AT&T this week agreed to pay out $105 million in fines and refunds to settle "mobile cramming" charges against the company. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the settlement is the largest ever with a prominent mobile phone carrier. As part of the settlement, AT&T will pay the FTC $80 million to provide refunds to customers, $20 million in penalties, and a $5 million penalty to the Federal Communications Commission.
Privacy advocates aren't going to like this one, but a 2-1 ruling in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has given law enforcement officials the legal right to track suspects by cell phone in real-time without first obtaining a warrant. The ruling revolves around a case in which Melvin Skinner, a convicted drug trafficker, sought to have his charges dismissed on the basis that his arrest ran afoul of the Fourth Amendment.
Over half (54.9 percent) of U.S. mobile subscribers were wielding a smartphone at the end of June 2012, according to Nielsen. The smartphone segment continues to grow, and if Nielsen's figures are correct, two out of three mobile phone shoppers now opt for a smartphone rather than a feature phone. Google's Android platform is the biggest benefactor of this trend, which claims the lion's share of the smartphone OS market.
Wireless carriers have a tendency to roll out the red carpet for new subscribers, but once you're part of the family, well, don't expect to receive special treatment. Highlighting this observation is the fact that Verizon Wireless is getting ready to implement a $30 upgrade fee for existing customers who upgrade to a shiny new subsidized smartphone with a renewed two-year service agreement. Apparently 24 months of data fees is no longer good enough.
Smartphones are bigger than feature phones, they're more complicated to use, and they're typically far more expensive, both in terms of upfront costs for the hardware and over the long haul when you factor in the required data charge every month for two years (assuming you're locked in a two-year service agreement). Nevertheless, smartphones now outnumber feature phones among U.S. adults, according to data by Pew Internet.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for the first-ever nationwide ban of cell phone use for any reason while behind the wheel of an automobile. The proposed ban would outlaw the use of all personal electronic devices (PEDs, except those designed to support the driving task) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia while operating a motor vehicle, a controversial safety recommendation with unanimous support from NTSB's Board.
Nokia has enough on its plate with trying to stay relevant in the smartphone market and gearing up for the U.S. launch of its first Windows Phone. Trying to sell mobile phones that cost tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars? Nokia's done with that and is reportedly looking for a buyer to snatch up its luxury Vertu subsidiary known for selling cell phones at outlandish prices.
Pogoplug today unveiled a new cloud-based storage service for mobile phones that provides users with 5GB of free online storage. By adding this service to its lineup, the braggadocios folks at Pogoplug claims their's is the only company with a combined hardware/software/cloud offering, and has more sharing and streaming services solutions than anyone else on the market.
T-Mobile suffered through another tough quarter. The wireless carrier said it lost 318,000 contract customers in Q4, after having already lost 60,000 in Q3 and 117,000 in Q4 of 2009. T-Mobile also reports net customer losses of 23,000 in Q4 of 2010, compared to net additions of 137,000 in Q3.
A new study reveals that Internet usage among mobile phone owners isn't a daily task for the vast majority of users. As outlined in Antenna Software's 2011 Mobile Internet Attitudes Report, only one in five American mobile phone owners fire off emails, surf the Web, or perform other Internet-related activities on a daily basis, even though their phones are technically capable of doing so. What gives?