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printed July 24, 2014
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Google Adding Explore Function to Maps App

Today, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google hopes Android and iOS Maps users will take advantage of a new tool for exploring their surroundings. Google is adding a new button to Maps called Explore, which will tell people what's nearby. According to Google, the tool can be set to show what's as close as a 5-minute walk and what's as far as a 20-minute drive and everything in between. The Explore function doesn't just provide a list of nearby places, it is also contextually aware. For example, it will consider information such as the time of day and the weather so it doesn't send users to shops that are closed or to parks during a thunderstorm. The updated Maps app is being pushed out this week. It is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Uber Finds Its Way Back to Windows Phone

Yesterday, 2:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Uber today made available a version of its mobile application for the Windows Phone platform. Uber lets Windows Phone users request rides through its on-demand taxiing service. The Windows Phone app supports credit card payments and provides rate comparisons, allows users to set pickup locations, see the progress of their pending taxi, and receive emailed receipts. Uber runs on all Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 smartphones. The application itself is free to download from the Windows Phone Store. The app was available last year, but was yanked from the store in August 2013.

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Sony to Boost Smartphone Camera Sensor Production

Yesterday, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony plans to make a large investment its in imaging business and will increase production of CMOS sensors for mobile devices. The company will spend as much as $345 million to improve the capacity of its sensor-making facilities. Sony has already purchased several new manufacturing plants. The company currently makes about 60,000 sensors a month. It will improve those yields to 68,000 by August 2015 and eventually 75,000 by the end of 2015. Sony makes CMOS sensors for its own smartphones and tablets, but also for other manufacturers, such as Apple.


Skype for Android Makes Finding Friends Easier

Yesterday, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced version 5.0 for the Android platform and added one big feature: the ability to cross-integrate contacts between Skype and the phone. Skype 5.0 can scan the local phone address book for other registered Skype users and will then automatically add them to the Skype app's people list. Skype will also be able to sync the Skype address book with other Microsoft services to make sure it finds and adds all possible Skype users. Android users will be able to turn this feature off if they wish, or pick and choose which contacts are added to Skype. Users' actual phone number will not be shared as part of their public profile. Skype said similar features will soon appear in its apps for other platforms, such as iOS and Windows Phone.


Verizon Rebadges the HTC One mini 2 as the Remix

Yesterday, 10:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced it will sell the HTC One Remix beginning July 24 for $99 with a new contract. The One Remix is a rebranded version of the HTC One mini 2, which was announced earlier this year. The Remix relies on the same design language as the full-sized HTC One (M8), but is considerably smaller. The Remix features a 4.5-inch 720p display, 13-megapixel camera, quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor, and HTC Sense 6.0 with Blinkfeed. In addition to the contract price, Verizon will also offer the HTC Remix via its Edge monthly payment program.


Microsoft Intros Entry-Level Lumia 530

Yesterday, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 7:48 AM

Microsoft today revealed the Lumia 530, a new entry-level Windows Phone that succeeds last year's 520. The device features the same colorful design language common to Lumia models and includes interchangeable rear shells for personalization. The Lumia 530 runs Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana, MixRadio, and HERE Maps. The 530 features a 4-inch 854 x 480 display, is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, and includes a 5-megapixel camera. Connectivity is limited to HSPA at 21Mbps, but it includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and aGPS. System memory is limited to 512MB and storage is limited to 4GB. The Lumia 530 supports microSD cards up to 128GB and will be sold in a dual-SIM variant in select markets. The Lumia 530 will be available globally and begins shipping in August. The target price point is about $130. T-Mobile is the only U.S. carrier to voice support for the 530, which it said will go on sale later this year.


Motorola Debuts Digital Tattoo for Unlocking Moto X

Tuesday, 3:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Tuesday, 3:11 PM

Motorola today announced the availability of a digital tattoo that can be used to unlock the Moto X. The tattoo is actually an adhesive based on VivaLnk’s eSkin technology. It is about the size of a nickel and adheres to the skin for about five days. Users need only tap the Moto X against the digital tattoo, which has a shimmery, metallic design, to unlock their device. According to Motorola, the tattoo is waterproof and can be used during activities such as swimming and jogging. The digital tattoo was created by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group in cooperation with VivaLnk. VivaLnk sells the tattoos in packs of 10 for $10. It was first announced last month.


Review: LG G3 for Sprint

Tuesday, 1:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The LG G3 is a solid device for Sprint customers to consider, and is among a growing number to offer Wi-Fi calling. Android smartphone enthusiasts would do well to read Phone Scoop's full report, which points out the phone's strengths and weaknesses.

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Skype Says App Headed to Amazon's Fire Phone

Tuesday, 12:08 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today said it is preparing a version of its mobile communications application for Amazon's Fire Phone. The Fire Phone runs FireOS, a forked version of Android. The Skype app will launch alongside the phone when it goes on sale. Skype said it designed the app with the Fire Phone's user interface in mind, including a widget for the Fire carousel, and it will offer an experience that feels natural to Fire Phone owners. Skype said its 3D icon and notification badge make use of the Fire Phone's Dynamic Perspective technology, which provides a 3D-like experience through the use of four user-facing cameras. AT&T will begin selling the Fire Phone later this month.


Sprint Adds Wi-Fi Calling to HTC One (M8)

Tuesday, 11:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint recently announced that it is rolling out Wi-Fi calling to the HTC One and HTC One Harmon Kardon Edition. The Wi-Fi calling feature makes it possible to connect voice calls and send messages via local Wi-Fi networks rather than through Sprint's cellular network. International Wi-Fi calling will also be available in the coming weeks. It allows customers to make calls and send texts via Wi-Fi in more than 100 countries. Only a handful of Sprint's phones support Wi-Fi calling, but Sprint said more will be updated with the feature throughout the year. HTC One owners will receive the update over the next few weeks.


Amazon Makes Mobile Wallet App Available

Tuesday, 9:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon recently released a mobile wallet application for Android-based smartphones. The app, which Amazon has labeled a beta, lets people store gift cards, loyalty cards, and membership cards, which can be scanned or typed directly into the app. Amazon touts the app as a way to reduce clutter in wallets and purses. The wallet can reveal bar codes for scanning at a number of different merchants to make gift card-based payments. The wallet app does not connect to a bank account or credit card, however, and cannot be used to make tap-and-go payments via NFC. The app is free to download from the Amazon Appstore and the Google Play Store. Amazon did not immediately say if a similar app will be available to its own Fire Phone.


PlayPhone Says 'Game On' with Boost and Virgin

Tuesday, 9:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA subscribers will soon have access to PlayPhone's socially-connected gaming portal, says PlayPhone. The platform will allow Boost and Virgin subscribers to find and play mobile games with their online friends, and share scores and achievements across various social networks. Boost and Virgin's prepaid subscribers will be able to make in-game purchases through their account, rather than with credit cards. Purchases will be billed directly to their wireless plan. The platform will be available later this summer, though Boost and Virgin declined to say exactly when it will launch and which devices will support it. Verizon adopted PlayPhone's platform earlier this year.


Xiaomi Reveals Mi4 Flagship Smartphone

Tuesday, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Xiaomi today announced the Mi4, an Android-powered smartphone that offers high-end specs for a low price point. The Mi4 uses a blend of steel, glass and plastic in its design and has a 5-inch full HD display with narrow bezels. The Mi4 includes a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM, and it comes in 16GB/64GB variants. The main camera captures 13 megapixels with an aperture of f/1.8 and 4K video. The user-facing camera captures 8 megapixels and also has an aperture of f/1.8. The Mi4 includes a 3,080mAh battery and swappable rear covers for personalization. The Mi4 is one of the first Xiaomi phones to support worldwide LTE bands, and it includes an IR blaster for controlling home theater equipment. The Mi4 costs approximately $320 for the 16GB version.


Yahoo to Buy Flurry

Monday, 4:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today announced that is has agreed to purchase Flurry for an undisclosed sum. Flurry offers mobile app developers a variety of tools to improve and monetize their applications. According to Yahoo, the acquisition will allow it to further refine is mobile offerings to advertisers. Flurry's existing services and staff will remain in place. The deal is expected to close later this year.


Review: LG G3 for Verizon Wireless

Monday, 4:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The LG G3 is one of the company's finest efforts and a strong competitor against the likes of Samsung's Galaxy S5 and HTC's One (M8). LG's flagship Android phone makes significant strides in design, quality, and features. Here is Phone Scoop's full report.

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Facebook Rolling Out 'Save' Feature

Monday, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today announced a new feature that will allow users to save content for later viewing. The tool can be used to earmark links, places, movies, TV, and music. Facebook Save is headed to the web, as well as Android and iOS apps. Users will be able to save content on one platform and view it on another. Saved items will only be visible to the account holder unless they choose to share it with others. Facebook said it will periodically remind users about their saved content if it sits unread. Facebook Save is being rolled out slowly to all users over the next few days.


Verizon to Debut Rewards Program July 24

Monday, 9:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced the pending launch of Verizon Smart Rewards, a program that will give customers points for performing different account-related activities. The program kicks off July 24 for Verizon's postpaid customers. Those who sign up will receive 10,000 points automatically, and will then earn more points for activities such as signing into the My Verizon tool, selecting paperless billing, paying their bill, and other interactions. According to Verizon, the reward points can then be redeemed as discounts up to 40% with more than 200 brands across a variety of product categories, including groceries, travel, hotels, dining, and goods. Verizon Smart rewards will cover Verizon goods and services, too, such as gift cards and opportunities to win NFL football tickets. Last, the program will include daily deals, auctions, and sweepstakes. It is free to enroll in Verizon Smart Rewards, though Verizon notes customers may also have to also enroll in its Verizon Selects marketing insights program.


BlackBerry Names New COO

Monday, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry today said it has appointed Marty Beard to the post of Chief Operating Officer. Beard worked for LiveOps and Sybase before joining BlackBerry. Beard will be responsible for marketing, application development, and quality and customer care. The COO post had been vacant since Kristian Tear left last November. BlackBerry CEO John S. Chen also hails from Sybase.

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