AT&T today launched sales of the Kyocera DuraForce Pro 2, an extra-rugged Android phone with waterproof body and a non-incendive rating. The 5-inch, full-HD display works through gloves and when wet. It has a 13-megapixel main camera plus wide-angle camera, fingerprint reader, NFC, barometer, memory card slot, wireless charging, and fast charging via USB-C. It utilizes a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor with 4 GB of RAM and supports LTE Cat. 9 on all AT&T bands, including band 14 supporting FirstNet, as well as bands 29 and 30. It's powered by a 3,240 mAh non-removable battery. Verizon launched its own version of the phone in November. AT&T is offering the DuraForce Pro 2 today via online and business channels for $450.
The Opera web browser for Android now includes a free VPN service, for securing data over untrusted networks such as public Wi-Fi. Opera for Android version 51 includes the feature, which is activated with a simple toggle, requiring no sign-in nor account. Opera lets users choose from one of several VPN server locations around the world, and does not log user activity. Opera for Android also includes an ad blocker. The new Opera app is available now from the Play Store.
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The new Apple AirPods have 50% battery life (talk time) and support "Hey Siri" voice commands to let users quickly change songs, make a call, adjust the volume or get directions. Apple also introduced an optional charging case that can be charged on any Qi-compatible wireless charging pad. The new AirPods are available today with the new wireless charging case for $199, or with the older standard case for $159. The wireless charging case is available separately for $79, for customers with existing AirPods. Apple is also now offering free personalized engraving on AirPods. The new AirPods and case are available online today, and in Apple Stores next week.
Google today announced a new, cloud-based service called Stadia that lets people play high-quality games on any device without downloading them. It also caters to people who like to watch others play games, in a way that's integrated with YouTube and competes with Twitch. The service supports high-end 3D games (such as Assassin's Creed) at up to 4K / 60 fps, on any device that supports Chrome, including Android phones, tablets, low-end desktops, and TVs with certain Chromecast dongles. It supports existing input devices, as well as a new Stadia Controller that links directly to the cloud via Wi-Fi. The controller has a headset jack, share/stream button, and Google Assistant button. Games run in Google Cloud datacenters, on special Linux-based Stadia instances that have twice the graphics performance of a modern game console such as the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro. The YouTube integration allows gamers to jump right into a multi-player game directly from a livestream. It supports advanced split-screen features, and the ability to share a playable game moment with other players with simple links. Stadia also supports cross-platform features to link to other game platforms.
Google's alternative email app Inbox will stop working on April 2nd. Many — but not all — of Inbox's hallmark features have recently been introduced in Google's Gmail app.
Following its merger with Polycom, Plantronics is rebranding the combined company as "Poly". The new entity will focus on solutions for businesses and office workers. Plantronics has made Bluetooth headsets with a professional bent for many years. Polycom is a leading manufacturer of audio- and video-conferencing solutions.
Twitter's new camera function offers an all-new visual interface that makes it faster and easier to share visual content, including photos, videos, and live streaming. The updated app has been rolling out in recent days. A new shortcut takes users directly to the camera by swiping sideways from the main feed. The interface offers standard and live modes. The standard mode has a large capture button that users can tap quickly to take a still, or hold to capture video. Both modes include prompts to add your location and a text comment. There's also a separate prompt to add a description of the visual content for the visually-impaired. The camera function defaults to the phone's rear camera, but supports selfie mode as well.
The FCC has issued a proposed rule that would require US carriers to provide vertical location data to emergency dispatchers when mobile users dial 911. The rule would take effect starting in April 2021, requiring that at least 80% of 911 calls provide vertical location data accurate to within three meters. This would help emergency dispatchers determine which floor of larger buildings callers are located on. The FCC first requested this capability in early 2014. The CTIA industry association established an implementation framework in late 2014, and carriers have been conducting tests since then. The FCC used data from these tests to make today's new rules.
The Sonim XP3 is a new rugged clamshell-style phone for Sprint. The two companies announced the phone today, and it's available now. The phone is rugged to military specs, and waterproof with an IP68 rating. Its large buttons are designed to be glove-friendly. It supports Sprint's Direct Connect Plus PTT (walkie-talkie) service. Its 100 dB speaker with noise cancellation is designed to be extra-loud and clear. The software is based on open-source Android (Oreo) but cannot run Android apps. It has a removable 1,500 mAh battery, 2.6-inch LCD main display, small outer display, and a memory card slot. It comes with a three-year warranty. Sprint is offering it for $240, or $10/month.
Apple issued a statement today responding to Spotify's claims of unfair competition because Apple takes 30% of in-app purchase revenue, affecting products like a Spotify Premium subscription. In fact, Apple takes only a 15% cut after the first year of each annual subscription.
Apple today announced that its next annual developer conference will take place June 3-7, 2019 in San Jose. The company usually reveals details of a new version of its iOS software during the keynote presentation on the first day of the event.
Google has released the first beta version of Android Q for Pixel phones. It's intended for developers to start working on app compatibility, and doesn't necessarily include all of the eventual consumer-facing features of the OS. Android Q will bring privacy, security, and performance enhancements. It also adds native support for peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, extended caller-ID and robocall-blocking features, foldable phones, and photo depth maps. It improves support for password managers. It also lets users easily activate certain hardware features (mobile data, wi-fi, NFC, and sound) at the moment an app requires those features, using simple pop-ups instead of needing to dive into the full Settings app. The beta is available now for all Pixel phones, including the very first models.
Google Lookout is a free app that uses AI to identify things it sees through the phone's camera and describe it to a visually-impaired user. The company announced this week that the app is available now for English speakers in the US with a Google Pixel phone. The app has three modes: Explore, for exploring new spaces and dealing with typical office, home, and cooking tasks; Shopping, which reads bar codes, prices, and physical currency; and Quick Read, which reads text from mail, signs, and labels. The app is designed to be used with the phone held in hand, or hung on a neck lanyard. Microsoft already offers a similar app called Seeing AI, and recently updated it to include haptic feedback.
Apple takes a 30% cut of all iOS in-app purchases for digital products and services (but not physical ones). This includes products like a Spotify Premium subscription. Spotify argues that it cannot offer pricing competitive with Apple Music when they have to pay the 30% but Apple does not. Spotify and similar companies can accept payments via other means, but Apple then prevents them from emailing their own customers about updates, etc. Spotify has taken their argument to the European Commission, asking them to rule that these practices constitute unfair competition.
Verizon's first standards-compliant mobile 5G network will launch in select areas of Chicago and Minneapolis on April 11th. 5G service will cost an extra $10/month. The country's first 5G smartphone solution will be the 5G Moto Mod for the Moto z3, which customers can pre-order starting tomorrow, March 14th. For a limited time, the 5G Moto Mod is available for just $50, after which it will sell for $350. The $10/month 5G data plan offers truly unlimited 5G data and requires an existing "Unlimited" service plan. The first three months of 5G service are free. The 5G Moto Mod is only compatible with the Moto z3, and Verizon will only sell it to customers they can confirm have a Moto z3. Verizon has also announced plans to carry the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and LG V50 ThinQ phones, both of which have 5G fully integrated. Verizon's initial 5G NR network relies on the 28 GHz frequency band, which is considered mmWave. Such high frequencies have limited range and do not penetrate well indoors. The initial Chicago coverage will include West Loop, South Loop, Gold Coast, River North, Old Town, Union Station, Willis Tower, Art Institute, Millennium Park, Chicago Theatre, and near the Verizon Store on the Magnificent Mile. The Minneapolis coverage will include Downtown West, Downtown East, areas of Elliot Park, Minneapolis Convention Center, Minneapolis Central Library, Mill City Museum, Target Center, The Commons, and U.S. Bank Stadium. 5G offers lower latency (delay) and faster data speeds overall. Verizon's 5G phones are only compatible with the new 5G NR network launching in April, and not the company's existing 5G Home network, which uses an incompatible, non-standard technology.
In the wake of Red pulling all mention of the 2D Pro Camera module for the Hydrogen One phone from its web site, CEO Jim Jannard issued a statement to clarify that a "pro camera for Hydrogen" project is proceeding, but has been re-assigned from the Hydrogen (phone) team to the Red team (that makes the company's professional video cameras.) The implication is that the device is being redesigned and therefore will look different from what was previously posted on the web site. Mr. Jannard also teased a "new in-device image capture system" and a "Pro camera version" of the Hydrogen One. He continued: "The changes create new opportunities to better satisfy the professional image capture customers as well as the casual consumer for the HYDROGEN program."
Red has removed all mentions of add-on modules for the Hydrogen One phone from its web site. When the phone was announced, add-on modules — including a high-end camera — were one of the key selling points. It was also supposed to integrate with other Red products via the module connector. The $1,300 phone with a unique 3D display is offered by both AT&T and Verizon.
The Sony PlayStation 4 Remote Play app is now available for iOS, accompanied by a corresponding update to the software for the PS4 itself. The app allows users to stream games from their PS4 console to an iOS mobile device over Wi-Fi. The graphics for compatible games are streamed in real-time, overlaid with on-screen controls. The app also lets gamers use the mic and keyboard of their mobile device to interact with games. It requires an iPhone 7 or later, and iOS 12.1 or later. An Android version of the app has been available for several years, but is restricted to Sony's Xperia phones.