Wi-Fi Alliance Promises Simpler Wi-Fi Direct

Joseph Palenchar, TWICE, 9/17/14

The Wi-Fi Alliance upgraded its Wi-Fi Direct spec to deliver a one-step connection between devices.

Product-certification tests got underway in August, and the first TVs and printers with the optional enhancement could be launched at International CES. Cellphones could arrive this year with the technology, said Edgar Figueroa, president/CEO of the alliance.

The option will deliver a “one-step connect and enable” connection between devices, reducing the number of steps from three, Figueroa said. Devices will automatically detect whether another product is equipped with the Wi-Fi Direct option, and consumers will click an icon to establish the connection and enable security.

Four services can be certified under the new certification regimen:

Wi-Fi Direct Print: Users will be able to print documents directly from a smartphone, tablet or PC with a single command.

Wi-Fi Direct Send: Users will transfer files, including photos, in one step.

Wi-Fi Direct for DLNA: DLNA-enabled devices will discover each other before making a connection to stream content.

Miracast: Screen mirroring will be enabled in one step. Miracast is a Wi-Fi Alliance technology based on the alliance’s Wi-Fi Direct technology.

As an example of the streamlined approach to connecting, Figueroa said current Miracast technology requires consumers with a TV and mobile device to manually discover the TV and manually set up a Wi-Fi Direct connection. Consumers must find the screen-sharing UI of the TV and mobile device and either push a button on both devices or enter a PIN on one device. Users go into a phone’s Wi-Fi settings for setup and, on a TV, go into the TV’s network, display or input settings, depending on the TV.

The procedure must be executed each time the user wants to do screen sharing, Figueroa said.

With the new spec, “we don’t mandate the names of the icons or how users access them, but once they find the icon, [connecting] will be one click,” Figueroa said.

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Posted on September 17, 2014 at 9:29 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Mobile Technology

With VoLTE already rolling out, AT&T turns to Wi-Fi calling in 2015

, GigaOM, 9/17/14

AT&T will follow T-Mobile by offering voice calls over Wi-Fi networks next year. AT&T CEO and President Ralph de la Vega announced the plans on Friday while speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference. Light Reading reported the news, noting that de la Vega made sure to temper expectations on when Wi-Fi calling would arrive for AT&T customers.

The carrier will surely test the service to provide a seamless handoff for calls between its cellular network and Wi-Fi. AT&T is also in the midst of expanding a similar effort by transmitting voice calls over LTE data lines: It started a rollout of VoLTE in May but only in a few markets and with a single supported handset.

Even though other smartphone platforms have long supported Wi-Fi calling, the timing of AT&T’s announcement likely coincides with the new iPhone 6 handset, which is now available for pre-orders.

Apple’s latest phones will come with iOS 8 which supports Wi-Fi calling, although here in the U.S. it will initially be limited to T-Mobile customers. AT&T probably has less of a need to add Wi-Fi calling than T-Mobile because it generally has a broader coverage footprint. However, it can free up some network resources by offloading voice calls to Wi-Fi, which makes more room for voice and data on AT&T’s network.

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Posted on September 17, 2014 at 9:17 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, iPhone, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: , , , ,

T-Mobile will give you a customized router for better Wi-Fi calling

, GigaOM, 9/11/14

T-Mobile will start providing a customized Wi-Fi router to subscribers that prioritizes voice calls over other packets. The device, called the T-Mobile Personal CellSpot, will require a $25 deposit and can work alongside an existing household router.

The announcement was made at a T-Mobile Uncarrier event in San Francisco on Wednesday, where the carrier also announced that it planned to activate Wi-Fi calling and VoLTE for all postpaid customers on its network. That’s due to new Wi-Fi calling capabilities in iOS 8, which Apple officially announced with the iPhone 6 on Tuesday.

New phones will have the ability to make Wi-Fi calls and texts on T-Mobile out of the box, and older devices will get an over-the-air update that enables the service. T-Mobile will offer subscribers with older, incompatible devices a deal through its Jump upgrade program.

Phones that support unlicensed mobile calling (UMA) have had Wi-Fi calling capabilities on T-Mobile since 2008, and Wi-Fi calls have not counted against subscriber minutes since 2011. Some Android devices have already been making Wi-Fi calls on T-Mobile for years. But since Apple announced UMA support in iOS earlier this week, it’s a great opportunity for T-Mobile to tout its Wi-Fi calling bonafides.

In fact, T-Mobile tried a very similar tactic in 2007. Called Hotspot@Home, the $10 per month service promised free and unlimited voice-over-IP calls through a T-Mobile branded Linksys or D-Link router, but it was shuttered in 2010. One of its problems was glitchy handoffs between Wi-Fi and cell, but there’s been a lot of progress made in that department.

The T-Mobile Personal CellSpot, available September 17, will be made by Asus, and will be truly private — other T-Mobile subscribers won’t be able to use it unless they know your Wi-Fi password. T-Mobile says that the device comes with “unique patent pending technology” that prioritizes HD voice calls over other traffic.

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Posted on September 11, 2014 at 6:38 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: iPhone, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: , ,

iOS 8 Offers Some New Tricks For Big iPhones

, ReadWriteWeb, 9/9/14

Back in June, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, exec Craig Federighi introduced some big changes to iOS, the iPhone and iPad operating system. Now, it appears the company has few cool additions to add to the mix with iOS 8, the latest version of the software.

The public has known we’ll be getting things like apps that play better together, custom keyboards and notifications. This new dynamic duo of iPhone 6 devices will also sport a few new handy software features as well.

According to Apple, texting fans will notice faces populate the Messages app, now that there’s more room for them. The app also comes with the ability to quickly send little voice notes, and a landscape mode that puts the screen into a two-pane display. (iPad and iPad mini users will find this really familiar.) The extra space also allows for new things, like dedicated keys for copying and pasting.

Joining those are a new health app, enhanced notifications, and other updates in the iOS 8 software.

Perhaps most interesting, the company revealed details about its new gesture for one-handed mode for its new, large iPhones. It’s called reachability: You double tap the home button, and the entire display slides down, allowing you to reach the top buttons.

iOS 8 will be available for download on September 17 and work with:

 

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Posted on September 9, 2014 at 2:33 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Firefox for Android beta ushers mobile streaming to Chromecast, Roku

, CNET news, 9/9/14

Two Firefox betas focus on media: enabling video streams to Chromecast and Roku via Android-based mobile devices and creating a free in-browser competitor to Skype on desktops.

Mozilla’s efforts to keep mobile Firefox competitive include adding remote streaming-media support to a new build of the browser.

The star of Firefox for Android Beta 33 — released Thursday night — is the “send to device” video-streaming feature that enables you to stream videos on your mobile gadget to a TV or another second screen. When you load a site on your mobile device that includes embedded video, an icon will appear in the URL bar letting you know you can begin streaming.

Tapping the icon will open a list of connected devices you can stream to. Once streaming, a media control bar will open at the bottom of the screen that lets you pause, play, and close videos. The bar is persistent, so you can load other websites while streaming.

Using the feature with Roku requires one more step than using it with Chromecast. Roku requires you to first add the Firefox Channel to your Roku service.

Meanwhile, the also-just-released Firefox Beta 33 for desktops introduces a competitor to Microsoft’s Skype and Google’s Hangouts. Citing numerous services — but not by name — that require turning over personal information and account registration, the as-yet unnamed Mozilla service doesn’t require anything except Firefox.

Powered by WebRTC (Real-Time Communication) — the plugin-free browser protocol for streaming audio, video, and data — Firefox’s new service allows for free video calls between Firefox Beta users. To use it, you go to the Firefox Customize menu and add the speech bubble icon to your toolbar. Adventurous Firefox Beta users can test it out here.

Mozilla has been a long-time proponent of WebRTC, and Google was one of WebRTC’s earliest adopters. Google has liberated Hangouts from requiring a plugin thanks to WebRTC, although using it requires a Google account while Mozilla’s upstart system doesn’t.

However, not everyone is a fan WebRTC. Microsoft would rather see its competing ORTC protocol, short for Object Real-Time Communications, adopted by browsers. Given that both are relatively new, it could be awhile before that standards battle gets resolved.

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Posted on September 9, 2014 at 2:31 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Firefox for Android beta ushers mobile streaming to Chromecast, Roku

, CNET News, 9/5/14

Two Firefox betas focus on media: enabling video streams to Chromecast and Roku via Android-based mobile devices and creating a free in-browser competitor to Skype on desktops.

Mozilla’s efforts to keep mobile Firefox competitive include adding remote streaming-media support to a new build of the browser.

The star of Firefox for Android Beta 33 — released Thursday night — is the “send to device” video-streaming feature that enables you to stream videos on your mobile gadget to a TV or another second screen. When you load a site on your mobile device that includes embedded video, an icon will appear in the URL bar letting you know you can begin streaming.

Tapping the icon will open a list of connected devices you can stream to. Once streaming, a media control bar will open at the bottom of the screen that lets you pause, play, and close videos. The bar is persistent, so you can load other websites while streaming.

Using the feature with Roku requires one more step than using it with Chromecast. Roku requires you to first add the Firefox Channel to your Roku service.

Meanwhile, the also-just-released Firefox Beta 33 for desktops introduces a competitor to Microsoft’s Skype and Google’s Hangouts. Citing numerous services — but not by name — that require turning over personal information and account registration, the as-yet unnamed Mozilla service doesn’t require anything except Firefox.

Powered by WebRTC (Real-Time Communication) — the plugin-free browser protocol for streaming audio, video, and data — Firefox’s new service allows for free video calls between Firefox Beta users. To use it, you go to the Firefox Customize menu and add the speech bubble icon to your toolbar. Adventurous Firefox Beta users can test it out here.

Mozilla has been a long-time proponent of WebRTC, and Google was one of WebRTC’s earliest adopters. Google has liberated Hangouts from requiring a plugin thanks to WebRTC, although using it requires a Google account while Mozilla’s upstart system doesn’t.

However, not everyone is a fan WebRTC. Microsoft would rather see its competing ORTC protocol, short for Object Real-Time Communications, adopted by browsers. Given that both are relatively new, it could be awhile before that standards battle gets resolved.

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Posted on September 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology

Open WebOS reborn in new LuneOS release

Eric Brown, LinuxGizmos.com, 9/4/14

The Open WebOS mobile Linux operating system has been renamed “LuneOS,” and is available in an “Affogato” release supporting HP’s TouchPad and LG’s Nexus 4.

WebOS is back — yet again — in an open source “LuneOS” respin of the Open WebOS project, itself a spinoff of the proprietary WebOS. The WebOS Ports backed project, which was officially called “WebOS Ports Open WebOS,” released an Alpha 2 version in June 2013, and a year later announced its new project name based on the platform’s LunaSysMgr UI. The goal of LuneOS is “not to reach feature comparison with Android or iOS but rather building a system to satisfy basic needs in the mobile environment,” says the project.

The still alpha-stage “Affogato” release, the first of many coffee-themed rolling releases due to arrive each month, supports LG’s Nexus 4 Android phone, as well as HP’s previously WebOS-based HP TouchPad tablet. The Galaxy Nexus phone and Nexus 7 tablet are also supported, but will no longer be actively maintained unless someone else steps up to do so, says the LuneOS project.



LuneOS Affogato main screen (left) and settings screen
(click images to enlarge)

WebOS background

It’s been a long, strange trip for Palm’s Linux-based WebOS, which could never quite blossom under the dark shadows of Android and iOS. HP gave it a whirl with its WebOS-based TouchPad tablet and revamped Pre phones, but in 2011 it closed down the project, spinning off the platform as an open source Open WebOS project.

The mostly independent Open WebOS project released version 1.0 in Sept. 2012, but to the disappointment of WebOS stalwarts, it ran only on an Android-based Nexus phone, not on Pre phones or TouchPad. Five months later, LG bought WebOS from HP, and the Open WebOS project appeared to lose steam.

LG, which now appears to have the rights to the Open WebOS name, revamped the proprietary WebOS with many open source components, including a new foundation in Yocto, and released it as the basis for its well-reviewed LG Smart TV platform. So far, LG has not expanded its use of WebOS except for a similar digital signage version. (A more complete history of WebOS and Open WebOS may be found in in our coverage of the LG signage platform.)



HP TouchPad

The 9.7-inch HP TouchPad received some tough reviews, but it shipped in fairly high volume thanks to steep discounts offered by HP in order to clear out its inventory. The tablet features 1024 x 768-pixel resolution, offers a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, and runs on a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060 processor with 1GB RAM.

Google’s LG-built Nexus 4, meanwhile, offers a 4.7-inch, 1280 x 768 IPS screen with a quad-core, 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro and Adreno 320 graphics. The Nexus 4 provides 2GB of RAM and 8GB or 16GB of storage. Other features include 8- and 1.3-megapixel cameras, plus WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and more.



LG-built Nexus 4
 
Inside LuneOS Affogato

The LuneOS Affogato release is still essentially at alpha stage, and comes with a caveat to “use at your own risk.” Features that are not yet implemented include Bluetooth, the accelerometer, cameras, and ALS. Audio and WiFi “should work, though might be buggy,” says the project.

The release is the first to showcase a completely rewritten LunaSysMgr called Luna Next, which advances to more modern components such as WebKit 2 and QT 5.2 and QML. The new release also implements the new rolling release update mechanism. The project is still working on making the updates automated.

Working apps include a basic browser, memos, the Preware application manager, and a still somewhat buggy Enyo-based email program. There’s also a “stubbed” contacts app, an initial calendar app “with no real backend functionality,” synergy connectors for online endpoints like Google and Yahoo, and a preliminary phone app. The contacts sync feature is said to be improved.

Other Affogato improvements include the implementation of libhybris in order to enable easy portability on available Android based devices. The technology lets LuneOS reuse Android graphics drivers, as well as the Android telephony system (rild). Future goals include reusing Android hardware acceleration, sensor integration, and camera features. (There are no plans for supporting Android apps.) Additional future goals include adding a native QML-based phone application, Media Indexer Support, and video playback.

Further information

The alpha-stage LuneOS Affogato release is available for free download for the HP TouchPad, Nexus 4. Galaxy Nexus, and Nexus 7. More information may be found at the LuneOS Affogato announcement on PivotCE, as well as at the WebOS-Ports.org LuneOS project site.

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Posted on September 4, 2014 at 11:59 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: 

After VoLTE, what is the future of the telephone call?

, FierceWireless, 9/4/14

After years of discussion, hype and delays, Voice over LTE technology is finally real in the United States. Verizon Wireless  plans to launch the technology nationwide in the next few weeks, AT&T Mobility  has launched VoLTE in a handful of markets, and T-Mobile US has launched VoLTE across its nationwide LTE network.

VoLTE essentially follows the path that VoIP technology blazed close to 10 years ago on the wired Internet: Instead of traveling over old-school, circuit-switched networks, VoLTE sends voice calls over IP-based LTE networks. However, for the user, the experience is pretty much the same–you dial a number and then talk when someone picks up–albeit with more audio clarity thanks to HD Voice technology.

HD Voice is just the start for VoLTE though. For example, Verizon is offering VoLTE-powered video calling alongside its HD Voice service. And T-Mobile has promised “additional innovations around Wi-Fi calling” sometime this year. But video calling technology has been around in wireless since 2007.   Apple  brought it into the mainstream with FaceTime in 2010.  T-Mobile had been toying with Wi-Fi calling since 2007.

Nonetheless, the introduction of IP calling technology in mobile sets the stage for real change in how and when people will use telephony. According to those in the industry, we might see some significant changes to some parts of the calling experience, but phone numbers and regular old phone calls appear to be here to stay.

The first–and possibly most lucrative–change to the voice calling market could be the gradual replacement of wired phones with VoLTE-powered wireless phones. This replacement creates an opportunity for wireless carriers to sell unified communications services to small- and medium-sized businesses.

“What we’re starting to work with and we’re starting to see the operators looking to plan is offers that would be completely wireless,” explained Michael Tessler, CEO of VoIP vendor Broadsoft, on the company’s recent quarterly conference call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event. “So basically moving the LAN infrastructure into the network, into the RAN of the radio network, moving all your devices to being wireless devices, those devices may in fact look and feel like good old hard phones, except the uplink is not physical, it’s wireless and really kind of radically simplifying the deployment of unified communications to small and medium businesses and also radically reducing the cost and complexity for those businesses. So no longer do I need a LAN and a switching and all the technology I would normally need. I’m basically outsourcing my LAN WAN in unified communications to the operator.”

But the changes likely won’t stop there. Pardeep Kohli, the CEO of Mavenir Systems, which is a primary VoLTE technology supplier to U.S. wireless carriers, said that voice calling service with continue to evolve with better quality and more services that combine voice and video. But he said eventually calling services won’t be tied to a specific device. “That will change as well,” he said.

Kohli explained that, thanks to IP technology, operators will have the ability to uncouple voice services from users’ phones. The result could be voicemails delivered to users’ computers and voice calls placed through tablets, all using the same number. Kohli said operators could even automate parts of the calling process–for example, a conference calling service could automatically call all the conference’s participants at a designated time, rather than requiring callers to dial in to a conference call number. (This technology would be welcome to anyone who has attempted to wait patiently for other callers to join a conference.)

Eventually, Kohli predicted, some operators may even begin offering a sort of virtualized telecommunications service that would allow a user to log in from any IP-connected device to conduct their conversations, whether that’s voice, text or video.

“I have a feeling that some carrier will take the next step and become a global [virtualized] carrier,” Kohli said, adding though that wireless operators will still need to administer users’ phone numbers and will be bound by local telecommunications regulations.

Of course, some are already making notable progress in this area, such as Google with its Hangouts and Voice service.

Disruptive Analysis founder Dean Bubley, who has written extensively on the future of voice calling in mobile, said that voice services likely will splinter away from phones and into different apps and programs. For example, he said it will be built into enterprise services, social networking services and games–wherever it makes sense for users to talk to each other. Already, WebRTC technology promises to allow website developers to quickly and easily add voice services to their website. And over-the-top messaging apps like WhatsApp and others are rapidly expanding into voice calling services and other areas. Indeed, Twilio has built a multi-million dollar business building IP-based APIs for developers that connect into operators’ circuit-switched calling and messaging services.

However, Bubley cautioned, phones and phone numbers will still play a major role in global communications despite the growth of VoLTE technology and alternative means of chatting. “Even looking out five years … I would say it’s probably 25-30 percent of LTE users [globally] to be an active VoLTE subscriber by end of 2019,” he said, adding that VoLTE users will primarily be clustered in South Korea, Japan and the United States. In places like India and China, where ARPUs are just a few dollars per month, it doesn’t make financial sense for operators to build out LTE networks and launch VoLTE. “It’s not going to get to more than a fraction of most mobile phone users,” he said. The result will be a continued reliance on plain old phone numbers for global communications.

Indeed, even in relatively mature markets like the United States, “we are past the point of peak telephony,” Bubley said, noting that Americans are making fewer phone calls than they have in the past. After all, why call when you can text? Thus, there’s no direct financial incentive for wireless operators to invest in upgrading and improving their voice offerings. Bubley noted that the move to VoLTE is primarily about reducing operational expenses–by removing voice traffic from circuit-switched networks and onto LTE networks, operators can refarm that legacy voice calling spectrum for LTE services.

As VoLTE rolls out in the United States and more and more calls are transmitted purely through IP, I’m hopeful that at least some carriers will see an opportunity to improve users’ calling experience. Every time I navigate through a voice prompt menu–“press zero to speak to an operator”–I feel like I’m traveling back in time 10 years. And why do I still have to listen to voicemails–shouldn’t they be emailed to me by now? I think there is money to be made for the operator that is willing to invest in this area.

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Posted on September 4, 2014 at 11:54 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Mobile Technology · Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Apple is reportedly teaming up with American Express on iPhone payments

, Engadget, 9/4/14

Those longstanding rumors of Apple building a mobile payment service may be coming true sooner than you think. Recode‘s sources claim that the folks in Cupertino have struck a deal with American Express to work on an iPhone payment system, hot on the heels of The Information‘s report of a similar agreement with Visa. Details of the system aren’t clear beyond a tie-in with the next iPhone (and likely your iTunes account), but Apple is supposedly ready to spill the beans at its September 9th event — if the leak is accurate, you’re going to get the full story pretty quickly.

We wouldn’t bet on a launch when Apple is known to occasionally change its mind (or face delays) at the last minute. However, the payment tech would certainly make sense in light of many rumors that Apple is finally incorporating NFC into its devices. While you can use NFC for accessory pairing and local file transfers, it’s more of a nice-to-have feature in those areas. It’s more important when you’re shopping, since tapping a payment terminal is typically easier and more secure than sending your banking details over Bluetooth or WiFi.

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Posted on September 4, 2014 at 11:47 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: iPhone, Mobile Technology · Tagged with: ,

Opera Mini to be default browser for Microsoft’s feature phones

, CNET news, 8/22/14

The Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha phones will now run Opera Mini fresh from the factory, while existing users will be encouraged to upgrade.

Opera and Microsoft have signed a licensing agreement to put Opera’s mobile browser into Microsoft’s current feature and Asha handsets. These include the Series 30+ and Series 40 handsets that were formerly under the Nokia branding.

According to the terms of the agreement, current phones that are using the Xpress browser will be encouraged to upgrade to Opera Mini, while fresh devices from the factories will have Opera pre-installed.

One advantage Opera has with its Mini browser in emerging countries is the built-in data compression features, which help users with limited data caps get more out of their plans.

Currently, Opera Mini has 250 million users and around 100 million of them are using Android smartphones.

Opera’s agreement with Microsoft does not appear to extend to Windows Phone devices, which currently has a mobile version of Internet Explorer as default.

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Posted on August 22, 2014 at 8:49 am by lesliemanzara · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Android, Mobile Technology, WinPhone