Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–July 20, 2015

Apple’s Share of Smartphone Industry’s Profits Soars to 92%
Roughly 1,000 companies make smartphones. Just one reaps nearly all the profits. Apple recorded 92% of the total operating income from the world’s eight top smartphone makers in the first quarter, up from 65% a year earlier. Samsung Electronics Co. took 15%. Apple and Samsung account for more than 100% of industry profits because other makers broke even or lost money. Story By Shira Ovide and Daisuke Wakabayashi for The Wall Street Journal.

Are Mobile Payment Apps Safe?
Starbucks made headlines in May, but not in a good way. Multiple major news outlets reported that criminals had hacked into the Starbucks’ mobile payment app and drained funds from unsuspecting Starbucks customers. Hackers chose to target the Starbucks app because many coffee addicts store their credit card information in the Starbucks app so their loyalty account can be automatically reloaded once the funds have been depleted. The app is the preferred means of payment for many loyal customers. Some estimate that the use of the mobile payment system accounts for more than 15% of all customer purchases. Starbucks also benefits because a company app can reduce overhead and expenses by allowing a company to pay lower fees when accepting debit or credit card payments. Story in the Huffington Post.

Google ‘Buy’ Buttons Let Users Shop Directly From Ads
Google says it wants you to start shopping directly through the ads that appear on your phone. Eager to get in the e-retail game, Google announced that it will begin to test “buy” that will appear on mobile advertisements. The move is meant to make online purchasing easier than ever by letting users buy products with just the click of a button using the payment information linked to their Google accounts. While many companies are trying similar methods to make it easier to shop online with just a click or a swipe, Google could have a competitive advantage due to its dominance over the world of search engines, observers say. Story by Cristina Maza for The Christian Science Monitor.

How Your Cellphone Knows if You’re Depressed
Mobile phones are the modern American’s most faithful companion. They follow us from home to work, the gym and grocery store, and back again. They never forget a birthday, anniversary or soccer game. And they are always available to offer advice about our finances, spelling and love life — no matter what time of day or night. A growing number of scientists are starting to mine this data in the hopes that it will help them understand what makes you happy or sad, and pinpoint signs of a disease long before it can be diagnosed by a blood sample or MRI, helping you live longer and better. In one of the first of a number of studies in the works to be published, researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine believe they have found a way for your smartphone to determine if you’re depressed. Story by Ariana Eunjung Cha for The Washington Post.

Nokia Wants to Get Back into the Cell Phone Business
Nokia was synonymous with cell phones for years as the industry took off. Almost everyone who had a mobile phone in the early 2000s was hauling around one of those giant Nokia bricks (you know the one). The smartphone revolution was not kind to Nokia, though, and Microsoft eventually bought the company’s devices and services division in 2014. Now Nokia is looking to get back into the phone game. Nokia spokesman Brett Young has now made it known that Nokia is looking to get back in the phone market just as soon as it’s contractually able. That means finding a “licensing partner” to handle the day-to-day operations of bringing a phone to market. Nokia would be involved with the design of the hardware and software, and also license the name and any necessary IP to its partner company. Story by Ryan Whitwam for Extreme Tech.

America’s Quietest Town, Where Cell Phones are Banned
Technology is constantly changing how we live and communicate. But in Green Bank, West Virginia, it is the presence of some of the most sophisticated technology on Earth that preserves this rural enclave, a throwback town to yesteryear. This is where you come to get away from the United States. Here, instant connectivity is extinct. Even microwaves are frowned upon by the region’s scientists. It’s not that people are backward or fearful of technology. Quite the opposite. Tucked in the Allegheny Mountains, researchers are listening to exploding galaxies at the edge of the universe–a signal that is so faint, it’s about a billionth of a billionth of a millionth of a watt. A cell phone emits about 3 watts and can swamp the sounds that are teaching astronomers how the Milky Way was formed and how it is still evolving. So, cell phone use is limited in the National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000-square mile area that limits radio frequency in the eastern half of West Virginia and parts of Virginia, stretching to the Maryland border. The main telescope can hear sounds from hundreds of millions of miles away and attracts some of the leading researchers in the world. “If you want to hear quiet noises, you need to keep the noise down.” Story by Wayne Drash and Evelio Conteras for CNN.

Google Wants to Make Your Cell Phone’s Screen Disappear
Even with all the obsessive marketing and design awards handed out over the years, most smartphones pretty much look the same. They’re all basically colored rectangles with a smaller black rectangle for a screen on the front. But a new patent awarded to Google suggests the phones of the future might not look like they have screens at all. In a patent awarded to the company July 14, Google outlined a new process for creating smartphone displays that match the color of the phone itself. Every cellphone on the market today has a screen that looks black when the display is off, but Google’s new idea could match the display color to the body of the phone using an electronically-controlled “color changing layer” that sits between the glass on the phone and the phone’s display. This means if you had a bright green Nokia Lumia or a canary yellow iPhone 5c, the next version of your phone could be one solid block of green or yellow when the display is off. When you turn the display on, it would just look like a regular cellphone screen. Story by Mike Murphy for Quartz.

Marshall Launches ‘Loudest Mobile Phone on Earth’ for Music Lovers
Marshall, the company best know for its amplifiers and headphones, has launched its first ever smartphone, called the London, with a strong focus on sound quality. The Android device claims to be the “loudest mobile phone on Earth” with two front-facing speakers and a dedicated hifi-grade sound card, allowing users to listen to music without the use of headphones. Story by Sophie Curtis for The Telegraph.

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.