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TCL Brings Two NXTPAPER Phones to US Carriers

Friday, 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

Friday, 7:13 AM   by Rich Brome

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 yet publicly available. 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. AT&T will notify affected customers directly.


Android Gains Support for Thread

Thursday, 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

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Tuesday, 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.


iOS 18 Brings Fast Pairing to 3rd-Party Wireless Accessories

Jun 21, 2024, 1:06 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple has quietly introduced a way for third-party wireless accessory makers to implement a new pairing process on iPhone and iPad that's as fast and easy as the one Apple uses for its own AirPods. This "AccessorySetupKit" API is new in iOS 18, currently available in beta for developers. Once users have the manufacturer's app installed, pairing can be as simple as turning on the accessory and bringing it near the phone. A pop-up automatically appears on the phone, and one tap can complete the process, without having to open an app or go into Bluetooth settings. Apple has recently come under government scrutiny in multiple parts of the world for abusing its market position and platform control.


AT&T Raises Prices on Most Old Plans

Jun 20, 2024, 10:43 AM   by Rich Brome

AT&T is raising prices on most of its older service plans by up to $10 per line per month starting this August. This includes most legacy "Unlimited" plans, as well as Mobile Share, FamilyTalk, and Nation plans. Unlimited plans will get a $10/month hike for a single line, or an extra $20/month (total) for family plans. Some plans get additional high-speed data as part of the deal. "AT&T Unlimited Choice, Choice II, Choice Enhanced, Unlimited &More, and Unlimited Value plans will now include 75GB of high-speed data and 30GB of hotspot data. AT&T Unlimited Plus, Plus Enhanced, Unlimited &More Premium, and AT&T Unlimited (with TV) plans will now include 100GB of high-speed data and 60GB of hotspot data." Mobile Share plans gain access to 5G, but also see a price hike. Plans with 6 GB or more of data will see a $10 hike, while plans with less data get a $5 hike. FamilyTalk and Nation plans that are currently $45/month (before taxes and fees) or less will see an increase of $5. More expensive plans will see a $10 bump. These plans will not gain any new benefits. All of these changes go into effect August 2024. Verizon and T-Mobile have also raised rates on older plans in the past year, and AT&T has already done two small increases before this.


Major Battery Maker Makes Big Advance in Solid-State Batteries

Jun 19, 2024, 10:55 AM   by Rich Brome

TDK claims to have made a rechargeable solid-state battery with an energy density 100 times that of existing solid-state batteries, bringing the technology much closer to production for a wider range of consumer devices. TDK is positioning these new batteries for use in wireless earphones, hearing aids, and smartwatches. Solid-state batteries are safer than today's lithium-ion batteries, and can be soldered directly to a circuit board like any other electronic component, helping to reduce overall device size. TDK plans to offer samples of the prototype battery to customers next year, with mass production to follow. TDK is a major battery supplier to Apple and other phone makers.


Chrome Adds "Listen to this page"

Jun 17, 2024, 12:15 PM   by Rich Brome

Google's Chrome web browser for Android has quietly added a new feature that will read a web page aloud. On pages where it makes sense, the main options menu now has a "Listen to this page" option. This brings up a basic audio playback interface at the bottom, which can be expanded to show more options. A scroll bar lets you skip around. Two buttons let you skip 10 seconds back or ahead. You can also choose from several different voices and set playback speed from 0.5x to 4x. By default, it highlights what it's reading and auto-scrolls so you can follow along visually, but this can be disabled.


Light Phone Gets a Complete Redesign with Third Edition

Jun 13, 2024, 1:33 PM   by Rich Brome

The new Light Phone III offers significant upgrades over the Light Phone II, while maintaining the same concept of an un-smartphone without internet, social media, news, or email. The compact, metal-framed design has a simple black & white interface on a larger, matte OLED display. There's a 50 megapixel camera with a two-stage shutter button. A spinning navigation wheel graces the side, while the power button on top includes a fingerprint reader. The 1,800 mAh battery is replaceable. It's rated IP54 for basic water protection. The proprietary software includes: alarm, timer, calculator, calendar, directory, directions, voice memo, and a simple music / podcast player. It does not currently support streaming music, third-party messaging, nor rideshare hailing. The Light Phone III also includes NFC and front-camera hardware for "potential" future updates that would enable video calling and/or a tap-to-pay digital wallet. It's powered by a Snapdragon 4 Gen 2 chipset, enabling 5G. The single unlocked model available globally has excellent support for 4G networks in the US and decent support for 5G in the US. The company currently plans to ship the Light Phone III in January 2025. It can be pre-ordered now for $399, a 50% discount.

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