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printed October 1, 2014
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Sprint Responds to AT&T's 'Double Data' Promo with Its Own

Today, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today moved to counter a mobile data promotion recently launched by AT&T by debuting its own. Beginning today, subscribers to Sprint's Family Share Pack plans will be able to double their data allotments. Families with the 32, 40, and 80GB plans will receive 60, 40, and 120GB, respectively, for the same monthly fee they're already paying. Customers have to visit Sprint stores or call in to customer support by October 31 to receive the new data packages. Additionally, Sprint is waiving the access charge for handsets, tablets, and mobile broadband devices on 20GB or higher data allowances for customers who switch their number to Sprint. Sprint is offering a similar double-data promotion to its business customers, as well.


FreedomPop Trots Out $89 Liberty Tablet

Today, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FreedomPop today announced a new direction for the company, as it plans to sell more low-cost hardware using its own brand. The first device to bear the FreedomPop name is the Liberty, a tablet that has a 6.7-inch screen with 1024 x 600 resolution. The Liberty includes a dual-core 1.2GHz Cortex A9 processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage. The main camera captures 4-megapixel images and the selfie camera captures VGA images. The Liberty supports memory cards and includes a 2,400mAh battery. FreedomPop is marketing the Liberty as a phablet, but it is limited to Wi-Fi and does not include cellular capabilities. Liberty owners will receive 200 voice minutes and 500 messages for free; both services will require an active Wi-Fi network to function. (Some of FreedomPop's devices include cellular capabilities and roam onto Sprint's network.) Liberty said a larger, 10-inch tablet with LTE, called the Frenzy, will arrive next month. Further, a FreedomPop-branded, LTE-equipped Android smartphone will show up at some point down the road. The FreedomPop Liberty costs $89 and ships today. Last, FreedomPop said it plans to offer the Samsung Galaxy Note II and Note 3 in the days ahead for low prices.

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LG Debuts the F60, A Budget LTE Smartphone

Today, 7:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 7:56 AM

LG today announced the F60, what it calls an affordable handset with LTE 4G on board. The F60 features a 4.5-inch WVGA display and 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1GB of RAM and either 4 or 8GB of internal storage. The device has a 5-megapixel main camera with Gesture Shot and Touch & Shot, and a 1.3-megapixel selfie camera with a user-facing light for improved selfies. The device includes Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and GPS, and relies on a 2,100mAh for power. The F60 features a number of LG's signature capabilities, such as Knock Code. The F60 runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat and will go on sale in the weeks ahead. U.S carriers have not announced support for the phone yet, but LG said it will be sold in the Americas.


Microsoft Announces Windows 10 for Varied Devices

Yesterday, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the next version of Windows will be called Windows 10. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will encompass "one product family, one platform, one store." Windows 10 will run on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. Microsoft says the operating system will offer users a seamless experience across multiple different form factors with varied input types (mouse, pen, touch). One of the key components will be the shared code so developers can create apps that run on any of the supported form factors with little customization. Microsoft shied away from sharing too many specifics as far as features go, but noted that preview builds of the desktop platform will reach consumers in early 2015. The company didn't make any commitments as to when then next version of Windows Phone will be available.


Pebble Adds Health and Fitness Powers, Drops Prices

Yesterday, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pebble today announced a software update for its devices and lowered the prices of its hardware. The software update targets health and fitness apps, and allows Pebble smart watches to track activity in the background. For starters, Misfit, Jawbone, and Swim.com have updated their apps to take advantage of the new health and fitness powers. Jawbone's new Up app will mirror some of the functionality offered by its own fitness tracking wearables, and Swim.com will allow swimmers to track distance, pace, strokes, and efficiency in their workouts. In order to boost appeal of its wearables, Pebble is dropping prices. Beginning today, Pebble costs $99 and Pebble Steel costs $199 (both prices reflect a $50 drop). Last, Pebble's wearables will be sold from a wider selection of stores, such as Sam's Club, Fry's, and Sprint.

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U.S. Cellular Scores LG's G3, to Go On Sale in October

Yesterday, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular today said it will soon offer the LG G3. The flagship device, which boasts a 5.5-inch quad HD display and 13-megapixel camera, will go on sale in October, though U.S. Cellular didn't say exactly when. U.S. Cellular said the phone will be available for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments for well-qualified customers. The company didn't disclose the full retail price of the G3. The G3 has been available from other carriers for several months.


Microsoft Launches MSN Anew

Yesterday, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today re-launched its MSN web portal. The site has been redesigned from the ground up and provides one-click access to many tools, such as OneDrive, Outlook email, OneNote, and Skype. Microsoft says the new MSN will look and behave the same across all devices, be they PCs, tablets, or smartphones. Microsoft said it is pulling in content from a wider range of sources in order to appeal to as many users as possible. It is also localizing news content, so people in the US will have content that differs from the content offered in Japan, India, and other regions. The new MSN is free to visit on the web. Along with the reboot of MSN, Microsoft said it is updating a handful of its apps for Windows Phone, including Health & Fitness and Weather. Both apps gain new lock screen features. Health & Fitness, for example, will be able to provide GPS data and a step counter on the lock screen so users won't have to launch the individual app to see their workout stats. Similarly, the new weather app will offer real-time weather updates on the lock screen. Both apps are free to download from the Windows Phone Store.


eBay to Spin Off PayPal Next Year

Yesterday, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

eBay today announced plans to separate its online auction business from its online payments business. eBay will spin off PayPal into its own company, a move it expects to complete during the second half of 2015. eBay and PayPal have long worked hand-in-hand to let people make online purchases easily with just their email address. PayPal has expanded its scope beyond simple online transactions, but will need to push further into the mobile space to combat the likes of Apple Pay and Softcard. "For more than a decade eBay and PayPal have mutually benefited from being part of one company, creating substantial shareholder value," said eBay CEO John Donahoe. "However, a thorough strategic review with our board shows that keeping eBay and PayPal together beyond 2015 clearly becomes less advantageous to each business strategically and competitively." Activist investor Carl Icahn long pushed for eBay and PayPal to separate, but eBay resisted the move until today. Devin Wenig, eBay Marketplace President, will be the new eBay's CEO. eBay has tapped American Express executive Dan Schulman to run the new PayPal. He is joining PayPal immediately. Donahoe will oversee the separation of the two companies, and will then step aside.


Hands-On: Alcatel OneTouch Pop Mega and Pop Star

Monday, 7:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel revealed two new Android smartphones headed to Tracfone later this year, the Pop Mega and the Pop Star. Here are a few thoughts on these low-cost cell phones.

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Hands-On: BlackBerry Passport

Monday, 6:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry says "We're back!" with the Passport, a smartphone that breaks new ground in some respects. Here are our first thoughts.

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T-Mobile Going After Yet More 700MHz Spectrum

Monday, 12:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile continues to chase 700MHz A Block spectrum across the country. According to recent filings with the FCC, T-Mobile's newest target is a batch of licenses held by Triad 700 LLC. Triad holds four licenses covering Anchorage, Alaska; Salisbury, Md.; Reno, Nev., and Erie, Pa. The spectrum blankets about 2.43 million POPs in those markets, according to AllNet Labs. All told, T-Mobile has initiated 700MHz A Block spectrum purchases that cover just under 18 million POPs. T-Mobile plans to use the 700MHz spectrum to enhance its LTE network. Terms of the latest deal were not disclosed.


OneDrive for Android Gains New Photo Viewer

Monday, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new version of OneDrive for Android smartphones and tablets. The updated cloud storage app includes what Microsoft calls the All Photos View, which makes it easier to browse and see photos across OneDrive. OneDrive also adds new business tools, including a search function and a file viewer to find documents that colleagues have shared with the user. The updated app for Android devices is free to download from the Google Play Store. Microsoft recently doubled the amount of free storage from 15GB to 30GB - as long as users choose to automatically upload photos from their phone to OneDrive.


AT&T Offering Double Data on Select Mobile Share Value Plans

Sunday, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today launched a limited promotion that doubles the amount of monthly data available to certain plans for no extra charge. Customers who subscribe to one of AT&T's Mobile Share Value plans with 15, 20, 30, 40, or 50GB of data can upgrade their data to 30, 40, 60, 80, or 100GB, respectively, for free. The upgrade works with plans that include between two and 10 lines and already subscribe to a minimum of 15GB ($160 per month). The promotion, which is available to new and existing customers, runs between today and October 31. AT&T said the promotional data allotments will not expire, and customers can keep them as long as they subscribe to a Mobile Share Value plan.

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RadioShack May Gain Second Life Thanks to Shareholders

Friday, 3:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

A major RadioShack shareholder plans to invest more cash in the business in order to improve its liquidity. RadioShack is facing a cash crisis. As of last month it had just $30.5 million in the cash and owed creditors $658 million. Standard General is still discussing the particulars with RadioShack and its other creditors. The hedge fund, along with new, unnamed investors, believe they can buy out RadioShack's loans and get the company back on its feet. Standard General raised its stake in RadioShack from 7.08% to 9.8%, making it the single largest shareholder. The investors hope to shore up RadioShack ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season. RadioShack sells cell phones and wireless service from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless alongside other consumer electronics.


Vine for Android Updated with Camera Roll Support

Friday, 3:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine today updated its Android application and brought it closer to parity with the iOS version thereof. The chief new feature in Vine for Android is support for the camera roll, which allows Vine users to import video they've already shot (rather than record live). Vine users are free to piece together multiple segments from their phone to create 6-second masterpieces. Vine for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Yahoo to Shutter Qwiki App

Friday, 11:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Yahoo today announced another round of product closures as its narrows its focus on core business units. One of the closures is a mobile app called Qwiki. Qwiki was able to take the photos stored on smartphones' camera rolls and convert them to short videos. The Qwiki app and service will cease operating on November 1. Yahoo suggests users download their stored content before the shutdown. Yahoo also said it plans to close Yahoo Education and Yahoo Directories, two web-based services for desktop machines. "At Yahoo, focus is an important part of accomplishing our mission: to make the world's daily habits more entertaining and inspiring," said Jay Rossiter, Yahoo SVP, Cloud Platform Group. "To achieve this focus, we have sunset more than 60 products and services over the past two years, and redirected those resources toward products that are aligned with our vision."


Pantech Puts Itself Up for Sale

Friday, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pantech, based in Korea, has staked a For Sale sign in its front lawn. The company, which declared the equivalent of bankruptcy last month, is seeking a buyer to scoop up the entire business. Pantech has been facing trouble all year long. It twice sought delays in debt payments and entered into court receivership in August. The company believes it will fetch a higher price if sold as a single entity (approx. $366 million) rather than broken up and sold in pieces (approx. $181 million). Bids for the company are due in early October. Pantech found itself unable to compete with Samsung and LG, which are also based in Korea. It faced financial losses six quarters in a row, which led to its debt problems and eventual bankruptcy.


Intel Buys Stake in Chinese Mobile Chip Vendor

Sep 26, 2014, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel today said it has forged an agreement with Tsinghua Unigroup to co-develop processors for mobile devices. Tsinghua runs both Spreadtrum and RDA, which are fabless semiconductor companies that develop 2G-, 3G-, and 4G-enabled mobile chipset platforms for smart phones, feature phones, and other consumer electronics products. In particular, Spreadtrum will create and sell a family of Intel Architecture-based system-on-chips (SoCs). The companies said Intel-based SoCs will appear in consumer products during the second half of next year. Further, Intel is investing $1.5 billion in Tsinghua, giving it a 20% stake in the company. Intel has its own family of mobile processors, but it has struggled against stronger competitors such as Qualcomm, which often combines application processors with wireless baseband radios. Combo chips are often more attractive to handset makers.

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