The LG K20 V is one of the least expensive Android smartphones available from Verizon Wireless. This low-cost handset features basics such as a 5.3-inch 720p screen and entry-level Snapdragon 435 processor from Qualcomm.
BlackBerry today announced the final award in an arbitration case between it and Qualcomm that was tentatively settled in April. Qualcomm must repay BlackBerry of a total amount of $940 million, including interest and attorneys' fees — a number that's $125 million more than the original award announced last month. The two were disputing "whether Qualcomm's agreement to cap certain royalties applied to payments made by BlackBerry under a license agreement between the parties." The binding arbitration settlement determined that Qualcomm's agreement did in fact apply to such payments, resulting in BlackBerry paying Qualcomm too much money over several years' time. The agreement is final and Qualcomm cannot appeal. Qualcomm will make the full $940 million payment May 31.
The LG K20 V is one of the least expensive Android smartphones available from Verizon Wireless. This low-cost handset features basics such as a 5.3-inch 720p screen and entry-level Snapdragon 435 processor from Qualcomm. Things that set it apart include a good fingerprint reader and excellent battery life. A few things, however, manage to hold this phone back. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.
T-Mobile today added the Kyocera DuraForce Pro to its roster of Android handsets. The phone has been available to AT&T and Sprint customers since last year, and to Verizon customers since January. The DuraForce Pro includes a 5-inch full HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel wide-angle secondary camera, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The phone offers a fingerprint reader, NFC, Snapdragon 617 processor, 3,240mAh battery, memory card slot, dual front speakers, and push-to-talk. The device is fully ruggedized, washable, and can sit in 6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. T-Mobile says its variant of the phone has new camera features, including an Action Overlay mode. This lets people record video with a "heads-up display" that includes speed, distance, altitude, elapsed time, and other data. The DuraForce Pro runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It costs $425.
AD news continues below...
Facebook wants content to be more readable across the web and took steps this week toward that goal by tweaking the SDK for its Instant Articles. Facebook's Instant Articles give publishers a way to streamline content for consumption on mobile devices, but Instant Articles aren't compatible with the mobile-first styles used by Google and Apple. The new Instant Articles SDK includes extensions that will let publishers create content that is compatible with all three formats: Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, and Apple News. The SDK includes support for AMP immediately, but won't add Apple News for several weeks. Facebook, Google, and Apple all want publishers to adjust their articles, photos, and videos for mobile devices. Doing so improves usability for phone and tablet owners. It will be up to individual publishers to adopt Facebook's new Instant Articles SDK.
Eastman Kodak and Bullitt Group this week launched the Ektra smartphone in the U.S. The handset was first announced in October 2016. Bullitt Group, which manufactures the Ektra, is the company behind other brand-name handsets, such as CAT. The Kodak Ektra is a camera-first smartphone and features a retro design. The Ektra has a 21-megapixel Sony IMX230 sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and dual LED flash. It includes optical image stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, and can capture 4K video. The front-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor. The phone includes a 5-inch full HD screen, MediaTek Helio X20 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. Kodak and Bullitt have improved the phone since it was first announced, particularly where the camera is concerned. The phone now includes support for RAW image capture, and has improved auto-focus, white balance, and color performance. Perhaps more importantly, Kodak and Bullitt have reduced the price significantly. In January, the companies said the phone would go on sale in April for $549. This week, the phone reached Kodak's web site for just $399, which makes it a much more compelling and affordable option. The Kodak Ektra is sold unlocked with support for the LTE networks of AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid brands.
OnePlus today took to its blog to say the OnePlus 3T has reached the end of its production run. The phone is still on sale, but will only be available until current stock runs dry. After that, the phone will no longer be sold by OnePlus or its partners. The company plans to support the phone via software updates for some time, though it didn't specify for how long. The company is making way for its 2017 flagship, to be called the OnePlus 5. So far, we know that the OnePlus 5 will feature Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor, and that OnePlus is working with DxO to ensure the phone has the best possible camera. OnePlus hasn't said exactly when it will announce the OnePlus 5, but it is expected to arrive during the summer months.
Instagram today updated its private messaging tool, making it easier to share certain types of videos. Moving forward, people sending permanent pictures or movies to friends won't have to crop them before sending. Instagram's Direct messaging function supports landscape video, so video will appear in its native format. Instagram also made it possible to share web links privately. Links can be previewed within the message thread, including the ability to select phone numbers and addresses embedded on those sites. Instagram said the landscape and portrait upload tool reaches the iPhone today and will hit Android devices soon. Both iPhones and Androids can share links via Direct starting immediately.
T-Mobile said it Digits service, first announced last year, will go live May 31. Digits allows customers to use the same phone number across multiple devices, or multiple numbers on a single device. The service operates over LTE and works with most connected devices, including phones, tablets, wearables, and computers. Digits relies on an app for Android and iOS devices, though T-Mobile says Digits is also built into the native dialer on certain Samsung phones (Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge +, S7, S7 edge, S8, S8+, Note 5) and the LG G5. T-Mobile customers sign in on whichever device is most convenient in order to access to their phone number, voicemail, text messages, and call history. The service allows a single smartphone to support up to five phone numbers without requiring additional SIM cards. Similarly, a single Digits number can be used across as many as five separate devices. T-Mobile has been beta testing the service since early this year and says the ability to send text messages from PCs is a favorite amongst early adopters. T-Mobile suggests Digits could be beneficial to business customers, as it would allow them to have their personal number and work number ring the same phone, negating the need to carry a second handset. It can serve families, too, allowing landline-based home phone numbers moved to T-Mobile to ring all devices on a family plan at the same time. Digits numbers can be assigned to run on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon phones through the Digits app. T-Mobile said every T-Mobile line will be upgraded to Digits on May 31 for free. A single Digits line can be used on customers' phones, tablets, and so on. New Digits lines added to an existing account (for example, a second number for one phone) cost $10 per month. For a limited time, customers who subscribe to the T-Mobile One Plus plan will be able to add a second Digits line at no extra cost. T-Mobile warns that Digits lines support 911 calls and texts, but reaching 911 via the main account line is best.
The latest version of Google Photos makes it possible to archive photos for safe, out-of-sight keeping. The tool was added to Google Photos 2.15 for Android devices, though it is not yet available to iOS devices or on the web. The archiving tool now appears within the navigation drawer on the left. A tutorial will walk people through the feature upon first use, after which archived photos can be accessed via the nav drawer. Archiving gives people a way to push photos out of their main feed without deleting them. The pictures are still readily accessible, though they will be out of view unless purposely sought out. The archiving function was first spotted by 9to5Google. Google Photos is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Consumer Cellular recently added the ZTE Avid 916 and Motorola Moto G5 Plus to its roster of Android-based smartphones. The Avid 916 (pictured), a variant of the ZTE Grand / Champ, includes a 5.5-inch 720p display, 1.3 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor, and 8 GB of internal storage. The phone has an 8-megapixel main camera with 720p HD video capture and a 2-megapixel front camera. The phone includes Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, GPS, and LTE. It supports microSD memory cards up to 64 GB and ships with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. The phone costs $80. The Moto G5 Plus, which Motorola released earlier this year, is available for $200 or four payments of $50. It has a 5.2-inch full HD display, 12-megapiel camera, and runs Android 7.0 Nougat.
Facebook updated several of its offerings today, including how it handles trending news and supports fundraising campaigns. Facebook says it has redesigned its trending news function with the goal of surfacing higher-quality content in the news box. Moving forward, clicking on a trending topic opens a new carousel with stories from a variety of publications that users can swipe through. "By making it easier to see what other news outlets are saying about each topic, we hope that people will feel more informed about the news in their region," said Facebook. News articles highlighted in the trending stories section are the most popular on Facebook concerning that specific topic. Popularity is determined by a number of factors. The new trending stories box is available on the web, but Facebook says it is only just beginning to test the new trending stories on Android and iOS mobile devices. Facebook hopes to expand the new trending stories to all mobile users soon. On the fundraising front, Facebook is expanding the ability to raise money to more organizations and groups. For example, personal fundraisers are now available to everyone in the U.S. over the age of 18, and are available in two new categories (community and sports.) Fundraisers are easy to create and share in order to take advantage of the community effect. Facebook says people can raise money for education, medical costs, pet medical costs, crisis relief, personal emergencies, funerals, sports, community, and nonprofits. Facebook says it is able to review all fundraisers and launch them within 24 hours. The platform supports payment processing, vetting, security, and fraud protection for a small fee.
Smartphone cases must outnumber smartphones 10 or 20 to 1. Finding the right combination of style, usability, protection, and price takes more than just a few moments thought. If you're exploring less expensive alternatives to what's available in most carrier stores, VRS Design has a wide variety of cases to protect your Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+. Here are our thoughts on a few options.
The Republican National Committee hopes the FCC will approve a request from a marketing firm that would allow companies and organizations to silently send messages straight to consumers' cellphone voicemail inboxes. Such voicemails could be prerecorded political messages or even advertisements. The so-called "ringless voicemail" idea has been on the FCC's docket since March, when a marketing firm called All About the Message LLC asked the agency to approve its technology. All About the Message says its tech shouldn't be governed by robocalling regulations because it technically doesn't even qualify as phone calls. Moreover, the firm argues it won't interrupt consumers with automatic, robotic, dead-air phone calls at inconvenient times — behaviors that have helped define robocalls and the laws keeping them in check. The RNC supports All About Message's technology and suggested the FCC approve it lest political parties' First Amendment rights be trampled. "Political organizations like the RNC use all manner of communications to discuss political and governmental issues and to solicit donations — including direct-to-voicemail messages," said the RNC to the FCC in paperwork filed last week. "The Commission should tread carefully so as not to burden constitutionally protected political speech without a compelling interest." Consumer advocacy groups, including the National Consumer Law Center, say the change would amount to inbox pain for consumers. "I think it's unfortunate that there's a push by any political party to reduce the protections in [the robocall rules] for cellphones," said the NCLC's Margot Freeman Saunders in a statement provided to Recode. Saunders believes robocalls are one of many factors behind consumers' growing abandonment of landlines. Taking away the current rules could leave people "completely overwhelmed by messages" that cannot be prevented from filling their inboxes. The Democrats have not taken a side on the matter.
T-Mobile today said it will allow customers to use more LTE data before potentially throttling them. Previously, T-Mobile would slow the mobile internet speeds of the heaviest users after they surpassed 30 GB of mobile data in a single billing period. T-Mobile bumped that threshold to 32 GB effective immediately, which means T-Mobile subscribers can use more data before possibly being hit with slower mobile data speeds. T-Mobile says customers who exceed the 32 GB threshold might see their top speeds dialed back only when the network is congested. T-Mobile anticipates this won't impact too many users (the top 3%). The 32 GB threshold resets each month. T-Mobile calls this practice "network prioritization" and says it is primarily used as a way to manage network load.
T-Mobile hopes its new "Get Out of the Red" deal will tempt Verizon customers to switch to T-Mobile. T-Mobile is offering to pay the remaining balance on Verizon subscribers' handsets and allow them to use those same handsets on T-Mobile's network. Lots of caveats apply. In order to qualify for the deal, Verizon customers must be in good standing with Big Red and come to T-Mobile with an Apple iPhone SE, 6s, 6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus, Google Pixel, or Pixel XL. These phones have the proper radios to support T-Mobile's LTE network. The company is working to add other devices to the list. Verizon customers will need to port their number to T-Mobile, sign up for a T-Mobile One plan, buy a new T-Mobile SIM card, and sign up for T-Mobile's Premium Device Protection Plus insurance plan for $15 per month. Once all these criteria are met, T-Mobile will pay the remaining balance on the Verizon iPhone or Pixel, whatever that may be. T-Mobile says customers will be reimbursed for their Verizon iPhone/Pixel balances within 15 to 30 days via prepaid MasterCard. T-Mobile is pitching the idea as an easier way to switch carriers as it doesn't require people to backup or transfer content from one phone to another. The offer works with Verizon handsets because by law Verizon's LTE phones must be unlocked. AT&T and Sprint customers cannot take advantage of this offer precisely because their phones are carrier locked. T-Mobile's Get Out of the Red promotion will be available starting May 31. T-Mobile is, however, throwing a bone to AT&T and Sprint customers. T-Mobile said it will pay off the remaining handset balance and/or early termination fee for AT&T/Sprint customers who port a number to T-Mobile and finance a new device on T-Mobile's equipment installment plan. Last, T-Mobile customers who already have two T-Mobile One plans will be able add two additional lines of service for the price of one. This promo requires autopay.
Google today detailed how families can use their Google account to stay connected and in sync with one another. Google already allows people to share media via Google Play Music, Google Play Movies & TV, and Google Play Books. Moving forward, families can take advantage of Google Calendar, Keep, and Photos to manage appointments, tasks, and libraries. For example, the shared Google Calendar lets families keep track of group plans and other events, while Google Keep makes it possible to capture and share ideas with other family members. Shared albums in Google Photos requires only a few taps to push those weekend snapshots to everyone, while YouTube TV allows up to six people to maintain their own cloud-based DVR for online television shows. Google says the new family tools are rolling out to Google Calendar, Keep, and Photos in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New, Zealand, Russia, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S. starting today. YouTube TV is available in select markets around the U.S. Families, as defined by Google, support up to six members per household.
LeEco today said it will largely erase its corporate presence in the U.S. as it refocuses its efforts here. The company, which exists as the YouTube/Netflix of China, first announced plans enter the U.S. market at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2016. It followed nine moths later with a splashy October 2016 press conference launching phones, TVs, and connected bicycles — all of which were to be sold online directly to consumers. The company expanded too swiftly, ran into cash problems, and scaled back plans earlier this year. "While we’ve made progress in growing our distribution channels, the challenges with raising new capital have made it difficult in the past few months to support all of our business’ priorities," said the company in a statement. Thanks to the cash crunch, LeEco cannot support its U.S. employees and will let up to 70%, or about 325, go. "Our goal is to continue to gain momentum. In the past few months, we have gained a large foothold in Chinese-speaking households in the U.S. by offering tailor-made products and content for this community. We believe this provides us an opportunity to build on our strengths and grow from there." LeEco didn't explicitly say which products it will continue to offer U.S. consumers, nor how swiftly its U.S.-based employees will be let go. Just yesterday, the company's founder stepped down from his CEO role at one of LeEco's major business units.
Facebook today announced two new features for live video that should make it more interactive and social. First, there's Live Chat With Friends. This allows people to invite their friends to a private chat thread that accompanies a public live broadcast. For example, users can begin watching a live video from their favorite artist and invite their Facebook buddies to talk about it in real time. Facebook says people will be able to follow public conversations as well as private chats during live video at the same time, and private chats will continue after the live broadcast ends. The feature is being tested in several countries right now and should become more widely available over the summer months. The second new feature is called Live With. This feature lets people broadcast live video with a guest. "To invite a friend to join you in your live video, simply select a guest from the Live Viewers section, or tap a comment from the viewer you want to invite," explained Facebook in a blog post. "Your viewer can then choose whether or not to join your broadcast. You can go live with a guest in both portrait mode and landscape mode." Facebook thinks this will be a great way for high-profile users (read: celebrities) to interact with regular people and fans. The Live With feature is now available to all users, profiles, and pages.