The Tech News Blog

September 13, 2014

DirecTV Sees Smooth Path to AT&T Merger

AT&T Logo Building DirecTV CEO Mike White told investors Friday that his company's acquisition by AT&T should be complete by April 2015, according to reports.

"We are optimistic that we will be able to get this deal closed in the first half of next year. My best guess right now is early April," White said during an investors conference, according to Reuters.

In May, AT&T announced its intention to acquire the satellite TV provider for $48.5 billion.

One key aspect of the deal that appears to still be unresolved for AT&T is the acquisition of rights to DirectTV's Sunday Ticket package, which subscribers can purchase to receive the full slate of National Football League games on their TVs, tablets, and game consoles during the NFL season.

"We have made good progress on the (NFL) deal," Reuters quoted White as saying. AT&T and the NFL are expected to reach a deal on Sunday Ticket by the end of 2014, according to the DirecTV chief.

As part of deal, AT&T said in May that if it is greenlighted by regulators, the carrier and Internet service provider would commit to expanding the reach of its high-speed broadband service to 15 million customers, largely those in rural areas, within four years.

"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," AT&T chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said when the deal was announced.

White said Friday that the merger would also "allow the combined company to explore opportunities in Latin America it would not have otherwise pursued," according to Reuters.

"I wouldn't look at acquiring wireless as a stand-alone company in Latin America just from a risk perspective. That is just not our core competency," White was quoted as saying. "But with AT&T and DirecTV together, I think we are going to have enormous opportunities."

August 27, 2014

AT&T CEO Pick Shows It’s Looking Beyond Phones

AT&T Logo Building

AT&T Mobility's new CEO, Glenn Lurie, has been ahead of the curve for quite some time.

When Verizon Wireless reportedly balked at Apple's pricing terms, Lurie helped cut a deal: his company Cingular (now AT&T) traded Apple's control of the iPhone experience for a five-year U.S. exclusive on every future iPhone model.

With the iPhone cemented as the foundation of AT&T's smartphone success, Lurie then moved on to head AT&T's "emerging devices" unit - basically, everything except phones. Since his appointment in 2008, AT&T has become the leader in connecting random things to its network - and not just the obvious cars and tablets. Lurie's division has helped bring us connected pill bottles, connected luggage, and connected golf swing monitors.

That makes him perfect to lead a company into the post-smartphone era.

August 20, 2014

AT&T Gigabit Internet Coming to Cupertino

AT&T Austin Gigapower

AT&T today confirmed plans to light up the heart of Silicon Valley with gigabit Internet: Cupertino, California.

Home of Apple, and neighbor to Google and Facebook, Cupertino is the first California city to receive AT&T's gigabit broadband speeds.

"Cupertino is leading the way in creating an environment that fosters innovation, and the deployment of ultra-high-speed broadband service will further support innovation in our community, spur our local businesses, and result in even greater economic development in our city," Mayor Gilbert Wong said in a statement. "We are very pleased to work with AT&T to offer this unprecedented service to our residents and small businesses."

The enhancements ensure customers have access to AT&T's fastest Internet speeds, as well as new TV services, like the ability to watch and record five simultaneous HD streams on a 1TB DVR.

"The ultra-fast speeds of the AT&T GigaPower network open up a whole new world of possibilities for our customers in Cupertino," said Ken McNeely, president of AT&T California. "From our wireless network to our broadband network, we are proud to empower entrepreneurs, developers, artists, and creative thinkers of every strip to build and shape the future of California."

August 13, 2014

AT&T Offers iPhone Buyers $200 Off iPad

Apple Unveils New iPad Air, Retina iPad Mini

AT&T is offering $200 off the price of an iPad for those who are buying an iPhone 5c or 5s.

To get the deal, shoppers must sign on for AT&T Next when buying their smartphone, which lets people pay off the cost of a phone over 12 or 18 months rather than locking them into a two-year contract, potentially allowing them to upgrade to a newer smartphone faster.

If you buy a 16GB iPhone 5s, for example, you will pay $27.09 per month via AT&T Next 18 or $32.50 per month using AT&T Next 12. It's $199.99 with a two-year contract and $649.99 unlocked.

A colorful 16GB iPhone 5c will cost you $22.92 per month on AT&T Next 18 and $27.50 on AT&T Next 12. It's $99.99 with a two year-contract and $549.99 unlocked.

To get the iPad discount, however, buyers must sign on for a two-year contract for the tablet. Data plans for an AT&T tablet range from $14.99 to $50 per month, depending on how much cellular data you intend to consume.

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."