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Sprint Launches Its Best Family Plan Yet

Sprint logoSprint’s new family plan includes more data than T-Mobile, with more savings than similar packages offered by Verizon and AT&T, making it the best option available to those in the U.S seeking a family deal.

The plan includes four lines, unlimited talk and text and 10GB of high-speed data for the price of $100 per month. How does this compare to other carriers providing the same amount of data? Those who switch from Verizon will find themselves saving $480 a year, and that figure increases to $720 for those switching from AT&T.

The demand for data continues to rise among families, whether it is for video calling or streaming. Sprint is also giving families who use more than the monthly 10GB the option of upgrading to 40GB a month for only $20 more.

“Family members have differing data needs: music downloads, emails, movies. You have to supply the right amount of data to keep everyone under the same roof satisfied, deliver it at a price that works with the family budget, and offer to refill data affordably if the family runs low,” said Sprint’s chief marketing officer Kevin Crull.

Is Google+ On Its Last Legs?

google plusGoogle’s vice president of Photos and Streams, Bradley Horowitz, recently announced Google is planning to disassemble and refocus its social networking platform Google+. Despite the enormous popularity of Google, the company’s attempt to compete with Facebook and Twitter has not been as successful as hoped. Google+ has failed to gain popularity and, according to Horowitz, the company is changing the site to provide a “more focused, more useful, more engaging Google+.”

Google Photos stopped requiring Google+ accounts back in March. Other services, including YouTube, are now following its lead. Without popular features like YouTube, Google+ could easily lose whatever traction it has left.

Google+ currently has 300 million active users, compared to Facebook’s 1.44 billion and counting. Upon its release in 2011, Google+ was hailed as the “Facebook killer.” This statement has proven to be a rather large overestimation of its impact.

That being said, the failure of Google+ is unfortunate. It has features that Facebook does not, such as separate “Circles” for friends and family, group video calls and fewer ads, which makes the service easier to use overall. Despite the fact the American Customer Satisfaction Index revealed a higher level of satisfaction among Google+ users, the social networking site was simply unable to draw loyal users away from Facebook.

New Samsung Monitor Wirelessly Charges Your Phone

SamsungIn a move to make computer monitors more attractive to consumers, Samsung’s latest model will feature integrated wireless charging for mobile devices.

Any device supporting Qi wireless charging, such as the LG G3, Galaxy S6 or Nexus 6, will be automatically charged when placed on the monitor’s stand. This application of wireless charging technology proves far more convenient than standalone charging pads. Building this technology into devices that typically reside on a desk makes for seamless integration into daily routines.

The Samsung SE370 features 1,920×1,080 pixel resolution, a response time of 4ms, 100:1 contrast ratio and a 178 degree horizontal and vertical viewing angle. It also has a PLS type panel and HDMI, DP and D-Sub ports.

The monitor will be made in two sizes: 23.6 and 27 inches. Pricing and release date have not yet been announced.

CRTC Rules on Fiber Networks

CRTC Wireless CodeCanada’s largest carriers – Telus, Bell Canada and Rogers Communications among others – are now required to add fiber networks to the list of wholesale services they must allow competitive carriers to have special access to. This comes as a result of a ruling recently made by the Canadian Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

“Following an extensive review, the CRTC found that the large incumbent companies continue to possess market power in the provision of wholesale high-speed access services and is requiring that they make these services available to competitors,” the commission said in a media release on July 23rd.

Fiber facilities must now be made available to Competitive Local Exchange Companies (CLECs), said the CRTC, because “the demand by Canadians for higher speed services will only increase in the coming years to support their growing Internet needs and usage.”

The decision was made, says the CRTC, in order to make sure Canadian consumers and businesses have more choice for high speed Internet services.

“By continuing to mandate certain wholesale services, and including access to fiber facilities, we are continuing our work to drive competition so Canadians have access to more choice, innovative services and reasonable prices,” said Jean-Pierre Blais, chairman of the CRTC. “At the same time, we fully expect that companies will continue to invest in their networks, including in fiber technology, to meet the growing needs of consumers.”

This ruling includes the decision to phase out copper unbundled local loops (ULLs), which are considered to coincide with slower internet services.

The United States’ Federal Communications Commission is looking into enforcing similar policies for national incumbents, such as Verizon and AT&T.

Facebook Gives Users Additional Video Privacy

facebook_2015_logo_detailWith users now watching more than 4 billion videos a day, Facebook is adding more options for users who upload videos. Users will now be able to choose who is allowed to view their footage.

In addition to the pre-existing controls on language and location, these new controls will limit who can view videos based on a user’s age or gender, as well as set an expiration date on the videos. The social media giant is also giving users a “secret video” mode, meaning videos in this mode will not be searchable and can only be accessed via a direct URL.

“This is useful for publishers who want to host videos on Facebook, embed them on third-party sites or share them with anyone who had the URL, without posting them anywhere else on Facebook,” said Facebook product manager Anaid Gomez-Ortigoza in a blog post.

Facebook began testing a new “Watch Later” button earlier this month, allowing users to flag a video to – as the name would suggest – watch later. YouTube already has a similar function.

Instagram Adds Web Search Feature

Instagram_Icon_LargeFacebook-owned social media site Instagram recently updated its service to be more desktop friendly. Instagram announced via Twitter that it is adding the ability to search for people, places and hashtags online.

The option is already available to mobile users, but desktop users have previously been confined to third party sites like Websta or OnInstagram. Instagram originally introduced web profiles in 2012. By the next year, it added Instagram feeds and began supporting Web embeds, allowing users to embed Instagram snapshots on their websites. This function has proven very successful, with over 5 billion usages since its introduction.

This new web expansion comes a month after Instagram upgraded its iOS and Android apps with a redesigned Explore tab. The Explore tab now shows a list of trending places and tags, as well as thumbnail photos from around the globe. Instagrammers, as they are called, now also have the ability to search by location.

YouTube More Successful than Individual Cable Networks

youtubeDuring a recent earnings conference call, Google’s chief business officer Omid Kordestani shared that YouTube reaches more viewers in the United States than any U.S. cable network. The video-sharing platform was acquired by Google in 2006, and has since become the most popular way to view content amongst 18- to 49-year-olds.

YouTube’s engagement metrics continue to increase rapidly, despite increasing competition from Facebook. According to Kordestani, visitors to YouTube’s homepage have increased three fold since 2014. Much of the site’s success, particularly among younger demographics, can be attributed to an increase in mobile viewing. Kordestani calls this a revolution of “the television experience for the digital age.”

The amount of time users spend viewing videos, or “watch time”, is up 60 percent. The average viewing session on mobile devices has more than doubled in the past year, with a record average viewing session of 40 minutes. New features such as video suggestions and auto-play have turned the video-sharing website into a platform to discover new content.

YouTube, along with other video-streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, continue to challenge the traditional TV landscape. A recent Deloitte report revealed more than 42 percent of American households use video-streaming services.

An increasing number of people view TV shows on smartphones, tablets or computers, and Millennials are leading the charge. Deloitte reported only 58 percent of people under 25 value traditional cable television, compared to 89 percent of adults ages 49-67.

Samsung Unveils Ultra-Slim Galaxy Tab S2

galaxy tab s2Samsung Electronics recently unveiled its latest Android tablets, which are thinner and lighter than its predecessors. The Galaxy Tab S2 will go on sale next month and could offer an attractive alternative to Apple’s iPad Air 2.

The streamlined tablet will be available in two sizes. The 8-inch model weighs in at 265 grams, while the 9.7-inch version weighs 389 grams. The Galaxy Tab S2 features a 2048×1536 pixel Super AMOLED screen and a metal frame that measures 5.6 mm in thickness. Samsung says the compact design and high quality display makes the tablet ideal for reading and viewing digital content.

Both tablets come equipped with a fingerprint scanner, as well as Samsung’s eight-core chip with two quad-core processors. The larger tablet runs at 1.9GHz, while the smaller version runs at 1.3 GHz. Each device comes with Android 5.0, has an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera.

The Galaxy tablets come with 3GB of ram, a choice of 32GB or 64GB of storage and a microSD card slot allowing for an additional 128GB of memory. The device will be available in both Wi-Fi and 4G versions.

Samsung is the world’s second largest tablet vendor behind Apple, and is hoping this new design will help it to stand out and stay competitive. “Samsung doesn’t want to be in a position where ‘Oh, the iPad Air is thinner and lighter than everybody else’s product,’” said IDC analyst Bryan Ma.

“It’s basically a Galaxy Air,” he said of the Galaxy Tab S2. “This is just Samsung’s response to the products Apple keeps bringing out.”

Facebook Acquires Israeli Motion-Sensing Company Pebbles

oculusOculus, the Facebook-owned virtual reality startup, recently announced its acquisition of Pebbles Interfaces. Pebbles is an Israel-based company specializing in computer vision and depth-sending technology.

Pebbles was founded in 2010 and develops advanced motion sensors that can recreate physical objects in a digital realm. Its technology uses “custom optics, sensor systems and algorithms” to monitor hand movement. These sensors are expected to give a major boost to the Oculus virtual reality (VR) headset, which will be launched to the public next year.

“Over time, technology breakthroughs in sensors will unlock new human interaction methods in VR and revolutionize the way people communicate in virtual worlds.” Oculus said in a blog post.

Pebbles also released an announcement, explaining it agreed to join Oculus and Facebook because they are the forefront of the shift VR has made in recent times. Being a part of that team, Pebbles said, will help “advance our vision [of] building immersive experiences and revolutionizing digital human interaction.”

In March of 2014, Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion. The company has made a number of acquisitions since then, including virtual reality companies Carbon Design Group, RakNet, Nimble VR, 13th Lab and Surreal Vision.

Samsung to Release its Thinnest Phone Ever

SamsungSamsung’s new Galaxy smartphone will be the company’s thinnest model ever, at only 5.9mm thick. The Galaxy A8 will be released in China and measure slightly thinner than its predecessor, the A7, which is 6.3mm thick.

Not only does the A8 measure thinner than Samsung’s leading smartphone, the Galaxy S6, but it is also thinner than the Apple iPhone 6, which is 6.9mm thick. That being said, it is not the thinnest phone ever made.

Thinness is a feature that many consumers look for in a smartphone, although it can come at a price. Thicker phones fit larger batteries, which generally increases battery life performance. For this reason, some analysts predict the next iPhone might actually be 0.2mm thicker than the iPhone 6.

Samsung’s launch of a slimmer phone comes along with Samsung’s announcement that it will move up the launch of the upcoming Galaxy Note 5 to this August.

The Galaxy A8 will be retail for approximately $515.