Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–January 12, 2015

Government Considers Using Internet, Smartphones for 2020 Census
The days of the census taker with clipboard in hand may be numbered. The Census Bureau plans to test digital tools in preparation for the 2020 census, a change that could save millions of dollars. People may be asked to fill out their census forms on the Internet instead of sending them through the mail. Census takers may use smartphones instead of paper to complete their counts. The once-a-decade count is used to draw congressional maps and helps determine how the government spends $400 billion on infrastructure, programs and services each year. Despite outreach and advertising campaigns, the share of occupied homes that returned a form was 74 percent in 2010, unchanged from 2000 and 1990. Story by Jesse Holland for the Associated Press.

Samsung Profits Down as Smartphone Division Feels Squeeze
This was the fifth consecutive quarter of falling earnings at Samsung, which has already seen its smartphone division– overwhelmingly its biggest profit generator–squeezed by fast-growing Chinese rivals and Apple’s successful launch of the iPhone 6. Thursday’s announcement also came amid continued speculation about the company’s future and a possible restructuring, with chairman Lee Kun-hee still receiving medical treatment after a heart attack last May. Story by Simon Mundy and Song Jung-a for Financial Times.

Cellphones ‘Under Attack’ From Robocalls, Consumer Advocates Warn
Telemarketers could soon be allowed to robocall your cellphone without your permission, consumer advocates fear, prompting them to warn that “cellphones are under attack.” The National Consumer Law Center and National Association of Consumer Advocates warn the FCC is “poised to open the floodgates” to robocalls from banks and debt collectors. Based on conversations they’ve had with the FCC, the consumer advocates say they’re concerned the agency will “gut” the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits telemarketers from robocalling a cellphone without the owner’s permission. Story by Tim Devaney for The Hill.

NYC To Lift Ban On Student Cellphones In Schools
Mayor Bill de Blasio is lifting a longtime ban that prevented children from having cellphones in New York City public schools. If approved by the Panel for Educational Policy, the new policy would go into effect March 2. “This will empower our parents, this will strengthen our parents’ ability to protect their children and be there for our children and this is a policy that actually responds to the needs of our parents,” de Blasio said. The existing rule requires cellphones and electronic devices like iPads to be left at home. The ban was put in place by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It has never been enforced consistently. At schools without metal detectors, many students bring phones and keep them stowed in their backpacks. But most schools with metal detectors enforce the ban. Some students pay $1 a day to store their phones in a van or at a local business. Story by Jonathan Lemire and Karen Matthews for the Associated Press.

How Cell Phones Are Revolutionizing Access to Financial Services
Across the Global North, online banking solidifies its dominance and apps like Venmo simplify mobile payments. In the Global South, people with little money to their name struggle to open bank accounts, get loans, and make payments. While rural areas are particularly difficult to reach with financial services, even residents of cities face immense challenges: high minimum savings requirements, shortages of banking agents, and limited financial knowledge. Mobile money services are emerging to offer banking solutions that are inexpensive and widely available. Dhaka, Jakarta, Nairobi, and Lilongwe are all currently witnessing the explosion of these new mobile technology-based services. Story by Josephine d’Allant for the Huffington Post.

Smartphone Use May Reshape the Human Brain
It is no secret that smartphones have changed the way the world works, but did you know they also change the way your brain thinks? Researchers from ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich have found the human brain is constantly being transformed because of digital technology, according to a study published in Current Biology. The human brain adapts to its surroundings on a regular basis as a means of survival. Since smartphones are now associated with a direct source of information, scientists wanted to see how they impacted a person’s brain activity in relation to the fingers used to manipulate a smartphone screen. Story by Natalie Rutledge for SaveOnPhone.com.

UK Prisoners’ Mobile Phones to be Cut Off Under New Law
Mobile phone companies will be forced to cut off signals to handsets being used by inmates in prisons, under planned new laws. Legislation to be debated in the Commons on Monday will mean that once a phone has been identified, the Prison Service will be able to apply to a court for it to be disconnected. The ban is seen as essential amid concerns that prisoners can use mobile phones to continue their illegal activities, such as running drug-smuggling networks, from jail. Phones can also be used for bullying and can lead to disorder in in prisons, officials say. Story by Tim Ross for The Telegraph.

Cellphones in Schools Have Educational Benefits
Across the country, educators are using devices to overcome language barriers in multilingual classrooms, encourage class participation and capture data about their students’ understanding of key concepts. They’re teaching students how to use technology safely and responsibly–how to become good digital citizens. We’ll have common-sense school policies developed by educators, to ensure devices contribute to learning, not disrupt it. Story by Carmen Farina for the New York Daily News.

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.