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News of the World scandal piques our interest in cellphone stories

Cell Phones

Photos: Flickr users Big Grey Mare, looking4poetry, RobW_

They’re in nearly everyone’s pocket or purse – and these days they’re at the fore of headlines on several different fronts.

The cellphone – the ubiquitous little gadget that is making cameras, clocks and other devices obsolete – not to mention indirectly bringing down Britain’s top-selling tabloid – as it rolls so many functions into one handy package, is making a lot of waves this week.  If you like to piggyback business features from global stories, here are a few suggestions:

The new iPhone. Stories are swirling that the iPhone 5 will be out this fall; here’s a rumor round-up from Engadget.It might be worth doing a local round-up of sorts by speaking with retailers – from phone-company stores to electronics outlets to kiosks that peddle cellphone cases, skins, holsters and Otterboxes – about what a new release could do to bump up their sales.

You also can use a ZIP code search on eBay and other online selling sites to find local purveyors of phone-related goods and services.  What sells well on the local secondary market, and what happens to all those used iPhones when early-adopters trade up?   I have a family hand-me-down and it works great but what are the caveats of buying and selling used phones with strangers?  And with so many new smartphones hitting the market, how do consumers know which one to choose?

Lots of great personal finance stories in there, from hardware to software to data plans. As this Chicago Sun-Times piece notes, according to a poll people say their phones would be among the last items to be trimmed from a strapped budget, so getting the most for scarce dollars will be a popular story.

Be aware too that rumors of an iPad HD are out there; might be a good peg to take a look at iPad’s secondary market, utility and costs now that users have had a while to weigh the pros and cons.

Cellphone towers. Always a controversial and interesting topic.  What’s the latest in coverage, placement and ownership of cellphone towers in your region?  What businesses, entities or individuals are cashing in on leasing space to tower operators? And what’s new in tower technology?  This Mountain View Online article notes that AT&T wants to install lots of small 4G antennas in the California town; I didn’t know such a thing existed and it makes me want to take a look at the business of cellphone relay towers in my neck of the woods.

Cellphone security. No doubt the News of the World phone hacking scandal has a lot of users around the world looking askance at their phones and wondering if those candid texts and photos are being enjoyed by hidden snoops, or if it’s really wise to place online orders using credit cards via a smartphone Internet browser.  A primer on cell-phone/voicemail security like this one from the Associated Press or this explainer from PC Magazine would be of interest to readers.  Check with local university electrical engineering departments for leads to security-related firms and experts.  This company, for example, rushed out a press release about its new anti-phone hacking app.

Electronic waste. What on earth happens to those millions of discarded phones and other gadgets?  Laws are in the works to regulate used electronics trade among Canada, Mexico and the United States, while the The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act of 2011 has been introduced in Congress in an attempt to ameliorate the environmental, health and security risks posed by mountains of cast-off gadgets.  I wrote about the electronic waste industry earlier; here’s an except with helpful links:

Here’s a PDF directory listing state-by-state e-waste laws, where applicable, transferring recycling responsibility back to the producers; some of them are recent and worth a recap as well as a consumer-friendly article about recycling events and locations.

This older but informative Business Week article about the e-waste industry is thought-provoking, and firms like Pike Research also offer research and analysis on e-waste issues.

In Basics, Beats, Featured, Story ideas, Technology.

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