The USA Series: Prelude to buying a mobile phone in America

Caution: There is an expletive at the bottom of this post. I thought I’d let you know now. I’ve put a space in between the four letters to make sure your office firewall alarms don’t start blaring (it’s the F word). Normally I’d asterisk out the word. I just couldn’t. Not in this particular context. If I was presenting to the board of Verizon, you know, very old men wearing very white wigs and not a smile between them, I’d still have used the word.

– – –

I’ve had a few emails and phone calls from people prodding me with words like, “So, what about America then?”

They’re asking wondering how I’m getting on with the American mobile operators and in particular how I’ve found the shopping and customer service experience.

“You, er, haven’t posted much on America,” pointed out Ed Hodges of ROK Talk, the other day, “I’m keen to see what you think of the marketplace, especially after what you wrote of Los Angeles last year.”

“I know, yeah, I’m still working on some pieces,” I said as I gazed over to the pile of unopened pay as you go handsets from each operator.

“Oh, so it’s shit is it?” asked Ed.

I took a deep breath, “Well…”

Here it is then, the first in a series of experiential brain-dumps from the US of A. I’ll title them all “The USA Series” so you can find them in the RSS feed.

– – –

When I was back in England and pondering my journey to San Francisco, I thought it would be a cool idea to try buying a ‘shit’ phone from one of the mobile phone shops in America and see what life would be like for a month living with the total opposite of a smart phone.

Just a month or two before, I’d visited Los Angeles for the SMS Text News Unlimited Drinks event there and I took a visit to one of the popular shopping malls there. My prime reason for going was to observe how mobile handsets, contracts, airtime and accessories were retailed to consumers. My secondary reason was to see how the locals used their wireless technology.

If you recall, I returned from the shopping mall experience absolutely shocked. The biggest surprise: No mobile phone shops. GAPs, American Outfitters, SAKS Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Borders — all your big, big consumer brands — and NO mobile operator stores. There was a little Palm store round the back by the Mall’s trash (“rubbish”) bins with nobody in it and a very bored sales executive slumped half asleep on the counter.

Sitting back in my hotel room, I opened the laptop and quoted Jaws 1 (“We’re gonna need a bigger boat!”). Yes, America’s mobile industry is nailed.

You know it’s bad when you’re sitting in The Cheesecake Factory minding your own business trying to get your iPhone to log on to the wifi connection of the Apple store across the road and two young twenty-somethings arrive at the table next to you. I’m not looking at their dress, or their faces. I’m looking at their handsets. The first thing they do is sit down and bring out their phones. My face mentally drops as I realise one girl is sporting a piece of shit Motorola RAZR and another is sporting an abhorrent rounded clamshell rubbish LG. There’s no hope. No hope for America for the time being. Write it off. Forget applications, forget innovation.

Let me be clear: Motorola is a fine organisation and I’m particularly enamoured with their recent innovative handsets. But the RAZR — a brilliant success story in its time — has, for me, become a super illustration of just how the American mobile operators have screwed the industry and put it back 5-10 years against the rest of the mainstream mobile culture in the West. What can you do with a RAZR? Photos? Yes but poor quality — useless. Download stuff? Forget it. Play MP3s? With great difficulty. Put applications on it? No. Well, yes, but they’re so limited. Got a great idea for a mobile application? Just forget it with America at the moment. Mobile web? Rubbish. Book your flight from it? Only if you’re making a telephone call. And the mobile operators are busy flogging RAZRs by the truckload on 24 month contracts to price sensitive consumers who, as far as they’re concerned want a handset to call people. By voice. By VOICE! And maybe do some texting. That’s IT. Because everything else sucks.

Of course there are exceptions. Or an exception. The Apple iPhone is slowly, slowly changing the state of the United States — it’s rocketing some users toward an almost nirvana-like mobile experience compared to the millions wielding RAZRs.

Generally, when I mention ‘RAZR’, I’m using that as a blanket term for handsets that were good in their time but shouldn’t be sold to consumers now and especially not on 24 month contracts as we, as an industry, are going to have to wait TWO YEARS before that person can be rescued into the real mobile world.

Sitting there in my hotel room, I began to wonder why there aren’t mobile operator stores in some of the big malls. I went hunting to another Los Angeles mall that day. I didn’t believe that there were shopping centres in America (and remember we’re talking ultra fashionable, ultra hip Sunset Boulevard territory) that didn’t contain some proper mobile operator stores. Let’s say Sprint. AT&T. T-Mobile or something.

Consulting the mall directory I was initially delighted to find that there was an AT&T store at this Hollywood mall. I purposefully strode past international brand, after international brand, ignoring the Sienna Miller and pregnant Nicole Ritchie lookalikes until I got to the end of the mall. I turned, went back again. I couldn’t find the AT&T store. Eventually after carefully retracing my steps and asking a few mall staff, I located the ‘store’. It was a piss-poor ‘stand’. Not even a real shop. Effectively an apple cart with phones and a few accessories hanging on it. This is is AT&T? The almighty “more bars [i.e. better signal] in more places” AT&T? I did an immediate about-turn and exited in disgust.

Mobile handsets aren’t fashionable in America. They are tools. They’re nothing better than a slightly enhanced walkie talkie (in fact, many of the handsets on sale actually are glorified walkie talkies). They’re stored on the hip in Wild West gunslinger holsters. They’re consulted only for the purposes of utility. They are simply a utility. The Brits, the Italians.. (list continues) have a relationship with their handsets. It’s through their handsets that they deliver, manage and live their lives. Take away the mobile phone from an American and he or she will be mildly inconvenienced. Do the same to a European (for example) and they will rip your fingers, arms, legs and eyelids off until you give it back.

I understand I’m making quite a few sweeping statements — there are, of course, exceptions, but generally I’m right. I’ll win any argument with anyone who reckons that America isn’t backward when it comes to mobile. I just need to take you out into the street — even in poncy liberal San Francisco — and we’ll be 10 paces from someone yapping away on a 5 year old Samsung with a pretty plastic aerial extended (and what’s more they’ll be 5 months into a new 24 month contract as well).

There’s a lot of different issues boiling away that all combine to cause this. Everything from consumer ignorance to idiot operator policies to historical trends. But what of the mobile shop experience? This is, after all, the land of service (“Make it a great day”) and ‘can-do-sir’. Dire or phenomenal? I was betting phenomenal.

I wasn’t entirely correct.

More soon.

A sneak peak on the upcoming post’s contents:

* AT&T’s single minded focus on a young and ugly girl
* Verizon’s firm “f uck-off”
* Sprinting ahead
* T-Mobile’s fake smiles

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

41 replies on “The USA Series: Prelude to buying a mobile phone in America”

It is damn near impossible to buy a phone here in the states without a 2 year ball and chain attached to it. And the handset selection is ass. Won’t someone change this sad state of affairs?

I’m shocked. Not at this blog post, but at the fact that you thought America was any different than what you just described. This isn’t news at all and while you highlighting the dark ages in the colonies makes for comic gold, it isn’t going to change anything.

I do look forward to reading the rest of “The USA Series” as it is comforting hearing from a European what I’ve been telling my friends and family in the states, yet they don’t believe “we’re that bad.”

it is news, for us europeans as bad as i thought America was for mobile phones (granted just from observing the props used on tv) i didn’t realise how bad/behind they where. Ps i think you’d be letting them away lightly in you description of what you’d do if someone took your phone

em… why?

Why is it so crap…? Why can’t an independant chain store open (like Carphone or Phones4u etc) and sell anything that will connect? The big firms here must have already looked at the US but have never moved over.

The commission must be the same (?) so why not go to the US and make a fortune?

I think it may be down to not needing to as the client base (Normobs) are generally happy with using the phone for a talking and now (only recently) texting. In fact I think Simon Cowell has been the biggest infulence on texting in the US since mobile phones were invented.

I think that Apple has raised the game in the US now and every other supplier will have to totally re-think that whole market. It could be that real world mobile services will actually begin to prosper because of the IPhone.

Brilliant insight into North American mobility, Ewan. I spent Christmas in Canada this year and my mother kindly loaned me her Telus phone (my grandmother’s hand-me-down) while I was there.

Extended antenna. Check!
Plastic flap reminiscent of the first Motorola flip phones. Check!
Low-res single-colour screen with awkward menu and no genuine web browser. Check!
Two year old SMS from the network wishing her happy birthday and free calls for the day, which my mom didn’t know about, hadn’t read or noticed since then. Check!

I spent the entire holiday pulling it out of my bag (not my pocket, FAR too big to fit!) and doing a Dom Joly “HELLO? YEAH. I’M ON THE PHONE!” to my British husband, much to the dislike of my family who each had a small silver clamshell Samsung monstrosity (also extend-antenna and shitty browser equipped)

I’m getting cold sweats just thinking about going without my phone for three weeks again. I had my iPhone with me but couldn’t bring myself to use it while I was there since the cost with O2 would have been £1.24/minute to call anyone in Canada.

Now I’ll admit I am a HUGE Symbian fan, but I think its kinda sad that Windows Mobile dominates here. WinMo 6 Pro finally starts to have somewhat of a interest for me, otherwise I just don’t get it.

I can’t wait to see your take on Verizon’s virtually Nazi like control of their handsets (they just trick the consumers into thinking they own them).

You nailed it. I chose a GSM provider ten years ago (Omnipoint then Voicestream then T-mobile) so that I could buy decent handsets in European airports.

Wow. And I thought Canada was bad!

I think what saves us from a similar fate is the very healthy population of grey market vendors, like more than half the stores at Pacific Mall near Toronto…

Yep I’ve been to the States many times and they are about 5 years behind so no wonder when Jobbs announced the iPhone is 5 years ahead he had a good point comparing to what is available in the U.S. What he doesn’t realise places like Europe, Korea, Japan etc is even superior to the iPhone. Nokia is slowly changing this by introducing the n95 to the U.S marker.

And to try and get a better phone without needing a loan, you get a longer contract. And if you need to make any change in your contract – more minutes or unlimited text or whatever, your contract time renews.
I don’t know what a UK mobile bill looks like, but my 3 phone line Sprint bill will twist your brain! Don’t print it either! 24 pages without Internet or overages on the minutes or texting! (cable TV is just as bad!)

In the US we do not contest that we are behind the mobile wave rolling throughout the world. Factors such as widespread PC availability (thus the need for sms was not as necessary as we have ample access to email) and our carriers not allowing for SMS cross carrier delivery severely stunted our growth. However, the US seems to be heading into 2008 with a head of steam.

The iPhone, (I am well aware of the simplistic features and use of GPRS), has changed the playing field in the US. What it has done is simply shown a few million people what IS possible with a mobile device. By ‘forcing’ those who purchased the iPhone to pay for unlimited data and surfing, Americans, (long known for not wanting to pay for anything extra, ie data charges), are now surfing and their eyes have been opened.

The US can not wave a magic wand and instantly catch up to the rest of the world. However, with UI’s like the iPhone now available, we should start to see the pick up you long for here in the states. Our company has seen more traffic generated over the past two months then all of 2007.

Once the interest is sparked, better phones are sure to be on their way…

I am very surprised that you were not able to locate a company store. Around the DC metro area, there are many corporate owned AT&T stores. As well as AT&T Authorized Retailer. The same can be said for T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon.

In support of your story, I agree the phone selection is horrible. Carrier lock-in blows.

I go to Europe every year and like to get local sims. T-Mobile has always been helpful in allowing unlocked phones use their towers. I had amazing roaming coverage while volunteering during the Katrina aftermath.

I got bit by the iphone bug and really like the devise. However, I hate the contract and the sim lock. It was irritating to need to check that my phone wasn’t trying to get data over edge.

“I think that Apple has raised the game in the US now and every other supplier will have to totally re-think that whole market. It could be that real world mobile services will actually begin to prosper because of the IPhone.”

As a Brit now living in America, I think I am qualified to say “bollox” to this quote. The iPhone is a neat intervace wrapped around the same poor service, 2-year contract that every other schmuck in the US gets tied into.

It has raised the bar for what other phone manufacturers are going to give us in future interfaces though, and I do sincerely appreciate that.

And as for getting a phone without a contract, you lot prove yet again how screwed you are by the US marketing might. All you need to do is go onto eBay and get whatever you fancy. Admittedly, quad-band phones are not so easy to find as I would like, but there are plenty of them.

And the cost? Some might sound expensice, but have you counted how much you have to pay to AT&T and Apple for that 2 year contract? I’ve been using Cingular (now AT&T) for 3 years using various spartphones that I have bought UNLOCKED for the same or less than the price of ‘similar’ (OK, worse!) phones that I could buy from Cingular. Never had to renew my contract. I have a cheap all-you-can-eat data plan that is 1/3 the cost of the iPhone data plan. Why’s that? They charge you different contract rates for different phones, but only if you are dumb enough to buy the phone from them in the first place!!!

So much for the land of the free. Land of the free to have the Corporates take charge of your wallet!!!

The operators have gotten consumers used to the “free phone” business model. People don’t want to pay for their phones in the US. You try telling someone with a free RAZR (it disgusts me) that you are willing to pay $500 for an unlocked device, and they will give you the weirdest look. They don’t understand the benefits of buying unlocked phones. If it’s not free, they don’t want it.

Of course, there are exceptions. I have friends who understand the value of unlocked phones and who also realize how operators severely restrict their phones. If you want to buy unlocked phones, there are several websites that sell them. The two Nokia flagship stores in NYC and Chicago are a good start. But this country is far, far behind Europe and Asia in retail locations.

I call BS. There are several things missing here:

1. Any mall in America has a small army of vendors selling phones. Yes, in all likelihood they are selling crap phones and you have to buy a contract. They will be in the “carts” or other kiosks. Remember for more than half the US market, there are no unlocked phones (Verizon and Sprint) and it is no surprise there are not large retailers selling unlocked GSM phones.

2. If you want a unlocked GSM phone, you go online.,, amazon, and any number of any choices.

3. Err. Americans do use their phones for things other than voice. It’s called email. What is the marketshare of RIM devices? And the iphone isn’t going to get Americans to buy data plans — they were doing that BEFORE the iphone came out. The carriers are promoting them hard — because nearly everyone already as a mobile already.

4. Unlocked phones are useful in Europe for roaming. We don’t have roaming fees. All plans are national. That’s why there is not a big demand for unlocked phones.

5. Generally speaking, it is cheaper to have a phone/unlimited data contract in the US than it is in Europe. Yes, we don’t have a subsidized N95. But plenty of people before the iphone were able to drop $400 on a treo/blackberry/WM6 device.

@charlie: How many people know you can buy a phone separate from service? Not too many, I bet.

Yes you can go online–I’ve bought phones off eBay–but how many people know that?

Unlimited data is theoretically cheaper in the U.S., but almost all of the carriers have a “soft” and “unspoken” 5GB limit. So much for “unlimited” data. At least the European plans are generally honest about it.

Also, how many people know about unlocked phones? Not many people, I’m afraid.

The point is, the carriers have trained Americans there is only one way to buy a wireless phone–from the carriers. They don’t make it easy to ‘bring your own phone” using tactics like device locks, incompatible technologies, and utter incompetence of their sales staff regarding these issues. They make it difficult or near impossible to purchase phones at an unsubsidized price as they’d rather have you on a 2 year ball-and-chain.

If Americans knew how badly they were getting screwed, they’d vote with their pocketbooks. Unfortunately, most of my countrymen are sheep that believe the lies being told by the likes of the CTIA and their ilk.

I’d be careful making the European “Unlimited” argument. As I recall the “Unlimited” data plans from O2 and T-Mobile (im Duetschland) when the jPhone (Yes J) launched were going to be pretty heavily limited. I think that public outcry turned this around, at least to some extent.

From Engadet on October 29th 2007:
“O2, whose rates have been up since day one, has a slightly vaguer “fair usage policy” that gives O2 the right to slap you with extra charges or change your rate plan if you exceed 200MB of use, though they claim this rarely happens.”

Now that being said. I tend to agree with your overall argument. Heck I’d take my own claim there and spin it to say “If you want an American phone you’re going to get an American data plan.” I just came up with that, I’m proud of myself. 😉

The carriers, as you aptly pointed out, have trained America to remain beholden to them. I’ve seen it start to become self supporting. I sadly have met people working for both AT&T and T-Mobile who do not even believe that a non-AT&T branded phone works on their network. Are the salesmen even lying if they are really just that oblivious? Thankfully other parts of our society buck that trend and are possibly pulling us out of the carriers fantasy. And I don’t understand your complaint about the difficulty in purchasing phones at an unsubsidized rate, its easy, Klatu Veraktu Nektie? is all you gotta say. (I hope someone gets that).

American’s are too stupid (Yes I said it) to vote with their pocketbooks. Our economy has been swirling around the bowl for the past 5 years, well even longer, due to issues regarding outsourcing. Personally I don’t like the concept, but I can’t blame anyone for it. You want your free market capitalism you gotta live with the ups and downs. Point being we should have, and still can vote with our pocketbooks. Walmart is more pack every time I go in there (To purchase ammmunition, as no where else nearby sells it). I am a college student w/o a job and yet even I can manage to NOT spend my money on of the major causes of our situation. We’d vote with our pocketbooks, as long as it doesn’t cost more. =\

I’m done.

@malaeum At least they’re honest about what their limit is. That certainly wasn’t the case until recently in the U.S., and even now, it’s only in the fine print that you see it.

It may be easy to buy an unlocked, unsubsidized phone, but how many people know they can do that, let alone how many actually do it? How many people are stuck on CDMA carriers where swapping phones between carriers is kind of a foreign concept?

I completely hear ya. I do see your point about their services being upfront about it.

Now this is most likely being young and naive, but it seems to me that prices per minute and data as well appears to be cheaper over here. There has to be a factor which I am missing. I obviously haven’t ever experienced their system firsthand. I just know since I imported my first 6230 that I have seen a tech gap you can’t shoot a cannon over.

Maybe the whole unlocked devices will start to take off in the US, So many people happily clap the shackles on their ankles instead, saves them $50 today. Thinking beyond today is pretty hard for some. Even the corporate vultures are becoming more and more focused on the short term profits (this or next quarter, who cares about multi-year strategies). Verizon, das Fuhrer of the networks, seems to be allowing non-verizon devices onto their network sometime next year, that might prove to be an interesting development. Everyone (carriers) went into a tripping over eachother to declare who is, or who will be the most “open”. I am looking forward to see what ANDROID does. I am a pretty damn happy S60 user who is no hurry to jump ship. I think it’ll just be another wave of momentum pushing against the current system of retarded phones peddled upon the masses. Google is one of the few companies held in higher regard than even the holy Apple, and by a much wider swath of people. I respect Mac’s, OS X is pretty nice, but Google, who hates google? Steve Balmer maybe, but he doesn’t count. =P

Point is the market is maturing and should be clear if change is going to happen by the end of this year.

As someone who travels on business to the US, the thing I find most frustrating is how prohibitive it is to do any data on a pay as you go plan. I’ve been using tMobile because at least they offer something that resembles customer service, but from what I can gather, they offer no option whatsoever for data with their tMobile to go service.

AT&T do, but it’s something crazy like 1 cent per K.

Roming charges make data on the expensive side which is why I’d rather use a local SIM.

In most other countries I visit, data is not a problem.

If anyone knows a solution other than locking myself into a monthly commitment that makes no financial sense, I’d be delighted.

@ Ewan
You are liar!
Every phone in the UK today is available here either online or independent shops.
I walk the streets of NYC and ride the subway all day long and haven’t seen a RAZR in month.
Everybody is rocking a hot phone now.


Another *Let’s trash America* article.
so untrue!
You guys are mad because after dissing the US for years for being behind the times the hottest most innovative phone is made where? In the good old USA.

Wow, glad to see my country represent my country well. *shakes head in shame*

RAZR’s are still everywhere. Their time is slowly passing, thankfully.

I can only assume you’re referring to the iPhone. Hottest is a fair statement, “most innovative” is quite arguable, but overall I tend to agree with you. “Hot” means nothing of any measurable value. Innovation however is certainly of value to many of us and society as whole. Innovation for the sake of innovation however holds very little value. The iPhone is insighting a paradigm shift here in the US, and to a certain extent, internationally. It is creating a dialog amongst power users as well as the producers thereof. The idea being moving beyond the keypad. Apple is hardly alone in this arena, the main reason for your perception as a leader in this field is due to that “hotness” factor. Ultimately that factor is what is responsible for all the RAZR’s we all know and love. In the end the iPhone is a great device, I am very happy it came out. If you sat the iPhone in all of its innovative hot glory next to my old school N95-8GB and told me I could only leave table with one phone I’d gladly leave the iPhone sitting there.

Oh, I am pretty sure not a single iPhone was made in the US. 😉

Wow, reading my post lots of edits should be in there…. 3 days w/o sleep is finally catching up to me. Time for bed.

let me tell you why this is: the general US consumer DOES NOT HAVE $MONEY$, period. They live from paycheck to paycheck with about 300bucks in their savings and about 2000bucks running on their MBNA credit card and certainly dont have the cash to pay for a cell phone when they get one for free from the carrier. That’s it. Mystery solved.

No wonder Google based their Mobile Development centre in London.

Unfortunately what you’ve highlighted filters down to the rest of US mobile Industry, not entirely I grant you, but to a very large degree. I work for a very large Global Internet company and we have our main Mobile development centre stuck in the US. It can be extremely shocking their lack of awareness about where the rest of the world is going with data services on Mobile.

Any way i wouldn’t worry too much about America for Mobile development, with the rise of mobile in India, China, and even Africa they’ll have to soon accept that the US is third world when it comes to Mobile innovation.

Alright Dave.

I’ve been in America for over 3 years. I’m British. The last 5 or 6 years I lived in Britain, I changed my phone for the latest, hottest phone for as little as a penny, never more than 50 pounds. Sure I had to update my contract too, but I was doing what I wanted.

When I left Britain, your average consumer did similar – only the super-motivated or financially comfortable would buy a phone without a contract, because unsubsidised phones are a lot more expensive. Somewhat like the American market. I’m guessing it’s the same today, but I’m certain.

Guess what.

That didn’t stifle the market from getting the latest greatest phones.

So any argument about subsidised phones, ‘poor’ consumers (yeah right!) etc. is rubbish as an excuse for the state of the American market. The cause is the stranglehold consumers and the government have allowed the cell phone companies to throw around the whole cell phone market.

Apparently only about 7 or 8 people in the whole of America have realised that the “free market economy” has been perverted into a “corporates will screw you any way they can so they can keep shareholders happy and the CEO’s pockets full” economy.

@tnbill just because the average American doesn’t have money doesn’t mean they won’t spend money on a new phone. High-end mobile phones sell in places with a far lower GDP per capita than the U.S., so I don’t buy it.
I’m with @Steve on this one. It’s got nothing to do with how much money you’ve got.

This article and Nokia’s weak marketing in the US explains why US users think Windows Mobile is any good, when in fact it’s the biggest steaming pile of you know what in the industry – the mobile equivalent of Vista in other words.

American’s disbelief of the mess they’re in in mobile is compounded by their leadership in the previous generation of “personal computing” which they naturally and falsely assume has carried on into the next generation.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear…



Yes, you’re right: most people in the US assume that buying a “phone” means buying a two year contract.

However, back to the original article:

1) iphone isn’t going to change that: it is the most locked down phone in history, and if you unlock it from AT&T you lose a key feature (visual voicemail).

2) again, 1/2 if the US market is tied into Verizon and Sprint

3) When most people worry about buying a new phone is not for new feature — it is when they lose a phone

and it all comes down to this:

People in the US don’t like to pay a lot for their phones. They will buy semi expensive ($400) iphones, treo, blackberry, and WM6 devices, but refuse to pay more than that. (All of which are easily unlocked on the GSM side) Yes, that kills Sony-Ericsson and Nokia sales, but as the only GSM carrier in the US is AT&T, those phone companies need to make some deals or cut some prices if they want part of the US market share.

Proud owner of an unlocked e61 — and I won’t pay $450 for a new unlocked e61i.

@charlie What about T-Mobile? Aren’t they also GSM? Given Sprint’s continued customer losses and T-Mobile’s gains, we could see T-Mobile be the third largest carrier before too long (wishful thinking I know).

I wouldn’t even say Sprint and Verizon, but there is a lot of regional CDMA carriers (like Alltel) that account for a significant percentage of the CDMA market. There are some regional GSM carriers too, but there are fewer of those thanks to acquisitions.

The only thing the iPhone did, in my opinion, was prove that Americans were willing to spend $600 on a LOCKED phone (okay, it’s $400 now, but they sold a bunch of them at $600 too). It also proved that devices can be sexy. The trick now, is getting ALL the carriers to allow non-carrier branded devices on their networks. AT&T does, T-Mobile does, Verizon says they’re going to, and Sprint does.

Ok, there’s one other trick: getting device manufacturers to sell devices directly. Nokia’s starting to do that, though not as aggressively as I’d like. What about the other manufacturers?

Here in the US, cellphones are for calling. period.
no megapixel cameras, no symbian, no applications.
americans just take a cellphone for what it is straightforward : a phone.

@vinnie: “americans just take a cellphone for what it is straightforward : a phone.”

Except when it’s an iPhone…

Given the continuing high rate of sales and the phenomenal scale of mobile internet use on iPhones, I have a shrewd hunch that the iPhone will be the catalyst to overturning the decrepit US mobile phone sector*. I suspect that all it’ll need to complete the task are a few decent applications (on the way very soon with the SDK release next month), a few million enthusiastic users who can be relied on to show it off to friends and a little time to foment revolution.

Rise up, you downtrodden Yanks!
The future will be built on stylish, ergonomic handsets with beautiful software and unmetered internet connections.

(*with hopefully more than a little help from Android)

@phoneboy: again, the US has lots of nonbranded handets: think Palm Treo, Blackberry, and WM6 devices. Even Verizon allows Palm to keep their interface. So, I’m not sure the iphone is really establishing that principle.

I do think the iphone has made people aware of mobile web browsers, but I don’t think it has awakened interest in data plans generally.

My personal call is VOIP. If more unlocked phones would allow VOIP, then perhaps people could see the benefit of establishing a billing relationship to someone besides their carrier.

This whole debate reminds me of something that captured the whole situation quite succinctly when I was in San Francisco last year…

Out at a club, my pocket buzzes, I remove my E61i and my N95 to check where the buzz came from…

The guy talking to me looks on in what can only be described as ‘awe’ and said:

“Aww man. You Europeans with your phones….”

Completely different mindset.

That one phrase manage to convey to me all of what is wrong with the US market.
The customer, through the work of the carrier, has no access (and also feels they have no right to that access) to the latest phones on the market.

Yes this situation is changing. But the carriers (as ever) hold all the keys to all the locks to all the doors.
Without them signing up to the cause, the US market will not improve.

@whatleydude Part of the problem is that for those of us who have these cool phones in the U.S., when people ask “where can you get them,” there isn’t a simple answer. More specifically, there are very few physical locations you can go to buy them. There are very few shops that actually sell unbranded, unlocked handsets, most certainly none anywhere near where I live.

For most people, saying “oh yeah, you can order it from (or some other website)” just doesn’t work. Most people actually need help making this transition from a shackled carrier handset to a liberated, unlocked handset. And you know what? They need it from an actual person.

Nice to read a confirmation on what I expected so long already. If you watch American reality shows/soaps you can see the same thing happening. I first thought these shows were just way out of time but they’re recent. It’s the handsets that are out of time. Probably market protection are what so ever. The Iphone was a hit there so I guess they’re screaming for such devices.

well… I can most certainly agree with everyone else that the US is way behind on the innovation; but that doesn’t mean we aren’t changing. we’re getting newer phones in, and while we can’t use apps and such like with smartphones, if you look in the right places, you can do just as much with a celltard phone. as a user of a sync for two and a half years, it’s one of the best(and ya, i’m with AT$T) non-smartphones i’ve come accross. soon to either A)upgrade to a AT$T branded SE W580i, or B) ebay an unlocked W850i. I’ve heard good things about the 850.

but i’ve gotten offtopic.

one of the big reasons that we are behind is that the carriers are trying to make the biggest buck, for the least cost: I.E. CDMA phones. I’ll admit that i’m an amateur at this phone stuff, but hey, i’m from the US. Lol, it took a friend from Poland to get me “in the know” as much as i am now. bah. off topic again. anyhoo, long story short, the sooner we go all GSM like European countries, the better off we’ll be as far as innovation goes.

oh. and just for the record: RAZR’s are POS’s of the worst caliber. i went through 6-yes, SIX- RAZR’s(“manufacturer’s defect” they called it. bloody thing kept shutting itself off, almost lost me my job cause of that) before they broke down and sent me my baby.

Raleigh, MS

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