Ubuntu 14.04 will power “first commercially available Ubuntu tablets”

, ArsTechnica, 4/18/14

Canonical today is releasing Ubuntu 14.04, a Long Term Support (LTS) edition for desktops and servers and an update to the versions of Ubuntu for phones and tablets.

LTS editions are released once every two years and receive five years of support from Canonical and thus gain wider adoption in businesses than the less stable server and desktop editions that come out every six months.

Canonical eventually wants to create a single operating system that can be installed across desktops, phones, and tablets, with a different interface presented on each device. That convergence hasn’t been completed yet, so with 14.04 (codenamed “Trusty Tahr”) there will be separate downloads for the mobile editions. “Full convergence means that the same code for operating systems and applications will be running on all types of devices, from phones to tablets to desktops, and even both smaller and larger devices,” Ubuntu Engineering VP Rick Spencer told Ars in an e-mail. “Convergence is still a work in progress, and we will continue to move the code to the desktop as it is ready in each release.”

Version 1.0 of Ubuntu for phones came out last October in the 13.10 release, and Ubuntu for tablets is hitting version 1.0 with the 14.04 release. This will “form the basis of the first commercially available Ubuntu tablets from Canonical’s OEM partners,” Canonical said in a press release.

There’s no word yet on any specific tablet devices, but curious users can install the tablet code on the Nexus 10 and the 2013 version of the Nexus 7. The phone version can be run on the Nexus 4 or Galaxy Nexus. We described the process of installing Ubuntu on Nexus devices last year.

The first commercially available phones preinstalled with Ubuntu are coming from BQ in Spain and Meizu in China later this year. “While both companies have only sold into a few markets with their existing models—BQ focused on Europe and Meizu on China, Hong Kong, Israel, and Russia—the Ubuntu devices will be available globally when bought online,” we noted after a February announcement.

The tablet code to be released today “is a 1.0 release with basic tablet functionality, including Scopes, Applications, and Side Stage,” Spencer told Ars. “However, this is not an LTS release, and, in fact, users who install this version will receive frequent updates as development continues. Ubuntu for Tablets is very usable, but is currently directed at enthusiasts and developers.”

Scopes allows quick views of content types, like videos, pictures, contacts, or messages. Side Stage allows users to swipe from the right edge of the tablet to pull up a second application in an overlay or split-screen view.

While Canonical supports running the tablet code on the 2013 Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, “there may be ports available for other devices undertaken by community developers,” Spencer said.

Upgrade from Windows XP

Canonical CEO Jane Silber pitched Ubuntu 14.04 for desktops as a good option for businesses “considering a switch from Microsoft, and specifically those replacing XP or Windows 7 as they come to the end of life.” 14.04 comes with some new security features, including new AppArmor profiles and policies and “improvements for interprocess communications between confined applications.”

“Ubuntu 14.04 LTS provides a seamless migration path for organizations upgrading from the previous 12.04 LTS,” Canonical said. “Users will notice a slicker experience, with improvements to the Unity UI. The release also includes all the tools required for business use, including remote delivery of applications, compatibility with Windows file formats, browser-based cloud solutions, and the Microsoft Office-compatible LibreOffice suite.”

Additionally, “Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is optimized for desktops and laptops with multitouch trackpads and touchscreens, as well as support for high pixel density (DPI) screens. This means users can make the most out of the newest hardware on the market.”

Ubuntu’s Server edition is increasingly being used by service providers building cloud networks. “Global enterprises including AT&T, Bharti, Bouygues Telecom, British Telecom, China Telecom, China Unicom, Cogent Communications, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, Korea Telecom, NEC, NTT, Numergy, Orange France, Time Warner Cable, Turk Telecom, Verizon, and Yandex, as well as leading Web scale services such as Netflix, Instagram, Hipchat, and Quora are all building next generation services on Ubuntu,” Canonical said.

Ubuntu is probably the most popular operating system on which to run the cloud-building software OpenStack. Although Canonical as a whole is unprofitable, in part because of its investment in building a phone and tablet platform, the company has built a nice business selling support to businesses using Ubuntu Server and OpenStack. Canonical also makes money selling Landscape, a proprietary systems management tool for controlling Ubuntu desktop, server, and cloud deployments. Red Hat and other companies are making a run at the OpenStack market, too.

Ubuntu 14.04 for servers “includes new versions of Juju and MAAS [Metal as a Service] to design, deploy, and scale services faster than any other platform available today, on cloud or bare metal. Juju meets the DevOps imperative for agility, continuous deployment, and integration, and MAAS provides scalable bare-metal deployment,” Canonical said. “Ubuntu 14.04 LTS also integrates the latest container technologies from Docker and LXC, OpenVSwitch for networking, and Ceph for storage.”

14.04 also brings support for IBM Power systems, which run Unix and Linux.

Daily builds of Ubuntu 14.04 are available for desktops here and servers here, while the final versions will hit the main Ubuntu download site sometime today. (UPDATE: It’s available here.) Instructions on using mobile versions are available on the Ubuntu wiki. Daily builds of Ubuntu Touch images are also available.

Ubuntu’s new display server, Mir, is being used on phones and tablets but hasn’t been turned on by default in the desktop yet due to compatibility problems in multi-monitor setups. 14.04 users will have the option of turning on Unity 8, the user interface powered by Mir, which “demonstrates applications that work across all Ubuntu devices,” Canonical said. The Ubuntu app store is starting to get applications that can run across phone, tablet, and desktop. “These apps automatically resize and adjust to make the best use of the space available while exposing the same core functionality, all from the same code-base,” Canonical said. This requires Unity 8, so desktop users running with default settings won’t see these apps.

While Ubuntu is based on Debian Linux, Ubuntu itself forms the basis of other operating systems including the popular Linux Mint desktop. Mint comes in versions based on either Ubuntu or Debian and comes out about a month after Ubuntu. As such, the next Ubuntu-based version of Mint will arrive in late May.

There is also a new version of Ubuntu Kylin, an OS designed for the Chinese market.

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Posted on April 18, 2014 at 6:47 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Mobile Technology

Kill-switch coming to smartphones

Mobile Tech News, 4/18/14

CTIA and participating wireless companies today announced the “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment,” which is the most recent effort by the industry to deter smartphone thefts in the U.S. The safety and security of wireless users remain the wireless industry’s top priority, and is why this commitment will continue to protect consumers while recognizing the companies’ need to retain flexibility so they may constantly innovate, which is key to stopping smartphone theft.

The “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” states:

Part I

Each device manufacturer and operating system signatory of Part I of this “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” agrees that new models of smartphones first manufactured after July 2015 for retail sale in the United States will offer, at no cost to consumers, a baseline anti-theft tool that is preloaded or downloadable on wireless smartphones that provides the connected capability to:

Remote wipe the authorized user’s data (i.e., erase personal info that is added after purchase such as contacts, photos, emails, etc.) that is on the smartphone in the event it is lost or stolen.

Render the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorized user (e.g., locking the smartphone so it cannot be used without a password or PIN), except in accordance with FCC rules for 911 emergency communications, and if available, emergency numbers programmed by the authorized user (e.g., “phone home”).

Prevent reactivation without authorized user’s permission (including unauthorized factory reset attempts) to the extent technologically feasible (e.g., locking the smartphone as in 2 above).

Reverse the inoperability if the smartphone is recovered by the authorized user and restore user data on the smartphone to the extent feasible (e.g., restored from the cloud).

In addition to this baseline anti-theft tool, consumers may use other technological solutions, if available for their smartphones.

Part II

Each network operator signatory of Part II to the “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” commits to permit the availability and full usability of a baseline anti-theft tool to be preloaded or downloadable on smartphones as specified in this commitment.

The following network operators, device manufacturers and operating system companies are participating in the voluntary commitment: Apple Inc.; Asurion; AT&T; Google Inc.; HTC America, Inc.; Huawei Device USA; Motorola Mobility LLC; Microsoft Corporation; Nokia, Inc.; Samsung Telecommunications America, L.P.; Sprint Corporation; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; and Verizon Wireless.

“We appreciate the commitment made by these companies to protect wireless users in the event their smartphones are lost or stolen. This flexibility provides consumers with access to the best features and apps that fit their unique needs while protecting their smartphones and the valuable information they contain. At the same time, it’s important different technologies are available so that a ‘trap door’ isn’t created that could be exploited by hackers and criminals,” said Steve Largent, President and CEO, CTIA. “By working together with policymakers, law enforcement and consumers, we will deter theft and protect users’ personal information on smartphones.”

Oregon State Senator Bruce Starr, President of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), said, “The NCSL applauds today’s announcement unveiling the wireless industry’s commitment to reduce the number of smartphone thefts each year by providing anti-theft tools on future devices. This voluntary effort serves as another positive illustration of the wireless industry adapting to address consumer needs through self-regulation. The NCSL encourages your ongoing collaboration with consumers and the state lawmakers as we continue to work cooperatively to reduce the number of smartphone thefts annually.”

“While the Minnesota legislature is poised to pass the nation’s first ‘kill switch’ law as early as next week, I have said all along we would welcome the industry’s ideas and solutions to address this critical public safety issue. With today’s announcement, CTIA and its member companies have stepped up to protect customers and promote public safety, and I commend and support their efforts,” said Minnesota State Representative Joe Atkins.

“I am encouraged by these steps to deter smartphone thefts and hopeful that that these measures will bring much needed protections to Chicago consumers,” said Chicago Alderman Edward M. Burke. “As the sponsor of pending legislation that seeks to mandate ‘kill switch’ technology on all smartphones sold in Chicago, I commend the smartphone industry for its cooperative efforts, but will remain watchful that these commitments are both upheld and result in the shared goal of reducing smartphone thefts citywide.”

“We got the kill switch technology solution we wanted to protect Illinois consumers. The wireless industry has agreed to provide a free preloaded or downloadable anti-theft application for smartphones to help protect owners if their phones are stolen. This tool would allow smartphone owners to remotely wipe their personal data and remotely shut down a stolen phone so it is not valuable to thieves. Today’s announcement is a significant step to provide additional protections to Illinois consumers,” said Illinois State Senator Toi Hutchinson.

Rhode Island State Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio praised the voluntary commitment by saying, “I am grateful to the participating carriers, device manufacturers and operating system companies for voluntarily coming to this decision to improve public safety. This is a move which is good for consumers and good for business, in my opinion. It gives consumers peace of mind and protects them from the threat of having their personal information exposed. The ability to make the system inoperable also eliminates much of the incentive for theft in the first place.”

“Smartphone theft is a growing concern around the country. That’s why we introduced legislation to try to stop the secondhand market for stolen smartphones. This agreement will go a long way towards reducing the secondhand market for phones that are stolen, and I commend the industry for taking these steps,” said Minnesota State Senator Katie Sieben.

The “Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment” furthers the multi-layered approach previously announced to protect consumers and aid law enforcement. This proactive initiative includes blacklist databases, consumer education and federal legislation (S. 1070), sponsored by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, to impose tough penalties against those caught stealing devices or modifying them illegally.

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Posted on April 18, 2014 at 6:39 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Google Launches Chrome Remote Desktop On Android, Allowing Mobile Access To Your PC

, Tech Crunch, 4/17/14

Google this morning launched a mobile client application called “Chrome Remote Desktop app for Android” (whew!) which allows for remote access to your Mac or PC from your Android device, whether smartphone or tablet. The new app is an extension of Google’s previously launched Chrome Remote Desktop screen-sharing service, which allows you to share your desktop’s screen with other Chrome browser or Chromebook users.

As with its big-screen counterpart, to use the Android application you first have to install a helper application on your desktop or laptop computer. That app is here in the Chrome Web Store and works on Windows (XP and above), Mac (OS X 10.6 and above) and Linux computers. The helper app installs as an extension to Google Chrome or the Chrome-based OS that powers Google’s Chromebooks.

Once installed, however, you’ll be able to open the app and connect to any of your computers with just a tap, manage them, and navigate through their files and folders from afar — like a modern version of GoToMyPC, for example.

We’ve known an Android client was in the works for some time, as there was even a functional version of the Android client available back in January, though it required that you compile the app from source in order to use it. An iOS version is also in the works, but its development is said to be further behind.

The move comes at a time when competitor Amazon is targeting enterprise users with its own version of remote access software, Amazon Workspaces. Officially launched to the public in March, this service similarly lets company employees access their work computers from any device, including Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android or Kindle Fire HDX tablets. Of course, in Amazon’s case, the goal is to make its tablets appear more business-friendly.

Google’s Remote Desktop, on the other hand, has a more consumer-focused vibe, which even had the company once touting the service as a way to be the family hero by “adjusting printer settings on your mom’s computer to finding a lost file on your dad’s laptop,” for example.

The official Chrome Remote Desktop Android app is available here on Google Play.

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Posted on April 17, 2014 at 8:42 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Boomerang for Android adds support for Microsoft Exchange accounts

, The Next Web, 4/17/14

Baydin, the company behind the Boomerang for Gmail apps, has announced today that its native Android app now offers support for Microsoft Exchange accounts.

Available since June last year, the Android build has always been pretty handy at helping users deal with their inbox, but the omission of Exchange support on mobile devices would have ruled it out for people that wanted to manage work and personal accounts. Now, that’s not a problem any more.

The company said the app will support customizable gestures and features like snooze, send later and response tracking. Users can also search Microsoft Exchange accounts, and there’s support for conversation view, flagging emails, folders, notifications and more.

Baydin said that as it uses Exchange Web Services to communicate with Exchange servers “the experience is much more feature ­rich than other third-party clients that connect via IMAP or WebDAV”, which could be music to the ears of mobile Exchange users.

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Posted on April 17, 2014 at 8:38 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Heartbleed flaw affects mobile apps, too

, ComputerWorld, 4/11/14

Many banking, mobile payment apps connect to servers vulnerable to OpenSSL flaw, says Trend Micro

Android and IOS mobile applications are just as vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug as websites are, security vendor Trend Micro warned in a blog post on Thursday.

Because of the threat, consumers should avoid making in-app purchases via their mobile devices until permanent fixes are available for Heartbleed, the company said.

According to Trend Micro, a scan of about 390,000 applications on Google Play uncovered about 1,300 apps that connect to servers vulnerable to Heartbleed.

Among those at risk are more than a dozen banking apps, about 40 payment apps and 10 online shopping apps.

The company said it also found several popular apps to be vulnerable. because they connect to servers likely compromised. “Mobile apps, like it or not, are just as vulnerable to the Heartbleed Bug as websites are because apps often connect to servers and web services to complete various functions.”

A significant number of those servers are affected by the vulnerability, Trend Micro noted.

“We also found several popular apps that many users would use on a daily basis, like instant messaging apps, health care apps, keyboard input apps — and most concerning, even mobile payment apps,” Trend Micro said. “These apps use sensitive personal and financial information — data mines just ripe for the cybercriminal’s picking.”

JD Sherry, vice president of technology and solutions at Trend Micro, said the company did not perform a similar scan of applications available via Apple Store. But there is no doubt many of them are also at risk, he said.

Many view the Heartbleed vulnerability as one of the most serious Internet threats in a long time. The vulnerability stems from a basic programming error in OpenSSL versions 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f that is used to encrypt data by various browsers, operating systems and mobile applications. The flaw lets attacks grab confidential data like passwords and session keys from systems using the vulnerable software.

According to Trend Micro, mobile applications that support in-app purchases can connect to servers that use affected versions of the OpenSSL software. “As such, cybercriminals can take advantage of the Heartbleed bug to target that server and milk it of information (like your credit card number). It’s as simple and easy as that.”

Even applications that do not support in-app purchases are at risk if the application connects to an online server that is vulnerable. “For example, your app could ask you to ‘like’ them on a social network, or ‘follow’ them on yet another for free rewards” and eventually lead users to a vulnerable server.

“Heartbleed further complicates the BYOD conversation that many organizations are struggling with,” Sherry said. “This raises more questions and further exacerbates the challenge.”

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Posted on April 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 

Android to Scan Installed Apps for Misbehavior

Tom’s Guide / Jill Scharr, Yahoo News, 4/11/14

Google yesterday (April 11) announced plans to increase security on its Android mobile operating system by continuously monitoring installed apps for malicious or otherwise problematic behavior. This update is an addition to Google’s “Verify apps” feature, which already checks all apps for potentially harmful code before installing them on a device.

Why is this necessary? An app might start off as perfectly benign, but then receive updates that change its code, turning it into something other than what you installed, especially if that app comes from somewhere other than the Google Play store.

The post-installation monitoring feature is being pushed out to all devices running Android Gingerbread 2.3 and later with Google Play installed. (Users will not have to wait for a carrier software update.) To disable the feature, you can simply turn off “Verify apps” in an Android device’s security-settings menu, but doing so would also disable the device’s ability to screen apps upon installation.

Android owners will be able to perform manual scans of installed apps, or schedule regular scans. If the scanner finds something problematic, users will see messages such as “Google recommends that you immediately uninstall this app” or “To protect you, Google uninstalled this app.” These will look similar to the other messages that the “Verify apps” feature sends out when it encounters a problem.

“Verify apps” is part of the “service layer” of the Android operating system, which Google compares to a home alarm system. Adding constant on-device monitoring to its service layer brings the Android operating system a step closer to the security found on Apple’s iOS platform, which blocks most installed apps from changing code after installation.

Google thinks most people won’t need this new feature, as “potentially harmful applications are very rare,” it said in a post on the Official Android blog. “But we do expect a small number of people to see warnings…as a result of this new capability.”

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Posted on April 11, 2014 at 5:13 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 

Comcast Wi-Fi hotspots reach 1M milestone

, FierceWireless, 4/11/14

Comcast announced that it now has 1 million U.S. Wi-Fi hotspots. The news was released amid rumors that the cable MSO is thinking of launching a Wi-Fi-centric wireless service. The operator noted it has deployed its Xfinity-brand Wi-Fi hotspots in a vast array of public venues across major cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta as well as areas of New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. In addition, most Comcast Business Internet customers, including cafes and retailers, are eligible to receive an Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspot for no additional charge when they order service. Comcast also provides its residential customers with Xfinity Wireless Gateways that have a second “xfinitywifi” SSID for use by other Xfinity Internet subscribers without the need to know a homeowner’s private network password. For more, see this Comcast release.

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Posted on April 11, 2014 at 5:09 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 

Firefox OS’ new interface looks both very modern and very familiar

Mozilla promised that Firefox OS was getting a gigantic interface redesign later this year, and it’s now clear just how ambitious that remake will be. Ahmed Nefzaoui and Soren Hentzchel have provided a detailed look at Firefox OS 2.0 that shows off its thoroughly modern style. There are flat surfaces everywhere, and even more transparency than in current versions; both the lock screen notifications and task switcher have taken on a decidedly iOS 7-like (not to mention more useful) layout. The preview also gives a better glimpse at EverythingMe’s contextual search, which produces both app and web results. You’ll still have to wait a few months to see 2.0 reach shipping hardware, but this close-up suggests that your patience will pay off.

Firefox OS 2.0 interface preview

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Posted on April 10, 2014 at 8:52 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Mobile Technology

Wi-Fi teams up with NFC to create secure connections with a simple tap

GigaOM, 4/10/14

Summary: The Wi-Fi Alliance is certifying a new technology that uses an NFC tap to grant devices access to Wi-Fi networks. The technology is targeted at the internet of things, but it would be very useful for smartphones too.

The Alliance has updated its Wi-Fi Protected Setup certification program to support NFC verification. Instead of entering a password or holding down buttons, you simply tap two Wi-Fi devices with NFC chips together to establish a connection. The technology can be used to connect devices to a local network by tapping a router, or two end-user devices by tapping them together.

For example, I’ve been testing out Whistle’s dog activity tracker for the last few months, which uses both Bluetooth to connect to my phone and Wi-Fi to connect to home network. Connecting my Whistle to my home network is a multi-step task, requiring first pairing the gadget with my phone with Bluetooth and then configuring the device to connect to my Wi-Fi through Whistle’s smartphone network. Whistle is more useful the more networks it connects to, but if I wanted to add additional Wi-Fi networks to the device – say at my parents’ place or at the kennel — the owners of those networks would have to go through the same process.

The new Wi-Fi Protected capability (and an NFC chip) would make Whistle connect instantly to the network over a secure WPA2 connection with a mere bump against the router. Of course, that’s assuming you want to give that kind of easy access to the world of internet-of-things devices. Wi-Fi Protected uses proximity as security, assuming if you can get close to a router or gadget, then it’s authorized to share connectivity. Not everyone wants their Wi-Fi networks — or devices — to be so open.

A small startup called Pylon is exploring some interesting use cases for NFC-brokered connections in the home that may address some of those security concerns. It has developed a Wi-Fi beacon that creates a guest wireless network that can be accessed with an NFC tap or a “bump” of the iPhone (the accelerometers in the devices trigger the handshake). Instead of granting all network rights to those guest devices, Pylon could restrict users to internet access only and for a short interval, say 30 minutes.

The Wi-Fi Alliance said it is now certifying devices using the new technology, and among the gadgets on its test list is Google’s Nexus 10 tablet. I wouldn’t, however, expect a huge flood of new gadgets using the capabilities. While NFC is making it into more and more smartphones, it’s still rare in devices like wearable and smart appliances. The goal of many these device manufacturers is to make their devices as inexpensive as possible, and adding an additional radio contradicts that trend.

Still, there could be a lot of use cases for NFC-brokered connections in smartphones. Instead of trying to dig up passwords whenever a friend wants to connect to your home network, they could just tap to connect. And as Wi-Fi hotspots make their way into connected cars, Wi-Fi Protected could be a brilliantly simple way to connect a tablet to the in-car network.

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Posted on April 10, 2014 at 8:48 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: iPhone, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: , ,

Tri-band capable Samsung Galaxy S 4 gets Wi-Fi Calling

Mark Elliott, Sprint, 4/10/14

Samsung Galaxy S 4® with Sprint Spark™ (enhanced LTE) becomes a fourth Wi-Fi Calling enabled smartphone from Sprint through an over-the-air update that started rolling out today. The update notification will be pushed to all our customers automatically during the next few weeks.

Wi-Fi Calling is a FREE service that lets you use voice and messaging services over existing home, office and public Wi-Fi networks. With Wi-Fi Calling, you will experience improved voice, data and messaging services in locations that previously had limited or no mobile network coverage.

How will customers benefit?

Once the download is complete, you will be prompted to install the update. Installation will take a few minutes during which the device will be disabled. Once installation is completed, the device will be ready for use and Wi-Fi Calling can be activated by going to your Apps folder and selecting the Wi-Fi Calling icon.

Sprint plans to expand Wi-Fi Calling to additional devices in 2014.

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Posted on April 10, 2014 at 8:43 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: , , , ,