Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–July 13, 2015

T-Mobile Gets More Disruptive, Ends North American Roaming Charges
Consumers who travel in foreign countries often get a nasty surprise when they return home–a cell phone bill of $1,000 or more. That’s because roaming charges between countries are astronomical. T-Mobile says it is taking steps to make roaming charges a thing of the past for consumers traveling in North America. The company’s newly-announced Simple Choice plan extends coverage and calling across the U.S., Mexico and Canada at no extra charge. Customers on the Simple Choice plan will be able to call both land lines and mobile phones and receive 4G LTE data across all 3 countries at no additional cost. T-Mobile says its plan will cover a lot of travel bases since its research shows that in 2014, 35% of all international calls and 55% of all international travel from the U.S. was to Mexico or Canada. Story by Mark Huffman for Consumer Affairs.

Cell Phone Notifications Drive More Distraction
Driver distraction could happen even when the driver isn’t using their cell phone. That’s according to a new study by Florida State University that found just receiving a notification on a cell phone can cause enough of a distraction to impair a person’s ability to focus on a given task. In fact, the distraction caused by a simple notification–an incoming phone call or text by a trendy ringtone, an alarm bell or a quiet vibration–is comparable to the effects seen when users actively use their cell phones to make calls or send text messages, the researchers found. Story by Florida State University for Insurance Journal.

Hospitals Bugged by Dirty Mobile Phones
Mobile phones are a risk to public health, an Australian study has found. But it has nothing to do with electromagnetic fields and tumours. Instead the study, published recently in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, shows mobile phones used by medical staff in hospitals are dirty and help spread bugs. The study, conducted in the pediatric unit of Launceston regional hospital in Tasmania, showed 95 per cent of phones were colonised with bacteria such as skin flora. Story by Dani Cooper for ABC Science.

Microsoft to Cut 7,800 Jobs, Take $7.6B Charge as Phone Woes Drag On
The layoffs will mostly hit employees in the former Nokia smartphone business. CEO Satya Nadella says Microsoft remains committed to phones but needs a dose of “reinvention.” Microsoft is cutting more employees and restructuring its mobile phone business, in a costly maneuver that continues the company’s struggle in the smartphone market. The software giant announced Wednesday that it will lay off 7,800 workers, most of them in its moribund smartphone unit, which it bought from Nokia last year to the tune of slightly more than $7.2 billion. The 7,800 positions being cut represent about 6.5 percent of the 118,584 employees Microsoft had as of March 31. Story by Lance Whitney for CNet.

Something Unimaginable Is Happening in the Gadgets Market
The global love affair with gadgets isn’t dying, not by a long shot. But a new study indicates that our infatuation with shiny new electronic devices appears to be hitting a plateau. The IT research firm Gartner released a forecast predicting that for the first time since 2010, there will be a worldwide decline in money spent on gadgets. Globally, the anticipation is that consumers will collectively spend $606 billion on PCs, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones in 2015. That would represent a 5.7% decline from 2014. The decrease in spending isn’t because we’re buying fewer mobile phones. In fact, mobile phone purchases are expected to be up for the year: 1.94 billion, versus 1.879 billion in 2014. Yet mobile phone prices continue to fall. So even as we buy more, the dollars collected on those sales aren’t as high as one might expect. Story by Brad Tuttle for Time.

Taking Control of Cancer–From Your Mobile Phone
As cancer patients and their loved ones know, cancer is not a game. But games played on mobile phones could soon empower those affected by cancer, in a revolutionary new project developed by ecancer and collaborators. Eight partners from five European countries have come together to create intelligent “games” to allow cancer patients to take control of their illness by harnessing the power of their mobile phones. iManageCancer is a consortium of healthcare professionals, game developers, and oncology educators like ecancer. Story in Medical Xpress.

Broadway Legend Grabs Phone From Texter, Laments Future
During a Wednesday night performance of “Shows for Days” at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center, Tony-winning actress Patti LuPone apparently had enough of one audience member who was more glued to the texts on her cell phone than to the show being put on in front of her by real, live actors. While doing a scene, LuPone reached down and plucked the phone from the spectator’s hands. LuPone was still steaming Thursday. In a statement, she wondered whether it was worth continuing to do live theater. “We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones,” she said. Story by Todd Leopold for CNN.

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.