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Google Says Android Messages Now Fully Available On the Web

Yesterday, 1:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today outlined some new functionalities headed to its Android Messages app. First, Messages users will be able to send and receive messages from their desktop PCs. Users will need to enable "Messages for web" in the mobile app. Once turned on, they'll be able to access stickers, emoji, and more from their PC. The Android Messages mobile app earns new support for GIFs, which are accessible from the composition bar. Google is adding its smart reply feature to Android Messages. This tool offers English-based, quick-response text/emoji suggestions. Google says more languages will be supported over time. Moving forward, Android Messages will bake in support for link previews. This way link recipients will be able to view an inline peek at linked info. Another new feature will provide people with instant copy access to one-time passwords received via text message. Android Messages on the web is rolling out today, with the rest of the features reaching the mobile app over the weeks ahead.

Google Says YouTube Music and YouTube Premium Now Available

Yesterday, 10:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its new YouTube Music and YouTube Premium apps and services available in 17 countries. YouTube Music is the new music service that is built around streaming with revised recommendations, playlists, stations, search, new/trending videos, exclusives, and downloads for offline playback to paying subscribers. It's available as an app and on the web. YouTube Premium is the rebranded YouTube Red service. It offers an ad-free viewing experience on YouTube, as well as access to background play, originals, and downloads. YouTube Music costs $10 per month, while YouTube Premium, which includes YouTube Music, costs $12 per month. The two are available in Austria, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as the U.S, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and South Korea.

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MetroPCS Adds LG Stylo 4 to Lineup

Yesterday, 10:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS has kicked off sales of the LG Stylo 4, a rebadged variant of the LG Q Stylus announced earlier this month. The Stylo 4 includes a stylus and has a metal body with mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse and IP68 protection against water and dust. The Stylo 4 has a 6.2-inch screen with LG's 2:1 Full Vision (2,160 x 1,080) resolution. The phone is powered by a 1.8 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 450 processor with 2 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The phone comes with a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera with a wide-angle lens. The Stylo 4 has a 3,300mAh battery and specs including USB-C, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, wifi, and LTE 4G. The fingerprint scanner is located on the rear surface. The phone ships with Android 8 Oreo and LG's pen-based software tools, such as memos and notes. MetroPCS is selling the phone for $179 with offers (regular rice $239). Versions of the LG Q Stylus / Stylo 4 for other carriers, including AT&T/Cricket, Sprint/Boost, and U.S. Cellular, have passed through the FCC in recent weeks.

Google Updates Datally with More Ways to Manage Data

Yesterday, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a refresh to its Datally app that should help people take more control over their mobile data use. First up is guest mode. This lets people set a limit on how much data someone else is allowed to use when the phone is being lent. A new daily limit feature helps people control their data use over time by setting limits for each day. This feature will offer warnings before users breach their limits and will even let people block themselves from using their mobile data if they've exceeded their daily limit. Datally will take charge of unused apps' data use. The tool shows people the apps they aren't using and helps guide them through the process of uninstalling or disabling apps so the app can't consume data in the background. Last, Datally adds a wifi map that shows the location and quality of nearby wifi access points. The new Datally app is being made available today.

iOS 12 to Give 911 Precise iPhone Location During Emergencies

Yesterday, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said iPhones will soon provide 911 emergency services with more exact locations of callers. Since 2015, Apple has relied on HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location), which uses cellular, GPS, and wifi access points to estimate 911 callers' locations. This system is not always perfect. Starting with the release of iOS 12 in the fall, Apple will use RapidSOS's internet protocol-based pipeline to share HELO location data with 911 centers quickly and securely. Apple says this new system will integrate with 911 centers' existing software to more finely pinpoint location. Importantly, Apple says user location data cannot be used for non-emergency purposes and 911 centers will only have access to location during 911 emergency calls. By law, wireless network operators are required to locate callers within 50 meters 80% of the time, but not until 2021. Apple says its new feature exceeds this requirement today. "This new functionality is an example of how companies and first responders can use technology to dramatically improve public safety,” said Tom Wheeler, former chairman at the FCC. "Lives will be saved thanks to this effort by Apple and RapidSOS." iOS 12 is expected to reach iPhones and iPads in September or October.

AT&T Rolls Out iPhone X BOGO for Father's Day

Friday, 3:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today made it possible to buy one iPhone X and get a second iPhone for free. The offer is available to new and existing customers, and requires both phones to be purchased on an AT&T Next installment plan (24 or 30 months). The first line can be new or an upgrade, but the second line — with the free iPhone — must be a new line. The second free iPhone can be the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone X. After approximately three billing periods, AT&T will begin making the monthly device payments spread out over 30 months. Customers will be responsible for taxes and activation fees on both phones at the point of sale. The offer ends June 19.

Sprint and T-Mobile Filing with the FCC On June 18

Friday, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC revealed that it expects Sprint and T-Mobile to file on Monday June 18 the necessary paperwork needed for Sprint to transfer control of its spectrum licenses and other assets to T-Mobile. The FCC opened a docket ahead of the expected action. At the same time the FCC filed a protective order concerning the docket. This means much of the information shared between Sprint, T-Mobile, and the FCC will remain confidential as the agency considers whether or not to allow the transaction to take place. The companies announced their intent to merge in April. The deal requires government approval.

Apple Partners with Oprah On Video

Friday, 12:43 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it has forged an agreement with Oprah Winfrey to "create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world." Winfrey is known for her talk show, movie roles, television network, and philanthropy. The content will be released as part of Apple's forthcoming lineup of original shows and distributed through Apple's platform. The deal will be in place for at least several years. Apple didn't say how quickly the partnership will begin to bear fruit.

Review: Motorola Moto E5 Play

Friday, 12:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola is selling its able-bodied, entry-level Moto E5 Play from Boost Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Verizon Prepaid. If you're in the market for a solid, low-cost phone, the Moto E5 Play plays well thanks to its simple hardware, easy software, and capable performance. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.

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Review: Soundcore Flare Bluetooth Speaker

Friday, 8:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Soundcore Flare is a simple Bluetooth speaker that's tough, waterproof, and a lot of fun thanks to colorful blinking lights. Is this the perfect backyard party companion? We aim to answer that question in this review.

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Broadcom Lays Off 1,100 to Cut Costs

Friday, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Broadcom says it has let go of about 1,100 employees in the wake of its $5.5 billion acquisition of Brocade. The Brocade deal closed in November 2017 and the firm has since been working to integrate the two. The company let employees go from a number of its business lines and is still evaluating whether or not more cuts are needed. The firm says it has so far incurred $143 million in restructuring costs related to the layoffs. One of the primary reasons to acquire or merge two companies is to create efficiencies within. This often translates to job losses. Broadcom heavily targeted Qualcomm in the latter months of 2017 and early months of 2018, but was eventually rebuffed. Broadcom makes components and devices for wireless communications, storage, and infrastructure.

Gmail for iOS Intros Notifications for High-Priority Messages Only

Friday, 7:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google is rolling out a feature to its iOS Gmail app that will let people receive notifications only for messages deemed high priority. Google says the optional feature relies on machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify messages that the recipient may want to read first. A new "High Priority Only" option appears in the Notifications drop-down in Gmail's settings. Users will need to select it if they wish to test the scaled-back notifications. The feature is already available to the latest Gmail app for iOS and will reach Gmail for Android devices soon.

AT&T Finalizes Acquisition of Time Warner

Thursday, 7:14 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today said it has completed its purchase of Time Warner, a deal originally valued at $85.4 billion when it was announced in October 2016. Earlier this week, a U.S. judge sided with AT&T after the Justice Department sued the company to block the deal. After losing the case, the Justice Department made no further recommendations against the deal and AT&T wrapped up the legal paperwork quickly. Time Warner — and now AT&T — owns Warner Bros., HBO, and Turner, which in turn owns CNN and other media properties. "Combine [Warner's content] with AT&T’s strengths in direct-to-consumer distribution, and we offer customers a differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience," said Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T in a prepared statement. “We’re going to bring a fresh approach to how the media and entertainment industry works for consumers, content creators, distributors and advertisers." Many fear the deal will lead to less choice and higher prices for consumers. Moving forward, AT&T will consist of four core businesses: AT&T Communications (mobile, broadband), AT&T media (Turner, HBO), AT&T International (mobile in Mexico), and AT&T's advertising and analytics. AT&T says it will create a formal name for this last business unit later in the year. John Donovan will serve as CEO of AT&T Communications, John Stankey will serve as CEO of AT&T’s media business, Lori Lee will serve as CEO of AT&T International, and Brian Lesser will serve as CEO of AT&T’s ad and analytics business. All four will report to Randall Stephenson, who remains chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc.

3GPP Approves Spec for Standalone 5G New Radio

Thursday, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The 3GPP today ratified another piece of the 5G specification, termed the Standalone 5G New Radio, or SA 5G NR. This spec is for 5G networks that are developed on their own, apart from legacy or pre-existing networks. The Non-Standalone portion of the 5G spec was ratified late last year and covers 5G that hooks into existing LTE 4G systems. "The freeze of Standalone 5G NR radio specifications represents a major milestone in the quest of the wireless industry towards realizing the holistic 5G vision," said Balázs Bertényi, chairman of 3GPP RAN. "5G NR Standalone systems not only dramatically increase the mobile broadband speeds and capacity, but also open the door for new industries beyond telecommunications that are looking to revolutionize their ecosystem through 5G." The SA 5G NR and the NSA 5G NR standards will together include the technology used by commercial entities, the air interface, and end users. The spec was approved by more than 600 delegates from the world's leading carrier, handset, and silicon vendors. Some participants included AT&T, DISH, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Kyocera, LG, MediaTek, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, SoftBank/Sprint, Sony, Verizon, Xiaomi, and ZTE. The 3GPP said the technical specifications for the ratified SA 5G NR will be published in the days ahead.

Google Releases App Maker to Education and Small Business Customers

Thursday, 11:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 11:43 AM

Google today moved its App Maker tool out of beta and made the simple coding service available to educational institutions and small businesses. The idea, says Google, is to help schools and SMBs to create custom apps that work more directly for them. Beyond building the apps, schools and businesses that put App Maker to use will be able to deploy and manage those apps through simple controls. App Maker now supports Cloud SQL, OAuth, drag-and-drop templates, and G Suite integration. Schools and businesses interested in testing App Maker can reach out to Google directly.

Verizon Intros More Flexible Mix-and-Match Unlimited Plans

Thursday, 7:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today overhauled its unlimited postpaid service plans. The company now offers three tiers of unlimited service that each has its own features. All three plans included unlimited talk and text, Verizon Up Rewards, and Canada/Mexico calling and texting. The base plan, called go unlimited, includes unlimited LTE data, DVD-quality video streams (480p), and 600 kbps mobile hotspot service. The beyond unlimited plan bumps high-speed service to 22 GB per month, improves video streaming to HD (720p), and boosts mobile hotspot to 15 GB per month at LTE speeds. The new above unlimited plan lets people use up to 75 GB of high-speed data, carries over HD video streaming, and improves mobile hotspot to 20 GB per month at LTE speeds. The above unlimited plan also adds five travel passes for use when roaming abroad, and 500 GB of Verizon cloud storage. Pricing is where things get interesting, but is why Verizon is calling it a mix-and-match plan. Families can pick a different unlimited plan for each member. A single line costs $75, $85, or $95 for the go unlimited, beyond unlimited, and above unlimited plans, respectively. Adding lines — no matter to which plan — offers a discount. For example, a three-person family could get one line of go unlimited for $50, one line of beyond unlimited at $60, and one line of above unlimited for $70. Adding a fourth family member would drop the per-line prices for these plans to $40, $50, and $60 and the family could select whichever makes the most sense for that person. Families can also add a Hum X, tablet, or jetpack for $20 per month, or a connected smartwatch for $10 per month. Verizon says these prices don't include taxes, fees, or device payments, and require account holders to enroll in autopay. Verizon's new unlimited plans will be available starting June 18.

Apple Confirms It Will Lock iPhone Lightning Port to Protect Users from Law Enforcement

Jun 13, 2018, 3:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today said it will change the behavior of iPhones in order to protect its users. The company plans to alter its software to lock the Lightning port of iOS devices that are not used for an hour. The function, called USB Restricted Mode, prevents data transfer via USB, though the phone can still charge through a Lightning cable. The idea is to thwart law enforcement use of GrayShift and Cellebrite boxes, which are able to crack iOS security using a direct USB connection through the Lightning port. The devices work by disabling the number of times passwords/PINs can be guessed by the machine before the iPhone is locked or erased. "We’re constantly strengthening the security protections in every Apple product to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data," said Apple in a statement to Reuters. "We have the greatest respect for law enforcement, and we don’t design our security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs." The Lightning port will be re-enabled for data transfer once the owner enters their password, PIN, fingerprint, or Face ID. Apple primarily expects the feature to protect consumers "in countries where police seize phones at will." Researchers discovered USB Restricted Mode in beta builds of iOS 10.4 last month. Apple told Reuters that it will be added permanently to iOS in a future release.

Twitter Aims to Make Discovery Simpler and More Rewarding

Jun 13, 2018, 11:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter today announced a number of changes to the way it arranges tweets, trends, and topics in order to help people find and read about the things that interest them. For example, breaking news will now be added to the Happening Now tool that appears at the top of users' feeds. Twitter says it is expanding this function from local sports teams to include breaking and personalized news and videos. Similarly, Twitter also intends to test sending notifications about breaking news based on user interests. Twitter says people will be able to turn these notifications off if they wish. Twitter is overhauling the Explore tab. As it stands, the tab is organized by content type (videos, links). Moving forward, Twitter will organize the tab by topic to help people see what's happening in news and entertainment. The search tool gains improvements, too, as it will display information (news, events, stories) that is related to search queries in order to provide a broader picture. Last, Twitter is reorganizing the Moments tab. The new look trades horizontal swiping for vertical scrolling to improve usability. Moments will also gain multiple timelines in order to surface more tweets about the subject, highlighting the latest commentary. Twitter says these changes are rolling out piecemeal to Android and iOS devices over the next few weeks.

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