Monthly Archives September 2015

Verizon and AT&T Move in with Best Buy

best buyVerizon and AT&T will soon be setting up miniature stores inside electronic retail chain Best Buy. These stores will be in addition to the space they already occupy on the shelf.

Both carriers recently made separate announcements, stating they are planning to install mini-stores in 250 Best Buy locations within the United States this year. More specifically, Verizon said it would start by opening 100 this month.

Verizon revealed it will be referring to these shops as “Experience Stores”, and they will be operated by Best Buy employees who receive additional training. Joan Colaiuti, vice president for national distribution for Verizon Wireless, said these Experience Stores would be very similar in appearance to the company’s pre-existing Destination and Smart Stores.

AT&T will take a similar route, with Best Buy employees working at its shops. However, in addition to selling smartphones, tablets, plans and other various tech, the carrier plans to include a dedicated section for smart home offerings such as Digital Life and DirecTV.

Facebook Notifications Added to Chrome Mobile Browsing

facebook chromeFacebook and Google have worked together to bring push notifications to users viewing Facebook in their Chrome mobile browser. This functionality was previously reserved for Facebook’s app, but Chrome users will now have the option of being alerted when someone tags you, comments on a photo, replies to your comment, etc.

Viewing the mobile version of Facebook on Android devices will allow for the same notification of events users would otherwise receive in the app version. This will prove particularly useful for those not wishing to download Facebook’s app due to bandwidth constraints.

Now, users will be asked if they wish to receive notifications when they visit Facebook’s site with Google’s mobile browser. If a user prefers not to receive notification, they can simply say no.

The third-party push notifications API was announced by Google back in April, but Facebook hasn’t added the feature until this week.

Apple iPhone Leasing Program Competes with Carriers

apple logoIn a move to poach sales from the four major U.S. carriers, Apple recently changed the way it sells iPhones by introducing the iPhone Upgrade Program.

The 24-month program was designed for users always wanting the latest iPhone. Customers will pay a monthly fee of $32.41 for the latest iPhone 6S, and will be allowed to trade in their device for the iPhone 7 after 12 months.

The iPhone 6S can currently be purchased from Apple for $649. The iPhone Upgrade Program will lease the latest iPhone over a 24-month period for $777.84. This price includes the Apple Care+ insurance package which usually costs $129 and offers software support, hardware repairs for two years and two incidents of accidental damage coverage.

The program may prove enticing to customers because all phones will be unlocked. “The iPhone Upgrade Program isn’t tied to a single carrier,” says Apple. “You don’t need a multiyear service contract.”

In an attempt to compete, T-Mobile CEO John Legere has introduced a limited time offer called Jump on Demand. The 18-month leasing plan for the iPhone 6S is just $20 per month. In order to purchase the phone at the end of this period, users will pay $164, making the total price of the device just $524.

Sprint has also announced a 22-month iPhone Forever program, allowing customers to upgrade to the newest iPhone whenever one becomes available. The iPhone 6S is available for just $15 per month on the condition an old iPhone is traded in. The monthly price is $22 without a trade-in.

Verizon and AT&T both have comparable installment plans, but have yet to release any promotions related to the upcoming iPhone launch.

Amazon Discontinues Fire Smartphone

Amazon-Fire-PhoneOnline shopping giant Amazon has officially discontinued sales of its Fire Phone. The company’s flagship smartphone was launched in June of 2014, but after over a year of struggling sales this announcement does not come as a surprise.

Critics did not look favorably upon the Fire Phone, nor did many consumers appreciate the $649 price tag ($199 with a contract). Even with various price reductions during its lifespan, the Fire Phone failed to gain traction with consumers.

Last year David Limp, Senior Vice president of Devices, was quoted as saying “We didn’t get the price right, […] I think people come to expect a great value, and we sort of mismatched expectations. We thought we had it right. But we’re also willing to say, ‘we missed.’ And so we corrected.”

Customers interested in purchasing the Fire Phone could tell the device was being discontinued after spotting listings that said “currently unavailable,” beside “We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.” An Amazon spokesperson told GeekWire the firm sold the remainder of its units in the United States by the end of August.

Verizon Launches Online Video Service

verizon logoThis week U.S. carrier Verizon became the latest to release an online video service. Similar to Netflix, the goal of the new Verizon service, named “Go90,” is to attract a generation of “cordcutters” who are opting for Internet rather than a cable or satellite subscription.

Online video services are not uncommon these days, and have lost the novelty that Netflix initially brought to the table. In the United States, services like Sling TV from Dish, HBO Now and Sony’s PlayStation Vue are only some of the options available to consumers. However, Go90 has one important distinguishing feature: it’s free.

Funded purely by advertising, Go90 is a ‘mobile first’ service. Meaning, it is only available on smartphones and tablets.

“We really went after ‘millennials’ and ‘Generation Z’,” says Brian Angiolet, Verizon’s senior vice-president for consumer products. “Going ‘mobile first’ works, because smartphones are the primary device for their video consumption – and for social interaction. If there’s a flatscreen TV on the wall, it might as well be a painting – these consumers are not looking at it.”

Go90 is directed at younger users, specifically 18- to 34-year-olds. Angiolet says that up to 70 percent of younger customers use smartphones as their main device for watching video.

Go90 was made available to a select few thousand customers for testing on September 8, and will soon be available to everyone. Verizon negotiated the rights to individual shows rather than networks or channels, opting for programs it thinks will prove more popular with younger audiences.

New Samsung Chip Will Give Smartphones 6GB of RAM

samsung chipSmartphones and tablets will soon come equipped with more memory than the average laptop. Samsung announced it has begun mass-production on a 12Gb DDR4 RAM module for mobile devices in its 20nm fab plant. This will allow manufacturers to offer mobile devices with 6GB of RAM, with four 12Gb dies in a single DRAM chip package.

The new chips offer 50 percent greater density than existing 8Gb chips that are used in many 4GB devices, meaning twice the amount of memory can now be fit in the same space. Additionally, smaller phones could be made while still having 3GB or 4BG of RAM.

The modules are also 30 percent faster than their 8Gb counterparts, and twice as fast as the new DDR4 RAM in PCs, which means better-performing devices.

Perhaps most notable is the fact the new modules use 20 percent less energy, which will make a noticeable impact on battery life. Samsung is currently building and stocking these news chips.

Opera Mini’s New Compression Tech

Opera-Mini-Web-BrowserThe latest version of the Opera Mini mobile browser has added a High compression mode which minimizes data use without sacrificing page quality.

Opera Mini is primarily used in lower-end phones, as the browser has previously been limited to Extreme compression mode. This mode removed all of the visually appealing elements from web pages, including scaling down pictures. The new High compression mode, however, has been optimized for 4G, 3G and Wi-Fi networks and does not affect the way pages look.

“With the rise of better smartphones and better network conditions our users now want the option to have a less aggressive data compression mode so they can experience the full internet when network conditions allow for it,” said Christian Uribe, Opera Mini product manager in a statement.

The mobile Android browser also includes a better UI for saving pages, a redesigned tab switcher, private browsing mode and a scalable interface for higher resolution devices. The scalable interface could prove particularly useful for data-roaming users with high-end smartphones who want to save on data.

Opera is hoping to have 275 million Android users by the end of 2017. Many of these users will be from India and Indonesia, as slow Internet and network issues are a continual challenge.

Wikipedia Blocks “Sockpuppet” Accounts

Wikipedia-logo-en-bigThe Wikimedia Foundation, the organization responsible for everyone’s favorite research website Wikipedia, has recently disclosed 381 hundred user accounts have been blocked by volunteer editors.

The blocked accounts were responsible for “undisclosed paid advocacy,” which means they were paid to promote a certain bias or agenda in Wikipedia articles. Because of this, 210 articles created by these accounts have to be deleted.

These accounts, known as “sockpuppets,” can be clever in hiding their work. Patterns can best be identified by looking at edits made across various unrelated articles.

“Most of these articles, which were related to businesses, business people, or artists, were generally promotional in nature, and often included biased or skewed information, unattributed material, and potential copyright violations,” Wikimedia stated in a blog post. “The edits made by the sockpuppets are similar enough that the community believes they were perpetrated by one coordinated group.”

Wikimedia’s terms of use specifically forbid “engaging in deceptive activities, including misrepresentation of affiliation, impersonation, and fraud. As part of these obligations, you must disclose your employer, client, and affiliation with respect to any contribution for which you receive, or expect to receive, compensation.”

Due to the public nature of Wikipedia, the company has had a history of black-hat editing. In 2013, the Wikimedia Foundation sent a cease-and-desist order to Wiki-PR, and agency set-up specifically for paid edits, resulting in the closure of 300 accounts.

Nextbit’s “Robin” Smartphone Uses Cloud Storage

nextbit robinNextbit Systems Inc. has unveiled its latest Android smartphone, which has been designed to manage storage and backup so you don’t have to. The device, called “Robin,” automatically moves files and apps to the cloud.

The Robin’s software works closely with Google’s Android operating system, and is designed to assess which files a user will need immediately and which can be moved to the cloud. Apps that are rarely used, for example, will be sent to the cloud to free up space for something used more regularly. Retrieval of apps from the cloud is easy and does not require reinstallation.

“In a way we can leverage the cloud to exceed the specs of your device,” said Mike Chan, Nextbit’s co-founder, who worked on several major Android releases. “We look at the system as a whole. We look at your usage patterns; we personalize this, really, for you.”

Nextbit’s Android phone is more reasonably priced to attract users who do not want to pay for high-end devices such as the iPhone or Samsung S6. The robin will be widely available early next year at a price of $399.

The device includes a 13 megapixel rear-facing camera, as well as dual speakers and amplifiers. It also has a fingerprint reader to activate the power button, and 32 gigabytes of storage plus up to 100 gigabytes of cloud storage.