Weekly Cell Phone News in Review—February 12, 2018

Google Explores Texting From Your Browser
Google’s Android Messages app could soon get a dramatic makeover with some interesting new features. It looks like you’ll be able to pair your phone with a computer and text directly from a browser like Chrome, Firefox and Safari, much as you can with Google’s Allo messaging app. Unlike Allo, however, Android Messages could allow you to send mobile SMSes rather than web messages, making texting a fair amount easier. To use it, you may have to scan a QR code on your PC or Mac, then pair your device each time you want to text. The feature appears to be partially implemented in the latest Android Messages 2.9 APK, but you can’t yet send an actual text. Story by Steve Dent for Engadget

Mobile Shopping Is Retail’s Biggest Traffic Driver
Digital commerce continues to grow, and in no platform have we seen bigger disruptions than mobile devices. From interacting with brands through social media to adding items to their carts, consumers are increasingly using their phones to place orders and make purchases instead of shopping the traditional retail format. Salesforce’s fourth-quarter shopping index proves just that, with mobile’s traffic and order shares hitting highs of 60 percent and 39 percent, respectively, while computer traffic and order shares continued to decline at 33 percent and 51 percent. Tablet traffic and order shares remained steady at 7 percent and 10 percent. Story by Samantha McDonald for Footwear News

Driver’s Licenses Could Soon Be Replaced by Cell Phone Apps
Your driver’s license could be replaced by a cellphone app if a pilot program involving four states and the District of Columbia works out. “We see great utility in the future with mobile driver’s licenses that don’t exist today with the physical plastic cards,” said Paul Grassi with the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. “With innovation occurring on mobile platforms it almost makes too much sense to add this as an option.” NIST provided a $2 million grant to a cybersecurity company called Gemalto to design and test a digital license in a two-year pilot program. Story by Kelly David Burke for Fox News

All the Proof You Need that 5G Phones are Coming in 2019
The promise that we’ll see the first 5G phones by 2019 has now become even more of a sure thing. Eighteen global carriers will start 5G speed trials in 2018, using a new Qualcomm modem that’s built to handle huge amounts of data at almost instantaneous speeds—at least theoretically. The list includes Verizon, AT&T and Sprint in the US; Orange, BT and Vodafone in the UK and Telstra in Australia. What’s more, 18 global device makers have also thrown their weight behind Qualcomm’s X50 5G modem, including LG, HTC, Oppo (which owns OnePlus), Vivo, Xiaomi and the startup behind Nokia-branded phones. This partnership expands on a previous pact with Chinese phone makers in January. Story by Jessica Dolcourt for CNet

Your Mobile Phone Can Give Away Your Location, Even if You Tell It Not To
U.S. military officials were recently caught off guard by revelations that servicemembers’ digital fitness trackers were storing the locations of their workouts – including at or near military bases and clandestine sites around the world. But this threat is not limited to Fitbits and similar devices. The vulnerability comes from the wide range of sensors phones are equipped with – not just GPS and communications interfaces, but gyroscopes and accelerometers that can tell whether a phone is being held upright or on its side and can measure other movements too. Apps on the phone can use those sensors to perform tasks users aren’t expecting – like following a user’s movements turn by turn along city streets. Story by Guevara Noubir for The Conversation

Google Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over Microphone Issue
Google has been sued over an issue with its first and second generation Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones. The class action lawsuit, which was filed in a California court on Tuesday, alleges that Google continues to advertise and sell its Pixel phones even though the company knows that the microphone is faulty. In March 2017, a Google spokesperson acknowledged there was “a hairline crack in the solder connection on the audio codec,” which made the microphone cut in and out, especially when the phone heated up. Story by Natalie Rutledge for SaveOnPhone.com

Study: ‘Some Evidence’ Cellphones Cause Tumors
Scientists with the National Toxicology Program say there is some evidence that the radiation from cellphones can increase the chance of having a rare type of nerve tumor, at least in male rats. What this means for people is still up for debate. The tumors that showed up in the rats are called schwannomas. They grew in the hearts of male rats, but not female rats, perhaps because the males’ larger bodies absorbed more radiation than the females. Story by Brenda Goodman for WebMD

California Drivers Are–Believe It or Not–Putting Down Their Cellphones
Faced with a tough year-old cellphone law, more California drivers are putting their devices aside entirely when behind the wheel, a new study shows. The study by the state Office of Traffic Safety found that fewer than 4 percent of drivers appear to be picking up and using their cellphones, a notable drop from a year ago when the same analysis found that nearly 8 percent of drivers were on their cellphones. California safety officials are cautiously cheering what they say may be the start of a trend toward less distracted driving. Story by Tony Bizjak for The Sacramento Bee

Iran is Angry Its Athletes Weren’t Offered Smartphones at the Winter Olympics and Now It’s a Problem
All athletes at the Olympic Games were offered a free Samsung smartphone, except delegates from Iran and North Korea due to concerns about international sanctions. In response, Iran told South Korea that if Samsung did not apologize it could affect trade relations with the company. Under mounting pressure, the IOC said it would provide all athletes, including those from Iran and North Korea, with the phones. Story by Rosie Perper for Business Insider

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.