Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–November 30, 2015

Cell Phone Security on Apple and Google-Operated Devices Help Criminals Duck Justice
The answers to the shooting death of a Louisiana woman could be locked in her iPhone 5, but without a password not even Apple can access the data. It’s an unsolved murder from April that law enforcement officials say is symbolic of a growing number of cases stalled by amped-up security features on Apple and Google-operated devices. Brittney Mills, 29, was 8 months pregnant when she opened the door to someone who wanted to borrow her car in Baton Rouge on April 24. She refused and was shot several times. Her baby, Brenton Mills, died a week later. Mills had the iOS-8 operating software on her phone, but the encryption system, intended to protect users’ privacy, has made owners’ text messages, phone calls and contact lists inaccessible since September 2014. In the Louisiana case, cell phone data, including a personal diary, was not backed up on iCloud. Story by Shayna Jacobs for the New York Daily News.

Retailers Give Shoppers New Reasons to Use Mobile Phones in Stores
At some Macy’s outlets this holiday season, shoppers who download the retailer’s app will be able to use their smart phones to guide them through the store to products they’re seeking. At JCPenney, customers will be able to take a snapshot of, for example, boots worn by a person passing by and quickly find out if the store has similar ones in stock. And Staples is testing an app that will allow sales clerks to let customers know how the store’s prices match up against Amazon and other rivals. Hoping to claw back market share from online rivals – and tired of watching customers use their phones to find better deals than those offered in stores – brick and mortar retailers are trying to give shoppers different reasons to use their phones while doing holiday shopping. Story by Kylie Gumpert for Reuters.

What Mobile Phone Data Can Reveal About You, in Rwanda or Right Here at Home
Researchers have analyzed data about mobile phone use in Rwanda to figure out how wealthy a phone’s user is–and they say they might be able to do the same kind of analysis for any other country. The study, published in the journal Science, applies big-data models to look at much more than income. Why Rwanda? Blumenstock and his colleagues chose that African country because they were interested in finding new approaches to demographic profiling in developing countries, where it’s difficult and expensive to get good survey data. Story by Alan Boyle for Geek Wire.

New App Puts Brakes on Drivers Using Their Phones
A new app designed by a Boston company aims to target drivers who can’t resist the temptation to use their phone while driving. ‘Iced by Speed’ is described as the ‘smart solution’ to tackling the problem of driver distraction by mobile phone. The app is triggered when a vehicle’s speed exceeds seven mph and causes the smartphone screen to black out and become unresponsive–preventing the driver from reading or responding to texts or social media. It has an override facility to enable calls to emergency services and the system allows for voice calls to be received via Bluetooth, enabling calls to be made or received using a hands-free kit. Story in Boston Standard.

Pepsi’s First Smartphones Struggling to Reach Crowdfunding Goal
The Pepsi Phone P1 and Phone P1s that were unveiled earlier this month may have big financial obstacles before reaching the market. The food and beverage company, which is licensing its Pepsi brand to different manufacturers to make smartphones and accessories, had put the handsets up on crowdfunding platform to raise money for making the handsets, but it appears might not be able to meet the target. Story by Manish Singh for Gadgets 360.

Mobile Banking to Hit 1 Billion Users in 2015
The number of people accessing bank accounts through smartphones and other mobile devices is expected to reach 1 billion by the end of the year, according to Juniper Research Ltd. But it’s in wearable devices, such as smartwatches, where banks must direct their next digital efforts. The researcher expects wearables to account for 100 million mobile banking sessions by 2020. Banks hoping to gain customers under the age of 30, or to prime the population younger than that, must expand into wearable devices, as well as develop a substantive social media strategy. These consumers don’t want to bank at websites because they “organize most of their lives on their mobile devices.” Story by Kim S. Nash for The Wall Street Journal.

How Dangerous is Radiation from Cellphones?
Does radiation from cellphones cause brain cancer–or doesn’t it? Most Americans fall squarely on the “don’t worry” side. In a recent Consumer Reports survey of 1,000 adults, only 5 percent said they were very concerned about the radiation from cellphones, and less than half took steps to limit their exposure to it. Many respected scientists join them. “The US government doesn’t seem very troubled, either. The Food and Drug Administration says on its website that research generally doesn’t link cellphones to any health problem. But not everyone is unconcerned. In May 2015, a group of 190 independent scientists from 39 countries, who in total have written more than 2,000 papers on the topic, called on the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and national governments to develop stricter controls on cellphone radiation. They point to growing research suggesting that the low levels of radiation from cellphones could have potentially cancer-causing effects. Story by David Schipper for Consumer Reports.

Pope Francis: Put Away Cell Phones and Talk at the Dinner Table 
Where there is no family meal together, there is no family, Pope Francis told the thousands gathered in Saint Peter’s Square Wednesday, urging his hearers to put away their cell phones and protect family dinners as a precious way to bind the family together. In his weekly General Audience, Francis reflected on the quality of family life, noting that it is based on “conviviality,” or the ability to joyfully share in the life of those around you. Story by Thomas D. Williams for Breitbart.

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.