MetroPCS is now Metro by T-Mobile

MetroPCS is now Metro by T-Mobile

It’s been five years since T-Mobile picked up MetroPCS, and now the prepaid service is finally getting a fresh coat of paint. The “PCS” bit is getting the old heave-ho, while the brand’s owners are letting you know who’s boss with the new Metro by T-Mobile brand name.

The new name involves some new plans, along with a couple of perks from key partners. There are two new (pricier) tiers, in addition to the standard ones. The new unlimited plans run $50 and $60 a month, and both include storage via Google One.

That makes the newly rebranded service the first to offer up access to Google’s new storage plan. The cloud deal also offers access to Google Experts, who can help you troubleshoot issues with any Google service.

The $60 a month plan, meanwhile, tosses in Amazon Prime for good measure. That’s not exactly a solid reason to upgrade in and of itself, given that an Amazon Prime plan currently runs $119 a year, but the more premium plan offers 15GB of LTE data for its mobile hotspot versus 5GB.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Happy 10th anniversary, Android

Happy 10th anniversary, Android

It’s been 10 years since Google took the wraps off the G1, the first Android phone. Since that time the OS has grown from buggy, nerdy iPhone alternative to arguably the most popular (or at least populous) computing platform in the world. But it sure as heck didn’t get there without hitting a few bumps along the road.

Join us for a brief retrospective on the last decade of Android devices: the good, the bad, and the Nexus Q.

HTC G1 (2008)

This is the one that started it all, and I have a soft spot in my heart for the old thing. Also known as the HTC Dream — this was back when we had an HTC, you see — the G1 was about as inauspicious a debut as you can imagine. Its full keyboard, trackball, slightly janky slide-up screen (crooked even in official photos), and considerable girth marked it from the outset as a phone only a real geek could love. Compared to the iPhone, it was like a poorly dressed whale.

But in time its half-baked software matured and its idiosyncrasies became apparent for the smart touches they were. To this day I occasionally long for a trackball or full keyboard, and while the G1 wasn’t pretty, it was tough as hell.

Moto Droid (2009)

Of course, most people didn’t give Android a second look until Moto came out with the Droid, a slicker, thinner device from the maker of the famed RAZR. In retrospect, the Droid wasn’t that much better or different than the G1, but it was thinner, had a better screen, and had the benefit of an enormous marketing push from Motorola and Verizon. (Disclosure: Verizon owns Oath, which owns TechCrunch, but this doesn’t affect our coverage in any way.)

For many, the Droid and its immediate descendants were the first Android phones they had — something new and interesting that blew the likes of Palm out of the water, but also happened to be a lot cheaper than an iPhone.

HTC/Google Nexus One (2010)

This was the fruit of the continued collaboration between Google and HTC, and the first phone Google branded and sold itself. The Nexus One was meant to be the slick, high-quality device that would finally compete toe-to-toe with the iPhone. It ditched the keyboard, got a cool new OLED screen, and had a lovely smooth design. Unfortunately it ran into two problems.

First, the Android ecosystem was beginning to get crowded. People had lots of choices and could pick up phones for cheap that would do the basics. Why lay the cash out for a fancy new one? And second, Apple would shortly release the iPhone 4, which — and I was an Android fanboy at the time — objectively blew the Nexus One and everything else out of the water. Apple had brought a gun to a knife fight.

HTC Evo 4G (2010)

Another HTC? Well, this was prime time for the now-defunct company. They were taking risks no one else would, and the Evo 4G was no exception. It was, for the time, huge: the iPhone had a 3.5-inch screen, and most Android devices weren’t much bigger, if they weren’t smaller.

The Evo 4G somehow survived our criticism (our alarm now seems extremely quaint, given the size of the average phone now) and was a reasonably popular phone, but ultimately is notable not for breaking sales records but breaking the seal on the idea that a phone could be big and still make sense. (Honorable mention goes to the Droid X.)

Samsung Galaxy S (2010)

Samsung’s big debut made a hell of a splash, with custom versions of the phone appearing in the stores of practically every carrier, each with their own name and design: the AT&T Captivate, T-Mobile Vibrant, Verizon Fascinate, and Sprint Epic 4G. As if the Android lineup wasn’t confusing enough already at the time!

Though the S was a solid phone, it wasn’t without its flaws, and the iPhone 4 made for very tough competition. But strong sales reinforced Samsung’s commitment to the platform, and the Galaxy series is still going strong today.

Motorola Xoom (2011)

This was an era in which Android devices were responding to Apple, and not vice versa as we find today. So it’s no surprise that hot on the heels of the original iPad we found Google pushing a tablet-focused version of Android with its partner Motorola, which volunteered to be the guinea pig with its short-lived Xoom tablet.

Although there are still Android tablets on sale today, the Xoom represented a dead end in development — an attempt to carve a piece out of a market Apple had essentially invented and soon dominated. Android tablets from Motorola, HTC, Samsung and others were rarely anything more than adequate, though they sold well enough for a while. This illustrated the impossibility of “leading from behind” and prompted device makers to specialize rather than participate in a commodity hardware melee.

Amazon Kindle Fire (2011)

And who better to illustrate than Amazon? Its contribution to the Android world was the Fire series of tablets, which differentiated themselves from the rest by being extremely cheap and directly focused on consuming digital media. Just $200 at launch and far less later, the Fire devices catered to the regular Amazon customer whose kids were pestering them about getting a tablet on which to play Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds, but who didn’t want to shell out for an iPad.

Turns out this was a wise strategy, and of course one Amazon was uniquely positioned to do with its huge presence in online retail and the ability to subsidize the price out of the reach of competition. Fire tablets were never particularly good, but they were good enough, and for the price you paid, that was kind of a miracle.

Xperia Play (2011)

Sony has always had a hard time with Android. Its Xperia line of phones for years were considered competent — I owned a few myself — and arguably industry-leading in the camera department. But no one bought them. And the one they bought the least of, or at least proportional to the hype it got, has to be the Xperia Play. This thing was supposed to be a mobile gaming platform, and the idea of a slide-out keyboard is great — but the whole thing basically cratered.

What Sony had illustrated was that you couldn’t just piggyback on the popularity and diversity of Android and launch whatever the hell you wanted. Phones didn’t sell themselves, and although the idea of playing Playstation games on your phone might have sounded cool to a few nerds, it was never going to be enough to make it a million-seller. And increasingly that’s what phones needed to be.

Samsung Galaxy Note (2012)

As a sort of natural climax to the swelling phone trend, Samsung went all out with the first true “phablet,” and despite groans of protest the phone not only sold well but became a staple of the Galaxy series. In fact, it wouldn’t be long before Apple would follow on and produce a Plus-sized phone of its own.

The Note also represented a step towards using a phone for serious productivity, not just everyday smartphone stuff. It wasn’t entirely successful — Android just wasn’t ready to be highly productive — but in retrospect it was forward thinking of Samsung to make a go at it and begin to establish productivity as a core competence of the Galaxy series.

Google Nexus Q (2012)

This abortive effort by Google to spread Android out into a platform was part of a number of ill-considered choices at the time. No one really knew, apparently at Google or anywhere elsewhere in the world, what this thing was supposed to do. I still don’t. As we wrote at the time:

Here’s the problem with the Nexus Q:  it’s a stunningly beautiful piece of hardware that’s being let down by the software that’s supposed to control it.

It was made, or rather nearly made in the USA, though, so it had that going for it.

HTC First — “The Facebook Phone” (2013)

The First got dealt a bad hand. The phone itself was a lovely piece of hardware with an understated design and bold colors that stuck out. But its default launcher, the doomed Facebook Home, was hopelessly bad.

How bad? Announced in April, discontinued in May. I remember visiting an AT&T store during that brief period and even then the staff had been instructed in how to disable Facebook’s launcher and reveal the perfectly good phone beneath. The good news was that there were so few of these phones sold new that the entire stock started selling for peanuts on Ebay and the like. I bought two and used them for my early experiments in ROMs. No regrets.

HTC One/M8 (2014)

This was the beginning of the end for HTC, but their last few years saw them update their design language to something that actually rivaled Apple. The One and its successors were good phones, though HTC oversold the “Ultrapixel” camera, which turned out to not be that good, let alone iPhone-beating.

As Samsung increasingly dominated, Sony plugged away, and LG and Chinese companies increasingly entered the fray, HTC was under assault and even a solid phone series like the One couldn’t compete. 2014 was a transition period with old manufacturers dying out and the dominant ones taking over, eventually leading to the market we have today.

Google/LG Nexus 5X and Huawei 6P (2015)

This was the line that brought Google into the hardware race in earnest. After the bungled Nexus Q launch, Google needed to come out swinging, and they did that by marrying their more pedestrian hardware with some software that truly zinged. Android 5 was a dream to use, Marshmallow had features that we loved … and the phones became objects that we adored.

We called the 6P “the crown jewel of Android devices”. This was when Google took its phones to the next level and never looked back.

Google Pixel (2016)

If the Nexus was, in earnest, the starting gun for Google’s entry into the hardware race, the Pixel line could be its victory lap. It’s an honest-to-god competitor to the Apple phone.

Gone are the days when Google is playing catch-up on features to Apple, instead, Google’s a contender in its own right. The phone’s camera is amazing. The software works relatively seamlessly (bring back guest mode!), and phone’s size and power are everything anyone could ask for. The sticker price, like Apple’s newest iPhones, is still a bit of a shock, but this phone is the teleological endpoint in the Android quest to rival its famous, fruitful, contender.

The rise and fall of the Essential phone

In 2017 Andy Rubin, the creator of Android, debuted the first fruits of his new hardware startup studio, Digital Playground, with the launch of Essential (and its first phone). The company had raised $300 million to bring the phone to market, and — as the first hardware device to come to market from Android’s creator — it was being heralded as the next new thing in hardware.

Here at TechCrunch, the phone received mixed reviews. Some on staff hailed the phone as the achievement of Essential’s stated vision — to create a “lovemark” for Android smartphones, while others on staff found the device… inessential.

Ultimately, the market seemed to agree. Four months ago plans for a second Essential phone were put on hold, while the company explored a sale and pursued other projects. There’s been little update since.

A Cambrian explosion in hardware

In the ten years since its launch, Android has become the most widely used operating system for hardware. Some version of its software can be found in roughly 2.3 billion devices around the world and its powering a technology revolution in countries like India and China — where mobile operating systems and access are the default. As it enters its second decade, there’s no sign that anything is going to slow its growth (or dominance) as the operating system for much of the world.

Let’s see what the next ten years bring.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

Some Samsung users say their phones randomly sent photos to contacts

Some Samsung users say their phones randomly sent photos to contacts
Some Samsung users are complaining that their smartphones randomly sent photos and scheduled texts to contacts. According to posts on Reddit and Samsung’s official support boards first spotted by Gizmodo, the devices affected include the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 8. Their owners say that Samsung Messages, the default texting app for Galaxy devices, pushed photos and scheduled texts to random contacts, but left no record of the messages being sent.
One Reddit user says his Galaxy S9+ sent his entire photo library to a contact in the middle of the night while he was asleep (fortunately, that contact was his partner). The poster says that even though there was no evidence of the mass photo sharing in Samsung Messages, it showed up on his T-Mobile logs. He also added that he has never used the Shared tab in Samsung Gallery app, which lets users send photos through messaging apps, email or social media without leaving their photo gallery.
The issue also appears to be affecting some text messages. On Samsung’s Galaxy S9 support board, a user said Samsung Messages became buggy after a T-Mobile RCS/advanced messaging update on his phone. Errors included scheduled text messages ending up in the wrong threads.
Many complaints posted online are from people who said they are T-Mobile customers and recently updated Samsung Messages, leading to a theory that the issue may have been triggered by the carrier’s recent RCS (Rich Communication Services) updates. RCS is supposed to improve texting by adding features like group chat, video and GIF support, and file and location sharing. Since several accounts said photos had been randomly sent to partners or family members, there is also speculation that the problem affects shared plans.
In a statement, a Samsung spokesperson said “We are aware of the reports regarding this matter and our technical teams are looking into it. Concerned customers are encouraged to contact us directly at 1-800-SAMSUNG.” TechCrunch has also reached out to T-Mobile for comment. The carrier told Gizmodo that “it’s not a T-mobile issues” and asked users to contact Samsung.
There are currently two fixes if you are worried about the issue affecting your device. First, you can go into its app settings and revoke Samsung Message’s ability to access your storage, which means it won’t be able to send anything stored on your phone, including photos. This may be a pain, however, because it means if you do want to send photos or files through the app, you need to restore permission in Settings again. The second fix is to stop using Samsung Messages until the company says the issue has been resolved and switch to a third-party messaging app instead.

Source: Gadgets – techcrunch

T-Mobile and Sprint have finally announced a merger agreement

T-Mobile and Sprint have finally announced a merger agreement

Sprint and T-Mobile, after years of going back and forth as to whether they are going to tie up two of the largest telecom providers in the U.S., have announced that the two companies have entered a merger agreement this morning.

The merger will be an all-stock transaction, and will now be subject to regulatory approval. That latter part is going to be its biggest challenge, because it will not only tie up the No. 3 and No. 4 carriers into the U.S. into a single unit, but also that international organizations hold significant stakes in both companies. SoftBank controls a majority of Sprint while Deutsche Telekom controls a significant chunk of T-Mobile. Following the administration’s intervention in the Broadcom-Qualcomm takeover attempt, it isn’t clear what will actually go through in terms of major mergers these days.

Bloomberg is reporting that Deutsche Telekom will have 42% ownership of the combined company, while SoftBank will own around 27% of the company.

As expected, the argument here is for the expansion of 5G networks as plans for that start to ramp up. T-Mobile argues in its announcement that it will help it be competitive with AT&T and Verizon as telecom companies start to roll out a next-generation 5G network, though it does in the end remove a carrier choice for end consumers in the U.S..

“The New T-Mobile will have the network capacity to rapidly create a nationwide 5G network with the breadth and depth needed to enable U.S. firms and entrepreneurs to continue to lead the world in the coming 5G era, as U.S. companies did in 4G,” T-Mobile said in a statement as part of the announcement. “The new company will be able to light up a broad and deep 5G network faster than either company could separately. T-Mobile deployed nationwide LTE twice as fast as Verizon and three times faster than AT&T, and the combined company is positioned to do the same in 5G with deep spectrum assets and network capacity.”

Both companies appeared to be finalizing the deal on Friday, when they set valuation terms and were preparing to announce the merger today. The deal values Sprint at an enterprise value of around $59 billion, with the combined company having an enterprise value of $146 billion. AT&T has a market cap of around $214 billion, while Verizon has a market cap of around $213 billion, as of Sunday.

The transaction, the companies said, is of course subject to regulatory approval. But, pending approval, it is expected to close “no later than the first half of 2019.”

Disclosure: Verizon is the parent company of Oath, which owns TechCrunch.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

T-Mobile is reportedly much closer to a merger deal with Sprint

T-Mobile is reportedly much closer to a merger deal with Sprint

It looks like a potential merger deal between T-Mobile and Sprint, two of the major telecom companies in the U.S., is getting closer and now has set valuation terms, according to a report by Bloomberg.

The deal could be announced as soon as Sunday, according to a report by CNBC. The proposed tie-up of the two companies was called off in November last year, but now that deal appears to be coming closer, with T-Mobile’s backer valuing Sprint at around $24 billion, according to Bloomberg. As part of the deal, Deutsche Telekom AG will get a 69% voting interest on a 42% stake in the company, according to that report. (Both reports, however, disagree on the valuation — with CNBC citing a $26 billion valuation.)

This deal seems to have been a long time coming, and consolidates two of the four major telecom providers in the U.S. into one larger entity. That could, in theory, offer it some more flexibility as they expand into 5G networks. Still, a deal of this scale could still fall apart and would be subject to regulation — with significant international ownership of both companies (Softbank for Sprint, and Deutsche Telekom for T-Mobile).

Sprint shares fell more than 8% in extended trading to under $6, while T-Mobile shares were largely unchanged. Shares of Sprint were up around 8% on the day up to $6.50 in early trading.

A representative from Sprint declined to comment. A representative from T-Mobile did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

FCC dings T-Mobile $40M for faking rings on calls that never connected

FCC dings T-Mobile M for faking rings on calls that never connected

T-Mobile will pay $40 million as part of a settlement with the FCC for playing ringing sounds to mislead customers into thinking their calls were going through when in fact they had never connected in the first place. The company admitted it had done so “hundreds of millions” of times over the years.

The issue at hand is that when someone is trying to call an area with poor connectivity, it can sometimes take several seconds to establish a line to the other party — especially if a carrier itself does not serve the area in question and has to hand off the call to a local provider. That’s exactly what T-Mobile was doing, and there’s nothing wrong with it — just a consequence of spotty coverage in rural areas.

But what is prohibited is implying to the caller that their call has gone through and is ringing on the other end, if that’s not the case. Which is also exactly what T-Mobile was doing, and had been doing since 2007. Its servers began sending a “local ring back tone” when a call took a certain amount of time to complete around then.

As the FCC estimates it, and T-Mobile later confirmed:

Because T-Mobile applied this practice to out-of-network calls from its customers on SIP routes that took more than a certain amount of time on a nationwide basis and without regard to time of day, the LRBT was likely injected into hundreds of millions of calls each year.

It’s not just a bad idea: it’s against the law. In 2014 the FCC’s Rural Call Completion Order took effect, prohibiting exactly this practice, which it called “false audible ringing”:

[O]ccurs when an originating or intermediate provider prematurely triggers audible ring tones to the caller before the call setup request has actually reached the terminating rural provider. That is, the calling party believes the phone is ringing at the called party’s premises when it is not. An originating or intermediate provider may do this to mask the silence that the caller would otherwise hear during excessive call setup time. As a result, the caller may often hang up, thinking nobody is available to receive the call. False audible ringing can also make it appear to the caller that the terminating rural provider is responsible for the call failure, instead of the originating or intermediate provider.

Users and carriers complained after this rule took effect, and also sought remedy with T-Mobile directly. The FCC looked into it and T-Mobile reported that it had solved the problem — but complaints continued. It became clear that the company had been violating the rule for years and in great volume and had not in fact stopped; hence the settlement and $40 million penalty.

T-Mobile will also have to take action within 90 days to stop the practice (if it hasn’t already) and issue regular reports to the FCC every year for the next three years that it is still in compliance. You can read the full consent decree here (PDF).

Update: FCC Commissioner Clyburn points out in a separate statement that despite evidence of widespread consumer harm, there’s nothing for users in the settlement.

[T]here is absolutely nothing in this consent decree to compensate consumers. Prior consent decrees have included direct-to-consumer benefits, such as refunds or discounts, or notifications to customers who have been impacted.

Despite demonstrating a clear and tangible consumer harm, in this consent decree, consumers are treated as a mere
afterthought.

The $40 million civil penalty, which will be paid to the U.S. Treasury, is dwarfed by larger, unpaid fines recently proposed against individual robocallers—and the volume of potential violations here outpaces any robocalling action the Commission has taken. And the compliance plan does not contain any concessions that would explain such a massive discount.

Source: Mobile – Techcruch

These will be the first cities getting 5G from Sprint and T-Mobile

These will be the first cities getting 5G from Sprint and T-Mobile
 Just last week, AT&T announced the first handful of cities where it’ll roll out its 5G network later this year. Today at Mobile World Congress, T-Mobile and Sprint did the same. Sprint’s first 5G networks will go live in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta, Washington, DC and Houston. T-Mobile will fire up 5G in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Dallas first. Read More

Source: Mobile – Techcruch