The Tech News Blog

July 28, 2014

T-Mobile Targets AT&T With Data-Heavy Family Plan

T-Mobile CEO John Legere John Legere is not a fan of AT&T, and he's certainly not shy about it.

The outspoken T-Mobile CEO on Monday morning took to the company's blog to unveil a new family plan promotion, blasting AT&T and other rival carriers in the process. Under the new Simple Choice promotion, a family of four paying $100 a month can share up to 10GB of LTE data, with each person getting 2.5GB. Even better — there are no overage fees.

Currently, those in the Simple Choice plan get just 1GB of high-speed data per line. The promotion kicks off on July 30, and Legere says it's a way better deal than what you'll get on AT&T.

"Leaving my office last week, I pulled alongside a bus covered with yet another ad for AT&T's 'Best-Ever Pricing' for families," he wrote. "These ads are everywhere. AT&T's sinking some serious dough into marketing their latest-greatest family pricing, which strikes me as funny. Because their deal is no deal at all, and next to T-Mobile's Simple Choice Family Plan, AT&T's 'Best-Ever Pricing for Families' is a joke."

In comparison, AT&T's "Best-Ever" Mobile Share plan offers 10GB of monthly data for $160 a month.

"It infuriates me that they're selling this to hardworking families who could use that money for more important things," Legere wrote. "And they have the nerve to call it 'Best-Ever Pricing.' I just couldn't stand by without speaking up and calling them on their BS."

And while Legere specifically called out AT&T, he added that "Big Red and the Framily aren't any better," referring to Verizon and Sprint. Check out the chart below to see what he means.

T-Mobile's new family promotion will be available until September, and those who sign up can lock in the increased data allotment through 2016.

T-Mobile Simple Choice promotion

July 25, 2014

Amazon Fire Phone Arrives on AT&T

Amazon Fire Phone

If you're looking to get your hands on the Amazon Fire phone, now is your chance.

AT&T on Friday began exclusively selling Amazon's first-ever smartphone in stores and online. The 32GB handset will set you back $200 with a two-year contract, or $27.09 a month for the next two years with AT&T's Next installment plan. There's also a 64GB version available for $299 or $31.25 a month with AT&T Next.

The handset received a "good" rating of 3.5 out of five stars in PCMag's review, earning high marks for its solid build and unique features. But, as we noted in the review, the phone is very focused on selling you things from Amazon and the app selection is more limited than what you'll find on standard Android devices.

Spec-wise, the Fire phone sports a 4.7-inch HD LCD display with 1,280-by-720 resolution at 315 pixels per inch and runs a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, Adreno 330 GPU, and 2GB of RAM. It has a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, and records in 1080p at 30 fps from the front- and rear-facing shooters.

June 16, 2014

AT&T Confirms Security Breach

AT&T Logo Building AT&T has confirmed an April breach in which the personal information of an unknown number of users was improperly accessed.

"We recently learned that three employees of one of our vendors accessed some AT&T customer accounts without proper authorization," AT&T said in a statement. "This is completely counter to the way we require our vendors to conduct business."

"We know our customers count on us and those who support our business to act with integrity and trust, and we take that very seriously," AT&T continued. "We have taken steps to help prevent this from happening again, notified affected customers, and reported this matter to law enforcement."

Social Security numbers and call records were accessed between April 9 and 21, according to CNET. AT&T did not say how many customers were affected, but CNET pointed out that California law requires the disclosure of incidents that affect at least 500 local customers.

The data was reportedly breached in order to reveal the request codes that can unlock AT&T phones. AT&T currently will unlock a device for any customer whose account has been active for at least 60 days, whose account is in good standing and has no unpaid balance, and who has fulfilled his or her service agreement commitment.

Late last year, AT&T joined the nation's top wireless carriers—Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless—in an effort to make it easier for consumers to unlock their devices.

The companies committed to a number of services, including posting information about unlocking policies, unlocking the phones of customers who have satisfied their contract, notifying users when their phone is eligible for unlocking, and unlocking devices for deployed military personnel.

May 18, 2014

AT&T Acquires DirecTV for $48.5 Billion

AT&T Logo Building

As expected, AT&T on Sunday announced plans to acquire DirecTV in a deal worth $48.5 billion.

AT&T positioned the deal as a way to provide more customers with mobile, broadband, and pay TV service bundles.

"This is a unique opportunity that will redefine the video entertainment industry and create a company able to offer new bundles and deliver content to consumers across multiple screens – mobile devices, TVs, laptops, cars and even airplanes," Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

"U.S. consumers will have access to a more competitive bundle; shareholders will benefit from the enhanced value of the combined company; and employees will have the advantage of being part of a stronger, more competitive company, well positioned to meet the evolving video and broadband needs of the 21st century marketplace," said Mike White, president and CEO of DirecTV.

AT&T also talked up the sports content offered by DirecTV, like NFL Sunday Ticket, which provides access to out-of-market games.

If the deal passes muster with regulators, AT&T has committed to expanding the reach of its high-speed broadband service to 15 million customers, largely those in rural areas, within four years.

Perhaps in anticipation of concerns that regulators might raise, AT&T said it will commit to providing standalone, wired Internet service of at least 6 Mbps in its current footprint at the same price for at least three years. DirecTV will do the same for its TV service.

May 16, 2014

You’ll Never Lose AT&T’s Smart Luggage


Lost luggage will become a thing of the past if AT&T's new Smart Luggage project makes it out of the company's labs. At this year's AT&T Innovation Showcase, I saw something that could help the millions of Americans who see their bags lost or damaged in transit each year.

AT&T's Innovation Showcase, held in the old Long Lines Building in downtown Manhattan, harkens back to the company's Bell Labs heritage. Back in the day, AT&T's Bell Labs churned out a crazy array of world-changing inventions, including the transistor and the UNIX operating system. The labs spun off as part of Lucent in 1996, but the new AT&T has opened a string of global development centers called "foundries" to push innovative ideas forward.

May 3, 2014

Rumored Amazon Smartphone Photo Leaked

BGR Amazon Smartphone

If an Amazon smartphone arrives before the end of the year as rumored, we may now have a good idea of what it will look like, courtesy of BGR.

The tech site this week published a photo showing what's purported to be the front and back of the rumored Amazon phone, which will have a 4.7-inch touch-screen display with 720p HD resolution and run a modified version of Android like Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets, BGR said.

Some more specs for the smartphone, per BGR's unnamed sources, are that it will use a Qualcomm Snapdragon application processor, pack 2GB of system memory, and sport "six individual camera modules."

The pictured device will be the "first of several smartphones Amazon is planning to release," according to the site. Amazon will publicly reveal the phone in about a month, BGR claimed its sources were saying.

The rumored Amazon phone will integrate some pretty interesting technologies, according to reports. These include a "3D" display and a natural user interface incorporating gesture control, as well as a mysterious, possible data plan subsidy package supposedly being cooked up with AT&T called "Prime Data."

May 1, 2014

Report: AT&T Eyeing DirecTV Acquisition

AT&T logo

AT&T is reportedly in talks to acquire satellite provider DirecTV, a move that could help it compete against a combined Comcast-Time Warner Cable, should that deal be approved.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news Thursday, citing sources familiar with the situation, who suggested the agreement could be worth at least $40 billion.

AT&T and DirecTV declined to comment on the speculation.

As the Journal noted, a deal between AT&T and DirecTV would create a company that's closer in size to Comcast/TWC. Together, AT&T and DirecTV would have about 26 million subscribers, compared to about 30 million for Comcast/TWC.

Any such deal would have to be approved by regulators, who are currently scrutinizing Comcast's pending $45.2 billion purchase.

April 29, 2014

AT&T to Roll Out In-Flight 4G LTE in 2015

Gadgets on Planes

AT&T wants to rack up some frequent flier miles with high-speed 4G LTE-based in-flight mobile service.

Expected to be available in late 2015, the system will provide in-flight broadband for passengers and crew alike.

To deliver on its sky-high promise, the communications company plans to build an air-to-ground network based on global 4G LTE standards to utilize spectrum already owned by AT&T.

"Everyone wants access to high-speed, reliable mobile Internet wherever they are, including at 35,000 feet," John Stankey, chief strategy officer at AT&T, said in a statement. "We are building on AT&T's significant strengths to develop in-flight connectivity technology unlike any other that exists today, based on 4G LTE standards."

According to September's wireless connectivity survey by Honeywell Aerospace, nearly 90 percent of air travelers would give up amenities like preferred seating or extra legroom for faster in-flight Wi-Fi connections.

With the intent of addressing those users' concerns, AT&T and Honeywell are partnering to provide the hardware and service capabilities necessary to deliver a better in-flight connectivity solution.

But more than an added customer convenience, the new network will also allow for better communications between the plane and ground crew, through transmission of real-time aircraft data.

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April 17, 2014

AT&T Threatens to Ditch Spectrum Auction Over Rules

Fastest Mobile Networks 2012

AT&T might withdraw from next year's incentive spectrum auction if the FCC imposes rules on the proceedings that make it difficult for AT&T to secure the spectrum it wants, the company said this week.

Specifically, AT&T is concerned that the FCC wants to restrict just how much spectrum a larger company can purchase in any one market. The idea is to prevent huge carriers like AT&T or Verizon from buying everything, allowing smaller players - including T-Mobile and Sprint - to have a chance. But the larger carriers argue that restrictions might not allow them to purchase enough spectrum to make the investment worthwhile.

"As we understand it, after a certain aggregate threshold is reached in the auction (which threshold currently remains undefined), staff is proposing that certain significant bidding restrictions be imposed on any bidder that has more than one-third of the available low band spectrum in a market," Joan Marsh, vice president of federal regulatory issues at AT&T, said in a Wednesday letter submitted to the FCC. "AT&T estimates that if such restrictions are adopted, it will be restricted in markets covering over 70 percent of U.S. [points of presence] POPs."

March 17, 2014

4G LTE Surface 2 Arrives Tuesday

Microsoft Surface 2 AT&T 4G LTE

A 4G LTE version of Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet arrives on Tuesday via AT&T for $679.

The 64GB model will be available at Microsoft retail and online stores, as well as all Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile locations and

Microsoft's Surface 2 boasts increased speed and battery life over its predecessor, a dual-position kickstand, Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT and Outlook 2013 RT, a full HD screen, an upgraded front- and rear-facing cameras, and a full-size USB 3.0 port.

New customers will also receive 200GB of free OneDrive storage, good for two years.

"Every day, more and more people are using Surface," Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Surface, wrote in a blog post. "As the device becomes a part of people's everyday lives, I get excited about the possibilities that start to open with a fully connected device."