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Cell Phone Reviews and Mobile Phone News
Read about the latest news updates, from apps for the Nokia Lumia 710 to updates on AT&T's Gingerbread system
 
05/16/2016 02:37 PM
Visual Guide to US Mobile Radio Bands

Updated to include the new band 71. Band 12? AWS? Lower 700 MHz? What does it all mean? We explain the arcane world of the radio frequency bands used for mobile phones in the US, in this one-of-a-kind, interactive, visual guide.


 
10/19/2017 01:29 PM
Google Improves Visibility of Instant Apps with 'Try It Now' Button

Google today outlined a number of improvements it has made to the Play Store in order to help both consumers and developers make the most of Android apps and games. The most significant user-facing change is the addition of a "Try It Now" button that accompanies Instant Apps in the Play Store. This allows people to jump right into the app for sampling purposes without downloading or installing the full application. The idea is to give people a taste of what the app or game delivers without requiring them to download or pay for it right away. Google believes this will boost download numbers for developers. The Play Store now includes trailers for games and expanded screenshots depicting gameplay, as well as previews for upcoming releases. The curated Editors' Choice section is now live in 17 countries, providing the best apps and games with even more visibility on end-user devices. Google has made changes to the way it handles subscriptions, though these changes mostly benefit developers. For example, developers can now offer shorter free trials (minimum of three days), as well as enforce one free trial to reduce the potential for abuse. Moreover, beginning in January the subscription fee expense for developers will drop from 30% to 15% for customers who stick around for more than 12 months for any given subscription.


 
10/19/2017 08:34 AM
Verizon Drops Screen Repair Cost to $29 for Insurance Enrollees

Repairing a cracked smartphone display just got cheaper. Verizon Wireless today said those who subscribe to its Total Mobile Protection device insurance program will be charged $29 per screen repair, down from the previous charge of $49. Verizon is holding an open enrollment for its Total Mobile Protection program beginning today. Customers can enroll any phone purchased during the last 24 months in the insurance program, which covers the cost of damage, loss, or theft. Total Mobile Protection includes next-day replacement phones when the circumstances warrant. Verizon says the company has 296 certified repair stores scattered around the country for screen repairs, though customers in 152 cities can choose to have a certified technician meet them at their home or office. Total Mobile Protection provides coverage for up to three claims per year, but it isn't cheap. The monthly cost for simple phones and tablets is $9, while most smartphones cost $11, and a family of devices costs $33. Insuring a single smartphone will cost $132 for a year. Open enrollment for Total Mobile Protection lasts through November 17. By way of comparison, AppleCare+ costs between $129 and $199 per year per iPhone, and screen repairs from Apple carry a $29 fee.


 
10/19/2017 07:00 AM
Review: Wicked Audio Endo Bluetooth Headphones

Wicked Audio's Endo Bluetooth headphones are on-ear cans for those who don't need or want advanced features. This affordable headset is a no-frills offering that delivers basic Bluetooth performance for listening on the go.


 
10/18/2017 04:25 PM
Samsung Embraces Google's ARCore for Augmented Reality

Samsung today said it will work with Google to bring Google's ARCore augmented reality content to a wider range of its smartphones, including the Galaxy S8, S8+, and Note8. Using the ARCore SDK, developers will be able to create augmented reality experiences for millions of Galaxy handsets. Google announced ARCore in August. The effort will see less-demanding hardware requirements for running AR apps on Android devices, expanding AR's reach to some 100 million phones. In addition to its stance on AR, Samsung also provided an update on its efforts in the virtual reality space. For example, it continues to iterate on its Gear VR headset for Galaxy smartphones and recently introduced the Samsung Internet VR, a browser optimized for the Gear VR. Another app called Samsung PhoneCast VR lets people translate 2D apps into 3D AR through mirroring for improved gameplay. Samsung offers developers the Samsung Gear VR Framework, an open-source VR rendering engine with a Java interface. The Java UI gives developers a familiar environment in which to create without forcing them to learn new SDKs. Samsung says it will continue to work with partners such as Google and Facebook/Oculus to push mobile-based AR and VR forward.


 
10/18/2017 01:15 PM
Samsung Says Bixby 2.0 to Be Open and Ubiquitous

Samsung today announced a major update to its Bixby personal assistant service. Samsung calls Bixby 2.0 a "bold reinvention" of the platform that will be available not only on phones, but other smart devices, such as TVs, refrigerators, and speakers. Bixby 2.0 will feature enhanced natural language processing for more natural commands and feedback. The assistant will be able to differentiate between multiple users' voices as well as their individual preferences and settings. Moreover, Samsung is opening Bixby up to third-party app developers. The company has made a private beta of the Bixby SDK available to select developers to test the platform and explore how it can be put to work in sports, food, entertainment, travel, and other apps. Samsung will slowly allow more developers to access Bixby over time and eventually expects to make the Bixby SDK available to all developers. "Bixby 2.0 will ultimately be a marketplace, for intelligence," said Samsung. "A new channel for developers to reach users with their service, not just on mobile devices, but through all devices." Bixby launched on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ earlier this year. It goes beyond the simpler types of requests available to Siri and Google Assistant by allowing Samsung smartphone owners to issue intricate commands that control applications.


 
10/18/2017 10:25 AM
Motorola Bakes Amazon's Alexa Into Speaker Mod for Moto Z

Motorola today announced the Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa, a new modular attachment that lets Moto Z owners access Alexa when on the go. The Smart Speaker includes four microphones and Motorola says it can detect voices and respond to requests in most environments. The Smart Speaker can be used to play music and interact with Alexa just like at home with an Amazon Echo speaker. Moto Z owners can ask Alexa for the news headlines, directions, commute details, calendar appointments, list items, and more. In addition to voice responses, the Moto Z can display information, such to-do lists and weather reports, directly on the screen. The speaker includes its own battery that can deliver up to 15 hours of listening without impacting the phone's battery. It includes a charging dock that works together with the Moto Z to provide a nightstand mode with active Alexa listening. The Moto Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa will be available for $150 starting in November. It is compatible with all Moto Mod handsets, including the newer Moto Z2 Play and Z2 Force.


 
10/18/2017 10:12 AM
Amazon to Sell Moto X4 Via Prime Exclusives

Amazon today said it will soon offer the Motorola Moto X4 through its Prime Exclusives program. Devices sold under the Prime Exclusives banner are offered at a discount in exchange for viewing ads on the lock screen. The phone will be available for preorder starting today for $330, a discount of $70 off the full list price of $400. Amazon is offering both the black and blue colors and says the phone will start shipping on October 26. The Moto X4 is a mid-range phone with dual cameras, including a 12-megapixel main camera with PDAF, and a 120-degree wide-angle second camera with 8-megapixel resolution. The LCD screen measures 5.2 inches with full HD resolution. The phone is rated IP68 for water-resistance, and has a metal frame with Gorilla Glass on the front and back. The X4 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor and the 3,000 mAh battery supports Turbo Charging. Motorola says the Moto X4 will be generally available in the U.S. for pre-order beginning October 19 at Best Buy, BestBuy.com, B&H, Fry's, Jet.com, Motorola.com, Newegg, Republic Wireless, and Ting. Like the Amazon variant, Motorola expects its retail partners to ship the standard Moto X4 beginning October 26


 
10/18/2017 08:45 AM
Twitter Vows to Crack Down on Hatred and Violence

Twitter plans to implement much stricter rules regarding abusive posts and those that contain words or images of hatred and violence. Despite previous efforts to do the same, the social network has come under fire in recent months for not doing enough to protect users from abuse. In an email sent to employees, Twitter said, "Hateful imagery, hate symbols, etc., will now be considered sensitive media." Twitter sets a higher bar for how it handles sensitive media and can take swift action to remove it. Further, Twitter "will take enforcement action against organizations that use/have historically used violence as a means to advance their cause." The company plans to update its rules concerning non-consensual nudity, unwanted sexual advances, and threats of violence directed against individuals/groups. "We realize that a more aggressive policy and enforcement approach will result in the removal of more content from our service," said Twitter, but "we are comfortable making this decision, assuming that we will only be removing abusive content that violates our Rules." The company will bulk up its team to help improve its appeals and review process for those who feel their content was removed unjustly. Twitter didn't say how soon users will begin to see a reduction in tweets containing hatred and violence.


 
10/18/2017 08:12 AM
Google Testing 3rd-Party Email Access in iOS Gmail App

Google is allowing people to use their non-Gmail email service within the Gmail app for iOS. Apple's own iOS email app and Microsoft's Outlook email app both already support multiple email services, as does Gmail on Android handsets. This will be the first time Google has brought the feature to its iOS Gmail app. Those interested in testing the feature can sign up with Google to take the beta app for a spin. The beta app will be distributed through TestFlight, rather than the iTunes App Store. Google hasn't said how long the feature might be in testing before it reaches final form.


 
10/17/2017 03:23 PM
Cricket Wireless Enlists In Military Exchanges

Cricket Wirelss today said it has expanded its retail footprint to 122 post exchanges on U.S. military bases. This includes 83 Army and Air Force bases, 14 Marine exchanges, and 26 Navy exchanges. Servicemen and servicewomen will be able to purchase Cricket Wireless handsets, including the Risio 2, CoolPad, HTC Desire 550, and Sol 2, at their local exchange and enroll in Cricket’s low-cost, prepaid wireless service. Post exchanges will also offer SIM cards for bring-your-own customers.


 
10/17/2017 03:16 PM
YouTube TV Gains Voice Control Via Google Home

Google today updated its YouTube TV and Google Home products, giving them the ability to speak with one another. Moving forward, YouTube TV subscribers will be able to control YouTube TV on their television set via Google Home. People will need to link their YouTube TV account with their Google Home (or Chromecast). Once that step is complete, they can utter requests such as “Play last week’s ‘NCIS’” or “Play the MLB game” and Google Home will take care of the rest. YouTube TV costs $35 per month and is available in many U.S. cities. Television stations are limited to about 50 in total, though that includes live broadcasts from most major networks. Google Home and Chromecast are additional hardware purchases.


 
10/17/2017 01:56 PM
Google Pixel Phones Have Hidden Image Processor

Google today revealed the Pixel Visual Core, a custom-designed co-processor that is built into every Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphone. The Image Processing Unit has eight cores, each with 512 arithmetic logic units (ALUs) that can handle some three trillion calculations per second. Google claims the Pixel Visual Core with HDR+ can run five times faster and at less than one-tenth the energy than running directly on the application processor. The Pixel Visual Core is laying dormant for the time being, but Google says it will turn the co-processor on soon. Google created advanced software to manage the Pixel’s ability to capture rich photos and it wants to extend that to other photo apps. The Pixel Visual Core will eventually allow third-party apps to use the Pixel’s HDR+ technology. Google plans to enable the Pixel Visual Core as a developer option in the developer preview of Android Oreo 8.1 (MR1) in the coming weeks. Later, Google will let third-party camera apps access it using the Android Camera API, giving them access to the Pixel 2’s HDR+ technology. The end result should be much better photos on the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL when using photo apps other than the stock camera.


 
10/17/2017 11:05 AM
Qualcomm's Snapdragon 636 Targets Sub-Flagships

Qualcomm has added to its roster of mobile processors with the Snapdragon 636 Mobile Platform, a high-performance chip that is meant for phones with less-than-flagship price points. The platform is built on a 14nm FinFet process and relies on the Kryo 260 CPU, which Qualcomm says is 40% faster than the Snapdragon 630 it replaces. The 636 was designed with 18:9, full HD+ displays in mind, and puts Qualcomm's TruPalette and EcoPix tools to work along with the Adreno visual processing subsystem to create dynamic screen experiences. The Adreno 509 GPU boosts gaming performance by about 10% and also improves 3D rendering. Qualcomm says the 636 processor is paired with the Snapdragon X12 LTE modem, with peak download speeds of 600 Mbps. On the imaging front, the 636 includes the 14-bit Qualcomm Spectra 160 ISP, which supports capture of up to 24 megapixels. Last, the Qualcomm Aqstic audio codec supports HiFi audio, with up to 192kHz/24bit support and the ability to playback lossless audio files. Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 636 is already in production and will reach commercially available devices bt November.


 
10/17/2017 10:40 AM
Hands On with the ZTE Axon M

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.


 
10/17/2017 10:40 AM
ZTE's Axon M Boasts Dual, Folding Displays to Create Tablet-Sized Screen

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.


 
10/17/2017 10:37 AM
Qualcomm to Support T-Mobile's 600 MHz with New RF Module

Qualcomm is expanding the number of LTE bands supported by its cellular antennas. Specifically, the company has designed a new RF front-end to support 600 MHz spectrum, or LTE Band 71. T-Mobile will be the primary beneficiary of the suite of RF modules. T-Mobile has a nationwide footprint of this low-band spectrum, which it has already begun to deploy in some rural areas, including Wyoming. Low-band spectrum has greater propagation characteristics when compared to mid-band spectrum, which means it travels further and can penetrate walls more easily. Qualcomm says its new RF module will also benefit IoT devices that use 600 MHz airwaves. Primarily, the QPM2622 and variants are designed for devices based on the Snapdragon 800 Mobile Platform, while the QAT3516 and variants can be used with the Snapdragon 800, 600, 400, and 200 Mobile Platforms. Qualcomm says its new RF front-ends are already sampling with select customers and it expects to see the modules in commercial devices by the end of the year.


 
10/17/2017 10:28 AM
Qualcomm Shrinks 5G Modem to Phone-Sized Chipset

Qualcomm says it has created a 5G modem that's small enough for mobile devices. The Snapdragon X50 5G chipset, which Qualcomm tested in its San Diego lab, reached gigabit speeds using 28 GHz mmWave radio frequencies. In order to reach those speeds, Qualcomm used several 100 MHz 5G carriers using the 5G New Radio standard. Moreover, Qualcomm debuted its first 5G smartphone reference design, a piece of hardware that can be used to test and optimize 5G technology in a form factor that is bound by the constraints of a typical smartphone. Qualcomm hopes the chipset and reference design will help accelerate the adoption of 5G NR, which most expect to see reach commercial deployments in 2019.


 
10/16/2017 04:02 PM
Andy Rubin's Essential Sued Over Magnetic Connector Tech

A company called Keyssa has filed an intellectual property lawsuit against Essential, the maker of the PH-1 smartphone, backed by former Google exec Andy Rubin. The lawsuit pertains to magnetic wireless connectors that can pass information and current from one device to another, such as the magnetic module accessory system used on the PH-1. According to Keyssa, Essential worked with the company for period of 10 months on the magnetic technology and was given trade secrets under non-disclosure agreement during that time. Eventually the relationship between the two companies dissolved and Essential picked magnetic components from a third company called SiBEAM for the PH-1. Keyssa alleges that even though Essential is using different hardware for its phone, the technology couldn't have been recreated without Keyssa's protected intellectual property. "Keyssa has not been compensated for Essential’s use of this guidance and know-how," said Keyssa in a statement provided to Reuters. "We are pursuing this action because our attempts to resolve this matter through discussions with Essential have not been successful." Keyssa is backed by Tony Fadell, who co-created the iPad when at Apple. Keyssa filed the lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco. Essential did not offer an immediate comment on the matter.


 
10/16/2017 01:22 PM
Google's Fur-tastic Google Photos Now Better at Recognizing Pets

Google today made it easier for pet lovers to manage pictures of their feline or canine companions. Google says Photos will now treat pets as the family members they are, grouping them alongside people and allowing users to name and/or label them. Google believes this will improve search and discoverability of pet pictures within Google Photos. Moreover, Google Photos can now sort between breeds to help separate pictures of different dogs. Accordingly, Google Assistant has been improved with the ability to create albums, collages, and movies of pets. Google Photos users can, of course, make their own pet creations whenever they wish. Google Photos' new pet recognition feature is rolling out to most users worldwide today.


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