Wednesday, November 7, 2018

T-Mobile is doing a limited run on $50 unlimited data pre-paid plans

Verizon isn’t the only carrier updating its prepaid line-up this week. T-Mobile kicked off a limited time promotion yesterday that will get you into unlimited data for as little as $50 per month.

The $50 plan includes unlimited talk, text, and data with a 50GB per month cap before they can throttle you.

There is one catch, though. In order to sign-up for this limited time $50/mo plan, you’ll have to find a participating store and then stop by to get setup. You can’t sign-up for this deal online. With that said, if you hit up the T-Mobile link below, it’ll help you find a store nearby that is participating.

Sign-up before it’s gone!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Verizon service won’t work as well with Apple’s dual-SIM setup until an Apple fix is issued

iOS 12.1 is set to roll out today and bring a variety of useful improvements, including dual-SIM support for iPhone XS and XR. But if you’re a Verizon customer, that two-line system might not work very well, at least for now, according to a report from PCMag.

The issue is how the new iPhones handle having two SIM cards. Unless you live in China (where Apple is selling a special XR model for two physical SIM cards), the XS and XR will support the two lines of service through a combination of the physical SIM and a digital eSIM.

As Apple’s support page notes, users will, in theory, be able to switch back and forth freely between the primary SIM (used by default for voice, SMS, cellular data, iMessage, and FaceTime) and the secondary one (just voice and SMS).

But according to PCMag’s report, the issue comes up when using a Verizon SIM as a secondary SIM card. Currently, Verizon customers will see their secondary connection bumped down to the carrier’s legacy 2G CDMA network (as opposed to AT&T and T-Mobile, which work with LTE even when working as a secondary SIM). Given that it’s just for voice and SMS, it’s not the biggest deal. If you’re using a Verizon SIM as your primary SIM, things will work fine as usual. But it’s obviously ideal, especially as Verizon has switched roughly 30 percent of its coverage areas to LTE only.

In a statement, Verizon confirmed that using a Verizon SIM as a secondary SIM card will result in some performance issues, but that the company is already working with Apple to resolve those issues “before the end of the year.” To that end, Verizon is also holding off on eSIM support for now, so the only way that you’ll even run into the problem is if you’re using a dual-SIM setup with an eSIM as your primary line and a physical Verizon SIM as your secondary one. The full statement is included below.

Wireless customers will be able to activate Verizon service eSIMs as soon as we’re confident you’ll be able to have the great, high-quality service you expect from us on both your primary and secondary line. If you are a Verizon customer and you activate another carrier’s service on your iPhone’s eSIM, your Verizon service will be degraded due to the current software configuration. Based on our discussions with Apple, we believe these concerns will be resolved quickly and you should be able to add our great Verizon service on your secondary line before the end of the year.

Until the secondary line can deliver Verizon’s full suite of voice and high-speed data services, we won’t activate Verizon service on any eSIM. This includes our own customers’ iPhones with dual SIM capabilities as well as iPhones on competitors’ networks.

Last year’s iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X get controversial throttling mode after all

With iOS 12.1, Apple has brought its controversial “performance management feature” (aka, throttling) to the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X. This functionality dynamically throttles the phone’s processor as its battery degrades over time to stop the handset from randomly shutting down — it can be turned off if desired. Previously Apple has told US senators that “hardware updates” meant that the feature isn’t as necessary on its newest phones.

The company has always maintained that all of its products include “fundamental performance management” functionality to protect its components. A support page explaining the feature said the following about the iPhone 8 and later devices:

iPhone 8 and later use a more advanced hardware and software design that provides a more accurate estimation of both power needs and the battery’s power capability to maximize overall system performance. This allows a different performance management system that more precisely allows iOS to anticipate and avoid an unexpected shutdown. As a result, the impacts of performance management may be less noticeable on iPhone 8 and later. Over time, the rechargeable batteries in all iPhone models will diminish in their capacity and peak performance and will eventually need to be replaced.

However, with the release of iOS 12.1 yesterday, this same support page has been quietly updated with the following (with emphasis added to show the new devices):

Additionally, users can see if the performance management feature that dynamically manages maximum performance to prevent unexpected shutdowns is on and can choose to turn it off … This feature applies to iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus. Starting with iOS 12.1, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X include this feature, but performance management may be less noticeable due to their more advanced hardware and software design.

This practice of throttling older devices recently resulted in a €5 million ($5.7 million) fine for Apple in an antitrust case brought by Italy’s competition and market authority, the Autorit√† Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM). It objected to Apple slowing down its phones without telling customers or giving them the ability to return to a previous version of the software.

With all the recently added models being just over a year old at most, it’s currently unclear how big of an impact battery degradation will have on them. But it’s not surprising that Apple has seen fit to address it. There’s no stopping batteries from aging, but at least you’ll be in control of how your phone handles their decline.

Spotify is giving new and current family account owners a free Google Home Mini

If you’re the account owner on a Spotify Premium Family plan in the US, you can get a free Google Home Mini from the streaming service through the end of the year beginning on November 1st, Spotify announced yesterday. Spotify has partnered with Google to give out the voice assistant to account owners on its family plan who sign up through the link here on November 1st.

On the surface, it may seem like a nice holiday giveaway for Family plan users (and it is in some respects). But with the growth of Amazon Music largely on the back of the Echo and the rise of smart speakers, which may be in 50 percent of US homes before the end of the year, it’s also a strategic move for Spotify. YouTube Music and Google Play Music are still far from serious competition for Spotify, but Amazon’s rapid growth in the music sector combined with the success of the Google Home makes this an easy and quick way to get people listening to Spotify on smart speakers before they get hooked by Amazon’s easy-to-use ecosystem.

(For Spotify, it’s better your kids take that Google Home to college than pick up an Echo and an Amazon Music account. Amazon has been making inroads in every part of the home, from your alarm clock to your microwave. For kids who grow up with Alexa, it’s only logical to use the music service that works best with it.)

According to a report from the market research firm MusicWatch, music listeners who pay for services like Spotify, Amazon, and Apple Music are 240 percent more likely to use a smart speaker or personal assistant device than those who don’t pay for music. With Spotify already partnering with Samsung for its devices including the Galaxy Home and now pushing the Google Home Mini, it’s clear Spotify wants to lock in the casual listener who may be in a Premium user’s house, but not committed to a streaming service yet.

Spotify says the free Google Home Mini is a limited offer.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Apple’s new Mac mini includes six-core processors and is available for pre-order today

Apple is finally updating its Mac mini. It’s the first time the Mac mini has been updated since the end of 2014, and this is a major update. Apple is adding a quad-core 8th Gen Intel processor instead of the 4th Gen Intel Core i5 dual-core processor that shipped in the device four years ago. There’s even an option for six-core Intel Core i7 versions, too.

The new Mac mini includes support for up to 64GB of RAM, and every model has flash storage with up to 2TB of space. That’s a big change from the regular hard drives that shipped on most of the 2014 Mac mini models. Apple is also including its new T2 security chip on the new Mac mini, and updating the range of ports to modernize this Mac for 2018. There are four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI, Ethernet, and two USB-A ports on the rear.

Apple has totally overhauled the Mac mini here, but externally it still looks similar to the model from four years ago. Apple is offering a new space gray finish on the outside, and the company is even using 100 percent recycled aluminum for the enclosure.

Apple’s new Mac mini will be available on November 7th, priced from $799. The base model will include a quad-core Intel Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM, and 128GB of SSD storage. You’ll be able to configure this tiny Mac up to 64GB of RAM, a 4.2GHz six-core i7 processor, 2TB SSD, and 10Gb Ethernet port.