Weekly Cell Phone News in Review—January 23, 2017

More Than Half of U.S. Adults Live in ‘Cell Phone-Only’ Households
More than half (52%) of U.S. adults live in households with cell phones, but no landline phones, according to new research from the GfK MRI Survey of the American Consumer. The figure represents a doubling of the percentage of cell phone-only households in 2010, when it was 26%. The proportion of senior citizens (ages 65+) in cellphone-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 Tobi Elkin for Media Post.

Samsung Investigation Blames Battery Size for Galaxy Note 7 Fires
An investigation into the cause of faulty batteries that led Samsung Electronics Co. to pull all of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones last year found that some batteries were irregularly sized, causing overheating, while others had manufacturing problems, according to people familiar with the matter. The conclusion, which will be unveiled by Samsung on Monday, helps to explain the technology giant’s product recall that damaged its brand and will end up costing the company at least $5 billion. Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker by shipments, conducted the investigation with three quality-control and supply-chain analysis firms that it hired to help it in its independent investigation. Samsung recalled all of its 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones last fall after consumer complaints that the phones caught fire, leading a U.S. regulator to ban the use of the device on airplanes. Story by Timothy W. Martin and John D. McKinnon for The Wall Street Journal.

Black Friday Mobile Conversions Finally Surpassed Desktop on Facebook
Mobile commerce through Facebook continued its upward dominance of the 2016 holiday shopping season, beating out desktop conversions for the first time to account for 51 percent of all transactions. According to research released this morning by Facebook, mobile transactions on Black Friday increased 55 percent year-over-year. For the entire holiday season, mobile accounted for 51 percent of all conversions through Facebook-a 10-point increase over 2015. In fact, 38 percent of those surveyed said they wished they could do even more of their shopping on mobile. Much of that time spent shopping is when users are on the go. According to Facebook, mobile conversions rose by 21 percent between the commuting hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., surpassing desktop conversions around 5 p.m. The results also seem to confirm Facebook research released in July, which predicted shoppers should be spending more time shopping on their phones than in previous years. Story by Marty Swant for Adweek.

New System Could Connect Cell Phones to Real Cells and Treat Disease
Microelectronics has transformed our lives. Cellphones, earbuds, pacemakers, defibrillators-all these and more rely on microelectronics’ very small electronic designs and components. Microelectronics has changed the way we collect, process and transmit information. Such devices, however, rarely provide access to our biological world; there are technical gaps. We can’t simply connect our cellphones to our skin and expect to gain health information. There’s a translation problem when you want the world of biology to communicate with the world of electronics. New research brings us one step closer to closing that communication gap. Rather than relying on the usual molecular signals, like hormones or nutrients, that control a cell’s gene expression, we created a synthetic “switching” system in bacterial cells that recognizes electrons instead. This new technology-a link between electrons and biology-may ultimately allow us to program our phones or other microelectronic devices to autonomously detect and treat disease. Story by William Bentley and Gregory Payne for Scientific American.

Trump Trades in Android Phone for Secret Service-Approved Device
On arriving in Washington on Thursday ahead of his inauguration, Donald Trump handed in his Android device in exchange for an unidentified locked-down phone. The phone comes with a new number that is known only to a limited number of people. This marks a big change for Trump, who’s frequently on the line with friends, business contacts, reporters, foreign leaders and politicians. Barack Obama was the first president to use a mobile device approved by security agencies because of hacking concerns. Initially he had a heavily modified BlackBerry and later switched to another phone that had most features disabled. He was not known to use it for making or receiving calls, but it was one of few devices that had access to the @POTUS Twitter account. Trump said earlier this week that he will keep using his existing Twitter account to communicate on social media, in addition the the @POTUS account. Story by Katie Collins and Laura Hautala for CNet.

Mobile Chipmaker Qualcomm Hit with US Antitrust Suit
Mobile chip giant Qualcomm was hit on Tuesday with a US antitrust suit alleging it abused its dominant position in the market for processors used in cell phones and other devices. The US Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit in federal court in California claiming Qualcomm’s practices amount to “unlawful maintenance of a monopoly in baseband processors,” which are devices that enable cellular communications in phones and other products. Qualcomm rejected the agency’s case as “significantly flawed,” arguing that reasoning at the heart of the civil complaint is wrong. Story in LiveMint.

Andy Rubin Nears His Comeback, Complete With an ‘Essential’ Phone
Just over two years after leaving Google, Andy Rubin is preparing to take on the smartphone industry he helped create. Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, is planning to marry his background in software with artificial intelligence in a risky business: consumer hardware. Armed with about a 40-person team, filled with recruits from Apple and Google, Rubin is preparing to announce a new company called Essential and serve as its Chief Executive Officer, according to people familiar with the matter. A platform company designed to tie multiple devices together, Essential is working on a suite of consumer hardware products, including ones for the mobile and smart home markets, one of the people said. The centerpiece of the system is a high-end smartphone with a large edge-to-edge screen that lacks a surrounding bezel. Story by Mark Gurman and Mark Bergen for Bloomberg.

Scientists Find a Way to Charge Smartphone Batteries Faster
Your smartphone and other portable devices with lithium batteries could soon be recharged much faster, say scientists who have found a way to improve the performance of these batteries. Rechargeable lithium batteries have helped power the ‘portable revolution’ in mobile phones, laptops and tablet computers, and new generations of lithium batteries are being developed for electric vehicles and to store energy from wind and solar power. Researchers from the University of Bath in the UK and University of Illinois at Chicago have found why adding charged metal atoms to tunnel structures within batteries improves their performance. Story in The Economic Times.

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.