The FCC today published the winners of the recent Auction 105 for part of the 3.5 GHz band. Verizon shelled out $1.9 billion for 557 licenses covering 157 counties, likely covering major cities. Dish Network (bidding as "Wetterhorn Wireless") shelled out $913 million for 5,492 licenses covering 3,128 counties. Several cable companies also participated, but for fewer and/or less-valuable licenses. In this part of the 3.5 GHz band, each license covers 10 MHz of bandwidth in one county. The FCC auctioned off a maximum of seven licenses in any given county, with each company allowed to own a maximum of four licenses per county. Verizon appears to have approached that maximum in the counties it bid for, gaining 40 MHz of spectrum in a slight majority of its 157 counties, and 30 MHz in all or most of the rest. Dish won spectrum covering many more counties, but likely in more rural areas since it paid less for those licenses. Dish appears to have averaged closer to two licenses (20 MHz) per county. Dish currently operates the Boost brand using the T-Mobile network, but is preparing to build its own 5G SA network over the coming years. Auction 105 is the first of three FCC auctions for different parts of the 3.5 GHz band. This auction covers 3550-3650 MHz. The next 3.5 GHz auction starts in December.
Boost has added three new entry-level plans for those on a budget and/or with limited mobile data needs. They are: $10 for 1 GB of high-speed data, $15 for 2 GB, and $25 for 5 GB. All offer unlimited talk and text. The company is also launching new high-speed data add-on packages, which can be one-time or recurring. They run $5/GB, available in 1 or 2 GB. The three new base plans join the company's $35 and $45 plans announced a month ago, which offer 10 and 15 GB high-speed data, respectively. The $45 "$hrink-It!" plan can be discounted down to $35 after six on-time payments. The company also offers "unlimited" data plans for $50–60/month, offering 35 GB of high-speed data and varying amounts of mobile hotspot data. Only the $60 plan allows HD video streaming. Boost was recently acquired by Dish Network. All of the new plans run on T-Mobile's network, which Boost refers to as their "Expanded Data Network". Other plans are also still available that run on the legacy Boost/Sprint network, which Boost refers to as their "Nationwide Network". Those plans generally offer a lesser value. Dish is encouraging new and existing customers to move to the "Expanded" (T-Mobile) network.
Dish Network has made a unique deal with Tucows, the owner and operator of Ting Mobile. Dish is buying the Ting brand and its customers, who will join Boost customers under the new Dish wireless umbrella. Dish is also entering into a long-term deal for Tucows to provide billing, activation, provisioning, and funnel marketing services for Dish's wireless customers, starting with existing Ting customers. Dish will move Boost customers to the Tucows platform in the second half of 2021. Dish recently purchased Boost as part of a deal that facilitated government approval for T-Mobile to merge with Sprint. Dish uses the T-Mobile network for the time being, but has started building its own 5G network.
French phone maker Wiko has announced the Ride 2, its second phone for the US. Like the original Ride, the new Ride 2 is an entry-level Android phone exclusive to Boost. Step-ups compared to the original Ride include an HD resolution display, 32 GB of storage, 8 megapixel main camera, and a 5 megapixel selfie camera. Unchanged are the 5.5-inch display size, 2 GB of RAM, and a memory card slot. Other specs include a 2,500 mAh battery, Mediatek Helio A22 processor, IP52 water resistance, FM radio, headset jack, and micro-USB connector. The Ride 2 is available now directly from Boost for $40 (for a limited time, normal price $90). Starting August 1st, it will be available from Walmart for $35.
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 $200. It has a similar display and battery compared to the A11, but has upgraded cameras, MediaTek Helio P35 processor, 3 GB RAM, and NFC.
T-Mobile US and Dish Network today announced that they have completed the previously-announced sale of Boost, the prepaid arm of Sprint. Dish now owns the Boost brand and takes responsibility for its 9.3 million customer accounts, hundreds of employees, and thousands of independent retailers. Boost customers are promised a smooth transition thanks to a seven-year agreement for Dish to use the T-Mobile network while Dish builds its own 5G SA (stand-alone) network. Dish unveiled two new plans for Boost customers. The "$hrink-It!" plan offers lower rates over time, to encourage customers to stay with Boost. It's similar to a plan Boost offered six years ago, as well as Verizon's new prepaid plans. It starts at $45/month for 15 GB of data, with a $5/month discount after three on-time payments, and an additional $5/month discount after six total on-time payments. The other new plan offers 10 GB of data plus unlimited talk and text for $35/month. Both plans will be available starting tomorrow, July 2nd. Dish also unveiled a new logo for Boost that blends the existing Boost logo with the Dish logo. Dish paid $1.4 billion for Boost, the same amount originally agreed upon when the deal was first announced. The sale was required by the government in order for T-Mobile to win approval for its deal to merge with Sprint. Dish has started building its own 5G SA network, having recently signed infrastructure deals with Fujitsu, Altiostar, and Mavenir.
Dish is trying to re-negotiate its deal to buy Boost Mobile, according to reporting from Fox Business. The US Department of Justice mandated that Sprint sell its Boost prepaid business as part of the company's deal to merge with T-Mobile. The agreed-upon purchase price was $1.4 billion, but Dish is now balking at that number. T-Mobile would need to find another buyer, and a major private equity firm may be interested. Dish was supposed to close the Boost purchase by June 1st. The DoJ has its own final deadline of July 1st for the deal.
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.
Boost Mobile is the first US carrier to launch the LG Stylo 6, an update to the popular Stylo 5 series. Compared to the 5 series, the Stylo 6 has a larger display, larger battery, more storage, and more cameras. It's about the same width and thickness as the 5, but taller. This, plus a modern all-screen design, allow an increase in screen size from 6.2 to 6.8 inches. It also has a 4,000 mAh battery and 64 GB of storage. The 13-megapixel rear camera has been joined by a depth camera and 5-megapixel wide-angle camera. The front camera, which sits in a small screen notch, has been upgraded to 13 megapixel. The Stylo 6 is powered by Android 10 running on a MediaTek Helio P35 processor with 3 GB of RAM. Other features are similar to the Stylo 5 series, including a pop-out stylus, full-HD display resolution, NFC, rear fingerprint reader, memory card slot, and 3.5mm audio jack. Boost is selling the LG Stylo 6 for $180, starting today. The FCC has also approved a different variant of the Stylo 6 that seems designed for T-Mobile's network. The Stylo 5 series was offered by all major US carriers and most prepaid brands.
Boost Mobile has launched the LG K51, a new affordable Android phone with triple rear cameras and a large 4,000 mAh battery for $90. It also has a 6.5-inch HD display with a small notch, fingerprint reader, 3.5mm headset jack, and USB-C. It's powered by a MediaTek Helio P22 processor and 3 GB of RAM. It has 32 GB of storage and supports memory cards. The three rear cameras are: 13 megapixel standard camera with PDAF, 5 megapixel wide-angle (115º) camera, and a depth camera for bokeh (portrait) effects. It comes with Android 9. It also supports VoLTE, which future-proofs it against the eventual shutdown of the legacy Sprint CDMA network.
A multi-state anti-trust lawsuit to stop the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile has failed. New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a statement saying "There is no doubt that reducing the mobile market from four to three will be bad for consumers, bad for workers, and bad for innovation, which is why the states stepped up and led this lawsuit. ... As we review our options, including a possible appeal, Americans should continue to hold the companies to account for their promises." If the states do no not appeal, the merger is likely to be completed as soon as April 1, 2020, according to a statement from the two companies. The ruling was issued today by the Hon. Victor Marrero of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. New York and California led the coalition of 14 state Attorneys General opposing the merger. The FCC and DoJ approved the merger last year. Some assets from Sprint — including the Boost Mobile brand and customers — will be transferred to Dish, which has promised to use them build its own new 5G network.
Sprint is shutting down its Virgin Mobile prepaid brand. Starting the week of February 2nd, Sprint will move current Virgin Mobile customers to Sprint's other prepaid brand, Boost Mobile. According to a Sprint statement to FierceWireless, "In most circumstances, customers can keep their current phone and will receive a comparable or better Boost Mobile service plan with no extra cost". All of Sprint's business plans are currently in a kind of limbo as the company awaits a court verdict on whether it will be allowed to merge with T-Mobile. The pending merger has put a pause on all major investments and strategic moves, which in turn has hurt business units such as Virgin Mobile.
Dish Network will pay $5 billion to buy significant Sprint assets in an attempt to create a new national 5G wireless network, in a deal brokered by the US Department of Justice to win approval for T-Mobile merging with Sprint. The deal includes $3.6 billion for licenses to 14 MHz of nationwide 800 MHz spectrum. For its new 5G network. Dish will use the new 800 MHz spectrum alongside 600 MHz, 700 MHz, and 1,700 MHz spectrum it already owns. Dish will also pay $1.4 billion to acquire Sprint's prepaid business, including Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint Prepaid. That purchase includes 9.3 million customers and 400 employees. Dish has made a new commitment to the FCC that it will build its own 5G network capable of serving 70 percent of the US population by June 2023. Dish will pay a penalty of up to $2.2 billion if it fails to meet that deadline. Dish will have access to the new T-Mobile / Sprint network for seven years while it builds its own network. Dish will also lease T-Mobile some of its 600 MHz spectrum for several years to smooth the transition. Dish will also have the option to acquire certain tower, network equipment, and retail assets that will be decommissioned as part of the Sprint / T-Mobile integration process.
The US Department of Justice has given its blessing to the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Several conditions — including a comprehensive deal with Dish intended to create a small fourth national carrier — have satisfied the federal government's anti-trust concerns. The FCC has already announced it will allow the deal, meaning the deal is cleared at the federal level. Five state attorneys general joined in supporting the deal. However, ten state attorneys general have filed suit to block the deal on anti-trust grounds, including those for New York and California. Those states are not signed on to the deal announced today. That action remains outstanding and could still delay or scuttle the deal. The required deal with Dish will see Dish acquire all of Sprint's prepaid business, including the Boost and Virgin brands and 9 million customers with those brands, along with radio spectrum licenses. Dish will also have "robust access" to the new T-Mobile/Sprint network as an MVNO for at least seven years, giving it time to build out its own physical network. T-Mobile/Sprint will also be required to "make available" at least 20,000 tower sites and hundreds of retail locations, in order to facilitate Dish building its new network and wireless business. Dish has a long history of hoarding spectrum licenses while promising — but failing — to build any significant network to use them.
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.
Boost has started selling the Samsung Galaxy A10e, Samsung's entry-level phone in its newly expanded A-series. The $140 phone is currently offered for just $100 by Boost, in a two-day introductory sale. The A10e has an all-screen design with small notch in its 5.8-inch, HD LCD display. The phone has a USB-C connector, 3,000 mAh battery, 8-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, a memory card slot, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Samsung's web site also reveals a version for AT&T, which has not yet gone on sale.
Boost Mobile now offers the Coolpad Legacy, a $100 Android phone with a premium metal design, a huge 6.36-inch screen, and several features not usually found on phones in that price range. Metro by T-Mobile launched the Legacy a month ago for $130 (now $180). The phone has a fingerprint reader, full-HD display with 2:1 aspect ratio, 4,000 mAh battery, Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging, USB-C connector, and Android 9 (Pie). It also offers dual rear cameras, FM radio, and dual-band Wi-Fi. It's powered by a Snapdragon 450 processor, with 3 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, and a memory card slot. Boost already offers the lower-end Coolpad Illumina, which has since been renamed "Legacy Go".
Internally, the US Justice Department's antitrust division has recommended the agency file a lawsuit to block the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, according to a Reuters reports citing two sources familiar with the matter. The final decision on whether to allow the merger now lies with political appointees at the department. That decision is expected in about a month, the two sources said. Earlier this week, two FCC commissioners announced their support for the deal, after Sprint agreed to shed its Boost prepaid brand. Both the FCC and DoJ must approve for the merger to proceed.
French phone maker Wiko today made its US debut with launch of the Ride, an $80 Android phone available now from Boost. The Ride is an entry-level phone with a 5.45-inch display, 5 megapixel main camera, 2 megapixel selfie camera, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, and a 2,500 mAh removable battery. It has a memory card slot, 3.5mm audio jack, and runs Android version 9 (Pie). Wiko is a 5,000-person company that makes phones with a focus on design that are popular in Western Europe. To support its US operations, the company is opening offices in Plano, TX and Atlanta, GA.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that he will recommend the agency approve the proposed merger between T-Mobile and Sprint. To secure the recommendation, the companies have promised to divest the Boost prepaid brand and not raise prices for three years. With Commissioner Brendan Carr also announcing his support, the deal seems close to FCC approval. The Department of Justice must also approve the deal.
Very affordable phones with huge screens have been a relatively popular segment in the US in recent years. ZTE used to address this market well. Now, Coolpad is stepping up to offer their take. The Coolpad Legacy indeed has a massive, sharp display, plus a few nice extras like a huge battery, USB-C, and a fingerprint reader. It also has a design with a little personality, carved from metal and Gorilla Glass. That's pretty good for just $130. But what's it like in person? We checked it out.
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 has two new apps rolling out designed to help the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing use their smartphones to understand people speaking aloud around them. Live Transcribe is an app that listens, converts speech to text, and simply displays a live transcript on the screen of what's being said aloud nearby. Haptic feedback lets the user know when someone has started speaking. An icon provides a visual indicator of volume and background noise. The app uses the Google Cloud Speech API, and thus requires a decent data connection. It works in 70 different languages. It can use the phone's microphone, or an external mic. Sound Amplifier is the other app; it filters background noise and boosts quieter sounds, making it easier for the hard-of-hearing to hear what's important around them. It's designed for use with wired headphones. The filtering effects can be fine-tuned for each ear. Live Transcribe is available in a limited beta, while Sound Amplifier is available to everyone today in the Play Store. Both apps will pre-installed on Pixel 3 phones going forward.
Instagram today said it is taking steps to reduce what it calls "inauthentic activity" across the social network. The company says more accounts have begun to use third-party apps to boost their follower numbers and inflate like counts. The company plans to put a stop to this. "We will begin removing inauthentic likes, follows, and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity," said Instagram. The company is relying on machine learning to discover such accounts and delete fake followers and likes. "This type of behavior is bad for the community," said Instagram and "also makes these accounts less secure." Instagram will alert users who've put such apps to effect that the fake followers and likes have been removed from their account. Instagram will also have these account holders change their password. The social network's new measures will be "ongoing." Moreover, people who continue to use third-party apps to inflate their profiles "may see their Instagram experience impacted." The company plans to take additional measures in the weeks ahead.
The FCC today proposed two separate actions meant to free up more spectrum for wireless broadband use. The first covers the rules governing the 3.5 GHz band (Citizens Broadband Radio Service). The agency believes simplifying the already-established 2015 rules will make the 3.5 GHz band more attractive for investment. Most importantly, the FCC wants to change the size of Priority Access Licenses (PAL) from census tracts to counties and extend PAL license terms from three years to 10, as well as make those licenses renewable. Other proposals would ensure seven PALs are in each license area, rural and tribal entities would be allotted bidding credits, would establish end-of-term performance requirements, and would allow for the partition and disaggregation of PALs. The FCC's Republican commissioners all believe this will boost carrier interest in the band. As proposed, the size of the PALs was a compromise. Smaller wireless providers wished to keep the PALs at the tract level, while larger providers hoped to see the PALs become much larger. The agency's lone Democrat says the rules are a backward step and dissented in the vote, which passed 3-1. Separately, the agency unanimously agreed on a proposal to open up the 6 GHz band to unlicensed access. The agency wants to free up 1200 MHz for used by unlicensed WiFi devices in the 6 GHz band, which technically falls between 5.925 GHz and 7.125 GHz. This band is mostly used by license holders that beam microwaves point-to-point, and by the Broadcast Auxiliary Service and Cable Television Relay Service. Any unlicensed devices used in the band could not interfere with these existing, licensed services. A handful of other rules would regulate indoor versus outdoor use of the 6 GHz band. The FCC is accepting comments on the proposed changes.
Boost Mobile today announced the Coolpad Illumina, an affordable Android phone that runs the lightweight Android Go platform. Android Go is designed for low-spec'd devices and includes simplified versions of core apps such as Gmail, YouTube, and Maps. The Illumina has a 5-inch screen and it is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. A 5-megapixel camera graces the rear and a 2-megapixel camera faces the user. Other features include a 2,150mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Boost Mobile is selling the Coolpad Illumina for $40 after an instant $40 credit.
Facebook today provided an update on last month's hack. The hackers used accounts under their control to access the tokens of some 400,000 users. Using automated techniques, the hackers then boosted that number into the tens of millions. Facebook now says that 30 million accounts were definitely impacted, which is less than the 50 million it had originally estimated. Of those 30 million accounts, 15 million had their name and contact details (phone number, email address) scraped. For 14 million, the hackers stole their name, contact data, as well as username, gender, location, relationship, religion, hometown, birthday, device types, education, work, and locations/posts in which they were tagged. For 1 million people, the hackers didn't access any information. Facebook says users can check to see if their information was stolen via its online Help Center. The social network also plans to proactively email people to let them know what data was taken and how they might protect themselves. Facebook says the hackers did not compromise Instagram, Messenger, Messenger Kids, Oculus, Pages, payments, WhatsApp, or Workplace. The investigation is ongoing and Facebook is cooperating with law enforcement.
Boost Mobile today added the LG K30 to its list of inexpensive Android phones for $150. The K30 is a rebadged variant of the K10, which LG announced earlier this year. The K30 has a U-shaped metal frame and a 5.3-inch 720p display and a 1.5 GHz octa-core MediaTek processor. The rear camera has a 13-megapixel sensor and the front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Photo tools include bokeh/portraits and a Low Light Noise mode that works with HDR to reduce grain and provide more contrast in low-light shots. Other features include a 2,880mAh battery and fingerprint reader; GPS, Bluetooth 4.2, WiFi, and FM radio; and a microUSB port. It comes in black and ships with Android 8.1 Oreo. Boost is also offering a deal to those who switch. The prepaid carrier will provide four lines for $25 each, with unlimited talk and text; optimized video, game, and music streaming; and unlimited music streaming from select partners. The deal for switchers will be available through Nov. 15.
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.
AT&T has quietly increased the administration feed charged to its wireless customers from $0.76 to $1.99. Multiplied monthly by its 64.5 million postpaid wireless customers and the increase boosts AT&T's revenue by some $800 million per year. AT&T says the fee has not been raised in several years. "This is a standard administrative fee across the wireless industry, which helps cover costs we incur for items like cell site maintenance and interconnection between carriers," claimed the company in a statement. The increase was first noticed by BTIG Research analyst Walter Piecyk. All carriers tack vague fees onto monthly bills. The move comes just a week after AT&T closed its acquisition of Time Warner. "Presumably the administrative fee is another way to help AT&T fund its network build and Time Warner acquisition going forward," said Piecyk.
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.
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.
Cricket Wireless today kicked off sales of the LG Fortune 2, an affordable Android phone. The Fortune 2 is a rebadged variant of the K8 (2018) and Tribute Defiant (sold by Boost Mobile). The Fortune 2 includes a 5-inch HD screen, quad-core MediaTek processor, 2 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage. The Fortune 2 has an 8-megapixel main camera with LED flash, a 5-megapixel front camera, and a removable 2,500mAh battery. Other features include LTE 4G with HD Voice, WiFi with mobile hotspot and WiFi Calling, Bluetooth 4.2, and GPS. It runs Android 7.1 Nougat. Cricket Wireless is selling the LG Fortune 2 for $100.
T-Moble says it has attained download speeds of 1.3 Gbps using LTE-LAA technology from Nokia. The result was reached in a lab using Nokia's commercial Nokia AirScale Micro RRH platform. The companies paired licensed and unlicensed bands using five-channel carrier aggregation, 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO, and LAA on 14 antenna layers. LTE-LAA is a stepping stone between today's 4G and future 5G networks. T-Mobile says it plans to deploy LTE-LAA in small cell configurations in high-traffic urban locations to help densify its network, boost speeds, and improve capacity. T-Mobile didn't say what markets might gain access to this network technology, nor what devices might support it.
Boost Mobile recently added the LG Tribute Dynasty to its lineup of affordable Android smartphones. This device includes a 5-inch HD display and is powered by a 1.5 GHz octa-core MediaTek processor with 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The Tribute Dynasty has an 8-megapixel main camera with LED flash and a 5-megapixel selfie camera. Other features include a 2,500mAh battery; Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and LTE; and microUSB and headphone jack. It runs Android 7.1 Nougat. The LG Tribute Dynasty costs $100, but is on sale at the moment for $60. The phone is already available at Boost Mobile stores. Sprint said it will carry the phone starting Jan. 12.
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.
Qualcomm has added to its roster of mobile processors with the Snapdragon 636 Mobile Platform, a high-performance chip that is meant for phones with less-than-flagship price points. The platform is built on a 14nm FinFet process and relies on the Kryo 260 CPU, which Qualcomm says is 40% faster than the Snapdragon 630 it replaces. The 636 was designed with 18:9, full HD+ displays in mind, and puts Qualcomm's TruPalette and EcoPix tools to work along with the Adreno visual processing subsystem to create dynamic screen experiences. The Adreno 509 GPU boosts gaming performance by about 10% and also improves 3D rendering. Qualcomm says the 636 processor is paired with the Snapdragon X12 LTE modem, with peak download speeds of 600 Mbps. On the imaging front, the 636 includes the 14-bit Qualcomm Spectra 160 ISP, which supports capture of up to 24 megapixels. Last, the Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec supports HiFi audio, with up to 192kHz/24bit support and the ability to playback lossless audio files. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 636 is already in production and will reach commercially available devices bt November.
ZTE today announced the Blade Force smartphone for Boost Mobile. This Android handset includes support for Sprint's High Performance User Equipment technology and two-channel carrier aggregation for better performance near the cell edge. The Blade Force has a 5.5-inch 720p HD display and it is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 427 processor with 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports external storage cards up to 128 GB. The rear camera has an 8-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a 5-megapixel camera. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and FM radio. The phone runs Android 7.1 Nougat and is available online starting today for $130.
ZTE today announced the Tempo X, an entry-level Android smartphone for Boost Mobile. This affordable handset features a 5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution and a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of memory and 8 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. ZTE gave the device a 5-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel front camera. Other hardware features include a 2,200mAh battery, Bluetooth, GPS, FM radio, and of course LTE 4G. The device ships with Android 7.1 Nougat and costs $80. It is available from Boost Mobile online starting today.
Sprint-owned Boost Mobile today said taxes and fees are now included in the cost of its monthly service plans for new and existing customers. Boost's current customers will not need to do anything to reap the benefits of this change, which will be automatically adopted on all bills after September 8. Moreover, Boost Mobile is rolling out a promotion to entice consumers to switch. The company is offering those who port to Boost Mobile four lines for $100 with unlimited talk, text, and data on all four lines. International services will cost extra. Sprint says streaming for all Boost customers is mobile optimized with video up to 480p and music up to 500 Kbps. Games are limited to streams of 2 Mbps. Sprint will slow down speeds when the network is congested. Boost Mobile's plans start at $25 per month.