Phone Scoop

printed May 27, 2015
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Review: Samsung Galaxy S6 for AT&T

Today, 4:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung's flagship Android smartphone for 2015 is stunning in many ways. This metal-and-glass handset is attractive and powerful. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth report about AT&T's version of this remarkable phone.

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Verizon Prepaid Now Selling Samsung Galaxy J1

Today, 3:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless recently added the Samsung Galaxy J1 to its lineup of prepaid handsets. The J1 is a compact, entry-level Android smartphone. It includes a 4.3-inch WVGA display, quad-core 1.2 GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. The phone supports microSD memory cards up to 128 GB. The main camera sensor captures 5-megapixel images and records 720p HD video, while the selfie camera captures 2-megapixel images. The device supports Verizon's LTE 4G network in addition to WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1 Low Energy. It runs Android 5.0.2 Lollipop with Samsung's user interface elements and applications. Verizon is selling the Galaxy J1 for $99.99.

GM to Add Android Auto, Apple CarPlay to 14 Chevy Cars

Today, 3:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

General Motors CEO Mary Barra today said the company plans to add Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to 14 of its 2016 models later this year. The in-dash software will be spread across GM's range of Chevrolet products, from the Chevy Corvette down to the Chevy Spark. GM will work to add the platforms to its other automotive brands, such as GMC and Cadillac, over time. GM had already committed to both platforms but had not previously said when it might get around to installing them. Earlier this week, Hyundai was the first to step up and add Android Auto to its 2015 Sonata sedan. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay bring basic elements of the smartphone experience to the in-dash navigation screen.

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FCC Moves to Better Protect Against Unwanted Calls

Today, 2:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today circulated a new proposal for taming unwanted robocalls and text messages to mobile phones. According to the FCC, the proposal is a response to more than a dozen petitions seeking clarity on when robocalls and other phone-based outreach is permitted. The proposal seeks to let consumers revoke their consent to receive such calls/messages at any time; permit carriers to create do-not-disturb blocking services; ensure new owners of reassigned numbers don't receive calls/messages meant for the previous owner; define autodialers to prevent misuse of the laws; and allow very limited and specific exceptions for urgent circumstances, such as to prevent fraud. The proposal would keep in place existing protections such as the Do No Call registry, and limits on robocalls, informational calls, and text messages to wireless phones. Last, the FCC pledged to enforce the rules stringently. The proposal will be voted on at the Commission's Open Meeting on June 18.

Avago Technologies May Buy Broadcom

Today, 1:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Avago Technologies is in advanced talks to acquire Broadcom, reports the Wall Street Journal. Terms of the deal are not yet available, and the Journal's sources say the deal may not be signed. Broadcom's market valuation is about $28 billion and Avago's is about $34 billion. Broadcom makes wireless modems and other chips for mobile devices. It has struggled to compete in recent years with Qualcomm, Samsung, and others.

Apple Confirms It's Developing Fix for iMessage Bug

Today, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today confirmed reports of an iMessage-based bug that can cause iPhones to crash. "We are aware of an iMessage issue caused by a specific series of unicode characters and we will make a fix available in a software update," said Apple to Reuters. Apple didn't say how soon the bug fix might be made available. The bug is a string of emoji that will crash the iMessage app itself, and can crash the phone as well. The bug was first reported by MacRumors.

Google to Surface iOS App Content in Search Results

Today, 11:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 11:09 AM

Google today enabled a new functionality that will let the Google Search app find content within iOS apps and include that data in search results. Users will then be able to select the search results and go directly to the associated app on their phone. The functionality must be enabled by developers using the new App indexing tool from Google. Once indexed, Google Search will be able to poke through apps for relevant information when users perform searches on their iPhone. Google Search already does this on Android devices. Google said it plans to debut the feature in a few weeks with a select batch of apps, but it is encouraging all developers to index their own apps for the added functionality. The feature will be available globally.

Consumer Cellular Offering the Moto E for $100

Today, 10:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Consumer Cellular today said it has added the Motorola Moto E with LTE to its lineup of Android smartphones. The Moto E features a 4.5-inch screen, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and a VGA front camera. The phone is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon with 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and includes support for memory cards up to 32 GB. The phone runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. Consumer Cellular is selling the Moto E with LTE for $100. Consumer Cellular does not require contracts.

Nokia Networks to Acquire Eden Rock

Today, 6:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia Networks today announced its intent to acquire Eden Rock Communications for an undisclosed sum. Eden Rock pioneered self-organizing networks (SON) technology for mobile broadband operators. "SON is essential for the increasingly complex heterogenous operator networks," said Nokia. "It provides workflow automation, network performance improvements, and additional reliability." Nokia Networks has its own SON business, and believes Eden Rock's solution is complementary to its own. Combined, Nokia believes it can become the vendor-of-choice for supplying SON radio tech to network operators. Some of the benefits cited by Nokia Networks include reduced operating expenses and improved customer experience. Eden Rock's employees will be transferred to Nokia Networks in the Seattle area. Nokia expects the deal to close during the third quarter of the year. Nokia is already in the process of acquiring Alcatel-Lucent to improve its competitive stature in the telecommunication networking market.

Verizon Now Requires Edge Customers to Pay Off Phone

Yesterday, 2:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced a change to its Edge equipment installment plans. Beginning May 31, Edge customers will need to pay off their device in full before they they can upgrade to a new phone. As always, customers can initiate an Edge payment plan with no money down followed by 24 equal payments to cover the full retail cost of the phone. Customers will be able to upgrade at any time once the device is paid off, and they'll be able to keep the phone. Before this week's change customers were able to upgrade after they paid off just 75% of their old phone, but they had to wait at least 30 days from the time of purchase and had to turn in the old phone. Verizon says customers may donate or recycle their old phone for credit towards a new device if they wish. Edge installment plans are available to Verizon's post- and pre-paid service plans.

Opera Boosts WiFi Performance of Opera Max

Yesterday, 1:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera today updated its Opera Max tool for Android devices with improved performance when surfing via WiFi. Opera Max is a data-management app meant to help users control how much wireless data they use. Before today's update, Max only helped control usage over cellular networks. Now, it can compress web pages over WiFi connections so users can browse quickly over congested local networks. Opera Max also gains a feature for blocking apps, which will prevent apps from tracking the user or consuming data without permission. Last, Opera refreshed the user interface based on elements from Google's Material Design. Opera Max is free to download from the Google Play Store.

US Cellular to Sell LG G4 On June 4

Yesterday, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S Cellular today joined Sprint and T-Mobile in announcing planned availability for the LG G4 smartphone. U.S. Cellular will begin taking preorders on May 29 and the phone will reach stores June 4. U.S. Cellular is asking for $199 with a two-year contract, $29.50 per month for 24 months for the plastic rear cover, or $30.50 per month for 24 months for the black leather cover.

Unicode 9.0 to Add 38 New Emoji, Including Face Palm and Shrug

Yesterday, 10:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Unicode emoji subcommittee has recommended a set of 38 new emoji be added to version 9.0 of the Unicode Standard. The emoji include a wide range of gestures, animals, and food. Some include the "call me" hand gesture as well as left and right fists (for fist bumps); sharks, bats, and eagles; and bacon, avocados, and carrots. The Unicode emoji subcommittee published notes for defining the rationale behind each emoji, as well as potential uses. Monochrome and color versions of each emoji accompany the list for illustrative purposes, but don't necessarily represent their final form. "These symbols are considered for incorporation into Unicode for reasons such as compatibility usage, popular requests from online communities, and filling the gaps in the existing set of Unicode emoji," said the organization. Version 8.0 of the Unicode Standard has only just begun to roll out, and Version 9.0 likely won't be published until mid 2016.

Twitter's Periscope App Reaches Android

Yesterday, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today made its Periscope live-streaming video application available to Android devices. The app lets people broadcast a live video feed to their Twitter followers, who can join or leave feeds at will, as well as rate them with hearts. Periscope has been available to the iPhone for several months. The Android version adds a "return to broadcast" function for jumping back into streams the user might have left, and makes some usability tweaks to how users initiate a live feed. Periscope is free to download from the Google Play Store. It requires Android 4.4 KitKat and up.

Hyundai Making Android Auto Available to 2015 Sonata

Yesterday, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Hyundai today claimed to be the first auto manufacturer to bring Android Auto support to its production vehicles. Hyundai is offering Android Auto to the 2015 Sonata to start. Owners of the Sonata can bring their car to a dealership for a software update containing Android Auto beginning today. Later this summer, Hyundai will let consumers install Android Auto on their own via USB drive. Android Auto lets compatible handsets (running Android 5.0 Lollipop and up) access select features, including maps, music, Google Now, and messaging, from the Sonata's in-dash navigation screen. Hyundai plans to offer Android Auto to other models later this year.

T-Mobile to Launch LG G4 On June 3

Yesterday, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it will begin selling its version of the LG G4 on June 3, with preorders beginning May 27. T-Mobile is offering the G4 for the full retail price of $599.76 or for $24.99 per month for 24 months with a Simple Choice. T-Mobile and LG are offering a 128 GB microSD memory card for free with the purchase of a G4 through June 21. T-Mobile says it will be the only U.S. carrier to offer the brown leather back cover for the G4; it also plans to sell the metallic silver model. The LG G4 has a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 808 processor, and a 16-megapixel camera.

Microsoft Bringing Cortana to Android and iOS

Yesterday, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said Android and iOS users will soon be able to use Cortana, its virtual assistant, on their smartphones. The Android and iOS Cortana app will work in coordination with Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, according to Microsoft. A Phone Companion app for Windows 10 PCs will help Android and iOS device owners install Cortana on their handset so they can access Microsoft's virtual assistant wherever they go. The Android and iOS version of Cortana will include most features available to the Windows 10 and Windows Phone versions, such as setting reminders, alerts, and alarms; tracking flights and managing travel details; and accessing Cortana's Notebook function for search preferences. Changes made in one version of Cortana will be reflected across all devices. Microsoft said the Phone Companion app will function with Windows Phone handsets, too, to help sync Cortana functions across devices. In order to test Cortana on Android and iOS smartphones, users will need to enroll in Microsoft's Windows Insider program and install the Windows 10 Technical Preview for PCs. Microsoft said the Cortana Companion App will be available for Android phones at the end of June and for iPhones later this year. Microsoft also mentioned that the updated Xbox Music app for Android and iPhone will be available in late June or July with the beta label in tow to stream OneDrive music content. Google's own personal assistant, Google Now, is available for Android and iOS devices, but not Windows Phone. Apple's Siri is only available to iOS.

Apple Promotes Jony Ive to Chief Design Officer

Yesterday, 7:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has promoted Jony Ive, the company's design guru, to the newly created Chief Design Officer position. Ive's previous title was Senior Vice President of Design. Ive is responsible for the hardware design of some of Apple's most iconic products, including the iPod, iMac, and iPhone. Ive was put in charge of iOS user interface design, too, in early 2013, and oversaw the platform's redesign later that year in iOS 7. The change "frees [Ive] up from some of the administrative and management work," according to a profile published by The Telegraph. Ive will remain responsible for overseeing all of Apple's design moving forward, but will focus on "new ideas and future initiatives," said Apple. Effective July 1, Ive will hand over the day-to-day managerial duties regarding industrial design and user interface design to Richard Howarth and Alan Dye, respectively. Both Howarth and Dye are long-time Apple employees and the three have worked together for many years.

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