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5G C-Band Auction Wraps Up First Phase, Raising Over $80 Billion

Friday, 2:15 PM   by Rich Brome

The FCC today announced that its Auction 107 for C-Band spectrum has concluded its first phase, with final bids totaling $80.9 billion, shattering the record for any FCC auction. The auction made available licenses for 280 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.7 – 3.98 GHz band in the US. It is expected that wireless carriers snapped up most of the licenses and will use them to deploy expanded 5G networks that offer a better balance of coverage and speed than today's 5G networks, as well as additional network capacity for more users and faster data. This phase of the auction started in early December. In the next phase, winners in the first phase will be able to bid for specific frequency band slots. The FCC will announced the dates and details for that phase "soon".

Coalition Working on Vaccine Passport Standard for Digital Wallets

Friday, 10:46 AM   by Rich Brome

A group of companies including Epic, Mayo Clinic, Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce have teamed up as the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), working "to enable individuals vaccinated for COVID-19 to access their vaccination records in a secure, verifiable and privacy-preserving way." VCI is working on a system that would allow individuals to obtain an encrypted digital copy of their immunization credentials to store in a digital wallet on their smartphone. A verifiable record of vaccination status will be a critical element in enabling people to safely return to work, school, events, and travel. The interoperable digital format is based on the open SMART Health Cards specification, based on W3C Verifiable Credential and HL7 FHIR standards.

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Samsung's Galaxy S21 Flagships are Prettier and More Affordable

Thursday, 10:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Samsung today officially unveiled its Galaxy S21 series of flagship phones for 2021. All three models sport a distinctive new "Contour Cut Camera" design where the metal frame extends around one corner to surround the rear cameras. Each of the three new phones has a starting price a full $200 lower than last year's models. Samsung achieved this on the S21 and S21+ by reducing RAM from 12 to 8 GB and switching from curved QHD-resolution displays to flat FHD displays. Also, none of the S21 series has a memory card slot nor ToD depth camera. Naturally the processor has been updated on all models to Qualcomm's new flagship chip, the Snapdragon 888. Samsung is also using Qualcomm's new Gen 2. ultrasonic in-display fingerprint reader, which offers a 70% larger sensing area and is 50% faster. The phones ship with Android 11 and have a number of software improvements to the camera, such as Director's View, Vlogger View, and multi-mic recording. Samsung has also used AI to improve Single Take, Portrait Mode, and Space Zoom. The camera hardware on the S21 and S21+ is nearly identical to that on the S20 series. The S21 Ultra has the most-upgraded specs of the three, despite starting at a lower price than last year's model.

  • Galaxy S21: The specs are very similar to last year's S20, including 4,000 mAh battery, 120 Hz refresh display, 64-megapixel main camera, 8K video capture, IP68 water resistance, fast wireless charging, and Wireless PowerShare. Unlike the S20, the S21 will come with mmWave 5G (including support for Verizon's "Ultra Wideband" network) from day one. It will come with 128 GB of storage, in Phantom Violet, Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, and Phantom White, for $800. A 256 GB version will also be available in Phantom Gray for an extra $50. Phantom Gold and Phantom Red colors will be available exclusively from samsung.com.
  • Galaxy S21+: Its 4,800 mAh battery is larger than that in both the S21 and last year's S20+. It also adds UWB for directional tag-finding and wireless car keys. This is the first time Samsung has put UWB in its S-series. It retains all of the other specs and features of the S21, with a larger 6.7-inch display like the S20+. It will come with 128 GB storage, in Phantom Violet, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Black, for $1,000. A 256 GB version will also be available in Phantom Black for an additional $50. As with the S21, samsung.com will be exclusive seller of Phantom Gold and Phantom Red colors.
  • Galaxy S21 Ultra: This top-end model keeps the curved-edge, QHD-resolution display, 12 GB RAM, 108 megapixel main camera, and 40-megapixel front camera of last year's model, while adding several new features, all for a lower $1200 starting price. New this year is Wacom technology bringing full support for Samsung's S Pen, previously only offered on the Note series. The S Pen is an optional accessory. It also adds UWB, Wi-Fi 6e, adaptive display refresh from 10 – 120 Hz for power efficiency, and the ability to use 120 Hz refresh at QHD resolution. The telephoto camera system now includes dedicated 3x and 10x cameras, both 10 megapixel with OIS and dual-pixel auto-focus. All five cameras (front and back) can now shoot 4K video at 60 fps. The 108mp main sensor now has 12-bit HDR and can capture 12-bit RAW photos. It also has laser auto-focus. Pricing starts at $1,200 for 12 GB RAM / 128 GB storage in Phantom Silver or Phantom Black. Versions with 12 / 256 GB (for an extra $50) or 16 / 512 GB (for $1,380) will also be available, in Phantom Black only. Samsung.com exclusive colors will include Phantom Titanium, Phantom Navy. and Phantom Brown.
All three phones will launch on major US carriers as well as unlocked on January 29th. Pre-orders start January 14th at 11am ET. All pre-orders will include a free Galaxy SmartTag, and consumers who pre-order the S21 Ultra get a $200 credit to use on samsung.com or the Shop Samsung app.

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Qualcomm Acquires High-Performance CPU Company

Wednesday, 10:01 AM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm has reached an agreement to acquire Nuvia, a company with "industry-leading expertise in high performance processors, Systems on a Chip (SoC) and power management for compute-intensive devices and applications". Qualcomm says it will use Nuvia's talent and chip designs for the CPU cores of future Snapdragon chips powering flagship smartphones. Qualcomm already designs its own GPU, DSP, and AI cores in its Snapdragon chips. But the CPU cores that handle general-purpose processing — which could be considered the heart of the chip — are based on Cortex designs from Arm. Bringing in Nuvia technology and talent may allow Qualcomm to build better CPU core designs, perhaps bypassing Arm's Cortex intellectual property altogether. Qualcomm already started down the path of customizing CPU core designs with the Cortex-X1 prime core in this year's flagship Snapdragon 888 chip. The Cortex-X1 was a special collaboration between Qualcomm and Arm to provide a primary CPU core with even greater performance than Arm's flagship Cortex A78 CPU core. (The Snapdragon 888 also has three Cortex A78 cores.) Of all the performance increases in the Snapdragon 888 compared to last year's 865, CPU is the area with the smallest performance gain at just 25%. Qualcomm will acquire Nuvia for $1.4 billion.

Qualcomm Unveils 2nd Gen. In-Display Fingerprint Sensor

Jan 11, 2021, 3:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm has introduced 3D Sonic Sensor Gen. 2, a new and improved version of the ultrasonic, in-display fingerprint sensor used in the Samsung Galaxy S10, Note10, S20, and Note20 series. The new sensor is 50% faster and has a 1.7x larger sensing area. The sensor itself is just 8 x 8 x 0.2 mm, allowing it to fit under the display without impacting phone size. (The first-generation sensor was 4 x 7 x 0.2 mm.) This line of standard-size sensors is not to be confused with 3D Sonic Max, a much larger sensor at 20 x 30 mm. Ultrasonic fingerprint sensors have an advantage of working even while the surface or finger is wet. Qualcomm 3D Sonic Sensor Gen. 2 is expected to debut in mobile devices early this year.

Kyocera DuraForce Ultra Brings the Rugged to Verizon's 5G Lineup

Jan 11, 2021, 2:01 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 11, 2021, 5:05 PM

Kyocera today announced the DuraForce Ultra 5G UW, Kyocera's first 5G phone for the US and the first ultra-rugged phone in Verizon's 5G phone lineup. This ultra-rugged is certified military standard 810H to withstand drops of up to 5 feet directly onto concrete, water immersion (IPX6/IPX8), dust (IP6X), extreme temperatures, salt, fog, solar, shock, hazardous work environments and more. It's also fully washable and certified for Class I, Division 2 hazardous locations. Kyocera put its "virtually scratchproof" Sapphire Shield protection on both the display and camera lenses. It has a 24 megapixel main camera, 16 megapixel wide-angle (117º) camera, and an 8 megapixel front camera. It also has a ToF camera for fast auto-focus and advanced AR. The main camera supports pixel binning in low light, there's a multi-frame Super Night Vision mode, and an underwater mode. An Action Overlay "provides outdoor enthusiasts the ability to add elapsed time, distance, speed, G-force, altitude, date/time and map of route traveled to photos and videos". Dual front speakers provide 106dB of speakerphone and PTT volume for loud environments. The DuraForce Ultra also supports 802.11mc indoor positioning, CBRS, and Mission-Critical PTT (MCPTT). Other specs include a 4,500 battery, wireless charging, Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, 5.45-inch full-HD display that works with gloves and when wet, fingerprint reader on the side, and a 3.5mm jack that supports stereo audio and PTT controls. Pricing will be announced when it launches on Verizon, which will be "very soon", according to Kyocera.

TCL 20 Series Includes $300 5G Model, Flex-Display Device Coming This Year

Jan 11, 2021, 11:00 AM   by Rich Brome

TCL today formally unveiled the TCL 20 Series, a lineup of five TCL-branded phones for 2021. The company provided details on the first two models launching this month — the TCL 20 5G and TCL 20 SE (shown) — and teased three additional models "coming soon": the TCL 20 Pro 5G, TCL 20L, and TCL 20S. The company also revealed that it will bring a device with a flexible display to market this year. The company has shown off several interesting prototypes of foldable and rollable phones over the past couple of years. LG teased a similar rollable device at its CES press conference earlier today.

  • The TCL 20 5G is an affordable 5G phone already available in Italy for 299 euros. It features a 6.67-inch full-HD display with HDR10, 48 megapixel main camera, 8 megapixel wide-angle camera, macro camera, and 8 megapixel front camera. It's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chipset paired with 6 GB LPDDR4x RAM and 128 GB UFS 2.1 storage. Its 4,500 mAh battery supports 18W fast charging via Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0+. Other features include a side-mounted fingerprint reader, memory card slot, NFC, and dual-band Wi-Fi. It also features "Super Bluetooth" which allows audio playback through up to four Bluetooth devices simultaneously.
  • The TCL 20 SE offers a huge 6.82-inch display, 5,000 mAh battery, and 48-megapixel main camera for just 149 euros. It uses a Snapdragon 460 processor paired with 4 GB RAM.
Presumably, the TCL 20 Pro 5G is a higher-end model. No details were released on that model, nor the 20S and 20L. TCL says one or more models in the 20 Series will come to the US this year, but would not specify which models nor when.

LG Teases "Rollable" Phone

Jan 11, 2021, 10:18 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 11, 2021, 10:20 AM

In a CES press conference today, LG briefly teased a new "rollable" device that uses flexible-display technology on rollers to expand from a phone to a tablet. The company didn't officially announce the device, but did show video of it expanding as part of its pre-recorded presentation. The Verge has been able to confirm that the device teased is a real LG product in development, currently set to be called the "LG Rollable". TCL has also shown off prototypes of a similar device.

Hands On with the 2021 Moto G series and One 5G ace

Jan 11, 2021, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 11, 2021, 11:39 AM

Motorola has a full slate of new affordable phones for 2021, ranging from $170 to $400 for the 5G model. The company's G series has long been well-regarded for quality and value. The new entries are the moto g play (2021), moto g power (2021), and moto g stylus (2021). There's also the Motorola one 5G ace, which — while technically part of the "one" series — seems closely related to the other three. In fact all four phones are quite similar, clearly sharing certain components and design priorities. But what are these phones like in person? How do they feel and what should you know beyond the specs? We're here to show you in this hands-on report.

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Google, Apple Demand That Parler Moderate Incitements to Violence

Jan 9, 2021, 2:04 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 10, 2021, 10:00 AM

Google and Apple have removed social media app Parler from their respective app stores. Both companies are insisting that Parler implement much stronger moderation of user-submitted content — including posts that encourage illegal behavior or incite violence — if it wants its app listed again. Google stated: "We're aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the U.S. ... In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app's listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues." Parler was created as a "free speech" safe haven for those on the political right that feel censored by more popular social media platforms such as Twitter. Wednesday's deadly storming of the US Capitol Building was planned in public forums and social media, including Parler. Apple initially gave Parler 24 hours to correct the issue, then on Saturday followed through on its threat to remove the app. Parler is facing an even larger threat from Amazon, which says it will remove the service from its AWS hosting platform, a move that will make it difficult for the company to keep the social network online in any form. Parler has pledged to rebuild, a process that its says will take at least one week, during which time the social network will be unavailable.

Motorola Unveils Full Affordable Lineup for 2021

Jan 8, 2021, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Motorola today unveiled a full lineup of four new affordable phones, including three g-series models ranging from $169 – $299 and one 5G model for $399. All four feature large batteries (4,000 – 5,000 mAh) and large displays (6.5 – 6.8 inches). All four also include a fingerprint reader, multiple cameras, headset jack, memory card slot, USB-C connector, and a "water-repellant design" that protects against accidental spills, splashes, sweat, or light rain. They ship with Android 10 and Motorola promises one full OS version update plus two years of security updates. Moto's latest camera app supports AI scene detection and optimization, Google Lens, portrait mode, RAW format, Active Photos, Auto Smile Capture, Gesture Selfie, time-lapse, and slow-motion on all models. All four also support gestures such as Lift to unlock, Flip for DND (Do Not Disturb), Pick up to silence, and Fast flashlight, where a quick double-chop motion turns the flashlight on or off. All four phones will be available unlocked as well as from many US carriers.

  • moto g play (2021): The most affordable at $170, this phone has a 6.5-inch HD display with notch, huge 5,000 mAh battery, Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 chipset, 3 GB RAM, and 32 GB built-in storage. Its primary 13 megapixel camera is assisted by a depth camera for portrait mode, and the front camera is 5 megapixel. It also has 10W fast charging. The new moto g play will be offered in the coming months by AT&T, Cricket, Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, Republic Wireless, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile.
  • moto g power (2021): Upgrades compared to the g play include: Snapdragon 662 chipset, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, up to 15W fast charging, "48 megapixel" main camera that outputs 12-megapixel photos using pixel binning, 2-megapixel macro camera, and an 8-megapixel front camera. The upgraded main camera enables a Night Vision mode and better low-light performance in general. The camera app also gains Cinemagraph mode, Group Selfie, and Spot Color for video. The fingerprint reader moves to the side and the display is slightly larger at 6.6 inches, with a corner hole-punch design. This new moto g power will sell for $250, although Best Buy will sell a variant with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB storage for $200. It will also come to Boost Mobile, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Republic Wireless, US Cellular, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile in the coming months.
  • moto g stylus (2021): This model adds a stylus that stows in the bottom-right of the phone. It comes with two special apps: Moto Note and Coloring Book. The stylus also offers system-wide shortcuts and works with third-party apps. This is the only model of the four to come with a smaller 4,000 mAh battery, which Motorola says was necessary to make room for the stylus. It has several spec upgrades compared to the g power, including a larger 6.8-inch display with full-HD resolution, Snapdragon 678 chipset, 128 GB storage, 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, 16 megapixel selfie camera, and 4K video capture. It will sell for $300 unlocked. Boost Mobile, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, and Republic Wireless will also offer it in the coming months.
  • Motorola one 5G ace: Combines the best of the g power and g stylus specs (minus the stylus) while adding 5G (sub-6 GHz only) thanks to its Snapdragon 750G chipset. Other upgrades include 6 GB RAM, NFC, and an official IP rating for water resistance: IP54 for the T-Mobile version and IP52 for other versions. The display measures 6.7 inches with a centered hole-punch design, and the fingerprint reader is located on the back. It will run $400 unlocked. AT&T, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, Republic Wireless, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile will also offer it in the coming months.
Unlocked versions of all four phones are available for pre-order starting today, with full availability on January 14th. Unlocked models can be purchased from Best Buy, Walmart, B&H Photo, Amazon, and motorola.com.

Verizon Delays Shutdown of old CDMA Network

Jan 6, 2021, 1:35 PM   by Rich Brome

Verizon has once again delayed the planned shutdown of its legacy CDMA network. The company originally planned to shut down the network at the end of 2019, then in mid-2019 postponed it to the end of 2020. Now, the company says: "we don't have a plan to shut it down at this time". Verizon's original CDMA network was first launched as a 2G network by Bell Atlantic in 1996. Verizon then upgraded that CDMA network to 3G with the rollout of EV-DO technology in 2004. Each separate network technology requires its own dedicated part of the radio spectrum, and older technologies make less-efficient use of the limited resource that is radio spectrum. Verizon's original plans to phase out CDMA would have freed up more of Verizon's licensed spectrum for newer, more efficient 4G and 5G technologies, allowing the company to accommodate more 4G and 5G customers with better service. But apparently more customers remain active on the CDMA network than Verizon is willing to leave stranded.

OnePlus Nord Series Coming to T-Mobile, Metro

Jan 5, 2021, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

OnePlus has announced US launch details for its more-affordable Nord series, the OnePlus Nord N10 5G and OnePlus Nord N100. T-Mobile and Metro will both offer both models, marking OnePlus' entry into the prepaid market in the US. The phones will also be available unlocked directly from oneplus.com on January 15th, with pre-orders starting January 8th. Both phones will also launch on T-Mobile and Metro on January 15th.

  • The Nord N10 5G is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 with 6 GB RAM. It has a 6.5-inch full-HD display with 90 Hz refresh. Its quad rear cameras include a 64-megapixel main camera, plus 8-megapixel wide-angle, macro, and monochrome cameras. The N10 5G also includes a 4,300 mAh battery, 30W fast charging, 128 GB storage, memory card slot, and a rear fingerprint reader. It comes in "Midnight Ice" and will sell for $300 unlocked or full price from T-Mobile (or $12.50 /month).
  • The Nord N100 uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon 460 paired with 4 GB RAM. It has 64 GB storage, expandable via memory card slot. It has a large 5,000 mAh battery plus 18W fast charging. Its triple rear cameras include a 13-megapixel main shooter, depth (portrait effect) camera, and a macro camera. Other features include a 6.5-inch display, rear fingerprint reader, and stereo speakers. It will come in "Midnight Frost" and sell for $180 unlocked or full price from T-Mobile (or $7.50 / month).
Best Buy, Amazon, and B&H will also sell the new Nord series unlocked in the US. Pricing on Metro is "coming soon".

Boost Launches LG K22 for Under $100

Jan 4, 2021, 4:43 PM   by Rich Brome

Boost has launched the new LG K22, an affordable, entry-level phone with a large 6.2-inch HD notched display. Normally priced at $90, Boost is currently offering the phone for just $70. Other specs include a 3,000 mAh battery, Android 10, Qualcomm 215 processor, 2 GB RAM, and 32 GB of internal storage plus a memory card slot supporting up to 32 GB more. Its 13 megapixel PDAF rear camera is accompanied by a 2 megapixel macro camera. The front camera is 5 megapixel. The camera app supports full-HD video capture and Google Lens. Like most current LG phones, it has a dedicated Google Assistant button on the side. It also includes a 3.5mm headset jack.

Venmo Launches Check Cashing

Jan 4, 2021, 12:31 PM   by Rich Brome

Venmo has launched a new feature of its money-moving app that lets users deposit checks directly into their Venmo accounts, bypassing their usual bank. The service incurs a 1% fee, although Venmo is temporarily waiving that fee for government stimulus checks. Like the mobile deposit feature in most bank apps, users simply take a photo of the check to be deposited with their phone's camera using the Venmo app. Venmo promises that transaction approval "usually takes a few seconds", although it can take longer in "rare circumstances". After the approval step, funds are available "in minutes". The feature is currently available to "select customers" by accessing "Manage Balance" from the main app menu and then "Cash a Check".

Samsung's Next Major Phone Launch set for Jan. 14

Jan 4, 2021, 12:18 PM   by Rich Brome

Samsung has set January 14th at 10 AM EST as the date and time for its next Unpacked event to launch its "next Galaxy" flagship device. The event will be live-streamed in samsung.com. The company is also offering $60 in instant discounts when customers "reserve" a pre-order prior to the event. The $60 comes in the form of $50 toward accessories in your order, plus $10 in the Android Shop Samsung App. The event is widely anticipated to include the Samsung Galaxy S21, the company's next flagship phone. A teaser video for the event features a series of past Galaxy S flagship phones.

Qualcomm Brings 5G to Snapdragon 4-Series with the 480

Jan 4, 2021, 9:30 AM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon 480 5G Mobile Platform, the first Snapdragon 4-Series chipset with 5G. The 4 Series is designed for affordable, mass-market phones. The X51 5G modem in the 480 supports mmWave and sub-6 GHz frequencies, NSA mode, and DSS. The 480 is also dramatically faster than its predecessor, the Snapdragon 460, with double the CPU and GPU performance, and a performance increase of over 70% for AI. It includes triple ISPs to support advanced camera functions. The 480 also supports Wi-Fi 6, 120 Hz display refresh, Quick Charge 4+, and has a Qualcomm Sensing Hub for low-power always-on features. The 480 is made using an 8nm manufacturing process. Qualcomm expects the first devices powered by the Snapdragon 480 to launch later this month.

NYC Transit Finishes Deploying NFC Fare Collection

Dec 31, 2020, 4:15 PM   by Rich Brome

The MTA today announced that it has completed deployment of OMNY readers system-wide. This means that all 472 subway stations and 5,800 city buses in New York City now accept fare payment by tapping an NFC-equipped phone or smart device with any standard digital Wallet set up. OMNY supports Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Fitbit Pay, and payment cards from Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. Customers can also use a plastic debit or credit card that includes a contactless (tap) chip. Using OMNY charges the standard fare; there are no extra fees compared to using a MetroCard. MetroCards will be phased out in 2023. The MTA will also launch an OMNY app and start selling dedicated OMNY cards in 2021.

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