Weekly Cell Phone News in Review—December 11, 2017

Budget Smartphones Are About To Get Better And Cheaper With Android Oreo Go
Whereas Apple can develop iOS knowing exactly the hardware on which it will run, Google has to build Android unsure if the software will operate on a $1,000 South Korean smartphone with the most cutting-edge processor or a $70 tablet with the cheapest parts coming out of one of the myriad of Shenzhen OEMs. Google, obviously, has to design Android for powerful flagships first and foremost (its own Pixel phone and Samsung’s Galaxy line) to keep up with Apple. That means that although Android can run on a budget device —  particularly those at the very low-end range — it’s not exactly optimized for the task. Google announced today an attempt to fix this with its “Android Oreo Go Edition.” Developed in partnership with Taiwanese semiconductor company MediaTek (whose chipsets are widely used in budget handsets), Android Oreo Go is optimized for low-priced (meaning low-spec’ed) devices in the following ways. Story by Ben Sin for Forbes

Target Unveils Its Own Mobile Payment System, Wallet
Target Corp. on Monday released a new version of its app that includes a mobile-payment system, becoming the latest retailer to let customers pay for in-store purchases with their smartphones. The new offering, called Wallet, is included in the latest update of Target’s iOS and Android apps. The Verge walks through how it works: Customers can use the app in stores to scan bar codes of products they want to buy; Wallet then generates its own barcode to scan in at the register. The payment software will also integrate other Target digital offerings, like its Cartwheel discount program. Story by Mark Reilly for Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

How North Korea Is Using Smartphones as Weapons of Mass Surveillance
Can the proliferation of smartphones in North Korea undermine one of the world’s most repressive regimes, or just make it stronger? While smartphones help people connect with each other, they also allow the regime to keep tabs on its people. Story by Warangkana Chomchuen for The Wall Street Journal

How to Track a Cellphone Without GPS-or Consent
As the Supreme Court mulls over the case of Carpenter v. United States, which may have far-reaching consequences for police who track suspects without a warrant via their cellphones, four engineers at Princeton University have revealed a brand-new method for identifying the location of a cellphone user. The result of their ingenuity is as remarkable as it is alarming. Using only data that can be legally collected by an app developer without the consent of a cellphone’s owner, researchers have been able to produce a privacy attack that can accurately pinpoint a user’s location and trajectory without accessing the device’s Global Position System-GPS. And while the ramifications of this ability falling into the wrong hands are distressing, the way in which they pulled it off is nothing short of genius. Story by Dell Cameron for Gizmodo

Apple Is Reportedly Close To Acquiring Music-Recognition App Shazam
Apple is close to acquiring the music recognition app Shazam, according to TechCrunch. The purchase is the latest acquisition for the world’s largest tech company.  First launched in 1999, Shazam has grown significantly over the last several years. Once specifically devoted to music recognition, Shazam now accepts audio and visual clips to identify songs, movies, and television shows. The service is the oldest of its kind, competing with Soundhound and Musixmatch. While specifics on the deal are still sketchy, one source reported that Apple will approximately $400 million for the company. This estimate falls far beyond the company’s $1 billion  valuation from its last funding round in 2015. The discrepancy is likely due to Shazam’s struggle to become profitable. Story by Steven Winkelman for Digital Trends

Verizon, NFL Agree To New 5-Year Deal Worth Nearly $2.5 Billion
Verizon will pay approximately $2.5 billion in a five-year deal with the NFL, sources told ESPN. That would be roughly twice the annual price of Verizon’s previous deal with the league. The new deal for the largest U.S. wireless carrier looks very different from its last deal. That’s because Verizon has gone from being solely a mobile carrier to also being a video content company after its purchases of AOL in 2015 and Yahoo! in 2017 for $4.4 billion each. The deal allows Verizon to stream live in-market NFL games on any one of its websites, with Yahoo! being the predominant home. Unlike the last deal, which allowed Verizon to have the exclusive streaming rights for in-market live games only on mobile phones, the live in-market games will be available on the Verizon platforms on phones of all carriers starting this postseason. In 2018, it will include all tablets. To monetize the deal, Verizon will have ad inventory within the games that it streams on mobile, which includes in-market games on Thursday, Sunday afternoon, Sunday night and Monday night. DirecTV has rights for all out-of-market games on Sunday. Story by Darren Rovell for ESPN

Former Facebook Exec Says Social Media Is Ripping Apart Society
Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media. Story by James Vincent for The Verge

Consumers Prefer Software Updates Over Buying New Phones
The average smartphone is typically more than two years old (with many being even older) and that is plenty good enough for some users, as long as they upgrade software features from time to time. Instead of buying a new phone every two years, cellphone users are improving the phone they have with software upgrades. This avoids the bigger hardware costs of new models. Those users who previously automatically bought new phones every two years are starting to change their behavior. The exception to this trend is when a big provider comes out with a dynamic new product, such as the Apple iPhone X. Story by Gregory Bresiger for The New York Post

Trading Smartphone Time For Sleep? Your Loss
Increasingly, U.S. teens are trading sleep time for screen time. That’s the finding of a new study. It analyzed survey data from hundreds of thousands of adolescents. And they showed that the share of teens who are losing more sleep and logging more screen time rose dramatically between 2009 and 2015. Most sleep experts agree that from ages 12 to 17, teenagers need about nine hours of sleep a night. When teens don’t get enough shut-eye, their bodies and minds suffer. Story by Sharon Oosthoek for Science News For Students

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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.