Offering $500 to Customers Who Switch to AT&T

Aug 10, 2015, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

DirecTV today rolled out a new promotion that will reward customers who switch wireless carriers to AT&T with $500. The deal is available to existing DirecTV and AT&T U-verse television customers. Any customer that changes carriers will receive a $300 bill credit for each line ported to AT&T. Further, customers who also trade in an eligible smartphone will receive an additional $200 in credits. For example, DirecTV said a family of four that switches to AT&T and trades in four smartphones can receive up to $2,000 in bill credits. This promotion is available on top of the existing deal that reduces the bill of customers who combine DirecTV/U-verse television service with AT&T wireless service by $10 per month. The $500 bill credit promotion will only be available for a limited time.

BlackBerry Reveals Passport Silver Edition

Aug 4, 2015, 7:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today showed off the Passport Silver Edition, a refined version of its wide-screen smartphone. The Silver Edition has a reinforced stainless steel frame to improve strength and help with antenna performance. The design was updated with rounded corners, a slimmer profile, and a diamond pattern soft-touch back plate to improve its appeal and usability. Most other features of the phone remain unchanged. The phone has a 1440 by 1440 pixel 4.5-inch screen, 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 13-megapixel camera, and a massive 3,450mAh battery. The device runs BlackBerry OS 10.3.2. BlackBerry is selling the Passport Silver Edition in North America beginning today via its web site. The phone costs $549.

LG and Verizon Offering $100 Gift to G4 Buyers

Aug 3, 2015, 3:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG and Verizon Wireless today announced a short promotion that will reward buyers of the LG G4 with a $100 Visa Gift card. Verizon customers must buy the G4 between Aug. 1 and Aug. 12, and register for the gift card by Aug. 31.

BlackBerry All But Gives Up On Smartphones

Jul 24, 2015, 12:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen said the company plans to reduce the number of handsets it makes each year to one or two. Chen said the company will make a couple of flagship-class devices and ignore the low-end of the market. "We make four phones a year. We are not going to do that anymore," said BlackBerry CEO John Chen to Fox Business. "We are going to at least cut it down to maybe two, maybe one and [shift] those resources [to] the security and software side" of the business. BlackBerry has spent the last few years cutting costs and refocusing its business on providing mobile device management and security services to its business customers. Just this week, BlackBerry announced plans to buy AtHoc, a crisis messaging product. Earlier this year, BlackBerry revealed plans to further trim back its hardware team. The one or two devices BlackBerry brings to market will "be a high-end phone that you can walk into AT&T and get it, as a professional," said Chen to Bloomberg. "The low-end phone is not BlackBerry's sweet spot." Several of BlackBerry's most recent handsets have targeted the low end of the market, such as the Leap and the Classic. Chen did not say when the company might next release a handset.

BlackBerry to Acquire AtHoc

Jul 22, 2015, 8:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it has agreed to acquire AtHoc for an undisclosed sum. AtHoc provides secure crisis communications for businesses so they can push critical data in real-time during business- or life-threatening events. The AtHoc service can send alerts to any device, including iOS, Android, Windows, and Macs, as well as radios, IP phones, digital displays, and even sirens or speakers. Homeland Security and the Department of Defense are among AtHoc's customers. BlackBerry said it will integrate AtHoc's offering into its own portfolio of enterprise communications services. The deal gives AtHoc global reach to expand its business and helps round out BlackBerry's business offerings. BlackBerry said it expects to complete the deal during its fiscal third quarter.

US Cellular Offers to Beat AT&T and Verizon Plans

Jul 16, 2015, 10:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular is targeting AT&T and Verizon Wireless customers by promising to offer a lower monthly bill. It is inviting AT&T and Verizon subscribers to bring their bills into U.S. Cellular retail stores for a comparison. If U.S. Cellular can't beat the prices charged by AT&T and Verizon with a comparable plan of its own, it will offer a $50 promotional gift card to the prospective customer. Consumers who port their AT&T/Verizon number to U.S. Cellular will receive a guarantee of lower-cost service as long as they choose a Shared Connect plan. The price guarantee applies only to monthly service and not the device. U.S. Cellular also said it will pay off customers' ETFs and remaining device payments — no matter the total — if they port their number to a Shared Connect plan with installment pricing and Device Protection+. U.S. Cellular didn't say how long it is offering the promotion.

HTML5-Based OS Looking to Supplant Android

Jul 15, 2015, 8:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

H5OS is a new mobile operating system that intends to challenge Google's Android. H5OS was developed by Acadine Technologies, a Hong Kong-based startup founded by former Mozilla President Li Gong. The operating system is based on HTML5, a standardized web programming language that can support light-weight apps. Acadine Technologies was formed in May and has raised $100 million in seed funding from Chinese supporters. Acadine's Gong doesn't expect H5OS to reach the market until 2016, but he believes it can supplant Android in certain device segments. "Our web-based mobile software is lighter and consumes less power and memory compared to Google's Android," said Gong in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. "It requires lower hardware specifications to deliver the same user experience so it can bring down the smartphone cost. Another advantage is that H5OS is a truly open mobile ecosystem without default services like Google Maps and Google Search. We can work with any content and service providers, offering more customization options to device makers." Android is the global leader in mobile operating systems and Apple's iOS is a distant second. Windows Phone and BlackBerry hardly register, and other competitors, such as Jolla's Sailfish OS and Canonical's Ubuntu, have struggled to gain any significant traction. Gong believes H5OS can succeed in the ultra-low-cost smartphone and feature phone segments.

New Group Working on Practical 5G

Jul 10, 2015, 9:34 AM   by Rich Brome

A large and diverse group of mobile companies have formed a new group to work on potential 5G radio technology. The group is focusing specifically on technologies that will work below 6 GHz, near the frequency bands of current mobile networks. Some recent "5G" demos have relied on much higher millimeter wave (mmW) frequencies, which have short range and cannot pass through walls. Many major players are exploring including mmW technology in 5G, but it is not expected to be the core of the standard. The new group - called FANTASTIC-5G (Flexible Air iNTerfAce for Scalable service delivery wiThin wIreless Communication networks of the 5th Generation) - includes Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, Samsung, Sequans Communications, and Wings ICT Solutions, as well as several European mobile operators and research institutes. Their goal is a new air interface to replace LTE that is more efficient and flexible, supporting diverse needs from fast broadband to small, low-power sensors.

BlackBerry Debuts BES 12.2

Jul 8, 2015, 11:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today made BES 12.2 available to its business customers. The improved mobile device management platform adds a handful of features, especially those aimed at platforms other than BlackBerry. For example, BES 12.2 adds support for Samsung KNOX Workplace and Google's Android for Work, both of which are now integrated with BlackBerry Secure Connect Plus. BES 12.2 also adds support for the Apple Device Enrollment Program, which makes it easier for IT admins to add iPhones to BES. BlackBerry is focusing efforts on its software services businesses. The company recently reduced the number of employees designing smartphones.

CTIA Says Smartphones Better Protected Against Theft

Jul 1, 2015, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Beginning today, most smartphones sold in the U.S. will include anti-theft security tools. July 1 marks the day by which phone makers and network operators agreed to implement free theft deterrents on smartphones. According to the CTIA, most of the industry has responded by placing remote lock/wipe capabilities on consumer devices. The addition of an activation lock on the Apple iPhone, for example, has dramatically reduced iPhone thefts in major cities. The activation lock prevents a stolen device from being activated by another person, thus making it useless to thieves. Remote wipe features allow people to erase the personal data from their handset if lost/stolen to protect their identity. The major participants in today's action include Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and ZTE. "Today's fulfillment of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is another example of the wireless industry proactively working together with policymakers and law enforcement to help protect consumers' smartphones in the event they are ever lost or stolen. We will continue to work with all interested parties to continue to deploy new technologies and tools to improve device theft-deterrence tools. We remind consumers to take a few minutes to use PINs, passwords, apps and other device features to protect their mobile devices and personal information." The industry was coerced into acting "voluntarily" when the FCC threatened to make such protective measures mandatory.

Sprint Found In Violation of Prism Patents

Jun 30, 2015, 3:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint was found culpable of infringing on two patents held by Prism Technologies. The patents in question pertain to accessing protected computer resources and were used by Sprint in its "Simply Everything" and "Everything Data" plans, according to Prism. Sprint was ordered to pay a fine of $30 million. Sprint rejects the decision and said it will appeal. "We believe the evidence is clear that Sprint does not infringe the patent. Sprint plans to pursue post-trial motions," said Roni Singleton, a spokeswoman for Sprint, in a statement provided to RCR Wireless. Prism has similar cases pending against T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular.

BBM Gains Private Chat Mode

Jun 26, 2015, 10:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today pushed out an update to the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of its BBM app and added several new features. The main new addition is a private chatting mode that strips conversations of names and profile pictures. Private conversations are also ephemeral and will disappear after a short while. The Private Chat tool is in the new Privacy and Control Subscription, which costs $0.99 per month. It also includes timed messages and timed pictures, and the ability to retract and edit messages and pictures. The Privacy and Control Subscription replaces the Timed and Retracted Messages Subscription. BlackBerry says existing subscribers will be transitioned over to the new service automatically. Other new functions include a new way to organize sticker collections and a "quote messages" tool for referencing previous messages. Last, the iOS version of BBM has updated font rendering. BBM is free to download from the Play Store, BlackBerry Store, and iTunes App Store.

BlackBerry and Cisco Forge Patent Cross-Licensing Pact

Jun 23, 2015, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry and Cisco today announced that they have signed a long-term patent cross-licensing agreement. The agreement applies to a number of products and technologies, though the companies didn't specify which ones. BlackBerry will receive royalty payments from Cisco as part of the deal, which is being kept confidential. Companies often strike patent agreements, and BlackBerry and Cisco have a history of sharing information with one another. BlackBerry also reported its first-quarter financial results today. The company said it shipped about 1.1 million smartphones during the period. During the company's call with press and analysts, CEO John S. Chen said he's pulled resources from the handset team and moved them to software and internet-of-things efforts. His goal is to make the handset team profitable, which is why the company recently reduced its headcount in that business unit. The company has added to its list of ODMs and signed agreements with Wistron and Compal Electronics, which will manufacture its phones along with Foxconn. BlackBerry posted a loss of $28 million on revenues of $658 million.

BlackBerry Weighing Move to Android

Jun 12, 2015, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry is considering whether or not to make a smartphone based on Google's Android platform rather than its own operating system, reports Reuters. Citing sources familiar with BlackBerry's plans, Reuters says the company is working on a slider handset that would have a touch screen and a slide-out physical keyboard for typing. It would arrive in the fall. One possible impetus behind the idea is to convince businesses that BlackBerry's BES12 device management software can effectively control Android handsets in addition to iPhones and BlackBerries. BlackBerry has focused efforts on becoming a software services company rather than a hardware company, but it still sells a line of BlackBerry smartphones. The devices have not sshipped in significant numbers. "We don't comment on rumors and speculation," said BlackBerry to Reuters, "but we remain committed to the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which provides security and productivity benefits that are unmatched." The Android handset would be sold alongside BlackBerry's existing lineup. Reuters sources said if BlackBerry chooses to make an Android handset it would probably include patented BlackBerry features, such as security software. BlackBerry already works with Android. It created a version of its BBM messaging application for Android, and BlackBerry 10 handsets can run select Android applications.

Huawei Announces P8 Lite for the US Market

Jun 3, 2015, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei today revealed the P8 Lite, its latest attempt to grab a toehold in the U.S. The P8 Lite has a similar design to the P8, but tones down some of the specs to help drop the price point a bit. The P8 Lite features a 5-inch 720p screen and is powered by a 1.5 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and Huawei's SnapShot feature for instantly capturing images with two presses of the down volume key. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The P8 Lite can capture 1080p HD and 720p HD video from the rear and front cameras, respectively. Connectivity includes LTE Cat 4, Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi, and GPS. The P8 Lite runs Android 4.4.4 KitKat with Huawei's Emotion UI 3.0 on top. The P8 Lite is available unlocked beginning today via and Huawei said the phone will eventually be offered by Fry's, B&H Photo Video, Best Buy, and Target. The phone costs $249, but is being offered at $199 from June 3 through June 6.

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T-Mobile Extends Verizon Promo Until June 27

Jun 2, 2015, 4:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today expanded the availability of its Never Settle For Verizon promotion until June 27. The program lets Verizon customers test T-Mobile's service for a period of two weeks with no fear of commitment. The trial requires Verizon customers to port their number to T-Mobile, but they will hold onto their old Verizon phone. If at the end of the two-week period they wish to stay with T-Mobile, T-Mobile will pay off the customer's ETFs and remaining phone payments. At this point the customer will have to turn in their Verizon phone, buy a new phone from T-Mobile, and pair it with a Simple Choice plan. The promo was originally scheduled to expire on May 31.

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BlackBerry Pushing BBOS 10.3.2 and Blend 1.2 to Most Phones

Jun 2, 2015, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it is prepared to update most devices running BlackBerry OS 10 to version 10.3.2. The update also installs BlackBerry Blend version 1.2. The 10.3.2 update adds BlackBerry Protect for remote device wiping; improved low-light performance and face detection to the camera; and improvements to the calendar, such as customizable Meeting Mode and larger numbers on the busiest days. Blend 1.2 makes significant changes to the user interface, which BlackBerry said were based on customer feedback. Blend also gains the ability to reply from notifications and improved animations for file transfers. Specific to the U.S., the BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry Classic will gain new icons, BlackBerry Assist, battery life tweaks, and better performance of the BlackBerry Hub. BlackBerry said users can expect to see BBOS 10.3.2 and Blend 1.2 reach their devices over the next few weeks.

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