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printed October 31, 2014
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Madstar Mobile Latest Sprint MVNO Looking to Disrupt

Today, 7:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Madstar Mobile today announced itself as "the newest national wireless carrier." The MVNO resells access to Sprint's 3G/4G networks and claims to offer the benefits of postpaid and prepaid services at the same time. It bills for service on a postpaid basis, but it doesn't require credit checks, deposits, or contracts. Madstar says customers can cancel their service at any time with no fear of ETFs. The company offers a range of feature phones, smartphones, and access points. Customers can choose to pay full price for their phones or finance them with monthly payments. For example, the HTC One (M8) is available for $665 or as low as $29 per month on an installment plan. Other handsets in Madstar's roster include the Apple iPhone 5, Google Nexus 5, Kyocera Kona, and the Samsung Galaxy S5. Alternately, customers can bring their own compatible device and port their existing wireless number if they wish. The least expensive service plan costs $22 per month and includes 250 voice minutes, 250 messages, and pay-as-you-go data. Plan pricing jumps by $11 increments, with the most expensive option topping out at $88 per month. It includes unlimited voice minutes, messaging, HD Voice, and 2GB of data "Our goal is to provide subscribers with a cost effective, convenient and reliable wireless service using the device of their choice,” said David Pearsall, Madstar Mobile's founder & CEO. "Wireless devices and service have become a necessity, not a luxury and should be affordable to everyone without the need to prepay now for the right to service later." The company is based in New Milford, Conn.


Microsoft Debuts Health Platform and Wearable

Yesterday, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced Microsoft Health, a new platform that's similar in basic approach to Apple's HealthKit and Google's Google Fit programs. Microsoft Health relies on a cloud-based service where consumers and the industry both store health and fitness data. The Microsoft Health application is available today for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices. It collects information from third-party apps and services and saves the data to the cloud, where it can help users manage their health and fitness goals. Microsoft Health doesn't combine data points from apps locally on smartphones, which both HealthKit and Fit do. Instead, the data is analyzed by Microsoft's Intelligence Engine online, which can be used to generate graphs, charts, and other ways to assess the data. For example, Microsoft Health can tell people which exercises burn the most calories, or calculate the quality of users' sleep. Though Microsoft Health works with select third-party devices, such as Jawbone Up, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Band wearable. The band was designed to be worn all day long. It has 10 sensors inside that track steps, calories burned, heart rate, and more. Together with the Microsoft Health app, the Microsoft Band offers guided workouts created by Gold's Gym, Shape, and others. The band also includes notifications for incoming calls, messages, or social networking updates. The Band is available from Microsoft's web site and retail stores beginning today for $199. Last, Microsoft is offering SDKs and APIs to health providers and app developers so they may hook their products into Microsoft Health.


MCX Goes On the Defensive, Offers New Details

Wednesday, 1:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

MCX took to its company blog today to "set the record straight" on what its forthcoming CurrentC product will and won't entail. First and foremost, MCX said participation in its payment service is voluntary. "MCX merchants make their own decisions about what solutions they want to bring to their customers; the choice is theirs. When merchants choose to work with MCX, they choose to do so exclusively. Importantly, if a merchant decides to stop working with MCX, there are no fines." In other words, companies that pick CurrentC to power mobile payments in their stores will not be permitted to accept alternate mobile payment services, such as Apple Pay or Google Wallet. MCS will not penalize members that decide to switch allegiances. According to MCX, CurrentC will work with most Android or iOS devices and will offer loyalty programs, coupons, and payments all in a single transaction. It claims to meet the industry standard when it comes to fraud protection, and will allow consumers multiple different payment methods (credit card, merchant card, bank account). MCX claims consumers will be in control of their personal data (including location) and they can share as much or as little as they want with retailers. The company believes its QR code-based system will work well at retail locations, and points to the success Starbucks has had with a similar system. It said it might add other payment options, such as Bluetooth, down the road. MCX came under fire this week after CVS and Rite-Aid, which support CurrentC, ceased accepting Apple Pay and Google Wallet. CurrentC is currently being tested in select markets and won't fully launch until next year.


Softcard Now Buys a Big Mac with Cheese

Tuesday, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Softcard announced that it is accepted at more than 14,000 McDonald's locations around the country beginning today. Smartphone owners can make NFC-based mobile payments at the register and the drive-thru at all McDonald's restaurants. Softcard is free to download and is compatible with more than 80 Android handsets sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Softcard (formerly Isis) competes with Apple Pay.


CVS, Rite Aid Shut Out Apple Pay

Monday, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

CVS and Rite Aid have disabled the NFC-based payment systems within their stores, effectively preventing consumers from using Apple Pay to make tap-and-go payments. Spokesperson Ashley Flower said Rite Air "does not currently accept Apple Pay" and that Rite Aid is "still in the process of evaluating out mobile payment options." CVS did not provide a comment, but Apple Pay worked in CVS stores when the service launched on October 20 and and ceased to work over the weekend. Neither CVS nor Rite Aid was ever officially named by Apple as an Apple Pay supporter, but both have NFC-equipped payment terminals in their retail locations. Though neither company said why they don't support Apple Pay, some believe it is because they are backing a rival mobile payment system being developed by the Merchant Customer Exchange. The MCX launched in 2012 with the goal of creating a mobile payment service for smartphones. The MCX app is not expected to reach consumers until next year. The original list of supporters included 7-Eleven, Alon Brands, CVS/Pharmacy, Darden Restaurants, HMSHost, Hy-Vee, Lowe's, Publix Super Markets, Sears, Shell Oil, and Sunoco, though an unknown number of organizations have joined since 2012. According to the New York Times, MCX's app will be called CurrentC and involves scanning a QR code on the phone's display. Apple Pay is simpler to use, as consumers don't even have to wake their phones to make payments.


Facebook Debuts Rooms for Anonymous iPhone Chats

Oct 23, 2014, 12:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced Rooms, a new chatting service that harkens back to the early days of the internet. With Rooms, people can create small chat spaces around any topic that allows them to post comments, photos, and videos anonymously. Room creators pick the topic for the Room and can customize look and feel of the Room, such as colors, and even appoint moderators to police behavior. Users can adjust their "Like" button appearance, as well as create custom permissions for Room members. Room participants can invite others via QR codes. For now, Rooms is limited to the Apple iPhone. It is free to download and use.


Apple Vindicated in Another Patent Troll Lawsuit

Oct 23, 2014, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple beat back a lawsuit brought on by a small Honolulu-based company over mobile device patents. GPNE alleged that nine Apple products, including the iPhone and iPad, violated certain patents it holds regarding pager technology. GPNE is a patent holding and licensing firm. It doesn't make or sell products, but instead generates revenue through patent licensing fees and litigation. It was seeking $94 million in damages from Apple. The case was overseen by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose. Koh is a familiar character in Apple trials, and has presided over its large cases against Samsung. Apple was pleased with the court's decision. "Apple invents products that revolutionize industries, and relies upon the U.S. patent system to protect our innovation," said Apple said in a statement. "We urge congressional leaders to continue focusing on reform in this important area of patent law." Apple is often a target of patent firms seeking a payday.


Congress Warns FBI to Leave Peoples' Cell Phones Alone

Oct 22, 2014, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Members of Congress have responded to comments made by FBI Director James Comey regarding security measurers Apple and Google have added to their respective mobile operating systems. Both iOS 8 and Android 5.0 use encryption by default to protect user data from spying. The FBI doesn't like this. Comey last week asked Congress to pass legislation that would force smartphone makers to provide a back door into smartphones for law enforcement purposes. Congress has spoken up. "I think the public would not support it, certainly industry would not support it, civil liberties groups would not support it," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren in a statement provided to The Hill. "I think [Comey is] a sincere guy, but there's just no way this is going to happen." Senator Ron Wyden offered similar thoughts. "I'd be surprised if more than a handful of members would support the idea of backdooring Americans' personal property." Representative Darrell Issa added, "To FBI Director Comey and the [administration] on criticisms of legitimate businesses using encryption: you reap what you sow." Congress believes the American public is inherently distrustful of law enforcement's data collection techniques after the revelations made by Edward Snowden. FBI Director Comey wants Congress to update 1994 legislation called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which required phone companies to make it easy for law enforcement to tap calls. The Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, however, that CALEA already protects encryption measures put into place by companies. The law states companies "shall not be responsible for decrypting, or ensuring the government's ability to decrypt, any communication encrypted by a subscriber or customer." The Hill suggests the FBI isn't going to simply drop the matter and will continue its push for broader access to smartphones.


Apple Releases iOS 8.1 with Apple Pay

Oct 20, 2014, 12:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS version 8.1. The system update, for iPhones and iPads, activates Apple Pay and fixes a number of bugs. Apply Pay is Apple's mobile payment system. It makes use of the NFC radio and Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to enable tap-and-go payments at participating retailers. iPads can use Apple Pay to make in-app purchases. iOS 8.1 also provides access to iCloud Photo Library beta, and adds support for SMS messaging on the iPad and Mac computers. iOS 8.1 is free to download over the air.


FBI Wants Congress to Force Phone Makers to Add Back Door

Oct 17, 2014, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FBI Director James Comey has again voiced his displeasure with the new encryption tools added to Android 5.0 Lollipop and iOS 8. Both Google and Apple added the default encryption to their mobile operating systems in order to protect user data. Comey says this is an impediment to law enforcement, making it more difficult -- if not impossible -- to intercept real-time communication, such as phone calls and text messages. Comey said more and more criminals are turning to technology to hide or enable their unlawful activities. He beseeched Congress to create legislation that will require tech companies to provide back-door access to encrypted communications between suspected criminals. The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees. "Any effort by the FBI to weaken encryption leaves our highly personal information and our business information vulnerable to hacking by foreign governments and criminals," said ACLU director Laura Murphy. Congress has not responded publicly to Comey's comments.


Apple Debuts New Multi-Carrier SIM Card in iPad Air 2

Oct 16, 2014, 2:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 16, 2014, 2:35 PM

Apple today revealed the iPad Air 2, and along with it a new way to handle SIM cards. According to Apple, the new Apple SIM gives iPad Air 2 owners unprecedented flexibility when it comes to choosing an LTE service provider. "Whenever you need it, you can choose the plan that works best for you -- with no long-term commitment," explained Apple. "And when you travel, you may also be able to choose a data plan from a local carrier for the duration of your trip." The multi-carrier SIM is compatible with AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile in the U.S., as well as EE in the U.K. The iPad Air 2 supports 20 different LTE bands, similar to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The carriers named by Apple have not yet discussed the particulars regarding no-contract data plans. There's no word on why Verizon Wireless isn't included in the list of U.S. carriers. It's possible that the Apple SIM will find its way to future Apple products, including its iPhones.


Apple Says iOS 8.1 Is About Stomping Out Bugs

Oct 16, 2014, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Oct 16, 2014, 12:37 PM

Apple today revealed details about iOS 8.1, an update to its smartphone and tablet platform. iOS 8.1 targets numerous bugs that have caused issues for iPhone and iPad owners since its debut, such as connectivity and crashing. As far as new features, iOS 8.1 adds support for Apple Pay and includes the public beta of iCloud Photo Library for sharing photos. The update also brings back the camera roll within the photo application. Apple said iOS 8.1 will be available for download beginning Monday, October 20.


Apple Pay to Launch October 20

Oct 16, 2014, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced that Apple Pay will go live Monday, October 20. Apple Pay is Apple's NFC-based mobile payment service. The service hooks into iPhone owners' iTunes accounts and the associated credit cards. Apple Pay will also (eventually) work with cards issued by more than 500 banks across 220,000 locations operated by dozens of retailers. Apple Pay is limited to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus due to their embedded NFC radios. Apple Pay also works on the web, and can be used to make purchases from select online services.


AT&T Quietly Hits Stop on Beats Music Promo

Oct 16, 2014, 12:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has ceased offering a discount on the Beats Music subscription service. Since early this year, the carrier offered access to the streaming service for $15 per month for families with up to five lines and 10 devices. The discounted price is no longer available through AT&T. "There haven't been any changes for AT&T customers who currently have the Beats Music family plan or who are within the free trial period," said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel to FierceWireless. "New subscribers can still get Beats Music through their app store or at beatsmusic.com." Apple closed its acquisition of Beats Music earlier this year and the service's fate has been undefined since then. The $10 monthly subscription to the service is still available.


Boost Mobile to Begin iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Sales Oct. 17

Oct 10, 2014, 8:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Boost Mobile today said it will offer the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus beginning October 17. Boost is charging, in general, about $100 less than Apple is for the iPhones. Boost is selling the iPhone 6 for $550, $650, and $750 for the 16-, 64-, and 128-GB models, respectively, and the 6 Plus for $650, $750, and $850 for the 16-, 64-, and 128-GB models, respectively. Boost is a prepaid carrier operated by Sprint. It doesn't require contracts.


Gmail for iOS Updated with Support for iPhone 6 / 6 Plus

Oct 6, 2014, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated its Gmail application for Apple's iOS devices. The new version supports the screen sizes and resolutions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Gmail is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Apple Releases Tool to Check if Used iPhones Are Stolen

Oct 2, 2014, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple recently published a web site that allows prospective buyers of used iPhones to check the phone's status before making a purchase. As long as the IMEI or serial number is available, users can enter the data into Apple's Activation Lock site to determine if the device was reported stolen by its rightful owner. Apple's Find My iPhone tool lets people not only locate lost or stolen iPhones, but wipe them and render them useless through the Activation Lock. Devices that cannot be activated are essentially worthless. The tool works with the iPad and iPod Touch, as well.


NFC Forum Hopes Developer Program Will Kickstart Apps

Oct 2, 2014, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The NFC Forum today launched the NFC Developer Program, a series of resources aimed to help developers create NFC-enabled apps. The NFC Developer Program will include events, as well as web-based tools, such as SDKs, tech specs, news, and product highlights. The NFC Forum believes this program will help catalyze developer interest in NFC and bringing it to their applications. The NFC Forum is hosting a product showcase to help spur interest in the program. Developers can find the pertinent details on the new Tap Into NFC web site. Most mid-range and high-end smartphones include NFC radios. To-date, NFC is generally used for pairing devices, though efforts such as Softcard and Apple Pay rely in NFC for mobile payments.


eBay to Spin Off PayPal Next Year

Sep 30, 2014, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

eBay today announced plans to separate its online auction business from its online payments business. eBay will spin off PayPal into its own company, a move it expects to complete during the second half of 2015. eBay and PayPal have long worked hand-in-hand to let people make online purchases easily with just their email address. PayPal has expanded its scope beyond simple online transactions, but will need to push further into the mobile space to combat the likes of Apple Pay and Softcard. "For more than a decade eBay and PayPal have mutually benefited from being part of one company, creating substantial shareholder value," said eBay CEO John Donahoe. "However, a thorough strategic review with our board shows that keeping eBay and PayPal together beyond 2015 clearly becomes less advantageous to each business strategically and competitively." Activist investor Carl Icahn long pushed for eBay and PayPal to separate, but eBay resisted the move until today. Devin Wenig, eBay Marketplace President, will be the new eBay's CEO. eBay has tapped American Express executive Dan Schulman to run the new PayPal. He is joining PayPal immediately. Donahoe will oversee the separation of the two companies, and will then step aside.


Apple Responds to Bent iPhone Issue

Sep 25, 2014, 2:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 25, 2014, 2:20 PM

Apple today issued a statement concerning reports of bent iPhones. It said bent iPhones are "extremely rare" under normal use, and the company has only received nine such compliants from customers. Videos and images have spread across the internet in recent days depicting iPhones 6 Plus handsets that nave been bent. Apple said the device has undergone rigorous durability tests and consumers have no reason to worry.


Apple Explains How to Revert to iOS 8.0

Sep 25, 2014, 6:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 25, 2014, 7:04 AM

Apple published directions on its support web site that iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners can use to revert their devices to iOS 8 from iOS 8.0.1. The work-around restores cellular connectivity, which had been broken by the yanked iOS 8.0.1 update. It involves downloading the .ipsw file from Apple and using it in conjunction with iTunes on a computer to install a clean version of iOS 8. Apple also noted that it is preparing iOS 8.0.2, which will also resolve the cellular issue as well as resolve the bugs iOS 8.0.1 was meant to fix.


Apple Publishes, Then Pulls, iOS 8.0.1 Update

Sep 24, 2014, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 24, 2014, 3:02 PM

Apple released a new version of iOS 8 this afternoon only to yank it shortly thereafter. The purpose of iOS 8.0.1 was to resolve a wide range of bugs impacting iOS devices, such as the inability to download HealthKit apps from the App Store. Instead, the update caused even more grief as it disabled cellular service on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus across multiple carriers. The update also broke Touch ID functionality. Once users reported losing cellular service on their devices, Apple removed the update from its servers. "We have received reports of an issue with the iOS 8.0.1 update," said Apple in a statement. "We are actively investigating these reports and will provide information as quickly as we can. In the meantime we have pulled back the iOS 8.0.1 update." iPhone owners who've lost cellular service due to the update should be able to regain access to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon by restoring their iPhone to iOS 8.


Google Bags 'Google Currents' for iOS, Intros 'Play Newsstand'

Sep 23, 2014, 12:55 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rebranded and relaunched its Google Currents app for iPhones and iPads. The new name of the magazine and news service is called Google Play Newsstand - a named markedly similar to Apple's own Newsstand app. Along with the new name, Google redesigned the app. It features new navigation tools to help users find articles more quickly; a 'read now' tool for jumping to fresh articles amongst the user's subscriptions; and an expanded library that stores all the user's articles in one spot. Google Play Newsstand is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Verizon's VoLTE Service Live for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

Sep 20, 2014, 10:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon has made its Advanced Calling 1.0 feature available to the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The free service will pass voice calls over Verizon's LTE 4G network rather than the cellular network. It offers high-quality voice calls and video calls. In order to enable the service, owners of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus need to use the settings tool to allow "voice & data" over LTE directly on their phone. Once enabled, the feature will appear as active in their Verizon account online. VoLTE calls only work between two Verizon VoLTE-enabled devices. The only other Verizon devices that support VoLTE right now are the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G2.

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Android L to Have Encryption Turned On By Default

Sep 18, 2014, 6:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said that encryption will be turned on automatically in the next release of Android, which is expected to arrive next month. Encryption will make it harder for law enforcement to access user data on such devices. "For over three years Android has offered encryption, and keys are not stored off of the device, so they cannot be shared with law enforcement," said company spokeswoman Niki Christoff to the Washington Post. "As part of our next Android release, encryption will be enabled by default out of the box, so you won't even have to think about turning it on." With encryption turned on, only those who enter the correct password will be able to gain access the device and the information stored on it, such as photos and videos. New devices that ship with Android L will benefit from this immediately. In the mean time, Android device owners can turn on encryption manually in the settings menu. Earlier this week, Apple said it took similar steps with the latest release of its mobile operating system, iOS8, which is also encrypted.


Twitter for iOS8 Refreshes Profiles and Notifications

Sep 18, 2014, 3:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today updated its application for iOS devices. The new version of Twitter makes two major changes. First, it places a greater emphasis on user profiles, which are easier to see. Twitter explains that bios are visible as soon as you get to the profile page for any given user, it no longer requires a swipe to access. The improved profiles are visible to all devices running iOS7 and up. Second, Twitter for iOS8 takes advantage of some of the new features in the operating system from Apple. iPhone owners running iOS8 will be able to interact directly with push notifications from Twitter, meaning they can Retweet, favorite, and follow directly from the notifications as they appear on the screen. Twitter is free to download from the App Store.


Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to Have Kill Switch

Sep 17, 2014, 6:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple's new iPhones will include a kill switch that owners can use to remotely lock or wipe them, reports Reuters. The feature has been part of iOS for several years, but the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will have the feature turned on by default. The feature can be installed on older iPhone models, as well. The news comes from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, rather than Apple itself. Earlier this year, Apple, Google, and Microsoft all agreed to add kill switches to their devices by July 2015. Most major wireless network operators in the U.S. have agreed to a similar framework. Lawmakers believe the presence of the kill switch will eventually deter street crime and reduce the thefts of smartphones. The logic behind the effort is to reduce the demand for stolen goods by allowing owners to render them useless and valueless to thieves.


HealthKit Sickened By Bug, Apple Delays Release

Sep 17, 2014, 6:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has delayed the release of HealthKit, which is part of iOS8, thanks to a bug. "We discovered a bug that prevents us from making HealthKit apps available on iOS 8 today. We're working quickly to have the bug fixed in a software update and have HealthKit apps available by the end of the month," said Apple. Users who install iOS8 will notice the Apple Health app has been added to their iPhone, but without associated apps it isn't of much use. HealthKit serves as the link between health/fitness apps and Apple Health on the iPhone. According to Reuters, apps developed by MyFitnessPal and WebMD were yanked from the App Store at the last moment today thanks to the bug.


Swype, SwiftKey, Others Available to iOS for First Time

Sep 17, 2014, 2:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 17, 2014, 2:48 PM

Apple released iOS8 today and with the updated operating system comes a new feature many will surely relish: support for third-party keyboards. Though Apple took care to revise its own keyboard application, iOS devices can now install and use keyboard apps made by other companies. Some of the first to leave the gate are Swype and SwiftKey, two keyboards that are well known to Android device owners. Swype is available for $0.99 and the SwiftKey Keyboard is available for free. Swype includes several themes, supports a handful of languages, and supports personal dictionaries. iPhone owners can easily switch between the stock keyboard and Swype for easier typing. Swype works on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. SwiftKey offers a similar feature set, including word predictions, enhanced autocorrect, and cloud-based learning for a more personal experience across devices. SwiftKey's one limitation is that the Flow (tracing) keyboard only works with the iPhone and iPod, but not the iPad. Flesky and Minuum are two other such apps.


Verizon Starts VoLTE Roll-Out; Wi-Fi Calling on Deck for 2015

Sep 17, 2014, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless has slowly begun to enable VoLTE on select devices on its network. To start, VoLTE is available to the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the LG G3. In order to use the service, subscribers need to download an app called Advanced Calling 1.0. More devices will supported over time. In order for VoLTE to work, both parties need to have VoLTE-capable phones and access to Verizon's LTE 4G network. The service, which is free to use, offers high-quality calls that are passed over the data network rather than the traditional voice network. Separately, Verizon Wireless said that, like AT&T, it is going to wait until 2015 to launch Wi-Fi Calling. Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said it will eventually roll out the service, which is supported by the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but it is not a priority. "We built our voice platform so extensively [that] there was never a need for us to tell our customers, 'Oh, our network is not good enough so you need to go on Wi-Fi to complete your call,'" said Shammo. Both Sprint and T-Mobile offer Wi-Fi Calling to a growing number of handsets. T-Mobile just today launched its Personal CellSpot in order to help its customers experience better voice connectivity when in their homes.


Apple Makes iOS8 Available to the Masses

Sep 17, 2014, 12:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS8 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch (5th gen). iOS8 offers a number of refinements to Apple's mobile operating system. Some of the new features include a new word prediction engine and support for third-party keyboards; family sharing for iTunes content; Continuity for seamless messaging across devices; revised gallery and camera apps that make sharing and editing easier; improvements to Spotlight search; the ability to send audio clips within text messages; and Health for tracking fitness and health apps. iOS8 is compatible with the iPhone 4s, 5, 5s, and 5c, as well as most iPads. It comes preinstalled on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which go on sale September 19. The system update can be installed over Wi-Fi or via iTunes.


FaceTime Verdict Against Apple Tossed for Now

Sep 16, 2014, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A federal court today threw out a guilty verdict levied against Apple in 2012 over patents related to its FaceTime application. A company called VirnetX sued Apple, alleging FaceTime infringed on VirnetX's intellectual property. VirnetX sought damages of $708 million, but the Tyler, Texas, jury awarded it $368 million in 2012. Today's action sees the basic guilty verdict vacated based on some technicalities experienced in the original trial. The appeals court believes Apple did in fact violate VirnetX's patents, and sent the case back to trial for further examination.


AT&T to Wait Until 2015 to Launch WiFi Calling

Sep 12, 2014, 11:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's top exec today said the company won't offer WiFi calling on its devices until next year. WiFi Calling has been around for years, but was highlighted by Apple this week as a new feature in the iPhone 6/6 Plus. Further, T-Mobile announced this week plans to expand WiFi calling to all its smartphones with a new in-home hotspot. T-Mobile's WiFi service goes live soon, but AT&T is in no rush to compete. "We're very focused on making sure it's a great experience for customers, but we see it as a complement, not a replacement," said CEO Ralph de la Vega. "We feel good about a great nationwide network with unlimited talk and text." WiFi calling passes voice calls and text messages over a local WiFi network rather than the macro cellular network.


T-Mobile Expands Wi-Fi Calling, Partners with GoGo

Sep 10, 2014, 3:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 17, 2014, 7:04 AM

T-Mobile today said it will make Wi-Fi calling available to all its postpaid customers for free. The move, announced at an event in San Francisco, is meant to help provide improved voice coverage in spaces where T-Mobile's network doesn't reach. Wi-Fi calls can be made from any open network. Even so, T-Mobile also debuted the T-Mobile Personal Cell Spot. This Wi-Fi hotspot, made by Asus, requires a $25 deposit and works with existing in-home internet service. It will permit T-Mobile customers to experience high-quality Wi-Fi calls when at home. It prioritizes voice functionality over data functionality. New phones sold by T-Mobile (including the iPhone 6) will have this new functionality built in from the get-go, while older devices will receive an update to gain the new Wi-Fi calling features. The Personal Cell Spot will remain private; only those with the Wi-Fi password will be able to use it for calls and messaging. The Wi-Fi calling feature is free to use for all customers. T-Mobile offered a similar service back in 2007, called Hotspot@Home, but discontinued it in 2010. T-Mobile also announced a partnership with GoGo that will let its customers send and receive SMS/MMS messages from GoGo-equipped airplanes, as well as receive visual voicemail. The in-flight messaging service goes live September 17 and is free to all T-Mobile customers. The service will work with select phones at launch, including Samsung Galaxy S5, Apple iPhone 5s, HTC One, and LG G3 among others. More will be added over time.

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Sprint Announces iPhone 6 Leasing Program, Unlimited Data

Sep 9, 2014, 6:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new program that will make it easier for customers to afford the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Sprint's iPhone 6 leasing program allows subscribers to obtain the iPhone 6 for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $20 (16-GB version). The 64-GB model costs $25 per month and the $128-GB model costs $30 per month. After two years, customers can turn the device in and receive the next-generation iPhone under the same terms. The iPhone 6 Plus will cost $5 more per month for each storage variant. Additionally, Sprint said the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will be eligible for a new Simply Unlimited plan that offers unlimited talk, text, and data for just $50 per month for a single line. Sprint does not throttle data speeds, nor does it charge overages. Sprint's already-announced family plans (four to ten lines) are being offered at the existing rates. Families looking to finance the iPhone 6 can make use of Sprint's Easy Pay program. Last, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are Sprint Spark-compatible, which means they operate on Sprint's faster LTE service.

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Softcard 'Working with Apple' to Work on iPhone 6

Sep 9, 2014, 3:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Softcard, the mobile payment venture backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, today said it is "actively working with Apple to enable Softcard on the iPhone in 2015," according to CEO Michael Abbott. Softcard said Apple's decision to support NFC is "very significant and sets the stage for rapid scale adoption of mobile commerce." Softcard (the new brand name for Isis) has been available to Android smartphones since November 2013 and the iPhone via a special case since early 2014. Apple today separately announced its own mobile payment service called Apple Pay. Apple Pay will use NFC and properly-equipped retail terminals to power tap-and-go payments. Apple Pay launches in October with support from a number of banks and retailers.


Apple Reveals the Apple Watch

Sep 9, 2014, 1:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 9, 2014, 1:47 PM

Apple today announced the Apple Watch, a smart watch marking its entry into the wearables market. The device has an overall square shape, but features gently rounded side edges. The Apple Watch will be available in solver and gold, and will be compatible with a number of different straps that slide in and out of a unique slot. Apple calls it "the most personal device we've ever created." Apple says it is synced with universal time standards and is used as a personal health and fitness tracker.,thanks to a trio of sensors placed on the back. Apple worked hard to redefine the user interface, which is entirely different from that of iOS. It features a physical dial on the side that is used to zoom in and out of whatever is one the screen. A press of the dial takes you back to the home screen. The Apple Watch has a sapphire touch screen that displays notifications. Watches can be aware of one another and send short messages, and the device can accept voice dictation as well. It charges via mag-safe magnetic induction. The charger attaches to the back of the Watch. There are two different sizes to accommodate a range of wrist sizes. The UI allows people to alter the expression of emoji, draw little figures, choose between predetermined answers to messages, and even view photos that have been favorited in iCloud. The device will be able to run third-party apps, and Apple released WatchKit in association with the device so developers can get to work coding. The device will be available in early 2015 with a price point starting at $349.

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Apple Tackles Mobile Payments with Apple Pay

Sep 9, 2014, 12:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 9, 2014, 12:56 PM

Apple today announced its intent to reshape the way people pay for goods and services with Apple Pay. Rather than develop a system that benefits Apple, Apple said it designed Apple Pay so that it offers the best user experience possible for consumers. The process involves tapping the iPhone against a compatible terminal and using the fingerprint reader to verify the purchase. Apple stores the user credit card information in a secure element on the phone. Apple Pay integrates easily with Apple's Passbook application, which collects and manages loyalty cards and similar programs. According to Apple, iPhone owners can use the credit card they already have on file with iTunes, or add others. Visa, MasterCard, and AMEX are supporting Apple Pay in the U.S., with banks such as Chase, Citi, WellsFargo, CapitalOne, and Bank of America. The system will be supported at 22,000 retailers across the U.S. at marquee retailers and restaurants such as Macy's, Bloomingdales, Wallgreens, Duane Reade, Subway, McDonalds, Whole Foods, Staples, Subway, and others. The system doesn't actually share the owner's credit card number with the merchant, and instead creates a distinct, one-time transaction code. Users don't need to put in the name, address, or any other information; simply press the fingerprint scanner. Apple Pay is available to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and will launch in October.

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Apple to Deliver iOS 8 September 17

Sep 9, 2014, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said iOS 8 will be available to existing iOS devices beginning September 17. It is compatible with the iPhone 5s, 5c, and 4s; the iPad 2, iPad with Retina Display, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPad Mini with Retina Display; and the iPod 5th generation.

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Apple Shows Off iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

Sep 9, 2014, 12:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 9, 2014, 2:02 PM

Apple today revealed new iPhones during a special event held in California. The new devices have curved designs, a protruding camera module, and Apple's signature metal design. The phones have a glass front, aluminum frame, and a steel Apple logo on the back. The iPhones have Retina HD displays that measure 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches, respectively. The smaller screen has 1334 x 750 pixels and the larger one has 1920 x 1080 pixels. The iPhone 6 measures 6.9mm thick, the 6 Plus measures 7.1mm - both are thinner than the iPhone 5s. The iPhone 6 Plus offers a wide array of landscape-optimized apps, such as a two-panel view in messaging, along with a wider keyboard. A double-press of the home button will move the UI elements normally positioned at the top of the screen down so they are easier to reach with one hand. Apple said content designed for the different iOS screen sizes and resolutions will now scale up to match whichever device is being used. The phones feature a 64-bit A8 processor that uses a 20nm processes that Apple says is 20% faster than the iPhone 5s' A7 chip, and provides a 50% bump in graphics performance. The iPhones also use Apple's M8 Motion coprocessor to help manage sensors for fitness apps. The sensors are able to differentiate between cycling and walking, and can calculate speed and elevation changes. The new handsets feature 20-band support for LTE networks, and include carrier aggregation, VoLTE capabilities, and Wi-Fi calling (from select carriers). The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus both feature an 8-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.2 and what Apple calls True Tone flash. The cameras can shoot panoramas up to 43-megapixels. Thanks to a new image signal processor, the cameras are faster to focus, and faster to detect faces/blinking. The 6 uses digital processing for image stabilization, but the 6 Plus uses optical image stabilization. The cameras can shoot 1080p HD vide at 30/60fps, as well as slow-motion video at 120/240fps. The user-facing camera, which Apple calls FaceTime, has an all-new sensor that is faster at detecting faces, allows in 81% more light than the 5s, and can capture selfies in rapid-fire bursts. The iPhone 6 will cost $199, $299, or $399 for the 16-GB, 64-GB, and 129-GB models, respectively. The iPhone 6 Plus costs $299, $399, and $499 for the 16-GB, 64-GB, and 128-GB models, respectively. Those prices are available only with two-year contracts. Both iPhones go on sale September 19, with preorders beginning September 12. The iPhone 5s will remain available for $99, the 8GB iPhone 5c will be available for free.


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