Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–August 18, 2014

California Legislature Passes ‘Kill Switch’ Cell Phone Bill
California would become the first state in the country to require “kill switches” on smartphones that prompt consumers to activate the antitheft technology under a bill passed by the state Legislature on Monday and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown. The increasing number of smartphone thefts in California prompted the bill by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who said consumers would have more control over their personal information if their device is lost or stolen. The antitheft technology, often referred to as a “kill switch,” allows the owner of a smartphone to remotely render it inoperable, which law enforcement officials said would deter thieves who target the devices. Story by Melody Gutierrez for SF Gate.

Children Face the Highest Health Risk From Cell Phones
The potential harm from microwave radiation (MWR) emitted by wireless devices, particularly for children and unborn babies, is the highlight of a new review. Children and unborn babies face the highest risk for neurologic and biologic damage that results from MWR emitted by wireless devices, according to Morgan and colleagues. The rate of absorption is higher in children than adults because their brain tissues are more absorbent, their skulls are thinner, and their relative size is smaller. The fetus is particularly vulnerable because MWR exposure can result in degeneration of the protective myelin sheath that surrounds brain neurons, they report. Story by Roxanne Nelson for MedScape.

3 Disappointing Limitations to the ‘Unlocking’ Cell Phones Bill
The core law that made cell-phone unlocking illegal in the first place, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) meant to help protect software patents and other intellectual property, is still very much in place. All Obama did–granted, with the support of both houses of Congress–was to pass a very specific exemption. There are still three limitations to the measure: It could be temporary. Some phones still not compatible with some networks. Passing a permanent law could be very difficult. Story by Michael del Castillo for UpStart Business Journal.

Cell Phones Can Be Charged Using Sound
Soon you can use traffic noise, music, chants from a football ground and even your own voice to charge your cell phone. Scientists from Queen Mary University of London and Nokia have created an energy–harvesting prototype (a nanogenerator) that could be used to charge a cell phone using everyday background noise–such as traffic, music, and our own voices. Story in The Hindu.

Will Employers Soon Offer Smartphone Breaks?
There have long been debates on whether employers should offer smoke breaks to their workers, and many do in order to keep up company morale. What if the same theory applied to smartphone breaks? According to a new study from Kansas State University, that may not be such a bad idea. Sooyeol Kim, a doctoral student at KSU, conducted a study on the impact of smartphone microbreaks on working individuals. He assessed the day-to-day activities of 72 full-time workers and found they spent, on average, 22 minutes of their workdays on their smartphones. Those who were able to take quick breaks during their work days to check their phones ended up being much happier at the end of the day. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Lenovo Takes On Apple, Samsung in Smartphones
Lenovo is on a fast track to become a significant competitor in smartphones–not just in China but also overseas, taking on Samsung and Apple. Already the world’s largest personal-computer maker by shipments, the Chinese company has made significant progress in smartphones. In the second quarter, Lenovo not only became the No. 1 smartphone maker in China, overtaking Samsung, but was the No. 4 vendor by shipments world-wide, according to research firm IDC. Analysts predict Lenovo could become an even bigger player after it completes its acquisition of Google’s Motorola Mobility handset unit, which the Chinese company agreed to buy for $2.91 billion earlier this year. Story by Juro Osawa for The Wall Street Journal.

People in Emerging Markets Prefer Big Smartphones
A new report from reputed market research firm Jana suggests that consumers in emerging markets favor smartphones with a screen that is at least five inches in size. What factors motivate this lust for big phones? In emerging markets a device is an all-in-one entertainment system for many. Whether it is watching videos, surfing the Web, looking at photos or just playing games, a larger screen makes all of these activities more enjoyable. Story by Jon Russell for The Next Web.

The $25 Nokia 130 Proves Microsoft’s Not Done with Dumbphones
Microsoft just pulled back the curtain on what may be the dumbest of dumbphones: the Nokia 130, a $25/?19 device that makes phone calls, fires off SMS messages and…that’s about it. Alright, maybe that’s not totally fair–after all, the 130 does accept microSD cards, sport an LED flashlight  (no camera here, natch) and play videos. Just, you know, don’t expect to cruise the web on this thing. Microsoft’s trying to position it as a first cell phone, or a backup in case you don’t want to ruin your fancy smartphone while traipsing through the backcountry. Story by Chris Velazco for Engadget.

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.