Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–February 23, 2015

NSA Helped British Intel Agency Steal Cell Phone Codes
Britain’s electronic spying agency, in cooperation with the U.S. National Security Agency, hacked into the networks of a Dutch company to steal codes that allow both governments to seamlessly eavesdrop on mobile phones worldwide, according to the documents given to journalists by Edward Snowden. Story by Ken Dilanian for the Associated Press.

Did Samsung Just Beat Apple in the Mobile Payment Market?
The mobile payment industry may have taken a seismic shift yesterday when Samsung announced it would acquire LoopPay for an undisclosed amount of money. The acquisition is seen as a major move by the South Korean company to compete with Apple Pay. LoopPay claims to already work with approximately 90% of retailers, an estimated ten times more than Apple Pay’s current viability. Samsung could also deploy LoopPay to the entire Android platform. What sets LoopPay apart from Apple Pay as well as Google Wallet is its ability to interact with the payment systems that most retailers currently have in place. It does this by wirelessly mimicking the magnetic stripe on the back of your credit card. When you hold the LoopPay case near the credit card swipe slot and press the LoopPay button, it sends an electromagnetic pulse with your credit card number to the credit card reader. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Is Your Cell Carrier Violating Phone Unlocking Rules?
Is your cell phone carrier violating the rules for unlocking phones? February 11 was the cell phone carriers’ deadline for implementing guidelines for unlocking phones. A year ago, the carriers had agreed to implement the policies by that date. So how have the carriers done? According to Sina Khanifar, who created the petition that ultimately led to the unlocking rules, not so well. In fact, only one of the major four carriers, Verizon, has lived up to all of the requirements in the agreement, he says. Story by Preston Gralla for IT World.

The Curious Comeback of Flip Phones in Japan
Who said flip phones were so 2000? The humble clamshell handset is making a curious comeback in Japan, a country known for its cutting-edge technology. Japanese shipments of flip phones rose for the first time in seven years in 2014, up 5.7 percent on year at 10.58 million, while smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent to 27.70 million, according to data from market research firm MM Research Institute. The flip phone fillup has caught the attention of industry analysts, who pin it on shorter replacement cycles for the phones and a rise in contract renewals. Story by Ansuya Harjani for CNBC.

Sony Says Alliances and Exit from Mobile are Options
In its announcement of its corporate strategy for the next two years, Sony said that its Mobile Communications business is in a highly volatile market that’s chock cull of competition. As a result, Sony plans to reduce risk and gain profits by adding value to its products with its in-house tech and components. Sony also plans to carefully choose the markets and product areas that it targets. Sony says that it’s considering plans that include other companies, such as possible alliances with other mobile companies. Sony CEO Kaz Hirai also explained that straight-up leaving the mobile arena is an option, telling reporters that he won’t “rule out considering an exit strategy.” Story by Alex Wagner for Phone Dog.

Samsung’s Decline: Crippling The South Korean Economy
Two years ago, Samsung was on top of the world. They dominated the smartphone market, doubling their growth from 2011. They also were twice as popular as Apple, with 32% of all smartphone owners owning a Samsung device versus 16.9% owning an iPhone. Two years and multiple advancements in technology later, the market has completely changed. Their profits for the third quarter of 2014 were slashed by 60% compared to last year–but why? It’s because Samsung falls firmly in the middle in the technology spectrum. Apple’s got the high end smartphone game locked down, and other companies are producing cheaper smartphones. That might not seem like a huge deal, but once you realize Samsung is responsible for nearly a quarter of South Korea’s economy, you start to understand why there’s a problem. The South Korean economy is already suffering under multiple fronts and with Samsung under-performing so badly, things are not looking bright for the technology-reliant nation. Story by JT Ripton for Business 2 Community.

China Rings Up 420M Smartphones in 2014, Xiaomi Takes Market Lead
Xiaomi closed the year with a 186.5 percent year-on-year growth in shipment and edged out previous market leader Samsung, which saw a 22.4 percent dip in shipment and slid to second position with 12.1 percent market share. Xiaomi had just 5.3 percent market share in 2013, compared to Samsung’s 18.7 percent. While Apple did not feature at all in China’s top five vendor list, the iPhone maker saw the second-highest growth at 99.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 compared to the previous year. It accounted for 12.3 percent of smartphone shipment in the quarter, up from 5 percent in the previous quarter. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were launched in the Chinese market in the fourth quarter of 2014. Story by Eileen Yu for ZD Net.

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.