Apple has expanded the scope of its Reuse and Recycling Program to include smartphones, tablets, and PCs not made by Apple. Customers can take their old smartphones directly to Apple Stores and receive credit towards new Apple gear for turning them in. Customers who don't have access to Apple Stores can mail in their devices for credit. Apple will recycle just about any old phone, tablet, or computer for free. Apple says not all devices are eligible for credit and suggests customers check eligibility (online) before heading to Apple Stores. According to Apple's web site, it is accepting handsets from Sony, Samsung, Nokia, LG, and BlackBerry. Apple has partnered with Brightstar and DataServ to handle the actual device recycling processes. The expanded Apple Reuse and Recycling Program is available in the U.S., the U.K., and select European countries.
Sprint is hoping to attract customers to its network with a combined promotion that includes the Samsung Galaxy S6 and a Sprint Unlimited Plus service plan for $80 per month. The plan includes the 32GB GS6 for "free" after a $20-per-month credit with a 24-month lease; unlimited talk, text, and data; international value roaming; and annual upgrades. Customers who want the 64GB or 128GB models can get them for $85 and $90 per month, respectively, with the same service plan. Families interested in the Galaxy S6 can score four of them with unlimited talk and text, and 20GB of shared data for a total monthly price of $200 per month. Annual upgrades would cost another $10 per line per month. Customers looking for the Galaxy S6 Edge can snag one for $85 per month ($5 per month after $20-per-month lease credit) with the Sprint Unlimited plan. Customers not interested in contracts or leases can pay full price for the Galaxy S6 ($649.99) and pair it with a Boost Mobile plan. The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge go on sale in Sprint stores April 10, with pre-orders beginning March 27.
Apple today announced ResearchKit, a tool for developers for collecting and gathering health-related data. The company demonstrated how apps can be used to track the symptoms and progression of major diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, Parkinson's, breast cancer, and others. The data can be collected from iPhones, and can contain GPS data, air quality and data covering other environmental conditions, and much more. ResearchKit also contains strict privacy controls, such as what research users choose to participate in, and what data is shared to third parties. Apple says it will not see any of the associated data generated by ResearchKit. Medical professionals hope to use iPhone owners to supply data at a grand scale in order to better understand diseases and the medical conditions and eventually learn how to better treat or cure them. Apple said it will release ResearchKit in April and the tools will be open source.
BlackBerry’s strategy under its new CEO John Chen has been to dramatically cut down the number of phones the company pumps out. So a new all-touch phone like the Z10 is a big deal. That describes the Leap, although not completely. It’s very much like the Z10, but also much much lower-end. We spent some time with it. Read on for our impressions.
BlackBerry today discussed its hardware roadmap for 2015 at an event in Barcelona. The company promised an "innovative" new design with a dual-curve display, large touch screen, and slide-out keyboard. The company is also planning a new standard keyboard phone, presumably to replace the Q10. Finally, the company is working on a new Porche-designed phone, in line with its existing Porche versions of its flagship phones. The company did not discuss timing for any of the new phones. The company also announced its Leap phone at the same event.
BlackBerry today announced the Leap, a new smartphone with standard slab touch screen form factor. It's much like the Z10 that launched BlackBerry 10, but with a larger 5-inch, 720p HD display. It includes LTE, an 8-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front camera, memory card slot, and a 2,800 mAh sealed battery. It's powered by an older Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 processor, running at 1.5 GHz. It will include the Amazon Appstore for compatible Android apps. It's running BlackBerry 10.3.1 and will cost $275. It will come to Europe, initially.
Samsung and BlackBerry today announced that Samsung's Knox enterprise security service will adopt BlackBerry's WorkLife and SecuSUITE services. The WorkLife tool will let Samsung device owners keep their work and personal data separate on the device. Businesses will be able to access, control, and secure work data stored on smartphones, but won't be able to access personal files, photos, and so on. The SecuSUITE service offers encrypted and protected voice and SMS communications for those who work in high-security settings. Samsung believes offering these two BlackBerry services will entice more businesses to equip employees with its smartphones and tablets. The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will be the first two smartphones compatible with these new business tools.
BlackBerry today announced the BlackBerry Experience Suite, a package of software that will help businesses manage their Android, iOS, and Windows smartphones and tablets. The suite will take form in three distinct services: Productivity, Communications and Collaboration, and Security. "We want to empower all mobile professionals in order to supercharge their productivity and allow them to work across all their devices in an effortless and secure way," said BlackBerry. BlackBerry plans to sell these three products separately or together to corporations. BlackBerry plans to ship the BlackBerry Experience Suite later this year.
BlackBerry today announced updates to the Android and iOS versions of BBM. Both versions gain access to two new services: no ads and custom PINs. People who'd like to use BBM with no ads can do so for $0.99 per month. People who'd like to generate their own, personal PIN code can do so for $1.99 per month. Android and iOS users will also be able to share photos within BBM group chats. The Android version of BBM adds support for Android Wear, so smartwatch wearers can receive BBM notifications on their wrists. The iOS version of BBM gains support for TouchID, which will allow users to secure their BBM chats with their fingerprint. BBM is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.
Verizon Wireless today said it will sell the BlackBerry Classic smartphone beginning Feb. 26. It will be available online first, and is expected to reach stores on March 5. Verizon is charging $100 for the Classic with a two-year contract, and is also offering the Classic through its Edge monthly payment program. The BlackBerry Classic has a touch screen and physical QWERTY keyboard. It supports Verizon's XLTE 4G service and has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. The Classic runs BlackBerry OS 10.3.
Yahoo today announced the Yahoo Mobile Developer Suite, a collection of five products meant to help developers get the most out of their mobile apps. The suite contains Flurry Analytics with Explorer, Flurry Pulse, Yahoo App Publishing, Yahoo Search in Apps, and Yahoo App Marketing. Flurry, which Yahoo bought last year, lets developers research the performance of their own apps. Pulse can be used to share app data with third parties. The App Publishing tool lets developers monetize their apps with video or display ads. Yahoo Search allows app writers to put Yahoo Search directly into their own app. Last, App Marketing lets developers find new users and grow their installed base. The company believes the new suite will encourage developers to use its platform rather than those offered by competitors. Yahoo has spent the last few years refocusing its company on mobile products.
BlackBerry today said BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 is available for device owners to download. The latest version of BlackBerry's operating system includes the Amazon Appstore for Android apps and brings back keyboard shortcuts to devices with physical keyboards. The OS also improves BlackBerry Blend (desktop messaging client), BlackBerry Assistant (voice commands), BlackBerry Hub (adds instant actions), and the Calendar app (adds Meeting Mode). The update also improves battery life and camera performance. BlackBerry 10.3.1 is available to the BlackBerry Q5, Q10, Z3, Z10, Z30, BlackBerry Porsche Design P'9983, and the Passport.
AT&T today said it will begin to sell the BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry Classic smartphones on Feb. 20. Both handsets will be available with contract and monthly payment options. The Passport will cost $21.67 per month with AT&T Next 24; $27.09 with AT&T Next 18; or $32.50 per month with AT&T Next 12. Customers can choose to sign a two-year contract, which will allow them to purchase the phone for $199. Last, customers may also choose to buy the phone at full price for $649.99. The Classic will cost $14, $17.50, or $21 per month with AT&T's Next 24, Next 18, and Next 12 plans, respectively. The Classic's two-year price is $49.99 and the full retail price is $419.99. The Passport and Classic both run BlackBerry OS 10.3 and include touch screens and QWERTY keyboards for typing.
Democratic senators have sent letters to the FTC and FCC asking them to investigate Verizon's use of supercookies, particularly how they pertain to consumer privacy. The supercookies allow Verizon to track customer behavior, including web browsing history, for advertising purposes and cannot be turned off. Security researchers recently discovered that the supercookies, unique codes assigned to subscribers, could be used by third parties to track consumers and were in fact used to that end by a company called Turn. Once Verizon learned of Turn's use of the supercookies it quickly reversed course and said it will allow consumers to opt out. The senators aren't happy with Verizon's actions and wonder if it violated its customers' privacy. Verizon said it takes its customers' privacy seriously and will respond to the letters.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation into trades of BlackBerry stock around the time a report suggested Samsung might buy the company. On January 14, Reuters reported that Samsung planned to buy BlackBerry for as much as $7.5 billion. Just ahead of that report, someone purchased options for 200,000 shares of BlackBerry stock at $10. After the report was published, BlackBerry's stock surged by 30% reaching highs of $12.60. According to Reuters, if the purchaser was able to sell the shares he or she could have profited as much as $490,000. BlackBerry and Samsung later denied the report and BlackBerry's stock tumbled back down to below $10 per share. The SEC is looking into whether or not Reuters' source deliberately planted the story in order to manipulate BlackBerry's share price, which would be illegal. BlackBerry and Samsung have partnered together to encourage businesses to buy Samsung's handsets and use BlackBerry's device management software. At the moment, that's the extent of their relationship.
A judge has ordered Typo, maker of an attachable iPhone keyboard, to pay BlackBerry $860,000 for violating a sales injunction regarding its original product. Typo debuted a physical QWERTY keyboard for the iPhone in early 2014. BlackBerry sued the company swiftly for patent infringement. Typo was eventually hit with an injunction barring it from selling the infringing keyboard in the U.S. Apparently it continued to sell them anyway, which resulted in today's fine. After the fallout of the lawsuit, Typo was forced to redesign the Typo keyboard. It released the second device, Typo 2, in January of this year. Like the original, the Typo 2 fits onto the bottom of an iPhone 6 and uses Bluetooth to connect. The idea is to give iPhone users a physical keyboard on which to type rather than the glass screen. Ryan Seacrest, of American Idol fame, invested heavily in the company.
BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen penned a blog post concerning net neutrality. Chen does not think the FCC should reclassify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. He believes the FCC can come up with other ways to ensure an open, competitive market. Perhaps more interesting, however, are Chen's thoughts on "application neutrality." Chen believes application developers and content providers should be required to make their apps and services available to all mobile devices, including BlackBerries. "Not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality," wrote Chen. "Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple's iMessage messaging service. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system." Both the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store are home to more than one million apps each. The number of apps available to BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices is much, much less.
WhatsApp today made it possible for people to send messages from their Chrome browser in addition to their mobile device. The Chrome-based service is compatible with Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone devices, but not iOS due to "platform limitations." In order to launch the web-based functionality, users need to scan a QR code from within the WhatsApp application on their handset. They are then able to unlock the Chrome-based desktop client, where they'll be able to message their WhatsApp contacts.
Deutsche Telekom, majority owner of T-Mobile, believes the Uncarrier's best chances of success are to merge with or be acquired by another large carrier. Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges, speaking to Re/code, said T-Mobile lacks the scale enjoyed by rivals AT&T and Verizon Wireless. Without that scale, it will be hard for T-Mobile to compete in the long run. "I was intrigued by the idea of having a combination with Sprint and being the 'super-maverick' in the market," said Hoettges, "I hope that the political environment will change at one point in time." Sprint's parent, SoftBank, abandoned the idea of acquiring T-Mobile last year after regulators said the deal would face major hurdles in scoring approval. While Hoettges praised T-Mobile CEO John Legere for enacting change and turning the company around with aggressive promotions, he said T-Mobile cannot hold its current course indefinitely. "The question is always the economics in the long term," said Hoettges. "You have to earn your money back at one point in time."
Samsung has approached BlackBerry about a potential acquisition, according to a report published by Reuters. Citing people familiar with Samsung's plans, Reuters suggests Samsung would be willing to pay up to $7.5 billion for the one-time smartphone king. Samsung is most interested in BlackBerry's patent portfolio, and executives of the companies met last week regarding a potential deal, says Reuters. BlackBerry still makes smartphones, but the bulk of its current business is based on selling mobile device management software to business and government customers. At the same time, Samsung is anxious to build up a strong base of enterprise customers and sells its own Knox security platform to that effect. BlackBerry later denied it was in talks with Samsung.
PayPal has made a version of its mobile application available in the BlackBerry World app store for devices running BlackBerry OS 10.x. With this new app, PayPal is available to Android, BlackBerry, Fire OS, iOS, and Windows smartphones. PayPal for BlackBerry allows owners to send/request money, check balances, see activity, redeem offers, and even check-in to pay at select retailers that accept PayPal. The app works with the Z10 and Q10, as well as newer phones including the BlackBerry Passport and Classic. PayPal for BlackBerry is free to download from BlackBerry World.
BlackBerry today showed off BBM for Android Wear. With BBM on your wrist, Android Wear owners will be able to read incoming BBM messages, review and accept BBM invites, scan through the BBM inbox, and respond with either canned messages or dictated messages via Google Now. BlackBerry said BBM for Android Wear will be available soon -- and that the company has other cross-platform wearable apps in the pipeline.
AT&T today published pricing details for the BlackBerry Classic and its unique model of the BlackBerry Passport. The Classic will cost $50 with a two-year contract or $420 with no commitment. Customers may also choose AT&T's Next plans, which will cost $14 per month, $17.50 per month, or $21 per month with the Next 24, Next 18, or Next 12 plans, respectively. AT&T also showed off a new version of the Passport with rounded edges and a slightly changed back surface. The Passport will cost $200 with a two-year contract or $650 with no commitment. Customers may also buy the Passport via AT&T's Next plans, which will cost $21.67 per month, $27.03 per month, or $32.50 per month with the Next 24, Next 18, or Next 12 plans, respectively. AT&T said both devices will be available soon.
Under Armour today announced UA Record, a health and fitness app for Android and iOS devices that allows users to monitor and share their fitness data and goals. Smartphone owners can track motion and GPS activity, view analysis from individual workouts (steps, sleep, weight), as well as see a snapshot of overall progress towards specific goals. UA Record lets people invite up to 20 friends to health and fitness challenges, and even allows people to share videos, photos, workout stories, and nutrition guides. As part of the announcement, Under Armour mentioned that third-party hardware makers can support UA Record through the Under Armour Connected Fitness API/SDK platform. HTC is among the first smartphone vendors to voice support for the platform and it said it has a series of UA Record-compatible products in the pipeline, which will debut later this year. Samsung has worked with Under Armour in the past (notably with the Galaxy S5 Sport), but it has yet to say it will adopt UA's Connected Fitness platform. The Android and iOS apps are free to download from the Play Store and App Store, respectively, beginning today.
Rockstar Consortium, a patent-holding company headed by Apple, has agreed to sell more than 4,000 mobile patents for about $900 million. Apple and partners Microsoft, BlackBerry, Ericsson, and Sony paid $4.5 billion for more than 6,000 patents from Nortel four years ago in order to help protect against litigation. The companies are selling two-thirds of the patents to RPX Corp., which is another patent-focused company that protects companies from lawsuits. RPX plans to license the patent portfolio to a syndicate of 30 technology companies, including Google and Cisco, according to the Wall Street Journal. The syndicate members contributed the bulk of the $900 million in order to purchase the patents. In addition to the patent sale, Rockstar will settle patent-related lawsuits it has filed against Android device makers, including Samsung, Huawei, HTC, and LG. Terms of those settlements were not disclosed. Rockstar Consortium will hold onto about 2,000 of the old Nortel patents, which the Journal described as the "most valuable" of the bunch.
BlackBerry today said it has closed its acquisition of Secusmart, a security company based in Germany. Secusmart specializes in voice and data encryption. BlackBerry plans to use Secusmart's technology to further shore up its own enterprise and government offerings. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. BlackBerry also reported its third-quarter earnings today. Revenue declined from $1.19 billion in the year-ago period to $739 million in the period ending Nov. 29. Excluding one-time charges, the company posted a small profit and generated positive cash cash flow. Earlier this week the company launched a new phone, the BlackBerry Classic. BlackBerry believes the phone will appeal to its core business customers thanks to its physical QWERTY keyboard.
BlackBerry's Classic smartphone harkens back to the devices of yesteryear. Its defining feature is a physical QWERTY keyboard, something phone makers have left in the past for good reason. Here are our first impressions of the Classic.
AT&T today said it will support the BlackBerry Classic, though pricing and availability aren't yet available. BlackBerry is already selling the phone directly to consumers for $449.
BlackBerry today officially launched the BlackBerry Classic smartphone. BlackBerry has been talking about the phone for the better part of six months, but fully revealed its feature set during an event in New York. The phone has a 3.5-inch touch screen with a 1:1 aspect ratio and 720 by 720 pixels. BackBerry made this device to appeal to its legacy customers, such as the finance sector, and brought back the physical QWERTY keyboard for composing messages. BlackBerry also resurrected its legacy control buttons, including an optical trackpad, and capacitive send/end and back/menu keys. The phone has an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 2-megaixel user-facing camera. The phone has a 1.5GHz Qualcomm processor with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of storage with support for microSD cards up to 128GB. The phone runs BlackBerry OS 10.3.1, which features the BlackBerry Hub. The BlackBerry Classic boasts 22 hours of battery life. Connectivity options include LTE, dual-band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, FM radio, NFC, as well as geo-location services. Blackberry is selling the Classic directly to consumers through Amazon.com and its web site for $449.
BlackBerry today made BBM 2.0 available to the Windows Phone platform. The updated app is now more in line with the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of BBM thanks to several new features. For example BBM for Windows Phone now includes timed messages (which expire after they're seen/read) and message retraction (for recalling unread messages). BBM for Windows Phone also added a wide number of stickers for enlivening conversations. BBM 2.0 for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
BlackBerry today pushed out BBM 2.6 to the Android and iOS platforms, as well as its own BlackBerry platform. All three versions of the app gain new features, including support for stickers within group chats and a 60-second option for time chats. The Android version of BBM tackles Android 5.0 Lollipop and adds landscape mode. BBM for iOS 8 adds compatibility with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus screens. BBM for BlackBerry OS now lets users share multiple pictures and attachments at the same time. BBM 2.6 is free to download from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store, and BlackBerry World.
Cricket Wireless is hoping a $100 bill credit will convince customers of Cincinnati Bell, MetroPCS, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Sprint, and T-Mobile to hop on over to Cricket. New customers must switch from the aforementioned carriers, purchase a new device, and activate a new line of service on a qualifying rate plan in order to receive the credit. The credit will be applied at the end of the first billing cycle. Cricket's service plans cost $40-$60 per month, depending on options. Cricket offered a similar promotion over the summer months, but only targeted Sprint and T-Mobile. The current promotion runs through Dec. 31.
Sprint plans to go after AT&T and Verizon customers with an aggressive and enticing campaign. Beginning Friday, Sprint will offer rate plans to AT&T and Verizon customers that are half what they're already paying. For example, an AT&T customer who pays $300 per month will be offered a comparable Sprint plan that costs only $150 per month. The offer only extends to the service costs, including minutes, messaging, and data. It does not include subsidies for device payments. Sprint will waive activation fees and pay up to $350 to cover the ETFs of those who switch, though the new customers will need to turn in their old devices. In order to score the half-price plan, new Sprint customers will need to buy a device from Sprint at full retail price or finance it through Sprint Easy Pay. They'll also have to provide a copy of their most recent wireless bill for verification of the monthly cost. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure hinted via Twitter that the company intends to "launch one of our most exciting promotions ever, especially designed for Verizon and att customers who love to save money." The promotion does not apply to T-Mobile or current Sprint customers.
T-Mobile today made it less expensive for customers to make calls from the U.S. to select countries abroad. T-Mobile's Stateside International Talk plan allows Simple Choice subscribers to make unlimited calls to landlines in 70 countries for $5 per account (not per line). Alternately, $10 per month buys unlimited calling to mobile phones in more than 30 countries and 1,000 minutes to mobile phones in Mexico, which is in addition to the unlimited landline calling. The promotional pricing is available starting today and runs through the end of the year.
BlackBerry today made the BlackBerry Classic handset available for preorder in the U.S. The Classic runs BlackBerry 10 and is a traditional bar-style phone with a square touch screen and physical QWERTY keyboard below it. It brings back the classic BlackBerry buttons, which means send/end buttons, a back button, menu button, and optical trackpad. The device supports both BB10 and Android apps. BlackBerry didn't say how much the phone will cost, nor when it will ship. BlackBerry also didn't say which carriers will support the Classic.
BlackBerry and Samsung today agreed to sell one another's security software. The joint effort is meant to help Samsung sell more phones and to help BlackBerry win more BES customers. Samsung's Knox security platform is embedded on many of its devices. It can be used to separate work and personal information, as well as secure that data on the device. BlackBerry's BES services allows businesses to remotely manage Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone smartphones. The companies think this partnership will appeal to businesses that want to use Samsung handsets for the Knox platform, but manage them via BES. BlackBerry's enterprise chief John Sims said the deal "isn't about one company displacing the other. This is about one and one makes three." BlackBerry's presence in the smartphone market has been reduced to practically nil in the face of stiff competition from Apple, Samsung, and others, while Samsung has long been making overtures to potential business customers.
OmniVision today announced two new camera modules for high-end smartphones. The OV23850 and OV21840 PureCel-S are capable of capturing images as large as 23.8 and 21.4 megapixels, respectively. Both sensors use OmniVision's staked die technology. According to OmniVision, this separates the imaging array from the sensor so OEMs can place other sensors and functionalities in between, such as phase-detection autofocus. The company says its two-dimensional autofocus is four times faster than traditional contrast-based AF. Both sensors can capture quad HD video at 30 frames per second, 1080p HD video at 90 frames per second, and 720p HD video at 120 frames per second for clean slow-motion results. They also support always-on HDR video capture for balanced exposures. The OV23850 and OV21840 are already sampling and are expected to reach production during the first quarter of 2015.
BlackBerry today said BBM 2.5 is now available for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS devices. The company first revealed details of the updated messaging service earlier this month. Some of the new features include Timed Messages, which allow users to choose how long a message is visible to the recipient. Another feature, called Message Retraction, allows BBM users to delete messages they've sent from the phones of others. According to BlackBerry, this feature works with text messages only and not those that include pictures. Other updates include a streamlined sticker experience, high-def picture transfer, and music discovery through friends' playlists. BBM 2.5 will be available from the Play Store, BlackBerry World, and iTunes App Store later today.
BlackBerry today announced several forthcoming features for BBM that take a page from ephemeral messaging app SnapChat. The first new feature is called Time Messages. With Timed Messages, users can select how long a message is visible to the recipient (between 1 second and 15 seconds). The message can also be set to disappear once the recipient takes their finger off the message. According to BlackBerry, it can't prevent screenshots of Timed Messages, but it will alert the sender if one was taken before the message expires. The second feature is called Message Retraction and it allows BBM users to delete messages they've sent from the phones of others. According to BlackBerry, this feature works with text messages only and not those that include pictures. Further, only messages in one-on-one chats can be retracted. Messages cannot be retracted from Group conversations, nor can messages be retracted if they've been forwarded to other phones. According to BlackBerry, these features are being tested in a limited BBM beta for Android and BlackBerry. Timer and Retract will be available in the 2.5 release of BBM for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry 10 in the near future.
BlackBerry says "We're back!" with the Passport, a smartphone that breaks new ground in some respects. Here are our first thoughts.