Qualcomm this week launched the "Snapdragon 865 and 765 Modular Platforms", which are pre-engineered and pre-certified circuit boards that include most of the critical components for a high-end 5G phone (or equivalent cellular device.) As phones have become more sophisticated and refined, the costs of developing a competitive high-end phone have become prohibitive for all but the largest companies. This new program from Qualcomm aims to level that playing field for smaller companies. Verizon and Vodafone are participating in the program by pre-certifying the modules, making it easier for smaller companies to offer their high-end phones to some of the world's largest carriers. HMD Global, maker of Nokia phones, indicated on stage at this week's Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit that it plans to utilize the modules in its phones. At a Q-and-A session on Tuesday, Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon added that many companies attempting to engineer a high-end phone resort to stacking components to fit everything required into a phone body, often resulting in thermal issues. Qualcomm's new modules are engineered as a single flat circuit board, offering better performance and enabling thinner designs.
Verizon, Qualcomm, and Ericsson today performed a live demo of 5G operating in a sub-6 GHz frequency band using DSS (dynamic spectrum sharing) technology, enabling the use of band 5 (850 MHz) for both 4G LTE and 5G NR technologies simultaneously. To date, Verizon has launched 5G only in higher-frequency mmWave bands that offer high speeds but limited coverage. 5G in band 5 would offer the same coverage as 4G in band 5. Verizon has mentioned plans to launch 5G in sub-6 GHz bands, but released few details and made few promises. Today's demo implies potential plans to deploy 5G in band 5. AT&T has already announced that it will also use band 5 for its sub-6 GHz 5G deployment. Today's demo took place at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii.
Verizon has added detailed maps of its mmWave 5G coverage to its web site. The maps show where 5G is available on a block-by-block basis in the cities where Verizon has launched the service. Verizon started offering 5G in April, but has not offered any coverage maps for the service until now. Because Verizon's 5G network so far uses only mmWave frequency bands, coverage is limited to small areas near each base station, and can vary wildly from city block to city block. T-Mobile was running an ad campaign attacking Verizon's unwillingness to share 5G coverage maps.
Verizon has launched 5G service in three new cities, bringing the number of cities with Verizon 5G to 18. The service is uses mmWave frequencies, which generally offer high speeds but limited coverage. It's available in "parts of" Boston, Houston, and Sioux Falls. In Boston, initial 5G coverage is concentrated in Fenway, along Brookline Avenue near Beth Israel Hospital, and several university campuses. In Houston, initial 5G coverage is concentrated in East Downtown, Uptown, Greenway Plaza, Museum District, Rice Village, and around select major stadiums and malls. In Sioux Falls, initial 5G coverage is concentrated around Levitt at the Falls, Orpheum Theatre, Washington Pavilion, State Theatre, and the US Federal Courthouse. Verizon has already launched 5G in Dallas, Omaha, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Providence, St. Paul, Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, Washington DC, Phoenix, Boise, Panama City, and New York City. Verizon plans to bring its 5G city count to 30 by the end of the year, with planned launches in Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Des Moines, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and more.
Motorola today unveiled its new razr phone for 2020. In line with a long-running stream of teases and leaks, plus today's FCC approval, the phone matches the design of the original RAZR V3, but with an inner surface that is one continuous 6.2" HD touchscreen that bends at the hinge, like Samsung's Galaxy Fold. The new razr will be exclusive to Verizon in the US and cost $1500. Like the original RAZR V3, it has a "chin" that sticks out from the bottom half, and side keys located in the top half. The top half also contains a large outer display and a 16-megapixel camera. The 2.7" outer display is a touchscreen that lets users respond to notifications, take selfies, play music, use Google Assistant, and more. The flexible OLED main display has curved top and bottom edges, with a notch in the top. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 710 chip. It has 6 GB of RAM, 128 GB of storage, 2,510 mAh battery, NFC, and dual-band Wi-Fi. It has a 5-megapixel selfie camera, although the main camera can also be used to take selfies using the outer display. To keep the phone thin, the phone lacks a 3.5mm audio jack or memory card slot. It also relies on an eSIM instead of a physical SIM card. It does have a USB-C port centered on the bottom that supports fast charging. USB-C razr earbuds are included, which are "professionally tuned" by Denon. Verizon is accepting pre-orders starting December 26th, with full availability on January 9th, 2020.
Verizon-back Visible has launched two new ZTE phones from the company's affordable Blade series.
- The ZTE Blade A7 Prime has a 6-inch HD display with a small notch, 16-megapixel main camera, 5-megapixel front camera, standalone fingerprint reader, 3,200 mAh battery, and MediaTek Helio A22 processor. It also has USB-C, 32 GB of storage, a memory card slot, and a 3.5mm headset jack. It's an LTE-only phone designed for Verizon's network. Visible is offering it for $99.
- The ZTE Blade 10 Prime has all of the features of the A7, but upgrades to a Helio P60 processor, 64 GB of storage, a larger 6.3-inch display with full-HD resolution, faster Cat. 6 LTE, and a 16-megapixel front camera. It also adds NFC and an extra camera on the back for depth (portrait) effects. Visible is selling it for $179. It's also available unlocked as the ZTE Blade 10, also for $179.
Visible, the online-only MVNO backed by Verizon and operating on the Verizon network, just launched Party Pay, a new kind of discount for families and groups that works more like a simple discount, or, for the company, perhaps a referral program. Instead of groups sharing a joint account, each individual keeps their own account and pays their individual bill. They simply receive a discount for joining a group of up to four people, which any Visible customer can create and invite any other Visible customers to join. The discount increases the larger the group: $5 for each person that joins a group after the group is created. So each person in a 4-person group would only pay $25/month, instead of the usual $40/month without Party Pay. Visible offers a single unlimited plan with service on Verizon's network. The company has no physical locations, offering activation, support, and all customer interactions via its app.
Verizon has launched its mmWave 5G service in two new cities: Dallas, Texas and Omaha, Nebraska. The brings Verizon's number of 5G cities to 15. Because Verizon's 5G network to date uses mmWave frequency bands, coverage is limited to specific blocks and landmarks. In Dallas, service will be concentrated in parts of: Knox/Henderson, Downtown Dallas, Uptown, Medical Center Area, Deep Ellum; and around select landmarks and parks. In Omaha, service will be concentrated around landmarks such as Old Market, Omaha Children’s Museum, The Orpheum Theatre, The Durham Museum, Heartland of America Park, Central High School and Creighton University.
Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have formed a new joint venture to accelerate the adoption of Rich Communications Services (RCS) and ensure it works seamlessly across US and global networks. The venture is called the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI) and "is working to develop and deploy the standards-based, interoperable messaging service starting with Android and expected in 2020." RCS is an existing open industry standard for advanced messaging, designed to replace SMS and MMS. It supports high-quality media, read receipts, typing indicator, and more. Google has been pushing RCS heavily in the past two years, but US adoption has been slow due to delayed carrier deployments.
At launch, Verizon and T-Mobile won't support RCS on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. RCS is an industry-standard messaging protocol designed to replace SMS and MMS, offering many of the features of Apple's iMessage. Verizon supported RCS on the Pixel 3. T-Mobile has been a vocal proponent of RCS, but only supports it on Samsung phones.
Verizon has revealed that it will light up its mmWave 5G service in New York City in one week, on September 26th. As with all mmWave deployments, it will focus on dense, downtown areas and public spaces, rather than broad citywide coverage. The coverage areas include parts of uptown, midtown, and downtown Manhattan, along with select parts of Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. NYC is Verizon's 11th 5G city. The company has promised to launch 5G in 30 US cities by the end of the year. Verizon's lineup of phones with integrated 5G include the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, LG V50 ThinQ 5G, and Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G.
The FCC this week granted permission for initial commercial service to commence in the unlicensed part of band 48, also known as CBRS, a radio frequency band spanning the range of 3550 - 3700 MHz. In a new and unique arrangement, consumer phones will be able to cellular technologies like LTE in an unlicensed band that also has incumbent users such as the military and satellite operators. To prevent interference, five companies will operate central databases that coordinate access to the band in real-time. Having proven their systems in certified lab tests, it is these five Spectrum Access System (SAS) Administrators that have received permission from the FCC to begin "initial commercial deployment", which is both a real-world test phase and a commercial launch. The five approved Administrators are Google, Sony, Federated Wireless, Amdocs, and CommScope. Verizon has been most vocal among the major US carriers about deploying service in band 48 for its customers. The most recent flagship phones from Samsung, Apple, LG, OnePlus, and Razer already support band 48. In mid-2020, the FCC plans to auction a different part of the CBRS band that will be licensed in a more traditional way for deployment of 5G service.
Walmart and Verizon are both offering substantial discounts and offers for customers buying a new iPhone this year. New and existing customers of Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint can pre-order the new iPhone 11 models from walmart.com starting this Friday and receive $50 off the usual phone price when choosing a device payment plan and picking up their phone in a Walmart store (starting Sept. 20). Existing customers of Verizon and AT&T can instead opt to have the phone shipped to them with free two-day shipping, and receive the same $50-off pricing. Separately, Verizon is offering deals on iPhones for customers activating new Unlimited lines, and deals on other Apple devices for all customers. Customers activating a new Unlimited line can get up to $700 toward a new iPhone 11 (making the base model iPhone 11 free) with device trade-in. The trade-in credit of up to $500 is applied over 24 months, with the remaining $200 delivered as a prepaid card. Or customers can get a second iPhone Xr for free when purchasing the first iPhone Xr on a payment plan and activating a new Unlimited line. Verizon customers can also get a $250 discount off any iPad when purchasing any iPhone (with both devices on Verizon payment plan; discount applied over 24 months.) Verizon customers purchasing a new Apple Watch can get a second one for up to 50% off.
Verizon 5G service is now live in 13 NFL football stadiums around the US. Additional stadiums will be announced throughout the season. Of the 13, Verizon has named 12, leaving the 13th a mystery. Verizon's mmWave 5G service is potentially well-suited to small, high-density areas like stadiums. Verizon recently announced a partnership with Boingo on deploying 5G in areas like stadiums. The 12 announced stadiums are: Bank of America Stadium, Empower Field at Mile High, CenturyLink Field, Ford Field, Gillette Stadium, Hard Rock Stadium, Lucas Oil Stadium, MetLife Stadium, M&T Bank Stadium, NRG Stadium, Soldier Field, and U.S. Bank Stadium.
Verizon will work with Boingo Wireless, a specialist in building indoor wireless networks, to expand its 5G network to places like airports, stadiums and arenas, office buildings, and hotels. Boingo has been building dense indoor Wi-Fi networks for 15 years. Verizon's mmWave 5G has short-range coverage similar to Wi-Fi.
Verizon today launched the Nokia 3 V, which exactly like the Nokia 3.2 but with support for Verizon's 4G LTE network bands. This $168 Android phone sports a large 6.26-inch HD display with a small notch, and a large 4,000 mAh battery. Other specs include a Snapdragon 429 processor, 2 GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, a memory card slot, and a 13-megapixel camera. It also has a 3.5mm headphone jack and comes with Android 9.
Phoenix will be the 10th city where Verizon has launched its mmWave 5g service, which covers central areas of major cities. Initially, 5G service in Phoenix will be concentrated around several well-known landmarks in Downtown Phoenix, as well as Tempe and the Arizona State University campus.
Motorola has updated the software for its Moto Mod accessory that adds 5G to existing Moto Z-series phones, improving functionality for all phones, and adding compatibility with the Z2 Force for Verizon. The update improves both 5G download speeds, and enables two-way charging between the phone and the Mod when the battery is low in either. The update is available now for the Z2 Force and Z3. The update comes pre-installed on the Moto Z4. The Z2 Force was launched in August 2017 and carried by Verizon until October 2018.
T-Mobile and AT&T can now securely confirm caller-ID info between the two networks, an important step in fighting number spoofing widely used by robocallers. Both companies have now implemented the STIR/SHAKEN protocol between their networks, allowing caller-ID info to be authenticated, resulting in a "Caller Verified" banner on the phone screen when a call is incoming. T-Mobile and Metro currently offer 12 phones from Samsung and LG that support this banner. The FCC has urged US telecom companies — under threat of new regulation — to implement STIR/SHAKEN as a means of combatting robocalling and fraud. Once adoption is widespread, consumers will be able to block calls that cannot be authenticated. Verizon has announced that it is also working to implement STIR/SHAKEN.
The Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G will be the first phone to support sub-6 GHz FDD 5G for T-Mobile and AT&T. However, the AT&T and T-Mobile versions will not support mmWave 5G that offers faster speeds in central areas of major cities, even though the Verizon version will support only mmWave 5G. T-Mobile and AT&T spokespeople have confirmed to Phone Scoop that their versions will not support mmWave. Sub-6 GHz FDD bands (low-band) are the same bands used for 4G service today, and offer broad coverage that mmWave frequencies cannot. T-Mobile and AT&T have announced plans to launch 5G on sub-6 GHz FDD bands later this year. Verizon will be first to sell the Note10+ 5G on August 23rd. Verizon will have an undisclosed period of exclusivity, after which AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint will also offer it. Verizon will charge $1300 for the 256 GB model, available in black, white, or a prismatic "Aura Glow", and $1400 for the 512 GB version, available in black. The 5G and 4G versions of the Note10+ are identical in appearance, size, and features. The only difference is a 2 gram weight difference to account for the 5G components. The Note10 series includes Play Galaxy Link, which lets you stream games from your home PC to your phone, a feature that will benefit greatly from the data speeds and low latency offered by 5G.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy Note10 and Note10+. The company's super-flagship Note series for 2019 comes in two sizes: The Note10 packs a screen similar to the Note9 into a smaller body, while the Note10+ sports a larger display in a body similar in size to the Note9. The Note10+ will also be available in a 5G version. The Note10 has a 6.3-inch full-HD display, 3,500 mAh battery, and 8 GB of RAM, while the Note10+ has a 6.8-inch quad-HD display, 4,300 mAh battery, and 12 GB of RAM. The Note10+ also adds a ToF camera for 3D scanning, and a memory card slot. Both new models are thinner and lighter than the Note9. Samsung accomplished this by removing the headphone jack, iris scanner, and heart rate sensor. Key features from the S10 have been included, including triple rear cameras (dual-aperture plus tele and wide), in-display ultrasonic fingerprint reader, and Wireless Power Share. The included S Pen now has a motion sensor, allowing it to support mid-air gesture shortcuts. The DeX feature that turns the phone into a computer now works via USB connected to a PC or Mac, where the phone's desktop is displayed via a new app, which supports both copy-and-paste, and file drag-and-drop between desktops. A 25W charger is included, and the Note10+ supports an optional 45W charger that can provide a "full day" charge in 30 minutes. All US models are powered by a Snapdragon 855 processor and come with at least 256 GB of internal storage. All four top US carriers will offer all three models — including the Note+ 5G — although Verizon will offer the 5G model first for a short exclusivity period. 256 GB models will be available in white, black, and a prismatic Aura Glow. Models with 512 GB of RAM will only be available in black. Best Buy will also offer the Note10+ in an exclusive Aura Blue color. All three models will go on sale August 23rd, with pre-orders starting tomorrow, August 8th. Pre-orders include a credit of $100-$150 to spend on samsung.com. The Note10 starts at $949, the Note10+ at $1099, and Verizon will sell the Note10+ 5G starting at $1300.
Verizon today announced revamped unlimited plans. The three existing plans have been renamed and lowered in price $5-10, with minimal changes in what they offer. A fourth plan has also been added at the middle price point, which trades media features for more productivity-oriented features. As before, there are progressive discounts for each line added to a family plan, but the tiers for those discounts have been tweaked. The new plans are $5 cheaper than the old plans for one, three, or four lines. Premium plans are $10 cheaper than the old plans for two lines, and a new 5-line tier is $10 cheaper (per month per line) than before. The cheapest plan, previously called Go Unlimited, is now called Start Unlimited. As before, it includes "unlimited" 4G LTE data, but speeds may be reduced when the network is busy. It does not include HD video streaming nor 4G hotspot. 5G service is not included but can be added for $10/month. The old Beyond Unlimited plan is now called Play More Unlimited. It includes 25 GB of "premium" 4G data, (which is always full-speed even when the network is busy,) up from the 22 GB included before. It also includes HD (720p) video streaming, 15 GB of 4G mobile hotspot data, and an Apple Music subscription. For a limited time, unlimited 5G service is also included. The new mid-range plan is called Do More Unlimited. It's the same price as Play More Unlimited, but in place of HD video and Apple Music, it offers 50 GB of premium data, 500 GB of cloud storage, and 50% off a tablet or mobile hotspot. The top-end Above Unlimited plan is now called Get More Unlimited. It offers 75 GB of premium data (as before) and 30 GB of 4G mobile hotspot data (up from 20 GB). It also offers everything all of the lower plans do, including HD video, cloud storage, Apple Music, and 5G. The new plans will be available starting Monday, August 5th.
Verizon today launched 5G service in Washington DC, Atlanta, Detroit, and Indianapolis. The mmWave service works best outdoors, and is available in areas where people tend to congregate, such as public parks, monuments, outside museums, on college campuses and in stadiums. In Washington DC, the network covers parts of over 30 neighborhoods and landmarks, including the National Mall, The White House, George Washington University, Capital One Arena, Union Station, Dupont Circle, and the Georgetown Waterfront. In Atlanta, coverage includes parts of Downtown, Midtown, Tech Square, Mercedes Benz Stadium, and Centennial Olympic Park. In Detroit, service will initially be concentrated in parts of Dearborn, Livonia, and Troy. Verizon will be expanding 5G coverage in all of these cities in the months ahead. The four cities launched today join Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Providence. Verizon has promised to launch 5G in over 30 cities by the end of the year. Verizon currently offers a 5G mobile hotspot from Inseego, as well as 5G phones from LG and Samsung, plus two Motorola phones that support 5G via a snap-on accessory.
Verizon has, for the first time, confirmed that it will deploy 5G in radio frequency bands beyond the short-range mmWave the company is using for its initial 5G launches so far. Verizon VP of network and technology Heidi Hemmer referred to a "multi-spectrum strategy" in comments to The Verge. "We will be using at some point in the future every band of spectrum that we currently own" for the company's 5G network, Hemmer said. But she declined to go into any detail about which bands might be used or — more importantly — when. Verizon is the only carrier that has yet to formally announce plans to deploy 5G in sub-6-GHz frequency bands. Its current 5G service in mmWave bands is fast, but coverage is limited to central downtown areas of major cities, and it does not reach indoors well.
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.
Verizon today started selling the Alcatel Go Flip V, a close cousin of the similar-looking feature phone Alcatel offers on other US carriers as the Go Flip, MyFlip, QuickFlip, and Cingular Flip 2. Unlike those other models — which run KaiOS — the Go Flip V runs custom software based on AOSP (open-source Android), with more memory (both RAM and storage) to support the more-demanding software. (Like other feature phones based on AOSP, it cannot run third-party Android apps.) Other than the software and memory, the phone's features match related models on other carriers, including the large 1.44-inch outer color display, 2.8-inch main display, large buttons, 2-megapixel camera, HD video capture, memory card slot, mobile hotspot, 3.5mm audio jack, and Wi-Fi. The Go Flip V also supports HD Voice, Voice over LTE, Voice over Wi-Fi, RTT, TTY, and M4/T4 hearing-aid compatibility.
At today's FCC meeting, the Commission voted to approve two actions that will open up four radio frequency bands to new 5G service. Three of the bands are ultra-high mmWave frequencies near 40 GHz, while the fourth is mid-band, near 2.5 GHz. For the three mmWave bands, today's action finalized the rules for Auction 103, which will allow companies to bid on licenses for Upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands. Auction 103 will commence on December 10th, 2019. The 39 GHz band was first auctioned off in 2000, with some of those licenses ending up in the hands of Verizon and AT&T via sales and acquisitions. However some 39 GHz licenses remain privately-owned, but unused. Auction 103 will include an incentive auction component to facilitate the sale of those licenses to companies that will use them. The 2.5 GHz band was originally set aside for educational TV broadcast service, which never took off. Today the FCC voted to remove rules requiring the band be owned by education institutions and used for educational purposes. Existing license holders will be able to lease out the spectrum, making it available for commercial 5G. Many licenses in the band remain unsold, which the FCC will auction off, after giving priority to Tribal Nations. The 2.5 GHz band is near the band 41 that Sprint already uses for 5G service. It has better range and building penetration than mmWave bands.
Verizon's 5G network launches today in Denver, and will launch in Providence on Monday, July 1st. The two cities join Chicago and Minneapolis for a total of four cities where the company offers 5G service. The networks only cover the most central areas of each city. Because Verizon's 5G network only uses mmWave frequency bands, each "tower" only covers a few hundred feet and the signal does not work well indoors. But mmWave can offer higher peak data speeds than is possible with lower (sub-6-GHz) frequency bands. Verizon has promised to launch 5G in "30-plus" cities by the end of 2019. The company offers multiple 5G phones: the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, LG V50, as well as the 5G Moto Mod for the Moto z3 and z4. Verizon offers its 5G phones to all customers nationwide.
The FCC has granted Verizon's request to lock phones that it sells for a period of 60 days from the date they are activated. This type of lock keeps phones from being used on another company's network and was explicitly prohibited by the FCC as a condition of Verizon's license for band 13, the cornerstone of the company's 4G LTE network. The FCC's new waiver from that rule requires that phones be unlocked automatically at the end of 60 days, even if the customer has not requested it or still owes money on a device payment plan. The 60-day lock is intended to deter device fraud and identity theft. Verizon claims handset fraud cost the company $190 million last year.
Mobile service provider Visible is removing the 5 Mbps data speed cap that it launched with. Visible offers unlimited service on Verizon's network for $40/month. New and existing customers will get the un-capped, faster data speeds for as long as they remain customers; the company may re-impose speed limits at a later date for customers signing up after that date. Visible is also offering $20 referral bonuses, and $20 off the first month of service for new customers. The company has no physical locations, offering activation, support, and all customer interactions via its app. Visible is compatible with most iPhones as well as the Samsung Galaxy S9(+), Google Pixel 3 (XL), and the Visible R2. The company is adding support soon for the Pixel 3a (XL) and Moto g7 Power.
PCMag has completed its annual nationwide test of mobile networks, and found that, for the first time in six years, AT&T's network is faster, on average, than Verizon's. AT&T won or tied in 15 out of 30 cities, and won or tied in every rural region. All four national networks improved year-over-year in both speed and reliability, but AT&T improved the most. PCMag's testing utilized a custom rig of Samsung Galaxy S10 phones driven across 30 major US cities and six rural areas. In each city, analysts stopped by more than a dozen locations, testing downloads, uploads, latency, reliability, and consistency every two minutes.
Verizon will launch its second phone with integrated 5G — the LG V50 ThinQ 5G — for all customers on June 20th. As with the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Verizon isn't restricting sales to areas where 5G service is available, as Sprint has done. Verizon is selling the phone for $1,000, or $41.66/month for 24 months. For a limited time, Verizon is waiving the $10/month 5G access fee. Verizon's 5G network uses mmWave frequencies and is currently available in part of Chicago and Minneapolis, with another 28+ cities coming by the end of the year.
Google will offer its own RCS service for Android users on networks that have not yet launched RCS. RCS is an open industry standard for enhanced messaging, designed to replace SMS and MMS. It offers many of the features of Apple's iMessage, such as read receipts, high-quality attachments, and typing indicators. Most new Android phones support RCS via Google's Messages app and its Chat feature, but it requires support on the network side. RCS was designed so that network operators could launch RCS support on their own networks, but most operators have been slow to adopt RCS. Sprint has launched it. T-Mobile has also launched it, but does not yet support it on all Android phones. Verizon has launched it for Pixel phones and promised greater support in 2019. AT&T does not yet support the Universal Profile that makes it RCS standard and interoperable between networks. RCS servers can be located anywhere on the Internet, though, so Google is launching its own. Google is rolling out the service on a country-by-country basis, starting with the UK and France this month. When available, Android users without an active RCS service will see a new prompt when opening the Messages app, asking if they want to opt in to Google's RCS service. Google has pledged to delete message content from its servers as soon as message delivery is confirmed.
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.
The Moto z4 brings updated specs and design to the z series while maintaining compatibility with existing Moto Mod snap-on accessories. Motorola announced the Moto z4 today, which will come in an unlocked version for $500 with broad support for all US LTE networks, and a Verizon-specific version with special pricing for new lines of service. The phone has a single "48 megapixel" camera sensor on the rear that uses pixel binning to produce high-quality 12-megapixel images. The main camera has an f/1.7 aperture, optical image stabilization, and laser focusing. The front camera is 25 megapixels, with optional pixel binning for high-quality 6.2-megapixel selfies. The camera app includes a new Night Vision mode, portrait mode, motion photos, Google Lens, RAW mode, and auto HDR. The z4 has a 3.5mm audio jack, last seen in the z series on the z2 Play. The phone is housed in a metal frame with a frosted glass back. The 6.4-inch OLED display sports full-HD resolution. The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor with 4 GB of RAM. It has 128 GB of internal storage, expandable via a memory card slot. Its 3,600 mAh battery can be charged quickly with the included 15W charger. The fingerprint reader is built into the display and the phone has NFC as well as USB-C 3.1. The unlocked version goes on sale June 6th at Best Buy, B&H Photo, and Amazon for $500 in a bundle that includes the 360º camera Moto Mod. Verizon will offer the Moto z4 on June 13th for just $240 with a new activation (new customer or new line on a family plan). The z4 is compatible with the 5G Moto Mod that adds a 5G radio, and new Verizon customers can get both the z4 and the 5G Moto Mod for $440. Existing Verizon customers can get the z4 for $500, before a $100 discount when they choose a device payment plan. For a limited time, Verizon is offering 5G service at no additional charge for Moto z4 (for customers on Above Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited plans.) The phone will be offered in Flash Gray initially, with a Frost White color to follow "later this summer".
Bittium's new Tough Mobile 2 is a mid-range smartphone with unusually advanced security features, designed for organizations with exceptional security needs, including governments and militaries. A privacy switch disables microphones, cameras, and Bluetooth at a hardware level, and reduces sensor sensitivity to prevent fingerprinting. The operating system is secured against rooting and tampering, validated in hardware and software at boot. A hardware secure element stores user credentials. A Workspaces feature creates isolated OS environments that keep work data separate from personal data, and confidential data from different organizations separate. The phone is designed and manufactured in Finland, and Bittium supervises phones from manufacturing to customer delivery. Also, the component and software solutions can be audited by authorities. The phone is also rugged, military rated for shock and drop, and IP67 for dust and water. The 5.2-inch full-HD screen works when wet and through gloves. The Tough Mobile 2 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 670 chip with 4 GB of RAM. It runs Android 9 (Pie) and has 64 GB of internal storage plus a memory card slot. Its 12-megapixel main camera can record 4K video. It has customizable physical shortcut buttons, including privacy, PTT, and emergency. It has NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0. It's fully compatible with all LTE bands used by Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, including FirstNet (band 14). Pricing starts at 1550 €.
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.
Verizon has started accepting pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, its first phone with integrated 5G. The phone will hit stores on May 16th. Verizon will offer the S10 5G in the Samsung-announced configuration with 256 GB of storage for $1,300, plus a new option with 512 GB of storage for $1,400. (The S10 5G does not have a memory card slot to add storage.) Verizon has a limited-time exclusive on the S10 5G in the US, and will retain an exclusive on the Majestic Black color. Verizon will also offer the phone in Crown Silver. The company is offering several promo deals to those who pre-order the phone, including free 5G service (normally $10/month), free Samsung Galaxy Buds, and a Samsung Wireless Charging Battery Pack. In addition, customers can trade in an old phone for up to $450 in savings, and new customers switching to Verizon get a $200 prepaid MasterCard. The S10 5G is similar with the S10+, but with a larger screen, larger battery, and advanced depth cameras on the front and back. Verizon plans to offer 5G service in the downtown areas of over 30 major US cities by the end of the year. Chicago and Minneapolis have already launched, and Verizon announced the next 20 cities today. Because Verizon's initial 5G network uses the 28 GHz band in the mmWave range, it can offer very high speeds, but the range of each cell is limited to a few hundred feet and does not reach indoors well.
Verizon has announced a new list of 20 cities where it will offer 5G coverage in 2019. They are Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Phoenix, Providence, San Diego, Salt Lake City, and Washington DC. The company has already launched mobile 5G service in Chicago and Minneapolis. The company continues to promise 5G in "more than 30" US cities by the end of the year, leaving at least nine cities yet to be announced. Verizon offers 5G phone service with a Moto z3 + 5G Moto Mod. Its first phone with integrated 5G will be the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, which became available for pre-order today, and hits stores on May 16th.