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Anti-ZTE Clause Stricken from Defense Bill

Friday, 1:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Friday, 1:40 PM

Senators have overturned an agreement added to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, that would have made it more difficult for President Trump to remove the ban instituted against ZTE. Earlier this year, the Commerce Department said ZTE lied about a previous settlement and banned the company from using American parts or software in its phonres for a period of seven years. The ban crippled ZTE, but was eventually overturned by the Trump administration. ZTE got back to business earlier this month. Seeking to block Trump from easing up on the ban, members of the Senate added language to the NDAA that sould have made it difficult for Trump to get around the ban. It didn’t work. Now that Trump the administration and Commerce Department have agreed to let ZTE return to business, members of the Senate have removed the anti-ZTE language from the NDAA. "By stripping the Senate’s tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump — and the congressional Republicans who acted at his behest — have once again made President Xi and the Chinese Government the big winners," said Senator Chuck Schumer in a statement. The NDAA is vital legislation that must be passed every year in order to ensure the Department of Defense is funded.


Review: Alcatel 1x with Android Go

Friday, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Alcatel 1x is among the first Android Go devices to reach the U.S. market. Android Go is a pared-down version of Android meant to run on entry-level hardware. The 1x is a low-cost phone that includes a 2:1 screen, 8-megapixel camera, MediaTek processor, and support for AT&T and T-Mobile. Find out of it's worth a Franklin in Phone Scoop's in-depth review.

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AT&T Names More 5G Markets and Expands LTE-LAA

Friday, 8:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today added Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C. and Oklahoma City to its list of 5G launch markets. AT&T expects to kick off 5G service in more than a dozen markets, including Dallas and Waco, Texas, and Atlanta, Ga., by the end of the year. Further, AT&T has expanded its LTE-LAA footprint from seven markets to parts of 15 markets. LTE-LAA can push speeds to theoretical a max of 1 Gbps. The new LTE-LAA markets are Austin, Dallas, Houston, Little Rock, San Antonio, San Jose, Tampa, and Tuscaloosa, Ala. AT&T hopes to have LTE-LAA up and running in 24 markets by the end of the year. Last, AT&T says its baseline 5G Evolution technology is now live in more than 140 markets, and is on track to reach more than 400 markets this year. The company says its 5G Evolution technology — which is not 5G — can deliver theoretical speeds up to 400 Mbps to properly equipped phones.

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Facebook, Google, Microsoft to Make It Easier to Port Data Between Services

Friday, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook and partners today announced the Data Transfer Project, an initiate with the goal of giving people more control over their data. The companies are working together to create an open source method that people can use to easily transfer their data from one service to another. For example, the tool would make it possible for a Google Photos uses to swap their image library to Microsoft OneDrive and any other provider. The Data Transfer Project hopes to do this in a way that is simple, secure, and supported by as many services as possible. While Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter are the first to lend support, the initiative is open to all companies. "If a user wants to switch to another product or service because they think it is better, they should be able to do so as easily as possible. This concept of allowing users to choose products and services based on choice, rather than being locked in, helps drive innovation and facilitates competition," said the companies in their white paper. The participants admit it is early days for the project and they haven't said when the DTP might be available to the public. Consumers often choose an ecosystem — Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, et al — when buying hardware. The DTP could make it simpler for people to change ecosystems when upgrading to new devices.


Review: Sony Xperia Ear Duo Bluetooth Headphones

Thursday, 3:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony's open-ear Bluetooth headphones promise to let you "stay in tune with the world" while keeping you informed with smart alerts when on the go. If you've got an ear for safety, the Xperia Ear Duo keep you in touch with your environment while you enjoy some tunes.

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Instagram Brings Presence to Direct Messaging Tool

Thursday, 1:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram users can now see when their friends are online. The latest version of the mobile app includes a presence feature, placing a green dot next to the account names of those who are actively using the app. The idea is meant to encourage private conversations through Instagram's direct messaging functionality. Instagram says people will only see the real-time online status of friends who follow them back, or who have traded messages with them before. People can hide their own status and turn off the ability to see others' status if they so wish. The new feature is reaching mobile devices over the days ahead.


Justice Department Pushes Courts for Action On AT&T Appeal

Thursday, 7:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Justice Department has asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to prioritize its appeal against last month's decision regarding AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner. A single judge ruled in AT&T's favor after the Justice Department sued over the acquisition. AT&T completed the acquisition within days of the decision, but that didn't stop the Justice Department from filing an appeal. Though AT&T completed its purchase of Time Warner, it is holding off on finalizing its acquisition of Turner Networks, which owns CNN, HLN, TBS, TNT, and others, until February 2019. The Justice Department suggests that any delay in the court system will make it more difficult for the companies to disengage from one another should the appeal be successful. The Justice Department argues that the judge who presided over the case ignored "fundamental economic principles" when making his decision. It went on to suggest that AT&T will hold new power over rivals to negotiate contracts for Time Warner's content that will in the end lead to higher prices for consumers. AT&T said it was "surprised" by the Justice Department's plan to appeal.


Corning Designed Gorilla Glass 6 to Better Handle Real-World Drops

Wednesday, 12:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Corning today announced Gorilla Glass 6, an improved version of its toughened glass for mobile devices. Corning specifically engineered Gorilla Glass 6 to better handle drops. The company claims the glass can survive 15 drops onto rough surfaces made from a height of one meter. The glass can withstand drops from higher heights than Gorilla Glass 5. The glass of today's devices is most often damaged when dropped from about waist height. Gorilla Glass 6 is 0.8mm thick, and yet still retains strength and opacity. The company says it improved its testing methods to account for different impact surfaces and angles to ensure it could strengthen the glass. Gorilla Glass 6 is equivalent to previous generations of Gorilla Glass when it comes to scratch resistance. It will be up to individual mobile device makers to cover their displays with Gorilla Glass 6. Gorilla Glass 6 is already in production.


Latest iOS 12 Betas Reach Developers and Public Testers

Wednesday, 12:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple has made new betas of iOS 12 available to its developer community and public testers. iOS 12 developer beta 4 was released earlier this week and iOS 12 public beta 3 was released today. The updated betas are cleaner than their respective predecessors; Apple didn't spell out any specific changes. iOS 12 includes a number of new features, such as improved notifications, memoji for the iPhone X, performance refinements, Screen Time for monitoring usage, and better security. The final version of iOS 12 won't arrive until the fall.


Instagram Hoping to Deploy 2FA that Doesn't Rely on SMS

Wednesday, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Instagram is working on a new way for users to securely log in to their accounts without relying on SMS for verification. Instagram's one-and-only two-factor authentication method requires users to provide their phone number, to which a verification code is sent via SMS. This method is at risk due to the rise in phone number theft, wherein hackers reassign a phone number to a different SIM card and then use it to receive these verification codes and steal access to apps, services, and identity. Instagram confirmed to TechCrunch that it is working on a new two-factor system that relies on a special code. "We’re continuing to improve the security of Instagram accounts, including strengthening 2-factor authentication," said the company. Instagram didn't say when the service might become available to the public.


MediaTek Debuts Helio A Series to Bolster Mid-Range Phones

Wednesday, 7:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MediaTek has announced the Helio A22, the first in the company's new Helio A series system-on-a-chip designs. The Helio A series slots in below the Helio P series and will bring premium features down to mid-market devices. MediaTek says the A22 is built using its 12nm FinFET process with multiple cores able to fine-tune processing and power needs. The A22 is compatible with both LPDDR3 and LPDDR4 memory, providing device makers with flexibility. It includes supports for the Google Android Neural Networks API, which means AI apps can run on devices powered by the Helio A22. The SoC improves camera support to a dual-camera system with a 13+8-megapixel configuration or a single camera at 21 megapixels. It can capture full HD video at 30 frames per second and supports HD+ displays at aspect ratios up to 20:9. On the connectivity side, the Helio A22 supports Cat 4 LTE, dual 4G SIMs with VoLTE/ViLTE, 802.11ac WiFi, and Bluetooth 5.0. Last, the Helio A22 makes improvements to GNSS location capabilities, providing 57% faster pinpoint times with 10% better accuracy and 24% lower power requirements. MediaTek says the Helio A22 is already in production and will first appear in the Xiaomi Redmi 6A in China.


OnePlus 6 Gains Camera Tweaks, Google Lens via Update

Tuesday, 5:13 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

OnePlus has begun distributing OxygenOS 5.1.9 to the OnePlus 6 phone. The update improves the camera, with better image quality, beauty mode for selfie portraits, and Google Lens for image-based search. The update adds group MMS support to the messaging app. Performance tweaks include WiFi optimization and Bluetooth car connection stability upgrades, as well as fixes for certain accidental touches. Last, the new build of OxygenOS updates the security patch to July. OnePlus says the system update is rolling out slowly over the next few days.


Google Hopes Visual Snapshot Will Boost Google Assistant's Appeal

Tuesday, 12:31 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced an update to Google Assistant that will see the service displaying a snapshot of users' agendas. The visual overview can be accessed by a new button that appears in the Google Assistant app for Android. On iOS devices, the new snapshot tool will appear automatically. Google says the snapshot will focus on things such as travel times for meetings and appointments, though it will also offer information on agenda items, reminders, reservations, stock portfolios, bills, packages, and suggested actions. Google plans to add more useful features to snapshot over time, such as notes and lists, parking reminders, and podcast recommendations. Google Assistant may also send notifications to ensure people don't miss future events. Google Assistant with the new visual snapshot feature is rolling out to Android and iOS devices this week.


Verizon Ceases Activating 3G Phones On Its CDMA Network

Tuesday, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless will no longer activate 3G CDMA devices on its network as it moves towards sunsetting the legacy service. "For several years we've been publicly saying that our 3G CDMA network will remain available through the end of 2019. Virtually all traffic on our network is on our 4G LTE network," said the company in a statement provided to Droid Life. "To facilitate a smooth transition to 4G LTE capable products and services, we are no longer allowing devices that are not 4G LTE capable to be activated on our network." Verizon has previously said it will shut down its 3G network by December 31, 2019. It is common for carriers to discontinue older or outdated networks and re-farm the spectrum for newer technology. Verizon says it will launch 5G before the end of the year.


Review: Motorola Moto Z3 Play

Tuesday, 11:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Motorola's third-generation Z Play brings the series up to speed with its competition. This mid-range Android phone switches to a 2:1 screen shape and offers a fingerprint reader and face unlock for security. Pair these with Motorola's wide variety of Moto Mod accessories and a clean build of Android, and the Z3 Play is a flexible option for those who like unlocked phones. Here is Phone Scoop's in-depth review.

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GOP Rep Makes Move to Resuscitate Net Neutrality

Tuesday, 9:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Colorado Representative Mike Coffman, a Republican, is the first member of the GOP to take a real stand for net neutrality. Today Coffman signed a discharge petition in an attempt to force a vote on the Congressional Review Act resolution with the aim of reversing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's repeal of net neutrality regulations. Coffman is also introducing his own net neutrality legislation, though it has virtually no chance of passing in the Senate. The FCC's repeal of the Obama-era net neutrality rules went into effect June 11. Chairman Pai believes the industry will be able to regulate itself. Others don't see it that way.


T-Mobile Offers World Travelers More Options

Tuesday, 8:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today updated its Simple Global plan, expanding the number of countries in which customers can access service. T-Mobile customers have long been able to use unlimited (2G) data and texting in more than 140 countries. Beginning July 22, that number swells to more than 210 countries. The company is also making high-speed data available in those same countries for a low daily rate. Beginning August 1, T-Mobile customers can pay $5 per day for up to 512 MB of LTE data and unlimited calling between all Simple Global countries. Simple Global is included in all T-Mobile One plans.


Samsung's 8 Gb LPDDR5 DRAM Module Targets Mobile Artificial Intelligence

Jul 17, 2018, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced what it says is the first 10nm 8 Gb LPDDR5 DRAM module for mobile devices. The new memory chip can push data at 6,400 Mbps, or 50% faster than current chips. The DRAM module can operate in two bandwidths to aid in compatibility with circuit designs. The module makes its gains by doubling the number of memory bank subdivisions from eight to 16, which lets it run faster while also using 30% less power. Samsung claims the 10nm 8 Gb LPDDR5 DRAM module will assist with mobile artificial intelligence and 5G applications. The company has finalized testing of the chip and will begin manufacturing it in its home market of Korea for devices as needed.

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