Following up on the news that its UnCarrier rival will soon raise the cost of its unlimited data plan, AT&T is making some pricing changes of its own -- in the completely opposite direction. The base rate for the company's 2GB Mobile Share Value plan is currently $55 (that's the base price, excluding per-smartphone costs), but it just announced that beginning tomorrow customers will be able to grab the same plan for $40 per month instead.
07/03/2014 - Chevrolet adds Beats Music streaming to its in-car system as Beats opens its API to developers
Beats Music is already integrated with Apple's CarPlay system, which means you'll be able to stream music from Beats' catalog in any vehicle that happens to have Apple's setup installed. Now, new API support could mean we'll be able to pump out the jams from even more cars. The streaming music service made its API public today, a move that gives third-party developers access to its vast music collection. In particular, developers get access to the company's library of tunes, album art and track metadata (Beats previously shared its API privately with a few big names like Sonos and Bop.fm). So far, Chevrolet has announced it's adding Beats to its AppShop system -- and we're sure it won't be the last company to do so.
Source: Beats Music
Motorola's Touchless Control app just got an upgrade that'll make perpetually busy people happy. Now, the app can read notifications out loud when you ask "what's up?," which sounds especially useful for hectic morning commutes. If you're feeling extra dull and unfriendly, though, you can always tell it to "read notifications" instead. The new feature's fully available in English, Italian and Spanish, but it might be available in other languages in the future. Other than adding touchless access to notifications, the upgrade also enhances the app's ability to detect when you're done issuing commands.
Filed under: Mobile
Via: Android Central
27/02/2014 - Mobile World Congress 2014: Protect Your Devices Like a Pro - Panzer Glass and HZO Water Proofing
Google's got plenty of moonshots brewing in its Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP), but one of the most intriguing is its modular smartphone design, called Project Ara. Because Ara's a platform designed to lets users swap out hardware (processors, cameras, or sensors) on the phone, it presents unique opportunities for developers to build different kinds of modules and the software needed to make them all work. That's why ATAP's going to be doing three developers' conferences this year, with the first one set to happen April 15-16 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
Folks that want to attend, but are outside striking distance of the Bay Area need not fret, however, as there will be a live webcast and interactive Q&A sessions of the conference, too. This initial event will focus on building the modules themselves, as Google will be making an alpha version of its Module Developers' Kit available at the beginning of April. We don't know what the other two conferences will be about (though software development for Ara seems a good bet), but more info and the conference agenda can be found at projectara.com in the coming weeks.
Source: Google ATAP (Google+)
Wacom has been pushing into the world of mobile for a while, and its efforts have just culminated in a pretty bold move: A single, cross-platform standard for sharing handwritten notes and sketches between users, regardless of whether they're using a stylus or a finger, an iPhone or a PC, an app or a browser. The tool is called "WILL" -- "Wacom Ink Layer Language" -- and it captures a pen stroke's coordinates, pressure and the identity of its creator (through a unique "Pen ID"), as well as allowing the scribble to be edited by others. Users can also see other people's handwriting being created in real-time, i.e. we're not just talking about static images.Beginning next month, Wacom will promote WILL by distributing SDKs for iOS, Android, Mac OS and Windows, as well as for browsers and cloud platforms. These SDKs are meant to make it easier for developers to create apps that accept signatures scrawled on a touchscreen, or DIY smileys, or hand-drawn highlights on a cloud document, or any other sort of handwritten input. Of course, the concern with any such format is that it'll need to be embraced by a large number of companies in order to reach a tipping point and become widely accepted. Wacom doesn't seem to be ready to announce even a single partner just yet, but where there's a will... (Ahem, sorry.)
Locking down those credit cards while globe trotting is always a chief concern. Today at Mobile World Congress, MasterCard and Syniverse announced a joint effort to ease the fears of travelers. The pair is working on a pilot program that will only allow card-based transactions when a user's mobile device is in a specific location. This means that if you (and your phone) are in Barcelona and someone tries to use your card in Madrid, the purchase will be declined. In addition to the security measures, users will have the option of procuring prepaid data packages on said handset upon arrival to insure that the requisite GPS works. Of course, the setup is in testing at the moment, so there's no clear indication when or if the geolocation option will become available.
Via: Phone Scoop
Jolla's got a big problem, and the company knows it. The small Finnish startup has grand plans to upend the smartphone paradigm with its modular phone and unique gesture-based OS, but that foreign approach has left some users confused. The MeeGo-derived Sailfish OS relies entirely on swipe navigation -- there are no soft keys onscreen -- and the current tutorial does a poor job of explaining how it all works.
"Many people have difficulties because we suck," said Senior Designer Jaakko Roppola here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. "We're not very good at the first-time user experience."
That candid admission may ring true for the startup now, but what Jolla is exceedingly good at is listening to and quickly addressing community feedback. That eagerness to please has not only led to recent improvements in battery life and connectivity for the nascent operating system, but also the integration of a user-created WiFi hotspot option.
25/02/2014 - AT&T announces free, unlimited international text, picture and video messaging for Mobile Share customers
Starting February 28th, all AT&T Mobile Share and Mobile Share Value users will be able to send text picture and video messages internationally for free. However, there's a not-so ulterior motive behind the announcement (one that's referenced in AT&T's own release), as in comparison "other messaging services or applications will incur cellular data charges," pointing a vague finger at the likes of Hangouts, WhatsApp, Viber, LINE and, well, all the other ones we've forgotten. The full service will be compatible with around 120 countries, while text messages can be sent to over 190 different locales.
Alongside it, AT&T's got another offer for anyone with a global circle of friends, announcing a new international calling plan, World Connect ValueSM. It might not roll off the tongue, but will offer a-cent-per-minute calls to over 35 countries, including neighboring Canada and Mexico. The plan will be on offer to any post-paid AT&T customer, but you'll have to stump up $5 for it when it launches this Friday.
24/02/2014 - AT&T expands LTE roaming to 13 more countries
Mobile World Congress is in Spain, which is lucky, because today's the day that AT&T allows its users to use LTE while they're there. Following the deal with Rogers in Canada, 'Ma Bell has pushed out a list of 13 countries, including Japan, Russia and South Korea, where road warriors can now suck down super-fast data in peace. In order to make sure you're not going over on your plan, the the company has also launched a new travel app for iOS and Android devices that'll alert you if you get close to your cap. Someone should have brought MWC forward by a fortnight -- that way everyone could have used LTE while during the Winter Olympics.
At MWC, Alcatel was kind enough to give us a preview of its working "smartbook" prototypes. The idea isn't too far off from Motorola's doomed Lapdock or the first-gen ASUS PadFone, where an Android phone powers an otherwise brainless laptop. What's different with Alcatel's implementation is that instead of having to physically dock the phone somewhere, you hook it up to the laptop wirelessly: video signal over WiFi, and keyboard plus trackpad input over Bluetooth. What's more, the final product will let you use the two screens somewhat independently -- at least you'll be able to see the caller ID on the phone for incoming calls.
The pairing process itself is also quite interesting: instead of using an NFC coil, the laptop showcases MediaTek's cheaper Hotknot technology, which involves a little capacitive pad at the bottom right of the keyboard. The signal from the capacitive coupling between the pad and any phone's touchscreen is what helps identify the devices; so in other words, even non-NFC phones can be supported. %Gallery-slideshow181137%
After seeing Alcatel OneTouch announce a series of mid-range Idol phones and a lower-cost fitness-centric phone yesterday, a family of budget devices may not seem quite as... cool. Regardless, the company is pushing out a new trio of Pop smartphones known as "Pop S" (the 'S' stands for -- you got it -- speed) that throw in Cat 4 LTE connectivity while keeping down the price. First, there's the Pop S7 (pictured above), which features a 5-inch qHD display as well as MediaTek's new quad-core 1.3GHz LTE chip, Android 4.4 KitKat, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, a 5MP rear camera and VGA front-facing camera, microSD support and a 3,000mAh battery. It'll come in two flavors of LTE, depending on where you live, and will be making its way to Europe and Asia first. The device will go for 189 euro ($260).
If you want something bigger, the S9 might be a better fit -- it's a 6-inch 720p handset with a 3,400mAh battery and comes in at 8.5mm thick. It features a quad-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm 8926 processor, 8MP rear camera, 2MP front-facing camera, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and 8GB internal storage (along with a microSD slot that takes up to 32GB). The device should launch in March in Europe and Asia, but we expect to see it on Tracfone in the US sometime in the second half of this year. All this can be yours for 219 euro ($300).
Lastly, there's the Pop S3, which is a much more petite size and comes with a variety of swappable back covers in the box. The specs are pretty minimal in certain places, but impressive in others: 4-inch WVGA display, Android 4.3 and 2,000mAh battery aren't nothing worth talking about, but it offers a 1.2GHz quad-core processor, the same high-speed LTE connectivity, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, a 5MP rear camera and VGA front-facing cam, 4GB internal storage and microSD that supports up to 32GB. This particular device should head to the UK sometime around May, and it'll eventually make it to the US, we're told. All in all, it's a fairly impressive stack of phones that'll bring solid speed to emerging markets and developing countries, but the big question will be if the price is right.
It's been a year since we first got a glimpse of Firefox OS at MWC 2013, and unsurprisingly we're already seeing some more models show up once again in Barcelona. This time around, Alcatel is making a strong statement to Mozilla about its commitment level; the company's showing off a grand total of four devices, including a tablet concept. All still under the Fire brand, the trio of smartphones range from a budget-minded 3.5-inch device to a nicer quad-core model with 4.5-inch qHD display and LTE.
First, let's tackle the latter. The Fire S (which stands for 'speed') is the company's first Firefox device with LTE built-in, and while we're not looking at top-of-the-line specs here, they're certainly better than most we've seen on a smartphone bearing Mozilla's B2G project. The handset features OS 1.3, a 4.5-inch qHD display, 8MP rear camera with a 2MP front-facing cam, a quad-core 1.2GHz CPU and even NFC.
The other two in the trio aren't especially drool-worthy, but they're still notable for potential users in emerging markets -- obviously a rather large demographic for Mozilla. The Fire E (which stands for 'elegant') has the same 4.5-inch qHD display as the S, but it uses a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 5MP rear camera and VGA front-facing cam. It also doesn't feature LTE, as the S does. The C (which stands for 'cost-conscious') has a 3.5-inch HVGA display, dual-core 1.2GHz processor, VGA camera and other basic goodies.
23/02/2014 - Hands-on with LG's G2 mini
Just because it's smaller and has the same branding, that doesn't mean LG's G2 mini is anything like its elder namesake. It's just borrowing a bit of the G2's tech halo, is all. With a 4.7-inch, 960 x 540 qHD display, Snapdragon 400 heart (or Tegra 4i, depending on your market) and 1GB RAM, it's clear LG's positioning this as a budget Android KitKat device. But budget doesn't have to mean bad and here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, we got a chance to see just how modest the G2 mini really is. Read on for our initial thoughts.
Alcatel OneTouch is slowly but surely climbing the ranks of the smartphone world, having evolved from a line of low-end featurephones and smartphones just a couple years ago to a more established brand with good quality hardware. It's not slowing down the pace at which it introduces new devices, either -- this week, it's launching roughly a dozen or so handsets. Two of them are the first devices in the company's new Idol 2 family (a successor to this lineup) -- the self-titled 5-inch Idol 2 (shown above) and its smaller friend, the 4.5-inch Idol 2 Mini -- and each one comes with a 3G option as well as an "S"-branded LTE variant.
The Mini, which measures 8.5mm thick, will come out first, with an estimated launch in the first week of March. The devices will feature a qHD display, a quad core 1.2GHz processor, Android 4.3 (upgradeable to 4.4), NFC, an 8MP rear camera and 2MP front camera. The 3G model will be available for 169 euro ($232), while its LTE sibling will go for 209 euro ($287). The former choice also offers a plastic build, while the higher-speed handset has been bestowed with a metal back and plastic at the top and bottom for attenuation. Each model comes in your choice of four colors, although the Idol S Mini includes a chocolate hue instead of hot pink.
As for the larger Idol 2, it should be inbound by April or May at a cost of 199 euro ($274) for 3G and 249 ($342) euro for LTE. The duo will be around 7.3mm thick and offer improved HD Audio, as well as Android 4.3 (upgradeable to 4.4 KitKat), a 720p IPS display with nice viewing angles, Cat 4 LTE, a quad core 1.2GHz processor, NFC, 8MP rear camera and 1.3 MP front-facing camera. Fortunately, all of the above devices fit pretty well into the Idol family, as most of them all have the same feel, texture and genuinely decent build. They're also comfortable to hold. Overall, Alcatel OneTouch hopes that the Idol 2 series will compete well in the midrange market against legions of similar phones, but given its steady growth and increased marketing budget in 2014, we believe that they're doing something right. %Gallery-slideshow181163% %Gallery-slideshow181166%
In the era of phablets, it's rather odd to see a company launching a 2.8-inch device, let alone calling it a "wearable" smartphone. Meet the Alcatel OneTouch Pop Fit, a little QVGA 3G phone that costs from just €89 or about $120 unsubsidized, but it comes bundled with a bunch of accessories. These include five back covers in different colors (black, blue, yellow, pink and red), along with a semi-transparent flip cover (with three dedicated music buttons) and an armband case. You also get a pair of JBL in-ear headphones, which will come in handy while jogging with this splashproof device.
The phone itself is powered by a 1GHz dual-core MediaTek chip with 512MB of RAM, so the 1,000mAh battery should be sufficient. What's surprising is that even at this price point, the Pop Fit comes with either 16GB or 32GB of internal memory, thus giving the iPod nano a run for its money. There's a software bundle, too: RunKeeper GPS fitness tracking app, DoubleTwist music player and Fleksy keyboard (which should make typing a lot easier on this tiny screen). Expect this phone to hit the shops around May this year. %Gallery-slideshow181140%
We get it. It's been a year since you got a new phone, and it doesn't have a Super Ultra HD screen, 80MP camera or fancy pants 50-core processor. You pine for the latest and greatest mobile toy, but it's probably going to cost you a lot, right? Well, yes. But in the past year, every major US network has eased the pain by introducing device installment plans, many of which allow you to trade in your current phone for a newer, hipper model. Most of these plans, which are designed to let you pay off your device over several months, are still more expensive than the average two-year contract, regardless of who you sign it with. But whether you like it or not, they're here to stay.
T-Mobile gets credit for starting the movement: Shortly after it announced its installment and early upgrade plans, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint all followed with options of their own. Ever since, the new plans have led to a massive pricing war, and the resulting price drops (most recently from AT&T and Verizon) have made them more tempting. But what does it all mean for you?
19/02/2014 - Arr Jim lad: Nokia's Treasure Tags keep your phone and wallet within 50 paces of each other
Phone, wallet, wooden leg. That's the mental, if not physical, pat down today's urban pirate typically goes through as they leave the house. Nokia's Treasure Tag hopes to remove some of that anxiety. The "tag" part attaches to your "treasure" and connects to your phone over Bluetooth (with NFC pairing). Should your gold and your phone be parted -- say, as you leave one on your desk as you dash out for lunch -- both pieces of hardware alert you with an alarm. The sonic part also helps you find the forgotten item, should you not remember where you left it. There's also a companion app that will locate your lost bounty on a map. The extra forgetful can pair unto four tags with one phone, and disable/enable alerts for each at will, and with battery life claimed to be around six months, you're good for a long while. It comes in Nokia's four favorite/regular hues, and costs $30 a pop. It's not restricted to Windows Phone, either, it seems, as Nokia states there will be support for third-party iOS and Android apps. What if you're prone to forgetting you keys and phone together? Then you probably don't deserve nice things in the first place, swashbuckler.
Source: Nokia Conversations
If Google's latest acquisition is anything to go by, entering a password on a website could soon be as easy as placing your smartphone near your computer. Israeli startup SlickLogin confirmed today it has become the latest company join Mountain View's ranks (although it'll work from Google's local offices), bringing its patented sound-based smartphone technology with it. While neither party has disclosed much information, Google's intentions seem clear: the company already offers its two-factor authentication tech free to everybody, but it can be a pain to enter a six-digit authentication code (which changes every minute). SlickLogin's system, however, requires no additional technology, just place your phone near your computer and inaudible sounds played through the speakers take care of the rest. The Israeli team says Google is already "working on some great ideas that will make the internet safer for everyone," except maybe from your dog, who could hear all of your future passwords.
Just in case it wasn't already clear that Samsung is prepping a next-generation Windows Phone for Verizon, the company has just passed the device (the SM-W750V) through the FCC. The approval confirms the presence of Big Red-friendly LTE and CDMA frequencies, as well as GSM and HSPA for world roaming. The handset is also large enough to hold that rumored 5-inch screen. The filing doesn't offer any clues as to when the hardware ships, but we wouldn't rule out the possibility of an announcement at or around Mobile World Congress.
Lawmakers in California are so intent on curbing record levels of smartphone theft, they're ready to fine phone makers if anti-theft measures aren't installed on their devices. The New York Times reports that the order will come from State Senator Mark Leno, who is set to introduce a new law requiring all smartphones and tablets sold in the state to include a "kill switch" solution that would lock down a device if it was stolen. Ignore the ruling and device makers could face a $2,500 fine for each device sold.
San Francisco and New York prosecutors George Gascón and Eric Schneiderman set the ball rolling when they met with representatives from Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft last year. Apple has since won praise for including its Activation Lock feature by default in iOS 7, requiring device owners to set a passcode that stops thieves reactivating a stolen phone (but could be unlocked with a username and password). While it would only officially cover California, the new law could force phone makers into a full US rollout, likely upsetting the carriers. The CTIA, which represents the likes of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, believes its stolen phone database is a better solution and will fight the ruling. If it is signed into law, phone makers will have until January 1st, 2015 to implement a solution or they will not pass Go and will be forced to pay out a lot more than $200.
Source: New York Times
KnowRoaming, the company behind the roaming SIM "stickers" that popped up on Kickstarter last year, has begun shipping its device to the first 500 backers. The $35 pre-order kit, which includes a SIM sticker and a single-use applicator, enables international roaming at rates far lower than what you'd normally get with your carrier (unless, of course, you're using a Simple Choice plan with free global data from T-Mobile). What makes KnowRoaming unique, however, is a design that integrates with your existing SIM.
Once you attach the sticker to your carrier-issued card, your unlocked smartphone will detect when you've traveled abroad, switching your device over to a partner network. Current rates range from 13 cents per MB of data, 9 cents per minute of talk time and 16 cents per text in the UK, to a whopping $34.80 per MB, 27 cents per minute and $1.07 per SMS in Chad (though most countries offer tariffs at the cheaper end of the spectrum). CEO Gregory Gundelfinger plans to ship between 25 and 50 sets each day, so if your sticker isn't in this initial batch, you can expect to have it at your door soon.
05/02/2014 - Samsung loved its leather-look Note 3 so much it's revised the Galaxy S 4 design to match
Samsung tends not to hop around when it comes to design language, instead, choosing to gently sail the calmer waters of familiarity. Probably the biggest deviation from those well-worn design notes of late was the leather-look plastic back that adorned the Galaxy Note 3. We certainly preferred it to the recent smooth, fingerprint-friendly affairs found on the Galaxy S III and S 4. It seems the phone giant did too, and has released a new version of the GS 4 in Korea (Samsung Galaxy S 4 LTE-A, if you're interested) that features the same textured effect on the rear -- along with the not-so-needed faux stitching. Oh, and "rose gold" makes a comeback on the metal-look details too! So, while this might be no good to you, with your slippy-slidey OG Galaxy S-whatever, with number five potentially being just around the corner, it could be a suggestion of what it might look like.
Via: Newswire Korea
Source: Flickr (Samsung)
Samsung's still making Windows Phones, okay? And here's what the company's 2014 model will apparently look like, with yet another protruding physical button and what appears to be a lighter grey color palette -- matching the vague fortunes of Microsoft's still (gradually) growing mobile OS. According to @evleaks, it's also heading to Verizon in the US. Prior leaks have suggested it'll arrive LTE-capable with a 1080p 5-inch display. Well, we do expect Samsung to show up to MWC 2014 with more than just the one Android flagship.
Source: @evleaks (Twitter)