Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–April 21, 2014

‘Kill Switch’ May be Standard on U.S. Phones in 2015
The “kill switch,” a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015, according to a pledge backed by most of the mobile world’s major players. Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, along with the five biggest cellular carriers in the United States, are among those that have signed on to a voluntary program announced Tuesday by the industry’s largest trade group. Advocates say the feature would deter thieves from taking mobile devices by rendering phones useless while allowing people to protect personal information if their phone is lost or stolen. Its proponents include law enforcement officials concerned about the rising problem of smartphone theft. Story by Doug Gross for CNN.

Samsung’s War at Home
Activists have discovered 58 cases of leukemia and other blood-related cancers across several Samsung plants. The main goal for the movement is to wrest compensation for cancer-stricken workers from a Korean government insurance fund. People such as Hwang and the filmmakers are pushing a conversation into mainstream Korean culture about some of the costs of the country’s miraculous economic rise, which happened in large part on the shoulders of Samsung and the rest of the technology industry, global symbols of pride for many Koreans. Story by Cam Simpson for Bloomberg Businessweek.

Smuggled Cellphone Use a Growing Concern for U.S. Prisons
Cellphones smuggled into prisons by corrupt guards, concealed in food containers or hurled over security fences are an increasing worry for law enforcement as prisoners use them to intimidate witnesses, direct drug deals and plan escapes. States are taking a variety of steps to crack down on prison cellphone possession, starting with passing laws that make it a crime. In addition to using metal detectors, X-ray body scanners, pat downs and WiFi signal searches, many enlist police dogs trained to sniff out phones. Story by Colleen Jenkins for Reuters.

Cell Phone Search Case is Easy Call for Supreme Court
Later this month, the court will doff their robes and don their scuba gear to dive to the bottomless depths of the Fourth Amendment and determine whether police can search your mobile phone without a warrant, upon arresting you. The law has permitted police searches of wallets, calendars, address books and diaries at the time of arrest, “primarily to ensure the defendant is not armed and to secure evidence that could otherwise be destroyed.” But two defendants maintain that police and prosecutors overstepped those powers when they searched the defendants’ cell phones, and used digital information gleaned, without warrant, to convict them. My smartphone has become my life’s locker, my attic and basement storage, a portal to my effects, the virtual home that the Framers sought to protect. I don’t want anybody rifling through my books, correspondence, papers, documents and other personal data unless they possess a warrant issued “upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be  seized,” to pinch the text of the Fourth Amendment. Story by Jack Shafer for Reuters.

Why Hands-Free Cell Phones Are Not Safer
More than 30 studies show hands-free devices are no safer than handheld as the brain remains distracted by the cell phone conversation, according to the safety group. Of the poll participants who admitted to using hands-free devices, 70 percent said they do so for safety reasons. Currently, no state or municipality has passed a law banning hands-free use, but 12 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning handheld cell phone use while driving. More vehicles are now equipped with dashboard infotainment systems that allow drivers to make hands-free calls as well as send text messages, email and update social media statuses. The NSC poll found that 53 percent of respondents believe hands-free devices must be safe to use if they are built into vehicles. Story in the Insurance Journal.

Smart Phone Thefts Rose to 3.1 Million Last Year
About 3.1 million American consumers were victims of smart phone theft in 2013, Consumer Reports projects, based on our latest nationally representative survey of adult Internet users. That’s nearly double the number we previously projected had been stolen during 2012. The survey also projects that 1.4 million smart phones were lost and never recovered last year. Given how much personal information these devices contain—from photos, contacts, and e-mail accounts to social-networks, shopping, and banking apps–it’s understandable that you’d freak out if either misfortune happened to you. Still, there are steps you can take on any phone to guard against thieves. Story by Donna Tapellini for Consumer Reports.

StoreDot Recharges Cell Phone Batteries in 30 Seconds
StoreDot is developing a phone charger that could recharge a smartphone battery in just 30 seconds. The prototype was revealed at Microsoft’s Think Next conference in Tel Aviv. At the moment, the charger is about the size of a laptop charger, but the goal is to shrink it to the size of a cell phone. StoreDot uses bio-organic raw materials so it’s friendly to the environment. The developers are aiming to set a $30 price for the device, making it affordable for just about any smartphone user. Story by Justin Hefner for SaveOnPhone.com.

Sprint Launches New Phone for Kids Ages 5 and Up
Since mobile phones became mainstream, many parents have considered whether it is appropriate to give their child a cell phone, in case of an emergency. Sprint announced on Friday that they’ve now come up with a solution for this issue. The phone company launched the WeGo phone on Friday, a $120 starter phone designed for children ages 5 to 12. This new device, which is water-resistant and durable enough to withstand at 12-foot-drop, is reportedly very simple to use. On the very top of the phone is a tethered string that, once pulled, sets off a loud panic alarm and an emergency text to the parents’ phones. Story by Samantha Blake for ChristianToday.

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.