Weekly Cell Phone News in Review–September 8, 2014

Fake Cell Towers Allow the NSA and Police to Keep Track of You
The Internet is abuzz with reports of mysterious devices sprinkled across America-many of them on military bases-that connect to your phone by mimicking cell phone towers and sucking up your data. These fake towers, known as “interceptors,” were discovered in July by users of the CryptoPhone500, one of the ultra-secure cell phones released after Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA snooping. The phone is essentially a Samsung Galaxy S3 customized with high-level encryption that costs around $3,500. While driving around the country, CryptoPhone users plotted on a map every time they connected to a nameless tower (standard towers run by wireless service providers like Verizon usually have names) and received an alert that the device had turned off their phone’s encryption (allowing their messages to be read). Story by Lauren Walker for Newsweek.

Kids with Cell Phones: How Young is too Young?
It’s a question parents have debated for over a decade: At what age should their kids be allowed to have their own cell phones? The reality is that most kids have mobile cellular devices well before high school. But how young is too young? Consumer experts recommend a case-by-case approach. Experts recommend that before allowing their children to have cell phones, parents should have a conversation with them about “digital hygiene” practices: staying within data limits, avoiding inappropriate content, and steering clear of privacy risks and cyber-bullying. Story by Lindsey Boerma for CBS News.

Our Creepy Attachment To Cell Phones Could Be An Addiction
Research on the possibility of cell phone addiction is an emerging field, and a lot of it centers on the habits of the youngest millennials (now teens and young adults), a generation that can’t remember what it was like to not have a cell phone. A recent study published in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions found that female college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cell phones, while male students report spending nearly eight. The study also found that about 60 percent of study participants think they may be addicted to their cell phones. Story by Anna Almendrala for the Huffington Post.

Another Milestone Toward Making Cell Phones the Future of Weather Observations
While the future of cell phone-derived weather data remains unclear, scientists have found that it is possible to monitor global rainfall using the telephone antenna network. With the lack of weather data in many technology-poor locations, including Africa, this could prove be a game-changer in the future of global weather observations and forecasting. Rainfall data is hard to come by in many parts of the world. The ground-based observing network comprises sparse, outdated weather stations, and satellite technology is still not able to completely make up for the lack of measurements. However, a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, scientists detail how a simple measurement of the loss in signal between telephone antennae can predict whether or not it’s raining. Story by Angela Fritz for the Washington Post.

Cell Phones Charged by Sound Are Now Closer to Becoming a Reality
The idea of cell phones being powered by sound is one that has been floating around for years. Back in 2011, Korean researchers were able to demonstrate this technology, but the power output was so low (50 millivolts) that it couldn’t have actually charged a cell phone. Now, a research partnership between Queen Mary’s University of London and Microsoft has gotten us excitingly close to this technology becoming a reality. The team has created an energy-harvesting prototype that could be used to charge a phone using everyday background noise. Things like traffic, music, the roar of a stadium and even the very conversations we have while using the phone, could power it. Story by Megan Treacy for Care2.

Microsoft Banks On Selfie Trend With New “Selfie Phone”
Microsoft is targeting a large segment in the smartphone market. The selfie trend has become almost ubiquitous thanks to the growing user base of social networks and photo-sharing sites like Instagram and Flickr. Users have often complained that most cell phone manufacturers focus only on the rear cameras of their phones, which prevents them from capturing decent-looking selfies. The HTC One and Samsung’s S5–high-end phones both–have front cameras of only 2.1 megapixels. But HTC CORP is also catching on to the market trend and has recently launched cellphones equipped with 8-megapixel front-facing cameras. Story by Martin Blanc for Bidness Etc.

Surveys Show Bigger Is Better in Smartphone Market
The introduction of phones like the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 mark a progression into the world of “phablets”–phones that are designed to be almost the size of tablet devices. Kantar Worldpanel ComTech conducted a survey of over 20,000 people and found 42% of people consider screen size a key component of phone selection. The report says, “Our data clearly shows that bigger is better for most consumers.” In June of this year, RBC Capital Markets surveyed 4,000 smartphone users who originally had no intentions of upgrading to the iPhone 6. Over one-third of the respondents (35%) said they would consider upgrading if the screen size was larger than the iPhone 5s. Story by Lynn Oldshue for SaveOnPhone.com.

Cellphones to Exceed Humans by Year-End
Mobile phones will outnumber human population by the end of 2014, reaching a staggering 7.3 billion, a new study has said. The study by the International Telecommunications Union concludes that the number of mobile phones will rise from 6 billion now to 7.3 billion in 2014, compared to the global population of 7 billion. Story by The Times of India.

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.