ZTE and Google have met to discuss what to do concerning the Commerce Department's action this week that bans U.S. companies from selling components and software to ZTE. ZTE is being punished for violating the terms of a settlement it signed with the government last year. That settlement covered transgressions in shipping contraband to Iran, which is under sanctions. The U.S. says ZTE misled the Commerce Department over the actions it took in the wake of that settlement and that ZTE is no longer to be trusted. ZTE uses U.S.-based Qualcomm processors in many of its phones. It would not be ablate buy those processors under the ban. More importantly, ZTE uses Google's Android platform. ZTE has a license from Google to use Android. Under the terms of the ban, it may not be able to use Android moving forward, which would throw is entire phone business into turmoil. The two companies have not been able to discern what the exact impact of the ban will be. Neither has commented on the matter directly.
The FCC today moved forward with a plan that would make it harder and/or more expensive for U.S. companies to buy equipment from corporations that might pose a security risk. Though the FCC didn't call out China-based Huawei or ZTE by name, the proposal is clearly meant to keep the two companies sidelined in the U.S market. Specifically, the FCC wants to "prohibit use of [Universal Service Fund monies] on the purchase of equipment or services from any company that poses a national security threat to the integrity of U.S. communications networks or the communications supply chain." The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted by the FCC today isn't final, and the agency is seeking input on how to implement the proposed prohibition. For example, what types of equipment/services should be banned, how should the FCC identify the equipment, what are the costs/benefits, and finally could the rule best be enforced. Huawei and ZTE are taking fire from lawmakers for their supposed ties to the Chinese government. Today's action follows recent blows to Huawei and ZTE. Earlier this year, Huawei lost distribution deals with AT&T and Verizon Wireless, while earlier this week ZTE was banned from buying American components and technology for its phones. "Hidden 'backdoors' to our networks in routers, switches, and other network equipment can allow hostile foreign powers to inject viruses and other malware, steal Americans' private data, spy on U.S. businesses, and more," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Republican lawmakers have also introduced legislation that would bar U.S. government employee from buying Huawei and ZTE phones. Neither Huawei nor ZTE commented on the FCC's actions.
ZTE is not allowed to export sensitive technology from the U.S. due to new action from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Moreover, U.S. tech suppliers (such as Qualcomm) cannot sell components to ZTE for a period of seven years. ZTE violated the terms of an agreement it made with the government over previous transgressions and the Commerce Department is coming down on the company hard. Officials at the agency say ZTE made false statements to the Bureau of Industry and Security in 2016 and 2017 concerning executive pay and disciplinary action related to the company's earlier transgressions. In 2016, ZTE was temporarily blocked for exporting forbidden technology to Iran. In 2017, ZTE agreed to pay a huge fine to settle the matter, as well as fire four executives and discipline 35 other managers. In the wake of those events the company did not take the proper disciplinary action, according to the Commerce Department. "ZTE misled the Department of Commerce. Instead of reprimanding ZTE staff and senior management, ZTE rewarded them. This egregious behavior cannot be ignored," said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. While ZTE did in fact fire four managers, the company recently admitted it did not take any action at all against the other 35 managers. "We can't trust what they are telling us is truthful," said an official to Reuters. "And in international commerce, truth is pretty important." A lawyer representing companies that sell products to ZTE warned of dire consequences. "This will be devastating to the company, given their reliance on U.S. products and software," said Douglas Jacobson. "It's certainly going to make it very difficult for them to produce and will have a potentially significant short and long-term negative impact on the company." ZTE did not comment on the matter directly.
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.
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.
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.
Xiaomi, the smartphone maker based in China, said it is eying a launch in the U.S. market within 12 months. "We’ve always been considering entering the US. market," said Xiaomi Chairman Lei Jun to the Wall Street Journal. "We plan to start entering the market by end 2018, or by early 2019." The company already has a handful of products on offer in the U.S., such as a 360-degree camera, Mi TV Android set-top box, and headphones. Xiaomi's Jun did not say if the company will seek to strike distribution deals with U.S. carriers or sell directly to consumers via channels such as Amazon and Best Buy. The former would give it the best chance of success, but other Chinese companies haven't fared so well winning carrier deals. Earlier this year, Huawei failed to close such deals with AT&T and Verizon Wireless thanks to pressure from the U.S. government. Worse, the heads of the CIA, FBI, and NSA recently suggested that American consumers should avoid Chinese phones — particularly those made by Huawei and ZTE — altogether. Xiaomi is China's fourth-largest phone maker, and has been highly successful in India. It was one of the first to make an all-screen device, the Mi Mix, back in 2016.
ZTE has built a respectable presence in the U.S. market and doesn't want that to change. The company plans to make "more effort to build the trust among the people in Washington," according to mobile device CEO Lixin Cheng. "We understand the concerns, and respect the concerns of different agencies of the United States government," said Cheng in an interview with CNN. "We promise we are going to work very openly, as we did before, [and] transparently to address their needs and their concerns." ZTE and Huawei were recently called out by the heads of the CIA, FBI, and NSA, who consider the Chinese companies a security risk. ZTE has spent the last few years building strong relationships with U.S. carriers. It now accounts for about 11% of the market thanks to low-cost phones such as the ZMax and XMax. Cheng indicated ZTE will do what it must to ensure it can continue to sell phones to Americans. Earlier this week, the company unveiled new devices, the Blade V9, Blade V9 Vita, and Tempo Go.
The latest in ZTE's Blade series phones are the V9 and V9 Vita. These devices bring ZTE's design language in line with current trends by adopting 18:9 displays. They also put the competition on notice with dual cameras designed to take better low-light photographs. Here is Phone Scoop's first look at the latest from ZTE.
ZTE today announced the Tempo Go, a version of the Tempo X that adopts the Android Go platform. Android Go is Google's slimmed-down version of Android for ultra low-cost devices with RAM of 1 GB of less. Earlier this week, Google promised that more Android Go phones would arrive shortly, and the Tempo Go is leading that wave. The Tempo Go has a 5-inch display with 854 by 480 pixels (FWVGA) 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 will be sold unlocked with support for the LTE 4G networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. Pricing wasn't immediately announced.
ZTE today expanded its lineup of Blade series handsets with the Blade V9 and V9 Vita. These mid-range handsets bring the Blade series up-to-date with competing designs by adopting the 18:9 aspect ratio display. Shared features between these two phones include Android 8 Oreo, dual rear cameras, microUSB, 3.5mm headphone jack, memory card support, GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi.
- Blade V9: The V9 (pictured) drops the plastic build common to ZTE's older Blade designs for an aluminum frame and glass panels on front and back. The screen measures 5.7 inches and includes full HD+ resolution (2,160 by 1,080). It is powered by a 1.8 GHz octa-core processor and comes in a variety of RAM (2 to 4 GB) and storage (16 to 64 GB) configurations. The V9's dual camera system includes a 16-/5-megapixel combo on the rear and either an 8- or 13-megapixel camera on front. ZTE says it made significant efforts in improving low-light performance of the camera, and the dual-lens system allows people to take bokeh/portrait-style images. The V9's front camera supports Facebook detection for waking and unlocking the phone. Other stand-out features include NFC, fingerprint reader, and 3,100mAh battery. It comes in black or gold.
- Blade V9 Vita: The Vita dials back the size and specs when compared to the premium V9. It drops the metal and glass for a polycarbonate shell that forms the entire rear of the device. The screen is reduced to 5.45 inches at HD+ (1,440 by 720) resolution. It is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The Vita also has a dual rear camera system with a 13-/2-megapixel configuration and a 8-megapixel shooter on front. The phone has a 3,200mAh battery and it comes in black, pink, blue, and dark blue.
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.
Google says its Android Messages app is on the upswing thanks to new RCS-based tools and growing support from phone makers and wireless network operators. To start, brands now have more power to interact with consumers thanks to RCS business messaging. Google says brands can "send more useful and interactive messages" to their customers with photos, videos, and links for purchasing. A number of companies have been testing RCS business messaging via Google's Early Access Program. Some include 1-800 Contacts, 1-800-Flowers.com, Booking.com, SnapTravel, and Subway — all on Sprint in the U.S. Google says more businesses will be deploying richer messaging via the Android Messages app over the coming months. The Android Messages app has gained a lot of traction with phone makers and carriers, and more support is on the way. Moving forward, Alcatel, BlackBerry, Transsion, Blu, Positivo, Multilaser, Mobiwire, Azumi, and Essential will all preload Android Messages as the default SMS/messaging app. A number of phone makers already offer Android Messages, including Huawei, LG, HMD Global, HTC, Kyocera, Motorola, Sony, and ZTE. The app has a growing footprint with carriers, as well. Google says America Movil, AT&T in Mexico, Celcom Axiata Berhad, Freedom Mobile, Oi, Telia Company, and Telefonica have joined Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sprint, and Telenor in their commitment to launch RCS messaging. Sprint is the lone U.S. carrier to go all-in with Google's RCS and Android Messages. AT&T and Verizon each offers its own RCS-based messaging client for Android handsets. Google believes this new momentum for RCS and Android Messages will eventually mean a better messaging experience between people, brands, and more.
Qualcomm today announced the Qualcomm Artificial Intelligence Engine, a package of hardware and software components meant to help developers bring AI-assisted apps and services to Qualcomm-powered handsets. The AI Engine is supported on the Snapdragon 845, 835, 820, and 660 mobile platforms, though it shines brightest on the 845, which has its own AI processing built in. The AI Engine relies on three core hardware components: the Hexagon Vector Processor, the Adreno GPU, and the Kryo CPU. On the software side, Qualcomm's AI Engine runs on the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine, software that was created so developers can target the exact core they want powering their apps. The NPE supports Tensorflow, Caffe and Caffe2, and the Open Neural Network Exchange for developers. The AI Engine supports the Android Neural Networks API, which is baked into Android 8 Oreo, and gives developers access to Snapdragon hardware directly through the Android operating system. Last, the AI Engine banks on the Hexagon Neural Network Library so developers can run AI algorithms directly on the Hexagon Vector Processor. This powers machine learning and accelerates AI operations. Qualcomm says the sum of all these parts is real-time responsiveness, improved privacy, and enhanced reliability on the supported Snapdragon mobile platforms. Phone companies including Xiaomi, OnePlus, Vivo, Oppo, Motorola, Asus, ZTE, Nubia, Smartisan, and Blackshark were among the first to commit to using the AI Engine on future handsets. Qualcomm will be demonstrating the technology at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress trade show.
ZTE says American consumers have no reason to fear its cell phones. The company issued a statement after the heads of the FBI, CIA, NSA and other intelligence groups suggested that Americans should not purchase phones made by ZTE and Huawei. "ZTE is proud of the innovation and security of our products in the U.S. market. As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards," said the company. ZTE has carrier deals, unlike Huawei, and sells many of its phone via prepaid operators Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. "Our mobile phones and other devices incorporate U.S.-made chipsets, U.S.-made operating systems and other components. ZTE takes cybersecurity and privacy seriously and remains a trusted partner to our U.S. suppliers, U.S. customers and the people who use our high quality and affordable products for their communications needs," argued the company. Some in the government characterize phones and telecommunications gear sold by ZTE and Huawei as security risks. Pressure from the government recently put the kibosh in planned deals between Huawei and AT&T, and Verizon Wireless. Moreover, Republican senators and congressmen have put forth bills that would make it illegal for the government to purchase or use equipment from Huawei and ZTE. Neither of these bills has been voted upon yet. For the time being, ZTE's handsets continue to be available in the U.S. at carrier stores and online. Huawei's devices are available online.
ZTE today said owners of the Axon 7 smartphone can take Android 8 Oreo for a beta test spin. People interested in testing the new system software will need to register with ZTE's Z-Community. The Axon 7 launched with Android 6 Marshmallow and has already been updated to Android 7 Nougat. ZTE says, based on customer requests, the build of Android 8 Oreo for the Axon 7 will be close to stock. The platform brings improved battery life to the Axon 7, as well as shorter boot times, picture-in-picture mode, notification dots, Google Play Protect, Android instant apps, and autofill for online forms. Android 8 Oreo should be available to Axon 7 owners starting February 14. ZTE did not say how long the OS will be tested by the public before Oreo is offered to all Axon 7 owners. The phone was originally sold unlocked for $400. It features a 5.5-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 820 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 20-megapixel camera, and a 3,140mAh battery.
Intelligence agency leaders have suggested that U.S. consumers not buy phones from Huawei or ZTE, according to a report from CNBC. The six intelligence chiefs, including the heads of the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the director of national intelligence made the remarks at a recent security hearing. "We're deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don't share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks," said FBI Director Chris Wray. All six intel heads said plainly they don't think American citizens should use phones or other products from Huawei and ZTE. Huawei recently saw plans to sell its flagship Mate 10 Pro device via AT&T and Verizon Wireless thwarted at the last moment by pressure from the U.S. government. Lawmakers in the House and the Senate have since introduced bills that would make it illegal for the government to use any equipment from Huawei or ZTE. Huawei said it is "aware of a range of U.S. government activities seemingly aimed at inhibiting Huawei's business in the U.S. market. Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cybersecurity risk than any ICT vendor." ZTE didn't provide a response. Nearly all mobile devices, including Apple iPhones, are made in China.
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.
Republican Senators today introduced a new bill that would prevent the U.S. government from using telecommunications equipment from either Huawei or ZTE. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and Florida Senator Marco Rubio proposed the bill, citing security concerns. "Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices," said Cotton. "There are plenty of other companies that can meet our technology needs, and we shouldn't make it any easier for China to spy on us." The bill is similar to one proposed last month by Texas Representative Michael Conaway and Wyoming Representative Elizabeth Cheney. Last month, AT&T and Verizon Wireless scrapped plans to sell Huawei's flagship Mate 10 Pro smartphone due to government pressure. Last year, ZTE was hit with a temporary ban after it was discovered the company supplied some equipment to Iran in violation of international sanctions. Both Huawei and ZTE deny any connection to the Chinese government. ZTE's handsets are widely available from prepaid carriers in the U.S., including Cricket Wireless and MetroPCS. Huawei sells its phone to U.S. consumers directly without a carrier distribution deal.
ZTE has pushed a maintenance release to its aging Axon 7 flagship handset device in order to patch up the phone's security. Primarily, the update applies Google's security fixes through the December 2017 patch. The security maintenance release also adds Hiya v6.3.3 for improved call blocking and protection, and installs a wide range of other performance tweaks and bug fixes. The release was made available over the weekend and should reach all Axon 7 devices in the weeks ahead. ZTE first debuted the Axon 7 during the summer of 2016. Though ZTE brought the foldable Axon M to market in 2017, the company did not release a follow-up flagship to replace the Axon 7. ZTE is expected to make some announcements at the Mobile World Congress trade show scheduled to take place next month in Barcelona.
Some people who work for the U.S. government don't want AT&T and other firms doing business with Huawei, according to Reuters. Unnamed U.S. lawmakers are "urging" AT&T "to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei" due to national security concerns. The lawmakers in question suggested that AT&T cease working with Huawei on the development of the 5G network standard. Moreover, the lawmakers don't want AT&T or its discount subsidiary Cricket Wireless to sell Huawei handsets. The lawmakers, including members of the Senate and the House, further suggested that any U.S. firm doing business with Huawei may see its ability to do business with the U.S. government hindered. Earlier this month, AT&T canned plans to sell the Huawei Mate 10 Pro smartphone due to government pressure. The two companies were widely expected to kick off sales of the phone at the Consumer Electronics Show. The phone will still be made available to U.S. consumers directly from Huawei online. Neither AT&T nor Huawei commented on Reuters' story. Huawei is the world's third-largest supplied of handsets and the largest supplier of telecommunications gear. Reuters suggests the change in tone with respect to Chinese technology firms comes from the Trump Administration. The U.S. has recently blocked a handful of other Chinese acquisitions, and is actively seeking to prevent China Mobile from dipping its toe in the U.S. market. Last week, lawmakers introduced legislation that would prevent the U.S. government from using equipment or devices from Huawei and ZTE.
A new bill introduced by Texas Representative Michael Conaway (R) would prevent any part of the U.S government from using equipment from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. The "Defending U.S. Government Communications Act" (H.R. 4747) explicitly prohibits the government from "using or contracting with an entity that uses certain telecommunications services or equipment" from Huawei and ZTE. Conaway cited a number of reports that link both companies to China's communist party as the chief reason for introducing the bill. The idea is to protect the security of government communications, according to Conaway. Last year, ZTE was hit with a temporary ban after it was discovered the company supplied some equipment to Iran in violation of international sanctions. Just this week, Huawei's plans to distribute its Mate 10 Pro flagship device via AT&T fell apart due to government pressure. Huawei is the world's third-largest maker of smartphones and the world's number one maker of telecommunications equipment. Representative Elizabeth Cheney (R) from Wyoming co-sponsored the bill. The bill will need to approved by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform before it can be sent to the House for a vote.
Not everyone has the means or the desire to spend $1000 on a smartphone. There's good news: phone makers spent 2017 shoring up their ranks of budget-friendly devices, which now offer an incredible amount of performance for the dollar. These are the top five sub-$200 handsets of the year.
Google recently provided a list of Android-based wearables that have or will receive the Android 8 Oreo update. According to Google, Oreo is already available to the Fossil Q Venture, LG Watch Sport, Louis Vuitton Tambour, Michael Kors Sofie, and the Montblanc Summit. Watches that are testing Oreo include selections from Casio, Diesel, Emporio, Fossil, Guess, Huawei, Hugo Boss, LG, Michael Kors, Movado, Polar, Tag Heuer, Tommy Hilfiger, and ZTE. As always, the exact timing of the update is up to each individual manufacturer. Android 8 Oreo for Android Wear is a minor update that tweaks some notification behaviors and vibration settings, and adds new languages and notification channels for improved battery life.
Cricket Wireless is offering a number of free and discounted smartphones starting today. New customers who port in their number can snag either the LG Fortune or ZTE Overture 3 for free with an accompanying service plan. Customers looking for something slightly more powerful can grab the ZTE Blade X for $50 or the ZTE Blade X Max for $100. The discounts are available to new customers, though existing customers can get the same low prices if they pay a $25 upgrade fee. Other offers include the LG Fortune (free for switchers, $29.99 for existing customers), the LG X Charge ($49.99 for switchers, $99.99 for existing customers), LG Stylo 3 ($29.99 for switchers, $129.99 existing customers), and the LG Harmony ($9.99 for switchers, $59.99 for existing customers). Cricket says the sales prices are good through November 26 or as long as supplies last.
ROK Mobile has rolled out a new promotional rate plan that includes three months of unlimited service for $99. The offer is available to new customers only. After the three-month period ends, the plan reverts to the normal monthly rate of $45. ROK Mobile is an MVNO that offers service on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Customers can select which carrier they wish to use when they sign up for ROK Mobile. This allows people to use their own device. The $99 promo is only available to new customers who choose service on Sprint or Verizon. Those who select Sprint will be eligible for a free ZTE Prestige smartphone. ROK Mobile started out as a music-focused MVNO but has since transitioned to a more traditional MVNO. Service plans range from $20 to $50 per month, depending on the data bucket. ROK Mobile also offers what it calls Life Plans, a series of services including roadside assistance, accidental death and cremation insurance, family legal services, family telemedicine, and ID theft insurance. These Life Services can be added as extras to any of ROK Mobile's service plans. Pricing ranges from $5 to $15 per month depending on the package.
Cricket Wireless today announced the ZTE Overture 3, an inexpensive Android handset. The phone has a 5-inch FWVGA screen and it relies on a quad-core 1.1 GHz processor with 16 GB of storage. A 5-megapixel camera with flash adorns the rear, while a 2-megapixel camera sits on front. Both can capture video up to 720p HD. The phone is powered by a 2,115mAh battery. Others features include Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and LTE 4G. It runs Android 7 Nougat. Cricket says the ZTE Overture 3 will reach stores on November 10. The phone costs $50, but Cricket will give it those who port in their number for free.
AT&T today said it will open preorders for the ZTE Axon M starting November 1. The company expects the dual-screened handset to go on sale in retail stores on November 17. The Axon M is unique in that it has twin 5.2-inch displays that fold out to create one large, 6.9-inch screen. The design bring with it incredible improvements to multitasking, allowing people to run two full-screen apps side by side, as well as more easily share content with others in mirror mode. The ZTE Axon M costs $24.17 per month on AT&T Next for 30 months, or about $725.
ZTE and Cricket Wireless today announced the Blade X, an affordable Android smartphone with a rear-mounted fingerprint reader. The Blade X sports a 5.5-inch 720 HD screen with 2.5D Dragontail glass. The phone is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 425 with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. It supports high-capacity microSD memory cards. The main camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with LED flash and features such as manual, panorama, and time-lapse. The front camera has a 5-megapixel sensor with digital zoom. ZTE gave the Blade X a large 3,000mAh battery with support for Quick Charge 1.0 for quicker powerups. Other features include mobile hotspot, HD Voice, Dolby Audio, FM Radio, USB-C, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Blade X runs Android 7.1 Nougat. It is available online and in stores today for $120.
ZTE is trying something different with the Axon M. Rather than push out another boring slab, ZTE created an interesting Android smartphone with twin folding displays that can be set in a number of different and useful configurations. Need extra screen real estate in that document, or want to run two full-screen apps side by side? The Axon M does that and more. Here are Phone Scoop's first impressions of this AT&T-exclusive handset.
ZTE today announced the Axon M, a unique Android smartphone that has two full-sized displays that can unfold to create one larger screen for multitasking and viewing video. ZTE calls the Axon M a flagship handset, and it includes solid specs under the foldable aluminum chassis. Both screens measure 5.2 inches across the diagonal with full HD resolution. When fully opened, the combined screen real estate stretches 6.9 inches across the diagonal with 1,920 by 2,160 resolution. The displays are each covered by 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5. The Axon M includes three viewing modes suited to different tasks, such as running two apps at the same time, expanding the size of any given app, or sharing video with another person. ZTE says a decent number of apps will support the new viewing modes at launch, but it is releasing a series of tools to developers so they may adjust their apps to the Axom M form factor. The phone is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 256 GB. The Axon M has a single 20-megapixel sensor that doubles as the main and selfie cameras. Imaging features include an aperture of f/1.8, phase-detection autofocus, image stabilization for photos/videos, as well as dual LED flash. The M carries over the Axon line's high-quality audio thanks to Dolby Atmos, the AKM 4962 audio chipset, and powerful stereo speakers. Other hardware features include Bluetooth, GPS, WiFi, LTE, rapid charging, and USB-C. The device runs Android 7. 1 Nougat, but ZTE said an update to Oreo isn't too far off. The Axon M will be an AT&T exclusive in the U.S. ZTE said it expects the phone will reach stores in time for the holiday shopping season. AT&T said it will charge $24 per month for 30 months for the phone, or about $725.
ZTE today announced the Blade Force smartphone for Boost Mobile. This Android handset includes support for Sprint's High Performance User Equipment technology and two-channel carrier aggregation for better performance near the cell edge. The Blade Force has a 5.5-inch 720p HD display and it is powered by a 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 427 processor with 2 GB of memory and 16 GB of storage. The phone supports external storage cards up to 128 GB. The rear camera has an 8-megapixel sensor while the front camera has a 5-megapixel camera. Other features include a 3,000mAh battery, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and FM radio. The phone runs Android 7.1 Nougat and is available online starting today for $130.
ZTE and Verizon Wireless today announced the Blade Vantage, an inexpensive entry-level device for Verizon's pre-paid service. The Vantage includes a 5-inch screen with 854 by 480 pixels and it is powered by a 1.1 GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 210 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The screen is protected by 2.5D glass that's curved along the edges and fitted into the plastic chassis. On the rear you'll find an 8-megapixel main camera with an f/2.0 lens and flash, while the front carries a 2-megapixel selfie camera with f/2.4 lens. Other hardware features include a 2,500mAh battery, support for microSD memory cards, Bluetooth, WiFi, and LTE with mobile hotspot. It ships with Android 7.1 Nougat. Verizon Wireless is selling the ZTE Blade Vantage for $50.
ZTE today announced the Tempo X, an entry-level Android smartphone for Boost Mobile. This affordable handset features a 5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution and a 1.1 GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor with 1 GB of memory and 8 GB of storage. The phone supports memory cards up to 32 GB. ZTE gave the device a 5-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel front camera. Other hardware features include a 2,200mAh battery, Bluetooth, GPS, FM radio, and of course LTE 4G. The device ships with Android 7.1 Nougat and costs $80. It is available from Boost Mobile online starting today.
ZTE and MetroPCS today announced the Blade Z Max, a successor to last year's Z Max smartphone. ZTE is making greater use of its Blade branding on value handsets in the U.S., which is why the new phone adds "Blade" to its name. The phone relies on a metal frame and flatter rear panel that is coated with a honeycomb rubber texture for added grip. The Blade Z Max carries over the 6-inch full HD screen with 2.5D Dragontrail Glass of last year's phone, but doubles up on the cameras. The Blade Z Max has a 16-megapixel main rear camera with a secondary 2-megepixel camera to help with focus and contrast as well as create bokeh and monochrome shots. The phone includes an 8-megapixel selfie camera on front. The Blade Z Max is powered by a 1.4 GHz octa-core Snapdragon 435 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage, and it supports memory cards up to 128 GB. ZTE says the phone's massive 4,080mAh battery supports up to 31 hours of talk time, and Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 for swifter refills. Other specs include a rear-mounted fingerprint reader, support for VoLTE and HD Voice, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, WiFi, and USB Type-C. The ZTE Blade Z Max runs Android 7.1 Nougat and will go on sale at MetroPCS stores August 28 for $129.
This follow-up to the affordable ZMAX Pro keeps the huge 6-inch screen, while upgrading a few key specs. It has a premium metal-frame design, fingerprint reader, huge battery, and dual-lens main camera. The ZMAX Pro has been a very hot seller for ZTE and MetroPCS, and they hope to keep that streak running with the new Blade Z Max. How does it stack up in person? Read on for our first impressions.
T-Mobile today improved its Jump On Demand program with the introduction of T-Mobile Smartpicks. The Smartpicks program is a leasing option that lets people score affordable phones with low monthly payments. The company described Smartpicks as "exactly what a huge portion of our customer base are looking for — these are devices with awesome screens, great cameras, and powerful processors that can run all the latest apps." T-Mobile says most Smartpick devices cost $7 or $8 per month with a small down payment. Alternately, the devices can be paired with the Jump On Demand program, which allows people to upgrade their phone more often. Customers who keep their Jump On Demand phone the full 18 months can return it for a new one or pay off the remaining balance to own it out right. Some of the phones available via the Smartpicks and Jump On Demand program include the new T-Mobile Revvl for $0 down and $5 per month, the Samsung Galaxy J3 Prime for $0 down and $7 per month, the LG K20 Plus for $0 down and $8 a month, the LG Aristo $0 down and $7 a month, and the ZTE ZMAX Pro for $0 down and $8 a month. The T-Mobile Revvl goes on sale August 10. All the other phones mentioned above are already available.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company's handset partners have new Daydream-compatible devices in the pipeline and there should be a total of 11 such phones available by the end of the year. At the moment, only four phones are able to use Google's virtual reality headsets, including the Pixel and Pixel XL, ZTE Axon 7, Motorola Z, and Huawei Mate 9. It's not clear if Pichai was including the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, which are primed to receive Daydream compatibility through a software update. The figure likely does include Google's 2017 Pixel devices, whatever they may be. Daydream has certain hardware requirements, particularly where the display is concerned. For example, the display must be between 4.7 and 6 inches, must have a 60 Hz or greater refresh rate with low-persistence mode, and must have at least full HD resolution, with quad HD preferred. Companies including Motorola, HMD Global, Samsung, Sony, Huawei, and LG all have major device announcements lined up between now and early September. It is possible these forthcoming handsets will be among those supporting Google Daydream.
Cricket Wireless today annouced new service and handset promotions meant to entice customers to sign up for the prepaid carrier. To start, Cricket is offering new and existing customers two lines of unlimited service for $80 per month. That includes unlimited mobile data, messaging, and voice calls. Cricket caps data speeds at 3 Mbps, and will throttle unlimited customers who exceed 22 GB of data per billing period. In addition to the new service promo, Cricket has a number of deals on smartphones. For example, the Alcatel PulseMix is $80 with a new activation, or just $30 with a port-in. Similarly, the LG x charge is $130 with a new activation or just $100 with a port-in. Other phones with available discounts include the ZTE Sonata 3 and Blade X Max; LG Fortune, Harmony, and Stylo 3; and the Samsung Galaxy Amp 2. Cricket said the promos are available for a limited time.