Google and Apple testified before the Senate on Tuesday, where both firms were grilled on collecting location information from mobile phones. During the hearing, Senator Al Franken was particularly vocal on the issue. “My wireless companies, Apple and Google, and my apps, all get my location or something very close to it,” Senator Franken said. “We need to address this issue now, as mobile devices are only going to get more popular.” We covered Apple’s response on Tuesday, during which Apple’s vice president of software technology, Bud Tribble, said that “Apple does not track users’ locations,” and that the firm never plans to do so. However, Franken was also concerned that Apple and Google have done little to police third-party applications that are collecting and transmitting location data, and suggested that both companies require developers to alert users of their specific privacy policies. Trimble said Apple already does this, but it has never tossed an application for violating that rule. Google’s director of public policy, Alan Davidson, said Google would consider adding the option. According to The Wall Street Journal, Jessica Rich, the deputy director of the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer-protection bureau said that, despite both firms saying they don’t collect user data, “there’s a lot [the FTC] can do… to challenge,” those claims. More →
While testifying before the U.S. Congress today, Apple’s vice president of software technology, Bud Tribble, tried to clarify concerns that Apple had been tracking owners of its iPhone and iPad Wi-Fi + 3G. Apple has said in the past that it does not track its users and it also recently issued iOS 4.3.3, which reduces and encrypts the crowd-sourced location database cache, but Tribble explained the story in a bit more detail:
We do not share customer information with third parties without our customers’ explicit consent. Apple does not track users’ locations. Apple has never done so and has no plans to do so. An Apple device does not send to Apply any specific information associated with a user. The purpose of the cache is to allow the device to more quickly and reliably respond to location requests. Apple was never tracking an individual user’s location. The data seen on the iPhone was not the location past or present of the iPhone, but the location of cell towers surrounding the phone. Although the cache was not encrypted, it was protected from other apps on the phone.
According to 9to5 Mac, Tribble also explained to the U.S. Congress that, as we know, the iPhone and 3G iPad are able to determine a user’s location using triangulation between nearby Wi-Fi hotspots or cell phone towers. More →
Intel gathered by blog Android Central indicates that Sprint and Google will make their Google Voice partnership ready for prime time on April 26th. The venture, which was announced last month, will allow Sprint customers to seamlessly integrate their current wireless number with Google’s Voice service. Calls and texts sent from your mobile device will be logged by Google Voice’s online system, and calls can be made from the browser using the service’s VoIP feature. International calls made from linked mobile devices will automatically route through Google Voice — which offers deep discounting on international voice traffic. The feature has been available in beta for the last few weeks, but it looks like the two companies are finally ready to let everyone in on the fun. More →
In response to last week’s tsunami, AT&T has announced that its wireless customers, in the United States and Puerto Rico, can call or text Japan for free through March 31st. AT&T has also said it will not charge its wireless postpaid customers for international long distance calls or texts to Japan that were placed after March 11th. Similarly, AT&T wireline customers can seek credit for up to 60 minutes of direct calls placed to Japan during the March 11th to March 31st time period. Anyone who wishes to donate $10 to the Red Cross can do so by texting “redcross” to 90999. More →
Quick Preppy, put that phone down… you don’t want Belding to catch you! For this week’s installation of Throwback Thursday, we’re going to venture all the way back to 1992. Those were the days, weren’t they? Zack, Screech, AC and the gang still roamed the halls of Bayside High, MC Hammer wasn’t in bankruptcy, and the Motorola DynaTAC was hot technology.
The DynaTAC series was the first line of commercially produced cellular handsets by U.S. electronics manufacturer Motorola. First introduced in 1983, the DynaTAC was a vast improvement over the previous iteration of mobile telephones, lovingly referred to as “bag phones.” The name stood for Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage and the devices originally ran on AMPS cellular networks. Dr. Martin Cooper, father of the modern cell phone, worked for Motorola in the early 1980’s and played a critical roll in the DynaTAC’s creation. The familiar form of the model survived from the early 80’s all the way through 1994; before it was shelved for a more svelte design. Since its demise, the phone has become a symbol of everyone’s favorite decade (the 1980’s, duh) and — thanks to one of our favorite cameos on Saved by the Bell — and adjetive. Telling someone they have a Zack Morris Phone usually refers to a bulky, out-dated, and overweight cell phone that is in need of replacement.
We’ll admit, we’re about a half a decade too young to have owned a DynaTAC, but that doesn’t mean it can’t hold a special place in our hearts, right? Did you know anyone who actually owned a Zack Morris Phone? More →
Now that Google has finally brought incoming number portability to its Google Voice service, we wanted to ask: how many of you have taken advantage of the new feature? It’s a difficult call to make and many people have reached out to us to ask us what our thoughts on it. Since you’re porting your existing number, you’ll need a new number for your actual cell phone and that’s where things can get tricky for some people. Also, many people have early termination fees to consider, so that adds another roadblock. So, what’s the verdict? How many of you taken the plunge, and if so, are you happy that your number is now able to be used on a variety of phones on practically any carrier and that you can control who calls you and where?
As much fun as it is to head to your doctor’s office or a clinic to get tested for an STD, it looks like there might be a slightly more private and comfortable option on the horizon. A group of organizations in the UK have combined to produce over $10 million in funding for research related to inexpensive portable STD test. The test consists of a single-use USB dongle-sized component containing a microchip. Once urinated upon, the device connects to a mobile phone or laptop and tests for herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhea with instant results. The tests would be distributed through vending machines in UK nightclubs, among other places, and would cost less than $2 each. It is almost a given that more private testing options will lead to more frequent testing and, hopefully, to safer behavior. Let’s just hope that once this great new mobile STD testing technology hits the market in the UK, it spreads quickly. More →
According to recent survey, New Yorkers literally don’t have time to talk on their cell phones. In terms of rank, New York is #15 in the nation for total number of calls, yet almost dead last in terms of actual call durations. If you’re from New York, you’re probably shaking your head in agreement as we’re most likely to take a call while doing seven hundred other things; say what we have to say, and jump off. What state would you guess holds the title for most prolific cellphone users? That would be Georgia. Because everyone is friendly in Georgia. Some more quick data from the study: teens send almost 3,000 text messages a month, and women talk on the phone 22% more than men. Though I doubt anyone is surprised by those last figures… More →
Deutsche Bank analyst Brian Modoff fed some figures to the Wall Street Journal this morning and to say they speak volumes for the effectiveness of both RIM and Apple’s strategies is a gross understatement. Two companies, 3 percent of the global cell phone market, 35 percent of the operating profits. Sheesh. It’s no mystery that both companies have hit the industry hard of late but if this statistic doesn’t speak volumes for the success both have been experiencing, we don’t know what does. While Apple’s next handset release is about a year away, the company continues to bring its iPhone 3GS to new markets where it has yet to receive anything but an enthusiastic welcome. RIM on the other hand, has several highly anticipated devices still to come this year including the Storm 2, Bold 9020 (Onyx) and the Magnum. In a nut shell, both companies are well positioned to push that number up toward the 40 percent mark and possibly beyond before the year is out.
Beyond the dynamic duo that is RIM and Apple, Nokia is the only other player represented on the chart above showing a profit share that outreaches its market share and it still owns the lion’s share of each. As we reaffirmed last week however, all is not peachy up in Finland these days. And then we find Samsung and LG, two companies that combine to make up over 30 percent of the global cell phone market but only about 20 percent of the profits. Last and unfortunately least, there’s Motorola. Ouch, Moto.
For better or for worse, the Australian Communications and Media Authority is proposing an amendment to the Mobile Phone Jammer Prohibition that would permit cell phone use on domestic and international flights. An 18-month long trial of the pico cell technology used for in-flight cellular communications was deemed successful with no reported complaints of interference to either the plane’s avionics system or ground cellular networks. Both Qantas and V Australia have each announced plans to offer in-flight SMS and GPRS services and are anxiously awaiting these rule changes so they can expand the technology from a single test airplane to fleet-wide deployment. Bravo to Australia for pushing this technology forward and kudos to Qantas and V Australia for offering only SMS and data services. We like getting SMS and GPRS but don’t fancy listening to the bloke next to us telling his mate how he was as full as a boot while watching some aerial ping pong and spent the whole night liquid laughing. What a dill!
Self-powered cell phones may become a reality if M2E Power has their way. The company has developed and tested batteries that are powered by human motion. The batteries are housed inside a charger which can be thrown in your purse or pocket and pulled out when you need to charge a device. Right now efficiency is marginal as it takes about 6 hours of cumulative motion to provide 30 to 60 minutes of call time. That is a lot of movement for not a lot of talk time but you have to start somewhere we guess. With cell phone companies seeking “green” alternatives to power, this battery charging technology may someday find its way into your phone. We’d prefer built-in solar panels though, that way we don’t have to walk around too much…