Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–December 14, 2015

Wal-Mart Adds to Mobile Wallet Frenzy with ‘Walmart Pay’
Wal-Mart Stores launched its own mobile payment service Walmart Pay on Thursday, potentially dealing a sharp blow to the ambitions of a mobile wallet the company had been co-developing with a consortium of retailers. The mobile payments space in the U.S. has seen a flurry of new launches and partnerships in the past year but has failed to gain traction as customer and merchant adoption have been sluggish. CurrentC, whose developers included Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy among others, was likely to prove strong competition to Apple Pay because it was developed as a single payment solution that could be used at many retailers and integrate their loyalty programs. But years of delay, a data breach and management changes hurt its prospects. An increasingly bigger worry for CurrentC is the end of its exclusive partnership with most of its members, which means they can now accept other mobile payment options at their stores. Story by Sruthi Ramakrishnan and Nandita Bose for Reuters.

Microsoft Cannot Quit The Entry-Level Phone Business
Despite writing off the $7.6 billion purchase of Nokia’s phone business, Microsoft is still not giving up its entry-level phone strategy. What has changed is that Microsoft is no longer willing to sell sub-$100 Lumia phones. The new $139 Lumia 550 went on sale in Europe and other select markets three days ago. Unlike the $70 Lumia 430 launched last March, the Lumia 550 at least hints of a positive hardware margin for Microsoft. Investors will appreciate Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella more if he can deliver a profitable phone hardware division. There is really no sense in selling $70 Lumia phones. The 2.2% share of Windows on phones is not going to shoot up anytime soon anyway. Microsoft currently gains nothing in selling money-losing sub-$100 phones – the world is now saturated with $50 Android phones. Story by Motek Moyen for Seeking Alpha.

FBI Alerted to Suspicious Cell Phone Purchases in Missouri
Missouri law enforcement officials became suspicious and alerted the FBI after a small number of men bought more than 100 prepaid, disposable cellphones from Wal-Mart stores in three cities in a 24-hour period. Two men who bought roughly 60 phones last Saturday in Lebanon in southwestern Missouri were questioned by police and released. At least one man seen on security footage playing a role in buying 32 cellphones Saturday at a Wal-Mart in Macon used his credit card, but left the store before police were summoned. Local investigators viewed the purchases as curious because such phones, often called “burners,” can be bought and used anonymously, then discarded in an effort to avoid detection. Story by Jim Shur for the Associated Press.

Mobile Phones Saved This Year’s Black Friday
The days of hordes of shoppers rushing into brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday may finally be at its death throes thanks to smartphones and tablets. Over 36 percent of online sales this Black Friday came from mobile shopping, and that includes both smartphones and tablets, according to data provided by IBM. And for the first time in Black Friday history, more than half of all online shopping-related traffic, at 57.2 percent, came from both types of devices. Smartphones accounted for the lion’s share. Fifty-seven percent of all mobile sales came from smartphones, and overall, smartphones were used to shop nearly two times as much as last year. Story by Seung Lee for Newsweek.

Africans Can Now Charge Mobile Phones Using Mud
Malawi, a landlocked country which is ranked among the least developed countries of the world, has recently invented an impressive lo-fi solution with mud to charge electrical devices. The device gets attached to a mud oven which allows people to cook and at the same time charge devices like torch lights, radios and importantly their mobile phones. This innovation is funded by British and Irish aid and has been tested in several parts the country. This has the potential to become a sustainable innovation in solving the energy problem afflicting the country. Currently, only 10 percent of the growing population has access to power. Story by Damilare Opeyemi in Ventures Africa.

Mozilla Confirms Firefox OS For Smartphones Shut Down
Mozilla is finally giving up on the smartphone business. The company announced that Firefox OS is shutting down and smartphones running the software will cease to be available through carrier channels. “Firefox OS proved the flexibility of the Web, scaling from low-end smartphones all the way up to HD TVs,” the company said on its official announcement submitted to Tech Crunch. “However, we weren’t able to offer the best user experience possible and so we will stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels.” Mozilla also assured that the company will continue experimenting and developing products for connected devices in the near future. Story by Diane Samson for iDigital Times.

A Third of Businesses Use Mobile Banking to Make Payments
Not only does every other top manager make payments from corporate accounts via mobile banking, but it was also discovered that over 30 percent of companies use mobile devices to access corporate bank accounts and to make financial transactions. Those are the result of a recent joint survey conducted by Kaspersky Lab and B2B International. The survey concluded that business representatives were increasingly making financial transactions with the help of mobile devices. In particular, 28 percent of small and medium companies, and 34 percent of enterprises, conducted financial transactions via mobile devices. Hackers also know this, and are increasingly targeting mobile platforms. In fact, in the third quarter of 2015, Kaspersky Lab products for mobile devices detected more than 300,000 new malicious programs. Story by Sead Fadilpasic for Beta News.

How Cell Phones Track Your Location Without Your Knowledge
What if someone had a list of everywhere you went, along with the exact time you arrived and left from your location each and every day? Guess what; it happens. It turns out, there’s a feature on your phone that tracks your every move. If you have an iPhone, it’s in your settings, and it’s under “frequent locations.” You can enable or disable this feature by going to settings, privacy and location services; then you want to scroll all the way down to the bottom and look for system services — then frequent locations. There you will find a history of every location you’ve gone to, along with the time you left. It even labels your assumed home and work addresses based on the amount of time you have spent at each location. Story by Julie Watts for CBS News.

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.