Weekly Cell Phone News in Review—April 10, 2017

Comcast Will Launch $65 Per Month Unlimited Mobile Service Later This Year
After years of discussion, Comcast is finally getting ready to launch its wireless phone service. The service will be called Xfinity Mobile, and it’s supposed to launch sometime in the near future. It isn’t going to be widely available, however. Xfinity Mobile will only be available to Comcast’s existing customers – the company’s goal here is to build an even bigger bundle for existing TV, landline, and internet subscribers. Most Comcast customers will be able to subscribe to an Xfinity Mobile plan with unlimited data for $65 per month per line, but customers with some of the more expensive X1 TV plans will be able to get it for only $45 per month. Comcast will also offer a pay-as-you-go service for $12 per gigabyte. Those prices are slightly cheaper than typical wireless plans, and Comcast is hoping a few other perks will draw customers in: it won’t charge arbitrary line access fees; it’ll let families have some phones on the unlimited plan and others on the pay-as-you-go plan; and it’ll let pay-as-you-go customers switch in the middle of a month over to an unlimited plan, without penalty. It’s also offering 24/7 support over text message. Story by Jacob Kastrenakes for The Verge.

Bill Would Stop Warrantless Border Device Searches of US Citizens
A new bipartisan bill would prevent Americans’ electronic devices from being searched at the border without a warrant, a response to an increase in such electronic searches. The bill was introduced Tuesday by a pair of Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate. Privacy hawks Sens. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, and Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, introduced it in the Senate, and Reps. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado, and Blake Farenthold, a Republican from Texas, sponsored it in the House. The bill would require a warrant before agents could search Americans’ phones, laptops and other devices at entries to the US, including airports and border crossings. Story by Tal Kopan for CNN.

Worldwide Mobile Phone Spending Flirts with $400 Billion
Worldwide spending on mobile phones will reach nearly $399.5 billion this year, a 4.3-percent increase, as shoppers make more room in their budgets for premium devices, according to Gartner’s latest analysis of the device market. Caught in this phone upgrade cycle, buyers will spend over $423 billion by 2019, predicts the research firm. Last year, Chinese vendors Huawei, Oppo and BBK helped raise the Average Selling Price of basic phones by 13.5 percent. This year, they’re expected to increase prices by another four percent on average. Story by Pedro Hernandez for Datamation.

EU Parliament Backs June Date to End Mobile Roaming Charges
The EU will abolish mobile phone roaming charges from June 15 following a vote in the European Parliament on Thursday. MEPs backed a deal between operators and European Union member states that will mean the end of extra charges when people use their phones abroad in other EU states. From mid-June, EU citizens will no longer pay extra charges for calls, SMS messages or internet outside their home countries, when travelling in the EU. Operators will still have to pay a charge. Story in The Local.

Mobile Phones Improve Outcomes for HIV-Positive People Across the Globe
The use of mobile technology shows great promise for those who are HIV-positive, especially among those who have limited resources and those in poor areas of the world, according to a new paper published by researchers at the University at Albany. Known as mobile health interventions (mHealth), such tools include dosing reminders, data about medication intake and questions about care communicated electronically, all of which result in better feedback and improved communication between patients and their care providers. These technologies have already proven to be effective for other patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, tuberculosis and malaria. The excitement around mHealth initiatives stems from mobile technology’s ability to address perennial barriers to health care access like cost, infrastructure and accessibility. Story in the Medical Xpress.

One in Five Mobile Phones Sold Across Borders is a Fake
Nearly 25% of all the video-game products and 20% of the mobile phones shipped  internationally are counterfeit. These goods are part of the more than $140-billion trade in fake information and communication technology (ICT) products, according to a recent report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Counterfeit goods include those that infringe trademarks or patents. The OECD found that 6.5% of the world’s ICT products traded across borders are counterfeit, compared to 2.5% of all traded goods. The data is based on about a half-million global customs seizures from 2011-2013. Story by Dan Kopf for Quartz.

How Cheap Smartphones Leave the Poor More Vulnerable
When it comes to smartphones, not all users are created equal. Low- and middle-income people around the world mostly rely on affordable Android devices to communicate and share information, but cheaper phones often leave users more vulnerable to online threats and hacking. According to Strategy Analytics, devices running the Android operating system account for about 88 percent of the global market, with iPhones representing almost all of the remaining 12 percent. But not all Android devices are created equal, either: Models that are made and controlled directly by Google, like Nexus and Pixel smartphones, have significantly stronger protection against hacking than devices made by manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, Sony, and Xiaomi. They are also much more expensive, about on par with iPhones. As a result, wealthier users who can afford to purchase new high-end devices every few years are protected from many threats that the majority of users-who use cheaper or used models, and don’t replace them as often-are vulnerable to. This means that the people who can least afford it are the most vulnerable to fraud, identity theft, predatory scams, cyberstalking and harassment, and other harms a person can suffer when their digital privacy is violated. Story by Nathalie Maréchal for Slate.

Qualcomm: First 5G Smartphones by Mid-2019
The first smartphones featuring 5G technology are likely headed for the market in just over two years, Qualcomm says. When they appear, they’ll likely feature dual connectivity with an always-on connection to 4G LTE networks as well. Deep in the middle of testing, Qualcomm expects to start supplying phone makers with its 5G modem technology (its Snapdragon X50) in the second half of this year, with device testing to come next year. That modem supports MIMO antenna setups and adaptive beamforming and beam tracking. The 4G connection will keep a user online even if the high-band millimeter-wave signal drops, and it will differ from current connection-switching from 4G to 3G in case of fallback needs. Story by Jason Aycock for Seeking Alpha.

Trump Administration Considers Far-Reaching Steps for ‘Extreme Vetting’
Visitors to the U.S. could be forced to provide cellphone contacts and social-media passwords and answer questions about their ideology, according to Trump administration officials, measures that could intrude into the lives of millions of foreigners. The changes being considered could apply to visitors from America’s closest allies as well as other nations and include subjecting more visa applicants to intense security reviews. Together, they would amount to the “extreme vetting” President Donald Trump promised as a candidate to guard against possible terror attacks. Story by Laura Meckler for The Wall Street Journal.

Scientists Have Invented a Smartphone-Screen Material Designed to Repair its Own Scratches
If you drop your phone and the screen shatters, you usually have two options: Get it repaired or replace the phone entirely. Chemists at the University of California at Riverside have invented what could become a third option: a phone screen material that can heal itself. The researchers conducted several tests on the material, including its ability to repair itself from cuts and scratches. After they tore the material in half, it automatically stitched itself back together in under 24 hours. The material, which can stretch to 50 times its original size, is made of a stretchable polymer and an ionic salt. It features a special type of bond called an ion-dipole interaction, which is a force between charged ions and polar molecules. This means that when the material breaks or has a scratch, the ions and molecules attract to each other to heal the material. Story by Leanna Garfield for Business Insider.

About John Oldshue

John Oldshue is the creator of SaveOnPhone.com. He worked for over 15 years in television and won an Emmy award for his reporting. He covers long distance and cell phone topics for SaveOnPhone.