The Tech News Blog

January 3, 2014

AT&T Offers Up to $450 to Switch From T-Mobile

Switch to AT&T

The battle between AT&T and T-Mobile is heating up, with AT&T offering T-Mobile customers several hundred dollars to switch carriers.

Starting today, T-Mobile customers who switch to AT&T can trade in their smartphones and get up to $250 that can be used on AT&T products and services. They can nab an additional $200 per line when they switch to AT&T and select an AT&T early upgrade Next plan, buy a device at full retail price, or activate a device they already own.

Trade-in values will vary depending on the current state of your device, but "most popular smartphones will qualify for a value of $250," AT&T said.

According to an AT&T website, making the switch and pocketing your cash is a four-step process. First shop for a smartphone and select an AT&T Mobile Share Value plan. Before checkout, enter your existing T-Mobile number and transfer it to AT&T. Then, visit and follow the steps to trade in your current smartphone for an AT&T Promotion Card worth up to $250. When the switch is done, you can get that extra $200 if you stick with AT&T for three months.

December 13, 2013

Carriers Agree to Support Cell Phone Unlocking

Roundup: Best Unlocked Phones

The nation's top wireless carriers today relented on the cell phone unlocking issue, committing to a voluntary set of principles that will make it easier for consumers to unlock their devices.

"We believe this agreement will continue to foster the world-leading range of devices and offerings that Americans enjoy today," CTIA, the wireless industry trade association, said in a statement.

The carriers that have signed on are AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless.

The move comes about a month after the FCC's new chairman, Tom Wheeler, penned a note to Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA, to push for "an amendment to your Consumer Code in which this industry would address consumers' rights to unlock their mobile wireless devices once their contracts are fulfilled."

Wheeler backed a five-point plan, but CTIA was apparently not supportive of a provision that required carriers to either notify customers when their devices were eligible for unlocking or just unlock those devices for free, automatically, when eligible.

It appears CTIA has had a change of heart. In a Thursday letter to Wheeler and the FCC commissioners, Largent said the carriers have agreed to a six-point plan that includes notification.

November 19, 2013

Carriers Oppose Anti-Theft Smartphone ‘Kill Switch’

[MOBILE SECURITY] What To Do When Your Android Phone is Stolen

Efforts to add a "kill switch" to cell phones that would brick stolen or lost devices has reportedly been sidelined due to opposition from cell phone carriers.

The office of San Francisco Attorney General George Gascón today tweeted that wireless carriers rejected a mobile kill-switch proposal developed by Samsung, and suggested that the carriers are prioritizing profits over safety.

Gascón has been working with New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman on the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative, a joint effort between state and local officials that is working to combat gadget theft.

S.O.S. got started when Schneiderman penned letters to Apple, Motorola, Samsung, and Microsoft and asked them to collaborate with his office to come up with ways to deter criminals from swiping their most popular gadgets.

Apple has since incorporated a kill switch of sorts for iOS 7 devices; stolen or lost gadgets cannot be reactivated without the owner's Apple ID and password. The approach earned rave reviews from Gascón and Schneiderman.

Samsung, meanwhile, has also been working on its own option. "Samsung takes the issue of smartphone theft very seriously, and we are continuing to enhance our solutions," a spokeswoman said today. "We are working with the leaders of the Secure Our Smartphones (S.O.S.) Initiative to incorporate the perspective of law enforcement agencies. We will continue to work with them and our wireless carrier partners towards our common goal of stopping smartphone theft."

May 24, 2013

Your AT&T Wireless Bill Just Went up 61 Cents a Month


Attention AT&T customers: Your bill just went up 61 cents a month.

The carrier this month added the new "Mobility Administrative Fee," for all of its contract wireless customers, raising bills by $0.61 per month per line. The new fee went into effect on May 1, and will appear at the bottom of your phone bill in the same area where taxes and other surcharges are listed.

Though 61 cents might seem insignificant to some, the extra fee could bring in an additional half-billion dollars of annual revenue to AT&T, given that the company has more than 70 million subscribers, The Wall Street Journal pointed out. Over the course of a year, it will add a little over $7 to your phone bill.

A spokesperson for the telecom giant told PCMag that the new charges are in line with similar fees imposed by other service providers. Indeed, Verizon and Sprint both have comparable fees in place. AT&T said the funds will be used to cover expenses like cell site rental fees, maintenance, and interconnection.

The company gave customers 30-days notice of the new fee on their April bills. The charge will be summarized and identified as a line item on all monthly bills going forward.

April 24, 2013

MetroPCS Shareholders Approve T-Mobile Merger

T-Mobile MetroPCS merger

MetroPCS stockholders on Wednesday gave their stamp of approval to the company's merger with T-Mobile.

The move means all the necessary regulatory and procedural hurdles have been dealt with, and the transaction is expected to close by May 1, according to T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom.

MetroPCS and T-Mobile announced plans to merge in October. Under the deal, MetroPCS will make a cash payment of $1.5 billion to its shareholders for a 26 percent ownership in the combined company; Deutsche Telekom will own 74 percent.

The newly merged company will trade under the name T-Mobile US and will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under the symbol TMUS.

"This is a major step for Deutsche Telekom," René Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom Group, said in a statement. "We have accomplished a lot in the USA recently, for example our network modernization and the new T-Mobile USA management team, which has seen considerable success. And we have finalized the contracts with Apple and MetroPCS. The merger with MetroPCS is extremely important, since it enables us to be more aggressive in the USA."

T-Mobile recently launched its 4G LTE network in seven U.S. cities, and finally nabbed the iPhone, which it is offering on a non-contract basis as part of its bid to become the "un-carrier."

December 1, 2012

Report: Apple Doesn’t Trust European Carriers’ 4G-LTE Networks

Apple iPhone 5

Apple is running its own independent tests of European mobile operators' 4G-LTE network performance before greenlighting their sale of LTE-enabled iPhone 5 handsets, according to a European tech site. reported Friday that Swiss carrier Swisscom recently confirmed the policy, which some in the European telecom industry were "shocked" to discover.

"Apple only enables 4G access after testing their device on an operator's live network," Swisscom told after the Swiss carrier fired up its 4G-LTE network this week but wasn't able to make the LTE-enabled iPhone 5 available on it at launch.

One European telecom industry consultant said he was surprised by Apple's policy and said it demonstrated "who is running the industry."

"Apple have put themselves in the driver's seat. it's really changing the game," NorthStream founder and CEO Bengt Nordstrom told Nordstrom questioned whether it was wise for a company "that does not invest in networks" to have veto power over the readiness of the 4G-LTE networks coming online in Europe.

June 20, 2012

AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon to Carry Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8 Event

Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8 today, saying it would launch with Nokia, Huawei, Samsung and HTC phones. But these phones won't sell well in the U.S. market without support from the U.S. carriers.

We reached out to major U.S. operators to find out if they'll support Windows Phone 8. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all confirmed that they will carry Windows Phone 8 devices. Cricket, MetroPCS and Sprint have stayed coy, and we haven't heard back from U.S. Cellular yet.

AT&T: The company sent me this statement. "AT&T plans to carry a new line of Windows Phone 8 smartphones launching later this year.  The unmatched leader in Windows Phone – offering the very first 4G LTE Windows Phone smartphones in the U.S. – AT&T is home to the most robust Windows Phone portfolio of any carrier."

T-Mobile: "T-Mobile is very bullish on Windows 8 and will be a partner at launch," a company spokesman told us via e-mail. The carrier followed up with an official blog post extolling Windows Phone 8.

Verizon Wireless: "We have said publicly that we will support the Windows Phone 8 platform," a spokesperson told us via e-mail, but didn't give details on exactly when. However, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo told Reuters in April that the phones would be coming by the end of the year.

Cricket, MetroPCS, and Sprint are taking a wait-and-see approach.

April 11, 2012

Verizon Wireless Announces $30 Upgrade Fee

Verizon Wireless announced today that it will starting charging a $30 upgrade fee for those who want to trade in their old phone for a newer model.

The fee applies to those who opt for subsidized devices with a two-year Verizon contract. Most smartphones, from the iPhone to popular Android handsets, are offered at discounted prices for those who agree to a contract. Unlocked devices can cost upwards of $500.

"This fee will help us continue to provide customers with the level of service and support they have come to expect which includes Wireless Workshops, online educational tools, and consultations with experts who provide advice and guidance on devices that are more sophisticated than ever," Verizon said in a statement.

The company stressed that the upgrade fee is "not unique to Verizon Wireless." Indeed, Sprint and AT&T charge a $36 upgrade fee, while T-Mobile charges $18.

April 10, 2012

Carriers Commit to Stolen Cell Phone Database

In an effort to cut down on phone theft, the Federal Communications Commission has teamed up with the nation's top wireless carriers to develop a database of stolen gadgets.

The FCC has secured the support of the top U.S. providers - AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint - for the effort, dubbed the PROTECTS Initiative.

Within six months, U.S. cell phone owners will be able to call their provider if their device is stolen and the carrier will lock it down and prevent it from being used. Within 18 months, those gadgets will be listed in a common database.

The FCC will make sure the effort is being carried out and crack down on any inefficiencies. Carriers will be required to submit quarterly updates to the commission on their progress, and the FCC will meet with police chiefs on a similar schedule.

In prepared remarks, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski pointed to the growing rate of cell phone-related crime. About 40 percent of robberies in Washington, D.C., New York, and other major cities now involve cell phones, he said. In D.C. alone, cell phone-related crime is up 54 percent since 2007.

December 1, 2011

Which Carriers, Handset Makers Use Carrier IQ?

Technology from Carrier IQ has made headlines in recent weeks over concerns that its software can surreptitiously gather data about cell phone users. The company raised eyebrows when it sent a cease-and-desist letter to a researcher who wrote about Carrier IQ's practices, but Carrier IQ later backed down and apologized. That didn't satisfy Sen. Al Franken, however, who penned a letter to Carrier IQ's CEO today, asking for details about how its technology works and how much data it has on mobile users.

But who is actually using the technology? And why? According to Carrier IQ's Web site, the company's technology is deployed on 141 million handsets and growing.

Sprint and AT&T today said they both use Carrier IQ, but said it was for network performance purposes and denied any user tracking was involved. Verizon denied using Carrier IQ and T-Mobile has yet to respond.