Verizon and HBO today announced the immediate availability of HBO Now to Verizon's internet and TV customers. Subscribers to Verizon's FiOS broadband and television services can trial HBO Now for free for 30 days, after which it will cost $15 per month. HBO said it plans to bring its content to Verizon Wireless' forthcoming mobile video platform later this year. HBO Now offers the bulk of HBO's programming, including movies, series, and sports. It first launched via Apple TV earlier this year.
T-Mobile today improved its iPhone leasing program. Anyone who leases the iPhone 6 before Labor Day will only have to pay $15 per month for the handset. Moreover, those customers will be able to keep the $15 monthly lease payment even if they upgrade to the next iPhone before the end of 2015. (This upgrade normally increases the lease payment to $27.) T-Mobile today also added Apple Music to its Music Freedom offering. This means people will be able to stream an unlimited amount of music from Apple over T-Mobile's network with no fear of it impacting their data usage. Both programs go into effect today.
Honda has committed to supporting Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay platforms in the forthcoming 2016 Honda Accord sedan. With the two platforms on board, owners of Android and iOS handsets will be able to connect their devices to the Accord's in-dash unit for safer interactions with their apps. A number of other carmakers have committed to supporting the smartphone platforms, including GM's Buick,Cadillac, and Chevy brands, and Volkswagen.
Senator Al Franken believes Apple may be violating antitrust laws with its Apple Music service and has asked the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to look into the company's practices. At issue is how Apple Music and competing services are priced. Apple charges $10 per month for Apple Music. Many of Apple Music's competitors, such as Spotify and Rhapsody, charge this same monthly fee. Apple lets competitors offer their apps and services through the iTunes App Store; however, because Apple takes a 30% cut in app revenue, Spotify and others are forced to raise their prices to $13 per month in order to make up the difference. Spotify is available for $10 per month to anyone who initiates the service online directly with Spotify, but Spotify is not allowed to advertise that in its iTunes App Store listing. Franken alleges that this results in consumers over-paying for music services. The FTC is already probing Apple's app store policies, but it has yet to open a formal investigation. Neither the FTC nor the Justice Department responded publicly to Franken's request. Separately, a consumer watchdog organization wants the FTC and Justice Department to examine the agreements between Apple and the big music labels. It alleges Apple has exclusive access to some artists and is trying to eliminate free streaming services. Apple did not comment on the allegations.
Apple has made a second public beta of iOS 9 available to consumers. This test version of iOS is meant for people interested in trialling the operating system ahead of its scheduled fall release. iOS 9 adds a wide range of new features, and also streamlines the performance of Apple's mobile platform. Apple recently released a fourth iOS 9 beta for developers, and today's public beta builds on that foundation. In addition to stability improvements, the new public beta heralds the return of Home Sharing for music, which had been pulled in the iOS 8.4 release. The public beta is not meant for primary devices, and Apple recommends it be used only on secondary iPhones and iPads. It can be downloaded and installed over the air.
Apple today released a fourth beta version of iOS 9 for developers. Apple typically tests major iOS versions for several months ahead of their general debut. Today's beta is for developers, and is not a new version of the consumer beta offered separately by Apple. The final version of iOS 9 isn't expect to arrive until September.
The GSMA said it is in advanced talks with Apple and Samsung to adopt the nearly-finalized electronic SIM card standard moving forward. The GSMA has been working with the industry on electronic SIMs for some time and is close to announcing a final standard. "We have got everyone back on one point, with Apple and Samsung agreeing to be part of that specification," said GSMA CEO Anne Bouverot. "We have been working with them and others to create an industry solution for machines and will agree on a solution for consumer electronics." Electronic SIMs would replace the plastic SIM cards used in today's cellphones. Electronic SIMs will make it far easier for consumers to change carriers and service plans without futzing with the physical SIMs. AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Etisalat, Hutchison Whampoa, Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone have already voiced support for the forthcoming standard. "With the majority of operators on board, the plan is to finalize the technical architecture that will be used in the development of an end-to-end remote SIM solution for consumer devices, with delivery anticipated by 2016," said the GSMA. Apple developed is own universal SIM card last year, but it was not widely adopted. The new electronic SIM will not appear in the new iPhones expected in September, according to the Financial Times. Apple and Samsung did not comment on the GSMA's statements.
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.
Google today revealed Eddystone, a new, open language for Bluetooth beacon technology. Google hopes Eddystone will be used by app developers, hardware makers, and service providers to unify how beacons are used. Beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy to locate devices like smartphones as they move within range. For example, Apple uses them in its retail stores to send location-based information (promotions, etc.) to the iPhones of shoppers who wander in. Google claims Eddystone is robust and scalable and perfect for the Android ecosystem and beyond. Eddystone ties in with Google's Nearby and Places APIs, which means app developers have plenty of tools to enrich their apps with location-based data and features. Eddystone is available on GitHub under the open-source Apache v2.0 license, for everyone to use and help improve.
Apple today released a public beta of iOS 9. This release is different from the beta builds Apple releases to developers. The public beta for iOS 9 includes many of the new features, such as the News app, new fonts, transit directions in Maps, and low-power mode. Apple suggests people interested in testing the beta do so on older devices and not on primary phones or tablet. People will be able to revert to iOS 8.4 (as long as a proper backup is available) should iOS 9 be too buggy for use. Beta OS releases are inherently less stable than final releases and aren't recommended for everyone. Apple is allowing people to sign up for the beta on its web site. It is compatible with the iPhone 4s, 5, 5c, 5s, 6, and 6 Plus.
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.
A judge tossed $532.9 million in damages levied against Apple earlier this year after reevaluating the results of the trial. In February, a jury found Apple guilty of infringing on three patents owned by Texas-based SmartFlash, a patent-holding company. Federal Judge Rodney Gilstrap believes the instructions he gave the jury likely "skewed" its understanding of how to award SmartFlash for the infringed patents. The jury's original award of $532.9 million has been vacated, but the judge scheduled a new trial for September to determine more appropriate damages.
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.