Sprint today added the HTC One (E8) to its roster of Android smartphones. The E8, which was announced earlier this year, is a plastic version of the M8. It carries over many of the same features, such as the 5-inch full HD screen, BoomSound speakers, 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, and 2,600mAh battery with Android 4.4.2 KitKat and HTC Sense 6.0. The device trades the M8's 4-ultrapixel camera for a standard 13-megapixel sensor. The Sprint E8 includes Sprint Spark, Wi-Fi calling, and HD Voice. It is being sold in gray or white online and via telesales. With Sprint Easy Pay, the HTC One E8 can be purchased for $0 down followed by 24 monthly payments of $20.84. Alternately, it costs $99 with a new two-year contract or $499 at full retail.
AT&T today rekindled a $100 credit offer to new and existing customers who add a new line of service with a smartphone on an AT&T Next plan. The Next plans allow customers to pay for devices over time, don't require upgrade/activation fees, and don't require annual service contracts. AT&T Next plans are available in two options: AT&T Next 12 and AT&T Next 18, which break up device payments by 20 and 24 months, respectively. The $100 credit is available starting today at AT&T retail stores and online. The offer ends September 30. AT&T said the offer can be combined with other promotions to realize even more savings.
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Nokia and Samsung today announced that HERE Maps will soon be available to Samsung's Galaxy smartphones for free. HERE Maps allows users to download entire countries or regions, which makes the maps available even when the device is offline. Downloaded maps perform faster when panning and zooming since new segments don't need to be loaded from an internet connection. HERE Maps for Galaxy devices will include free, voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions. Users can plan routes via car, public transport, or foot. Live traffic updates and real-time transit schedules will require a data connection. Nokia says maps are available for about 200 countries with turn-by-turn directions available in about 100. Transit maps are available in 750 metro areas across 40 different countries, with more being added all the time. In addition to HERE Maps for Galaxy phones, Samsung's Gear S smartwatch (announced this week) will also receive HERE Maps. Further, HERE Maps will allow Galaxy device owners to share their location with others via Glympse. HERE for Galaxy phones will be available once the Gear S goes on sale in early October.
Sprint and SoftBank will for the first time sell a flagship smartphone from Sony, according to Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. Sony is prepared to announce new devices at the IFA trade show in Berlin on September 4. One of the new devices is expected to be a flagship model that will succeed the Xperia Z2. Sprint and SoftBank will sell this as-yet-unnamed device in the U.S. and Japan, respectively. Sony has struggled in the U.S. market for years, and often fails to win distribution agreements with U.S. carriers. It regularly sells devices directly to consumers (at full price) through its own web site. Scoring a distribution agreement with Sprint would be a major win for the company. Neither Sprint nor Sony commented on the reports.
Verizon Wireless was the first U.S. carrier to score the HTC One for Windows, which swaps Android for Windows Phone. Here is Phone Scoop's full review of this stylish handset.
T-Mobile today voiced support for the HTC One for Windows on its web site. The company will sell the device in the weeks ahead. It is already sold by Verizon Wireless, and will also soon be sold by AT&T. The One for Windows runs Windows Phone rather than Android.
Sprint today said an over-the-air software update to the Samsung Galaxy S4 with Sprint Spark will allow owners to use Sprint's Wi-Fi Calling service when traveling abroad. The service lets people connect calls for free over Wi-Fi networks. Wi-Fi calls don't count against plan minutes.
Microsoft today updated its OneDrive cloud storage application for the Android platform. The primary new feature of the app is support for OneDrive Business accounts, which allows device owners to sign in with either or both of their personal or work-assigned accounts. Android device owners can access their personal and business files separately and easily save files to either account. Other new features include support for pin code lock, improvements to camera backup, and the ability to open OneDrive files with the storage access framework. OneDrive for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.
Sprint today announced a new service that will allow customers to add animations and avatars to their voicemail messages. The service is available to Sprint, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile USA customers with select Android handsets. The base service includes 12 free avatars and 12 free backgrounds that can be paired together in any combination along with voice effects in order to create unique animations. The avatars are lip-synced with the caller's voicemail (up to 20 seconds for free, up to two minutes with premium subscription). According to Sprint, the content library will be updated often, with new free and paid avatars and backgrounds appearing each week. Sprint customers can use their own voice, or an optional voice effect with variable pitch to make the message more fun. The avatar messages can be shared via voicemail, email, SMS, and even posted to Facebook. Further, messages can be sent to any user on any network, and can also be viewed on the web from desktops or tablets. Devices compatible with the service will receive an update to the visual voicemail application beginning this month. The initial list of compatible devices includes the Samsung Galaxy S3, S4, and S5, and Note 2; the HTC EVO 4G LTE and HTC One. Sprint said more devices will be made compatible with the service over time.
Samsung debuted a new smartwatch that can make and receive voice calls, as well as send and receive messages thanks to built-in 3G radios. The Gear S is based on Samsung's Tizen platform and features a 2-inch, curved Super AMOLED display with 360 x 480 pixels. In addition to 3G, the Gear S includes Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Samsung says it can transition between cellular and Bluetooth connections seamlessly so it can function with and without a nearby smartphone. It includes Samsung's S Voice service for voice commands, and has an on-screen keyboard for composing messages. Other features include Samsung's S Health and fitness apps, music player and gallery apps, and the ability to receive notifications from a variety of services. The Gear S is powered by a dual-core 1.0GHz processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. It has a 300mAh battery, which Samsung claims provides for two days of usage per charge. Samsung said the Gear S will be available in global markets beginning in October. Samsung didn't say how much the Gear S will cost.
LG today announced the G Watch R, a round smartwatch based on Google's Android Wear platform. LG already offers a square-shaped device called the G Watch. In designing the G Watch R, LG said it carefully weighed how consumers view watches as accessories and often require them to be stylish as well as functional. The G Watch R is made of stainless steel and features a 22mm calf-skin strap. According to LG, the G Watch R is the first wearable to feature a plastic OLED display, which measures 1.3 inches across the diagonal with 320 x 320 pixels. It is highly visible, even in direct sunlight. The G Watch R is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of built-in storage. It boasts an IP67 rating against water/dust intrusion, and can withstand up to 30 minutes in one meter of water. The device features a heart rate monitor, 9-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, and barometer. It has a 410mAh battery, but LG didn't offer information on expected battery life. The G Watch R can run all apps compatible with Android Wear, and includes a number of LG-designed fitness apps. The LG G Watch R will go on sale in select markets early in the fourth quarter. Pricing and exact availability will be announced on a market-by-market basis.
Microsoft today announced it is making changes to the Windows Store in order to improve the quality of the apps therein. To start, it has established three main criteria apps need to pass in order to be certified for sale through the store. App names need to clearly and accurately reflect what the app does; the app must fall into a category so it is easier to discern the app's function and purpose; and app icons must be sufficiently differentiated from other apps to avoid confusion. Microsoft said many of its developers were receptive to making changes so their apps fall in line with the new policy. Some developers, however, did not, and Microsoft has removed 1,500 apps from the Windows Store. Microsoft said it will continue to review apps currently in the store to make sure they adhere to the new policies.
Apple lost in its attempt to ban the sale of select Samsung devices today, as U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh denied Apple's request. The company sought a ban on devices found to infringe on its patents at trial earlier this year. "Apple has not demonstrated that it will suffer irreparable harm to its reputation or goodwill as an innovator without an injunction," wrote Judge Koh in her ruling. Apple was also denied a bid to ban sales of older Samsung phones in the 2012 patent trial that it won. Juries awarded Apple damages of $120 million and $930 million in the 2014 and 2012 cases, respectively. Samsung is still appealing to have the damages reduced or overturned. Earlier this year, Apple and Samsung resolve all their patent issues outside the U.S., leaving only these two cases unresolved.
The FCC today levied an $819,000 fine against T-Mobie for its lack of support for hearing-aid compatible handsets. The FCC originally made its claim against T-Mobile more than two years ago, when it discovered T-Mobile "willfully and repeatedly" failed to comply with rules mandating each carrier offer a certain number of hearing-aid compatible (HAC) handsets. According to the FCC, T-Mobile violated the rules during 2009 and 2010. The requirements make sure consumers with hearing loss have access to advanced telecommunications services. The minimum number of HAC phones required to be offered by Tier 1 carriers has evolved over the years, but at the moment 10 handsets or at least 50% of a carriers' breadth of devices must offer an M3 acoustic coupling, and seven handsets or at least 33% must offer a T3 inductive coupling. T-Mobile attempted to mitigate the fine over the last few years, but its arguments didn't convince the FCC. T-Mobile has 30 days to pay the FCC, or it will face the Department of Justice.
Cricket Wireless, which is owned by AT&T, today announced a new incentive to win over T-Mobile and other customers. Cricket is offering five lines for $100 per month. The plan includes one more line than T-Mobile's current promotion (four lines for $100). Cricket said, "People can sign up for the five lines for $100 up until January 2, and enjoy the promotion long after." It didn't provide an actual end date. Each line gets unlimited talk/text and 500MB of data. The pricing is based on five lines of service with an eligible $40 base plan. Each successive line gains a greater discount. For example, line two receives a $10 monthly discount; line three receives a $20 monthly discount; line four receives a $30 monthly discount; and line five receives a $40 monthly discount. The promotion is available to new and existing customers (in good standing, with two eligible lines of service). Accounts with multiple lines will automatically be enrolled into the new promotion. The $100 monthly cost includes all taxes and fees.
HTC said via Twitter that owners of the AT&T variant of the One (M8) can download Android 4.4.3 beginning today. The minor system update, which fixes bugs and improves performance (esp. GPS), can be installed over the air.
T-Mobile and Alcatel today announced the addition of the Fierce 2 and Evolve 2 to T-Mobile's value handset roster. Both devices run Android 4.4 KitKat. Shared hardware features include 5-megapixel main cameras, VGA user-facing cameras, 4GB of built-in storage, support for microSD cards up to 32GB, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
- Fierce 2: The Fierce 2 (pictured) is the larger of the two phones, boasting a 5-inch qHD display. It is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor and includes 1GB of RAM. The camera includes HDR, panorama, and burst modes. The Fierce 2 has a 2,000mAh battery.
- Evolve 2: This compact phone has a 4-inch WVGA display and it is powered by a 1.3GHz dual-core processor with 512MB of RAM. It has a 1,4000mAh battery. Alcatel is pitching the Fierce 2 as an entry-level smartphone.
T-Mobile today expanded the availability of its Music Freedom program to include six new music services. Music Freedom already allows T-Mobile customers to stream music from iHeartRadio, iTunesRadio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Samsung Milk, Slacker, and Spotify for free. The music streamed across T-Mobile's LTE network doesn't count against customers' data buckets. Beginning today, customers will be able to stream music from AccuRadio, Black Planet, Grooveshark, Radio Paradise, Rdio, and Songza, too. Further, T-Mobile said Google's Play Music service, chosen by T-Mobile customers through a poll, will be available later this year. T-Mobile claims its customers have streamed 7,000 terabytes of music across its network since Music Freedom began in June.