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printed June 29, 2015
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Uber Buys Some of Microsoft's Bing Assets

Today, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Uber has agreed to acquire about 100 engineers and other assets from Microsoft's Bing product. Specifically, Uber will take possession of Bing's "product image collection activities," according to TechCrunch. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the companies did say that Microsoft will hand over some employees and technology. Uber, the ride-finding service, has been looking for opportunities to improve its own map data. Adding some of Bing's assets can help it do that. Uber said it was "excited about the talent and technology this acquisition brings." Earlier this year, Uber had been named as a potential suitor for Nokia's HERE Maps business. Nokia has not yet sold HERE. Microsoft and Uber didn't say when the Bing transaction might be finalized.


Sprint Debuts Best Buy One Family Plan for $100

Today, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today unwrapped a new option for customers looking to save money on family plans. The Best Buy One Family plan costs $100 per month and includes unlimited data, voice minutes, and messaging for two smartphones. Additional lines cost $40 each. Sprint says subscribers to the Best Buy One Family plan can lease handsets for as little as $20 per month, so a two-line plan would cost just $140 per month with the device payments added in (taxes and fees not included). The Best Buy One Family plan is available at Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores beginning today. Sprint already offers a Best Buy One plan for single lines.

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Boost Mobile Scores LG Volt 2 and Tribute 2

Today, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 11:24 AM

Boost Mobile today announced the LG Volt 2 and LG Tribute 2, updates to two of last year's big sellers for the prepaid carrier. Both devices share several hardware features, such as LG's signature rear-placed buttons, 1.2 GHz quad-core processors, LTE, Bluetooth, and WiFi. They also boast similar software, such as Android 5.1 Lollipop with LG's Knock Code, QuickMemo, and selfie camera tools.

  • Volt 2: The second-generation Volt (pictured) improves the screen from a 4.7-inch qHD display to a 5-inch 720p display. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor and the front camera has been improved from 1.3 megapixels to 5 megapixels. It has a 2,540mAh battery.
  • Tribute 2: The less expensive of these two handsets keeps the screen at 4.5 inches, but improves resolution from 800 x 480 pixels to 854 x 480 pixels. The 5-megapixel main camera, VGA front camera, 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of ROM are carried over from last year's phone. It has a 1,900mAh battery.
The LG Volt 2 and Tribute 2 are available from Boost's web site beginning today. The Volt 2 cost $149.99 and the Tribute 2 cost $99.99.


Sprint's Direct 2 You Launches in More Cities

Today, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today made good on its May promise to bring Direct 2 You to New York, Denver, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. The service is now live in these cities and a number of smaller cities and towns in the surrounding metro areas. Sprint said it will expand Direct 2 You to Detroit, Washington, D.C., Tampa, and Dallas in early July. With Direct 2 You, a Sprint technician brings the store experience directly to the homes of customers who purchase a new phone. Customers can still receive the same benefits as buying in stores, such as setting up their phone, transferring content from their old phone, and tutorials to ensure the customer understands how to use their new device. Sprint's Direct 2 You service is offered free of charge.


Facebook Adds Fun Tools to Photo Uploader for iOS

Today, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has updated the photo uploader in its iOS app and given users the ability to make creative edits as they go. The new uploader lets people preview and apply filters by swiping left and right, easily add text, and plaster images with stickers from the Facebook sticker store. The feature is not yet widely available, but it has appeared for a number of users. The new editing tools aren't yet available in the Facebook app for Android and it's not clear when they might show up. They are accessible from a tray of tools positioned at the bottom of the photo uploader screen.


Apple Music Arrives with iOS 8.4 June 30

Today, 7:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple will distribute iOS 8.4 beginning at 8AM/11AM Pacific/Eastern on June 30, according to Apple Music Senior Director Ian Rogers. The updated operating system installs Apple Music, Apple's monthly music service. The service will be available for free on a trial basis for three months, after which it will cost $10 per month. June 30 also marks the launch of Beats 1, Apple's global radio station. iOS 8.4 will work with most iOS devices.


Google Agrees to Add Railroad Crossings to Maps

Today, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has agreed to use data from the U.S. Federal Railroad Association (FRA) to add audio and visual alerts to drivers when they near railroad crossings. The idea is to make sure drivers are aware of railroad crossings when using Google Maps to navigate between points. The FRA also requested that Apple, Garmin, Tom Tom, and MapQuest make similar additions to their mapping and navigation services. In 2013, the most recent year with data, there were 2,096 car-train accidents at railroad crossings nationally that resulted in 288 deaths.


Samsung Researchers Make Battery Breakthrough

Today, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A research team working at Samsung has discovered a new way to make lithium-ion batteries that could double the available battery life in devices such as smartphones. The method involves covering silicon nanoparticles with graphene, which prevents the formation of silicon carbide. "When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities [that are up to] 1.8 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries," explain the researchers. They believe this can serve as a prototype for eventually bringing the technology to market. The end result would be batteries that last almost twice as long as they do now. Samsung said this discovery is still in the early stages of development and did not provide a suggested timeline for commercial release.


Microsoft's OneDrive App Adds Chromecast Support

Today, 6:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated its OneDrive app for Android devices. The revised app adds the ability to cast photos and videos from the app to a Chromecast-enabled TV. OneDrive is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Cricket Scores Distribution Deal with Meijer Stores

Friday, 10:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today said its goods and services will be available at 213 Meijer stores across the midwest beginning June 27. Consumers in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky will be able buy prepackaged phone kits from phone makers such as HTC, Samsung, and ZTE. The stores will also sell Cricket's universal SIM card kits for those who already have a compatible device. Cricket Wireless is owned and operated by AT&T.


BBM Gains Private Chat Mode

Friday, 10:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today pushed out an update to the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS versions of its BBM app and added several new features. The main new addition is a private chatting mode that strips conversations of names and profile pictures. Private conversations are also ephemeral and will disappear after a short while. The Private Chat tool is in the new Privacy and Control Subscription, which costs $0.99 per month. It also includes timed messages and timed pictures, and the ability to retract and edit messages and pictures. The Privacy and Control Subscription replaces the Timed and Retracted Messages Subscription. BlackBerry says existing subscribers will be transitioned over to the new service automatically. Other new functions include a new way to organize sticker collections and a "quote messages" tool for referencing previous messages. Last, the iOS version of BBM has updated font rendering. BBM is free to download from the Play Store, BlackBerry Store, and iTunes App Store.


T-Mobile's GoSmart Mobile Debuts $30 Facebook Plan

Friday, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

GoSmart Mobile, a prepaid business operated by T-Mobile, introduced a new entry-level plan today that offers unlimited LTE access to Facebook. The plan costs $30 per month and also includes unlimited talk and text and up to 1GB of 3G data. Subscribers to the plan have unlimited tethering, though once they exceed their 1GB limit tethering speeds will be reduced to 2G. The no-contract plan includes all taxes and fees and will be available beginning June 28. GoSmart offers several other plans ranging from $25 to $45 per month.


AT&T's GoPhone Now Selling the ZTE Maven

Friday, 8:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T's prepaid unit today added the ZTE Maven to its roster of inexpensive handsets. The Maven is a rebadged Overture 2, which is sold by AT&T's Cricket Wireless business. The Maven is an entry-level Android smartphone that it is selling for $59.99. The Maven features a 4.5-inch FWVGA display, 5-megapixel main camera, VGA user-facing camera, 8 GB of storage, and support for memory cards up to 32 GB. This handset also has a quad-core 1.2 GHz processor and a 2,100mAh battery. The Maven from ZTE runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and is compatible with AT&T's LTE 4G network.


Review: Samsung Galaxy S6 Active for AT&T

Friday, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung clad its flagship phone in hardier garb and called it the Galaxy S6 Active. This waterproof Android smartphone has several advantages over its more delicate siblings. Find out what they are in Phone Scoop's in-depth report.

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Cricket Adds ZTE Sonata 2 to Low-Cost Lineup

Friday, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless has made the ZTE Sonata 2 available on its web site for $29.99. This inexpensive Android smartphone has a 4-inch WVGA screen protected by Dragontrail Glass and it is powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor. The ZTE Sonata 2 includes a 5-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera with a dedicated selfie app. The phone has 1 GB of memory and 4 GB of storage, and supports memory cards up to 32 GB. Connectivity options include 4G, Bluetooth, and WiFi. The phone has a 1,650mAh battery providing it with power and supports Qualcomm QuickCharge 1.0 for quicker charging. The Sonata 2 runs Android 4.4 KitKat.


Microsoft Releases New Build of Windows 10 Mobile

Thursday, 4:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released another new build of the Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview. Build 10149 adds features and resolves several bugs from the previous build. Microsoft released build 10136 earlier this month, but it required users to backtrack to Windows Phone 8.1 first. Microsoft says testers who stayed on build 10080 will be able to update directly to 10149, skipping over build 10136 completely. Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview 10149 brings new branding to the Microsoft Edge browser, which relocated the address bar to the bottom and added the ability to view web sites in desktop or mobile views. Edge replaces Project Spartan, which was in previous builds. Build 10149 makes improvements to Cortana and the flashlight, as well as general user interface tweaks. Microsoft says the UI should be more responsive. The new build features an updated photos app that adds support for GIFs, and the camera can now be set to automatically upload images to OneDrive. Microsoft fixed a range of bugs impacting call and SMS filtering, text notifications, Podcast performance, and app installs. Microsoft listed a number of known issues still plaguing the preview. The Technical Preview is not meant for general consumers and shouldn't be installed on anyone's daily device. These builds are pre-beta status for the mobile OS, which won't be offered in final form until the fall months.


FCC Keeps Auction Reserve at 30 MHz

Thursday, 1:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today finalized its proposed rules for next year's 600 MHz spectrum auction and kept the reserve for smaller carriers at 30 MHz. T-Mobile and others petitioned the FCC to raise the reserve to 40 MHz, but FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler believes the 30 MHz cap offers plenty of opportunity for those who may bid. "The Incentive Auction offers one of the last opportunities for competitors to acquire significant quantities of low-band spectrum," said Wheeler. "With more than 70% of low-band spectrum in the hands of just two providers, one of the Commission's priorities is to ensure that multiple providers have a meaningful opportunity to acquire these valuable airwaves, which is critical to competition among wireless carriers. This is why the Commission voted to set aside this reserve a year ago. The draft Order concludes that the current reserve size of 30 MHz balances the desire to make low-band spectrum available to parties with limited holdings while facilitating competitive bidding for all auction participants." AT&T and Verizon Wireless will not be allowed to bid on 30 MHz of the airwaves in each market, which will be set aside for companies with less scale and fewer resources. The FCC also proposed changes to how it handles bids from designated entities and will close a loophole exploited by Dish Networks earlier this year to score a discount on spectrum. Dish relied on small companies to bid in its stead during the AWS-3 auction. Because the entities were under a certain size, they earned a 25% discount on the licenses that amounted to $3 billion. Dish's competitors complained and the FCC said it will put new rules in place for the 600 MHz auction to prevent such misuse. "We must also make sure that small businesses receiving credits are exercising independent decision-making authority. We will not allow small businesses to serve as a stalking horse for another party," said Wheeler. The FCC will vote on the rules during its next open meeting, scheduled for July.


Yahoo Improves Search In Mobile Browsers

Thursday, 12:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today said it has refreshed how it displays mobile search results in a way that will help people find what they're looking for quicker. Yahoo explains that rather than offer lists of links, the new search presents results -- including images, videos, news, and other details -- prominently in a way that's more useful. For example, Yahoo Search results for restaurants will offer directions, reviews, and the ability to make reservations directly from the results screen. Yahoo said the new Yahoo Search is available when using search.yahoo.com in mobile browsers. Yahoo suggests smartphone users set Yahoo (rather than Google or Bing) as their default search engine for the best results.

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