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Hands On with the Asus ROG Phone

Friday, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus' dedicated gaming phone in a beast of a device. The ROG Phone has an overclocked processor, a fast display, and a bevy of accessories meant to help it out-game the competition. Did we mention the AeroActive Cooler snap-on cooling fan? We spent some time with the ROG Phone and these are our first impressions.

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Review: Plantronics BackBeat Go 600

Friday, 11:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Plantronics BackBeat Go 600 Bluetooth headphones are for those who want good sound without paying for fancy extras. These over-the-ear cans cover the basic performance points at a price that won't break the bank.

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Supreme Court Says Warrant Required for Cell-Based Location Searches

Friday, 9:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement must generally obtain a search warrant in order to track people via cell phone towers. The 5-4 ruling sided with the defendant in a case where police discovered a suspect's whereabouts through cell phone records without first getting a warrant. The Supreme Court said gathering location data from wireless carriers without a warrant fits the definition of unreasonable search and seizure, a violation of the Fourth Amendment. "The Fourth Amendment protects not only property interests but certain expectations of privacy as well," read the ruling, as cell tower records often "give the Government near perfect surveillance." This ruling sets the legal precedent and will likely impact current and future cases.


Cricket Wireless Launches the Motorola Moto E5 Supra

Friday, 8:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless today kicked off sales of the Motorola Moto E5 Supra, which is a renamed E5 Plus. The E5 Supra includes a 6-inch screen, Snapdragon 435 processor, 3 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of storage. It packs a 5,000mAh battery and offers users a 12-megapixel main camera and 8-megapixel front camera with LED flash. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo with Motorola software such as Moto Display and Moto Actions for managing the lock screen and improving usability. The phone is available online and in stores for $180.


Apple Seeks to Invalidate Qualcomm Patents

Friday, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple hopes to nullify four patents held by Qualcomm as the two tech giants continue to tussle over licensing and fees. Specifically, Apple filed petitions with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office asking the agency to cancel Qualcomm patents that it says aren't new. The patents in question cover autofocus on digital cameras, devices that function as a phone and a PDA, touch displays, and circuit memory. Each patent is part of the broader lawsuit that Qualcomm filed against Apple in 2017. The two companies have been arguing over the royalties involved and how much should be paid for using the patents. The two companies also have cases pending with the U.S. ITC, and in China and Germany. The U.S. PTO will review Apple's request to decide whether or not to initiate a formal review of the patents.


YouTube Broadens Creators' Ability to Connect and Earn

Friday, 8:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

YouTube is expanding the features offered to its top creators in an effort to help them put their fan base to use. First, it is adding Channel Memberships. Viewers can elect to pay a recurring monthly fee of $4.99 to their favorite YouTube channels to gain access to unique badges, new emoji, members-only posts, and other custom content published by creators. YouTube says its early tests of this model have been successful and it will soon offer Channel Memberships to creators with more than 100,000 subscribers. Creators will soon be able to offer custom merchandise. YouTube partnered with Teespring so creators can sell their fans t-shirts and phone cases with their logo or other graphics. Merchandise will be offered to all U.S. channels with over 10,000 subscribers. Last, YouTube is adding something it called Premieres. This tool lets creators publish a pre-recorded video as a live moment. As YouTube points out, its livestreams have brought people together for shared experiences. This tool makes it possible to craft "live" moments ahead of time. When the video is published, fans can show up and watch together with a live, real-time chat stream as the video is played. Creators can use the Super Chat feature with these premieres to earn more money. YouTube users, subscribers, and fans will have access to these features from their favorite channels over time.


Bing Gains Visual Search Tool

Friday, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft this week rolled out an update to its Bing search engine that lets people perform searches based on things they see in the real world. The visual search function works similarly to Google Lens. Bing users can take a snapshot of a landmark, or plant, or animal and then search based on the image. Microsoft says it will identify the object and provide information about it along with links to learn more. Microsoft says the app also allows people to shop from image searches if they wish. The new visual search function is available within the Bing search app on Android and iOS, as well as via the Edge browser on Android. Visual search will reach the Edge browser on iOS in the weeks ahead.


Facebook Brings More Features to Messenger Kids As It Expands to More Countries

Friday, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook's Messenger Kids app is set to become more parent-friendly and more widely available. Facebook is updating the app today with a handful of features, including the ability for more than one parent to control the app and account. The company says it is working on "new features rooted in principles of social and emotional learning." For example, kids and parents will be greeted by a pledge of guiding principles when first signing into the app, and can make use of kindness stickers that let people offer encouragement to others. Last, the app is expanding to Canada and Peru, and is being made available in English, French, and Spanish to those countries and the U.S. Facebook Messenger Kids requires a parental account. It is available on Android and iOS.


Google Makes Talking to Google Assistant Less Awkward

Thursday, 10:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today began rolling out Continued Conversation, an update to Google Assistant that should make the tool easier to interact with. With Continued Conversation enabled, people will be able to have more natural, back-and-forth conversations with Assistant without repeating the "Hey Google" command each time. This is an optional feature, according to Google, and must be turned on manually through the Google Assistant app. Google says people will still need to say "Hey Google" to initiate a conversation, but they can then make follow-up requests, add items to shopping lists, set timers and reminders, and more without constantly repeating the catchphrase. The Assistant will continue to listen until it is sure the user has stopped interacting with it. The Continued Conversation function is first reaching the Google Home, Google Home Mini, and Google Home Max products. Google didn't say if or when the feature might reach phones or other Assistant-enabled devices.


Apple, Samsung Support Digital Key for Unlocking Cars with Phones

Thursday, 10:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Car Connectivity Consortium this week announced release 1.0 of its Digital Key specification, which will let people use their phone to unlock their car. The spec supports the ability to lock, unlock, start, and share access to cars from smartphones and other devices. The underlying technology makes it possible for carmakers to securely transmit a digital key to a mobile device, which then makes use of NFC and a secure element to provide vehicle access. The Car Connectivity Consortium says it has lots of support from both phone and car makers. Some of the member companies include Apple, Audi, BMW, Continental, Gemalto, GM, LG, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Volkswagen. The CCC is already working on release 2.0, which it expects will arrive during the first quarter of 2019. The group didn't say how long before consumers can expect to see the technology gracing their local automobile showroom.


Motorola Makes the Moto Z3 Play Available for Preorder

Thursday, 10:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 11:02 AM

Motorola today kicked off general preorders for the Moto Z3 Play phone. People can now pre-purchase the Z3 Play from Motorola.com, Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Amazon. The phone adopts a 6-inch 2:1 screen, and is made form a slim metal-and-glass chassis. It is compatible with Motorola's Moto Mods accessories and includes either a speaker or battery. The phone sells for $499. The phone will be sold directly by Sprint and U.S. Cellular later this summer.


BlackBerry KEY2 Goes On Sale July 13

Thursday, 9:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today said the BlackBerry KEY2 will be available to preorder starting June 29 with an expected retail date of July 13. The phone will be sold unlocked from Amazon and Best Buy for $649. The KEY2, announced earlier this month, has a redesigned chassis, taller keyboard with better keys, and dual rear cameras. Other features include a Snapdragon 660 processor, 6 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo with BlackBerry's hardened security and business communication software. The KEY2 has a 4.5-inch screen and 3,500mAh battery.


AT&T's Unlimited Plans Now Include 'Watch TV' Video Service

Thursday, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today added to its top-tier plans in the wake of its recent acquisition of Time Warner. The company's unlimited service plans now offer an optional video service called Watch TV. Watch TV includes more than 30 live channels and is compatible with most every smartphone, tablet, browser, and device. The service offers access to 15,000 TV shows and movies on demand. Some of the available channels include AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, CNN, Discovery, Food Network, Hallmark, History, HLN, IFC, Lifetime, OWN, TBS, TCM, TLC, TNT, Velocity, and Viceland. The service is included at no extra charge in the two new unlimited offerings, which are called AT&T Unlimited &More Premium and AT&T Unlimited &More. The Premium plan offers 15 GB of high-speed tethering, high-quality video, and a $15 monthly credit toward DirecTV Now, DirecTV, and U-Verse. Premium customers may tack on one premium add-on, such as HBO or Pandora Premium, at no extra cost. The simpler Unlimited &More offering does not include tethering, limits video to 480p, and includes a $15 discount only toward DirecTV Now. AT&T Unlimited &More Premium costs $80 for a single line and $190 for four lines. AT&T Unlimited &More costs $70 for a single line and $160 for four lines. These prices require autopay and do not include taxes, fees, or device payments. WatchTV will also be made available as a stand-alone service for $15 per month. AT&T says it has more bundles on the way.


Google Simplifies Account Security and Control

Thursday, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved the design of its Google Account tool in order to make it easier for people to manage their account details, security, and privacy. The revised function provides summaries of personal information, devices with account access, payment methods, purchases, subscriptions, and contacts. A search function lets people easily find particular settings, such as how to change a password. It boasts a new support section with FAQs and other how-tos. Privacy controls are now managed in a single place that Google says has been tested by end users. It offers insight into account activity, and the refreshed Privacy Checkup helps people review their privacy settings and improve them if needed. For example, Google will offer prominent notices if it detects there's something amiss, and will suggest people remove old devices or unused apps from their account. The new Google Account dashboard is available to Android devices now, and will be available on the web and iOS devices later this year.


Amazon Adds Moto Z3 Play and G6 Play with Alexa to Prime Exclusive Lineup

Thursday, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Amazon today made the Motorola Moto Z3 Play and Moto G6 Play, both with Alexa on board, available through its Prime Exclusives program. Phones sold through the Prime Exclusive program have a single sign-in for all Amazon services, such as Amazon Video and Amazon Music. The phones include a number of Amazon apps preinstalled. The Moto Z3 Play (pictured) has a 6-inch screen and is compatible with Motorola's Moto Mods accessories. It features a 12-megapixel main camera with a 5-megapixel secondary camera, and an 8-megapixel selfie camera. The Z3 Play ships with the Moto Power Pack Mod, and Amazon is offering a free Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa for hands-free access to the Alexa assistant. Amazon is selling the Z3 Play for $450 (a $50 discount). The Moto G6 Play is a mid-range phone with a 5.7-inch screen, 13-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel front camera. Amazon is selling the Moto G6 Play for $190 (a $10 discount). Both phones run Android 8 Oreo and are compatible with AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Preorders start today, and the phones will ship June 29.


More Lawmakers Target Google Over Huawei Relationship

Wednesday, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

More members of Congress are posing questions about the relationship between Google and Huawei. Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, Republican Representatives Liz Cheney and Michael Conaway, and Democratic Representative Dutch Ruppersberger all signed a letter sent to Google concerning the search giant’s recent decision to halt work on Project Maven. "While we regret that Google did not want to continue a long and fruitful tradition of collaboration between the military and technology companies, we are even more disappointed that Google apparently is more willing to support the Chinese Communist Party than the U.S. military,” read the letter, in part. It’s not clear what the lawmakers’ end goal is. Huawei uses Google’s Android operating system in its phones. Huawei is the world’s third-largest supplier of phones. Some members of Congress see Huawei as a national security threat due to its ties with the Chinese government. Earlier this year, Huawei saw smartphone distribution deals with AT&T and Verizon evaporate after pressure from Congress.


IGTV Is Instagram's Standalone Video App

Wednesday, 1:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today announced IGTV, a separate application meant expressly for consuming video content. Instagram insists IGTV is different from its existing app. "First, it’s built for how you actually use your phone, so videos are full screen and vertical. Also, unlike on Instagram, videos aren’t limited to one minute. Instead, each video can be up to an hour long," explained the company in a blog post. Videos from favored accounts will start to play as soon as users open the app. In addition to content from followers, IGTV will queue up videos based on users' interests. Sections such as For You, Following, Popular, and Continue Watching will let people browse and discover content from others. As always, people can like and comment on videos, as well as share them with friends. IGTV will include creator channels where people can upload their own videos. Instagram says the app will be available globally for Android and iOS devices over the next few weeks.


FreedomPop's Unreal Mobile MVNO Launches with $10 Plan

Wednesday, 10:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 1:01 PM

Unreal Mobile officially launched today after signing up some 50,000 beta users over the last month. Unreal Mobile is a new MVNO from FreedomPop. It is offering unlimited service that includes a VPN, mobile ad blocking, and the ability for customers to use their Unreal phone number on tablets, phones, and computers. All three Unreal service plans include unlimited talk, text, and 2G data. The entry-level plan costs $10 per month and includes 1 GB of LTE, while the $15 plan includes 2 GB and the $30 plan includes 5 GB. The MVNO also lets subscribers carry unused data over to the next month and offers live support. The first three phones being sold by Unreal are the Alcatel Dawn for $50, a certified pre-owned Samsung Galaxy S6 for $150, and a pre-owned iPhone 7 for $300. The carrier says customers will be able to bring their own phone later this summer. Consumers interested in Unreal Mobile can sign up via Unreal's web site.

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