Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–January 11, 2016

Google Tangoes with Lenovo to Bring 3-D Mapping to Smartphones
Alphabet’s Google has already mapped the world in two dimensions. Now it wants to add the third, and it has enlisted China’s Lenovo to help. The companies at the Consumer Electronics Show announced plans late Thursday for Lenovo to build and sell the first smartphone that can carry out the goals of Google’s Project Tango. Project Tango aims to allow smartphone users–who now can easily navigate outdoors–to understand their locations indoors and track how they move through space. The Web search giant and technology partners have been developing cameras, sensors and computer-vision software that build 3-D maps of their surroundings in real time. That means that smartphones, tablets or other devices can measure the dimensions of a room, measure distances between objects or display them in a camera’s view of the real world–a technology called augmented reality with many potential applications, such as seeing how new furniture might look in a room. Story by Don Clark and Alistair Barr for The Wall Street Journal.

Motorola Branded Phones are Officially Dead
“Motorola,” a word that is synonymous with the birth of cell phones, will no longer be used to name them. Motorola branding will slowly phase out of phones this year. In its place, Lenovo, which owns Motorola Mobility, will take over branding duties. The “Moto” name isn’t going away–it will be used for high-end mobiles, while Lenovo’s homegrown Vibe will be used for budget phones. The handsets will feature a blue Lenovo logo on them – the Moto X will have Lenovo branding on it, for example–and the batwing M is sticking around, too. Motorola isn’t completely disappearing: It’ll be the name of a division under Lenovo. Story by Michelle Fitzsimmons for Tech Radar.

Pew Research Center Ups Cellphones to 75% of Surveys
The Pew Research Center announced Tuesday that it will conduct 75 percent of its poll interviews by cellphone in 2016, the latest evidence of how rapid adoption of mobile technology has changed the polling industry. Though it is significantly more expensive for pollsters to call cellphones, since federal law requires the numbers to be dialed by hand instead of by “autodialers,” contacting mobile users is now a necessity for pollsters looking to get an accurate read of the country. The number of Americans who don’t have a landline phone skyrocketed in the past decade, from about 5 percent of the adult population in 2004 to nearly half (47 percent) last year, according to survey data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pace of that change has accelerated in recent years. Story by Scott Bland for Politico.

India Becomes Mobile Phone Market With a Billion Subscribers
India’s number of mobile-phone subscribers topped 1 billion, becoming the only country after China to cross that milestone. The number of subscribers in October reached 1.03 billion, up 0.7 percent from the preceding month. Though phone bills in the country are among the cheapest in the world, India’s subscriber base has surged over the years to a size that’s more than triple the U.S. population, underscoring the country’s growing economic influence. Top Indian carrier Bharti Airtel Ltd. alone has more than 200 million subscribers. The huge user base is also the most spoiled for choice. As many as 12 operators fight for subscribers in the third-largest Asian economy, driving down tariffs and hurting profits. Story by Bhuma Shrivastava for Bloomberg Business.

WeChat Challenges Skype with Calls to Cell Phones and Landlines
Chinese messaging app WeChat is moving into new territory, launching a feature that lets users call cell phones and landlines. WeChat Out, as the service is called, is currently available only in the USA, Hong Kong, and India, but the company is promising coverage for “more countries and regions in the near future.” The move follows the launch of a similar service from Line (another extremely popular, multifunction Asian messaging app) in 2014, and puts WeChat in direct competition with the likes of Skype and WhatsApp. As a “New Year gift,” WeChat has also given all of its users 99 cents of credit, which the company says will provide “up to 100 minutes of free calls” around the globe. Story by James Vincent for The Verge.

FBI Warns of Cell Phone Encryption Hindering Investigations
The FBI wants families to know about encryption and how many phones, computers and laptops are automatically set up to hide information. Encryption protects everything stored on an electronic device. The only way to get in is using a password. It serves a good purpose to protect sensitive information like credit card numbers, but it can also become a hurdle during an investigation. Story by Anusha Roy for KENS 5.

How to Buy a Phone Now That 2-Year Contracts Are Dead
Two-year cell phone contracts are officially dying. T-Mobile dumped them years ago, then Verizon followed suit late last year. With AT&T set to get rid of contracts on Friday and Sprint planning to do the same, they’ve been phased out almost entirely. Going forward, phone buyers will be expected to purchase their devices outright, either by paying in a lump sum or through monthly installments. Here, we break down exactly how these new plans differ from the old way of buying phones. Story by Victor Luckerson for Time.

4 Reasons to Get Cell Phone Insurance
Today, smartphones do more than just make phone calls. We use them to check email, play games, listen to music, take pictures, browse the web, get directions, and more. These devices have become an integral part of our daily lives. As such, there are many reasons to get cell phone insurance and protect these important investments. Story by Hailey Robinson for Tech.co.

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.