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Google Brings Wallet Passes, Transit Directions to Wear OS

Monday, 10:41 AM   by Rich Brome

Google has finally updated Wallet on Wear OS to more closely match the functionality of Wallet on Android, supporting all types of cards, passes, and tickets. Wallet for Wear OS previously only supported credit and debit cards. Now it will support "boarding passes, event tickets, gym memberships, loyalty cards and more". For people who have many such cards, some can be hidden, so that the ones you use most often can be accessed without excessive swiping. Wear OS also now supports transit directions, including trip by bus, train, or ferry. "Look up departure times right from your smartwatch, then get compass-guided navigation directions to your destination."

Google Brings AI to Messaging in Android

Monday, 10:12 AM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced two major new AI features for messaging in Android. The first is in Android Auto, where AI will now automatically summarize long texts or busy group chats while driving. It will also "suggest relevant replies and actions you can take with a single tap – helping you navigate to an address, make a call, or share your ETA when someone asks for it." This feature is rolling out starting today. Separately, the Messages app for Android now lets you Chat with Gemini, where you can have a conversation with Google's new AI chatbot as if it were a person in your contacts. You can even send it photos as part of your conversation. The feature includes thumbs-up and thumbs-down feedback buttons to help Google improve Gemini, and a "Report legal issue" button. This feature is only available to users enrolled in the messages beta channel and only to adults 18 and older. For now it only supports English, and French in Canada.

Qualcomm's Next Modems Will Support Standards-Based Satellite Service and UWB

Monday, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon X80 modem and FastConnect 7900, its most advanced modem/RF solutions for 5G and other radios (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.) The Snapdragon X80 includes modem and radio support for the Skylo satellite network, which offers satellite service in cellular dead zones using the 3GPP release 17 NB-NTN standard and existing satellites from multiple companies. This represents an abrupt change in strategy after Qualcomm tried and failed to launch its own satellite service with Iridium last year. The X80 is also the first 5G modem to support six carrier aggregation (6xCA) and the first to support 6 cellular antennas (6xRx) in a smartphone. The X80 also has 30% better location (GPS) accuracy compared to it predecessor. The X80 expands the use of AI in the modem to improve data speeds, latency, quality of service (QoS), coverage, location accuracy, spectrum efficiency, power efficiency, and multi-antenna management. The FastConnect 7900 for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is the first such solution from Qualcomm to integrate Ultra Wideband (UWB), a technology that usually requires a separate chip. UWB is used for "proximity experiences such as digital key, object finding and indoor navigation." Uniquely, the 7900 can combine UWB with Wi-Fi Ranging and Bluetooth Channel Sounding for improved proximity performance. The 7900 supports Wi-Fi 7 and introduces a new AI function that optimizes for Wi-Fi latency vs. power usage by analyzing workload and context. This improves power efficiency up to 30%. It also supports XPAN, Qualcomm's unique new technology that can route audio connections over Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth. Both the Snapdragon X80 and FastConnect 7900 are expected to ship in the second half of 2024.

TCL Shares Pricing for 50 Series

Monday, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

TCL has released launch info for its 50 series of phones, first previewed at CES a few weeks ago. The first to launch will be the TCL 50 XL 5G (shown in photo), coming to Metro by T-Mobile in the second quarter for "under $169". The two models with TCL's unique matte NXTPAPER display be available in North America from tcl.com in the third quarter. The higher-end 50 XL NXTPAPER 5G will sell for "under $229" while the 50 XE NXTPAPER 5G will cost "under $199". TCL was less specific about the TCL 50 XE 5G, saying only that it will come to North America in Q3 for "under $149". The 4G-only TCL 50 LE "will be arriving later this year for around $99".

Qualcomm Aims for Sub-$100 5G Phones

Monday, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm has announced a goal of enabling phone makers to offer 5G phones under $100 with true 5G (gigabit) data speeds. These new phones would shed costs by supporting only 5G SA (stand-alone) networks, not 5G NSA (non-stand-alone) networks that rely on 4G networks for some functions. Most 5G NSA networks are being upgraded to 5G SA. These phones would also reduce costs by utilizing only two cellular antennas instead of the usual four. Presumably this strategy involves a new modem chip(set) that Qualcomm has yet to announce.

Motorola Commits to Gorilla Glass on All Phones

Sunday, 6:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Motorola announced that its entire lineup of phones will feature Corning Gorilla Glass starting in the second half of this year. Gorilla Glass is widely used on higher-end smartphones and known for its toughness and durability. Different versions of Gorilla Glass offer different properties. Gorilla Glass 3 focuses on scratch resistance, while Gorilla Glass 5 and 6 are optimized to protect against damage from drops. Gorilla Glass Victus is designed for both, and Gorilla Glass Victus 2 further improves drop performance on rougher surfaces like concrete.

Motorola to Seamlessly Link Phones with Lenovo Laptops and Tablets

Sunday, 6:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Motorola and Lenovo have announced Smart Connect, a set of software features that will intelligently link various device types to function as a seamless suite. Cross control lets a single keyboard and mouse navigate between your PC, tablet, and phone. Swipe to stream lets you move a video stream or podcast to a different device and pick up right where you left off. Notification sync puts your notifications on all of your devices. Share hub lets you "access and share large files across connected devices without taking up tons of storage." Smart clipboard lets you copy and paste across devices. Webcam lets you use the superior camera on your smartphone for video calls or livestreams on another device like a laptop or PC. Smart Connect will be available "in the coming months".

AT&T Will Credit Customers for Outage

Sunday, 5:50 PM   by Rich Brome

AT&T has provided more details on its response to the unusually widespread and lengthy outage of its wireless network on Thursday. The company's only explanation of the cause remains "the application and execution of an incorrect process". But in a letter to employees, CEO John Stankey did note that the company "prioritized FirstNet service restoration, in line with our commitment to our nation's first responders." To compensate "potentially impacted customers", the company will issue an automatic one-time $5 credit to its postpaid consumer and small business customers. The letter to employees explains that this amount is equivalent to "essentially a full day of service". As for other categories of customers, the letter says "prepaid customers will have options available to them if they were impacted. We are also working closely with our Mid-Market and Enterprise customers and will address their concerns as those discussions take place."

AT&T Explains What Caused Outage Yesterday

Feb 23, 2024, 11:15 AM   by Rich Brome

AT&T has issued a statement on what caused a major outage of its wireless network yesterday morning, lasting up to 11 hours for some customers. "Based on our initial review, we believe that today’s outage was caused by the application and execution of an incorrect process used as we were expanding our network, not a cyber attack." The outage started around 4am ET. By the middle of the day, AT&T said that 3/4 of its network had been restored, with full recovery by mid-afternoon. The FCC has launched an investigation into the incident. During the outage, most customers were still able to call 911 via other networks, (as indicated by an "SOS" icon in the status bar), as required by the FCC. However the outage did affect FirstNet, the AT&T-operated network dedicated to public safety.

AT&T Suffers Large Cellular Outage

Feb 22, 2024, 9:44 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Feb 22, 2024, 3:38 PM

AT&T suffered a large outage of its mobile network this morning. AT&T acknowledged the issue and said it was working "urgently" to restore service. As of mid-day, AT&T said that "three-quarters of our network has been restored." Then at 3:10pm ET, the company said wireless service had been completely restored. The service DownDetector showed the outage started around 4am ET this morning, and starting to resolve around 1pm ET. DownDetector also showed corresponding outage reports for other national wireless carriers, but an order of magnitude smaller. Verizon and T-Mobile told the New York Times that their networks are operating normally, so the reports for other carriers are likely people trying to communicate with AT&T customers.

Samsung Update Brings Galaxy AI to More Phones

Feb 21, 2024, 10:00 PM   by Rich Brome

In late March, Samsung will release its One UI 6.1 software for the Galaxy S23 series, S23 FE, Z Fold5, and Z Flip5. It adds the following "Galaxy AI" features that debuted on the S24 series: Circle to Search, Live Translate, Interpreter, Chat Assist, and Generative Edit.

Apple Upgrades iMessage Encryption for Quantum Threat

Feb 21, 2024, 11:48 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple announced that it is upgrading the end-to-end encryption in iMessage to guard against the threat that future quantum computers may be able to easily defeat today's traditional encryption. Although no such quantum computer is known to exist today, it is possible that today's encrypted messages could be intercepted, stored, and decrypted by a future quantum computer; hence the need to move to post-quantum cryptography (PQC) today. Apple's new "PQ3" messaging protocol does this, along with several other security enhancements. The protocol includes periodic "rekeying", to ensure that even if a one key is compromised, only part of a conversation could be decrypted. It also utilizes a hybrid approach that combines PQC and a more traditional ECC algorithm, so that if flaws are found in the new PQC algorithm, content is still protected by proven ECC encryption. Support for PQ3 is included in iOS 17.4. PQ3 will fully replace the existing protocol within all supported conversations this year.

Apple Launches its own Free Sports App

Feb 21, 2024, 11:19 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple today launched Apple Sports, a free iPhone app for tracking sports scores and related info. Users can customize their scoreboards by following their favorite teams, info that is synced with the Apple TV app and Apple News. Besides scores the app also shows upcoming games, play-by-play information, team stats, lineup details, and live betting odds. For in-progress games, tap to watch the game live, via Apple TV and "connected streaming apps". It currently includes MLS, NBA, NCAA basketball, NHL, Premier League, and more. It will also support MLB, NFL, NCAAF, NWSL, and WNBA as those leagues start their upcoming seasons. The app is available today for the US, Canada, and UK.

Signal Will No Longer Make You Share Your Phone Number

Feb 21, 2024, 11:04 AM   by Rich Brome

Popular encrypted messaging app Signal is preparing to roll out usernames to replace phone numbers when starting conversations with new people. Signal has long been one of the more privacy-focused messaging apps, with the glaring exception that it used your real phone number to identify you to other people. The change fixes that issue, letting you choose a unique username which can then be used by other people to start new conversations without knowing your phone number. Usernames will be private, not displayed on your profile. Users will also now be able to hide their phone number from people who don't already have it, and limit who can use your phone number to connect with you on the app. These changes are currently in public beta testing.

Samsung Brings New Translation and Auracast Features to Galaxy Buds

Feb 20, 2024, 1:53 PM   by Rich Brome

Samsung is rolling out an update to its Galaxy Buds series of earbuds. The update brings a new live language translation feature that Samsung calls Interpreter. It means you no longer have to pass your phone back and forth. "You can listen to translations through your earbuds, while the other person hears through your phone speaker, helping you to focus better on the conversation". Samsung is also enabling Auracast (one-to-many Bluetooth audio) between Galaxy phones and Galaxy earbuds. The update will roll out first to the Galaxy Buds2 Pro in late February, followed by the Buds2 and Buds FE.

Google Starts Android 15 Testing Campaign

Feb 16, 2024, 3:11 PM   by Rich Brome

The very first release of Android 15 is now available for developers to test. This is a developer preview, not a public beta version, so it may lack some user-facing features and shouldn't be installed on anyone's primary device. Google says some of the improvements in Android 15 include partial screen sharing and recording, better camera controls in third-party apps, and better APIs for managing processor efficiency. Google plans to release the first beta version in April, with platform stability in June and a final release some time after July.

T-Mobile Successfully Tests Faster 5G Uploads

Feb 16, 2024, 11:08 AM   by Rich Brome

T-Mobile announced that it has achieved record-breaking uplink speeds of 345 Mbps on its 5G standalone (SA) network in a recent test using a new 5G technology called Uplink Transmit Switching. The technology combines carrier aggregation (CA) and SU-MIMO (single user multiple input, multiple output). This test delivered uplink speeds 25% faster than T-Mobile's previous record of 275 Mbps using sub-6 (non-mmWave) frequencies. The test used Nokia network equipment and a smartphone powered by a flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon chip. Not all 5G devices support Uplink Transmit Switching. T-Mobile's President of Technology Ulf Ewaldsson said: "we implore our partners around the globe to build the capability into the 5G ecosystem moving forward."

FDA Authorizes Samsung's Sleep Apnea Detection on Galaxy Watch

Feb 13, 2024, 12:31 PM   by Rich Brome

Samsung has received a first-of-its-kind authorization for a sleep apnea detection feature of its Galaxy Watch smartwatches. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates health and medical devices, so its authorization is required for features relating to medical conditions. "The sleep apnea feature enables users over the age of 22 who have not been diagnosed with sleep apnea to detect signs of moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) over a two-night monitoring period, a common and chronic sleep condition that often goes undiagnosed and untreated. To utilize the feature, users can simply track their sleep twice for more than four hours within a ten-day period." Samsung says it plans to roll out the feature on the Galaxy Watch series in the US in the third quarter.

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