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Apple Proposes New Emoji to Represent Those with Disabilities

Yesterday, 9:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has suggested to the Unicode Consortium that it add a new batch of accessibility emoji that depict characters with disabilities. In its letter to the Consortium, Apple said, "Apple is requesting the addition of emoji to better represent individuals with disabilities. Currently, emoji provide a wide range of options, but may not represent the experiences of those with disabilities." Some of the suggested emoji include a guide dog, person with cane, person in wheelchair, prosthetic limbs, the sign for deafness, and others. Apple said these were only examples and not meant to be a fully representative list or potential additions. The Unicode Consortium is the body that approves emoji. It's possible these characters might be included in Unicode 12.0, which won't be fully approved until the first half of 2019.

OnePlus Sold Out of 5T In North America, No Plans to Restock

Yesterday, 9:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus has sold through its supply of OnePlus 5T handsets in North America and will not replenish its stores, reports Engadget. Kyle Kiang, head of global marketing and general manager of North America at OnePlus, said the 5T met stronger-than-expented demand in the U.S. and Canada. The demand led the phone to sell through weeks earlier than planned. The company won't divert 5Ts meant for other markets to the U.S. due to the hassle of changing out charging adapters. With no 5T stock remaining, OnePlus doesn't have any phones to sell in North America until its next device is ready. The company has for the last two years announced two phones each calendar year, one at the end of the first half and another at the end of the second half. It could be up to three months before OnePlus has a new device to sell in North America.

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Samsung 'Looking Into' Unresponsive Galaxy S9/S9+ Screens

Friday, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has acknowledged that some Galaxy S9 and S9+ handsets have unresponsive screens. Early adopters of the handset have taken to Samsung's forums to voice complaints about the issue, which renders areas of the display unresponsive to touch input. "At Samsung, customer satisfaction is core to our business and we aim to deliver the best possible experience. We are looking into a limited number of reports of Galaxy S9/S9+ touchscreen responsiveness issues. We are working with affected customers and investigating," said Samsung in a statement provided to CNET. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ reached store shelves March 16.

FCC Chairman Pai Plans to 'Take Proactive Steps' to Protect US Telecom Supply Chain

Friday, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today said will take action to ensure the U.S. telecommunications supply chain is protected from potential threats. Pai made the comments in a response to members of Congress who expressed concern about AT&T and Verizon's plans to sell Huawei handsets in the U.S. On December 20, 2017, Senators Tom Cotton, Angus King, John Coryn, Susan Collins, Roy Blunt, Jim Risch, Richard Burr, Marco Rubio, and James Lankford, and Representatives Frank LoBiondo, Brad Wenstrup, Elise Stefanik, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Michael Conaway, Michael Turner, Chris Stewart, Rick Crawford, and Peter King all signed a letter imploring Pai to examine the relationship between Huawei, AT&T, and Verizon. The main matter of concern in the letter from Congressional members to the FCC was that government employees might eventually buy and use Huawei devices from U.S. carriers. Some members of the U.S. government have long claimed that Huawei equipment could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans. Pressure on AT&T and Verizon put that matter to rest. Shortly after these members of Congress sent the letter to the FCC, AT&T and Verizon Wireless dropped plans to sell Huawei handsets. Earlier this week, Huawei's retail partner Best Buy said it will cease selling Huawei devices in the U.S. Telecom companies in the U.S. are not allowed to buy networking equipment form Huawei. Even so, Pai alluded to taking more action. In his response he said, "I intend to take proactive steps to help ensure the integrity of the communications supply chain in the United States in the near future." Pai did not specify what those steps might be, though Huawei and ZTE continue to be targets of government scrutiny. The FCC did not immediately return a request for comment on the nature of Pai's intended actions.

Snapchat Explore Tool Brings More Moments to Maps

Thursday, 4:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Snapchat today introduced a new feature called Snap Map Explore. The idea is to make it easier for people to see where friends are, such as landmarks, festivals, or parks, or see what else is going on nearby. People will be able to reach out to friends they see are traveling on the map. "With one tap, you can start a new conversation. You’ll also get updates for other moments you might want to see like breaking news, events, and trends," explained Snapchat. Use of the Snap Map is optional, and users must manually turn on location sharing so their friends can see them. Snapchat says the Explore tool will roll out to Snapchatters globally over the next few weeks.

Review: Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra

Thursday, 3:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra is a massive Android phablet for those who like big phones. With a 6-inch screen, dual selfie cameras, and plenty of battery life, the XA2 Ultra is a solid performer. But there are a few things holding this monster back. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.

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FCC Relaxes Rules Governing Consumer Signal Boosters

Thursday, 1:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said new rule changes should make it easier for people to use consumer-grade wireless signal boosters. Signal boosters general work by gathering and amplifying the existing signals from wireless network operators in environments such as homes, cars, and office buildings. Some are carrier specific, meaning they only work with a certain network operator, while others can work with many carriers. The FCC wants signal boosters to be more widely available, allowing more flexible uses, such as embedding them in cars. It also wants non-customers to be able to operate carrier-specific signal boosters. "The rules adopted today eliminate the current personal use restriction on provider-specific boosters so that businesses, public safety entities, educational institutions, and other enterprise users and their customers can also benefit from the use of boosters," said the FCC.

FCC Takes Steps to Facilitate 5G Deployments

Thursday, 1:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today took several actions that should make it easier for wireless network operators to deploy 5G. First, the agency reduced the red tape needed to put up 5G cells. For example, it removed a requirement that applicants file Environmental Assessments for some locations. Further, the agency said it will create timeframes that the FCC must adhere to when acting on Environmental Assessments. "The actions taken today will reduce regulatory impediments to deploying small cells needed for 5G and help to expand the reach of 5G for faster, more reliable wireless service and other advanced wireless technologies to more Americans," said the agency. In a separate action, the FCC wants to explore current use of the 4.9 GHz band. The band was initially set aside for public safety. However, of the 90,000 available licenses only 3,200 are in use. "The Commission’s goal is to promote increased public safety use of the band and protect users from harmful interference while opening the spectrum to additional uses that will encourage a more robust market for equipment and greater innovation," said the FCC.

Instagram to Show More Recent Posts At Top of Timeline

Thursday, 11:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today outlined changes it its making to users' feeds that should give them more control over what they see when they open the app. To start, the company said it will ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in the feed. Instagram says it is making this change based on user feedback. Instagram used to show feeds in chronological order, but eventually switched to an algorithm for showing posts. "With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won’t miss the moments you care about," said Instagram in a blog post. Instagram is also changing how feeds refresh. The app often automatically refreshes the feed when the app is opened To change this, the company is testing a "New Posts" button that will let people choose when to refresh the feed, rather than allowing it to happen automatically. The feed will remain where it was when last used until users tap the button. Instagram says it plans to roll out more changes to the feed over the new few months.

Google's Files Go File Management App Gains Search Tools

Thursday, 10:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Files Go for Android devices and introduced several new features to the file management app. Files Go on Android now supports file search. Google says the search function delivers instant results, search history, autocomplete, and filters. Search even works when the device is offline. The app adds the ability to see where duplicate apps are located on the device. One of the core tools of Files Go is to help eliminate duplicate files. Moving forward, people can see where the duplicates are stored on their phone before they opt to delete one of them. Last, Files Go now works hand-in-hand with Google Photos to help remove backed up photos and videos. The app can detect when pictures are saved to the cloud and prompt users to delete them to save storage space. Files Go is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Google Assistant Can Now Send Payments Via Google Pay

Thursday, 10:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Assistant on Android and iOS devices with the ability to send mobile payments. Google says people can easily send or request money from their contact list for free. Google Pay is required for the sender, and those who haven't yet set it up will be prompted to enroll. Recipients, however, do not need to have a Google Pay account. Google says funds are transferred almost instantaneously. Recipients who do have Google Pay will be alerted via email, text, or push notification so they can cash out. To use the tool, people need to say something like "Hey Google, send Jane $15 for lunch today." Google says this feature will eventually reach its Google Home smart speakers. There are no fees associated with using the service. Google Assistant is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.

Best Buy to Stop Selling Huawei Phones

Thursday, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Best Buy is expected to drop products made by Huawei over the next few weeks, reports CNET. Citing a source familiar with Best Buy's plan, CNET says the company will sell through the stock of devices such as Huawei's smartphones that are already in its stores, but the electronics retailer will not replenish supplies of Huawei phones. Huawei has faced scrutiny from some in Washington over its ties to the Chinese government. Some believe the Chinese government could use Huawei handsets for espionage purposes. Earlier this year, government pressure led AT&T and Verizon Wireless to cancel plans to sell the Mate 10 Pro from Huawei, the company's flagship smartphone. The Mate 10 Pro is available to Americans online from retailers such as B&H Photo and Amazon. Huawei has been banned from selling telecommunications gear in the U.S. for some time. Neither Best Buy nor Huawei commented directly on the matter concerning smartphone sales.

Samsung's Exynos 9610 Packs Imaging Smarts and 4K Slow-Mo

Thursday, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Exynos 7 Series 9610 mobile application processor, a chip built using Samsung's 10nm FinFET process that targets high-end smartphones. The octa-core processor has four Cortex A-73 cores at 2.3 GHz and four Cortex A-53 cores at 1.6 GHz. These are paired with ARM's newer Bifrost-based Mali-G72 GPU for gaming. A Cortex-M4F low-power sensing hub handles the constant street of information generated by sensors, gestures, and other inputs without waking the main processor. One of the key advancements of this chip is the addition of a neural network engine for face detection that can recognize faces covered with hats or hair or glasses. The 9610 also has more advanced depth-sensing for bokeh photos, better low-light augmentation, and processes to reduce signal-to-noise ratio in photos and videos. When it comes to other media, the 9610 can handle slow-motion capture and playback at up to 480 frames per second (half that of the Galaxy S9). More interestingly, the revised image signal processor uses a multi-format codec that allows encoding and decoding slow motion at resolutions up to 4K at 120fps. On the connectivity side of things, the 9610 supports Cat 12 LTE with three-channel carrier aggregation for up to 600 Mbps on the downlink and Cat 13 LTE with two-channel carrier aggregation for up to 150 Mbps on the uplink. It also includes 2x2 MIMO WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, and an FM radio. Samsung says the Exynos 7 Series 9610 is expected to be mass produced in the second half of this year.

Facebook Says It Will Do More to Protect User Data from Apps

Wednesday, 3:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today outlined several steps the company has taken and plans to take to protect users in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In 2013, an app developer created a personality quiz that was used by 300,000 people. The app had access to those peoples' data, and also the data of their friends, which numbered in the millions. The developer later shared that data with Cambridge Analytica, a firm that put the data to use in creating profiles of U.S. voters ahead of the 2016 election. "This was a breach of trust between [the developer], Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that," said Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg contends that in 2014 Facebook put in place measures that prevent apps from soliciting large amounts of data from users. Moving forward, it intends to audit all the apps that had access to large amounts of data before 2014. The company will audit any developers or apps that show suspicious activity, which may result in bans from the Facebook platform. If it finds abuse, Facebook will alert the impacted people as quickly as it can. Zuckerberg says the company will further restrict apps' access to user data, and will remove developer access altogether once a person hasn't used an app in three months. It will reduce the amount of data required for sign-ins to just a name, photo, and email address. Developers that want more information than that will have to obtain approval from Facebook. Last, the company plans to install a tool at the top of the News Feed that shows people which apps they've used, as well as give them an easy way to revoke those apps' permissions. Facebook suggests people review the apps that have access to their data and delete any they don't want to keep connected to their account. "We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you," said Zuckerberg. Facebook didn't say anything about what the social network itself does with user data.

Instagram Lets Users Put Hashtag and Profile Links in Bios

Wednesday, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram today made it possible for people to add links to hashtags or other profiles in their own bio section. Inserting the links is easy. Users simply enter the "#" or "@" symbol and Instagram will recommend popular hashtags or profiles as users type. The photo-sharing social network calls the new tool another way for people to express themselves and highlight the things they care about. Users will be alerted if another person links to their profile and can approve or disapprove the link if they wish. The new linking feature is rolling out to users in the latest mobile apps for Android and iOS.

Apple Debuts New Bands for Apple Watch

Wednesday, 10:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today revealed its Spring collection of bands for the Apple Watch, which include a variety of new colors and styles. Apple updated the Woven Nylon band with stripes and colors. The Sport band now comes in Denim Blue, Lemonade, and Red Raspberry; the Sport Loop comes in Flash Light, Hot Pink, Marine Green and Tahoe Blue; and the Classic Buckle comes in Spring Yellow, Electric Blue, and Soft Pink. The Nike Sport is being sold separately for the first time and comes in Barely Rose/Pearl Pink, Black/White, and Cargo Khaki/Black. The Nike Sport Loop is available in Black/Pure Platinum, Bright Crimson/Black, Cargo Khaki, Midnight Fog, and Pearl Pink. Last, Apple is offering new variations of the Hermes loop in Indigo and Blanc with painted edges. Apple says the refreshed bands will reach its stores, carrier stores, and other resellers later this month.

Oreo Hitting Most US Versions of Samsung Galaxy S8

Wednesday, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

People in the U.S. who own the Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ can expect to see Android 8 Oreo reach their phone over the coming days. Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and not AT&T are all pushing the system upgrade to their customers. Oreo includes notification dots, picture-in-picture, and autofill. The update brings the S8/S8+ in line with the user experience seen on the newer S9/S9+, which includes updated emoji. It also packs the February 2018 security patch from Google. The update weighs in at a little over 1.5 GB and can be downloaded over WiFi. Samsung has not yet said when it will update the unlocked model of the S8/S8+ to Oreo.

Facebook Improves User Control Over Group Chats in Messenger

Wednesday, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook today expanded the tools people can use to manage large group chats in Messenger. Administrator privileges allow people to approve new members before they can join a group chat, as well as remove members and promote/demote another user to/from the role of admin. The admin position is off by default, but can be turned on any time to control a group chat if needed. Moving forward, any member of a group chat can add other members by sending a custom invite link. People who tap the link can be added automatically or with admin approval. Facebook Messenger supports group chats with up to 250 participants, though real-time voice and video chats are limited to groups with up to 50 participants. The new tools are rolling out to Messenger over the next few days.

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