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printed May 26, 2016
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HTC Says Verizon's 10 to See Camera Update May 27

Today, 12:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC's Mo Versi said via his Twitter account that the Verizon Wireless variant of the HTC 10 will receive a maintenance update that improves several aspects of the phone. The release chiefly boosts the camera's performance, including the autofocus feature. The update also tweaks performance and solves several bugs. The maintenance release will be pushed out over the air. HTC already delivered this same update to the unlocked/global variant of the 10.


Hyundai Makes Android Auto and CarPlay Available As a Do-It-Yourself Install

Today, 12:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Hyundai today made it possible for owners of select models to install Android Auto and CarPlay themselves. Hyundai owners will need to download the navigation system update from Hyundai's web site to a USB drive or SD card and then update the car manually. The company posted detailed directions to its web site to help walk customers through the update process. Hyundai says the download and install process can take anywhere from 1 to 4 hours, depending on the vehicle. Some of the models compatible with the upgrade are the 2015/16 Sonata and Genesis, 2016 Elantra and Tucson, and the 2017 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport. Android Auto and CarPlay both bring certain smartphone features to the dashboard, including access to navigation, phone and messaging, and music playback. Customers who want the update but aren't comfortable doing it themselves can have it performed at a Hyundai dealer for a fee.

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ZTE Taps BMW to Help Design the Axon 7 Flagship

Today, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Today, 1:37 PM

ZTE today announced the Axon 7, its flagship smartphone for 2016. ZTE designed the phone with the help of BMW Group's Designworks studio. The Axon 7 has a unibody aluminum design and clean lines; it comes in gold and silver finishes. The device features a 5.5-inch quad HD display with 2.5D curved glass. The phone is powered by a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 820 processor with either 4 GB or 6 GB of RAM. The processor and 3,140mAh battery together support Quick Charge 3.0 and can deliver a 50% charge in 30 minutes. The main camera includes a 20-megapixel sensor from Samsung with optical and electronic image stabilization, sapphire lens, and an aperture of f/1.8. The selfie camera has an 8-megapixel camera. The phone can capture video up to 4K. Other standout features include dual AKM HiFi audio chipsets with Dolby Atmos software and stereo speakers, support for Google's Daydream virtual reality platform, support for memory cards, and a quick fingerprint sensor located on the back. The device adopts a USB Type-C connector. The Axon 7 ships with Android 6 Marshmallow and MiFavor 4.0 user interface, portions of which BMW's Designworks helped configure. The phone supports all U.S. LTE bands. It will be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile and launch, with Sprint and Verizon compatibility coming later in the year. The Axon 7 is sold with Axon Passport 2.0, ZTE's two-year warranty plan that protects consumers from busted screens and other damage. The Axon 7 goes on sale in China today, but will reach the U.S. soon. The phone is priced under $500 and will be sold directly to consumers via ZTEusa.com, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, ebay, and Newegg.

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Internet Companies Want Public Zero-Rating FCC Inquiry

Today, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A group of companies have asked the FCC to make discussions about net neutrality violations more open to public discourse. Specifically, 59 internet companies sent a letter to the FCC and asked the agency how it is handling zero-rating services, such as T-Mobile's BingeOn and Verizon Wireless' FreeBee. As it stands, the FCC is evaluating such services on a case-by-case basis mostly in private. They group argues that internet service providers, including mobile networks, have introduced a wide range of zero-rated services that toe the net neutrality line. Due to the volume of cases, decisions on each and every one "would have much the same effect as a new rule, only without the same public participation and transparency," say the companies. The companies believe the public and stakeholders both have a right to participate in defining any new rules. "Zero¬≠rating profoundly affects internet users' choices," said the companies. "Giving ISPs the power to favor some sites or services over others would let ISPs pick winners and losers online — precisely what the Open Internet rules exist to prevent. Because mobile networks are i ncreasingly the way most Americans get online, mobile ISPs matter equally. It would be unacceptable not to seek and incorporate broad input and expertise at this critical stage." Some of the companies that signed the letter include Dwolla, Etsy, Foursquare, Medium, Mozilla, Pinterest, Reddit, Upworthy, Vimeo, Yelp and dozens more. The FCC did not immediately comment on the matter.


PayPal to Kill Off Its Windows Phone and BlackBerry Apps

Yesterday, 3:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

PayPal today said it will sunset its Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Amazon Fire Phone apps on June 30. After that date, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Fire Phone users will not be able to login to or use the Paypal mobile app. PayPay says these users will be able to sign in to PayPal.com via the browser of their device and conduct transactions online. PayPal further said all Android and iOS users of its mobile app need to upgrade to version 6.0 between June 3 and June 30. Version 6.0 of the PayPal mobile app has a fresh design. PayPal said it gave more prominent placement to features its customers use most, such as send and request money, PayPal balance, and transaction history. PayPal is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


FCC Fines Chinese Firm $35M for Selling Cell Jammers

Yesterday, 3:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today levied a fine of $34.9 million against a China-based company for marketing and selling illegal cell signal jammers in the U.S. The FCC says CTS Technology marketed some 285 different types of signal jammers to U.S. consumers through its web site. Some of the devices, created to interfere with cellular, WiFi, and GPS signals at distances of up to 0.5 miles, were sold to undercover FCC agents posing as consumers and shipped from China to the U.S. Signal jammers represent a danger to the public and first responders, as they can prevent people from placing emergency calls and can otherwise disrupt essential communications. The FCC first notified CTS Technology about is violations in 2014 and has attempted to contact the company numerous times. Even though the FCC has used official channels, CTS has not responded to any of the allegations. CTS has 30 days to pay the $34.9 million fine.


T-Mobile to Buy Chicago-Area Spectrum to Boost Coverage

Yesterday, 8:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said it has agreed to buy 700 MHz spectrum from Leap in order to bring its "extended-range LTE" coverage to the Chicago metropolitan area. Specifically, T-Mobile is snagging A-Block 700 MHz spectrum covering Chicago, Elgin, Joliet, Waukegan, Evanston, Naperville, Aurora, Gary, Rockford, De Kalb, Janesville, Bloomington, Normal, Kankakee, Kenosha, and others. Leap Licenseco, the company that holds the spectrum licenses, is owned by AT&T. T-Mobile will turn on LTE in the low-band spectrum once the transaction is completed. T-Mobile has been using 700 MHz spectrum to supplement its main LTE network for some time. This deal will allow it to offer low-band coverage to 269 million Americans, including the top 10 U.S. markets. T-Mobile already offers LTE in the Chicago area via its AWS spectrum. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal must be reviewed by the FCC.


Opera Shareholders Approve Chinese Offer

Yesterday, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera's shareholders have approved a $1.2 billion bid from a consortium of Chinese companies. Just over 90% of shareholders voted in favor of the takeover, which was a condition of the offer made earlier this year. Opera's board of directors approved the deal in February. The collection of companies includes game-maker Kunlun, security firm Qihoo, and private investment firms Yonglian and Golden Brick. Qihoo has its own browser and would combine Opera's technology with its own. In addition to its desktop and mobile browsers, Opera also offers data compression products directly to mobile network operators, and consumer-grade compression through its Opera Max app. Opera did not say when it expects the deal to close.


Microsoft to Cut 1,850 Smartphone Workers

Yesterday, 7:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it plans to further streamline its smartphone business, an action that includes job cuts and restructuring charges. The company plans to cut 1,350 jobs from its facilities in Finland, as well as another 500 jobs globally. The company expects to take a charge of about $950 million, of which $200 million will be used for severance packages. "We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability, and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO. "We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms." Microsoft says it expects to complete most job cuts by the end of this year and all cuts by July 2017. Sales of Windows 10 Mobile phones began in late 2015, but the platform has lost more ground since then, accounting for just 1% of smartphone sales during the first quarter, according to Gartner. Microsoft recently sold its feature phone business to a Foxconn subsidiary, and Nokia recently gave that same subsidiary the rights to use its brand on mobile devices. This paves the way for Nokia to make a return, of sorts, to the mobile phone business.


AT&T's GoPhone Service Adds More Data to Plans

Tuesday, 4:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today made its GoPhone prepaid service plans more attractive by adding more high-speed data without changing the price points. The $45 plan improves from 2 GB of LTE data each month to 3 GB, and the $60 plan improves from 5 GB to 6 GB. The latter also includes unlimited talk and text from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada, as well as talk, text, and data roaming in the same two countries. The new data allotments will be applied to all accounts automatically. Customers who enroll in auto-pay will receive a $5 service credit each month.


E Ink Reveals Full-Color ePaper Display

Tuesday, 4:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

E Ink today announced Advanced Color ePaper (ACeP), which is a full-color reflective display. E Ink says this is the first time an electrophoretic display can produce color in every pixel without the use of a color filter array. The ACeP includes all eight primary colors using colored pigments in a single layer of fluid; each pixel is capable of displaying all eight colors. The fluid is controlled using voltages that work with traditional TFT backplanes. E Ink says its ACeP maintains the same paper-like readability and low-power features of its monochrome ePaper screens. E Ink has been able to create ACeP screens up to 20 inches with resolutions at 1600 by 2500 pixels. For now, E Ink says the ACeP display technology will target signage and other use cases. The company didn't say if it might create versions of the ACeP for mobile devices, such as cell phones. Powering displays requires a lot of energy, so battery-based mobile devices could benefit from a color ePaper screen.


Toyota and Uber Partner On Ridesharing

Tuesday, 3:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Toyota and Uber today announced a partnership that will see the two companies collaborate on several new initiatives. The idea is to establish new services that can benefit Toyota and Uber's shared customers. For example, the companies plan to create new leasing options for car purchasers who can cover their vehicle payments through Uber-generated earnings. The companies are also looking at a car-based application that can assist Uber drivers. Toyota and Uber did not disclose the financial terms of the partnership.


Google's Speech-to-Text App Gains New Powers

Tuesday, 3:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google recently updated its Text-to-Speech app for Android devices and gave the tool a handful of new features. The app adds support for Bengali, Danish, English, Finnish, Hungarian, Norwegian, and Mandarin. The 14 supported languages each has six voices, three mail and three female. Google says the voices can be processor intensive and are not available to all devices. The app also improves its voice for Indian English. Last, the speech app can read aloud any text that is highlighted on the screen. Google's Speech-to-Text app is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Maps to Host Ads In the Form of 'Promoted Pins'

Tuesday, 3:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today said it plans to place advertisements in Google Maps on mobile devices. The change is meant to help Google's business customers promote their own businesses to people who search through Google Maps. Google says advertisers can take advantage of location extensions to showcase their locations on maps as promoted pins. Google is experimenting with a variety of ad formats, and will relaunch local business pages so they are more appealing and include special offers and the ability to browse product inventory at any given store. The introduction of advertising will come to both the Android and iOS versions of Maps, but Google didn't say exactly when. The new advertising push is part of Google's attempt top shore up its core business.


Huawei Sues Samsung Over Patents

Tuesday, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei has filed lawsuits against Samsung in the U.S. and China, alleging the smartphone maker is using its patented technology without permission. Specifically, Huawei believes Samsung is infringing on a patent related to LTE wireless technology. "We hope Samsung will stop infringing our patents and get the necessary license from Huawei," said the company in a statement. Samsung did not immediately comment on the matter. This marks the first time a Chinese phone maker has filed a lawsuit against foreign firms; typically, Chinese firms have been the defendants in patent cases. Handset manufacturers often resort to patent lawsuits to force negotiations for royalties.


LG Begins Selling G5 Friends Directly Online

Tuesday, 10:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today made the G5 Friends accessories available for purchase from its web site. Consumers can buy the CAM Plus ($70), 360 CAM ($200), 360 VR goggles ($200), and Tone Platinum headphones ($200) to go with their G5. LG is also selling battery packs and battery charging cradles. The CAM Plus adds a camera grip, dedicated buttons, and extended battery to the G5 via its modular hatch. The 360 CAM captures 360-degree video, while the 360 VR goggles allow people to view virtual reality content.


Twitter to Make Exceptions to Help Expand Tweet Length

Tuesday, 9:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today said it plans to change how it handles certain characters and content in an effort to make the service somewhat easier to use. Over the next few months, Twitter will drop @names, photos, quoted tweets, and other media attachments from the character count. It's also going to stop requiring a period before usernames when tweeting. This means people will be able to respond to people on Twitter as well as include photos or GIFs and still have 140 characters to write what they want. The restrictions will be removed one at a time so developers will have the opportunity to update their apps accordingly. Twitter hopes the changes will make the service easier to use for newcomers and less frustrating to seasoned veterans.


Pebble Reveals Two New Watches and 3G Connected Button

Tuesday, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pebble today announced the Pebble 2 and Time 2 smartwatches, as well as the Core connected button. The two wearables target fitness users and include heart rate monitors for tracking workouts and monitoring sleep. Pebble recently updated its health tools, and the Pebble 2 and Time 2 are able to take advantage of the upgraded software. Both devices serve notifications, show the owner's schedule, control music, run some 13,000 apps, and perform simple tasks. Each has an e-paper display and is water resistant down to 30 meters. The Pebble 2 can run for seven days and costs $99, while the Time 2 can run for 10 days and costs $169. They work with Android an iOS smartphones. The Core is a 3G-enabled fob that Pebble says acts as a smartphone when on the go. The device has two buttons that can be programmed to do anything, such as start/stop streaming Spotify playlists. The Core has Bluetooth, WiFi, and GPS radios, and can act as a relay to the internet for Pebble smartwatches. It can be paired with Bluetooth headsets and accept voice commands, serve as a hotspot, and sync with select fitness apps. The Core costs $99. All three devices are available for pre-order via Kickstarter. The Pebble 2 ships in September, the Time 2 ships in November, and the Core ships in early 2017.

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