Anker continues to crank out a steady stream of universal chargers, batteries, and similar accessories that are at the leading edge of functionality and small form factors. Their latest PowerPort chargers offer high-power USB-C charging in tiny packages, now with flip plugs for even more portability.
Cricket has started selling the Nokia 3.1 C, a more-affordable version of the Nokia 3.1 Plus that Cricket launched in January. Like its higher-end sibling, the 3.1 C has a tall (2:1 ratio) HD display, USB-C connector, Android 9 (Pie), 32 GB of storage, and 2 GB of RAM. It has a 5.5-inch display, 2,990 mAh battery, a single 8-megapixel rear camera supporting Motion Photos, and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 429 processor. It also has a 3.5mm audio jack, FM radio, and memory card slot. Nokia's web site also now lists an identical model called the 3.1 A, implying that Cricket's parent company AT&T will also offer the phone.
PCMag has completed its annual nationwide test of mobile networks, and found that, for the first time in six years, AT&T's network is faster, on average, than Verizon's. AT&T won or tied in 15 out of 30 cities, and won or tied in every rural region. All four national networks improved year-over-year in both speed and reliability, but AT&T improved the most. PCMag's testing utilized a custom rig of Samsung Galaxy S10 phones driven across 30 major US cities and six rural areas. In each city, analysts stopped by more than a dozen locations, testing downloads, uploads, latency, reliability, and consistency every two minutes.
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Boost Mobile now offers the Coolpad Legacy, a $100 Android phone with a premium metal design, a huge 6.36-inch screen, and several features not usually found on phones in that price range. Metro by T-Mobile launched the Legacy a month ago for $130 (now $180). The phone has a fingerprint reader, full-HD display with 2:1 aspect ratio, 4,000 mAh battery, Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging, USB-C connector, and Android 9 (Pie). It also offers dual rear cameras, FM radio, and dual-band Wi-Fi. It's powered by a Snapdragon 450 processor, with 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a memory card slot. Boost already offers the lower-end Coolpad Illumina, which has since been renamed "Legacy Go".
The miniature Palm Android phone — originally a Verizon exclusive — will be available unlocked for $350 in August. With LTE 2/4/5/12/13/66, it's compatible with AT&T, T-Mobile, Metro, and Verizon.
Verizon will launch its second phone with integrated 5G — the LG V50 ThinQ 5G — for all customers on June 20th. As with the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Verizon isn't restricting sales to areas where 5G service is available, as Sprint has done. Verizon is selling the phone for $1,000, or $41.66/month for 24 months. For a limited time, Verizon is waiving the $10/month 5G access fee. Verizon's 5G network uses mmWave frequencies and is currently available in part of Chicago and Minneapolis, with another 28+ cities coming by the end of the year.
Facebook today announced Libra, a new digital currency that aims to combine the best features of other cryptocurrencies in order to be more consumer-friendly. The currency will be administered by the Libra Association, a new non-for-profit based in Geneva. Founding members include Facebook, Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Stripe, eBay, Lyft, Spotify, Uber, Vodafone Group, and Coinbase, as well as non-profit and academic members. Facebook's new Calibra subsidiary will create a Libra wallet app. The Calibra wallet will not require a Facebook account and Calibra will not share transaction data with Facebook. Third parties will also be able to create their own Libra wallet apps. Users will be able to exchange local currency for Libra (and vice versa) through these wallet apps, and at physical locations. The local currency will be transferred to the Libra Association to provide 100% backing for Libra currency. Interest on those deposits will pay for operating expenses, investments in the ecosystem, engineering research, and grants to non-profits and other organizations. Excess interest will be distributed to founding members. Libra transactions won't carry the high fees that credit cards do, although a small (less than one cent) transaction fee will deter certain spam and denial attacks. The symbol for the Libra is ≋ (three wavy lines). The value of a Libra is tied to a basket of deposits in historically stable international currencies, which can be rebalanced to keep the Libra stable. The Libra's starting value will be close to one dollar, euro, or pound. Libra is much faster and more efficient than Bitcoin, able to handle 1,000 transactions per second and designed to scale much higher. When a transaction is submitted, each of the Libra nodes, run independently by Libra Association members, runs a blockchain calculation. Two-thirds of the nodes must come to consensus that the transaction is legitimate for it to be executed and written to the blockchain. Facebook's Calibra will implement Know Your Customer rules in the sign-up process to prevent fraud, requiring a government-issued photo ID, for example. The Libra Association will incentivize other wallet providers to do the same. Libra is launching a limited test network today. When Libra launches to consumers in the first half of 2020, Facebook will launch Calibra as a standalone wallet app, but also as a feature within Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp on both Android and iOS.
Google will offer its own RCS service for Android users on networks that have not yet launched RCS. RCS is an open industry standard for enhanced messaging, designed to replace SMS and MMS. It offers many of the features of Apple's iMessage, such as read receipts, high-quality attachments, and typing indicators. Most new Android phones support RCS via Google's Messages app and its Chat feature, but it requires support on the network side. RCS was designed so that network operators could launch RCS support on their own networks, but most operators have been slow to adopt RCS. Sprint has launched it. T-Mobile has also launched it, but does not yet support it on all Android phones. Verizon has launched it for Pixel phones and promised greater support in 2019. AT&T does not yet support the Universal Profile that makes it RCS standard and interoperable between networks. RCS servers can be located anywhere on the Internet, though, so Google is launching its own. Google is rolling out the service on a country-by-country basis, starting with the UK and France this month. When available, Android users without an active RCS service will see a new prompt when opening the Messages app, asking if they want to opt in to Google's RCS service. Google has pledged to delete message content from its servers as soon as message delivery is confirmed.
Sprint and Verizon both recently started offering standalone GPS tracker devices that can report their exact position using cellular networks. AT&T already offers such a device. The devices use the new LTE Cat-M1 technology designed specifically for small, low-power devices that only need to transmit small amounts of data. Unlike Bluetooth-based tracking tiles, they do not need to be near the phone viewing the location, although the tracker device does need to be within the coverage area of the cellular network it's associated with. All of the tracker devices are roughly the size of a matchbook, are water-resistant, include Wi-Fi for enhanced location accuracy and efficiency, and have multi-day battery life. They are designed for tracking kids, pets, vehicles, and luggage, for example. Sprint's Tracker is made by Coolpad and features a light sensor and speaker. Its battery lasts 3-10 days and it's rated IP67 for dust and water. Sprint is charging $60 for the tracker and $5/month for service. The Verizon Smart Locator has battery life up to five days and an IP67 rating. Verizon charges $100 for the tracker with one year of free service, after which service is $3/month. AT&T offers the Samsung SmartThings Tracker, which has battery life up to one week and an IP68 rating. AT&T charges $100 for the tracker which includes one year of service. After the first year, service on the AT&T network is offered through Samsung, and runs $5/month or $50/year.
An Israeli company that supplies law enforcement agencies worldwide announced that the newest version of its tool to access locked phones can access almost any smartphone, including Apple devices running iOS 7-12.3 and most Android phones. The company, Cellebrite, promises that its new UFED Premium device offers nearly complete access to Apple devices and "flagship Samsung devices", as well as support for accessing the file system on "popular device models from Motorola, Huawei, LG and Xiaomi." The company boasts that its device lets law enforcement "Bypass or determine locks and perform a full file system extraction on any iOS device, or a physical extraction or full file system (File-Based Encryption) extraction on many high-end Android devices.... gain access to 3rd party app data, chat conversations, downloaded emails and email attachments, deleted content and more". Apple has added features to iOS in recent years to thwart this kind of access, and is rolling out iOS 13 this summer and fall.
Anker continues to crank out a steady stream of universal chargers, batteries, and similar accessories that are at the leading edge of functionality and small form factors. Their latest PowerPort chargers offer high-power USB-C charging in tiny packages, now with flip plugs for even more portability. They're compatible with all Android fast charging techs, as well as iPhone, via Anker's Apple-certified USB-C-to-Lightning cable. We checked them out in person.
Sprint will offer its second 5G phone — the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G — on June 21 for $1,300. Sprint is offering a $250 discount for customers who pre-order, which is available starting today. Customers choosing a Sprint Flex Lease will pay $40.28 per month after the $13.89/month credit from the $250 discount. The phone is available only in markets where Sprint has launched its 5G network, which currently includes Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, and Kansas City. 5G markets launching "in the coming weeks" are Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Washington, DC. The S10 5G joins the LG V50 in Sprint's 5G phone lineup. Sprint also launched the new, mid-range Samsung Galaxy A50 today.
AT&T is launching its first 5G phone on June 17th, but only for business customers and a select group of developers. The company will offer the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G to customers on the new AT&T Business Unlimited Preferred plan, which includes 5G service. For a limited time, businesses can order the Galaxy S10 5G with 256 GB of storage through their AT&T account representatives for the discounted price of $1,000. The phone can access AT&T's mmWave 5G network, which is available today in "very limited parts" of 19 cities, with plans to reach parts of at least 30 cities. The phone cannot access 5G service at lower (sub-6 GHz) frequencies that AT&T has promised to launch by the end of the year. The company is also offering a group of developers a Galaxy S10 5G with free service through the end of the year.
Google posted a photo teaser of the next, unannounced Pixel phone today on the official Twitter account for Google's own-brand hardware. It features a large square camera bump that appears to contain three cameras — two large and one small — and a flash. The back appears to be otherwise featureless black glass. The Pixel 3 and 3 XL were announced in early October of last year, and a cheaper Pixel 3a models were announced just a month ago.
A group of ten states is suing to block the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. The action is led by New York State Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. James outlined the crux of the states' argument in a tweet, saying "The merger would deprive customers of the benefits of competition & drive up prices for cellphone services." Today's action follows an investigation by the attorneys general, which "found that many of the claimed benefits [of the proposed merger] were unverifiable and could only be delivered years into the future, if ever. By contrast, if the merger were to go through, the combined company would immediately have the power and incentive to raise prices." "Additionally... the ten states are concerned that further consolidation at the carrier level would lead to a substantial loss of retail jobs." The complaint was filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Samsung will bring more of its mid-range Galaxy A Series of phones to the US this summer, including the A50, A20, and A10e. Various A Series phones will be available from all major US carriers, starting with the A50 from Verizon this Thursday. The A50 has 25-megapixel cameras on both the front and back, plus wide and depth cameras on the back. Its 6.4-inch, full-HD+ Super AMOLED display has a small notch and in-display fingerprint reader. It also has a 4,000 mAh battery, fast charging, NFC, and 4 GB of RAM. Verizon will offer the Galaxy A50 for $350. Other major US carrier will offer A Series phones including the A20 and A10e. The A20 offers a 6.4-inch notched display, 4,000 mAh battery, fast charging, and 13-megapixel main camera for $250. The A10e offers 5.8-inch notched display, 3,000 mAh battery, and 8-megapixel main camera for $180. The first A Series phone for the US was the Galaxy A6, which was launched by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint last fall .
The Skype app for iOS and Android now supports screen-sharing in video calls. Microsoft announced the launch of the feature this week, after making it available to beta testers a few weeks ago. The feature lets you share whatever is on your phone's screen, including other apps, with the person on the other end of the video call. Skype also tweaked its video call interface with a new design and the ability to hide all controls during a call.
The FCC today announced the results of its recent auctions of mmWave radio bands for 5G services. AT&T and T-Mobile were the big winners, both scoring 24 GHz licenses covering most major US cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Houston, Seattle, Boston, Dallas, Miami, Phoenix, Atlanta, Detroit, San Diego, Orlando, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Las Vegas, Denver, Portland, and San Antonio. AT&T and T-Mobile focused on 24 GHz while Verizon focused on 28 GHz. AT&T spent nearly $1 billion on 24 GHz licenses covering 383 markets. T-Mobile spent $803 million for 24 GHz licenses covering 400 markets, but also $39 million for 28 GHz licenses covering 864 small markets. Verizon spent over $505 million on 28 GHz licenses covering 863 markets, most of which are smaller cities and towns. US Cellular split its winning bids evenly, with $129 million for 28 GHz and $127 million for 24 GHz. Auction 101 was for the 28 GHz band and raised over $700 million in net bids with 33 bidders winning a total of 2,965 licenses. Auction 102, for the 24 GHz band, raised over $2 billion in net bids with 29 bidders winning a total of 2,904 licenses.