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printed May 23, 2015
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RadioShack Finalizes Sale of Name and Customer Data

Thursday, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Delivers First Update to the Apple Watch

Tuesday, 12:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

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Use Samsung Flow to Move Tasks Between Devices

Tuesday, 10:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung and Think Tank today introduced a beta app called Flow, which is meant to help people transition tasks from one Samsung device to another. It is similar in concept to Apple's Continuity feature for iOS and Mac hardware. Flow offers Samsung smartphone owners two distinct use-cases: transfer an activity or defer an activity. With transfer, people can work on a particular activity and then move it to another device and pick up right where they left off. For example, users can listen to clips on Soundcloud on their smartphone and then transfer the activity to their tablet without missing a beat. The deferring feature lets people defer an incoming activity request on one device if, for example, it's not the right device for that particular task. They can then pick up the activity on whichever other device they prefer when they're ready. According to Samsung, Flow supports existing applications through Android's share mechanism. Samsung expects to add more features, including notify, mirror, and divide, to Flow over time. For the moment, Flow is limited to the Galaxy S5, S6, and S6 Edge; Galaxy Alpha; Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge; and the Galaxy Tab S. The beta app is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Verizon Expands XLTE to 6 More Markets

Tuesday, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today marked the one-year anniversary of its XLTE service by expanding coverage to six additional markets. XLTE is now available in Marshalltown, Iowa; Madisonville and Owensboro, Ky.; Traverse City, Mich.; Meridian, Miss.; and Martinsville, Va. Verizon's XLTE coverage is available in more than 400 markets. It combines Verizon's 700MHz and AWS spectrum to boost capacity of its LTE 4G network. Verizon says it has more than 40 XLTE-capable devices, including the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6.

Appeals Court Says Samsung Didn't Copy Apple's Designs

Monday, 9:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A federal appeals court today reversed part of a verdict won by Apple against foe Samsung regarding its designs and patents. Apple alleged Samsung copied its iPhone designs, or "trade dress," as part of its 2011-2012 lawsuit. Apple also sued over patent infringement. A jury agreed in August 2012 and awarded Apple $382 million for the trade dress violation and $548 million for the patent violations -- totaling some $930 million. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit agreed that Samsung violated Apple's patents, but said the iPhone's trade dress could not be protected. As such, the Federal court is sending the trade dress decision back to lower courts for reconsideration. Apple and Samsung have given up on most of their legal battles, but this particular case continues to wind its way through courts. Neither Apple nor Samsung offered immediate comment on today's decision.

Samsung to Fold Up Mobile Wallet App Ahead of Samsung Pay

Monday, 9:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has indicated to its customers and business partners that it plans to close the Samsung Mobile Wallet application on June 30. The app launched with the intent of competing with Apple's Passbook in that it is best used to store membership and loyalty cards for varied businesses. It was never meant to serve as a mobile payment application. Samsung admitted that, since its mid-2013 launch, the service has not seen the uptake it hoped. Samsung said users' and partners' Samsung accounts will be maintained without changes, but the Samsung Wallet app, including its APIs, will no longer function after June 30. Samsung is prepared to launch Samsung Pay later this year. Samsung Pay will be available to the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge and will power mobile payments at participating retailers.

Microsoft to Sidestep Carriers for Windows 10 Mobile Updates

May 18, 2015, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft said it plans to take a more active role in making sure the existing base of Windows 10 smartphones has the latest code. The company is taking a page from Apple and will not rely on carriers to deliver operating system updates. Microsoft said, "We take our responsibility to keep Windows secure seriously. We [will] proactively update supported devices with necessary updates to address issues. And today, we're announcing this continuous update process applies to all Windows 10 devices, including phones." Microsoft confirmed to ZDNet that it will deliver security, performance, and feature updates to Windows 10 Mobile handsets itself, and the code will be pushed to all users simultaneously. The statement appears to apply to handsets that ship with Windows 10 Mobile, and not older devices. With Windows 8.1 and earlier, Microsoft relied on its carrier partners to approve and distribute system updates and it will continue to do so. As ZDNet points out, however, consumers with older handsets can join the Windows Insider program to maintain early access to new OS versions. Apple uses this same master distribution method for keeping its iOS devices up to date. Google still relies on its handset and carrier partners to update their individual devices to newer versions of Android.

Apple Buys Another Navigation Company

May 18, 2015, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple confirmed that it has acquired a small, high-precision navigation company called Coherent Navigation. "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time," said the company in a statement, "and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans." Apple did not say when it bought Coherent, and neither did it say how much it paid for the company. TechCrunch points out, however, that Coherent CEO Paul Lego's LinkedIn page suggests he's been working for Apple for about 5 months, placing the acquisition back around the beginning of the year. Apple has scooped up a number of small mapping and navigation companies over the last several years in an effort to increase the accuracy and ability of its Apple Maps application.

Apple, AT&T Seek to Block RadioShack's Sale of Customer Data

May 15, 2015, 9:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple and AT&T have filed legal objections to RadioShack's planned sale of customer data. RadioShack sold products from both AT&T and Apple and originally agreed to keep customer data private. RadioShack is going through bankruptcy and hopes to use any potential proceeds of selling customer data to third parties in order to pay off creditors. "Not only is AT&T committed to protecting the privacy of its customers -- it is required to do so by federal and state laws and regulations," said AT&T. Several state attorneys general have also filed objections. A judge is expected to rule on the matter May 20. Earlier this year RadioShack sold the bulk of its stores to Sprint, which is in the process of rebranding them.

iOS 8.4 Beta Adds Text Books to iBooks App

May 11, 2015, 4:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple distributed a third beta of iOS 8.4 to developers today and the pre-release operating system revealed at least one new feature. The iBooks app now supports textbooks created by Apple's iBooks Author tool. iBooks Author textbooks were initially limited to the iPad at launch, but eventually added to the OS X iBooks app last year. iOS 8.3 beta 3 marks the first time textbooks developed with Apple's iBook Author tool will be available to the iPhone. iOS 8.4 beta 3 also makes some refinements to the music player application, which is in the process of being overhauled completely. Apple is expected to say more about iOS 8.4 at its Worldwide Developer Conference slated in June.

Ericsson Sues Apple in Three Countries Over Patent Misuse

May 8, 2015, 7:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ericsson today stepped up its legal action against Apple with new lawsuits filed in the U.K., the Netherlands, and Germany. Ericsson asserts Apple is using its wireless technology patents without the proper licenses. Apple used to have licenses for the patents, but the licenses expired and the two companies have been unable to come to terms over what constitute fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory licensing fees. "Apple continues to profit from Ericsson's technology without having a valid license in place. Our technology is used in many features and functionality of today's communication devices. We are confident the courts in Germany, the U.K., and the Netherlands will be able to help us resolve this matter in a fair manner," said Ericsson. The company has been trying to come to terms with Apple for two years and recently offered to enter arbitration. Companies are required to license patents deemed essential at fair rates.

Home Depot Looking to Ring Up Apple Pay

May 6, 2015, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Home Depot hopes to offer Apple Pay to its customers following an upgrade of its in-store payment terminals. "It's something we'd like to do," said Home Depot spokesperson Steve Holmes to Bloomberg. Some Home Depot stores equipped with compatible terminals accepted Apple Pay for a short time, but the larger chain doesn't yet support Apple's mobile payment service. Home Depot is still negotiating terms with Apple and the deal is not yet final. With the new payment terminals, Home Depot may be able to accept other mobile payment services, such as Google Wallet and Samsung Pay. Home Depot did not say when it might launch support for Apple Pay. Support for Apple Pay has expanded rapidly through financial institutions, but has yet to grow its retail footprint significantly. Some of the country's largest retailers, including Target and Walmart, intend to support a competing mobile payment service still in development by the Merchant Customer Exchange.

GE to Make Qualcomm- and Apple-Connected Light Bulbs

May 4, 2015, 12:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

General Electric today revealed new collaborations with Qualcomm and Apple that will see its light bulbs interact with consumers' smartphones. With Qualcomm, GE says it will offerer "retailers a way to connect with shoppers' smartphones through technology embedded in LED light bulbs" through beacons, according to Reuters. As for Apple, GE plans to create an LED light bulb compatible with Apple's HomeKit platform that can "change colors to align with the natural rhythms of the body." For GE, the move is meant to help keep the lights on for its lighting business. For Apple and Qualcomm, the deal furthers the adoption of their respective internet-of-things initiatives.

Sprint Partners with Boingo to Double Down On WiFi

Apr 30, 2015, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today announced a new partnership with Boingo that will give its customers free access to Boingo's WiFi hotspots in 35 U.S. airports. Sprint subscribers should be able to connect their WiFi-equipped handsets to Boingo's airport WiFi networks automatically and securely with no log-in required. Sprint says the WiFi connection is secure enough for business customers to use for accessing corporate VPNs. Sprint didn't say which airports are covered. Sprint today also announced the Sprint WiFi Connect, a consumer router that prioritizes Sprint's WiFi Calling service over any other traffic on that particular hotspot. Sprint says the Sprint WiFi Connect includes Smart Connect technology that dynamically manages 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands for optimal WiFi data performance. Sprint's WiFi Connect is available free of charge to qualified customers. WiFi Calling is available to most of Sprint's Android handsets as well as the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5, and 5s.

Private Investors Buy OmniVision for $1.9 Billion

Apr 30, 2015, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OmniVision has agreed to allow a consortium of private investors purchase the company for about $1.9 billion. OmniVision makes digital imaging products, such as camera sensors for smartphones. Apple has, for example, used OmniVision's sensors in the iPhone. OmniVision is based in California, but has manufacturing facilities in Taiwan. The private equity investors purchasing the company are Chinese, and OmniVision agreed to divest its Taiwan assets in order to make the deal work. OmniVision expects the deal, which will require regulatory approval, to close late this year or early next year. Once the deal is concluded, OmniVision will stop being a public company and will be a private company moving forward.

Best Buy Breaks With MCX, Will Accept Apple Pay

Apr 27, 2015, 4:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 27, 2015, 5:03 PM

Best Buy today announced plans to begin accepting Apple Pay later this fall. The move is notable because the company is essentially breaking ranks with MCX (Merchant Customer Exchange), which was looking to debut its own mobile payment service called CurrentC. MCX retailers include Target and Walmart, two of the largest in the US, as well as CVS and Rite-Aid. Earlier today, Apple won the support of Discover Cards, the third-largest payment network after Visa and MasterCard. Apple Pay has made significant progress in winning over support from varied retailers and financial institutions. Best Buy also said iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners can use Apple Pay to make payments within the Best Buy mobile app beginning today.

Discover Jumps Aboard Apple Pay Wagon

Apr 27, 2015, 7:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 27, 2015, 7:58 AM

Discover today said cardholders will soon be able to add their Discover-backed cards to Apple Pay on the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Watch for making mobile payments. Discover operates a payment network much like those of MasterCard and Visa, which have supported Apple Pay from launch. Discover Network will enable eligible financial institutions to let their card holders use Apple Pay. Discover says customers of participating financial institutions can add their credit card or debit card to Apple Pay, and they'll still be eligible for all their normal perks, such as Cashback Bonus and Freeze It. Discover said it expects its banking customers to begin rolling out support for Apple Pay by fall.

Defense Mobile Sheds Beta Label, Mission Is Go

Apr 22, 2015, 3:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Defense Mobile, an MVNO that targets military personnel, is coming out of beta status today with more coverage and more devices in its arsenal. During its beta trial, Defense Mobile resold access to AT&T and Sprint's networks. Now, it offers Verizon, too, and is in talks with T-Mobile. The company's service is meant exclusively for members of the U.S. armed forces, their families, and veterans. Defense Mobile is supported by a 100% veteran-staffed Member Care organization and offers perks to active members of the military. Individual plans start at $30 per month and have names such as Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. Family plans start at $95 per month with names such a squad, platoon, and battalion. The handset selection varies from entry level phones such as the Motorola Moto G up to today's premium handsets such as the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. The company offers bonus services for military members, such as a banking application associated with a pre-paid MasterCard, an app that helps military members and their families find veteran benefits, and a free email service that's associated with their branch of the armed forces. The company sells devices and services directly from its web site, but hopes to reach 25,000 retail distribution points around the country by the end of the year.

Qualcomm Weighing Samsung's Fab for Snapdragon 820

Apr 21, 2015, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm might turn to competitor Samsung to make its next top-of-the-line mobile processor, reports Re/Code. Qualcomm has historically used Taiwan Semiconductor to fabricate its processors, but Samsung's capabilities are more advanced. Taiwan Semiconductor can develop chips with a 20nm process, but Samsung's chip-making foundries are able to produce chips using its 14nm process. This makes chips more efficient, more powerful, and also less expensive. The Snapdragon 820 is expected to begin sampling later this year and won't reach consumer devices until 2016. Qualcomm plans to use an in-house design for the cores, rather than relying on off-the-shelf cores from ARM as it did with the Snapdragon 810. Samsung opted to put its own Exynos processor in the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, a move that forced Qualcomm to cuts its financial forecasts for the year. Qualcomm hopes selecting Samsung to make the Snapdragon 820 will help it win back Samsung's business for future flagship smartphones, say Re/Code's unnamed sources. Neither Qualcomm nor Samsung commented on the report. Earlier this month, Re/Code reported that Apple may also jump from Taiwan Semiconductor to Samsung to make the A9 processor for the next iPhone.

YouTube to Cease Working On Older Devices

Apr 21, 2015, 7:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made changes to its YouTube application that breaks compatibility with certain devices. Specifically, Google updated the YouTube Data API so it can incorporate new features. The changes in the API make YouTube non-functional on iPhones from 2012 and earlier, as well as video-based hardware, such as the Apple TV, versions 1 and 2 of Google TV, and select smart TVs dating earlier than 2013. According to Google, iPhone owners running iOS 7 and up should not experience any trouble. If they do, downloading the current version of the app should resolve any problems. People who own newer versions of the Apple TV, newer smart TVs, and the Nexus Player,should have no trouble using YouTube. The change went into effect April 20.

Google Wallet Funds to Be FDIC Insured

Apr 20, 2015, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

People who use Google Wallet should be able to rest a bit easier, as Google Wallet funds are now protected by the federal government. Google has altered the terms of service for its Wallet product and will store users' funds in FDIC-insured banks. This means if Google collapses, users' money will be safe. A Google spokesperson revealed the change to Yahoo Finance. Similar cash transfer apps, such as Venmo and PayPayl, do not offer such protection for their users because the funds aren't stored in FDIC-insure banks. Mobile payment services like Apple Pay are based on credit card transactions, so user funds are not generally stored in a third-party bank account at all.

NFC Forum Approves New Security Specification

Apr 16, 2015, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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

Apple Grabs 3D Imaging Company

Apr 14, 2015, 2:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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

iOS 8.4 Beta Updates Music App, Relocates Audiobooks

Apr 14, 2015, 2:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 14, 2015, 3:44 PM

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

Apple Releases ResearchKit for Medical Researchers

Apr 14, 2015, 11:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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

Sprint Updating iPhones with WiFi Calling

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

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

iOS 8.3 Lands with New Emoji and Message Filters

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

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

More Banks Supporting Apple Pay

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

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

Google Wallet Adds Search Functions

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

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

ITC to Investigate Ericsson's Patent Claims Against Apple

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

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

Apple Offering Credit for Some Android, Windows Phones

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

Apple has expanded the scope of its Reuse and Recycling Program to include smartphones, tablets, and PCs not made by Apple. Customers can take their old smartphones directly to Apple Stores and receive credit towards new Apple gear for turning them in. Customers who don't have access to Apple Stores can mail in their devices for credit. Apple will recycle just about any old phone, tablet, or computer for free. Apple says not all devices are eligible for credit and suggests customers check eligibility (online) before heading to Apple Stores. According to Apple's web site, it is accepting handsets from Sony, Samsung, Nokia, LG, and BlackBerry. Apple has partnered with Brightstar and DataServ to handle the actual device recycling processes. The expanded Apple Reuse and Recycling Program is available in the U.S., the U.K., and select European countries.

Seniors Wireless Adds Doctor Access to Wireless Plans

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

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

Apple Buys Database Startup

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

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

Tag Heuer to Make Smartwatch with Google and Intel

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

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

Facebook Rings Up Peer-to-Peer Payments In Messenger

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

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

Opera Boosts Coast Browser for iOS

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

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

Apple Cleared of Violating Conversant Patents

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

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

Microsoft Working On Version of Cortana for Android and iOS

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

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

Apple Offering iOS 8.3 in Limited Beta Form to Invitees

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

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

Nokia Now Offering HERE Maps to the iPhone

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

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

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