Weekly Cell Phone News in Review—March 20, 2017

Why Villanova Bans its Players from Using Smartphones
When it comes to the quest for back-to-back NCAA tournament titles, the Villanova men’s basketball team has no room for distractions–that includes cell phones. The night before every tournament game at around 10, a coach or staff member will come around to each of the players’ hotel rooms and take their laptops, tablets, iPads and cellphones. Head coach Jay Wright has been doing this technology roundup for years. “They’re kids,” he said. “They don’t know how to focus.” Studies back up Wright’s rationale. According to a 2011 poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 20 percent of people between the ages of 19 and 29 will wake up to an email, text or phone call a few times per week. Villanova can’t take a chance on tired players. After a cellphone-less night’s sleep, the players can retrieve their phones as soon as their eyes open the next morning. But they won’t have their phones for long. As soon as they enter the locker room before games, they will have to surrender them again. Story by Malika Andrews for Yahoo Sports.

Suspected Hack Attack Snagging Cell Phone Data Across D.C.
An unusual amount of highly suspicious cellphone activity in the Washington, D.C., region is fueling concerns that a rogue entity is surveying the communications of numerous individuals, likely including U.S. government officials and foreign diplomats, according to documents viewed by the Washington Free Beacon and conversations with security insiders. A large spike in suspicious activity on a major U.S. cellular carrier has raised red flags in the Department of Homeland Security and prompted concerns that cellphones in the region are being tracked. Such activity could allow pernicious actors to clone devices and other mobile equipment used by civilians and government insiders. Story by Adam Kredo for the Washington Free Beacon.

Google Working on Three New Mobile Phones to Release in 2017
Google may have been slow to the mobile phone party but it looks like it is ready to make up for lost time. After releasing its Pixel and Pixel XL Android phones in October 2016, Google is reportedly working on not one, not two but three new models. According to Droid Life, the follow-ups are working with the codenames ‘Muskie’, ‘Walleye’ and ‘Taimen’. (For those of you without an aquatic zoology degree, they are all named after freshwater fish). The ‘Muskie’ and ‘Walleye’ are rumoured to be direct successors to the Pixel handset, with one rumoured to be marketed as a cheaper version of the flagship device. While details of the ‘Taimen’ remain largely a mystery, it is expected to come with a larger screen than the other two models. Whether or not that equates to a larger phone than the current 5.5-inch Pixel XL remains to be seen. Story by Rob Horgan for PCR.

Air Passengers Rail Against Allowing Mobile Phone Calls on Planes
America’s Transportation Department recently sought public comment on whether it should continue to ban calls from mobiles in the air. More than 8,000 people weighed in before the deadline in February. And in an era when it’s hard to achieve public consensus on just about anything, this issue seems to unite people to an uncommon degree. Of the last 100 public comments submitted, for example, just one was in favour of calls on planes-and only if airlines agreed to strict regulations and imposed “no-call periods” during takeoff, landing and safety demonstrations. The others were emphatic in their disapproval. Story in The Economist.

Sony Gets Patent to Let You Swipe Battery Life from a Friend’s Phone
Smartphone running low on battery life? Pretty soon, you might be able to swipe some juice from your friend’s device. Sony recently earned a patent allowing for two consumer devices like smartphones to transfer power between each other. The technology would leverage near-field communication (NFC), used in many smartphones to communicate with nearby devices or contact-less payment systems used with mobile payment apps. In the case of the Sony patent, NFC would be used to allow one device like a smartphone to suck up power from another phone. When using NFC on current smartphones, users either touch another device or keep it close enough to transmit data. In the case of contact-less payments, users engage with a special card reader at a retailer to process a payment. Story by Brett Molina for USA Today.

Are Teenagers Replacing Drugs With Smartphones?
Amid an opioid epidemic, the rise of deadly synthetic drugs and the widening legalization of marijuana, a curious bright spot has emerged in the youth drug culture: American teenagers are growing less likely to try or regularly use drugs, including alcohol. With minor fits and starts, the trend has been building for a decade, with no clear understanding as to why. Some experts theorize that falling cigarette-smoking rates are cutting into a key gateway to drugs, or that antidrug education campaigns, long a largely failed enterprise, have finally taken hold. But researchers are starting to ponder an intriguing question: Are teenagers using drugs less in part because they are constantly stimulated and entertained by their computers and phones? The possibility is worth exploring, they say, because use of smartphones and tablets has exploded over the same period that drug use has declined. Story by Matt Richtel for The New York Times.

Consumers Don’t Buy Mobile Security
According to Allot Communications’ MobileTrends H1/2017 Report, 89% don’t have paid tools for securing their mobile device. That said, the survey also reveals that 68% of mobile internet consumers say they are aware of mobile malware (and one in seven of these consumers have experienced a malware attack in the past 12 months). And in every region, representing 61% overall, they want and are willing to pay for protection services from their service provider. Rather than independently seek out, evaluate and download security apps for each of their mobile devices, consumers would like a one-stop-shop for online protection for themselves and their families. This presents communication service providers (CSPs) with a huge opportunity to be the provider of personal mobile security services from their network. Story by Tara Seals for Info Security.

Samsung Vows to Release Monthly Security Updates for Unlocked US Galaxy Smartphones
Samsung has committed to providing monthly security updates for unlocked Galaxy smartphones in the United States, according to ZDNet. That will result in a more frequent release cycle compared to the quarterly patches the company has issued in recent months. The carrier-branded Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones have been updated to Android 7.0 Nougat, while the unlocked S7s haven’t seen the major upgrade – and remain months behind on security releases. Even AT&T’s Galaxy S7 Active is getting Nougat before the unlocked variants. That’s the opposite of how things usually work with Android devices; typically manufacturers can roll out software faster when carriers aren’t deeply involved in the process. Story by Chris Welch for The Verge.

The Mobile Wallets Results Are In, And They’re Underwhelming
When Apple’s mobile wallet, Apple Pay, launched 2.5 years ago, the conventional wisdom was that the plastic card was about to be as dead as the flip phone, killed by the same disruptive culprit: the smartphone. That drum beat only got louder a year later, when mobile wallets Samsung Pay and Android Pay got up and running quickly. After all, why would consumers ever dip or swipe again when they could just tap and go? Well, two years and a half later, the answer to that question started to emerge, but it wasn’t what the conventional wisdom said it was going to be. As it turns out, consumers like dipping and swiping just fine and are not dissatisfied with their plastic cards, even if they happen to have a phone in their hand with the capacity to use a mobile wallet. As of the most recent poll of 7,655 thousand consumers who had the ability (were in a store that accepted a mobile wallet with a phone equipped to use it), no matter what mobile wallet they had access to–Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay–more than 40 percent of each user group reported being satisfied with how they were paying already. Story in PYMNTS.

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.