Motorola today kicked off general preorders for the Moto Z3 Play phone. People can now pre-purchase the Z3 Play from Motorola.com, Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Amazon. The phone adopts a 6-inch 2:1 screen, and is made form a slim metal-and-glass chassis. It is compatible with Motorola's Moto Mods accessories and includes either a speaker or battery. The phone sells for $499. The phone will be sold directly by Sprint and U.S. Cellular later this summer.
Following moves made earlier in the day by Verizon and AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have now said they also will cease sharing customer location data with certain third-party apps and services. Sprint said it is "beginning the process of terminating its current contracts with data aggregators to whom we provide location data." T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeted, "I've personally evaluated this issue & have pledged that @tmobile will not sell customer location data to shady middlemen." The matter rose to attention after some third-party location brokers left the real-time data of millions of customers unprotected. Lawmakers called for change and today's responses appear to be it.
Verizon Communications today said it will stop making customer location data available to third-party apps and services. The decision follows last month's revelation that third-party companies didn't always properly protect this data. LocationSmart, for example, exposed the real-time location of millions of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers without their consent. Accuracy of the location data was as good as a few hundred yards. The breach caught the attention of lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Wyden, who wanted the matter invested. "When these issues were brought to our attention, we took immediate steps to stop it," said Verizon spokesperson Rich Young. Wyden thanked Verizon for changing its policy, but pointed out that AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have left their location-sharing practices in place.
T-Mobile and Sprint today officially petitioned the FCC for permission to merge. The companies filed a Public Interest Statement with the agency that makes lofty claims about why the merger a good idea. To start, the companies promise to "build a world-class nationwide 5G network" that will surpass the capacity of AT&T and Verizon. T-Mobile and Sprint believe they can do this faster if combined. The two also believe prices will go down as a result. "T-Mobile and Sprint coming together ... will spur Verizon and AT&T to invest in a huge capacity increase that will drive down the price per gigabyte across the entire industry," said T-Mobile CEO John Legere. He claims consumers will see a 55% drop in the price per GB. The two firms believe its future 5G network will supplant the need for wired services in the home and let millions cut the cord (and thus save money.) The New T-Mobile is committed to bringing increased broadband coverage to rural communities using its 600 MHz holdings, which will be served by 600 new stores and dedicated call centers. Sprint and T-Mobile also suggest it will offer stronger products to business and video customers. Last, the two believe the merger will create jobs. "We will create more than 3,000 direct jobs initially," said Sprint Chairman Marcelo Claure. "In just a few years, that will increase to more than 11,000 jobs. And, thousands more jobs will be created to support our 5G network build-out." This last point contradicts one of the most basic outcomes of many mergers: job reductions. Sprint and T-Mobile first proposed the merger in April. It's unclear what steps the government, and the FCC in particular, will take to review the deal.
The FCC revealed that it expects Sprint and T-Mobile to file on Monday June 18 the necessary paperwork needed for Sprint to transfer control of its spectrum licenses and other assets to T-Mobile. The FCC opened a docket ahead of the expected action. At the same time the FCC filed a protective order concerning the docket. This means much of the information shared between Sprint, T-Mobile, and the FCC will remain confidential as the agency considers whether or not to allow the transaction to take place. The companies announced their intent to merge in April. The deal requires government approval.
The 3GPP today ratified another piece of the 5G specification, termed the Standalone 5G New Radio, or SA 5G NR. This spec is for 5G networks that are developed on their own, apart from legacy or pre-existing networks. The Non-Standalone portion of the 5G spec was ratified late last year and covers 5G that hooks into existing LTE 4G systems. "The freeze of Standalone 5G NR radio specifications represents a major milestone in the quest of the wireless industry towards realizing the holistic 5G vision," said Balázs Bertényi, chairman of 3GPP RAN. "5G NR Standalone systems not only dramatically increase the mobile broadband speeds and capacity, but also open the door for new industries beyond telecommunications that are looking to revolutionize their ecosystem through 5G." The SA 5G NR and the NSA 5G NR standards will together include the technology used by commercial entities, the air interface, and end users. The spec was approved by more than 600 delegates from the world's leading carrier, handset, and silicon vendors. Some participants included AT&T, DISH, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Kyocera, LG, MediaTek, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, SoftBank/Sprint, Sony, Verizon, Xiaomi, and ZTE. The 3GPP said the technical specifications for the ratified SA 5G NR will be published in the days ahead.
Sprint today rolled out a promotion that sees the carrier offering unlimited talk, text, and data for $15 per month. A family of four can score unlimited service for $60 per month. The promo is meant to convince customers to switch to Sprint. As such, it is for new customers only. They'll have to bring their own device or buy a new one at full price from Sprint, and port their number from another carrier and/or initiate a new line. The promotion does not include taxes, surcharges, or roaming. Video streams are limited to 480p, music streams are limited to 500 Kbps, and gaming streams are limited to 2 Mbps. Speeds will be throttled when the network is congested. The promo requires autopay, but there is no annual contract. Sprint said this offer will only be available for a limited time.
The U.S. Department of Justice is exploring what impact the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile will have on smaller carriers and MVNOs. Sprint and T-Mobile separately serve the prepaid space via their own Boost Mobile and MetroPCS brands, respectively, as well as MVNO's, such as Google-run Project Fi. With reduced competition, the Justice Department is concerned that the tie-up between the two companies could lead to higher prices for prepaid consumers. Reuters says the Justice Department "has been speaking with small wireless operators that buy access to the major wireless networks at wholesale rates, and is seeking their opinions about the merger." David Glickman, CEO of MVNOs Ultra Mobile and Mint Mobile confirmed that he'd been asked similar questions about the merger by the Justice Department. The $26 billion deal was proposed earlier this year and would see the nation's third- and fourth-largest carriers become one. Antitrust investigations are normal for such deals. No one from the Justice Department or T-Mobile commented on the investigation.
Motorola today announced the Moto Z3 Play, its third-generation Mod-compatible mid-range phone. The Z3 Play carries over the general size and shape of previous Z-branded phones in order to maintain backward compatibility with the Moto Mod snap-on accessories. The Z3 Play has a 6000 series aluminum frame with Gorilla Glass on both the front and back. The phone boasts a 6.01-inch AMOLED screen with a 2:1 aspect ratio and full HD+ resolution that fills much of the face with no notch. Motorola moved the fingerprint reader from the chin to the right edge of the phone in order to make room for the screen. The Z3 Play is powered by a Snapdragon 636 processor with 4 GB of memory and 32 GB or 64 GB of storage. Motorola opted for a dual-camera array on the rear with a dual-LED flash. The main camera has a 12-megapixel sensor at f/1.7 and it is accompanied by a 5-megapixel depth-sensing camera. This system supports features such as portrait/bokeh, spot color, cinemagraphs, cut-out mode, panorama, time-lapse, slow-motion, face filters, and a card/QR code reader. The front camera has a semi-wide-angle, 8-megapixel sensor at f/2 with screen-based flash and portrait shooting. Motorola says it has upgraded the phone's audio powers with a 24-bit DAC, 7-core DSP, and four mics for better far-field voice recognition. The phone packs a 3,000mAh battery with support for Motorola's TurboCharge rapid charging. Other features include splash resistance, USB-C, Bluetooth 5 with aptX HD, face unlock, dual-band wifi, and support for microSD memory cards. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo and will be updated to Android P later this year. It includes Motorola's gestures, Moto Actions, Moto Display, and a new swipe-based navigation tool at the bottom of the display. The phone will be sold unlocked from Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Fry’s, B&H Photo, and Amazon.com, and via Sprint and U.S. Cellular. Preorders start June 21 and it should reach stores June 29. The phone will be sold in two bundles: Moto Z3 Play with the Motorola battery mod or Moto Z3 Play with the Motorola stereo speaker mod. The bundles cost $499.
Sales of the LG G7 ThinQ phone kicked off in the U.S. today. The phone is being sold by Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Project Fi, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. It costs $749. T-Mobile is offering a BOGO deal on the phone at launch. Features of the G7 ThinQ include a 6.1-inch screen, Snapdragon 845 processor, dual rear cameras with portrait shooting and Google Lens, wireless charging, Boombox sound and quad DAC, and Android 8 Oreo.
Essential Products is for sale, reports Bloomberg, and has cancelled plans to develop a new phone. The company has hired a financial firm in order to help advise it on a potential sale, according to Bloomberg's sources, who also say Essential has already received interest from one possible buyer. Essential, part of Andy Rubin's Playground Global tech incubator, announced the Essential Phone at about this time last year. The phone was unique thanks to its ceramic design, all-screen face, and magnetic mod system. The phone was sold by Sprint in the U.S., as well as unlocked directly from Essential. The $700 device struggled to find buyers, however, due to poor camera and call performance. Bloomberg's sources suggest as few as 150,000 Essential phones have sold since its August 2017 launch. Essential raised around $300 million in funding and spent about $100 million of it developing the Essential Phone. The company is exploring a sale of the entire company, including hardware, patents, a smart home product, and a camera attachment for the phone. It's not clear what might happen to Essential's employees. Andy Rubin is known for developing the initial Android platform. Essential did not comment on Bloomberg's story.
Sprint today highlighted its pricing and launch plans for the LG G7 ThinQ. Sprint will begin accepting preorders for the phone on May 25, with retail availability expected across all Sprint channels on June 1. The company is offering the phone for $0 down and $33 per month on a Sprint Flex lease. Sprint leases run for 18 months with the option to buy or return the phone after 18 payments. The Sprint Flex also allows people to upgrade their phone after making 12 payments. This requires people to turn in their old phone when leasing a new one. Customers who lease the G7 ThinQ during the preorder period will be given the option to lease two G7's for the $33 monthly price. Sprint says this promotion is available to new and upgrade-eligible customers for a limited time. Sprint points out that the G7 ThinQ supports its HPUE LTE service for better performance under certain conditions.
FreedomPop today announced the launch of Unreal Mobile, a new MVNO that it says will offer the most competitive unlimited plans available. The company is specifically targeting Sprint and T-Mobile customers ahead of the two corporations' planned merger. "Unreal Mobile is able to provide consumers [with unlimited plans that start at just $15 per month] because of the market conditions created by the proposed merger," explained FreedomPop. "Specifically, while Sprint and T-Mobile are currently working to prove to regulators that competition will flourish under consolidation, they are compelled to accept MVNO models and pricing that historically would have been seen as too competitive to their retail businesses." FreedomPop relies on VoIP and streamlined customer service to compete with Sprint-owned Boost Mobile and AT&T-owned Cricket Wireless. Unreal Mobile, which will run on FreedomPop's platform, will compete directly with Sprint and T-Mobile's postpaid businesses. The company is offering unlimited LTE-based service starting at $15 per month, which includes a VPN, mobile ad blocking, and the ability to use the Unreal phone number on tablets, phones, and computers. FreedomPop says Unreal Mobile will offer top-tier devices, flexible service, and live-agent customer service. Unreal Mobile expects to launch during the summer of 2018. It is accepting beta testers via its web site.
At least one person thinks Sprint and T-Mobile should be required to divest their respective prepaid businesses if they are allowed to merge. Peter Adderton, founder and former CEO of Boost Mobile, firmly believes the market will become less competitive — particularly in the prepaid space — if Sprint and T-Mobile are allowed to merge without any divestitures. “If this merger is approved without the divesture of Boost Mobile and/or MetroPCS, the new combined entity will hold a 40% market share in the prepaid segment — which I would argue has the effect of being a monopoly or extreme dominance in the category,” said Adderton in a press release. “This level of market domination virtually always leads to rising prices, more onerous terms and conditions and lower service quality, and young and credit-challenged prepaid subscribers simply can’t afford that.” Sprint owns and operates Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA, while T-Mobile owns and operates MetroPCS. Sprint and T-Mobile “will have significant incentive to restrict network access to competing MVNOs. If that happens, MVNOs, who already run on extremely tight margins, have little or no opportunity to make a profit, and we can expect many of them to close their doors,” argued Adderton. Boost, Virgin, and MetroPCS do not own or operate their own networks, so it’s unclear how Adderton believes such a divestiture could work. Each would have to be given spectrum and other assets to launch functioning service around the U.S. Though Adderton said “I would love to take control of it, that’s not the driver here.” Instead, he insists his goal is to ensure the wireless market remains competitive. Adderton plans to take his case to Congress as well as the public. Sprint and T-Mobile believe their proposed merger will pass regulatory scrutiny, but the government has yet to make its case.
The FCC today said it is investigating reports that a web site leaked the location data of millions of U.S. cell phones. A security researcher claims a company called LocationSmart suffered a leak and made it possible track the whereabouts of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers without their consent. Accuracy of the location data was as good as a few hundred yards. On her Twitter account today FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, "The @FCC needs to investigate. No ifs, ands, or buts." Senator Ron Wyden agreed, saying, "This leak, only days after the lax security at Securus was exposed, shows how little companies throughout the wireless ecosystem value Americans’ security. Wireless carriers and LocationSmart appear to have allowed nearly any hacker with a basic knowledge of web sites to track the location of any American with a cell phone. A hacker could have used this site to know when you were in your house so they would know when to rob it. A predator could have tracked your child’s cell phone to know when they were alone." Wyden demanded an investigation and the FCC appears to agree. The agency has pushed the matter to its enforcement bureau to investigate.
Sprint today refreshed its offering for customers age 55 and up. Starting Friday, May 18, new customers who are over 55 can get two lines of unlimited talk, text, and data for $70 per month. Sprint says the first line costs $50 and the second line costs $20. Autopay is required to score this price. The offer includes Sprint Global Roaming, which provides basic text and data at no additional charge in more than 185 countries. The Unlimited 55+ plan provides unlimited mobile hotspot at 3G speeds, but limits video streaming to standard definition (480p), limits music streaming to 500 Kbps, and limits game streaming to 2 Mbps. Sprint says this offer for those aged 55 and up will be available for a limited time.
LG today said it has commenced sales of its flagship G7 ThinQ phone in its home market of South Korea. The G7 ThinQ, announced earlier this month, is a premium metal-and-glass phone with a super bright 6.1-inch screen, Snapdragon 845 processor, AI-assisted dual rear cameras, BoomBox speaker, and Android 8 Oreo. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have committed to selling the LG G7 ThinQ beginning later this month. So far, however, U.S. pricing for the phone has been kept a secret. LG says carriers will announce pricing closer to the actual for-sale date. Pre-orders for the G7 ThinQ in the U.S. are expected to begin on or around May 24, with a ship date of June 1.
Sprint today announced more markets in which it expects to offer 5G service. The company earlier said it would kick off 5G in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Today, Sprint expanded its list of first 5G markets to include its home town of Kansas City, as well as New York City and Phoenix. The company expects to debut 5G service on its 2.5 GHz spectrum during the first half of 2019. The company plans to use Massive MIMO cells and other technologies to increase the speed and capacity of its existing LTE sites by a factor of 10. The company will later add its 800 MHz and 1.9 GHz spectrum to its 5G strategy.
AT&T does not plan to sell LG's new flagship phone, the G7 ThinQ, according to The Verge. Instead, the company plans to offer an exclusive phone from LG later this summer. “We offer a strong lineup of devices from LG today. And we’re planning to launch a new LG device this summer only from AT&T," said the company in a statement. AT&T competitors Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular all plan to sell the G7 ThinQ, which will be available for preorder starting on or about May 25. T-Mobile said it will sell the G7 later this spring. AT&T did not provide a reason for skipping the G7 ThinQ.
Sprint today announced some leadership changes. CEO Marcelo Claure is moving to Sprint's parent company, SoftBank, where he will oversee Sprint's merger with T-Mobile. Claure's new role will be selling the merger to U.S. regulators. He will remain on the board of directors at Sprint. Claure has been Sprint's CEO since 2014. Moving forward, President and CFO Michel Combs will be elevated to the CEO position at Sprint. Combs already serves on Sprint's board. He has been with Sprint since early this year. Before joining Sprint, Combs spent 25 years in various roles at Altice, Vodafone, and France Telecom.
Following T-Mobile’s lead, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular have all committed to selling the new LG G7 ThinQ phone. Verizon Wireless said it will begin accepting preorders on May 24. Verizon did not specify a ship date. Sprint said it will start taking preorders on May 25, with an expected June 1 ship date. U.S. Cellular said it will take orders for the G7 ThinQ beginning June 1. None of these carriers has indicated what the phone might cost. AT&T is the only major carrier yet to announce launch details for the G7.
The CEOs of T-Mobile and Sprint insist merging the two companies will only lead to good things. "Prices are going down and jobs are going up," said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, in an interview with CNN. Some worry reducing the number of national carriers from four to three might harm consumers, who could face less choice and less competition. Legere said the company has a history of offering low-price service and will keep it that way if and when the merger closes. Both CEOs claim the merger is needed to compete on a global scale in developing 5G. Building out 5G together could create thousands of jobs at Sprint/T-Mobile, says Legere. The companies hope the $26 billion merger will close during the first half of 2019, pending regulatory approval.
T-Mobile and Sprint today announced plans to merge in an all-stock deal that will create a "New T-Mobile" worth $146 billion. The new company's combined radio spectrum assets will allow it to accelerate deployment of 5G technology. The new T-Mobile plans to spend "up to $40 billion" on its new combined network in the first three years, 46% more than T-Mobile and Sprint spent combined in the past three years. The new company will assume both the T-Mobile brand and most of the T-Mobile leadership. John Legere, current President and CEO of T-Mobile US, will serve as CEO of the new company, and Mike Sievert, current COO of T-Mobile, will serve as President and COO. Tim Höttges, current T-Mobile Chairman of the Board, will serve as Chairman of the Board for the new company. Current Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure will serve on the board. Following closing, the company will be headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., with a "second headquarters" in Overland Park, Kan. The combined company will have lower costs and greater economies of scale, expected to result in run rate cost synergies of $6+ billion. The transaction is expected to close no later than the first half of 2019, subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals
T-Mobile and Sprint are once again weighing a merger between the two businesses and may make an announcement as soon as Sunday, according to multiple reports. Unnamed sources cited by Bloomberg, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times all suggest the two companies, which have flirted with one another for years, are back at the table hammering out a deal. T-Mobile and Sprint were in merger discussions as recently as last year, but called off the talks when they couldn't agree which firm would take control of the combined entity. It's unclear what has changed since then, though the regulatory environment in the U.S. will likely pose less of an obstacle than before. The deal, which would see T-Mobile take control of 40% of Sprint along with voting control, may be valued at about $26 billion and would create the third-largest wireless provider in the country with about 127 million connections. The combined company might be more competitive with industry leaders AT&T and Verizon Wireless than either could be on its own. Neither T-Mobile nor Sprint commented on the matter.
Motorola's g-series phones have a long-held reputation for value and quality. With the 2018 incarnation, Moto is trying harder than ever to bring high-end features and design to a low price point. For $250, you get a metal body, curved glass back, full-HD screen with 2:1 ratio, dual camera with portrait mode and object recognition, USB-C, fast charging, a fingerprint reader, an ultrasonic sensor that lights up the screen as you approach. It also has much better support for U.S. LTE networks than most unlocked phones, including Verizon, Sprint, and newer bands used by AT&T and T-Mobile. How does it stack up in person? Here are our first impressions.
Motorola today announced four new affordable Android phones coming to the U.S. market before mid-year. Spread across the Moto e5 and Moto g6 series, all four new phones share the company's evolved design language that debuted with the Moto X4 last year. They also all sport a fingerprint reader, a clean version of Android 8 Oreo, Moto Actions gesture shortcuts, a water-repellent coating, front cameras with an LED flash, 3.5mm audio jacks, and memory card slots. They have Qualcomm Snapdragon 400-series processors supporting Cat. 6 LTE, and excellent support for all major US networks, including Sprint, Verizon, and band 66.
- Moto g6: The highest-end model of the group, it has a curved glass back, metal frame, and a 5.7-inch full-HD display with 2:1 ratio. It's powered by a Snapdragon 450 processor with either 3 or 4 GB of RAM, and 32 or 64 GB of storage. The 3,000 mAh battery supports fast charging via the USB-C port. The 12-megapixel camera (f/1.8) is aided by a 5-megapixel camera for depth sensing, to create portrait effects. The camera app includes object, landmark, and text recognition, as well as slow-motion and time-lapse modes. An ultrasonic system detects when you approach the phone and lights up the display to show the time and notifications. It will be sold unlocked for $249, and via carriers.
- Moto g6 Play: This more affordable model (at $199) has a rounded polycarbonate back and metal frame. The 5.7-inch display with 2:1 ratio is 720p HD resolution. It's powered by a Snapdragon 427 processor with either 2 or 3 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of storage. The 4,000 mAh battery supports fast charging via micro-USB. The main camera is 13-megapixel camera with PDAF, while the front camera is 8-megapixel. Like the g6, it will be sold unlocked and via carriers. It supports all AT&T bands, include LTE 14, 29, and 30.
- Moto e5 Plus: A larger version of the Moto g6 Play. It has the same design and features, except the battery steps up to 5,000 mAh, the display size is bumped to 6 inches, and it adds laser focusing to the camera. The processor is a Snapdragon 435 and there is just one configuration with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It will be available in the U.S. exclusively from carriers.
- Moto e5 Play: A lower-end model, similar to e-series models of years past. Its plastic shells pops off to reveal a removable (2,800 mAh) battery. Its 5.2-inch display has HD resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. The Snapdragon 427 processor is accompanied by 2 of RAM and 16 GB of storage. (However at least one variant will have a Snapdragon 425 processor that only supports Cat. 4 LTE.) The cameras are 8 megapixel (rear) and 5 megapixel (front), and it can record 1080p video. Like the other models, it has dual-band Wi-Fi, a fingerprint reader, and gesture shortcuts. It will also be available exclusively from carriers.
Google has begun informing Google Voice customers who’ve integrated their service with Sprint that the two services will cease working together on June 1. Google has laid out a number of steps that customers will need to take in order to retain their separate services if they so wish. Beginning June 1, all outgoing calls and texts made will be made via Sprint’s network. Google Voice will no longer store calls, messages or voicemails sent from a Sprint phone. These communications will still be visible until June 1. People will need to export this data before June 1 in order to keep it. Google Voice / Sprint customers will not be able to use Google Voice capabilities, such as call forwarding, voicemail transcription and more, after June 1, though these features can be enabled on customers’ Sprint devices. Google suggests that users disable Google Voice with Sprint integration manually following the steps laid out on its support page. Any numbers blocked in Google Voice will need to be reblocked on the Sprint number. Customers who used their Sprint number as their Google Voice number will need to get a new Google Voice number from Google Voice.
The FCC today said it has reached a settlement with Sprint and Sprint's partner Mobilitie regarding the improper completion of cell tower sites. The FCC says the companies failed to complete the proper tower registration and environmental and historic impact reviews before building some cell sites. In order to settle the investigation, Sprint agreed to pay a fine of $10 million and Mobilitie agreed to pay a fine of $1.6 million to the U.S. Treasury. In addition to the fines, both companies must improve their compliance procedures moving forward. "The law was clear and it is vital that carriers and infrastructure companies alike never duck their responsibilities," said Christopher Killion, acting deputy chief of the Enforcement Bureau. "Companies must abide by the law as it stands whenever they are building infrastructure, operating wireless facilities." The enforcement action arrives after the FCC recently voted to reduce the amount of red tape carriers need to hurdle in order to put up new sites. All the major U.S. carriers are rushing to develop and deploy 5G networks, which will require more cell sites than are available today.
Samsung's U.S. carrier partners are rolling out Android 8 Oreo to the Galaxy Note8 handset. AT&T kicked things off last month and was followed by Sprint and Verizon Wireless. In the last day, T- Mobile, too, has begun pushing Oreo to the Note8. With the carrier variants picking up Android 8, only the unlocked version remains. Samsung said people who own the unlocked Note8 (and S8, S8+) can expect to see Android 8 in the next few weeks. The update includes the core Android 8 code (notification dots, autofill, picture-in-picture) in addition to the latest version of Samsung's user interface. Samsung released the Galaxy Note8 last September.
People in the U.S. who own the Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ can expect to see Android 8 Oreo reach their phone over the coming days. Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and not AT&T are all pushing the system upgrade to their customers. Oreo includes notification dots, picture-in-picture, and autofill. The update brings the S8/S8+ in line with the user experience seen on the newer S9/S9+, which includes updated emoji. It also packs the February 2018 security patch from Google. The update weighs in at a little over 1.5 GB and can be downloaded over WiFi. Samsung has not yet said when it will update the unlocked model of the S8/S8+ to Oreo.
All four major carriers in the U.S., AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, are building a "multi-factor authentication" method that will rely on peoples' cell phones to gain account access. The system, which has been in development since last September, is expected to launch before the end of the year. The goal is to cut back on identity theft and fraud enabled by weak or exposed passwords. The carriers said it will employ a "cryptographically verified phone number" that assesses data including device IP, SIM card, account, and how long customers have been with the carrier. "In addition, advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities will be used to help assess risk and protect customers," said the carriers in a statement. How this will be used by people on a day-to-day basis is still unknown. The group expects to provide more information later this year.
Sprint said those who preorder the Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9+ can save up to $500 on the new handsets. First, Sprint is offering $350 off the Sprint Flex price for those who preorder and trade-in an eligible handset. This knocks the monthly price of the S9 to $13.55 and S9+ to $18.55. Further, Sprint will reward those who port in a number with a $150 Visa gift card. The $150 gift card does not require a trade on its own. Sprint says the deals will be offered for a limited time. Samsung is also offering a $350 promo for consumers who preorder the Galaxy S9 or S9+ with a trade. Preorders for the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ kick off on Friday, March 2.
Sprint today indicated which markets will be first to see 5G service from the carrier at some point in the first half of 2019. Sprint said customers in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. will be first to experience the company’s 5G network. First, however, Sprint plans to bring massive MIMO to Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles in April, with Atlanta, Houston and Washington, D.C. to follow later this year. Sprint says massive MIMO is a critical bridge that will span its LTE 4G and future 5G networks. The company is preparing to deploy thousands of massive MIMO radios with 128 radios (64 transmit, 64 receive). All Sprint subscribers who have a device with 2.5 GHz (Band 41) will benefit from the increased capacity and speed provided by massive MIMO. Sprint is working with Qualcomm and device manufacturers on 5G mobile devices, which it expects to launch in the first half of 2019.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency will commence an auction for 28 GHz airwaves as soon as November. Pai expects the spectrum in question will be used for 5G. As soon as the auction for 28 GHz spectrum is finished, the FCC will move forward with another auction for 24 GHz spectrum for the same purposes. Pai is seeking public input on the idea. "To set the foundation for these auctions, the FCC will ask for public input this spring on the right procedures for these auctions," said Pai in remarks made at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. In order for the auctions to proceed, Pai says Congress will need to pass legislation by May 13 concerning upfront payments to be made by potential bidders. The agency is already looking at the use of 6 GHz spectrum for 5G based on feedback provided by the public last year. Future 5G networks will likely be deployed on low-band, mid-band, and high-band spectrum. For example, T-Mobile expects to launch 5G using its 600 MHz spectrum (low) holdings, while Sprint is looking at its 2.5 GHz spectrum (mid) for 5G. Further, the FCC says it has already changed some rules to help speed up 5G deployment. "We want to remove outdated rules and make it easier to deploy wireless infrastructure," said Pai. Relaxing rules governing how cell sites are deployed will let carriers put small cells where they need to in order to densify their networks. The FCC Chairman also spent time espousing the value of his open internet order, which removes net neutrality rules. He called the "light-touch regulation" one of the major pillars to his approach to 5G.
A handful of companies have banded together with the goal of bringing real broadband to airplane passengers. The founding members of the Seamless Air Alliance include Sprint, Delta, Airbus, OneWeb, and Airtel. The idea is to let carriers "extend their services into airline cabins" so passengers have immediate access to high-speed internet while in the air. Mobile network operators would be able to reach airline passengers through the Seamless Air Alliance's satellites, which the group claims deliver the "same high speed, low latency connectivity from ground, to air and back again" as traditional cellular networks. One of the goals is to improve the on-boarding process. Today's in-flight WiFi service often requires painful connection steps that include entering credit card information. The Seamless Air Alliance believes in can "eliminate the immense costs and hurdles commonly associated with acquisition, installation, and operation of data access infrastructure" on airplanes with an open specification for interoperability. "With our 5G network rolling out next year we're investing heavily to make sure our customers have the best mobile internet experience possible," said Dow Draper, CCO at Sprint. "As an initial member of the Seamless Alliance, we're looking forward to enabling customers to experience Sprint's high-speed connectivity in the air, hassle-free." The founding members are inviting others to join the initiative.
All four major carriers in the U.S. plan to sell the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ beginning in March. Preorders for the phones kick off March 2 and the handset is expected to be available in stores on March 16. Samsung itself is selling the unlocked version via its web site. The S9 costs $720 and the S9+ costs $840. Customers can apply for financing from Samsung to break down the cost of the phone over 24 months. Samsung is offering app to $350 off the price with a qualifying trade-in. Pricing from U.S. carriers varies significantly.
- AT&T: AT&T is asking subscribers to its AT&T Next plans to pay $26.34 per month for 30 months for the S9 (total: $790), or $30.50 per month for 30 months for the S9+ (total: $915). AT&T says business customers can get a $150 activation credit with they by the S9 or S9+ on an installment plan. The devices support Band 14, and thus the AT&T-run FirstNet public safety network. AT&T's prepaid brand, Cricket Wireless, plans to sell the Galaxy S9 and S9+ at full cost.
- Sprint: Sprint is selling the S9 for $33.00 per month with $0 down on a Sprint Flex lease (total: $792). The Galaxy S9+ will be $38.00 per month with $0 down on a Sprint Flex lease (total: $912).
- T-Mobile: T-Mobile is asking customers to pay $30 per month for 24 months for the S9 with $0 down (total: $720), and $30 per month for 24 months for the S9+ with $120 down (total: $840) For a limited time, postpaid customers can get up to $360 off either phone with a qualifying trade-in when the S9 or S9+ is purchased on an equipment installment plan. T-Mobile's prepaid brand, MetroPCS, will sell the Galaxy S9 starting March 16 for full price.
- Verizon Wireless: Last, Verizon Wireless is charging $33.33 per month for 24 months for the S9 (total: $799) and $38.74 per month for 24 months for the S9+ (total: $930). Customers who switch to Verizon, port in their line, and trade in an old phone may get up to $500 in bill credits towards the purchase of a Galaxy S9 or S9+.
Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.
Google today said the Google Assistant is prepared to grow in a number of significant ways. First, the voice-activated tool is picking up some new languages. Google says Assistant will speak Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai on Android phones and iPhones in the next few months, with more languages on the way. Google expects Assistant to understand as many as 30 languages by the end of the year. Further, Google Assistant will be able to understand multiple languages at a time, meaning people can speak both English and German to their Assistant without changing settings. This feature will first be available between English, French, and German, with other languages to follow. Google also noted that it is working more directly from carriers and phone makers to improve Assistant. For example, LG, Sony, and Xiaomi are all prepared to rollout device-specific commands and features based on Google Assistant. Moreover, carriers Sprint, Koodo, Telus, and Vodafone are developing integrations with Assistant. Between the phone makers and carriers, Google expects Assistant to support individual device features, customer service queries, and more. Last, Google Assistant is adding two new tools to help people manage their day. Routines let people issue one command and set off a chain of actions. For example, say "Hey Google, I’m home" and the Assistant on Google Home or phone can turn on the lights, share any home reminders, play your favorite music, and more. Location-based reminders have now expanded to Google Home speakers. People can tell Assistant on their speaker to set reminders for specific locations, such as to get milk when at the store, and the alert will popup when appropriate. Google expects to bring even more features to Assistant throughout the year.
Sprint expects to deploy voice over LTE across its network starting this fall. Sprint competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless already offer VoLTE across the bulk of their footprints, making Spring the last major carrier to deploy the upgraded voice technology. "For more than a year we’ve been testing VoLTE and preseeding our customer base with VoLTE-capable devices in preparation for our commercial deployment starting this fall," said Sprint to Fierce Wireless. "Our network today offers a great HD Voice experience on a very efficient 1x platform, and our goal with VoLTE is to match this same high-quality experience that our customers have today." VoLTE allows devices to connect voice calls over carriers' data networks, rather than legacy voice networks, and delivers as much as three times the clarity. Sprint didn't say which devices support VoLTE, nor did it say if its VoLTE service will be compatible with those of other network operators. AT&T and Verizon, for example, allow some customers on some devices to connect VoLTE calls across carriers, though typically VoLTE calls are limited to intra-carrier connections.
Qualcomm today announced the Snapdragon X24, a Cat 20 LTE modem with support for downloads up to 2 Gbps, to its hardware partners. The X24 is built on a 7nm FinFET process and includes advanced LTE technologies, such as 7-channel carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO on up to five carriers, and Massive MIMO. The X24 supports all deployed LTE bands worldwide and can be configured as needed by each carrier with licensed spectrum or License Assisted Access. Up the uplink, the X24 supports 3 x 20 MHz carrier aggregation up to 256-QAM. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon X24 is paired with an RF transceiver built on a 14nm FinFET process with support for envelope tracking up to 60 MHz. It also includes HPUE in Band 41 (for Sprint). Last, the X24 includes multi-frequency global navigation satellite system (GNSS), which will lead to more accurate real-time location tracking within apps. Qualcomm claims the X24 can deliver mobile experiences such as 360-degree video streams and instant apps. Qualcomm plans to demonstrate the X24 with its partners at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona later this month. Qualcomm expects to see the Snapdragon X24 in commercial devices by the end of the year. Qualcomm is positioning the X24 as the tallest, strongest bridge between today's 4G LTE technology and forthcoming 5G NR technology. The Snapdragon X20 modem with 1.2 Gbps speeds, announced late last year, will find its way into the top phones of 2018 that rely on the Snapdragon 845 processor. The X20 will be followed by the X24 in late 2018 and then, eventually, the X50 modem for 5G NR devices in 2019.