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Essential Selling Halo Gray Essential Phone with Alexa via Amazon

Friday, 2:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today outed a fourth new color of its PH-1 Essential Phone that's exclusive to Amazon. The Halo Gray version of the Essential Phone is available for preorder from Amazon.com for $449 starting today. In addition to the fresh coat of paint, this Amazon exclusive ships with the Alexa app preinstalled. It will ship starting February 21. Essential recently revealed new black, blue, and gray models that are for sale directly from Essential's web site. The Essential Phone includes an edge-to-edge display, 13-megapixel rear cameras, 128 GB of storage, Snapdragon 835 processor, and magnetic connectors for modular attachments.

Review: IK Multimedia iRig Pro I/O for iPhone

Friday, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The iRig Pro I/O is a compact audio interface that lets musicians, singers, and podcasters connect their instruments or microphones to Apple iPhones, iPads, and Macs. It takes all the best features of the larger iRig Pro Duo and boils them down to the most essential tools in a highly portable package.

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Verizon Adjusts Prepaid Pricing and Adds Travel Pass for $5

Friday, 10:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today changed up its prepaid service offerings by adding a new low-cost option and other features previously reserved for postpaid customers. Verizon Prepaid service now starts at $30 per month, which buys unlimited talk and text with 500 MB of data. Verizon Prepaid also offers 3 GB of data for $40 per month, 7 GB for $50, or 10 GB for $60. Verizon says all its prepaid plans include carryover data (for one month), mobile hotspot, and unlimited international texting to 200 countries. Customers who subscribe to the Prepaid Unlimited plan, which costs $75 per month, will enjoy unlimited use of mobile hotspot at 3G speeds (600 Kbps). Prepaid customers who travel to Canada or Mexico will be happy to learn that Verizon now offers Travel Pass for $5 per day. Customers who tack on Travel Pass when in Canada or Mexico will have access to unlimited talk and text, and their normal monthly data allotment. Verizon suggests customers should add Travel Pass via the My Verizon app before they travel. New customers who switch to Verizon Prepaid and subscribe to a $50 plan or higher will receive a $50 bill credit. These new options will be available to Verizon Prepaid customers starting February 20.

Qualcomm Says Broadcom's Overtures Not Striking Right Notes

Friday, 8:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said Broadcom's acquisition offer simply isn't good enough as currently proposed. The companies met earlier this week to go over some of the finer points of Broadcom's $121 billion bid to purchase Qualcomm, and Qualcomm still came away leery that the deal won't work out. To start, Broadcom reiterated that its offer of $82 per share is its best offer, a figure that Qualcomm insists undervalues the company. Further, Qualcomm said Broadcom resisted the idea of agreeing to "commitments that could be expected to be required by ... government regulatory bodies." Moreover, Broadcom refused to discuss how it would treat Qualcomm's licensing business, a matter that would make predicting antitrust-related issues difficult. Broadcom insisted on controlling all materials regarding the licensing business between signing the deal and closing the deal — something Qualcomm says violates antitrust laws. Last, Qualcomm called Broadcom's breakup fee, should the deal not pass regulatory muster, far short of what might be needed to compensate Qualcomm stockholders for the risks involved. Qualcomm concluded by saying, "The current Broadcom proposal is unacceptable." As it did earlier, however, Qualcomm left the door open for Broadcom to improve its offer. Qualcomm said it would meet with Broadcom again should Broadcom up the ante and make more assurances concerning the risks involved.

Apple Prepping Fix for Message Bug that Crashes iPhones

Friday, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple says it has a patch in the works that will counter a bug causing iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and even Macs to crash. The bug occurs when people receive a message with certain Indian language characters in apps including iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. According to The Verge, Apple will push the patch "soon." This means the bug will be fixed through a minor update (iOS 11.2.x) rather than the larger iOS 11.3 update expected later this spring. Apple also plans to issue patches for macOS and watchOS to resolve the issue on those devices.

Google to Acquire IoT Firm Xivley

Friday, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google announced plans to acquire Xively, an internet-of-things provider, from LogMeIn. The company's technology will be added to Google's Cloud IoT Core unit, helping it with device management, messaging, and dashboard features. Google says its customers will reap the rewards of Xively's flexible, secure platform as they bring IoT products based on Clout IoT Core to market. Together with Google Cloud's data analytics and machine learning, Google expects the acquisition to benefit IoT device makers and service providers, as well as the customers of those companies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. It is subject to regulatory approval.

Apple Puts Its Foot Down, Will Require Apps Support iPhone X

Thursday, 4:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 4:55 PM

Apple today told developers that soon all new apps submitted to the iTunes App Store must support the screen of the latest iPhone. "Starting April 2018, all new iOS apps submitted to the App Store must be built with the iOS 11 SDK, included in Xcode 9 or later," said Apple in an email to developers. "All new apps for iPhone, including universal apps, must support the Super Retina display of iPhone X." The iPhone X display swaps the 16:9 aspect ratio found on the iPhone 6, 7, and 8 for a 2:1 aspect ratio with a notch at the top. It also boosts the resolution beyond full HD. Apps that haven't yet been updated for the iPhone X often have black bars at the top and bottom, which look unsightly. Developers can find the iOS 11 SDK on Apple's developer web site.

Google Releases Lightweight Gmail Go for Low-End Android Phones

Thursday, 4:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has made a light and quick version of Gmail available to select handsets. Gmail Go is a slimmed-down version of Gmail that works better on devices with limited resources or spotty network connections. The app consumes less space on devices and requires less storage for email messages. It includes many of Gmail's signature features, including 15 GB of online storage, notifications, focused inbox, spam protection, and support for multiple accounts (IMAP/POP). Gmail Go is free to download from the Google Play Store, though Google hasn't specified which devices are able to use it. The majority fo Google's "Go" apps are reserved for entry-level devices in emerging markets. Gmail Go is not compatible with many of today's high-end phones.

Nokia Weighing Whether Withings-Based Health Biz Still Worth It

Thursday, 3:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it is weighing strategic options for its Digital Health business. Nokia acquired wearable-maker Withings in 2016 and used that as the basis of its Digital Health business, with is part of the Nokia Technologies group. The Digital Health unit is responsible for smartwatches, scales, and other digital health devices for both consumers and businesses. "The strategic review of the Digital Health business may or may not result in any transaction or other changes," said the company. "Any further announcements about the Digital Health business will be made if and when appropriate." Nokia didn't say if or when it might make a decision. Nokia's main business is in developing and selling telecommunications gear.

Google Maps for iOS Gains One-Tap Access to Commute Info

Thursday, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today updated Google Maps for iOS devices with new real-time tools to make finding information on the go even quicker. iPhone owners can now swipe up when using Google Maps to open three tabs: explore, driving, and transit. These tabs contain information about nearby restaurants, real-time traffic conditions, and train/bus schedules. These features have been available to Google Maps for Android since last year. Google Maps for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Essential Phone Debuts Three New Colors

Thursday, 12:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products today introduced three new color options for the PH-1 Essential Phone. Ocean Depths will go on sale starting today, with Stellar Gray following on February 20 and Copper Black arriving February 22. The phones will be available from Essential's web site for $599. Other than the colors, these limited edition handsets are identical to those already for sale.

Facebook to Let Businesses and Organizations Post In Community Help

Thursday, 10:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook wants to make it easier for people to find and receive help during crisis and other events. The social network today said it will allow organizations and businesses post in the Community Help section so they may offer information and/or assistance to those impacted by adverse events. For example, companies might offer help such as supplies, transportation, or volunteer services. "Our priority is to build tools that help keep people safe and provide them with ways to get the help they need to recover and rebuild after a crisis," said Facebook. "We hope this update makes it even easier for people to get the help they need in times of crisis and will give businesses and organizations an opportunity to build stronger communities around them." A handful of companies are being given early access to Community Help, including Direct Relief, Lyft, Chase, Feeding America, International Medical Corps, The California Department of Forestry and Fire, and Save the Children. Facebook says more organizations will be able to post in the coming weeks. Facebook first launched Community Help last year and says more than 750,000 people have used the service during more than 500 crisis events, such as Hurricane Harvey and the terrorist attack in Barcelona.

Project Fi Adds More Roaming Coverage and Travel Alerts

Thursday, 10:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google's Project Fi today expanded the number of countries in which subscribers can roam. Project Fi was already available in 135 countries, and now subscribers can visit any of 170 countries and access their Project Fi service. Project Fi provides no-cost roaming, meaning customers are charged the same rates abroad as they are at home, including free texts, $0.20-per-minute calls, and $10-per-gigabyte data. Project Fi will now also alert subscribers to roaming services available on upcoming trips. The service will scan users' email for flights and/or itineraries and let them know if they are covered in the destination country. Project Fi is Google's MVNO service. It is available to Pixel, Nexus and other select phones.

Microsoft's New Photos Companion App Acts Like AirDrop, But for Windows PCs

Thursday, 9:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's garage team has released a new application that lets Android and iOS users easily transfer photos from their phone to their Windows 10 PC. Photos Companion works in coordination with the Microsoft Photos app on Windows 10 PCs. As long as the iPhone or Android device is on the same network as the PC, users can transfer photos and videos directly from the phone to the computer over WiFi. The app makes use of a QR code in Microsoft Photos on the PC that users scan with the Photos Companion app to initiate the transfer. Photos Companion is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Samsung Halts Galaxy S8 Oreo Update Due to Reboot Bug

Thursday, 9:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has pulled the Android 8 Oreo update for the Galaxy S8 after users reported random reboots. "Following a limited number of cases where Galaxy S8 and S8+ devices have rebooted unexpectedly with the Android 8.0 Oreo, we have temporarily stopped the rollout of the update," said Samsung in a statement provided to SamMobile. "We are investigating the issue internally to ensure that the impact to the affected devices is minimized and the rollout of the update can resume as quickly as possible." Samsung has been rolling out Android 8 slowly over the last few weeks, mostly in European markets. The update had not yet reached the S8 and S8+ in the U.S. Samsung did not say when it expects the make the update available again.

Sprint Targeting a Fall Launch for VoLTE

Thursday, 9:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint expects to deploy voice over LTE across its network starting this fall. Sprint competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless already offer VoLTE across the bulk of their footprints, making Spring the last major carrier to deploy the upgraded voice technology. "For more than a year we’ve been testing VoLTE and preseeding our customer base with VoLTE-capable devices in preparation for our commercial deployment starting this fall," said Sprint to Fierce Wireless. "Our network today offers a great HD Voice experience on a very efficient 1x platform, and our goal with VoLTE is to match this same high-quality experience that our customers have today." VoLTE allows devices to connect voice calls over carriers' data networks, rather than legacy voice networks, and delivers as much as three times the clarity. Sprint didn't say which devices support VoLTE, nor did it say if its VoLTE service will be compatible with those of other network operators. AT&T and Verizon, for example, allow some customers on some devices to connect VoLTE calls across carriers, though typically VoLTE calls are limited to intra-carrier connections.

Essential Delivering Security Patch to Essential Phone

Thursday, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Essential Products is pushing Android 8.1 Oreo to its PH-1 Essential Phone with bug and other fixes aboard. Essential says the update includes the February security patches from Google, dynamic calendar and clock icons, a fix for the slow-scrolling jitter issue, and more. Essential is calling the 8.1 release a beta. It is free to download over the air. The company recently delivered significant updates to the phone's camera.

Samsung Teases Reimagined Camera Experience on Galaxy S9

Thursday, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today suggested that the camera on its forthcoming Galaxy S9 smartphone will be quite different from that of the S8 and previous devices. "Imagine a camera that can see more than your eyes — one that can help you capture every moment and change the way you experience the world," said the company on its web site. "We didn’t just update the camera. We rethought the entire camera experience." The company recently posted several videos to its YouTube channel that highlight different functions of the camera. The first covers high-speed / sports use cases, while the second showcases low-light prowess, and the third suggests the S9 will feature iPhone X-style animoji. Samsung is expected to announce the Galaxy S9 and S9+ on February 25 during the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.

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