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Hands On with the Moto g7 Series

Feb 7, 2019, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Moto's new g-series phones bring up-to-date features, upgraded specs, and clean Google software to three models ranging from $200 to $300. This year's series moves to a notched-screen design, steps up to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor, and supports USB-C across the board. They will all launch with Android 9 (Pie). All three will eventually come to US carriers, most by this spring.

  • Moto g7 play: The most affordable at $199, it has a 5.7" HD display, 3,000 mAh battery, fast charging, fingerprint reader, 13 megapixel camera, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, memory card slot, 3.5mm headset jack, and FM radio. It will be available from Boost, Virgin, US Cellular, Ting, and Republic, as well as unlocked from most major retailers.
  • Moto g7 power: The main feature is its huge 5,000 mAh battery, which Motorola claims will last for three days. It builds on the specs of the g7 play, stepping up to a larger 6.2" display, 3 GB of RAM, and a higher-quality 12-megapixel camera. It will be available for $249 from Verizon, T-Mobile, Metro, Cricket, Xfinity Mobile, Republic, Ting, and Consumer Cellular, as well as unlocked from most major retailers.
  • Moto g7: Higher-end but with a normal-size (3,000 mAh) battery, this flagship of the g series has a curved glass back, full-HD 6.2" display with a smaller notch, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, 4K video capture, and dual cameras for portrait effects. It also has a more advanced camera app, with new features like automatic group smile capture, hi-res digital zoom using multiple frames, hyperlapse video, and RAW output. The camera also integrates with YouTube Live and Google Lens. It will be available unlocked from most major retailers for $299 this spring, followed by launches with Google Fi, Republic Wireless, and Ting.
Read on for our first impressions, including photos and a video.

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US Gov't Indicts Huawei for Stealing Trade Secrets from T-Mobile

Jan 28, 2019, 5:55 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Jan 29, 2019, 12:23 AM

The US government is pursuing a criminal case against Huawei for stealing the design for — as well as actual parts and software from — a unique phone-testing robot developed by T-Mobile USA. The gov't alleges that Huawei offered bonuses for employees to steal such trade secrets, and obstructed justice in a related civil case. A Seattle grand jury returned a 10-count indictment for theft of trade secrets conspiracy, attempted theft of trade secrets, seven counts of wire fraud, and one count of obstruction of justice. The robot in question is called "Tappy" and simulates human fingers activating a set of actions on a phone being tested. The theft occurred in 2012 and 2013. T-Mobile pursued a civil case against Huawei in 2014, and in 2017 a jury awarded T-Mobile $4.8 for Huawei's breach of contract. In the civil case, T-Mobile alleged that Huawei employees authorized to use Tappy snuck another, unauthorized Huawei employee into T-Mobile's labs to photograph Tappy. A Huawei employee also stole one of Tappy's "fingers" and copied some of its software. T-Mobile provided surveillance photos to back its claims, and Huawei admitted to several of the allegations. Under the maximum sentencing provisions applicable to corporate entities, Conspiracy and Attempt to Commit Trade Secret Theft are punishable by a fine of up to $5,000,000 or three times the value of the stolen trade secret, whichever is greater. Wire Fraud and Obstruction of Justice are punishable by a fine of up to $500,000.


T-Mobile Insists It Didn't Fudge Its Coverage Map

Dec 19, 2018, 12:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile went on the defense this week after being accused by the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) of misstating coverage. The RWA alleged that T-Mobile overstated where it provides coverage in rural areas. This is harmful because if the federal government believes an area is properly covered, it won't provide additional funds to cover it. "Contrary to RWA's claim that T-Mobile submitted 'future' coverage, T-Mobile followed required procedures and submitted shapefiles reflecting 4G LTE coverage as of December 2017," said the company in a letter to the FCC. "Rather than overstating T-Mobile coverage, the submitted files more likely understate coverage as T-Mobile continued to expand its network throughout the challenge process," claimed the company. "RWA's misrepresentations are part of an ongoing pattern of baseless allegations by the organization against T-Mobile designed to delay or thwart competition in rural America and deprive rural Americans of meaningful choice for broadband services," said T-Mobile. The RWA made its claims against T-Mobile (and Verizon) just before the FCC announced an investigation into rule-breaking amidst the major carriers for overstating coverage. The Un-carrier insists it is not under investigation by the FCC for inaccurate maps.


T-Mobile Switches On iPhone eSIM Support

Dec 17, 2018, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said owners of the Apple iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max can now take advantage of the embedded eSIM. T-Mobile is allowing unlocked variants of these iPhones to access prepaid T-Mobile service as a secondary line. In order to do so, people will need to download the (free) T-Mobile eSIM app from the iTunes App Store and use it to initiate prepaid service. T-Mobile says its support of the iPhone eSIM is intended for those who travel to the U.S., for existing T-Mobile customers who need a secondary line on their device, and for those who wish to take T-Mobile’s service for a spin before making a longer commitment. T-Mobile will continue to require physical SIM cards for primary lines and family plans. AT&T and Verizon's method for activating the eSIM requires users to visit a store or use a scannable QR code sent via the carrier. Sprint is not likely to support the eSIM until 2019.


Blu Vivo Go Packs Android 9 Pie Go Edition

Dec 13, 2018, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu today revealed the Vivo Go, a sub-$100 smartphone that runs the Go Edition of Android 9 Pie. Android Go focuses on delivering the core Android experience through lightweight versions of Google's apps. The phone has a curved glass front, mirrored frame, and metal-plated rear panel. The Vivo Go includes a 6-inch, HD+ (1,440 by 720p) screen with a 2:1 aspect ratio. It is powered by a 1.5 GHz quad-core MediaTek chipset with 1 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports microSD memory cards up to 64 GB. Blu paired an 8-megapixel main sensor with a VGA secondary sensor on the rear. The dual-camera setup supports adjustable depth-of-field portrait shooting. The selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor and a flash of its own. Other features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB, and basic support for AT&T/Cricket Wireless and T-Mobile/Metro. The Blu Vivo Go goes on sale via Amazon.com today for $80. It will be available briefly at a price of $60 upon launch.


T-Mobile iPhone eSIM Support On Track for Launch By Year's End

Dec 6, 2018, 7:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile hopes to offer support for the newer iPhones' eSIM by the end of the year, according to a report from PCMag. The carrier is distributing training materials concerning its eSIM app to staff this week. T-Mobile will allow iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and Xr owners to sign up for prepaid T-Mobile service on the eSIM using this new app. T-Mobile will continue to require physical SIM cards for primary lines and family plans. AT&T and Verizon's method for activating the eSIM requires users to visit a store or use a scannable QR code sent via the carrier. AT&T began allowing the eSIM today, and Verizon is expected to support the eSIM tomorrow. The eSIM is already supported by GigSky and Truphone. Sprint is not likely to support the eSIM until 2019.


Metro to Sell the Alcatel 1X Evolve as an Exclusive

Dec 4, 2018, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Dec 4, 2018, 9:41 AM

Metro by T-Mobile and Alcatel today announced the 1X Evolve, an update to the compact Alcatel 1X from earlier this year. The phone has curved, 2.5D Dragontrail glass on front and a soft suede finish on the rear. The phone features a 5.34-inch display with a 2:1 aspect ratio and minimal bezels along the outer edges. The 1X Evolve has an 8-megapixel camera on back and a 5-megapixel camera on front. Camera tools include Alcatel's Social Mode for editing and sharing, Social Square for previewing images on half the screen, and Instant Collage for merging photos into shareable collages. The 1X Evolve is powered by a quad-core processor and supports T-Mobile's 600 MHz (Band 71) spectrum for better LTE 4G performance. It packs a 2,460mAh battery and ships with Android 8 Oreo. The Alcatel 1X Evolve reaches Metro stores on December 10. Pricing was not immediately disclosed.


Project Fi Earns a New Name, Opens Up to More Phones

Nov 28, 2018, 11:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 28, 2018, 11:50 AM

Google today renamed its MVNO, Project Fi, to Google Fi. Along with the name change comes dramatically expanded compatibility with phones. Moving forward, the service will work with most Android phones as well as the Apple iPhone. The process of activating Fi on Android devices will be straightforward. Google says compatibility with iPhones is in beta and will require people to jump through a few more hoops, including the use of an iOS app. Basic service will be available to the majority of devices. Fi operates on T-Mobile, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and WiFi, dynamically jumping to the strongest connection. Subscribers will need specific phones, listed on the Fi web site, to get this benefit, as proper LTE support is required. Google recently added VPN protection to Fi. The base service costs $20 per month for unlimited voice and text. Google charges $10 per gigabyte of data. People interested in the service will need to order SIM cards from the Google Fi web site. The service does not require contracts.


T-Mobile Revs Up Low-Cost Offerings with the Revvl 2 and Revvl 2 Plus

Nov 13, 2018, 10:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced the pending availability of the T-Mobile Revvl 2 and T-Mobile Revvl 2 Plus (pictured). These low-cost Android phones are rebadged variants of the Alcatel 3 and Alcatel 7, respectively. Shared features between the two phones include 18:9 displays, mirror black finishes, fingerprint sensors and facial recognition, 32 GB of storage, and Android 8 Oreo. Each supports T-Mobile's Band 66 and Band 71 LTE.

  • Revvl 2: The smaller of the two phones has a 5.5-inch HD+ display with a 1.5 GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6739 processor with 2 GB of RAM. The Revvl 2 has a 13-megapixel rear camera and an 8-megapixel selfie camera. It includes a 3,000mAh battery.
  • Revvl 2 Plus: The larger of the two phones has a 6-inch full HD+ display with a 2.5 GHz octa-core MediaTek MT6739 processor with 3 GB of RAM. This phone has a 12-megapixel rear camera with 2-megapixel secondary camera for portrait shots. The Revvl 2 Plus has an 8-megapixel selfie camera. It includes a 4,000mAh battery.
T-Mobile says the Revvl 2 and Revvl 2 Plus will be available online and in stores November 16. For a limited time, the Revvl 2 with be free and the Revvl 2 Plus will be $84 when adding a line. T-Mobile didn't announce the full retail price of either phone. Metro by T-Mobile already sells the Revvl 2 Plus as the Alcatel 7 for $180.


Motorola's Notched Android One Phone to Be Sold by Best Buy

Nov 5, 2018, 8:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Best Buy recently added the Motorola One to its web site. The phone, available for pre-order, costs $400 and will begin to ship November 9. Motorola had not previously announced plans to sell the phone in the U.S. The Motorola One runs the Android One platform, which means it will recent regular security updates from Motorola. It ships with Android 8.1 Oreo, but will receive Android 9 Pie soon. The phone doesn't have bloatware and ships only with essential apps from Google. The Motorola One has a 5.9-inch HD+ screen with a 19:9 aspect ratio. It packs dual 13-megapixel cameras on the back and an 8-megapixel camera on front. Photo modes include portrait, cinemagraph, time-lapse, 4K video capture and Google Lens. Google says the 3,000mAh battery supports TurboPower charging. The Motorola One is based on a Snapdragon 625 processor with eight cores at 2 GHz. The phone has 64 GB of internal storage and supports microSD memory cards up to 256 GB. The Motorola One is sold unlocked with support for AT&T and T-Mobile.


T-Mobile's Mobile TV Service Waiting On 5G for Launch

Oct 31, 2018, 7:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile is still hyping its forthcoming TV service, though its plans don't appear to be coming together as quickly as the company initially promised. During the company's recent earnings call with press, T-Mobile's Mike Sievert said when the TV service launches later this year, it won't be mobile. Instead, T-Mobile will offer some sort of fixed, in-home TV service. The mobile TV offering won't become a reality until next year. "We have our heads down creating the first TV service for the 5G era," said Sievert. "The journey will start later this year. We're very excited about that. And the second phase of the journey, next year, will be expanding into mobile. Because 5G is about mobility, not just fixed." Sievert went on to say the offering will include hundreds of high definition channels without the need for a cable box. All this will be based on the technology it gained when it purchased Layer3 TV. Layer3 already offers TV service in four markets in the U.S., though it is a more traditional, in-home service offering. T-Mobile hasn't said exactly when either TV service, in-home or mobile, will truly launch. The in-home service was initially expected to arrive in November. T-Mobile's 5G network won't get off the ground until some point during the first half of next year, so the mobile TV service will wait at least that long.


Metro Will Launch 5G Alongside T-Mobile

Oct 8, 2018, 11:34 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile's recently-renamed prepaid brand, will offer 5G service to customers at about the same time T-Mobile rolls out 5G to its postpaid subscribers. "When we talk about 5G for all, it's not just nationwide 5G service, but it's all shades of T-Mobile, magenta and purple," said Neville Ray, chief technology officer at T-Mobile, at an event today. T-Mobile says it will launch 5G in some 30 markets during the first half of 2019, and both T-Mobile and Metro customers will be able to access the faster speeds and lower latency. Metro's new service plans, announced earlier this month, are available starting today. Metro's $40 plan doubles the amount of high-speed data to 10 GB per month. The new $50 plan allows for unlimited data and includes Google One online cloud storage (Android only). The $60 plan includes unlimited data, Google One, and Amazon Prime. T-Mobile says Metro customers' data is prioritized below that of some T-Mobile customers when the network is congested. On all plans, customers who consume more than 35 GB per month may notice reduced speeds due to deprioritization.


FCC Sets Limits On State and Local Govs for 5G Site Approvals

Sep 27, 2018, 7:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC is stripping power away from state and local governments in order to facilitate the installment of 5G infrastructure. This week the agency moved forward on an earlier proposal that sets limits on fees municipalities can charge for cell site applications, as well as the timeframe in which those applications need to be approved. Carriers must apply locally within towns, cities, and states to install new cell sites. Local governments can impede progress by denying permission to put up new sites for any number of reasons, as well as charge fees. Since 5G requires more cells in more locations, the FCC believes the process needs to change. To start, the FCC is setting limits on the fees that can be charged by municipalities for applications, processing the applications, and adjusting the right-of-way around such sites. The FCC is mandating that local governments charge no more than is reasonable. The FCC has also shortened the shot clocks afforded to local governments to weigh such applications. For example, new equipment that is to be added to existing cell sites will have a 60-day shot clock, and entirely new cell sites will have a 90-day shot clock. Local governments that charge onerous fees or sit on applications past the new 60- and 90-day windows will be presumed to be denying the applications and will need to have legitimate reasons prepared. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are all in various stages of building their 5G networks. This step by the FCC helps these companies at the expense of local governmental control. Earlier this year, the FCC made similar changes at the federal level.


T-Mobile Rebrands MetroPCS to Metro by T-Mobile, Debuts New Plans

Sep 24, 2018, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS is no more. T-Mobile is rebranding its prepaid service to Metro by T-Mobile. Along with the new name, Metro by T-Mobile will come with new service plans. First, Metro's existing $40 plan will double the amount of high-speed data allowed per month to 10 GB. Second, the new $50 plan allows for unlimited data and includes Google One for online cloud storage that's accessible from phones and PCs. Google One requires an Android device. Third, the $60 plan includes unlimited data, Google One, and Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime gives people access to quicker shipping and Amazon's content and media services, such as Amazon Video. The free Amazon Prime offer is only valid to new Amazon Prime subscribers. T-Mobile says Metro customers' data is prioritized below that of some T-Mobile customers, particularly when the network is congested. On all plans those customers who consume more than 35GB per month may notice reduced speeds due to prioritization. Video streams are capped at 480p. The name change and new rate plans will kick off officially in October.


T-Mobile Tells Customers Their Data Was Hacked

Aug 24, 2018, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile has informed some customers that a security breach may have exposed some of their personal data. T-Mobile's security team discovered that customer data was being accessed without permission on August 20 and shut down the operation. T-Mobile says credit card numbers, social security numbers, and passwords were not involved, but names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and account numbers were exposed. T-Mobile apologized for the breach and told customers they can contact the company to learn more if they wish. The incident impacted some 2.3 million T-Mobile postpaid and MetroPCS prepaid customers. T-Mobile reported the breach to authorities.


MetroPCS Lands the Big-Screened Alcatel 7 with CloserTV App

Aug 13, 2018, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel and MetroPCS today announced the Alcatel 7, a large Android phone that focuses on entertainment. The Alcatel 7 has a 6-inch, full HD+ screen at a 2:1 aspect ratio. Alcatel says it kept the bezels to a minimum. The phone is powered by an octa-core MediaTek MT6763T processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. Alcatel opted for a dual-camera system on the rear with a 12-megapixel main sensor and a 2-megapixel depth sensor to provide features such as bokeh and re-focus. The front-facing 8-megapixel camera boasts its own, dedicated selfie flash. Other hardware features include a fingerprint reader, Face Key unlocking, 4,000mAh battery with rapid charging, and support for microSD memory cards. On the software front, the Alcatel 7 runs Android 8.1 Oreo and includes Alcatel's CloserTV app, which is a single place for users to watch their favorite online streaming services and cable TV content. Alcatel says users can log in to their various video providers via this one app and then cast it to their TV. MetroPCS is selling the Alcatel 7 beginning today for $180. Customers who port their number to MetroPCS and subscribe to an unlimited plan can get the Alcatel 7 for free. Customers who open a new line of service or have an upgrade can get the phone for $129.


Asus Debuts the ZenFone Live L1 with Android Go

Aug 6, 2018, 7:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus recently revealed the ZenFone Live L1, a Best Buy exclusive that runs Google's Android Go platform. Android 8 Oreo Go is a pared-down version of Android that's able to run on devices with limited memory. The Live L1 features a 5.5-inch LCD screen with HD+ resolution at an 18:9 aspect ratio. The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz Snapdragon 425 processor, which is paired with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. The Live L1 supports memory cards up to 1 TB. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor, while the selfie camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery, Bluetooth, WiFi, FM radio, and microUSB. The phone accommodates up to two SIM cards and functions on GSM/LTE networks such as those operated by AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. Best Buy is selling the Asus ZenFone Live L1 unlocked for $109.99.


MetroPCS Rolls Out Some Smartphone Deals

Aug 2, 2018, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS today kicked off several promotions meant to encourage people to sign up for its service. To start, MetroPCS is offering those who switch a $200 discount that can be applied toward the purchase of a new phone. Some phones, including the Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime, LG Stylo 4, Moto E5 Plus, and iPhone SE, would be effectively free after the $200 discount. This deal requires users to subscribe to MetroPCS' Unlimited LTE plan. Second, customers who buy one iPhone can earn a $200 rebate toward the purchase of a second iPhone of equal or lesser value. This promo is good for new and existing customers. Customers who switch to MetroPCS can buy the iPhone 6 for $49. Last, customers who bring their own device to MetroPCS will receive a free month of service. These deals are available online and in stores.


State AGs Join Justice Department in Assessing Sprint/T-Mobile Impact On MVNOs

Jun 28, 2018, 8:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Attorney General's office from New York is investigating if and how T-Mobile's proposed merger with Sprint might impact the MVNO and prepaid markets. Sprint and T-Mobile separately serve the prepaid space via their own Boost Mobile and MetroPCS brands, respectively, as well as MVNOs, such as Google-run Project Fi. With reduced competition, the New York attorney general is concerned that the tie-up between the two companies could lead to higher prices for prepaid consumers. Dozens of other states are participating in the probe, says the Wall Street Journal. This investigation mirrors a separate one underway with the U.S. Department of Justice, which has similar concerns. 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. Sprint and T-Mobile defended the deal in front on Congress on Wednesday. The companies insist the deal will create jobs and ensure the combined entity can compete with AT&T and Verizon.


MetroPCS Adds LG Stylo 4 to Lineup

Jun 18, 2018, 10:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS has kicked off sales of the LG Stylo 4, a rebadged variant of the LG Q Stylus announced earlier this month. The Stylo 4 includes a stylus and has a metal body with mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse and IP68 protection against water and dust. The Stylo 4 has a 6.2-inch screen with LG's 2:1 Full Vision (2,160 x 1,080) resolution. The phone is powered by a 1.8 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 450 processor with 2 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. The phone comes with a 13-megapixel main camera and a 5-megapixel front camera with a wide-angle lens. The Stylo 4 has a 3,300mAh battery and specs including USB-C, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, wifi, and LTE 4G. The fingerprint scanner is located on the rear surface. The phone ships with Android 8 Oreo and LG's pen-based software tools, such as memos and notes. MetroPCS is selling the phone for $179 with offers (regular rice $239). Versions of the LG Q Stylus / Stylo 4 for other carriers, including AT&T/Cricket, Sprint/Boost, and U.S. Cellular, have passed through the FCC in recent weeks.


Justice Dept. Probing Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Effect on MVNOs

Jun 7, 2018, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Alcatel 1x with Android Go Hits US Retail Next Week for $100

May 31, 2018, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

TCL today announced that its Alcatel 1x phone, an entry-level Android device that runs Android 8.1 Oreo Go Edition, will be available from Amazon.com starting the first week of June. The unlocked device is priced at $99. It will reach Best Buy and Walmart later in the month. The 1x has a 2:1 ratio 5.3-inch screen with 960 by 480 resolution and it is powered by a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.28 GHz. The phone ships with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor, while the user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other hardware features include Cat 4 LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi; microUSB and memory card slot; and a 2,420mAh battery. The Alcatel 1X includes a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. It includes Go-optimized versions of core apps, including Google Assistant Go, Google Go, Files Go, Google Maps Go, YouTube Go, and Gmail Go, as well as performance optimizations to Chrome, Google Play, and Gboard. The Android Go platform is designed to run on low-spec'd hardware. The Alcatel 1x includes modest support for AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS, though it lacks the newest LTE bands.


Blu Pure View Boasts an 18:9 Screen and Dual Selfie Cams

May 31, 2018, 5:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Blu Products today announced the Pure View, a premium handset that adopts modern design aesthetics and features. The Pure View has a metal frame and ultraviolet battery cover on the rear in midnight black. The phone has a 5.7-inch HD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. The Pure View is powered by a 1.3 GHz MediaTek octa-core processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The phone features a 13-megapixel main camera at f/2.2 on the rear with flash and dual selfie cameras on the front with flash. Both front cameras have 8-megapixel sensors, one with a standard-view lens and the other with a 120-degree wide-angle lens at f/2.2. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging, fingerprint scanner, face unlock, memory card slot, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi, and microUSB. The phone is sold unlocked with modest support for AT&T/Cricket Wireless and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The Blu Pure View retails at $199, but Amazon.com is offering it for $129 for a limited time.


Boost Founder Wants to See Boost/MetroPCS Divested If Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Goes Through

May 22, 2018, 4:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


ZTE Says It has Ceased Most Business Functions After Ban

May 9, 2018, 8:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE has all but shut down in the wake of a government-issued ban that prevents U.S. companies from selling ZTE hardware or software. "As a result of the Denial Order, the major operating activities of the company have ceased," said ZTE in exchange filings. "As of now, the company maintains sufficient cash and strictly adheres to its commercial obligations subject to compliance with laws and regulations." The company has maintained some staff in order to fight the ban. It is talking to the U.S. "in order to facilitate the modification or reversal of the Denial Order by the U.S. government and forge a positive outcome in the development of matters." The company didn't spell out details of its operations shutdown. ZTE enjoyed success in the U.S. over the last few years where it found a niche selling low-priced, big-screened Android phones via prepaid carriers MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless. The company's U.S. partners have been silent on its fate since the ban was first ordered. Speaking on the sidelines of the Google I/O developer conference, one Google executive said the situation "was bad for Android."


ZTE Prepping Action Against Commerce Department Ban

Apr 25, 2018, 8:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE today said it is preparing to take "certain actions" within the scope of U.S. law to fight the Commerce Department's ban against the company. Earlier this month, the Commerce Department banned U.S. companies from selling ZTE hardware or software, such as mobile processors and the Android operating system, for a period of seven years. The move puts ZTE's survival as a phone company at critical risk. Without access to Android, in particular, ZTE will not be able to sell phones in the U.S., where it has found a comfortable niche with prepaid carriers including Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. The ban was put into effect because ZTE broke a 2017 settlement agreement concerning its sale of forbidden items to Iran. ZTE did not spell out exactly what actions it will take. Late last week a member of the Commerce Department said it will allow ZTE to argue its case via unofficial channels.


MetroPCS Offering Two Free Months of Service to Switchers

Apr 12, 2018, 8:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS today rolled out a new offer that will give consumers two months of service for free when they meet certain conditions. In order to qualify, new customers will need to port in at least one phone number and select the $50 Unlimited LTE plan, the $60 Unlimited LTE with 10 GB of hotspot data plan, or the $100 4 lines of Unlimited LTE plan. After customers make two on-time monthly payments, they'll be given a $100 prepaid MasterCard, which is enough to cover two months of the $50 Unlimited LTE plan. Further, MetroPCS says new customers can score free phones from LG, Motorola, and Samsung. MetroPCS is owned and operated by T-Mobile. Customers will have to pay a $10 activation fee per new line, as well as sales taxes on new phones. Customers who exceed 35 GB of data per month may see data slowed when the network is congested. Video streams are limited to 480p resolution.


U.S. Carriers Share Galaxy S9 and S9+ Launch Plans and Pricing

Feb 25, 2018, 3:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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+.


ZTE Says Intel Chiefs' Fears Unfounded, Its Phones No Threat

Feb 15, 2018, 8:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE says American consumers have no reason to fear its cell phones. The company issued a statement after the heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA and other intelligence groups suggested that Americans should not purchase phones made by ZTE and Huawei. "ZTE is proud of the innovation and security of our products in the U.S. market. As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards," said the company. ZTE has carrier deals, unlike Huawei, and sells many of its phone via prepaid operators Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. "Our mobile phones and other devices incorporate U.S.-made chipsets, U.S.-made operating systems and other components. ZTE takes cybersecurity and privacy seriously and remains a trusted partner to our U.S. suppliers, U.S. customers and the people who use our high quality and affordable products for their communications needs," argued the company. Some in the government characterize phones and telecommunications gear sold by ZTE and Huawei as security risks. Pressure from the government recently put the kibosh in planned deals between Huawei and AT&T, and Verizon Wireless. Moreover, Republican senators and congressmen have put forth bills that would make it illegal for the government to purchase or use equipment from Huawei and ZTE. Neither of these bills has been voted upon yet. For the time being, ZTE's handsets continue to be available in the U.S. at carrier stores and online. Huawei's devices are available online.


T-Mobile Rolls Out More Rebates and Savings

Feb 13, 2018, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced new ways for its postpaid and prepaid customers to save some green. First, T-Mobile has a buy-one, get-one offer on deck for LG handsets. Postpaid customers who buy the G6, V30, or V30+ on a T-Mobile equipment installment plan can snag a second LG phone (of equal or lesser value) for free via monthly bill credits. This BOGO offer is available to new and current customers. Second, prepaid customers who switch from another carrier and port their number to MetroPCS will receive a $150 instant rebate that can be used toward the price of any phone. T-Mobile says the devices such as the Samsung J7 Prime, LG Stylo 3 Plus, ZTE Blade ZMAX, or LG K20 would all be free thanks to the rebate. New customers will have to sign up for MetroPCS' Unlimited LTE plan. Third, existing MetroPCS customers can score a $50 instant rebate when they add a line to an existing Unlimited LTE plan ($60/mo). The $50 rebate can be applied to a phone priced $79 and higher. Last, MetroPCS is still running its four lines for $100 deal. New or existing customers who port in at least one line can get up to four lines of unlimited talk, text, and LTE data for $100. These deals will be available for a limited time.


Republican Senators Want It to Be Illegal for US Gov to Use Huawei or ZTE Equipment

Feb 7, 2018, 5:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Republican Senators today introduced a new bill that would prevent the U.S. government from using telecommunications equipment from either Huawei or ZTE. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Florida Senator Marco Rubio proposed the bill, citing security concerns. "Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices," said Cotton. "There are plenty of other companies that can meet our technology needs, and we shouldn't make it any easier for China to spy on us." The bill is similar to one proposed last month by Texas Representative Michael Conaway and Wyoming Representative Elizabeth Cheney. Last month, AT&T and Verizon Wireless scrapped plans to sell Huawei's flagship Mate 10 Pro smartphone due to government pressure. Last year, ZTE was hit with a temporary ban after it was discovered the company supplied some equipment to Iran in violation of international sanctions. Both Huawei and ZTE deny any connection to the Chinese government. ZTE's handsets are widely available from prepaid carriers in the U.S., including Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. Huawei sells its phone to U.S. consumers directly without a carrier distribution deal.


LG Aristo 2 for MetroPCS Packs More RAM

Jan 23, 2018, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jan 24, 2018, 2:47 PM

MetroPCS recently added the LG Aristo 2 to its lineup of inexpensive Android handsets. This device is a minor update to the original Aristo. It improves the memory from 1.5 GB to 2 GB, adds support for LTE band 66, and steps up to dual-band Wi-Fi. It also swaps the original’s silver color for black. Other than these changes, the Aristo 2 carries over all the features of the original Aristo, including a 5-inch HD screen, 1.4 GHz quad-core processor, and 16 GB of internal storage. The phone includes a 13-megapixel main camera with flash and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. The phone runs Android 7 Nougat. The LG Aristo 2 is available from MetroPCS for $59 after a mail-in rebate. The original Aristo is still available from MetroPCS for $49.


Blu Life One X3 Adopts Metal-and-Glass Design and Packs 5,000mAh Battery

Dec 14, 2017, 6:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Dec 14, 2017, 11:34 PM

Blu Products today announced the Life One X3, a mid-range handset from the unlocked phone maker. The One X3 has a curved-edge glass screen and an aluminum frame painted in matte black. The display measures 5.5 inches and offers full HD resolution. Blu gave the One X3 an octa-core MediaTek 6753 processor at 1.3 GHz with 3 GB of memory and 32 GB of storage. An impressively large 5,000mAh battery lurks within in the chassis to provide more than a day of battery life. The One X3 sports two 13-megapixel cameras, one on front and one on back. Both cameras have their own flash and can capture full HD video. Other specs include Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 28) for moderate compatibility with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone ships with Android 7 Nougat. Blu says the One X3 is available from Amazon.com starting today. The standard retail price is $250, but the Life One X3 will be available for a limited time at $150.


MetroPCS Offering a Year of Amazon Prime for Free

Nov 16, 2017, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today said people who switch to MetroPCS and subscribe to an unlimited plan will enjoy a year of Amazon Prime for free. Amazon Prime gives people access to discounted shipping from Amazon.com, as well as access to Amazon's music and video streaming services, online photo storage, and other perks. Amazon Prime typically carries a cost of $99 per year. In addition to Amazon Prime for free, MetroPCS will give those who switch a free Samsung Galaxy J7 Prime smartphone. The free phone also requires customers subscribe to the unlimited plan. MetroPCS is offering four lines of unlimited service for $100. The J7 Prime has a 5.5-inch screen, 1.5 GHz octa-core processor, 8-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera, 16 GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery. The phone normally sells for $209. MetroPCS said the Amazon Prime and free J7 Prime promos will only be available for a limited time.


Unlocked Blu S1 Compatible with Most U.S. Carriers

Nov 1, 2017, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 6, 2017, 1:23 PM

Blu Products recently announced the S1, an inexpensive Android smartphone that's available unlocked from Amazon.com and BestBuy.com. One of the chief benefits of the S1 is its wide compatibility with U.S. LTE networks. It supports AT&T and T-Mobile, and, unusually, Sprint, as well as their prepaid services including Cricket Wireless, Boost Mobile, and MetroPCS. Blu says it also offers SIM kits for the S1 from Tracfone, Net10, and H2O. The S1 features a curved glass front with metallic paint on the smooth rear panel. The 5.2-inch display offers 720p HD resolution in a 16:9 aspect ratio, and the phone is powered by an octa-core 1.5 GHz MediaTek 6750 processor with 2 GB of RAM. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with an aperture of f/2.0 and an LED flash, while the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other features include Bluetooth, FM radio, GPS, and WiFi; 16 GB of storage and support for microSD memory cards; front-mounted fingerprint sensor; and a 2,800mAh battery. The Blu S1 runs Android 7 Nougat and is available online for $130 from Amazon and $180 from Best Buy.


MetroPCS Customers Can Snag 4 Lines of Unlimited LTE for $100

Oct 24, 2017, 8:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today unveiled a new promotion for its MetroPCS prepaid brand that offers big savings for families. Customers who add at least one new line of service can score four lines of unlimited talk, text, and LTE data for $100 per month. That price includes taxes and fees. Every line ported to MetroPCS will be eligible for a free smartphone. Some of the free handsets include the Alcatel Fierce 4 and Fierce A30; Coolpad Defiant; LG Aristo and K20 Plus; Motorola Moto E4; Samsung Galaxy J3 Prime and Galaxy J7 Prime; and the ZTE Blade Z Max and Avid Trio. Those who earn a free phone will have to pay sales tax at the point of sale. Though the plan is billed as unlimited, there are some stipulations. To start, video is limited to streams of 480p and tethering is not available. Further, customers who exceed 35 GB of data in a given billing period may see reduced speeds until the start of their next billing cycle.


ZTE Blade Z Max Brings 6-Inch Display to MetroPCS for $129

Aug 14, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

ZTE and MetroPCS today announced the Blade Z Max, a successor to last year's Z Max smartphone. ZTE is making greater use of its Blade branding on value handsets in the U.S., which is why the new phone adds "Blade" to its name. The phone relies on a metal frame and flatter rear panel that is coated with a honeycomb rubber texture for added grip. The Blade Z Max carries over the 6-inch full HD screen with 2.5D Dragontrail Glass of last year's phone, but doubles up on the cameras. The Blade Z Max has a 16-megapixel main rear camera with a secondary 2-megepixel camera to help with focus and contrast as well as create bokeh and monochrome shots. The phone includes an 8-megapixel selfie camera on front. The Blade Z Max is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and it supports memory cards up to 128 GB. ZTE says the phone's massive 4,080mAh battery supports up to 31 hours of talk time, and Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 for swifter refills. Other specs include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, support for VoLTE and HD Voice, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and USB Type-C. The ZTE Blade Z Max runs Android 7.1 Nougat and will go on sale at MetroPCS stores August 28 for $129.


Hands On with the ZTE Blade Z Max

Aug 14, 2017, 8:00 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Aug 14, 2017, 9:37 AM

This follow-up to the affordable ZMAX Pro keeps the huge 6-inch screen, while upgrading a few key specs. It has a premium metal-frame design, fingerprint reader, huge battery, and dual-lens main camera. The ZMAX Pro has been a very hot seller for ZTE and MetroPCS, and they hope to keep that streak running with the new Blade Z Max. How does it stack up in person? Read on for our first impressions.

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MetroPCS Offering Two Lines of Unlimited Service for $75

Aug 8, 2017, 6:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

MetroPCS today rolled out a new service offer that cuts down the cost of unlimited lines. MetroPCS says customers can snag a single line of unlimited service for $50, and then add up to four more lines for $25 each. Two lines of unlimited service will cost $75, three lines will cost $100, and so on. MetroPCS includes taxes and fees in its pricing. The unlimited service does not include mobile hotspot, which costs $10 more for 8 GB of hotspot service. Last, MetroPCS is offering those who switch to MetroPCS a rebate up to $100 per line ported in. The new service offering is available starting today.


Samsung Makes the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 Available Unlocked

Jul 24, 2017, 3:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today added the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3 to its list of unlocked smartphones. The two inexpensive handsets will be available to purchase directly from Samsung's web site as well as select retailers starting July 28. The J7 (pictured) is the larger, costlier of the two with a 5.5-inch 720p HD screen and $220 price tag. It also has a 3,300mAh battery, 8-megapixel main camera, and 5-megapixel front camera with flash. The smaller J3 has a 5-inch 720p HD display and a $150 price point. The J3 also has a 2,600mAh battery, 5-megapixel main camera, and 2-megapixel front camera. Both phones support expandable memory cards, support U.S. 3G/4G networks, and run Android 7 Nougat. They have been available from several U.S. carriers (AT&T/Cricket, T-Mobile/MetroPCS) for several months.


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