Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–November 3, 2014

Why Twitter Is Paying For Your Cell Phone Number
Twitter wants to gain a bigger presence in the lives of consumers, and so  from today it’s going behind the scenes of how we connect to our smartphone  apps. The most obvious route? Our phone numbers. It launched a new mobile platform for developers called Fabric, and a core feature called Digits where Twitter foots the bill to send costly registration texts. That seems generous of Twitter, but there’s a catch: Twitter gets to keep those phone numbers too, and store them on its servers. It can then use them to enhance its mobile advertising network MoPub. Phone numbers give Twitter a better read on who app users are, to better target them with ads. Story by Parmy Olson for Forbes.

When ‘Unlimited’ is Just a Matter of Perspective
Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against AT&T, the second-largest cellular carrier in the country, alleging AT&T “throttled” millions of users on “unlimited” plans. What is throttling? Throttling is the act of intentionally slowing down  service with the intent of limiting data consumption. In a released statement to The Washington Post, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez is quoted saying,”AT&T promises its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise. The issue here is simple: unlimited means unlimited.” Story by Stephen Gugliociello for Time Online.

Koran-Phone: Russian Company Creates First Mobile for Muslims
A unique cellphone solely for Muslims–with pre-installed Koran in Russian and Arabic and “prayer alarm”–is to go on sale in Russia from the end of November. Created by BQ-Mobile, the cell phone is expected to become a popular device with Muslims in Russia. A built-in navigator automatically determines the user’s location and also points the way to the East, where Mecca lies. Story in RT.

Smartphone Use As Shopping Tool Changing Dramatically
The way people shop for products and compare prices has changed considerably since the growth of the Internet and the emergence of smartphones. A dramatic shift is taking place between these two shopping habits. Webrooming is the process of looking for a product online or on a mobile device, and then buying the product in a store. Showrooming involves discovering a product in a store and then buying it elsewhere online. While both shopping styles involve comparisons online, they start in two different places: the phone vs. the store. According to the GfK 2014 FutureBuy survey, incidents of smartphone “showrooming” dropped from 37% in the United States last year to 28% in 2014. But the number of shoppers who make purchases in-store after researching an item using a smartphone has surged to 41%. Story by John Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Mobile-Phone Mapping Succeeds Where National Censuses Fail
Traditionally, the way we know who lives where is the result of national censuses. But those head counts can be expensive and occur rarely, and a new study suggests that the the passive tallying that happens every time our mobile phones check into a cellphone tower can provide a sort of living census that, researchers say, can improve how we respond to everything from earthquake devastation to the spread of Ebola. Story by Nancy Scola for the Washington Post.

Virginia Judge Rules Police Can Require Suspect to Unlock Cell Phone with Fingerprint
A judge for the 2nd Judicial District of Virginia ruled that police can force criminal suspects to unlock their cell phones with a fingerprint scanner to allow officers to open and search them. Officers may not, however, compel suspects to give up their phone pass codes. Judge Steven Frucci ruled that revealing a pass code requires a suspect to disclose knowledge, which the law prohibits. Having a fingerprint taken to unlock the phone, he said, is comparable to providing a key or a DNA sample, which is permitted by law. The protection status of phone pass codes was called into question in the case of David Baust, who was charged with the attempted strangulation of his girlfriend. The prosecutor in his case argued that Baust’s phone could contain a video of the attack. The judge’s ruling prohibits the compelled disclosure of Baust’s pass code in the interest of protecting his Fifth Amendment rights. Story in The Jurist.

What Your Cell Phone Company Isn’t Telling You When You Sign A Contract
When you sign a cell phone contract, you’re not just agreeing to pay thousands of dollars over a few years to AT&T or Verizon. You’re also signing away your right to sue the company or participate in a class action lawsuit against it. If the cell phone provider systematically overcharges you or doesn’t deliver, say, on its promise of “unlimited data,” your only remedy–unless the government steps in–is forced arbitration, a private negotiation between the company and the customer where a non-judicial party decides your fate. Typically, the process is stacked in favor of the giant corporation. Forced arbitration clauses have become widespread in recent years and there’s one buried in AT&T’s terms of service. It’s why the Federal Trade Commission, not customers, just sued AT&T for allegedly slowing down Internet speeds on customers’ smartphones — even though customers were complaining about the practice for years. Story by Ben Walsh for the Huffington Post.

Verizon Found A Sneaky New Way To Make Cell Phone Customers Pay More
Verizon has found a subtle way to alter one of its core rate plans which will result in customers paying more. It’s a change that new customers may not even notice that’s small enough that existing subscribers may ignore it when it comes time to renew their plan. Verizon’s Edge program allows customers to pay for a phone on an installment plan then trade it in for a new device with no penalties and without paying it off before the installment period is up. Previously the plan involved 20 monthly installment payments and customers could upgrade after 12 months. Now the Verizon website shows that Edge splits the payments over 24 months, with the no-charge upgrade not being available until 18 months. That not only means people will have to wait longer for a new phone, but they will have paid a higher percentage of their old one off before being allowed to trade it in. Story by Daniel Kline for The Motley Fool.

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.