FTC fines TracFone $40 million because it believes that throttled unlimited data isn’t really unlimited
By Alex Wagner
After taking AT&T to task for throttling unlimited data plans in late 2014, the Federal Trade Commission is now going after prepaid provider TracFone.
The FTC has fined TracFone $40 million for throttling unlimited data plans. The agency says that TracFone has been advertising its unlimited plans since 2009, but has throttled many users after one to three gigabytes of usage and suspended data service after four to five gigabytes of usage. While TracFone began to disclose its throttling practices in September 2013, the FTC says that those disclosures weren’t clear enough because they were often printed on the back of boxes or in small print, where consumers were unlikely to find them.
“The issue here is simple: When you promise consumers ‘unlimited’, that means unlimited. This settlement means that Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile, and Telcel America customers will be able to get money back from the company for services the company promised but didn’t deliver.”
This news is certainly exciting for anyone that’s on an unlimited plan, especially those folks that are on grandfathered offerings from AT&T and Verizon. And while we’re still waiting to see how the FTC’s complaint against AT&T will play out, today’s news makes that battle even more interesting than it already was.
Video chat and screen sharing are coming to Slack following recent acquisition
Slack, the popular team communication service, has just acquired Screenhero, a service that specializes in voice, video and screen sharing. Screenhero began around the same time as Slack, and now they’re joining forces. In the coming months, we’ll start to see video chat, voice chat, screen sharing and a number of new features roll out to Slack. From now until Screenhero is completely integrated with Slack, users on the Standard or Plus Plans will be able to try Screenhero for free. Unfortunately, new paid users won’t be able to sign up for Screenhero for the time being.
Once the integration is complete, Screenhero as a standalone service will shut down. The Slack team assures us that a “generous notice period and transition plan” will be provided prior to the shutdown.
We use Slack here at Android Authority, and we couldn’t be happier about this acquisition. It already provides a speedy central hub for all internal communications (as well as a smooth Android app), so we’re really excited to see what Screenhero brings to the table.
The Slack team didn’t provide any information as to when the integration will be complete, so we’ll likely just have to wait for updates in the coming months. If your Slack team is on a Standard or Plus Plan, head to this link to get more information about trying Screenhero out for free.
Source:: android authority
Complete Rolling Stone magazine archive coming to Google Play
Rolling Stone magazine and Google Play have reached a deal that will bring the entire Rolling Stone archive to Google Play Newsstand. Three to four major stories from each archive will be available for free on Google Play and the Rolling Stone website beginning this Friday, January 30th. Rolling Stone hopes to enhance stories with multimedia content (sound, videos) in the coming months.
In a recent interview, Gus Wenner, son of Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, explained the reason behind moving archives to Google Play:
I see it every day in our analytics: Archival content performs very well. It comes down to how you promote and when. We’ll be smart about how we promote it, and we’ll tie it to news events. It’s not hard to find these moments.
As part of the deal, Google bought advertising in Rolling Stone magazine. Brian Irving, Global Head of Marketing for Google Play, says that thanks to features like customizable themes and key word searches, this partnership is a great way to demonstrate how great Google Play Newsstand really is. He explains:
Our goal is to help publishers succeed in a changing world. We’re constantly looking for ways to partner with people who are content creators and help bring something to life.
Rolling Stone began publishing in 1967 and is arguably the most popular magazine ever to be published, so this is a big deal. If you have yet to download Google Play Newsstand, head to the Play Store to do so.
Source:: android authority
FTC fines TracFone $40 million for their misleading unlimited data claims
Several months ago, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that they were suing AT&T for “deceptive and unfair data throttling”. The FTC ended up filing a complaint in federal court against AT&T and asserted that the company was misleading millions of customers by charging them for “unlimited” data plans while reducing their data speeds, in some cases by nearly 90 percent.
Now, the FTC is again going after a wireless carrier for misleading customers with an unlimited data package that was quite limited. The FTC has come to a settlement with TracFone Wireless for throttling and cutting off consumers who purchased an unlimited data plan with them. As part of the settlement, TracFone will return $40 million to consumers who were throttled or cut off.
As the FTC noted today, TracFone had been advertising an unlimited service using a variety of brand names, including Straight Talk Wireless, Net10 Wireless, Simple Mobile, and Telcel America. This service included “unlimited talk, text, and data” for about $45 per month.
Except, TracFone then began to throttle some of the unlimited data plan customers by reducing their speeds between 60%-90% in the hopes of those customers then purchasing data-capped plans that cost more per month. Other unlimited data plan customers simply had their service shut off until the end of their 30-day billing cycle.
Customers also had no way of knowing about the throttling considering that TracFone’s terms and conditions often didn’t even disclose how it limited the customers’ data service nor did advertisements (as late as September 2013) state the throttling policy.
Based on the settlement, TracFone is now required to “clearly and conspicuously disclose any limits on the speed or quantity of its data service.”
Source:: android authority
Sony announces partnership with Spotify to replace Music Unlimited service
Sony has teamed up with Spotify to create PlayStation Music, a Spotify-centric streaming service set to replace Sony’s Music Unlimited service. PlayStation Music will house Spotify as its exclusive partner, and will launch in February in 41 different markets including the US, Canada, Mexico and Brazil.
As for Music Unlimited? That service will cease to exist come March 29th, 2015, though Music Unlimited subscribers will get their last month for free beginning February 28th. Music Unlimited will shut down in all 19 countries, though most of them will be included in the 41 markets where PlayStation Music will be featured at launch.
PlayStation users can link their PlayStation IDs to Spotify to ensure the setup process is as easy as possible. The service will launch on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and a number of Xperia smartphones and tablets. If you’d like more information on PlayStation Music’s release, head to the Spotify link below to sign up for updates.
If you don’t yet have a Spotify Premium account, now may be a good time to try it. Spotify is currently offering a free 60-day Premium trial if you sign up now. This is a great way to test out the service at no cost before you replace your Music Unlimited subscription.
Source:: android authority
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 8-inch design and hardware: smaller is better
Lenovo has been around the block more than once when it comes to tablets. Much of the company’s focus has been on large, media-centric tablets, such as the 10-inch Yoga Tablet 2 or even the monstrous 13-inch Yoga Tablet 2 Pro. But the company has also worked on smaller 8-inch tablets, its latest offering being the Yoga Tablet 2 8-inch. While media is still a focus, portability become a larger factor at the smaller size.
The design of the Yoga Tablet 2 8-inch is identical to the Yoga Tablet 2 10-inch; it’s just been shrunk by two inches. That’s certainly not a bad thing, as we’ve loved the design of previous Yoga tablets. The iconic kickstand remains on the bottom of the device and allows the tablet to be used in four different positions, including hanging it by using the hole in the kickstand.
Flanking the kickstand are two stereo speakers, which output a surprising amount of sound even if they are lacking in bass. The ends of the kickstand are repurposed to include a power button on the left end and a headphone jack on the right side. To the right of the kickstand’s rear is its camera. The right edge of the device contains the microUSB charging port as well as the volume rocker. While the kickstand and sides are made of aluminum, the rest of the back is made of plastic to cut costs and, more importantly, weight.
The front of the Yoga Tablet 2 8-inch is plain and simple: a slab of black glass with a camera located on the left (or top, depending on how you hold it) side of the display. Powering the device on reveals an 8-inch display with a resolution of 1920×1200. Other Lenovo devices I’ve reviewed have had problems with discoloration, light bleed and pixelation, but I’m happy to report that none of these problems exist on the Yoga Tablet 2 8-inch. The display is colorful and bright without any sign of jagged edges. Blacks are nice and dark for an IPS display, and the light bleed that was present on previous models isn’t here. Whites are quite white, though maybe a tad warm. Colors are fairly good, although they are a bit oversaturated. Nonetheless, the display is pleasant and easy to look at, making for a great multi-media experience.
One thing to be noted is the weight and feel of the device in the hand. Holding the Yoga Tablet 2 8-inch is far more pleasant than holding its 10-inch brother. The device is surprisingly light for being made of metal and having a bulky kickstand. While the weight distribution is uneven because of that kickstand, it makes the kickstand act as a natural grip when holding the device. All in all, the Yoga Tablet 2 8-inch is pleasant to hold and carry around, making it great for portability as long as you’re not going to try and fit it into any tight spaces.
With the Yoga Tablet 2 8-inch, Lenovo has a very well-designed tablet on its hands. Its design remains innovative and useful and its small size benefits portability. The screen is bright and vivid, with no signs of any glaring problems. For those looking for a small tablet that’s useful for both consuming media and productivity, the Lenovo Yoga Tabelt 2 8-inch could be a great option.
LG Display posts impressive Q4 profits while operating costs continue to increase
LG Display has just posted their earning results for Q4 2014. While interest in LG’s display technology has seemingly been growing drastically, the company’s operating costs may be dragging it down.
Overall revenue for Q4 totaled 8,342 billion won, which is a 27% increase from Q3 2014 and an 18% increase from Q4 2013. Operating profits for Q4 2014 totaled 626 billion won, which is a 32% increase from Q3 of 2014 and a year-on-year increase of 144% from 257 billion won in in Q4 2013. LG explains that these increases are largely due to more shipments of larger size panels overall, and an increase in small/medium displays through the peak season through the end of the year. LG also mentions that larger, more inexpensive displays have a lot to do with the profit.
Additionally, LG Display’s net income increased by 10% to 389 billion won in Q4 from Q3. This is also a massive 448% increase from Q4 2013. LG Display’s year-over-year net income has increased 119% from 2013. Annual revenue decreased by 1 trillion won from 2013 to 2014. TFT-LCD panels for TVs accounted for 36% of revenue in Q4 2014, mobile device panels for 23%, tablet panels for 19%, computer monitors for 14% and notebook PCs for 8%.
With more interest in LG’s display technology growing worldwide, operating costs will obviously increase. LG has displayed leadership in the market with P-OLED and OLED panels, and the company is confident that they will continue to see profits throughout 2015 and will work to keep operating costs to a minimum.
Revenue in the fourth quarter of 2014 increased by 27% to KRW 8,342 billion from KRW 6,547 billion in the third quarter of 2014 and increased by 18% from KRW 7,079 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Operating profit in the fourth quarter of 2014 recorded KRW 626 billion, a quarter-on-quarter increase of 32% from an operating profit of KRW 474 billion and a year-on-year increase of 144% from the operating profit of KRW 257 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013.
EBITDA in the fourth quarter of 2014 was KRW 1,532 billion, compared with EBITDA of KRW 1,295 billion in the third quarter of 2014 and with EBITDA of KRW 1,124 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013.
Net income in the fourth quarter of 2014 amounted to KRW 389 billion, a quarter-on-quarter increase of 10% from KRW 354 billion in the third quarter of 2014 and a year-on-year increase of 448% from KRW 71 billion in the fourth quarter of 2013.
LG Display posted its eleventh straight quarterly operating profit at KRW 626 billion and quarterly revenue exceeding KRW 8 trillion resulting from increased shipments reflecting a continual trend towards larger size panels and new product launches in the small and medium display segment through the peak season at the year-end. Favorable pricing condition, particularly in large-sized panels due to the above trend, also contributed to the improved results. LG Display recorded an annual net income of KRW 917 billion in 2014, a year-on-year increase of 119% from the net income of KRW 419 billion in 2013. Annual revenue slightly decreased to KRW 26.456 trillion compared with revenue of KRW 27.033 trillion in 2013. The company expanded its portion of high value-added panels such as those for large-sized, high resolution TVs and mobile devices based on an efficient operational production strategy to proactively meet market demands. Accordingly, despite the decreased annual revenue due to the changes in the business structure towards increased Cell business1 , profitability improved significantly.
In providing a return to the shareholders, LG Display declared a dividend of KRW 500 per common share at the Board of Directors meeting held on the 27th of January. The decision will be finalized after approval at the forthcoming Annual General Meeting of Shareholders.TFT-LCD panels for TVs accounted for 36% of revenue in the fourth quarter of 2014, mobile device panels for 23%, tablet PCs 19%, monitors 14%, and notebook PCs 8%. With 95% in the liability to equity ratio, 122% in the current ratio, and 16% in the net debt to equity ratio as of December 31, 2014, the financial structure of the company remains stable.
Semi-finished panels without backlight module Outlook The following forecast is based on information as of January 28, 2015. The Company does not expect to update its estimates until the next quarter’s earnings announcement. However, the Company reserves the right to update its full business outlook, or any portion thereof, at any time and for any reason. “Shipments in the first quarter are expected to decrease by a mid-single digit percentage, less influenced by seasonality compared with other years, due to steady market demand and the company’s efficient operational production strategy, while overall panel prices are expected to remain stable although they may vary by product segment,” said Don Kim, CFO of LG Display. “LG Display expects a quarter-onquarter decrease in profits given that the first quarter is an off season, but we’re committed to continually enhance our profit competitiveness through technology differentiation and cost reductions.”
Source:: android authority
ZTE unveils the Blade S6 4G LTE with 5-inch display, 13MP camera and more
By Evan Selleck
On Wednesday, January 28, ZTE officially unveiled the latest addition to their Blade lineup of smartphones, the Blade S6 4G LTE.
The handset manages to pack plenty of noteworthy features into the thin shell, and it does it all with a pretty cheap price tag at the end of it all. As far as features go, the Blade S6 4G LTE packs a 5-inch IPS LCD 720p display with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 64-bit octa-core processor under the hood and 16GB of built-in storage. There’s a microSD card slot to expand that memory, though. ZTE threw in a 13-megapixel camera on the back, and front-facing shooter is of the 5-megapixel variety.
The Blade S6 4G LTE is running Android 5.0 Lollipop underneath ZTE’s proprietary MiFavor 3.0 user interface, and it also includes the company’s Smart Sense gesture support. Owners will be able to open up Play Music, snap a series of photos, or even turn on a flashlight with just a quick gesture.
The device measures in at 7.7mm thin and it will be available in matte pink or silver.
ZTE notes that the handset will be available in select markets through Amazon and eBay and that it will cost $250. In Hong Kong, the Blade S6 4G LTE will be launched exclusively with carrier CSL.
What do you think of the Blade S6 4G LTE?
10 best new Android apps and games from January 2015
By Joe Hindy
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We’re nearing the end of the first month of 2015 and a lot has happened. CES 2015 showed us some new tech and everyone’s looking forward to the next few months as new phones and products are announced and launched. There were also some great apps and games released. Here are the best new Android apps and games from January 2015.
[Price: Free (requires Creative Cloud subscription)]
First up this month is Adobe Lightroom Mobile. This is a mobile version of the popular Lightroom app that lets you edit, organize, and otherwise manage your photos and other images. There have been some issues including compatibility issues with newer smartphones and space issues. However, if you can get passed that, this is a powerful photo editor that can be used in tandem with the desktop version assuming you use and pay for a Creative Cloud subscription.
Asana is a task management platform aimed at teams of people who need to get work done. Technically, this app has existed for a while but it essentially a wrapper for the mobile site and it was pitifully awful. It’s now a native Android app with Material Design and it’s way better. There are still some issues here and there but this is a big step forward and an app to keep an eye on.
[Price: Free / $2.31]
Camu is a popular photo editing app that was very popular on iOS and has finally made its way to Android. It features the ability to shoot videos and photos with live effects applied, collages, text, various effects, super focus, and auto-enhance mode. It’s free with in app purchases but, believe it or not, the in app purchases aren’t that bad.
[Price: Free with in app purchases]
Crossy Road was about as big a hit as any app could be on the Amazon Appstore and eventually saw its release on Google Play. It’s kind of like Frogger in that you’re a chicken who must cross many, many roads. The graphics aren’t great but the game play is surprisingly fun. There is no story or anything ridiculous but it’s a solid and difficult time waster that costs nothing to download.
Square Enix continues to re-release their old collection of games here in 2015 and first up this year is Dragon Quest 5. Much like others in the series, the game is played entirely in portrait mode which is unique. It also features full camera control, monster catching, AI battles for easier level grinding, and more. It’s a tad expensive at $14.99 but at least there are no in app purchases.
Facebook Lite was developed for those who use budget phones. It’s optimized for 2G internet and its less-is-more design is great for weaker processors. Unfortunately, you can only officially get it from the Play Store if you have a terrible phone. It’s less than 1MB and includes the core Facebook functionality without any of the frills. If your device isn’t compatible in the Play Store, you can pick up the APK to sideload here.
Google Classroom is a classroom environment that allows teachers and parents to help students learn by creating a virtual classroom environment. It was only available as a web app for a long time but is now available on Android and iOS. It allows students to take and upload pictures to Classroom, interact with the platform, chat with students live, and more.
Lego Bionicle is a hack and slash style game where you must pick your Lego hero and kill a bunch of bad guys. The graphics and controls are actually pretty good even if the story line is a tad shallow. It is totally free to play with no in app purchases which is a rarity and thanks to its mild nature, it’s a great game for kids.
LibreOffice Viewer is a document viewing app released in beta this last month. It is in beta so if you find bugs, it would be better to report them than to give the app a bad review because it is a beta. Aside from the beta related issues, the app seems to be progressing nicely …read more
Source:: android authority
Can Cyanogen make it without Google?
By Simon Hill
“I’m the CEO of Cyanogen. We’re attempting to take Android away from Google.”
So said the hyperbolic and outspoken Kirt McMaster talking at The Information’s “Next Phase of Android” event last week.
He expanded on Cyanogen’s grand ambitions, talking about a more open version of Android where developers can integrate their services with Cyanogen’s help. Without Google apps and services Cyanogen will support third-party app stores and eventually have its own.
What is he talking about? Why, apart from as a headline-grabbing exercise, is he dissing Google? Why would Cyanogen present itself as an open alternative?
Cyanogen co-founders Steve Kondik and Kirt McMaster
It’s not the first time McMaster has a had a pop at Google. He talked about the desire for “an open Android” and “Google’s tyranny” back in the summer. Cyanogen CTO, Steve Kondik, explained it better when he spoke to Geek.com in November.
“For me, the ultimate goal is an open Android where the playing field is a little more level. It could certainly be a lot worse. Apple just banned everyone from doing anything, and while Google hasn’t banned everyone they are making it a lot harder.”
This all stems from the moves Google has been making to separate its own services and apps from AOSP, the Android Open Source Project, which is still freely available to everyone. A lot of old stock apps are no longer being updated, and Google is putting the lion’s share of its efforts into proprietary software.
This debate is set to run and run. Step back and read the 2007 statement from the Open Handset Alliance that announced Android. Did it deliver on that promise or has Google ditched its open ideals? Do Google apps need to be proprietary? Can you blame Google for restricting Play Services? Let’s face facts, Google didn’t lead the creation of Android as an altruistic crusade.
https://t.co/Ncr6werNum “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”
— Kirt McMaster (@cyanogenone) January 25, 2015
When its interests happen to align with the interests of the general public the results are great. Android, Google Maps, Gmail, have all been transformative, they’ve opened the Internet up for more people and forced competitors to drop prices and try to match services. But as a company, Google has to claim a return on its investment.
There’s no easy answer to this, only opinions, but it’s worth remembering that Google is often held up to a higher standard than its competitors and then found wanting.
How does Cyanogen help?
As the self-appointed “white horse that opens the entire platform up” Cyanogen will offer a Google-free alternative for developers. But wait a minute, there’s nothing new in what the Cyanogen founders are proposing, is there? Lots of companies are already forking Android and replacing Google services and apps. Xiaomi in China, Yandex in Russia, Amazon in the US and Europe. There are many others.
With a strong track record of digging in Android’s innards, it seems what Cyanogen is really offering to third-parties is expertise. It can help you integrate your services on a deep level that reaches beyond what’s possible with Google’s Android. Whether potential partners buy into that is what will ultimately determine Cyanogen’s success or failure.
CyanogenMod deservedly grew to become the most popular third-party ROM for Android devices by developing free and open source software that offered users a world of customization options and control over their devices. It used to be about enthusiasts coding in their spare time for the love of it.
The Cyanogen team in 2013
In a Reddit AMA in September 2013, CM’s Steve Kondik and Koushik Dutta were asked about monetization plans. Here’s the answer they gave.
“Monetization isn’t an immediate concern and our investors and Benchmark and Redpoint feel the same. CyanogenMod has the potential to become an enormous platform play, and to do that, we need to foster and grow the ecosystem. Right now, we just want to build something compelling and grow the user base. Eventually, there are innumerable paths to monetization once we reach economics of scale: licensing our software/services to OEMs, building hardware, creating secure enterprise solutions, etc. Creating disruption in a multibilion dollar market is enough to make any investor raise their eyebrow.”
Its first hardware partner was to be OnePlus and the OnePlus One duly shipped with CyanogenMod on board. It didn’t take long for cracks to appear. First Cyanogen was understandably horrified at the disastrous Ladies First promo, taking to Twitter to distance itself. But there was much worse to come.
Cyanogen signed an exclusive deal with Micromax in India which led to the OnePlus One being banned from sale there. In the aftermath, there was a fair bit of confusion and a clear lack of communication between Cyanogen and its first partner, OnePlus. To say that Cyanogen didn’t come out of it well would be an understatement.
As part of the effort to clear the air Kondik revealed to Android Central that neither OnePlus or Micromax paid any money to Cyanogen for licensing the Cyanogen OS.
Three core values of Cyanogen
Big challenges for Cyanogen
Most people are definitely not going to choose Cyanogen over Google
Competition is good. We want every company on the Android scene, especially Google, to feel challenged so they continue to push real improvements and innovations. But all this talk of open ideals and control seems to be missing an important point that most consumers will never look past. Google’s apps and services are really good.
What happens when Google cuts access to Play services? Who wants to ship a Cyanogen phone without Google apps? It’s going to take time …read more
Source:: android authority