Weekly Cell Phone News in Review—July 17, 2017

Visa Unveils New Incentive Plan to Push Cashless Transactions
Visa announced a new initiative called the Cashless Challenge, which, beginning in August, will incentivize small merchants to move away from cash and toward card- and mobile-based payments. Visa will use an application-based process to select 50 small merchants in food services that will receive roughly $10,000 to upgrade their payment infrastructure to accept card- and mobile-based payments. In exchange, these merchants must pledge to limit or remove cash payments. Story by Jaime Toplin for Business Insider.

Consumers Are Putting Trust in Biometrics for Mobile Banking
A survey of adults in the United States revealed they view biometrics as more secure than passwords and would like more biometrics options for mobile banking. The report by EyeVerify, maker of the Eyeprint ID biometric technology for smart mobile devices, found that nearly 8 out of 10 (79%) respondents said they want the  opportunity to use more biometric authentication methods beyond the fingerprint to access mobile banking or payment apps. Additionally, 42% said they would not use a banking or payment app that doesn’t offer biometric authentication. Story in Security Sales & Integration.

Millions of Verizon Customer Records Exposed in Security Lapse
An Israeli technology company has exposed millions of Verizon customer records. As many as 14 million records of subscribers who called the phone giant’s customer services in the past six months were found on an unprotected Amazon S3 storage server controlled by an employee of Nice Systems, a Ra’anana, Israel-based company. The data was downloadable by anyone with the easy-to-guess web address. Story by Zack Whittaker for ZD Net.

Honolulu City Council Votes to Ban Cellphones for Pedestrians Crossing Streets
The Honolulu city council this week voted 7-2 to fine residents caught texting or using their mobile devices while crossing the street. The legislation, which now heads to Mayor Kirk Caldwell for approval or veto, was conceived by a group of high school students, lawmakers said. Violators would be subject to a fine of between $15 and $99, with the amount rising to a maximum of $500 for multiple offenses. The legislation the use of cellphones, tablets, handheld video games, digital cameras, pagers and laptops while walking in a public right-of-way. Caldwell said he is evaluating the measure and has not decided whether he will sign it into law. Story by Eric DuVall for UPI.

Cellphone Electrocutes Girl in Bathtub
Madison Coe, a 14 year-old girl from Lubbock, Texas, died of an apparent electrocution on July 9 when she was at her father’s home in Lovington, New Mexico. Family members found her unresponsive in the bathtub with burn marks on her hand. She either plugged her cellphone into a bathroom outlet or grabbed the already plugged-in phone as she sat in the tub. An investigation by the Lovington Police Department determined that the “initial evidence shows signs consistent with that of electrocution.” Story in the Daily Hornet.

Cell Towers At Schools: Godsend Or God-Awful?
School districts, hard up for cash, are turning to an unlikely source of revenue: cell towers. The multistory metal giants are cropping up on school grounds in Chicago, Milpitas, Calif., Collier County, Fla. and many other places across the country. The big reason: money. As education budgets dwindle, districts are forming partnerships with telecom companies to allow use of their land in exchange for some of the profits. Last year, for example, cell towers on seven school sites generated $112,139 in revenue for the schools in Prince George’s County, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. There are very few locations in residential communities where the properties are large enough. One place where there is enough space: high schools. Most campuses are 20-40 acres, Forkas says, offering ample room for cell towers. Story by Julie Depenbrock for NPR.

The Firm That Sold $14,000 Smartphones Has Reportedly Collapsed
The manufacturing arm of a British luxury smartphone maker is to be wound down after a failed buyout bid in the U.K. High Court, according to multiple media reports. Vertu Corporation Limited made products for the super-rich that came with hefty price tags. Some Vertu models boasted state of the art technology, superior craftsmanship and materials, as well as bespoke services – including a concierge service which provided 24-hour worldwide assistance to users. Vertu’s phones started at around £11,100 ($14,390) and a top-of-the-range jewel-encrusted bespoke model could reportedly sell for £280,000. Story by Silvia Amaro for CNBC.

Smartphones Hijack Cognitive Capacity
Having a smartphone nearby reduces cognitive capacity, even when the phone is turned off, new research shows. A team of investigators led by Adrian Ward, PhD, assistant professor, McCombs School of Business, University of Texas, Austin, conducted two studies in which close to 800 undergraduate students engaged in a cognitive task with their smartphones placed either nearby and in sight, nearby and out of sight, or in a separate room. The researchers found that the mere presence of a smartphone adversely affected available cognitive capacity, even when participants were successful at sustaining attention, were not using their phone, and did not report thinking about the phone. These cognitive effects were strongest in those who reported greater smartphone dependence. Story by Batya Swift Yasgur for Medscape.

When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Share Your Location Using a Smartphone
For years, tech companies have offered different ways for people to tell one another where they are. Yet all the popular location-sharing tools are limited or flawed, and in some cases broadcasting your location may not be worth the effort or worth draining your phone’s battery life. Even worse, location tracking raises numerous privacy concerns about who can snoop into your whereabouts. Yet security experts agree that on smartphones, it is now practically impossible to stop location tracking. There is a multitude of ways for third parties to find out where we are, including cell towers, the metadata transmitted from telecommunications, and data logged on our phones. Here are some tips for the best- and worst-use cases for sharing your location using a range of old and brand-new location-sharing tools. Story by Brian X. Chen for The New York Times.

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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.