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printed July 31, 2015
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YotaPhone Scraps Plans to Bring Handset to U.S.

Today, 10:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

YotaPhone today said it has cancelled plans to bring the YotaPhone 2 to the U.S. even though it raised the necessary funding through an Indiegogo campaign. The company blamed the change in plans on logistical problems with its manufacturing partner. "We believe the likelihood of a severe delay in these shipments would have created a conflict with our international road map for 2016, leaving Indiegogo supporters behind when customers in other regions will be offered a newer, cheaper and better YotaPhone," explained YotaPhone in an email provided to its supporters. "The good news is that, as a result of our growth, we are bringing on a new manufacturing partner who can support the scalability we need in order to quickly bring YotaPhone to various regions around the world, including North America. This includes delivering a new generation YotaPhone with the latest specs and technologies, but also at a lower cost, to allow us to offer better value to our customers in 2016." Those who backed the company through Indiegogo can choose to receive the international variant of the phone (which does not support U.S. LTE networks), or receive a refund. YotaPhone said it is still working out the details for providing the refunds. YotaPhone's device has two screens: a standard LCD panel on the front, and an e-ink display on the back that can be used to conserve battery life.


Qualcomm Exonerated In ParkerVision Case

Today, 9:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ParkerVision today said it lost an appeal of allegations that Qualcomm was infringing on some of its patents. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a district court ruling maintaining that ParkerVision did not prove infringement of its patents by Qualcomm. The appeals court also agreed with the district court in denying Qualcomm's attempt to invalidate one of the patents. ParkerVision said, however, that the appeals court reversed the lower courts decision regarding the validity of ParkerVision's other claims. "We are highly disappointed with the appellate court's decision both with regard to infringement and validity of certain of our patent claims," said Jeffrey Parker, ParkerVision's Chairman and CEO. "Despite this setback, we will consider further options on appeal, and will move forward in our second infringement case against Qualcomm, HTC and Samsung." ParkerVision designs radio-frequency technology for wireless devices.

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Cricket Adds Calling and Messaging From Canada and Mexico

Today, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today improved its international offering by adding the ability to make calls and send text messages from Canada and Mexico to the U.S. The change means Cricket customers who travel to Canada and Mexico will be able to stay in touch with family and friends in the U.S. while they are away. Cricket customers are already able to make unlimited calls and send unlimited messages from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico. Cricket said the "roundtrip" feature will be available to its Smart and Pro plans ($50 and $60 per month, respectively) for at no extra cost. The unlimited calling/SMS feature goes into effect for Mexico on August 2 and will go into effect for Canada later in August. Cricket's move follows similar calling plan changes made by parent company AT&T, as well as competitors T-Mobile and MetroPCS.


Samsung and MasterCard to Bring Samsung Pay to Europe

Today, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung won't launch Samsung Pay in the U.S. until later this summer, but the company is already looking to expand the service to other markets. Samsung today said it has partnered with MasterCard and the two will together offer the service to financial partners and retailers across the continent. Samsung Pay can take advantage of two different technologies, including NFC and MST, for mobile payments. NFC-equipped terminals are still somewhat limited in the U.S., but magnetic stripe technology is available in most retail environments. Samsung is already trialling the service in its home country of Korea. It is expected to arrive in the U.S. with the Galaxy Note 5, which Samsung is believed to be revealing at an Aug. 13 event. Samsung Pay will also be made available to the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge via software updates. Samsung didn't say when it expects to launch Samsung Pay in Europe.


Motorola Owes Microsoft $14.5 Million Over Patent Spat

Today, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

An appeals court has sided with Microsoft and upheld a 2013 verdict that says Motorola has to pay Microsoft for refusing to license standard-essential patents at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. This particular case began in 2010, when Microsoft sued Motorola for failing to pay it patent-licensing fees for technology found in Motorola's Android smartphones. Motorola filed its own lawsuit in return, in which it sought some $4 billion to cover royalties for technology in Microsoft's Xbox and Windows devices. Even though Microsoft sued Motorola, Motorola was still required to license its own patents to Microsoft at fair rates. Two separate courts determined in 2012 and later 2013 that Motorola's $4 billion demand far exceeded what's considered fair and reasonable. Therefore, Motorola violated its agreement with Microsoft and Microsoft was thus awarded $14.5 million in damages for breach of contract. This week's decision, reached by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, verifies that Motorola must pay the damages.


Review: Microsoft Lumia 640 XL for AT&T

Yesterday, 4:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's latest Windows handset for AT&T is the powerful 640 XL, a massive device best suited to phablet lovers. It features a 5.7-inch screen, 13-megapixel camera, quad-core processor, and an assortment of AT&T and Microsoft apps and services. Here is Phone Scoop's full review.

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Google Offers App Developers More Beta Options

Yesterday, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Yesterday, 11:14 AM

Google today expanded the number of ways developers can test their apps ahead of general release. At the moment, developers are limited to testing through closed betas that require people to join dedicated Google+ communities or Google Groups. Moving forward, developers will be able to offer open betas directly through the Play Store, as well as closed betas via email invitations. The open betas can be managed by limiting app downloads, and the email address-based closed betas give developers even more granular control over who's testing the app. The added options make it easier for developers to test and collect app data to make sure they perform well at launch. Google said the new beta testing tools are available in the Google Play Developer Console.


More Phone Makers, Carriers Support Android for Work

Yesterday, 8:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said support for its Android for Work program has swelled to 40 companies thanks to the addition of new carriers, phone makers, app developers, and management providers. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint in the U.S., and Rogers, Bell Canada, and Telus Mobility in Canada have thrown their weight behind Android for Work, marking the first time carriers have joined the program. This means people/businesses will be able to ask their carriers to provide the security, device management, and productivity tools included in Android for Work. Samsung is working with Android for Work, too, in conjunction with its own KNOX services. Silent Circle's forthcoming Blackphone 2 is another handset that will support Android for Work. Google says more than 10,000 businesses are testing, deploying, or using Android for Work. The program is meant to help offer secure connections to corporate information, the ability for IT to manage devices remotely, and access to Google's productivity apps.


Facebook Improves Security Tools

Yesterday, 8:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today made a new tool called Security Checkup available to users online. The tool provides Facebook account holders with a broad array of controls over access to their account. For example, Security Checkup lets people log out of Facebook on old devices, set login alerts, and check password strength. Facebook hopes all users will take advantage of Security Checkup to assert more control over their login security. The feature is available globally online beginning today, and will reach mobile devices soon.


Samsung to Adjust Price of Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

Yesterday, 7:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung reported its second quarter earnings today and signaled some changes in its handset strategy. Despite the release of its flagship handsets during the quarter, Samsung's mobile phone business saw a 38% decline in profits when compared to the year-ago quarter. The company admitted that it misjudged supply for the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge handsets. It made too many of the flat-screened S6 and not enough of the curved S6 Edge. The phones did not sell as well as Samsung hoped. In response, Samsung it "plans to firmly maintain its sale of premium smartphones by flexibly adjusting the price of the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and launching a new model with a larger screen." Samsung has invited media to attend an event on August 13, where it is expected to reveal the Galaxy Note 5 along with a larger version of the S6 Edge. Samsung has in years past launched its Galaxy Note handsets during the first week of September at the IFA trade show. Samsung did not spell out exactly how it might alter the price of the S6 and S6 Edge moving forward. As a whole, Samsung recorded a second-quarter profit of $4.93 billion, a drop of about 8% year-over-year, on revenues of $41.7 billion.


AT&T to Mandate Working FM Radios In Android Handsets

Wednesday, 1:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T has requested that all its handset manufacturer partners include functional FM radios in their Android smartphones by 2016. Further, the company is asking its OEM partners to enable any FM radios that may be dormant inside existing handsets. FM radios are often included on modules that bundle other radios, such as Bluetooth, WiFi, and cellular. The move means AT&T's Android customers will be able to listen to local FM radio via their smartphones through apps, such as NextRadio. The National Association of Broadcasters applauded the move, saying, "[This] marks a new beginning in mobile technology with the agreement by a global iconic brand, AT&T, to light up the FM receiver chips in all of its future Android smartphones." NextRadio, which makes it easy to find an listen to local FM radio stations, competes with myriad other third-party music services on smartphones.


Boost Mobile Adding Alcatel OneTouch Conquest and Elevate to Roster

Wednesday, 11:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Boost Mobile today announced the Alcatel OneTouch Conquest and Elevate, two low-cost Android handsets. Shared features between the two handsets include support for LTE, 5-megapixel rear cameras, 2-megapixel front cameras, and the Google Now launcher.

  • Conquest: The Conquest (pictured) features an IP67 rating for protection against water and dust. The larger of these two smartphones boasts a 5-inch 720p HD screen with Dragontrail Glass and 1.2GHz quad-core processor. The Conquest runs Android 5.0 Lollipop and costs $129.99.
  • Elevate: The Elevate has a 4.5-inch FWVGA display and quad-core 1.1GHz processor. It relies on a 2,000mAh battery to get it through the day. The Elevate runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and costs $99.99.
The Conquest is available today and the Elevate will become available in August. Boost Mobile operates on Sprint's network and does not require contracts.


Yahoo's New Messaging App Adds Live Video To Your Texts

Wednesday, 11:11 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Wednesday, 11:32 AM

Yahoo! today launched Livetext, its new messaging app to compete with services like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Snapchat. The app lets you have a text conversation with one other person at a time, accompanied by a silent, 2-way live video stream. The app is designed for situations where audio might be inappropriate for one or both parties, but you want to share what you're seeing and/or facial reactions. Tapping your own video stream thumbnail switches between your front and back camera. It does not support group messaging. The app first appeared quietly in the Hong Kong iOS App Store, but today is being launched in the U.S. It will be available tomorrow for both Android and iOS.


Sprint Offering 10GB to 4-Line Family Plans for $100

Wednesday, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint today introduced the Sprint Family Share Pack, a plan that includes unlimited talk and text and 10 GB of shared data for four lines for $100 per month. Sprint Family Share Pack subscribers can quadruple their shared data to 40 GB for $20 more (total of $120 before taxes and fees). There are some catches. First, the offer is only available to families that switch active lines from another carrier to Sprint. Moreover, customers will need to purchase new handsets via Sprint's Easy Pay program. In exchange, Sprint is offering to cover all ETFs and remaining handset payments that might be incurred by customers who switch. The Sprint Family Share Pack is being offered for a limited time.


Google Translate Gains 20 Languages and A Speed Boost

Wednesday, 8:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today added 20 new languages to its Google Translate application for Android and iOS devices. The app now lets people instantly translate text between Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian. Google Translate initially launched with support for English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and it now speaks a total of 27 languages. With Google Translate, users can point their phone's camera at text in any of these languages and instantly see the translation to the language of their choice. Google also took steps to improve the performance of Google Translate's voice conversation mode. The company is using convolutional neural networks to help translate languages faster when the network connection is poor or even non-existant. This means real-time translations between two spoken languages is faster and smoother. Google said the updated Google Translate apps for Android and iOS are available in the Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively, beginning today.


Samsung Debuts 1.0μm Pixel Camera Module for Phones

Wednesday, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has begun to mass produce a thinner camera module for high-end phones. The S5K3P3 uses pixels that are 1.0μm in size. The smaller pixels allow Samsung to shrink the depth of the sensor module by 20% to less than 5mm, making it ideal to use in thin designs. The S5K3P3 is a 16-megapixel sensor and Samsung claims it captures images that are on par with sensors with larger 1.12μm pixels. The S5K3P3 also uses Samsung's ISOCELL technology, which isolates the individual pixels from one another with physical barriers. This prevents color crosstalk between neighboring pixels, increases light sensitivity, and improves color fidelity in all lighting conditions. The S5K3P3 is already available in volume.


Verizon to Offer HBO Now to Wireless Customers

Tuesday, 3:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon and HBO today announced the immediate availability of HBO Now to Verizon's internet and TV customers. Subscribers to Verizon's FiOS broadband and television services can trial HBO Now for free for 30 days, after which it will cost $15 per month. HBO said it plans to bring its content to Verizon Wireless' forthcoming mobile video platform later this year. HBO Now offers the bulk of HBO's programming, including movies, series, and sports. It first launched via Apple TV earlier this year.


Google Search Shows When Your Fave Shops Are Busy

Tuesday, 2:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google updated its search application with the ability to show when businesses are at their busiest. Google Search results will display a graph that depicts the location's average foot traffic throughout the day. Google suggests the feature might be helpful in avoiding long lines for that afternoon latte. The feature is part of the latest version of Google Search for Android, which is free to download from the Play Store.

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