Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–September 21, 2015

Following Apple’s Lead, Samsung Plans Its Own Phone Leasing Program, Cutting Out Carriers
Samsung is looking to take another lesson from Apple’s playbook. The South Korean electronics giant is planning to launch a program for leasing its Galaxy phones in the U.S. market, similar to the one Apple announced just weeks ago, according to an industry executive with knowledge of Samsung’s plans. Samsung may be launching this leasing program in the next several months, although that timeline may accelerate, the executive said. Story by Aaron Tilley for Forbes.

Banks Testing Whether Cellphones Can Speed Up Any Transactions
Banks are experimenting with a tool that could shorten your wait times in the teller line or at the ATM: your smartphone. The technology, called “pre-staging,” would let you start a transaction on your phone and complete it at the bank. In general, the pre-staging technologies banks are considering would work about like this: You use your cellphone to log onto a mobile banking app from home, begin the withdrawal process there and complete the transaction at a branch or ATM. The process you use to finish your transaction might vary from bank to bank. Story by Deon Roberts for The Charlotte Observer.

Apple Wins Ruling to Force Samsung to Change Phones, Tablets
Apple won a court ruling that may force Samsung to stop using some features in its older-model Galaxy smartphones and tablets and gives the iPhone maker a leg up in the four-year-old dispute. A U.S. appeals court said Apple was entitled to a narrow order that prevents the Korean device maker from using Apple’s slide-to-unlock, autocorrect and quicklinks features. Ruling otherwise would eliminate patent rights of inventors of certain features in multicomponent devices, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said in an opinion posted on its electronic docket. The decision could have far-reaching consequences in how disputes are resolved when it comes to complex devices, and help patent owners limit copying by rivals. The ability to block use of an invention is a powerful tool that increases the price tag when negotiating settlements. Story by Susan Decker for Bloomberg.

Seattle Tracking Cell Phones to Improve Traffic Flow
The City of Seattle is now using cell phones and tablets as tracking devices to improve traffic flow. But most people are unaware it’s even happening, and some are worried they’re trading their privacy for improved traffic. In an effort to speed up traffic, the Seattle Department of Transportation has scattered 200 flat disc antennas on top of traffic signal boxes throughout downtown Seattle and the Mercer Mess. All wireless devices–phones, tablets, laptops–have a unique identifying address that’s not duplicated anywhere else in the world. When the wifi is turned on, the antennas can pick up a device’s number and track it. By tracking the time it takes a device to go from one antenna to another, engineers in the city’s traffic control center say the collected data will lead to more accurate travel times and proper signal timing. While the intent may be noble, some feel it’s an invasion of their privacy. Story by Matt Markovich for KOMO News.

Qualcomm Wants to Make Drones More Like Cell Phones
In many ways, cheap drones are just flying cellphones. They communicate using Bluetooth, are heavily dependent on battery power, and use small cameras made possible by the proliferation of cheaper, better cameras for phones. Qualcomm makes the unsexy guts at the core of a bunch of cellphones, grouped together under their “Snapdragon” name. Now Qualcomm has a Snapdragon for drones, called Snapdragon Flight, and they’re hoping a shared and familiar processor will make it as easy to make smart drones as it’s been over the past few years to make smart phones. Story by Kelsey D. Atherton for Popular Science.

89% of People Are Using Their Cell Phones Wrong: Are You?
Cell phones are such a common sight today that it’s almost like they’ve become another appendage in most people’s hands. It’s not a surprise that a recent Pew Research Center study found about 92% of adults in the United States own a cell phone, and 90% of those mobile users say they “frequently” have their phone with them. “This ‘always-on’ reality has disrupted long-standing social norms about when it is appropriate for people to shift their attention away from their physical conversations and interactions with others towards digital encounters with people and information that are enabled by their mobile phone,” the center concluded. Story by Nikelle Murphy for Cheat Sheet.

Why AT&T Is Suing Ex-Workers For Unlocking Phones
Locking cell phones is a pillar of the wireless carrier business model: They let customers buy a brand new phone at a lower, subsidized cost, and in return, the phone can be used only on a specific network — and the companies make money off the contract. Now, AT&T is suing three former employees it says engaged in a scheme that “effectively stole” the company’s investment in phones. AT&T filed suit last week in federal court in Washington state, alleging the three ex-workers and a business called Swift Unlocks attacked AT&T’s computer systems illegally to unlock phones. Story by Catherine Dunn for International Business Times.

Pakistani Researchers Develop Solar-Powered Mobile Phone Network
Pakistani researchers have developed a portable, solar-powered mobile phone network for use in disasters like floods and earthquakes when regular communications are often disrupted. Researchers at the Information Technology University in Lahore, together with a team from the University of California, have developed a prototype “Rescue Base Station” (RBS) for Pakistan–the country’s first emergency telecoms system that would work on normal cell phones. Story by 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.