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Entries in Cell Phones (14)

Thursday
Apr182013

Consumers Finally Rid of Wireless 'Bill Shock'

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The FCC does not want to be responsible for Americans having heart attacks over their, often exorbitant, wireless phone bills.

And that is why in October 2011 -- not long before an unfortunate U.S. airman stationed in Guam amassed $16,000 in charges -- the FCC enacted “Wireless Consumer Usage Notification Guidelines,” which will send alerts both before and after subscribers reach their monthly limits on minutes, data, text and international roaming.

The goal is to prevent so-called “bill shock,” which affects some 30 million Americans, according to an FCC report. The FCC also found in a 2010 paper that out of 764 bill-shock complaints during the first six months of 2010, 67 percent were for $100 or more; 20 percent were for $1,000 or more; and one was for a whopping $68,505 (ET, phoning home, perhaps?).

As it happens, April 17 was when all the telecom company alerts were supposed to be in place. Yet, did all the companies comply? It seems they have.

As an FCC chart notes, each of the Big Ten (including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile), say they now have proper alerts in places. The exceptions are providers like Clearwire and Plateau, which don’t offer the service or only offer unlimited plans.

This is a big deal, because as of October 17, 2012, when at least two out of the four notifications were supposed to be in place, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile hadn’t complied.

“This milestone is a clear win for consumers,” outgoing FCC chair Julius Genachowski said in a statement. “These text alerts will allow consumers to enjoy the benefits of mobile without unexpected hits to their wallets.”

According to the FCC, about 97 percent of wireless customers across the nation will now be protected from bill shock.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul182012

AT&T Follows Verizon, Launches Shared Data Plans

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The nation's two largest carriers are shaking up their data plans to help keep up in a world where more people and their families now own multiple smartphones and tablets.

On the heels of Verizon's announcement in late June of its "Share Everything" data plans, which lets customers share a bucket of data across phones and tablets, AT&T has announced today its very own "Mobile Share" plans.

The new offerings, which will be available in late August, will let new and existing AT&T customers buy a single "bucket" of 3G or 4G data, which they can use for web surfing, email, apps, etc., on any device included. The plans will also include unlimited voice minutes and text messages. Before this, customers had to buy specific data plans for each device.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul052012

Galaxy Nexus Android Phone Banned in Apple-Samsung Patent Case

Apple/Samsung/Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While Apple and Samsung’s phones and tablets battle it out on store shelves, the companies (along with Google) have been battling it out in the courtroom in ongoing patent disputes.

Apple has accused Samsung and Google with its Android software of copying the workings of its iPhones and iPads. Earlier this week the dispute came to a head as a California judge granted Apple an injunction — banning the sale of Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone until the case is argued.

“In sum, Apple has shown a likelihood of establishing both infringement and validity,” Judge Lucy Koh wrote in granting the injunction. The judge ordered Apple to post a $96 million bond for the injunction to take effect. Apple posted the money on Tuesday, making it illegal for the Galaxy Nexus phone to be sold in the U.S.

Samsung filed a motion to stay the ban, but Koh denied the request.

The Galaxy Nexus was the first phone to ship with Google’s Android 4.0 operating system, known as Ice Cream Sandwich.

The injunction is primarily over the “Quick Search Box” found on the Galaxy Nexus, a feature that allows users to search the phone’s memory and the web at once. Apple said it already holds a patent for a “universal interface for retrieval of information in a computer system.”

On Monday night the Galaxy Nexus phone was pulled from Google’s Play Store.

“Samsung is disappointed with the court’s decision that denied our motion to stay. We believe today’s ruling will ultimately reduce the availability of superior products to consumers in the United States,” a Samsung spokesperson told ABC News. “We will continue to pursue an appeal of the Galaxy Nexus preliminary injunction, which we filed on July 2 to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Meanwhile, we are also working closely with Google to resolve this matter, as the patent in question concerns Google’s unified search function.”

Google told the technology site The Verge that it planned to issue a software update that would fix some of the disputed patent issues. The update, the company said, would disable users’ ability to search the phone and just allow them to search the web. Thursday afternoon, no such update had been sent out to Galaxy Nexus phones. Google did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Apple’s patent war with Google and Samsung continues.  While Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that he doesn’t enjoy the litigation and went as far to call it a “pain in the ass,” he also said, “We just don’t want people ripping us off.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May152012

New Cell Phone for Seniors Released

The Clarity Pal. Image credit: Clarity(NEW YORK) -- A cell phone for seniors: it’s not a brand new concept, but there’s a new one hitting the market very soon.

Clarity, which is a division of Plantronics, has just announced its new Pal phone for seniors. The device is a very basic phone, but has features specifically tailored for senior citizens.

“We are seeing more seniors using cellphones. Over 75 percent of them use cell phones, though they use them for more security and peace of mind,” Jamie van den Berg, VP at Clarity, told ABC News.

The phone is lightweight and has a rubberized keyboard, making it easier for users suffering from arthritis. It also has a tone control and higher amplification so those who are hard of hearing can adjust the audio profiles to a higher range. A talking keyboard and talking caller ID are built-in for the visually impaired. Lastly, the menus are very simple to navigate, van den Berg said.

However, the one thing that might stand in the way of the Pal and its users might be the distribution model. The Pal will be available only online at first, through Clarity’s website. The $99 phone is also sold unlocked, meaning you’d need to sign up for service at a carrier, like T-Mobile and AT&T, and pop the SIM card in. Van Den Berg did say that Clarity has partnered with PureTalk USA for some offerings and that he assumes some younger customers will help set up the phone for their older parents.

The Jitterbug, a competing cell phone for seniors, is available through brick and mortar retailers like Best Buy and WalMart.

And while Van den Berg said he is very interested in teaming up with carriers, he is finding it hard to do so. “We’re finding carriers are focused so much on 3G and data. This population doesn’t use as much data as others — it’s not the focus for them.”

The Pal will be available at the end of the month through clarityproducts.com/pal.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Apr192012

Sprint Nextel Accused of Dodging $100 Million Taxes

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sprint Nextel Corp. is accused of under-collecting and under-paying over $100 million in New York state and local sales taxes on flat-rate access charges for wireless calling plans.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Thursday a lawsuit against Sprint Nextel requiring the company to pay three times its underpayment plus penalties if found liable to New York state and local governments, including school districts.

"Everyone else had no trouble figuring out what the tax law was, except for Sprint," Schneiderman said during a conference call.

Schneiderman said Sprint's major wireless competitors, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and MetroPCS, have followed the law regarding the taxes and called the suit a "first-of-its-kind lawsuit."

The lawsuit is the first ever tax enforcement action filed under the New York False Claims Act in which those found liable under the False Claims Act must pay triple damages, penalties and attorneys' fees. Under the law, whistleblowers may receive up to 25 percent of any money recovered by the government as a result of information they provide.

"This complaint is without merit and Sprint categorically denies the complaint's allegations," said John Taylor, Sprint Nextel spokesman. "We have collected and paid over to New York every penny of sales taxes on mobile wireless services that we believe our customers owe under New York state law. With this lawsuit, the Attorney General's office is claiming New York consumers, who already pay some of the highest wireless taxes in the country, should pay even more. We intend to stand up for New York consumers' rights and fight this suit."

Twenty-nine states and the federal government have passed False Claims Acts, but only New York's Act expressly covers tax fraud as a result of a "landmark law," the Attorney General's office said.

"This case represents a new era in tax fraud prosecutions," Schneiderman said. "We're sending a message to corporations that failure to pay your fair share of taxes will not be tolerated."

In 2011, Schneiderman created the "Taxpayer Protection Bureau," as one of his first acts in office. The bureau is charged to work with whistleblowers and enforce the False Claims Act in tax and other government fraud cases.

Schneiderman's investigation of Sprint began with a whistleblower lawsuit, called a "qui tam" action, filed in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan in March 2011, just after the Taxpayer Protection Bureau was created.

Working with the New York State Department of Taxation & Finance, the bureau conducted an investigation.

Schneiderman's office said that by filing Thursday's complaint, the Attorney General has taken over the action from the whistleblower on behalf of New York's taxpayers.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr132012

AT&T Aided Cell Phone Thieves, Suit Claims

David McNew/Getty Images(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Wireless carrier AT&T is the target of a class-action suit that claims the company profited  from cell phone theft by aiding and abetting thieves.

The suit filed in California Superior Court by three plaintiffs alleges the wireless carrier assisted thieves “in earning illegal profits, by turning on, or ‘re-activating’ said stolen phones.”

The plaintiffs claimed in court documents that AT&T representatives said they were unable to block usage of stolen phones, and in turn made millions of dollars from the activity.

“Defendants actively have, for years, participated in this practice in order to make millions of dollars in improper profits by forcing legitimate customers…to buy new cell phones and buy new cell phone plans,” the documents stated.

AT&T was unable to be reached for comment.

The company announced this week it would join forces with other wireless carriers to block stolen cell phones and work with the FCC to create a database of smart phones and tablets that are reported lost or stolen.

Verizon and Sprint previously blocked stolen phones. AT&T and T-Mobile joined this week after the FCC and law enforcement pushed for a national database of stolen devices to be created. The new database will render the stolen devices worthless.

A decade ago, cellular devices accounted for 8 percent of thefts in large cities. They now account for more than 40 percent of thefts, according to the FCC.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar152012

AT&T Seeks Quiet Settlement in Data Limiting Case

David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It's an unlimited buffet; just don't take more than one plate.

That's what a Simi, Calif., man who sued his iPhone carrier AT&T says is the situation he faces as a heavy user of wireless data services.

Matthew Spaccarelli took the company to small claims court in California in January, alleging that the company had slowed his data capacity while he continued to pay for the unlimited data plan. AT&T slows or "throttles" their data capacity for top data users in some geographic regions.

Following the court judgment on March 2, which awarded him $850, Spaccarelli received a letter from AT&T scolding him for tethering his iPhone to another device and offering a settlement to resolve their dispute, so long as Spaccarelli was willing to keep quiet about it.

Spaccarelli has been very public and vocal about the lawsuit with AT&T and has encouraged others to sue the company as well. He set up a website, Taporc.com, where he posted all of his court documents and advice to help others who might want to pursue their own lawsuits against AT&T. And then he worked with the website PublikDemand, which allows consumers to band together to complain about a company's policies, to set up a page about his lawsuit there. Spaccarelli's how-to guide for suing AT&T is now posted on that website, too.

"AT&T customers using as little as 1.5 gigabytes per month have been subject to throttling—creating painfully slow access to Web browsing and causing video streaming to not work at all," Spaccarelli wrote on PublikDemand. "It's not fair for AT&T to make a promise of 'unlimited' data to customers when they buy the phone while burying terms in their contracts that give the company the right to cut down data speeds and charge additional fees for increased usage."

Spaccarelli said he was not interested in a settlement.

"You settle before court," Spaccarelli said. "They sent a letter that has all this talk about settlement, but I had no interest. I just want to know, what is your next step, are you going to file an appeal, can they give me a head's up?"

Spaccarelli said he expects AT&T to file an appeal, which would allow the case to be heard in front of a judge with attorneys present.

"I'm just a dumb trucker, and there are going to be all these attorneys and I just got a personal injury attorney. But I think I could go up against any of them, because it makes sense to me and it made sense to one judge already," Spaccarelli said.

AT&T, however, told ABC News that Spaccarelli initiated the discussion and the company politely responded.

"Mr. Spaccarelli reached out to us to initiate a discussion, and naturally, we responded to him to hear what was on his mind and discuss his data usage," AT&T spokesman Mark Spiegel wrote in an email to ABC News. "We typically enter into non-disclosure agreements when people want to discuss the settlement of pending disputes."

The company also threatened to end his phone service if Spaccarelli did not agree to the settlement discussions. Spaccarelli admitted to violating an AT&T user agreement when he tethered his iPhone with other devices.

"Mr. Spaccarelli has said he tethers a second device to his smartphone, which is something that our unlimited data plans don't allow. For customers who tether, we have plans that allow them to do just that," Spiegel said.

"It really is as simple as this," Spaccarelli said. "Number one: lacking any controls. And number two: boundless or infinite. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary definition of ‘unlimited.’ It's been around for so long I don't know why they don't know what it means. That really says it all," Spaccarelli said.

Both AT&T and Verizon, two major mobile carriers, implement throttling on heavy-data users. The policy slows down the amount of data users' phones can access at one time. AT&T has said recently that said "unlimited" users who exceeded 3GB per month would be throttled because they are in the top 5 percent of data users in our network, according to PC Mag.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Feb232012

T-Mobile Promises LTE Service in 2013

T-Mobile(NEW YORK) -- T-Mobile is finally promising LTE service in the United States, but customers won’t get the faster data speeds until next year.

The company has announced its plans to roll out the high-speed broadband network in 2013.

While specific details on the timing aren’t being revealed, T-Mobile’s chief technology officer, Neville Ray, told reporters that the goal is to cover the top 50 markets in the U.S. with the high speed connectivity by the end of 2013.

T-Mobile will be the last of the four major carriers to roll out LTE, which brings much faster data speeds to phones, tablets and laptops. (Note: you need an LTE capable phone to take advantage of the faster speeds.) Verizon was the first to deploy its network and AT&T joined late last year. Sprint plans to roll its network out later this year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct172011

Wireless Providers to Alert Customers of Plan Overages

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Federal Communications Commission and the cellphone industry are announcing a deal Monday that could put an end to the shock over monthly mobile bills. Subscribers will get warnings when they're about to go over monthly limits, USA Today reports.

Millions of cellphone subscribers have suffered sticker shock over extra charges when they go over pre-paid limits with their monthly plans: mobile customers can get hit with charges of over $100 for heavy data, voice or texting use.

USA Today says consumer complaints led government regulators to consider alerts requiring wireless companies to tell consumers when they're about to face extra charges.

The alerts should be in place within 18 months.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Oct032011

Report: Sprint to ‘Bet the Company’ on New iPhone

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Amid the frantic rumors in advance of Apple’s Tuesday announcement of its new iPhone, there’s this from The Wall Street Journal: that Sprint, the No. 3 cellular provider in America, is all but betting on the company offering the iPhone to customers.

According to the Journal, Sprint’s CEO, Dan Hesse, told his board the company “would have to agree to purchase at least 30.5 million iPhones over the next four years — a commitment of $20 billion at current rates — whether or not it could find people to buy them, according to people familiar with the matter.”

That would mean Sprint would, at best, not break even on the deal until 2014, said the Journal. But the company may have no choice. It has been sinking for five years. Not being able to offer the iPhone is “the No. 1 reason customers leave or switch,” Hesse said at an industry conference in September.

Sprint Nextel trudges along behind market leaders Verizon Wireless and AT&T — and AT&T is trying to merge with T-Mobile, the No. 4 company. The iPhone could make a big difference. Bill Choi, an analyst for Janney Capital Markets, was quoted Monday as saying that Apple could ship 107 million iPhones next year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio