Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–December 8, 2014

Six Reasons Your Cell Phone Bill Keeps Rising
Isn’t technology supposed to get cheaper as the years go by? That’s not the case with cell phones and their service plans, which eat up a larger chunk of household budgets every year. The average monthly cell phone bill has soared in recent years to well over $100. A study earlier this year found that Verizon was the most expensive carrier, with an average customer bill of $148 a month. Sprint and AT&T weren’t that far behind, and T-Mobile was the least expensive of the Big Four carriers at $120. Americans spend nearly 50 percent more on mobile phone service now than they did in 2007. Phone bills are climbing for a number of reasons, and those increases show no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Here are six reasons your phone bill keeps rising. Story by WKRC.

AT&T Increases Security for its Mobile Phone Customers
Number two mobile carrier in the US AT&T has made the decision to increase security for its mobile phone customers by discontinuing their practice of attaching hidden tracking codes to customer data use. Remarking that the inclusion of the tracking codes made it next to impossible for its subscribers to shield their identities online, AT&T removed the hidden codes, which were passed along to any websites consumers using AT&T phones would visit. The unique codes could be used to track subscriber movements through the Internet, representing a lucrative opportunity for data-miners interested in selling targeted advertising data to marketers. Story in Beta Wired.

27% of Black Friday Online Sales Came From Mobile Devices
Black Friday sales provided another indicator that more business is now being done on mobile devices. According to the Adobe 2014 Digital Index Online Shopping data, 27% of the online sales on Black Friday were done on either a smartphone or a tablet. This was a 3% increase from the 24% on Black Friday a year ago. Mobile devices played an even greater role on Thanksgiving Day. 29% of the online sales took place on a tablet or smartphone, up from 21% in 2013. Smartphone sales almost doubled from 7% to 13%, while tablet sales increased slightly from 14% to 16%. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

How Your Cell Phone Distracts You Even When You’re Not Using It
Even if you go all day without touching your cell phone once, just having it visible nearby may distract you from complex tasks, according to new research. In the first part of the study, which looked at a group of more than 50 college students, participants were asked to complete different motor tasks with the study leader’s cell phone visible. In the second, participants completed motor tasks with their own cell phones visible. Performance on complex tasks suffered in both conditions when compared to control groups with no visible cell phone. The sight of a cell phone reminds people of the “broader social community” they can access via texting and the internet. While performance on complex tasks suffered, the presence of cell phones did little to keep people from successfully finishing easy tasks. The study builds on previous research that suggests that having your cell phone out reduces the quality of social interaction, even if you don’t engage with your phone. Story by Justin Worland for Time.

How The NSA Hacks Cellphone Networks Worldwide
According to documents contained in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the NSA has spied on hundreds of companies and organizations internationally, including in countries closely allied to the United States, in an effort to find security weaknesses in cellphone technology that it can exploit for surveillance. The documents also reveal how the NSA plans to secretly introduce new flaws into communication systems so that they can be tapped into–a controversial tactic that security experts say could be exposing the general population to criminal hackers. Codenamed AURORAGOLD, the covert operation has monitored the content of messages sent and received by more than 1,200 email accounts associated with major cellphone network operators, intercepting confidential company planning papers that help the NSA hack into phone networks. Story by Ryan Gallagher for The Intercept.

FCC: Too Many Phones Still Being Stolen
More than 1 million cellphones are stolen in the US each year, and the FCC is not happy about it. A new agency report says wireless-network operators and law-enforcement agencies can and should do more to help prevent phone thefts. There are some hurdles in the way, to be sure, but the FCC is confident the industry can leap over them, as long as everyone works together. The FCC believes smartphone theft is a “major issue” facing not only consumers, but law enforcement and the entire mobile ecosystem. Phones are expensive to replace, and often contain vast stores of personal (and often corporate) data. Story by Eric Zeman for Information Week.

Alibaba’s Alipay Now Sees Over Half Of Its Transactions In China From Mobile Devices
China is in the midst of a mobile commerce boom, according to a new report from Alipay, the Alibaba-affiliated payments service that handles more than 80 million transactions per day. The company’s latest report found that 54 percent of the number of transactions on its PayPal-like service during the first ten months of 2014 were from mobile devices. That’s a huge increase on last year, during which mobile accounted for just 22 percent of all payments. This year saw mobile internet access overtake desktop access for the first time in China. Story by Jon Russell for Tech Crunch.

Cell Phone Use Leaves Students Uptight
Frittering away hours on your smartphone playing games and using social media may seem like harmless fun. But a new Kent State University study suggests it’s actually making you more uptight and stressed out–not to mention it’s keeping you from other rewarding activities. Kent State researchers studied the cellphone habits, personalities and daily leisure activities of more than 450 college students, concluding that many need to disconnect more frequently from their phones. Story in the Akron Beacon Journal.

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.