Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–August 11, 2014

Parents, Put Down The Cellphones
Consider the results of a March study by researchers from Boston Medical Center who carefully observed caregivers and children at fast-food restaurants. Out of 55 caregivers, 40 used their mobile devices, and their absorption was such that their “primary engagement was with the device, rather than the child.” In many cases, the caregivers expressed irritation when the children tried to get their attention. One observer watched a woman push a small boy away as he took her face in his hands in an attempt to get her to look up from her tablet. Story by Jane Scott for the Washington Post.

Obama Signs Bill “Unlocking” Cell Phones
President Barack Obama signed a bipartisan bill into law Friday that aims to make it easier for consumers to change their cell phone service providers without paying for a new phone. The bill, known as the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Act, reverses a decision made by the Library of Congress two years ago that said it was illegal for consumers to “unlock” their cell phones for use on other networks without their service provider’s permission. That means that providers like AT&T or Verizon could legally keep a consumer’s phone “locked,” in which case the person would face large costs switching carriers. Story by Abigail Bessler for CBS News.

U.S. Moves Closer to Formal Rules Barring In-Flight Cellphone Calls
The U.S. government is getting closer to its final word on whether to allow cellphone calls on airplanes. And that word appears to be “no.” Airlines, meanwhile, are pressing for the final decision to be left to them. The Department of Transportation plans to pursue the next step in what could lead to a formal ban on in-flight calls, the agency’s general counsel Kathryn Thomson, said in a speech last week. Story by Doug Cameron for The Wall Street Journal.

Hilton Using Smartphones to Revolutionize Check-In Process
Hilton Worldwide is making some revolutionary changes in the way hotels operate through the utilization of smartphones. By the end of 2014, Hilton will soon allow guests in their 4,000 properties to select their rooms on their smartphones based on a digital floorplan of the hotel. In addition, the hotel chain will enable guests to go through the complete check-in process on their smartphones. All guests will have to do is pick up their key when they arrive. By the end of 2016, the hotel chain plans to launch a program allowing guests to use their smartphones as a room key. Story by Natalie Rutledge for SaveOnPhone.com.

When Debt Collectors Robocalls Illegally Hijack Your Cell Phone
Sixty-eight percent of cell phone owners receive at least some unwanted sales calls, according to Pew Research, with a quarter of them reporting that it happens several times a week, and 34 percent say they get calls for collection of debt they don’t owe. Even when those badgering calls do get the right number, the calls to cell phones are still illegal under the federal law once the recipient asks for them to stop, and suing robocalling companies for unwanted solicitations has become more popular. Story by Matt Gutman, Sarah Kolinovsky and Lauren Effron for ABC News.

Putting Cellphones Out of Sight Can Enhance In-Person Conversations
Can the mere presence of a mobile device during a face-to-face conversation affect the quality of social interaction? Absolutely, according to a Virginia Tech Study. Research found that even when not in active use or buzzing, beeping, ringing, or flashing, a mobile device represents a wider social network and a portal to an immense compendium of information. In the presence of mobile devices, people have the constant urge to seek out information, check for communication, and direct their thoughts to other people and worlds. Story in Phys Org.

Arrival of Chinese Phone Brands Sets Stage for Price War in India
Indian cellphone makers that made their names undercutting the prices of big global brands like Samsung Electronics and Apple are now being beaten at their own game as Chinese brands land in India. Micromax Informatics Ltd. and Karbonn Mobiles came out of nowhere in India to dominate the world’s second-biggest telecommunications market by the number of handsets sold. But they are stuck in a pricing and features war for Indian buyers of low-cost phones, as Chinese cell-phone startups like Xiaomi Inc., Oppo Mobile Telecommunications Corp. and Gionee Communication Equipment Co., set their sights on the cost-but-not-brand conscious Indian consumers. Story by R. Jai Krishna for The Wall Street Journal.

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.