Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–March 9, 2015

Google Confirms Plan to Offer Wireless Service
Google said it plans to launch a U.S. wireless service, raising a new risk of tension between the Internet company and the wireless carriers that support its Android mobile-operating system. The service would be small-scale and not intended to compete with the four big U.S. national carriers. Instead, it would be intended to demonstrate technical innovations that carriers could adopt. However small Google’s entry, the move by the creative and well-capitalized technology company is likely to send ripples through a business long controlled by Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. It is a strong signal that Google’s ambitions extend beyond selling advertising and services over the Internet to influencing how Internet access is delivered. Story by Lisa Fleisher and Alistair Barr for The Wall Street Journal.

Apple Overtakes Samsung as the World’s Biggest Smartphone Maker
Apple has officially overtaken Samsung as the world’s biggest smartphone maker, selling more phones in the Christmas quarter than any other brand thanks to rising demand in China. The company sold 74.8m smartphones, just ahead of Samsung’s 73m units, analysis firm Gartner said. Apple’s iPhone sales were up almost 25m on the same period last year, driven by an explosion in demand from China that helped push its profits to a record $18 billion in the final quarter. Story by Juliette Garside for The Guardian.

Flame Retardants Used in Cell Phones, Tablets ‘May Cause Obesity’
Lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet are well-established causes of overweight and obesity. But researchers from the University of Houston, TX, suggest another potential cause that may surprise you: flame retardants used in cell phones, tablets and other electronic devices. The flame retardants TBBPA and TCBPA are commonly used in devices with electrical chips, including cell phones, computers, tablets, televisions and video game consoles. Maria Bondesson, a research assistant at the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling at the University of Houston, and colleagues found that zebrafish exposed to the flame retardants tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA) and tetrachlorobisphenol A (TCBPA) gained much more weight and had a higher body mass index and fat cell build up than those not exposed to them. TBBPA and TCBPA are commonly used in devices with electrical chips, including cell phones, computers, tablets, televisions and video game consoles. If these chips overheat, they could catch fire. TBBPA and TCBPA stop this from happening. Both TBBPA and TCBPA are a form of bisphenol A, which past studies have suggested is an obesogen, a compound that causes obesity. Story by Honor Whiteman for Medical News Today.

Twins To Limit Cell Phone Use On Game Days To Better Team Communication
Taking away cell phones isn’t just a punishment for misbehaving teenagers anymore. The Minnesota Twins said Friday that they’re going to limit their players’ cell phone time on game days, asking them to shut down their devices 30 minutes before the first pitch. Molitor is hoping that the Twins’ veterans will help enforce the no-phone policy and that it’ll ultimately lead to better communication. Story by Sam Galanis for NESN.

Drones Are Intercepting Cell Phone Signals in L.A.
Even before the Federal Aviation Administration unveiled its proposed regulations for commercial drone flights in the United States, one company was already at work, using drones to collect data from unsuspecting citizens in Los Angeles. Using a fleet of readily available consumer drones, AdNear, a Singapore-based location-marketing firm – was able to determine a cell phone’s location as well as its movement by collecting signal strength and other wireless data from passersby below. With this data in hand, AdNear could then deliver hyper-targeted ads and other promotions to potential customers as they’re walking past a storefront in the hopes of incentivizing a customer to enter the store. Story by Frank Bi for Forbes.

Government Spying Might Be Making Your Cell Phone Service Crappy
In recent years, federal agencies and local police alike have availed themselves of technology known as “stingrays,” cell phone surveillance devices that essentially fool your phone into thinking it’s a cell tower. As the ACLU notes, stingrays “also gather information about the phones of countless bystanders who happen to be nearby,” which means police could be keeping tabs on your location and other info, sans warrant. Now, a newly released document indicates that the local reach of the devices may be interfering with cell service, too. Story by Bonnie Kristian for The Week.

A Perfectly Round Smartphone Inspired by a Pocket Watch
We’ve seen smartphones of all shapes and sizes over the last few years, but the new Runcible smartphone is truly one-of-a-kind. This device, inspired by a classic pocket watch, is round and designed for people who don’t want to be on their phones at all times. The Runcible made its debut at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona. It operates on FireFox OS, which means it will not have access to many of the apps written exclusively for Android and Apple iOS. The phone is made by Monohm, a company based in Berkeley, California. They aim to create “heirloom electronics” for people who want a more refined, tasteful phone to carry in their pockets. Story by Natalie Rutledge for SaveOnPhone.com.

Mobile World Congress: New Phones, Ways To Connect
High-end smartphones from Samsung and HTC have gotten much of the attention at this week’s wireless show in Barcelona, Spain, but cheaper options are coming from Microsoft, Lenovo and others too. Meanwhile, Google and Facebook are working on giving people more ways to use those devices. Here’s a look at what’s been unveiled so far at the Mobile World Congress show. Story by Anick Jesdanun for CIO Today.

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.