Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–March 16, 2015

Samsung to Focus on Premium Products to Withstand Competition
Samsung will use more premium materials in mobile devices to win customers and offer a wider range of connected devices after losing its outright lead in the smartphone market to Apple. The plan includes more smartphones with metal casings, slim designs and high-definition displays across its range of models, Co-Chief Executive Officer Shin Jong Kyun said at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in Seoul Friday. Story by Jungah Lee for Bloomberg.

Beware the ‘Stingray’
Police departments are using a tool to spy on cellphones, and they don’t want you to know about it. Stingrays, also known as a cell-site simulators, or ISMI catchers, intercept cell data by tricking nearby phones into treating the device as a cell tower. When activated, Stingrays sweep up unique IDs from every phone in the area, even through the walls of cars, homes or hotel rooms. Electronic Frontier Foundation has called the Stingray an “unconstitutional, all you can eat data buffet.” The constitutionality of this technology at the moment is an open question. There’s basically no case law. But typically, the Fourth Amendment doesn’t allow police to search everyone in a neighborhood to find a perp, which is probably why the U.S. government has taken extraordinary measures to avoid a test of Stingray evidence in court. Story by Sam Adler-Bell for U.S. News.

Why You Should Never Sign a Cell Phone Contract Again
Like rocket science and high school relationships, cell phone plans are complicated for a reason. Two-year contract or early-upgrade plan? Month-to-month or pay-as-you-go? Individual or shared data? Big carriers like AT&T and Verizon love it this way–they know most consumers won’t know a good plan from a bad one. When it comes down to it, there are roughly four types of cell plans. We’ll order them from worst to first: a payment plan, like AT&T’s Next or Verizon’s Edge; a two-year contract; a pay-as-you-go plan; and a month-to-month plan (requires an unlocked phone with no contract). Story by Ben Taylor for Time.

Smartphones Make Up 76% of U.S. Mobile Market
According to the latest report from comScore, smartphones now make up 75.8% of the mobile market share in the United States. As of January, there are approximately 184 million Americans that own a smartphone. That is a 4% increase from October 2014 to January 2015. Apple devices claim a large portion of the market, representing 41.3% of smartphones owned. By comparison, Samsung makes up 29.3% and LG captures 8.0%. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Students Rejoice: NYC Public School Students Now Allowed Cell Phones
New York City public school students were allowed to have their phones in school for the first time Monday after the city officially ended the cell phone ban started during the Bloomberg Administration. Each school has developed its own rules for the phones, including allowing students to use them only during lunch and in designated areas. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the change in January, saying the old policy was unfair because it was unevenly enforced. Cell phones got a big welcome when the new city policy took effect, with mixed reviews from administrators. Story by Lucy Yang for WABC.

Are Mobile Phones Making You Miss Special Moments?
With the digital invasion well and truly engrained in day to day life, soaring numbers of people are missing out on what is happening in front of them and are too distracted by technology to enjoy the moment. The latest research shows that more than half of Brits have admitted that mobile phone use has spoiled a key moment in life, such as a big performance at a festival, sporting event or watching their child perform in a school play. More than 40% of people were texting, 24% were habit checking their phone and 10% were checking social media feeds. Story in The Telegraph.

Mobile Phone Data Reveals Humanity’s Reproductive Strategies
Combining old fashioned questionnaires with data mining techniques reveals increasingly detailed insights into the way young men and women allocate their time and resources. The results reveal some interesting insights. First, individuals show clear patterns of behaviour, such as making more calls in the morning compared to the evening. They also show that the call patterns vary throughout the day. There is a strong difference between the genders. For example, among women, there is a much greater variation of call duration, with longer calls more likely to occur in the evening. What’s more, these long calls are more likely to be directed to a significant other but not a family member. Story in MIT Technology Review.

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.