Last month Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced the "Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act
(pdf), which aims to make unlocking one's cell phone technically legal again, even if it doesn't fully address the myriad of problems with the DMCA. In January of last year unlocking your cellphone technically became illegal
after the Librarian of Congress removed it from the DMCA exception list.
It technically remains legal for you to jailbreak your phone, but you can't unlock devices you own without carrier permission, which is, of course, absurd and obnoxious. After some political efforts (read: carrier lobbying attempts) to water the bill down failed, Congress today officially passed the bill and it now awaits the President's signature.
"The cell phone unlocking bill has a direct impact on Americans as we become more reliant on our wireless devices," said Grassley in a prepared statement
. "This bipartisan bill is pro-consumer and pro-competition and allows for greater ease in the portability of devices. It will provide greater competition and more consumer choice,” Grassley said.
Champagne consumption should be tempered however. As many people have noted previously
, while the law reverses the Librarian of Congress' ridiculous decision to reduce consumer rights, it fails to seriously address the problems in the DMCA that allow the Librarian to make arbitrary and ridiculous decisions in the first place -- meaning we could be having this conversation again in 2015 when the rule is again up for review.
Following on the heels of similar and controversial interconnection deals
between Netflix, Comcast and Verizon, rumors have emerged that Apple is striking similar deals with the largest ISPs. According to a blog post by Dan Rayburn
, Apple's negotiating paid interconnection deals with "some of the largest ISPs in the US" in order to deliver Apple content more efficiently to consumers, bypassing some of the traditional transit partners like Level3 and Akamai.
Back in June of 2010
, you might recall that a security hole in AT&T's website allowed two individuals to gain access to the e-mail addresses of 114,000 owners of 3G Apple iPads, including "dozens of CEOs, military officials, and top politicians." A group calling itself Goatse Security at the time claimed responsibility for the "hack," which in addition to e-mail addresses resulted the group obtaining user ICC-IDs -- used to identify their specific iPad on the AT&T network.
One of those two individuals responsible for obtaining the data was Andrew Auernheimer (aka "Weev") an Internet-famous troll who was recently convicted of accessing a computer without authorization and identity fraud, and sentenced to serve 41 months in prison.
Apple has hired Cable industry veteran and long-time CableLabs exec Jean-François Mulé to work on "something big" over at the Cuppertino giant. MultiChannel News
notes that Mulé posted to LinkedIn, stating he's going to be "challenged, inspired and part of something big." Rumors of both an Apple television and an Apple subscription TV service have long been around, though just like every other company (Google, Intel, Sony, Microsoft) Apple has found it impossible to get the cable and broadcast industry to sign off on licensing deals for technologies that could potentially disrupt the legacy TV market.
As countless leaks already predicted, Apple today announced that they're offering a few new iPhones
: a slight flagship iPhone refresh called the iPhone 5S, and a new line of cheaper, brightly-colored iPhones with the A6 chipset known as the 5C.
The 64 bit A7-powered iPhone 5S comes in gold, silver and black and features improved battery life, a better camera, and fingerprint security.
While we're still some way away from the Internet video revolution truly taking off, we're starting to see some cracks in the licensing wall the legacy TV industry has created to prevent disruption. Viacom recently agreed to licence TV content to Sony
for their planned subscription live TV service, and reports suggest Disney has been in talks with several companies to license ESPN content for similar efforts.
According to a new study by the NPD Group
and Connected Intelligence, 80% of the 60.8 million tablets currently estimated to be in use are Wi-Fi only. Of those tablets that do have an embedded 3G or 4G radio, only about half of them have an active data plan. Meanwhile, 83% of video viewing on tablets is done in the home. You'll recall that wireless carriers first got terribly excited about selling netbooks, then got terribly excited about selling tablets, but data continues to show that people aren't interested in shelling out the extra money for a device-specific data plan. However, shared data plans
that allow users to add a tablet to a plan for just an additional $10 each month could slowly change these numbers slightly.
AT&T recently annoyed users by blocking Google Hangouts video chat
, just a year after taking heat for blocking Facetime
. AT&T pretended the move was about network logistics, but they were actually using the blockade to force grandfathered unlimited users on to metered plans (the Facetime block was ultimately removed for metered users).
A Florida woman has filed a $5 million class action lawsuit against Apple because the power button on her iPhone 4 broke. According to the lawsuit
, Apple knew about a defect in a flex cable that controls the on-off button, but refused to acknowledge the flaw in order to sell more phones. The plaintiff's lawyers are claiming Apple colluded with AT&T to violate federal RICO racketeering laws -- while also claiming that Apple has violated California consumer protection laws. Apple just got done sending out $15 checks
after settling a lawsuit over the faulty antenna design in the iPhone 4, which resulted in users in low signal areas losing connectivity if they held the phone in a certain way.
We've noted repeatedly how privacy technology discussions often have a bizarre and amusing lack of context, the press getting borderline hysterical about every NebuAD
scandal, while all-but ignoring that carriers and the government buy, sell and trade all user information daily with a total disregard (and often disdain) for law. Your iPhone tells Apple you went to Costco? Unified outrage.
As you might recall, the initial iPhone 4 suffered from a design flaw wherein if users held the phone in a certain way, the phone would lose cellular connection. Given the flaw only reared its head in areas with weak signal, it wasn't a problem noticed by many iPhone 4 users, allowing Apple to brush aside the design flaw as imaginary, irrelevant and/or common to all smartphones
. While the flaw was fixed in the design of the iPhone 4S, eighteen different lawsuits related to the iPhone 4 continued, and were settled in February of last year. As part of that settlement, impacted users were slated to get $15 checks they're only just now starting to receive
. Don't spend it all in one place!
Venture capitalist and former cable and
wireless industry lobbyist Tom Wheeler remains the top candidate to replace departing FCC boss Julius Genachowski, according to analysis from Medley Global Advisors
. According to the report, Wheeler has seen a flurry of coordinated support from the Democratic party ahead of what could be announcement in the next week or two.
A new report by OpenSignal
investigates just how much bigger screens (increasingly the rage as Android phones get continually larger) impact data usage. According to the firm, each additional square inch of screen area leads to 75 MB of additional data downloaded per month over a cellular connection. Over Wi-Fi, each additional square inch of screen area leads to 288 MB of additional data consumed per month. Specifically, the firm found that the bigger the screen is -- the more likely you are to use it for entertainment or your primary computing device, leading to more data consumption. The study was based on 9,962 data usage patterns collected from 9,962 mobile devices.
If you live in the United States, you may be familiar with the common sentiment that you generally cannot take your favorite cellular enabled device (tablet, smartphone, Sony PlayStation Vita, etc.) and use it on any carrier you like. With GSM carriers, this is referred to as a SIM lock. story continues..
U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose has denied Apple's request for three times
the $1 billion awarded last August. Koh's ruling this week largely left that settlement intact
, denying both companies' requests for new trials. In rejecting Apple's request for a new trial and extended damages, Koh ruled that Samsung's infringement of Apple products was not "willful," though the company did violate Apple's intellectual property. "Given that Apple has not clearly shown how it has in fact been undercompensated for the losses it has suffered due to Samsung’s dilution of its trade dress, this Court, in its discretion, does not find a damages enhancement to be appropriate," Judge Koh wrote.
WalMart has started offering its shoppers the iPhone 5 for just $25 a month if they own a Walmart Credit Card. The company is also offering these users a no contract "unlimited" domestic talk, text and data plan with its wireless partner Straight Talk Wireless. According to the press announcement
, the deal is being offered at 2,000 WalMart locations, and users can also sign up for a $60 plan that includes unlimited international calling. As is usually the case in wireless marketing, "unlimited" of course actually means limited, with shoppers very quickly discovering that the data plan comes with a 2GB cap
, after which users are throttled back to ISDN-line-circa-1999 speeds.
FreedomPop's plan to offer consumers a $99 Sleeve that provides the iPhone with WiMax phone and data capabilities is facing delays. Speaking at CES, the company said they're seeing delays with FCC approval that have so far cost the company and its manufacturers $550,000
so far. The problem? The sleeve places the Sleeve's WiMAX radio right next to the iPhone's cellular radio, requiring additional testing by FCC engineers. The company began shipping their iPod Touch sleeve back in October
, though early reviews
of the device have been decidedly mixed.
After previously saying they'd only back off of Facetime restrictions for some users, AT&T quietly this week started letting everyone -- including grandfathered unlimited iPhone users -- use the feature they paid for. Originally, AT&T only allowed users to use Facetime over Wi-Fi. story continues..
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