Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–June 15, 2015

Cell Phone Industry Sues Berkeley over Warning-Labels Law
The cell-phone industry, leery of any attempt to link its products to radiation, sued Berkeley on Monday over a new ordinance requiring consumers to be warned that carrying a switched-on phone in their pockets or bra might exceed federal safety standards. The ordinance violates free speech by compelling sellers to convey a message they disagree with, and one that is “inaccurate, misleading, and controversial,” said the suit, filed in federal court by CTIA–The Wireless Association. The trade group successfully used a similar argument against a San Francisco ordinance that would have required cell-phone retailers to tell customers the phones could expose them to dangerous levels of radiation, classified as possibly cancer-causing by the World Health Organization. The city dropped the ordinance in 2013 after a federal appeals court barred its enforcement. Story by Bob Egelko for SF Gate.

Smartphone Thefts Drop as Kill Switch Usage Grows
Phone theft used to be a growth industry. The snatch-and-run stealing of iPhones even had its own clever moniker: Apple picking. But such thefts might be in decline. Last year, 2.1 million Americans had phones stolen, according to a nationally representative survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. (Another 3.1 million smartphones were lost.) In 2013, about 3.1 million phones were stolen. Story by Calla Dietrick for Consumer Reports.

South Korea Fighting MERS by Tracking Cell Phones
South Korea is still coping with its outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) as the number of people infected rose by 14 to a total of 64. Five people have died from the infection so far. Authorities in South Korea are tracking cell phones of hundreds of people who have been exposed to the virus and who are under quarantine. This is to ensure that they are staying at home as they have been ordered to do. Authorities are attempting to avoid a repeat of the man who was ordered quarantined to his home, but who left and flew to Hong Kong in late May, where he then tested positive for the virus. More than 2,300 are under quarantine. Most are quarantined to their homes but some are staying in health care facilities. There is one entire village that is under quarantine. Story by Bernadette Strong for Youth Health Magazine.

How Cell Phones Can Help End World Hunger
By the end of this century, there will be more than 9 billion people on the planet. Feeding that many mouths will require farmers to harvest more food in the next 75 years than has yet been produced in all of human history. Yet the cruel irony is that today hunger disproportionately affects small farmers. In fact, roughly half of the world’s 805 million chronically hungry people are small-scale farmers like the women I met in Tanzania. Without access to the right resources and training, millions of food producers are unable to move past subsistence farming or even put food on the table for themselves and their families. Often, their crops will fail as a result of drought, disease, pest or post-harvest contamination. SMS technology, or “Short Message Service”–the wireless capability that enables two-way text messaging on cell phones–offers one of the best ways for farmers to tackle these problems. That’s especially true in low-income countries where cellphones are more common than traditional infrastructure like paved roads and reliable electricity. Story by Dan Glickman for National Geographic.

Over 6 Billion Smartphone Users Predicted by 2020
According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, there will be an estimated 6.1 billion smartphone users in the world by 2020, up from the current 2.6 billion subscriptions. This growth is largely due to the rise of smartphone sales in developing markets, with smartphones expected to pass landlines in the next five years. Overall, there are now 7.1 billion mobile subscriptions in the world, and this is growing at a rate of nearly 5% per year. This includes basic phones and smartphones. Ericsson predicts that 70% of the world’s population will have a smartphone by 2020, and 80% of mobile data traffic will come from smartphones. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

4 Places That Need Cell Phone Jammers
The news about teacher Dean Liptak getting in hot water for blocking cell phone signals in his Fivay High School classroom was exactly the wrong reaction on the part of administrators (and the government to be honest). OpinionsSure, what he did was technically illegal. The Federal Communications Commission says “use of ‘cell jammers’ or similar devices designed to intentionally block, jam, or interfere with authorized radio communications (signal blockers, GPS jammers, or text stoppers, etc.) is a violation of federal law.” Rather than condemn Liptak, society should look into ways to empower teachers who need this assist. The FCC and Congress should be creating exceptions to the Communications Act of 1934 upon which many of the cell jammer limitations are based. Businesses should be allowed to find new ways to make easily controlled jamming devices. Let’s face it, there are multiple places where it would be an excellent idea for jammers with limited, fine-tuned range, to be used judiciously. Story by Eric Griffith for PC Magazine.

Fake Mobile Phone Towers Operating In The UK
Sky News has found evidence that rogue mobile phone towers, which can listen in on people’s calls without their knowledge, are being operated in the UK. IMSI catchers, also known as Stingrays, mimic mobile phone masts and trick phones into logging on. The controversial surveillance technology is used by police agencies worldwide to target the communications of criminals. However, Stingrays also collect the data of all other phones in the area, meaning innocent people’s communications are spied on. Story by Tom Cheshire for Sky News.

Google Can Tell You Which Android Phone You Should Buy
The sheer variety of Android devices out there means that it’s hard to know which one best serves your needs. If you’d prefer not to take the advice of technology reviewers, then Google is now offering a second opinion. The company has launched Which Phone, a website that asks you a handful of questions to narrow down which device you should purchase. Would-be Android owners are asked which three things they do with their phone most often, from a list that includes the obvious things like Photos or Social Media through to Staying Fit and “Expressing My Style.” When you’ve gone through each one, you’ll be asked how much time you spend on each activity and which American carrier you’d prefer to use. When that’s done, you’ll be offered up a trio or more of suggested devices. Story by Daniel Cooper for Engadget.

Our Addiction To Cell Phones Is Costing Lives
Texting while driving can lead to a catastrophic accident in just a few seconds. It’s a sobering reality, with no bigger reminder than the recent incident of a school bus driver crashing into another bus filled with school children while he was distracted by his phone. Three passengers died, including two young elementary school kids. So what causes our insatiable need to constantly check our devices? Dr. David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, told The Huffington Post that when cell phone users compulsively check their devices it is in an effort to stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers. And in this way, cell phone use can be compared to gambling or gaming addictions. Story by Sebastian Murdock for the Huffington Post.

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.