Microsoft will end support for its Windows 10 Mobile smartphone OS on December 10 2019, and is encouraging people still using Windows 10 Mobile phones to switch to Android or iOS phones. Microsoft is now focusing on those platforms and offers a suite of its own apps for both platforms. After December 10th, Microsoft will no longer offer free security updates for any version of Windows Mobile, making the continued use of Windows phones a security risk. The cutoff for the Lumia 640 and 640 XL phones is sooner: June 11th. "After the end of support, automatic or manual creation of new device backups for settings and some applications will continue for 3 months, ending March 10, 2020. Some services including photo uploads and restoring a device from an existing device backup may continue to work for up to another 12 months from end of support."
Google is buying intellectual property (IP) related to a smartwatch technology, currently under development by Fossil Group, as well as the research and development (R&D) team responsible for that IP. The $40 million deal was announced by Fossil Group today. Fossil has developed "a technology that has the potential to improve upon our existing platform of smartwatches". Fossil Group retains more than 200 R&D team members to focus on innovation and product development. The transaction is expected to close this month.
Motorola will soon revive the RAZR brand for a pricey folding-screen phone for Verizon, the Wall Street Journal reports today. The phone is in testing but could launch as soon as February. The phone would cost roughly $1,500 and be exclusive to Verizon Wireless. Samsung has said it also plans to introduce a phone this year with a screen that bends, allowing the phone to fold in half. Motorola Mobility is owned by Lenovo. The original RAZR was a thin metal flip phone introduced in 2004. Motorola revived the RAZR brand in 2011 for a line of Droid phones that were also exclusive to Verizon. The new "foldable" RAZR has yet to be announced and no other details are available.
Sprint this week became the last major US carrier to commit to ending its relationships with location aggregators, companies that resell phone location data, including real-time customer location. AT&T and T-Mobile last week pledged to cut off location aggregators in March, while Verizon has also told The Washington Post that it's working to end its location aggregator contracts. An investigation by Motherboard published last week found that loose regulation and oversight had led to location data being made available on an effective black market, with bounty hunters and other private citizens able to purchase real-time location data. Legitimate users of the data may be affected by the cutoffs, including roadside assistance services and banks that use customers' location to detect credit card fraud. Several members of congress have called for inquiries into the sharing and protection of location data.
Verizon's top two unlimited postpaid plans now include an Apple Music subscription. The most affordable plan, GoUnlimited, still includes just a six-month trial of Apple Music, as the other plans did previously.
Sprint has a new app offering exclusive deals and cash back rewards up to 20 percent. The company launched My Sprint Rewards today, available for both iOS and Android phones. The app lets Sprint customers access exclusive discounts at Sprint as well as other brands, enter for a chance to win prizes, and earn 3-20 percent cash back on select purchases. The program is similar to T-Mobile Tuesdays, but "can be used any time, day or night, to fit your schedule. New deals will be added regularly from a variety of different brands". Today the app is offering a free large one-topping pizza from Papa John's "while supplies last".
Google's Fi mobile service now supports RCS, the standards-based rich messaging standard. Also today, the company announced that Fi overseas roaming in 33 countries (mostly in Europe) will now take advantage of faster 4G networks. The RCS standard offers rich services like typing indicators, read receipts, and hi-res videos. Fi users can take advantage of RCS simply by using Google's Messages as their default messaging app. Google Fi already offers data service — albeit at slower 3G speeds — in over 200 countries, with no special roaming charges.
A new design for Bluetooth LE tags removes the need for a battery and fits into a cheap, thin, stamp-size sticker, or can be embedded directly in consumer product packaging. A tiny ARM processor transmits an ecrypted ID code like other Bluetooth tracking tags, but is powered by a new antenna design that harvests power from ambient radio waves. It can also sense temperature and weight info, and transmit that data, as well, to nearby Bluetooth LE devices, including phones. The tags have been created and successfully demonstrated by Wiliot, which has secured $50 million in funding from eight major investors, including the investment arms of Samsung, Qualcomm, and Amazon. Wiliot expects manufacturers to embed its tag into products and product packaging, which consumers could interact with, both in stores and at home, to get additional product information on their phones, or track lost items.
CES is the world's consumer tech show. Every year we head out to Vegas to check out everything in person. We honor the standouts with our Best of CES awards. This year, five products really caught our eye.
The Red Magic Mars is a gaming phone with a much more affordable price than other gaming phones, without skimping on the key specs. Nubia (a subsidiary of ZTE) revealed at CES that it plans to bring the Mars to the U.S. in the coming weeks. The base model has a top-end Snapdragon 845 processor paired with a generous 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage for just $400. Step-up models offer 8 or 10 GB of RAM as well as more storage. The 6" display has a 2:1 shape and FHD+ resolution (2160x1080). Its gaming chops include a large 3,800 mAh battery, performance mode, advanced cooling, configurable capacitive shoulder buttons, a dedicated physical switch to enter gaming mode, and a highly customizable strip of animated RGB lights on the back. It also has a 16 megapixel camera and fingerprint reader. Read on for our first impressions.
T-Mobile has now launched Caller Verified technology, which uses the STIR and SHAKEN standards to confirm that caller ID information hasn't been spoofed. The anti-robocall service is currently available only on the Galaxy Note9, but is coming to other T-Mobile smartphones "later this year". The technology requires other telecom companies around the world to also implement STIR / SHAKEN in order to work for all legitimate calls. When caller ID info is confirmed authentic, "Caller Verified" will appear on the phone's incoming call screen.
Sprint this week reached a milestone toward launching 5G when it successfully tested 5G in the real world, on its network in San Diego. The company used a smartphone test device from Qualcomm and network equipment from Nokia. Sprint's 5G network uses massive MIMO technology in Sprint's unique 2.5 GHz band. Sprint's tests have demonstrated 5G delivering a 4-10x increase in capacity and speed compared to 4G LTE. Sprint plans to launch 5G in nine cities by the middle of the year.
The ultra-rugged CAT S48c will soon be available to Verizon business customers, the two brands announced this morning. The S48c has been available with Sprint since early November. The Verizon version will have 64GB os internal storage and a two-year warranty (including screen breakage), but is otherwise the same as the Sprint version. The phone is well-rated for being waterproof and rugged, as well as extreme temperature ranges and safe for areas with flammable materials. Its screen is protected by extra-thick Gorilla Glass 5 in front, and a special metal plate behind it. The screen works through gloves and with wet hands, and the camera has an underwater mode. It's powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor paired with 4 GB of RAM. It also has a 4,000 mAh battery, NFC, USB-C, and a 13-megapixel camera. The CAT S48c will be available through Verizon business channels by the end of January.
Samsung's next big launch event for a Galaxy-brand product will be February 20th in San Francisco. The company is teasing the event with a "10" and the Galaxy brand. Last year's flagships were the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note9, so the next version is logically the 10, and it will be the ten-year anniversary of the Galaxy S series in March.
There's a new touch panel technology in town, and it's coming to next year's phones with flexible displays. Sensel makes touch panels that have the precision and multi-touch capability of today's capacitive touch technology, but are better suited to the flexible displays coming to phones this year and next. Sensel touch panels can can measure the amount of pressure applied, and work perfectly underwater. Sensel is working with two different companies to launch phones with this technology in 2020, one with a bending display, and one with a fixed, curved display.
Pilot earbuds translate among 15 different languages, listening to the person in front of you and speaking the translation right into your ear. They come in a pair, so you can offer one to the other person and have a full two-way conversation in two different languages. Waverly Labs Demonstrated the earbuds at CES in Las Vegas this week. The Pilot earbuds double as standard Bluetooth fully-wireless earbuds. They contain special microphone technology to isolate nearby speech and clean it up for translation. The earbuds work with a companion app, which sends phrases to the cloud for translation. It therefore requires a data connection for translation to work, and there is a delay of a couple seconds for the translation to process. Languages supported include English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Polish, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean. A charging case is included. The Pilot buds are $200, and are available now in red, black, and white.
ToughTested has a new Qi wireless charging pad designed primarily for cars. Its grippy all-rubber construction ensures it stays put, and that your phone stays put while charging. It supports wireless fast charging up to 10W, including Apple's 7.5W fast charging mode for iPhones. It's large enough to accommodate the largest phones, but designed so that a phone placed anywhere in the tray will charge; no centering needed. It has foreign object detection and is Qi-certified to ensure it won't overheat the phone. It includes a Quick Charge power supply that plugs into a car's 12V power port. It will go on sale in March for about $50. Read on for photos and first impressions.
Mophie's new Powerstation PD and Powerstation PD XL external batteries include USB-C PD technology up to 18W, allowing them to charge phones at the maximum fast-charging speeds supported by most phones, including the iPhone. The USB-C port is two-way, used for charging phones and also for charging the battery itself. It supports fast charging up to 15W for charging the battery. A separate full-size USB port allows two phones to be charged from the battery at once. A battery meter on the side is activated by a button. The smaller Powerstation has 6,700 mAh capacity and sells for $60. The Powerstation XL has a 10,050 mAh capacity and runs $80. Both are available now.
Do you ever wish your iPhone had a notification light? Do you use the LED flash to notify you of incoming calls, but wish it weren't blindingly bright? Iconcase is an attractive new case for iPhones that adds a large notification light to the back. The newest model charges by sipping a little juice whenever the iPhone is wirelessly charging through the case, so you never have to worry about charging it. It communicates with the iPhone via standards built in to Bluetooth LE, so you only need to pair it; no special app or setting is required. The standard model includes one light-up icon for incoming calls and second for messages. The company is also working on a range of cases with fixed full-color designs that light up, and a skull design with eyes that light up red. The company says they are close to a deal to sell the cases through Apple's online store in the US. Pricing has yet to be determined, but is expected to be roughly $50. Read on for our hands-on impressions and photos.
Private companies that buy and distribute real-time phone location data from major US phone carriers have been caught rampantly reselling that data to companies and people they aren't supposed to, including private bounty hunters. In a Motherboard investigation, the reporter was able to buy someone's real-time location for $300. A bounty hunter interviewed claims that a barely-secret black market works via multiple layers of reseller companies and ultimately allows almost anyone to purchase this data. There is little regulation for this data in the US.
The good news is that the eye-catching Honor View20 seems like a great phone. The bad news is that it's not clear it will come in a version that will work remotely well on US networks. The back has an eye-catching design. The front has a huge 6.4-inch edge-to-edge screen with a "pin-hole punch" instead of a notch. Inside is a top-end Kirin 980 processor and super hi-res cameras front and back. It has zillions of other features, including a laser 3D scanner. We checked it out.
ROKiT is a new line of affordable unlocked phones accompanied by a unique range of health and life services for what it calls "transitionals", which means people between jobs, people struggling socioeconomically, and anyone without adequate health insurance. The lineup includes two very basic feature phones and three Android models. Two of the Android phones have glasses-free 3D screens and a ROK Flix app with exclusive 3D content. One of the first content offerings is an animated bible created by the company's own animation studio. The company offers a variety of subscription services tailored to its target market. ROK Health is included free for the first year on the three Android phones, and includes pharmacy discounts and family telemedicine. The subscriber and family members under 26 can call and consult with a real doctor at any time. After the first year, ROK Health is $10/month or $100/year. A step-up plan called ROK Life adds roadside assistance, accidental death insurance, burial and cremation insurance, ID theft protection, and family legal services. ROK Life runs $15/month or $150/year. The roadside assistance is also available separately for $30/year. The feature phones are priced $35-40. The Android models run $90-275. The phones work on AT&T and T-Mobile networks, and cellular service must be purchased separately. ROKit phones and services will be available in March. The parent company ROK Brands previously launched ROK Mobile as a music-focused MVNO in 2014, re-launched it in 2015, then closed shop last year.
Verizon business customers will soon have access to the newest BlackBerry, the Key2 LE. TCL Communication, which makes BlackBerry phones, announced today that the phone will launch in the "coming weeks" via business channels. The variant for Verizon will have dual-SIM support, 4 GB of RAM, and 64 GB of internal storage. The Key2 LE has a physical QWERTY keyboard, HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, fingerprint reader, USB-C connector, fast charging, 3.5mm audio jack, and dual rear cameras.
Battery cases are great, but they typically block the charging port, which is especially tricky with phones that lack a headset jack; the case blocks all wired connections. The Mophie Juice Pack Access solves that and other problems neatly, in a well-designed product. We took it for a spin.
For 2019, Alcatel has refreshed its 1x model with an updated design and updated specs. Despite its entry-level price, it sports camera and display features normally found only on much higher-end phones. It also has unique design touches that set it apart from other entry-level fare. Read on for our first impressions.
TCL today announced the Alcatel 1x (2019), an update to last year's 1x with significant upgrades and new features, including dual rear cameras. Like the original 1x, it has a 2:1 display shape and fingerprint reader (some versions, depending on region). The display has been upgraded to HD resolution and enlarged from 5.3 to 5.5 inches. The (non-removable) battery is 22% larger, now 3,000 mAh. While last year's 1x ran Android Go, the new version has 2GB of RAM and a full version of Android 8.1 (Oreo). The distinctive design has a rough texture that wraps around the sides on the bottom half. The rear camera has been upgraded to 13 megapixel and is aided by a second camera for depth, offering a portrait mode with focus adjustable after the shot has been taken. The 1x is powered by a MediaTek 6739 processor. It will ship globally — including North America — in the coming weeks, for around $120.
Planet Computers is at CES this week showing off an early prototype of its Cosmo Communicator, which is an upgraded version of its Gemini. The Cosmo and Gemini share the same basic design that looks like a micro-size laptop. Both have the same "full size" QWERTY keyboard with real laptop-style keys, although the Cosmo's keys are backlit. The Cosmo's upgrades consist mostly of additions to the outer shell, including a small touchscreen, 24-megapixel camera, and fingerprint reader. The processor, memory, and storage have also been upgraded, to a MediaTek P70 processor, 6 GB of RAM, and 128 GB of storage. The Cosmo supports Android 9 as well as other Linux-based OSes. The company is still working on the outer touch-screen interface, with the goal of making it act more like a (large) phone when closed. The Cosmo is currently available on Indiegogo, where it's already over 450% funded.
TCL — maker of Alcatel and BlackBerry phones as well as TVs under their own brand — is getting into the affordable headphone business. The company today announced its first lineup of TCL-branded wired and Bluetooth personal audio devices for the US, with four sub-brands. ELIT are the top-end models; some have drivers as large as 40mm and/and active noice canceling, ranging in cost $25-80. The ACTV line includes two models with sweat resistance and over-ear loops to keep them in place during workouts. The wired model is $20 while the Bluetooth is $40. The SOCL line are colorful and start at $10 for the basic wired model. The six models top out at $60 for the top-end Bluetooth 5 model with neck band and 18-hour battery life. The MTRO series has more conservative designs, and includes four models: in-ear and over-ear, each available wired or with Bluetooth. They range $20-50. The first models will launch February 1st, with the full lineup available by summer.
Tile — the company that makes tiny Bluetooth tags that help you find lost gear — has partnered up with a number of chip and audio-device companies to put its Tile technology into Bluetooth chipsets and reference designs. Ultimately, the company is trying to make it as easy as possible for Bluetooth device makers to include Tile technology in any (easily-lost) Bluetooth device. Tile has partnered with Qualcomm, Dialog Semiconductor, Silicon Labs, and Toshiba to work on their Bluetooth chipsets. Bose and Skullcandy already offer products with integrated Tile. The next wave of Tile-enabled Bluetooth devices will ship in the coming months from Sennheiser, Sol Republic, Plantronics and Soundcore by Anker.
Sprint joined the other top-tier US carriers in committing to sell Samsung's 5G phone next year. AT&T and Verizon have committed to offering the unnamed phone in the first half of next year. Sprint plans to launch the phone in "summer", which likely puts its launch after the other two carriers, although Sprint will offer a 5G phone from LG in the first half of the year. T-Mobile will offer the same Samsung phone, but has only committed to launching it some time in 2019. Sprint's version of the Samsung phone will access 5G in Sprint's 2.5 GHz radio frequency band, as well as 4G LTE in all of Sprint's usual bands. In the first half of 2019 Sprint plans to launch its mobile 5G network in nine cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix and Washington, D.C., with additional markets to be announced.
Coolpad's new strategy includes a focus on products for families, so it's fitting that their first device of 2019 is a watch for kids. Naturally, it includes real-time GPS location tracking, for parents to keep tabs on their little ones. But Coolpad's fully custom software includes a lot of other thoughtful features, such as voice calling, audio messages, texting, step tracking, and more. It works over 4G LTE, and yet it's surprisingly affordable. We checked it out.
T-Mobile has successfully tested 5G technology on three different radio frequency bands, including 600 MHz (band 71), in a real setting outside of a lab. The company is working toward offering 5G service nationwide in 2020. T-Mobile worked with Ericsson and Intel to complete the recent test, which involved three users participating in a video call, using 600 MHz, 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands. While the GHz bands offer greater speed and capacity, the 600 MHz band offers better "blanket" coverage. During the tests, the teams generated a 5G signal capable of covering more than a thousand square miles from a single tower.
Do you wish you could move around the room as you make a how-to YouTube video? Do you ever feel the urge to pace as you rant in stories on social media? The Pivo is for you. This innovative device and app uses face-tracking software and a motorized tripod head to keep your phone aimed at you as you move around while making a video. We took it for a quick spin.
For the first time, Verizon customers can use an unlocked Blu phone certified by Verizon for use on its network. Two models are compatible: the recently-launched Blu Vivo XI and Vivo XI+. The phones can be used with Verizon’s Bring your Own Device Promotion, where customers will get a $150 prepaid MasterCard and free SIM card with activation. Best Buy is also running a sale today of $20 off the Vivo XI. Customers who have already purchased one of these phones can request a software update from Blu that will add official Verizon compatibility.
Residents of Los Angeles can now download an app that can provide early warning of many major earthquakes. The app, offered by the city, is called ShakeAlertLA and is available now for both Android and iOS. The app was developed under contract with AT&T and is powered by the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) earthquake early warning system. The USGS system currently includes 615 earthquake-sensing stations in California, with another 500 to be added by 2021. Similar services are already available in Mexico City and Japan, and have proven effective in giving citizens time to find safety in the event of a quake.
The USB Implementers Forum today announced the USB Type-C Authentication Program, which provides a way for devices with USB-C connectors to securely confirm that attached devices are authentic and do not contain hidden capabilities. For example, the new protocol can be used to prevent a phone from connecting to a charger that contains hidden malware capability. "Using this protocol, host systems can confirm the authenticity of a USB device, USB cable or USB charger, including such product aspects as the capabilities and certification status. All of this happens right at the moment a connection is made – before inappropriate power or data can be transferred." The new protocol must be adopted by phone and accessory makers to be effective.
The FCC plans to suspend most of its operations on Thursday, Jan. 3rd, if the government shutdown continues. 83% of FCC employees will be furloughed, including those that issue the approval of new phones. Such approval is legally required for any radio-transmitting device before it can be sold for use in the U.S.. If the shutdown is prolonged, it could delay the launch of some new phones in the U.S. market. The FCC will continue certain critical operations, including interference mitigation that threatens life or property, as well as spectrum auctions, which are funded by auction proceeds. The ongoing government shutdown is due to an impasse between President Trump and Democrats over whether a bill to fund the government will include funding for the southern border wall that the President promised in his campaign.
Sony has boosted production of its 3D sensors to meet heavy demand from phone makers going into 2019, according to Bloomberg. The sensors can be used for secure facial recognition, mid-air gesture recognition, object scanning and recognition, and even room mapping. Sony's 3D sensor technology provides greater accuracy and distance (up to 5 meters) than competing technologies that use structured light or stereo vision. Instead, Sony's sensors use a pulse of invisible laser light, paired with a camera-like sensor that measures the precise time that the light takes to reflect off surfaces, instantly providing a detailed 3D map.
The FCC this week granted Google permission to deploy its experimental Project Soli sensors in mobile devices in the U.S.. The unique sensors use a form of RADAR technology to detect specific hand gestures in mid-air, and can be placed in devices such as phones and smartwatches. The sensors are designed to detect gestures such as a finger pinch and turning an invisible knob. The technology also has many potential uses in accessibility. A Soli sensor emits low-power radio waves in the 57-64 GHz frequency band and detects interruptions in that field to create a 3D map of hands or other objects in its field of view. That same frequency band is used by satellites that monitor the earth and its atmosphere, as well as radio telescopes. Facebook had argued to the FCC that Soli sensors at Google's requested power levels could interfere with those existing services. The FCC ruled in favor of Google, including allowing the use of Soli sensors on airplanes.
Essential Products confirmed that its first mobile device, the Essential Phone, is no longer available. "We are sold out of Essential Phone on essential.com and won’t be adding any new inventory," said Essential in a statement provided to Droid-Life. "We are now hard at work on our next mobile product and will continue to sell accessories and provide speedy software updates and customer support to our existing community." The Essential Phone went on sale in the summer months of 2017. The high-end Android device failed to resonate with consumers. In recent months the phone has been offered at a deep discount. Essential had a tough year. Executive Andy Rubin was forced to step aside for a short time after he was said to have received a $90 million severance package from Google despite claims of sexual harassment made against him. Rubin later rejoined Essential, but the company shifted gears and laid off staff amid the changes. Essential has not expounded on what its "next mobile product" will be.
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