NBC News: Mass. Using New Tool in COVID Fight: Phone Alerts for High-Risk Communities. “People who live in or near some Massachusetts communities at high risk for COVID-19 transmission were getting alerts on their phones Monday afternoon reminding them about coronavirus safety rules. It’s the first time a Wireless Emergency Alert is being sent about the coronavirus in Massachusetts, a Massachusetts COVID-19 Command Center spokesman said.”
CNET: Phones for low-income users hacked before they’re turned on, research finds. “Adware isn’t a problem just for [Rameez] Anwar and other users who have the same phone model, made by American Network Solutions. Because the phones and their service plans were subsidized by a US program, taxpayers were funding the data that was used to display the promotional campaigns. On top of that, the adware prevented the phones doing their intended job: keeping low-income people connected to vital services via phone and internet.”
Liliputing: Database of 200+ smartphones that can run Linux (unofficially). “In a nutshell all you have to do is type your phone’s model number into a box at… and if your phone is one of the 200+ models in the database, you’ll see listings for the GNU/Linux distributions that support your device. Have a Nexus 5? It’s supported by all three of the Linux-based operating systems mentioned above. Have a first-gen Pixel or Samsung Galaxy S7? Then your phone can run postmarketOS.”
Fast Company: Cheap smartphones have a disturbing secret. “Seventeen dollars for a smartphone sounds like a great deal, especially for people living in poverty who can barely afford rent. But there’s a problem: low-cost smartphones are privacy nightmares.”
Google Blog: Bringing Google Fi to more people on Android and iOS. “Starting today, Project Fi is available on more phones: our plan now works with the majority of Android devices and iPhones. And since we’re officially expanding our device support, we’re making our name more official, too: we’re now Google Fi.”
Digital Trends: Like a bullet to a gun, scientists can match a photo to the phone that took it. “You know that cop movie trope where a single bullet is traced back to the specific gun that fired it? Well, researchers at the University at Buffalo in New York have developed similar technology — only this time it’s for tracking a photo back to the phone that took it. It could potentially lead to a new way to enhance security and fight cybercrime.”
New-to-me but apparently around for a while: an online database of pay phones. “By the 1990s there were nearly three million pay phones in America. But now just a small fraction remain. Mark Thomas keeps track of the ones that are left. He created the Payphone Project, an online database of pay phones from around the world.”
Um, not me! From NBC News: It’s Not Just You: Why So Many People Lose or Break Their Phone Just as a New One Comes Out. “It might seem strange that smartphone owners would get clumsier right as a new model hits the market, but that’s exactly what happens, according to a forthcoming article in the Journal of Marketing Research. Data on lost iPhones shows that owners are less likely to try and track down their missing devices when a newer version is available, the paper found.”
Amit Agarwal! What more needs to be said?! How to Make Phone Numbers Callable in Google Sheets. “If you click an email link on a webpage, it opens your default mail program. Similarly, you can make phone numbers on your website “callable” meaning when someone clicks the phone number, it will launch the dialer on their mobile phone and initiate dialing of the specified phone number. It is recommended that you make phone numbers clickable as more and more people would be accessing your site on their mobile devices.”
CNET: Is Facebook secretly building a phone? “On a cloudy day this May, in the dull fluorescent light of a plain white Google conference room, Rafa Camargo, Richard Wooldridge and Blaise Bertrand told CNET their plan to disrupt the phone market. Ara, a Lego-like phone with modular parts, would let buyers snap on a better camera, additional batteries or any other creative hardware a developer might dream up. It was set to be the first phone entirely designed by Google, the three men claimed. Then the Ara project was abruptly shelved.”
Hmm… speaking of Google, is Google Fiber going to expand into phone services? “Google Fiber is sending out invitations to an experimental telephone service for some of its high-speed Internet subscribers, according to two people who have received the invitation. The service, known as Google Fiber Phone, closely resembles another Google product, Google Voice.” This’ll be good news for everybody who has been worrying that Google might axe Google Voice.
I’m going to share this with you, and then with my husband, because phone spam drives him bonkers: How to Block Numbers that Haven’t Called or Texted You First.
The Wall Street Journal has an early review of Google’s Project Fi. They seem pretty meh about it.
“Dead simple to set up and use, its rates start at $30 a month. It could save you some money if you accept some big limitations. It only works with one phone, for starters. The Nexus 6, built by Motorola in collaboration with Google, is a speedy smartphone with a gorgeous display and the best, most unaltered version of Android you can find. But it has a middling camera and its 6-inch display makes it massive to hold. If Project Fi’s SIM cards worked in phones from Samsung, HTC—dare I say, Apple?—it’d be easier to recommend.”