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More than free data: FreedomPop launches carrier-killing mobile service with free calls and texts

More than free data: FreedomPop launches carrier-killing mobile service with free calls and texts

For wireless Internet provider FreedomPop, the endgame was always to offer a completely free mobile service.

One year after successfully launching with the radical idea of offering free mobile data and cheap devices, FreedomPop today is launching a full-featured free mobile service, which comes with 500 text messages and 200 anytime minutes. It also comes with the company’s usual 500 megabytes of free data.

Like FreedomPop’s existing services, the new service runs on Sprint’s network. But while FreedomPop has recently moved to Sprint’s LTE network for its latest hotspot, the company is relying on the slower WiMax 4G network for its first phone, the HTC Evo Design, which it will offer for $99. FreedomPop is only buying up refurbished Evo Design units, which helps it cut costs, founder and chief executive Stephen Stokols told me.

Of course, FreedomPop’s service isn’t free forever: You can pay $10.99 to get unlimited voice and text (with no contract), and similarly you can pay for extra data. With its initial service, FreedomPop was the perfect way to get your grandmother online, or just about anyone who doesn’t need a dedicated broadband or cellular service. Now, FreedomPop has become the best way to get your older relatives fully connected.

After scoring $5 million in funding back in July, Stokols says FreedomPop has more than tripled its customer service staff. Now the company is able to respond to issues within a day, where it used to take more than three days. In a previous chat, Stokols mentioned that the company’s biggest mistake over the past year was underestimating its customer service needs. With this launch, he isn’t making the same mistake.  Read More



AT&T plan lets users upgrade phone every year

A new AT&T plan will allow wireless customers upgrade their smartphones every year.

The carrier announced AT&T Next, an option that lets a smartphone or tablet owner snag a new device every year at no additional costs.

AT&T Next will work similarly to plans introduced by rival T-Mobile, which scrap traditional contracts in favor of paying for phones through monthly installments. The AT&T plan would allow a consumer to acquire a smartphone and make monthly payments for the full price of the phone with nothing down, then opt to upgrade after 12 months. If a consumers decides to keep their phone, they make payments for an extra 8 months.

AT&T says installments range from $15 to $50 a month, depending on the device. For example, a 16 GB iPhone 5, which carries a full price of $649.99, would be available for $32.50 per month.

The plan will be available nationwide starting July 26.  Read More

White House sides with consumers on unlocked cellphones

The Obama administration issued its support Monday to reverse a recently enacted ban on unlocking cellphones, echoing many customers’ calls to allow mobile devices to be used across wireless carriers without risking penalties once any contract promise is fulfilled.

“If you have paid for your mobile device and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network,” wrote R. David Edelman, senior adviser for Internet, innovation and privacy at the White House, on

His response was drafted after the White House received more than 114,000 petitions on its website in support of reversing the ban, which became effective Jan. 26.

“We believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smartphones,” he said. “It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice.”

Mobile phones in the U.S. are generally sold “locked,” making them usable only with service from the wireless carrier that is associated with the device, and are typically sold at a price subsidized by that carrier — unlike in most other countries. In the past, customers wishing to keep their device but switch carriers unlocked it themselves or with the help of an expert by punching in a code assigned to the device.

The wireless carrier industry has fought to ban the practice, arguing that unlocking phones violates the carriers’ copyright of the computer programs used to lock subsidized devices and are needed for carriers to be able to subsidize the upfront cost of the phone.

The Library of Congress, which largely oversees copyright issues and will implement the ban, sided with the industry by citing a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that was passed in 1998.  Read More

Huawei pleads global brand ambition, and a softer side

Jessica Dolcourt

 February 24, 2013 6:50 AM PST

Huawei Ascend P2

It’s a vow we’ve heard many times before: Huawei will be a top global brand.

Here at Mobile World Congress, Huawei used its press conference as yet another opportunity to plead its softer side.

Addressing a room full of journalists at Mobile World Congress, Huawei’s director of global brand management, Amy Lou, passionately shared Huawei’s philosophy for aggressively pursuing its dream of becoming a major mobile heavyweight. Sweeping imagery of Earth and dust, and powerful language like “visionary” and “spirited” signaled a new step for Huawei, one that’s far more philosophical and emotional than its usual clinical presentation (that played a role, too.)

Huawei is a brand that “we believe will be as familiar, appealing, as powerful as any name you will see this week in Barcelona,” Lou said, voice filled with idealistic fervor. “Building a global brand “takes time, investment, and consistency,” she added.

2013 is Huawei’s 10th anniversary year with consumer devices, and Lou wants you to know it’s bee quite a journey. Huawei is shifting from an ODM, a nameless original device manufacturer, to an OEM, an original equipment manufacturer with a distinct brand identity.

In addition, 2013 sees Huawei making a more aggressive push bringing premium smartphones to market. In the U.S., for example, Huawei smartphones are still seen as more entry level and midtier devices. Huawei has been yearning for years to change that, and if the company has its way, this year will be the one where it breaks through.  Read More

Next iPhone to Slim Down

People familiar with the matter are telling the WSJ’s Juro Osawa that Apple’s next iPhone model could be thinner and lighter than Samsung’s OLED-screen smartphones. What other features will Apple offer to try to stay on top?

Apple Inc.’s AAPL +0.00% next iPhone, currently being manufactured by Asian component makers, will use a new technology that makes the smartphone’s screen thinner, people familiar with the matter said, as the U.S. technology giant strives to improve technological features amid intensifying competition from Samsung Electronics Co. 005930.SE +1.39% and other rivals.

Japanese liquid-crystal-display makersSharp Corp. 6753.TO -5.69% and Japan Display Inc.—a new company that combined three Japanese electronics makers’ display units—as well as South Korea’s LG Display Co. LPL +1.13% are currently mass producing panels for the next iPhone using so-called in-cell technology, the people said.

The technology integrates touch sensors into the LCD, making it unnecessary to have a separate touch-screen layer. The absence of the layer, usually about half-a-millimeter thick, not only makes the whole screen thinner, but improves the quality of displayed images, said   Read More

Don’t Blame Apple Because Customs Is Holding HTC’s Best Android Phones Hostage

htc evo 4g lte

Steve Kovach, Business Insider

AT&T is sold out of the One X on its website. Thankfully, the phone launched early enough that several third-party retailers, such as Amazon and Target, still have stock.

Sprint just launched its EVO 4G LTE flagship phone, but it’s impossible to find that device. You might want to blame Apple or HTC for the delay, but you shouldn’t.

We spoke with one expert to shed light on the whole situation.

First, a little background.

The phones are locked down in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) due to an ITC exclusion order, which was issued on April 19th after a judge ruled that HTC was infringing on Apple’s technology. The tech was specifically related to HTC’s custom messaging app and Android’s own browser and messaging applications. HTC’s software originally allowed users to click a phone number to see a menu of choices asking the user what he or she wanted to do with the number, but that was Apple’s technology. You can see it all over iOS. HTC had to create a workaround and no longer presents that menu option on the AT&T One X or Sprint EVO 4G LTE.

“It appears HTC has made the changes they need to make,” Nilay Patel, a former U.S. copyright attorney who now works for The Verge, and who has followed the case closely, explained to TechnoBuffalo. ”So what’s happening now is the exclusion order bars HTC from importing anything that violates the patents. Customs has to tell its guys at the ports what this means.”  Read More

CTIA Keynote: Spectrum, Innovation Issues For Wireless Industry

CTIA Keynote: Spectrum, Innovation Issues For Wireless Industry

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The wireless industry is poised for growth, however, it has a rather large roadblock that could stop everything: spectrum. The key to further growth in the arena is the opening up of spectrum and forward growth in innovation. That’s what was discussed in a keynote speech at CTIA Wireless on Tuesday.

Sustainability, security and innovation are all key drivers to the wireless industry, as identified by Patrick Riordon, president and CEO of Cellcom and Chairman of CTIA-The Wireless Association. “To accomplish this, CTIA will work with industry members, regulators and legislators to ensure a healthy, efficient and competitive wireless industry,” Riordon said.

Spectrum stands in the way of all of those objectives. “Greater innovation will come when increased spectrum is made available with equality to all carriers,” said Riordon. “It will stimulate worldwide growth of economies,” the CTIA Chairman said during his keynote speech, urging the government to make more spectrum available.

That request was addressed by Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who took the stage after Riordon. He discussed several ways the government is working with CTIA and the wireless industry.

In addressing security concerns, the government has partnered the CTIA as part of an “initiative to tackle the increase in cell phone theft.” These programs will allow phones to be disabled if stolen; and provide password protection and apps that will help locate lost or stolen phones.

While Genachowski discussed security, jobs initiatives and other concerns in the sector, he focused his talk on spectrum. He outlined many ways the government is working to free up spectrum space and push innovation in the wireless industry.

“Last year we became the first country in the world to free up whitespace for unlicensed use,” Genachowski said. While it’s not happening yet, the FCC and the government are working on holding spectrum auctions, and reallocating spectrum currently held by the government and military.  Read More

The Samsung Galactic Empire

This past week has been especially kind to Samsung. Big sales numbers were followed by the unveiling of the Galaxy S III, the company’s latest flagship phone and one that could very well own the market this summer.

The S III runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest version of Google’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) operating system and one that up to this point hasn’t taken residence on a very large number of phones. As opposed to Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) monolithic update strategy Get Whitepaper: Simple Strategies for Enhancing eCommerce Profitability, Android updates come along when phonemakers say they will. So far, not too many phones have signed up for a bump up to ICS.

Barring updates, the way a new OS version makes it out into the wild is by shipping as the out-of-the box OS on new phones. If the S III is as big a hit as it’s expected to be, it could usher in a big surge for ICS.

Samsung’s new phone also ushers in some new features, like Smart Stay. That uses eye tracking through the front camera to figure out what you’re doing with the phone and act accordingly. If you’re reading an e-book, for example, it’ll adjust the brightness. Then there’s the Siri-esque S Voice. Tell it what you want, it gets it for you — maybe. Sassy replies may or may not be part of the package.

With S Beam, two device users can share data quickly without the help of a WiFi network. And AllShare Cast will put content from the phone onto a TV.

Availability is still a little foggy for now, at least for U.S. buyers. Dates, carriers and prices are still way up in the air. The initial sticker price could be north of $200 — top-of-the-line phones aren’t so shy about asking for $300 plus contract straight out of the gate at this point. Usually better prices can be found with a little online detective work, though.  Read More

New Research Could Mean Cellphones That Can See Through Walls

TxACE director Kenneth O (left), professor of electrical engineering, with member Dae Yeon Kim
Dr. Kenneth O, director of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence and a professor of electrical engineering, left, worked with a team including Dae Yeon Kim, who was among the authors of the research report.

Comic book hero superpowers may be one step closer to reality after the latest technological feats made by researchers at UT Dallas. They have designed an imager chip that could turn mobile phones into devices that can see through walls, wood, plastics, paper and other objects.

The team’s research linked two scientific advances. One involves tapping into an unused range in the electromagnetic spectrum. The other is a new microchip technology.

The electromagnetic spectrum characterizes wavelengths of energy. For example, radio waves for AM and FM signals, or microwaves used for cell phones or the infrared wavelength that makes night vision devices possible.

But the terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum, one of the wavelength ranges that falls between microwave and infrared, has not been accessible for most consumer devices.

“We’ve created approaches that open a previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for consumer use and life-saving medical applications,” said Dr. Kenneth O, professor of electrical engineering at UT Dallas and director of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence (TxACE).  “The terahertz range is full of unlimited potential that could benefit us all.”  Read More

Next iPhone may be housed in ‘Liquidmetal’

Liquidmetal would make the outer surface of the iPhone

After releasing two generations of iPhones with exactly the same form factor, Apple is expected to show off a new chassis design — and possibly new materials — in its sixth-generation smartphone.

And a little-known alloy that Apple has quietly been using for the past two years could be just the ticket to make consumers swoon.

Korea IT News reported Wednesday that the iPhone 5 is likely to be housed in Liquidmetal, the commercial name for an alloy of titanium, zirconium, nickel, copper and other metals. It would make the outer surface of the phone “smooth like liquid,” according to the report.

“The next iPhone needs to truly stand out from the crowd,” Canalys analyst Chris Jones told Wired via email. “A change in materials is a likely way to differentiate its form factor.”

Liquidmetal was discovered at the California Institute of Technology in 1992. It’s a class of patented amorphous metal alloys (basically metallic glass) with unique properties including high strength, high wear resistance against scratching and denting, and a good strength-to-weight ratio. Apple was granted rights to use it in August of 2010.  Read More

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