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Google Earth, Twitter for Android Updates Fix Bugs

Jan 5, 2012, 8:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google has provided an update to the Google Earth application for the Android platform. The update (version fixes a specific bug plaguing devices based on Nvidia's Tegra 2 chipset as well as other minor afflictions. Twitter has also provided an update to its Android application. The update (version 3.0.1) resolves crashes and also fixes bugs. Both updates are free downloads from the Android Market.

LightSquared Outlines Plan to Fix GPS Interference Issues

Jun 20, 2011, 1:04 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LightSquared today released details of a plan it says will help it circumvent the GPS interference problems that a number of tests have concluded its planned network creates. LightSquared explained that it hoped to use a specific 10MHz block of spectrum in the L-Band for its Long Term Evolution network. It found that operating its network in this band did in fact interfere with GPS receivers. LightSquared has access to a second 10MHz block lower in the L-Band spectrum that it was planning to hold in reserve for when its business outgrew the first 10MHz block. Instead, it will use this second 10MHz block, which it says poses a lower threat to GPS systems, for its initial network launch. It will also dial down the power used in its base station transmitters by 50%, which it says provides another level of protection to GPS systems. As it stands, Inmarsat uses a part of the lower 10MHz band that LightSquared needs, and it has secured permission from Inmarsat to use that spectrum earlier than originally planned. LightSquared will also work with the FCC and other bodies to resolve the GPS issues caused in the upper 10MHz block. The company is due to turn in the results of initial GPS interference testing to the FCC on July 1.

Sony to Put NFC in Android Handsets

Jun 16, 2011, 3:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sony Ericsson will eventually put near-field communications chips into its Android smartphones, according to its partner NXP. Specifically, NXP says Sony Ericsson intends to use its PN65 NFC chip, which includes the NFC radio controller, embedded secure element and NFC software. NXP is also supplying the NFC components for Google's Mobile Wallet product. Sony Ericsson hasn't said when its NFC-enabled handsets will reach the market.

Apple and Nokia Settle All Patent Litigation

Jun 14, 2011, 7:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple and Nokia have announced a new settlement in the years-old patent lawsuit between the two companies. Though the terms weren't disclosed, Apple is making a lump sum payment to Nokia in addition to on-going royalties for the length of the agreement. Nokia sued Apple in 2009, claiming Apple's iPhone infringed on a number of patents pertaining to cell phone technologies such as wireless data, speech coding, security and encryption, and even swiping gestures and on-device application stores. Apple countersued. With a settlement reached, the companies have dropped all the litigation between them, including actions with the U.S. International Trade Commission. "We are very pleased to have Apple join the growing number of Nokia licensees," said Stephen Elop, president and chief executive officer of Nokia in a prepared statement. "This settlement demonstrates Nokia's industry leading patent portfolio and enables us to focus on further licensing opportunities in the mobile communications market."

Verizon and Payfone Make Partnership Official

Jun 13, 2011, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

This morning Verizon Wireless and Payfone confirmed a new partnership whereby Payfone will help Verizon Wireless enable one-click purchases from its customers' mobile phones. News of the deal was first revealed Friday by the Wall Street Journal.

More Interference for LightSquared's Planned Network

Jun 10, 2011, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A new set of government tests has confirmed the results of earlier tests showing that LightSquared's use of L-band spectrum to operate a Long Term Evolution data network does in fact interfere with nearby GPS services. The new test said LightSquared's network disrupted service to all GPS devices in the test area. For example, General Motors indicated that its OnStar service was degraded significantly by LightSquared's network, and the Federal Aviation Administration said that LightSquared's network reduces the functionality of GPS systems used by aircraft to roughly zero when they are flying below 2,000 feet. The Defense Department said LightSquared's network can interfere with military equipment and military aircraft. The Federal Communications Commission gave LightSquared permission to use the L-band spectrum in January pending the results of interference tests. LightSquared and the GPS industry plan a last set of tests next week. LightSquared believes it can adjust its network so that it won't interfere with GPS systems.

Qualcomm to Buy San Diego Chip Designer

Jun 10, 2011, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced that it has agreed to acquire the assets of a company called Rapid Bridge. Rapid Bridge, a San Diego neighbor of Qualcomm's, created an advanced and more efficient way to design and develop chips. Its technology makes it easier to design chips, as well as more efficient to manufacture them. Rapid Bridge's technology and assets will be added to Qualcomm's CDMA development team. The acquisition is scheduled to close before the end of the year.

Sprint Confirms WiMax Upload Speed Boost

Jun 9, 2011, 10:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

In an email to Phone Scoop, Sprint spokesperson Stephanie Vinge confirmed that the company plans to increase the upload speeds available on its WiMax network. She said, "Soon the uplink speed cap on all existing Sprint dual mode and single mode 4G mobile devices will be increased from 1.0 to 1.5 Mbps. Customers may notice uplink speeds as much as 50% faster after the speed cap is raised. We haven’t stated a specific date this will take place."

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Free Press Says Verizon Breaking FCC's 700MHz Rules

Jun 7, 2011, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Free Press has filed a lawsuit against Verizon Wireless, alleging that the company is violating the net neutrality conditions placed on the C Block of 700MHz spectrum it won at auction in 2008. Specifically, the Free Press says that Verizon is blocking third-party tethering applications on its Long Term Evolution 4G Android smartphones. A number of those apps inexplicably disappeared from the Android Market last month. "When Verizon purchased the spectrum licenses associated with its LTE network, it agreed that it would not 'deny, limit, or restrict' the ability of its users to access the applications and devices of their choosing," said the Free Press in its filing. Verizon denies any wrongdoing, and said it doesn't block its users from accessing apps in the Android Market. The Free Press believes Google removed the third-party tethering applications from the Android Market at Verizon's behest. The Free Press is asking the Federal Communications Commission to rule against Verizon.

Texas Instruments Debuts 1.8GHz OMAP 4 Chip

Jun 2, 2011, 6:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Texas Instruments today announced the OMAP4470, a new dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor that offers up to 1.8GHz per core. Texas Instruments says the main benefits of this processor are an 80% increase in Web browsing performance; 2.5 times the graphics capabilities; double the imaging and video layering; and support for up to three HD screens running at the same time at resolutions as high as QXGA (2048x1536). Texas Instruments says the OMAP4470 is ideal for operating systems such as Android and is just as power efficient as its predecessors. The chip will sample in the latter half of 2011, with devices expected to become available during the first half of 2012.

Apple Plans to Unveil iOS 5, iCloud at WWDC

May 31, 2011, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today announced that it will unveil a new version of the operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch at its WorldWide Developer Conference. Apple said the new system will be called iOS 5. Apple also said it plans to announce iCloud, what it called an "upcoming cloud service." Apple will reveal the features of these systems in full at the WWDC opening keynote, scheduled for 10AM Pacific time, on Monday, June 6.

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Google Announces Google Wallet and Google Offers

May 26, 2011, 11:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 26, 2011, 11:42 AM

At an event at its New York City offices today, Google unveiled a new mobile payment system meant to help spur the adoption of smartphones as mobile wallets. The new Google Wallet service is an open platform for payments and offers at the point of sale. Google said it makes use of your phone to "tap, pay and save." Google said Google Wallet will use NFC (near-field communications) and GPS to let people use phones for commercial transactions in a way that hasn't been possible on the internet. According to a MasterCard executive on-hand at the event, over 300,000 merchant locations are ready for NFC-based Google Wallet — with 120,000 located in the U.S. alone. Google Wallet works with MasterCard's PayPass system, and Sprint, Citi, and MasterCard are among the first Google Wallet partners. The system will support loyalty programs, such as supermarket club cards, and automatically apply any earned discounts to the purchase. Google says that receipts are stored electronically on the phone. Google is trialling the system now in New York City and San Francisco, and will launch fully later this summer. Some of the first retailers on board are Macy's, Walgreens, and Subway. Google Offers is similar to Groupon, and will provide users with daily deals, which can be accessed from Google services/apps such as Google Wallet and Google Shopper.

Clearwire Investor Wants Spectrum Sale Back on the Table

May 25, 2011, 12:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Pardus Capital Management, a firm that has invested in Clearwire, has sent a letter to interim Chief Executive Officer John Stanton asking that he reconsider his position on selling some of Clearwire's spectrum. Earlier this month, Stanton ruled out a spectrum sale as a way to increase capital. Pardus argues that the move is keeping Clearwire's stock artificially low ahead of a suspected Sprint buyout of Clearwire. Pardus believes that if Clearwire were to sell spectrum and raise capital, its stock price and overall value would also go up, meaning it could sell for a higher amount. Clearwire has been plagued by money problems, despite Sprint's recent commitment to give Clearwire $1 billion, and continues to seek out additional sources of funding. Clearwire acknowledged the receipt of Pardus' letter, but wouldn't offer comment on the matter.

Cox Kills Cellular Aspirations

May 24, 2011, 3:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cox Communications has confirmed that it will decommission its CDMA 3G network and will instead continue to re-sell Sprint's cellular services. In a statement provided to Fierce Wireless, Cox spokesperson David Deliman said, "We believe this approach is good for our customers, allowing us to take the necessary steps to fulfill our promise to deliver a Cox experience that customers expect from us. In continuing with our successful wholesale model for 3G wireless services, we will accomplish speed to market while achieving greater operational efficiencies from a wholesale model that continues to improve." Cox didn't provide a time frame, but said it hopes to offer Sprint's services to about half its footprint by the end of the year. Cox was using its own equipment to support its wireless network, and had even purchased AWS spectrum. It hasn't spoken of firm plans for its equipment and spectrum once the network is decommissioned.

T-Mobile Ratchets Up to 42Mbps in 55 Markets

May 23, 2011, 11:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 23, 2011, 10:25 PM

T-Mobile USA today announced a significant expansion of its 42Mbps HSPA+ network footprint to a total of 55 markets. A handful of the new markets includes: Atlanta, Ga.; Chicago, Ill.; Denver, Colo.; Detroit, Mich.; Dallas and Houston, Texas; Los Angeles, Calif.; Miami, Fla.; New Orleans, La.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Portland, Ore.; and San Francisco, Calif., among others. In addition to the speed increase, T-Mobile is also offering its first product capable of achieving those maximum speeds, the T-Mobile Rocket 3.0, a new laptop stick, which costs $99.99 after rebate with a new contact, or $199.99 without a contract. T-Mobile said that its 4G network reaches more than 200 million Americans in 170 markets. By mid-year, T-Mobile expects that more than 150 million Americans will have access to increased 4G speeds as T-Mobile upgrades its 4G network.

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RIM Being Investigated for Securities Fraud

May 23, 2011, 2:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 23, 2011, 7:07 PM

A law firm today announced that it is investigating statements made by Research In Motion between December 16, 2010 and April 28, 2011 that it believes may have misled investors. The firm of Holzer Holzer & Fistel allege that RIM made "materially false and misleading" statements regarding its operations, and also that RIM "knew but failed to adequately disclose that it was experiencing problems associated with an aging product line which were negatively impacting RIM’s business and margins." The law firm is attempting to determine if RIM defrauded investors. RIM's line of BlackBerry devices has not been significantly since 2010.

Verizon Planning to Use Wi-Fi to Supplement 3G, 4G

May 20, 2011, 11:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Speaking at the TIA conference this week, Verizon Communications CTO Tony Melone said that the company hopes to offload some data traffic from its cellular data networks to W-Fi. Melone said that Verizon is hoping to get users to transition from cellular data services to Wi-Fi data when in their homes, or large public places such as sports arenas. "We won’t use it ubiquitously to cover up flaws and capacity limitations," Melone said. "In my mind it is much more effective to invest in your 3G and 4G environments than rely on Wi-Fi." The strategy is one similar to that taken by AT&T, which has lit up enormous public spaces — such as New York City's Times Square area — with Wi-Fi in the hopes of reducing cellular network congestion. Earlier this year, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced a new program that will eventually lead to fewer hotspot log-in headaches for users of Wi-Fi equipped devices. The hotspot program will facilitate the seamless handoff of cellular traffic from smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices to Wi-Fi networks. It will let Wi-Fi users more easily find networks and log into those networks securely with WPA2 authentication. Verizon didn't specifically say it would rely on this program for its Wi-Fi offloading plans.

Google Empowers Browser-Based Maps for Android, iOS

May 20, 2011, 11:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced a refresh to the browser-based version of Google Maps as experienced on Android and iOS devices. Now, Android and iOS users can navigate to google.maps.com, opt in to location sharing, and access many of the same features that are available to the stand-alone Maps apps. Google says the browser-based version of Maps will allow Android and iOS users to see their current location; search for nearby points of interest; see clickable icons of nearby destinations; get driving, walking, mass transit directions; see traffic, transit, satellite and other layers; as well as access saved places in Google Maps accounts. The revised version of Google Maps for Android and iOS browsers is already available.

Verizon to Introduce Tiered and Family Data Plans

May 19, 2011, 11:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo told Reuters that the company plans to eliminate unlimited data plans for smartphones by this summer, substituting tiered data plans in their place. Verizon has mentioned in the past that it would take this step, though Shammo didn't provide any specifics. Shammo also said that it will bring to market shared data plans that can be used by multiple devices on a single account. "We had individual minutes for individual users. Then we eventually got to what we call family share where everyone in the family shares the same minutes," Shammo said. "I think it's safe to assume that at some point you are going to have mega-plans (for data) and people are going to share that mega-plan based on the number of devices within their family. That's just a logical progression." Shammo didn't say when these mega-plans might arrive, nor what their pricing structure might be like.

Verizon Officially Announces Motorola Droid X2

May 18, 2011, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 18, 2011, 7:43 AM

Verizon Wireless today announced the Motorola Droid X2, a sequel to last year's hit phone that steps its 4.3-inch display up to qHD (540 x 960) resolution and adds a dual-core 1GHz processor engine under the hood. The Droid X2 sticks with 3G cellular technology but includes support for Verizon's Wi-Fi hotspot service for up to five devices. It offers the Swype QWERTY keyboard, GPS, Bluetooth, and an 8 megapixel camera with autofocus, flash, and 720p HD video capture. It will ship with Android 2.2, but Verizon said it will be updated to Android 2.3. It is available online starting May 19 for $199.99 with contract. It will be available in retail stores starting May 26.

Intel Says Smartphones with Intel Inside to Appear in 2012

May 17, 2011, 11:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Speaking at an investor conference, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said that the first smartphones with Intel chips inside are on track to become available next year. "You'll see the first Intel-based phones in the market in the first part of next year," Otellini said. Intel has been unable to crack the smartphone market so far, which has fallen to its competitors. It has introduced several new chips this year that it is targeting at smartphones, including the X-GOLD 706 baseband processor, which is compatible with the 3GPP2 Release 8 specification and supports Long Term Evolution. Otellini didn't say which manufacturer has picked Intel's chips.

Google Retools Android Market for Better App Discovery

May 11, 2011, 1:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 11, 2011, 2:02 PM

Google today made a significant number of changes to the Android Market in hopes to make it easier to find applications. First, it has refreshed the way it treats the "top apps" recommendations and says they will be updated more frequently. It also offers editor's choice recommendations, gives its best developers more visibility, provides more relevant and useful related applications, and has a new section that displays trending applications. These changes are first available on the web version of the Android Market, and will be rolled out over the coming weeks to Android smartphones and tablets. Google made other changes to the Market, but for developers. One new feature increases the maximum size of applications, and lets developers selectively block certain devices from downloading apps.

No New Hardware Requirements for Ice Cream Sandwich

May 10, 2011, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today confirmed that the new Ice Cream Sandwich system software will be able to run on nearly all current Android hardware. It won't have any specific hardware requirements that might preclude it from working on older handsets.

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Android@Home and Android Open Accessory Debuted

May 10, 2011, 12:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today debuted two significant expansions of its Android platform. The first is called Android@Home, which, in conjunction with newly available developer tools, will allow application writers to create programs that can connect everyday home items to their Android device and control them. For example, Google envisions that people will be able to control the lights, major appliances, and other home electronics from their Android devices. Google said the first products compatible with Android@Home will hit store shelves later this year. Google also announced the Android Open Accessory program. This program will let developers create applications that more fully interact with and control accessories. For example, Google demonstrated how a PS3-style game controller can be hooked directly into an Android device for better gaming. Google also made the tools necessary for Open Accessory available to developers today. Google didn't provide a timeline as to when consumers can expect these services/applications to become widely available.

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Google Announces Android Ice Cream Sandwich

May 10, 2011, 12:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today at its I/O developer conference announced Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the newest version of Android. Ice Cream Sandwich will launch during the fourth quarter of 2011 and will bring together a number of elements of Gingerbread and Homeycomb. While Google didn't provide specific details about the numbering scheme, it expects Ice Cream Sandwich to become the main, central Android platform moving forward and it will succeed 2.3 and 3.1. One feature that Google demonstrated was the ability for an Android device to use its camera to sense a user's head movements and use that to control applications on the screen. Google hasn't said exactly when Ice Cream Sandwich will launch, nor what devices will be first to offer it.

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U.S. Cellular to Cover 25% of Network with LTE by Year-End

May 6, 2011, 10:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

U.S. Cellular today said that it plans to launch Long Term Evolution 4G service to about 25% of its service footprint by the holiday season of 2011. The network will initially cover Milwaukee, Madison and Racine, Wisc.; Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Davenport, Iowa; Portland and Bangor, Maine; and Greenville, N.C. U.S. Cellular said that it will launch an LTE-capable phone the same time it launches the network, though it declined to provide details about that device. U.S. Cellular did indicate that the device will be able to access significantly faster data speeds than U.S. Cellular is currently capable of delivering to its 3G devices. The company will continue to deploy LTE to its remaining markets into 2012.

San Francisco Shelves Radiation Label Law

May 6, 2011, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

San Francisco has decided it will not fully enact a law passed in 2010 that would require San Francisco retailers to post the specific absorption rate (SAR) next to all phones being sold. The SAR is a number that the Federal Communications Commission uses to denote how much radiation is absorbed by the human body from any given phone. The law stirred the ire of the CTIA trade group, which sued the city and even cancelled plans to hold one of its annual trade shows in San Francisco. After performing more research, San Francisco sees that the law, in its current form, may lead to confusion among consumers. The city isn't backing down fully, however, and will likely introduce a less stringent set of requirements that would make sure consumers have the information they need to minimize radiation exposure and absorption. The CTIA has yet to respond to San Francisco's change in plans.

AT&T Not Ready to Market 'Enhanced Backhaul'

May 5, 2011, 5:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 5, 2011, 6:30 PM

Speaking to Phone Scoop today at an event in New York City, AT&T spokesperson Seth Bloom confirmed that the network operator is not yet ready to market where it offers "enhanced backhaul" services. As AT&T moves forward in building out its HSPA+ network, one of the sticking points of getting the best possible speeds is that the cell site users connect to needs to have enhanced backhaul. The cell sites with enhanced backhaul have higher throughput than non-enhanced cell sites. Bloom explained that if customers drill down far enough into the coverage maps of specific metro areas, they may be able to see a cell site-by-cell site designation of areas that have enhanced backhaul, but the vast majority of cell sites have yet to be upgraded with the faster equipment. Bloom said that AT&T is going to be aggressively building its enhanced backhaul systems out this year, and expects to have the majority of its HSPA+ sites "enhanced" by the close of 2011. For now, however, AT&T is not planning to market or clearly define where its fastest "4G" network is available. Bottom line, AT&T hasn't defined the criteria (a.k.a., enhanced backhaul cell density) by which it will refer to a given market as completely covered with enhanced backhaul. It will be up to customers to manually seek out the best coverage. By way of comparison, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless go out of their way to announce where their best service is available.

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'Facebook Inside Xperia' Takes Integration to New Level

May 5, 2011, 11:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

In conjunction with the launch of the new Xperia Mini and Mini Pro, Sony Ericsson also announced a new version of Facebook for its Xperia devices. Facebook inside Xperia entangles itself with many of the Xperia handsets' features and functions, and allows users to share more easily when using apps and services on the phone. For example, Facebook inside Xperia lets users "Like" a music track from the media player, or interact with friends' Facebook photo albums as well as their own. Other features include the ability to see what Facebook friends are listening to, sync Facebook events with the Xperia calendar, and see Facebook alerts appear on the lockscreen. Facebook inside Xperia will come pre-loaded with the new Xperia Mini and Mini Pro, and will also be made available to the Xperia ARC and Xperia Play during the second quarter.

T-Mobile Lights Up More HSPA+ Markets

May 3, 2011, 4:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 3, 2011, 4:15 PM

T-Mobile today announced via its official Twitter account that the markets of Ft. Myers, Fla,; Pueblo, Colo.; and Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pa. have been upgraded to HSPA+ at 21Mbps. T-Mobile said 170 markets now have access to HSPA+.

RIM Announces BlackBerry OS 7

May 2, 2011, 7:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated May 2, 2011, 7:30 AM

Research In Motion today announced an upgrade of its core platform software to version 7. The new version of BlackBerry OS, which will first be available on the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930, makes improvements to usability through use of Liquid Graphics. RIM says Liquid Graphics is faster at rendering on-screen graphics and uses a just-in-time JavaScript compiler to speed up browser performance. The browser now supports HTML5, including HTML5 video. BlackBerry OS 7 also includes the new BlackBerry Balance software, which is meant to help separate work from personal usage. The OS also receives a significant upgrade to universal search with better voice support. RIM didn't say if older devices will have access to BlackBerry OS 7

AT&T Update Boosts Upload Performance for Atrix, Inspire

Apr 29, 2011, 3:19 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today made two separate software updates available to the Motorola Atrix 4G. The updates, which need to be installed via Wi-Fi (and in the proper order), provide a number of bug fixes and performance improvements. The most significant performance improvement is that the update finally turns on the Atrix's HSUPA capabilities, which will provide for faster mobile data uploads. AT&T is also providing a similar update to the HTC Inspire 4G. The Inspire 4G's update fixes bugs and also enables the HSUPA radio for faster data uploads. Both devices shipped with the HSUPA radios inactive. AT&T said further refinement of the software was needed before the faster data radios could be turned on.

Motorola i420 for Boost Outed by FCC

Apr 29, 2011, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Documents seen on the Federal Communications Commission web site reveal details about an unannounced handset from Motorola. The Motorola i420 is a basic clamshell and is pictured with Boost branding. Images reveal that it has two displays and a camera, and the FCC confirms that it also has Bluetooth. The draft user manual mentions features such as push-to-talk, group calling, a 2.5mm headset jack, and an FM radio, though these details aren't confirmed by the FCC. Neither Boost Mobile nor Motorola has officially released information about the i420.

Google Announces Native Video Chat for Android

Apr 28, 2011, 3:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 28, 2011, 4:02 PM

Google today announced that it is adding native support for video chatting to its Google Talk Android application. It will allow Android smartphone users to conduct video chats with other Android smartphone users, as well as Android tablets and the desktop version of Gmail. Google says video chat will work over 3G, 4G, and Wi-Fi. Google Talk with video and voice chat will be distributed to the Nexus S in phases as part of the Android 2.3.4 over-the-air update. It will launch on other Android 2.3+ devices at some point later this year.

FCC Slaps Protective Order on AT&T / T-Mobile Documents

Apr 27, 2011, 6:46 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Federal Communications Commission today issued a protective order that will block access to much of the information regarding AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile. The FCC wrote, "We adopt [these] procedures to provide more limited access to certain especially competitively sensitive information that may be filed in this proceeding, which, if released to competitors or those with whom the Submitting Party does business, would allow those persons to gain a significant advantage in the marketplace or in negotiations. We anticipate that such materials will be necessary to develop a more complete record on which to base the Commission's decision. While we are mindful of the highly sensitive nature of such information, we are also mindful of the right of the public to participate in this proceeding in a meaningful way." Earlier this week, Sprint requested that the FCC allow it to see some of the documents in question. Sprint hired an outside law firm, which has signed confidentiality agreements, to seek access to the documents. Today's protective order specifies that access to these documents is limited to the participants' "Outside Counsel of Record, their Outside Consultants and experts whom they retain to assist them in this proceeding, and their Outside Counsel's and Outside Consultants' employees." The participants, in this case, are AT&T and T-Mobile. It is possible that today's order will effectively block Sprint from ever accessing the documents. Sprint strongly opposes the acquisition.

Apple Addresses Location Concerns

Apr 27, 2011, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple today published a Q&A document regarding the iPhone's location tracking and storing behavior. Apple says that the data captured by the iPhone does not represent users' exact locations, but is instead a crowd-sourced map of cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots. Apple says it keeps this database so that the iPhone can supply accurate location data more quickly when called upon by applications that need it. Since the entire database is too large to store on an iPhone at any given time, only a small cache of it resides of the device. The rest is synced back to a computer, where it is "protected but not encrypted." Apple noted that users who encrypt the back-up files of their iPhone by default also encrypt this location data, though it can't be done selectively. Apple admits that there is a bug with the system and it stores too much data for too long, and also continues to collect location data when location services are turned off. Apple said it plans to issue a software update soon to fix these issues. Apple also noted that user information is not shared with third parties unless expressly approved by the end user. Apple also noted that it collects traffic information that it hopes to one day use to improve live traffic conditions to iPhone users. Apple said that the data will be encrypted once the next major version of iOS is released.

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Twitter for Android Receives Minor Version Bump

Apr 26, 2011, 3:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Twitter has update the official Android application to version 2.0.2. The new version mostly fixes bugs, but also adds the ability to delete direct messages and the ability to see a map view of nearby Tweets. The update is free.

Navteq Re-Org to Focus On Social-Location Service

Apr 26, 2011, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 26, 2011, 9:16 AM

According to an internal memo supplied to Phone Scoop, Nokia and Navteq are undertaking a massive reorganizational approach to their mapping and social networking services. The three foundational elements behind this change are being made to support the following: new social-location applications, services, and developer experiences that engage a large user-base to build a winning brand and ecosystem together with Microsoft; high-value location content enabling differentiated experiences; and high-value advertising network monetizing the ecosystem by providing local commerce services for brands and merchants. Effective May 1, Nokia's Tero Ojanpera and Navteq CEO Larry Kaplan will work on the creation of a new business unit that consolidates all Nokia location assets, including Navteq and Nokia social-location services, into a single organization to accomplish these goals. Many of the companies' sub-units are to be transferred and/or shifted to new teams, with many of them falling under the new Mobile Phones Business Unit. Further, Nokia and Navteq will not only be targeting Nokia devices and the Windows Phone platform, but will also "focus on horizontal services that target Nokia devices, and beyond Nokia devices, including the ongoing availability of Navteq data to all its B2B partners." They believe these organization changes "will drive the next generation of location and commerce capabilities for the entire industry." This plans have not yet been made officially public.

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Android Devices Collect Location Data, Send it to Google

Apr 22, 2011, 7:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Earlier this week, researchers discovered that the Apple iPhone records users' location data, syncs it back to the host computer and stores it there in unencrypted, but invisible, files. What happens to that data in not yet fully understood. The Wall Street Journal points out that smartphones running Google's Android platform also collect user data but take it one step further. Security analyst Samy Kamkar reported that an HTC Android phone "collected its location every few seconds and transmitted the data to Google at least several times an hour. It also transmitted the name, location and signal strength of any nearby Wi-Fi networks, as well as a unique phone identifier." Google has said in the past that it collects cell phone location data in order to help generate the live traffic information it provides on Google Maps. The revelations this week have prompted concerns over user privacy.

Sprint: AT&T and T-Mobile Merger Would Create Duopoly

Apr 19, 2011, 4:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Sprint held a conference call this afternoon in an attempt to cast some spin on comments made about CEO Dan Hesse by AT&T. On April 15, Hesse made comments regarding Sprint's opposition to the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. AT&T responded with a post on its policy blog, saying that Hesse's remarks were off-base, and not consistent with its past position regarding mergers and acquisitions, and the competitive nature of the market. Sprint representative John Taylor said that AT&T's blog post was an attempt to mislead the public on Sprint's position. Taylor says that Sprint favors mergers and acquisitions, but not in the case of AT&T and T-Mobile, which it repeatedly said would create an imbalanced duopoly (AT&T/T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless) in the U.S. Sprint said that the merger will reduce competition, slow innovation, increase consumer pricing, and won't lead to any real consumer benefit. Sprint says the merger won't lead to LTE in rural areas, nor will it improve coverage in urban areas, as AT&T and T-Mobile's GSM networks almost entirely overlap. Sprint said it will continue to "raise the alarm" about the merger, which it firmly believes should not happen. It expects U.S. governmental regulators to see past what it called AT&T's attempts to distract the public. AT&T is expected to file official paperwork with the FCC this week. The FCC has promised the deal will undergo a thorough review.

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