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 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.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy J7 and Galaxy J3, simple phones that offer basic functionality at affordable price points. Shared features include Android 8 Oreo, 2 GB of memory, 16 GB of storage, Bluetooth 4.2, and WiFi. The international configuration of these phones ship with Samsung Exynos processors on board, but U.S. versions will likely swap for Qualcomm processors.
- Galaxy J7: The larger of the two phones (top) features a 5.5-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel main camera at f/1.7 for better low-light photography, and a 13-megapixel front camera at f/1.9. Samsung says the phone has a large 3,300mAh battery for all-day use.
- Galaxy J3: The smaller of the two phones (bottom) has a 5-inch HD display, 8-megapixel main camera at f/1.9, and a 5-megapixel selfie cam at f/2.2. This phone also includes Samsung's Easy Mode UI skin for bigger fonts and icons. The J7 has a 2,600mAh battery.
iOS 12 will make iMessage more fun, says Apple, thanks to the addition of Memoji. Similar to the way Samsung's AR Emoji work, the iOS 12 Memoji will let people customize an animated emoji sticker that resembles their face. It offers lots of tools for customizing hair color and style, eye color, accessories such as glasses, and much more. The tool works natively with iMessage and the new FaceTime app so people can dress up their conversations in real-time. The Memoji are animated just like Animoji. This lets people record short clips of their Memoji for sharing with others. The new Memoji will arrive with iOS 12 later this year.
The Chinese government has launched an investigation into several U.S. and Korean chipmakers, according to the Wall Street Journal. It has visited the offices of U.S.-based Micron Technology, as well as Korea's Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix. The matter under investigation has not yet been disclosed by the Chinese authorities. All three firms make DRAM modules, which are used in electronic devices such as phones. DRAM prices have risen in recent years, which has had the effect of making certain China-made devices more expensive. Micron, Samsung, and SK Hynix confirmed that their offices were visited by authorities, but did not otherwise comment on the matter.
New emoji are coming to a phone near you, eventually. Unicode 11.0, which was finalized in February, will be released on June 5, according to Emojipedia. Some of the new options will let men and women emoji select from various hair styles (including red-haired and bald), while new hero and villain styles support new gender and skin tone options. There are new colors available for leg, foot, bone, and tooth emoji; new animals such as badgers, swans, peacocks, and llamas; new food such as mangos, leafy greens, and moon cakes; and many new places, activities, games, objects, and symbols. Support for Unicode 11.0 will be gradual. For example, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft are expected to adopt Unicode 11.0 between June and August, while Google and Apple likely won't add Unicode 11.0 to Android and iOS, respectively, until September or October. Phone makers such as Samsung may not adopt Unicode 11.0 until January or February of next year.
ARM today announced a new series of processors cores for mobile devices that it says will increase performance without impacting battery life. The new Cortex A76 processor core is built using a 7nm process that ARM says delivers a 35% boost in speed and a 40% improvement in efficiency when compared to its previous 10nm core. The A76 generates a 4x increase in compute performance for artificial intelligence and machine learning. ARM also announced the Mali G76 GPU to improve gaming across a variety of device form factors. The G76 boosts speed and efficiency by 30%. Last, ARM announced the Mali V76 video processor. This chip is dedicated to pushing 8K video at 60fps, or four concurrent 4K video streams at 60fps. ARM designs processor cores. It is up to companies such as Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung, and Huawei to include them in their system-on-a-chip modules for mobile devices. The A76/G76 pair could, for example, serve as the heart of a Snapdragon or Exynos processor. None of these companies has publicly announced yet that they'll use the ARM Cortex A76.
People who own the Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9+ now have access to twice as many AR Emoji stickers. Samsung today pushed an update to the My Emoji Maker tool in its camera app, allowing people to make use of 36 custom AR Emoji. The AR Emoji are created based on the face of the owner. Once users record their face, the phone generates 36 animated stickers that can be shared via messaging apps. Samsung said it will add another 18 AR Emoji later this year, making for an eventual total of 54. The AR Emoji are available from the Samsung keyboard application and the gallery. The updates to My Emoji Maker is free to download from the Galaxy Apps Store.
T-Mobile today rolled out a big BOGO deal that sees the company offering free phones across a handful of brands. T-Mobile says the BOGO deal applies to the latest flagships from top-tier device makers including Apple, Samsung, and LG. Each brand has its own eligibility requirements, but there are some rules that apply to all the BOGO offers. First, customers can't mix and match brands, but they can mix and match models from the same brand. The second phone must be of equal or lesser value than the first. Both devices need to be financed on a T-Mobile equipment installment plan. Some of the offers include money back via prepaid card rebate while others are credited monthly on customer bills. T-Mobile customers get free access to Netflix, unlimited LTE on a T-Mobile One plan, T-Mobile Tuesday promos, GoGo in-flight WiFi on some domestic flights, and free data roaming in more than 140 countries. T-Mobile's summer BOGO deals will be available starting June 1.
A California jury today decided that Samsung must pay Apple $539 million for copying its smartphone designs. The decision comes after a retrial concerning the amount of damages owed for the 2012 case that found Samsung guilty of infringing on Apple's design patents. A jury in that case initially awarded Apple $1.05 billion, though that amount was later reduced in subsequent appeals and hearings. The courts eventually decided to retry the damages portion of the case, as the original jury was improperly instructed on how to calculate damages. Samsung later paid Apple $399 million in December 2015. If today's award survives appeal, Samsung will owe Apple another $140 million to cover the entire $539 million figure. Apple said it was pleased with the outcome. "We believe deeply in the value of design," said the iPhone maker in a statement. "This case has always been about more than money." Samsung did not immediately say if it will appeal this latest decision, but it did say, "Today's decision flies in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in favor of Samsung on the scope of design patent damages. We will consider all options to obtain an outcome that does not hinder creativity and fair competition for all companies and consumers." Apple and Samsung eventually settled all outstanding lawsuits and patent fights other than this case.
Samsung has made new AR emoji stickers available to its Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones. Owners of these devices can download an AR pack that contains characters from Disney's "The Incredibles" movies. The pack includes Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, Violet, Dash, Jack-Jack, and Frozone. The S9/S9+ launched with access to several core Disney characters. The join the initial batch and Samsung says more are on the way. AR emoji allow people to animate cartoon characters using their own face in coordination with the front-facing camera. The new AR Emoji are free to download from Samsung.
Netflix has granted three newer phones the ability to stream HDR video. The latest devices include the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, the Huawei P20 Pro, and the Sony Xperia XZ2. HDR content has more contrast than standard content, creating deeper blacks and brighter brights for a richer viewing experience. Other devices already able to access HDR playback on Netflix include the LG G6 and V30, Sony Xperia XZ1 and XZ Premium, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Note 8, and the Razor Phone.
Samsung today introduced two new colors for its flagship Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones, gold and burgundy. The new colors join the red, black, blue, gray and purple hues that are already available. According to Samsung, the gold and burgundy colors are being reserved for select markets. Burgundy will reach Korea and China this month, with gold following in Australia, Chile, Germany, Hong Kong, Korea, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam, in June.
Samsung is speaking with a number of device makers, including ZTE, about supplying its Exynos mobile application processors. Samsung wants to expand its processor business in a bid to be more competitive with Qualcomm, MediaTek, and others. Samsung uses the Exynos line in its own Galaxy smartphones. The company supplies Exynos chips to only one outside business: China's Meizu. "We are talking to all OEMs," including ZTE, said Inyup Kang, head of Samsung’s logic chip business. For the moment, U.S. companies such as Qualcomm are forbidden from supplying ZTE with components due a Commerce Department ban. ZTE has halted business operations as it wrangles with the U.S. government in an attempt to reverse the ban. The ban highlights the risk of relying on a single company for parts. ZTE could avert some problems by diversifying its suppliers. Samsung's Kang said the company expects to announce new clients for its Exynos chipsets in the first half of 2019.
Google today provided more visibility into its work on Project Treble, which is meant to accelerate the rate at which phones are updated to new versions of Android. Google has been working with Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung to improve how phones handle major updates. Google explained that is has been collaborating closely with these silicon makers because that's "where the journey of making an Android device always begins." Phones can't be updated if the core silicon doesn't support the new build, which means processor makers need to update the software for their chips as a first step in the process. "This software, commonly referred to as the Board Support Package, contains not only the chip-specific vendor implementation, but also all of the Android Open Source Project and pieces of the framework that are missing, (e.g., carrier-specific telephony functionality)," explained Google. Project Treble makes it possible for newer AOSP frameworks to run on older chips because it reduces the need for older components to support each Android release. "Silicon manufacturers have to do all this work just once, rather than every time there is a new release of Android," said Google. Another issue is the timing between the release of Android, the phones, and the chips inside the phones. Google says it is common for phones to ship with older versions of Android because the possibility of bugs can interfere with retail availability. "For OEMs who target the holiday season, it is often safer to launch on an older Board Support Package with a year-old or even older Android version" that is known to be stable and compatible with the silicon. Google says this is "at the heart of the slow uptake of the latest Android release, even on flagship devices." To solve this moving forward, Google and its silicon partners have created Board Support Packages that are ready for Android P in advance of the platform's release. Google says Qualcomm, MediaTek, and Samsung will be able to introduce Android P for their silicon much faster than before, which will in turn lead to quicker system updates for end users. This is why Google is able to bring the Android P developer platform to phones other than its own Pixel devices.
Samsung today announced the Galaxy A6 and A6+, mid-range phones that for the first time adopt its Infinity Display. The smaller A6 has a 5.6-inch screen with 1,480 by 720 pixels and the larger A6+ has a 6-inch screen with 2,220 by 1,080 pixels, giving them each an 18.5:9 aspect ratio. Shared features between the two phones include Dolby Atmos audio, face recognition and fingerprint scanning, Samsung Pay, Bixby, and Android 8 Oreo. The phones pack NFC, Cat 6 LTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, microUSB, and memory card support.
- Galaxy A6: The A6 has an octa-core processor clocked at 1.6 GHz and it comes with two cameras. The rear camera has a 16-megapixel sensor at f/1.7 and the front camera has a 16-megapixel sensor at f/1.9. The A6 has a 3,000mAh battery.
- Galaxy A6+: This phone steps up the octa-core processor clock speed to 1.8 GHz and it packs three cameras. The main rear camera has a 16-megapixel sensor at f/1.7 and it is joined by a 5-megapixel secondary sensor at f/1.9. Samsung says this allows the A6+ to take real-time bokeh shots with adjustable blur. The front camera jumps to a 24-megapixel sensor at f/1.9. The A6+ has a 3,500mAh battery.
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.
Samsung today said U.S. consumers will soon be able to buy the Galaxy S9 and S9+ with more internal storage. Beginning May 1, the 128 GB and 256 GB versions of both phones will be available for preorder on Samsung.com alongside the existing 64 GB model. The devices will ship starting May 18. The 128 GB Galaxy S9 costs $770 and the 256 GB S9 costs $820, while the 128 GB Galaxy S9+ costs $890 and the 256 GB S9+ costs $940. These new storage variants continue to support microSD cards up to 400 GB, and will be available in purple, blue, and black. Samsung says consumers who buy any S9 or S9+ from Samsung.com between May 1 and May 17 will receive either a free set of Gear IconX headphones or the option to buy the Gear S3 Frontier smartwatch for $99.
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.
T-Mobile today made a significant commitment to support members of the U.S. military and their families. First, the company is offering major discounts for military members. The first line in a family plan will see a discount of 20%, with each subsequent line available for half the normal price. For example, the T-Mobile One Military plan will cost $55 for the first line, $25 for the second line, and then $10 for lines three through six. The plan includes all the normal T-Mobile benefits, such as Netflix, T-Mobile Tuesdays, Simple Global, Mobile Without Borders, Scam ID, and Carrier Freedom. Beyond the reduced service rates, T-Mobile is offering military members 50% off the Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9+ (via monthly bill credits). T-Mobile has committing to hiring 10,000 military veterans and spouses over the next few years. Finally, T-Mobile says it will spend $500 million to boost LTE coverage in and around military communities, while also laying the groundwork in those communities for 5G. The T-Mobile One Military plan and associated benefits will be available starting April 22.
Security Research Labs says Android phone makers often miss security patches but still tell owners the phones are up-to-date. Researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell examined the code of some 1,200 phones from more than a dozen phone makers for every security patch released during 2017. They discovered phones from nearly all makers missed at least some patches. Phones from Google, Sony, and Samsung ranked fairly well, missing an average of just one patch. Phones from Xiaomi, Nokia, and OnePlus missed between one and three patches per update, while devices from HTC, Motorola, LG, and Huawei missed three to four, and phones from TCL (Alcatel) and ZTE often missed more than four patches per update. High-end devices with processors from Samsung or Qualcomm were more likely to updated properly, while low-cost devices with processors from MediaTek were less likely to be updated properly. Nohl and Lell say what's worse than the missed patches are the phone makers' claims to the contrary. "We find that there's a gap between patching claims and the actual patches installed on a device. It's small for some devices and pretty significant for others," said Nohl to Wired. "We found several vendors that didn’t install a single patch but changed the patch date forward by several months. That’s deliberate deception." The researchers claim this lulls consumers into a false sense of security, though they admit that hacking into Android phones through any of the missed patches is a difficult task at best. In response to the data, Google argued that not all the devices researched were Android certified, and that modern Android phones have other security measures in place to protect them. "Security updates are one of many layers used to protect Android devices and users," said Scott Roberts, Android product security lead at Google. "Built-in platform protections, such as application sandboxing, and security services, such as Google Play Protect, are just as important." Still, Google said it would work with Security Research Labs to investigate Nohl and Lell's findings.
MetroPCS today rolled out a new offer that will give consumers two months of service for free when they meet certain conditions. In order to qualify, new customers will need to port in at least one phone number and select the $50 Unlimited LTE plan, the $60 Unlimited LTE with 10 GB of hotspot data plan, or the $100 4 lines of Unlimited LTE plan. After customers make two on-time monthly payments, they'll be given a $100 prepaid MasterCard, which is enough to cover two months of the $50 Unlimited LTE plan. Further, MetroPCS says new customers can score free phones from LG, Motorola, and Samsung. MetroPCS is owned and operated by T-Mobile. Customers will have to pay a $10 activation fee per new line, as well as sales taxes on new phones. Customers who exceed 35 GB of data per month may see data slowed when the network is congested. Video streams are limited to 480p resolution.
Samsung is offering owners of its Icon X wireless earbuds a software update that improves the music listening experience. First, a new equalizer feature lets people chose from five audio presets (bass boost, soft, dynamic, clear, treble boost) to find a sound profile more suited to their preferences. Second, an Ambient Sound function makes it possible to control the level of background noise available when safety or circumstances require. Samsung also improved the Icon X's ability to store tracks for listening on the go. The revised Wireless Transfer feature streamlines how owners manage the catalog of songs synced to the headphone, permitting the addition of multiple tracks at once. The software update can be applied via the Samsung Gear app from Galaxy phones.
Samsung today revealed that the DeX Pad docking station for its new Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones will be available starting next month. The company is accepting preorders online for the accessory, with a stated ship date of May 13. This revised accessory turns the S9/S9+ into a mobile PC. It connects the phone to monitors, keyboards, and mouses (wired or wireless) and allows it to act like a full computer, complete with multitasking. New on this year's product is the ability to use the S9/S9+ screen as a trackpad when in computer mode. The phone connects to the dock via USB-C and will charge when in use. The DeX Pad costs $99.99.
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.
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.
Samsung took to its forums to assure owners of unlocked handsets that Android 8 Oreo is on the way. The company has been updating carrier-branded versions of the Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note8 to Android 8 Oreo over the last few weeks. Samsung says the delay in getting Oreo to its unlocked devices is that the update needs more rigorous testing to ensure it works with the majority of carriers worldwide. "We’re working with our carriers to get Oreo out to all eligible Galaxy S8/+ and Note8 devices within the next 2-3 weeks," said Samsung. The company said final testing is still pending, so it can't guarantee the exact date for the update. The update includes the core Android 8 code in addition to the latest version of Samsung's user interface.
Samsung has acknowledged that some Galaxy S9 and S9+ handsets have unresponsive screens. Early adopters of the handset have taken to Samsung's forums to voice complaints about the issue, which renders areas of the display unresponsive to touch input. "At Samsung, customer satisfaction is core to our business and we aim to deliver the best possible experience. We are looking into a limited number of reports of Galaxy S9/S9+ touchscreen responsiveness issues. We are working with affected customers and investigating," said Samsung in a statement provided to CNET. The Galaxy S9 and S9+ reached store shelves March 16.
Samsung today announced the Exynos 7 Series 9610 mobile application processor, a chip built using Samsung's 10nm FinFET process that targets high-end smartphones. The octa-core processor has four Cortex A-73 cores at 2.3 GHz and four Cortex A-53 cores at 1.6 GHz. These are paired with ARM's newer Bifrost-based Mali-G72 GPU for gaming. A Cortex-M4F low-power sensing hub handles the constant street of information generated by sensors, gestures, and other inputs without waking the main processor. One of the key advancements of this chip is the addition of a neural network engine for face detection that can recognize faces covered with hats or hair or glasses. The 9610 also has more advanced depth-sensing for bokeh photos, better low-light augmentation, and processes to reduce signal-to-noise ratio in photos and videos. When it comes to other media, the 9610 can handle slow-motion capture and playback at up to 480 frames per second (half that of the Galaxy S9). More interestingly, the revised image signal processor uses a multi-format codec that allows encoding and decoding slow motion at resolutions up to 4K at 120fps. On the connectivity side of things, the 9610 supports Cat 12 LTE with three-channel carrier aggregation for up to 600 Mbps on the downlink and Cat 13 LTE with two-channel carrier aggregation for up to 150 Mbps on the uplink. It also includes 2x2 MIMO WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, and an FM radio. Samsung says the Exynos 7 Series 9610 is expected to be mass produced in the second half of this year.
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.
Samsung today said those who buy the Galaxy S9 or S9+ smartphones will have access to classic Disney characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse via the phones' cameras. The pair of mice are brought to life in the S9/S9+ device thanks to Samsung's AR Emoji, which uses the front-facing camera to help people animate characters and more. Owners of the S9/S9+ will be able to send animated GIFs of Mickey and Minnie through messaging apps or pin them to their lock screen. "With more than 6 billion emojis sent daily, our goal with developing AR Emoji was to provide a fun, exciting way to communicate and a new way to bring animated images to life,” said Samsung's Younghee Lee. Characters from other Disney films including The Incredibles, Zootopia, and Frozen will roll out throughout the year.
Owners of Samsung's newer high-end phones will soon be able to score same-day repairs for most problems. Samsung has teamed up with uBreakiFix, which has some 370 locations around the country, in order to provide more timely repairs. uBreakiFix offers authorized repairs with genuine Samsung parts. The company says its technicians are all certified by Samsung and repaired devices are restored to factory conditions. uBreakiFix will fix the Note 5 and Note 8, as well as the Galaxy S6, S7, S8, and S9. The partnership officially kicks off March 15. The move helps Samsung become more competitive with Apple, which offers quick iPhone repairs at its Apple Stores.
Microsoft has added the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ to its online store. The devices are pre-configured with Microsoft apps and services. "A Microsoft customization is applied to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ Microsoft Edition when the devices are unboxed and connected to WiFi," explained Microsoft. When users first boot the device, they will be prompted to download Microsoft apps such as Office, Outlook, OneDrive, Cortana, and Microsoft's launcher for Android. Other than the software, the specs and features of the S9 and S9+ are unchanged from other versions of the phone. When purchased from Microsoft, the S9 and S9+ are unlocked. The S9 costs $720 and the S9+ costs $840.
Cricket Wireless today kicked off a new promotion that drops the price of some smartphones to $19. Customers who switch to Cricket between March 9 and March 16 can buy the Samsung Galaxy Halo 16GB or 32GB, Samsung Amp Prime 2, LG X Charge, LG Stylo 3, or the HTC Desire 555 for $19. Cricket says the promotion is to celebrate its 19th birthday. A number of other promotions are still available and can be combined with the $19 phone offer. For example, customers who switch to Cricket and sign up for the Unlimited 2 plan (normally $55/month) can get a $10 bill credit each month for up to a year, in addition to a $5 monthly Auto Pay credit. These discounts drop the monthly cost to $40. The Unlimited 2 plan offers unlimited calls, messages, and data in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. The company is also offering four lines on the Unlimited 2 Plan for $100. Details are available on Cricket's web site.
Preorders for the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ start today and AT&T hopes its promotion will score with customers. Similar to Sprint's offer, AT&T will give customers up to $500 in account credits through combined promotions. First, customers who port in a number from a competing carrier will be rewarded with a $150 bill credit. Further, those who trade in a smartphone will receive a minimum of $200, and possibly as much as $350, in bill credits. Phones worth $350 on trade are the Apple iPhone 8, 8 Plus or iPhone X; LG V30; Google Pixel 2/XL Phones. Phones worth $300 on trade include any of the Samsung Galaxy S7 variants. With these offers combined, AT&T says the S9 price drops to as low $290, while the S9+ drops to $415. By way of comparison, Sprint is offering $350 off its S9/S9+ lease program and $150 via Visa gift card. The S9 is also sold by T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.
Sprint said those who preorder the Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9+ can save up to $500 on the new handsets. First, Sprint is offering $350 off the Sprint Flex price for those who preorder and trade-in an eligible handset. This knocks the monthly price of the S9 to $13.55 and S9+ to $18.55. Further, Sprint will reward those who port in a number with a $150 Visa gift card. The $150 gift card does not require a trade on its own. Sprint says the deals will be offered for a limited time. Samsung is also offering a $350 promo for consumers who preorder the Galaxy S9 or S9+ with a trade. Preorders for the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ kick off on Friday, March 2.
The current state of mobile device security patches is lacking, according to a new report issued today by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC studied how Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung support their devices over time. "Our report found significant differences in how the industry deploys security updates and that more needs to be done to make it easier for consumers to ensure their devices are secure," said Acting Director Tom Pahl. The agency notes that many devices are updated infrequently, if at all, and that manufacturers often fail to deliver on promises. It wants phone makers and carriers to improve the situation. The agency suggested each does a better job of explaining mobile device security to consumers (i.e., make it clear to them that the updates are important and worth installing). The FTC also recommended that phone makers consider issuing security patches as stand-alone updates, rather than bundled with general OS upgrades. The FTC noted that companies that make their own operating system, in this case, Apple and Google, are often better at providing timely updates for a longer period of time. The FTC is calling for members of the mobile industry to find a way to bring clarity to consumers and more rapid security updates.
Samsung's Galaxy S9+ has a powerful camera that allows you to really flex your creative muscle. We spent an afternoon strolling La Rambla in Barcelona experimenting with some of the camera modes. Here are some sample images, with a focus on comparing the differences between the f/1.5 and f/2.4 apertures.
Samsung this week provided a bit more information regarding its forthcoming smart speaker. The company says it is targeting the second half of the year to launch the product, and it will be powered by Samsung's Bixby artificial assistant. Samsung warned it won't necessarily be cheap. "When I introduce the first model, I don't want to give the impression that Samsung delivered another affordable mass model. I want to focus on more premium," said Samsung's mobile chief D.J. Koh, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. The speaker will arrive in time for the holidays, but Samsung hasn't said much else. Apple recently released its HomePod speaker, powered by Siri, and Google has released a slew of Google Home speakers powered by Google Assistant.
Samsung today said it partnered with UCSF to create an app that will allow S9 and S9+ owners to gauge their health. The My BP Lab app, which will be free to download from the Google Play Store, uses the optical heart rate monitor of the S9 and S9+ to monitor blood pressure and stress levels. Over time, it can create personalized insights for people so they may try to improve their daily health. People who download the app will be invited to join a UCSF study to track stress and emotions and how each impacts users' well being. Those who opt to participate will need to report about their behavior over a three-week period, such as when they exercise, sleep, and eat. They'll have to take multiple measurements throughout the day in order to create enough data for the study. Samsung says the My BP Lab app will become available starting March 15.