Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–May 27, 2014

Ah, Bahamas: Sun, Sand and the NSA Recording Your Cell Phone Calls
The foreign ministry of the Bahamas is “demanding an explanation” from the U.S. after it was reported the National Security Agency has been vacuuming up the audio of “virtually every cell phone conversation” in the Bahamas – a mass surveillance method that goes beyond the NSA’s more common metadata collection – in a secret operation unknown to the local government. Story by Lee Ferran for ABC News.

This Unusual Looking Device is the World’s First Braille Cell Phone for the Blind
UK company OwnFone has launched what it calls the world’s first phone which has braille on the keys, making the device usable by the blind. Speaking to the BBC, OwnFone’s Tom Sunderland said although there have been concept braille phones in the past, this is the first to actually go on sale. What’s more, OwnFone uses 3D printing to keep the costs down, so the phone starts at a mere £60/$100 to buy. The OwnFone is even more basic than a simple feature phone. There’s no screen for a start, nor is there a camera, and the processor is completely irrelevant. Story by Andy Boxall for Fox News.

Cellphones Can Change Global Health for the Better
The World Bank and infoDev estimated that three-quarters of the global population has access to mobile communications. Worldwide, pre-paid and post-paid mobile subscriptions grew from fewer than 1 billion in 2000 to more than 6 billion, with developing countries accounting for nearly 5 billion. Moreover, these numbers are expected to soon exceed that of the human population, as it becomes more common for people to own multiple subscriptions. Mobile health care programs are worth our attention because of their ability to deliver behavioral treatments at relatively inexpensive costs. Used for patient care and training, mobile technology is a low-cost solution to provide service. Factors that innovators need to keep in mind when developing subsequent programs include affordability, scalability and accountability. Story by Lisa Chau for U.S. News.

New Technology Uses Body Heat to Charge Smartphones
A team of scientists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) is working on a product that could charge your phone with body heat. Professor Byung Jin Cho and his associates are working on a thermoelectric generator which converts the small temperature difference between skin and air into energy. That energy could be used to charge smartwear devices, such as watches and glasses, or medical devices like heart monitors. As the technology develops, they hope to make it available for smartphones. Story by Natalie Rutledge for SaveOnPhone.com.

Students Give Up Cell Phones to Avoid Final Exam
A high school math teacher in Minnesota recently gave her students an opportunity to get out of taking a final exam. But, they had to make a sacrifice: No cellphones for a week! Teacher Katie Pettit says that she wanted to teach her students a life lesson. The students didn’t get off scott free though. They were required to complete extra work. But, if they handed in all of their assignments, Pettit agreed to turn over her own phone. Story by Joyce Lupiani for KTNV.

Graphene Makes Foldable Smartphones a Possibility
Smartphone companies are always looking for new ways to improve their phones and make them more appealing to consumers. One way this may happen in the future is by using graphene, a thin, flexible material that can conduct electricity. This material could lead to thinner phones and even foldable phones in the next few years. Graphene is very lightweight, extremely strong and it bends. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Studies Still Looking for Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
The heaviest users of cell phones may be at higher than average risk of being diagnosed with a brain tumor, according to a recent French study. But for most people, it’s still not clear if there’s added risk, the authors say. Plus, the devices and the way people use them keeps evolving so that more research is needed going forward. The new results found no difference between regular cell users and non-users, which suggests that if there is a link, it is only applicable for people who claim to use their cell phone the most. Story by Kathryn Doyle for Reuters.

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.