AT&T chimed in today to say it, too, will offer the LG G3 Vigor to subscribers. AT&T didn't specify how much the device will cost, nor when it will go on sale. Sprint also plans to sell the Vigor.
Sprint today announced the LG G3 Vigor, an affordable smartphone that places the volume and screen lock keys on the back, like LG's flagship devices. The phone has a 5-inch 720p HD display and quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor under the hood to keep costs low. Stand out features include LG's suite of specialized apps, such as Knock Code and Knock On, LG Gate for enterprise security, as well as QSlide Apps, QuickMemo, and LG's Smart Keyboard. The phone runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and is compatible with Sprint Spark. Sprint services on board include HD Voice and Wi-Fi Calling. The full retail price of the LG G3 Vigor is $299. Sprint also offering the G3 Vigor for $12.50 a month with Sprint Easy Pay.
Sprint's branded prepaid service, called Sprint Prepaid, today dropped the cost of its service plans. The three new plans mirror those offered by Sprint's Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA brands, but are available under the Sprint name. All three include unlimited talk and text, but vary in the amount of data available each month. The $35 plan includes 1GB of data, the $45 plan includes 3GB, and the $55 plan includes 6GB. The new plans are available to Sprint Prepaid beginning today. Sprint Prepaid does not require contracts.
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Google and its partners today revealed the first three Android One handsets. Google initially spoke about Android One in June. The idea behind Android One is to bring low-cost handsets to the largest-possible populations around the world. To that end, Google worked with hardware makers, component suppliers, and wireless network operators to develop inexpensive smartphones for India. The first three devices are the Karbonn Sparkle V, the Micromax Canvas A1, and the Spice Dream UNO. The phones include front and rear cameras, large touch screens, MediaTek processors, dual SIM card slots, memory card slots, FM radios, and removable batteries. All three phones are being sold for about $105. According to Google, the devices ship with Android 4.4 KitKat, but will be among the first to receive Android L later this year. Google, rather than the local network operators, will provide all the system updates for these devices. Google said it has signed more manufactures to the Android One project, including Acer, Alcatel Onetouch, Asus, HTC, Intex, Lava, Lenovo, Panasonic, Xolo, and chipmaker Qualcomm. Google plans to expand the Android One program to Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka later this year, with more to follow throughout 2015. The main goal is to connect as many people as possible - more than 5 billion - to the internet.
Motorola today said consumers can order some of its new products beginning September 16. The Moto X for AT&T and the Moto X Pure Edition will both be available for ordering on Tuesday. The AT&T Moto X costs $99 with a new contract, and the Moto X Pure Edition - which runs stock Android 4.4 KitKat and features an unlocked bootloader - costs $499. Other carriers plan to announce availability soon. In addition to these handsets, the Moto Hint wireless earbud and the Moto Turbo Charger will also be available. The Hint costs $149 and the Turbo Charger costs $35. Last, Motorola said the Moto 360 smart watch will be back in stock on Tuesday, though quantities are limited.
GreatCall recently announced the Samsung Touch3, an Android smartphone designed specifically for senior citizens and older users. The Touch3's major selling point is the user interface, which has been stripped down to the bare essentials in order to make it easier to use. Select apps, such as the phone, messaging, camera, and help are front and center in large fonts so they can be found faster. The Touch3 offers the usual selection of GreatCall services, such as 5Star, Urgent Care, and MedCoach. The device itself features a 4-inch screen, 4-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, and 8GB of built-in storage. The Touch3 is available from GreatCall's web site. It costs $150 and doesn't require a contract commitment.
Sprint today confirmed that it will skip an upcoming spectrum auction. "Sprint has decided not to participate in the FCC's AWS-3 auction, but will continue to evaluate the opportunities presented by the upcoming 600MHz incentive auction," said Sprint spokesman Jeffrey Silva to Bloomberg. Auction 97 will see 1,614 spectrum licenses sold by the government to wireless network operators. The auction will start November 13, with a trial auction scheduled for November 10. The spectrum includes 65MHz in the 1695-1710MHz, 1755-1780MHz, and 2155-2180MHz bands. AT&T, Dish Networks, Verizon Wireless, and many smaller companies plan to participate in the auction. The FCC has another auction, for 600MHz spectrum, scheduled for mid 2015. AT&T and Verizon already have significant low-band spectrum holdings, while Sprint does not. Sprint is more interested in the 600MHz spectrum for this reason. Low-band spectrum is valued for its propagation characteristics.
Documents seen on the FCC web site suggest that Verizon Wireless will soon have its own version of the HTC Desire 610. Based on the model number (OP90300), SKU (HTC331ZLVW), and spectrum support, a newly approved phone made by HTC is earmarked for Big Red. The 610 is an affordable Android phone with a 4.7-inch display, 1.2 GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, 8-megapixel main camera, front camera, 4G LTE, and a memory card slot. It sports a clean design inspired by the HTC One, but in high-quality plastic. Like the One, it features BoomSound dual front speakers and Zoe video functions. HTC announced the Desire 610 earlier this year, and it is already being sold by AT&T.
AT&T's top exec today said the company won't offer WiFi calling on its devices until next year. WiFi Calling has been around for years, but was highlighted by Apple this week as a new feature in the iPhone 6/6 Plus. Further, T-Mobile announced this week plans to expand WiFi calling to all its smartphones with a new in-home hotspot. T-Mobile's WiFi service goes live soon, but AT&T is in no rush to compete. "We're very focused on making sure it's a great experience for customers, but we see it as a complement, not a replacement," said CEO Ralph de la Vega. "We feel good about a great nationwide network with unlimited talk and text." WiFi calling passes voice calls and text messages over a local WiFi network rather than the macro cellular network.
Google has extended the time during which Android device owners can seek a refund for app purchases. Google used to allow app buyers a mere 15 minutes to decide whether or not they liked an application enough to keep it. Now, app buyers have two hours to make that decision. According to Google, users will see a "refund" button in the My Apps section of the Play Store during a 120-minute window after they purchase apps. Once the refund button disappears, the app can no longer be returned for a refund. Device owners will still be able to uninstall unwanted apps at any time.
BlackBerry today revealed it has acquired a British firm called Movirtu. Movirtu develops virtual SIM card solutions that allow multiple phone numbers to be used on a single device. BlackBerry said the acquisition will help it separate work and personal use on its smartphones for split billing. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. During the course of the last year, BlackBerry has focused on beefing up its enterprise services rather than sales of BlackBerry smartphones.
RadioShack is considering whether or not to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as its cash reserves dwindle. The company ended its most recent quarter with just $30.5 million in cash on hand, with debts totaling $658 million. It has lost money 10 quarters in a row as electronics buyers shun the chain for larger retailers or the web. Filing for bankruptcy would help protect RadioShack's remaining cash reserves, and could set the stage for a reorganization of the firm. The company is also weighing taking on investments and cited liquidation as a last resort. Earlier this year RadioShack announced plans to close 1,100 stores, but later reduced that number to 200 after investors balked. RadioShack sells wireless service from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, as well as several prepaid brands.
T-Mobile today said it will make Wi-Fi calling available to all its postpaid customers for free. The move, announced at an event in San Francisco, is meant to help provide improved voice coverage in spaces where T-Mobile's network doesn't reach. Wi-Fi calls can be made from any open network. Even so, T-Mobile also debuted the T-Mobile Personal Cell Spot. This Wi-Fi hotspot, made by Asus, requires a $25 deposit and works with existing in-home internet service. It will permit T-Mobile customers to experience high-quality Wi-Fi calls when at home. It prioritizes voice functionality over data functionality. New phones sold by T-Mobile (including the iPhone 6) will be have this new functionality built in from the get-go, while older devices will receive an update to gain the new Wi-Fi calling features. The Personal Cell Spot will remain private; only those with the Wi-Fi password will be able to use it for calls and messaging. The Wi-Fi calling feature is free to use for all customers. T-Mobile offered a similar service back in 2007, called Hotspot@Home, but discontinued it in 2010. T-Mobile also announced a partnership with GoGo that will let its customers send and receive SMS/MMS messages from GoGo-equipped airplanes, as well as receive visual voicemail. The in-flight messaging service goes live September 17 and is free to all T-Mobile customers. The service will work with select phones at launch, including Samsung Galaxy S5, Apple iPhone 5s, HTC One, and LG G3 among others. More will be added over time.
Skype today announced an update to its app for Windows Phone devices that introduces location sharing for the first time. Skype version 2.22 is compatible with Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1. The sharing feature permits users to transmit their location data to others within IM conversations. The recipient can then pinpoint the sender via Bing Maps. The update also makes it easier to save photos and adds more granular controls for notifications. Skype for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.
Republic Wireless recently unveiled a change in policy regarding roaming. The company, citing high costs for its customers to roam onto the wireless networks of competing carriers, will reduce the amount of roaming data allowed each customer to just 25MB per month. Further, the company will throttle back the speeds available to customers when they roam. The changes go into effect September 15. In addition to this change, Republic Wireless said it is working to deliver an option to customers that will allow them to roam more than 25MB for an optional fee. Republic is still working out the details of that plan. Republic Wireless is an MVNO that operates on Sprint's network, but it prefers that customers make calls and send messages via Wi-Fi. It offers access to Sprint's network when subscribers are out of range of Wi-Fi hotspots.
Cricket today committed to selling the HTC Desire 510 in the U.S. This entry-level smartphone from HTC offers the company's best features in an affordable package. Here are our first thoughts.
Cricket Wireless today said it will offer the HTC Desire 510 to customers beginning September 19. The handset will cost $150 and is compatible with Cricket's array of prepaid service plans. HTC announced the 510 last month. It is an entry-level handset with LTE 4G on board. It features a 4.7-inch display, a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor with 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of built-in storage. The main camera captures 5-megapixel images, and the user-facing camera captures VGA images. Connectivity features include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, GPS, and DLNA for sharing media. The 510 runs Android 4.4 KitKat and includes HTC Sense and Blinkfeed. The handset will be available from Cricket's web site first, with a phased rollout across the company's 6,000 retail points through October.
Google today updated its Hangouts service with the ability to make free voice calls from Android and iOS devices, as well as from the web. Hangouts users can call one another and regular numbers in the U.S. and Canada without incurring any costs. Google says calls to other countries will require fees, but its rates are low. Google plans to make Hangouts version 2.3 available to Android devices over the next few days, and users wishing to make calls will need to install an additional dialer. The feature will show up automatically in the iOS and web versions of Hangouts. Hangouts users are already able to use the app to send IM and SMS messages, as well as make video calls.