Samsung trotted out two versions of its flagship smartphone for 2015 and took them in a new direction with respect to design. The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge boast the highest quality materials and build we've seen from Samsung.
Sprint today said it plans to sell the Motorola Moto E from Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, and Sprint Prepaid this month. The Moto E, which has a larger screen and supports LTE 4G, is available in white from Boost Mobile beginning today for $99.99. The black model is available today from Sprint Prepaid at Best Buy and RadioShack stores. Sprint said Virgin Mobile (via Walmart) will offer the Moto E beginning March 9. The device has a 4.5-inch display, 5-megapixel camera, and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop.
Verizon Wireless today announced Flexible Business Plans, which let companies fine-tune the data allowed each line on the plan. All the Flexible Business Plans include unlimited domestic calls and messaging, as well as unlimited international messaging, mobile hotspot, and corporate email. Businesses can then select the specific data allotment given to each line on the plan, even when in a shared data plan. For example, a five-line plan with 10GB of shared data can be divvied up however the business wants: one line can be given 6GB and the other four can be given only 1GB, and so on. Verizon said businesses can configure the plans to suit their needs. The Flexible Business Plans are also compatible with internet devices, such as tablets and WiFi hotspots. Verizon said the plans will be available later this month.
AD more news below...
AT&T recently dialed back language referring to its small cell deployments planned for 2015. The company said last year it would launch 40,000 small cells around the country to improve coverage and capacity by the end of 2015. However, its March 2014 acquisition of Leap Wireless led it to reconsider those plans. "The Leap deal gave us additional spectrum and towers that allowed us to pull back on our original target because we added more macro sites, providing us additional capacity to meet the rising traffic demands," said AT&T in a statement provided to Fierce Wireless. The company is still deploying small cells, but it will not say how many. Fierce Wireless suggests AT&T's goal for 2015 may be 20,000 small cells, or about half the original number.
Sprint said it is pushing the Android 5.0 Lollipop update to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. In addition to the new operating system, the update improves Sprint's WiFi calling service. The update is rolling out over the next few days.
Google's forthcoming wireless service will only be available to the Nexus 6 handset at launch, reports the Wall Street Journal. Citing sources familiar with Google's plans, the Journal says Google's wireless service will "weave together" access from T-Mobile and Sprint's cellular services, in addition to WiFi. The service won't be available to older Nexus handsets, such as the LG-made Nexus 5 and Nexus 4. The Nexus 6, made by Google's former Motorola unit, went on sale last year and is available directly from Google online. At the Mobile World Congress trade show this week, Google's Sundar Pichai confirmed plans to offer wireless service on an experimental basis. He likened it to the Nexus device program, about which he said, "Our goal here is to drive a set of innovations which we think the system should adopt." Android 5.0 Lollipop is able to automatically pick the best wireless service (cellular or WiFi) based on a given app's needs. Google did not comment on the Journal's report.
Google has pushed out a minor update to its Gmail application for iPhones and iPads that allows people to reply to or archive emails directly from incoming notifications on the lock screen. When pressed on the lock screen, the new reply button opens a response in the Gmail application, which reduces steps and saves time. Gmail now also allows users to share media content (photos, videos) from other apps directly to new messages in Gmail. Gmail is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Softcard, the mobile wallet service developed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, has informed users the application will go offline March 31. Softcard customers can use the app through that date, but afterward their accounts will automatically be closed. Softcard recommends users who wish to be able to make mobile payments in the future download Google Wallet. Google purchased certain Softcard assets in a deal announced last month. Google Wallet will replace Softcard on Android handsets later this year. Softcard never caught on with consumers due to limited handset, credit card, and retail support. General interest in mobile payments has increased after the launch of Apple Pay on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Samsung recently announced plans for its own mobile wallet service, called Samsung Pay. Samsung Pay will first be available to the Galaxy S6.
The Blackphone is a smartphone for corner office types who absolutely require encrypted, secure communications. Silent Circle's second-generation handset is a handsome piece of hardware. Here are our impressions.
Google will no longer provide updates to its Chrome browser for devices running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Google first released Android 4.0 in 2011. Continually developing for it takes resources away from updating/creating apps for newer platforms, says Google. Chrome 42, which Google released recently, is the last major version update Android 4.0 users will see. The browser will continue to function without change.
Verizon Wireless is now pushing Android 5.0 Lollipop to the HTC One M8. In addition to the new operating system, the update enables Band 4 roaming and improves the three-way calling feature. Owners can download and install the update over the air.
Google has completely redesigned Google Contacts, the contact-management tool associated with Gmail. The online app has a brand new look and feel that brings it inline with many of Google's existing services. One of the main improvements is the ability to better manage duplicate contacts. Google said it can now keep information up-to-date by blending users' data with its own Google profile data. Google Contacts now also shows the most recent emails and meetings users may have had with specific contacts so they can review their last few messages. Google is offering the new Google Contacts as a preview online. Google didn't say if or how the new Google Contacts service will affect Android's contact application.
The Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and the HTC One M9 support the MirrorLink standard for connecting to cars. MirrorLink is a platform-agnostic tool that allows smartphones to push apps and content to in-dash consoles. It competes with Google's Android Auto and Apple's CarPlay. With MirrorLink on board, the GS6, GS6 Edge, and One M9 will be able to connect to the infotainment systems of supported cars.
MediaTek is slowly introducing a new brand name for its mobile processors. Moving forward most of its smartphone and tablet chips will be branded under the name Helio. The company showed off the first two such processors this week, the Heiio X and Helio P series. The Helio X is being marketed as an "extreme performance" chip targeted at flagship multimedia devices. The Helio P is being marketed as a "premium performance" chip meant to deliver solid computing power but also excellent battery life. Think of Helio to MediaTek as Snapdragon is to Qualcomm. MediaTek will have more to say about the Helio brand and lineup later this year.
YotaPhone plans to launch its unique dual-screen YotaPhone 2 in the U.S. this spring via crowd-funding site Indiegogo, according to Matthew Kelly, YotaPhone's Managing Director for Americas. The YotaPhone 2 is a high-end Android phone with a large e-paper display on the back that uses no power when displaying static images and graphics, greatly extending battery life when used often instead of the traditional front display. It is compatible with both T-Mobile and AT&T networks, including LTE. It will sell for approximately $600. As usual for Indiegogo, the company will offer incentives to early backers. Those incentives have not been nailed down, but may include a bumper case or even a discount on the phone. After a successful Indiegogo launch, the company plans to expand availability to third-party retailers such as best Buy. YotaPhone is hard at work on its software upgrade to Android 5.0 (Lollipop), which should be available by the time units start shipping in the U.S., or shortly thereafter. The software update will also include an overhauled 2.0 version of the API for third-party app support of the e-paper screen. The company will also launch a white version of the YotaPhone 2, which has a white back and sides, but keeps the black face. The white color is expected by late summer.
YotaPhone is planning a cheaper version of its YotaPhone 2 dual-screen phone that will be called the YotaPhone 2c, according to Matthew Kelly, YotaPhone's Managing Director for Americas. In order to reach a lower price point, the new model will bring some specs down to typical mid-range level, including the front color display. The 2c will keep the same large e-paper touch screen on the back as the YotaPhone 2. The e-paper display uses no power to display static information and graphics, greatly extending battery life when used often instead of the traditional front display. The standard YotaPhone 2 normally sells for about $600. The company is also working on a YotaPhone 3 that it hopes to debut at CES in ten months.
Pebble today followed the Pebble Time smartwatch with the Pebble Time Steel. The steel version of the Time offers all the same features, but uses a CNC-finished 316L stainless steel casing, includes a premium leather or stainless steel strap, and provides up to 10 days of battery life. Like the Pebble Time, the Pebble Time Steel is available through Kickstarter. Early pledges can reserve one for $250. It will ship in July.
Samsung today announced two new components that will find their way into high-end phones later this year. The first is an 8-megapixel RWB (red-white-blue) image sensor based on ISOCELL technology. Samsung says it provides dramatically improved low-light performance by reducing noise and keeping colors more accurate when compared to back-side illumination sensors. Samsung believes it is ideal for user-facing cameras. Samsung also debuted a fourth-generation NFC radio that improves RF performance by 100% when compared to its predecessor. Samsung says this allowed it to reduce the size of the antenna. It can be attached to a smartphone battery without an extra booster integrated circuit. Together, these benefits will let smartphone makers add the NFC radio to their phones without compromising design. The ISOCELL camera module is expected to go into production during the second quarter, but the NFC radio is already being manufactured at volume.
PayPal today said it has agreed to acquire Paydiant for an undisclosed sum. Paydiant creates the underlying payment mechanisms used by apps such as Subway and Capital One so people can pay for goods and services within those applications. PayPal says the acquisition will allow its partners to build better mobile payment functionality into their own apps, and even go so far as to create complete mobile wallets. Paydiant also includes tools for managing gift cards and loyalty cards. PayPal expects the acquisition to close in March or April.