Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–February 2, 2015

Google, Cablevision Challenge Wireless Industry’s Business Model
Google and Cablevision Systems are preparing new cellphone services that would turn the wireless industry’s business model on its head, increasing pressure on companies already dealing with an intensifying price war. Google’s service would hunt through cellular connections provided by Sprint and T-Mobile and Wi-Fi “hot spots,” picking whichever offers the best signal to route calls, texts and data, according to people familiar with the situation. The service could be rolled out in the first half of this year and would likely be offered nationwide. Cablevision, meanwhile, will start offering a Wi-Fi-only mobile-phone service next month, making it the first U.S. cable operator to introduce a service that others have discussed. The service, dubbed Freewheel, will include unlimited data, talk and text for $9.95 a month for the company’s broadband Internet subscribers and $29.95 for noncustomers. Story by Ryan Knutson, Alistair Barr and Shalini Ramachandran for The Wall Street Journal.

FCC Moves to Automatically Locate 911 Callers
Federal regulators are rolling out new rules to require wireless service companies to automatically locate people in an emergency. New rules unanimously approved by the five-member Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday would set additional federal standards for companies to help emergency responders find people who dial 911. Currently, emergency responders can locate people who dial 911 from a landline, and federal rules exist requiring carriers to locate people who call for help from their cellphones out of doors. But inside, no current standards exist, which the regulators said is a tragic disconnect that prevents people from getting help when they need it most. Story by Julian Hattem for The Hill.

T-Mobile Ignores Credit Scores with Smartphone Equality
T-Mobile’s unconventional marketing approach took another turn this week when the nation’s third largest carrier announced it will offer its best plans and smartphones to all customers, regardless of their credit score or method of payment. The new program is known as Smartphone Equality, and it could provide new opportunities for people who have had credit issues in the past. The program went into effect on January 25. The thought behind Smartphone Equality is to reward people who pay their bills on time, even if they have had previous credit problems. As long as someone has made steady payments for 12 consecutive months, T-Mobile will ignore his or her credit score and allow full access to the best deals on the market. Story by Sarah Hefner for SaveOnPhone.com.

745 Million Log on to Facebook Daily from Mobile Phones
About 745 million people across the world log on to Facebook each day through their mobile devices, the social networking site said. From its total user base of 1.39 billion users globally, about 890 million access Facebook on a daily basis. About 745 million of these log in using their mobile devices. About 1.18 billion people access Facebook on their mobile devices at least once a month. Story in The Financial Press.

Are Cellphones Really Changing the World?
At first glance, the numbers seem staggering. Global mobile phone penetration is 96 percent. In sub-Saharan Africa, where 47 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, mobile data use is expected to grow twentyfold by the end of 2019, according to a mobility study by Ericsson. It is predicted there will be 930 million mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa by the end of 2019–nearly one for every resident. In India, 28 percent of citizens use a mobile phone, with an average of 2.54 devices per user. But such massive numbers can be deceiving. Mobile phones are often seen as a panacea for improving economic opportunity and public health worldwide. But in reality, we have a long way to go. Story by Tae Yoo for Newsweek.

Phone Company ‘Outraged’ By Fraud, Abuse In ‘Obamaphone’ Program
A nationwide cellphone company distributing phones and cellphone plans in Denver as part of a massive government program says it is “outraged by the unacceptable actions” uncovered by a CBS4 undercover investigation. The Lifeline program is aimed at providing free cellphone service to the poor and needy. It handed out more than 13 million free cellphone plans in the first six months of 2014. If you own a cellphone, you pay for the free phones and their wireless plans via a monthly tax on your cellphone called the Universal Service Tax. Multiple times a CBS4 producer and reporter found phone agents in Denver circumventing strict government rules to ensure that only the truly needy get the free phones. Vendors, like Total Call, receive massive government subsidies to hand out the phones and the accompanying monthly plans. Story by Brian Maass for CBS Denver.

Samsung Said to Drop Qualcomm Chip From Next Galaxy S
Samsung Electronics Co. will use its own microprocessors in the next version of the Galaxy S smartphone, dropping its use of a Qualcomm Inc. chip that overheated during the Korean company’s testing, people with direct knowledge of the matter said. Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, tested a new version of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chip, known as the 810, and decided not to use it. Story by Jungah Lee and Ian King for Bloomberg.

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.