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EU Approves Apple's Proposed Beats Acquisition

Monday, 1:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The European Union has given the green light to Apple's proposed acquisition of Beats Audio. Apple announced its plan to buy the music-focused company earlier this year in a deal valued at about $3 billion. The deal includes Beats' headphones business and music streaming service. U.S. regulators are still researching the deal. Beats was recently sued by Bose for infringing on noise cancellation technology. It's not clear if or how Bose's legal action will impact Apple's ability to close the acquisition of Beats.

Sony to Boost Smartphone Camera Sensor Production

Jul 23, 2014, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony plans to make a large investment its in imaging business and will increase production of CMOS sensors for mobile devices. The company will spend as much as $345 million to improve the capacity of its sensor-making facilities. Sony has already purchased several new manufacturing plants. The company currently makes about 60,000 sensors a month. It will improve those yields to 68,000 by August 2015 and eventually 75,000 by the end of 2015. Sony makes CMOS sensors for its own smartphones and tablets, but also for other manufacturers, such as Apple.

Apple Joins Forces with IBM to Bring iOS To Enterprise

Jul 15, 2014, 4:36 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple and IBM today announced a partnership that will see more business-oriented apps developed for iOS, and IBM selling iPhones and iPads directly to its large corporate customers. The two companies will jointly develop the apps, of which there will be about 100, targeted as various industries. IBM is today primarily a software and services provider, implementing complete IT solutions for large companies.

Apple Dabbles In Mobile Payments in Japan

Jul 15, 2014, 7:24 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple has introduced a rudimentary mobile payment system in Japan. The system exposes the user's iTunes account via a 2D barcode on a Passbook card, and allows users to carry a positive cash balance, much like a Starbucks account used through Apple's Passbook app. For now, the system can only be used to purchase apps and content through Apple's iTunes and App Store, and deposits must be made in person at Apple Stores. Although the current system is quite limited, it marks a new step for Apple toward full mobile payments, and gives a glimpse of how such a system could work.

Apple Adds Extras to iTunes, iOS 8

Jul 10, 2014, 10:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 10, 2014, 10:57 AM

Apple today released iTunes 11.3 and discussed new features headed to the iPhone and iPad later this year. iTunes 11.3 adds new support for "extras" that are often available with purchases of HD movies. Extras typically contain interviews, shorts, and other production content associated with movies. Moving forward, extras will be added to prior HD movie purchases automatically. Extras will also become available for viewing on the Apple TV for the first time. Last, extras will be available to devices running iOS 8 when it launches later this year. Apple is currently beta testing iOS 8, which is expected to debut in September or October.

Amazon Refuses to Settle with FTC Over In-App Charges

Jul 2, 2014, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has made clear to the Federal Trade Commission that it will not settle with the government over claims it didn't adequately prevent customers from making in-app purchases. Consumers complained that children were able to easily make unwanted in-app purchases from Amazon's Appstore. Amazon has operated its own Appstore for Android and Fire OS apps since 2011. The FTC has threatened Amazon with litigation if it fails to sign a consent decree similar to the one signed by Apple earlier this year. Apple settled with the FTC for $32.5 million in order to avoid any courtroom drama. Amazon believes it responded quickly and adequately to the issue at hand and shouldn't be beholden to government action. The company said in a letter to the FTC that it will defend itself in court. The FTC argues that Amazon needs to require passwords for in-app purchases, make warnings more prominent, and make it easier for customers to receive refunds. Amazon has already provided some refunds. The FTC has yet to file formal charges.

Microsoft Joins Qualcomm-Backed AllSeen Alliance

Jul 2, 2014, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has joined the AllSeen Alliance, an effort backed by Qualcomm to provide a standard for connecting the Internet of Things. The alliance already has 50 companies on board, including LG, Panasonic, and Sharp. The group's goal is to make it easy for devices to interact with one another by devising a single standard through which they can communicate. Qualcomm's rivals, however, are prepared to form their own group, according to unnamed sources cited by Reuters. The competing consortium may launch as soon as next week, and will seek to create its own standard for connecting the Internet of Things. Apple has already announced HomeKit, its own protocol for connecting smartphones and tablets to devices around the home. Further, Google recently released an SDK for its Nest thermostat, which will eventually allow smartphones, tablets, and other apps to interact with Nest. Multiple standards may make it more difficult for consumers to find devices that work with one another. Reuters didn't say which companies are going to support the competitor to AllSeen.

Apple Releases iOS 7.1.2 to Squelch Bugs

Jun 30, 2014, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released a minor update to iOS for iPhones and iPads. The small system jump resolves several bugs and can be downloaded and installed over the air for free.

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T-Mobile Allowing Customers to Pair iPhone with Prepaid Plans

Jun 26, 2014, 2:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 30, 2014, 4:28 PM

T-Mobile today announced customers can now purchase an Apple iPhone at Apple retail stores and use it with T-Mobile's prepaid, no-contract plans. T-Mobile is offering iPhone buyers a $50 discount off the price of the phone when paired with a prepaid plan. Customers who buy an iPhone and use it with T-Mobile's Simple Choice plans will receive a $50 iTunes gift card. T-Mobile also announced today it is selling the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and iPad Mini with Retina Display (with T-Mobile LTE) at Costco locations around the U.S. T-Mobile says Costco is offering the devices at "competitive out-of-pocket prices." Today's announcements come on the heels of T-Mobile's free, week-long iPhone trial, which was revealed at its UNCarrier announcement in Seattle. All three promotions are meant to help T-Mobile sell more iPhones.

Google Makes Android Release L Available to Developers

Jun 26, 2014, 1:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made good on its promise to release a preview of the next-generation Android platform to developers. The L Developer Preview is available for download from Google's developer web site. It is compatible with the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 (2013 Wi-Fi model). The operating system will need to be installed manually. The preview is not meant for general consumers; it is for developers or others with the technical know-how to install the operating system. Google warns that the preview may not be stable, and may not work properly with all third-party applications. Google is expected to make Android Release L available to consumers in the fall. Google is providing developers with an early look at the operating system so they may prepare their applications. Apple does a similar thing with iOS, releasing successive betas between the time the OS is first announced and when it goes live.

Google Fit to Combat Apple's HealthKit

Jun 25, 2014, 1:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today showed off Google Fit. Similar to Apple's HealthKit, Google Fit will be a platform through which Android and Google customers can track and manage their healthcare and fitness data across apps. Some of the initial partners supporting Google Fit include Adidas, Basis, Nike, RunKeeper, and Withings. Google will release an SDK in the coming weeks so developers can integrate Google Fit into their Android apps.

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Google Debuts Android Auto for the Connected Car

Jun 25, 2014, 12:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced Android Auto, its new platform for connecting smartphones to select cars. Similar to Apple's CarPlay, Android Auto will project a simplified version of key apps to the car's infotainment system. Like Android Wear, Android Auto relies heavily on Google Now and its voice-based commands for interacting with the system. It brings over the phone app, Google Maps, Play Music, Search, and a handful of others that drivers can access when in their car. Android Auto will be baked into the L release of Android, which is expected to arrive this fall. According to Google, two dozen car makers have agree to support the platform and will roll cars off assembly lines with Android Auto preloaded by the end of the year.

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Sprint Revives 30-Day Risk-Free Trial

Jun 23, 2014, 1:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today said customers will once again be able to test drive its network and services for a period of 30 days with no risk. The move appears to be a response to T-Mobile's recently announced one-week trial, which lets potential customers try an Apple iPhone 5s on T-Mobile's network for one week for free. Sprint's guarantee says customers not wholly satisfied with their service during the first 30 days may return their handsets for a full refund. Sprint will also waive any activation or service charges incurred during the initial trial period. Sprint used to offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, but shortened it to 14 days back in 2011. The satisfaction guarantee is available beginning June 27 to new consumers, select small business customers, and current customers who add a new line of service.

Google, Microsoft Commit to Smartphone Kill Switches

Jun 19, 2014, 11:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Microsoft today indicated they will add theft deterrent tools to their respective mobile platforms. The commitment comes after major cities, including New York and San Francisco, saw significant drops in iPhone thefts during the first few months on the year. Apple added kill switch tools to the iPhone when it introduced iOS 7 last September. Google has yet to spell out the specifics of its kill switch feature, but Microsoft said it will add a kill switch to all devices running Windows Phone 8 and up. The Windows Phone tool will allow owners to: remotely wipe personal data from the phone; render the smartphone inoperable; prevent reactivation without the owner's permission; reverse the inoperability if the phone is recovered; and restore user data if the phone was erased. These functions will be added to Windows Phone's Find My Phone tool. Microsoft said it will have the tool ready before the July 2015 deadline set by the CTIA for implementing such features. Lawmakers have been urging phone makers and carriers to add these tools for well more than a year. The CTIA Wireless Association, which lobbies for the wireless industry in Washington, voluntarily set up a timeline for theft deterrent tools which are to be added to all new phones by next year. The commitments from Google and Microsoft should help speed up those efforts. The long-term goal is to reduce the number of smartphone thefts, which are popular targets due to their value.

Apple Settles E-Book Pricing Suit

Jun 17, 2014, 7:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has settled a civil lawsuit over the prices it charged for e-books, according to court documents filed in New York. Exact terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the parties have agreed to the basics of the settlement. Consumers and several U.S. states were seeking as much as $840 million over allegations that Apple colluded with publishers to raise the prices of e-books from $10 to $13/$15 for popular titles. Plaintiffs claimed Apple over-charged consumers by $280 million, and sought three times that amount in damages. The settlement will need to be approved by the court before it is implemented. Apple maintains it has done nothing wrong, though it is currently appealing an antitrust ruling levied against it last year.

Parallels App Lets Androids and iPhone Access PCs

Jun 17, 2014, 6:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Parallels today made it possible for Android smartphones/tablets and the iPhone to remotely access Windows and Apple computers. Parallels previously offered a version of its Parallels Access app to the iPad. Parallels Access lets smartphone/tablet owners log into their home or work PC using Facebook. Once logged in, Android users can launch desktop apps directly on the screen and control them through their phone. A file browser for the iOS variant of the app lets iPhone users browse and open files and apps. Parallels Access supports use of the smartphone's microphone for voice-controlled apps on the desktop machine, and allows users to alter screen resolution for the best performance on their device. The app costs $20 for a one-year subscription or $35 for a two-year subscription, which allows an unlimited number of iPhones/Androids to access and control up to five PCs. Parallels will charge only $30 for a two-year subscription to those who download the app before June 30. Parallels Access requires iOS7 and Android 4.0 and up. It is compatible with Windows computers using Win7, 8, and 8.1, and OS X machines running 10.7, 10.8, and 10.9.

Newest Phones Deliver Peak LTE Speeds

Jun 11, 2014, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 11, 2014, 11:38 AM

Data collected by PCMag for its Fastest Mobile Networks shows the latest smartphones are best able to take advantage of the country's LTE networks. PCMag received crowd-sourced data from 323 different devices across 822 metro areas in the U.S. The key in attaining the best speeds is support for more LTE bands. Specifically, devices that support Sprint Spark and Verizon XLTE showed significantly better performance than devices that don't. For example, PCMag contends that Spark-compatible phones offer twice the LTE performance of non-Spark phones on Sprint's network. Sprint Spark makes use of three different LTE bands to improve capacity and coverage. Similarly, Verizon's XLTE uses two bands to provide capacity and coverage. Older phones, such as the Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S3, may be available at bargain prices, but they don't match the network prowess of devices such as the iPhone 5s/5c and Galaxy S4/S5.

Rok MVNO to Combine Mobile with Music

Jun 9, 2014, 9:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A new MVNO called Rok Mobile plans to offer a merged mobile-and-music service when it launches in July. The company is working with two unnamed carriers (one GSM, one CDMA) to resell access to LTE 4G networks, but it will also bundle in its own streaming music service as part of the core offering. Rok has not revealed what its monthly cost will be, but the price will include unlimited voice, messages, and data service in addition to music streaming, downloading, and caching. Rok purchased access to 20 million tracks just last month, and will let people create their own playlists as well as automatically generate playlists based on customer interests. The company intends to sell the Apple iPhone as well as high-end Android smartphones, though it will also encourage potential customers to bring their own handsets. Rok will have dedicated Android and iOS apps for customers, and will also provide access to music via desktop web browsers at some point after launch. Rok's tack is a bit different from Cricket's Muve Music, which added unlimited music for just $5 more per month. Rok Mobile is using music as the centerpiece of its offering, not pitching it as an add-on. Rok plans to launch July 4, and more details should become available at that time.

ZTE Hopes High-End Phones Will Increase Sales

Jun 9, 2014, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said it plans to push into the high-end smartphone market controlled by the likes of Apple, HTC, LG, Samsung, and Sony. According to Reuters, sales of ZTE's mid-range and entry-level handsets are strong, but margins are too thin. The company wants to use high-end handsets to help increase its margins. "We will make more and more premium smartphones," said ZTE's Zeng Xuezong to Reuters. The company wants to trade its image as a low-cost phone maker for one that rivals the current market leaders. "There is indeed a gap between the brand awareness of Chinese companies and those top global brands, and this is what our team is trying to build for consumers" with handsets such as the Nubia Z5, said Zeng. ZTE believes it can increase is worldwide sales from 40 million units in 2013 to as much as 100 million units by 2016. In the U.S., it is seeking to raise its marketshare from 6% to 10% by 2017 with the help of premium devices and by spending more money on marketing. Most of the ZTE handsets available in the U.S. are entry-level devices sold by prepaid or low-cost carriers.

T-Mobile Says Wi-Fi Calling Coming to iPhone

Jun 2, 2014, 4:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said that, with the arrival of iOS 8, its iPhone subscribers will have access to Wi-Fi calling. T-Mobile has offered other smartphone platforms Wi-Fi calling for years as an alternative for making voice calls in poor cellular coverage areas. Apple introduced iOS 8 earlier today and one of the many new features is support for voice calls over Wi-Fi. iOS 8 won't be available to most people until the fall, but Wi-Fi calling will be available to T-Mobile's iPhone customers as soon as the new operating system from Apple arrives.

iOS Gains Key APIs for Touch ID, Camera, More

Jun 2, 2014, 2:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today revealed a significantly expanded set of new tools for developers to use for creating iOS apps. The new iOS SDK includes some 4,000 APIs for developers to put to use. Of those, core APIs concern the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5s, which will now support third-party apps. Previously, only select Apple-made apps could access Touch ID. New camera APIs will allow developers to do more with their own camera apps and let users access more photo features. The HomeKit API will let Apple devices talk to the myriad different home automation products in the market so people can control their electronic door locks, garage door openers, and other tools from their iPhone. SceneKit will give developers light sources, field forces, and per-pixel physics in their games. A tool called Metal can be used to create 3D graphics while also freeing up system resources. Last, and most importantly, Apple debuted Swift, a new coding language that it promises with be faster and simpler for developers to use. As Apple described it, "Swift is Objective C without the C." Swift works with Cocoa and Cocoa Touch and uses all the same compilers and vectorizers already available within C. iOS 8 is available for developers to download in beta status beginning today.

Apple to Support Third-Party Keyboards within iOS 8

Jun 2, 2014, 1:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said that iOS 8 will support third-party keyboards, such as Swype, through the new extensibility feature of the App Store. Third-party keyboards will function in all apps system-wide if the users permits it.

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Apple Makes iTunes App Store More Appealing for Devs

Jun 2, 2014, 1:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today outlined a number of changes headed to the App Store that will benefit both consumers and developers alike. The App Store will add a new explore tab, as well as a tool for viewing the top-trending searches and continuous scrolling in the search result screens. The new App Store will support app bundles, so developers will be able to package collections of their apps and sell them to consumers together. Apple is also giving developers the opportunity to beta test their apps through a program called TestFlight. Last, Apple said the iOS 8 SDK will include some 4,000 new APIs for developers to use for creating and enhancing applications. Part of the SDK includes extensibility, which will allow apps to extend the system and offer their services to other apps. Further, developers will be able to add widgets to the notification panel (similar to in OS X Yosemite). These will be able to show dynamic content, such as sports scores. The new iTunes App Store features will be available in the fall, along with the general release of iOS 8.

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Apple Introduces HealthKit

Jun 2, 2014, 1:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 2, 2014, 1:26 PM

As part of iOS 8 Apple also introduced HealthKit, a hub and service that can be used to monitor health and interact with healthcare providers. HealthKit works with third-party apps, such as those from the Mayo Clinic, to collect and sync data from iOS devices to the owners' doctor's office. Apple envisions HealthKit as a central repository for all the health apps running on a device. Developers will be able to hook into the service to enrich peoples' ability to track and manage their health.

Apple Details iOS 8

Jun 2, 2014, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 2, 2014, 1:23 PM

Apple today announced iOS 8, which the company says will be compelling for both end users and for developers. iOS 8 builds on the design of iOS 7. Notifications are now interactive, which will allow people to respond to emails directly from the notification bar or the lock screen. A new people-tasking function lets users see recently-contacted people by double-tapping the button (works in conjunction with multitasking tool). The mail application now lets users more easily save drafts and return to the inbox, as well as automatically add events to the calendar, and flag, mark-as-unread, or delete messages with single gestures. Spotlight search offers details on apps, news, music, restaurants, and more - both on and off the device. Spotlight also works with Safari to bring better suggestions for searches and web sites. iOS 8 adds a new keyboard with predictive typing suggestions as users peck out text. Apple claims the software is context aware and will suggest phrases or words specific to the contact being messaged. It does not appear that the keyboard adds the ability to swipe words. iOS 8 includes the Continuity features that are part of OS X, such as AirDrop and call/message syncing. The messaging app makes it easy to add recipients to form group conversations, as well as leave group conversations, and share location, images, and videos simply. iOS 8 works with iCloud Drive, Apple's new cloud-based file management system, which syncs folders and files across iOS and OS X devices. The messaging app can now send short audio and video messages. iOS 8 adds the ability to support families of up to six and provides access to all the iTunes content shared from a single account. Family Sharing also lets users sync photos, calendars, reminders, and find-my-friends. A new Photos app for iOS 8 expands editing features with smart suggestions, and will add all photos taken on the device to the user's iCloud photo library. Changes to photos can be synced across devices, too. Last, Apple is boosting Siri's abilities in the car, which makes it function automatically for dictation, song search, and navigation. iOS 8 for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is expected to arrive later this year.

Apple's AirDrop Now Works Between iOS and OS X

Jun 2, 2014, 12:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced that AirDrop, which allows people to wirelessly pass files between devices, is compatible between iOS and OS X devices. Previously, AirDrop could only send files from iOS to iOS, or from OS X to OS X. This will help ease the pain of sending files between devices. The new functionality of AirDrop is part of something Apple calls Continuity, which will sync information, such as iMessages and call logs, between devices. Further, iOS and OS X devices can set up peer networks and remain connected when they are in proximity with one another. When networked (via Wi-Fi), Apple's Mac computers can make calls and act as a speakerphone for the iPhone (which is what is actually making the call). Continuity will also sync open web pages within Safari on OS X and iOS so users can pick up on one device where they left off another.

Apple to Buy Beats Music and Electronics for $3 Billion

May 28, 2014, 3:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced that it has agreed to acquire Beats Music and Beats Electronics for a total of $3 billion. Beats Music is the relatively new music service launched earlier this year. It will be folded into Apple's own music offerings. The deal also includes Beats by Dr. Dre, the headphone and portable speaker company. Andre Reed and Jimmy Iovine, Beats executives with deep knowledge of and contacts within the music industry, will join Apple. The deal is subject to regulatory approval. Apple expects to close the acquisition in the fourth quarter of the year.

Truphone to Sell Apple iPhone 5s/5c May 30

May 23, 2014, 7:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Truphone announced that it will sell the Apple iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c beginning May 30. Truphone traditionally relies on a bring-your-own-device model and only sells SIM cards and mobile applications. The iPhones will be among the first handsets the company has sold directly. Truphone didn't say how much it will charge for the iPhone 5s/5c, but they will likely be the unlocked versions of the handsets in order to be compatible with as many different networks as possible. Truphone offers worldwide coverage thanks to roaming agreements with carriers around the globe. People can purchase a Truphone SIM card and rate plan and enjoy local calling, messaging, and data rates in dozens of countries. Earlier this week, Truphone expanded its reach to 66 countries. Travelers will enjoy the best rates in the Truphone Zone, which are eight core countries (U.S., U.K., Australia, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Spain). Customers can choose up to eight international phone numbers that are active on the same SIM card in order to take advantage of the best rates possible. Truphone also offers apps for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS devices that provide free international calling via Wi-Fi, 3G, and 4G.

Apple Hopes to Resolve iMessage Glitch

May 22, 2014, 7:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple says it is working to fix a problem that results in lost text messages for former iPhone owners. The issue stems from Apple's iMessage service, which can be used to send either SMS or IM messages between iOS devices. The intent of the system was to allow iPhone owners to reduce their reliance on carrier-based SMS services, and possibly even save money on their monthly bill. While the system works as intended for iOS device owners, iPhone customers who choose to buy a new, different handset - but keep the same phone number - are losing texts to the iMessage void. One California consumer has filed a class action lawsuit against Apple, alleging its iMessage problem deprives former customers from deriving the full value of their new handset, as well as interfering with the services offered by the wireless network operator. Apple has not addressed the litigation, but said in a statement provided to Re/Code, "We recently fixed a server-side iMessage bug which was causing an issue for some users, and we have an additional bug fix in a future software update. For users still experiencing an issue, please contact AppleCare." Apple didn't say how soon it might fully resolve the problem.

Verizon Brands Its Dual-Band LTE Markets as 'XLTE'

May 19, 2014, 9:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced the launch of XLTE service, which is a new way for the company to market its dual-band LTE network. Verizon Wireless initially deployed LTE in the 700MHz band. Verizon's build-out of LTE in the 700MHz band is functionally complete. Verizon began rolling out LTE on its 1700MHz AWS spectrum late last year, and has been slowly adding markets over time. As of today, Verizon says it has initiated service on its AWS spectrum in half its existing LTE footprint. Moving forward, Verizon Wireless will market its dual-band LTE coverage as XLTE in much the same way that Sprint is marketing its tri-band LTE service as Sprint Spark. According to Verizon, XLTE markets offer consumers far more headroom thanks to dramatically improved capacity. With twice the spectrum to work with, XLTE markets can deliver faster peak data speeds when compared to Verizon's 700MHz-only LTE markets. Verizon said a number of its most popular devices are already compatible with its XLTE service, including the Samsung Galaxy S4, S5, and Note 3; the Apple iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c; and the Motorola Droid Maxx, Ultra, and Mini. Customers who own these devices don't need to do anything in order to take advantage of XLTE. They'll automatically connect to Verizon's dual-band LTE network where it is available. Non-XLTE devices will still be able to access Verizon's LTE network as normal. Verizon will continue to roll out XLTE to more markets over time. Verizon didn't say how long it will take to build-out its AWS LTE coverage. Verizon acquired the AWS spectrum from a consortium of cable companies in 2012.

Apple and Motorola Bury the Patent Hatchet

May 16, 2014, 7:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple and Motorola today dismissed all patent litigation between them. The companies told a court overseeing several lawsuits that the claims should be dismissed. Though the two smartphone makers agreed to drop their lawsuits, they did not reach a cross-licensing accord. Motorola first sued Apple over smartphone technology in 2010 and Apple responded with a suit of its own. Neither lawsuit resulted in a verdict. Further, the two companies agreed to work with one another on select aspects of patent reform. Motorola is currently owned by Google, but it is in the process of being sold to Lenovo.

Court Tells Samsung It Won't Retry Apple Case

May 14, 2014, 11:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A U.S. appeals court today sided with the International Trade Commission and agreed that Apple is innocent of violating three Samsung patents. The decision, reached by the ITC in June 2013, stands as is and the ITC will not be forced to revive the case. The ITC case is entirely separate from the trial that took place between Apple and Samsung in California last month. Last month's case involved different patents. Apple was awarded $119 million in damages after a jury found Samsung guilty of infringing three smartphone patents.

LG Display Shows Off 5.5-Inch Quad HD Screen

May 8, 2014, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG Display today announced that its 5.5-inch quad HD display is ready for the company's "forthcoming flagship smartphone," which it says will be released during the first half of the year. LG has scheduled a global press event on May 27, which is when it is expected to reveal the G3 smartphone. The new display is an IPS LCD with 2560 x 1440 pixels, which gives it 1.8 times the resolution of today's full HD screens. LG says the measurements give it a pixel density of 538 pixels per inch - 200 more pixels per inch than Apple's Retina Display. According to LG Display, the new LCD panel boasts an ultra-slim design. It measures 1.2mm thick, and has a bezel that measures 1.15mm. This will allow LG and other device makers to install the screen in devices with minimal framing around the display. The new display will reach volume production shortly. Quad HD (2K) screens are generally accepted as the next frontier for smartphone displays, though they represent an in-between step on the way to Ultra HD (4K) displays.

Jury Adjusts What Samsung Owes Apple

May 5, 2014, 1:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 5, 2014, 1:44 PM

A jury in San Jose today adjusted the damages owed to Apple by Samsung for violating its smartphone patents. Last Friday, a jury found Samsung guilty of infringing on two Apple patents. Judge Koh had already found Samsung guilty of violating one Apple patent earlier during the trial. In its original verdict, the jury awarded Apple $119.6 million for two of the patents, but failed to award Apple any damages for the third. Judge Lucy Koh asked the jury to reconsider. After two hours of deliberations today, the jury revised the total amount owed by Samsung to Apple to be $120 million. It added about $4 million for the additional patent, but revised downward the amounts awarded for the other two patents. Apple had sought $2.2 billion. Both companies are expected to appeal aspects of the verdict and damages. The jury also found Apple guilty of infringing on one Samsung patent. This trial marks the second major U.S. courtroom battle between the two companies over smartphone patents. Samsung was found guilty in 2012 of violating various Apple patents. In that case, Apple was awarded damages of $930 million.

Jury Says Samsung Violated 2 Apple Patents, Awards $119M

May 2, 2014, 7:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 3, 2014, 7:47 AM

A federal jury in California today found Samsung guilty of violating technology patents held by Apple. Specifically, Samsung infringed on two patents that cover data tapping (making calls from within an email) and autocomplete. The jury acquitted Samsung of infringing upon two other patents, though the judge found Samsung guilty of violating Apple's slide-to-unlock patent, too. The jury awarded Apple $119.6 million in damages. It had sought $2.2 billion. The jury also found Apple guilty of violating one of Samsung's patents. The jury awarded Samsung $158,000 for its patent. The case was tried in San Jose over the course of a month, with U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh managing the proceedings. The case marks the second win for Apple in the U.S., but the damages awarded are far less than Apple hoped to win. Apple has already won a $930 million verdict against Samsung. Apple said it still believes Samsung "willfully stole our ideas and copied our products." The two companies have waged a pitched patent battle against one another for years in 10 different countries.

Google Releases Docs and Sheets Apps for Android and iOS

Apr 30, 2014, 11:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 30, 2014, 12:06 PM

Google today made available stand-alone Google Docs and Google Sheets applications for mobile devices running Android and iOS, including smartphones and tablets. Previously, Docs and Sheets were bundled inside the Google Drive application. The free applications allow users to create, open, and edit documents and spreadsheets; share documents with others; work online or offline; and add/respond to comments. Documents and spreadsheets will automatically be saved as they are created and synced to users' online Google Drive for safekeeping. Google Docs and Google Sheets for Android and iOS are free, though Google does charge nominal fees for online storage. Google said its Google Drive product can still be used to organize and open/edit Docs and Sheets, as well. A mobile slideshow presentation app will be available soon. Google continues to offer QuickOffice, which can be used to open/edit Google documents, as well as Microsoft Office documents.

Euro Commission Takes Stand Against Patent Abuse

Apr 29, 2014, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The European Commission today ruled that Motorola had broken the law by suing Apple over standard essential patents. Apple had agreed to license Motorola's patents, but when the two companies couldn't agree on a price, Apple used the patented technology anyway and was eventually sued by Motorola. Motorola sought to block sales of Apple's products in Europe. The EU has determined that if a company agrees to license a standard essential patent, the patent holder must do so at a fair and reasonable rate. Moving forward, companies that cannot agree on licensing terms will need to enter arbitration and can no longer file lawsuits against one another. The EU accepted a pledge from Samsung today also, which won't seek an injunction against Apple for standard essential patents. "The so-called smartphone patent wars should not occur at the expense of consumers," said EU Commissioner Joaquin Almunia. "While patent holders should be fairly remunerated for the use of their intellectual property, implementers of such standards should also get access to standardized technology on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms." Standard essential patents are those necessary for certain things, such as smartphones, to function properly. The European Commission did not fine either Motorola or Samsung, but it clearly wants patent abuse to end.

FreedomPop Intros Free Service Plan for iPhones

Apr 29, 2014, 7:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today announced new support for the Apple iPhone along with a free service plan. FreedomPop is selling the Phone 5 (refurbished) for $349 directly from its web site. The device has access to 200 voice minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of data for free each month. Unlimited talk, text and data plans cost less than $5 per month. Customers may also use a compatible iPhone 4/4s if they have one to bring. In addition to the iPhone 5 and free plan, FreedomPop today announced the FreedomPop Free Voice and Text application for iOS devices, which gives any iOS device free voice, text, and voicemail. FreedomPop is pitching the app as a potential source of savings for iPhone users stuck in contracts with other providers. For example, it suggests iPhone owners downgrade their contract plan and make use of its iOS app instead. FreedomPop is an MVNO that uses Sprint's network.

Apple to Replace Faulty iPhone 5 Switches

Apr 26, 2014, 9:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has launched a program in the U.S. and Canada to replace the power/lock button of the iPhone 5. According to Apple, it discovered the button may fail on some devices manufactured through March 2013. Customers can use Apple's web site to determine if theirs is affected. If so, the phone can be sent directly to an Apple repair facility or taken to an Apple Store where it will be examined and then sent to a repair facility. Apple says the turn around time for repairs will be four to six days. In some cases, Apple may be able to provide a loaner device while the customer's iPhone is being repaired. Owners of the iPhone 5 can visit Apple's support site (link below) for more information.

Court Resurrects Apple-Motorola Patent Case

Apr 25, 2014, 11:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A U.S. appeals court has revived a patent-related lawsuit between Apple and Motorola Mobility. The case was summarily dismissed by the presiding judge in 2012 due to what he called a lack of evidence proving damages. The court of appeals revived an Apple complaint against Motorola and a Motorola complaint against Apple. Apple alleges that Motorola is violating four of its patents, while Motorola says Apple is violating one of its patents. The Motorola patent at issue is considered standard essential, which means it is required in order for phones to work and must be licensed at fair and reasonable rates. It's unclear how the cases will now proceed. Smartphone companies often battle one another in court over patents and both companies have other cases pending with rivals.

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