About four years ago, Bryan St. Germain, then 22-year old son of Bob St. Germain, used his Verizon cell phone to connect to the Web. What Bryan didn't know at the time was that the two-year promotional plan his father signed up for -- a plan which allowed for free downloads -- had passed, and he was now being charged per kilobyte.
The result? Little St. Germain racked up a $12,000 phone bill on his father's account, and then another $6,000 to be added to next month's bill. Apparently Bryan had been tethering his cell phone to his laptop because it was quicker than his father's dial-up service, but certainly not less expensive. Now four years later, Bob's debt incurred by his son sits in collections and the dispute between him and Verizon rages on.
"If there's extreme activity on your account, they should let you know," Bob said. "Nobody should get surprised like I did."
Sounds reasonable, but is Verizon really at fault? The wireless telco begs to differ, pointing out that it goes to "great lengths to educate" customers about their products and services so situations like this don't end up happening. But it did happen, and the question is, should Bob be forced to pay off his debt, which Verizon offered to cut in half?
"The wireless industry is extraordinarily competitive and customers have choices," Verizon wrote in a letter to the Boston Globe. "We work to win, and keep, customers every day--and we understand our customers don't like surprises. Neither do we--it's bad business. Which is why we clearly explain service plan details in brochures, during the purchase process, in our customer agreements and again through confirmation letters. We provide access to tons of account information through the MyVerizon Web page, and by dialing #BAL (balance information), #DATA (data usage), and #MIN (available minutes)."
Verizon went on to explain that customers have "numerous tools through the Internet" at their disposal to manage their family's cell phone usage, such as setting voice and messaging allowances and receiving free text alerts when a family member near or reaches their limits, among other things.
Should Bob be forced to pay the four-year-old bill, or should Verizon drop the charges? Hit the jump and sound off!
Rebounding from a market contraction in the first quarter of 2009, mobile phone shipments surged by 21.7 percent in the first quarter of 2010, according to market research firm IDC. Increased demand for smartphones played a big role in overall mobile phone performance, with vendors shipping 249.9 million units in Q1 of this year compared to 242.4 million in Q1 2009.
The growing demand for smartphones also helped Research In Motion (RIM) wiggle its way into the top 5 vendor rankings for the first time ever. RIM jumped ahead of Motorola to tie Sony Ericsson for the No. 4 spot in IDC's 1Q10 vendor rankings.
"The entrance of RIM into the top 5 underscores the sustained smartphone growth trend that is driving the global mobile phone market recovery," noted Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Mobile Phone Tracker. "This is also the first time a vendor has dropped out of the top 5 since the second quarter of 2005, when Sony Ericsson grabbed the number 5 spot from BenQ Siemens."
IDC predicts the worldwide mobile phone market rebound will last throughout 2010, though not necessarily at the same clip as the first quarter performance.
"We are still expecting growth of 11 percent for 2010," IDC said.
With data usage on mobile devices skyrocketing, the onus is now on the carriers to bring their mobile data strategies up to speed with the times. Take for instance the all too familiar 5GB/month data cap, which appears totally out of place in a world where smartphones are increasingly delivering a PC-like browsing experience and, consequently, pushing bandwidth consumption upwards.
Recession? What recession? There's no such thing in the cell phone industry, at least not anymore, says iSuppli. The market research firm proclaimed the end of the cell phone recession after the industry closed out 2009 with a bang.
Cell phones ended 2009 with shipments of 1.15 billion units. That's slightly down from the 1.2 billion units shipped in 2008, but it's the fourth quarter performance that has iSuppli gushing over the cell phone market. Mobile handset shipments reached 335 million in the final quarter of 2009, up 15.5 percent from the 290 million shipped in the previous quarter.
"Given the recovery of the market in the final quarter of 2009, and with Europe, Latin America and the Middle East/Africa regions doing exceptionally well during the period, the recession can be said to be officially over for the cell phone industry," said Tina Teng, senior analyst for wireless systems at iSuppli. "The continued growth this year of total handsets - up a projected 11.3 percent to 1.3 billion units - further bolsters such a view."
The future looks equally bright, says iSuppli, which projects that smartphones will see growth of 35.5 percent in 2010. This will be helped by the introduction of entry-level handsets and 3G network expansion expected to take place this year.
The TSA has some good news for frequent fliers. The next time you catch a flight from Hereville to Thereville, you'll be able to leave your iPad, netbook, and other similar size electronics in your carry-on luggage during checkpoint screening.
So what exactly are you allowed to keep tucked inside your bag? The TSA lists a handful of items, including "iPads, Kindles, Neos, Nooks, Sony Readers, etc." Other items, such as a PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, full-size DVD players, and video cameras that use video cassettes will still need to be removed. Also, if you don't want someone else putting their grubby paws all over your smaller sized gadgets, be sure to pack appropriately.
"It’s important to remember, however, that our officers are trained to look for anomalies to help keep air travel safe, and if something needs a closer look, it will receive secondary screening. The key to avoiding bag searches is keeping the clutter down. The less clutter you have in your bag, the less likely it will be searched."
With all due respect to Alexander Graham Bell, he couldn't possibly have known that his patent for "the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically" would one day give birth to the modern day smartphone. He couldn't have foreseen the wonders that we take for granted today, like text messaging and voice-to-text searches.
We now live in a connected world, and today's smartphones define what it means to be a power user. Want to look up turn-by-turn driving directions on your phone? There's an app for that. There's an app for just about everything, even if they're sometimes tough to find (we're looking at you, Android Marketplace).
But for as much as we rely on our iPhone, Nexus One, or BlackBerry, it wasn't that long ago when you wouldn't think of trying to cram a mobile phone in your pocket. Remember when pagers were all the craze? Like computers, communication devices continue to evolve at a rapid pace, becoming faster, more portable, and increasingly flexible in functionality. It's been a wild ride getting to where we are today, and to pay homage to that journey, we take a look back at 40 of the most important phone models of all time.
We've seen increased efforts lately to push greater cell phone adoption into developing nations, and the latest to enter the fray is a low cost handset powered by commonly available AAA-sized batteries. Called the "FrvrOn," short for "forever on," Indian mobile phone company Oliver Telecommunications also outfitted its mobile phone with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, but has good reason for including an AAA compartment.
"We have electrification all across the country but the power supply is erratic," marketing manager Ravi Perti told AFP. "With our phone, all one needs to do is pack a few extra cells (batteries) if one is traveling in areas where one expects power supply disruptions."
Perti says, the phone can run for up to three hours on the stock lithium-ion battery, and another hour on a single AAA battery.
According to government figures, there are 10,000 impoverished Indian villages with access to grid electricity. Even still, India represents the world's fastest-expanding mobile market, adding an average of 15 million customers every month.
Good news for those of you who are fans of Motorola's Backflip and its somewhat funky form factor. AT&T now offers the backward flipping smartphone for $99 through its website.
There are a couple of caveats, of course. To get below the $100 price point, you'll have to play the mail-in-rebate game, which comes in the form of an AT&T Promotion Card "valid wherever VIsa is accepted, and for 120 days after issue date." You'll also need to commit to a 2-year service agreement and $30 per month data service.
What you get in return is an Android 1.5-based smartphone capable of being upgraded to Android 2.1. The Backflip also sports a 5MP camera with 4X zoom, 3.1-inch touchscreen with a 480 x 320 resolution, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.0, GPS, a 3.5mm headphone jack, microSD card expansion up to 32GB, and a 1380 mAh battery Motorola claims amounts to up to 6 hours of talk time and 13.5 days of standby.
They say talk is cheap, and thanks to Vodafone, it really is. We mean that literally - the handset maker today announced the release of a pair of ultra low-cost handsets -- Vodafone 150 and Vodafone 250 -- both of which are intended for emerging markets.
"The cost of mobile handsets can be one of the most significant barriers for people in accessing and benefiting from the growing number of socially valuable mobile services. The lives of people who use these phones will be changed and improved as they become part of the mobile society," said Patrick Chomet, Vodafone's Group Director of Terminals.
Vodafone says the 150 will retail unsubsidized for less than $15, while the 250 will cost less than $20. Both phones include a 5-way navigation key, voice and SMS, GSM 900/1800, polyphonic ringontes, vibration, alarm clock, calculator, 2 embedded games, and enough memory to store up to 100 phonebook entries (plus SMS storage). Where the 250 ups the ante over the 150 is in the former's 1.45-inch color screen with 128x128 pixels and FM support. The 150 sports a 1-inch monochrome display with 96x96 pixels and no FM radio.
Going forward, research firm ABI Research says smartphones will come decked out with antivirus software and other technology to thwart the bad guys from exploiting your mobile device. Even fingerprint sensors are likely, ABI says.
Malware on mobile phones is nothing new, but although it's been seen before, ABI points out that the damage has been pretty minimal up to this point. Look for that to change.
"Smartphones have access to more sensitive data every year, and security must be tightened to prevent the theft or loss of important business information," says ABI Research VP Stan Schatt.
According to ABI, smartphones sporting advanced security software will increase fivefold in the next five years, driven in part by increasing concerns from enterprises with mobile workforces. Bigger enterprises will invest in mobile device management platforms to integrate with their IT departments, while smaller companies will use managed security services, ABI says.