Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–August 17, 2015

Cell Phone Contracts are Dead
Cell phones may have only hit the mainstream in the late ’90s, but it seems like the two-year contract has been around forever. In fact, “that’s just the way it is” has been the standard response to customer complaints for years, as if the two-year plan were an unassailable pillar of the Constitution, natural law, or gravity. But that’s all over now. T-Mobile phased out its two-year contracts a few years ago. AT&T followed suit on June 1. Then last week, Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, announced the end of its mobile contracts, electing to shift to a month-to-month system, with tiered pricing based on the amount of data customer uses. This shift has some interesting implications for the future of phones. Here’s what you can expect from the post-contract landscape. Story by Ethan Wolff-Mann for Time.

Here’s Why Samsung’s New Mobile Payment Feature Could Beat Apple Pay
Samsung Pay, the mobile payment feature Samsung unveiled, has the potential to become the dominant mobile wallet in the US. While Samsung Pay offers an on-phone user experience similar to that of Apple Pay and Android Pay, it boasts a key advantage that could help it outpace its competitors in terms of payment volume in the near- to medium-term. Story by John Heggestuen for Business Insider.

Underwear Blocks Wi-Fi and Cell Phone Radiation
British scientist and entrepreneur Joseph Perkins has finally delivered his Wireless Armour line of underwear, designed to protect men from the potentially harmful effects of electromagnetic wireless radiation. A recent U.K. study suggests sperm mobility drops by around 8 percent when men are regularly exposed to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones in close proximity. Your front pocket, say. The Wireless Armour line of underwear–available for online purchase now–aims to protect the wearer by way of a mesh of silver threads woven into the fabric. The silver disperses incoming electromagnetic radiation, protecting all the relevant parts in the anatomical issue at hand. Independent testing concludes that the Wireless Armour design blocks upwards of 99 percent of all incoming cellular and Wi-Fi radiation. Story by Glenn McDonald for Discovery News.

Do Police Need a Warrant to See Where a Phone Is?
Right now, many Americans generate a detailed database of their whereabouts over time-as they move throughout the day from their workplace to their doctor, from their own house to their partner’s-that they do not see or control. It’s called “cell-site location information,” or CSLI, and it can be accessed by local, state, or federal law enforcement without a warrant. In other words, if the government wants to know your every location for the past year, they never need to prove they have probable cause to suspect you of a crime to a judge. Does this practice violate the Constitution? Right now, no. But in the past two weeks, its critics have scored some of their first major victories in court. Story by Robinson Meyer for Next Gov.

With New Jumbo Smartphones, Samsung Gets in Ahead of New iPhones
Samsung has unveiled two new Android smartphones with jumbo screens as it seeks to recapture some of the sales lost to Apple after larger iPhones came out last year. Samsung said Thursday that the new Galaxy Note 5 and S6 Edge Plus will start shipping Aug. 21. Usually, Note phones don’t come out until well after Apple’s new iPhone models in September. The timing reflects a changing smartphone landscape. IDC analyst Ramon Llamas said Samsung needed to beat Apple to the punch, or risk seeing its products drowned out by all the attention on the iPhone. Story by the Associated Press.

HTC, Lenovo Announce Job Cuts as Losses Mount in Smartphone Market Battle
HTC will trim 15 percent of its workforce while Lenovo will chop 3,200 non-manufacturing roles. Both companies cited streamlining of operations and cost savings as factors driving the decisions. HTC has fallen hard in the last few years as Apple and Samsung have essentially taken over the mobile phone market. The company is currently trading below the value of its cash on hand, meaning that investors believe it has no intrinsic value. Lenovo likewise didn’t specify from which unit it would cull jobs, but its mobile business group, which now includes Motorola, will undergo restructuring after posting a pre-tax loss of $292 million in Lenovo’s first fiscal quarter of 2015. The company is currently sitting on unsold smartphone inventory worth $300 million, which it will write off. Story in Apple Insider.

Social Networks Know What’s Next for Mobile Payments
Mobile payments are quickly becoming an integral part of consumers’ daily lives. In order for businesses to stay competitive, it’s important for them to stay on top of the trends in the industry. Social media is an important way to accomplish that. It has emerged as a major influence on the mobile payment processing landscape. Payment service providers, financial institutions and merchants are monitoring online conversations and developing processes and technology based on what consumers want in terms of mobile payment experiences. So what are consumers talking about online and how will those conversations influence the future of the payments industry? Story by Tami Cohorst for Payments Source.

Sprint Tries to Counter Mobile Without Borders with its Open World Offer
Following Verizon’s decision to borrow some Un-carrier ideas for its new rate plans, it looks like Sprint may have done the same. Sprint has announced Open World, it’s new international add-on that’s a bit reminiscent of Mobile Without Borders. Open World gives you free unlimited talk and text when you’re in Canada and Mexico as well as Mexico, Canada, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Paraguay. You’ll also get 1GB of 3G data for free, but after that you’ll be billed $30 per GB in KB increments. If you’re in the US, Open World offers free calling to Canada and Mexico and free texting. If you want to make a call to someone outside of Canada and Mexico, rates start at $0.05 per minute to Latin America, the Dominican Republic, and more than 180 other countries. Story by Alex Wagner for TmoNews.

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.