December 10, 2013
Flights are noisy enough for at least one lawmaker without having to listen to a plane full of passengers shouting to be heard on their cell phones. [via CNet]
So Rep. Bill Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced a bill Monday that would prohibit passengers from making in-flight cell phone calls on commercial aviation flights.
The "Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Mobile Wireless Devices Act of 2013" (PDF) comes as the Federal Communications Commission considers lifting a ban on the use of cell phones and mobile broadband services on airplanes above 10,000 feet.
December 9, 2013
A federal agency on Thursday rebuked the maker of an Android flashlight app that was downloaded by up to 100 million people for secretly tracking user locations and selling the data. TIME Techland reports.
In its first-ever enforcement action on location-tracking technology, the Federal Trade Commission found that Brightest Flashlight Free not only duped users by saying their location data would not be shared with third parties, but it offered users a fake option to refuse tracking, then tracked user location anyway.
Read full article.
A few months ago, a worker monitoring a hotline for the Polaris Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to combating human trafficking, received a text message from an 18-year-old woman in distress. The Washington Post reports.
The woman, a sex-trade worker, was trapped in a motel room with her pimp and she secretly used his cellphone to send a text seeking help. The Washington-based group moved quickly to alert authorities, who ultimately arrested the pimp.
For Polaris’s chief executive Brad Myles, the episode demonstrated how text messaging might offer a new channel to help victims. In the process, Polaris learned those texts are data, and collectively they can be analyzed to identify patterns in human trafficking so the group might better craft policy and awareness programs.
Read full article.
December 7, 2013
GoBank is one of a new breed of mobile banking services aiming at fee-averse customers, especially 20-somethings or “millennials,” accustomed to doing everything on their smartphones. Many of them uses it as their sole bank. The New York Times reports.
Turiya Goetze, a 23-year-old teaching assistant in Kansas City, is a fan of a GoBank feature that lets her check her balance quickly on her phone, without having to log into her account. “I love, love, love it!” she said. She doesn’t pay any monthly fee; GoBank lets users choose their fee (from zero to $9 a month), and right now she opts to pay nothing. But she said she may start paying $1 a month, now that she has been using GoBank for a while and likes it. She estimates she would have had to pay about $12 a month with a traditional account.
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December 4, 2013
Ethiopian women produce an average of five children in their lifetimes because less than 30 percent of women in Ethiopia - the second-largest population in Africa - have access to birth control devices. [via Voice of America]
A project offering increased health services in portions of the largely rural countryside of this country proposes to lower the birth rate by increasing access to birth control with an electronic vouchers texts on the telephones targeting young Ethiopian women between the ages of 15 and 29 years of age.
The scheme is based on teams of health volunteers who offer rural women the chance to learn the benefits of birth control and have an opportunity to order intra-uterine devices (IUDs) and other birth control measures.
Read full article.
December 3, 2013
Spain is introducing a ban on train drivers using mobile phones after a train crash in Santiago de Compostela that killed 79 people in July. [via BBC]
The train's driver said at the time he was going too fast and had been on the phone to a colleague moments earlier.
Drivers will, however, be allowed to use mobile phones in emergencies.
This is one of a number of measures to improve security on board Spanish trains after one of the country's worst rail disasters.
Read full article.
Civil society organisations in Egypt and Tunisia are investigating quicker, more effective ways of monitoring elections using text messaging. AllAfrica reports.
In one new system tested in three African countries, SMS monitoring is carried out by hundreds of observers who send a stream of coded reports from polling stations via text messages from their mobile phones. The information is fed into a "situation room" where it is converted into a map that automatically updates as more data are added. Where problems are spotted, officials can be alerted.
The map uses symbols to represent real-time information on, for example, where poll centres have not opened, whether they are fully staffed, lack security personnel, or where there are instances of intimidation or misconduct of officials. The system can also keep track of vote tallies.
After hundreds of volunteers used SMS messages to monitor voting in Senegal last year, the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations for the Elections (COSCE) issued a statement confirming that the official tallies "faithfully reflect the will expressed at the polls during the second round of voting in the presidential election.
December 2, 2013
According to a new report from market research agency GfK Asia, Southeast Asia’s smartphone sales volume grew 61 percent in the first three quarters of this year, compared with a year earlier. [via TheNextWeb].
From January to September 2013, consumers from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines spent $10.8 billion on nearly 41.5 million smartphones, according to a new report from market research agency GfK Asia. Last year, they spent $7.54 billion on 25.8 million smartphones.
Gerard Tan, account director for digital technology at GfK Asia, says September marked a new milestone as well – one in every two mobile handsets purchased in Southeast Asia is now a smartphone.
Read full article.
November 28, 2013
Currently at MIT's Media Lab, Mellis has put all of the plans necessary to build and customize the phone up on Github, and also uploaded the circuit board plans to custom printer OSH Park, which will print three copies of the board for around $60.
As for the casing, there are detailed instructions for a simple laser-cut plywood case, but several Media Lab members have crafted their own cases in a variety of shapes and hues, using milling, laser cutting, and 3D printing. Mellis describes his DIY phone as "a difficult but potentially do-able project" that should cost around $200 to complete.
Read full article.
Smartphone shipments will grow 39.3% from 2012 and are expected to continue growing for the rest of the decade. In 2017, IDC expects that 1.7 billion smartphones will be shipped.
This may come as somewhat of a surprise to everyday consumers in mature markets but in the rest of the world, smartphone adoption is very clearly tied to price. The cheaper smartphones are, the more likely that consumers in emerging markets will be to purchase them. IDC notes that the average selling price of a smartphone has decreased this year to $337, down from $387 in 2012.
The average selling price is expected to drop to about $265 by 2017, according to IDC. To note, these are prices without carrier-subsidized contracts but the actual retail cost of the device.
November 26, 2013
Most air travelers don't want cell phone use allowed on airplanes for phone calls, according to a HuffPost/YouGov poll.
The poll, conducted after last week's news that the FCC is considering revising its rules to allow people to use cell phones during flights, found 49 percent of Americans would not want cell phones allowed on planes if the FCC determines that it's safe, while 31 percent would want phones allowed.
The FCC said last week that commissioners will decide at their Dec. 12 meeting whether to lift the agency's 22-year-old ban on allowing passengers to use mobile devices.
Delta Airlines has already announced it will continue to forbid calls on its flights if the FCC ban is lifted. Other airlines have said they will consider the issue if the rule is changed.
Read full article.
November 21, 2013
China today said the number of mobile phone users in the country have hit a record 1.22 billion at the end of October, making it the largest base for cellphones.
Among them, 67.19 per cent or 817 million mobile phone users are connected to the Internet and 34.5 per cent of them are 3G users, making China the largest base for mobile phones.
That’s even though its parent company China Wireless Technologies, listed in Hong Kong, is worth less than 1% of Apple’s market value. Now, the company ranks sixth globally among smartphone makers by global sales, according to third-quarter data from research firm Canalys.
That Coolpad is the third most popular handset brand (in terms of shipped phones) for the world’s largest cellphone market helps its global standing. But it has also started to sell its phones in Europe and the US through Vodafone and T-Mobile. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Nov. 20, China’s vice president Zhang Guang-qiang said the company is also in talks with distributors in Taiwan and India.
Read full article.
Bank employees used their mobile phones and instant-messages to transmit details of impending orders to individuals working from rented trading desks in offices on the outskirts of the U.K. capital, according to three traders who said they had witnessed the practice over a period of years. Business Insider via Bloomberg reports.
The day traders then made bets on the direction of currencies and any profit was later divvied up in cash, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified because the agreements are private.
Read full article.
As cell phone robberies have soared nationwide, phone companies have found a lucrative side business offering insurance to customers who are anxious their devices may be lost or stolen. The Huffington Post reports.
The top four wireless carriers will earn more than $7.8 billion this year in insurance premiums from their customers, according to an estimate by Warranty Week, an industry trade publication. Asurion, a phone insurance company that pays the wireless carriers for each policy they sell, made an estimated $98 million in profit in 2010, according to Businessweek.
“If you do the math, the phone companies are making out like bandits," said Richard Doherty, a director for Envisioneering Group, a market research firm.
Now, a top prosecutor is claiming that phone companies looking to preserve their profits from selling phone insurance are standing in the way of a solution that could protect consumers from violent robberies.
San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said Tuesday that he had obtained emails showing how phone companies are blocking the introduction of a so-called kill switch that would render phones inoperable if stolen. The feature could undercut the value of gadgets now trading on a global black market, leading to a sharp reduction in thefts.
“These emails suggest that the carriers are rejecting a technological solution so they can continue to shake down their customers for billions of dollars in insurance premiums,” Gascón said in a statement. “I’m incensed. ... This is a solution that has the potential to end the victimization of their customers.
Read full article.
November 16, 2013
A year and half ago, Baruch Herzfeld, an entrepreneur in New York City, had a novel idea: connect immigrants in the U.S. with radio stations in their home country using nothing more than a cheap cellphone. The result is ZenoRadio. npr reports.
Zeno assigns a U.S. phone number to a radio station's Internet stream. "If you press extension 1 [it's] one radio station, 2 is another one, 3 is another one, 4 is another one. If you press star, you can change it," says Herzfeld, the company founder.
And the system works because most people with cellphones have combined data and calling packages, many with unlimited minutes for phone use.
... Herzfeld revels in the many languages, tribal dialects and cultures of the 2,000 or so stations on ZenoRadio. The company won't share its financials, but it earns money from advertising and from investors. And it gets a couple of cents per call from telephone routing companies that have space and want more business.
An unusual SMS alert. TIME Techand reports.
Amid a rash of tombstone thefts from cemeteries in Johannesburg, a company will be offering relatives of the deceased a high-tech solution: microchips that can be inserted into the memorial that will sound an alarm and send a text message to their cell phones if it is disturbed.
The new tombstone microchips developed by a private company will be offered at the beginning of next year as part of the city’s “smart” initiatives, said Alan Buff, the manager of Johannesburg City Parks Cemeteries and Crematoriums.
Nearly 20 marble tombstones are stolen monthly from the city’s 36 public cemeteries, despite security guards and perimeter sensors. Buff said the city has allowed two pilot projects at its Avalon and Westpark cemeteries, and will roll out the technology further if it stems the thefts of the valuable items.
November 14, 2013
Recently, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission… warned that the level of corruption by traffic police officers remained high, thanks to advances in technology.
Detectives at the commission unearthed a new method by which corrupt officers receive bribes via mobile phone-based technology, like M-Pesa and Sokotele. Some of the cases under investigation show bribery is rampant among traffic police officers and those manning weighbridges.
It was discovered after officers on such assignments were found to be regularly receiving money through cashing agents of mobile phone companies. Regular senders were found to be matatu drivers and conductors, according to a KACC detective who spoke to the Nation.
Read full article.
According to the BBC, Europe is relaxing rules about the use of electronics during flights, paving the way for devices to be used during take-off and landing.
Currently smartphones, tablets and other devices can be used only while a flight is in the air.
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has published guidelines saying use of such devices should now be allowed during take-off and landing.
It follows the US bringing in similar rules last month.
The EASA stipulates that devices must be used in "airplane mode", meaning passengers cannot use voice or text services.
Read full article.
November 13, 2013
Foreign aid is streaming into the Philippines from around the world as the news of the devastation wrought Super Typhoon Haiyan spreads, but it’s no longer just food, water and shelter: Before the storm even made landfall, a team from non-profit Télécoms Sans Frontières was on the ground, carrying satellite phones and laptop-sized BGans, which enable voice calls and internet connections via satellite. Quartz reports.
Just fifteen years ago, having a mobile phone connection would have been an unachievable luxury for those in the midst of a natural disaster. But the massive growth in mobile phone usage has radically changed the equation—and usage has been growing the fastest in the countries that have been the biggest targets of humanitarian aid.
Read full article.
Gogo, which provides in-flight Internet connections on many major airlines, is about ready to roll out a new app that will allow passengers to exchange text messages with groundlings while they’re tens of thousands of feet in the air. TIME Techland reports.
Here’s how it works: iPhone and Android users (sorry, BlackBerry owners) can install an app that, when opened, looks like a typical texting app. The app asks for permission to access the phone’s contacts list, then lets users seamlessly exchange texts with friends and family. Recipients need not know the text sender is airborne, as the texts appear as they normally would; there’s no need for recipients to also download the app, either.
The app uses airplanes’ pre-existing Wi-Fi systems, which Gogo’s Director of PR & Communications Steve Nolan said was a major selling point with air carriers. More than 2,000 commercial aircraft are already equipped with Gogo’s in-flight Internet system.
Currently in beta and dubbed “Gogo Text & Talk,” the service will likely be rebranded as Gogo Text.
Read full article.
November 12, 2013
The number of smartphones is forecast to triple to 5.6 billion globally by 2019, accounting for more than 60 percent of cellphones. [via TIME Techland]
Sweden’s Ericsson AB, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications networks, says in a report Monday it expects smartphone traffic to grow tenfold in the next six years, with service providers increasing high-speed networks to deal with the surge. Total mobile subscriptions are predicted to reach 9.3 billion by 2019.
Ericsson says annual smartphone traffic would hit 10 billion gigabytes by 2019, with videos representing some 50 percent of all data traffic. Social networking and web services would account for 10 percent each.
It said smartphones currently make up some 55 percent of all cellphones sold but represent only 25-30 percent of all mobile subscriptions.
The new generation of young consumers is poorer, shuns logos and socializes more on the Internet than at the mall. They’re also increasingly global fashion citizens, mixing garments from brands across the world that are now accessible from their smartphones. Bloomberg reports.
The changing shopping patterns in what Piper Jaffray Cos. estimates is a $30 billion market are providing fertile ground for upstarts such as Brandy Melville USA, which relies more on Instagram followers than television ads. They’re also causing a drain from the established chains that have been slow to turn away from their expansive stores and uniform, all-American style that worked so well for so long.
One reason is that teens have less money. The unemployment rate among 16- to 19-year-olds was 22.2 percent in October, the most recent month for which U.S. Labor Department data is available. The rate has stayed above 20 percent since May 2009. Parents aren’t as able to help out, and shoppers of all income levels are pulling back on unnecessary items.
The teens who do have money are spending it differently. About 60 percent of millennial shoppers use smartphones, according to Pew Research Center. That means they can compare prices without entering or leaving a mall, where the traditional teen chains have most of their stores.
Those phones, loaded with Facebook Inc.’s social network and its Instagram photo-blogging app, provide them a gateway to a world of fashion trends. The Internet allows shoppers to be pickier, comparing prices and customizing the size, color and design of much of what they purchase.
Teens and young adults now post photos with the tag “outfit of the day,” or OOTD, or send pictures of potential purchases to friends for immediate feedback. Others post “haul” videos on Google's YouTube site to highlight the items they’ve just purchased. About 60 percent of millennials post videos, images and blog entries online, compared to 29 percent for people of other age groups, according to Boston Consulting Group data.
The rising cost of telephone bills is causing consumers in the UK to slip further into debt, according to ClearDebt reports.
Research by the Money Advice Trust has discovered that since the launch of the iPhone six years ago, there has been a 261 per cent increase in people getting in touch over being in debt due to their mobile.
In the first eight months of the year, 13,398 people sought out advice on how to bring their financial situation under control – the figure was only 11,698 for the same time period in 2012.
Indeed, since 2007 there has been a steady increase in the number of people looking for assistance with their telephone debt – in 2012 it made up nearly ten per cent of all queries.
Part of the problem is that with improvements in technology, people can do much more with their phones, but many of these additional activities come at a cost. On top of this, monthly contracts have spiralled in the past few years.
Some 15 per cent of those with telephone debts were found to owe over £1,000, highlighting how it is a serious problem and so individuals need to make sure they are budgeting properly for such an expense.
Read full article.
November 10, 2013
China's mobile phone users, over 1.1 billion according to official data, have been receiving more and more spam text messages. WantChinaTimes reports.
A recent report issued by a platform established by Beijing-based websites for refuting rumors, analyzed almost 100 million junk messages, finding 59% of them to be advertisements.
Tencent, a major IT corporation and the developer of online instant messaging service QQ, said a total of 356 million junk SMS messages were reported by its mobile app users in the first half of 2013, 50 million more than in 2012.
The increasing amount of junk messages have become a social problem in China. Experts suggest that the issue be addressed through technical, administrative and legal means.
Zhu Wenjun, an official from the telecommunications administration of Beijing, said it is difficult to investigate and crack down on junk messages, as illegal base stations are used to send messages instead of telecom operators' networks.
In addition, interference characters are added into the messages and they are sent through low frequencies so as to avoid monitoring by operators and regulators.
... The ministry will ask telecom operators to launch a special campaign cracking down on junk messages and to expose those behind them to the public.
November 8, 2013
GeoPoll, a Denver-based firm, uses cellphones to conduct market research and public opinion polls with people in developing nations and remote parts of the world. The company runs surveys on topics such as whether Afghan villagers are optimistic about the economy and whether urban Tunisians prefer Pepsi or Coke.
GeoPoll is tackling the problem that citizens of developing countries are often beyond the reach of traditional market research. Very few people in such places have landlines; online surveys often don’t reach them either, because home Internet connections are uncommon. A case in point: When the World Bank wanted to understand whether people in war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo were receiving food supplies three years ago, interviewers armed with pen and paper had to trek across rivers and mountains to record villagers’ thoughts.
This summer, the United Nations hired the software company to conduct its annual global survey. Over the course of a month, 130,542 people in 15 countries weighed in on their priorities for their lives via cellphone, ranking quality education over honest government and better roads.
The World Bank also hired GeoPoll for its DRC survey, and the company asked four million 4 million citizens across the country, via text message, to say whether someone in their family had been the victim of violence over the last year and to share the local cost of cassava, a staple food.
“We can go to whatever hot spot in the world and ask interesting questions,” says CEO Steve Gutterman. “It’s a huge untapped market.”
November 7, 2013
As the world's fastest growing market for mobile phones, Africa is ripe for the upcoming disruption that will be ushered in by ubiquitous Internet access through smartphones. CNN reports.
The previous wave of mobile phone adoption on the continent from 2000 to 2010 accelerated at an impressive 30% compound annual growth rate powered by affordable dumb and feature phones sold at mass market price points.
Today, the narrative is changing.
The continent's smartphone market is expected to double in the next four years and device manufacturers who dominated the narrative over the past decade such as Nokia are making big bets on the continent's smartphone future.
... Though the continent's smart phone penetration rate might appear low relative to its number of feature phone users, the addressable market for smartphone users on the continent is already sizeable and is currently growing at about 19% year over year. With 650 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa, there are already about 100 million smartphone users with the number set to double to 200 million users in the next four years.
November 6, 2013
Devices once only in the hands of doctors, such as heart or blood pressure monitors, are now in the pockets of consumers, putting them in charge of their health and making medical care more accessible. Bloomberg reports.
Consumers are also increasingly armed with “wellness” apps -- simpler devices to monitor diets, exercise and weight to help them stay out of the doctor’s office -- that make up most of the 97,000 health related mobile-apps available.
The market for these apps is estimated to reach $26 billion by 2017, according to a March report by Research2Guidance, a Berlin-based consulting company. Most of the revenue will come from related services and products, such as monitoring devices and sensors, with just 9 percent of sales coming from downloads of the applications in the next five years, the report said.
Apps “engage the patient more closely with their own health care,” Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, said in an interview. “When we talk to physicians that’s the No. 1 benefit of apps. Ultimately it’s about improving outcomes.”
While the number of available health apps may be growing, quality and function vary widely, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, part of health-care data collector and researcher IMS Health. The group analyzed 20,000 health apps in the Apple Inc. iTunes store in an Oct. 30 report that found only about 5 apps account for 15 percent of all health-care downloads while more than 50 percent of health-care apps achieve fewer than 500 downloads, the report said.
Out of a score of 100, more than 90 percent of apps received a functionality score of 40 or less. In other words, consumers don’t find most apps all that useful.
“Apps can be health care in your hand,” Aitken said. “We’re not there yet but we expect we will be in five years.”
November 4, 2013
Every phone on the planet has an airplane mode - so why not do the same for a car?
Designers Joey Cofone and Michael Vanderbyl have created an elegant conceptual solution to our lack of self-discipline called Car Mode. Rather than distracting us with constant, alluring notifications, Car Mode gimps your iPhone in the name of safety. FastCompany reports.
The system is activated passively, going into Car Mode as soon as the iPhone pairs with your car’s Bluetooth system. From here, you can take hands-free calls or follow turn-by-turn navigation in the same manner as always. But when someone sends you a text message, they’ll be notified that you’re currently driving. Meanwhile, the phone won’t alert you in any way--no bleeps or buzzes or onscreen alerts. Instead, when you exit the car or turn off the ignition, a summary screen will greet you with any and all messages you’d missed.
November 1, 2013
In this world, there are researchers who study the societal effects of text messages. Two of these researchers, Lori Schade and Jonathan Sandberg of Brigham Young University, just released a new study claiming that too much texting can disconnect couples. Their research, published behind a paywall in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy, links too much texting to the stripping of nuance from a relationship. FastCompany reports.
Reaction to disappointment and reality testing occurs more quickly face to face," Sandberg said in a statement. "There is a narrowness with texting and you don't get to see the breadth of a person that you need to see." The pair surveyed 276 young adults around the country; 38% were in a serious relationship, 46% engaged, and 16% were married. One big (and, yes, obvious) takeaway from the study is that text messages are a standard way of communicating for most couples: 82% traded texts multiple times per day.
The researchers also found that, for women, using text messages to apologize, work out differences, or make decisions was associated with a lower-quality rating for their relationship. By contrast, too much texting by men was associated with a lower-quality rating in relationships.
More than a third of children in Sweden's cities complain that their parents spend too much time staring at phones and tablet computers, leading doctors in the country to warn that children may be suffering emotional and cognitive damage. The Guardian reports.
According to a survey by YouGov, 33% of parents in Sweden's major towns and cities have received complaints from their children about their excessive phone use.
The survey also found that more than one in five parents in Stockholm and its suburbs admit to having lost sight of their children while out after being distracted by their phones.
"Of course it will affect their emotional development," said Dr Roland Sennerstam, one of several paediatricians in the country to warn of the phenomenon. "I sometimes see children tapping their parents on the back to get attention, but the parents give them no time."
Sweden now boasts the second highest smartphone usage in western Europe after Norway. According to data from Google, 63% of adults own an iPhone, Android phone or Windows phone.