In the past, I’ve compared our ever-growing battles (in the real world) with those to the wars waged against the machines in movies, TV and video games. I have warned that while machines may never actually come to terminate mankind, our dependence on things like GPS, instant message and voicemail have made us incredibly dependent on technology. Worse, technology in the wrong hands has given rise to lost money and productivity. But now we’re fighting back. The question will be whether this new offensive will help us win a war against digital scammers.
As of this week those annoying robocalls, which offer lower interest rates and offers of extended car warranties, will end. Automated and unsolicited calls could result in fines of up to $16,000 per call to the businesses, according to new the Federal Trade Commission.
There is a catch, so don’t expect the unsolicited calls to stop entirely. Those calls from politicians, public service announcements and “information” calls will be exempt. The latter category is actually a bit vague, and could include calls from banks, telephone carriers and most charitable organizations. And this is where I think we could have a problem.
Already one of the biggest areas of bogus calls has been repeated offers to lower your credit card interest rate. What is going to stop some of these scammers from trying to appear as bankers? Yes, they face a fine if caught, but already they’re using auto-dialers and devices that change the outgoing number. This makes it very difficult for callers to track down and complain. And what is to stop scammers from claiming to be charitable organizations to obtain credit card information or other personal data?
In other words, as consumers hear that unsolicited calls have been terminated, there may be a renewed acceptance that those calls to landlines and mobile phones must be more legitimate. So I stress that just because the FTC is doing something, now is not the time to let down your guard! Sign up the “Do Not Call List” and make sure that if anyone calls you get their number and ask that they remove you from the list. If the calls continue, then report them to the FTC.
Rumors & Releases: Apple Goes to China, More Smartphones to Follow
Apple is looking for a larger piece of the pie and it looks like the company might get it. After months of rumors and speculation it was announced this week that Apple will introduce the iPhone to China, which just happens to be the largest mobile market in the world.
And to clarify, Apple will “officially” introduce the iPhone to China, as the phone’s have been available through a gray market – not to mention the various “knock-offs” that have also been showing in China, as well as other Pacific Rim nations. The phone will be released to users of the China Unicom carrier, and will be available this fall.
It is worth noting that China Unicom is one of the three major state-owned carriers, but at the present time is the only one that actually supports the WCDMA network that the iPhone requires. Pricing has yet been announced, but the rumors are that the phones could be a bit pricier than those released in America – possibly $500 or more, compared to the $99 to $299 of the American models (with multiyear contracts). This is because Chinese users tend to pay far lower mobile phone bills, and thus China Unicom might not give the same deep discounts that AT&T has given its customers stateside.
What is an absolute fact is that the worldwide user base for iPhone will likely surge by the end of 2009. At present, the United States accounts for 49 percent of global iPhone sales with Western Europe coming in at 25 percent, Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) is 7 percent, and the rest of the world accounting for 19 percent, according to IDC. Look for that share in Asia to rise.
And more importantly, the iPhone will have some competition, and consumers in China will have some serious choices. The Wall Street Journal has reported that smartphones will soon be the rage in the Land of the Dragon. Taiwan-based HTC Corp. has announced that it will bring seven 3G phones to China Mobile, with at least one running the Google Android operation system; while China Telecom is reportedly in talks with Research in Motion and Palm Inc. to bring the BlackBerry and Palm Pre respectively out East as well.
The question 10 years ago was whether Hong Kong would change China, but now the question is whether Chinese consumers, who suddenly have more and more choices than ever, will change China! If democracy comes to China, it could be because of the iPhone and the BlackBerry. So maybe we should be thanking those darn machines after all.