It’s just one of those times when I wish I were living in Europe, Japan or pretty much anywhere but North America. Mobile phone carriers in this quarter of the world suck ass. Usually we can complain about a particular product sucking or a company sucking, but this is a case of industry-wide suckitude. Let me share with you my situation and explain why there is no solution available.
At the present time I have two mobile devices. One of them is a completely generic Samsung mobile phone from Verizon. I use it primarily to make personal phone calls, but occasionally take a few pictures with it. The other device is a Blackberry 7230. It has an unlimited data plan from T-Mobile and no phone service. It is owned and paid for by my employer, and I use it to get my work e-mail when I’m on the go. My personal phone is on a Verizon contract with my family from 3 years ago when I was still in college. The contract is over at the end of 2006, and my family wants to get a new contract to get new phones. I want to take my phone number and get my own deal separate from them. I also want to get a single device that will replace both my personal phone and the Blackberry.
Here is the catch. Where I live and work Verizon is the only carrier who provides decent coverage and speed. They are also the provider with the worst selection of available phones. They especially have the worst selection of smart phones, which is what I will need to replace the functionality of the Blackberry. Verizon also is the worst offender of locking down phones. You might buy a phone that is perfectly capable of running freely available Java applications or tethering to your laptop via Bluetooth, but Verizon removes those features from the phone and then sells them back to you at inflated prices. Thus, there is the conundrum. I can get a decent phone from some other provider, but it won’t get service where I live, or I can get a locked-down crap phone from Verizon that works really well.
In the interest of making money they turn their phones into walled gardens, so they can make money from selling software, games, ring tones, etc. I can understand a company trying to make more money, that’s what capitalism is about. But under no circumstance am I ever going to pay for a ring tone or game on a phone. And for a business user, that stuff shouldn’t even be a consideration. Businesses are willing and able to pay extra to get what should be the default level of service, but no matter how much money you want to give to these people, they won’t give you a proper phone. That’s supposedly in the interest of making more money? I’m sitting here willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a phone, and I’m willing to pay a relatively large flat monthly fee, to get the kind of service usually offered in other continents. Despite that, I’m left out in the cold. That doesn’t sound like smart business to me.
Maybe I’m missing something? Maybe there is a phone out there which does the trick, and I don’t know about it. Lots of people out there have phones and seem to be satisfied with them. Lots of those people use their phones a lot more heavily than I ever will. How is it that they are satisfied and I can’t be? Let me list my needs, and perhaps someone more knowledgeable can point me in the right direction. I will break my needs into two parts. The first is a list of things I absolutely need. The second are the things I would like in an ideal world.
What do I need in a phone? I need it to have decent coverage in all the places I often travel. That includes work, home, parent’s house, neighboring cities, etc. I need to have decent data speed. I need to be able to check my company e-mail either via Blackberry or Exchange. I need to be able to install free Google mobile applications like like mobile GMail, GMaps, GTalk, etc. I need a phone that doesn’t crash, and doesn’t drive me crazy. I need a phone that takes pictures, quality doesn’t matter much. I need to be able to get the pictures off of the phone without paying for each individual picture. I need a phone with Bluetooth, so I can get a headset and legally talk while I drive.
What would I like? I would like a phone that can handle standard file formats like mp3, pdf, etc. I would like a phone that can fully and freely communicate, via USB or Bluetooth, with any computer running Windows, Mac or Linux. I would like a phone that is easy to develop software for, so that I can add new functionality on my own. i would like a small, thin, sexy phone. I am trying to carry less around with me, not more. I would like a phone with a full web browser and, if possible, flash so that I can visit YouTube and such from anywhere. I do not want any sort of limit on what I do with the phone. I would like a phone with a GPS I can use. Basically, I want a phone that has no feature limited in any way. If the phone is physically capable of doing something, I want absolutely unlimited access to that functionality. I am willing to pay a large, flat, monthly fee to get this, but nobody that I know offers it. Is this really too much to ask?
Mobile service providers in this country are inflicting upon the public something very similar to what DRM offers. It is an artificial limiting of technology in order to charge for something which has no real cost. It’s as if you bought a car, but need to pay GM $5 for every time you turn the air conditioning on. This would be much less bothersome if you could somehow pay your way out of it. I do suspect that not even Bill Gates and friends get everything they want or need from their phones. This is a truly frustrating situation, and I am at a loss to make a decision. Think of it, a total geek with no answer to a technological problem. That’s how absurd this has become.