Following moves made earlier in the day by Verizon and AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile have now said they also will cease sharing customer location data with certain third-party apps and services. Sprint said it is "beginning the process of terminating its current contracts with data aggregators to whom we provide location data." T-Mobile CEO John Legere tweeted, "I've personally evaluated this issue & have pledged that @tmobile will not sell customer location data to shady middlemen." The matter rose to attention after some third-party location brokers left the real-time data of millions of customers unprotected. Lawmakers called for change and today's responses appear to be it.
AT&T today said it, too, will cease the sale of subscriber location information to outside companies. The move follows an identical change made by Verizon earlier today. "Our top priority is to protect our customers’ information, and, to that end, we will be ending our work with aggregators for these services as soon as practical in a way that preserves important, potential lifesaving services like emergency roadside assistance," said AT&T in a statement provided to The Verge. Carriers are under fire because one of the third-party companies exposed the real-time location data of millions of wireless customers without their knowledge or consent. The matter is being investigated by the FCC. Sprint and T-Mobile have yet to make the same commitment.
Verizon Communications today said it will stop making customer location data available to third-party apps and services. The decision follows last month's revelation that third-party companies didn't always properly protect this data. LocationSmart, for example, exposed the real-time location of millions 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. The breach caught the attention of lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Wyden, who wanted the matter invested. "When these issues were brought to our attention, we took immediate steps to stop it," said Verizon spokesperson Rich Young. Wyden thanked Verizon for changing its policy, but pointed out that AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have left their location-sharing practices in place.
AT&T today made it possible to buy one iPhone X and get a second iPhone for free. The offer is available to new and existing customers, and requires both phones to be purchased on an AT&T Next installment plan (24 or 30 months). The first line can be new or an upgrade, but the second line — with the free iPhone — must be a new line. The second free iPhone can be the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, or iPhone X. After approximately three billing periods, AT&T will begin making the monthly device payments spread out over 30 months. Customers will be responsible for taxes and activation fees on both phones at the point of sale. The offer ends June 19.
AT&T today said it has completed its purchase of Time Warner, a deal originally valued at $85.4 billion when it was announced in October 2016. Earlier this week, a U.S. judge sided with AT&T after the Justice Department sued the company to block the deal. After losing the case, the Justice Department made no further recommendations against the deal and AT&T wrapped up the legal paperwork quickly. Time Warner — and now AT&T — owns Warner Bros., HBO, and Turner, which in turn owns CNN and other media properties. "Combine [Warner's content] with AT&T’s strengths in direct-to-consumer distribution, and we offer customers a differentiated, high-quality, mobile-first entertainment experience," said Randall Stephenson, chairman and CEO of AT&T in a prepared statement. “We’re going to bring a fresh approach to how the media and entertainment industry works for consumers, content creators, distributors and advertisers." Many fear the deal will lead to less choice and higher prices for consumers. Moving forward, AT&T will consist of four core businesses: AT&T Communications (mobile, broadband), AT&T media (Turner, HBO), AT&T International (mobile in Mexico), and AT&T's advertising and analytics. AT&T says it will create a formal name for this last business unit later in the year. John Donovan will serve as CEO of AT&T Communications, John Stankey will serve as CEO of AT&T’s media business, Lori Lee will serve as CEO of AT&T International, and Brian Lesser will serve as CEO of AT&T’s ad and analytics business. All four will report to Randall Stephenson, who remains chairman and CEO of AT&T Inc.
The 3GPP today ratified another piece of the 5G specification, termed the Standalone 5G New Radio, or SA 5G NR. This spec is for 5G networks that are developed on their own, apart from legacy or pre-existing networks. The Non-Standalone portion of the 5G spec was ratified late last year and covers 5G that hooks into existing LTE 4G systems. "The freeze of Standalone 5G NR radio specifications represents a major milestone in the quest of the wireless industry towards realizing the holistic 5G vision," said Balázs Bertényi, chairman of 3GPP RAN. "5G NR Standalone systems not only dramatically increase the mobile broadband speeds and capacity, but also open the door for new industries beyond telecommunications that are looking to revolutionize their ecosystem through 5G." The SA 5G NR and the NSA 5G NR standards will together include the technology used by commercial entities, the air interface, and end users. The spec was approved by more than 600 delegates from the world's leading carrier, handset, and silicon vendors. Some participants included AT&T, DISH, Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Kyocera, LG, MediaTek, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, SoftBank/Sprint, Sony, Verizon, Xiaomi, and ZTE. The 3GPP said the technical specifications for the ratified SA 5G NR will be published in the days ahead.
AT&T today was given permission to buy Time Warmer with no conditions and no divestitures. The ruling was handed down by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon. The ruling settles the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has opposed the deal from the start. The Justice Department believes AT&T will use Time Warner's content as a weapon against consumers, raising prices and limiting competition. AT&T says it needs to acquire Time Warner in order to compete with Verizon Communications. The government will not require AT&T to meet any special conditions to finalize the merger, nor sell any properties. In a last-minute twist, Justice Department attorney Craig Conrath asked the judge to take some protective measures, such as concessions, should he allow the deal to proceed. It appears as though Leon did not feel this tactic was warranted. The deal is valued at $85.4 billion. Time Warner owns HBO and CNN.
Asus today revealed that its ZenFone 5Q phone, first announced in February, is now available for sale in the U.S. The ZenFone 5Q has 2.5D curved class on the front and rear with a plastic frame in between. It boasts a 6-inch full HD+ 18:9 display. The Zenfone 5Q has four cameras, with an ultra-wide, 120-degree lens on each side. The main sensor on the rear captures 16-megapixel images, while the selfie camera has a Sony 20-megapixel sensor. The 5Q features a number of shooting modes, including portrait/bokeh. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 630 processor and comes with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. The phone ships with a 3,300mAh battery. Other features include NFC, dual SIM, face unlock, Bluetooth 4.1, dual-band wifi, fingerprint reader, speaker, and microUSB. Asus didn't spell out which LTE bands are supported but says the phone is compatible with AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The phone runs Android 8 Oreo with Asus ZenUI 5.0. Asus says the ZenFone 5Q in midnight black is immediately available from Abt, Amazon, B&H, Best Buy, and Newegg for $299, while the moonlight white variant is available from Amazon, B&H, and Newegg for the same price.
AT&T today said fire, medical, police, and other first responders now have more access to its FirstNet network. FirstNet has been available for purchase by agencies, but hasn't been directly sold in stores. Beginning today, any verified first responder can walk into one of AT&T's 5,300 retail shops and initiate service with a new device. The retail availability of FirstNet will be a boon to first responders who volunteer and/or aren't issued communications devices by their agency or local government. A fairly wide number of phones are compatible with FirstNet, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8 Plus, S8 Active, Note 8, S9, S9 Plus, and J3; Apple iPhone 6/Plus, 6s/Plus, 7/Plus, 8/Plus, and X; LG V35 ThinQ; Motorola Moto G6 Play; Sonim XP5S and XP8; BlackBerry KEYone; and the Nighthawk LTE Mobile Hotspot Router. The public safety network is available nationwide in its own, reserved spectrum (Band 14). First responders may also sign up for FirstNet service using AT&T's web site.
Starting in July, subscribers who are grandfathered-in to AT&T's unlimited data plan will see their service cost climb from $40 per month to $45 per month. The original price of the plan was $30 per month. AT&T last raised the service cost by $5 in March 2017, and by $5 before that in February 2016. In a statement provided to MacRumors, AT&T said, "Consumers are using mobile data at record levels and the trend is expected to continue. To help make sure we continue to provide the best service for all of our customers, a small price increase is being made at this time." AT&T says the new pricing won't coincide with reduced speeds. Right now, unlimited customers can use 22 GB of high-speed data per month before they see throttled speeds when the network is congested. The current price of AT&T's Unlimited Plus Enhanced plan is $80 per month for the first line. AT&T customers can change plans at any time.
AT&T today indicated it is prepared to settle with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it throttled users' mobile data speeds without property informing them. AT&T advertised "unlimited" mobile data, but slowed users' speeds once they crossed a certain threshold. The FTC first sued AT&T over the matter in 2014, but that case was tossed. The FCC at one point levied a fine of $100 million against AT&T over the issue, though that fee was never collected as the appeal worked its way through the court. Earlier this year, the FTC case was reinstated. "We have decided not to seek review by the Supreme Court, to focus instead on negotiating a fair resolution of the case with the Federal Trade Commission," said AT&T spokesperson Mike Balmoris. The FTC has not said what concessions AT&T might have to make.
TCL today announced that its Alcatel 1x phone, an entry-level Android device that runs Android 8.1 Oreo Go Edition, will be available from Amazon.com starting the first week of June. The unlocked device is priced at $99. It will reach Best Buy and Walmart later in the month. The 1x has a 2:1 ratio 5.3-inch screen with 960 by 480 resolution and it is powered by a quad-core MediaTek processor clocked at 1.28 GHz. The phone ships with 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has an 8-megapixel sensor, while the user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. Other hardware features include Cat 4 LTE, Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi; microUSB and memory card slot; and a 2,420mAh battery. The Alcatel 1X includes a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. It includes Go-optimized versions of core apps, including Google Assistant Go, Google Go, Files Go, Google Maps Go, YouTube Go, and Gmail Go, as well as performance optimizations to Chrome, Google Play, and Gboard. The Android Go platform is designed to run on low-spec'd hardware. The Alcatel 1x includes modest support for AT&T/Cricket and T-Mobile/MetroPCS, though it lacks the newest LTE bands.
Blu Products today announced the Pure View, a premium handset that adopts modern design aesthetics and features. The Pure View has a metal frame and ultraviolet battery cover on the rear in midnight black. The phone has a 5.7-inch HD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and Gorilla Glass 3 for protection. The Pure View is powered by a 1.3 GHz MediaTek octa-core processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The phone features a 13-megapixel main camera at f/2.2 on the rear with flash and dual selfie cameras on the front with flash. Both front cameras have 8-megapixel sensors, one with a standard-view lens and the other with a 120-degree wide-angle lens at f/2.2. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery with rapid charging, fingerprint scanner, face unlock, memory card slot, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, WiFi, and microUSB. The phone is sold unlocked with modest support for AT&T/Cricket Wireless and T-Mobile/MetroPCS. The Blu Pure View retails at $199, but Amazon.com is offering it for $129 for a limited time.
AT&T today said it will sell the new LG V35 ThinQ beginning this week. Preorders kick off Friday, June 1, with the phone scheduled to reach AT&T stores on June 8. The LG V35 ThinQ is an updated version of the V30 that relies on the same internal components as the LG G7 ThinQ. The V35 has a 6-inch screen, two 16-megapixel cameras with Google Lens, a 3,300mAh battery, and a Snapdragon 845 processor with 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. Critically, the V35 ThinQ will support Band 14 and AT&T's FirstNet first responders network. The phone will be made available to FirstNet customers in addition to AT&T's own subscribers. The phone costs $30 per month for 30 months, or about $900.
LG today announced the V35 ThinQ, an amalgamation of its existing lineup of smartphones. The V35 ThinQ takes the chassis from the V30 and merges it with the components and software of the G7 ThinQ. The V35 has a 6-inch quad HD+ OLED display with support for HDR 10 and Google’s Daydream platform. An aluminum frame separates the front and rear Gorilla Glass 4 panels. The phone is certified IP68 for protection against water ingress and mil-spec 810G for protection against abuse. On the inside, the phone adopts the Snapdragon 845 processor with 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phone features the same dual-camera array found on the G7: a standard-view lens (71 degrees) at f/1.6 and a wide-angle lens (107 degrees) at f/1.9. The front camera has an 8-megapixel sensor at f/1.9. Like the G7, the V35 features LG’s AI Cam and can recognize 18 different scenes, such as flowers, pets, and the beach. The AI Cam then adjusts to capture the best shot. It automatically uses pixel binning to capture more light in the Bright Mode for low-light scenes. The camera can snag bokeh-style portraits using either the front or rear camera. It also includes the new Google Lens tool built directly into the camera app. The V35 packs a 32-bit quad DAC for superior wired sound, as well as DTS-X for cinematic surround, a wind filter, and super far-field voice recognition for discerning spoken commands from greater distances. Other specs include a 3,300mAh battery, wireless charging, NFC, Bluetooth 5, dual-band wifi, GPS, USB-C, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The phone supports newer U.S. LTE bands, such as Band 29 for AT&T and Band 66 for T-Mobile. It ships with Android 8 Oreo and LG UX 7. The LG V35 goes on sale in early June for about $900.
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.
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 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.
AT&T today updated its DirecTV Now mobile video service, adding several new features along the way. To start, the Android and iOS apps have been redesigned a bit. AT&T says users' most-watched channels and programs will now be highlighted when they first open the app. The number of on-demand titles is improving. Depending on the subscription level, DirecTV Now customers can gain access to more than 25,000 on-demand programs. The streaming video service is adding optional support for a third stream. Under the current plan, DirecTV Now only permits two concurrent streams. For $5 more per month, subscribers can make use of a third stream, meaning three people can watch on separate devices at the same time. The new DirecTV Now debuts a cloud DVR (in beta) that provides up to 20 hours of free recording that can be saved for up to 30 days. The DVR supports features such as fast-forward and rewind. AT&T expects to offer more cloud DVR options later this year. Last, DirecTV Now will allow people to watch their local channels when on the road. This means people who prefer their home market's news programs on NBC, ABC, and FOX can do so no matter where they are. AT&T's DirecTV now starts at $35 per month.
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson emailed employees today to apologize for the company's connection with lawyer Michael Cohen and Essential Consultants. "Our company has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these last few days and our reputation has been damaged," wrote Stephenson in the email. "There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake." The company paid Cohen for what it says were consulting purposes during the transition to the Trump administration. AT&T had hoped to gain insight concerning legislative and regulatory changes. "To be clear, everything we did was done according to the law and entirely legitimate. But the fact is, our past association with Cohen was a serious misjudgment. In this instance, our Washington D.C. team's vetting process clearly failed, and I take responsibility for that." As a result, Stephenson said Bob Quinn, who ran AT&T's legislative affairs operations in D.C., will retire.
AT&T has admitted to making payments to Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer of President Donald Trump, for what it calls consulting purposes. The company says it hoped Cohen would provide it with information regarding "regulatory reform at the FCC, corporate tax reform, and antitrust enforcement." AT&T hasn't detailed how much it paid to Cohen's Essential Consultants, but the estimates range between $200,000 and $600,000. Despite making the payments, the Federal Trade Commission sued to block AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner. The trial concluded only recently and the judge is expected to announced his decision on June 12. At the same time, the FCC has moved to kill net neutrality regulations, a win for AT&T and its competitors. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says Cohen's company never contacted the FCC regarding net neutrality issues. AT&T insists the contract with Cohen specified that no lobbying work was to be undertaken by the lawyer. Democratic Senators have called for an investigation into the matter. Drugmaker Novartis also made payments to Cohen in what it later called "a mistake."
AT&T does not plan to sell LG's new flagship phone, the G7 ThinQ, according to The Verge. Instead, the company plans to offer an exclusive phone from LG later this summer. “We offer a strong lineup of devices from LG today. And we’re planning to launch a new LG device this summer only from AT&T," said the company in a statement. AT&T competitors Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and U.S. Cellular all plan to sell the G7 ThinQ, which will be available for preorder starting on or about May 25. T-Mobile said it will sell the G7 later this spring. AT&T did not provide a reason for skipping the G7 ThinQ.
Following T-Mobile’s lead, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular have all committed to selling the new LG G7 ThinQ phone. Verizon Wireless said it will begin accepting preorders on May 24. Verizon did not specify a ship date. Sprint said it will start taking preorders on May 25, with an expected June 1 ship date. U.S. Cellular said it will take orders for the G7 ThinQ beginning June 1. None of these carriers has indicated what the phone might cost. AT&T is the only major carrier yet to announce launch details for the G7.
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'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.
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.
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.
AT&T today said it has launched what it calls 5G Evolution in 117 new markets, bringing the total of pre-5G markets to 141. The company says its 5G Evolution technology can deliver theoretical speeds up to 400 Mbps to properly equipped phones. AT&T expects to launch 5G service in in a dozen markets, including Dallas and Waco, Texas, and Atlanta, Ga., by the end of the year. Further, AT&T has expanded its LTE-LAA footprint from three markets to parts of seven markets. LTE-LAA can push speeds to theoretical a max of 1 Gbps. The new LTE-LAA markets are Boston, Sacramento and McAllen, Texas. A handful of phones sold by AT&T are LTE-LAA capable, including the Samsung Galaxy S8, S9, S8+, S9+, Note8, and S8 Active, as well as the LG V30 and Moto Z2 Force Edition. AT&T's LTE-LAA is already available in The Loop in Chicago, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, downtown LA, and the business district of San Francisco. AT&T plans to deploy LTE-LAA in at least 24 markets by the end of the year.
AT&T today overhauled how it organizes its AT&T Prepaid service plans. Specifically, the company is now offering more data and higher discounts for multi-line accounts. First, the $50 plan now includes 8 GB of high-speed data. Second, the $85 unlimited plan improves the allotment of high-speed mobile hotspot data from 6 GB per month to 10 GB per month. Once these allotments are met or exceeded, data will be throttled down to 128Kbps for the remainder of the billing period. All video is streamed at standard definition, and AT&T may slow speeds when the network is congested. Third, AT&T is offering better per-line savings with family plans. Moving forward, the second and third lines added to a prepaid account will each enjoy a $10 discount, while the fourth and fifth lines added to a prepaid account will each enjoy a $20 discount. Customers have to enroll in Autopay in order to score these discounts and data deals. Last, AT&T Prepaid will allow customers to cater each line to family members' individual needs, meaning everyone will have their own line, their own plan, and their own data all under one bill. The AT&T Prepaid rate plan changes go into effect April 20.
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.
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.
AT&T Prepaid has some discounts for those who activate a new line of service. First, customers who bring their own device to AT&T Prepaid (or pay full price for a phone) and sign up for a plan that costs at least $65 per month will receive a $50 service credit. The credit will be applied about three weeks after customers make their first payment. Second, customers who do need a new phone can score $30 off any phone sold by AT&T Prepaid. Customers must activate a new line and enroll in AutoPay to earn these rewards. The promotions are available from now through June 7.
AT&T recently added the Sonim XP8 and XP5s to its roster of rugged phones. Both devices are intended to be used by FirstNet customers (first responders), though they are also available for consumers to purchase. Each meets mil-spec 810G for protection from abuses such as drops, impacts, temperature extremes, and vibration. They also offer IP68 protection from water and dust. Other shared features include dedicated push-to-tak buttons and compatibility with AT&T/FirstNet's e-PTT service. The phones support microSD memory cards for expanded storage.
- XP8: This Android smartphone has a 5-inch full HD display and a Snapdragon 630 processor with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. It includes a 12-megapixel main camera and an 8-megapixel user-facing camera. A 4,900mAh battery delivers up to 30 hours of talk time and a 100dB speakerphone ensures that calls can be heard in even the noisiest spaces. Other features include dual-band WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, and a bevy of internal sensors. It runs Android 7 Nougat. The Sonim XP8 sells for $699, or $23.34 per month for 30 months. Orders placed online now will ship in early May.
- XP5s: This bar-style feature phone has a 2.64-inch screen with 320 by 432 pixels. It is powered by a Snapdragon 427 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It has a 5-megapixel camera, 3,180mAh battery, Bluetooth 4.3, dual-band WiFi, as well as apps including email, media player, and a browser. The Sonim XP5s costs $339. Orders placed online will ship within a week.
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.
ZTE made the Tempo Go available for purchase from its online store. The Tempo Go is a version of the Tempo X that runs the Android Go Oreo platform. Android Go is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for ultra low-cost devices with RAM of 1 GB of less. The Tempo Go has a 5-inch display with 854 by 480 pixels and it is powered by a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Other features include a 5-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front camera, microUSB, 3.5mm headset jack, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and a 2,200mAh battery. The Tempo Go is sold unlocked with support for the LTE 4G networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. The phone costs $80.
AT&T this week released Android 8 Oreo for the LG V30. The phone shipped last fall with Android 7.1 Nougat. The latest software from LG and AT&T boosts the core platform to Oreo, with notification dots, autofill, and picture-in-picture, and the security patch level to March 1, 2018. Neither AT&T nor LG called out any additional features for the phone, though the update includes general bug fixes and performance tweaks. AT&T says V30 owners can download the update via WiFi. Sprint and Verizon variants of the V30 have already received Oreo.
FCC Chair Would Bar Use of Universal Service Fund to Buy Equipment from Companies that Pose Security Risks
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 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 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.
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.