Posts tagged Cellphone
On April 3rd, 1973 a division manager from Motorola was walking down the street in New York City. In his hand was a device. It weighed 2.5 pounds and vaguely resembled a phone. The division manager then put the device to his ear and made a call.
The manager was Martin Cooper. The device was a DynaTAC 8000x. The call was the first cellphone call in history.
The cellphone is 40 years old today. In place of Cooper’s 2.5-pound DynaTAC that could be used to bludgeon a passerby in a pinch, we now have four-ounce touchscreen computers connected to a world of information that happen to be able to make phone calls.
Cooper, now 84, has kept busy. He founded Arraycomm in 1992 to develop antenna software for mobile phones. He also founded Dyna LLC as a way to incubate innovation around cellular technology. From Dyna launched GreatCall, the company that made the Jitterbug cellphone. Cooper continues to do speaking engagements and is a member of several government groups that advise policy on wireless spectrum.
I had a chance to meet Cooper in September 2012 when Motorola launched its latest versions of its Razr HD Android smartphones. He was excited about the concept of Smart Actions in the new Motorola phones. Smart Actions are features where the phone knows where you are and what you might be doing and acts accordingly. For instance, it can help extend battery life automatically or know when you are driving and cannot receive text messages. Much of capabilities of Smart Actions will likely end up in Google Now, the predictive technology Google has baked into its newest version of Android.
So today, on the 40th birthday of one of the most important technologies in human history, we salute you, Marty Cooper. On behalf of the human race, we say thank you.
Top image: From the oldest cellphone, to the newest, the Galaxy S4
Martin Cooper image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
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Earlier this year, the Library of Congress allowed an exemption to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to expire, effectively making it illegal to unlock cellphones purchased after Jan. 26. A group of citizens outraged at the unlocking ban started a petition on the White House’s “We The People” website to fight the new law, garnering more than 114,000 signatures in 30 days.
Today, the White House responded. The verdict? The administration is firmly in support of ending the unlocking ban. Unfortunately, it can’t do very much about it on its own.
David Edelmen, senior advisor for the Internet, innovation and privacy at the White House, wrote:
The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties. In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smart phones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network. It’s common sense, crucial for protecting consumer choice, and important for ensuring we continue to have the vibrant, competitive wireless market that delivers innovative products and solid service to meet consumers’ needs.
Which is great. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has to kick the can to Congress to really fix things. For instance, Edelman wrote, the White House would support a variety of legislative fixes:
The Obama Administration would support a range of approaches to addressing this issue, including narrow legislative fixes in the telecommunications space that make it clear: neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation.
The odds of that at the moment? Probably not great.
In the short term, the best chance for quick action might lie with the Library of Congress itself. The LoC also released a statement today that, depending on how you squint at it, either seemed to open the door to reconsideration of the unlocking issue or to simply hedge its bets. Key sentence:
We also agree with the administration that the question of locked cell phones has implications for telecommunications policy and that it would benefit from review and resolution in that context.
The White House said that any users that own their cellphones and are not hindered by service contracts should be able to do what they please with their devices.
This is particularly important for secondhand or other mobile devices that you might buy or receive as a gift, and want to activate on the wireless network that meets your needs — even if it isn’t the one on which the device was first activated. All consumers deserve that flexibility.
The petition was started by Sina Khanifar, an entrepreneur that once owned a website called Cell-Unlock.com. Here is Khanifar’s response to the White House’s response:
A little earlier I received a call from David Edelman at the White House, and he gave me the news. I’m really glad to see the White House taking action on an issue that’s clearly very important to people. As the White House said in the response, keeping unlocking legal is really “common sense,” and I’m excited to see them recognizing this. David was enthusiastic about getting this fixed as quickly as possible.
This is a big victory for consumers, and I’m glad to have played a part in it. A lot of people reacted skeptically when I originally started the petition, with lots of comments to the effect of “petitions don’t do anything.” The optimist in me is really glad to have proved them wrong. The White House just showed that they really do listen, and that they’re willing to take action.
While I think this is wonderful, I think the real culprit here is Section 1201 of the DMCA, the controversial “anti-circumvention provision.” I discussed with the White House the potential of pushing to have that provision amended or removed, and they want to continue that conversation. I’ll have exciting news on the campaign to make this happen tomorrow.
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Tinkerers, open source ideologues, mobile developers and enthusiasts and even plain old mobile consumers who want a bit of choice, you got some bad news earlier this year: It is now illegal to unlock your smartphone.
Through a decree from the Library Of Congress through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, as of Jan. 26, 2013, the exception explicitly allowing consumers to unlock any new smartphones they purchase has been ended.
Unlocking smartphones is a way for consumers to change the SIM cards in their devices so they can use it on a different carrier. For instance, if you unlocked your Samsung Galaxy S 3 you could then change carriers from AT&T to T-Mobile by replacing the SIM card.
What Is The Unlocking Petition All About?
A petition has been presented to the White House on its “We the People” website, which allows U.S. residents to entreat the U.S. government to address particular concerns. The White House is committed to respond to any petition that gets 100,000 signatures.
Here is the text of the petition:
The Librarian of Congress decided in October 2012 that unlocking of cell phones would be removed from the exceptions to the DMCA.
As of January 26, consumers will no longer be able unlock their phones for use on a different network without carrier permission, even after their contract has expired.
Consumers will be forced to pay exorbitant roaming fees to make calls while traveling abroad. It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full.
The Librarian noted that carriers are offering more unlocked phones at present, but the great majority of phones sold are still locked.
We ask that the White House ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.
The petition is now nearly a month old, having been started on Jan. 24 this year. It has until Feb. 23 to garner 100,000 signatures. As of the afternoon of Feb. 20, the petition was still about 12,000 votes short of obliging the White House to respond.
Why Is Unlocking Important?
Consumers can face financial hurdles and loss of choice if the unlocking ban remains in effect. The most obvious problem is for overseas travelers who want to unlock their phones so they can use a local SIM card and avoid the exorbitant voice and data charges that domestic carriers like AT&T charge for foreign use. Consumers may also want to unlock their phones to switch carriers or if they want to sell their phones to independent third parties.
The carriers and manufacturers, meanwhile, stand to benefit from the unlocking ban. If consumers are forced into contracts when they buy their phones, they cannot easily switch carriers without hefty early termination fees. Manufacturers benefit because if somebody wants to join a new carrier, they have to buy a new phone. Wireless trade groups like the CTIA look out for the interests of manufacturers and carriers (especially the carriers) and have endorsed the unlocking ban.
Who’s Behind The Unlocking Petition?
One of the petition’s organizers is Sina Khanifar. He started a website while at college in 2004 called Cell-Unlock.com that sold software that unlocked consumers’ cellphones. Shortly thereafter he was hit by a cease-and-desist letter from Motorola alleging that he was circumventing DMCA rules that prohibit unlocking phone.. With the help of the founder of Stanford’s Cyberlaw Clinic, Jennifer Granick, an exemption was created in the DMCA that specifically allowed consumers to unlock their phones. That exemption expired on Jan. 26.
Khanifar does have some incentive to make cellphone unlocking legal. The Cell-Unlock website is still active and is being run by his brother, Sohail.
The other organizer of the petition is Derek Khanna, a former staff member of the Republican Study Committee who was infamously terminated from the group after releasing a memo on copyright and intellectual property legislation that was not well received by the Grand Old Party. Before his termination, Khanna was regarded as a tech-savvy young member of the Republican party. He is now a visiting law fellow at Yale University.
Want to end the unlocking ban? Sign the petition by Friday to ensure the White House responds.
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Over half of U.S. cellphone owners now own smartphones, according to new data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. 53% of U.S. cellphone owners are now of the smart variety and 46% of American’s overall own a smartphone. This is a significant inflection point in the mobile revolution, marking a significant trend in how the average interacts with information.
About 88% of U.S. citizens are cellphone users. Smartphone adoption spiked in almost every demographic category since Pew’s last study on the subject in May 2011. 71% of people aged 25-34 are now smartphone owners as are 66% of young adults age 18-29. The industry has moved way past the early adopter and explosive growth stages. Smartphones are now a basic part of the fabric of U.S. society.
Pew’s data says that 20% of smartphone owners describe their device as an Android while 19% said theirs was an iPhone. 6% of owners described their device as a BlackBerry, down 10% from May 2011. Windows (2%) and Palm (1%) were unchanged.
49% of all U.S. men are smartphone owners compared to 44% of women. Like last year, black and Hispanic demographics have higher adoption rates but the growth was not as significant as the non-Hispanic white category, which grew from 30% to 45%. See the chart below.
If we take all the data together, we see that the typical smartphone user is young, has college experience or a degree and makes more than $30,000 a year. On a base level, that is relatively unchanged from studies we have seen throughout 2011. Where it does change though is that adoption is spread out among all age groups (except the elderly), education levels and ethnic demographics.
Cellphone owners are also become savvier in identifying their brands. Last year, 14% of cellphone owners were not sure if their phone was smart or not. This year, only 8% were not sure. 4% of cell owners do not know what kind of device they own (like a feature phone or an Android etc.), down from 13% last year.
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The rise of mobile commerce is going to give traditional retail stores a headache. Results from a survey done by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that 25% of cellphone owners used their phone to look up the price of a product before buying it at a store. More than half of cellphone owners used their phones to determine what product to buy while in a retail store.
Pew’s research only touched on the notion of consumers researching products before buying them. The survey did not include a segment on mobile payments, where consumers actually paid for the retails goods in-store with their cellphones. That is an important distinction. Retail stores could stem the tide of users researching products on their phones and buying the product elsewhere if the industry were to combine the research process with the actual transaction.
About 38% of American cellphone owners called a friend for advice about a purchase while shopping. 25% looked up prices for a product found in a store while 24% looked up product reviews. The cumulative total was that 52% of U.S. adult cellphone owners used their cellphones while shopping over the holiday season and 33% use their cellphones specifically for online information of physical goods.
According to Pew, one in five of these “mobile price matchers” would eventually make a purchase online instead of at the retail store. That translates into 5% of all cellphone owners who made purchases online after stepping foot in a retail store. That may not seem like a big number but when it comes to big retail, each percentage point could mean millions if not near billions of dollars. The old retail adage of “just get them in the store” is starting to slip as easy access to information sits in every consumers’ pockets.
Of the mobile price matchers, 37% decided not to purchase the product t all, 35% purchased the product at the store, 19% purchased the product online and 8% purchased the product at another store.
The biggest takeaway from Pew’s findings is that mobile commerce starting to significantly affect the conversion rates of physical retail stores. How can retail stores stem the tide of consumers deciding to make a purchase elsewhere once they already have them in the store?
The strategy revolves around having a strong mobile Web presence. That does not necessarily mean an actual native app. If you are in a retail store researching with your phone and you Google the product, the retail store should be one of the first results. With the location abilities of smartphones, the search could even tell you what store or neighborhood you are actually in. The retailer could then be able to offer a deal or an incentive to buy and offer to complete the transaction through the device. The mobile Web app could hook into your mobile wallet and bill you directly or instruct the consumer to see the cashier where payment could be made by either near field communications (NFC) or by scanning a QR code. The idea is to control both the research and the transaction. Channel the consumer to your product.
Did you research your holiday spending on your phone? How have your shopping habits changed since you bought a smartphone? Let us know in the comments.
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The Pew Internet and American Life project released details of a new survey today showing the trends in how U.S. adults download apps to the smartphones and tablets. Including those that have downloaded and app or have apps preloaded to their devices, about 50% of all U.S. cellphone users have an app on their devices. That correlates to about 42% of all U.S. adults.
The amount of U.S. cellphone users that have apps on their devices rose from 43% in May 2010. Pew points out that the demographic has not really changed, there are just more people from those demographics downloading apps. For smartphones, they tend to be young, have higher incomes and college degrees and live in urban and suburban areas. How do you fit in these demographics?
Pew reports that half (51%) of users who have apps on their cellphones use them at least once a week. Less than a fifth (17%) do not use apps on a regular basis. For tablets, 39% use apps six or more times a week with 8% reporting no app activity.
In terms of paid apps, games are the leader. That comes as no surprise as game developers are the ones that are pushing the bounds of what these devices can do. People will pay for a good game. Weather, social networking, maps/search, music and news were the next highest on the list of apps usage. Of app users, 46% have paid for an app at some point, which is no different from the 47% that said the same thing in May 2010. About 52% said they paid $5 or less for apps with 17% have paid more than $20 for an app. Those that pay for apps tend to be aged 30 or above with college degrees in urban areas.
Let us know in the comments how much you are willing to pay for an app.
Check out the chart below breaking down what apps that users are downloading by age demographic. The results are pretty interesting. African-Americans are more likely to download apps that help them communicate with family and friends. About 46% of people use mobile apps to help them make decisions about purchases and 48% of users use apps to help them with work-related tasks.
A note from Pew on the survey results:
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project has begun to explore the contours of this relatively new digital phenomenon. In August of 2011, the Project conducted its most recent national survey of the state of apps culture. The survey was conducted from July 25-August 26 among 2,260 adults ages 18 and older in both English and Spanish, 916 of whom were interviewed on their cell phones.
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The Emergency Broadcast System was for decades the way in which we were notified of emergencies via the television and radio. (Or more likely, the way in which we were notified of a “test of the Emergency Broadcast System.”) But undoubtedly we are turning to other real-time technologies to inform us when there are national, state, and local crises.
The Urgent Communications Journal reported today that Alcatel-Lucent has made commercially available its broadcast message center that’s designed to help bring these alerts to people’s cellphones in order to comply with Federal Communication Commission’s Commercial Mobile Alert System.
With this new system, service providers will be able to send targeted government agency texts to alert mobile users in a specific area. While everyone will have to receive presidential alerts (something that’s never been issued in the almost 50 years of the program’s existence), people will be able to opt out of messages about imminent threats and Amber alerts.
“With the public increasingly relying on cell phones, it becomes mission critical for service providers to be able to share critical, time-sensitive information over these devices during times of crisis,” Alcatel-Lucent’s vice president Morgan Wright told MSNBC.
The program is being tested in California and Florida and should be ready in time to comply with the new FCC guidelines by April 2012.
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