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printed March 3, 2015
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Smartflash Sues Apple Again Over Newer iPhones

Friday, 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

Friday, 8:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Friday, 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.


Big Tech Firms Settle Wage Suit Terms

Jan 16, 2015, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe have agreed to new payout terms to settle a lawsuit over hiring practices in Silicon Valley. In 2011, former workers alleged the companies conspired to not poach one another's employees in order to avoid a salary war. In so doing, they unfairly limited their workers' ability to find better-paying jobs between 2005 and 2009. The four companies have agreed to pay a total of $415 million after a judge rejected their initial offering of $324 million. The reward will be disbursed to some 64,000 workers, who will receive about $5,000 each after attorney's fees. The plaintiffs support the $415 million proposal, but it still needs to be approved by the court. The companies involved admitted no wrongdoing and said they chose to settle only to avoid costly litigation.


Xiaomi Debuts High-End Phablet

Jan 15, 2015, 8:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi today announced the Mi Note, a new flagship device for the company that will compete with the likes of Samsung's Galaxy Note and Apple's iPhone 6 Plus. The Mi Note features a 5.7-inch full HD display, 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM, and a 3,000mAh battery with Quick Charge 2.0. The main camera has a 13-megapixel Sony sensor with OIS, f/2.0 aperture, and two-tone LED flash. The user-facing camera has a 4-megapixel sensor. The phone has curved glass on the front and back surfaces and it measures 6.95mm thick. It will cost about $370. Xiaomi also announced a Pro version of the Mi Note, which steps up the display resolution to quad HD, improves the processor to a Snapdragon 810 with better graphics, and boosts memory to 4GB. It will cost about $520. At the moment, Xiaomi sells its devices only in China, India, and other emerging markets. The company has global ambitions, but it hasn't announced plans to sell the Mi Note outside of its home region.


Apple and Ericsson Argue Over LTE Patents

Jan 14, 2015, 9:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple and Ericsson have filed legal grievances against one another regarding the value of LTE patents. A patent agreement between the two companies expired two years ago and they have failed to come to terms in signing a new one. Apple is accusing Ericsson of demanding prices that are outside the "fair and reasonable" terms dictated by standard-essential patents. Ericsson says every Apple iPhone has its technology inside and believes patent pricing should be based on the total value of the handset. Apple, on the other hand, believes the patent pricing should only apply to the value of the LTE-specific components. Ericsson is asking a separate entity to determine whether or not its terms are in fact fair and reasonable.


Skype 5.9 for iPhone Promises Faster Performance

Jan 14, 2015, 9:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced version 5.9 of its app for the Apple iPhone. The updated communications app has an improved dial pad that suggests contacts as users type in order to make if faster to find people. Skype also updated the chat picker, which it says makes starting conversations with select contacts easier. Last, Skype said it is seeking people willing to test pre-release versions of its app. Anyone over the age of 18 is welcome to sign up for free. Skype 5.9 for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


AllCast Now Available to iOS Devices

Jan 13, 2015, 9:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AllCast recently brought its media-sharing app to the iTunes App Store. AllCast lets iOS device owners cast content from their camera roll, Google Drive (Google+, Picasa), or DropBox on their iPhone or iPad to an AppleTV, Chromecast, FireTV, Roku, or Xbox. AllCast also supports music casting, though the files must be stored locally on the iPhone or iPad. AllCast duplicates some of the features of Apple's own AirPlay. AllCast is free to download from the iTunes App Store. AllCast is already available to Android devices.


New MHL Spec Supports USB Type-C, 8K Video

Jan 7, 2015, 11:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 7, 2015, 11:17 AM

The MHL Consortium this week revealed superMHL, a new specification that future proofs its against changes in device connectors and makes dramatic improvements with respect to handling media content. The superMHL connector is reversible, much like Apple's Lightning cable. Further, it supports the new, reversible USB Type-C connector, which will eventually replace the microUSB connector found on mobile devices. Beyond the physical elements of the cable/connector, superMHL can deliver 8K video at 120fps and supports up to 48-bit color. It adds HDR video and immersive sound support, including Dolby Atmos, DTS-UHD, and 3D audio. It also supports daisy-chaining between multiple devices (TVs, Blu-Ray players, receivers) and can control them all with a single remote. The new superMHL spec also supports power charging up to 40W. The superMHL specification will be available for consumer electronics makers to download at the end of January.


Monster Sues Beats Over Alleged Fraud

Jan 7, 2015, 10:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Monster claims it was duped by Beats Electronics into giving away millions of dollars worth of intellectual property. Monster filed a lawsuit against Beats, its co-founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, and HTC for conducting a sham transaction. Monster claims it created the Beats by Dr. Dre line of headphones and used Iovine and Dre only for promotional purposes. Iovine and Dre did not front any money in developing the headphones, which became very popular under the Beats brand after their 2008 debut. Monster's CEO personally helped design the headphones. Later, Beats forged a deal with HTC, which paid $300 million for a 51% stake in the company. This triggered a clause in the contract between Monster and Beats that forced Monster to hand over its intellectual property regarding the headphones. The financial relationship between HTC and Beats was eventually dissolved. Monster's CEO, who was promised there was no "liquidity event" in Beats' immediate future, sold off most of his shares of Beats. Several months later Beats turned around and sold itself to Apple for $3.2 billion. Monster's CEO alleges his shares would have netted him $100 million personally as part of the sale. The cost to Monster was much greater, though it didn't place a dollar value on its losses. None of the parties involved provided comment on the lawsuit.


Insteon Unveils HomeKit-Enabled Home Control App

Jan 6, 2015, 2:01 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 6, 2015, 3:00 PM

Insteon today announced the Insteon App, a comprehensive iOS app that lets you control a wide variety of HomeKit-compatible home automation gear. Via Apple's HomeKit, the app controls gear using the Insteon standard as well as competing standards such as ZigBee and Z-Wave. The app is one of the first complete HomeKit apps to be shown to the public. The app can control lights, door locks, color-changing bulbs, garage door openers, thermostats, and much more. Insteon also unveiled the Insteon Hub, a small $150 box that connects Insteon home automation gear to Apple's HomeKit system. The Hub supports advanced features such rooms, zones, scenes, and schedules. Insteon's proprietary home connectivity standard uses both wireless and power-line communication for improved reliability. Insteon makes its own line of home automation gear, and several other manufacturers support Insteon technology as well.

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Apple Selling Unlocked iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on Web Site

Jan 6, 2015, 10:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 6, 2015, 11:03 AM

Apple has made unlocked versions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus available on it web site. Customers can now choose to buy their iPhone without a carrier commitment. The unlocked models support GSM-based networks such as those operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. They can also be used on networks in other countries. The unlocked models cost the same as standard models. The 16GB unlocked iPhone 6 costs $649 and the 16GB unlocked iPhone 6 Plus costs $749. Consumers can opt for higher capacity models if they so wish. The unlocked models are sold without SIM cards.


AT&T to Sell LTE 4G Case for WiFi-Only iPads

Jan 6, 2015, 10:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced it will soon offer Modio Smartcases to the Apple iPad Mini and Apple iPad Air tablets. The case serves as a mobile hotspot for WiFi-only versions of the iPad and allows them to connect to AT&T's LTE 4G network when out of WiFi range. The case includes a large battery that provides for 10 hours of continuous LTE 4G web browsing and provides addition storage through a microSD memory card slot. AT&T said the LTE 4G service can be added to existing Mobile Share plans. AT&T typically charges $10 per month to add tablet access to accounts, but didn't specify if that rate will be available to case owners. The case will first be available for the iPad Mini, Mini 2, and Mini 3, followed by the iPad Air and Air 2. AT&T didn't say how much the case will cost. Apple sells LTE-equipped iPads for $130 more than the WiFi-only models.


Volkswagen Signs Up for Android Auto and CarPlay

Jan 5, 2015, 7:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Volkswagen today took the diplomatic route with respect to enabling smartphone connectivity in its cars. Beginning with select models later this year, Volkswagen's second generation modular infotainment platform will support Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay platforms, in addition to the platform-agnostic MirrorLink spec. The company said Android Auto will support devices from the likes of Samsung, HTC, LG, and Sony, while CarPlay will support Apple's iPhone. The services will allow smartphone owners to access their device content, apps, and services through the infotainment console of their Volkswagen. The Volkswagen Golf will be the first model to support these connectivity platforms.


Qualcomm Says New AllPlay Gear, Apps On the Way

Jan 5, 2015, 4:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said more hardware makers and app developers have voiced support for its AllPlay media streaming technology. For example, Bayan Audio, Goodmans, House of Marley, Inkel/Sherwood, Optoma Nuforce, SVS, TCL Communications, and TP-LINK will add AllPlay to their gear over the coming year. Similarly, popular apps such as SoundCloud, KT Music, QQ Music, and Tidal have announced that they will integrate AllPlay into their streaming music offerings. AllPlay is a competitor technology to DLNA, Apple's AirPlay, and Google's Cast for Audio.


Apple Hit with Class Action Lawsuit Over iPhone Storage

Dec 31, 2014, 3:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple is facing a lawsuit from consumers who feel the company's mobile operating system consumes too high a percentage of the on-board memory. Specifically, the plaintiffs argue, "The discrepancy between advertised and available capacity is substantial and beyond any possible reasonable expectation. For the devices, the shortfall ranges from 18.1% to 23.1%." The lawsuit alleges that Apple hid the size of the iOS8 update from users and then "aggressively marketed" additional cloud storage to those who ran out of storage space on their mobile devices. The issue primarily impacts owners of Apple's 16GB iPhones, iPads, and iPads. The operating system leaves as little as 12.3GB available to consumers on some devices. Further, the lawsuit alleges that Apple falsely advertises the amount of storage available to its devices due to the way the company partitions the drives. Drives in Apple devices have a media partition and a root partition. The lawsuit claims the size of the root partition is unnecessarily large, leaving consumers with an even smaller portion of the drive for their media. Finally, the lawsuit also complains about the iPhone's inability to use swappable memory cards; its incompatibility with file manager programs; and its strict ties to Apple's cloud services. The lawsuit was filed in California on behalf of two Florida residents.


Apple's Patent Consortium to Sell 4,000 Patents for $900M

Dec 23, 2014, 10:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Rockstar Consortium, a patent-holding company headed by Apple, has agreed to sell more than 4,000 mobile patents for about $900 million. Apple and partners Microsoft, BlackBerry, Ericsson, and Sony paid $4.5 billion for more than 6,000 patents from Nortel four years ago in order to help protect against litigation. The companies are selling two-thirds of the patents to RPX Corp., which is another patent-focused company that protects companies from lawsuits. RPX plans to license the patent portfolio to a syndicate of 30 technology companies, including Google and Cisco, according to the Wall Street Journal. The syndicate members contributed the bulk of the $900 million in order to purchase the patents. In addition to the patent sale, Rockstar will settle patent-related lawsuits it has filed against Android device makers, including Samsung, Huawei, HTC, and LG. Terms of those settlements were not disclosed. Rockstar Consortium will hold onto about 2,000 of the old Nortel patents, which the Journal described as the "most valuable" of the bunch.


Ticketmaster Adopts Apple Pay for Ticket Sales

Dec 22, 2014, 12:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Ticketmaster recently updated its iOS application and added support for Apple Pay. iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners can now authorize ticket purchases using Apple Pay via the Touch ID fingerprint reader. Ticketmaster is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Microsoft Expands Xim's Sharing Abilities to TVs

Dec 18, 2014, 9:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated its Xim app and added compatibility with a wide range of media streaming devices. Microsoft first released Xim in October. It's a cross-platform app that allows people to easily share photos without requiring them to physically hand their phone to someone else. People use Xim to create a connection directly between devices for sharing photos from sources such as the camera roll, Instagram, and Facebook Today's update allows people to share photos not only with other phones, but with streaming media devices, including Chromecast, Apple TV, Xbox One, and Amazon Fire TV. Xim users need only connect to the WiFi network associated with the streaming media device for it to show up in the list of sharing options within the Xim app. Xims are impermanent, sort of like Snapchat, and expire after a short period of time. The updated Xim app is available from the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, and Windows Phone Store.


More Banks and Retailers Sign Up to Support Apple Pay

Dec 16, 2014, 10:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple Pay has garnered more support from banks and retailers around the country, according to the New York Times. SunTrust, Barclaycard, and USAA have already agreed to support Apple Pay with their cards, and 10 more banks, including TD Bank North America and Commerce Bank, are adding support for Apple Pay beginning today. With the new financial institutions on board, a significantly larger percentage of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners can use Apple Pay to make mobile payments at participating retailers. More retailers are interested in Apple Pay, too. Staples will begin accepting Apple Pay at its 1,400 stores beginning today, and Amway Center, where the Orlando Magic basketball team plays, will begin accepting Apple Pay at concessions stands during games. Apple Pay uses an NFC radio embedded in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to power tap-and-go payments at more than 220,000 retail outlets around the U.S. iPhone owners use their fingerprint to approve purchases, which are secured thanks to unique codes assigned to each transaction. Apple Pay launched Oct. 20. Competing services, such as Softcard, are available to select Android and Windows Phones sold by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless.


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