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Communications Handhelds Hardware

What's Keeping US Phones In the Stone Age? 925

Posted by kdawson
from the too-much-for-not-much dept.
knapper_tech writes "After seeing the iPhone introduction, I was totally confused by how much excitement it generated in the US. It offered no features I could see beyond my Casio W41CA's capabilities. I had a lot of apprehension towards the idea of a virtual keypad and the bare screen looked like a scratch magnet. Looks aren't enough. Finally, the price is ridiculous. The device is an order of magnitude more expensive than my now year-old Keitai even with a two-year contract. After returning to the US from Japan, I've come to realize the horrible truth behind iPhone's buzz. Over the year I was gone, US phones haven't really done anything. Providers push a minuscule lineup of uninspiring designs and then charge unbelievable prices for even basic things like text messages. I was greeted at every kiosk by more tired clamshells built to last until obsolescence, and money can't buy a replacement for my W41CA." Read on as this reader proposes and dismissed a number of possible explanations for the difference in cell-phone markets between the US and Japan. He concludes with, "It seems to me more like competition is non-existent and US providers are ramming yesteryear's designs down our throats while charging us an arm and a leg! Someone please give me some insight."

I finally broke down and got a $20 Virgin phone to at least get me connected until I get over my initial shock. In short, American phones suck, and iPhone is hopefully a wakeup call to US providers and customers. Why is the American phone situation so depressing?

Before I left for Japan about a year ago, I was using a Nokia 3160. It cost me $40 US and I had to sign a one year contract that Cingular later decided was a two-year contract. I was paying about $40 a month for service and had extra fees for SMS messages.

After I got to Kyoto, I quickly ended up at an AU shop and landed a Casio W41CA. It does email, music, pc web browsing, gps, fm radio, tv, phone-wallet, pictures (2megapixel), videos, calculator etc. I walked out of the store for less than ¥5000 (about $41) including activation fees, and I was only paying slightly over ¥4000 (about $33) per month. That included ¥3000 for a voice plan I rarely used and ¥1000 for effectively unlimited data (emails and internet).

Perhaps someone with more knowledge of the costs facing American mobile providers can explain the huge technology and cost gap between the US and Japan. Why are we paying so much for such basic features?

At first, I thought maybe it was something to do with network infrastructure. The US is a huge land area and Japan is very tiny. However, Japan would have lots of towers because of the terrain. Imagine something like Colorado covered in metropolitan area. Also, even though places like rural New Mexico exist, nobody has an obligation to cover them, and from the look of coverage maps, no providers do. Operating a US network that reaches 40% of the nation's population requires nowhere near reaching 40% of the land area. The coverage explanation alone isn't enough.

Another possibility was the notion that because Americans keep their phones until they break, phone companies don't focus much on selling cutting edge phones and won't dare ship a spin-chassis to Oklahoma. However, with the contract life longer, the cost of the phone could be spread out over a longer period. If Americans like phones that are built to last and then let them last, the phones should be really cheap. From my perspective, they are ridiculously priced, so this argument also fails.

The next explanation I turned to is that people in the US tend to want winners. We like one ring to rule them all and one phone to establish all of what is good in phone fashion for the next three years. However, Motorola's sales are sagging as the population got tired of dime-a-dozen RAZR's and subsequent knockoffs. Apparently, we have more fashion sense or at least desire for individuality than to keep buying hundreds of millions of the same design. Arguing that the US market tends to gravitate to one phone and then champion it is not making Motorola money.

At last I started to wonder if it was because Americans buy less phones as a whole, making the cost of marketing as many different models as the Japanese prohibitive. However, with something like three times the population, the US should be more than enough market for all the glittery treasures of Akiba. What is the problem?

I'm out of leads at this point. It's not like the FCC is charging Cingular and Verizon billions of dollars per year and the costs are getting passed on to the consumer. Japanese don't have genetically superior cellphone taste. I remember that there was talk of how fierce mobile competition was and how it was hurting mobile providers' earnings. However, if Japanese companies can make money at those prices while selling those phones, what's the problem in the US? It seems to me more like competition is non-existent and US providers are ramming yesteryear's designs down our throats while charging us an arm and a leg! Someone please give me some insight.
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What's Keeping US Phones In the Stone Age?

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  • by nimr0d (312173) * <colin@smartb[ ]lc.com ['oxl' in gap]> on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:08AM (#19996825) Homepage
    American's are more willing to pay for their techy gadgets. If the overpriced stuff here was perceived as that overpriced, no one would buy it, and the cell companies would be forced to sell their gadgets cheaper or with more features. I don't see this changing in the near future because we are accustomed to the pricing companies like Cingular and Sprint give us.
    • by cwgmpls (853876) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:31AM (#19997235) Journal

      Are you suggesting that if a carrier came out with a lower price, people wouldn't flock to it because people are okay with the prices they pay to Cingular and Sprint? The problem isn't that people are buying what is currently offered, the problem is that there is no disruptive provider coming in to challenge the established market.

      Industries won't change until they are challenged by a disruptive competitor. That has been true with automobiles, computers, agriculture -- all across the board. The same is true of mobile voice and data services. Nothing will change until disruptive technologies [wikipedia.org] are allowed to enter the market.

      • by MagikSlinger (259969) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:08PM (#19997897) Homepage Journal

        Are you suggesting that if a carrier came out with a lower price, people wouldn't flock to it because people are okay with the prices they pay to Cingular and Sprint? The problem isn't that people are buying what is currently offered, the problem is that there is no disruptive provider coming in to challenge the established market.

        There are some, like Virgin Mobile, but the problem is the marketplace. Why is there a Microsoft monopoly? Because the vast majority of Americans want a single company to take care of them. Why is there no disruptive competitor offering fancy phones or free bells & whistles? Because the American public seem very, very indifferent to the idea. To them, it's the service, not the phone, that matters. Which is why they will gladly take a seemingly cheap or free phone in exchange for a 10 year contract that will ram them up the you-know-what.

        Those phones overseas are expensive -- way more than what the American public will pay for. Someone above mentioned a $600 phone he bought from Australia. Tell that to your average New York cell junky and they'll spit-take. I read an article saying cellphone makers are annoyed by the public's sticker shock and refusal to outright buy their phones. As long as the people behave like that, the American cell phone market will suck. Thank goodness we have Asia to drive the market forward and trickle down the innovation to North America. ;-)

        You know. It reminds me of the days before 3rd party phones were legal. Yes, kids, there was a time you could not buy a phone at Wal-Mart and simply plug it into your wall. You had to go to the phone company to buy a different phone because 3rd party phones were prohibited by your contract with the Phone Company. In an even earlier period, you couldn't even buy a phone. It was always a rental from the phone company.

        • by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:41PM (#19998473) Homepage Journal
          "As long as the people behave like that, the American cell phone market will suck. Thank goodness we have Asia to drive the market forward and trickle down the innovation to North America. ;-)"

          Well, it is probably a difference in attitude towards cell phones too. In the US, a phone is considered pretty much a commodity item, and use pretty much ONLY for one thing.....calling and talking to people.

          In other countries they seem to want to use the phone for everything..paying for purchases, gps systems, mobile computer.

          I also find it a bit amusing. Most of the world chides the US for having the 'disposable' mindset on everything. That we buy things, use them a short while, and then throw them out and get a new one.

          But, now in this article it is being frowned upon...the Americans buying cell phones and hanging on to them till they quit working. It would seem to me to be the 'green' thing to not buy a new cell phone every year or so...keep them out of the landfills, eh?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dwarfking (95773)

          Funny you mention Wal-Mart. Recently my son's cell phone got damaged and I needed to get a replacement for him. My contract with Verizon had expired some time ago and I have been month to month ever since. They keep trying to get me to sign up for a new plan, but I won't.

          Anyway, I went into a Verizon store to buy him a replacement phone. The prices listed were reasonable, IF you are willing to sign up for a plan. There were phones in the $49 dollar range. When I went to get one and refused a plan, th

      • by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @01:04PM (#19998895)
        Are you suggesting that if a carrier came out with a lower price, people wouldn't flock to it because people are okay with the prices they pay to Cingular and Sprint?

        Yes. Most carriers offer a "free" phone (with sufficiently long contract). People shop networks/providers first, then phones. Oooh, Sprint is a PCS not a cellular network, Verizon has "the network", Cingular/AT&T has wide coverage and rollover minutes. Once someone picks a network, they shop phones. There are 3 kinds of people, those that want the free phone, those that want to spend $99 to $100 on something with some extra features (MP3, camera, whatever), and those willing to pay $200+ for lots of features. They pick from the phones available at the carrier they selected and are done. This means that if someplace offered a Razor V3 for $0, they wouldn't get a large flocking there. I've seen such offers, while the Razor isn't usually at such a low price with the major carriers (not that I'm checking on a daily basis).

        There are a few times when phones have driven the market. The initial release of the Razor did it. The initial release of the iPhone did it. There will be more, but these are one-product-per-2-years kind of events. But again, that isn't a matter of who has it cheaper, but just who has it at all. Price is not as big of a driver in cell phones (both phone and carrier) as is stated. People rarely choose carriers based on cost, they pick what they like best (often coverage, but other factors count as well, like friends and family plans and such), then pick the phones and service plans they can afford. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it is rare when someone compares all their choices' plans and picks the plan that makes the most sense, counting TCO and phone costs and such.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:40AM (#19997423) Homepage
      Incorrect. Americans do not know that we get shafted by Cellphone company collusion to keep prices high.

      Americans on the whole are incredibly uninformed and blissfully like it that way for the most part. The news doesn't dare report that Americans on average get shafted hard for internet, cable, satellite and Cellphone service as they don't want to upset the bread and butter advertisers.

      America lives and dies by the Boob-tube (TV) we do what it tells us to do.
      • by orclevegam (940336) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @02:51PM (#20000625) Journal

        America lives and dies by the Boob-tube (TV) we do what it tells us to do.

        As a younger American I'm part of the generation that's just now beginning to take control of the marketplace, many of my friends are moving into management positions, and maybe 10 or 20 years from now will likely be CEOs or VPs. I, and many of my friends, do not on the whole watch television (I haven't had a TV with a cable connection for 2 years now), and I wonder how this is going to impact our economy. I get almost all my news from the internet, and all my video entertainment is either downloaded or I buy on DVD. As the generation that is less dependent on television comes into power what kind of effect do you think that will have on the American economy? Will we see more competition from foreign vendors?

    • by cecille (583022) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:19PM (#19998075)
      I think people do believe they are overpriced, but there's just absolutely no companies that offer reasonable phones and rates. I'm actually in Canada, with Bell and I just bought a new phone a few days ago, because my last phone got watered. I really wanted a moto Q, because it's small and I like the qwerty keypad, and I have a lot of the moto stuff set up already from my last phone. The real sticking point though, is the data plan. Bell offers an unlimited "mobile browser" plan for $5 a month. It is what I'm using right now, and it's working well. It is essentially a filtered version of their data plan. If you change the server you're using, you can get essentially an unlimited, unfiltered data plan for $5 a month. Clearly this is do-able for them. BUT...they have a policy that says that they will not activate a "device" (what they call the PDA style phone) unless you buy a real data plan. Nevermind that they are the same thing and going through the same network, they won't sell it to you. I would be OK with this, but the data plan is $25 for 4 megs, and $12 a meg thereafter. WHAT? ARE THEY SERIOUS? I'm pulling 10 times that off the network right now for $5. I'd rather not pay $25 to have a look at one screen of the local paper, thanks. They (no joke) have better data rates in Rwanda. It is ridiculus.

      Anyway, the point of my rant is that without a decent plan, no one is going to be able to use these phones anyway. I was looking for a fairly full-featured phone, and ended up with a piece of crap because basically all they sell. It's not so much the phone prices that are the problem - personally, I'm ok with spending a few hundred on a phone if its good. It's the fact that they so BLATANTLY rip you off with everything else that changed my mind.
  • It's the carriers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackdefiance (142579) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:09AM (#19996833) Homepage
    No two ways about it. Especially the old-school players like VZW, who have that MaBell attitude.
    • Re:It's the carriers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:13AM (#19996919) Journal
      One interesting comparison someone pointed out to me is this: people think of Microsoft as a monopoly. But can you imagine them charging you for a "loading Windows sound" the way telecoms charge you for ringtones?

      For the closedness and proprietarity of MS, they actually give you quite a bit of freedom with your machine ... when compared to a cell phone.
      • Re:It's the carriers (Score:5, Informative)

        by GeckoX (259575) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:26AM (#19997129)
        No doubt.

        Not in the US, but being a Canuck, we get the same treatment really.

        I have a Sony-Ericsson w810i (Which I do really like a ton, but that's beside the point), through Rogers. The phone supports custom ring tones and the like, but Rogers locks this out and tries to force their users to buy every little darned thing through Rogers. I had to wipe Rogers proprietary installation and 'update' the phone with the original installation software to 'unlock' features that the phone inherently supports!!!

        The providers are blood sucking leaches, nothing more, and certainly nothing less. And see how well you fare if you decide to try a different approach...the big boys eat your lunch.

        What's the solution? I'd love to know...any ideas anyone?
        • Re:It's the carriers (Score:4, Informative)

          by Aceticon (140883) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @03:33PM (#20001183)
          I'm in Europe.

          By now i've lived in 3 countries, had 4 mobiles phones and 5 different providers.

          Except for my first mobile phone, i always bought the phones unlocked, free of any contract and at full price.

          Never had any problem changing countries/providers and take my phone with me. All i have to do is get a SIM from my new provider (tipically costs about $10 with quite a lot of free minutes) pop it in the phone and it just works.

          Even beter, ever since the number portability laws came on, i can even keep my number when i change providers (in the same country, though).

          To top it all up, the best deals out there are SIM-only offers, aimed at people like me that bring their own phones.

          So what's the big difference to the US/Canada:
          • Standards, more specifically GSM, mean that any mobile phone sold in Europe will work with any European mobile phone provider
          • Consumer friendly laws, such as number portability, mean that the providers don't have the same latitude in using technological tricks to artificially lock their customers in
          • Not buying my mobile phones locked-in to a contract means that i'm a free agent and can quickly jump to another provider if i feel that my current provider is not providing me with value for the money (Vodafone kiss my *ss). Buying a mobile phone from a provider would mean giving up the liberty to change, and if you make your maths, the contract you're locked-into when getting a phone in such a away pretty much means you're paying the phone full price, only in monthly installements instead of fully up-front.

    • by OctoberSky (888619) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:19AM (#19997017)
      100% true, mod parent up until his minutes expire.

      I just got my first phone in 4 years, maybe 4.5. I went with Verizon (whom I absolutely despise) because my girlfriend gets a big discount (39%) from work, so it's too cheap to pass up.

      Putting aside all the BS the "salesman" tried to sell me, I left with a phone that had a warranty for 4 hours. It seems, that this piece of Motorola hardware will have it's warranty voided if I go home and sync the phone with my computer in means other than Verizon's service (which is around $6 a month + a $29.99 Mini USB cable). Motorola makes the software I used it get into the phone, I put songs on it and pulled photos off it. I didn't "hack" anything the computer (once the drivers were installed) recognized it immediately.

      I can understand voiding the warranty if I modded it or did things that may or may not have harmed the OS but all I did was pull the photos off of the memory chip, rather than send them to myself for $0.25 (that's like $85.94 in Verizon math).

      These providers have you by the balls. It's much like when MaBell would only sell their equipment (somethingsomethingmonopolysomething), expect here it's not even their equipment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sunking2 (521698)
      I'm sorry, but how does a 2 sentence post that provides absolutely 0 actual information get modded as insightful?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:10AM (#19996843)
    Q: What's Keeping US Phones In the Stone Age?
    A: State of the "Free Market" in the USA
  • by djupedal (584558) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:11AM (#19996863)
    One word: copper

    As long as some telco clings to legacy phone lines (paid for long ago), the stone age is all the US is going to get...
  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:12AM (#19996893) Homepage Journal
    I buy all my phones from Australia or Hong Kong -- unlocked and ready to roll. I currently run the HTC Trinity with a cooked WM6 rom, and I love it. $600 from Hong Kong.

    My friends can't believe I shelled out $600 for a phone I'll use for a year. But the phone saves me between 10 and 15 hours a week (additional productivity) and I do a vast majority of my web browsing, blogging, and e-mailing from it. Why did I pick it? All the features I want, with nothing locked out.

    Why do manufacturers lock phones and reduce features? Because consumers in America want free or cheap phones with long contracts. It's ridiculous. I haven't had a T-Mobile contract for years -- but we have 12 phones on my corporate account (maybe more, not sure). All our phones are imports with the features that are important to us.

    All my friends are locked into contracts and have NO negotiating ability. If they're co-op together (cheap LLC, let's say) they could get a better corporate rate, and even negotiate it (T-Mobile Corporate Customer Care/Retention is really fantastic) based on their needs. Instead, they want a "free" $250 phone, and they pay 10c for text messages over a specific number. Idiotic.

    People have to realize that "free" is not free, and it is usually wiser to just pay for a great phone -- and save on your monthly bill -- than it is to do what they're currently doing.

    The market is providing exactly the crappy service, and pricing, and hardware, that people want.
    • by jedidiah (1196) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:25AM (#19997109) Homepage
      It's a phone. Yes, a PHONE.

      It's supposed to do one thing and one thing well.

      Everything else is just stuff to distract you from the fact that your phone network quality suddenly degraded to 3rd world levels.

      If I want to do something else. I will do it with a device that was designed for that purpose rather than that function being frankenstein'ed into a device that's supposed to be dead simple and dead reliable.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:45AM (#19997507)
        Actually, no, it's not a phone. Phones were analog devices invented in the 19th century that are both powered by and designed to communicate over wires. They had a single purpose like what you describe in your post. The devices we're talking about are miniature computers coupled with RF modems powered by rechargeable litihum batteries. So, if you want your miniature computer to only be able to stream audio wirelessly to and from single points, that's fine, it's all about consumer choice. But why begrudge the rest of us the choice to get more functionality out of what are essentially general purpose devices in a small form factor?
    • by ericlj (81729) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:34AM (#19997313)
      How can one phone save you 10-15 hours a week over another? What are you doing? Did you previously have no phone, so you had to drive across town several times a week to see if people were home to talk to?
      • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:50AM (#19997593) Homepage Journal
        It's a good question.

        I've always had high tech devices -- PDAs that were tethered to phones, micro laptops, etc. None of them worked well enough. I still had to spend time hitting a workstation, especially to download large files.

        That all changed with the HTC -- EDGE is really fast, it is always connected, I can view HTML e-mails (get a lot of them) and I can proof PDFs (I own a not-for-profit print shop, too). I easily save 10 hours a week not having to hit a broadband connected workstation to do my work. Just 10 minutes here and 10 minutes there a day and it adds up quickly.

        On top of all that, I can read all my RSS feeds from my phone (not while driving). So all those 5 minute or 10 minute "do nothing" time periods are spent actually doing something I'd normally try to do setting aside an hour at the end of the day (or the beginning).
    • by Gryffin (86893) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:39AM (#19997413) Homepage

      Why do manufacturers lock phones and reduce features? Because consumers in America want free or cheap phones with long contracts. It's ridiculous.

      Well, you're half right: American consumers don't "want" long contracts, but they *do* want a "free" phone.

      Americans are basically cheap. I'm always amused by the people who will spend $10 in gas to drive to four different stores to try to save $5 on some item. Or spend 40 hours on the internet to save $25 on plane tickets. And of course, a "free" *anything* is always better, not matter the costs down the road. It's a false savings, but a lot of people will fall for it every time.

      American wireless carriers know this, and so they play the "give away the razor and sell the blades" game: pad up the monthly bill to subsidize a "free" phone, but lock out the useful features to force customers into spending extra money for simple things like SMS, internet, IM, BlueTooth, etc.

      • by Sax Maniac (88550) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:14PM (#19998001) Homepage Journal
        We might be cheap, but the carriers don't make it any easier. Walk into any phone store and try to buy a phone without a plan, or a plan without a phone, and see how far you get. They push you so hard into buying locked down phones that most people don't even know there's an alternative.

        Hell, the only reason I know that unlocked phones exist is 1: I have a gadget-freak friend who knows how to do that (and he sent his phone away to some strange place to get it unlocked, which has the slightly icky feeling of getting plastic surgery in India) and 2: posts I read here.

        My wife and I have been sharing a phone for years, and it's about time I got a new one. But I hate shopping for one, because I know all that stupid lock-in sales tactics I'm going to find. Yes, even online. Trying to "fight the system" and find an unlocked phone is complicated enough that even I, hater of service contracts, will probably get a contract anyway. After all, I'll probably stay with them for a year anyway.

        If you buy a phone full-price, it's not like you get a break in the monthly cost. You maybe get out of the yearly contract. But that doesn't save you money unless you plan on switching carriers right and left. So, the choice is this: free phone or no free phone. What would you pick?

    • by Solandri (704621) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:13PM (#19997969)
      And I don't mean that the people in these countries want different things. I mean they have different expectations of what they can get for their money. The U.S., despite being in the forefront of analog cell phone development, was last with a digital cell phone network. Japan (and Asia) were first, then Europe, then the U.S. This had one major consequence with serious ramifications for the market here: providers knew in advance which features would sell.

      The phone service providers in the U.S. took this advance knowledge, and attached hefty fees to everything that was popular in Asia and Europe - text, ringtones, photo uploads. When these features were first rolled out in Japan, they didn't know what people would find popular. So every phone manufacturer and service provider took the shotgun approach and bundled as many of these features as they could for as low a flat fee as they could. This was unbridled competition. By the time they figured out what was popular, they couldn't jack up the price because everyone expected it to be a flat fee, and raising the price would send your customers to your competitors.

      When the digital cell network rolled out in the U.S., the providers here knew text messaging, ringtones, and photo sharing would be huge. So they attached a per-item fee to them to maximize profit on it. Every one of them did it, nobody broke ranks and offered a flat fee service (at least not without an additional fee). Kind of an implicit agreement to collude to fix prices to maximize everyone's profit.

      Americans simply don't know that these things are free or a flat fee in the rest of the world. For them, a text message has always been 10-15 cents each. A ringtone has always been $1-$2. The cost per each one isn't that much, so they pay it. The same thing happened the other way around with landline telephone service in the U.S. vs. Europe. Most Americans (whose phone industry was deregulated in the 80s) pay a flat fee for unlimited calls. Most Europeans (with nationalized phone monopolies) pay per phone call. That's just the way "it's always been" and people don't know to ask for more.

      Normally the market would correct this situation with a new company offering these services for less money. But the cell phone service market requires you to own bandwidth, which was auctioned off back in the early 1990s. There's no way for a new company to join the market (which is why the upcoming auction of the 700 MHz spectrum is so important, yes the one Google has been making noise about).

  • by EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:12AM (#19996899)
    To answer your question, US consumers are keeping phones in the "stone age." The *vast* majority of US cell phone users buy the phones and use them as - get this - phones . Sure, teens love to text and techies love wireless... but most people use cell phones for their original, intended purpose. Manufacturers have seen this and responded accordingly.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:26AM (#19997127)
      I agree.

      Let me also say, I work as a programmer in Japan, and I work on mobile phones here. It sucks big time. Japan is not a model we want to adopt. But for better or worse, the main reason things are different in Japan is that cell phones are many (probably most) peoples primary portal to the internet. Hard as it is to believe coming from the states, but many people like (I guess) to browse the web, shop, and post to forums, using phones.

      In the US, we have laptops ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      To answer your question, US consumers are keeping phones in the "stone age." The *vast* majority of US cell phone users buy the phones and use them as - get this - phones .

      I would like to second this. Honestly, I get really really tired of the constant bitching by people on Slashdot, of all places, on how they "want a cell phone that's just a cell phone and nothing else". Geez, this is supposed to be a place where people who understand technology come, but based on what I've seen here constantly over t
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sloppy (14984)

      But even as "just phones," they kind of suck. Where do I enter people's public key in the phone book? Where's the menu item that I'm supposed to select, to tell my phone to initiate a very-low-powered connection with another phone in the room, for purposes of exchanging a few megabytes of random OTP?

      Why, when my phone is near someone else's, does my phone connect through the cell network instead of connecting directly?

      Of course, I know the answers to all my "why" questions. Just pointing out how lame

  • Featuritis (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amiga Lover (708890) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:15AM (#19996955)
    It offered no features I could see beyond my Casio W41CA's capabilities.

    You're making the mistake of counting features, ignoring *how* they're used. I remember back in the early 1990s, when this new world wide web thing popped up. Plenty of comments then from people who couldn't see the forest for the trees, that were much like yours - "The world wide web offers no features I could see beyond downloading .txt and .gif files like I've been able to do for 10 years already."

    Sure, the web can be seen as just text and image files, but oh boy... did the presentation and access difference ever change the world. How things work really is important.
    • Re:Featuritis (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:59AM (#19997733) Homepage Journal
      This is possibly the most insightful comment in this entire thread. Everyone is so busy considering why American telcos "suck" that they're not stopping to actually carry through on the comparison made. For those of you in the dark, this is a Casio W41CA:

      http://www.trustedreviews.com/mobile-devices/news/ 2006/01/20/Casio-Mobile-Rocks-For-Movies/p1 [trustedreviews.com]

      An impressive phone? Certainly. It's on the order of something like the Motorola Q phone [motorola.com], but with a better form factor. At the end of the day, though, the Casio is still just a phone. The iPhone, however, is a complete hand computer and digital assistant that hits a sweet spot in the market's needs. The iPhone may appear to have a similar feature list, until you actually get down to the nitty gritty of it:

      iPhone - Casio
      128MB - 70MB
      4-8 GB Hard Drive - 2GB SD Slot
      Visual Voicemail - ???
      Auto-Landscape Mode - Manual Swivel
      Phone Numbers from Webpages - No
      Integration with Movie/Music Service - No
      Easy "Pinch" and "Spin" Navigation - Phone Keypad
      Auto-Threading of SMS Conversations - Standard SMS Mailbox
      On-Screen Conferencing options - Play on-hold games with the phone
      Safari Browser with "Zoom on Element" Features - Opera Mini with imprecise Zooming
      Rich email client - ???
      Smooth Integration with Google Maps, Youtube, and Mac Widgets - Some functionality through Opera. No Flash [intomobile.com]

      Basically, it comes down to usability. The iPhone is a modest step from a pure technology and feature-set perspective, but it's a quantum leap from a usability perspective. While the iPhone's design does not meet everyone's needs, it meets the largest cross-section of users on the market. i.e. The people who are not technophiles and have little to no idea how to use all the bizarre and excessive features of a smart-phone. For the most part, people just want a phone. The iPhone gives them a phone + a comprehensive feature set that easily performs other daily tasks that people do (e.g. check whether, look up maps, etc.) and handily replaces several other devices that they might carry around.

      Folks around here tend to laugh at Taco's initial assessment of the iPod. ("No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.") Yet they turn around and make the exact same mistake with the iPhone. It's an interesting trend to behold.
      • First, we'll check out your carefully-selected feature comparison.

        iPhone - Treo
        128MB - 64MB
        4-8 GB Hard Drive - 2GB SD Slot
        Visual Voicemail - No, thank god.*
        Auto-Landscape Mode - Unnecessary (square aspect ratio)
        Phone Numbers from Webpages - Yep
        Integration with Movie/Music Service (iTunes) - No, thank god.*
        Easy "Pinch" and "Spin" Navigation - Actual keyboard and a touchscreen
        Auto-Threading of SMS Conversations - Yep
        On-Screen Conferencing options - Yep
        Safari Browser with "Zoom on Element" Features - So many b
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AKAImBatman (238306)
          So what you're saying is that the Treo is competitive with the iPhone, except that it has fewer features (about $250 worth of fewer features if you look at the price of an iPod) and a clunkier interface. But it makes up for those issues because it costs less.

          Congratulations, you've stated the obvious. :-P

          BTW, a brand new Treo is ~$250-$300 with a service plan. $250 (Treo) + $250 (iPod) = $500 (iPhone). Using the low-end of variable eBay prices on used goods is far more disingenuous than my not stating the b
  • In my opinion .... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by everphilski (877346) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:16AM (#19996965) Journal
    I don't know, but 90% of the functions you would consider necessary to make a 'stone age' phone modern, I don't want. All I want is a basic phone, enough buttons to dial and end a call with good sound quality. That's it. Call me Neanderthal, but I like my cell phones to make phone calls, my coffee pots to make coffee, and my women to ... ;-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      and my women to ... ;-)

      Be overweight, bitchy and expensive? Like most American women? ;-)

      Sorry, that statement made me think of the following joke, hence my statement:

      In heaven the police are English,
      the French are the cooks,
      the wives are Japanese,
      all houses are American,
      the Italians are the lovers,
      and everything is organized by the Germans.

      In hell the English are the cooks,
      the French are the police,
      the wives are American,
      the houses are Japanese,
      the Germans are the lovers,
      and everythin

  • Paired Competition (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dahwang (973539) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:17AM (#19996987)
    I think one of the problems with the US market is the way that it was initially set up. When cell phones started breaking out into mainstream use, service providers such as Sprint, AT&T, the Bell's, all had contracts with specific cell phone manufacturers such as LG, Samsung, Motorola. Alot of phones are sold exclusively by one provider and are not available with another service. In asia, this is usually not the case. Many phones use a SIM card (similar to cingular), which really allows the phone to be connected to a network. The phones are sold separately and are not associated with only one service provider. Thus, you can use almost any cell phone with any provider. In this way, it makes the cell phone manufacturers compete with the design and functionality of their new phones, and for service providers to compete only with their quality and cost of connection service. You can buy a phone separately and choose any service provider. If you choose to leave that provider, you can keep your phone and go to another service provider. it's that simple. In America, if you really want that specific certain phone, you have to buy it from Verizon or other. In the same way, you have to buy a NEW phone if you decide to switch providers. The fact that American companies do not do this, is an injustice to the american people. For America to claim to be the archetypical capitalistic economy yet still stifle innovation for the accrueing of profit is something we shouldn't stand for. I doubt anyone here is happy with their level of service.
    • by tppublic (899574) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:31PM (#19998307)
      The fact that American companies do not do this, is an injustice to the american people. For America to claim to be the archetypical capitalistic economy yet still stifle innovation for the accrueing of profit is something we shouldn't stand for.

      While I understand that people love black and white/good and evil stories, this isn't that simple.

      CDMA is often deployed in the United States because the technology has been developed for larger cell sizes than the GSM/GPRS/EDGE systems deployed in Europe. This is highly beneficial in areas where population density is low (think suburbs). Deploying GSM across the United States would be significantly more expensive than deploying CDMA.

      GSM systems using SIM cards were highly advantageous in allowing users to keep a single (expensive) phone and to purchase multiple SIM cards in different countries if they were moving around Europe. The political boundaries and separate companies operating the networks almost demanded the GSM design. The lack of a contiguous network (back when GSM was developed - universal Europe roaming is now relatively common) drove the separation of the phone from the connection identifier (part of the SIM card). This situation doesn't exist in the United States, because the FCC auctions off frequencies in extremely large geographic blocks, and the wireless providers were very quick to provide nationwide coverage (even if it did have large roaming fees 5+ years ago)

      There are also other subtleties. CDMA is a US-developed technology, while GSM/GPRS/EDGE was developed in Europe. If you don't think that makes a difference to other countries deploying the systems, then you're wrong. These volume differences at the manufacturing level then impact price of the basestation systems... and the advantages of GSM drove countries with large population densities (think most of Asia) to deploy it. It is areas with larger rural populations (Brazil and parts of India, where CDMA is successful)

      The net effect of using CDMA makes it much more difficult to separate the phone from the network. The system wasn't designed for it. Yes, there are identifiers in the phone that would allow it, but having separate SIM devices (the GSM model) is much more flexible and much of the basis for the difference in corporate behavior on the network (it's easy to not activate a phone due to a certain policy, but very hard not to allow use of a device where the only authentication is from a SIM card, so the service provider doesn't know what the hardware is)

  • Size matters? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by andy753421 (850820) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:21AM (#19997055) Homepage
    I don't know how true this is, but I've always assumed that the United States has a harder time upgrading to new technologies than places like Japan because of size and population density. In some place like Japan or Europe a cell phone tower will cover quite a few people, in Montana however.. not so much. This doesn't have anything to do with new cell phone designs, but more with prices for text messaging and such. Does anyone know how united states technology compares to places like Russia/Canada/China/Brazil/Australia?
  • Several points... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blueZ3 (744446) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:35AM (#19997323) Homepage
    The poster's right about phones not being extremely cheap, but generally speaking people pay significantly less than "retail" for their phones when they sign up for a contract. The phone subsidy is how the wireless company gets you to agree to a longer contract. I paid ~$50 for my RAZR, which seems pretty reasonable. The way it works is that you either get a cheap phone and a service contract, or you pay more and get an unlocked top-of-the-line model. It's not that complicated.

    Another point is that the "national network" thing is more important than you might think. Sure Japan needs a greater cell tower density than the flat states because of terrian similar to Colorado, but here in the States not only are there numerous mountainous states, each of those states has a significantly greater land area than Japan. Think about the number of cell towers needed for 377,873 sq km as opposed to 9,631,420 sq km

    It doesn't seem to me that there's some evil conspiracy by wireless providers to prevent customers from getting "good" phones. But complaining that you can't get a top-end phone on the cheap is silly
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by erroneus (253617)
      They may be paying "less than retail" but "retail" is a value set that is well above manufacturing and materials costs. The "below retail" price is still a huge profit value to them.

      But I think there's more to this than the original poster has touched on. The problem is actually much larger than cell phones. A look at communications in general should be examined... at look at utilities at large even. What we find in the US is that service providers require regulation and a set of minimal standards to ge
  • Broken Premise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by njfuzzy (734116) <ian@ian-[ ]om ['x.c' in gap]> on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:37AM (#19997371) Homepage
    The premise underlying most iPhone criticism comes down to judging every device as merely the sum of its parts. People (pundits and punters) look at the bulletted feature list and say "other phones can do more". Try sitting down with an iPhone, and really using it. The added value is in usability-- not just slick and attractive interfaces, but ones that let you use the device quickly and easily.
  • by Ryan Amos (16972) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:39AM (#19997405)
    It's all about population density. Japan and most Asian and European countries are very densly populated. The reasons for this are many; good urban planning, good public transportation, lack of space, or simply the fact that the cities themselves grew in poverty or before the invention of the automobile.

    American cities are spread out. Most US cities didn't really start exploding in population until cars were ubiquitous. That meant that you could live 30 miles from your job and the commute wasn't prohibitive.

    The way wireless coverage area works, you don't need just twice as many towers to serve the same amount of people living at half the density of Europe, you need about 4 times as many. Forget the rural areas, covering the cities and suburbs is hard enough.

    Now factor in that even the densest of US cities, Los Angeles (90th most dense city in the world,) is only about 1/2 as dense as Tokyo, or a staggering 1/10 as dense as Seoul (source: http://www.citymayors.com/statistics/largest-citie s-density-125.html [citymayors.com] ). Most major Asian and European cities on the same scale. Because square area is an exponential function, you need 100 times as many towers to serve a population that is 1/10 as dense (you need less cells per tower, but it's still more physical locations to manage and upgrade.)

    With these sorts of density figures, it definitely starts to screw with the numbers. You can't upgrade as often and still make a profit, and you have to treat your customers like crap because you can't afford to treat them well and still make money (and if they weren't making money, we wouldn't be getting cell service.)

    You start looking at where you can make money, and it eventually leads to the fact that you have to make more off of every customer by nickel and diming them while you can't upgrade your network as quickly because it takes too long and is too expensive.
    • by Albanach (527650) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:00PM (#19997749) Homepage
      Europe is full of less densly populated areas that have far better coverage than similar areas in the US.

      Almost every village in Scotland has cell coverage from multiple providers. 3G coverage is spreading rapidly into the larger towns. Scotland has a population density about the same as Virginia or North Carolina yet has much better coverage. When it comes to ADSL, every telephone exchange is enabled, and 99% of the population has access to broadband. Absolutely not the case in the US.

      Whatever the reason for the lack of these things in the US, the population density argument isn't it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Guysmiley777 (880063)
        If you live in Europe I really don't think you can wrap your head around what we mean by rural in the United States. The state I grew up in (North Dakota) has a population density today of 3.6 people/km^2. The UK as a whole has 240/km^2, Scotland is 95/km^2. Oh, and North Dakota is over double the area of all of Scotland. It's hard to convey just how vast the area we're talking about is, even to some East and West coasters here in the U.S.
  • by mattis_f (517228) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:19PM (#19998077)
    Now, first I thought the poster was clueless, but then I saw some of the replies here, and jeez, guys, you're usually sharper than this.

    I'm European, but I'm currently living in the US (San Francisco) and I've also lived in Japan for six months. Let me dispel some myths for you.

    First, this is not a new phenomenon, these outdated cell-phones in the US. When I first came here in 2000, people looked at my phone (an Ericsson T28 World) like it was from outer space. Tiny, and with a standby time that lasted for two days. I stayed at a hostel the first few weeks, and the other room-mate there with a cell was amazed that I didn't need to recharge my phone every night... In general, the phones on sale in the US are two years behind Europe.

    Second, the cell phone market in the US and Japan is very different from the one in Europe. In Japan and the US there are several different technologies used, in Europe it's all GSM, mandated by law. This means that in Europe you can almost always bring your phone from one provider to the next - all you need to do is change the little sim-card inside the phone. This is much harder, and in many cases impossible, in the US and Japan.

    Third, in Japan, people have horrendously long commutes on public transport systems. This is why internet on tiny phone displays took off first there. Many people have 12-hour work days (or, at least, 12 hours away from home) - there isn't really time to sit down at a desktop computer and browse for fun in the evening. Americans, in contrast, commute by car. Maybe it's not such a hot idea to be reading your emails or checking out the latest slashdot story there...

    Fourth, just a side comment - I've seen several people here comment that "Europe is more densely populated, that's why cell phone coverage is better". To this I say: BS. Sweden or Finland are two of the least densely populated countries in Europe, way less populated than California, and still the cell phones are a couple years ahead of whats available here.

    Hope that helps. :-)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Maybe it is because the US has the best, most reliable land line network in the world from the days of the AT&T monopoly. Cell phones are just extra cost frippery that most of us don't need and would have to pay extra for.

      I own a cell phone, but only carry it when I am looking for a job, traveling, or someone in my family is sick. The rest of the time I consider it an expensive, high maintenance, unreliable pain in the rear end and leave it at home.

      • by skrolle2 (844387) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @03:20PM (#20000993)
        I was gonna say "mod parent up funny", then I realised you weren't joking.

        I understand that you don't want to carry around an expensive high-maintenance unreliable gadget, I wouldn't either. But when mobile phones are as cheap as landlines, and possibly even cheaper, and when you have a reliable continent-wide GSM network, and phones that are cheap and just work, interesting things happen.

        Over here, almost all schoolkids have their own phones, and they're using it ways that you and me cannot imagine. I'm 30. I'm an old geezer. I don't use my mobile that much, but I always have it with me. I like the fact that I can be reached instead of only reaching my home where my landline goes.

        But for the kids, it's much more, it's their social lifeline, it's their way to constantly keep in touch with their friends, all the time, every day. It's not a one-on-one device, groups of kids will call other groups of kids and talk about I don't know what. They send pictures like crazy, and are absolutely insane when it comes to text messaging.

        For teenagers today, the mobile phone have revolutionized social interaction, foor good and bad. They provide something that landlines, no matter their quality, can never do. Freedom from your parents, essentially.

        It has also changed for a lot of people in the twenties, I know several who simply don't have a landline in their homes anymore. Why should they, they have their mobile, everyone that needs to reach them has that number, and why pay for an extra phone number, which costs more than your mobile, and is tied to one place? It's pretty low on your list of stuff to buy when you move into your own first home.
  • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:31PM (#19998301)
    You have the answer right there. The US market is not competing for the customers. They are more then happy to keep business as usual, and are not pushing the technology, just like their wired relatives. To them, there is no reason to roll out costly network upgrades to support the new technologies, because they control what technologies connect to their networks. This is unlike many other countries where the consumer decides what connects to the networks, the cell phone companies simply provide a SIM card that the user transfers to their different phones. Here the phones are locked down and stripped of their features. Look at Europe where many people own one phone but have several different "local" cell phone plans for the different areas where they frequently travel, they simply swap out the SIM card to use the other networks.
  • You think thats bad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Reapman (740286) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:38PM (#19998429)
    Try Canada... we probably won't even GET the iPhone up here, because what's the point when unlimited data doesn't even exist anymore. I think the top end data plan I saw was $200 a MONTH for 500 megs. Basic plans are about 4 meg's a month, and $12 per meg on top of that. I have a grandfathered, $50 a month for unlimited painfully slow GPRS, and even got someone asking to buy my account for quite a bit of $ because of it. Unless your rich or in an Enterprise organization there's no reason to have a smartphone up here with data capabilities. Oh and we get the same phones as the US, usually several months after the fact. As bad as the plans may be in the US compared to the rest of the world, it's still leaps and bounds beyond what we get.
  • by Com2Kid (142006) <com2kidSPAMLESS@gmail.com> on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:53PM (#19998691) Homepage Journal
    Seriously. 640x480 screen, 2MP+, broadband internet. FM radio? Hah, stream MP3s from your home PC!

    Yah they cost starting at $300+ w/o a contract. The problem is that the only way to get the really sexy Windows Mobile phones is without a contract, because so few carriers offer them!

    Heck, we have had sexy phones available here for years now!

    Link time:

    o2 XDA [gsmarena.com]

    I-Mate JasJar [gsmarena.com]

    The I-Mate ultimates are also coming out soon, and they are some awesome phones. With 128MB of RAM and a 520MHZ CPU, they also will be screaming along in terms of speed for general processing tasks.

    Ultimate 7150 [gsmarena.com]

    Ultimate 7150 [gsmarena.com]

    Anybody want an 8GB HD with their phone? Try the HTC Advantage X7500 [gsmarena.com]

    The issue is, finding any of these phones from a carrier. Once in a while a few of them end up on the big companies offerings, but far too often, they have to be purchased separately.

  • European Market (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tobe (62758) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @01:00PM (#19998821)
    Just to clear up a bit of misinformation below about the UK phone market:

    There are two ways to have a phone: Contract or Pay-as-You go.

    With Pay-As-You go you pay high costs for the handset and after that you buy calling credit which is typically a slightly higher price (than contract) per minute/text message. You can buy credit almost anywhere in the form of a scratchcard from the corner store or even from an ATM. There are no monthly charges. Typical text message cost is 10p (20c).

    On a contract you'll get the phone free or for some token price. A typical monthly charge would be in the £30 ($60) range but with that you'll generally get more free airtime (I get 600 minutes) and text messages (I get 1000) than all but the heaviest users will use in a month. It's more or less a flat fee. Data rates are currently expensive but getting cheaper.

    In the UK at least text messaging is extremely popular and not just amongst teenagers. I'm 35 and will generally use it more than the phone feature itself. I'm not unusual in this respect.

    The UK market is extremely competitive. Contract deals are improving almost every week (more free minutes/texts, lower monthly charges). Towards the end of a contract your provider will generally ring you and try to offer you better phones and better rates to stay with them. All for free. I tend to change my phone about every 18 months and currently have Sony Ericsson W950i and very nice it is too. I don't believe I've ever paid a penny for a handset.

    It sounds to me that one of the problems in the US market might be the inertia that the States has moving from one generation of technology to the other means that the market moves at a slower rate than the innovations. It could also be that the carriers simply aren't generating enough revenue from mobiles in a country where most land-line calls are are free. The only other reason why you're not getting the cool phones at reasonable prices might be that the providers are operating a cartel.

  • by rtechie (244489) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @01:17PM (#19999081)
    Japan has a telephone monopoly (NTT), as do many European nations, one way or another. These monopolies are tightly regulated so that, among other things, they simply CAN'T make customers sign up for multi-year contracts (at least tis was my experience with Orange and Virgin, YMMV). Since they can't offer a "discount" on the phone for the contract, all phones are sold at full price. A price which is lower that the full price for the phone would be in the USA because the manufacturers jack up the prices to (perversely) encourage customers to sign multi-year contracts because THEY MAKE MORE MONEY THAT WAY (the total of the carrier fees and the "discount" price you pay for the phone is almost always more than they would have made selling the phones individually).

    On top of that, there's phone locking. In Europe, all carriers and phones are GSM and all phones are interoperable between carriers simply by switching the SIM card. In the USA, despite the fact that MOST phones are GSM and have SIM cards, carriers implement locking to prevent users from moving phones from carrier to carrier. The locking must be removed by a hacker and it's probably illegal to remove it.

    But make no mistake, it is the fault of Motorola, Nokia, and now Apple for playing this reindeer game. You certainly CAN sell unlocked GSM phone in the United States that will work with many carriers. They could bow out of this nonsense and sell their phones in consumer electronics stores. Apple chose a partnering deal with AT&T out of greed.

    Right now the biggest problem is that the carriers have convinced the public that they HAVE to sign multi-year contracts in order to get phones. Go to a major carrier and try to sign up month-to-month, NON-PREPAID. It's only Virgin that's offering such plans now and they're being terribly squeezed by the Bells (remember what they did to Covad?).

    The solution here is clearly tighter regulation. Cell phone service in the USA has suffered due to the Wild West attitudes of the carriers. They had their chance. It's time for the government to step in and impose standards that will benefit consumers.

  • Japan vs West (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @01:27PM (#19999233)
    The author's story and stories like it are only half true.

    We always hear about how much better the devices in Asia are, and generally it's true.

    However what's certainly not true is that service plans in Japan are anywhere as good a value as in the USA or Canada.

    Having lived several years in Japan, I can tell you that although the author has a 3000 yen "voice" plan, it probably includes something like 20 to 40 minutes. Japanese rate plans are not measured by minutes however, rather time is priced according to a draconian function of time of day, location, day of the week, and destination network, and deducted from your voice pool. Once the author exhausts his base 3000 yen (about 30 minutes say), another formula kicks in charging upwards of 70 cents per minute if used on a weekday during the daytime to a cell on another network. 30 minutes use for a $40 plan? Would that work in the USA or Canada?

    By the author's own admission, he never uses voice so he may not have noticed. However, attempting to use a phone for professional purposes, where the majority of work is done via voice, you can see how the Japanese carriers' ARPU is astronomical compared to the USA, where competition may not improve devices but it certainly drives down price.

    Surely it's this increased ARPU that allows Japanese carriers to monstrously subsidize flashy, impressive handsets for both business and personal users.
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @01:53PM (#19999645)
    I just changed services yesterday. I drove the salesperson nuts but I didn't get a single condition I wanted. Every single service was the same, there were no options. Everyone had two years contracts where as I wanted no more than a one year. I wanted an iPhone but I can't swing it. If I want out of the contract in a year it'll cost me $200. Well I thought that was for the extra cost of the cell phone. Nope the store will charge me $200 if I cancel in less than six months because they are paying for the phone. The $200 the phone company is charging is simply because they can. I paid an extra $100 to get a razor, it may be trendy but it seemed the best option. The salesperson also lied to me that I didn't have to send in for the $50 rebate, I wasn't happy about that. I was also annoyed that I didn't want text messaging or internet but I was warned that if I recieve a text message or accidentally hit the button for the internet I'd be charged. I asked can I disable it? No I couldn't. So if some one decides to text message me I get charged. They also lied about that. I was told it'd be $0.10 a message. When I got the contract it turned out to be $0.15 a message. Basically there were no options with the service and they were all the same. That's essentially price fixing when every company decides to set the same conditions and give no options. I even asked if there was an option of buying a phone outright, paying $300, and not have a contract? Nope, not a single service offered to sell you a phone and sell you a monthly service. It's a scam to lock you into 24 month contracts and they are all involved. There are a couple like Virgin offering monthly contracts or pay as you go but they are very expensive and the support on Virgin was miserable beyond belief, that was the service I cancelled. When my battery went dead I tried switching the service to a new phone. I only wound up killing both phones and tech support after over an hour was of no help. I wish I could recommend Virgin but their plans suck and if you need support they'll put you through hell. I happened to talk to one of their reps when I tried to buy the replacement phone and she admitted that support was by far their biggest complaint but their upper management had no plans to fix the mess. They are a last ditch service so they aren't responsive to their customers. Everyone is complaining about iPhones but when you compare them to what else is out there I can't see anything better. The phone itself is expensive but the service providers tend to be six of one and half a dozen of the other. Cell phones in general lack options. Your only choice buying a cell phone or not buying one, they spoonfeed you conditions. Congress really needs to take on the phone companies over the condition fixing but first they have to stop taking tens of millions from the telecoms.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ErikZ (55491) *
      It sounds like you're thinking of a "Pay as you go" plan.

      I just bought a standard bar phone from t-mobile, 100$ gets you 1000 minutes.

      Since I don't really use my phone all that often, it's great for me.

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