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AT&T Preps More Than 100 Markets for 5G, Expands LTE-LAA

Friday, 3:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Offers Big Savings to Military Members and Families

Wednesday, 9:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Researchers Suggest Phone Makers Mislead Consumers About Security Patches

Apr 12, 2018, 1:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Offering Two Free Months of Service to Switchers

Apr 12, 2018, 8:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Updates Icon X Headphones with New Music Features

Apr 11, 2018, 8:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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's DeX Pad for Galaxy S9 Arrives May 13 for $99

Apr 9, 2018, 10:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Running Promo for Half Off Pixel 2 or Galaxy S9

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

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


Most US Galaxy Note8 Owners Receiving Android 8 Oreo

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

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


Samsung Says Unlocked S8, S8+, Note8 to Get Android 8 Soon

Mar 26, 2018, 9:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 'Looking Into' Unresponsive Galaxy S9/S9+ Screens

Mar 23, 2018, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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's Exynos 9610 Packs Imaging Smarts and 4K Slow-Mo

Mar 22, 2018, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Oreo Hitting Most US Versions of Samsung Galaxy S8

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

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


Samsung Brings Mickey and Minnie Mouse to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ as AR Emoji on Launch Day

Mar 16, 2018, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Samsung Partners with uBreakiFix for Same-Day Galaxy Repairs

Mar 14, 2018, 10:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Selling Customized Variants of Samsung Galaxy S9

Mar 9, 2018, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Promo Includes $19 Phones from HTC, LG, Samsung

Mar 9, 2018, 8:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


AT&T Matches Sprint's Samsung Galaxy S9 Offer

Mar 2, 2018, 2:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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 Rolls Out Enticing Samsung Galaxy S9 Offer

Mar 1, 2018, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


FTC Wants Mobile Industry to Be Better At Security Updates

Feb 28, 2018, 11:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


Photographing Barcelona with the Samsung Galaxy S9+

Feb 28, 2018, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.

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Samsung Says Bixby-Powered Smart Speaker to Arrive During the Second Half of the Year

Feb 27, 2018, 10:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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's Galaxy S9 and S9+ Can Track Blood Pressure and Stress

Feb 25, 2018, 4:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

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.


U.S. Carriers Share Galaxy S9 and S9+ Launch Plans and Pricing

Feb 25, 2018, 3:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

All four major carriers in the U.S. plan to sell the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ beginning in March. Preorders for the phones kick off March 2 and the handset is expected to be available in stores on March 16. Samsung itself is selling the unlocked version via its web site. The S9 costs $720 and the S9+ costs $840. Customers can apply for financing from Samsung to break down the cost of the phone over 24 months. Samsung is offering app to $350 off the price with a qualifying trade-in. Pricing from U.S. carriers varies significantly.

  • AT&T: AT&T is asking subscribers to its AT&T Next plans to pay $26.34 per month for 30 months for the S9 (total: $790), or $30.50 per month for 30 months for the S9+ (total: $915). AT&T says business customers can get a $150 activation credit with they by the S9 or S9+ on an installment plan. The devices support Band 14, and thus the AT&T-run FirstNet public safety network. AT&T's prepaid brand, Cricket Wireless, plans to sell the Galaxy S9 and S9+ at full cost.
  • Sprint: Sprint is selling the S9 for $33.00 per month with $0 down on a Sprint Flex lease (total: $792). The Galaxy S9+ will be $38.00 per month with $0 down on a Sprint Flex lease (total: $912).
  • T-Mobile: T-Mobile is asking customers to pay $30 per month for 24 months for the S9 with $0 down (total: $720), and $30 per month for 24 months for the S9+ with $120 down (total: $840) For a limited time, postpaid customers can get up to $360 off either phone with a qualifying trade-in when the S9 or S9+ is purchased on an equipment installment plan. T-Mobile's prepaid brand, MetroPCS, will sell the Galaxy S9 starting March 16 for full price.
  • Verizon Wireless: Last, Verizon Wireless is charging $33.33 per month for 24 months for the S9 (total: $799) and $38.74 per month for 24 months for the S9+ (total: $930). Customers who switch to Verizon, port in their line, and trade in an old phone may get up to $500 in bill credits towards the purchase of a Galaxy S9 or S9+.


Hands On with the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+

Feb 25, 2018, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman and Rich Brome

Samsung's new flagship handsets, the Galaxy S9 and S9+, are here and they offer lots to be excited about. Samsung took the wining design of last year's phones and upped the ante with improvements to the chassis, cameras, and software. The S9 and S9+ are Samsung's most powerful, and perhaps most fun, smartphones ever. Here are Phone Scoop's first impression.

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Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ Offer Refined Hardware, Improved Camera, AR Emoji

Feb 25, 2018, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced the Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones, updates to last year's S8 models. The devices bear a striking resemblance to their predecessors and make only modest changes to the hardware. The S9/S9+ feature 2:1 screens with slightly reduced bezels and glass panels front and back. Most significantly, Samsung rotated the camera/fingerprint module so the reader is in a central location on the rear. The phones also adopt stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos and produce louder sound than the S8/S8+. The S9/S9+ carry over features such as the waterproof chassis, USB-C port, headphone jack, and dedicated Bixby button. Samsung made significant improvements to the camera. The 12-megapixel cameras now include switchable aperture, from f/1.5 to f/2.4, to help with low-light situations. The camera sensor includes embedded DRAM memory — similar to Sony's premium phones — that allows the S9/S9+ to capture 960fps slow-motion. The slow-mo mode includes a motion detection function so it knows when to slow down the video for maximum effect. Each phone also includes an 8-megapixel selfie camera, along with face and iris scanning for security. Samsung added AR Emoji, a tool that echos the Animoji feature on the iPhone X to a certain degree. Users record their face which is then turned into a cartoon avatar and applied to 18 different personalized GIFs. The AR Emoji also let users animate faces such as a devil, and even apply (and purchase) various types of makeup. Further, S9/S9+ owners can easily save and share the AR Emoji with most other devices. Samsung says the S9/S9+ include a more refined version of Bixby that is now able to recognize more actions. More importantly, Bixby Vision now works in real-time, allowing for instant language translation and searches when viewing items through the camera. The devices ship with Android 8 Oreo, the Samsung SmartThings app, and the latest version of Samsung's DeX software. Samsung's SmartThings will allow the S9/S9+ to interact with other connected Samsung devices, such as refrigerators. The DeX software now works with a new dock that lets the phone act as a virtual mouse and/or keyboard. The S9 includes a 5.8-inch quad HD+ screen and 3,000mAh battery, while the S9+ includes a 6.2-inch quad HD+ screen and 3,500mAh battery. The only other difference in the hardware is found on the rear of the S9+, which features a second camera for 2x telephoto images. Both phones rely on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor with 4 or 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage. The phones support microSD cards up to 400 GB. Preorders for the Galaxy S9 and S9+ kick off March 2 and the phones will reach stores March 16. Samsung is offering up to $350 for trade-ins when put toward the purchase of an S9/S9+. The phone will be sold in black, purple, and blue in the U.S. AT&T, Cricket Wireless, MetroPCS, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and Xfinity Mobile all plan to carry the phone. It will also be available form Best Buy, Amazon, Costco, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart. Pricing is about $799 for the S9 and $899 for the S9+.


Google's ARCore 1.0 Released to Public, Google Lens Hits More Handsets

Feb 23, 2018, 11:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made ARCore 1.0 available to developers and the public, bringing augmented reality to some 100 million smartphones around the world. Handsets compatible with ARCore include Google’s Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL; Samsung’s Galaxy S8, S8+, Note8, S7, and S7 edge; LGE’s V30 and V30+; Asus’s Zenfone AR; and OnePlus’s OnePlus 5. More devices from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Asus, Xiaomi, HMD/Nokia, ZTE, Sony Mobile, and Vivo will be compatible with ARCore later this year. The 1.0 release gives developers an updated set of tools to create virtual content. For example, it features improved environmental understanding that lets people put virtual objects on surfaces like posters, furniture, toy boxes, books, cans, and more. The refreshed Android Studio Beta supports ARCore in the Emulator, so developers can get to work right away. Some of the first brands to offer ARCore content include Porsche, FC Barcelona, and Sotheby's. Google says it is expanding the availability of the Google Lens Preview, which lets you take a picture and gather information about what's in the image. Google says Lens will hit all Google Photos English-language users over the coming weeks. Further, Google is going to add Google Lens to its Google Assistant on select Android flagship devices. Lens lets people create contacts from business cards, recognize plants and animals, and add events to their calendar by taking photos.


Samsung Max Offers Data Savings and Security for Android

Feb 23, 2018, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced Samsung Max, a free app for Android devices that will provide new data conservation and security tools. The app, a reborn version of the former Opera Max app, includes Data Saving Mode to help people stretch their mobile data buckets a bit further each month. The app can monitor which apps are using data and alert users to apps that consume too much. It also helps by actively compressing images, videos, music files, and web pages within apps and the browser to keep data consumption down. People can fine-tune how Data Saving Mode polices other apps in the advanced settings tools. On the security front, Samsung Max includes Privacy Protection Mode, a VPN for securing phones when on WiFi. It encrypts WiFi traffic with a single tap, blocks trackers and cookies, and includes a Domain Name System masking service to hide the user's location. Samsung says Samsung Max will reach the Google Play Store on February 23. The company will also preinstall it on some devices later this year.


Samsung Will Manufacture Qualcomm's 5G Chips

Feb 22, 2018, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said it has expanded its long-standing agreement with Samsung to use the company's foundries to manufacture Snapdragon 5G mobile chipsets. Samsung's new 7-nanometer, low power plus (LPP), extreme ultra violet (EUV) lithography techniques produce significantly smaller chips that give phone makers more space in their designs. The 7LPP process also provides significant improvements to battery life. Compared to Samsung's older 10nm FinFET process, the 7LPP EUV process boosts chip efficiency by 40%, with a 10% increase in performance or a 35% drop in power consumption. Neither company provided a timeline for expected manufacturing of the chips, nor did they suggest when such chips might reach phones or other mobile devices.


Samsung Halts Galaxy S8 Oreo Update Due to Reboot Bug

Feb 15, 2018, 9:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has pulled the Android 8 Oreo update for the Galaxy S8 after users reported random reboots. "Following a limited number of cases where Galaxy S8 and S8+ devices have rebooted unexpectedly with the Android 8.0 Oreo, we have temporarily stopped the rollout of the update," said Samsung in a statement provided to SamMobile. "We are investigating the issue internally to ensure that the impact to the affected devices is minimized and the rollout of the update can resume as quickly as possible." Samsung has been rolling out Android 8 slowly over the last few weeks, mostly in European markets. The update had not yet reached the S8 and S8+ in the U.S. Samsung did not say when it expects the make the update available again.


Samsung Teases Reimagined Camera Experience on Galaxy S9

Feb 15, 2018, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today suggested that the camera on its forthcoming Galaxy S9 smartphone will be quite different from that of the S8 and previous devices. "Imagine a camera that can see more than your eyes — one that can help you capture every moment and change the way you experience the world," said the company on its web site. "We didn’t just update the camera. We rethought the entire camera experience." The company recently posted several videos to its YouTube channel that highlight different functions of the camera. The first covers high-speed / sports use cases, while the second showcases low-light prowess, and the third suggests the S9 will feature iPhone X-style animoji. Samsung is expected to announce the Galaxy S9 and S9+ on February 25 during the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.


T-Mobile Rolls Out More Rebates and Savings

Feb 13, 2018, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today announced new ways for its postpaid and prepaid customers to save some green. First, T-Mobile has a buy-one, get-one offer on deck for LG handsets. Postpaid customers who buy the G6, V30, or V30+ on a T-Mobile equipment installment plan can snag a second LG phone (of equal or lesser value) for free via monthly bill credits. This BOGO offer is available to new and current customers. Second, prepaid customers who switch from another carrier and port their number to MetroPCS will receive a $150 instant rebate that can be used toward the price of any phone. T-Mobile says the devices such as the Samsung J7 Prime, LG Stylo 3 Plus, ZTE Blade ZMAX, or LG K20 would all be free thanks to the rebate. New customers will have to sign up for MetroPCS' Unlimited LTE plan. Third, existing MetroPCS customers can score a $50 instant rebate when they add a line to an existing Unlimited LTE plan ($60/mo). The $50 rebate can be applied to a phone priced $79 and higher. Last, MetroPCS is still running its four lines for $100 deal. New or existing customers who port in at least one line can get up to four lines of unlimited talk, text, and LTE data for $100. These deals will be available for a limited time.


Qualcomm Says Two Big Buyers Likely to Bail Over Broadcom Tie-Up

Feb 10, 2018, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm warned investors that two of its most important customers have threatened to take their business elsewhere should Qualcomm be acquired by Broadcom. Qualcomm didn't name the customers, but said together they contribute a combined $1 billion in chip revenue. Qualcomm's most important customers are Apple and Samsung, followed by Huawei, LG, Sony, Oppo, and Xiaomi. The customers in question cited a lack of confidence in Broadcom's ability to lead a combined Qualcomm-Broadcom entity as the impetus for their decisions. Broadcom made a second offer for Qualcomm this week, but Qualcomm's board rejected it. The two companies will, however, meet over the next few days to discuss the possibilities of a merger. Some of the biggest questions Qualcomm wants answered concern how much more is Broadcom willing to spend on the acquisition, and what will it do to ensure the deal is completed successfully. Qualcomm is also worried about antitrust issues, and pointed to several big deals that have taken more than 18 months to clear regulatory hurdles. Broadcom has offered to pay Qualcomm $8 billion should the merger fail to be approved.


Samsung's ISOCELL Software Brings Portrait Photography to Cheaper Phones

Feb 6, 2018, 8:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today introduced new ISOCELL Dual image sensor camera systems that will give mid-level and low-cost phones access to advanced bokeh and low-light features. Samsung's offering is a complete solution that includes the ISOCELL Dual sensors and properly optimized algorithms to match them in a single package. Samsung believes this will make it quicker and less expensive for phone makers to drop the package into devices, bringing a new array of features to their devices. To start, the new ISOCELL Dual combines Samsung's bokeh/portrait software with a 13-megapixel / 5-megapixel pair of sensors, or its low-light shooting software with a pair of 8-megapixel sensors. Phone makers can select one or the other. Samsung didn't say how soon the new ISOCELL Dual software/sensor packages will be available to phone makers.


Sprint Says It Will Offer Nationwide 5G By Mid-2019

Feb 2, 2018, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint will use its 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings to provide the backbone for its planned 5G network, which is on deck to go live during the first half of 2019. The company is already hard at work on what it calls its Next-Gen Network. Sprint plans to deploy 64T64R Massive MIMO 2.5 GHz radios, which it says will increase capacity by as much as 10 times that of current LTE systems, in addition to boosting data speeds. Massive MIMO will support both LTE and 5G New Radio services at the same time on the same towers. The company is already in the process of upgrading its towers in all three spectrum bands (800 MHz, 1.9 GHz, and 2.5 GHz). It plans to build thousands of new cell cites as part of its densification project, and hopes to deploy up to one million Sprint Magic Boxes. The Sprint Magic Boxes are small cells already being used at 80,000 sites across 200 cities. "We’re working with Qualcomm and network and device manufacturers in order to launch the first truly mobile 5G network in the United States by the first half of 2019," said Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure today during the company's quarterly earnings call. Sprint competitors AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless have all committed to launching some form of 5G service later this year, though none has a nationwide footprint on deck for launch. Sprint has 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz spectrum in the top 100 markets around the U.S. Sprint's competitors are eyeing other spectrum bands for their 5G networks. For example, T-Mobile plans to use some of its 600 MHz holdings. Sprint says chipsets and devices are in the works, too. "We have come to an agreement with Qualcomm that they are going to be able to release this toward the later end of 2018, the new chipsets," said Claure. "And we have had a conversation with a leading Korean manufacturer to basically have devices ready by the first half of 2019." LG and Samsung are both based in Korea. Sprint expects to charge more for unlimited 5G service. Claure believes it has more wiggle room with respect to price than its competitors because it currently charges less for unlimited 4G service. In other Sprint news, the company said it added 256,000 postpaid customers during the fourth quarter of 2017, as well as 63,000 prepaid customers.


New Spec Means Flash Storage Is About to Get Faster

Feb 1, 2018, 11:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Universal Flash Storage version 3.0, approved this week by JEDEC, will eventually lead to faster performance of flash memory chips. UFS 3.0 is optimized for smartphones, tablets, and automotive applications where power consumption needs to be minimized while delivering incredible throughput. JEDEC says UFS 3.0 takes advantage of M-PHY HS-Gear4, which doubles the data rate to 11.6 Gbps per lane when compared to M-PHY HS-Gear3. Tacking on support for the MIPI M-PHY v4.1 and MIPI UniPro v1.8 specifications means UFS 3.0 is able to more reliably form links and monitor for trouble. It carries over support for ultra lower power requirements and supports the latest NAND technology. JEDEC said it expanded the range of temperatures in which the the spec and associated gear can operate to better serve the automative market. Companies that make NAND flash components, such as Samsung, can put UFS 3.0 to work in their future flash storage designs. Operations that might be improved by UFS 3.0 include writing high-definition video to internal storage. It will take time for this technology to reach consumer devices.


Verizon to Discount Bundled Wireless and FiOS By $20

Jan 31, 2018, 5:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon said it is kicking off several new promotions this week that should save customers some money. Starting February 1, customers who subscribe or upgrade to both Verizon’s unlimited wireless plan and its FiOS Gigabit Connection plan will receive a $20 discount per month ($10 off the wireless and $10 off the FiOS.) Verizon said customers will be able keep this discount as long as they remain on both services. The unlimited and Gigabit Connection plans are Verizon’s most expensive. Verizon also plans to discount several products. New and existing customers can score the Samsung Galaxy Note8 for $200 less than the normal price. Customers can save $50 on the JBL Link 10 speaker, as well as save $30 on the Lifeprint Photo & Video printer. These deals will be available through February.


Qualcomm and Samsung Ink Fresh Licensing Deal

Jan 31, 2018, 5:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today said it has updated its global patent cross-licensing agreement with Samsung. The patents in question cover mobile devices and telecommunications gear. As part of the deal, Samsung has agreed to withdraw legal complaints it filed against Qualcomm in South Korea. The two firms also announced a renewed strategic relationship that will see them working together across a variety of product categories, including mobile devices and 5G. Financial terms of the new agreements were not disclosed.


Samsung to Delete Third-Party Apps from Cloud Backups

Jan 31, 2018, 12:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today informed those who use its Samsung Cloud service that it will no longer backup data from third-party applications. Starting February 6, 2018, the company will only backup information stored in Samsung-branded apps, including contacts, calendar, internet, notes, photos, videos, music, and documents. It will also store backups of the home screen, app installation files, and settings. "After this change you will not be able to backup app data or restore it from a previous backup on Samsung Cloud. Any existing data from previous backups will be deleted immediately," explained Samsung in an email. "Users who need to backup app data should do so using Smart Switch or the backup and restore functionality of each third party application, if available." Samsung did not provide a reason for making this change.


Samsung Pay Expands to Mexico

Jan 29, 2018, 12:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said its Samsung Pay mobile payment service is now available in Mexico. According to Samsung, its touch-and-go payment tool is accessible in 20 markets around the world, including the U.S. Samsung Pay makes use of both NFC and MST to connect to retail payment terminals. This gives it an advantage over services that use only NFC, such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. In order for Samsung Pay to function in Mexico, the company partnered with a number of card issuers, including American Express, MasterCard, and Visa, and local banks, including Banorte, Banregio, Citibanamex, HSBC, and Santander. Samsung Pay supports credit cards, debit cards, and loyalty cards/programs. It can be secured via iris recognition or fingerprint. Transactions are tokenized in order to maintain security. Samsung Pay is available on many of Samsung's top-tier handsets, such as the Galaxy S8 and Note8.


Verizon Fires Back at T-Mo with BOGO Of Its Own

Jan 22, 2018, 5:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said customers can save big on select smartphones with a new buy-one, get-one offer that kicks off January 23. New and existing customers who add a new line of Verizon Unlimited service will be able to buy the Google Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy S8, Motorola Moto Z2 Force, or LG V30 and get a second one for free. In order to qualify for the offer, both devices will need to be purchased on a monthly installment plan. The BOGO deal also requires a trade-in, the value of which can be put toward the purchase price of the new phones. Verizon will cover the cost of the second phone via monthly bill credits over the course of 24 months. Customers won't be able to mix and match: the second phone must come from the same manufacturer as the first, though people can opt for the larger Pixel 2 XL or Galaxy S8+ and cover the difference in cost on the second device. The Verizon BOGO deal counters a similar one launched by T-Mobile earlier this month.


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