Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–June 8, 2015

California Senate OKs Bill Calling for Warrants to Search Devices
The California Senate this week unanimously approved a bill that requires law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant before searching private electronic communications. Senate Bill 178–supported by tech giants like Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter–guards state residents from unauthorized government access to emails, text messages, and GPS data stored in the cloud or on a digital device. Story by Stephanie Mlot for PC Magazine.

Florida Teacher Punished After Signal-Jamming his Students’ Cell Phones
Students are addicted to their smartphones as much as anyone else. That’s why a school district policy in Pasco County, Florida that orders students to keep their mobile devices switched off in class has little effect, a situation that persuaded one teacher there to take decisive action. Fed up with seeing everyone engrossed in their phones instead of in his lesson, science teacher Dean Liptak cranked up a cell phone jammer inside his classroom to effectively shut the devices down. The ploy worked–until Verizon turned up complaining that someone at the school was interfering with its network. As Liptak and his jammer were correctly identified as the cause of the problem, Verizon pointed out that cell phones beyond the teacher’s classroom were also being affected by the jammer. Pasco County school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe took a very different view of the teacher’s actions. “The consequences could have been dire if he was jamming the signal so that 911 calls couldn’t be made. It would affect an emergency in the school.” Story by Trevor Mogg for Digital Trends.

Cell Phone Contracts Vanishing in Favor of No-Contract Leases
The $200 iPhone is toast. Until recently, buying a smartphone was a simple two-step process: Hand your wireless carrier $200 and sign a two-year contract. Though a bevy of new contract-free cell phone plans have popped up over the past year, inspired by T-Mobile’s “Uncarrier” strategy, you could still walk into an Apple Store and get an iPhone the “old-fashioned” way: pay $200, sign on the dotted line, walk away with an iPhone. Not for much longer. AT&T is phasing out the two-year contract at third-party retailers,
including the Apple Store, as part of a new plan to promote its contract-free “Next” program, according to a source with knowledge of the strategy. Two-year contracts will now only be available at AT&T stores–online or brick and mortar. Story by Shellie Nelson for Cable News Network.

Cell Phone Access in Africa Expected to Double in 5 Years
Eighty percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s 800 million people should have access to mobile telephones by the end of the decade, double the current rate, although government help is needed to reach far-flung areas, industry body group GSMA said Wednesday. The growth of mobile data–an even more powerful economic tool than simple voice services–also hinges on authorities allocating sufficient spectrum. To unleash the full potential of mobile Internet services, he said, governments should also consider cutting taxes on web-enabled handsets to make them more affordable to consumers on the poorest continent. At the moment about 15 percent of Africans have access to the Internet via their mobile phones. Story by Ed Cropley for Reuters.

New Pact App Pays Users to Stay Healthy
Need a new way to motivate yourself to stay healthy? With the Pact app, you can get paid for working out, eating the right foods and maintaining your health. Getting paid to eat well and exercise may seem too good to be true, but that’s exactly what you can do with the Pact app. You set a certain goal with regards to gym visits and the foods you eat, and then get paid if you meet your goals. Of course, there is a catch. If you do not meet your Pact agreement, you have to pay. Your money goes to other Pact users who were able to hit their health goals for the week. Story by Lynn Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Mobile Phones Are Taking Over the World
The International Telecommunication Union estimated last week that there will be 7.1 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide by the end of this year. Global population, meanwhile, is just about 7.25 billion. This doesn’t mean that almost every last man, woman and child on the planet has a phone–many people, especially in affluent countries, have multiple phones and/or multiple phone numbers. But still, the data does show that most of the world is now connected, a big change from just a decade ago, when there were 2.2 billion wireless subscriptions worldwide. In the U.S. and Western Europe, where most everybody was already connected via landlines decades ago, the rise of mobile is of perhaps less epochal significance. But it’s still pretty remarkable. In Western Europe, where easily removable SIM cards make it possible to use multiple subscriptions with the same device, the number of wireless subscriptions passed the number of people back in 2006 or so. In the U.S., wireless penetration passed 100 percent in 2012. According to the new Telecommunications Industry Association 2015-2018 ICT Market Review and Forecast, it’s going to keep rising. Story by Justin Fox for Bloomberg View.

Wall Street’s Switching Phones
Big banks are cutting out Blackberrys. The Blackberry was once ubiquitous with dealmakers and senior bank execs, lauded for its impenetrable security. But no more. Wall Street banks are looking to save big on everything from land-line voicemail to hardware and support costs that go along with providing phones to employees. And this means either asking nicely or outright demanding that employees turn in their office-issued phones. Cost is not the only driver of the phone initiative. A banking source said that some firms feel the Good Mobile email app is a better security option for employees than using Blackberrys. In order to access Good Mobile email, a thief would need to first crack the password on a user’s mobile device and also crack the app’s email password. Story by Jonathan Marino for Business Insider.

Microsoft Unveils Entry-Level Mobile Nokia 105, Costing $20
Microsoft has added another handset to its line of low-end Nokia-branded devices, aimed at first-time mobile buyers.Buyers will likely get to see Microsoft’s next flagship smartphone later this summer, but for now, the company has released the Nokia 105, a $20 device that runs on Series 30+ operating system. The new 105 has 4MB, allowing it to support 2000 contacts rather than the 500 contacts possible with the earlier device’s 384kB of RAM. The device probably won’t excite anyone who’s interested in high-end smartphones, but as Microsoft highlights, its “most affordable phone” is aimed at first-time mobile buyers and people who want a second phone. Story by Liam Tung for ZDNet.

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.