Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–November 16, 2015

Verizon to Charge New $20 Activation Fee
Just when you thought your cell phone bill was getting simpler, Verizon has a brand new fee for you. Well…it’s an old fee, brought back to life, actually. Verizon (VZ, Tech30) will begin charging certain customers a $20 activation fee when they add a new line to their service. The fee is a one-time charge — it won’t ever show up on your bill again after you fork over your $20 to activate a line. The new $20 fee applies only to customers who sign up for Verizon’s new contract-free plans. When Verizon introduced its new plans in August, the company initially did not include an activation fee. Story by David Goldman for CNN Money.

Supreme Court Passes on Cell Phone Tracking Case
The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge concerning digital privacy and cell phone location records as several proposed bills on the issue remain stalled in Congress. Justices won’t review a federal appeals court’s decision in May that police didn’t need a warrant to seize and search cell phone records that revealed a Florida man’s location and movements. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta had ruled that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy for the location records. In the case, a federal prosecutor, as part of a 2011 investigation into armed robberies, got access to 67 days of Quartavius Davis’ cell phone records from the wireless service provider without a warrant. The American Civil Liberties Union and other privacy groups call government access to those records a threat to personal privacy because the records nearly constantly track where a cell phone goes and when. Story by Todd Ruger for Roll Call.

Apple, Banks in Talks on Mobile Person-to-Person Payment Service
Apple is in discussions with U.S. banks to develop a payment service that would let users zap money to one another from their phones rather than relying on cash or checks, according to people familiar with the matter. The move would put the tech giant in competition with an increasing number of Silicon Valley firms trying to persuade Americans to ditch their wallets in favor of digital options. A small but growing number of Americans are already starting to embrace such services allowing consumers to pay baby sitters, split dinner checks and share other bills. Story by Robin Sidel and Daisuke Wakabayashi for The Wall Street Journal.

Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T And Skype Offer Free Or Reduced Cost Calls To France After Paris Attacks
Shortly after ISIS-affiliated gunmen killed over a hundred people in multiple attacks in Paris on Friday evening, Google allowed users of its Hangouts chat platform to make free VOIP calls to France from anywhere. Later this weekend American telecom companies have followed suit. Carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint are allowing their customers to call French telephone numbers without incurring international calling charges, and Skype is allowing free SkypeOut (VOIP-to-standard phone number) calls into France. Story by Michael Crider for Android Police.

Room for One More? Credit Card Companies Look to Mobile Payments
The mobile payments space is crowded, but with tons of opportunity. There are three players pushing into the market — the credit card companies, the device manufacturers (Apple, Google, and Samsung), and the payment gateway companies. While most people think about mobile payment opportunities in relation to point-of-sale solutions in retail, there are a lot of other opportunities. These include paying a friend for a service that traditionally saw check usage, paying jointly for a product or service with others, or gifting money to others. While the credit card companies often struggle to have the payment gateways to accept a diverse range of payments, they have opportunities to fill other solutions. Many of these solutions require a significant investment in their mobile banking strategy in order to become the go-to payment choice for their customers, rather than a banking app that may have other features the consumers ignore. If they want to enter the payments space, they will have an uphill battle with both the payment gateway and device manufacturers trying to capture that space, so they will need to find ways to differentiate. Companies like American Express have chosen to both partner and try some of their very own options. Story by Diana Goovaerts for Wireless Week.

Generation Z Ready to Shake Up the Banking Industry
Mobile banking is also much more important to Post-Millennials. 41% of them believe their banking provider’s mobile app is essential, while only 22% of other generations felt the same way. 53% of Generation Z consumers use their mobile banking app to check account balances versus 21% of all other consumers. Story by Lynn Oldshue for LowCards.com.

Teacher Offers Participation Points for Students Who Forfeit Cell Phones in Class
Doug Duncan teaches astronomy at UC Boulder, but he has also researched and published a report on texting in the classroom. In the paper he co-authored, 75 percent of his students reported texting in-class. Duncan then linked that in-class texting to “an average drop of half a letter grade in the course,” the article said. In order to help his students pay attention and get better grades, Duncan came up with a solution that he says is a sure way to reduce cell phone usage in the classroom. Duncan experimented with offering a participation point for students turning off their phones and leaving them on his desk for the extent of the class. Students agreed, and Duncan reported having an “exceptionally engaged class.” Story by Nicole Gorman for Education World.

Annoyed Wedding Photographer Sick of Amateur Wedding Snappers
A wedding photographer’s impassioned plea for wedding guests to put away their smartphones during ceremonies has struck a chord. One photographer, Thomas Stewart, has had enough, and has written a superb rant arguing the case for unplugged weddings. He also said he’s going to start recommending unplugged weddings to all his clients in the future. He advised the bride and groom in any wedding to consider the fact that iPad tablets, phones and other cameras in the hands of guests can hinder the photographer from doing their job. Stewart said it “sucks” and advised anyone planning a wedding to tell guests in no uncertain terms “no photos”. We can not do our best work with people getting in our way. In 2013, American photographer Corey Ann wrote a similar blog post in which she used a number of examples of photos that were ruined by pushy guests getting in the way to take blurry phone pics–including one of a couple’s first kiss. Story by Bobbie Sutton for the Observer Leader.

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.