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printed March 28, 2015
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Seniors Wireless Adds Doctor Access to Wireless Plans

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.


GameStop to Accept Apple Pay This Month

Mar 10, 2015, 10:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

GameStop today announced it will soon support Apple Pay at its 4,200 U.S. locations. Owners of the Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, and Apple Watch can pay for video games, consoles, and other merchandise at GameStop retail stores beginning later this month. GameStop's said its Spring Mobile retail brand plans to begin accepting Apple Pay later this year. Apple recently said the number of locations accepting Apple Pay has grown to 700,000.


Marriott Claims to Be First Hotel to Accept Apple Pay

Mar 10, 2015, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Marriott said it will begin accepting Apple Pay at some of its properties later this year. Guests will be able to check in with an Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus, or Apple Watch. They'll need only tap their device against the terminal at the registration desk, and the necessary payment details will be transferred to Marriott's computers. The company already allows guests to check in or check out with a mobile application. Marriott sees Apple Pay as another step in making its guests' stays more convenient. Marriott will start accepting Apple Pay at: The Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park; The Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C.; Edition Miami; JW Marriott Chicago; Renaissance New York Times Square Hotel; San Francisco Marriott Marquis; San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront; New York Marriott Downtown; Courtyard Chicago Downtown/North River; San Jose Marriott; Courtyard Los Angeles L.A. Live; and Residence Inn Los Angeles L.A. Live. Apple Pay will go live at these properties this summer.


iOS 8.2 Includes Apple Watch App and Bug Fixes

Mar 9, 2015, 1:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 9, 2015, 1:35 PM

Apple today revealed more details about the Apple Watch and its compatibility with Apple devices. Specifically, the Apple Watch requires iOS 8.2, which is available to the iPhone beginning today. The new operating system from Apple includes a specific app for managing and controlling the Apple Watch, which goes on sale next month. The Apple Watch can run apps and be used to manage notifications, make calls, send and receive emails or messages, control music playback, and much more. The Apple Watch Sport edition starts at $349 for the 38mm size and $399 for the 42mm size. The Apple Watch edition, with a stainless steel face and various bands, ranges between $549 and $1,049 for the 38mm size and the from $599 to $1,099 for the 42mm size. The Apple Watch Edition, which is made from gold, starts at $10,000. Preorders begin April 10, with the device reaching select stores and markets April 24. Apple didn't detail what bug fixes are included in iOS 8.2

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Apple Announces ResearchKit for Medical Data Gathering

Mar 9, 2015, 12:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 9, 2015, 12:29 PM

Apple today announced ResearchKit, a tool for developers for collecting and gathering health-related data. The company demonstrated how apps can be used to track the symptoms and progression of major diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, Parkinson's, breast cancer, and others. The data can be collected from iPhones, and can contain GPS data, air quality and data covering other environmental conditions, and much more. ResearchKit also contains strict privacy controls, such as what research users choose to participate in, and what data is shared to third parties. Apple says it will not see any of the associated data generated by ResearchKit. Medical professionals hope to use iPhone owners to supply data at a grand scale in order to better understand diseases and the medical conditions and eventually learn how to better treat or cure them. Apple said it will release ResearchKit in April and the tools will be open source.

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Apple Pay, CarPlay See Significant Increase In Support

Mar 9, 2015, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 9, 2015, 12:21 PM

Apple said as of today it has tripled the number of locations that accept Apple Pay from 220,000 at launch to 700,000. The growth includes a large number of new retailers, 2,500 banks, and tens of thousands of vending machines. Apple today also said every major car brand has committed to adding CarPlay to their vehicles. Apple says more than 40 new models will ship with CarPlay on board this year.

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Apple Scores HBO Streaming Service for iPhone, iPad

Mar 9, 2015, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 9, 2015, 12:13 PM

Apple and HBO today announced HBO Now, a new streaming service available only to Apple devices, including the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Apple computers. The service costs $14.99 per month and does not require an associated cable subscription. (HBO Go app, available to Apple and other platforms, does require cable subscription.) It launches in April and includes HBO's entire catalog of television and movie content. In a related announcement, Apple lowered the price of its Apple TV product from $99 to $69.

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Softcard to Shutter At the End of March

Mar 5, 2015, 1:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Softcard, the mobile wallet service developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, has informed users the application will go offline March 31. Softcard customers can use the app through that date, but afterward their accounts will automatically be closed. Softcard recommends users who wish to be able to make mobile payments in the future download Google Wallet. Google purchased certain Softcard assets in a deal announced last month. Google Wallet will replace Softcard on Android handsets later this year. Softcard never caught on with consumers due to limited handset, credit card, and retail support. General interest in mobile payments has increased after the launch of Apple Pay on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Samsung recently announced plans for its own mobile wallet service, called Samsung Pay. Samsung Pay will first be available to the Galaxy S6.


Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and HTC One M9 MirrorLink-Enabled

Mar 4, 2015, 4:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and the HTC One M9 support the MirrorLink standard for connecting to cars. MirrorLink is a platform-agnostic tool that allows smartphones to push apps and content to in-dash consoles. It competes with Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay. With MirrorLink on board, the GS6, GS6 Edge, and One M9 will be able to connect to the infotainment systems of supported cars.


Smartflash Sues Apple Again Over Newer iPhones

Feb 27, 2015, 8:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Smartflash, a Texas-based patent holding firm that won a courtroom victory over Apple earlier this week, is suing the company again. According to Smartflash, it was unable to include Apple's most recent devices, such as the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPad Air 2, in its initial lawsuit. Now that it has won in court, it wants the same findings applied to Apple's newest devices, which it says violate the same patents. "Apple cannot claim they don’t know about these patents or understand that they are infringing. A diligent jury has already rejected those arguments," said Smartflash's attorney in a statement provided to Reuters. Apple did not immediately comment on the matter.


Ericsson Sues Apple Over Telecom Patents

Feb 27, 2015, 8:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 27, 2015, 8:10 AM

Ericsson today sued Apple in the U.S. and alleges the iPhone maker is violating multiple wireless patents. Ericsson filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission over Apple's use of its standard essential patents covering 2G and 4G LTE technology. It is seeking to ban sales of Apple's iPhone and iPad in the U.S. The ITC is a popular venue for lawsuits because it can prevent companies form important and/or selling devices. Ericsson also filed complaints in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking both damages and injunctions. Standard essential patents must be licensed at fair and reasonable terms. Ericsson contends that Apple wouldn't agree to terms. "By refusing Ericsson’s fair and reasonable licensing offer for patented technology used in Apple smartphones and tablets, Apple harms the entire market and reduces the incentive to share innovation," said Ericsson. Apple didn't immediately respond to Ericsson's claims.


Morgan Stanley Now Supports Apple Pay

Feb 25, 2015, 12:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management today announced that owners of its debit cards can use their card with Apple Pay. Once Morgan Stanley cardholders register with Apple Pay, they'll be able to make tap-and-go mobile payments at participating retailers. Apple Pay launched in October and has performed well. Earlier this week, JPMorgan Chase said more than one million of its customers have registered cards with Apple Pay. Morgan Stanley's support of Apple Pay means more people will be able to take advantage of the service.


Apple Hit with $533 Million Judgment in Patent Trial

Feb 25, 2015, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple was found guilty of infringing on three patents held by a company called Smartflash and must pay the firm $532.9 million. A federal jury in Texas reached the verdict Tuesday and said Apple violated the patents willfully. According to Smartflash, Apple's iTunes software uses its patented technology for storing and retrieving music, movies, and games. Apple was disappointed with the verdict and railed against Smartflash, which is a patent holding firm. "We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system," said Apple in a statement provided to Reuters. Smartflash has filed similar lawsuits against Google, HTC, and Samsung.


Google Strikes Wallet Deal with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon

Feb 23, 2015, 12:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced that AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have agreed to preload Google Wallet on their Android smartphones later this year. The mobile wallet will come on all devices running Android 4.4 KitKat and higher. At the same time, Google is purchasing intellectual property from Softcard -- the mobile payment service created by the same three carriers -- to help improve Wallet's performance. Softcard said its users will be able to continue to make tap-and-go payments at supporting retailers for the time being. Both Google and Softcard said more information will be made available in the coming weeks. Google is looking to revive its mobile wallet product after seeing Apple's success with Apple Pay, which is only available to the iPhone. Google Wallet has been around since 2011.


CarPlay vs. Android Auto

Feb 20, 2015, 4:40 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Feb 23, 2015, 2:15 PM

By all accounts, both Apple and Google have bold ambitions in the automotive space. But an Apple or Google Car is many years away. What's available today are CarPlay and Android Auto, both of which take a major new step in integrating your phone with your car. They're remarkably similar, both extending your phone's interface to the touch screen in your dash, but relying mostly on voice interaction for safe use while driving. In the this in-depth hands-on, we take a look at how they work, their striking similarities, and how they differ.

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Google Hoping to Glue Its Mobile Wallet Back Together

Feb 20, 2015, 10:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is seeking help from its carrier and hardware partners to revitalize its flagging Google Wallet service. According to sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, Google is waving more cash in front of network operators to feature the app on their Android smartphones. Google told investors last month that it is prepared to launch a "fully functional payment system" that goes "beyond just tap and pay" at its I/O Developer Conference, scheduled for late May. Google's efforts won't be easy. Google doesn't enjoy the same level of control that Apple does, which manages the hardware and software of the iPhone. Google has to work with the carriers, handset makers, and financial institutions to make it all work. Apple cut carriers out of Apple Pay and only had to work with banks. Google's efforts are being undermined by its own partners. Earlier this week, Samsung purchased LoopPay to help it create its own competitor to Apple Pay; meanwhile, the bulk of Samsung's handsets run Google's Android platform. Moreover, the carriers have their own mobile payment service in place, called Softcard, and actively prevented Google Wallet from accessing the secure portions of their smartphones. According to the Journal, Google is offering carriers a bigger cut of ad dollars for promoting Google Wallet. Further, Google is in talks with carriers to purchase Softcard, which could help resolve some of the issues at play. Google declined to comment on the Journal's story.


Samsung to Acquire LoopPay In Bid to Battle Apple

Feb 18, 2015, 4:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has agreed to purchase LoopPay, a mobile payments startup, for an undisclosed sum. With the acquisition, Samsung can bring a mobile payment service to market to compete with Apple Pay, Softcard, and Google Wallet. LoopPay's technology would allow Samsung handset owners to use their devices as mobile wallets and make purchases with associated credit or debit cards. One thing that sets LoopPay's service apart is that it doesn't require NFC. LoopPay works with existing magnetic stripe readers already installed in the bulk of retailers. It won't require merchants to upgrade their in-store hardware. Samsung and LoopPay believe this gives them an edge over competitors. Samsung may announce its mobile payment service as soon as March 1, when it is holding a press conference during the Mobile World Congress trade show. It will be a hallmark feature of the Galaxy S6, according to the Wall Street Journal.


Sony Still Weighing Sale of Smartphone Business

Feb 18, 2015, 8:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced plans to spin off its audio and video business into a separate company. The unit will take the form of a wholly owned subsidiary of Sony. The move, explained CEO Kazuo Hirai, is to make the unit more autonomous and focused on generating profits. Sony made similar strategic moves with its television business and personal computing business. When asked if Sony would consider an outright sale of its television or smartphone businesses, Hirai responded, "I think we have to keep those possibilities in mind." Hirai hinted that Sony might sell off its smartphone business earlier this year. The company is heavily focused on generating profits, but its smartphone business has struggled against larger competitors Apple and Samsung. Hirai said there are no deals on the table at the moment.


iPhone Users Can Now Store Office Documents In iCloud

Feb 17, 2015, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced several new features for its Office suite of productivity apps. First and foremost, third-party cloud providers can now integrate their own services into the "locations picker" in the iOS Office apps. This means mobile device users can open, edit, and save their documents to any cloud service. Apple's iCloud is the first to receive this support, so iPhone and iPad users can store their mobile Office documents in iCloud. Microsoft said it plans to bring this feature to the Windows and Android versions of Office soon. Further, Microsoft is making it possible for cloud storage providers to weave Office Online into their own mobile applications. Microsoft's vision here is to let people open, view, and edit their online documents from any browser on any device. Microsoft said Box, Citrix, and Salesforce are already working on this level of integration. Microsoft has dramatically increased the availability of Office to mobile devices in recent months with the hopes that people and businesses will continue to use its productivity suite rather than competing products from Apple and Google.


Apple Pay to Reach Select Government Services

Feb 13, 2015, 2:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumers will be able to use their iPhone to pay for certain government-run services later this year. Beginning in September, said Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple Pay will be available at government parks and with government credit cards. Cook also said Apple Pay may be used for social security payments and veteran's pensions. "We can imagine a day in the not so distant future when your wallet becomes a remnant of the past," said Cook. "Your passport, your driver's license and other important documents can be stored in a way that's safe, secure, and easy to access, but only by you." Cook made the comments at the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection at Stanford University. Cook also reiterated the company's stance on protecting consumer privacy. "We believe deeply that everyone has a right to privacy and security," said Cook. Apple doesn't doesn't collect consumer data concerning Apple Pay transactions. "Our customer's trust means everything to us and we spent decades working to earn that trust."


Visa to Use Phone Location to Verify Card Purchases

Feb 13, 2015, 9:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Visa says it is offering banks a new smartphone-based tool that will cut down on the number of declined transactions when people use their credit cards abroad. The service, called Mobile Location Confirmation, is opt-in and uses phone location to verify the cardholder's presence at or near the point of sale. Visa's bank customers can add the service to their own mobile banking applications. Customers will need to permit the banking app to access their location. Visa says the service can act in real-time, matching the cardholder's geo location with the transaction location in less than a millisecond. Visa said when users' locations match the point of sale, banks can "more confidently approve the transaction." Visa believes this will help reduce pain points for banks and consumers alike. It can help save credit card issuers hundreds of millions of dollars in customer service fees and reduce cardholder frustration by cutting down on the number of declined purchases. Separately, Visa today announced a new way to conduct online and mobile transactions that nixes the need to use the 16-digit account number. Visa plans to pair its Visa Token Service with Visa Checkout, which will create unique transaction codes for mobile and online purchases rather than use the cardholder's account number. Visa believes removing the account number from transaction details will help it improve security. The tool is already being used in Apple Pay. Visa plans to expand its availability across the web and to other mobile apps.


iOS Apps Can Now Be As Big As 4 GB

Feb 13, 2015, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has increased the maximum size of applications allowed in the iOS App Store from 2 GB to 4 GB. Apple says this should allow developers to "include more media in [their] submission and provide a more complete, rich user experience upon installation." The majority of apps fall well under 100MB in size, but games increasingly need more storage. Developers were getting around the size limitation by requiring additional downloads after the app was installed. Apple hopes the increased size limit will negate the need for developers to side-step its limitations. Apple warns, however, that this doesn't change the maximum size of apps that can be downloaded via cellular networks, which is still 100MB.


Apple Intros Two-Step Verification for FaceTime and iMessage

Feb 13, 2015, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has increased the security options of its FaceTime and iMessage apps by adding two-step identity verification. Most web sites, apps, and services use one-step verification, typically a username and a password. Two-step verification requires a second form of authentication, sometimes a second password, code, or other token, making it much more secure. Apple has offered two-step verification for creating and accessing Apple IDs for several years, but it is offering this extra layer of security for FaceTime and iMessage users to help protect identities and prevent hacking. Several celebrity accounts were hacked last year. Apple has published the instructions to turn on two-step verification on its support web site.


JetBlue First Airline to Accept Apple Pay In-Flight

Feb 10, 2015, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

JetBlue Airways today announced that it will soon accept Apple Pay aboard its aircraft. Owners of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be able to use their smartphone to purchase goods and service, such as snack boxes, premium beverages, and a la carte food options, while on board. JetBlue said Apple Pay will reach some transcontinental flights between New York, L.A., and San Francisco by the middle of the month. JetBlue will expand Apple Pay to more routes in March, with all flights accepting Apple Pay by June.


Apple Pay Added to 200,000 Vending Machines

Jan 27, 2015, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

USA Technologies today said it has added support for Apple Pay to approximately 200,000 of its vending machines. The company has been adding NFC capabilities to its vending machines, including coffee brewers, vending machines, kiosks, laundry equipment, parking pay stations, and other self-serve appliances, for nearly 10 years. USA Technologies' vending machine owner-operators will be able to accept Apple Pay at their machines in addition to cash and/or bank cards. This means owners of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will be able to pay for vending machine and other stand-alone, self-serve retail goods with their phone.


Apple's iOS 8.1.3 Scales Back Storage Requirements

Jan 27, 2015, 1:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today released iOS 8.1.3 for iPhones, iPads, and the iPod Touch. The primary improvement in the operating system is a reduction in the amount of on-board storage needed to install the system update. (Last fall, some users with 16GB devices were unable to update due to a lack of storage.) The system update also resolves an issue preventing people from entering their passwords for iMessage and FaceTime, fixes a Spotlight bug, and smooths over multi-tasking gestures on the iPad. iOS 8.1.3 can be downloaded and installed over the air.


BlackBerry CEO Weighs In On Net and App Neutrality

Jan 22, 2015, 8:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen penned a blog post concerning net neutrality. Chen does not think the FCC should reclassify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. He believes the FCC can come up with other ways to ensure an open, competitive market. Perhaps more interesting, however, are Chen's thoughts on "application neutrality." Chen believes application developers and content providers should be required to make their apps and services available to all mobile devices, including BlackBerries. "Not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality," wrote Chen. "Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple's iMessage messaging service. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system." Both the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store are home to more than one million apps each. The number of apps available to BlackBerry and Windows Phone devices is much, much less.


Apple Picks Up Music Analytics Firm

Jan 21, 2015, 8:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has purchased a company called Semetrics for an undisclosed sum. Semetrics, which is based in the U.K., can track online music sales as well as illegal downloads and buzz across social media. Semetrics' Musicmetric service lets artists gauge how well their songs are performing within services such as Spotify, for example. Apple is believed to be preparing a music streaming service to compete with Spotify, Pandora, and others, and Semetrics can help provide it with the data needed to more effectively run that service.


Amazon Wallet App Headed for the App Graveyard

Jan 21, 2015, 8:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon has informed users of the Amazon Wallet application that it will shut down the app and remove it from the Appstore today, reports CNET. Amazon launched the app as a beta service in July. Amazon Wallet let people store gift cards, loyalty cards, and membership cards. Amazon originally pitched the app as a way to reduce clutter in wallets and purses. The wallet app did not connect to bank accounts or credit cards and couldn't be used to make tap-and-go payments. "We have learned a great deal from the introduction of the Wallet and will look for ways to apply these lessons in the future as we continue to innovate on behalf of our customers," said Tom Cook, an Amazon spokesperson. Amazon said customers will be able to use the balances of any gift or loyalty cards stored in the app, but it will no longer track balances. Amazon didn't say if the app will return at some point in another form. Consumers are able to use alternate services, such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Softcard, to make contactless payments at participating retailers around the country.


Facebook Working On Its Own Voice-to-Text System

Jan 20, 2015, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook plans to add voice-to-text transcription to its Facebook Messenger application, said David Marcus, Facebook's vice president of messaging products. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Marcus said the company is already testing the system using machine-to-machine learning, though he declined to say when the feature might be added to the app. Facebook expects the feature to be popular across Asia and other regions where typing various languages on mobile devices is more of a chore. Apple, Google, and Microsoft already provide their own voice-to-text services, which are built into the iOS, Android, and Windows Phone operating systems, respectively. Marcus didn't say how Facebook's transcription service will differ from what's already available to consumers. Marcus said 500 million people use Messenger monthly and it hopes to grow that number to 1 billion. Marcus indicated Facebook is exploring ways to monetize Messenger, but the company wants to avoid advertising. Facebook also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, which have 700 million and 300 million monthly users, respectively. Facebook said it will monetize Messenger before WhatsApp. Facebook has an "ambitious" roadmap for Messenger, and will add other features over the course of the year.


Samsung Picks New Design Chief

Jan 19, 2015, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has hired Lee Don-tae as senior vice president of Samsung’s global design team, where he will oversee all Samsung's designs. Before being scooped up by Samsung, Lee worked for a U.K. design agency called Tangerine. Tangerine once consulted for Apple more than 20 years ago, and is where Apple found its current design chief Jony Ive back in 1992. Sales of Samsung's top phones slipped during the latter half of 2014, which has effected changed across its entire mobile device business. The company shook up its executive ranks at the end of 2014 and rearranged several business units. Lee's hiring is one of many steps the company has taken to help revitalize interest in its products.


Sprint Expands Leasing Program to G3, Note 4

Jan 16, 2015, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today increased the number of devices eligible for its leasing program by adding the LG G3 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Sprint said new and existing customers can lease the G3 for $15 per month for 24 months or the Note 4 for $25 per month for 24 months. Customers can take the devices home for $0 down. At the end of the lease, customers can turn the device in and lease another or return the device (as long as it is in working order) and terminate their service. Sprint already offers leases on the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S5.


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