Sprint and T-Mobile nearing merger agreement

T-Mobile and Sprint, respectively the third and fourth largest wireless carriers in the U.S., are nearing a merger agreement, undisclosed sources told Reuters Friday. A due diligence period would follow the finalization of the agreement’s terms, but the companies expect a deal by October, according to Reuters’ source.

In August, Reuters says, Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said an announcement regarding merger talks would come in “the near future.”

The merger proposal would be the first one “with significant antitrust risk” to be submitted to the Federal Trade Commission since President Donald Trump took office, Reuters notes. The President was elected on a platform that included the deregulation of the business environment.

Mayoshi Son, the founder of Japanese venture capital firm SoftBank, which controls the Sprint Corporation, met with Trump in late December, just after the former tycoon won the election.

Son found Trump’s business policy potentially favorable for SoftBank, and promised to invest $50 billion in the U.S. economy and to create 50,000 jobs.

A merger proposal would evince Son’s confidence that the regulatory environment has become laxer since Sprint and T-Mobile abandoned a merger proposal in 2014 amidst pressure from the FTC.

Indeed, the FTC might be more receptive to a transformative merger in the telecom industry now than it was three years ago. Earlier this year, Reuters says, FTC Chairman Ajit Pai said “effective competition [exists] in the marketplace for mobile wireless services.” Thursday, the agency will vote on whether to submit Pai’s report on the state of competition in the wireless services market to the U.S. Congress, which requires such a report annually.

But, the terms of the new merger will likely be less advantageous for Son and Sprint than those reached in 2014. Under the previous deal, Sprint would have controlled the combined company, while T-Mobile’s parent company, Deutsche Telecom, would have become a minority shareholder.

Over the past three years, though, T-Mobile has outperformed Sprint. Accordingly, the terms of the new agreement will likely flip, Reuters’ source said. Deutsche Telecom and T-Mobile stockholders would own a majority of the combined enterprise, while SoftBank and the rest of Sprint’s shareholders would have a minority stake.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who took the reins in 2012 and has guided the company’s surge, will likely run the combined company.

The merged enterprise would have 130 million subscribers, Reuters notes, making it the United States’ third-largest wireless carrier, behind AT&T, which had 136.5 million subscribers as of July, and Verizon, which reported 147.2 million subscribers that same month.

Sprint’s market cap of approximately $34 billion, combined with T-Mobile’s $53 billion figure, would give the new company a value of around $87 billion. AT&T’s market cap is about $237 billion; Verizon’s exceeds $205 billion.

Sprint reported annual revenue of $33.3 billion for fiscal 2016, which ended March 31. T-Mobile posted $37.2 billion in annual revenue for calendar 2016. So, the combined company would likely generate over $70 billion annually.

Verizon posted consolidated revenues of $126 billion and wireless revenues of $89.2 billion in 2016. AT&T’s figure came in at $163 billion.

Analysts say the Sprint/T-Mobile merger provides ample opportunity to cut expenses as well.

In their bid for regulatory approval, the companies will likely emphasize that the combined company would create jobs by making investments in the development of 5G, the next generation of mobile internet connectivity.

But the merger will also precipitate layoffs as the new company consolidates its corporate structure, Roger Entner of Recon Analytics told Reuters.

According to Reuters, Sprint briefly pursued a merger with Charter Communications earlier this year.

The FTC continues to review another potential consolidation in the industry: AT&T’s proposed $85.4-billion acquisition of Time Warner.

Sprint shares jumped six percent Friday; T-Mobile stock rose 1.06 percent.

RootMetrics Releases Cellular Performance Data for First Half of 2017

On Tuesday, RootMetrics, a renowned independent research company that collects data on the reliability of cellular networks, released its report for the first half of 2017, Daniel Kline of themotleyfool.com reports. Testers drove 276,607 miles—further than the distance between the Earth and the moon— to perform just under 4.7 million tests of cellular performance.

Verizon once again came out on top overall, with a score of 94.5, but competitors closed the gap. AT&T received an overall score of 92.9; Sprint came in third with a score of 87.9, followed by T-Mobile at 86.5.1.6 points separated Verizon and AT&T, the range from top to bottom was a mere 8 points.

In the latter half of 2016, Verizon received an overall score of 93.9. AT&T scored 90.5, Sprint 84.7, and T-Mobile 81.2. Verizon and AT&T were separated by 3.4 points, and the range from top to bottom was 12.7 points.

The most recent report acknowledges that AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile all “made significant strides” in “metro-level performance,” which “provides the strongest gauge of a network for consumers.” RootMetrics considers not just “city centers” but “residential suburbs, business districts, recreational areas, and the highways that connect them” to be “metropolitan areas.” An overwhelming majority of consumers use their phones in such areas most of the time.

Verizon earned 617 first place awards in metropolitan areas. AT&T garnered 396, T-Mobile came in third with 271, and Sprint trailed the pack with 211. Verizon garnered 41 fewer first places than it did in the second half of last year, while AT&T picked up 24 more.

AT&T and T-Mobile “made big speed and reliability improvements in metro areas,” and even Sprint saw “significantly boosted data speeds and reliability at the metro level,” RootMetrics told The Motley Fool in an email.

Though RootMetrics claims the tests are impartial, some skeptics, including T-Mobile CEO John Legere, have argued otherwise. In an email to the media in February 2016, Legere accused Rootmetrics of severely handicapping T-Mobile in the study covering the second half of 2015.

“They manipulated their testing of the T-Mobile network, choosing to turn OFF Voice over LTE, our network technology that is on every single phone we sell,” the e-mail read. “VoLTE handles roughly 50% of calls made on the T-Mobile network. That is 250 million calls per day, or over 40 BILLION T-Mobile calls that RootMetrics just CHOSE to exclude in their latest tests. So the latest (and by latest, I mean up to 7 months old) RootMetrics results are worthless.

Legere claimed the “manipulation” was deliberate, and that “other carriers,” who “pay RootMetrics millions of dollars” receive favorable treatment in the tests.

RootMetrics told The Motley Fool it turned off VoLTE for the tests in question because “in the second half of 2015,” the feature “was only available on a small number of devices,” and “was not what the majority of consumers were experiencing.

“T-Mobile did add more VoLTE technology over the course of [the] last six months of 2015,” RootMetrics conceded, “but due to our rigorous scientific approach we do not switch out testing methodology for any carrier once our testing begins in a half.”

RootMetrics included VoLTE in its next report, regarding the first half of 2016, and in all subsequent studies.

Verizon is still the clear front runner among cellular service providers: it received 47 outright first place awards in metropolitan tests. AT&T was the next closest with 12 outright first places. T-Mobile won four, Sprint just one.

Last year, though, Verizon won 55 metropolitan tests outright. AT&T came in a distant second with 4 outright wins.

So, competition in the cell phone service sector is tightening, and consumers stand to benefit.

“Verizon is the leader with AT&T the clear No. 2,” Kline writes, “but for a lot of people, T-Mobile and Sprint have improved to the point where they are reasonable options, especially since they are the cheapest of the four major carriers.

Government’s Antitrust Review of Time Warner-AT&T Merger Could Be Used as Leverage in Trump/CNN Feud

AT&T’s $85 billion proposal to acquire  Time Warner, the media and entertainment conglomerate that owns CNN, HBO, and others, has been submitted to the government for antitrust review. Given the tension between CNN and US President Donald Trump, many fear that the White House will use the review process as political leverage against the news network.

However, Makan Delrahim, whom Trump appointed as head of the antitrust division of the Department of Justice, has said he does not see any significant dangers in the bill. If the bill does not violate any antitrust regulations, the Trump administration will have no legal avenue by which to impede it.

Economist Hal Singer, who specializes in antitrust and media issues, says he does not believe the Trump administration can make any “[legally] credible threat” to block the deal.

“I think the most you could do is extract some sort of concessions as to the merged entity’s dealings with independent networks and rival distributors,” he said.

AT&T, along with many economists, has argued that the deal would be a “vertical merger” because AT&T and Time Warner occupy different sectors of the industry, and are not direct rivals. Therefore, the merger would not pose a threat to market competition.

Some disagree. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden told POLITICO he has “serious concerns about the…merger because it stands to reduce consumers’ choices while increasing their costs.”

During a campaign in which he repeatedly bashed CNN, Trump pledged to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger, calling it “an example of the power structure I’m fighting.”  Whether the “power structure” Trump refers to is corporate consolidation or the news media is up for debate.

Trump has taken a number of steps to reduce government intervention in the free market. The administration has eased regulations in the financial sphere, for instance, that checked the growth of banks.

So the president’s stance on the Time Warner deal is something of an aberration, and some wonder whether Trump’s opposition to the merger is motivated less by a desire to protect market competition than by an agenda to silence unwelcome voices in the media.

On Sunday, Trump posted a video on Twitter which shows him repeatedly punching a CNN logo superimposed upon a man’s head. The president did not include text with the video, but appended the hashtags “#FraudNewsCNN and #FFN” to his tweet.

When asked about the video at a news conference in Poland Thursday, Trump said that CNN has covered his presidency in a “very dishonest way,” “has been fake news for a long time,” and has “serious problems.”

So there is question as to whether Trump’s administration will impartially consider the merger request.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken, a Democrat who has reservations about the merger, recommends that an “independent antitrust division” evaluate AT&T’s proposal so that Trump’s “war against the media [does] not influence the transaction.”

Wyden encourages the reviewers of the proposal to consider the effect the deal would have on the business market, not the president’s personal agenda. To allow Trump’s attitude toward the media to influence the decision “would be illegal, and flies in the face of the First Amendment [proteting freedom of speech and of press],” he says.

According to The Financial Times, Trump’s transition team “reassured AT&T” in December that the merger request would be “scrutinized without prejudice.”

Time Warner subsidiaries like CNN would remain autonomous under the merger: AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson says his company is “committed to continuing the editorial independence of CNN.”

Hopefully, Mr. Trump and his administration share that commitment. Even if they do not, they may find it difficult to find substantial legal grounds to justify blocking the merger.

Featured image via Flickr/Gage Skidmore

T-Mobile is Ahead of the Competition with More Data on its Unlimited Plan

In case you haven’t noticed, this year has brought about many changes when it comes to smart phones and their carriers. Many of the top carriers have begun offering unlimited data plans. Every announcement from one carrier is followed by an even bigger announcement from another. In order to stand against competitors, AT&T got rid of its triple-play requirement for those who chose its unlimited plan.

Every major carrier might have a different plan, but one thing remains the same for all of them. Once you fall over that monthly data usage number, the soft cap comes in effect. It’s called a soft cap because consumers aren’t cut off from the data completely and there’s no threat of an overage charge. Even though you aren’t being charged and they won’t cut you off, there’s still a limit that applies.

However the competition never really sleeps. In fact, T-Mobile increased its data limit in order to flag in more customers from rival mobile plans. T-Mobiles previous data limit used to be 28GB per month. Recently, though, the company has boosted that number up to 30GB per month. Once that number is reached during the month, you will be “deprioritized” during the peak times.

That 2GB increase might sound like just a smidge of raise, however, it has pushed T-Mobile up to the front of the line when it comes to data allowance. Its competitors, AT&T and Verizon stop the buck at just 22GB. Sprint, on the other hand, comes at number two with 23GB of data.

https://youtu.be/pvDxysWmmEE

If the word “deprioritize” caused you to scratch your head, don’t worry. It means exactly what you think. Other customers will be given top priority. This means that if you happen to be in a crowd of people, your data is going to slow down.

These data numbers, if you stop to think about it, are quite generous. There’s also no actually guarantee that there’s going to be perpetually slow internet once a user has come to the end of their data limit. These numbers are, however, something to consider if you or someone on your plan happens to be heavy handed when it comes to data usage.

AT&T Cell Phone Users Lose Contact With 911 in 14 States

On Wednesday, some AT&T cellphone users were unable to dial 911, but it was only for a few hours. It didn’t take long for city and county law enforcement along with emergency response teams to warm people. The teams headed to social media warning people over the span of five hours about the possibility of being unable to dial for emergencies.

Officials in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Indiana, Colorado, and even Washington D.C. released warnings to AT&T customers that they might not be able to contact 911 dispatchers in the case of emergency.

Even though the problem was resolved, AT&T has yet to disclose what really went to wrong to cause this to happen in the first place. There’s also no telling just how many people were affected.

Customers were alerted with a warning that started around 5:50 p.m. The Monongalia County Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency located in West Virginia started warning people via Facebook around this time. The warnings to AT&T customers continued well into the afternoon until around 10:25 p.m. It was at that same time that AT&T stated they had fixed a problem.

In Indiana, the Hendricks County Communications Center which is a consolidated dispatch center for fire, police, and emergency medical services stated that the calls coming in from AT&T customers just wouldn’t connect.

In order to accommodate the customers that were unable to contact 911 for emergency response, Hendricks made a Facebook post saying, “We have conducted test calls locally and it will just ring.” Hendricks then made sure to provide a number for those to call in case they needed a dispatch officer.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, made a Twitter statement saying that they had heard reports of the issue and were further investigating the incident.

AT&T released a statement later that same night around 10:30 p.m. saying that “service has been restored for wireless customers affected by an issue connecting to 911. We apologize to those affected.”

AT&T Announces New Unlimited Plan

With Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint coming out with unlimited data plans to bring in more customers, it was only a matter of time before AT&T joined in. The company announced that starting February 17th AT&T says it will be offering a new unlimited data plan for its consumers.

Even though each company is coming out with a new unlimited data plan, neither wants to be outdone by any of the others. That brings about extra incentives like extra gigabytes of data and even Verizon has an offer for free iPhone 7, or iPhone 7 plus with the switch to its unlimited data plan.

As for AT&T, the company is allowing any postpaid customers to get in on its unlimited data deal. This means that customers don’t have to have a DirecTV or U-Verse subscription in order to be a part of the unlimited data plan.

The unlimited data plan provides users with unlimited data, talk, and text. One single line will cost about $100 per month. If consumers chose the family of four plan they will pay an initial cost of about $220 until a credit of $40 begins after two billing cycles. After the two billing cycles, the fee will be $180.

The plan also promises its users the ability to make unlimited calls from the United States to Mexico and Canada. It doesn’t stop there. The plan allows for unlimited texting to more than 120 countries. Also, if customers add the Roam North America option they won’t have to worry about any roaming charges. However, just like many of its competitors, AT&T has a soft data cap. After 22 GB of data usage, speed might slow down a bit when the network gets overfilled.

One thing about AT&T’s new unlimited plan is that there is no tethering. This means no HotSpot. Anyone who wants to use their smartphone at a HotSpot will be placed on a capped data plan.

Another feature of the new unlimited plan is the stream saver. This will bring down videos to 480p, but customers have the option to turn this off if they so choose.

However, despite calling this plan new, it doesn’t seem to add anything of the sort. In fact, when compared to the other plans not only is the lack of 4G LTE tethering undesirable but with the plan at $100 per month for one line, AT&T is the most expensive.

Verizon To Introduce Unlimited Wireless Data Plan

Verizon introduced an unlimited data plan for the first time since 2011. The nation’s largest wireless provider announced the move away from monthly data allowances on a TV advertisement during Sunday’s Grammy Awards broadcast.

The plan, starting at $80 per month, brings Verizon up to speed with competitors that already had unlimited data offerings, like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. “Verizon was sitting out there as the only one that didn’t have an offering,” said senior equity research analyst David Heger.

Sprint and T-Mobile released marginally cheaper unlimited plans last summer, which helped bring in millions of new customers. According to Verizon’s wireless division president Ronan Dunne, the company came out with the unlimited data plan because its network is capable of handling the influx of customers, and  “fundamentally want you to have more choice.” Previously, the company said it had no interest in pursuing an unlimited plan, but the curbed growth of wireless customers at the end of last year may have motivated the change in approach.

The new plan, available since Monday, allows customers to talk, text, and use data as much as they like per line, although, like competing plans, it has a “soft cap” of 22 GB per month. After this much data has been used, download rates could be slowed and usage prioritized for overall network efficiencies. Unlike Sprint and T-Mobile, however, Sprint said it would not downgrade the streaming video quality for users on the unlimited plan.

John Legere, T-Mobile CEO, was quick to tweet a response to Verizon’s plan: “No shock that @verizon finally decided to show up. And I don’t blame them for caving. What choice did they have?” Legere kicked off the move toward unlimited data plans in the industry, which he suggests motivated Verizon’s plan in the beginning of his Feb. 13 Twitter thread.

Legere continued to ridicule Verizon’s announcement in his Twitter thread before making a plan announcement of his own. “Starting Fri, #TMobileONE price includes HD video & 10GB high speed hotspot data– all at no extra charge. AND taxes & fees are included!”

Verizon contradicted analyst predictions by offering the unlimited plan, since the carrier has relatively less available spectrum per subscriber than smaller carriers. Dunne assures that the carrier’s additional advanced equipment can handle the traffic, “We’ve built our network so we can manage all the activity customers undertake.”

FTC Chairwoman Announces She Will Step Down

After three years as the Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman (FTC), Edith Ramirez is now stepping down. This week she announced she will finish out her time until President-elect Donald Trump takes his seat in the White House.

Ramirez gained the FTC a reputation during her time in Washington. Most know the FTC as technology regulators. For example, many would relate the emissions software scandal, associated with Volkswagen, to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, consumers should know that the FTC was in charge of figuring how much Volkswagen owed its consumers.

Yet Volkswagen isn’t the only company the FTC cracked down on. Cell phone carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile plague their users with third party charges all the time. Ramirez and the FTC strong-armed the companies into refunding $170 million to consumers.

From cars to cell phones then to apps like Snapchat. In 2014 the app allowed 4.6 million of it’s users to fall victim to an informational leak. Ramirez and the FTC aided in the regulation of security issues for Snapchat. The FTC also filed a lawsuit on Wyndham Worldwide. The FTC hoped to prove that companies are just as responsible for security breaches and hacks.

However, you can’t have the good without the bad. During Ramirez’s time as chairwoman, the FTC faced criticism as well. Many, including a few FTC members, disapproved of the way the FTC handed some technology cases. The criticizers said the FTC didn’t think of the consumer when it cracked down on certain issues that could be greatly beneficial. Another good example is the approach the FTC took towards Apples in-app purchases.

Later in 2013, a staff memo leaked. The memo showed that, in fear of the time and cost a legal battle would propose, the FTC turned a blind eye to Google. Some members discovered that the FTC initially suspected Google of anti-competitive behavior, like preventing advertisers from working with its rivals.

Despite these few eyebrow raises and questions of how the FTC handles big corporations, many believe that while Ramirez was chairwoman the FTC did a lot of good. Executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy commented, “Edith Ramirez brought the FTC into the 21st century.”

Ms. Ramirez departure from the position as chairwoman on February 10th. The only Republican at FTC, is Maureen Ohlhausen, who is rumored as a replacement.

AT&T Once Again Raises Unlimited Data Costs

AT&T reported that it will up the price of its long time unlimited data plan by $5. This is one of its first increases since last year.

AT&T said that this change will affect subscribers that are already on the unlimited plan. Those who are on AT&T’s “legacy unlimited data plan” already saw a spike in their unlimited plan back in February by $5 increasing to $35. The announcement of the new price hike will bring the plan up to $40 per month.

AT&T stopped making unlimited data available to its new subscribers. The company even went as far as barring it from its current users who wanted to switch to new plans. Last year AT&T created a new unlimited plan. The problem with this was that those subscribers to DirecTV and U-verse were the only ones who got the advantage.

It’s good to note that the $40 is only what’s charged for the data. If subscribers want voice and texting the charges will escalate to around $90 per month. Instead of paying extra, AT&T is encouraging many of those under the unlimited plan to switch one of newer plans.

These new plans are to have better benefits that the older unlimited plans lack. For example, there are beneficial uses of sharing internet connection with other devices in hotspot zones. Yet it seems that while AT&T is providing its customers with good plan options, the company still operates on devious levels.

Both AT&T and its competitor Verizon have come up with ways to bar customers from acquiring unlimited data plans. AT&T found ways of limiting data to customers. If a customer were to use more than 3 to 5GB in a month, AT&T penalized the customer via data. Verizon, on the other hand, made its customers give up their unlimited data if the person used more than 200GB in a month. Since then, however, AT&T loosened the reigns on its customers. They increased the overuse of GB to 22 instead of the 5 or 3GB.

As an AT&T customer, I’m a bit peeved over this. What about other AT&T customers? What do you think about this?

AT&T to Continue with Time Warner Merger Despite Opposition

AT&T faces opposition to its merger with Time Warner from multiple sides—including the executive branch of government. The telecommunications company has also encountered suspicions concerning licenses granted by the Federal Communications Commission.

In regulatory filings dated January 6, AT&T asserts that its $85 billion merger will go on according to plan. AT&T adds that it does not plan on transferring FCC licenses between companies, so there should not be a question of FCC intervention.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, AT&T stated that Time Warner reviewed all licenses held that were granted by the FCC and did not anticipate the need to transfer these licenses to AT&T. However, some doubt remains as to how exactly the two telecommunication giants plan to dispose of the licenses in question before the merger is to take place.

Bloomberg reports that Time Warner could be looking to sell these its licenses another broadcaster; a person familiar with the matter holds that instead of owning the licenses, Time Warner can contract with third party companies. The issue of licensing is not the only one AT&T must confront before it can successfully merge with Time Warner. President-elect Donald Trump pledged to oppose the merger during his campaign, citing concerns of one company having too much of a monopoly. Reuters reports his position has not moved on the issue, according to a transition official. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes remains confident that opposition to the deal will fall once everyone is well-informed. At an investigative Senate Judiciary hearing on the merger, Bewkes attributed opposition to misinformation, “There were comments made from candidates on all sides, saying they were against the merger before any of them had information.”

The deciding factor of the AT&T-Time Warner merger at this point is Time Warner itself. The February 15th shareholder meeting will review the terms of the deal and determine whether or not to approve it.

The Man Behind Charter’s Deal With TimeWarner Cable for $56 Billion

“The King of Cable”, John Malone, is rumored to be in the process of an acquisition, that would foresee Charter Communications, a publicly owned company fostered by the huge stakes Malone retains in the cable market, overtake the bigger and well renowned TimeWarner cable.

An agreed price of $56.7 billion was reached by the two companies, and along with it will come the dominant status as “One of America’s largest cable and broadband operators,” since both companies together serve an estimated 45 million customers domestically.

It should serve as no surprise that John Malone, a man commonly referred to as “Darth Vader” is the conductor behind this train of a business deal. Malone began working in cable and communications around 1972, at Tele-Communications Inc. near Denver, when cable, “Existed mainly for remote towns beyond the reach of broadcast signals.” The apprentice cable-man quickly gained a reputation as the ‘tough guy’, whose alma mater, Phi Beta Kappa from Yale, kickstarted his career, taking his first job with Bell Labs.

Malone flaunted his unwavering business tactics while working for Tele-Communications, when the city of Vail, Colorado refused to meet the company’s fee demands, and the company ceased broadcasting, instead showing a blank screen with the phone numbers of the mayor and city manager. The city ultimately gave in.

In 1999, Malone sold Tele-Communications Inc. for approximately $32 billion to AT&T, described as the “Darth Vader of the infobahn” a couple years prior in an interview from Wired magazine, where Mr. Malone was quoted saying, “I think there’s no question I have the cable industry tattooed on one of my rear end cheeks, and T.C.I (alluding to Tele-Communications Inc.) on the other. But I don’t think I’ve been ruthless in anything. I don’t think I’ve driven anyone out of business.”

 

How To Tell if your Addicted to your Smart Phone

 

Have cellphones become an addiction to members of our society. Cellphones have become such an integrated part of our culture that some are wondering if it is healthy and question if the behavior is actually an addiction that we are unaware that we have.

Dr. James Roberts, Baylor University, wrote a piece forYahoo! Tech where she describes twelve different ways to tell if you are actually addicted to that little gadget that seems glued to everyone’s hands.

In her article she states that sixty-eight percent of Americans sleep with their cellphones next to their beds and states that cell phone addiction like pother technologically based addictions, such as video games or computer addictions, are in fact real because essentially everything that gives the brain a satisfying stimulation could lead to abuse or addiction.

According to Yahoo! Tech, researchers have expressed that there are “six signs” to tell if someone is addicted to a type of behavior, those signs include; salience, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, conflict, and relapse.

The truth those six signs all can relate to abuse of cellphone usage. The article categorized the 12 different behaviors that could be labeled into the six categories of signs of addiction by showing that those who demonstrate salience towards their phones have a tendency to do these two actions;

1. The first thing I reach for after waking in the morning is my cellphone.

2. I would turn around and go back home on the way to work if I had left my cellphone at home.

For those unfamiliar with salience it is a behavior that becomes second nature and something we do without realizing we are doing it.

The next sign, euphoria, asks users if they have ever used their phones for either;

3. I often use my cellphone when I am bored.

4. I have pretended to take calls to avoid awkward social situations.

Tolerance is the third sign and asks users about the amount they use an object or substance, so in this particular case it asks;

5. I find myself spending more and more time on my cellphone.

 

6. I spend more time than I should on my cellphone.

With addiction withdrawal could occur if they object is removed or unavailable for a certain period of time, and these behavior can show a sign of withdrawal;

7. I become agitated or irritable when my cellphone is out of sight.

8. I have gone into a panic when I thought I had lost my cellphone.

Conflict can occur for those who are observing abuse or over usage of cell phone users. It shows that it could potentially be interfering with you life, so ask yourself if;

9. I have argued with my spouse, friends, or family about my cellphone use.

10. I use my cellphone while driving my car.

And finally there is relapse which shows a person trying to kick a habit, but is unsuccessful these signs can be apparent if;

11. I have tried to curb my cellphone use, but the effort didn’t last very long.

12. I need to reduce my cellphone use, but am afraid I can’t do it.

American Apparel Currently Facing Two Lawsuits

American Apparel faces a lawsuit from a former employee who claims he was wrongfully fired due to religious belief.

Former employee David Nisenbaum accuses American Apparel terminated him after he claimed he was religiously discriminated against by the former CFO John Lutterell and had reported Lutteral for financial mismanagement issue.

On April 16th three other employees also sued the company for giving them too short of a notice when being fired.

In Nisenbaum’s lawsuit it states his job was to “help upgrade the accounting and finance department.” In this position he noticed Lutterell was not representing American Apparel well financially.

He claimed between 2012 to 2013 Lutterall cost the company $30 to $40 million by going against CEO at the time Dov Charney pertaining to a distribution center project. Another time he chose not to communicate with Charney or board members once again about a financial bond resulting to the company losing money.

As far as religiously, Lutteral made statements about Nisenbaum’s Jewish belief. The suit states, “on multiple occasions, when walking behind Mr. Nisenbaum, Mr. Luttrell would make mocking gestures, pretending that Mr. Nisenbaum smelled bad.”

The day after Nisenbaum reported on Luterall for his financial irresponsibility and religious discrimination he was told his allegations were “baseless” and was let go.

Former CEO Charney was also fired at the same time in June 2014. Nisenbaum believes Charney was let go “because Mr. Luttrell wanted to sell American Apparel such that he could retire and cover up his violations of Sarbanes Oxley [legislation protecting shareholders from fraudulent company practices] and fraud in running a publicly traded company.”

Lutterell had blamed all the financial problems on Charney as he wrote in a “secret presentation” to the company’s audit committee.

An American Apparel representative spoke on the issue saying, “Generally, we don’t comment on personnel matters, especially those that precede the current management team.”

 

T-Mobile Lowers Family Plan Price

T-Mobile announced a lowered-price family July 28 with 10 gigabytes of 4G LTE data for a family plan of four for $100.

John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, said in a blog post that the carrier would offer 10GB of LTE data for a family of four, each line would have 2.5GB, starting July 30.

According to CNET, T-Mobile customers can sign up for the deal through September, and it will last until the end of 2015. T-Mobile said the promotion is available for both new and current users.

“We know that this is one of the busiest shopping seasons in the year, and we expect that this is going to be a really, really popular, powerful option for customers in the market,” Mike Katz, the company’s vice president of marketing, said. “We have really high expectations for this.”

Legere not only introduced the new deal in the blog post, but also compared it with one of its giant competitors AT&T’s family plan.

“It infuriates me that they’re selling this [$160 for 10GB data shared by four lines] to hardworking families who could use that money for more important things.  And they have the nerve to call it ‘Best-Ever Pricing.’  I just couldn’t stand by without speaking up and calling them on their BS,” Legere wrote.

This price cut is another aggressive step of T-Mobile, the fourth-largest in the U.S. by subscriber base, to enlarge its customer base, followed by free early termination fees to get out of users’ original contact.

TMobilenewdeal--RHD

 

Amazon Fire Phone is on Sale

Amazon’s new Fire Phone is now on sale and is priced to compete with other smartphones. It has a plethora of capabilities, but it has yet to be seen if Apple or Android users will abandon their mobile devices for the Fire Phone.

At first glance, the Fire Phone looks a lot like an iPhone as far as its shape is concerned. It has curved corners and is relatively thin like the iPhone. However, hat is where the similarities end. The Fire Phone features glass on both sides, rubber corners and the Amazon logo on the back. Plus, it has a speaker on the bottom and the top of the device, which is not common with smartphones.

The phone’s most distinct feature is its four infrared cameras that are placed on its corners. It enables the phone to use Dynamic Perspective, a 3D-effect feature that detects where the user’s head is in relation to the phone. Third-party developers can use Dynamic Perspective in their apps, and it can translate well in video games. Over time, app builders will find more uses for the Dynamic Perspective.

Firefly is another app that sets the Fire Phone apart from the dense smartphone market. It uses the microphone and camera to detect text, products, TV shows and music. Once it is activated, you can pull up information on IMDB about a show you are watching. If you aim it at a product, Firefly will find that product on Amazon, making purchasing it or saving it in your cart a breeze.

The Fire Phone is available with no contract for $649 with 32GB of storage or $749 with 64GB of storage. AT&T offers a two-year contract with the 32GB version for $199 or the 64GB version for $299.

 

 

Amazon Introduces “Fire” – Entering the Smart Phone Fray

Amazon’s brand new smart phone is slated for release July 25th. It’s aptly named the Fire Phone, and it has a few features that may bring customers in droves.

One aspect of smart phones that’s been lacking overall is camera quality. Nothing beats a device made only to take great pictures, but since many more of us use phones than real cameras, we have to make due. The Fire Phone comes jam-packed with five infrared cameras, four of which are strategically placed in the front four corners. They’re designated to work in sweet harmony to enable the plethora of 3D effects. The fifth eye is the front-facing camera.

Gorilla Glass, placed on both the front and back of the phone, are intended to give the phone a high-quality feel. Another cool feature is tilt-to-scroll; simply tilt the phone forward or backward to scroll the page. You press the screen with your finger to stop it. The more you tilt, the faster the screen will scroll. Scroll speed can also be chosen and locked. This feature has been offered by apps in the past, but Amazon is the first to offer hands-free scrolling for every phone they produce.

The Fire Phone implements an Amazon-heavy version of Android, Fire OS 3.5, which highlights mostly Amazon goodies. You’ll notice that well-known Google services, including Google Play Services, are missing here. As it runs on Android Jelly Bean, there are some Android KitKat 4.4 features that are included, like storage compression.

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It appears that the Fire Phone’s biggest pull will come from Prime customer; unlimited photo storage is available for Prime customers, and the X Ray app and Second Screen app from Kindle will be included as well. If those pluses weren’t enough, the phone comes with a free year of Amazon Prime; if you’re an existing Primer, a free year is added to your account.

The Firefly app is yet another lane in which Amazon can lock in new customers. Firefly is a visual-scanning app that allows users to scan and identify various objects to either identify them or determine their availability on Amazon. That ability isn’t breaking new ground; Bing Vision, offered by Microsoft Windows Phone, scans QR’s, music and audio tracks and URL’s as well.

One ability Firefly has that the Bing Vision doesn’t is that it recognizes TV shows and pulls up info through IMDB. On top of that, the Firefly button doubles as a secondary camera button that you can access with a brief long press. The 3D interface shows promise in everyday apps, like maps, but the possibilities in gaming are vast. The results here are definitely better than the HTC Evo 3D and the LG Optimus 3D; it’s evident that smart phone camera technology has come a long way in the past four to five years.

In the United States, AT&T will offer the Fire Phone exclusively for $299 with 64GB storage or $199 with 32GB storage, with a two-year contract. You can pre-order the Fire Phone now.

 

 

Photo:  C|Net / Amazon

Samsung Makes Bigger Push in Tablets

Korean electronics titan Samsung is taking a big swing at Apple with two new high-end tablet releases. The new pair of tabs features brighter, thinner, lighter screens than the models preceding it. The new 10.1 inch Galaxy Tab S is priced at $499, while the 8.4 inch version is $399.

Industry experts are convinced that it will take more than flashy promotion and pretty devices to repeat the success of Samsung’s smartphones, which are the company’s best-selling products. Samsung not only faces Apple as a competitor, but oversize smartphones that double as tablets, referred to as phablets, are absorbing a growing chunk out of overall tablet sales. Phablets have been a huge success in South Korea and other Asian countries, and conversely, Samsung expects a 12% increase in tablet shipments this year, down from 52% last year (statistics by IDC). Samsung holds 34% of the market shares of tablet makers, but they’re threatened by competing Android tablets that offer comparable hardware at lower prices.

The list of challengers to Samsung’s flagship tablet is growing. China-based Xiaomi offers the 7.9 inch MiPad with 16G for $240. Asus presented a phone-tablet combo that cost $199 with a two-year AT&T contract. The Google Nexus 10 proves to be a match for even the mighty iPad 4, priced at around $389, is praised for its gorgeous display and fast processing.

 

New Galaxy Tab 10.1
New Galaxy Tab 10.1
New Galaxy Tab 8.4
New Galaxy Tab 8.4

 

MiPad
MiPad
Asus TF300T
Asus TF300T
Nexus 10
Nexus 10

 

Uber Pairs Up With AT&T’s Android Smartphones

By now, we’ve all heard of the almighty Uber driving service, and if you haven’t, you must be living under a rock. The startup app provides a quick and easy option for transportation that can be reserved through the click of a button on your phone, and the cost is automatically billed to the customer’s credit card. The service currently exists in over 100 cities around the world.

Starting this summer, the transportation app will now be incorporated as a core feature in AT&T’s Android cell phones. Just like phones comes with embedded weather or news apps, Uber’s transportation app will come already downloaded in the phone.

The pairing was announced by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick at the Code Conference in California this week. It is expected that the Uber app will increase up to 50 million phones this summer and many drivers will be moving to cater to AT&T users. With the help of AT&T, the transportation app hopes to expand to many more cities and places throughout the world.

AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega released a statement that said: “With Uber we found a company that gets what it means to revolutionize an industry through mobile technology to give customers a new, compelling, and valuable service and I look forward to what we can achieve together.”

Loyal Uber lovers everywhere are waiting to see how this pairing will impact the quality of their service. Will it improve the already reliable transportation option, or will the company drown in the rush of incoming business?

 

 

Photo: Android Central

AT&T Reaches Agreement to Buy DirecTV for $48.5 billion Dollars

Earlier last week, we reported AT&T’s interest in acquiring DirecTV.  AT&T just reached an agreement to buy satellite provider DirecTV for $48.5 billion dollars. The purchase would enable AT&T to have access to DirecTV’s 20 Million satellite subscribers, and also filling the gap in the internet video space which AT&T is currently lacking. This purchase would also give AT&T a major video service option with DirecTV being one of the nation’s leaders. Even though AT&T does offer current customers U-Verse, its own version of a video service, it is in no way on the same level as DirecTV and its satellite options.

By making this move, AT&T would be able to offer its services on all video platforms. It will allow much greater and more improved video content for televisions and cable programming, streaming and mobile video content for phones which is now where the trend is heading towards, and also in the air on airplanes that use DirecTV as a supplier. This news comes a few months after we heard that Comcast offered $45 billion for Time Warner Cable, a move that would make Comcast the leading internet cable provider, which is currently in the waiting phase for regulatory approval.

The biggest advantage of this potential purchase will be the extra liquidity of funds on hand when it becomes time for the FCC Spectrum auction. According to the press release by AT&T “The transaction does not alter AT&T’s plans to meaningfully participate in the FCC’s planned spectrum auctions later this year and in 2015. AT&T intends to bid at least $9 billion in connection with the 2015 incentive auction provided there is sufficient spectrum available in the auction to provide AT&T a viable path to at least a 2×10 MHz nationwide spectrum footprint.”

There are three potential main winners and there also might be one loser in the end as well. The winners, AT&T for buying out more competition and expanding their network, Warren Buffet and his company Berkshire Hathaway who is the largest shareholder of DirecTV, and in the beginning the consumer who will get a lot more services from one organization which will make it more convenient for them. The loser can end up being the consumer as well, because with less competition the supply decreases and the prices can go up with only choices being paying it, or switching to barely no other competitors out there.

AT&T MAY BUY DIRECTV FOR $50 BILLION?

Earlier this year Comcast acquired Time warner cable, now it looks like AT&T is looking to get in on the action. It is rumored that the company is interested in offering DirecTV $50 billion for the acquisition. Nothing has been made public yet and so nothing can be confirmed as the selling price may be subject to change. Mike White, CEO of DirecTV, may make the transition over to AT&T as a stipulation in the sell as well. Sales from both satellite companies have been less than stellar. ReconAnalytics analyst Roger Entner stated “They both see the Grim Reaper at the horizon. DirecTV hasn’t gone out and bought spectrum. Dish has, so DirecTV needs to find a partner, and AT&T  may be that partner.

AT&T is looking to make this deal so that it can secure its position as the lead satellite provider, just as Comcast is looking to do with cable. What this all really means is that consumers have less control. Though these mergers are not creating monopolies, they are definitely taking the power away from the customers. With less competition you will have to choose the lesser of two evils, and whether you’d rather have cable or satellite. Streaming and web based services are already incredibly popular and cheaper alternative. When satellite and cable company prices eventually get too high for you, consider services such as Netflix and Hulu for your viewing needs.