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printed July 30, 2016
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Hands-On with the BlackBerry DTEK50

Wednesday, 2:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

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BlackBerry DTEK50 Is A Secured, Rebadged Alcatel Idol 4

Tuesday, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 10:22 AM

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 Pushing Marshmallow to BlackBerry Priv

Jul 14, 2016, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Details July Security Patch

Jul 6, 2016, 2:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Puts the Classic to Pasture

Jul 5, 2016, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 5, 2016, 8:12 AM

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.


Facebook Says It Will Prioritize Posts from Friends

Jun 29, 2016, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Search to Improve Symptom Search Results

Jun 20, 2016, 11:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Overhauls iMessage to Compete with Snapchat and Messenger

Jun 13, 2016, 1:40 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 13, 2016, 1:43 PM

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.

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Lenovo Shows Off the Phab 2 Pro Project Tango Phone

Jun 9, 2016, 12:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 9, 2016, 12:53 PM

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.

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Verizon to Delete Its Paid Visual Voicemail Service

Jun 8, 2016, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


'ForcePhone' Tech Brings 3D Touch to All Phones

May 27, 2016, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Makes Improvements to Priv's Camera and Keyboard

May 26, 2016, 3:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 to Kill Off Its Windows Phone and BlackBerry Apps

May 25, 2016, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 to Simplify Android Pay for Developers

May 18, 2016, 3:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


FCC, FTC Query Carriers and Phone Makers Over Security

May 9, 2016, 12:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Names New Device Chief

May 9, 2016, 9:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Testing Advanced Pre-Touch Sensing On Phones

May 6, 2016, 8:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


ITC to Investigate 8 Phone Makers Over Patent Claims

May 6, 2016, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Adds Swipe Typing to Priv's Keyboard

May 3, 2016, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


BBM for Android Gains Video Calling

Apr 28, 2016, 12:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 28, 2016, 12:45 PM

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 Priv Gets a Taste of Marshmallow

Apr 26, 2016, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Rolls Out Lumia 950 BOGO Offer

Apr 25, 2016, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


AT&T Drops BlackBerry Priv Price to $640

Apr 22, 2016, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Reneges On the BlackBerry Priv

Apr 11, 2016, 9:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Cuts Priv's Price By $50

Apr 7, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Debuts Marshmallow Beta Program for Priv

Apr 4, 2016, 9:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


BlackBerry Makes BBM Privacy Features Free

Apr 4, 2016, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Pulls Support for BlackBerry 10, BBOS

Mar 18, 2016, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Rolls Out Galaxy S7 BOGO Offer

Mar 18, 2016, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

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Verizon to Sell BlackBerry Priv Starting Today

Mar 3, 2016, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Improves Priv's Launcher, Camera, and Keyboard

Mar 1, 2016, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Ending Support for Blackberry and Symbian OSes

Feb 28, 2016, 11:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Microsoft, Google, Facebook Back Apple

Feb 25, 2016, 4:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Sensor Captures HD Video at 240 FPS

Feb 23, 2016, 2:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


BlackBerry Trims More Workers

Feb 5, 2016, 2:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry has cut an unspecified number of employees at two facilities. The company confirmed that it let employees go at its Waterloo headquarters, as well as at a plant in Sunrise, Fla. "As BlackBerry continues to execute its turnaround plan, we remain focused on driving efficiencies across our global workforce," said the company in a statement. "This means finding new ways to enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities, while driving toward sustainable profitability across all parts of our business. As a result, a small number of employees have been impacted. It also means that BlackBerry is actively recruiting in those areas of our business that will drive growth." BlackBerry CEO John Chen has focused on BlackBerry's core BES communications and device management business while winding down its phone business. Chen recently said BlackBerry will release as few as one or two new handsets per year if it stays in the hardware game. Chen has been vocal about killing off its smartphone business entirely if it can't turn a profit. BlackBerry didn't say what areas of the company were affected by today's job cuts.


T-Mobile Offers Families Unlimited Data for $150

Feb 3, 2016, 9:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today rolled out a new promotion that will give families of four unlimited talk, text, and data each for a total of $150 per month. Other options include four lines with 10 GB each for $120 per month, or two lines with 10 GB each for $100 per month. The promotion, which T-Mobile said will be available for a limited time, is open to new and existing customers and does not require port-ins, trade-ins, or handset purchases. T-Mobile said the new Family Match plan can be combined with the buy-one, get-one half-off offer currently available for certain phones.


Google, BlackBerry Make February Security Patch Available

Feb 2, 2016, 8:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is now delivering a security patch to Nexus smartphones and tablets. The patch resolves 10 issues, of which five are considered to be critical. The two most severe problems could allow for remote code execution through a WiFi driver and a media server. Google found the vulnerabilities in January and alerted its hardware partners to the problems. The security patch is available via factory images from Google's developer web site, but the company will push the update out over the air in the days ahead. Google plans to provide a new version of Android 6 Marshmallow to the Android Open Source Project in a day or two. Google says to the best of its knowledge that the security holes were not exploited. BlackBerry, too, is pushing the February security patch to the BlackBerry Priv smartphone. Other phone makers are expected to deliver the patch in the weeks ahead.


T-Mobile Kicks Off BOGO Handset Sale

Jan 27, 2016, 9:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile is running a limited promotion for customers on Simple Choice plans that can help them save some cash on hardware purchases. Beginning today, new and existing customers can buy one phone at full price and get a second phone of equal or lesser value from the same manufacturer for half price. T-Mobile says the deal can be used for some of its flagship phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG V10. T-Mobile believes the promotion is idea for families or small businesses looking to upgrade their phones. It will allow customers to purchase up to six handsets at half price. No trade-in is required. T-Mobile didn't say how long the promo will be available.


Cricket Offers Discounted Phones to Switchers

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

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


MetroPCS Goes After Sprint Customers with Discounts

Jan 20, 2016, 11:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 21, 2016, 12:47 PM

T-Mobile-owned MetroPCS is targeting Sprint customers with new service and handset discounts. Starting January 21, Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile customers who switch to MetroPCS can save up to 50% off Sprint's Family Share Pack pricing. For example, a single ported line can save between 22% and 48%, while two or more lines can save between 23% and 50%, depending on a number of variables such as existing plan cost, new plan pricing, and local taxes. Customers who switch can keep the low rate plans as long as they remain with MetroPCS. The promotion includes unlimited talk and text, Music Unlimited, Data Maximizer and mobile hotspot. MetroPCS is offering switchers a free LG Leon LTE, Kyocera Hydro Wave, Samsung Core Prime, LG K7, or $50 rebate that can be applied to any phone sold by MetroPCS. Last, MetroPCS is offering its existing customers a $20 discount when adding an extra 5GB line. T-Mobile said the promotion will be available for a limited time, but didn't provide an end date.


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