Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–October 5, 2015

Cell Phones Might Soon Run on Mushroom Power
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, announced this week that they have created a more sustainable, less expensive, and potentially tastier way to power the lithium-ion batteries that power cell phones, electric cars, and other devices: Just add portobella mushrooms. Currently, most rechargeable lithium-ion batteries contain synthetic graphite, which is expensive and environmentally damaging. In order to prepare graphite for use in electronics, they must be treated with harsh chemicals (like hydrofluoric acid) that create tons of hazardous waste. So, the industry was already on the lookout for a replacement, and the ideal candidate would be something plant-based and plentiful. The U.C. Riverside engineers who created the device thought portobellas would be a good fit because they are low density and have just the right amount of potassium salt, both key ingredients to a good battery with a long life (also, a so-so sandwich). In fact, they theorized that this battery would get stronger and stronger, and have a longer capacity, the more it was used. Story by Brian Heater for Tech Times.

Cellphones Use Leads to Decreased College GPAs
A recent study published in Sage Publications has found that cellphone use is associated with decreased academic performance in college students-something that isn’t new news to college professors. The study reported Facebook and texting multitasking were negatively and significantly related to college GPA. Another contributing factor to lower grades could be the 300 minutes per day average students are spending on their phones, according to the study. Story by Casey Smith for Ball State Daily.

Prison Time No Problem for Identity Thieves with Cellphones
Inmates at two Georgia prisons have been indicted on charges of prison-based drug trafficking, contraband rings, and identity theft. Law enforcement officials identified cellphones as the smoking gun. Smuggling smart phones into Georgia prisoners is almost an industry: More than 7,000 have been confiscated in the past year from inmates or prison workers trying to pass them to prisoners. Prisoners used the smuggled phones to tap into various crime networks, linking the prisons to gang friends and contacts on the outside. In one instance a phone became the means of ordering an execution. Story by Rob Holmes for World Magazine.

Cellphones Harm Relationships and Lead to Depression
New research from Baylor University has uncovered that not only are cellphones damaging to relationships, but they can lead to depression as well. Two separate surveys were completed to achieve their findings. In total 453 Americans answered questions to determine the effects of “Pphubbing” – partner phone snubbing. The term refers to the level at which a person is distracted by their cellphone in the company of their partner. Co-author James A. Roberts, Ph.D. said, “What we discovered was that when someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction. These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.” Story by Emily Lunardo for Bel Marra Health.

Los Angeles Working on Cell Phone Network That Can Survive a Big Earthquake 
In December, Los Angeles released a hefty report chock full of recommendations on how to help the city prepare for an inevitable big earthquake (aka The Big One)-one of the suggestions was to strengthen the city’s communication networks, namely its cell phone towers. At an event advocating for temblor-preparedness, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city is now planning a roll-out of cell towers that will hopefully stay functioning after a big earthquake. The new cell phone towers could mean that, during the earthquake itself and through the long, slow process of picking up the pieces afterward, cell phones would stay usable, according to the mayor. The towers won’t be ready right away though. Story by Bianca Barragan for LA Curbed.

Google’s Cell Service Could Snare All the Major Carriers 
For some, the idea of Google offering its own wireless service still seems like a stretch, not only technically but-in the high-stakes world of smartphone wireless services-politically. Unveiled this past April and due to arrive on a broader range of devices this fall, Project Fi allows phones to automatically switch among multiple cellular networks and local area Wi-Fi networks, depending on which network offers the strongest signal at any given moment. Operated by Google and available to a limited number of users on Google’s flagship Nexus phones in the US, Project Fi lets you automatically move back and forth between two US cellular services: T-Mobile and Sprint. But this switching is hidden from you, the phone owner. You pay Google for service, while Google handles the technical and financial relationships with T-Mobile and Sprint. The carriers fade into the background, and you get a better signal from a reasonably inexpensive service that you can cancel at any time. Story by Cade Metz for Wired.

Court Rules Cell Phone Passcodes Protected Under Fifth Amendment 
The federal district court in Eastern Pennsylvania has ruled that plaintiffs in the case SEC v. Bonan Huang et al cannot be compelled to give up the passcode to their cell phones. At issue was whether the defendants could be forced to give up passcodes to devices that were provided by their employer, but secured by passcodes chosen by the employees themselves. The question of whether or not defendants can be required to unlock a personal device has generally been answered “No,” but the SEC argued that these were products owned by a corporation and merely provided to employees. The men in question, Bonan and Nan Huang, are accused of insider trading, turning a $150K initial investment into more than $2.8 million through illegal profiteering. Story by Joel Hruska for Extreme Tech.

How Small Business Owners Can Take Advantage of Cell Phone Deals 
There are over 28 million small businesses in the United States and the majority, nearly 22 million, are self-employed individuals with no employees. Cell phone carriers are well aware of the potential customer base that exists in the business world and small business owners are valued tremendously. Surprisingly, many small business owners are not taking advantage of the deals offered by major US carriers. If you have a federal tax ID, or a sole proprietorship, you could be taking advantage of a business account for your cell phone needs. Realtors, day care providers, mechanics, attorneys and others often leave valuable savings on the table each year by utilizing personal, rather than business, plans. Story by Mike Stapley for the Herald Times Online.

Review: Samsung Pays Where Apple Can’t 
Apple Pay made it easy to pay for things with our phones, but it sure is hard to find. Now a far-out technology called Samsung Pay has figured out how to make phone payments work at almost every register. But to get us to all ditch credit cards, phones are going to need to make it worthwhile. No doubt, Samsung Pay is the kind of leap forward for smartphones you have to see to believe. Hold a phone over the spot where you or a cashier would normally swipe a credit card, and the charge goes right through. The phone communicates directly with old-school magnetic-stripe readers that even corner bodegas have had for ages. Best of all, it’s already built into this year’s Samsung phones like the Galaxy S6 and was activated this week. The bulging wallet, so stuffed it makes you sit at a tilt, is one step closer to extinction. Story by Jeffrey Fowler for The Wall Street Journal.

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.