AT&T agrees to acquire Leap Wireless (Cricket) at $15/share to expand spectrum

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AT&T has announced that it has come to agreement to acquire U.S. carrier Leap Wireless (which operates the Cricket brand) for $15 per share. The acquisition will cover all of Leap Wireless’s assets, expanding AT&T’s coverage to Leap’s 5 million subscribers. This move enhances AT&T’s spectrum, retail store count, employee number, and more, so it is likely a positive move for its wireless customers. It’s possible that this announcement is related to the upcoming press event that AT&T has scheduled for July 16th.

Press release below:

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2013: The year of the personalized, colorful, mid-tier smartphone

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Mockup: Slashgear

Choosing a phone is pretty simple if you’re the kind of person who wants the latest & greatest handset and has the budget to pay for it. Even if you’re not sure what platform you want, you’re essentially choosing between a handful of flagship products and are currently likely to walk away with an iPhone 5, Samsung S4 or HTC One.

There isn’t too much head-scratching at the bottom end of the market either: buyers there don’t care about the handset, and take whatever freebie their carrier pushes at them.

But the mid-market is where life gets complicated. You care enough about your handset to want something decent, both in specs and design, but you don’t want to take out a mortgage to buy it. It’s this market that is going to get incredibly colorful this fall …  Read more

Google making friends at Sun Valley conference: Apple, Hollywood

Photo: salon.com

Photo: salon.com

The sometimes stormy relationship between Google and Apple appears to be growing friendlier, with Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt telling Reuters at the annual Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley that the two companies were having “lots and lots” of meetings.

Schmidt did not provide details about the nature of the meetings during comments to reporters at the annual Allen and Co media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho on Thursday. He noted that Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora, who joined him at the press briefing, was leading many of the discussions.

The two companies are in “constant business discussions on a long list of issues,” Schmidt said.

The two companies started out close. Schmidt joined Apple’s board in 2006, and the iPhone launched with both Google Maps and YouTube on board. That was to change after Google’s Android platform began growing in popularity, with Steve Jobs threatening “thermonuclear war” on Google over what he felt was a copycat product …  Read more

Sprint debuts new unlimited plans with lifetime guarantee, ‘My Way’ feature

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Following T-Mobile’s new “Jump” plan announcement, and preceding AT&T’s forthcoming network-related announcement, U.S. carrier Sprint has announced new versions of its unlimited plans. The new service goes into effect tomorrow.

The first element of the new offering is a lifetime guarantee (for the life of your service line) to receive unlimited calling, texting, and data. Sprint has also introduced a new My Way plan, that starts at as little as $80 for unlimited usage, that allows flexibility and additional savings when it comes to multiple lines begin attached to the plan:

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Moto X would be most heavily-promoted smartphone ever, if Google’s planned $500M spend is true

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The WSJ is reporting (via Techmeme) that Google is planning to allow Motorola to spend up to half a billion dollars to promote its forthcoming flagship smartphone, the Moto X. This would mean Motorola would spend more on promoting one handset than either Samsung or Apple spent in total last year across all their mobile devices.

Google is expected to allow its Motorola hardware unit to spend several hundred million dollars—and possibly upward of $500 million—to market the highly-anticipated device in the U.S. and some overseas markets, including in Europe, said people familiar with the matter.

All four major U.S. wireless carriers—AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel Corp., and T-Mobile—are expected to make the device available to their customers this fall, in part because of Motorola’s marketing plans …  Read more

Xperia Z officially coming to T-Mobile July 17 for $100

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T-Mobile will begin to sell the Xperia Z on July 17th for $100 with a 24-month payment commitment of $20 per month. The carrier originally announced its plan to carry the device back in June, but without any specific pricing or release information.

Specs will be the same as the international model, which include a 5-inch 1080p display with Sony’s Mobile Bravia engine, a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon processor, a 13MP rear-facing camera, and a water and dust resistant design. It will also carry support for T-Mobile’s LTE network.

Xperia® Z from Sony. T-Mobile will be the exclusive U.S. wireless company to offer Sony’s flagship water-resistant Android™-powered smartphone to customers this summer.2 The Xperia Z will be available for $99.99 down, with 24 equal monthly device payments of $20 for well-qualified buyers for 0 percent APR on approved credit3 through T-Mobile retail stores and select retailers, as well as online at http://www.T-Mobile.com starting July 17. On July 16, customers can also pre-order the device online from the same website and receive a free Sony Wireless Bluetooth Speaker gift with purchase (while supplies last). Customers may also purchase the device beginning today at any of the 38 U.S. Sony Store locations, including the flagship store in New York, or online at http://www.Sony.com/xperiaz/tmobile and will be eligible to receive the free Sony speaker as a gift with purchase (while supplies last).

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Another one bites the dust: Google to sunset Latitude on August 9th

google-latitude-logoAs part of the maps update announcement last night, Google noted that it would be retiring Latitude, just the latest in a string of high profile service closures including perhaps the most missed: Google Reader. Unlike Reader, Google seems to have some fallbacks in place:

One important change you should know about is that Latitude and check-ins are no longer part of the new Google Maps app, and will be retired from older versions on August 9. We understand some of you still want to see your friends and family on a map, which is why we’ve added location sharing and check-ins to Google+ for Android (coming soon to iOS). More details about Latitude and check-in changes can be found in our help center.

Google risks alienating early adopters and mainstream users alike with its now common closures of valued services.  Read more

Redesigned Google Maps for Android begins rolling out to Android 4.0.3+ users

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As previewed at Google I/O 2013 in May, Google has just begun rolling out the latest version of Google Maps for Android to Android 4.0.3+ users. The update, which is available now for download at Google Play, will provide users with a new design (both on tablets and smartphones), live traffic updates, improved navigation, incident reports, and a new Explore function. This Explore feature is a “new way to browse and discover popular local places to eat, drink, shop, play and sleep,” per Google’s release notes. While the update is out today, the new features will arrive gradually for end-users. Phandroid provides a link for side loading on the complete update today.

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Google celebrates 100th Tour De France with interactive game

In honor of the 100th Tour De France, Google has published an interactive game that takes you through each stage of the event. The game, called Your Tour, takes you through the entire 3,000km route with a combination of Google Maps and Streetview data. You start off on June 29th at the “Grand Depart” and move through each stage, though some are still locked until the event actually happens in real life.

The game is centered around using your mouse to scroll along each stage of the event. You can choose between a realistic view from the eye of the bike rider, or a simple Google Maps interface.

You can play the game hereRead more

Google Doodle celebrating Fourth of July takes you on a virtual tour of America

Keeping with the tradition upheld since 2000, Google has updated its classic logo to celebrate the Fourth of July in the United States. The Google Doodle takes you on a tour of the United States with a family and a dog. The animated image takes you to a variety of classic U.S. places, including an ice cream shop, the Golden Gate Bridge, a baseball stadium, Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty, and more. The Doodle ends with the family and dog all watching fireworks together. Click it once more, and the image redirects to a simple search for “When is Independence day?”

‘Murica. Read more

Google accused of “coercive sales tactics” over Google TV – unnamed manufacturer

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Google has been accused of using “coercive sales tactics” in an attempt to pressure Smart TV manufacturers to adopt its own Google TV platform for YouTube rather than HTML5 based approaches, reports Korean news site ETNews.

Smart TV operators who opted for open-source HTML5 in order to avoid dependance on Google, have bumped into an obstacle – YouTube […] According to industry insiders, Google has demanded HTML5-based Smart TV operators should place the YouTube app on the main homepage and pass browser conformity tests [which] take up to several months.

An industry insider said “Telling us where the YouTube app should be placed is an act of coercive sales tactics.”
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Chromium-based Opera browser officially released

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Back in May, Opera released a ‘sneak peak’ of its latest browser, Opera 15. The big selling point behind it was the engine under the hood. For the first time ever, the browser was powered by Chromium rather than Opera’s classic Presto engine. Today, the company has officially released the browser for both Mac and Windows in its final state to the public.

The new Opera for Windows and Mac runs on a Chromium engine, so you can access all your websites in a blink of an eye and have a smoother experience when you get there, thanks to improved site compatibility.

The latest version of  Opera includes a host of new features in addition to the new Chromium engine. For one, the Speed Dial homepage has been refreshed with the ability to create folders and more. A new ‘Stash’ feature lets you collect snapshots of saved webpages in one place and go back and reference them if needed. The new Discover feature automatically shows you the top articles from locations and categories you choose. Finally, Opera says that the browser should perform better on slow connections thanks to the new ‘Off-road’ mode. Read more