Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–July 7, 2014

FTC Accuses T-Mobile of Fraudulent Customer Charges
T-Mobile ignored fraudulent charges being placed on its customers phone bills for years and made hundreds of millions of dollars from it, the Federal Trade Commission alleged Tuesday. However, T-Mobile called the FTC suit “unfounded and without merit” and a “sensationalized legal action.” The “cramming” involved third parties placing charges on T-Mobile phone bills for purported premium SMS subscriptions that, in many cases, were bogus or were never authorized by customers. Regulators are seeking refunds for scammed customers. Story by Gregory Karp for the Chicago Tribune.

U.S. Supreme Court: Police Must Obtain Warrant Before Searching Cell Phones
In a decision that changes the way law enforcement officers collect electronic information, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Riley v. California, that officers may not search a cell phone incident to a lawful arrest without first obtaining a search warrant.  The ruling was a sweeping embrace of digital privacy, touching upon remotely stored private information-i.e., “cloud” computing-and geographic tracking data that cell phones often contain. The result was the broadest constitutional ruling on privacy in the context of modern technology since the Court’s ruling two terms ago limiting police use of satellite-linked GPS tracking of a suspect’s movements by car. Story by Glen A. Kopp and Matthew R. Baker for the National Law Review.

How Much Do Americans Love Their Cellphones? Let’s Count the Ways
Check out these statistics from a recent study: When asked how long they could last without your cellphone, 13% said it would be less than an hour. The largest group (34%) wouldn’t be able to go a day, while 28% said they could go about a week. And 16% said they could go indefinitely without their phone. While a week without a cellphone seems reasonable to prove you’re not addicted, seeing 47% of Americans who can’t last a day is, well, alarming. Story by Brian O’Connell for The Street.

Why The Amazon Fire Phone Could Be A Smartphone Game Changer
Amazon is one of the most respected brands in existence. Its customers may not be as rabidly loyal as Apple fans, but it has an established reputation for quality and customer service. Amazon is consistently ranked among the most valuable brands in the world, and in a 2013 Harris Poll for brand reputation Amazon surpassed Apple to take the top spot among US consumers. Amazon is also prepared to go head-to-head in most of the major categories. It already has its own mobile OS-a fork of the Android OS. It has its own app store, cloud storage, streaming video content, and streaming music service. Amazon Prime is an exceptional value, which unlocks access to movies, TV, and music content, as well as free two-day shipping on Amazon Prime merchandise, and Amazon is including one year of Amazon Prime with the Fire Phone. Story by Tony Bradley for Forbes.

Helping the World’s Poor, Via Cell Phones
Studying 10 developing countries across sub-Saharan African and Asia, the researchers found that many residents view cellular phones as a necessity, even cutting back on food purchases to pay their phone bills. Although more than 60% of people in the countries studied live on less than $2 per day, the majority of people there own cell phones. With the influx of new data, the report suggests new applications for it, such as creating better disaster relief programs.  After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for example, several universities looked at data from cell phone towers and SIM cards to see where residents went after the quake hit. Instead of going to the closest “safe” zone, many survivors chose to go to locations where they had traveled to before. Story by Preetisha Sen for Fortune.

Make Money from Your Smartphone Pictures
Fotolia Instant is an app that now lets smartphone photographers sell their images directly from their phone. The program is designed specifically for selling these photos, not putting them on the web like one would with Instagram. Fotolia is not the only company to announce plans for selling smartphone photos, but they are certainly the largest and most influential. Fotolia currently has a community of more than 5 million contributors and buyers, making it a great place to sell images. Story by Sarah Hefner for SaveOnPhone.com.

Boston’s Solar-Powered Benches Will Charge Phones and Collect Data
Boston has started installing park benches that double as electronic device charging stations. The multitasking benches, dubbed Soofas, have USB ports in which park dwellers can plug in their devices. The seats also connect wirelessly to the Internet to upload local environmental data such as air quality and noise levels, as well as information on how much energy is being generated. So far, two Soofas have been placed in Boston Common and two in Titus Sparrow Park. Several more will be added in Boston and Cambridge in coming weeks. Story by Caroline Winter for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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.