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PhoneDog 101: Choosing a wireless carrier Jun 6th 2013, 17:30
Walking into an electronics retailer and throwing down some cash on the latest toy is always fun. When it comes to choosing a wireless carrier however, that experience can be quite the opposite. In fact, it can be downright exhausting. Reading a carrier’s brochure or browsing online can feel like a dead end, or even worse, a road to more questions without answers. Do you get the 700 minute plan? Do you get unlimited talk and text? What is this data stuff? How do these “share everything” plans work?

Often the process of picking a new carrier to work with breaks down the best of consumers and takes the fun out of buying a new device. So let’s take a look at how to simplify a complicated process in this PhoneDog 101: Choosing a wireless carrier.

What’s available in your area?

It seems silly, but knowing what networks provide coverage in the area that you’ll be using a mobile device in, is an important first step. In most metropolitan areas AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and T-Mobile – known as the big four – are usually present with medium to strong signal strength. Along with those traditional nationwide carriers, you might find regional companies like U.S. Cellular, MetroPCS, and other no contract carriers to be viable options as well. Local and statewide carriers may not offer all of the newest phones, but the service may be better suited for your needs. Remember to check your local carrier’s coverage maps found on their website or in their stores to get an idea of what’s available.

For those looking to purchase smartphones or mobile broadband internet solutions, checking what kind of data coverage the carriers in your area offer is another non-negotiable. Internet speed is an important factor, so choosing a carrier with a more advanced data network can improve your experience. Asking a friend or checking coverage maps are good places to start, but take the information gained with a grain of salt. The networks are not perfect, and it is likely that you will find locations where signal strength may be lacking. Just know that experiences with any carrier may be different user to user.

Plan features: The obvious and the hidden

We all want the best that our money can buy, so take your time and choose a carrier that will meet your needs better than any of the others. Asking yourself what you want to do with your phone, or what kind of features you would like your plan to have is the first step. After that, it’s time to seek out the best match.

With all of the different kinds of networks and carriers available to the public, I could probably write a book (and maybe someone should) about all the intricate details and features that each plan on each carrier offers. But for this PhoneDog 101, let’s just nail down some basics. The obvious first questions are usually pretty simple to answer. Questions like: How many lines will we need, and is anyone on the plan looking to use a smartphone?

Once these questions are confirmed, you need to dig a bit deeper into your needs as an individual or a family. Are you going to need a mobile Internet solution beyond what the smartphone can give you? Is tethering an important feature, and of course what kind of minute and texting plan will be sufficient? Features like mobile hotspot capabilities and unlimited mobile to mobile minutes are often bundled within certain packages by carriers, so inquiring about them is a must if you’re looking to get the most out of your plan.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you need to really understand what you are getting out of this deal, especially when a two year contract is involved. Make sure you stop into a local retailer or check plan information from the carriers’ websites. The carrier’s are not trying to hide information from you, but there is a lot of information that needs to be translated for you to make the best decision.

You don’t have to sign up for a contract

Many people are still under the impression that you have to sign up for a two year contract to get the very best service. Over the past several years, prepaid or no contract carriers like Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, Net 10, MetroPCS, Cricket, and many others have seen more innovation in terms of plan pricing and better selections of phones than ever before. An average individual smartphone plan with a two year contract usually runs $80 to $110, whereas non-commitment plans usually gravitate around the $50 to $60 range. With more 4G options becoming available with prepaid carriers, these plans are becoming more and more competitive.

Even the phone selection with no contract carriers has improved immensely. Virgin Mobile currently sells iPhone 4 and 4S models along with the Samsung Victory; and Boost Mobile offers some higher end HTC Android models and Samsung devices like the Galaxy S II. You end up paying more for the devices up front in comparison to getting the device with a two year obligation, but then again you end up saving more in the long run with a cheaper plan.

There are, however, other advantages in choosing a no contract carrier besides price. For someone who doesn’t stay in one location for a long period of time, choosing an obligation free plan allows that user to pick up and leave to another local carrier when they need to. Or maybe you only need a device for a short period of time. Prepaid services allow you to use the device when you want to use it. Because its prepaid, you only pay for the times that you need to.

Checking out no contract carriers could be the wisest thing you have ever done. They can save you a ton of money and grant you more freedom with your own personal plan. Be sure to check these out at a local retailer as well.

Make sure you are happy

With the experience I have had both buying and selling mobile products, I always try to leave the situation on a satisfied note. As daunting of a process as it may be, choosing your wireless carrier and device should be a fun one. In order to do this though, you need to be honest with yourself and ask the right questions, make sure you understand what you are signing up for, and leave with a device and plan that will best suit your needs. Whether it’s a no contract option or a two year obligation that offers the best solution, following these thought processes will surely start you off on the right foot.

What tips do YOU have when it comes to choosing a wireless carrier? Let us know in the comments below!

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Croudsource user-filmed concert videos with Outlisten! Jun 6th 2013, 16:30
While on a work trip in Los Angeles last week, Aaron Baker sat down to interview Jeff Ponchick, the Founder of Outlisten. Outlisten is a back-end video processor and API that takes fanshot concert footage and from there, auto-croudsources, synchronizes, and edits it into an entirely new video – turning the audience into the cameramen.

It’s not publicly available right now; currently, bands and other original creators hire Outlisten to build out the croudsourcing elements of their concerts, and from there, they can share the video on YouTube or through other networking mediums. The plan is to make it public and consumer-facing, though – and it could very well expand outside of music and into politics, sports events, and more.

A huge thank you to Tiny Galaxy (Fullscreen) for producing the video!

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I’d download a stock Android experience from the Play Store, Google Jun 6th 2013, 16:25
A few years ago, finding ways to replace elements on an Android phone wasn’t all that easy. Most of it was baked into the rooting process, whether it was made available through custom ROMs or just “Home replacements.” Some of the latter options wouldn’t work unless you were rooted, and many of them had to be directly downloaded from media sharing sites.

That has changed over the years, though, as many developers have decided to put their work in the easiest possible location for Android owners to get them: The Google Play Store. Within the digital storefront you’ll be able to find all the popular means to change up your phone in subtle and major ways, and the best part is that you don’t even need root access or custom ROMs anymore.

Indeed, one of Android’s biggest strengths is the Google Play Store, and the fact that you don’t need to have access to a “black market” of apps to change up your phone. Downloading a new user experience, along with a different application icon pack, can dramatically change the way you see your phone. And, in the process, maybe even cure some boredom at the same time.

One of the most popular alterations to an Android phone has always been the keyboard. Not too long ago, at least it doesn’t feel all that long ago, people wanted to replace keyboards mostly because the one they got stock out of the box wasn’t all that great. So, finding a keyboard replacement was more of a necessity than anything else. Not surprisingly, as stock Android’s keyboard got better, people wanted *that* ‘board on their phone, even if they didn’t have stock Android. While it’s been possible before yesterday to get that keyboard, you had to be rooted, and you had to find a direct download of the keyboard through websites or message boards.

Not very easy for someone who just wants a keyboard, and doesn’t want to fiddle with anything else.

People have been clamoring for the stock Android keyboard for quite some time, but the cries have gone unheard. Or at least that’s what it has seemed like over the years. That changed yesterday, though, when Google released “Google Keyboard” into the Play Store. As you can guess from the name of the application, this is the stock Android keyboard, in all of its glory. No root needed. Just an Android device running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or newer.

It’s both surprising and not that Google has released their own stock keyboard in such a manner. It’s surprising because we’ve been wanting it for so long, that the fact it just drops into the Play Store without fanfare is pretty shocking all by itself. All of a sudden, *boom*, there it is.

But it’s not surprising in the slightest at the very same time because Google has fallen in love with the idea of á la cart. While the majority of their applications have seen individual release through the Play Store (like Gmail, Maps, and others) for quite some time, their major updates usually come with major updates from the overall Android platform. (Yes, these apps get updated on their own all the time, but it’s been more recent that Google has focused on huge updates, like Google Talk to Hangouts.)

This new focus put an idea in my head that I can’t help but get really excited about. An idea that I think would make so many Android users happy, that it pains me to not see it already available. While many people will go out of their way to root their device, just so they can add a custom ROM with stock Android on it, even more won’t do that. While they may say they want stock Android, they also won’t pay upwards of $600 to get it, either. They want an easier option, and since manufacturers have stopped providing that option without paying full retail, there has to be something new.

And this is where Google should come in. They should bring stock Android to the Google Play Store as a Home replacement. Just like we’ve seen from other developers and their own Home replacement apps, bringing the stock Android experience to the Google Play Store would be pretty fantastic.

And it’s a pipe dream, I know. But, I’ll make some concessions to make this possible, if I have to. It doesn’t need to be the full stock Android experience. But it also doesn’t need any of the other flashy elements that some other Home replacements offer. Just the stock Android experience, at least at face value, or through the Messaging application. (I know there are individual Messaging replacement apps out there, but again, I’d like a wider experience from Google.)

Google could make a huge wave if they started offering these experiences directly from their own developers, and offering them through the Play Store. These á la cart options are a fantastic way for Google to provide updated applications and software to phones that would probably never see them otherwise.

The more options Google provides for their own mobile operating system, the better they look. And the better that is all around.

So what do you think? If you own something that’s skinned with a proprietary user interface, like TouchWiz or Sense, would you download a stock Android Home replacement offered by Google through the Play Store? Or would you just stick with what you have? Let me know!

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BlackBerry Messenger for Android and iOS slated to arrive on June 27 Jun 6th 2013, 16:15
BBM Android Samsung Galaxy S IIIBlackBerry hasn’t yet revealed when it plans to launch BlackBerry Messenger on Android and iOS, saying only that the service will arrive on those platforms sometime this summer. We may not have to wait for an announcement from BlackBerry itself, though, as T-Mobile U.K. appears to have decided to take it upon itself to reveal the launch date for BBM on Android and iOS.

The official @TMobileUK Twitter account just sent out a message claiming that BBM will be made available to Android and iOS users on June 27. That’s just three weeks from today, so it may not be long before existing BBM users see an influx of new friends and messages headed their way. It’s worth noting that BlackBerry itself has yet to make any official announcements, though, so you may want to use a pencil rather than a pen when circling 6/27 on your calendar.

BlackBerry announced its plans to release BBM for Android and iOS at its BlackBerry Live conference last month. The apps are expected to feature several major BBM features at launch, including multi-user chats, video and voice messaging, BBM Groups and the ability to add contacts using PIN, email, SMS or QR codes. BlackBerry has said that BBM will be available to consumers running Android 4.0 or higher as well as iOS 6.0 or higher.

Via SlashGear, @TMobileUK

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LG Optimus F3 officially landing at Sprint on June 14 with 4-inch display, $29.99 price tag Jun 6th 2013, 15:40
Sprint LG Optimus F3 officialLooks like Sprint’s got itself a brand new Optimus. Sprint this morning announced that it plans to begin selling the LG Optimus F3 through its website on June 14, with a launch in all Sprint channels (like its stores) slated to happen this summer. Pricing for the Optimus F3 will be set at $29.99 with a two-year contract and $50 mail-in rebate.

So just what will buyers be getting in exchange for their hard-earned cash? The front of the Optimus F3 features a 4-inch IPS display, a camera and a physical home button that’s flanked on both sides by capacitive back and menu keys. Around back is a 5-megapixel camera, and buried inside the Optimus F3’s frame is a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4G LTE support and a 2,460mAh battery that’s powering the whole package. Sprint will sell the Optimus F3 in silver and purple versions.

On the software side of things, Sprint is touting the Optimus F3 as being the first phone to come preloaded with TalkBack, a text-to-speech feature that will provide voice guidance to help blind and visually-impaired users to set up and use their device. The Optimus F3 also comes with Sprint ID, which can be used to access the new Accessible Education ID pack with apps focused on math, science and micro lectures. Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean will be preloaded onto the Optimus F3 at launch.

With its $29.99 price tag, the Optimus F3 will be one of Sprint’s most affordable 4G LTE-capable devices when it launches later this month. The F3 could also appeal to Sprint customers looking for a smaller handset thanks to its 4-inch touchscreen, which is a display size that’s becoming increasingly rare in the smartphone world. Sprint’s full announcement of the Optimus F3 is available at the link below.

Via Sprint

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Samsung Galaxy S 4 update rolling out with ability to move apps to microSD card, other improvements Jun 6th 2013, 13:30
Samsung Galaxy S 4 Black MistAfter the Galaxy S 4 was the subject of a kerfuffle last month that involved its storage space and the amount that’s available to users fresh out of the box, it appears that Samsung has begun rolling out an update that ought to help users reclaim some of their internal memory. SamMobile reports that Samsung is currently rolling out an update to the Galaxy S 4 in Germany that includes the ability to move apps to the device’s microSD card, giving users the option to free up some of their S 4’s internal memory. The update is also said to increase the 16GB S 4’s available storage from 9.15GB to 9.23GB.

In addition to these memory-related enhancements, Samsung has packed a few other notable tweaks into this new Galaxy S 4 update. Those include the ability to record high dynamic range (HDR) video, a Quick Settings toggle for Smart Pause and a fix for a smearing issue that would cause some users to see a purple effect on their device’s display while scrolling. SamMobile’s full list of changes for the 365.67MB update is as follows:

  • New Camera firmware
  • Smearing issue has been fixed (Purple effect while scrolling)
  • Smart Pause Toggle
  • Move Apps to SD Card
  • HDR Video (Can record HDR video)
  • Semi-transparent status bar
  • New Icons in Settings
  • Secure boot status (About Phone)
  • Increase legibility (Display) (New feature)

Overall this sounds like a pretty nice update for Galaxy S 4 owners. Obviously one of its headlining features is the ability to move apps to an SD card, which should help to alleviate the storage woes that some S 4 users have been experiencing, but the smearing bug fix and HDR video features also sound like spiffy additions. The update is currently being pushed to users in Germany, and right now there’s no word on when it might begin arriving in other countries. The good news is that at least Galaxy S 4 owners know that there is an update being released that will rescue them from the cramped space that is their phone’s internal storage.

Via SamMobile

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Nokia EOS poses for more leaked photos wearing black and red outfits Jun 6th 2013, 12:35
Nokia EOS 41-megapixel camera leak rearHot on the heels of some images that claim to show parts of the Nokia EOS and its 41-megapixel camera sensor, two new sets of shots have surfaced that purportedly offer peeks at a completely assembled black unit that’s just casually lounging around in the wild as well as a shell of a red model. The first batch of photos, shared by GSMArena, show a black Nokia-branded handset with the usual set of capacitive Windows Phone keys on its face. Around back are the same two wireless charging pins that we saw in the leak from earlier today, as well as a protruding camera that features LED and xenon flashes.

The device in these photos has had parts of its exterior covered up, including most of the labeling on the camera. Because of this, these images don’t shed any light on the actual megapixel count of the camera. The shooter on the EOS is rumored to be of the 41-megapixel PureView variety, similar to the Nokia 808 PureView that launched in 2012 with Symbian in tow.

Just like the Lumia 920 that it’s rumored to be replacing, it appears that the Nokia EOS will also be offered in a red version. A rear panel that looks exactly like the other EOS leaks, huge rear camera opening and all, is the subject of a batch of images that’ve been posted to the Chinese forum WP XAP. Those shots are available below.

Nokia’s EOS is rumored to be the Finnish firm’s first Lumia Windows Phone with a “true” PureView camera. Nokia has used the PureView branding on phones like the Lumia 920 and 928, but the cameras on those phones don’t have quite as high a megapixel count as the 808 PureView’s. As such, the EOS could be a Windows Phone that gets photography fans excited, especially if the rumors of a “Nokia Pro Camera” mode for fine-tuning the shooter pan out. The EOS is reportedly coming to AT&T in the U.S., and it’s said that Nokia could be planning to officially introduce the device at an event in July.

Nokia EOS 41-megapixel camera leak front

Nokia EOS 41-megapixel camera leak red

Via The Verge, GSMArena, WP XAP

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The HTC One Mini could provide what the Galaxy S 4 Mini won’t Jun 5th 2013, 16:45
If you’ve been following my articles since I’ve started at PhoneDog, you probably know that I am partial to small phones; I also have a personal vendetta against phones that are anatomically too big for my hands. As we progress and smartphone technology becomes faster, lasts longer, and holds more storage it seems like the only way to get these improvements is by making larger phones. While for the most part this may be true, as time goes on we also see that people are trying to make a push for smaller phones before our smartphones match the size of 7” tablets.

We’ve seen this regression to smaller phones happen recently with the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy S 4. Unfortunately, it seems like most of the mini versions of the Galaxies share only two things in common with their progenitor – the name and the look.

Take the Galaxy S III for example. You’ve got an 8-megapixel camera, a quad-core 1.4 GHz processor, a 720×1250 HD display, and 2 GB of RAM. Compare that with the mini which has a 5-megapixel camera, a dual-core 1 GHz processor, 420×800 WVGA display, and 1 GB of RAM. The specs play out to be nothing like a Galaxy S III Mini – it’s more like a Galaxy S II Mini.

So Samsung tries again with the Galaxy S 4 and the Galaxy S 4 Mini. Let’s compare the two: The Galaxy S 4 features a 13-megapixel camera, a 1080×1920 HD display, 2 GB RAM, and a quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A15 or quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A7 processor. The Galaxy S 4 Mini features an 8-megapixel camera, a dual-core 1.7 GHz processor, 1.5 GB of RAM for the 3G version of the device (2GB for the LTE), and a 540×960 qHD display.

Basically you’ve got the same result. The Galaxy S 4 Mini resembles the Galaxy S III more than the actual Galaxy S 4. But would the device sell if they tacked last year’s model name onto the end of a device being released this year? Of course not!

But despite Samsung’s attempts at keeping the Mini versions of the Galaxy line relevant, HTC is doing what HTC has been doing best and following suit closely behind Samsung. In news today, the rumored HTC One Mini was leaked in a series of photos. The photos reveal that while the HTC One Mini isn’t really all that “mini” with a 4.3-inch display, it is a little shorter and a little narrow and more importantly, maintains a lot of the HTC One’s features that make it the “HTC One”.

Basically, it’s HTC’s chance to show that you can have a smaller version of a flagship phone without sucking all of the fun out of it.

The rumors surrounding the HTC Mini is that it will feature a 4.3-inch 720p HD display, the same 4-megapixel Ultrapixel camera, 2 GB of RAM, front-facing speakers, and Beats Audio integration. It’s also assumed to run on a dual-core processor, but the speed hasn’t been noted.

If the rumors turn out to be true I will have a hay day with it. This is what a “mini” device is supposed to be (although perhaps ‘mini’ is being used in its loosest form here; losing .4 inches really doesn’t qualify as ‘mini’ to me. It’s more like the HTC One Not-Quite-As-Big rather than the HTC One Mini) It’s deserving of sharing the same name because it shares such similar qualities. This is what the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Mini should have been, especially after a flop like the Galaxy S III Mini.

I will say to Samsung’s defense that I’m starting to view HTC as the annoying little brother that follows Samsung around and proclaims “Me too!” regarding just about everything.

“Oh, the Galaxy S 4 is being released in stock? Me too! What? The Galaxy S 4 is releasing a mini version of the device? What a coincidence! So am I!” There’s even a rumor that’s sparked that says that HTC plans to release a phablet version of the One to compete with Samsung’s larger devices in the Galaxy line. But again, that’s just a rumor (and technically so is the ‘HTC One Mini’). Judging by HTC’s follow-up to the Google Edition of the Galaxy S 4 plus the rumors and now leaked photos of an HTC Mini, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if the rumors turned out to be true. In fact, I kind of hope they are.

The HTC One Mini sounds like a pretty nice solution to the “larger” flagship phones. It likely wouldn’t be as great as the HTC One, but at least it’s not completely sporting last year’s specs. I would actually consider purchasing the HTC One Mini if it turns out to be a real device.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the HTC One Mini rumors? Would you purchase one if it turns out it’s a real device, or would you prefer to get the regular HTC One?

Photo via 9 to 5 Google, The Android Cop

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Nokia EOS purportedly photographed in the wild, complete with 41-megapixel camera hump Jun 5th 2013, 16:40
Nokia EOS 41-megapixel PureView camera leakAT&T customers were the first to receive a high-end, 900-series Nokia Lumia with last year’s release of the Lumia 920, but since then those folks have had to sit by and watch as their friends on T-Mobile and Verizon got newer Lumia 925 and Lumia 928 variants. It appears that it’s almost time for AT&T to return to the new Lumia spotlight, though, and today some leaked images may have revealed the device that’ll soon be making its way to the big blue carrier’s shelves.

Chinese site WPDang has shared what it says may be the first shots of the Nokia EOS in the wild. The photos show the rear of a yellow handset resting next to a gray Lumia 920, and protruding from the yellow phone’s rear is a large, circular cutout that’s presumably for the EOS’s rumored 41-megapixel camera sensor.

The rest of the yellow device looks like a unit that we’d expect to see from Nokia, with a brightly-colored polycarbonate shell, two small dots that could be used for a wireless charging cover and a set of black buttons on the side of the unit. There’s also a shot of the front of the device that shows a Nokia logo and the usual Windows Phone capacitive keys.

While we’ll have to wait until Nokia actually announces the EOS before we know whether or not the device in these images is the real deal, a recent rumor suggested that AT&T is currently in the process of testing the EOS with its network. If that’s the case, then it would make sense for prototype models to be floating around in the wild, both in the U.S. and in other parts of the globe.

Some folks may be disappointed if the EOS does end up sporting a polycarbonate body rather than the aluminum casing found on the Lumia 925. However, the EOS is also expected to be the first Lumia smartphone with a “true” PureView camera that’s similar to the one found on the Symbian-powered 808 PureView, so EOS owners will still have a nifty new feature to get excited about. Sources speaking to The Verge claim that Nokia could be planning to launch the EOS at an event in July, so it may not be long before we finally get to put this Lumia’s PureView camera to the test.

Nokia EOS 41-megapixel PureView camera leak side view

Via The Verge, WPDang

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Are you going to buy the BlackBerry Q10? Jun 5th 2013, 16:00
Do you like physical QWERTY keyboards? Have you been aching to get your hands on a new device? Well then, looks like the first week of June has been a general timeframe you’ve been looking forward to. Depending on which carrier you’re using, that is. As we’ve seen plenty of times before with other devices, the BlackBerry Q10 is only sort of kind of available here in the United States right now, but that should be changing in a big way here shortly.

And when it does change, it means the end to BlackBerry’s initial hardware and software bonanza. While many folks may have dismissed the BlackBerry Z10 for any number of reasons, the company’s *other* flagship device is just about to hit wide availability, and that means the initial wave of invasion is almost finished.

Once the Q10 lands for every major carrier, we can hopefully start to see just how much the BlackBerry 10 platform, along with BlackBerry’s new hardware, really is getting adopted by the customers out there in the wild.

Just in case you’ve forgotten what the BlackBerry Q10 has to offer you, here’s the rundown: The Q10 packs a 3.1-inch capacitive touchscreen, with a Super AMOLED display and a 720×720 resolution. You’ll find a 2MP camera above that display, and an 8MP camera on the back. The Q10 offers you 16GB of built-in storage, but also offers a microSD card slot, 2GB of RAM and a dual-core processor.

AT&T announced yesterday that they’ll have the BlackBerry Q10 up for pre-order starting today, and that the pricing is set at $199.99. Unfortunately for the Big Blue carrier, though, if you head to AT&T’s website to pre-order the device, you’ll see that your new handset won’t ship until June 18. That’s quite the wait!

It’s definitely quite the wait when you’ve got T-Mobile USA already selling the device right now, and they’re even offering free overnight shipping. And then there’s T-Mobile “uncarrier” plan, where you’ll only have to put $99 down for the BlackBerry Q10, and then pay $20 per month for 24 months.

(That means the T-Mobile BlackBerry Q10 will run you $579 at the end of of your “contract.” AT&T’s BlackBerry Q10 will cost you $584.99 if you want to buy it outright, sans a contract.)

Verizon’s BlackBerry Q10 is still available for pre-order right now, and the site is still showing a June 6 “ship-by” date. Big Red is offering the BBQ10 for $199.99 on a new, two-year contract, too. If you want to just buy the phone without a contract, though, it’ll run you $599.99.

So, that’s three of the four. What about Sprint? Interesting question, considering the Now Network was all adamant in the past about the Q10. So much so, in fact, that they chose to skip the Z10 altogether, and just put their focus on the physical QWERTY-packing handset instead. That didn’t equal having it up for pre-order along with everyone else, apparently. And as of the time of this writing, there’s no word on when the carrier will be launching the new device. But hey, if you just can’t wait, there’s the BlackBerry Bold 9930 up for sale, and for only $99.99 with a new, two-year contract. And only $499.99 without a contract!

So there we have it. With the exception of Sprint for now, BlackBerry is getting ready to flood the land with their final high-end BlackBerry 10 smartphone for the first half of the year, and in the nick of time, too. But, will it be the injection of life that BlackBerry 10 needs? After all, not much has changed on the platform side of things, especially when it comes to apps. It’s just a new piece of hardware.

It is hard to dismiss that physical QWERTY keyboard, though. Fro many BlackBerry users, even new ones that have fallen in love with the BB10 mobile operating system, the physical keyboard is a must-have piece of functionality. So, for those folks, the wait is almost over. And, hey, we can hope that Sprint subscribers won’t have to wait much longer, either, since they didn’t even get a chance to play with the Z10 and see what BB10 is all about (unless you broke ranks for a bit and went into another wireless carrier’s store).

Our own Anna Scantlin wrote about why she wants to love BlackBerry 10, but so far she just can’t, and I can’t help but feel like that same sentiment is felt in a lot of different places. I know plenty of people who just want to love BB10 for the sake of having something new, but unfortunately they can’t give it a real shot yet without knowing their every day apps are supported on the platform. It’s just the way things go, and unfortunately that won’t change with a new piece of hardware that’s available now, will be available very soon, or will be available in the coming weeks.

Unless, of course, BlackBerry is making a conscious effort to change it for the release of the Q10. Skype is a popular application and it saw support for the Q10 first, so could we see that same event happen with other apps down the line? It’s certainly possible. But I imagine that BlackBerry will try harder to have apps work for both flagship devices right off the bat, just to try and shy away from any user dissidence.

And that leads me to you. I want to know if you’ve been eagerly anticipating the Q10. Did you pre-order it already? Are you going to pre-order it? Is there a chance you’ll switch carriers to get the phone faster? Or are you continuing to wait on BlackBerry 10 until there’s more support for the platform? Let me know!

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Featured user review Samsung Galaxy Note II 6-5-13 Jun 5th 2013, 15:45
Not giving up ground to any of the smartphones in pursuit, the Samsung Galaxy Note II maintained it’s third place position for another week on the People’s Choice side of the Official Smartphone Rankings.“A price worthy device to get!” By LEONARD WONG on May 25, 20123

I was an iPhone 5 User before switching to the Galaxy Note 2 as it totally blew me away with it gorgeous 720p HD display and the 5.5 inch display. It is truly phenomenal ! I am able to see more of my content at one time.

Multitasking feature seems like a gimmick but when you really need to use it, you will be totally amazed how smooth and great it work. Task are easily completed with it. Watching videos on the Galaxy Note 2 is enjoyable with the large 5.5inch display , it really is the middle of a tablet and a phone. Many people think it is too big on the hand but I can really tell you from my experience , you won’t really feel big after using a bit and you will really think that the phone you use previously seems small.

To sum it up, it is truly a device that will be worth every penny you spent!

Display 5/5
Battery Life 5/5
Apps & Media Support 5/5
Reception & Call Quality 5/5
Design/Form Factor 5/5

Overall 5.0

Official Smartphone Rankings™, vote now then leave a review.

Did you pick up the Samsung Galaxy Note II? Tell us about it here.

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T-Mobile’s Samsung Galaxy S III LTE now available online with $69.99 down payment Jun 5th 2013, 15:45
Samsung Galaxy S III Marble WhiteAfter originally teasing a new 4G LTE-capable version of its Samsung Galaxy S III way back in January, T-Mobile officially added the device to its online shop today. The Galaxy S III LTE is now available for purchase through T-Mobile’s website, with pricing set at a down payment of $69.99 and 24 monthly payments of $20 each. Customers that’d prefer to pay for the thing all at once will need to pony up $549.99.

The Galaxy S III LTE is currently only available in Marble White with 16GB of built-in storage. Outside of its new LTE connectivity, this Galaxy S III is the same as the regular ol’ HSPA+ model that T-Mobile launched nearly a year ago. That means that Galaxy S III LTE buyers will be getting a device with a 4.8-inch 1280×720 Super AMOLED display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 8-megapixel rear and 1.9-megapixel front cameras, 2GB RAM and a microSD card slot for adding more memory. The Galaxy S III LTE comes preloaded with Android 4.1.1.

While it’s not exactly a bleeding edge device anymore, the Galaxy S III is still a respectable Android smartphone that should continue to see support from T-Mo and Samsung for the foreseeable future. Plus, its $69.99 price tag makes it the most affordable device in T-Mobile’s 4G LTE-capable lineup, meaning that it could be a good option for consumers that want to try out T-Mobile’s new LTE network on the cheap. The Galaxy S III LTE and its magenta “Add To Cart” button can be found by hitting up the T-Mobile link below.

Via Android Police, T-Mobile: Samsung Galaxy S III LTE

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Patent trolls hurt the consumer Jun 5th 2013, 11:10
If there’s one thing I enjoy on a hot summer day, it’s a big ol’ heaping helping of justice. Fortunately I get my fill of such a dish almost every day in this industry with the Hundred Years’ War between two of our biggest tech giants, Samsung and Apple. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee and sizzling bacon all while reading the latest article about this rivalry, with quotes that extend no farther than basically saying, “I know you are, but what am I?” I know it never gets old to me!

However, on Tuesday the everlasting battle between Apple and Samsung took an interesting turn (whether it’s for better or worse is up to you) as the court orders some older AT&T models of Apple devices to halt imports and sales. The following models have been subject to a ban: iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 3G, and the iPad 2 3G. While these devices are older and at least two generations behind the most current models of the iPhone and iPad line they’re still a main source of profit for Apple.

Apple heavily relies on their older models for profits as it serves as a cheaper solution for consumers who have that iOS itch that needs to be scratched. While I often mock iOS for being boring, there is a convenience to only having one phone with one new software upgrade each year – your phones tend to stay relevant for longer. It’s no secret that people enjoy investing money in things that will presumably last longer. How many times have you gotten an Android device that stopped receiving updates after one or two of them? Yet the iPhone 3GS made the title of being the longest supported smartphone capable of running a modern OS after it was revealed that the 3GS would be supported by the iOS 6 update. Then again, you also have to consider that Android’s software updates generally involve a major overhaul of new features while iOS tends to stay relatively the same. Nonetheless, Apple’s strategy to keep their older phones staying afloat is working, but it might be in for a bumpy ride if the court order goes through.

United States President Barack Obama must review the court order. If he doesn’t veto the decision within 60 days then the aforementioned devices will inevitably cease to be imported or sell on store shelves.

Fortunately for Apple, the decision to make the iPhone 4 and both the first and second generation iPads available to CDMA carrier Verizon Wireless makes this a much less crushing blow than it could be had they stuck it out with the AT&T only carrier exclusive. Apple has stated that they plan to appeal the decision either way.

But regardless of the final decision, and regardless how we feel about patent wars and who deserves to win and who doesn’t, taking phones off of shelves is inevitably only hurting the customer. Apple will continue to make money, and Samsung will continue to reap the benefits; they’re basically just trading the money back and forth between each other anyway. However, customers who may have had their eye on these older, and subsequently cheaper, versions of Apple’s smartphones and tablets will have a harder time trying to obtain one.

I find these kinds of punishments for patents pointless anyway. If Samsung wins a lawsuit, make Apple pay Samsung money and be done with it. Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to look disgustedly at an iPhone 4 and say, “You know, the technology used in that AT&T version of the iPhone 4 was actually used by Samsung first. You should really consider getting a phone from a company that doesn’t copy such innovative technology.” In the past I’ve expressed how ridiculous I find some of Apple’s patents to be, but it takes a patent troll to know a patent troll, and Samsung is coming up as no different.

It’s becoming increasingly evident (as if it wasn’t enough already) that these two companies are getting a lot of media attention from all of these lawsuits. It’s unfortunate that some companies prefer letting crude, malicious advertisement take precedence over what is best for the customer.

As I mentioned earlier in the device, I love a good bout of justice when it’s deserved – but only when the deserving parties are getting served, not innocent bystanders.

Readers, what are your thoughts on this recent lawsuit verdict? Do you feel that the mentioned devices should be pulled from shelves completely? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Images via iOS Vlog, Planeta Red

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Google Keyboard now available for download in the Play Store Jun 5th 2013, 10:55
Google Keyboard official appThe list of official Google apps available in the Play Store has grown by one today, as the company just added its Google Keyboard app to the shop’s virtual shelves. As the name suggests, Google Keyboard gives users the stock Android 4.2 keyboard, complete with features like Gesture Typing, Voice Typing and support for both smartphones and tablets. The app is 15MB in size and is compatible with Android devices running OS version 4.0 or higher.

While users of Google’s Nexus hardware have access to this keyboard out of the box, owners of skinned Android devices are typically given a keyboard that comes as part of their manufacturer’s custom overlay. Those users have always had the option of downloading third-party keyboards from the Play Store, but getting access to Google’s official Android keyboard wasn’t as easy. That’s changing today, and although it’s kind of surprising that it took Google this long to release the stock Android keyboard into the Play store, I’m glad to see that it’s finally happened. Google Keyboard can be found at the Google Play link below, and if you’ve got a compatible Android device, it may be worth checking out.

Via Droid-Life, Google Play: Google Keyboard

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BlackBerry exec says other manufacturers are interested in preloading BBM onto their devices Jun 5th 2013, 10:00
BBM for Android and iOSBlackBerry used its BlackBerry Live conference last month to make several announcements, including the BlackBerry Q5 and its new BBM Channels. One of the biggest and most surprising pieces of news to come from the show, though, was the announcement that BlackBerry Messenger will officially launch on Android and iOS devices this summer. Now it appears that BlackBerry is working to take things one step further by preloading its BBM service onto select devices.

BlackBerry COO Kristian Tear has told CNET that his company is currently in talks with other hardware manufacturers about preloading BBM onto their handsets. Tear declined to name names, saying only that “there is interest from other handset makers” about a preloaded BBM app. The exec went on to say that BlackBerry isn’t concerned about the availability of BBM on other platforms causing users to leave or stay away from BlackBerry 10, explaining that the company feels that BBM “is a strong platform” that could get users interested enough in BlackBerry 10 to switch OSes.

Rumors of BBM coming to other platforms have been circulating for quite a while, and now it won’t be long before the rumors become reality and users on both Android and iOS are able to begin using the popular messaging service. Some folks feel that it’s strange for BlackBerry to give one of the strongest pieces of its platform away to its competition, but the company doesn’t see the move as a risk. Whether or not BBM is enough to get Android and iOS users to switch to BlackBerry 10 remains to be seen, but getting a taste of BlackBerry’s platform through the BBM app could at least get BB10 on the minds of users that download it. Are you looking forward to the arrival of BBM on Android and iOS? Do you think that the app could help convince you to switch to BlackBerry 10?

Via CNET

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Nokia Lumia 920 Challenge, Day 8: People Hub Jun 5th 2013, 09:00
It’s day eight with the Nokia Lumia 920 as part of the 30 day challenge with both Nokia and Windows Phone 8. I’m putting both to the test, and for this update, it’s all about the People Hub. The ability to maintain connections with this device is nice – you can link Twitter and Facebook to the People Hub to have a one-stop-shop for social media access. I’m still happy with the device color (love a red phone!), and overall speed of the OS is great. It may lack some personalization options and be more “flat” than some like, but the consistent speed is a bonus.

What do you want to see in the next update video? Let me know on Twitter @PhoneDog_Aaron!

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BlackBerry A10 tipped as Z10 follow-up, said to be hitting Sprint in November Jun 5th 2013, 07:55
BlackBerry Z10BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins teased earlier this year that his company had a new product in its pipeline that he was “really excited about,” piquing the interest of BlackBerry fans everywhere. However, the executive declined to offer any other details about it at that time, and there haven’t been any other hints about the mystery device since then. That’s changing today, as a new report claims to have some new information on the device that Heins was referencing.

Sources speaking to CNET claimed that BlackBerry is working on a new flagship smartphone that’s currently known as the “BlackBerry A10.” The device is described as being a high-end follow-up to the Z10, meaning that it will bump the Z10 and Q10 down to mid-range status upon its arrival. There aren’t many concrete details about the A10 right now, but CNET says that it will be a full-touch device, which makes sense considering that it’s being billed as a successor to the Z10.

Today’s report says that the BlackBerry A10 is slated to launch during the holiday season and that Sprint is already on board, with plans to add the A10 to its shelves sometime in November. Sprint frustrated many of its subscribers earlier this year when it decided not to offer the Z10, but one source familiar with the carrier’s plans said that Sprint saw what BlackBerry had coming and decided to wait for the A10 rather than offer the Z10. Sprint’s agreement with BlackBerry for the A10 isn’t thought to be exclusive, so the A10 could eventually appear on other operators as well.

Many of the details contained within today’s report line up with one that surfaced back in March. That leak claimed that Sprint was planning to launch a new full-touch BlackBerry device in the second half of 2013, with a separate report describing the handset as “version 2.0” of the Z10. We’re still in the dark about what will make the A10 tick, but it sounds like a phone that may please BlackBerry spec hounds. While the Z10 isn’t exactly bleeding edge, it does have a respectable feature set that includes a 4.2-inch 1280×768 display and dual-core processor. What will be interesting is seeing how BlackBerry will up its game with the A10. Perhaps a larger screen or a quad-core chip? We’ll have to wait and see. What specs would you like to see included with the A10?

Via CNET

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Sony Xperia Z support documents appear on T-Mobile’s website Jun 5th 2013, 06:40
T-Mobile Sony Xperia Z support documentsWe’ve already gotten a couple of strong hints that the Sony Xperia Z will soon be available on T-Mobile, but for anyone out there that may still be a tad skeptical, I’ve got another piece of evidence that may seal the deal. As you can see in the screenshot above, searching for “Xperia Z” on T-Mobile’s website yields a large list of support documents for the device. Unfortunately, all of the docs appear to be placed behind a login, so we’re not able to actually view any of them at this time.

Along with these support documents, we’ve recently been treated to peeks at a T-Mobile-branded version of the Xperia Z both in the wild and in the FCC. Neither Sony nor T-Mobile have said anything official about an Xperia Z release, but Sony CEO Kaz Hirai did tease last week that his company is planning to partner with a carrier to make an announcement related to that device “soon.” With today’s appearance of these support docs, it appears that nearly all of the pieces for a T-Mobile Xperia Z launch are in place. Now we just have to sit and wait for that aforementioned announcement that Hirai alluded to.

Via TmoNews, T-Mobile

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Nokia Lumia 521 Video Review Jun 5th 2013, 06:10
I love a high-end smartphone, and I’m sure you do too. We all love the bells, whistles, and goodies that come from devices like the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S 4, and Apple iPhone 5. But not everyone needs a high-end smartphone, and for those that can get by with a nice little mid-range device, the T-Mobile Nokia Lumia 521 is an awesome choice. Available for $150 with NO contract at T-Mobile stores, the Lumia 521 sports a 1 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 CPU, 4-inch display (480×800 pixels), 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD recording, a 1,430 mAh battery, HSPA+ 21 Mbps connectivity, and Windows Phone 8.

One of the benefits of Windows Phone 8 is its ability to run well on all types of hardware, and despite not being as feature-packed as the Lumia 920, the Nokia Lumia 521 is a great choice.

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