Vine's iPhone app is getting some major speed upgrades today. With its latest update, Vine will now preload videos even before you launch the app, which also makes some videos available when you're offline. Yes, that means you'll actually be able to check out Vines even when you're on the subway. To help make all of that possible, the company is now moving over to smaller video sizes (likely due to better compression), and it's implemented network caching, which stores videos for offline viewing. Specifically, the Vine app will now preload videos from your timeline and the Explore section, as well as your activity notifications. And yes, Android fans, a similar update is coming your way soon.

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American phone carriers are supposed to keep 911 lines up and running as long as possible, and Verizon is learning that the hard way. It's paying $3.4 million after the FCC determined that it fell short of obligations when an outage left 750,000 Californians without emergency calls for six hours. The settlement also asks Verizon to clean up its act: it has to do better jobs of both protecting against outages and speeding up its repair times when things go horribly wrong. Big Red won't be reeling from the blow given that it makes billions in profit every quarter, but the odds are that it would rather give you better 911 reliability than pay millions more the next time network problems strike.

[Image credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo]

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Most of John Legere's time spent on stage dealt with T-Mobile's bid to play nice with businesses, but average consumers just got a few bones here, too. First up is Carrier Freedom, a new spin on the company's Contract Freedom initiative that'll see T-Mobile pay not just your early termination fees, but remaining payments on your phone if you're stuck in a plan like AT&T's Jump or Verizon's Edge. As long as you owe your current carrier $650 or less, you're golden. That's solid news for new, would-be T-Mobile customers, but Legere outed what he calls the "Un-contract" for customers who already bleed magenta. If you've already landed yourself one of T-Mobile's cushy promotional plans, congratulations -- they're going permanent as of March 22.

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The last few times T-Mobile's CEO went off on an Uncarrier spree, he revealed a way to bank the data people paid for but didn't use, and eased up its credit requirements for new phone buyers. Now, at a cozy studio space in New York City, John Legere has a new Uncarrier 9.0 initiative to show off and it's a little different than what we're used to: It's meant to make pairing businesses with T-Mobile service less of a pain in the ass than it normally is.

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I'm a certified germaphobe. In clinical terms, that makes me one of the 3.3 million Americans who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Being at an event like SXSW where about 33,000 of my fellow digital comrades are coexisting in very public spaces, I'm always worried about keeping myself and my gadgets clean, especially my phone and laptop. And with good reason: scientists found that cell phones carry ten times more disease-causing bacteria than most toilet seats. So, when I heard 3M was on the ground at SXSW testing out how dirty people's phones were at its "LifeLab," I had to check it out.

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HTC's two-toned M9 hasn't landed in the US yet, but the company's already champing at the bit to give you more reasons to buy one. Just as earlier reports suggested, HTC is fleshing out its Advantage program with a little something called "Uh Oh Protection," and it's a little more impressive than that tongue-in-cheek name implies. Long story short, if you crack the phone's Gorilla Glass-swathed screen, take it for a swim in the Pacific or pledge allegiance to another carrier within your first year of ownership, HTC will overnight you precisely one replacement unit totally gratis. On the off-chance that your M9 survives that first year without incident, you'll get $100 to apply toward the purchase of a new One down the road.

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Virgin Media Access To Sky Sports App

As part of its tie-up with Sky, Virgin Media has been letting subscribers use their logins to access Sky Sports and Sky Movies. Apple users gained access to both services in August last year, while Android device owners have had to make do with Sky's movie streaming app. Today, the cable giant announced that it's finally completing its Android rollout by granting customers access to the Sky Sports app. Like the other services, users need to have already signed up for the TV package, but if that prerequisite has been fulfilled then Sky Sports 1 to 5, Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports News HQ can be streamed right away.

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Like a dozing teenager promising to take out the trash, Lenovo's been pledging to build a Windows Phone handset since November 2011. Microsoft, like a patient parent trying to motivate its offspring, has now tried to inspire its partner by giving Lenovo a very public deadline. In a post on the Microsoft Blog, Terry Myerson has revealed that Lenovo will launch its first Windows Phone handset by the mid-year of 2015. The one-line announcement was buried deep in a story about Windows 10 upgrades, but there's a sting in the tail for expectant westerners. Unfortunately, the devices will only be available on China Mobile, but we can always hope that Motorola might see what its new owner is doing and take the hint.

[Image Credit: Microsoft China]

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Moto X and E

Want to buy a smartphone for yourself, but also need to snag a cheap phone for family (or, let's be honest, a backup for yourself)? Motorola might have you covered. It just kicked off an unusual promotion that gives you a free 3G version of the new Moto E when you buy a Moto X Pure Edition. That's not so hot if you insist on LTE data for every device, but it's a no-brainer if you were either set on getting a Moto X or don't relish the idea of splurging on two phones at once. Don't spend long deciding what to do, though -- Motorola is only running the promo through March 24th.

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Using Facebook Messenger to chat amongst your pals? Well, now you can employ that same app to send funds, too. After hints dropped last fall, the social network announced its tool that sends money inside Messenger would roll out in the US in the months to come. To send a few bucks to someone who grabbed lunch when your forgot your debit card, just hit the appropriately-labeled "$" icon, enter the amount and hit pay. The currency is transferred immediately, but it'll take a couple of days to show up in the recipient's bank account -- similar to a regular ol' deposit.

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The history behind Nintendo's flip-flop on mobile gaming

Did you hear the one about Nintendo "never" putting its content on mobile platforms? About how Nintendo makes its own hardware specifically intended to cater to its software? About how it would dilute those "brands" (think: Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong) to put them on hardware other than Nintendo's?

Clearly Nintendo isn't so worried about that, as it announced plans last evening to work with Japan mobile game giant DeNA on moving its many brands over to mobile. Or, as Nintendo describes the relationship: a "business and capital alliance to develop and operate new game apps for smart devices and build a new multi-device membership service for consumers worldwide." Sounds like a blast!

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AWXI - Wrap Party - Wiz Khalifa In Concert

In an effort to better compete with a juggernaut like Spotify, Rhapsody is using one of the world's most popular social networks to showcase and promote its music-streaming service. Today, at SXSW 2015, Rhapsody announced that it's bringing more than 30 million songs to Twitter, allowing users of the microblogging platform to streams songs directly from it -- for free. The audio-subscription service is using Twitter Cards to let people stream and share their favorite tunes, regardless of whether or not they have a paid Rhapsody account. So, what's the catch? It's simple: Rhapsody's hoping that those who see these audio-embedded tweets, on iOS or Android, will want to hear more and end up on a landing page that's set to offer a free trial.

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Google is now reviewing apps before they reach the Play Store

Although Google has tightened app policies on the Play Store over the years, the company thinks it can do more to protect users. One way to do that is to crack down on the amount of malware and bad apps on its marketplace, so it's begun reviewing apps before they become available to download. The new policy, which is similar to Apple's approach on the App Store, has been in effect for a couple of months and uses a mix of algorithms and human intervention to weed out rogue apps.

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Microsoft Band

You no longer have to head to a Microsoft Store in the US to put the Band on your wrist. Microsoft's smart wearable is now available through Amazon, Best Buy and Target in the country at the usual $200 asking price, and it'll go on sale in the UK on April 15th for £170. Fitness-minded Brits can pre-order today, with Amazon, Curry's PC World, Dixons Travel, Harrods and O2 all promising to carry stock. And you won't have to rush quite so quickly to get a Band this time around -- the crew in Redmond is planning both more frequent shipments and larger supplies in each batch, so shortages won't be as common.

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Smash Bros.-themed 3DS XL

Despite denying it would ever do such a thing, Nintendo will start creating new games for mobile devices via a partnership with developer DeNA. The emphasis is on the word "new" -- you won't necessarily be getting Super Mario Bros. ports on your Android smartphone, for instance. Instead, the companies said "only new original games optimized for smart device functionality will be created, rather than porting games created specifically for the Wii U home console or the Nintendo 3DS portable system." In other words, it looks like Nintendo has relented to investors who said it's not profiting enough from its valuable intellectual property, and you may soon see its universe of characters pop up in Candy Crush-style mobile games.

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