Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–March 2, 2015

911’s Deadly Flaw: Lack of Location Data
In California, more than half of cellphone calls didn’t transmit location to 911 from 2011 to 2013, and it’s getting worse. Last year, about 12.4 million, or 63%, of California’s cellphone calls to 911 didn’t share location. There is no mandate or standard for collection or study of 911 location data. The FCC doesn’t collect data, and neither do some 911 centers. That makes it difficult to look at consistent statistics from state to state. In their reports and letters to the FCC, police and fire chiefs, 911 operators, emergency room doctors and others raised concerns about the problem worsening as more calls shift to the cellphone network, which accounts for at least 70% of all 911 calls. Story by John Kelly and Brendan Keefe for USA Today.

Planet of the Phones
The dawn of the planet of the smartphones came in January 2007, when Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, in front of a rapt audience of Apple acolytes, brandished a slab of plastic, metal and silicon not much bigger than a Kit Kat. “This will change everything,” he promised. For once there was no hyperbole. Just eight years later Apple’s iPhone exemplifies the early 21st century’s defining technology. They have become the fastest-selling gadgets in history, outstripping the growth of the simple mobile phones that preceded them. They outsell personal computers four to one. Today about half the adult population owns a smartphone; by 2020, 80% will. Smartphones have also penetrated every aspect of daily life. The average American is buried in one for over two hours every day. The transformative power of smartphones comes from their size and connectivity. Size makes them the first truly personal computers. Because transmitting data is cheap, this power is available on the move. Since 2005 the cost of delivering one megabyte wirelessly has dropped from $8 to a few cents. It is still falling. Story in The Economist.

Has Our Dependency on Smartphones Gone Too Far?
A new study assessed the “dependency” smartphone users feel with their devices and how that dependency influences their social lives. 92% of respondents said smartphones have changed the way they interact with friends, and 49% say they even changed the way they date. A surprising 58% said their phones have helped them manage their health differently, while 84% say they have changed the way they shop. But one in six respondents (17%) said they could not do their job without apps. Nearly one in five (19%) said they would have trouble making new friends or maintaining a relationship with their partner without their apps. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Will Cell Phones Help Insurgents? Or the Regimes They Oppose?
Cellphones affect insurgents’ ability to launch attacks in three major ways. First, cell phones make it easier for insurgents to commit violence. There are lots of reasons for this. Cellphones create new fusing options for setting off improvised explosive devices, for example, and allow for better coordination among insurgents. They could also make it easier for insurgent leaders to keep tabs on the rank and file in order to ensure that no one deviates from the plan or defects to the government. This role of cellphones usually leads to more violence. But cellphones also help the government in two ways. Because insurgents tend to communicate by cellphones when they are available, for the reasons above, their presence can make signals intelligence easier for the government. Cellphone intercepts played a key role in leading U.S. forces to al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for example. With more communication, there is simply more opportunity for the government to intercept signals by monitoring cellphones. And more intercepts mean more successful targeting of insurgents. This role of cellphones tends to lead to less violence. Story by Jacob Shapiro and David Siegel for The Washington Post.

Consumer Advocates, Debt Collectors Lock Horns over Robocalls to Cellphones
Consumer advocates and debt collectors are in a dogfight over a proposal before the Federal Communications Commission to allow robocalls to cellphones. The proposal would allow businesses, including debt collectors, to make robocalls to cellphones if they “intended” to call the person in question. Story by Randy Furst for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Pakistan Steps Up Control of Cellphones after Taliban Attack
Almost every Pakistani citizen has a cellphone, but from now on, Big Brother is checking to make sure their name, number and fingerprints are on record. The measures are meant to tighten control of cellphones and avert their use for militant attacks after the Taliban massacre two months ago at a school in Peshawar. They have to show their IDs and fingerprints. If the scanner matches their print with the one in a government database, they can keep their SIM card. If not, or if they don’t show up, their cellphone service is cut off. Story by Asif Shahzad for the Associated Press.

BlackBerry, Google Team Up To Secure Android Phones
BlackBerry on Wednesday partnered with Google to ensure its latest mobile security software works with technology the search engine giant offers to separate an employee’s personal and work data on a smartphone. The deal is BlackBerry’s latest move to broaden the potential customer base for its BES12 software, which enables companies to remotely manage devices to prevent security breaches and data loss. Last November, the Canada-based company partnered with South Korean mobile-phone maker Samsung Electronics Co. on mobile-security technology offerings to gain access to Samsung’s enterprise customers. Story by Ben Dummett in The Wall Street Journal.

The True Impact of Not Recycling our Old Electronics
One of the biggest downsides of electronics is that their components are toxic to the environment, and to us, if they’re just thrown away and left to leach into the earth. The ideal situation would be that all of us use, repair and repurpose our electronics until we no longer can and then at that point, we recycle them responsibly. Unfortunately, the statistics show that we don’t come close to that ideal. In 2014, global smartphone sales grew by 23 percent, but according to the EPA, only 27% of our e-waste is recycled annually, meaning our consumption of smartphones and other gadgets keeps growing while we keep tossing our old models in the trash. Story by Megan Treacy for Treehugger.

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.