Weekly Cell Phone News in Review—February 5, 2018

Global Smartphone Market Drops 9% in Biggest Ever Fall
The global smartphone market fell 9% in a year this quarter, the biggest fall in smartphone history, with even Apple’s iPhone sales down 1% as users hang on to their phones longer. For Apple, which is shipping 5m fewer smartphones than a year ago, the decline is offset by an increase in the average sale price of its iPhone, thanks to the popularity of its £1,000 iPhone X. But as Samsung and others join Apple in pushing the top end of the market to higher prices the demand for new phones appears to be waning. Data from Strategy Analytics shows global smartphone shipments shrank year-on-year from 438.7m to 400.2m in the fourth quarter of 2017. Story by Samuel Gibbs for The Guardian

Google Bets a Billion Dollars More Brains Can Help Take On Apple
Google officially closed its $1.1 billion deal with HTC Corp., adding more than 2,000 smartphone specialists in Taiwan to help the search giant chase Apple Inc. in the cut-throat premium handset market. The deal will help Google design more of its own consumer hardware and could set it up to wade deeper into special-purpose chips — like Apple. Google’s most recent Pixel model came with a new image processor to improve the device’s camera. More of this “custom silicon” will come in the future, Google’s hardware chief Rick Osterloh said in an interview. Osterloh brought in HTC engineers and designers to help Google control more of the design and production of its products, including working more closely with suppliers. Google previously focused on software and let manufacturers including Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC handle the hardware. But modern phones offer features like augmented reality and artificial intelligence-based services that require close integration of software and hardware. Story by Shelly Banjo and Mark Bergen for Bloomberg

U.S. Probes Apple Over Updates That Slow Older iPhones
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether Apple violated securities laws concerning its disclosures about a software update that slowed some handsets, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News on Tuesday. The U.S. government has requested information from the company, according to the people, who asked not to be named because the probe is private. Story by Tom Schoenberg, Matt Robinson and Mark Gurman for Bloomberg

Mattis Seeking to Ban Cell Phones from Pentagon
Secretary of Defense James Mattis is actively considering banning US military and civilian personnel from bringing their personal cell phones into the Pentagon, the world’s largest office building, according to three US defense officials familiar with an ongoing review of the issue. The officials told CNN that while the issue is under review and a final decision has not been made, the recent revelations that a fitness tracking app that maps people’s exercise habits could pose security risks for US troops has only underscored the need for the review. There are approximately 23,000 military and civilian staff that work in the Pentagon. Story by Ryan Browne for CNN

Supplying Cellphones to South Carolina Inmates Could Bring a $10,000 Fine, Plus 10 Years in Prison
Sneaking a cellphone to an inmate could cost you up to $10,000 and 10 years in prison under legislation advancing in the Senate. Supporters hope the proposal, sent Tuesday to the full Senate Corrections Committee, would better deter what’s already a crime. It would clear up contradictory sections in state law that allow charges for contraband cellphones to be sent to magistrate’s court, where penalties aren’t as stiff. Story by Seanna Adcox for The Post and Courier

India Raises Duties on Imported Cellphones to 20%, Which May Hurt Apple
India is raising custom duties on imported cellphones to 20% from 15%, a bid to promote domestic manufacturing that may hurt Apple’s ability to compete in the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market. The iPhone maker has been looking to expand its presence in India and has negotiated with the government for lower tariffs on certain components. But the latest duties, part of a budget unveiled on Thursday, show the country moving in the opposite direction. Story by Saritha Rai for Business Day

Samsung Confirms It Will Launch Foldable OLED Smartphones
Samsung Electronics on Wednesday posted its fourth quarter and FY 2017 results in South Korea. In the announcement, Samsung revealed that it is planning to focus on foldable OLED displays for smartphones, among other things as part of the 2018 roadmap. The company stated “As for the Mobile business, Samsung will continue its efforts to differentiate its smartphones by adopting cutting-edge technologies, such as foldable OLED displays.” It made an even more specific quote during its earnings call on Wednesday, clearly saying the cutting edge differentiation of “foldable OLED smartphones” would happen in 2018. Story in the Kashmir Monitor

Fujitsu Selling Majority Stake in Mobile Phone Division to Investment Firm
Japanese IT firm Fujitsu has announced a plan to spin off their mobile device business into a separate company. Under the deal, investment firm Polaris will take over management and assume control of 70% of the company, while Fujitsu will retain a 30% stake. While Sony is the largest Android device manufacturer in Japan, Fujitsu is also a major contender. Fujitsu’s Arrows series of smartphones and tablets are available primarily on NTT Docomo, the largest mobile network operator in Japan. Story by James Sanders for Android Police

New Microsoft Patent Hints at Potential Design of Surface Phone
In a patent application revealed today, Microsoft may have just tipped its hand and shown us what we can expect from the long-rumored Surface Phone – or some next-generation Surface device. The patent application details a “live hinge” which allows a device with two screens to be seamlessly opened flat into a tablet mode, or have one screen folded all the way around back. The gray part in the middle is the live hinge. It connects both screens and allows the phone to have an unprecedented degree of adjustability. Folded flat, the hinge ensures that both screens connect to each other without too much of an unsightly seam. It would allow you to fold the phone closed like a pocket book, eliminating the need for a clunky protective case. Story by Jayce Wagner for Digital Trends

In UK, Nearly 20% Of Five- To Six-Year-Olds Own A Mobile Phone
Nearly a fifth of five- to six-year-olds own their own mobile phone, a new report has found. This jumps to 41% by the time children are aged seven to eight, and increases to 59% for nine- and 10-year-olds. By age 11, nine in ten have their own phone (91%), with no difference between boys and girls. The report, which included responses from more than 2,000 children, showed 83% of 11- to 12-year-olds, 96% of 13- to 14-year-olds and 95% of 15- to 16-year-olds own a mobile phone. Story by Amy Packham for the Huffington Post

5G Phones Expected in 2019 Thanks to Chinese, Qualcomm Pact
The reality of a 5G phone is closer than you think. Mobile chip giant Qualcomm on Thursday announced a partnership with several of the largest Chinese phone manufacturers, including Lenovo (Motorola’s parent), Xiaomi, ZTE, Oppo (OnePlus’ owner) and Vivo, to build 5G phones as early as 2019. Under the “5G Pioneer” initiative, Qualcomm will help create a platform for the companies to build phones running on 5G, the next generation of wireless technology that promises more speed and better coverage. 5G, one of the hottest trends in tech, is considered the foundation for a number of growing segments such as self-driving cars and artificial intelligence. Story by Roger Cheng for CNet

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.