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PC Pricing Continue To Rise, Highest Increase Since 2011

February 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

PC prices are headed upward due to a shortage of a number of components, and the situation isn’t expected to change in the coming quarters.

A shortage of DRAM, SSDs, batteries, and LCDs have conspired to drive up PC prices, Gianfranco Lanci, corporate president and chief operating officer at Lenovo, said during an earnings call last Thursday. It’s difficult to pin a number on the price increase because of the number of PC configurations available.

The cost of purchasing these components is going up, which is triggering PC prices to also rise, said Lanci, a PC industry veteran. The shortage of components like memory will continue, Lanci said.

As component supplies shrink, PC prices will rise, said Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner. Moreover, PC makers are raising prices to squeeze more profits out of the shrinking PC market, Kitagawa said.

The PC buyer profile is also changing, with gamers and millennials willing to spend more money on PCs.

That’s changing the mix of laptops, desktops, and 2-in-1s being shipped by PC makers, who are focused on selling higher-priced products that can deliver better margins.

But low-cost PCs won’t go away, Kitagawa said. There will always be cheap laptops available, though those markets aren’t growing and not attractive to PC makers.

Basic configurations of PCs remain affordable, but some PC makers are limiting customization, forcing users to buy additional components in certain configurations.

 

A chart shown at an Intel investor conference last week showed PC selling prices reaching its highest since 2011, when a decline in PC shipments started.

Intel is also selling chips at higher prices, which is adding to PC costs. Intel PC chip prices went up by 7 percent in 2016, but the company also sold more Core i7 chips as sales of gaming and VR systems increased.

Analyst firm TrendForce predicted SSD prices would go up in the first quarter of this year, continuing a trend from the previous quarters. SSD adoption, as a replacement for hard drives, is growing, but the supply of NAND flash has tightened, which is driving up prices.

The price of DRAM is also going up because of shortages. Memory is a boom-or-bust market and extremely volatile with prices falling drastically when DRAM floods the market.

PC DRAM prices went up by 30 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 compared to the third quarter, TrendForce said in a statement this week.

TrendForce is predicting that DRAM prices may increase by up to 40 percent in the first quarter, due to undersupply. The news isn’t any better looking forward.

“Rising prices are expected for the second quarter as well,” said Avril Wu, research director of DRAMeXchange, which is a part of TrendForce and tracks component pricing.

Cosmic Rays Named As Possible Cause Of Computer Crashes

February 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

When your PC crashes or phone freezes, don’t be so quick to blame the manufacturer. Cosmic rays — or rather the electrically charged particles they generate — may be the real culprit.

While harmless to living organisms, a small number of these particles have enough energy to interfere with the operation of the microelectronic circuitry in our personal devices. It’s called a single-event upset or SEU.

During an SEU, particles alter an individual bit of data stored in a chip’s memory. Consequences can be as trivial as altering a single pixel in a photograph or as serious as bringing down a passenger jet.

An SEU was also blamed for an electronic voting error in Schaerbeekm, Belgium, back in 2003. A bit flip in the electronic voting machine added 4,096 extra votes to one candidate. The issue was noticed only because the machine gave the candidate more votes than were possible.

“This is a really big problem, but it is mostly invisible to the public,” said Bharat Bhuva. Bhuva is a member of Vanderbilt University’s Radiation Effects Research Group, established in 1987 to study the effects of radiation on electronic systems. The group initially focused on military and space applications, but since 2001 has expanded to studying radiation’s effect on consumer electronics.

Bhuva, a professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt, gave a presentation on SEUs Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

Despite some serious examples, SEUs are still fairly rare events. But as the number of transistors being used in new electronic systems increases, so does the probability of an SEU failure on the device level.

Semiconductor manufacturers seem to have caught on to the trend and are working to diminish the interference of cosmic rays. For instance, in 2008, Fujitsu engineers climbed a Hawaiian volcano to better understand how comic rays cause computer errors.

Android Apps Poses Security Risk For Cars

February 20, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Android applications that allow millions of drivers to remotely locate and unlock their vehicles are missing security features that could prevent tampering by hackers.

Researchers from antivirus vendor Kaspersky Lab took seven of the most popular Android apps that accompany connected cars from various manufacturers, and analyzed them from the perspective of a compromised Android device. The apps and manufacturers have not been named.

The researchers looked at whether such apps use any of the available countermeasures that would make it hard for attackers to hijack them when the devices they’re installed on are infected with malware. Other types of applications, such as banking apps, have such protections.

The analysis revealed that none of the tested applications used code obfuscation to make it harder for attackers to reverse-engineer them, and none of them used code integrity checks to prevent malicious manipulation.

Two applications didn’t encrypt the login credentials stored locally and four encrypted only the password. None of the apps checked if the devices they’re running on are rooted, which could indicate that they’re insecure and possibly compromised.

Finally, none of the tested applications used overlay protections to prevent other apps from drawing over their screens. There are malware apps that display fake log-in screens on top of other apps to trick users to expose their log-in credentials.

While compromising connected-car apps might not directly enable theft, it could make it easier for would-be thieves. Most such apps, or the credentials they store, can be used to remotely unlock the vehicle and disable its alarm system.

Also, the risks are not “limited to mere car theft,” the Kaspersky researchers said in a blog post. “Accessing the car and deliberate tampering with its elements may lead to road accidents, injuries, or death.”

While manufacturers are rushing to add smart features to cars that are meant to improve the experience for car owners, they tend to focus more on securing the back-end infrastructure and the communications channels. However, the Kaspersky researchers warn, that client-side code, such as the accompanying mobile apps, should not be ignored as it’s the easiest target for attackers and most likely the most vulnerable spot.

“Being an expensive thing, a car requires an approach to security that is no less meticulous than that of a bank account,” the researchers said.

Microsoft, Tata Motors Announce Strategic Collaboration

February 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Tata Motors Ltd and Microsoft India both announced a strategic collaboration on the technology front to make driving a more personalized experiences for the customers, the companies said in a joint statement.

The first vehicle showcasing the vision of the enhanced driving experiences will be unveiled at the Geneva International Motor show on March 7, they said.

“Using IoT (internet of things), AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning technologies, we will provide vehicle owners in India and across the world a safe, productive and fun driving experience,” Anant Maheshwari, President at Microsoft India, said.

Tata Motors CEO Guenter Butschek said at a press conference that he saw the tie-up creating new revenue opportunities for the company as car buyers increasingly look for value-added services.

Verizon Reportedly Gets Discount On Yahoo Acquisition

February 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Verizon Communications Inc  is close to an updated deal to purchase Yahoo Inc’s core internet business for $250 million to $350 million less than the original agreed price of $4.83 billion, according to a source briefed on the matter.

Since last year, Verizon had been trying to persuade Yahoo to amend the terms of the acquisition agreement to reflect the economic damage from two cyber attacks. A source told Reuters that the deal, which could come as soon as this week, will entail Verizon and Yahoo sharing the liability from potential lawsuits related to the data breaches.

Another person familiar with the situation said the price cut was likely to be around $250 million, a figure that Bloomberg reported earlier on Wednesday.

A representative from Verizon declined to comment. Yahoo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Maybe this isn’t quite as much of a discount as initially thought, but it’s at least something,” said Dave Heger, senior equity analyst at Edward Jones.

Verizon hopes to combine Yahoo’s search, email and messenger assets, as well as advertising technology tools, with its AOL unit, which Verizon bought in 2015 for $4.4 billion. Verizon has been looking to mobile video and advertising for new sources of revenue outside an oversaturated wireless market.

But Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo has been under scrutiny by federal investigators and lawmakers since disclosing the largest known data breach in history in December, months after disclosing a separate hack.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a probe into whether Yahoo should have disclosed the breaches, which occurred in 2013 and 2014, sooner, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal last month.

On Wednesday, Yahoo sent a warning to users whose accounts may have been accessed by intruders between 2015 and 2016, as part of a data security issue related to the breach it disclosed in December. A person familiar with the matter said notifications have gone out to a mostly final list of users.

Oracle Still Going After Google Over Java

February 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Computing

Oracle has decided that it is not going to give up trying to convince the world that Google owes it billions for Android software.

For the last seven years, Google and Oracle have been slugging it out over copyright over Java applets, which Oracle insists are the key to making Android run. It has gone through two federal trials and bounced around at appeals courts, including a brief stop at the US Supreme Court. Oracle has sought as much as $9 billion in the case.

Other than one loss, which was successfully appealed, Google has won. Now Oracle briefs have decided it is time for another round and filed an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that seeks to overturn a federal jury’s decision last year.

In the trial last year in San Francisco, the jury ruled Google’s use of 11,000 lines of Java code was allowed under “fair use” provisions in federal copyright law.

In Oracle’s 155-page appeal on Friday, it called Google’s “copying…classic unfair use” and said “Google reaped billions of dollars while leaving Oracle’s Java business in tatters”.

Oracle’s brief also argues that “When a plagiarist takes the most recognizable portions of a novel and adapts them into a film, the plagiarist commits the ‘classic’ unfair use”.

So all Oracle has to do is prove that Applets are the most recognisable part of Java which has been converted into a new product.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple Finally Overtakes Samsung In Smartphones Sales

February 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has outpaced Samsung Electronics in smartphone sales for the first time in two years, but that victory might just be short-lived.

Samsung sold 76.8 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, giving it a market share of 17.8 percent, but it was just beaten by Apple, which sold 77 million iPhones for a 17.9 percent share, according to figures from market research firm Gartner.

The fourth quarter is usually a strong one for Apple, boosted by holiday sales of the new generation of iPhones it releases each September, said Anshul Gupta, a research director at Gartner.

For Samsung, though, 2016 ended particularly badly, dominated by the fiasco around the recall of its incendiary Galaxy Note7.

Super-phones like the Note7 could have accounted for 10 to 15 percent of Samsung’s smartphone sales in the period before its recall, said Gupta, but Samsung lost more than that: There was also the damage to its brand.

It could bounce back sooner rather than later, though, as it has a new flagship phone coming out at the end of March.

Apple, meanwhile, is expected to wait until September before unveiling new iPhones. This year will mark the iPhone’s 10th anniversary, and the next model is widely expected to be something special, so Apple fans may delay replacing phones until then, said Gupta. That would leave the way clear for Samsung to move back into the lead from this quarter.

That pattern showed up last year too: Although it dominated the fourth quarter, Apple was a distant second over the full year, with market share of just 14.4 percent over the year, far behind Samsung’s 20.5 percent, and the situation was similar the previous year.

 

 

AT&T Has Plans For IoT Network Later This Year

February 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

AT&T is accelerating its planned debuted of LTE-M, an IoT network that’s already being used to track shipping containers and pallets, monitor water use and connect fleets to the internet.

The carrier said Tuesday it will have nationwide LTE-M coverage in the U.S. by the middle of this year, six months ahead of schedule. Previously, AT&T had said LTE-M would cover the U.S. by year’s end.

That means everywhere in the country that AT&T has an LTE network, it will also offer LTE-M. By the end of the year, it will have LTE-M across Mexico too, creating a broad coverage area for businesses that operate on both sides of the border.

LTE-M is one of several LPWANs (low-power, wide-area networks) that are emerging to link sensors and other devices to the internet of things. It’s not as fast as the LTE that smartphones use, but it’s designed to allow for longer battery life, lower cost, smaller parts and better coverage. LTE-M has a top speed of around 1Mbps (bits per second) upstream and downstream and a range of up to 100 kilometers (62 miles), including better penetration through walls.

AT&T is part of a wave of mobile operators considering or rolling out LTE-M. Others include Orange in France and SoftBank in Japan. AT&T launched its first commercial trial of LTE-M last October in San Ramon, California, and has since opened another in Columbus, Ohio.

Several companies are already using the network for enterprise and consumer applications, AT&T said. They include Capstone Metering, a supplier of wireless water meters; RM2, which makes storage pallets with sensors for monitoring inventory; and PepsiCo, which is using LTE-M to collect usage data from soda fountains. Consumers can dispense their own blends of soda from these fountains, and PepsiCo uses sensors to keep the fountains stocked and learn what blends are popular.

There are already several emerging LPWAN systems from mobile operators and other service providers. The growing LoRaWAN, Sigfox and Ingenu technologies come from outside the traditional mobile industry.

LTE-M and another technology, NB-IoT, are based on LTE and are designed to run over carriers’ licensed spectrum. They may be the best options for enterprises concerned about interference and security, Ovum analyst Daryl Schoolar said.

 

T-Mobile Riding High, Adds Customers And Beats Revenue Forecast

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

T-Mobile US Inc, the No.3 U.S. wireless carrier, has reported higher-than-expected quarterly revenue and profit as its promotional offers aided in adding new customers.

T-Mobile had a number of promotional offers in the fourth quarter, including a free iPhone 7 offer with eligible trade-in around Black Friday.

Riding on the success of these offers, the company gained market share from rivals Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Inc and Sprint Corp in an oversaturated U.S. wireless market.

T-Mobile said in January that it added 933,000 postpaid phone subscribers, or those who pay monthly bills, on a net basis, in the three months ended Dec. 31.

Chatter around a deal between T-Mobile and Sprint Corp resurfaced in December after Masayoshi Son, whose SoftBank Group Corp is a majority shareholder in Sprint, pledged a $50 billion investment in the United States.

Asked last week about a renewed merger bid with T-Mobile, Son said he was keeping his options open about Sprint.

T-Mobile’s total revenue jumped 23.4 percent to $10.18 billion.

The company’s net income rose to $390 million, or 45 cents per share, for the quarter from $297 million, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average were expecting a profit of 30 cents per share and revenue of $9.84 billion for the quarter, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

 

Twitter Rolls Back Anti-harassment Fix After Protests

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Twitter rolled back a new fix intended to prevent abuse a few hours after it met with protests, reflecting that the company is still scrambling to find solutions to the problem of harassment on its service, but is willing to make changes quickly in response to its users.

The social network on Monday rolled out a new feature that would ensure that users would not get notified when they are added to a list. “We want you to get notifications that matter. Starting today, you won’t get notified when you are added to a list,” wrote Twitter Safety. One user pointed out that it was critical for people to know if they have been added to a list intended for targets.

“This is blinding the vulnerable,” the user added, suggesting that the correct approach is to allow people to remove themselves from lists or do it upon blocking the owner. Another user asked for a button that prevents users from being added to lists. “I’m on a ton of lists and I don’t want to be on any,” he added.

Ed Ho, vice president of engineering at Twitter, quickly described the move as a “misstep” and said Twitter was reversing the change, while CEO Jack Dorsey said “we’re reverting and debugging what led us here.”

A number of users ridiculed Twitter for even considering the change, with some questioning whether the company understood its own platform and user concerns. Others wanted assurance that the missteps wouldn’t happen again.

Twitter said last month it would be rolling out new features to its service to counter abuse. It did not provide details of the changes but said it would be introducing a number of product changes in the coming days and weeks. Some of the changes would be immediately visible, while others would be more targeted to specific scenarios, the company said. It added that it would be testing, learning and iterating on the changes as it went along.

The company said recently that it is taking steps to identify people who have been permanently suspended and stop them from creating new accounts, with a focus on accounts that are set up only to abuse and harass others. It also said it was working on ‘safe search’ that removes tweets with potentially sensitive content or that come from blocked and muted accounts, besides identifying and collapsing potentially abusive or low-quality Tweet replies.

Apple Joins Wireless Power Consortium

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Apple has joined the consortium responsible for the Qi wireless charging system, heating up rumors that owners of future  iPhones could live tangle-free.

Last week, a financial analyst claimed Apple will release three new iPhones with wireless charging capabilities this year, reviving an on-again, off-again rumor about the next-generation iPhone’s capabilities.

The appearance of Apple’s name on the membership list of the Wireless Power Consortium, Qi’s creator, over the last week adds credence to that rumor. Its name was not on the list cached by Google’s search engine last Tuesday.

“After several years of increasing rumor, Apple’s membership with the Wireless Power Consortium points strongly to the expectation that the next iPhone will include wireless charging technology,” said Vicky Yussuff, an analyst at market watcher IHS Technology.

Don’t expect too much, though: That’s pretty much what IHS analysts said about the last iPhone, too.

In fact, Apple’s membership of the WPC may have nothing to do with phones. The magnetic charging adapter supplied with the Apple Watch will charge Qi devices (although the Watch itself is programmed not to work with just any Qi charger, only those supplied or approved by Apple) so membership may just be a delayed recognition of that usage.

Nine in 10 consumers want wireless charging on their next phone, according to Yussuff. The technology is now so widely adopted that it’s no longer something Apple can ignore, she added.

IHS expects around 350 million wireless-chargeable devices to ship this year, in a market largely driven by Samsung Electronics, which has included the capability in its top-of-the-range phones since the launch of the Galaxy S6 in 2015. Samsung also sells wireless charging covers for the older S4 and S5.

 

Is The iPhone 8 Going Qi?

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Long-standing rumors surrounding the possibility of wireless charging being a hot feature in Apple’s upcoming iPhone 8 this year are now receiving some confirmation, thanks to the company’s recent decision to join the 213-member Wireless Power Consortium group.

Based on the wireless industry group’s website last week, Apple has been officially listed as one of the latest members to take part in and promote the widespread adoption of the Qi wireless interface standard, which has been used for wireless charging across a number of products.

Early last year, we wrote that the company had filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (July 2015) describing a near-field magnetic resonance (NFMR) power supply arranged to provide wireless power to a number of devices over 1 meter in distance. With the basic concept in physics being that the efficiency of power transfer decreases with distance, the company was said to be developing an aluminum casing for its upcoming iPhone devices that would allow RF waves to pass through from the wireless charging receiver and through a window made from a non-conductive material.

Qi wireless charging more likely than long-range RF for upcoming iPhone 8

But with recent developments in the industry, the possibility of long-range RF charging coming to this year’s iPhone now seem more distant as the company is more likely to adopt the Qi inductive coupling method instead. During CES, a source within Apple’s supply chain partnered with Energous, a company that develops RF-based charging solutions, and this was the first evidence that the more long-range solution featuring transmitters for the home, car and office would make its way into the hands of consumers in 2017. Unfortunately, Energous then announced that plans changed after a “key strategic partnership” was made with another partner, which will now be the first to ship the technology inside its own mobile devices.

While it appears Apple was indeed focused on developing a long-range charging method for its mobile devices, some analysts now point out that it needed to bring a practical solution to the market sooner in order to avoid a potential missed feature that has become standard in the Android community for at least 24 months.

“The success of wireless charging adoption from Apple’s competitors is something that Apple can no longer ignore,” says analyst Vicky Yussuff at IHS Technology. “Consumer survey data shows over 90% of consumers want wireless charging on their next device.”

Although Apple already uses the Qi standard in its watch, which was released in Q4 2015, it is unclear whether the upcoming iPhone will use the full specifications of the technology, as its smartwatch currently uses a modified version that only works with its own chargers.

Nevertheless, the fact that Apple is now an active member of the Wireless Power Consortium allows it to participate and contribute knowledge and ideas to a community responsible for developing some of the world’s more readily available wireless charging standards. The company says “it looks forward to working together with the WPC and its members,” according to a statement given to BusinessInsider.

Courtesy-Fud

Apple’s iCloud Retained Deleted Browser History

February 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Apple’s iCloud appears to have been retaining users’ deleted internet browsing histories, including records over a year old.

Moscow-based forensics firm Elcomsoft noticed it was able to pull supposedly deleted Safari browser histories from iCloud accounts, such as the date and time the site was visited and when the record was deleted.

“In fact, we were able to access records dated more than one year back,” wrote Elcomsoft’s CEO Vladimir Katalov in a blog post.

Users can set iCloud to store their browsing history so that it’s available from all connected devices. The researchers found that when a user deletes that history, iCloud doesn’t actually erase it but keeps it in a format invisible to the user.

The company discovered the issue with its Phone Breaker product, a forensic tool designed to streamline the extracting files from an iCloud account.

Keeping a copy of a user’s browser history can certainly be “invaluable for surveillance and investigations,” Katalov said. But it’s unclear if Apple knew that its iCloud service was storing the deleted records.

On Thursday, Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment but since Elcomsoft’s blog post went live, Apple appears to be “purging” older browser history records from iCloud, the forensics firm said.

“For what we know, they could be just moving them to other servers, making deleted records inaccessible from the outside,” the blog post said. But now only deleted records as old as only two weeks can be extracted, the company said.

Elcomsoft has previously found that Apple was saving users’ call history to iCloud, but offering no explicit way to turn the synching on or off. At the time, Apple responded that its call synching function was designed for convenience, allowing customers to return phone calls from any device.

For users concerned about their privacy, Elcomsoft said that they can opt-out of syncing their Safari browsing history from iCloud.

FBI Used Malware To Hack Computers In 120 Countries

February 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Around The Net

Privacy advocates have alleged in court that an FBI hacking operation to bust up a child pornography site was unconstitutional and violated international law.

That’s because the operation involved the FBI hacking 8,700 computers in 120 countries, based on a single warrant, they said.

“How will other countries react to the FBI hacking in their jurisdictions without prior consent?” wrote Scarlet Kim, a legal officer with U.K.-based Privacy International.

On Friday, that group, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, filed briefs in a lawsuit involving the FBI’s hacking operation against Playpen. The child pornography site was accessible through Tor, a browser designed for anonymous web surfing. But in 2014, the FBI managed to take it over.

In a controversial move, the agency then decided to use the site to essentially infect visitors with malware as a way to track them down.

As a result, the FBI is prosecuting hundreds who were found visiting the site, but it also happened to hack into computers from 120 countries.

On Friday, the three privacy groups filed briefs in a case involving Alex Levin, a suspect in the FBI’s Playpen investigation who’s appealing the way the agency used malware to gather evidence against him.

Privacy International claims that the warrant the FBI used to conduct the hacking is invalid. This is because the U.S. was overstepping its bounds by conducting an investigation outside its borders without the consent of affected countries, the group said.

According to Privacy International, the case also raises important questions: What if a foreign country had carried out a similar hacking operation that affected U.S. citizens? Would the U.S. welcome this?

The EFF and ACLU also claim that the FBI’s warrant was invalid, but they cite the U.S. Constitution, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches.

“Here, on the basis of a single warrant, the FBI searched 8,000 computers located all over the world,” EFF attorney Mark Rumold wrote in a blog post. “If the FBI tried to get a single warrant to search 8,000 houses, such a request would unquestionably be denied.”

A key concern is that a warrant to hack into so many computers will set a precedent. “Even serious crimes can’t justify throwing out our basic constitutional principles,” Rumold said.

Verizon Resurrects Unlimited Data Plan

February 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Mobile

Verizon Communications Inc reintroduced an unlimited data plan on Monday, its first in more than five years, in its latest effort to lure customers as competition rises between network carriers.

The introductory plan, announced on Sunday, will give unlimited data to customers on smartphones and tablets on its 4G LTE network. It comes days after competitor Sprint Corp introduced a new unlimited data plan of its own.

The unlimited option appears to be a change in direction for Verizon after one of the company’s top executives said last month it was not looking at unlimited products when asked by analysts whether Verizon needed to be more aggressive in the market.

“We constantly look at… what’s out there. Unlimited is one of the things that some of our competition has at this point in time. That’s not something we feel the need to do,” Matthew Ellis, Verizon’s chief financial officer, told analysts during an earnings call on Jan. 24.

“But as I say, we continually monitor the market and we will see where we head in the future,” he added.

Verizon’s unlimited plan is $80 per month for unlimited data, talk and text for the first line with paper-free billing and autopay, and $45 per line for four lines. The company stopped offering unlimited data plans for most customers in 2011.

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