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Google Brings Wallet Passes, Transit Directions to Wear OS

Monday, 10:41 AM   by Rich Brome

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

Google Brings AI to Messaging in Android

Monday, 10:12 AM   by Rich Brome

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

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

Monday, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

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

TCL Shares Pricing for 50 Series

Monday, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

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

Qualcomm Aims for Sub-$100 5G Phones

Monday, 7:00 AM   by Rich Brome

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

Motorola Commits to Gorilla Glass on All Phones

Sunday, 6:00 PM   by Rich Brome

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

Motorola to Seamlessly Link Phones with Lenovo Laptops and Tablets

Sunday, 6:00 PM   by Rich Brome

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

AT&T Will Credit Customers for Outage

Sunday, 5:50 PM   by Rich Brome

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

AT&T Explains What Caused Outage Yesterday

Friday, 11:15 AM   by Rich Brome

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

AT&T Suffers Large Cellular Outage

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

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

Samsung Update Brings Galaxy AI to More Phones

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

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

Apple Upgrades iMessage Encryption for Quantum Threat

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

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

Apple Launches its own Free Sports App

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

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

Signal Will No Longer Make You Share Your Phone Number

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

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

Samsung Brings New Translation and Auracast Features to Galaxy Buds

Feb 20, 2024, 1:53 PM   by Rich Brome

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

Google Starts Android 15 Testing Campaign

Feb 16, 2024, 3:11 PM   by Rich Brome

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

T-Mobile Successfully Tests Faster 5G Uploads

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

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

FDA Authorizes Samsung's Sleep Apnea Detection on Galaxy Watch

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

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

New Association to Advance Satellite Connectivity for Phones

Feb 9, 2024, 1:01 PM   by Rich Brome

Five major space internet companies have come together to form the new Mobile Satellite Services Association (MSSA). The organization aims "to promote and advance the emerging Direct-to-Device (D2D) ecosystem", meaning satellite connectivity for phones and other devices in cellular dead zones. The group will coordinate spectrum and standards for the technology, including working with the 3GPP cellular standards group on NTN (non-terrestrial network) technology already being integrated into some cellular chipsets. Together, the companies already have access to over 100 MHz of L- and S-band spectrum that is well-suited to this application. The companies include ViaSat and OmniSpace, which operate global networks, TerreStar and Ligado, which focus on North America, and Yahsat, which operates nearly everywhere except North America.

FCC Wants to Outlaw AI-Generated Robocalls

Feb 1, 2024, 1:06 PM   by Rich Brome

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel this week proposed that the FCC effectively outlaw robocalls made with AI-generated voices, including new voice cloning technology. Robocalls made using "artificial" voices are already banned, so this is more of a regulatory clarification, expressly stating that AI-generated voices qualify as "artificial" under the existing Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The issue made headlines recently when calls were made to New hampshire voters using AI to mimic President Joe Biden's voice.

Bullitt Shuts Down

Jan 31, 2024, 1:30 PM   by Rich Brome

Bullitt — the UK company behind CAT-branded phones, recent Motorola Defy phones, and its own satellite message service — has apparently ceased operations. The company recently tried to reorganize around the new satellite connectivity business, but that effort appears to have failed. The company has disclosed its pending insolvency in recent press statements and court filings. Now, multiple employees have posted on LinkedIn that a "critical planned restructuring" has failed and the company closed its doors and laid off all employees on January 26th. Between this development and Qualcomm giving up on Snapdragon Satellite, the last few months have called into question the future of phone-based solutions for satellite connectivity. Apple remains committed to this approach for its SOS service, and MediaTek continues to promote its standards-based NTN solution. However, the most momentum over the past year has been around satellite-based solutions that work with existing phones. Both AT&T and T-Mobile appear to be nearing the launch of such services, having recently announced successful tests.

Apple Changes Position, Will Allow Streaming Games in App Store

Jan 25, 2024, 1:42 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple is changing its App Store rules to allow game-streaming services as well as "mini-apps, mini-games, chatbots, and plug-ins" in iOS apps. "Developers can now submit a single app with the capability to stream all of the games offered in their catalog." Apple previously prohibited this type of app, requiring a whole separate app to be submitted for each game. Apple will still apply all of its other App Store rules to all experiences available from within the app. Such apps will need to carry the age rating of the highest age-rated content available within that app, so a single game rated 17+/Mature available could cause a whole game platform to be rated 17+, for example. The changes will also permit scenarios such as one app that offers individual chatbot subscriptions via Apple's in-app purchase mechanism. Apple also promises to "provide enhanced discovery opportunities" for these new experiences within apps.

Pixel 8 Phones Gain Circle to Search, Thermometer, and new Mint Color

Jan 25, 2024, 1:20 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 25, 2024, 4:31 PM

Google is rolling out a new "Feature Drop" software update for its Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro phones. It adds the new Circle to Search feature that was initially announced for the new Samsung Galaxy S24 series. It also activates the body temperature sensor in the Pixel 8 Pro. The Thermometer app lets you point your phone at your forehead to take your temp, and results can be saved to your Fitbit profile. Google is also introducing a new Mint green color option for the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. Circle to Search lets you circle, highlight, scribble, or tap to Google search anything on your screen, in any app, including images. Android phones already offer this feature in the app switcher, but this makes the feature easier to use. Finally, the update also includes the tweaked Quick Share function that replaces Nearby Share. Circle to Search launches January 31st, the same day the Galaxy S24 series goes on sale. Some other features are launching today, while some will roll out over the next few weeks.

AT&T and Google Invest in Space-Based Cell Service

Jan 23, 2024, 12:44 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 23, 2024, 2:09 PM

AST SpaceMobile — the company currently testing space-based cellular service for AT&T — has secured a vote of confidence in the form of $206.5 million in new financing from AT&T, Google, and Vodafone. AT&T and Google are new investors. As part of the deal, AT&T has agreed to purchase network equipment from AST to support planned commercial service, and made a $20 million revenue commitment. Google has "agreed to collaborate on product development, testing and implementation plans for SpaceMobile network connectivity on Android and related devices". AST's technology works with existing, off-the-shelf 4G and 5G phones. In that sense, it's similar to the service that SpaceX and T-Mobile are currently testing. Both systems rely on new satellites being launched into earth orbit with massive antennas that can mimic land-based cellular base stations. These services are intended only to provide coverage in "dead zones" not covered by land-based networks.

Google Maps Gains Tunnel Navigation

Jan 18, 2024, 12:07 PM   by Rich Brome

Google has quietly added optional support for Bluetooth beacons to its Google Maps app for Android. This feature lets the app know its location in tunnels, where GPS signals don't reach. Google's Waze subsidiary has already deployed these beacons in tunnels in cities including New York City, Chicago, and Boston. The feature is still off by default; users must go into the app settings and enable "Bluetooth tunnel beacons" under "Navigation settings" to enable the feature. The iOS version of the app does not yet offer this option.

AT&T Raising Rates by One Dollar

Jan 18, 2024, 11:52 AM   by Rich Brome

AT&T's most popular unlimited plans are being tweaked with a 99-cent price increase. Most plans are also getting more hotspot data, but otherwise remain largely the same.

Apple Resumes Watch Sales with Blood Oxygen Features Disabled

Jan 18, 2024, 11:38 AM   by Rich Brome

Apple is once again selling its Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 in the US, but with the blood-oxygen monitoring features disabled. Apple is in the middle of a legal battle with Masimo over a patent on blood-oxygen monitoring technology. The most recent ruling was against Apple, but the company is appealing. A separate ruling affirmed that Apple could sell the watches with the disputed features removed or disabled. Apple was forced to pause sales of these models for a period that included some of the holiday shopping season. The feature is only disabled in new watches; existing watches are unaffected by this import and sales ban.

Samsung Launching Two New Affordable 5G Phones Today, Too

Jan 17, 2024, 3:25 PM   by Rich Brome

While Samsung's big news today is the new S24 series of flagship phones, the company is also quietly launching two new affordable 5G phones today: the Galaxy A15 5G and Galaxy A25 5G. The Galaxy A15 5G updates last year's A14 5G with a 6.5-inch FHD+ AMOLED display with 90 Hz refresh, a major upgrade for a phone that sells for $200. It also has double the built-in storage (128 instead of 64 GB), faster fast charging (25W instead of 15), and replaces the depth camera with a 5 megapixel wide-angle camera. Other specs carry over from the A14 5G, including a 5,000 mAh battery, 50 megapixel main camera, NFC, fingerprint reader, expandable storage, and a headset jack. It's powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 6100+ chipset. Verizon, T-Mobile, Boost, and US Cellular started selling the phone today, and samsung.com indicates that AT&T may offer it as well. The Galaxy A25 5G doesn't seem to be nearly as popular with US carriers, as there are no indications that any of the big three national carriers plan to offer it. It's quite similar to the A15 5G, with the upgrades being OIS on the main camera, an 8 megapixel wide-angle camera, 4K video capture, and 120 Hz display refresh. It's powered by a Samsung Exynos 1280 chipset. For these upgrades, US Cellular shows a list price of $300. Boost and TracFone may offer it, as well.

Samsung S24 Series Adds More AI, Updates the Hardware

Jan 17, 2024, 1:00 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 17, 2024, 2:01 PM

Samsung has unveiled its lineup of flagship phones for 2024, the Galaxy S24 series. The phones sport multiple upgrades in both hardware and software compared to last year's models. Larger displays, larger batteries, and more RAM are among the hardware improvements. New "Galaxy AI" on-device AI leverages Qualcomm and Google technology to power a long list of unique new features. These include live two-way language translation for voice calls and messaging (even in third-party apps), one-tap removal of reflections in photos, and auto-summarization in Notes. A new "Circle to Search" feature lets you highlight anything in any app (including text and photos) to Google that. There is a new setting to explicitly turn off any cloud-based AI processing to protect privacy and enterprise security. Samsung is also committing to a full seven years of OS upgrades and security updates for these phones. The Galaxy S24 and S24+ are similar in size to last year's models, but a thinner bezel means slightly larger (by 0.1") displays. The batteries are also slightly larger (by up to 6.6%). The larger "plus" model also gets a boost to a QHD+ resolution display and 12 GB of RAM standard. All models now incorporate gyroscope data to improve noise reduction in photos. Other camera specs and most other features remain largely the same compared to least year. The top-end Galaxy S24 Ultra retains a built-in stylus but switches to a flat (instead of curved-edge) display and titanium frame. This permits a body that's slightly thinner overall. It also now comes with 12 GB of RAM standard. The camera system has improved (wider-angle) optical stabilization and larger pixels on the main sensor to take in more light. The Ultra still offers 10x zoom, but now accomplishes this with a 50 megapixel sensor behind a 5x lens, (instead of a 10 megapixel sensor behind a 10x lens.) All three models — at least in the US — are powered by a Qualcomm's "Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 Mobile Platform for Galaxy" (a version of the 8 Gen 3 with slightly faster peak CPU speeds of up to 3.4 GHz.) This also enables Wi-Fi 7 on the Ultra model, and Qualcomm's unique ultrasonic in-display fingerprint sensor. Storage options are: 128 or 256 GB for the standard model, 256 or 512 GB for the plus model, and 256 GB, 512 GB, or 1 TB for the Ultra. The standard and plus models still start at $800 and $1,000, respectively, while the Ultra now starts at $1,300. This year's color options for all models are violet, yellow, gray, and black. Three more colors — green, blue, and orange — are available exclusively from samsung.com. The Samsung Galaxy S24 series is available for pre-order and ships January 31st. Pre-orders come with a free upgrade to the next storage option, including up to 1 TB on the Ultra.

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Apple Passes Samsung in Phone Shipments

Jan 16, 2024, 4:12 PM   by Rich Brome

Apple shipped more phones than Samsung for the first time ever in 2023. Samsung had led the sales charts since 2010, when Nokia was #1. The shipment numbers have not been not confirmed by the companies, but two different research companies that track this information — IDC and Canalys — have reached essentially the same conclusion. IDC claims that Apple managed to grow both total shipments and market share in 2023, a year when most competitors saw a drop in phone shipments.

Verizon Still Charging Controversial Junk Fee While Paying Class-Action Settlement

Jan 16, 2024, 1:29 PM   by Rich Brome

Verizon has started the process of paying customers up to $100 each to settle a class-action lawsuit over the "Administrative and Telco Recovery Charge" on the bills of its postpaid wireless and data customers. The suit alleged that the fee is not adequately disclosed in advertising of the company's rates. Verizon disagrees, saying its use of the phrase "plus fees & taxes" covers the charge. Affected customers will be notified via email and postcard with instructions to file a claim to receive payment. Verizon settled the suit without admitting fault and the terms of the settlement do not require it to stop charging the fee. In fact, the company continues to asses the monthly fee and recently raised it from $1.95 to $3.30.

Apple vs. Epic Battle Over App Store Comes to an End

Jan 16, 2024, 12:34 PM   by Rich Brome

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up the case of Epic Games vs. Apple, leaving in place the most recent rulings of lower courts and effectively ending the years-long legal battle over Apple's App Store rules in the U.S. The end result is that Apple will not be forced to open iPhones to competing app stores and payment systems within iOS. However Apple is being forced to allow app developers to direct their customers to alternative subscription and payment options outside its ecosystem, such as on the web. Central to the issue is the 30% commission that Apple collects on in-app purchases in iOS apps.

Moto Gives its Affordable g play More Value

Jan 16, 2024, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Motorola is launching a new version of its affordable moto g play phone for 2024. Last year's model was popular with carriers; this year's model appears to be just as popular, with AT&T, Verizon, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, U.S. Cellular, Xfinity Mobile, and more already announcing plans to offer the phone. The new model has more memory and storage (4 / 64 GB), steps up to a 50 megapixel main camera, better front camera, and add stereo speakers. It also switches from a MediaTek processor to a Snapdragon 680. Other specs are similar, including a 6.5-inch HD+ display with 90 Hz refresh, 5,000 mAh battery, fast charging, fingerprint reader, expandable storage, and a headset jack. The moto g play (2024) will launch unlocked for $150 on February 8th, "with subsequent availability at Consumer Cellular, Verizon, Xfinity Mobile, Visible, Cricket, AT&T, UScellular, and Cox Mobile, and on Straight Talk, Walmart Family Mobile, Total by Verizon, and Simple Mobile."

Google Pares Back Assistant

Jan 16, 2024, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Google is trimming back both the availability and functionality of Google Assistant. In both the Google app and the home-screen search bar on Pixel phones, the microphone icon will now perform a voice web search only, instead of allowing Assistant features as before. Google says web search is already the most popular use case with this icon. Assistant will still be available by long-pressing the lock/power button or by saying "Hey Google". Google is also removing a long list of "underutilized features" from Assistant. These include rescheduling an event in Google Calendar, sending an email or audio message, checking travel itineraries, making reservations, sending payments, posting to social media, and accessing or managing your cookbook.

T-Mobile's Space-Based Coverage Tested Successfully

Jan 11, 2024, 4:37 PM   by Rich Brome

SpaceX has successfully used an off-the-shelf cell phone to text message via its Starlink satellite network. The new-generation Starlink satellites that enable the service just started launching last week. The system uses T-Mobile-exclusive spectrum in the US, and T-Mobile plans to launch the service nationwide — covering dead zones — later this year. Any recent T-Mobile-compatible phone (supporting 4G LTE in band 25) should be able to use the service. Only texting will be allowed initially, with voice and data to follow in 2025.

Boost Updates its Celero Phones for 2024

Jan 10, 2024, 12:02 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 10, 2024, 9:35 PM

Boost has launched new 2024 versions of its own-brand Celero5G and Celero5G+ affordable 5G phones. The phones have updated designs that are more stylish than most such white-label phones. Both models are powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 1050 chipset. The more affordable Celero5G has a 6.5-inch HD+ display with 90 Hz refresh, 50 megapixel main camera, 5,000 mAh battery, 20W fast charging, Wi-Fi 6E, NFC, and a fingerprint reader. It has 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of built-in storage (expandable by another 1 TB). The new Celero5G+ steps that up with a huge 7-inch FHD+ display with 120 Hz refresh, 108 megapixel main camera, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of built-in storage. It has all of the features of its little sibling plus 15W wireless charging, and an IP68 water rating. The "plus" model also comes in a choice of Twilight Blue or Sunrise Orange, with a premium glass back. While the original Celero phones were manufactured by Wingtech, the new models are made by Tinno. Tinno has long made white-label phones for Cricket, such as the Magic 5G, Debut S2, and Outlast. The phones are available immediately for both prepaid Boost Mobile and postpaid Boost Infinite customers. The Boost Celero5G has a list price of $160 while the Boost Celero5G+ runs $240; new customers can get the Celero5G for as little as $10.

JBL Brings Smart Charging Case to More Earbud Styles

Jan 9, 2024, 4:58 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 10, 2024, 11:33 AM

JBL this week introduced a new lineup of earbuds that have similar advanced features and specs, in three different styles. The JBL Live 3 Earbuds series all come with a "Smart Charging Case" that includes a 1.45-inch touch display for controlling settings, music, calls, and more. All of the Live 3 models come in at $200, making them more affordable than the JBL Tour Pro 2 which first debuted the Smart Charging Case. Other features of the new series include True Adaptive Noise Cancelling, wireless Hi-Res audio (LDAC), JBL Spatial Sound, 6 mics, wireless charging, and IP55 or IP54 water resistance. JBL also promises a software update that will add Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio.

The JBL Live 3 Earbuds series will be available on JBL.com starting Summer 2024. All are available in either black or silver.

Nearby Share Becomes Quick Share

Jan 9, 2024, 4:49 PM   by Rich Brome

Google and Samsung have collaborated to merge their similar Nearby Share and Quick Share features into a single new standard called Quick Share. "Quick Share will start rolling out to current Nearby Share enabled devices next month."

Android Auto Will Know Your EV's Battery Level

Jan 9, 2024, 4:46 PM   by Rich Brome

Google today announced a major new feature of Android Auto: the ability for electric vehicles to share real-time battery information with Google Maps running on your phone. With this update, Google Maps will be able to "provide your estimated battery level upon arrival at your destination, suggest charging stops along the way and even estimate how long charging will take based on your vehicle." Many EV owners previously had to use the built-in navigation system instead of Android Auto to access such features. EVs must be specifically designed to support the feature. The first vehicles to support it will be the Ford Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning "in the coming months, with others to follow."

Mophie Brings Back Juice Pack Battery Cases for iPhone

Jan 9, 2024, 4:13 PM   by Rich Brome

Zagg brand Mophie has re-introduced its Juice Pack line of iPhone cases with integrated batteries. The new models target the iPhone 15 series with pass-through USB-C charging. They add 50% more battery life with 2,400–2,800 mAh supplemental batteries. They also sport an LED battery meter and charging indicator. They are available for the iPhone 15, 15 Pro, and 15 Pro Max (but not the 15 Plus). All three models sell for $100 and pre-orders begin in February.

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