Verizon today launched the TCL Flip Pro for prepaid customers. The same phone launched recently on US Cellular as the TCL Flip, and earlier this week as the Alcatel Go Flip 4 on T-Mobile. (Alcatel is a brand of TCL.) TCL says the Go Flip 4 is also coming to Metro by T-Mobile. The phone is an update to the Alcatel Go Flip 3, with a larger battery, new shortcut buttons on the keypad, and a modern USB-C connector. Other key features are similar, including KaiOS, which has its own app store and enables smartphone-like features such as Google Assistant and Google Maps. The phone also sports a 2-megapixel camera, memory card slot, headset jack, Wi-Fi, and a 1.44-inch color outer display. US Cellular and Metro sell the phone for $100, and T-Mobile for $96. Verizon sells it for $70 on prepaid and will bring it to their postpaid lineup "in the coming weeks".
The FCC has launched a new interactive map showing 4G LTE coverage for the whole US. It includes Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and US Cellular networks. The data is sourced from the carriers, but is required to meet standards intended to make the data uniform and allow apples-to-apples comparisons. "Specifically, it shows where customers can expect to receive 4G LTE broadband service at a minimum user download speed of five megabits per second (5 Mbps) and a user upload speed of one megabit per second (1 Mbps) based on propagation modeling." Another "voice" layer shows where users should be able to get basic service regardless of data speed.
The FCC today announced the winners of Auction 107 for radio frequency licenses in the coveted "C-Band". Verizon spent $45.5 billion, well over half the $81.1 billion total spent in the whole auction. All major US carriers spent large amounts, with AT&T spending $23.4 billion, T-Mobile spending $9.3 billion, and US Cellular spending $1.3 billion. Auction 107 is for radio frequencies spanning 3.7 to 3.98 GHz. This band is unusually large at 280 MHz wide, giving it valuable high capacity for many users and/or fast data speeds. Spectrum in these "mid-band" frequencies is also valuable because it's ideal for building 5G networks that offer a good balance of fast data speeds and broad coverage. Most current 5G networks in the US offer only fast speeds or broad coverage, an issue that is particularly acute for Verizon at the moment. Auction 107 is likely to be the largest and most important of several C-band auctions the FCC is holding. Auction 105 was the first, though it raised only $4.6 billion. The next will be Auction 110, for 3.45 – 3.55 GHz. The FCC finalized its proposed rules for that auction earlier this week.
Motorola today unveiled a full lineup of four new affordable phones, including three g-series models ranging from $169 – $299 and one 5G model for $399. All four feature large batteries (4,000 – 5,000 mAh) and large displays (6.5 – 6.8 inches). All four also include a fingerprint reader, multiple cameras, headset jack, memory card slot, USB-C connector, and a "water-repellant design" that protects against accidental spills, splashes, sweat, or light rain. They ship with Android 10 and Motorola promises one full OS version update plus two years of security updates. Moto's latest camera app supports AI scene detection and optimization, Google Lens, portrait mode, RAW format, Active Photos, Auto Smile Capture, Gesture Selfie, time-lapse, and slow-motion on all models. All four also support gestures such as Lift to unlock, Flip for DND (Do Not Disturb), Pick up to silence, and Fast flashlight, where a quick double-chop motion turns the flashlight on or off. All four phones will be available unlocked as well as from many US carriers.
- moto g play (2021): The most affordable at $170, this phone has a 6.5-inch HD display with notch, huge 5,000 mAh battery, Qualcomm Snapdragon 460 chipset, 3 GB RAM, and 32 GB built-in storage. Its primary 13 megapixel camera is assisted by a depth camera for portrait mode, and the front camera is 5 megapixel. It also has 10W fast charging. The new moto g play will be offered in the coming months by AT&T, Cricket, Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, Republic Wireless, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile.
- moto g power (2021): Upgrades compared to the g play include: Snapdragon 662 chipset, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage, up to 15W fast charging, "48 megapixel" main camera that outputs 12-megapixel photos using pixel binning, 2-megapixel macro camera, and an 8-megapixel front camera. The upgraded main camera enables a Night Vision mode and better low-light performance in general. The camera app also gains Cinemagraph mode, Group Selfie, and Spot Color for video. The fingerprint reader moves to the side and the display is slightly larger at 6.6 inches, with a corner hole-punch design. This new moto g power will sell for $250, although Best Buy will sell a variant with 3 GB RAM and 32 GB storage for $200. It will also come to Boost Mobile, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Republic Wireless, US Cellular, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile in the coming months.
- moto g stylus (2021): This model adds a stylus that stows in the bottom-right of the phone. It comes with two special apps: Moto Note and Coloring Book. The stylus also offers system-wide shortcuts and works with third-party apps. This is the only model of the four to come with a smaller 4,000 mAh battery, which Motorola says was necessary to make room for the stylus. It has several spec upgrades compared to the g power, including a larger 6.8-inch display with full-HD resolution, Snapdragon 678 chipset, 128 GB storage, 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, 16 megapixel selfie camera, and 4K video capture. It will sell for $300 unlocked. Boost Mobile, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, and Republic Wireless will also offer it in the coming months.
- Motorola one 5G ace: Combines the best of the g power and g stylus specs (minus the stylus) while adding 5G (sub-6 GHz only) thanks to its Snapdragon 750G chipset. Other upgrades include 6 GB RAM, NFC, and an official IP rating for water resistance: IP54 for the T-Mobile version and IP52 for other versions. The display measures 6.7 inches with a centered hole-punch design, and the fingerprint reader is located on the back. It will run $400 unlocked. AT&T, Consumer Cellular, Google Fi, Metro by T-Mobile, T-Mobile, Republic Wireless, Verizon, and Xfinity Mobile will also offer it in the coming months.
LG today unveiled the K92 5G, its entry into the growing surge of phones designed to bring 5G to more affordable price points. The K92 5G will be sold by AT&T, Cricket, and US Cellular starting at just $359, breaking the $399 barrier for the first time. The K92 5G is the second phone to be announced for the US that uses the Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 chipset, following the OnePlus Nord N10 5G earlier this week. The 690 is specifically designed to enable more-affordable 5G phones such as these. Nokia, Motorola, and TCL have also announced that they will use the 690 in forthcoming phones. The 690 supports only sub-6 GHz 5G, not mmWave. The LG K92 5G has a large 6.7-inch full-HD display, 4,000 mAh battery, Quick Charge 4, 6 GB RAM, 128 GB storage, and a memory card slot. Its quad rear cameras include a 64 megapixel (f/1.78) main camera, 5 megapixel wide camera, 2 megapixel macro camera, and depth camera. The 16-megapixel front camera sits in a large centered hole punch. It also has a side-mounted fingerprint sensor, NFC, and stereo speakers. It will ship with Android 10. It will be available from US carriers "shortly".
The newest affordable Pixel phone from Google is the Pixel 4a, which starts at $349, making it the most affordable Pixel phone ever. (The Pixel 3a started at $399 at launch.) A 5G version will also be available this fall starting at $499. The Pixel 4a is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 730G chip paired with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. The 4a is a relatively small phone, with a 5.8-inch OLED display that covers the front. A small hole punch in the corner accommodates the 8 megapixel selfie camera. The single rear camera is 12 megapixel with dual-pixel focusing. The phone comes with an 18W USB-PD fast charger for its 3,140 mAh battery. It also has a fingerprint reader on the back, headphone jack up top, stereo speakers, and NFC. It does not have water resistance nor wireless charging. It will be available in black (only) starting August 20th from Google, Best Buy, Amazon, Google Fi, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon. Pre-orders from Google and Google Fi start today. Google also revealed that a 5G-enabled Pixel 5 will be announced in the "coming months" and be available this fall, but said little else about it.
US carriers have launched a flurry of new entry-level phones from LG and Samsung in recent weeks. The phones include three new models from each of the two manufacturers. They range in price from $60 to $260.
- LG's new most affordable phone goes by many names and ranges in price from $60 to $160. It's offered by just about every carrier except Verizon. T-Mobile, Sprint, and Metro offer it as the Aristo 5. Boost offers it as the Tribute Monarch. U.S. Cellular offers it as the K8x. All of those versions come with 32 GB of storage. Only AT&T's version comes with just 16 GB of storage, which they offer from AT&T Prepaid as the Phoenix 5, or from Cricket as the Fortune 3. Oddly, Cricket also offers this phone as the Risio 4. The Risio 4 and K8x have a front camera that's downgraded from 5 to 3 megapixel. Key specs in common include a 5.7-inch HD display with notch, MediaTek Helio P22 processor, 2 GB RAM, and a 3,000 mAh Battery. It also has a 13-megapixel main camera, dedicated wide-angle camera, and a rear fingerprint reader.
- LG Harmony 4: Currently available only from Cricket (for $140), this step-up model has a larger display (6.1-inch), larger battery (3,500 mAh), and more RAM (3 GB). It also has USB-C and a better front camera. Regulatory filings indicate it may also come to Verizon prepaid and TracFone using the Sprint network.
- LG K51: Already available from T-Mobile, Metro, and Boost, this model is now available from Verizon for $168. Compared to the Harmony 4, it offers an even larger display and battery. It's powered by a MediaTek Helio P22 processor.
- Samsung A01: First launched on Verizon in April, Samsung's most affordable phone is now available from AT&T, Cricket, and Metro, for $115, $60, and $160, respectively. It has USB-C and fast charging, but no fingerprint reader.
- Samsung A11: A big step up from A01, this $180 phone is now available from AT&T and Verizon. It will launch with Boost on July 21st at a limited-time price of $130. It has a 6.4-inch HD display with a hole-punch design, 4,000 mAh battery, fast charging, fingerprint reader, and a dedicated wide-angle camera.
- Samsung A21: Now available from Verizon, T-Mobile, Metro, Sprint, and Boost. While the standard price is $250, Metro is charging $260 while Boost is currently offering it for $200. It has a similar display and battery compared to the A11, but has upgraded cameras, MediaTek Helio P35 processor, 3 GB RAM, and NFC.
Motorola is refreshing its entry-level lineup with a new Moto e for 2020 and a new model at the low end of its (mid-range) g series. The Moto e (2020) and Moto g fast will both be available unlocked and with Boost, and the Moto e will be available with several other US carriers as well.
- Moto e (2020): This year's Moto e delivers several major upgrades over last year's e6. It has a larger display (6.2-inch vs. 5.5-inch) thanks to a modern notch design. It also has a larger battery: 3,550 mAh vs. 3,000 mAh, and it steps up to a 600-series Snapdragon processor (the 632) compared to last year's 400-series chip. It also offers 32 GB of storage — double last year's amount — and adds both a depth camera and a fingerprint reader. Keeping things affordable, its front camera is 5 megapixel, it has 2 GB of RAM, and it uses a micro-USB charging connector. It does, however, have water-repellent coating, 3.5mm headset jack, and a memory card slot. It will be available unlocked for $150, and later sold by Verizon Prepaid, T-Mobile, Metro, US Cellular, and Xfinity Mobile. There are two variants with different network support: The version for Verizon supports fewer LTE bands, but, oddly, full support for AT&T's LTE network is only found on Verizon's version.
- Moto g fast: The $200 Moto g fast is a more-affordable cousin to the recently-announced Moto g power (2020) and Moto g stylus. Like those models, it has a 6.4-inch display with a corner hole punch design, Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 processor, water resistance, a fingerprint reader, and triple rear cameras (including wide and macro). Making it more affordable is the HD+ display resolution, 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and an 8 megapixel selfie camera. It has the same 4,000 mAh battery as the Moto g stylus and the same 16 megapixel main camera as the Moto g power. Other features include USB-C, fast charging, 3.5mm audio jack, and a memory card slot. So far, Boost is the only US carrier that has announced plans to carry the Moto g fast.
LG and Tubi announced a deal to preload the Tubi video-streaming app on LG phones. Tubi is a division of FOX Entertainment. The Tubi app offers over 20,000 movies and TV shows for free, with ads. The app is already loaded on LG phones sold by T-Mobile, and is coming soon to LG phones sold by Metro and US Cellular. Additional carriers will be announced soon. The multi-year partnership is expected to cover "tens of millions of LG mobile phones in the US and Canada".
The FCC has now granted Verizon, US Cellular, and T-Mobile permission to expand their 4G network capacity by temporarily using radio frequencies that are licensed to other companies, but had been sitting unused prior to the current pandemic. The unusual move by the FCC will help support the unprecedented number of people suddenly using wireless broadband to operate from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. T-Mobile was first to receive this special permission, and today announced that it has completed implementation, doubling the capacity of its 4G LTE network in band 71 (600 MHz). Yesterday, the FCC granted Verizon temporary use of idle spectrum in band 66 (also known as AWS-3). On Tuesday, the FCC granted similar permission to US Cellular.
At the request of the FCC Chairman, essentially all US internet and telephone providers have pledged to waive all late fees, and not disconnect any service due to inability to pay bills, for the next 60 days. This includes Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, and Comcast. The Pledge is designed to help people economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and everyone needing additional connectivity as they work and study from home. Companies agreeing to the FCC's pledge are also committed to opening up to everyone their wi-fi networks that were previously reserved for paying customers. On top of the pledge, both T-Mobile and Sprint are temporarily giving unlimited data to all customers on metered data plans, as well as 20 GB of mobile hotspot data.
LG today announced the V60 ThinQ 5G with LG Dual Screen. Its specs are flagship-level, but not quite as top-end as past V-series phones. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and US Cellular will offer the V60 "in the coming weeks". As with the Samsung Galaxy S20, Verizon's version will supports both mmWave and sub-6 5G, while other versions will only support sub-6 5G (which offers better coverage but not the fastest 5G speeds.) The V60 will be packaged with LG's Dual Screen accessory, which adds a second display identical to phone's main display, connected to the phone with a 360-degree hinge, plus a 2.1-inch monochrome outer display. The V60's is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset, and features a 6.8-inch full-HD+ OLED display, 5,000 mAh battery, 8 GB of RAM, 128 GB storage, memory card slot, and Android 10. It also features two rear cameras plus a ToF depth camera. The main camera is 64 megapixel (f/1.8), while the wide-angle camera is 13 megapixel (f/1.9, 117º). It can capture 8K video, as well as 4K time-lapse or 60 fps video. It has stereo speakers and 4 microphones, plus an ASMR recording mode. The phone also features an in-display fingerprint reader, 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC, Quick Charge 4+, IP68 water rating, NFC, Bluetooth 5.1, Wi-Fi 6, and USB-C (3.1). It will be available in blue or white. Specific launch dates and pricing will be announced by US carriers in coming weeks.
Motorola has unveiled two new g-series phones for 2020: the Moto g Stylus and Moto g Power. The two phones are very similar, except the g Stylus has a built-in stylus pen and higher-end main camera, while the g Power has a larger battery. Both phones have a 6.4-inch full-HD+ display with a "hole punch" in the corner for the 16-megapixel selfie camera. Both are powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 665 chip paired with 4 GB of RAM and running Android 10. Both have a water-repellent design, stereo speakers, dual-band Wi-Fi, fingerprint reader, memory card slot, USB-C, 10W fast charging, 3.5mm headphone jack, and FM radio. Both have excellent support for all US 4G networks — including bands 13, 14, 25, 26, 29, 30, 41, 66, and 71 — with LTE Cat. 13 speeds. Motorola also has a new feature that limits interruptions while gaming. The few differences between the phones are:
- Moto g Stylus: Has a built-in stylus pen designed to help you edit photos, jot down notes, sketch artwork, copy and paste text, and mark up screenshots. Removing the stylus while the phone is idle will automatically start the new Moto Note app, which lets you take quick notes without unlocking the phone. It has a 4,000 mAh battery and 128 GB of storage. The main camera has a 48-megapixel sensor and f/1.7 aperture, with laser auto-focus. It also has a 2-megapixel macro camera and 16-megapixel "action" camera that takes ultra-wide video in landscape orientation while holding the phone vertically. The Moto g Stylus will be available unlocked "this spring" for $300, and subsequently at Verizon, Metro, and Republic.
- Moto g Power: Has an extra-large 5,000 mAh battery that Motorola claims can power the phone for three days. It also has three rear cameras, but the main camera is 16 megapixel (f/1.7) and the wide-angle camera is 8-megapixel with standard orientation. Like the g Stylus, it has a 2-megapixel macro camera that can focus on objects just 2cm from the lens. It has 64 GB of storage. The Moto g Power will be available unlocked "this spring" for $250, and subsequently at Verizon, Xfinity Mobile, US Cellular, Consumer Cellular, and Republic.
US Cellular launched new unlimited plans today. The plans are, on average, $10/month cheaper, but shift several features that were previously included in the basic plan into the $10/month Unlimited Plus add-on plan. The $10/month add-on previously gave customers access to HD video. Now it will also include three features no longer included in the basic plan: mobile hotspot (now limited to 15 GB), full LTE speeds at times of network congestion, and a $10/month credit when customers use less than 3GB of data in a month. Both old and new plans were progressively cheaper with each additional line on a family plan. The old plans started at $65/month for one line, down to $40/line/month for four or more lines. The new plans start at $55/month for one line, down to $30/line/month for four or more lines, making them a better value for customers who don't need mobile hotspot, HD video, or the credit for using less than 3GB of data. US Cellular previously capped streaming media at 3 mbps on its basic plans, but now describes the limitation as 480p video. Unlimited Plus previously removed the streaming cap, but now grants access to HD video at 720p. The plans are available starting today.
Motorola today announced the Moto e6, a $150 Android phone with a 13-megapixel main camera and portrait mode, in a new design that drops the iconic Motorola look in favor of something more like an iPhone. Motorola calls the design "unibody", although the battery is removable. Compared to the e5, the display and battery are smaller, at 5.5 inches and 3,000 mAh, respectively. The display offers HD+ resolution. The processor has been updated to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 435, which Motorola claims is 50% faster than last year's 425 chip. The improved camera has f/2.0 aperture, PDAF, auto HDR, an LED flash, manual mode, and RAW output. It can also record full-HD video and support both time-lapse and hyper-lapse. The selfie camera is 5 megapixel with f/2.0 aperture. The phone also has a micro-USB port, 3.5mm headphone jack, memory card slot, and dual-band Wi-Fi. The Moto e6 is available today from Verizon, and will also be carried by T-Mobile, Metro, Boost, US Cellular, Consumer Cellular, and Xfinity Mobile.
Sprint and Verizon both recently started offering standalone GPS tracker devices that can report their exact position using cellular networks. AT&T already offers such a device. The devices use the new LTE Cat-M1 technology designed specifically for small, low-power devices that only need to transmit small amounts of data. Unlike Bluetooth-based tracking tiles, they do not need to be near the phone viewing the location, although the tracker device does need to be within the coverage area of the cellular network it's associated with. All of the tracker devices are roughly the size of a matchbook, are water-resistant, include Wi-Fi for enhanced location accuracy and efficiency, and have multi-day battery life. They are designed for tracking kids, pets, vehicles, and luggage, for example. Sprint's Tracker is made by Coolpad and features a light sensor and speaker. Its battery lasts 3-10 days and it's rated IP67 for dust and water. Sprint is charging $60 for the tracker and $5/month for service. The Verizon Smart Locator has battery life up to five days and an IP67 rating. Verizon charges $100 for the tracker with one year of free service, after which service is $3/month. AT&T offers the Samsung SmartThings Tracker, which has battery life up to one week and an IP68 rating. AT&T charges $100 for the tracker which includes one year of service. After the first year, service on the AT&T network is offered through Samsung, and runs $5/month or $50/year.
The FCC today announced the results of its recent auctions of mmWave radio bands for 5G services. AT&T and T-Mobile were the big winners, both scoring 24 GHz licenses covering most major US cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Houston, Seattle, Boston, Dallas, Miami, Phoenix, Atlanta, Detroit, San Diego, Orlando, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Las Vegas, Denver, Portland, and San Antonio. AT&T and T-Mobile focused on 24 GHz while Verizon focused on 28 GHz. AT&T spent nearly $1 billion on 24 GHz licenses covering 383 markets. T-Mobile spent $803 million for 24 GHz licenses covering 400 markets, but also $39 million for 28 GHz licenses covering 864 small markets. Verizon spent over $505 million on 28 GHz licenses covering 863 markets, most of which are smaller cities and towns. US Cellular split its winning bids evenly, with $129 million for 28 GHz and $127 million for 24 GHz. Auction 101 was for the 28 GHz band and raised over $700 million in net bids with 33 bidders winning a total of 2,965 licenses. Auction 102, for the 24 GHz band, raised over $2 billion in net bids with 29 bidders winning a total of 2,904 licenses.
Google today expanded its Pixel lineup with two mid-range models: the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL. The new models look much like the higher-end Pixel 3 models and have many of the same features, but use software to bring enhanced quality to more affordable hardware components such as a camera module without Google's Visual Core chip. Cost savings also come from dropping water resistance, wireless charging, and the wide-angle selfie camera. The processor is Snapdragon 670 instead of 845, and the rear is made of plastic instead of glass. The Pixel 3a has a 5.6-inch display and sells for $399. The larger Pixel 3a XL has a 6-inch display and sells for $479. The phones are on sale starting today from Google. Tomorrow, Google is expanding distribution of its whole Pixel 3/3a lineup to T-Mobile, Sprint, and US Cellular, in addition to Verizon. The Pixel 3a phones include a 3.5mm audio jack, full-HD OLED displays, Night Sight and Portrait modes in the camera app, call screening, a squeeze shortcut for Google Assistant, USB-C, stereo speakers, Google's Titan M security chip, and a promise of OS updates for three years. The phones support fast charging and come with an 18-watt charger. The Pixel 3a is available in three colors: Just Black, Clearly White, and Purple-ish.
In two weeks, the LG G8 ThinQ will be offered by all major US carriers, with several offering major discounts at launch. This flagship phone from LG has a unique 3D depth camera on the front, supporting mid-air gestures, hand vein scanning, and 3D face scanning. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, and Xfinity Mobile will carry the G8, as well as Best Buy and B&H. The standard retail price is $820, although some carriers are offering significant discounts and deals. Read on for carrier deal specifics, color options, and pre-order dates.
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.
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.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent letters to more than a dozen telephone service providers today asking them for a status update on their efforts to curb robocalls. He demanded these companies deploy a system that authenticates the identity of callers as those calls transit the networks with the goal of identifying and squashing spoofed numbers and spam. Pai wants the system rolled out no later than 2019. "Combatting illegal robocalls is our top consumer priority at the FCC," said Pai. "That’s why we need call authentication to become a reality — it's the best way to ensure that consumers can answer their phones with confidence." Earlier this year, the FCC approved an authentication system called SHAKEN/STIR. This system verifies calls from the originating carrier as legitimate and ensures they are validated once again by the receiving carrier before the calls reach consumers. Americans receive billions of robocalls annually. If no action is taken, more than half of all calls made in 2019 are predicted to be robocalls. "By this time next year, I expect that consumers will begin to see this on their phones," continued Pai. "If it does not appear that this system is on track to get up and running next year, then we will take action to make sure that it does." Pai asked the telephone service providers to send in status reports indicating how far along they are in adopting the SHAKEN/STIR framework. The telephone companies have until November 19 to reply. Some of the companies that received letters include AT&T, Google, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.
Apple today announced that its new iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max will be the first to support dual SIM cards. Rather that include the space for two physical SIM cards in the iPhone Xs and Xs Max, the phones will include support for one physical SIM and one eSIM, an electronic SIM card that can be programmed with carrier service. The eSIM will not be accessible to those purchasing the Xs/Xs Max right away. Apple says an update to iOS 12 will enable the eSIM later this year. Using the eSIM and physical SIM together will not be as simple as it would be to use two physical SIM cards. "To use two different carriers, your iPhone must be unlocked," explained Apple on its web site. "Otherwise, both plans must be from the same carrier. If a CDMA carrier (Sprint or Verizon) provides your first SIM, your second SIM won't support CDMA." Apple says the eSIM can serve as your only cellular plan if you don't have access to a physical SIM card. Otherwise, the main cellular plan will be attached to the physical SIM and the second to the eSIM. Apple says with two active carrier accounts on a single iPhone, owners will be able to select primary and secondary accounts, set one for calls/texts and the other for data, or use both lines for calls, texts, and data. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon will support the eSIM, but Sprint will not. Apple warns that the eSIM may be disabled when purchased from some carriers.
All the major carriers in the U.S. plan to sell the Samsung Galaxy Note9 when it becomes available August 24. Each has a different offer on hand to entice consumers to buy the phone.
- AT&T: AT&T is asking customers to pay $33.34 per month for 30 months for the $999.99 128 GB version of the Note9. For a limited time, customers who buy the Note9 can get a second Note9 or Galaxy S9/S9+ for free when the phones are financed on an installment plan.
- Sprint: Sprint customers can get the Note9 for half off for a limited time, which puts monthly payments on the Sprint Flex Lease at $20.83. Customers who opt for the Galaxy Forever plan can upgrade to a new phone after completing 12 monthly payments. Sprint's deal includes the AKG headphones and/or Fortnite V-bucks.
- T-Mobile: The Uncarrier is asking customers to make a downpayment of $280 for the 128 GB Note9 and then pay $30 per month for 24 months. The 512 GB Note9 will require a $530 down payment followed by 24 months of payment at $30 each. For a limited time, T-Mobile is offering 50% off the price with a qualifying Samsung trade-in. The price will be reduced via the monthly payments.
- U.S. Cellular: The carrier is offering $150 in bill credits to those who buy the Galaxy Note9 with a new line of service.
- Verizon Wireless: Big Red is asking for $41.66 per month for 24 months for the 128 GB model and $52.08 per month for 24 months for the 512 GB model. For a limited time, customers who initiate a new line of service and buy one Note9 on a monthly plan can score a free 128 GB Note9, or Galaxy S9/S9+. Verizon's deal includes the AKG headphones and/or Fortnite V-bucks.
Preorders for the Samsung Galaxy Note9 kick off on August 10. The 128 GB capacity variant will be available in blue and lavender from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, U.S Cellular, and Xfinity for $999.99. Samsung will sell an unlocked version of the phone on its web site. The device will also be available from Amazon, Best Buy, CostCo, Sam’s Club, StraightTalk Wireless, Target, and Walmart. The 512 GB model will be available from AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless, but not Sprint for $1,249.99 The Galaxy Note9 streets August 24.
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.
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.
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.
U.S. Cellular today announced a holiday offering that will provide customers with a free flagship smartphone. The company will give customers a free Samsung Galaxy S8, iPhone 8, LG G6, or Motorola Moto Z Force when they sign up for an unlimited plan between November 22 and November 27. Customers will need to trade-in a recent flagship, such as the Galaxy S6, iPhone 6, or V20, to score the free phone. The free handset will be comped through monthly rebates over a period of 30 months. Customers who don't have a device to trade in can get a reduced-cost flagship for a monthly payment of just $10 in addition to the unlimited plan. U.S. Cellular's unlimited plan costs $70 for a single line, though multi-line discounts are available. U.S. Cellular offers up to 22 GB of high-speed data per billing cycle. Customers who exceed that limit will see speeds reduced to 2G for the remained of the month. The company is also offering discounts on Google Home, LG Tones, and Parrot Drones during its holiday sale. Last, customers who refer a family member or friend who signs up for service can score a $50 reward.
Samsung today said its Gear Sport smartwatch and Icon X 2018 headphones will be available for pre-order starting October 13, with general retail availability to follow October 27. The Gear Sport, a fitness-focused smartwatch that runs Samsung's Tizen platform, costs $299.99. It will initially be sold by Samsung.com and BestBuy.com, and will later expand to Amazon, Macy's, and U.S. Cellular. The watch has a 1.2-inch screen, GPS, rotating bezel for controlling the user interface, and waterproof chassis for recording swim workouts. The Gear Icon X 2018, wireless earbuds with heart rate detection and other fitness features, costs $199.99. The Icon X will initially be sold only by Samsung.com, with Amazon, BestBuy.com, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular to follow later. The Icon X 2018 are second-generation Bluetooth headphones that can interact with Samsung's Bixby personal assistant. The devices were announced earlier this year.
LG's X Venture was originally exclusive to AT&T, but is now available from U.S. Cellular as well. The mid-range Android phone has a large 4,100 mAh battery and a rugged design.
Motorola announced the Z2 Force today, which replaces both the Z and Z Force from last year. The phone will be sold by most U.S. carriers, including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless. Motorola said the Verizon variant will not include the "Droid" branding that was found on last year's phones. Motorola is sticking with a single device name across carriers. Verizon did not provide comment on the name change. Motorola plans to sell the phone unlocked from Motorola.com, but there is no single unlocked model, according to Rudi Kalil, vice president and general manager at Motorola. Kalil said Motorola will offer unlocked variants for each carrier due to the specific cellular radio requirements for forthcoming 1 Gbps service that's under development from the carriers. The Moto Z2 Force is available for preorder today and will ship starting August 10.
Google today expanded the availability of Project Fi to its G Suite customers. G Suite users are those associated with businesses and use Google's email, calendar, contacts, and other products through their employer. Until today Project Fi has been available to individual users and families or other small groups, but moving forward G Suite customers can sign up for the monthly wireless service. Google says Project Fi is still limited to just six users per group plan, so it is not a viable option for medium or large enterprises. Google said Project Fi will be available to all G Suite users in the U.S. within the next few weeks. Project Fi relies on WiFi and LTE service from Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular to find the strongest/best signal. Project Fi only charges customers for data they use, rather than a large bucket. Plans start at $30 per month for talk, text, and 1 GB of data. A Pixel or Nexus Android smartphone is required.
Consumer Cellular recently added the ZTE Avid 916 and Motorola Moto G5 Plus to its roster of Android-based smartphones. The Avid 916 (pictured), a variant of the ZTE Grand / Champ, includes a 5.5-inch 720p display, 1.3 GHz Snapdragon 210 processor, and 8 GB of internal storage. The phone has an 8-megapixel main camera with 720p HD video capture and a 2-megapixel front camera. The phone includes Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, GPS, and LTE. It supports microSD memory cards up to 64 GB and ships with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. The phone costs $80. The Moto G5 Plus, which Motorola released earlier this year, is available for $200 or four payments of $50. It has a 5.2-inch full HD display, 12-megapiel camera, and runs Android 7.0 Nougat.
U.S. Cellular recently added the ZTE Blade Max 3 to its roster of Android smartphones. The Max 3 is similar to the Max XL in that it has a 6-inch full HD display with 2.5D Gorilla Glass and huge 4,000mAh battery. The handset is powered by a 2 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. The Max 3 includes dual rear 13-megapixel cameras, with one that captures full color and one that captures black-and-white to assist with contrast and focus. The user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other features include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, high-fidelity audio, USB-C, memory card support, and GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi radios. The ZTE Blade Max 3 is available from U.S. Cellular's web site for $200.
The FCC today marked the official end of the incentive auction for 600 MHz airwaves. The agency said 50 wireless companies bid a cumulative $19.8 billion on some 70 MHz of spectrum that was put on offer by 175 television stations. In total, the FCC sold some 2,776 licensed spectrum blocks. An additional 14 MHz has been reserved for unlicensed use. The low-band spectrum is seen as ideal for wireless broadband due to its strong propagation properties. T-Mobile, Dish, Comcast, and U.S. Cellular are among the biggest winners, according to the FCC. T-Mobile said it won 45% of all low-band spectrum sold, covering 100% of the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The company claims it scored 31 MHz of nationwide spectrum, a fourfold increase in its low-band holdings. The FCC will now embark on a 39-month odyssey that will see the owners of the spectrum give it up so it can be repurposed for wireless broadband. Some of the TV station owners have agreed to move to lower channels, while others will give up their licenses and remain on the air through spectrum sharing. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said, "The conclusion of the world’s first incentive auction is a major milestone in the FCC’s long history as steward of the nation’s airwaves. Consumers are the real beneficiaries, as broadcasters invest new resources in programming and service, and additional wireless spectrum opens the way to greater competition and innovation in the mobile broadband marketplace." The auction was put in motion back in 2012, though bidding didn't begin until March 2016. The FCC says the auction will lay the groundwork for 5G services.
U.S. Cellular recently added the LG K8 (2017) to its roster of inexpensive Android smartphones. The K8 features a 5-inch 720p HD screen and it is powered by a 1.9 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425 processor. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor with flash and the user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Both cameras include LG's gesture controls. Other specs include 16 GB of storage with support for memory cards, 2,500mAh battery, Bluetooth, WiFi, LTE, and Android 7 Nougat. The LG K8 costs $50. The K8 is also sold by MetroPCS. In other U.S. Cellular news, the company recently added an unlimited plan to its service offerings. The plan costs $60 per month and includes unlimited talk, text, and data with all taxes and fees included. U.S. Cellular doesn't charge overages, but will slow the speeds of customers who use excessive amounts of data (>22GB). Other options include 6 GB for $50 per month or 2 GB for $40 per month. Monthly discounts are available for additional lines. Autopay and paperless billing are required to qualify for these prices.
Cricket Wireless customers shouldn't expect to see an improvement in data speeds any time soon, despite the incredible gains in LTE performance made by Cricket parent AT&T. Cricket caps all customers' data speeds at 8 Mbps, even though its phones and the network support speeds up to 10 times faster. AT&T is already deploying 3-channel carrier aggregation and plans to upgrade to 4-channel carrier aggregation soon, delivering LTE Advanced speeds as quick as 1 Gbps. Those speeds will be reserved for AT&T's own customers. Cricket CEO John Dwyer told Phonescoop that its customers are more interested in value than performance, and most are satisfied with the experience delivered by 8 Mbps. For example, AT&T's new DirecTV Now application requires much less than 8 Mbps, despite its video-heavy nature, and can easily run across Cricket's network. In a related note, Dwyer said that the company may eventually offer a zero-rated data program, but hasn't made any firm commitments. For example, AT&T customers can stream DirecTV Now over LTE without impacting monthly data buckets. Cricket customers cannot, and will chew through data when using DirecTV Now over the cellular network. Cricket has made good progress in expanding its point-of-sale footprint. The company now claims to have more than 14,000 retail locations, of which 4,300 are branded Cricket Stores. Last, Cricket plans to make use of social media to spread its branding message.
Facebook today launched group video chats within Messenger. The tool will allow up to six participants to view one another in a live video call. People can easily initiate calls within existing groups or by creating new groups. Tapping a video button is all that's required to kick off a video group chat. Facebook says people can ring the entire group at once, or just select numbers before inviting others. The feature is rolling out to Facebook Messenger for Android and iOS devices, as well as the web, globally. The app is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Video calls are free over WiFi, but will use data if conducted over cellular networks.