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BlackBerry CEO Says Smartphone Biz Is On a Timer

Friday, 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 GetHuawei.com and Amazon.com. 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.


Typo Settles with BlackBerry, Can No Longer Sell Keyboards

Jun 1, 2015, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today announced it has settled its legal disputes with Typo, the maker of keyboard accessories for the iPhone. As part of the settlement, Typo agreed it will cease selling keyboards for all devices with screen sizes smaller than 7.9 inches — which effectively puts the company out of business. Typo specifically sought to bring the physical keyboard experience to the Apple iPhone. BlackBerry charged in two lawsuits that the original and second-generation Typo keyboards copied its hardware designs. Other terms of the settlement were kept confidential. Typo has not said if it will regroup and make larger keyboards for other devices.


Google Provides Peek at Android M

May 28, 2015, 12:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today offered up the first bits of information concerning the next release of Android, called Android M for the time being. Google says it has gone back to the basics to make the platform more stable across devices. Google focus on six key areas. First, Android M will expand app permission controls, which give users more choice when it comes to granting apps access to personal data. Apps will ask permission to use features as the user takes the app for a spin, rather than at the time of installation. Users will be able to revoke permissions or adjust them as desired. The second major tentpole revolves around the web experience. Through Chrome custom tabs, the browser will save more passwords, auto-fill more content, and so on. The third area Google focused on is app linking. Moving forward, Android will take people to the appropriate app rather than a dialog box when clicking on links. The fourth tentpole is Android Pay. Android Pay works similarly to Apple Pay in that Android device owners will be able to make point-of-sale payments by tapping on terminal. It works with any Android device with NFC. Google says it will be available at 700,000 retailers around the U.S. Android pay will also be available for making payments within application. Android Pay will work on all KitKat and above hardware. The fifth tentpole is broader support for fingerprints for identity verification. Android M lets users lock their device or make Play Store purchases. Moreover, Google is giving developers access to the fingerprint API so they can add fingerprint support to their own apps. Last, Google addressed how Android M handles power and charging. It will be smarter about how it handles power through a feature called doze. Android uses significant motion detection to tell if the device has been unmoved for an extended period. If so, it will go into an extended doze state to conserve power. Google claims the Doze feature extends standby time by a factor of two. Android M is being released as a developer preview. The platform is also adding wide support for USB Type C and more granular control over how the USB connection is used. The full version isn't expected until the fall.


BlackBerry Cutting More Jobs, Including Device Team

May 23, 2015, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry announced another round of job cuts on Friday, this time affecting those behind making the company's smartphones and mobile applications. BlackBerry did not say how many employees will lose their jobs, nor in which facilities, but said the cuts will reach its operations across the globe. In April BlackBerry said it might close a facility in Sweden, which was responsible for designing BlackBerry's handsets. It's not clear if this new round of layoffs includes that facility, or if those cuts already took place. The company has cut costs aggressively over the last 18 months as it focuses on improving the margins of its mobile device management business. "Our intention is to reallocate resources in ways that will best enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities while driving toward sustainable profitability across all facets of our business," said BlackBerry in a statement. Despite the cuts, BlackBerry said it is still committed to its device business. The company most recently released the BlackBerry Leap, a low-cost touchscreen smartphone.


BBM for Windows Phone Gains Access to Channels

May 7, 2015, 3:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today made an update available to its Windows Phone BBM app that adds support for Channels. BBM Channels foster conversations around specific topics, brands, or products. Organizations can use BBM Channels to interface with the public and their users and/or fans. Channels have been available to the BlackBerry, Android, and iOS versions of BBM for some time. BBM for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.


T-Mobile to Sell BlackBerry Classic May 13

May 7, 2015, 8:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it would make the BlackBerry Classic smartphone available to customers beginning May 13. The Classic has been sold by other carriers for months. T-Mobile's decision to offer the phone marks a change of heart for the Uncarrier, which in the past actively campaigned to have its customers trade in their BlackBerries in favor of other smartphones. 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. T-Mobile customers can pick up the Classic for $0 down followed by 24 payments of $18.33 per month. The full retail price is $439.92.


Windows 10 to Run Android and iOS Apps

Apr 29, 2015, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 29, 2015, 12:40 PM

Microsoft today said Windows 10 devices will be able to run Android applications. According to Microsoft, developers will be able to reuse Java and C++ code to run Android apps in an Android subsystem on Windows 10 devices. Further, Microsoft said Windows 10 will support iOS and Objective C, so developers can port iOS apps to Windows 10 easily thanks to new tools in Visual Studio. Adding support for Android apps and making it possible for developers to port iOS apps to the Windows 10 platform will help Microsoft close the app gap it faces with competing platforms. BlackBerry has a similar idea in place on its BlackBerry 10 devices, which can run Android apps. Windows 10 isn't expected to arrive until later this year.

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BlackBerry May Close Swedish Design Lab

Apr 24, 2015, 4:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry is considering whether or not to shutter its operations in Sweden. About 100 people work at the facility, which helped develop some BlackBerry smartphones such as the Z10. The company has initiated conversations with the employee unions at the facility in question and will make a final decision in the weeks ahead. BlackBerry has been on a course of aggressive cost-cutting as it seeks to trim operations that it sees as non-vital to its enterprise device management business. Earlier this week it announced plans to acquire a secure file management company called WatchDox.


BlackBerry Buys WatchDox, Brings Games to BBM for Android

Apr 21, 2015, 9:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it has agreed to acquire a company called WatchDox. WatchDox helps companies securely manage file syncing and sharing services across their business. BlackBerry says the acquisition will help it provide best-in-class security, and give its enterprise customers a higher degree of control over their data. BlackBerry also announced BBM Connect Games for the Android platform. With the latest version of BBM installed, Android device owners will be able to play games with their BBM contacts through the messaging service. According to BlackBerry, BBM Connect Games lets users interact, post achievements, and share game currency with others. The company launched three games alongside the updated BBM app to get Android users into the action. The games are free to download and are available in the BBM Shop.


BlackBerry to Kill Off Advertising Business

Apr 16, 2015, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said its BlackBerry Advertising Service will reach its end of life on June 16, 2015, after which the servers will be disabled and the APIs will no longer work. BlackBerry launched the service to help developers generate ad-based revenue via mobile applications. The company said, based on its continued efforts to realign its focus on enterprise customers, the BlackBerry Advertising Service is no longer a core offering. BlackBerry suggests developers remove their API calls from the service and explore other advertising options.


BlackBerry Begins Global Rollout of Leap Smartphone

Apr 15, 2015, 7:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said its Leap smartphone is now available in the U.K., with other countries to follow shortly. The Leap is similar to the Z10 and has a 5-inch, 720p HD display and an older Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor clocked at 1.5GHz. Other features include LTE 4G, an 8-megapixel main camera, 2-megapixel front camera, memory card slot, and a 2,800mAh battery. The device runs BlackBerry 10.3.1 and includes the Amazon Appstore for compatible Android apps. According to BlackBerry, the phone will reach Germany, France, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, India, and the U.S. within the next few weeks. The U.S. price will be approximately $275.


Nokia to Buy Alcatel-Lucent, Mulling Options for HERE Maps

Apr 15, 2015, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it has agreed to acquire Alcatel-Lucent for $16.6 billion. The combined companies would be a giant in the telecom equipment space with more than 100,000 employees. The terms of the deal will see Nokia acquire all of Alcatel-Lucent's stock, as traded in both France and the U.S. The companies' boards of directors have approved the deal, though shareholders have yet to vote on the acquisition. The deal will also require regulatory approval. The companies expect the deal to close during the first half of 2016. Once combined, the companies will streamline redundant operations, but believe the 40,000 research and development at its disposal employees will be able to make the company a world leader in the connected IP space. Nokia-Alcatel-Lucent will specifically target the development of 5G wireless networks. The largest competitors remaining are Ericsson and Huawei, though ZTE, Samsung, and others make telecommunications equipment, too. In addition to announcing the Alcatel-Lucent deal, Nokia said it has begun a review of strategic options for its HERE Maps business. Nokia acquired Navteq's mapping business in 2007 and turned it into a competitive global company. Nokia's HERE Maps are available to the Android, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms, as well as online, and provide robust driving, walking, and transit directions. Nokia said its review of HERE Maps may or may not result in a transaction.


Nokia Confirms Talks to Acquire Alcatel-Lucent

Apr 14, 2015, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent today said they are in advanced talks concerning a merger or acquisition between the two. Such a deal would would produce a massive competitor to Sweden's Ericsson and China's Huawei in the telecommunications market. Nokia said the deal currently being considered would entail a "full combination" of the two companies, though the deal could still fall apart. Alcatel-Lucent is valued at about $11.63 billion while Nokia is valued at about $29.59 billion. France, where Alcatel-Lucent is based, is wary of the deal. "The government will be very vigilant regarding the possible consequences on employment and activity at the French sites of Alcatel-Lucent, notably in research and development, as well as the effects on the entire telecoms sector in France," said the French economy ministry. The combined entities could employ more than 100,000 workers, but Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent have on their own slashed thousands of jobs over the years. Nokia bought out its networking partner Siemens in 2014 to abolish Nokia Siemens Networks and form the current Nokia Corp. Alcatel-Lucent was formed in 2006 when France's Alcatel merger with the US's Lucent. A Nokia-Alcatel-Lucent merger could face significant hurdles attempting to gain regulatory approval.


Apple Offering Credit for Some Android, Windows Phones

Mar 30, 2015, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Offering Galaxy S6 and Service For $80 Per Month

Mar 26, 2015, 11:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Announces ResearchKit for Medical Data Gathering

Mar 9, 2015, 12:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 9, 2015, 12:29 PM

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.

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Hands On with the BlackBerry Leap

Mar 3, 2015, 4:30 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Mar 3, 2015, 10:10 AM

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.

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BlackBerry Teases 2015 Lineup

Mar 3, 2015, 3:51 AM   by Rich Brome

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.

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BlackBerry Leap Is The New Z10

Mar 3, 2015, 3:46 AM   by Rich Brome

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.


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