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Best Certified Phones for Verizon Wireless

Friday, 9:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Have your eye on a shiny new phone, but it isn't sold by Verizon Wireless? Did you know that Big Red allows you to bring your own device to its network? There are a few things you need to know, though.

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Verizon Prepaid Brings TravelPass to More Countries

Wednesday, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said its Verizon prepaid customers now have access to TravelPass in 16 more countries. This expansion targets the Caribbean and adds TravelPass to Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, The Cayman Islands, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Turks & Caicos, and more. TravelPass lets people access their talk, text, and data service when roaming for $5-$10 per day, depending on the country.


Verizon Details LG G7 ThinQ and Moto G6 Launches

Wednesday, 1:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Thursday, 8:52 AM

Verizon Wireless today provided more information about the forthcoming availability of the LG G7 ThinQ and the Motorola Moto G6. Verizon will begin taking preorders for the G7 ThinQ on May 24. Verizon is charging $31.25 per month for 24 months, or about $750 in total for the phone. Verizon says customers who finance the phone on a payment plan can score a $100 discount on the total price of the device, which will be applied equally via bill credits over the 24-month payment period. Verizon says this deal is stackable with its other trade-in offers. Verizon didn't say when the G7 ThinQ will hit stores. As for the Moto G6, it will be available online and in stores on May 24. Verizon is charging $10 per month for 24 months, or about $240 in total for the device.


Qualcomm Debuts 5G NR Small Cell for Carriers

May 21, 2018, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the FSM100xx, a 5G NR product designed for small cells and remote radio heads. Qualcomm says the FSM100xx builds on its existing Qualcomm FSM Platform for 3G and 4G small cells. It supports 5G NR in sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum, allowing network operators to make use of whatever spectrum is available to them in a given location. Qualcomm designed the FSM Platform for flexibility. It is based on 10nm mobile technologies for controlling power consumption while allowing for fast performance. Qualcomm says the FSM100xx can address the propagation characteristics of mmWave spectrum in real time, particularly in indoor spaces where small cells are most often deployed. Further, it supports MIMO and multi-gigabit throughout, as well as power-over-ethernet for broader outdoor deployments. Last, the FSM100xx includes a software-defined modem, which gives carriers the flexibility to control and update their hardware when needed to comply with future 3GPP releases of the 5G NR spec. Qualcomm says it expects the FSM100xx to begin sampling in 2019. Meanwhile, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all claim they will launch 5G in select markets by the end of 2018.


FCC to Investigate Web Site that Exposed Phone Locations

May 18, 2018, 1:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC today said it is investigating reports that a web site leaked the location data of millions of U.S. cell phones. A security researcher claims a company called LocationSmart suffered a leak and made it possible track the whereabouts of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless customers without their consent. Accuracy of the location data was as good as a few hundred yards. On her Twitter account today FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, "The @FCC needs to investigate. No ifs, ands, or buts." Senator Ron Wyden agreed, saying, "This leak, only days after the lax security at Securus was exposed, shows how little companies throughout the wireless ecosystem value Americans’ security. Wireless carriers and LocationSmart appear to have allowed nearly any hacker with a basic knowledge of web sites to track the location of any American with a cell phone. A hacker could have used this site to know when you were in your house so they would know when to rob it. A predator could have tracked your child’s cell phone to know when they were alone." Wyden demanded an investigation and the FCC appears to agree. The agency has pushed the matter to its enforcement bureau to investigate.


AT&T and Verizon Say They'll Sell the Red Hydrogen One Phone

May 17, 2018, 9:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and Verizon Wireless today voiced support for the Red Hydrogen One phone, which they'll sell later this summer. The Hydrogen One was first announced in summer of 2017. It is a pricey Android phone with a 5.7-inch "holographic" display touting glasses-free 3D. While the display supports traditional stereo 3D, it also supports a new 3D-like "holographic" technology created by Red called Hydrogen 4-View (H4V). The phone body sports Red's industrial design and comes in either aluminum or titanium. The Hydrogen One will support snap-on modules for shooting both high-resolution video and H4V content. It will also integrate with other Red products, serving as a touchscreen controller and monitor for Red cameras. The phone also has USB-C and a microSD memory card slot. When first announced, Red listed the Hydrogen One's price as $1,195. Neither AT&T nor Verizon said what they'll charge for the phone. The Hydrogen One was expected to go on sale in early 2018, but it has been delayed several times. An exact for-sale date was not provided.


LG Kicks Off Sales of G7 ThinQ Phone, But US Pricing Remains Elusive

May 17, 2018, 8:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG today said it has commenced sales of its flagship G7 ThinQ phone in its home market of South Korea. The G7 ThinQ, announced earlier this month, is a premium metal-and-glass phone with a super bright 6.1-inch screen, Snapdragon 845 processor, AI-assisted dual rear cameras, BoomBox speaker, and Android 8 Oreo. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have committed to selling the LG G7 ThinQ beginning later this month. So far, however, U.S. pricing for the phone has been kept a secret. LG says carriers will announce pricing closer to the actual for-sale date. Pre-orders for the G7 ThinQ in the U.S. are expected to begin on or around May 24, with a ship date of June 1.


Verizon Adds LA to Short List of 5G Launch Cities

May 15, 2018, 3:17 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam today indicated that Los Angeles will be one of the carrier's first 5G markets, and that it will launch during the fourth quarter of the year. 5G is "a lot closer than people think," said McAdam. Los Angeles will join Sacramento and Boston on Verizon's short list of initial 5G markets. "This has been a three-year journey for us," said McAdam. "I have never seen a technology that is as disruptive and has as much benefit to consumers as 5G. We’re charging ahead." Verizon is testing a number of different technologies for its forthcoming 5G network, including millimeter wave. Verizon and its carrier competitors are all racing to be first to deploy 5G, with AT&T and T-Mobile also targeting late 2018 launches.


Verizon Launches LTE-A Service in CBRS Band 48 Spectrum

May 15, 2018, 10:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said it has successfully kicked off LTE-Advanced service using Band 48 spectrum, known as Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). This slice of 3.5 GHz spectrum has previously been reserved for government and military use. Using carrier aggregation, pairing its own AWS and 700 MHz spectrum with 50 MHz of the 3.5 GHz CBRS spectrum, and using advanced technologies such as 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM, Verizon was able to achieve peak speeds of 790 Mbps. Verizon has been testing this technology in its Texas labs since last year. It was able to deploy the service with gear from Ericsson and Qualcomm. Verizon says this marks the commercial launch of its LTE-A service in Band 48. The initial market with access to Band 48 service is Boca Raton, Fla. Verizon says its expects to debut devices with support for Band 48 later this year. Verizon didn't say what markets might be next to see Band 48 service go live.


Verizon to Carrry Motorola’s Latest Phones On Prepaid and Postpaid

May 10, 2018, 4:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 10, 2018, 4:26 PM

Verizon Wireless today said it will sell the Moto G6 Play, Moto E5 Play (pictured), and Moto G6 phones from Motorola. The G6 Play and E5 Play will be offered by Verizon Prepaid. The E5 Play is available starting today for $95, and the G6 Play will follow soon. The Moto G6 will be sold by Verizon’s standard postpaid service beginning May 24. Pricing for the G6 Play and G6 were not announced. Motorola revealed all three phones last month. The E5 Play is an entry level phone, while the G6 Play and G6 are mid-range devices. All three run Android 8 Oreo.


Verizon-Backed Visible App Provides Unlimited Service for $40

May 10, 2018, 2:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless has helped a small app-based service called Visible get off the ground in recent months, according to TechCrunch. Visible is an invite-only service that acts like an MVNO. People who are invited to join will be sent a SIM card that they can use along with the app to access Verizon’s LTE 4G service, with unlimited data, calls, and messaging for $40 per month. Verizon says Visible does not throttle users and it relies on internet-based billing, such as PayPal and Venmo. For the moment, Visible is only available to unlocked iPhones.


Verizon Says the Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Is Certified for Its Network

May 9, 2018, 10:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony fans can bring the Xperia XZ2 Compact to Verizon, according to the company. The XZ2 Compact has passed device certification at Verizon, which means it will function properly on Big Red's network. Verizon customers can buy the Xperia XZ2 Compact unlocked from Best Buy and bring it to their local Verizon store for BYOD activation. The XZ2 Compact may be small, but it has nearly all the features of the larger XZ2, including a Snapdragon 845 processor, 2:1 full-HD display, 19-megapixel camera, fingerprint reader, NFC, and memory card slot.


AT&T Says It Won't Sell the LG G7 ThinQ, But It Has an LG Exclusive On Deck

May 3, 2018, 2:28 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Verizon, Sprint, US Cellular Talk LG G7 ThinQ Launch Plans

May 2, 2018, 11:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Samsung Agrees to Preload Verizon Bloatware on Galaxy Phones

May 1, 2018, 6:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung will install mobile apps from Verizon's Oath on all its Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones moving forward, according to Reuters. The two have signed a distribution agreement that will see Oath's Newsroom, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance, and Go90 mobile apps preloaded on the phones. "The amount of content consumption on phones is continuing to skyrocket and I think brands and consumers want more high quality content," said Oath CEO Time Armstrong. Oath hopes owners of the S9 and S9+ will use the apps and view the advertising therein. Further, Samsung and Oath will let advertisers put ads that resemble content within the apps. "This gets ads one step closer to being direct to consumer," said Armstrong. "You can’t be more direct than being on the mobile phone home screen and app environment." The two companies will split the revenue generated by the ad views. Oath is the combined entity that used to be AOL and Yahoo. The companies didn't say when the apps will be added to S9 and S9+ phones.


Verizon Wireless Makes Its Account App Available in Spanish

May 1, 2018, 12:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today released a Spanish language version of its My Verizon app. Verizon says the app should be easy for people to use on Android and iOS devices alike. For example, the app will automatically open in Spanish for those who've set their phone's language to Spanish. Further, when people switch their phone from Spanish to English, the app will also automatically change. The My Verizon app lets people view and manage their data and bill details; change their plan when needed; and tap into on-demand support. Verizon says more features are headed to the My Verizon app in the near future. My Verizon is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Justice Dept. Gives AT&T-Time Warner Judge a Way Out

May 1, 2018, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 1, 2018, 10:08 AM

The Justice Department, during closing arguments of its case against the AT&T-Time Warner merger, suddenly suggested the judge weigh "alternative" remedies should he choose not to block the deal. The Justice Department has fought against the merger from the start, saying AT&T would use Time Warner's content as a weapon against consumers, raising prices and limiting competition. Throughout the six-week trial, however, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has seemed skeptical of the Justice Department's case. In a surprise twist, Justice Department attorney Craig Conrath took advantage of his closing arguments to suggest Leon take at least some protective measures. If Leon chooses to allow the deal to proceed, Conrath asked that the judge force AT&T to divest part of Time Warner in order to close the deal — specifically Turner Networks. Time Warner generates television and movie content and is separate from Time Warner Cable, which provides cable TV and internet service in New York. This deal is just for Time Warner the content company. Conrath also suggested that AT&T be forced to make "structural" alterations to minimize the deal's effect on customers. The Justice Department had already asked AT&T for divestures. It refused, saying such requirements weren't necessary. AT&T insists it needs to acquire Time Warner in order to compete with Verizon Communications. The judge said he will announce his decision at a hearing on June 12.


Huawei Facing Criminal Investigation for Violating Iran Sanctions

Apr 25, 2018, 10:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei's survival in America is facing a new threat: a criminal investigation over whether or not it violated sanctions preventing the sale or export of select goods to Iran. The U.S. Department of Justice is looking into Huawei's dealings with Iran to see if it broke U.S. law, though it's unclear how far along the probe is and what specific allegations are being made. The investigation "follows administrative subpoenas on sanctions-related issues from both the Commerce Department and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control," reports the Wall Street Journal. If Huawei is found to have violated U.S. law, it could be hit with severe penalties. The U.S government has already targeted the company this year, suggesting it is a security threat. AT&T and Verizon Wireless backed out of distribution deals with Huawei after being pressured by the U.S. government, and lawmakers have proposed to make it illegal for government employees to use Huawei phones. Huawei, the world's third-largest maker of phones, did not comment on the new assault. Last year, Huawei rival ZTE settled a similar lawsuit over sanction violations.


GSMA Puts eSIM Development On Hold Due to Inquiry

Apr 21, 2018, 10:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The GSMA telecommunications group today said it will pause work on the eSIM standard while the U.S. Justice Department completes its investigation over the technology. The Justice Department alleges that AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and the GSMA have been colluding to make it more difficult for consumers to take advantage of the benefit of eSIMs. eSIMs act as an electronic version of the physical SIM cards most phones use to identify the subscriber on the network. The original idea behind the cards was to make it easier for consumers to switch network providers via software. Apple and other companies complained to the U.S. government that AT&T, Verizon, and the GSMA are in fact doing the opposite, and making it more difficult for eSIM devices to be used on competing networks. Apple uses its own Apple SIM, which works like an eSIM, in some iPads. Verizon said the inquiry was "much ado about nothing." AT&T and Apple have not commented on the matter.


Justice Department Launches Antitrust Investigation Into AT&T, Verizon

Apr 20, 2018, 3:35 PM   by Rich Brome

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating AT&T and Verizon for secretly colluding to put carrier-locking ability into the new eSIM industry standard, according to the New York Times. eSIM technology eliminates the physical SIM card that gives a phone its number and identity on the network, replacing it with a virtual SIM that can be loaded and replaced over the network. The Apple Watch and Pixel 2 already include eSIM, but the standard is new and evolving. As originally designed, eSIM could make it easier for consumers to switch their existing phone to a different wireless carrier. AT&T and Verizon are accused of secretly colluding with the GSMA standards group to alter the standard so that eSIM phones could be locked to one carrier. Such a move could be harmful to smaller carriers, and thus the alleged collusion could run afoul of antitrust laws. The Justice Department investigation started when both a phone maker and another carrier filed formal complaints.


Verizon Smart Family Is A Refreshed Way to Manage Kids' Smartphones

Apr 19, 2018, 9:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today debuted Verizon Smart Family, a revamped service to help parents keep track of how their kids use their phones. The app allows parents to manage screen time by pausing the internet, to check battery status, and to view texts and calls. Verizon Smart Family provides more fine-tuned content filters, which help parents block inappropriate web sites and apps. The service also includes an optional location-tracking feature with geo-fencing. Verizon Smart Family costs $4.99 per month per line for the basic service, and $9.99 per month per line with location tracking. Verizon Smart Family is available starting April 19.


Hands On with the Moto g6

Apr 19, 2018, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Motorola's g-series phones have a long-held reputation for value and quality. With the 2018 incarnation, Moto is trying harder than ever to bring high-end features and design to a low price point. For $250, you get a metal body, curved glass back, full-HD screen with 2:1 ratio, dual camera with portrait mode and object recognition, USB-C, fast charging, a fingerprint reader, an ultrasonic sensor that lights up the screen as you approach. It also has much better support for U.S. LTE networks than most unlocked phones, including Verizon, Sprint, and newer bands used by AT&T and T-Mobile. How does it stack up in person? Here are our first impressions.

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Motorola Updates Affordable Lineup for 2018

Apr 19, 2018, 9:00 AM   by Rich Brome

Motorola today announced four new affordable Android phones coming to the U.S. market before mid-year. Spread across the Moto e5 and Moto g6 series, all four new phones share the company's evolved design language that debuted with the Moto X4 last year. They also all sport a fingerprint reader, a clean version of Android 8 Oreo, Moto Actions gesture shortcuts, a water-repellent coating, front cameras with an LED flash, 3.5mm audio jacks, and memory card slots. They have Qualcomm Snapdragon 400-series processors supporting Cat. 6 LTE, and excellent support for all major US networks, including Sprint, Verizon, and band 66.

  • Moto g6: The highest-end model of the group, it has a curved glass back, metal frame, and a 5.7-inch full-HD display with 2:1 ratio. It's powered by a Snapdragon 450 processor with either 3 or 4 GB of RAM, and 32 or 64 GB of storage. The 3,000 mAh battery supports fast charging via the USB-C port. The 12-megapixel camera (f/1.8) is aided by a 5-megapixel camera for depth sensing, to create portrait effects. The camera app includes object, landmark, and text recognition, as well as slow-motion and time-lapse modes. An ultrasonic system detects when you approach the phone and lights up the display to show the time and notifications. It will be sold unlocked for $249, and via carriers.
  • Moto g6 Play: This more affordable model (at $199) has a rounded polycarbonate back and metal frame. The 5.7-inch display with 2:1 ratio is 720p HD resolution. It's powered by a Snapdragon 427 processor with either 2 or 3 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of storage. The 4,000 mAh battery supports fast charging via micro-USB. The main camera is 13-megapixel camera with PDAF, while the front camera is 8-megapixel. Like the g6, it will be sold unlocked and via carriers. It supports all AT&T bands, include LTE 14, 29, and 30.
  • Moto e5 Plus: A larger version of the Moto g6 Play. It has the same design and features, except the battery steps up to 5,000 mAh, the display size is bumped to 6 inches, and it adds laser focusing to the camera. The processor is a Snapdragon 435 and there is just one configuration with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. It will be available in the U.S. exclusively from carriers.
  • Moto e5 Play: A lower-end model, similar to e-series models of years past. Its plastic shells pops off to reveal a removable (2,800 mAh) battery. Its 5.2-inch display has HD resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. The Snapdragon 427 processor is accompanied by 2 of RAM and 16 GB of storage. (However at least one variant will have a Snapdragon 425 processor that only supports Cat. 4 LTE.) The cameras are 8 megapixel (rear) and 5 megapixel (front), and it can record 1080p video. Like the other models, it has dual-band Wi-Fi, a fingerprint reader, and gesture shortcuts. It will also be available exclusively from carriers.

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Google Drops the First-Gen Pixel from Its Online Store

Apr 10, 2018, 6:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has ceased selling the original Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones on its web site. The phones were available as recently as last month, but have since been removed. Now, people shopping for phones via Google's online device store will only find the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. The Pixel and Pixel XL were first released in the fall of 2016 and are at the end of their retail life. The phones are still available from some third-party sellers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, and Verizon Wireless. The phones will continue to receive support from Google through October 2019.


Verizon Says It Will Have CBRS Spectrum Phones Late This Year

Apr 5, 2018, 2:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless is moving forward with plans to deploy LTE 4G in the CBRS (Citizen Band Radio Spectrum) later this year, and smartphones will be part of the product mix reports Fierce Wireless. Verizon is testing the performance of CBRS spectrum with a handful of partners, including Corning, Ericsson, Federated Wireless, Google, Nokia, and Qualcomm. The CBRS band constitutes 150 MHz of 3.5 GHz spectrum that's historically been reserved for military use. The FCC opened it up for shared use with consumer deployments in 2016. In a statement provided to Fierce, Verizon said, "CBRS is a key component of Verizon’s technology strategy. As such, Verizon has strongly encouraged all OEMs to adopt CBRS support to take advantage of this technology. CBRS-capable devices will begin entering the lineup by the end of 2018 and will continue to expand aggressively through 2019.” That lineup includes mobile devices such as smartphones. Most phones already support CBRS Band 42 (Japan and soon Europe), but will need to be updated with support for Band 48 to use CBRS in the U.S. Verizon didn't say what devices or companies might be first to include support for LTE 4G in the CBRS band. Verizon is using its tests to assess Spectrum Access System algorithms from Google and Federated Wireless, data rates, customer experience, interoperability between infrastructure providers, mobility hand-offs, and LTE data speeds.


Verizon Running Promo for Half Off Pixel 2 or Galaxy S9

Apr 3, 2018, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 3, 2018, 12:23 PM

Verizon Wireless today announced a promotion that can score customers half off a new smartphone. Starting April 5, people who trade in their phone can get up to 50% off a Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, two free months of YouTube TV, a free Google Home Mini, and a free Google Chromecast. The promotion applies to existing and new customers. After two months, customers will be charged $40 per month for YouTube TV. Verizon is also offering 50% off other top phones with an eligible trade. Devices eligible for 50% off include the Apple iPhone X, iPhone 8+ and iPhone 8, Samsung Galaxy S9, S9+, Note8, Moto Z2 Force, and LG V30. Trades will have to be in good working condition. Verizon will cover half the cost of the these phones over a 24-month period via monthly bill credits. Customers can take advantage of the deals through May 31 and must claim their Google rewards (when buying a Pixel 2) by June 30.


Verizon Opens Total Mobile Protection to New Enrollees

Apr 2, 2018, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today said customers who don’t yet subscribe to its Total Mobile Protection insurance plan can take advantage of an open enrollment period between now and May 31. Some of the benefits include next-day device replacement, numerous repair options/locations, international support and device replacement, technical help, and multi-line support. Protecting smartphones and smartwatches costs $13 each per month, while protecting tablets and feature phones costs $10 per month. You can protect multiple lines for $39, with each additional line costing $9 per month. Deductibles for some repairs are as low as $29. More information regarding eligibility is available on Verizon’s web site.


Most US Galaxy Note8 Owners Receiving Android 8 Oreo

Apr 2, 2018, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung's U.S. carrier partners are rolling out Android 8 Oreo to the Galaxy Note8 handset. AT&T kicked things off last month and was followed by Sprint and Verizon Wireless. In the last day, T- Mobile, too, has begun pushing Oreo to the Note8. With the carrier variants picking up Android 8, only the unlocked version remains. Samsung said people who own the unlocked Note8 (and S8, S8+) can expect to see Android 8 in the next few weeks. The update includes the core Android 8 code (notification dots, autofill, picture-in-picture) in addition to the latest version of Samsung's user interface. Samsung released the Galaxy Note8 last September.


FCC Chair Would Bar Use of Universal Service Fund to Buy Equipment from Companies that Pose Security Risks

Mar 26, 2018, 10:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wants to prevent the government and companies from using the Universal Service Fund to buy equipment from companies that represent a security threat to the U.S. "Threats to national security posed by certain communications equipment providers are a matter of bipartisan concern. Hidden 'back doors' to our networks in routers, switches — and virtually any other type of telecommunications equipment — can provide an avenue for hostile governments to inject viruses, launch denial-of-service attacks, steal data, and more," said Pai. Pai didn't call out Huawei and ZTE specifically, but the measure is clearly aimed at preventing either Chinese company from making inroads in the U.S. market. Members of the government have been campaigning against the two companies for the last few months. Pressure from a collection of Congressmen nixed distribution deals between Huawei and carriers AT&T and Verizon Wireless. More recently, retailer Best Buy said it will stop celling Huawei phones. Pai has singled out Huawei as a threat in previous statements. "I'm proposing to prohibit the FCC's $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund from being used to purchase equipment or services from any company that poses a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or their supply chains. The money in the Universal Service Fund comes from fees paid by the American people, and I believe that the FCC has the responsibility to ensure that this money is not spent on equipment or services that pose a threat to national security." The FCC will vote on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking at its April 17 meeting.


FCC Chairman Pai Plans to 'Take Proactive Steps' to Protect US Telecom Supply Chain

Mar 23, 2018, 11:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today said will take action to ensure the U.S. telecommunications supply chain is protected from potential threats. Pai made the comments in a response to members of Congress who expressed concern about AT&T and Verizon's plans to sell Huawei handsets in the U.S. On December 20, 2017, Senators Tom Cotton, Angus King, John Coryn, Susan Collins, Roy Blunt, Jim Risch, Richard Burr, Marco Rubio, and James Lankford, and Representatives Frank LoBiondo, Brad Wenstrup, Elise Stefanik, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Michael Conaway, Michael Turner, Chris Stewart, Rick Crawford, and Peter King all signed a letter imploring Pai to examine the relationship between Huawei, AT&T, and Verizon. The main matter of concern in the letter from Congressional members to the FCC was that government employees might eventually buy and use Huawei devices from U.S. carriers. Some members of the U.S. government have long claimed that Huawei equipment could be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans. Pressure on AT&T and Verizon put that matter to rest. Shortly after these members of Congress sent the letter to the FCC, AT&T and Verizon Wireless dropped plans to sell Huawei handsets. Earlier this week, Huawei's retail partner Best Buy said it will cease selling Huawei devices in the U.S. Telecom companies in the U.S. are not allowed to buy networking equipment form Huawei. Even so, Pai alluded to taking more action. In his response he said, "I intend to take proactive steps to help ensure the integrity of the communications supply chain in the United States in the near future." Pai did not specify what those steps might be, though Huawei and ZTE continue to be targets of government scrutiny. The FCC did not immediately return a request for comment on the nature of Pai's intended actions.


Best Buy to Stop Selling Huawei Phones

Mar 22, 2018, 7:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Best Buy is expected to drop products made by Huawei over the next few weeks, reports CNET. Citing a source familiar with Best Buy's plan, CNET says the company will sell through the stock of devices such as Huawei's smartphones that are already in its stores, but the electronics retailer will not replenish supplies of Huawei phones. Huawei has faced scrutiny from some in Washington over its ties to the Chinese government. Some believe the Chinese government could use Huawei handsets for espionage purposes. Earlier this year, government pressure led AT&T and Verizon Wireless to cancel plans to sell the Mate 10 Pro from Huawei, the company's flagship smartphone. The Mate 10 Pro is available to Americans online from retailers such as B&H Photo and Amazon. Huawei has been banned from selling telecommunications gear in the U.S. for some time. Neither Best Buy nor Huawei commented directly on the matter concerning smartphone sales.


Oreo Hitting Most US Versions of Samsung Galaxy S8

Mar 21, 2018, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

People in the U.S. who own the Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ can expect to see Android 8 Oreo reach their phone over the coming days. Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and not AT&T are all pushing the system upgrade to their customers. Oreo includes notification dots, picture-in-picture, and autofill. The update brings the S8/S8+ in line with the user experience seen on the newer S9/S9+, which includes updated emoji. It also packs the February 2018 security patch from Google. The update weighs in at a little over 1.5 GB and can be downloaded over WiFi. Samsung has not yet said when it will update the unlocked model of the S8/S8+ to Oreo.


U.S. Carriers Creating Stronger Tool to Verify Customer ID

Mar 2, 2018, 2:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

All four major carriers in the U.S., AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, are building a "multi-factor authentication" method that will rely on peoples' cell phones to gain account access. The system, which has been in development since last September, is expected to launch before the end of the year. The goal is to cut back on identity theft and fraud enabled by weak or exposed passwords. The carriers said it will employ a "cryptographically verified phone number" that assesses data including device IP, SIM card, account, and how long customers have been with the carrier. "In addition, advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities will be used to help assess risk and protect customers," said the carriers in a statement. How this will be used by people on a day-to-day basis is still unknown. The group expects to provide more information later this year.


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+.


Android Messages with RCS to Reach More Phones On More Carriers

Feb 23, 2018, 10:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.


FCC's Net Neutrality Reversal to Go Into Effect Thursday

Feb 20, 2018, 7:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 20, 2018, 7:31 PM

The FCC is prepared to publish its order abolishing Obama-era net neutrality rules in the Federal Register on Thursday, the last act needed to put the change into effect. The rules will be made public in their final form on Wednesday, according to an unnamed source cited by Reuters, and will appear in the Federal Register the following day. In December, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines to do away with the previous administration's rules governing openness on the web. The move was seen as a victory for telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon. The attorneys general from 21 states plan to sue the FCC in a bid to overturn the reversal once the rules reach the Federal Register. Further, the governors of Montana, New Jersey, and New York have introduced their own rules that compel telecommunications firms to abide by at least some elements to treat web traffic equally. Similarly, some 50 senators have agreed to introduce legislation that would keep net neutrality rules in place, as well as give control over the matter to congress. Without a simply majority, however, it's doubtful the democratic effort will make much headway.


Verizon Adjusts Prepaid Pricing and Adds Travel Pass for $5

Feb 16, 2018, 10:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today changed up its prepaid service offerings by adding a new low-cost option and other features previously reserved for postpaid customers. Verizon Prepaid service now starts at $30 per month, which buys unlimited talk and text with 500 MB of data. Verizon Prepaid also offers 3 GB of data for $40 per month, 7 GB for $50, or 10 GB for $60. Verizon says all its prepaid plans include carryover data (for one month), mobile hotspot, and unlimited international texting to 200 countries. Customers who subscribe to the Prepaid Unlimited plan, which costs $75 per month, will enjoy unlimited use of mobile hotspot at 3G speeds (600 Kbps). Prepaid customers who travel to Canada or Mexico will be happy to learn that Verizon now offers Travel Pass for $5 per day. Customers who tack on Travel Pass when in Canada or Mexico will have access to unlimited talk and text, and their normal monthly data allotment. Verizon suggests customers should add Travel Pass via the My Verizon app before they travel. New customers who switch to Verizon Prepaid and subscribe to a $50 plan or higher will receive a $50 bill credit. These new options will be available to Verizon Prepaid customers starting February 20.


Sprint Targeting a Fall Launch for VoLTE

Feb 15, 2018, 9:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint expects to deploy voice over LTE across its network starting this fall. Sprint competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless already offer VoLTE across the bulk of their footprints, making Spring the last major carrier to deploy the upgraded voice technology. "For more than a year we’ve been testing VoLTE and preseeding our customer base with VoLTE-capable devices in preparation for our commercial deployment starting this fall," said Sprint to Fierce Wireless. "Our network today offers a great HD Voice experience on a very efficient 1x platform, and our goal with VoLTE is to match this same high-quality experience that our customers have today." VoLTE allows devices to connect voice calls over carriers' data networks, rather than legacy voice networks, and delivers as much as three times the clarity. Sprint didn't say which devices support VoLTE, nor did it say if its VoLTE service will be compatible with those of other network operators. AT&T and Verizon, for example, allow some customers on some devices to connect VoLTE calls across carriers, though typically VoLTE calls are limited to intra-carrier connections.


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.


U.S. Intel Directors Warn Against Using Huawei, ZTE Phones

Feb 14, 2018, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intelligence agency leaders have suggested that U.S. consumers not buy phones from Huawei or ZTE, according to a report from CNBC. The six intelligence chiefs, including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the director of national intelligence made the remarks at a recent security hearing. "We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," said FBI Director Chris Wray. All six intel heads said plainly they don't think American citizens should use phones or other products from Huawei and ZTE. Huawei recently saw plans to sell its flagship Mate 10 Pro device via AT&T and Verizon Wireless thwarted at the last moment by pressure from the U.S. government. Lawmakers in the House and the Senate have since introduced bills that would make it illegal for the government to use any equipment from Huawei or ZTE. Huawei said it is "aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor." ZTE didn't provide a response. Nearly all mobile devices, including Apple iPhones, are made in China.


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