Weekly Cell Phone News in Review—February 6, 2017

‘Cell Phone-Only’ Households For Over Half of US Adults
52% of U.S. adults live in households with cell phones but no landline telephones, a doubling of the percentage since 2010, when it was 26%. And, the proportion of senior citizens (ages 65+) in cell phone-only households quadrupled over the past six years, to 23%, while the figure for Millennials (born from 1977 to 1994) climbed to 71% from 47%. Story by Jack Loechner for MediaPost.

Apple and Samsung See Smartphone Declines in Full Year 2016
Apple iPhones beat out Samsung smartphones both globally and in the U.S. in the final quarter of 2016, even though both vendors saw declines in shipments for the entire 2016 calendar year, research firm IDC reported Wednesday. It was the first full year that Apple has seen a decline in the iPhone shipments since it was launched in 2007. Up-and-coming Huawei, based in China, finished third globally for both the quarter and the year. Story by Matt Hamblen for ComputerWorld.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Medals to be Made from Mobile Phones
Olympic and Paralympic medals for the Tokyo 2020 Games will be made from recycled mobile phones. The Japanese public will be asked to donate old phones and small appliances to gather two tons of gold, silver and bronze for the 5,000 medals. The project hopes to promote sustainability and reduce costs. Collection boxes will be placed in local offices and telecoms stores from April and will remain there until the metal required has been collected. Olympic host cities have traditionally obtained the metal from mining firms. But Japan, which lacks its own mineral resources, is keen to take the theme of a sustainable future a step further. Discarded consumer electronics such as smartphones and tablets contain small amounts of precious and rare earth metals, including platinum, palladium, gold, silver, lithium, cobalt and nickel. Story in the BBC.

Samsung Confirms that a Version of its Mobile Payments System is Coming to All Android Smartphones
Rumors that Samsung would launch a variant of its mobile payment service have been circulating for a while, but now the company has finally confirmed that it’s coming to Android smartphones in South Korea sometime during this first quarter. Not only will the new platform, called Samsung Pay Mini, allow you to pay for goods online using an Android smartphone, those who download the app will also be able to use Samsung Pay services such as lifestyle, membership, and transportation. While Pay Mini works on non-Samsung Android devices, only handsets that have a display resolution of at least 1280 x 720 and Lollipop 5.0 or above will be able to use the app. The main difference between the two services is that Pay Mini doesn’t support offline payments through a reader, which requires a compatible Samsung smartphone when using the company’s mobile payment system. Story by Rob Thubron for Tech Spot.

Google Gives up on ‘Hands Free’ Wireless Mobile Payments
Google has ended its “Hands Free” payment scheme, which let you live the retail dream of paying wirelessly with no need to pull out a card or phone. The program, which ran only in San Francisco’s South Bay area, first detects if you’re in a participating store using your smartphone’s location services. If you say you’re “paying with Google,” it then completes the transaction over Bluetooth LE or WiFi, with the cashier verifying the purchase using your photo ID. After trying it for a year, however, Google has stopped the program, telling users in a letter seen by 9 to 5 Google that it’ll wrap up on February 8th. However, it did say that “we’ve learned so much from you and our other early adopters,” and that “we’re now working to bring the best of the technology to even more people and stores.” That vague statement could mean that it’s planning to bring some kind of wireless option to Android Pay. Story by Steve Dent for Engadget.

Razer Buys Nextbit to Enter the Smartphone Market
In a surprise announcement, Nextbit, the makers of the cloud-centric Robin phone, has been acquired by gaming company Razer. The Robin started off as a Kickstarter project that raised over $1.3 million for its premise of a device that would “never run out of storage.” That, plus a unique design and affordable price tag, made it a solid first effort for the company. With Razer at the helm, the company has much bigger financial backing for future projects. Nextbit says it has stopped selling the Robin and accessories, and that it will continue to fulfill warranties for six more months. Story by Napier Lopez for The Next Web.

Daycare Orders Parents To ‘Get Off Your Phone’ With Viral Sign
Put down your cell phone and pay more attention to your children. That’s the stern message from staff at a daycare near Houston, Texas, who have put up a scathing sign ordering people who are picking up their kids to “GET OFF YOUR PHONE!!!!” “Your child is happy to see you! Are you happy to see your child?” says the text on the poster. “We have seen children trying to hand their parents their work they completed and the parent is on the phone,” the sign added. “We have heard a child say ‘Mommy, mommy, mommy.’ and the parent is paying more attention to their phone than their own child. It is appalling.” Story by Lee Moran for the Huffington Post.

What Killed the Pay Phone?
At a time when 95 percent of Americans own a mobile phone, the phone booth seems quaint and outdated. Since a peak of 2.6 million public pay phones in the mid-1990s, this ubiquitous infrastructure has been on the decline. After the devices stopped turning a profit, AT&T officially announced its exit from the pay phone market in 2007. Verizon followed suit in 2011. Apart from mobile phones displacing the pay phone, a quieter public-policy battle has also contributed to their disappearance. Cities that saw the pay phone as a lightning rod for crime introduced legislation to municipal codes across the nation throughout the ’90s to restrict pay-phone access or eliminate the machines, which could be found on nearly every block. Though outright bans were largely unsuccessful, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Kansas City are just a few cities that proposed legislation to remove pay phones from the streets. Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Dover instituted site-specific restrictions, such as forbidding pay phones outside liquor stores or public housing, because these were believed to be the most common locations where crime was conducted over the phone. Story by Renee Reizman for The Atlantic.

We Already Screen Cell Phones At The Border, Will Social Media Be Any Different?
Among a flurry of headlines this weekend, CNN is reporting that the White House may be taking tentative steps to explore what it would take to scan social media accounts and cell phone contacts of all visitors to the United States, making “social media screening” a part of the screening process to enter the country. Lost in all of the ensuing furor is that we’ve actually already done this for years, between customs searches and seizures of cell phones and laptops and NSA surveillance of social media. While the White House’s proposal is attracting substantial attention given its timing among other highly controversial actions, it is important to remember that even under the Obama administration, the US Customs and Border Protection and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agencies had wide latitude to seize and search any digital device crossing the nation’s borders. Story by Kalev Leetaru for Forbes.

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.