Phone Scoop

printed February 10, 2016
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Microsoft Makes Fresh Windows 10 Preview Available

Today, 1:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile for Windows Insiders. Build 10586.107 is a cumulative update and only makes some bug fixes and performance improvements. Microsoft called out adjustments to missing Start screen tiles, narrator behavior, and the reset experience. Microsoft also noted it will release technical previews in three stages moving forward, rather than two. Before today, it offered updates first to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring followed by Insiders in the Slow Ring. Now, it has added the Release Preview ring, which Microsoft says is "best for Insiders who enjoy getting early access to updates for the Current Branch, Microsoft applications, and drivers, with minimal risk to their devices." The latest preview will hit the Lumia 950 and 950 XL first. Microsoft is still working to bring Windows 10 to existing Windows 8.1 handsets, which it was expected to do late last year.

Twitter Tweaks Timelines Yet Again

Today, 9:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter is debuting a change to how its timeline works that will include more "best" Tweets at the top of users' feeds. The idea is similar to the "while you were away" function that Twitter added to the service last year, but it includes a broader array of Tweets displayed in reverse chronological order. Twitter is making use of algorithms to impart the change, which is aimed at making the service more appealing. The idea is to let heavy users who follow lots of people see what they may have missed from their favorite accounts since they last used the app. "Our goal was to refine the product and make it absolutely delightful for our core users — the people for which Twitter plays a great role in their life — and if we're able to make it even more powerful for them they become our microphone," said Jeff Seibert, Twitter's head of consumer product. The revised timelines will show a dozen or so "best" Tweets to users when they first open the app, which is more than the five Tweets it shows via the "while you were away" tool. The changed timeline is opt-in for now, and users who scroll down far enough will encounter their regular timeline.

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T-Mobile Selling LG K7 for $140

Today, 9:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today made the LG K7 available for sale from its web site. The phone, announced last month, has a 5-inch screen, quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor, 5-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel selfie camera, and LTE 4G. T-mobile is selling the handset for $139.99 at full retail or for $5.84 for 24 months. Boost Mobile is selling the K7 as the Tribute 5.

Alcatel Windows 10 Fierce XL Hits T-Mobile's Site

Today, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has made the Alcatel OneTouch Fierce XL with Windows 10 available from its web site. The phone, announced earlier this year, has a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen, a 1.1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor, an 8-megapixel main camera with flash, and a 2-megapixel front camera. The Fierce XL supports LTE 4G along with VoLTE, HD voice, and WiFi calling. T-Mobile is selling the phone for $139.99 or 24 payments of $5.84. T-Mobile hasn't indicated yet if the Fierce XL with Windows is available in stores. T-Mobile also sells an Android variant of the Fierce XL.

Walmart Adds 10GB Plan and 'Binge On' Service

Today, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Walmart Family Mobile has rolled out a new plan that includes unlimited talk, text, and 10GB of LTE 4G data for $49.88 per month. Users who surpass the 10 GB cap will be throttled down to 2G speeds. In addition to the high-capacity plan, Walmart Family Mobile also debuted a feature called Data Saver, which mimics T-Mobile's Binge On service. With Data Saver enabled, Walmart Family Mobile customers can watch compressed, DVD-quality video to reduce data consumption. Data Saver can be turned on or off at will. Walmart Family Mobile is an MVNO that operates on T-Mobile's network. The new 10 GB plan with Data Saver will be available only for a limited time. Walmart Family Mobile also offers a 1 GB plan for $30 per month and a 5 GB plan for $40 per month.

LG Teases the G5's 'Always On' Feature

Today, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG touted another aspect of the unannounced G5, which will boast an "always on" display. In a picture posted to its Facebook page, the silhouette of a mobile device shows the clock, date, and notifications on the lock screen, similar to Motorola's Active Display. LG's own V10 handset has an always-on screen, though it is limited to a small, secondary panel above the main display. LG is expected to fully reveal the G5 at an event planned for February 21.

Opera Sings Praises for Chinese Buyout Bid

Today, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A consortium of Chinese companies has bid $1.2 billion for Opera Software, maker of web browsers and other mobile services. The collection of companies includes game-maker Kunlun, security firm Qihoo, and private investment firms Yonglian and Golden Brick. Qihoo has its own browser and would combine Opera's technology with its own. Opera's board unanimously recommended the company accept the deal. "There is strong strategic and industrial logic to the acquisition of Opera by the consortium," said Opera CEO Lars Boilesen in a statement. "We believe that the consortium, with its breadth of expertise and strong market position in emerging markets, will be a strong owner of Opera, [will] serve our users, and [will] accelerate our plans of expansion and growth." Opera also offers data compression products directly to mobile network operators, and consumer-grade compression through its Opera Max app. The Opera browser is the sixth-most popular browser in the world.

Gmail to Call Out Insecure Emails

Yesterday, 12:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is hoping to protect Gmail users by making them more aware of secure and insecure messages. Moving forward, Gmail will display an open lock icon for Google Apps users who receive messages from email services that don't support an encrypted connection. The same applies when users are about to send an email through unprotected servers. Google says people sending messages between Google-hosted domains won't see the open lock icon because Gmail operates through secure servers. Further, if Google can't authenticate the sender of an email via Sender Policy Framework or DKIM, it will replace the sender's profile photo with a question mark. Google believes these visual clues will help people tread more carefully when opening and responding to emails. Google also suggests Gmail users take advantage of two-step verification, activate Data Loss Prevention, check and fine-tune spam settings, and enforce mobile device policies. These changes will role out to Google Apps users (business accounts) over the next few weeks.

Twitter to Place Higher Priority On Ads

Yesterday, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today is rolling out a new product for advertisers that will give them the top spot in users' timelines. Called First View, the marketing product will push promoted video Tweets to the top of feeds on mobile devices, visible when users first open the app. Twitter calls this its "most valuable real estate" and will sell it at a premium to brands looking to make a big impact. The advertising product is rolling out in the U.S. first, with global markets to follow over time. Twitter didn't say if users will be able to opt-out of the video ads, which can drive up mobile data use, or set them to auto-play only when on WiFi.

Instagram App Now Supports Multiple Accounts

Monday, 2:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today updated its Android and iOS apps with support for multiple accounts. Once the latest version is installed, users can add a second account and then quickly jump between them. Instagram says it clearly shows the profile pic for each account so people know which account is the one currently being used. Instagram 7.15 will be made available to Android and iOS devices over the next few days.

Apple Pushes Out New iOS, WatchOS, tvOS Betas

Monday, 1:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today made several new beta operating system available to developers. First up is iOS 9.3 beta 3. Apple didn't spell out what's new in build 13E5200d, aside from performance tweaks. iOS 9.3's previously disclosed new features include richer tools for education, Night Shift to reduce eye strain, as well as new behaviors to Notes and Health. WatchOS 2.2 beta 3 updates the map app and makes it possible to pair the Apple Watch with more than a single iPhone. Last, tvOS 9.2 adds support for Bluetooth keyboards. The betas are available to developers to download starting today. Apple generally makes public betas available to consumers a day or two after it releases developer betas.

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CTIA Issues RFP for Stolen Device Database

Monday, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The CTIA is looking for companies to help it with the Mobile Device Information Portal and issued a request for proposal to that effect. The portal is to be a central tool that consumers, carriers, and law enforcement can use to ascertain whether or not phones have been reported lost or stolen. The idea is curb phone thefts by making it easy for everyone involved to report missing devices and check that database, thereby limiting the black market for resale of stolen goods. The Mobile Device Information Portal was recommended by the FCC's Mobile Device Theft Prevention Working Group as a key facet of reducing theft. The CTIA will oversee the Mobile Device Information Portal.

Sprint Offering $200 In Credit for Trade-Ins

Monday, 10:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today is kicking off a limited promotion that will reward new and existing customers with $200 in credit towards a new device when they trade in a working smartphone. The credit can be applied to the Samsung Galaxy S6 or Galaxy Note 5. Sprint says the $200 credit drops the monthly lease cost of the GS6 to $9.76 per month and the Note 5 to $16.67 per month. The $200 trade-in credit is available to shoppers at Sprint's retail stores starting today, and will be available online and via phone by the end of the week. Sprint says the device being traded in cannot be a lease, and existing customers must be upgrade-eligible to score the $200 trade-in credit. The offer can be combined with Sprint's current half-off rate plans to customers who switch from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless.

Pebble Watches and Apps Updated for Android and iOS

Monday, 9:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pebble recently pushed out a significant update to its Pebble Time smartwatches and the associated Android and iOS apps. The smartwatches gain new health-tracking powers thanks to the revised Pebble Health API, which makes tracking workouts more accurate. It also allows users to switch between miles and kilometers. The watch platform shows more information with incoming MMS messages, too, and makes various improvements to watch, battery, and stability performance. On the handset side of the equation, the Pebble app for Android now lets owners initiate text messages from their smartwatch as well as reply to incoming calls via SMS. The Pebble app for iOS devices adds the ability to set custom text replies. Both mobile apps also pick up performance and stability tweaks.

Google Hangouts Now Enables Peer-to-Peer Calls

Monday, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The latest version of Google Hangouts allows mobile devices to establish a peer-to-peer connection when possible in order to improve the quality of phone calls. Older versions of Hangouts passed calls through Google's servers. Google says the direct connection is more efficient and offers a boost in audio and video quality. Google Hangouts is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Review: ZTE Grand X 3 for Cricket Wireless

Friday, 5:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE's latest arrival is the Grand X 3, an inexpensive Android phablet for Cricket Wireless. Some smart design and material choices help the Grand X 3 look and feel like a much more costly device than it really is. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth report about ZTE's entry-level scrapper.

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Verizon Zero-Rates Its Go90 Video App

Friday, 4:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today updated its go90 video app and will allow customers to stream all the go90 content they want over LTE without it impacting their data bucket. The go90 app is making use of Verizon's FreeBee Data 360 sponsored data service, which Verizon launched last month. The go90 app includes music, sports, TV shows, original series, and live concerts. Verizon says go90 version 1.4 is available in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Verizon's foray into zero-rating go90 follows similar behavior from T-Mobile, which allows customers to stream music and video content from select partners without pulling from their monthly data allotment.

BlackBerry Trims More Workers

Feb 5, 2016, 2:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry has cut an unspecified number of employees at two facilities. The company confirmed that it let employees go at its Waterloo headquarters, as well as at a plant in Sunrise, Fla. "As BlackBerry continues to execute its turnaround plan, we remain focused on driving efficiencies across our global workforce," said the company in a statement. "This means finding new ways to enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities, while driving toward sustainable profitability across all parts of our business. As a result, a small number of employees have been impacted. It also means that BlackBerry is actively recruiting in those areas of our business that will drive growth." BlackBerry CEO John Chen has focused on BlackBerry's core BES communications and device management business while winding down its phone business. Chen recently said BlackBerry will release as few as one or two new handsets per year if it stays in the hardware game. Chen has been vocal about killing off its smartphone business entirely if it can't turn a profit. BlackBerry didn't say what areas of the company were affected by today's job cuts.

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