House passes bill that would allow cell phone unlocking

The US House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday that would allow cell phone customers to unlock their devices for use on competitors' networks.

Passed by a 295-114 vote, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act would repeal a 2012 decision by the Library of Congress that made cell phone unlocking a violation of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA, which prohibits Americans from "circumventing" technologies that protect copyrighted works, gives the Library of Congress the authority to grant exemptions.

Unlocking cell phones allows handsets to be used on a wireless network other than that … Read more

Emerging markets: The smartphone battleground (Smartphones Unlocked)

You don't have to look far to see evidence that the world of successful, high-end smartphone makers is shrinking to two major contenders -- Apple and Samsung -- while other important brands, like BlackBerry, HTC, and Nokia, have faded in prominence or struggle to compete.

Still, like ground cover beneath a canopy of trees, smaller or less well-known brands have a chance to grow, even thrive, in emerging markets.

Lenovo is picking up steam in China, the most important growth market there is; and even on the brink of extinction, BlackBerry phones are still selling throughout Africa, South America, … Read more

Virgin Mobile trims prices on unsubsidized iPhone 5S, 5C

Virgin Mobile subscribers looking for an unsubsidized version of the iPhone 5S or 5C may want to check out a new sale from the carrier.

Virgin Mobile has cut the prices of all unsubsidized editions of the two new iPhones by 10 percent. The 16GB iPhone 5S is on sale for $495, the 32GB model for $585, and the 64GB edition for $675. The 16GB iPhone 5C is selling for $405 and the 32GB flavor for $495.

The 8GB iPhone 4 is also in on the sale with its price dropping by 20 percent to $160.

Those numbers are a … Read more

The Liquid Z5 from Acer provides modern Android punch for less cash

LAS VEGAS -- Who says you can't get a satisfying smartphone experience for not much money, and with no contract? Certainly not Acer. The company just pulled the wraps off of its Liquid Z5 handset at CES 2014 which packs a big screen, Android Jelly Bean, and DTS sound into a solid unibody design.

Powered by a 1.3GHz dual-core Mediatek processor that's paired with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage, the Liquid Z5 is by no means a mobile powerhouse. Even so, Acer explained to me that it has worked hard to optimize the Liquid … Read more

The prodigal daughter: Can she bring her Verizon LTE smartphone to AT&T?

Sending our children out on their own in the world is scary, but it's nice to know they can always come home. In one reader's case, his daughter can come home to Mom and Dad's wireless plan.

In this edition of Ask Maggie, I help a father figure out how he can help his daughter return to the family's AT&T service plan after going out on her own and subscribing to Verizon Wireless service. I also explain how the family can save money with AT&T's new no-contract plans. And I offer … Read more

FCC, wireless carriers reach cell phone unlocking deal

It appears the i's have been dotted and the t's have been crossed for a new policy that will now let consumers unlock their cell phones more easily.

The Federal Communications Commission has reached an agreement with the five major US wireless carriers that requires the carriers to disclose how and when cell phones on their networks can be unlocked, according to Reuters.

"CTIA and these companies share the goal of ensuring that America's wireless consumers continue to benefit from the world-leading range of competitive devices and offerings they currently enjoy, and believe that these voluntary … Read more

Unlocked, SIM-free iPhone 5S now sold through Apple

People who like their phones unlocked and SIM-free can now pick up an iPhone 5S in that state directly through Apple.

Available via Apple's online store, the new unlocked iPhone 5S requires a GSM-compatible SIM, which means it'll work on AT&T and T-Mobile but not on Sprint or Verizon. It also means buyers will have to pick up a SIM from their carrier of choice.

With no carrier subsidy, the phone sells at full retail -- $649 for the 16GB model, $749 for the 32GB edition, and $849 for the 64GB version. An unlocked iPhone 5S … Read more

Why the US is poised for off-contract shift (Smartphones Unlocked)

For about as long as there have been cell phones, US carriers have had a stranglehold over the purchasing experience. The two-year contract has reigned supreme here in the States, with providers heavily subsidizing the cost of high-priced handsets. But for some buyers, times are changing.

T-Mobile's brassy, vocal assault on the status quo is making the retail cost of smartphones more transparent, while Google's lower-cost Nexus is a sure to lure customers away from premium-priced phones.

While the majority of phone customers are likely to stick with the contract formula, especially if they're on a family … Read more

Google Play Music arrives for iOS

CNET Update changes its tune:

In this episode of Update:

- Crank up Google Play Music on the iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad. Google's streaming music service launched for Android over the summer, but the iOS version was delayed by months. The app stores 20,000 songs for free online and has custom radio stations, but paying $10 a month gives you access to a library of millions of songs to play on demand.

- Learn how the FCC is pushing carriers to unlock phones when a customer's contract is fulfilled.

- Check out the Lumia 2520, Nokia'… Read more

New FCC chairman presses carriers to unlock cell phones

Tom Wheeler has been the FCC's chairman for only a few weeks, but he likely already gained a few fans by urging the wireless industry on Thursday to move toward unlocking consumers' cell phones.

Unlocking cell phones allows handsets to be used on a wireless network other than that of the originating carrier. It's a process that wireless carriers are usually willing to accommodate once the customer's wireless contract has been fulfilled.

But the process became illegal earlier this year when the Library of Congress opted not to renew an exemption in the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright … Read more