Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–December 7, 2015

Nearly Half of U.S. Homes Use Cellphones Only
Nearly half of U.S. households only use cellphones, according to new federal statistics that show more and more people are cutting the cord on landlines. Now, only about 8% of households have just landlines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. More than 47% of  American homes use only cellphones. About 42% have both. A dozen years ago, a mere 3% of U.S. households used only cellphones. Given the trend, officials believe more than half of U.S. homes will be wireless within the next year. Story by The Associated Press.

IRS Promises to Get a Search Warrant Before Spying on Cellphones
The IRS will no longer use “Stingray” cellphone-tracking devices unless the agency receives a search warrant supported by probable cause, in accordance with the Department of Justice’s Policy Guidance, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says in a letter. The agency’s use of Stingray surveillance devices went public in October, though at the time it was unclear how (and how often) the IRS used the technology. Stingray devices mimic cell towers to trick nearby phones into connecting to them, allowing the user to track locations, record calls and access text communications. Koskinen says the IRS has just one Stingray-style device — though it’s trying to get another — and only the agency’s Criminal Investigation division ever used it. Story by Jessica Conditt for Engadget.

Mobile Shopping Revenue Soars Over Thanksgiving Weekend
According to the 2015 Mobile Holiday Shopping Report from Moovweb, mobile shopping increased tremendously over Thanksgiving weekend. Black Friday mobile revenues were up 95% over year-ago levels, and transactions on smartphones accounted for 36% more of the total revenue for Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year. The survey also revealed a 45% increase in mobile shopping sessions this year, as well as a 16% increase in mobile conversions (turning online leads into complete checkouts). All of these statistics signal a significant shift in the way Americans are shopping for holiday deals this year–a trend that is likely to continue in the future. The data showed iPhone users were more active with mobile purchases than Android users. Story by Bill Hardekopf for LowCards.com.

Apple’s Secret New Mobile Commerce Play
Apple is quietly making it easier for consumers to buy digital goods without needing a credit card. Starting this week, Apple users in Russia can purchase music, books, games and other apps by typing in their phone number and having the items charged to their monthly bill. No plastic required. In Russia, Apple is partnering with Beeline, the domestic unit of Amsterdam-based mobile phone company VimpelCom, according to sources with knowledge of the deal. Story by Ari Levy for CNBC.

Bank of America’s Mobile Phone Transactions Equal to 700 Branches
Bank of America would have a major capacity problem if its customers ever stopped using mobile phones over security concerns, says CEO Brian Moynihan. “I would have to put up 700 branches. They would have to hire 20,000 to 30,000 people to staff those branches. We just don’t have the capacity,” said Moynihan. Like some other banks, Bank of America has been betting big on mobile phones as a more efficient way to serve its customers. The nation’s No. 2 bank by assets has been closing branches, even as it invests in new technology to serve customers increasingly using computers, smartphones and other devices to conduct their transactions. The move has helped the bank cut expenses at a time when low interest rates make lending less profitable. But the CEO’s comments also show how dependent the bank has become on the new technology. Story by Deon Roberts for the Charlotte Observer.

Congress Studying Privacy, Security Impacts of Mobile Payments
The US’s House Energy & Commerce Committee has debated the security surrounding mobile payments options such as the biometrics-backed Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Meeting in Washington, the group explored questions such as whether consumers can feel confident that their privacy is being protected, reported BankInfo Security. Companies including PayPal, Samsung Pay and the Merchant Customer Exchange gave testimony. BankInfo Security wrote that the “main takeaway from the hearing” was that while most mobile payments options provide stronger user authentication and convenience, that they do not have the same legal and legislative protections as other payment methods. Story in Planet Biometrics.

These 5 Advancements Will Make Cell Phones More Durable Than Ever
Do you find that you’re accident prone? Are you forever dropping or sitting on your phone? If this sounds like you, you’ll be glad to know that mobile phone manufacturers are now looking at ways to make mobiles more robust. So, if you tend to be clumsy with your handset, here’s some recent mobile phone advancements that may help you to keep your phone, and monthly mobile contract, in one piece. Story by Sam Savage for Red Orbit.

Older Cellphones Still Have Fans
Between splashy launches, lavish new-phone offers (get a free HDTV on activation!) and frequent software updates that slow down your old handset, it sometimes feels like the entire technology industry is pushing you to buy the latest smartphone. Yet some holdouts resist. More than 90 percent of smartphone users trade up for newer models within two years, says Ramon Llamas, who tracks mobile phones at research firm IDC. But a fraction of the population continues to cling to older phones, some 3 to 4 years old–or more. Story by Mae Anderson for The Associated Press.

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.