Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Limits Police Right to Search Cell Phones
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that police officers usually need a warrant before they can search an arrested suspect’s cellphone. The court said on a 9-0 vote in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts that the right of police to search an arrested suspect at the scene without a warrant does not extend in most circumstances to data held on a cellphone. There are some emergency situations in which a warrantless search would be permitted, the court noted. The ruling is a blow to law enforcement agencies that would prefer more latitude to search without having to obtain a warrant. Story by Lawrence Hurley for Reuters.

Google and Microsoft to Add Kill Switches to Their Smartphones
After seeing Apple successfully add kill switches to iPhones, Google and Microsoft have decided to follow suit. Once these Android and Windows smartphones have this feature by the end of next year, 97% of smartphone users in the United States should have access to kill switch technology. Apple has seen a severe drop in smartphone theft since they began testing the kill switch in two American markets in September 2013. New York City reported a 17% decrease in iPhone theft after the kill switches were issued and San Francisco reported a 38% decrease. In addition, New York City saw a 51% increase in the theft of Samsung devices during the same time, which suggests that thieves moved on to more accessible phones. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Why Are We Still Calling the Things in Our Pockets ‘Cell Phones’?
The use of voice calls–which has been dropping since 2007, the year Apple introduced the original iPhone–has fallen off a cliff lately. As of last year, cell providers in the U.S. are now making more money per user from data use than voice calling. (The U.S. is only the seventh nation to reach the data-voice tipping point–it happened in countries like Japan as early as 2011.) A recent survey of 7,000 U.S. high-school seniors found that only 34 percent made phone calls every day–far fewer than the number who texted or used apps like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. And companies like AT&T and Verizon, which saw the data boom coming years ago, have been spending more and more on new, bigger LTE data networks, while essentially giving away their voice plans for free. Story by Kevin Roose for New York Magazine.

Research Finds That Cell Phones Reflect Our Personal Microbiome
Smartphones are everywhere, and they may be smarter than you think. Our cell phones actually reflect the personal microbial world of their owners, with potential implications for their use as bacterial and environmental sensors, according to new research. New research focused on the personal microbiome–the collection of microorganisms on items regularly worn or carried by a person – demonstrates the significant microbiological connection we share with our phones. Story in Infection Control Today.

Japan Considering Imposing New Tax on Mobile Phones
The Japanese government is giving serious consideration to imposing a new tax on owners of mobile phones, with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party setting up a study group to consider the feasibility of the levy and how much it might rake in. The politician leading the movement has been besieged by criticism on his Facebook page since the plan was revealed earlier this month. The tax is being considered because there is a need to introduce new security measures to cover cybercrimes and other illegal activities that utilise social media. Story by Julian Ryall for South China Morning Post.

Fighting Malaria with Mobile Phones
New technologies have been developed to help researchers and public health practitioners pinpoint outbreaks of malaria and other epidemics. Researchers from the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and the National Vector-borne Diseases Control Programme in Namibia have successfully tracked malaria outbreaks using mobile phone data. The University of California at San Francisco has also helped set up new initiatives to record every malaria case in Namibia, making data tracking more accurate. Mobile phones and Internet connections are becoming increasingly popular across Africa and Asia. This trend has created the opportunity for researchers to track users’ movements, and with the combination of topographic research and information about diagnosed cases, ultimately fight diseases. Story by Norman Rozenberg for Tech Page One.

Florida Man Discovers Jamming Cell Phones Is Expensive
A Florida man, fed up with people talking on the cell phone while driving, took matters into his own hands by jamming all cell phone communications around him as he drove to and from work. Problem his jamming tactics, which went undetected for two years, blocked emergency communications as well. Once caught, he now faces a $48,000 fine. Story by Mark Melin for Value Walk.

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.