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printed April 18, 2015
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NFC Forum Approves New Security Specification

Thursday, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The NFC Forum today approved the Signature Record Type Definition (RTD) 2.0 technical specification, which will help authenticate the data stored on NFC tags. According to the NFC Forum, Signature RTD 2.0 lets developers verify the integrity of data within NFC Data Exchange Format messages, which is the core of how NFC tags and devices communicate with one another. The NFC Forum says the spec can assure companies that the data they're placing in NFC tags is protected from potential hackers. It also lets device owners know they won't be risking anything by reading the tag with their phone. The complete Signature RTD 2.0 specification is available for download from the NFC Forum's web site. NFC has become more critical in recent years with the launch of mobile payment services like Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and soon Samsung Pay. The extra layer of security helps protect the ecosystem from abuse.

Apple Grabs 3D Imaging Company

Tuesday, 2:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today confirmed it has purchased a small camera technology company called LinX. The company, based in Israel, sells small cameras and sensors for smartphones and tablets. Together with its own algorithms, LinX's technology can be used to gauge depth and create three-dimensional image maps. Apple didn't disclose terms of the acquisition, but sources cited by the Wall Street Journal peg the value of LinX at about $20 million. Apple didn't say what it might do with LinX's technology. Amazon's Fire Phone, released in July 2014, had four user-facing cameras to create 3D effects within the user interface.

iOS 8.4 Beta Updates Music App, Relocates Audiobooks

Tuesday, 2:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 3:44 PM

Apple recently made iOS 8.4 available to developers in beta form and the new system software revealed a handful of changes to the music player. First and foremost, the music application has been refreshed a bit to more closely match the visual experience offered by Apple's iTunes desktop application. New tabs along the bottom of the screen let users quickly switch between tracks, playlists, and iTunes Radio. The app also makes it easier to adjust playlists and song queues on the fly, and the refreshed music playback user interface puts a higher priority on album artwork. In iOS 8.4 beta Apple has finally pulled audiobooks out of the music application and added them to the iBook application. iBooks itself has a refreshed player and makes sorting between audiobooks and iBook purchases simple. Google's Android platform can play audiobooks in the Play Music app, most simple MP3 apps, and third-party reader apps, such as Audible. Apple only recently released iOS 8.3 to the general public. There's no telling when 8.4 will go live for all users.

Apple Releases ResearchKit for Medical Researchers

Tuesday, 11:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made available ResearchKit, a tool medical researchers can use to collect and gather health-related data. ResearchKit provides the base tools to help create apps used to perform tasks such as tracking the symptoms and progression of major diseases, including asthma, diabetes, Parkinson's, breast cancer, and others. The idea is to make it possible for average people to more easily participate in studies and other programs meant to collect data about diseases and/or conditions. Researchers can tap into iPhones to collect the data, which can contain GPS information, air quality and other details concerning environmental conditions, and more. Apple says ResearchKit has strict privacy controls built in. iPhone owners will control what studies in which they participate and can limit what data is shared with third parties. Apple itself will not see or store any of the associated data generated by ResearchKit. Medical professionals hope crowd-sourced data will help provide better insight that can be used to treat or cure a range of ailments. ResearchKit, which Apple first announced in March, is open source.

Sprint Updating iPhones with WiFi Calling

Apr 8, 2015, 3:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said it is bringing WiFi Calling to Apple's iPhones. The carrier will push out a small system update over the next few days that will allow owners to make phone calls over WiFi. The feature is available to the iPhone 5s, 5c, 6, and 6 Plus. Calls made via WiFi will not count against customers' voice plan minutes. Sprint said traveling customers will be able to make free WiFi calls from more than 200 countries around the world. According to Sprint, 25 of its handsets are now capable of using its WiFi Calling service. WiFi Calling is available at no additional charge when calling to a U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico phone number.

iOS 8.3 Lands with New Emoji and Message Filters

Apr 8, 2015, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made iOS 8.3 available to the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The update adds several new features to Apple's mobile devices, including more than 300 new emoji and an updated keyboard for using the emoji to personalize messages. The update adds the ability to filter incoming messages to help sort out junk. Siri gains the ability to speak Danish, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Thai, and Turkish in iOS 8.3, and can now initiate phone calls via the speakerphone when requested. iOS 8.3 was released as a public beta earlier this year. The update is free to download. Apple also released OS X 10.10.3, which, among other things, adds Apple's new Photos application. The Photos app on Apple's Mac computers now mirrors the version on iOS devices. Apple is offering users a handful of cloud storage options for managing images stored in Photos, which can be accessed from Macs, smartphones, and tablets. OS X 10.10.3 is also free to download from Apple.

More Banks Supporting Apple Pay

Apr 8, 2015, 11:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MasterCard today announced that 25 of its financial institution partners now support Apple Pay with their credit and/or debit cards. Some of the new banks allowing Apple Pay include Centennial Bank, GTE Financial, KeyBank, Meijer Credit Union, and US Bank. People who have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus will be able to use the cards issued by these and other banks to make mobile payments at participating retailers, as well as within select applications. MasterCard also said it has updated its MasterCard Nearby application to help iPhone owners find retail establishments that accept Apple Pay. MasterCard Nearby is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Google Wallet Adds Search Functions

Apr 6, 2015, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Google Wallet application and added several new features that make it easier to find past purchases. A new search tool lets users find transactions within the app itself, and updated receipts provide more details about the merchant, such as the location of each transaction. Google Wallet is free to download from the Play Store. The app competes with Apple Pay on the iPhone and the forthcoming Samsung Pay service for the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

ITC to Investigate Ericsson's Patent Claims Against Apple

Mar 31, 2015, 6:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The U.S. International Trade Commission agreed to examine Ericsson's claims that Apple is violating its wireless patents. The dispute stems from a licensing agreement between the two companies that expired in January. Since then, the companies haven't been able to agree on fees for Apple to re-license the 2G/4G patents from Ericsson. Apple argues the fees are too high and the patents are not essential to LTE. It says Ericsson demanded rates in excess of what's fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory. Ericsson sued because Apple continues to use the patents without a licensing agreement in place. Ericsson wants the ITC to issue a limited exclusion order and a cease and desist order. The ITC said it will look into the matter.

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.

Seniors Wireless Adds Doctor Access to Wireless Plans

Mar 25, 2015, 11:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Seniors Wireless, a Sprint MVNO, announced a new service that gives subscribers direct phone access to a doctor at all times. TeleMED Assist provides customers with unlimited calls to doctors for emergency, urgent, or non-urgent purposes 24/7. Over-the-phone medical consultations are included in the service, which costs $30 per month for singles or $40 per month for couples. TeleMED Assist is a separate service and does not require a Seniors Wireless telephone account. Seniors Wireless offers a handful of standard service plans ranging from $10 to $30 per month. The company has several handsets, such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, S5 and Note 3, the Sharp Aquos Crystal, the LG Vigor, and the Apple iPhone 4. Seniors Wireless competes with GreatCall, which also offers access to health professionals over the phone. Both target the over 55 set.

Apple Buys Database Startup

Mar 25, 2015, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has acquired a Virginia-based startup called FoundationDB. The company develops efficient database technology that can be used to process information at extremely high speeds at very low costs. The tech could be used to improve the stability and performance of Apple products such as iMessage and iAd, according to the Wall Street Journal. Apple confirmed the acquisition, but did not disclose terms of the deal. Apple has acquired 23 companies in the last 15 months, most of which were startups.

Tag Heuer to Make Smartwatch with Google and Intel

Mar 19, 2015, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Tag Heuer today announced plans to create a Swiss-designed smartwatch using Google's Android Wear platform. Tag Heuer said it will collaborate with Intel to bring the device to market. The luxury watchmaker expects its device to compete with the Apple Watch, which is seen as a premium device thanks to the $17,000 gold Watch Edition. Tag Heuer and Intel expect to make their smartwatch available later this year.

Facebook Rings Up Peer-to-Peer Payments In Messenger

Mar 17, 2015, 2:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today introduced a way for people to send money to one another through its Messenger application. Users will need to add a Visa or MasterCard debit to their Facebook account, after which they'll be able to send money to friends or family. According to Facebook, payments are processed immediately on the sending side, but may take a day or two to process on the receiving side depending on individual bank policies. Sending money is free of transaction charges. Facebook says users can set up PINs to protect the service, and Apple device owners will be able to use TouchID to secure it. Sending money is possible from the Android, iOS, and web versions of Messenger.

Opera Boosts Coast Browser for iOS

Mar 17, 2015, 10:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera Software today made an updated version of its Coast browser available to Apple's iOS devices, including the iPhone. The primary new feature is Opera's video boost technology, which uses Opera's Rocket Optimizer engine to smooth out video playback. Users will have to turn the feature on, which is under the Opera Turbo setting. Opera makes use of compression technologies to deliver web sites and the video contained therein faster and more efficiently to devices over mobile networks. The browser also added sharing support for Pinterest, Evernote, Pocket, and Kik. Coast 4.1 is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Apple Cleared of Violating Conversant Patents

Mar 17, 2015, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple was exonerated in a Texas courtroom Monday where a jury found it had not infringed on five wireless patents held by Conversant Intellectual Property Management. Core Wireless, a Conversant subsidiary, sued Apple in 2012 over a dozen patents. It sought damages of $100 million and a portion of future sales of infringing products, including the iPhone and iPad. Core eventually whittled the lawsuit down to five patents. The patents in question, which cover wireless data transmission, were formerly owned by Nokia. The jury sided with Apple and cleared it of any wrongdoing. Apple is often the target of patent-holding firms, which file lawsuits in an attempt to generate revenue.

Microsoft Working On Version of Cortana for Android and iOS

Mar 13, 2015, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is preparing to make its Cortana personal assistant software available as a stand-alone application to the Android and iOS platforms later this year, reports Reuters. Microsoft is already developing an improved version of Cortana for its forthcoming Windows 10 desktop, tablet, and phone operating system, expected this fall. Microsoft is culling research from an artificial intelligence project called Einstein to improve Cortana's predictive and conversational abilities. "This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame," said Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research, in an interview with Reuters. Microsoft believes Cortana's abilities can surpass those of its rivals, Google Now on Android phones and Siri on iPhones. "We're defining the competitive landscape of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done," said Horvitz. Microsoft envisions Cortana becoming more capable with respect to helping users by anticipating their needs. Google and Apple have taken similar steps with Google Now and Siri, respectively. Google Now is adept at providing just-in-time reminders and details in the form of cards, but Siri is more limited to responding to direct requests. Horvitz did not confirm Microsoft's intent to bring Cortana to Android and iOS, but Reuters says people familiar with Microsoft's plans are certain it will appear after Windows 10's debut later this year. Microsoft has made an aggressive push over the last year to port key applications to the Android and iOS platforms, such as Microsoft Office. Bringing Cortana to Android and iOS would fit in with the pattern of Microsoft's behavior.

Apple Offering iOS 8.3 in Limited Beta Form to Invitees

Mar 12, 2015, 2:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 12, 2015, 4:00 PM

Apple today made a beta version of iOS 8.3 available to both developers and consumers who are interested in testing the pre-release operating system. Developers have always had early access to beta versions of iOS, but this marks the first time Apple has expanded betas to the public. Apple made the last two versions of its desktop operating system, OS X, available as betas before general release, and this new iOS beta program appears to be following in those footsteps. Consumers interested in testing iOS 8.3 will need to register for the beta program, though it doesn't appear that Apple is letting just everyone test iOS 8.3. Apple is inviting select participants of the beta program to test iOS 8.3, so it isn't available to simply anyone. At the moment, the only known new features of iOS 8.3 are filters for managing Apple's messaging application.

Nokia Now Offering HERE Maps to the iPhone

Mar 11, 2015, 9:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today made its HERE Maps application available to the Apple iPhone via the iTunes App Store. Nokia has offered the same HERE Maps to Android devices since December. Nokia had made a version of HERE Maps available to the iPhone back in 2013, but pulled the app due to its poor performance. The new HERE Maps app for iOS allows users to download entire countries or regions, which makes the maps available even when the device is offline. This can help save data charges when roaming. HERE Maps for iOS devices include free, voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. Users can plan routes via car, public transport, or foot. Nokia says maps for iOS are available for about 190 countries with turn-by-turn directions available in about 100. Transit maps are available in 950 metro areas across 50 different countries, with more being added all the time. Nokia HERE Maps is free to download.

GameStop to Accept Apple Pay This Month

Mar 10, 2015, 10:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

GameStop today announced it will soon support Apple Pay at its 4,200 U.S. locations. Owners of the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, and Apple Watch can pay for video games, consoles, and other merchandise at GameStop retail stores beginning later this month. GameStop's said its Spring Mobile retail brand plans to begin accepting Apple Pay later this year. Apple recently said the number of locations accepting Apple Pay has grown to 700,000.

Marriott Claims to Be First Hotel to Accept Apple Pay

Mar 10, 2015, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Marriott said it will begin accepting Apple Pay at some of its properties later this year. Guests will be able to check in with an Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, or Apple Watch. They'll need only tap their device against the terminal at the registration desk, and the necessary payment details will be transferred to Marriott's computers. The company already allows guests to check in or check out with a mobile application. Marriott sees Apple Pay as another step in making its guests' stays more convenient. Marriott will start accepting Apple Pay at: The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park; The Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C.; Edition Miami; JW Marriott Chicago; Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel; San Francisco Marriott Marquis; San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront; New York Marriott Downtown; Courtyard Chicago Downtown/North River; San Jose Marriott; Courtyard Los Angeles L.A. Live; and Residence Inn Los Angeles L.A. Live. Apple Pay will go live at these properties this summer.

iOS 8.2 Includes Apple Watch App and Bug Fixes

Mar 9, 2015, 1:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 9, 2015, 1:35 PM

Apple today revealed more details about the Apple Watch and its compatibility with Apple devices. Specifically, the Apple Watch requires iOS 8.2, which is available to the iPhone beginning today. The new operating system from Apple includes a specific app for managing and controlling the Apple Watch, which goes on sale next month. The Apple Watch can run apps and be used to manage notifications, make calls, send and receive emails or messages, control music playback, and much more. The Apple Watch Sport edition starts at $349 for the 38mm size and $399 for the 42mm size. The Apple Watch edition, with a stainless steel face and various bands, ranges between $549 and $1,049 for the 38mm size and the from $599 to $1,099 for the 42mm size. The Apple Watch Edition, which is made from gold, starts at $10,000. Preorders begin April 10, with the device reaching select stores and markets April 24. Apple didn't detail what bug fixes are included in iOS 8.2

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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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Apple Pay, CarPlay See Significant Increase In Support

Mar 9, 2015, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 9, 2015, 12:21 PM

Apple said as of today it has tripled the number of locations that accept Apple Pay from 220,000 at launch to 700,000. The growth includes a large number of new retailers, 2,500 banks, and tens of thousands of vending machines. Apple today also said every major car brand has committed to adding CarPlay to their vehicles. Apple says more than 40 new models will ship with CarPlay on board this year.

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Apple Scores HBO Streaming Service for iPhone, iPad

Mar 9, 2015, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 9, 2015, 12:13 PM

Apple and HBO today announced HBO Now, a new streaming service available only to Apple devices, including the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple computers. The service costs $14.99 per month and does not require an associated cable subscription. (HBO Go app, available to Apple and other platforms, does require cable subscription.) It launches in April and includes HBO's entire catalog of television and movie content. In a related announcement, Apple lowered the price of its Apple TV product from $99 to $69.

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Softcard to Shutter At the End of March

Mar 5, 2015, 1:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Softcard, the mobile wallet service developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, has informed users the application will go offline March 31. Softcard customers can use the app through that date, but afterward their accounts will automatically be closed. Softcard recommends users who wish to be able to make mobile payments in the future download Google Wallet. Google purchased certain Softcard assets in a deal announced last month. Google Wallet will replace Softcard on Android handsets later this year. Softcard never caught on with consumers due to limited handset, credit card, and retail support. General interest in mobile payments has increased after the launch of Apple Pay on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Samsung recently announced plans for its own mobile wallet service, called Samsung Pay. Samsung Pay will first be available to the Galaxy S6.

Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and HTC One M9 MirrorLink-Enabled

Mar 4, 2015, 4:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and the HTC One M9 support the MirrorLink standard for connecting to cars. MirrorLink is a platform-agnostic tool that allows smartphones to push apps and content to in-dash consoles. It competes with Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay. With MirrorLink on board, the GS6, GS6 Edge, and One M9 will be able to connect to the infotainment systems of supported cars.

Smartflash Sues Apple Again Over Newer iPhones

Feb 27, 2015, 8:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Smartflash, a Texas-based patent holding firm that won a courtroom victory over Apple earlier this week, is suing the company again. According to Smartflash, it was unable to include Apple's most recent devices, such as the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad Air 2, in its initial lawsuit. Now that it has won in court, it wants the same findings applied to Apple's newest devices, which it says violate the same patents. "Apple cannot claim they don’t know about these patents or understand that they are infringing. A diligent jury has already rejected those arguments," said Smartflash's attorney in a statement provided to Reuters. Apple did not immediately comment on the matter.

Ericsson Sues Apple Over Telecom Patents

Feb 27, 2015, 8:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 27, 2015, 8:10 AM

Ericsson today sued Apple in the U.S. and alleges the iPhone maker is violating multiple wireless patents. Ericsson filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission over Apple's use of its standard essential patents covering 2G and 4G LTE technology. It is seeking to ban sales of Apple's iPhone and iPad in the U.S. The ITC is a popular venue for lawsuits because it can prevent companies form important and/or selling devices. Ericsson also filed complaints in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking both damages and injunctions. Standard essential patents must be licensed at fair and reasonable terms. Ericsson contends that Apple wouldn't agree to terms. "By refusing Ericsson’s fair and reasonable licensing offer for patented technology used in Apple smartphones and tablets, Apple harms the entire market and reduces the incentive to share innovation," said Ericsson. Apple didn't immediately respond to Ericsson's claims.

Morgan Stanley Now Supports Apple Pay

Feb 25, 2015, 12:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management today announced that owners of its debit cards can use their card with Apple Pay. Once Morgan Stanley cardholders register with Apple Pay, they'll be able to make tap-and-go mobile payments at participating retailers. Apple Pay launched in October and has performed well. Earlier this week, JPMorgan Chase said more than one million of its customers have registered cards with Apple Pay. Morgan Stanley's support of Apple Pay means more people will be able to take advantage of the service.

Apple Hit with $533 Million Judgment in Patent Trial

Feb 25, 2015, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple was found guilty of infringing on three patents held by a company called Smartflash and must pay the firm $532.9 million. A federal jury in Texas reached the verdict Tuesday and said Apple violated the patents willfully. According to Smartflash, Apple's iTunes software uses its patented technology for storing and retrieving music, movies, and games. Apple was disappointed with the verdict and railed against Smartflash, which is a patent holding firm. "We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system," said Apple in a statement provided to Reuters. Smartflash has filed similar lawsuits against Google, HTC, and Samsung.

Google Strikes Wallet Deal with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon

Feb 23, 2015, 12:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android smartphones later this year. The mobile wallet will come on all devices running Android 4.4 KitKat and higher. At the same time, Google is purchasing intellectual property from Softcard -- the mobile payment service created by the same three carriers -- to help improve Wallet's performance. Softcard said its users will be able to continue to make tap-and-go payments at supporting retailers for the time being. Both Google and Softcard said more information will be made available in the coming weeks. Google is looking to revive its mobile wallet product after seeing Apple's success with Apple Pay, which is only available to the iPhone. Google Wallet has been around since 2011.

CarPlay vs. Android Auto

Feb 20, 2015, 4:40 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Feb 23, 2015, 2:15 PM

By all accounts, both Apple and Google have bold ambitions in the automotive space. But an Apple or Google Car is many years away. What's available today are CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which take a major new step in integrating your phone with your car. They're remarkably similar, both extending your phone's interface to the touch screen in your dash, but relying mostly on voice interaction for safe use while driving. In the this in-depth hands-on, we take a look at how they work, their striking similarities, and how they differ.

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Google Hoping to Glue Its Mobile Wallet Back Together

Feb 20, 2015, 10:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is seeking help from its carrier and hardware partners to revitalize its flagging Google Wallet service. According to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, Google is waving more cash in front of network operators to feature the app on their Android smartphones. Google told investors last month that it is prepared to launch a "fully functional payment system" that goes "beyond just tap and pay" at its I/O Developer Conference, scheduled for late May. Google's efforts won't be easy. Google doesn't enjoy the same level of control that Apple does, which manages the hardware and software of the iPhone. Google has to work with the carriers, handset makers, and financial institutions to make it all work. Apple cut carriers out of Apple Pay and only had to work with banks. Google's efforts are being undermined by its own partners. Earlier this week, Samsung purchased LoopPay to help it create its own competitor to Apple Pay; meanwhile, the bulk of Samsung's handsets run Google's Android platform. Moreover, the carriers have their own mobile payment service in place, called Softcard, and actively prevented Google Wallet from accessing the secure portions of their smartphones. According to the Journal, Google is offering carriers a bigger cut of ad dollars for promoting Google Wallet. Further, Google is in talks with carriers to purchase Softcard, which could help resolve some of the issues at play. Google declined to comment on the Journal's story.

Samsung to Acquire LoopPay In Bid to Battle Apple

Feb 18, 2015, 4:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has agreed to purchase LoopPay, a mobile payments startup, for an undisclosed sum. With the acquisition, Samsung can bring a mobile payment service to market to compete with Apple Pay, Softcard, and Google Wallet. LoopPay's technology would allow Samsung handset owners to use their devices as mobile wallets and make purchases with associated credit or debit cards. One thing that sets LoopPay's service apart is that it doesn't require NFC. LoopPay works with existing magnetic stripe readers already installed in the bulk of retailers. It won't require merchants to upgrade their in-store hardware. Samsung and LoopPay believe this gives them an edge over competitors. Samsung may announce its mobile payment service as soon as March 1, when it is holding a press conference during the Mobile World Congress trade show. It will be a hallmark feature of the Galaxy S6, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sony Still Weighing Sale of Smartphone Business

Feb 18, 2015, 8:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced plans to spin off its audio and video business into a separate company. The unit will take the form of a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony. The move, explained CEO Kazuo Hirai, is to make the unit more autonomous and focused on generating profits. Sony made similar strategic moves with its television business and personal computing business. When asked if Sony would consider an outright sale of its television or smartphone businesses, Hirai responded, "I think we have to keep those possibilities in mind." Hirai hinted that Sony might sell off its smartphone business earlier this year. The company is heavily focused on generating profits, but its smartphone business has struggled against larger competitors Apple and Samsung. Hirai said there are no deals on the table at the moment.

iPhone Users Can Now Store Office Documents In iCloud

Feb 17, 2015, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced several new features for its Office suite of productivity apps. First and foremost, third-party cloud providers can now integrate their own services into the "locations picker" in the iOS Office apps. This means mobile device users can open, edit, and save their documents to any cloud service. Apple's iCloud is the first to receive this support, so iPhone and iPad users can store their mobile Office documents in iCloud. Microsoft said it plans to bring this feature to the Windows and Android versions of Office soon. Further, Microsoft is making it possible for cloud storage providers to weave Office Online into their own mobile applications. Microsoft's vision here is to let people open, view, and edit their online documents from any browser on any device. Microsoft said Box, Citrix, and Salesforce are already working on this level of integration. Microsoft has dramatically increased the availability of Office to mobile devices in recent months with the hopes that people and businesses will continue to use its productivity suite rather than competing products from Apple and Google.

Apple Pay to Reach Select Government Services

Feb 13, 2015, 2:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumers will be able to use their iPhone to pay for certain government-run services later this year. Beginning in September, said Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple Pay will be available at government parks and with government credit cards. Cook also said Apple Pay may be used for social security payments and veteran's pensions. "We can imagine a day in the not so distant future when your wallet becomes a remnant of the past," said Cook. "Your passport, your driver's license and other important documents can be stored in a way that's safe, secure, and easy to access, but only by you." Cook made the comments at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University. Cook also reiterated the company's stance on protecting consumer privacy. "We believe deeply that everyone has a right to privacy and security," said Cook. Apple doesn't doesn't collect consumer data concerning Apple Pay transactions. "Our customer's trust means everything to us and we spent decades working to earn that trust."

Visa to Use Phone Location to Verify Card Purchases

Feb 13, 2015, 9:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Visa says it is offering banks a new smartphone-based tool that will cut down on the number of declined transactions when people use their credit cards abroad. The service, called Mobile Location Confirmation, is opt-in and uses phone location to verify the cardholder's presence at or near the point of sale. Visa's bank customers can add the service to their own mobile banking applications. Customers will need to permit the banking app to access their location. Visa says the service can act in real-time, matching the cardholder's geo location with the transaction location in less than a millisecond. Visa said when users' locations match the point of sale, banks can "more confidently approve the transaction." Visa believes this will help reduce pain points for banks and consumers alike. It can help save credit card issuers hundreds of millions of dollars in customer service fees and reduce cardholder frustration by cutting down on the number of declined purchases. Separately, Visa today announced a new way to conduct online and mobile transactions that nixes the need to use the 16-digit account number. Visa plans to pair its Visa Token Service with Visa Checkout, which will create unique transaction codes for mobile and online purchases rather than use the cardholder's account number. Visa believes removing the account number from transaction details will help it improve security. The tool is already being used in Apple Pay. Visa plans to expand its availability across the web and to other mobile apps.

iOS Apps Can Now Be As Big As 4 GB

Feb 13, 2015, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has increased the maximum size of applications allowed in the iOS App Store from 2 GB to 4 GB. Apple says this should allow developers to "include more media in [their] submission and provide a more complete, rich user experience upon installation." The majority of apps fall well under 100MB in size, but games increasingly need more storage. Developers were getting around the size limitation by requiring additional downloads after the app was installed. Apple hopes the increased size limit will negate the need for developers to side-step its limitations. Apple warns, however, that this doesn't change the maximum size of apps that can be downloaded via cellular networks, which is still 100MB.

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