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Samsung XCover Pro Targets Businesses

Monday, 4:25 PM   by Rich Brome

Samsung this week revealed the Galaxy XCover Pro, a new Android 10 phone "optimized for a variety of industries including retail, healthcare, logistics and manufacturing". It's just slightly larger than the Galaxy S10+, but with a rugged body military-rated for drops up to 1.5 meters, and rated IP68 for dust and water. Its flat screen measures 6.2-inches, sports full-HD+ resolution, and works with gloves and wet fingers. It has a 4,050 mAh removable battery that support 15W fast charging and charging docks with pogo pins. It also has a 25 megapixel main camera, 13 megapixel front camera, NFC, fingerprint reader on the side, and two programmable shortcut buttons. One of the buttons has be used for the PTT (walkie-talkie) feature of Microsoft Teams. It's powered by a Samsung Exynos chip paired with 4 GB of RAM. It has 64 GB of storage built-in and supports memory cards up to 512 GB. It will work on Verizon's network in the US and be available in the first half of 2020 for $500.

Google Pay Now Supports Student ID Cards

Jan 10, 2020, 2:02 PM   by Rich Brome

Transact — a leading supplier of student ID card systems — this week announced support for Google Pay, the primary digital wallet feature of Google's Android OS. The new capability allows students of participating colleges and universities to carry their student ID in their phone instead of a physical card. Students can simply tap their NFC-enabled phone on readers to access campus buildings, as well as payments for  dining, laundry, vending, and retail. Apple Wallet has supported the Transact platform since late 2018, and additional student-ID systems since late 2019. Fifteen institutions have committed to the initial roll-out of Transact for Google Pay, including Arkansas State University, Chowan University, College of Coastal Georgia, Duke University, Georgetown University, Hamilton College, Johns Hopkins University, Marshall University, Mercer University, Roanoke College, St. Edward’s University, South Dakota State University, Temple University, The University of Alabama, and University of New Brunswick.

CAT's Latest Rugged Phone is Slightly Cheaper (Hands On)

Jan 10, 2020, 1:00 PM   by Rich Brome

CAT's latest rugged phone for the US market is the S32. It's a bit more affordable than past models at $349. It's rated IP68 for water and dust. It can withstand being submerged under 1.5 meters of water for up to 35 minutes. It also has a military rating for drop and shock. It has a 5.5-inch HD display covered in DragonTrail Pro glass that works with gloves and wet fingers. It has a 4,200 mAh battery. It's powered by a MediaTek Helio A20 processor with 3 GB RAM, 32 GB storage, and Android 10. Features include NFC, 13 megapixel main camera, memory card slot, 3.5mm audio jack, and a user-assignable shortcut key on the side. The US variant will have full support for Verizon and T-Mobile 4G LTE bands, and decent support for AT&T, including band 14 for FirstNet.

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Best of CES 2020

Jan 8, 2020, 8:44 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 8, 2020, 8:59 PM

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, four products wowed us, each for a different reason.

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Coolpad Planning Smartwatch for Seniors

Jan 8, 2020, 6:41 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 8, 2020, 6:41 PM

Coolpad is planning to introduce a new smartwatch later this year that will target the senior market, according to Coolpad US CEO Steve Cistulli in an interview with Phone Scoop. It will be based on the company's Dyno 2 smartwatch for children, but add an optical heart rate monitor and two-contact ECG sensor. It will also offer a new user interface tailored for the senior market. It will be offered under its own brand, while Dyno will remain a kid-focused brand. Similar to how the Dyno watches connect to a platform that allows parents to monitor their children, the new watch will allow adults to keep tabs on the whereabouts and health of their aging parents, and stay in touch more easily. Coolpad hopes the watch will enable more "aging in place" living.

Hands On with the Coolpad Dyno 2 Smartwatch for Kids

Jan 8, 2020, 6:30 PM   by Rich Brome

Coolpad has a new version of its Dyno smartwatch for kids, and it's better in every way. The Dyno 2 is a "kids" smartwatch that slightly older kids might not be embarrassed to wear, thanks to new color and interface options. And they've upgraded the display, processor, and charging connector. It also has dramatically better LTE network support. A new feature called Quests lets parents game-ify chores. Like the original Dyno, it has an SOS button, full parental control, location tracking, voice calling, and text messaging. Coolpad it currently planning to ship it April for $190. Read on for more details and hands-on impressions.

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Quibi Reveals Plans for Original Video Shows in Both Portrait and Landscape

Jan 8, 2020, 5:50 PM   by Rich Brome

Quibi, short for "quick bites", is a new video streaming service designed specifically for phones. It will launch in early April and cost $5/month, or $8/month for the ad-free version. To optimize for phone viewing, all content is available in both landscape and portrait orientation, and users can switch orientation at any time while watching. All Quibi content is original, filmed and framed specifically to work in both orientations. Also, all content is ten minutes or less, for viewing on the go. Quibi has been busy teaming up with big names and giving them big budgets to produce original content. They're working with, among others, Zac Efron, Idris Elba, Kristen Bell, Chrissy Teigen, Kendall Jenner, Tyra Banks, Steph Curry, and 50 Cent. The company has raised $1 billion. The top-tier programs are budgeted at up to $125,000 a minute. The company plans to roll out more than 175 original shows and 8,500 episodes within its first year.

New Shock-Absorbing Material for Phone Cases Doesn't Block mmWave 5G

Jan 8, 2020, 4:37 PM   by Rich Brome

Certain materials used in current phone cases can block the mmWave frequencies used in some 5G networks. D3O has developed a new, less-dense version of its D3O shock-absorbing material that lets mmWave 5G signals pass through unimpeded. D3O calls it D3O with 5G Signal Plus Technology. The material is impregnated with "micro-voids" to make it less dense. D3O says it can provide the same degree of shock absorption as its standard material. Gear4 (a Zagg brand) is the exclusive licensee and user of D3O material for phone cases, and will use D3O with 5G Signal Plus Technology in its 2020 cases for 5G phones.

Hands On with the OnePlus Concept One

Jan 8, 2020, 12:02 AM   by Rich Brome

A quick look at the new concept phone from OnePlus, including its unique electro-chromatic technology that seamlessly hides the cameras when not in use. Read on for technical details, video of the Invisible camera in action, hands-on photos, and impressions.

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Ultrasonic Sensors Give You More Ways To Touch Your Phone

Jan 7, 2020, 10:14 PM   by Rich Brome

You may be familiar with phones you can squeeze, or that have touch-sensitive sides. Sentons makes those sensors, but they can do more than those simple actions. Much more. This quick video demos the more advanced possibilities, and gives you an up-close look at the ultrasonic sensors themselves.

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Kyocera's Next Rugged Smartphone Will Have 5G, Might Look Like This

Jan 7, 2020, 4:08 PM   by Rich Brome

Kyocera is at CES this year showing off mock-ups of 5G devices under development, including their next rugged smartphone for the US, which will have 5G. Kyocera's Product Planning Manager Curtis Wick confirmed to Phone Scoop that the company is still actively developing rugged smartphones for the US market, similar to the DuraForce Pro 2 that is currently offered by AT&T and Verizon. The mock-up shown at CES is not a functional prototype, nor the final design. But it shows the direction the company is going with its designs.

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Google Assistant Gains New Speaking, Privacy Actions

Jan 7, 2020, 2:57 PM   by Rich Brome

At CES this year, Google is showing off several new functions coming to Google Assistant on Android phones. Soon, you'll be able to say "Hey Google, read it" or "Hey Google, read this page" when you're viewing an article. When you do, it will use "new voice datasets to create more expressive and more natural sounding voices" for reading long-form content. The content can also be translated into 42 languages. Google is also adding two new voice actions for people to easily control their privacy. The first is "Hey Google, that wasn’t for you," which lets you tell the Assistant to forget what it heard if an unintended activation occurs. The other is "Hey Google, are you saving my audio data?" to learn about your privacy controls and go directly into the settings screen to change your preferences. Google added several other privacy-related commands recently, including "Hey Google, delete everything I said to you this week."

Sprint Kills Off Virgin Mobile

Jan 7, 2020, 2:41 PM   by Rich Brome

Sprint is shutting down its Virgin Mobile prepaid brand. Starting the week of February 2nd, Sprint will move current Virgin Mobile customers to Sprint's other prepaid brand, Boost Mobile. According to a Sprint statement to FierceWireless, "In most circumstances, customers can keep their current phone and will receive a comparable or better Boost Mobile service plan with no extra cost". All of Sprint's business plans are currently in a kind of limbo as the company awaits a court verdict on whether it will be allowed to merge with T-Mobile. The pending merger has put a pause on all major investments and strategic moves, which in turn has hurt business units such as Virgin Mobile.

PopSockets Intros Wireless Charger Compatible with PopGrips

Jan 7, 2020, 12:03 PM   by Rich Brome

PopSockets today announced PopPower, a Qi wireless charger with a hole in the middle to accommodate the company's popular PopGrip pop-out grip accessory. The $60 charger supports fast wireless charging on Apple and Samsung phones, as well as the new Qi Extended Power Profile (EPP) standard for 15W fast charging. The charger is only compatible with non-metallic PopGrips. The PopPower is available now from the PopSockets web site in three designs: Matte White, Mountainscape and Cosmic Cloud (shown).

Razer's Kishi Adds Full Game Controls to More Phones (Hands On)

Jan 7, 2020, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Razer has introduced a new accessory that adds full-size physical game controls to a much wider range of phones than its previous Junglecat accessory. The Kishi comes in versions for both iOS and Android. The iOS version has a Lightning connector and is compatible with the iPhone 7 and newer. The Android version is designed to work with most phones that have a centered USB-C connector on the bottom. Kishi's controls are full-size and close to the ergonomics of a typical console game controller. The bottom of the right controller has a USB-C (or Lightning) connector for pass-through charging. The Kishi is powered directly by the phone, so it never needs charging. Kishi will be available in a few months for a price in roughly the same range as the Junglecat, which currently sells for $100. Read on for our hands-on impressions and notes.

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Coolpad Bringing Unlocked 5G Phone to US for Under $400

Jan 7, 2020, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Coolpad's first 5G phone will be offered as an unlocked phone in the US with wide support for most US 5G networks. It will sell for under $400, making it the most affordable 5G phone to date in the US. It will be fully compatible with the current and planned sub-6 GHz 5G networks of AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, supporting 5G NR in frequency bands 2, 5, 12, 25, 41, 66, and 71. That is, by far, the largest number of US 5G bands supported in a single phone announced to date. (It won't support the faster mmWave 5G networks offered by Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, although those networks offer limited coverage in only the densest area of major cities.) This new phone will feature a 6.53-inch Full-HD+ display with HDR10 and a small notch, Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 chip, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, 4,000 mAh battery, and 18W fast charging. For cameras, it will have a 48 megapixel main, 8 megapixel wide, and a 16 megapixel front camera. It will also come with Android 10, 3.5mm headphone jack, THX-certified stereo speakers, and a memory card slot. A unique color gradient on the back fades from denim to sand. It will be available in the second quarter of 2020. The exact model name and additional details will be announced later.

Aukey's Omnia Chargers Deliver Huge Wattage in Tiny Packages

Jan 7, 2020, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Aukey's new Omnia USB-PD chargers use GaN technology to offer fast charging for all types of USB-C devices in unusually compact form factors. Aukey claims they are "the world's smallest PD chargers". The smallest is the size of an average phone charger, but offers up to 61 watts of power, enough to charge a standard laptop at full speed. It has a single USB-C output. Also available are slightly-larger 65W models with either two USB-C ports or one USB-C and one USB-A. The 100W models are slightly larger still, and come with either one or two USB-C ports. Chargers like these allow road warriors to carry a single compact charger for both their phone and laptop. All Omnia chargers feature foldaway wall prongs for compact stowage. The new chargers will be available in the second quarter of 2020. Pricing is yet to be determined.

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Bluetooth Audio Gets Complete Overhaul with New Features and Better Performance

Jan 6, 2020, 9:00 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 6, 2020, 9:14 PM

The Bluetooth SIG today announced Bluetooth LE Audio, a new part of the Bluetooth standard designed to replace all previous audio profiles, which will now be referred to as "Classic Audio". LE Audio uses the Bluetooth LE radio, a version of Bluetooth optimized for low power consumption. LE Audio takes advantage of the broadcast capability of Bluetooth LE, which will allow one audio source to transmit to an unlimited number of Bluetooth devices nearby. Individuals will be able to use this feature to listen to music or watch video together. The broadcast feature is also designed for buildings such as theaters, airports, museums, gyms, and convention centers. Users will be able to choose a public (or password-protected) Bluetooth LE audio stream, much the same as choosing Wi-Fi networks today, and listen to the audio channel (or language) of their choice. Because it uses the LE radio and also a new "LC3" codec, LE Audio devices should use up to 50% less power compared to Classic Audio devices. Alternately, device makers can choose to offer much better sound quality using the same amount of power as Classic Audio devices. LE Audio also supports multi-stream and stream syncing. This will provide better native support for stereo true wireless earbuds, and allow earbuds to remain connected to multiple source devices simultaneously. The LE Audio spec also includes specific features to better support Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids. LE Audio requires Bluetooth 5.2, a new version of the core Bluetooth spec that was formally adopted and published earlier today. The first LE Audio devices are expected to ship around the end of 2020.

iFrogz Fills Out Bluetooth Lineup with Sport and ANC Models

Jan 6, 2020, 4:36 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 9, 2020, 7:11 PM

iFrogz has new affordable Bluetooth headphones to address new categories. The Airtime Sport are the company's first true wireless earbuds with a fitness/sport focus, featuring "around-the-ear sport wings". The Airtime Sport also feature 6mm drivers, touch controls, and a charging case with Qi wireless charging and a USB-C connector. iFrogz also offers free replacement earbud tips for life. They will sell for $80 and be available later this quarter. The Airtime Vibe are the company's first with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), to reduce outside noise by approx. 20 dB. These over-ear cans also feature up to 30 hours of battery life, or 25 when using ANC. They're rated IPx2 for light water resistance and support wired mode as well. They will go on sale later this quarter for $100.

Qualcomm aptX Voice Brings HD Quality to Bluetooth Voice Calls

Jan 6, 2020, 4:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm today introduced a new high-quality codec for voice calls over Bluetooth. aptx Voice brings the high quality of aptX — currently available for stereo music connections over Bluetooth — to voice calls over Bluetooth. Standard Bluetooth voice call profiles don't deliver the full quality offered by newer HD Voice services available on 4G networks. aptX Voice corrects this, allowing 32 kHz voice call quality over Bluetooth. aptX Voice is already supported on Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 765 and 865 chipsets.

Hands-On with TCL's Newest Foldable Concept

Jan 6, 2020, 3:30 PM   by Rich Brome

TCL has put out a few folding-screen concepts in the past year, and now they have a new one to show off at CES. It's a little more polished and functional than previous concepts, but it's also definitely not market-ready. The device resembles a small Android tablet when open, but is smaller than a phone when closed. In an interview with Phone Scoop, TCL spokesperson Jason Gerdon said that TCL currently plans to bring a foldable phone to market in 2020, but isn't trying to "rush it"; the company won't hesitate to delay their first foldable if the software and/or market isn't ready. We had some time with the concept model. Read on for our impressions and thoughts.

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Alcatel's 2020 Lineup Has Much Larger Batteries

Jan 6, 2020, 3:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Alcatel today announced four new affordable phones in its 1- and 3-series. While they are mostly similar to least year's models, all have significantly larger batteries. Most have 4,000 mAh batteries. Only the very lowest-end Android Go model has a 3,000 mAh battery, (up from 2,200 mAh in last year's version).

No US variants were announced, but in recent years, Cricket, Metro, and Verizon have launched their own variants based on Alcatel's global models. Read on for a quick hands-on of the 1V.

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TCL's New 10 Series Phones Include 5G Model Under $500 (Hands-On)

Jan 6, 2020, 3:00 PM   by Rich Brome

After "soft-launching" with the Plex phone last year, TCL is now previewing its first widely-available lineup of own-brand phones: the 10 series, all of which offer premium features for under $500. TCL officially announced very few details of the three phones, but shared more with Phone Scoop in a hands-on session. All three models offer four rear cameras. The TCL 10 5G offers sub-6 GHz 5G powered by the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 chip and an extra-large battery. It also has a large display with a "hole punch" for the selfie camera in the top-left corner. A fingerprint reader is located on the back. The 10 Pro has a premium design with a curved-edge AMOLED display, in-display fingerprint reader, matte glass back with reflective gradient effect, and metal frame. It will be available in black and green. The 10L (L for Lite) is similar in design to the 10 5G, but thinner and lighter. The 10L and 10 Pro will be available in the US unlocked for under $500 in the second quarter. TCL did not announce launch details for the 10 5G, but said it would also be priced starting under $500. Further details on the 10 series will be announced at the MWC trade show in late February. Read on for more details and our hands-on impressions.

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Qualcomm, ZTE Successfully Test Voice Call Over 5G

Jan 6, 2020, 1:09 PM   by Rich Brome

Qualcomm and ZTE today announced that they have successfully tested a Voice over New Radio (VoNR) call. VoNR is essential for the rollout of 5G SA (stand-alone) networks. All current 5G networks are NSA (non-stand-alone), meaning they only work as an add-on to existing 4G networks. On a 5G NSA network, all voice calls happen over the 4G network. With VoNR, 5G SA networks will be able to handle voice calls and operate independently of 4G networks. 5G SA networks will also be more efficient and unlock additional benefits of 5G such as lower latency. The milestone announced today was achieved using ZTE's 5G NR base station and a 5G smartphone form factor test device from Qualcomm.

JBL's Club One Headphones Offer Pro-Grade Features

Jan 6, 2020, 12:13 PM   by Rich Brome

JBL's Club series is the company's new line of high-end Bluetooth headphones. The Club One is the flagship model, offering a long list of pro-grade technologies and features not seen on most other Bluetooth headphones. The graphene drivers are High Res certified. JBL's "True Adaptive Noise Cancellation" samples ambient sound 50,000 times per second and compensates for sound leakage caused by factors such as eyeglasses and movement. A SilentNow feature invokes the noise cancellation without activating Bluetooth, for complete isolation from all sound. Other features include Ambient Aware and TalkThru functions for when you want to hear outside sound, Personi-Fi personal calibration, support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, touch controls, and durable metal hinges. The Club One are full-size over-ear cans, and will sell for $350 this spring. The company also introduced the Club 950NC and Club 700BT models, for $250 and $150, respectively. The models have most of the features of the Club One, but the 950NC have a less-advanced active noise cancellation. The 700BT does not have noise cancellation and is on on-ear model, instead of over-ear. All three models have roughly 50 hours of battery life, or half that when using noise cancellation.

Jabra Elite Active 75t Are Smaller, Longer-Lasting, and More Waterproof

Jan 5, 2020, 10:30 PM   by Rich Brome

Jabra has unveiled its latest high-end true wireless earbuds for "active lifestyles". The Elite Active 75t are based on the standard Elite 75t, but "enhanced for durability and optimized for workout and fitness use." They replace the Elite Active 65t. Compared that previous model, the new model is 22% smaller, features 89% more battery life, and has an improved IP57 rating for dust and water resistance. Like its predecessor, the Elite Active 75t has passive noise isolation with an optional HearThrough feature to hear important ambient noise for safety. The buds alone can last for 7.5 hours on a single charge, and the USB-C charging case allows up to 28 hours of battery life. A software update coming in Q2 will enable single-earbud mode, and also add a calibration feature that can actively tune the earbuds to your specific ears and hearing. The Elite Active 75t will be available in February for $199. The earbuds will be available in three colors at launch: Navy, Copper Black (Amazon exclusive), and Titanium Black (Best Buy exclusive). In March-April, three additional colors will become available: Grey, Sienna, and Mint.

Galaxy S10 Lite and Note10 Lite Carve Out New Space in Samsung's Lineup

Jan 3, 2020, 12:14 PM   by Rich Brome

Samsung today announced two new phones: the Galaxy S10 Lite and Galaxy Note10 Lite. In spite of the naming scheme, the two new models are quite similar to each other. Both have a 6.7-inch, full-HD Super AMOLED display, 4,500 mAh battery, fast charging, in-display fingerprint reader, 6 or 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, memory card slot, and a 32-megapixel front camera in a centered hole-punch in the display. The phones differ in processor (not specified), rear camera specs, and of course the Note10 Lite has a stylus. The S10 Lite has standard, wide, and macro cameras on the back (48, 12, and 5 megapixel, respectively.) The Note10 Lite has standard, wide, and telephoto cameras (all 12 megapixel.) Pricing, regions, and launch date were not announced. The FCC has approved a version of the Galaxy Note10 Lite that could be offered by Verizon, but no other versions compatible with US carriers have been approved to date.

JLabs Brings True Wireless Bluetooth Down to $29

Jan 3, 2020, 11:50 AM   by Rich Brome

JLab Audio today announced the Go Air fully wireless Bluetooth earbuds, which will sell for just $29. The small earbuds last for up to 5 hours in a single session. The included charging case adds 15 hours of battery life, plus it has an integrated USB charging cable. Integrated touch controls on the earbuds allow the user to choose from three different sound profiles without using an app. The buds use Bluetooth 5 and are rated IPx4 for water resistance. They come with a 2 year warranty. They will be available in March.

Verizon Fulfills Promise of 30+ 5G Cites in 2019

Dec 23, 2019, 12:05 PM   by Rich Brome

Verizon flipped the switch on 5G service in three new cities today: Cleveland, Columbus, and Hampton Roads, VA. This brings to 31 the number of cities where Verizon has launched its mmWave 5G service. Since early 2019, Verizon has promised to launch 5G in at least 30 cities by the end of the year. In Columbus, the launch includes the city's airport, Verizon's first airport deployment of 5G. In Cleveland, Verizon is launching 5G at both Progressive Field and FirstEnergy Stadium, the 15th NFL stadium to see Verizon 5G. Verizon launched 5G in Los Angeles and Miami earlier this month. Verizon's current 5G service uses mmWave frequency bands, which offer fast speeds but limited coverage. Verizon's lineup of phones with integrated 5G consists of the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G, LG V50 ThinQ 5G, and Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.

Verizon Expands 5G Network to 28 Cities

Dec 20, 2019, 9:10 AM   by Rich Brome

Verizon today launched 5G in six new cities: Charlotte, Greensboro, Grand Rapids, Miami, Salt Lake City, and Spokane. Earlier this week, Verizon launched 5G in LA, Des Moines, Hoboken, and Memphis. This brings the company's 5G city count to 28. As with all of Verizon's 5G deployments to date, the new service uses high-frequency mmWave bands, which offer high speeds but limited coverage. In each city, 5G service is only available in the highest-density parts of town. For example, in Miami, 5G is available in "parts of Downtown Miami along Biscayne Blvd and near landmarks, such as: The Frost Museum, American Airlines Arena, Hard Rock Stadium, the surrounding area of Miami Gardens, and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport." Verizon remains on track to offer 5G in at least 30 cities by the end of 2019.

Congress Passes Anti-Robocall Bill

Dec 20, 2019, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

The Senate this week passed the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, a bill aimed at fighting the scourge of unsolicited robocalls. The House of Representatives passed the bill earlier this month, and the President is expected to sign the bill into law within days. TRACED includes two key components: First, the FCC will now be empowered to fine robocallers up to $10,000 for each call. Second, US wireless companies will be required by law to implement "call authentication technologies" such as STIR/SHAKEN, a new protocol that fights caller-ID spoofing by securely confirming call metadata (caller ID). Major carriers have already started to deploy STIR/SHAKEN, at the urging of the FCC.

InvisibleShield Offers Camera Lens Protection

Dec 20, 2019, 8:34 AM   by Rich Brome

InvisibleShield, a leading brand for transparent phone screen protectors, has expanded its offerings to include clear lens protectors for the three cameras on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max. GlassFusion Hybrid Glass Camera Lens Protection is made from a "hybrid" glass material that absorbs shock, disperses impact, and protects the lenses from scuffs and scratches. An oleophobic coating means smudges and fingerprints wipe away easily. The product consists of three separate protectors, one for each camera lens. GlassFusion Hybrid Glass Camera Lens Protection is available from zagg.com for $15.

Emergency Alerts Upgraded to be More Specific, Relevant

Dec 19, 2019, 12:51 PM   by Rich Brome

New FCC rules for Wireless Emergency Alerts take effect this month. The new rules are designed to make emergency alerts more specific, more relevant, and less annoying. Local officials can now conduct alert system tests at any time, but consumers are now opted out of such tests by default. Carriers are now required to deliver alerts with greater geographic accuracy (to within 1/10th of a mile of the target area). Emergency messages delivered to 4G and 5G phones can now be up to 360 characters — instead of the previous limit of 90 characters for 3G and older phones — and phones are required to keep recent alerts available to view for 24 hours. Officials also now have the option to send alerts in Spanish, which will automatically be delivered to phones set to the Spanish language in settings. There is also a new category of alert called Public Safety Messages, which is designed to provide actionable additional information related to a previous alert. For example, if an Imminent Threat alert was issued for a hurricane, a follow-up Public Safety Message might provide the locations of nearby shelters, or an advisement to boil tap water before drinking. Like most other alert types, users can opt out of Public Safety Messages. Another recent rule change allows emergency officials to add actionable links to alerts, which can be phone numbers or web addresses.

Samsung Updates 2019 Flagships to Android 10

Dec 19, 2019, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome

An update that includes Android version 10 is now rolling out to Samsung Galaxy S10 phones in the US. The Note10 series will receive the update "starting at the end of the month."

Smart Home Industry Aims for Better Compatibility with New Protocol

Dec 18, 2019, 12:21 PM   by Rich Brome

Amazon, Apple, and Google have joined forces on a new working group within the ZigBee Alliance to create a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products. The new group, called Project Connected Home over IP, will take an open-source approach for the development and implementation of the new protocol, including a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification. By basing the new standard on IP (internet protocol) technology, the need for proprietary smart home "hubs" should be reduced or eliminated, and proven security technologies can be used. The first version of the standard will be designed to work over three different radio types: Wi-Fi (up to and including Wi-Fi 6), Bluetooth LE 4.1-5.0, and 802.15.4 (using Google's Thread at 2.4 GHz). The first compatible devices may implement the new protocol over any one (or more than one) of the three radio types, in addition to existing smart home protocols. Rather than starting from scratch, the group intends to accelerate development by leveraging existing, market-tested technology contributed by the founding companies. Google will contribute its Weave and Thread technologies, both of which are used in its Nest products. Apple will contribute HomeKit, Amazon will contribute its Alexa Smart Home technology, and the Zigbee Alliance will contribute its Dotdot data models. Other participating companies include Samsung SmartThings, IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Somfy, Resideo, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, and Wulian. The Working Group has a goal to release a draft specification and a preliminary reference open source implementation in late 2020.

Sprint Launches Basic Spam-Call Protection for Free

Dec 17, 2019, 2:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Sprint has joined T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T in offering a free service with basic protection against fraud and spam callers. Like the free services already offered by other carriers, Sprint's new Call Screener Basic can block the highest-risk fraud calls, and identify other likely spam calls as they ring. Sprint's new free service also include caller-ID for businesses. A premium version, called Call Screener Plus, runs $3/month and includes advanced caller-ID for personal lines, plus options to automatically block lower-risk spam calls. Users of Sprint Call Screener will receive a free 15-day trial of Sprint Call Screener Plus. Android phones sold by Sprint should already have the app. iPhone users can download the app from the App Store.

Verizon Launches 5G in LA

Dec 16, 2019, 12:17 PM   by Rich Brome

Verizon has launched mmWave 5G in Los Angeles, its 19th city to get the service. Coverage includes "parts of" Downtown, Chinatown, Del Rey, and Venice. Verizon recently started publishing 5G coverage maps; the 5G map for LA will be published on Dec. 20th. Like other mmWave deployments, data speeds are quick, but coverage is limited to select high-density areas of each city. Verizon has indicated it will also offer 5G in lower frequency bands for greater 5G coverage, but has yet to announce specific plans on that front. Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile have already launched 5G with broader coverage using lower frequency bands. Verizon's mmWave 5G service is already available in New York City, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, Dallas, Indianapolis, Denver, Washington DC, Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Omaha, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Boise, Sioux Falls, Providence, and Panama City.

Apple Quietly Launches Cheaper Annual Plan for Arcade Games

Dec 16, 2019, 11:54 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple Arcade, the company's subscription service for exclusive, curated games, is now available for $50/year upfront. The monthly price is $5/month, which works out to $60/year.

AT&T Launches 5G for Consumers Today in 10 Cities

Dec 13, 2019, 12:51 PM   by Rich Brome

AT&T has finally launched 5G service for consumers as of today, using far-reaching low-band radio frequencies (band 5 / 850 MHz). As the company promised last month, the launch cities include Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Providence, RI, Rochester, NY, and San Diego. However, AT&T managed to accelerate its schedule and launch five additional cities today: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, CA, Milwaukee, and Birmingham, AL. The company has released 5G coverage maps for all consumer launch cities. The only phone AT&T currently offers that supports the service is the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G, which runs $1,300. This particular 5G service is distinct from the company's "5G+" service, which uses higher mmWave frequencies and is only available to business customers. mmWave frequencies offer higher data speeds but much more limited coverage. AT&T's phone lineup does not yet include any phones that can access 5G on both low-band and mmWave frequencies. Neither 5G service should be confused with "5Ge", which is merely AT&T's branding for the fastest type of 4G LTE. AT&T has also confirmed that its next 5G launch cities will include Boston, Bridgeport, CT, Buffalo, NY, Las Vegas, Louisville, KY, and New York City. The company promises "nationwide" 5G coverage by the middle of 2020.

Google Calls Out Good Guys, Bad Guys in Your SMS

Dec 13, 2019, 12:21 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has added two major new features to its Messages app for Android phones: Verified SMS and spam protection. Verified SMS is a way for Google to confirm that SMS messages claiming to come from a participating business are, in fact, legitimate messages from that company. A special banner will appear at the top of such message threads to let the user know that the message is authentic. The feature should help combat phishing attacks involving fake security messages, for example. The US is among the launch countries. Businesses participating at launch include SoFi, Payback, Banco Bradesco, Kayak, and 1-800-Flowers. Spam protection works the opposite way, showing a warning banner on messages that Google suspects are spam, or that include links to web sites that Google knows to be unsafe. This features has been available in other countries, but is now rolling out "broadly" in the US. The spam banner includes options for confirming that a message is spam, or marking "not spam". Both new Messages features work without sending all of your messages to Google, keeping your messages private.

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