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printed November 27, 2014
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E-Label Act Passage Means Fewer Stickers on Phones

Today, 8:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

President Obama signed the E-Label Act into law on Wednesday, which will give phone and other device makers the ability to label their hardware electronically rather than with stickers or graphics. By law, devices such as phones require labels from the FCC and other organizations proving the can be sold in the U.S. With device sizes shrinking, industry representatives asked for a change to the law as it became more and more difficult to make sure the labels were included without impacting device appearance. The Senate approved the measure in September and the House approved it earlier this month.


LG's Mobile Business Gets New Chief Amid Restructuring

Today, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today announced several changes to its business, including the appointment of several new executives. Jong-seok Park, who served as president and CEO of LG Mobile Communications, is being replaced by Juno Cho. Cho was most recently the president of LG Corp, LG Electronics' holding company. Park is being moved to the newly created position of Chief Technology Advisor. LG also said it will merge of its Home Appliance and Air Conditioning & Energy Solution business units to create a consolidated LG Home Appliance & Air Solution Company. LG shuffled about a dozen other executives throughout its top ranks. All the changes are effective December 1.

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Twitter Now Tracking Which Apps You've Installed

Yesterday, 4:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today revealed that it will soon begin to analyze the apps Twitter users install on their phones. The company claims the data will be used "to help build a more personal Twitter experience ... so we can deliver tailored content that you might be interested in." Some of those improvements might include who-to-follow suggestions, or adding unsolicited Tweets and other content to users' timelines. Twitter says it is not collecting any data from those other apps, but it is reporting back to Twitter which apps are installed. Twitter says Android and iOS users can opt out of the app tracking by adjusting their settings. Directions to opt out are available on Twitter's web site.


Motorola Loses Appeal Over LCD Price Fixing

Yesterday, 1:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola lost its appeal in a court case regarding a price fixing scheme for mobile phone displays. The company wanted to hold foreign firms, including AU Optronics, liable for overcharging Motorola's foreign suppliers. The US court disagreed with Motorola's claim. "Motorola's foreign subsidiaries were injured in foreign commerce -- in dealings with other foreign companies," wrote Circuit Judge Richard Posner. "To give Motorola rights to take the place of its foreign companies and sue on their behalf under U.S. antitrust law would be an unjustified interference with the right of foreign nations to regulate their own economies." Motorola said it was disappointed with the court's decision and was weighing its options. In other cases, AU Optronics and a handful of other companies were found guilty of colluding to fix the prices of mobile phone screens. Verdicts against the companies have reached $1 billion.


C Spire Debuts Rollover Data

Yesterday, 1:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

C Spire Wireless has introduced new service plans that include rollover data. The trio of plans allows customers to carryover unused data from one month to the next in order to avoid overage charges during months they may need more access. All three plans include unlimited voice minutes and messaging. The $40 option buys 2GB of data, the $55 option buys 4GB, and the $65 option buys 6GB. Customers can roll their entire monthly data allotment to the next month if it goes unused. These plans do not include device financing and assume users are supplying their own hardware. The same three plans cost $65, $80, and $90 per month when paired with a subsidized smartphone purchase. C Spire seemingly borrowed the idea from AT&T, which marketed rollover voice minutes for a long time.


Holiday Gift Guide 2014

Yesterday, 12:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

As shopping for the holidays gets underway this week, retailers will be serving up sales and deals galore. In order to help you on your journey to mobile gifting nirvana, Phone Scoop presents its annual Holiday Gift Guide. You need only peruse the following pages to discover the best possible phone for everyone on your list.

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Vine Adds Push Notifications for Favorites

Yesterday, 8:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Vine recently updated its Android and iOS mobile apps with push notifications. Moving forward, users can opt to receive alerts when their favorite Vine accounts post new content. Vine is a short-video sharing service. It lets people upload and share six-second videos. Vine is owned by Twitter. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Skype for Android Gains Picture-in-Picture Feature

Yesterday, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype updated its Android app recently and added several new capabilities. The most significant new feature for Android phones is the ability to multitask and maintain video chats outside of Skype though a picture-in-picture view. Other improvements include faster chat loads, the ability to receive photos from Skype for iPhone, support for formatted text (bold, italic, etc.), and support for Hindi. Skype for Android is free to download from the Play Store.


Amazon Slashes Unlocked Fire Phone to $199

Yesterday, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today dropped the price of the Fire Phone to $199. The company, sitting on unsold stockpiles of the device, is offering it unlocked and without a contract. Further, Amazon is still including a free year of Amazon Prime, which has a value of $99. The Fire Phone went on sale over the summer. At that time, Amazon sold the phone for $199 with a contract. It later dropped the on-contract price to 99 cents. Today's mark-down signals Amazon's hope to clear out its inventory.


Verizon to Sell LG GizmoPal Connected Wearable

Tuesday, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced the LG GizmoPal, a wearable for children meant to provide parents with peace of mind. The wearable can make and receive phone calls, though only to/from a limited set of numbers. Parents can easily mange the GizmoPal through an app (Android and iOS), and use it to track their child's location throughout the day. The GizmoPal costs $80 and can be added to a More Everything plan for $5 per month. It will be available in select stores Nov. 26 and all Verizon sales channels by Dec. 11. It comes in either blue or pink.


CCA Concerned About FCC's Reserve Spectrum Trigger

Tuesday, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Competitive Carrier's Association has asked the FCC to drop a rule regarding when it will split bidding in the forthcoming 600MHz incentive auction into unreserved and reserved airwaves. The CCA argues the trigger proposed by the FCC will have a negative impact on the auction. "The price-per-MHz-POP trigger serves no legitimate purpose. In fact, the price-per-MHz-POP trigger obliterates the benefits of the spectrum reserve, and will hinder the FCC's goals of accelerating deployment of broadband services to all Americans, especially those in rural and hard to reach areas," said CCA President Steve Berry. The FCC wants to ensure that at least some spectrum is reserved for smaller carriers so it doesn't all fall into the hands of the larger national operators. The CCA agrees with that viewpoint, but not with how the FCC has implemented the reserve. Berry further argued that dropping the trigger "would enable greater competition in the wireless marketplace and benefit consumers and the economy." The FCC is prepared to vote on the rules at its next open meeting, scheduled for Dec. 11. The auction itself won't begin until early 2016.


Twitter Going After Commerce with Mobile Coupons

Tuesday, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today introduced Twitter Offers, a new way for consumers and businesses to take advantage of one another's interactions on Twitter. With Twitter Offers, users can link a credit or debit card to their account and then act on promotions or coupons within Twitter. They'll be able to redeem the coupons/promotions online or through physical retail stores by using the card associated with their Twitter account. Twitter said it will make money by charging companies to promote the Tweets, but it may seek a share of each transaction down the road. Select retailers and restaurants plan to begin promoting Tweets starting today.


Google's New Dashboard Lets Users Manage Devices

Tuesday, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently made available a new online tool people can use to control which devices have access to their Google Account. The Devices and Activity dashboard shows users all the devices that have accessed their account during the previous 28 days. Users can see the name of the device along with when and where it last accessed their Google data. Google said it will provide obvious signs if it suspects suspicious activity, and it is easy for users to block any of the devices on the list from accessing their account. The Devices and Activity dashboard is free to use.


Sony to Reign In and Reduce Its Smartphone Business

Tuesday, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony today announced its intent to transform its smartphone business with a eye on making it a profitable operation. The company, in effect, admitted its goal of becoming the world's number three smartphone maker behind Samsung and Apple was perhaps too ambitious. The company will reduce the number of handsets it makes moving forward, focusing cuts on entry-level and mid-range devices for select markets. Sony said it expects to layoff some employees as a result. "Our urgent task is to make the business profitable even if we face declines in sales by 20% or 30%," said Hiroki Totoki, the new head of Sony’s mobile unit. The company will further reduce its presence in China and some emerging markets, while retaining a toehold in Europe. Sony said it is still evaluating how much it will commit to the U.S. Sony sells only a few handsets in the U.S., many of which are made available directly to consumers via its web site. Right now, The Xperia Z3v and Z3 are offered by Verizon and T-Mobile, respectively, but the Z3 Compact is not offered by any U.S. carriers.


Milk Studios Sues Samsung for Trademark Violation

Tuesday, 8:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Milk Studios has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Samsung, which it says "intentionally, willfully, and knowingly" used the Milk name despite a business partnership with Milk Studios. Samsung launched Milk Music, a music-streaming service, earlier this year and followed it up just this month with Milk Video. Milk Studios, which produces music and other media, asked Samsung to stop using the Milk name for its products in March, but Samsung refused. Milk Studios says Samsung partnered with it on 18 different occasions since 2006, which gave Samsung "personal knowledge" about the company. Milk Studios claims Samsung's use of the name has caused "immediate and irreparable harm," such as business partners assuming Milk Studios was running Milk Music for Samsung. Samsung didn't immediately respond to the lawsuit.


Verizon Pushing Lollipop to Moto X

Monday, 3:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 3:18 PM

Verizon Wireless has made Android 5.0 Lollipop available to its variant of the Moto X (2nd. gen.). Other carriers made Lollipop available to the Moto X earlier this month. Lollipop is a complete refresh of the OS, including a new design and new features.


T-Mobile Agrees to Show Customers Real Speed Test Data

Monday, 3:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Monday, 4:50 PM

T-Mobile today agreed to offer customers a more accurate reading of their data speeds throughout each billng cycle. Earlier this year, T-Mobile exempted certain speed tests from counting against customers' data limits. In other words, customers aren't charged for running most speed tests. As part of its usage policy, T-Mobile throttles the speeds of customers who exceed their monthly data allotment (often down to 128Kbps). The problem, according to the FCC, is that speed test data (even that taken after customers were throttled) most often reflected the absolute speeds available from the network, not the real-world speeds available to individual customers based on their billing status. As a result, customers who had been throttled would obtain speed test results that far exceeded their actual available speeds, which led to confusion. Moving forward, customers who've had their speeds reduced for ovestepping their data will see an accurate reflection of the speeds available to them. Further, T-Mobile agreed to notify customers via SMS when they've reached their data limit, as well as supply customers with a link to provide accurate speed tests. T-Mobile also agreed to make these policies easier to understand on its web site. T-Mobile said it will enact these policies within 60 days.


T-Mobile Doubles Supported Music Unlimited Services

Monday, 11:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile's Music Unlimited service today doubled the number of music streaming apps available, jumping from 13 to 27 in total. The new services include Google Play Music, Xbox Music, SoundCloud, RadioTunes, Digitally Imported, Fit Radio, Fresco Radio, Jazzradio, Live365, Mad Genius Radio, radioPup, radio.com, Rockradio, and Saavn. With Music Unlimited, T-Mobile customers can stream an unlimited amount of music over their data connection without it counting against their monthly data allotment. T-Mobile claims its customers are streaming 66 million songs -- or 200 terabytes of music -- per day. Music Unlimited already supports Rhapsody, Pandora, AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Samsung Milk Music, Radio Paradise, Rdio, Slacker, Songza, and Spotify. T-Mobile does not charge extra for Music Unlimited.

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