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.
Facebook today said its Messenger-based, peer-to-peer mobile payment service is now available to everyone across the U.S. It was initially tested in New York City earlier this year. Messenger users need only add their MasterCard- or Visa-backed debit card to pay anyone else on Messenger. Money goes straight from the sender's checking account to the recipient's checking account. 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.
A U.S. court of appeals today upheld a ruling from a lower court that found Apple guilty of conspiring with book publishers to raise the prices of e-books. Books were generally priced at $9.99 by companies such as Amazon. Following the launch of Apple's iBook store, prices eventually rose to $12.99 and $14.99 for many titles. The appeals court said the initial ruling was correct, as was the injunction imposed against Apple. Today's ruling means Apple is on the hook for a $450 million settlement with attorneys general in 33 states. One judge dissented, believing that Apple's arrival in the market challenged Amazon, which was at the time the dominant player in the e-book market. Apple did not immediately respond to the ruling, but it marks the final chapter of a lengthy legal case that Apple has not been able to beat.
Apple today made available iOS 8.4, a system update for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch that installs Apple Music. Apple Music is Apple's new streaming music service and is part of an all-new Music app for iOS devices. The service is being offered for free on a trial basis for three months, after which it will cost $10 per month for individuals or $15 per month for families. Apple Music offers unlimited, ad-free streaming and access to Beats 1, Apple's global radio station. iOS 8.4 also makes improvements to iBooks application, and resolves some performance issues. iOS 8.4 is free to download and install.
Sprint today introduced a new plan that combines the cost of a service plan with the cost of a handset in one monthly payment. The Sprint All-In plan costs $80 per month and includes unlimited talk, text, and data, and a Sprint Lease on handsets such as the Apple iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S6, and HTC One M9. There are no up-front phone costs aside from a one-time, $36 activation fee. The $80 monthly rate does not include taxes. Sprint believes this is the simplest, most straight-forward plan in the market. Sprint will use soccer star David Beckham to advertise the plan, which is available in Sprint stores beginning today.
Apple will distribute iOS 8.4 beginning at 8AM/11AM Pacific/Eastern on June 30, according to Apple Music Senior Director Ian Rogers. The updated operating system installs Apple Music, Apple's monthly music service. The service will be available for free on a trial basis for three months, after which it will cost $10 per month. June 30 also marks the launch of Beats 1, Apple's global radio station. iOS 8.4 will work with most iOS devices.
Google has agreed to use data from the U.S. Federal Railroad Association (FRA) to add audio and visual alerts to drivers when they near railroad crossings. The idea is to make sure drivers are aware of railroad crossings when using Google Maps to navigate between points. The FRA also requested that Apple, Garmin, Tom Tom, and MapQuest make similar additions to their mapping and navigation services. In 2013, the most recent year with data, there were 2,096 car-train accidents at railroad crossings nationally that resulted in 288 deaths.
Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said the company will tackle the mobile phone industry again once its non-compete clause with Microsoft expires next year. Nokia no longer owns any manufacturing facilities and will not make its own phones. The company did something similar with an Android-based tablet it released in December. "We will look for suitable partners," said Suri in an interview with the German magazine Manager Magazin. "Microsoft makes mobile phones. We would simply design them and then make the brand name available to license." Microsoft bought Nokia's handset business in 2014 for $7.2 billion. Just this week, Microsoft reshuffled its executive deck and removed two former leaders from Nokia, Stephen Elop and Jo Harlow. Neither Elop nor Harlow has said what their next steps will be. Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and Lumia-branded handsets continue to struggle in the market against Apple's iOS and Google's Android. The company is releasing a new mobile operating system, Windows 10 Mobile, this fall. Suri did not say if Nokia will use Android, Windows Phone, or some other platform for its future devices.
T-Mobile today said its wireless network will support the continuity feature that's part of iOS 9. Apple already allows devices (iPhone, iPad, Mac) operating on the same WiFi network to send/receive calls and iMessages. For example, someone using their Mac at home can answer an incoming voice call on their computer rather than iPhone. With iOS 9, this continuity feature is being extended to cellular networks. This means a person who leaves their iPhone at home will still be able to send/receive calls and messages from their other Apple devices as long as they have a cellular network connection. T-Mobile said it will support the feature for those testing iOS 9 beta, and will support it for all users when Apple releases the final version of iOS 9 later this year. T-Mobile's competitors will likely also support the feature, but they haven't yet publicly said so.
New York and Connecticut want to be sure Apple Music, the new streaming service announced by Apple this week, doesn't violate antitrust rules. Universal Music Group, responding to requests from the attorneys general of New York and Connecticut, said it is not colluding with Apple nor its rivals to impede competition in the music streaming market. Lawmakers are concerned Apple and its partners are looking for ways to eliminate the option to listen to music for free. Apple Music carries a $10 monthly subscription fee, while competitors such as Pandora and Spotify offer ad-supported versions for free. Apple has not responded publicly about the investigation.
Apple has made iOS 8.4 Beta 4 available to developers for testing. The latest iOS 8 beta adds a new version of the music application ahead of Apple Music's debut later this month. The music app itself has been fully revised and will include the Apple Music service once it launches. The app has a redesigned Now Playing screen, a new mini player, and shows more imagery in the artist section. Users can do more with their playlists, and the search function has been improved to make discovering music in iTunes Radio easier. Apple said iOS 8.4 and Apple Music will be available in their final form on June 30.
Cadillac today said it will add support for Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto in select 2016 model-year vehicles. Cadillac will adopt CarPlay in cars and trucks featuring its 8-inch in-dash unit first, with Android Auto to follow later in the year. Cadillac's announcement follows that of Chevrolet's, both of which are properties of General Motors. CarPlay and Android Auto bring a select number of features from smartphones to the in-dash control panel for easier and safer use by drivers.
Apple's iOS 9 operating system will require some device users to upgrade their passcode from four digits to six. There are only 10,000 possible passcodes using four-digits, which means it is possible for hackers to break in using a brute force attack in mere hours. By adding two digits, iOS 9 ups the possible number of passcodes to 1 million. This dramatically increases the amount of time it would take hackers to force their way into an iOS 9 device. This new security requirement will affect the iPhone 5s, 6, 6 Plus, iPad Air 2, and iPad Mini 3. iOS 9 is expected to arrive in the fall.
Apple revealed a new app meant to help people switch from Android devices to iOS devices called Move to iOS. The app can be used to transfer contacts, message history, photo/videos, browser bookmarks, email accounts, calendars, and music from Android handsets to an iPhone. Apple says Move to iOS can also help rebuild app libraries by suggesting which ones to download from the iTunes App store. The Move to iOS app was announced along with iOS 9. Apple did not say when it will become available for download.
Apple today announced Apple Music, its new streaming music service. In addition to streaming the entire iTunes catalog, the service includes curated playlists. Apple Music Connect allows artists - large and small - to share with fans through a variety of media, including photos, short clips, and videos. Connect integrates with Facebook and has its own social features. A global radio station called "Beats 1" is also included. A section of the app is devoted to new music. Apple bought Beats - which had its own, similar streaming music service with curated playlists - one year ago. The app requires iOS 8.4. The service will cost $9.99 per month, or $14.99 for a family of up to six people. It will be available first on iOS, starting this month, followed by Android this fall. The first three months are free.
Apple today announced watchOS 2 for the Apple Watch. The headline feature is native apps, which allows watch apps to work without being in range of a paired phone, and work over the Internet via a local Wi-Fi network, instead of relying on a paired iPhone for Internet connectivity. Apps will also have access to new APIs for accessing the Watch microphone, speaker, Taptic Engine, accelerometer, HomeKit, and more. Third-party apps can now also provide their own "complications", which are like widgets that live on the modular watch faces. The complications also support "Time Travel", which lets you rotate the digital crown to see future info, such as weather forecasts and calendar appointments.. Other new watchOS features include a nightstand mode with alarm clock and the ability to reply to emails. Developers can access a beta version today, while it will roll out for consumers in the fall.
Apple today announced that the public will be able to install a beta version of iOS 9 on their iPhones and iPads in July. Developers have access to an earlier version starting today. The final version of iOS 9 will be a free download this fall. iOS 9 will also be the first version of iOS that doesn't increase system requirements; it will run on every Apple device that was able to run iOS 8. iOS 9 includes improved battery life, Maps with transit directions, a new News service, a more powerful Notes app with photos and sketches, a smarter Siri voice assistant, deeper search features, and split-screen multi-tasking on iPads.
At WWDC today, Apple announced that the new version of CarPlay coming with iOS 9 will support wireless connections, no longer requiring a wired USB connection between the phone and the car. The new CarPlay also supports different display shapes and higher-resolution displays.
Apple's iOS 9 will boost iPhone battery life in two ways. A new low-power mode can be switched on to extend battery life up to three hours, according to the company. Additional under-the-hood changes improve battery life one hour in typical usage scenarios, in all modes.
Apple today announced that Apple Maps in iOS 9 will support transit information and directions. The update supports multi-modal trips, including walking, subway, and ferry segments. Transit information includes next train times and exact station entrance/exit locations. At launch, supported cities include New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Baltimore.
Apple today announced that Apple Pay in iOS 9 will support store loyalty/rewards cards, starting with Walgreens and Dunkin Donuts. Apple is also adding support for store-brand credit cards. Apple is also renaming the Passbook app to "Wallet". Apple also announced that Square has new payment terminals that support Apple Pay. In the US, over 1 million locations will support Apple Pay by next month. Apple also announced the expansion of Apple Pay to the UK next month, including 250,000 retail locations and the London transit system.
Apple today announced that iOS 9 will include a new version of its Siri voice assistant that's both smarter and more proactive. The new Siri can respond intelligently to commands such as "show me my photos from Utah" and "remind about this web page when I get home". Siri also includes proactive visual suggestions integrated into a new search tool that lives to the left of the main home screen (like older versions of iOS.) The new search tool also includes an API allowing apps to expose in-app content to the iOS system search tool. Siri can also sift through email and act on event invitations (much like Gmail) to automatically add events to the calendar, prompt when it's time to leave, and suggest driving directions. It also attempts to link incoming call phone numbers with contact info in email, to provide richer contact info on incoming calls.
Apple's annual developer conference kicks off today and lots of news is in store. The company is expected to show off iOS 9, as well as improvements to Mac OS X, and Apple Watch OS. Follow Phone Scoop's liveblog for all the news.
Samsung has indicated its mobile payment service will not launch over the summer months as planned. Instead, Samsung Pay will get off the ground in the U.S. and Korea in September. The company confirmed the delay in a call Wednesday with investors. Samsung Pay was announced in March and will initially be available to the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge smartphones. It supports both NFC and magnetic payment terminals, which means it should be more widely available than either Apple Pay or Android Pay, which are limited to NFC terminals. Samsung didn't provide a reason for the delay. The company said Samsung Pay will expand to Europe, China, Australia, and South America, as well as other high-end Samsung devices, later in the year. Apple Pay has been available since October 2014 and Android Pay is expected to launch with Android M in September or October.
Phone subsidies and two-year contracts are on their way out the door, according to Ralph de la Vega, AT&T's CEO of mobile and business solutions. "I think it is one of those options that is going to go away slowly," said de la Vega to Recode, "not because we insist on it but because customers will choose it less often." AT&T has made changes recently to limit the availability of subsidies and contracts. AT&T partners Best Buy and Apple, for example, no longer offer customers AT&T contracts. Instead, they push AT&T Next plans, which break down the payment for phones over time. AT&T says two-thirds of new smartphone sales during the most recent quarter were via its AT&T Next plans, which clearly indicates consumers' preference when it comes to purchasing new hardware. T-Mobile was the first major carrier to break from the subsidy model with its Simple Choice plans, and now most carriers offer lower-cost service plans that are paired with monthly device payments.
Skype today updated its iPhone app and added several new features to the mobile communications tool. First, it now supports web link previews in text chats. When users receive a web link, Skype will generate a preview image of the web site in question so users can see where the link will take them. Skype for iPhone now also supports the Apple Watch. Skype users will be able to dictate message responses, initiate conversations with favorites, select from prepared responses, and manage incoming calls. The app doesn't support voice calls on the watch directly, but it will open Skype on the iPhone if users choose to answer an in-bound call. Skype 5.13 for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
The first wave of HomeKit-enabled devices are reaching the market today. HomeKit is Apple's platform for controlling select aspects of the home from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod. The products revealed today include light dimmers, thermostat controllers, and a smart home hub. Lutron's lighting kit and Insteon's hub go on sale today, and the others will ship later this month. More products are expected to arrive in July. Apple announced HomeKit a year ago. Rather than act as a stand-alone app, HomeKit lets third-party apps interact with connected devices around the home. iPhone owners can use Siri to turn lights on and off by voice command, if they wish. Google plans to add a similar capability to Android M with its Brillo / Weave platform.
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.
Apple today published steps consumers can take to temporarily resolve a bug impacting iMessage. Some users who receive a specific string of characters report that their iMessage app crashes. Apple said it is working on a fix to resolve the issue. In the meantime, iMessage users can have Siri open and read the offending message, reply to it, and delete the message thread to re-enable iMessage. The full directions are available on Apple's support site.
Soon after announcing its new mobile payment service called Android Pay, Google set about clarifying its position on Google Wallet moving forward. The company is working on a new version of Google Wallet that's set to arrive later this year. According to Google, it intends to let the service live on for making peer-to-peer payments. "The new app will allow anyone with a U.S. debit card to send and receive money for free within minutes -- even if the other person doesn't have the app. The money you receive can either be directly sent to your bank account or it can be spent in stores using the Google Wallet card," explained Google in a blog post. Google said the revised Google Wallet app will be made available to Android and iOS devices, and can be accessed from the web. Android Pay, on the other hand, powers tap-and-go mobile payments at 700,000 retail locations around the country. Android Pay began life as Softcard/Isis and was developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Google purchased Softcard's assets from the carriers in February. Like Apple Pay on the iPhone, Android Pay requires NFC and an associated credit card in order to make payments. Google said it will have more details regarding Google Wallet in the months ahead.
Google today announced Google Photos, another attempt by the company to help people get a handle on their photos and videos. Google wants Photos to serve as users' central repository for all their photos and videos, make it easy to manage and edit them, and make it easy to share and save the photos that matter. The service will be available online and to mobile devices. Users can take advantage of pinch gestures to view days, weeks, months, or years. Everything is stored online in Google Drive. The service also automatically creates albums based on location and time stamps. Google strove to remove the work from keeping photos organized. Users can use people, places, and things to categorize images -- and all the tags are generated automatically and privately so only the user can see them. Google's image recognition is able to tag people consistently as they age over time. Photos also has powerful search tools, which allow users to find specific moments in time. The service supports albums, movies, storyboards, animations, soundtracks, and editing. Sharing functions make selecting multiple shots a cinch with a single gesture. Users can easily generate links to photo albums for sharing that don't require the recipient to have a specific app installed. Google Photos offers unlimited storage for full-resolution photos and 1080p HD videos for free. Google Photos is available beginning today for Android, iOS, and the web.
Google today announced its own internet-of-things platform called Brillo. Brillo is derived from Android and has minimal system requirements. It has broad silicon support and is easy to secure -- both elements Google felt were important to offer. In coordination with Brillo, Google introduced Weave, a language for internet-of-things devices to use to communicate with one another. Google says Weave uses schemas, or language templates to communicate basic actions back and forth. Weave functions across platforms, and offers developers some APIs for incorporating into their own apps. Google claims the Brillo UI is easy for consumers to use when it comes to setting up their connected devices. Brillo will arrive in preview form during the third quarter of 2015 and Weave will be fully formed by the fourth quarter.
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.
Facebook today pushed out a minor update to its Facebook Messenger application and improved how it handles peer-to-peer payments. First, it made the mobile payment feature available to residents of the greater New York City area. The app makes it simpler for New Yorkers to send money to others by automatically turning numbers typed in conversation threads into dollar amount hyperlinks. The recipient can click on the hyperlink to accept the payment. The web version of Messenger now supports payments within group conversations, too, with each member able to see who paid who. Users need to add a Visa or MasterCard debit to their Facebook account in order to send money to or receive money from others. According to Facebook, payments are processed immediately on the sending side, but may take a day or two to process on the receiving side. 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.
General Motors CEO Mary Barra today said the company plans to add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to 14 of its 2016 models later this year. The in-dash software will be spread across GM's range of Chevrolet products, from the Chevy Corvette down to the Chevy Spark. GM will work to add the platforms to its other automotive brands, such as GMC and Cadillac, over time. GM had already committed to both platforms but had not previously said when it might get around to installing them. Earlier this week, Hyundai was the first to step up and add Android Auto to its 2015 Sonata sedan. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay bring basic elements of the smartphone experience to the in-dash navigation screen.
Apple today confirmed reports of an iMessage-based bug that can cause iPhones to crash. "We are aware of an iMessage issue caused by a specific series of unicode characters and we will make a fix available in a software update," said Apple to Reuters. Apple didn't say how soon the bug fix might be made available. The bug is a string of emoji that will crash the iMessage app itself, and can crash the phone as well. The bug was first reported by MacRumors.
Microsoft today said Android and iOS users will soon be able to use Cortana, its virtual assistant, on their smartphones. The Android and iOS Cortana app will work in coordination with Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, according to Microsoft. A Phone Companion app for Windows 10 PCs will help Android and iOS device owners install Cortana on their handset so they can access Microsoft's virtual assistant wherever they go. The Android and iOS version of Cortana will include most features available to the Windows 10 and Windows Phone versions, such as setting reminders, alerts, and alarms; tracking flights and managing travel details; and accessing Cortana's Notebook function for search preferences. Changes made in one version of Cortana will be reflected across all devices. Microsoft said the Phone Companion app will function with Windows Phone handsets, too, to help sync Cortana functions across devices. In order to test Cortana on Android and iOS smartphones, users will need to enroll in Microsoft's Windows Insider program and install the Windows 10 Technical Preview for PCs. Microsoft said the Cortana Companion App will be available for Android phones at the end of June and for iPhones later this year. Microsoft also mentioned that the updated Xbox Music app for Android and iPhone will be available in late June or July with the beta label in tow to stream OneDrive music content. Google's own personal assistant, Google Now, is available for Android and iOS devices, but not Windows Phone. Apple's Siri is only available to iOS.
Apple has promoted Jony Ive, the company's design guru, to the newly created Chief Design Officer position. Ive's previous title was Senior Vice President of Design. Ive is responsible for the hardware design of some of Apple's most iconic products, including the iPod, iMac, and iPhone. Ive was put in charge of iOS user interface design, too, in early 2013, and oversaw the platform's redesign later that year in iOS 7. The change "frees [Ive] up from some of the administrative and management work," according to a profile published by The Telegraph. Ive will remain responsible for overseeing all of Apple's design moving forward, but will focus on "new ideas and future initiatives," said Apple. Effective July 1, Ive will hand over the day-to-day managerial duties regarding industrial design and user interface design to Richard Howarth and Alan Dye, respectively. Both Howarth and Dye are long-time Apple employees and the three have worked together for many years.
A Delaware bankruptcy judge approved the sale of RadioShack's name and certain customer data to an affiliate of Standard General for $26.2 million. One of the key issues resolved over the last seven days concerned AT&T and Apple customer data. AT&T, Apple, and several state attorneys general disapproved of the sale of the customer data, and argued RadioShack had agreed to never sell it. Under the terms of the agreement, Standard General agreed to limit its own customers to email data generated over the last two years, as well as to only provide access to seven of 170 fields of data that RadioShack kept on its customers. The sale gives Standard General access to 67 million names and email addresses, rather than the full list of 117 million. Earlier this year Standard General purchased 1,734 RadioShack stores, which it plans to operate in cooperation with Sprint.
Apple today made available Watch OS 1.0.1, the first system update for the wearable since its release in April. Apple focused on ridding the Watch of bugs and made a number of performance improvements. For example, Siri should function more consistently and the Watch is better at measuring standing activity. The Watch can now calculate calories for indoor cycling and rowing, as well as measure distances and paces during outdoor walk and run workouts. Watch OS 1.0.1 makes tweaks to accessibility and adds support for new emoji. Last, the Watch now speaks, Brazilian Portuguese, Danis, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Thai, and Turkish. The update must be installed through the companion iPhone.