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Boost Merges Brands

Thursday, 3:21 PM   by Rich Brome

Boost Mobile has consolidated its Boost Mobile (pre-paid) and Boost Infinite (post-paid) offerings into one unified brand and website, now known as simply "Boost Mobile". The change comes with updated, unified service plans, most of which are no-contract and available on either a pre-paid or post-paid basis. The entry-level "Unlimited" plan is just $25/month (after auto-pay discount, before taxes & fees) with a "forever" pricing promise. It includes 30 GB of high-speed data per month. The "Unlimited+" plan for $50/month (after auto-pay discount, taxes & fees included) steps up to 40 GB of high-speed data per month and adds hotspot access, global talk and text, and up to $300 in device savings. The "Unlimited Premium" plan for $60/month (after auto-pay discount, taxes & fees included) steps up to 50 GB of high-speed data per month, up to $430 in device savings, and adds roaming for Canada & Mexico. Boost Mobile also offers $65/month "Infinite Access" plans for iPhone or Samsung Galaxy that include annual phone upgrades. These offer 30 GB of high-speed data, no hotspot, and taxes are not included. (Infinite Access plans were $60/month under Boost Infinite.) Boost also offers many "Add-On" plans such as $20/month for global roaming, hotspot access for $10/month, or $10/month for "Boost Family Guard", a parental control app. The new Boost Mobile also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, just as Boost Infinite did before. The new Boost Mobile logo is based on the old Boost Infinite logo.

HMD Launches Repairable Affordable-Flagship Model

Thursday, 2:05 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Friday, 10:22 AM

HMD today announced the HMD Skyline, the company's first "premium" model under its own HMD brand. The phone is easily repairable thanks to a unique "internal screw-driven camshaft" that lets you pop open the back cover with just the turn of a screw. The screen, battery, charging port, and back cover are all designed to be easily replaced by the end user or a repair center. The phone has high-end specs including a 108 megapixel main camera, 13 megapixel wide camera, 50 megapixel tele camera for 4x zoom, and a 50 megapixel front camera with auto-focus. The 6.55-inch pOLED display has FHD+ resolution, 144 Hz refresh, and Gorilla Glass 3. The recycled-aluminum-frame body is rated IP54 for water and dust. The 4,600 mAh battery can be charged with 33-watt fast charging. The Skyline also supports two-way Qi2 wireless charging (15W/5W). Other specs include Snapdragon 7s Gen 2 processor, 8 or 12 GB RAM, 128 or 256 GB storage (expandable), NFC, Wi-Fi 6E, and a fingerprint sensor. It has good support for most 4G and 5G networks in the US (particularly T-Mobile, and Verizon if they certify it). It will come in pink or black. The HMD Skyline goes on sale in the US this August for $499 unlocked. HMD is best known for making Nokia-branded phones for the last several years, but is now branching out to other brands, including its own.

Google Pixel 9 Series Revealed: at Least Four Models This Year

Jul 16, 2024, 2:33 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Friday, 9:13 AM

Google's Pixel 9 series of phones has leaked via official regulatory filings for Taiwan. In addition to a standard, Pro, and Fold model, this year's lineup will include a Pixel 9 Pro XL, meaning the Pro model will come in two sizes. [Update: Google has also posted revealing teaser videos via official social media channels, essentially confirming the leaked info.] The Pixel 9 Pro Fold has been revised with a shape and size that appears closer to Samsung's Z Fold. All three Pro models appear to have periscope telephoto camera lenses for extended optical zoom. The Pro models also have UWB, while all four models have a Thread radio for better Matter smart-home support. Some of these models have also recently been approved by the FCC. Those FCC approval documents do not contain photos, but do confirm the presence of not only Thread radios, but dual-band satellite (NTN) connectivity as well.

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iOS 18 Reaches Public Beta

Jul 15, 2024, 5:15 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has released the first beta version of iOS 18 intended for curious non-developer iPhone users. iOS 18 introduces a bevy of new features, including more customizable home screen and Control Center, redesigned Photos app, and many new features in Messages. As usual, beta versions of OS software should not be installed on anyone's primary device that they rely on. To install a public beta of iOS, users must first enroll in Apple's beta program.

Verizon, T-Mobile Protest Allocation of 4.9 GHz Band to AT&T's FirstNet

Jul 15, 2024, 1:03 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC has proposed that the 4.9 GHz band be managed by FirstNet, a 5G network dedicated to public safety and operated by AT&T. The 4.9 GHz band (4,940–4,990 MHz) has been set aside for local public safety use since 2002, but local agencies have found it challenging to make full use of it with modern technologies. Meanwhile FirstNet and AT&T have years of experience operating a nationwide 4G/5G network dedicated to public safety. AT&T's agreement with FirstNet gives public safety users priority, but allows AT&T to use excess capacity on FirstNet for its own commercial network at times. For this reason, Verizon and T-Mobile have filed complaints against the FCC's plan, calling it a $14 billion giveaway to AT&T.

TCL Brings Two NXTPAPER Phones to US Carriers

Jul 12, 2024, 11:51 AM   by Rich Brome

After several years of promoting its NXTPAPER matte-display technology, TCL has finally landed two different NXTPAPER phone models with US carriers. Spectrum Mobile is now offering the TCL 50 XE NXTPAPER 5G for $150, while regional carrier C Spire is now offering the TCL 50 XL NXTPAPER 5G for $200. Verizon already offers the glossy-screen version of the 50 XE, and Metro offers the glossy-screen version of the 50 XL. The NXTPAPER versions are identical, save the display technology. Both models have a 50 megapixel camera, MediaTek Dimensity 6100+ 5G chipset, 5,010 mAh battery, and NFC. The XL model differs mostly in having a larger 6.8-inch display with FHD+ resolution, and more RAM (6 GB instead of 4). According to TCL, "NXTPAPER 3.0 display technology ... provides enhanced eye comfort while preserving vibrant colors. Both smartphones perfectly balance high refresh rate performance and a comfortable viewing experience".

AT&T Discloses New Data Breach

Jul 12, 2024, 7:13 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Jul 15, 2024, 8:37 AM

AT&T has disclosed a data breach involving nearly all call and text records from its wireless network covering a period of several months in mid-2022. This includes both AT&T customers and customers of other carriers that use the AT&T network. The records only include phone numbers (from both ends), the number of times contacted, and call duration. The records do not include customer names nor any other personal info. They also do not include the content of texts or calls, nor do they include timestamps. For a subset of the breached data, cell tower IDs are also included, providing rough location data. AT&T does not believe the data is publicly available. Wired reports that a security researcher involved in the incident claims AT&T paid the hacker $370,000 for the only copy to be deleted. AT&T first discovered the breach in April, but was asked by the US Department of Justice to delay disclosure. At least one person has been arrested relating to the incident. 404 Media reports that the hacker arrested is John Binns, an American living in Turkey. Binns claimed responsibility for a large hack of T-Mobile in 2021. AT&T will notify affected customers directly.

Android Gains Support for Thread

Jul 11, 2024, 12:37 PM   by Rich Brome

Android 15 will include support for phones with a built-in Thread radio for connecting directly to Matter smart-home devices. No such Android phones yet exist, but the iPhone 15 Pro and 15 pro Max include Thread radios for the first time. A typical Matter smart-home network today consists of smart devices with Thread radios and a Matter "hub" or "border router" that connects the Thread mesh network to Wi-Fi and the Internet. Today, smartphones control a Matter smart-home via Wi-Fi and the Matter hub. But a phone with a Thread radio would be able to connect directly to Matter devices like smart switches and smart light bulbs. This might enable faster setup, or perhaps improve day-to-day reliability by giving the phone two ways to connect to a device when controlling it locally. Matter is the relatively new industry standard for smart-home networks and devices, embraced by both Google and Apple, and designed to replace proprietary solutions.

Total by Verizon Rebrands, Remixes Plans

Jul 11, 2024, 10:20 AM   by Rich Brome

Of Verizon's multiple prepaid brands, Total by Verizon might have the most confusing branding. Which is why the company is rebranding the offering to just "Total Wireless". Total is also remixing its service offerings so that all plans now include 5G. Total now offers a five-year price lock guarantee (excluding promotions and discounts like the auto-pay discount). For family plans, the fourth line is free. New customers get a free 5G phone, and existing customers get a "$200 Anniversary Credit towards any 5G phone". Total now advertises "10x faster data that never slows you down", but the "10x" is referring to the speed of Verizon 5G UW vs. Verizon 4G, and the plans still carry the disclaimer that "in times of traffic, your data may be temporarily slower than other traffic." Total considers itself "a community-focused brand" "committed to serving and connecting with Latino audiences". While the logo remains red to subtly remind people of its continued Verizon affiliation, new marketing will include a distinct shade of teal, as well as a "rich blue" and "bright yellow".

Samsung's New Foldables Bring Small Refinements Inside and Out

Jul 10, 2024, 10:06 AM   by Rich Brome

Samsung has revealed its newest flagship foldable phones: the Galaxy Z Fold6 and Galaxy Z Flip6. The two models have a new, more angular design with flat sides. They're Samsung's slimmest and lightest foldables ever, and also most durable thanks to Armor Aluminum, Gorilla Glass Victus 2, and a new, more durable "dual-rail" hinge. "Enhanced layers" on the main screen help reduce creasing at the hinge. Both are powered by a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 for Galaxy chip. The Fold6 features a 1.6x larger vapor cooling chamber for better sustained performance, and the Flip6 includes vapor cooling chamber for the first time on a Flip model. The software includes a variety of new AI features, including Google Gemini and an all-new "Sketch to image" which "allows you to create more sophisticated art pieces by generating image options when you simply sketch or draw on the photos in Gallery or Note screen." The Z Fold6 has thinner bezels on both displays. The Z Flip6 has numerous improvements to the outer display functionality and camera system. When closed, there are new multi-widget options and AI-powered Suggested Replies when messaging. The FlexCam mode now supports Auto Zoom to automatically frame you in your own photo. The camera sensors have also been upgraded and night modes enhanced. Samsung offers an industry-leading software support promise, with a full seven years of OS upgrades (not just security updates). The Galaxy Z Fold6 starts at $1,900 and comes in Pink, Navy, or silver. Black and white options are also available from samsung.com. The Galaxy Z Flip6 starts at $1,100 and comes in Yellow, Mint, Blue, or silver. Peach, black, and white options are also available from samsung.com. All models ship July 24 with pre-orders starting today. Pre-orders include a free upgrade to the next storage level.

Galaxy Ring Joins Samsung's New Wearable Lineup

Jul 10, 2024, 9:32 AM   by Rich Brome

Samsung has launched a new lineup of wearable devices, including the all-new Galaxy Ring, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Ultra, Watch7, and Buds3 series. The Galaxy Ring is similar in concept the Oura Ring: a health-tracking device small enough fit into a ring on your finger. The Ring is designed to be worn 24/7. It weighs as little as 2.3 grams (thanks to a titanium frame), has a battery that lasts up to seven days, and has 10ATM (+IP68) water resistance. It's available in three colors (black, silver, and gold) and nine sizes. The comprehensive sleep monitoring includes heart rate, breathing, movement, and snoring. It also monitors skin temperature to track menstrual cycles. The Ring automatically detects and tracks walking and running activity. A double-pinch gesture can interact with your phone, taking a picture or dismissing an alarm. It also works with Samsung Find to locate a lost Ring. Unlike some competing devices, the Ring does not require a subscription. It comes with a charging case and will retail for $399. The Galaxy Watch Ultra competes with the Apple Watch Ultra. Extra durability includes a titanium "cushion" frame, Sapphire Crystal display, and 10ATM water resistance (plus IP68 and ocean swimming). In bright light, the display can reach a peak brightness of 3,000 nits. In an emergency, it can emit a loud Emergency Siren. In Power Saving mode, the 590 mAh battery can last up to 100 hours. A special performance cycling mode can calculate your personal FTP (functional threshold power) in just four minutes. It's also approved in the US for tracking ECG and sleep apnea. The Galaxy Watch Ultra starts at $649.

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Pink Motorola razr+ Exclusive to T-Mobile

Jul 9, 2024, 12:17 PM   by Rich Brome

T-Mobile will have an exclusive on the "hot pink" color for the new Motorola razr+ flagship foldable phone in the US. Pre-orders start tomorrow, July 10.

NFC Starts Push to Standardize "Multi-Purpose Tap"

Jul 2, 2024, 12:41 PM   by Rich Brome

The NFC Forum is gearing up to define standards for Multi-Purpose Tap, which will enable a single tap of your phone to perform multiple actions at once. NFC Forum is the standards body for Near Field Communication (NFC) technology (AKA contactless or "tap"). For example, when tapping to pay for something, your loyalty program info could also be transmitted, and receipt received, all in that single tap. Another example is age verification when purchasing alcohol. On transit, you might be able to pay and receive an electronic ticket in one tap. Another proposed use case is sustainability, where after purchasing an item, you would receive info on how to recycle the item and/or its packaging. The NFC Forum is seeking input from the industry on all possible use cases and how best to implement this technology. Key members of the NFC Forum include Apple, Google, and Qualcomm.

FCC Proposes Mandate for Phone Unlocking After 60 Days

Jun 27, 2024, 2:38 PM   by Rich Brome

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed that the Commission require mobile providers to unlock customers' mobile phones 60 days after the device is activated. (Unlocking would let customers take their phone and use it with any other compatible network.) The FCC is seeking comment on the proposal, including "whether an unlocking requirement should be applied to existing contracts or future contacts", and "the impact ... in connection with service providers' incentives to offer discounted phones for postpaid and prepaid service plans".

Apple Loosens Some Repair Restrictions

Jun 27, 2024, 2:32 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has quietly issued a new paper revealing plans to make it easier to repair iPhones and improve functionality when using third-party parts. Currently, when an iPhone detects that a third-party part has been installed, it disables certain features that require calibration. This includes True Tone — which auto-adusts white balance on the display — and battery health metrics. Those restrictions will be lifted starting later this year. Instead, a small warning will be displayed. Apple will also stop requiring a device serial number when purchasing parts via Apple's Self Service Repair store. The changes come as a wave of new "Right To Repair" laws are being passed in multiple US states and countries abroad.

Verizon Refreshes Brand, Adds Perks

Jun 26, 2024, 12:50 PM   by Rich Brome

Verizon today launched a new logo for the company. The new logo trades a red checkmark for a soft yellow glow in the "v" of the wordmark. The company is also expanding its smartphone trade-in program and rolling our new ticket-access perks. "Verizon Access" is a new program for all Verizon customers offerings exclusive event ticket pre-sales and free giveaways. This includes "thousands of tickets to concerts and music festivals" as well as soccer and football games, and red carpet movie premieres.

Hands On with the Motorola razr and razr+ (2024)

Jun 25, 2024, 11:12 AM   by Rich Brome

Motorola has a refreshed pair of razr foldables for 2024 and they come with a solid set of upgrades over last year's models. Most notably, the $700 model now has a full-size outer display, making it look much more like a premium foldable while offering considerable functionality. There are plenty of other upgrades to talk about, and there's a lot of unique software to explore. And what are they like to hold and use in person? We'll cover it all in this hands-on report with our first impressions of both phones.

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Motorola Upgrades its razr Foldables Across the Board

Jun 25, 2024, 11:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Jun 25, 2024, 11:15 AM

Motorola has revealed its new razr and razr+ foldable phones for 2024. While the price points are unchanged at $700 and $1,000, both models get important upgrades. The most obvious and important is that the cheaper model now has the same large (3.6-inch) OLED touch display on the outside as last year's plus model, offering extensive functionality while closed. Both models also get the same new and improved main camera with 50 megapixel resolution and OIS, and much better waterproofing (IPx8 to withstand full immersion). Both also share a new hinge design that's 30% smaller while offering better reliability, stability, dust resistance, and "crease" resistance. Both have Gorilla Glass Victus protecting the outer display and a similar 6000-series aluminum frame. Both have a 6.9-inch flexible main display inside with FHD+ resolution, and HDR10+. Other features in common include Google Gemini AI pre-installed, 256 GB of storage, 15-watt wireless charging, Bluetooth 5.4, and a 32 megapixel internal camera.

  • The razr (2024) has a 3.6-inch outer touch display and both displays have 120 Hz refresh. It's powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 7300X chip and 8 GB of RAM. The battery is 4,200 mAh and it fast-charges at up to 30 watts. The second camera remains a 13-megapixel wide-angle one. Wi-Fi is version 6E. Color options include grey, sand, and orange. (Grey will be most common in the US.) The back is a smooth "vegan suede" texture.
  • The razr+ (2024) has an even larger 4-inch outer display and both displays have up to 165 Hz refresh. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8s Gen 3 chip and 12 GB of RAM. Both the RAM and storage are faster than on the base model (LPDDR5x and UFS 4.0). The battery is 4,000 mAh (larger than last year), it fast-charges at up to 45 watts, and the wireless charging is two-way. The second camera is a 2x telephoto instead of wide-angle, with 50 megapixel resolution but no OIS. Wi-Fi 7 is supported. Color options include blue, green, peach, and pink. (Blue will be most common in the US, with a vertical "racing stripe" of smoother texture in the "vegan leather".)
Pre-orders for both start July 10, with first availability for both on July 24. T-Mobile will offer both models. AT&T will offer the razr+, and the more affordable razr will also come to Cricket, Consumer Cellular, Spectrum, US Cellular, and Xfinity.

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