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Communications Handhelds Hardware

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

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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  • 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.
  • 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
  • Re:An Explanation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:11AM (#19996861)
    He just used the iPhone as the starting point for his article, as that is the most "modern" american phone. Yet you seem to be extremely defensive about it. I say go away fanboy.
  • Welcome to America (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AP2k (991160) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:11AM (#19996865)
    You see, foreigner, in America, innovation costs money. In American society, profit is the bottom line and the only winner is the company. If the company can change the lineup just enough to keep the sheeple fooled into buying in to slightly different products, the CEO gets a nice, fat bonus. (The same goes for Apple, btw.)

    And here I thought everyone was well-versed on the sad state of corporate America.
  • 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.
  • Simple... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:13AM (#19996915)
    because cellphones are meant to make calls, not be this confusing multi-use minicomputer uber-device people want it to be. Jamming too many functions in a small device makes it much less useful than if you just give it some core functionality (phone + directory), and leave other functionality to other specialty devices.

    People's obsession with fancy-ass gadgets only serves one purpose: to have a bigger tech-penis than their friends. Get over yourselves.

    Since Slashdot mods equate speaking the fucking truth as "trollish", I'm not going to damage my karma, if you wonder why this post is AC.
  • 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.
  • 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 ... ;-)
  • 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 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:An Explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dahwang (973539) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:20AM (#19997033)
    I think you're missing the point. This isn't a rip on the iPhone, but on the American cell phone industry as a whole. There are many things lacking here.

    If you've ever been overseas to a developed Asian country, you'll understand. If you haven't, I don't blame you for your shortsightedness.
  • Re:An Explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kamakazi (74641) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:21AM (#19997057)
    He didn't say his phone was better than an iPhone, he said the features which are touted as new on the iPhone are not as novel or original when compared to the phones on the Japanese market.

    In fact, I think his actual question was more like "Why are the features of the iPhone exciting, when the U.S. market should have been providing those or similar features already"

    He doesn't dis the iPhone (other than implying it and all other U.S. phones cost too much).

    In fact, his question is not low level enough. What he should be asking is why can't I buy a phone from any vendor, then a SIM card from a service provider, and plug it in and go?

    Why do we in the U.S. have to even deal with ATT to get an iPhone? Why can't I just put a Verizon SIM card in my Nokia 3200? Why is the U.S., arguably the technology forerunner for a lot of the 20th century, falling so far behind so quickly? I mean, "No Child Left Behind" shouldn't have done that much damage yet!!

    I think that what is happening is a stratification of economy. In the U.S. we have "evolved" past the customer is always right business model, and entered the age where a companies most important job is pleasing stockholders, not customers. Europe and Japan were quick to adopt (and improve) many of our technological advances in manufacturing, etc. over the past hundred years, I just hope they have the wisdom to avoid adopting our economic "advances" now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:24AM (#19997097)
    The poor comparison of the US vs rest of world may be a result of failure to adopt GSM and/or to lock GSM phones to a single carrier.

    In the non-locked GSM model used by most of the rest of the world (in particular Europe & Japan) the phone manufacturers are competing just based on features/cost and the carriers can only differentite themselves based on pricing since the phones are portable across carriers. Decoupling of phone choice and carrier choice, and phone manufacturer and carrier, creates much more competition than the US model where carriers try to limit customer choice in order to maximize revenue (e.g. disable phone features such as ring tone upload or photo download to force customer to pay to do things via their networks that the phone itself would let you do for free).

  • 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.
  • Re:Featuritis (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Swampash (1131503) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:34AM (#19997293)
    Comparing the release of the latest overhyped Apple gadget with the invention of the World-wide Web might be just a little bit... over-the-top, don't you think?
  • 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?
  • Re:An Explanation (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:35AM (#19997319)
    You have a two year old phone that has a multi-touch interface, minimal physical buttons, and interfaces with iTunes?

    Which one is it? Because I'd like to search Ebay to see I can get my hands on a used one.
  • 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
  • by sepluv (641107) <blakesley@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:35AM (#19997327)
    Actually 10p is the normal rate for pay-as-you-go texts over here (regardless of what that article says). Regular texters can also get a pay-as-you-go text pack (where you buy a lot of texts at once) or sign up for a contract (where you usually get lots of free texts).
  • Re:An Explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:37AM (#19997367)

    ...and interfaces with iTunes
    you keep saying that, like it's a good thing.
  • Broken Premise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by njfuzzy (734116) <ian@i3.14159an-x.com minus pi> 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 justaj (915459) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:37AM (#19997377) Homepage
    I think technology is more ingrained into Japanese culture than it is in ours. Of course we have our spots (California, Washington, and parts of the east coast) but all in all I think this country has adopted a K.I.S.S. mantra. For everything really. I think phones have stayed simple because the populace hasn't demanded anything different. They accept the phones that are available and the majority do not import them from other countries. Nearly every phone maker that does business all over the globe picks and chooses which models will be sold where. We're the richest country in the world. Wouldn't you think they'd sell us everything they had? The fact is they don't and I happen to believe its because of our culture. I love the iPhone. Its the best phone i've ever used. It's already causing some waves. A provider, i forget which, just added visual voicemail to their service. (VV has been around for quite a while in Europe i believe.) I hope that it pushes competitors to start giving us full featured phones (like what is available in Japan and Europe) and not these crappy Razrs.
  • 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 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.

  • Re:An Explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CogDissident (951207) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:40AM (#19997419)
    Please stop and read your own posts before you write them. You're saying that american consumers "do not want more do-dads"? Are you certifiably insane? We'd attach a spork to a blender if we thought it would be beneficial.
  • 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 DrDitto (962751) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:42AM (#19997443)
    I hate talking on my cell phone with voice data compressed down to 9.6 kb/s. The POTS copper lines devote 56 kb/s to voice data. I can actually have a conversation without straining to pick up overly compressed speech. Yup, the U.S. has a well-developed copper telephone system and I prefer to use it whenever I'm in my home or office.
  • 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 _Sprocket_ (42527) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:46AM (#19997517)

    You see, foreigner, in America, innovation costs money. In American society, profit is the bottom line and the only winner is the company. If the company can change the lineup just enough to keep the sheeple fooled into buying in to slightly different products, the CEO gets a nice, fat bonus. (The same goes for Apple, btw.)

    And here I thought everyone was well-versed on the sad state of corporate America.
    How insightful! Profit is obviously the issue. Its not like European companies, or Japanese companies who the parent article uses as a direct comparison, are motivated by profit! Profit must be an entirely US-centric concept. It must be stopped.

    Oh - and congratulations on your hip and edgy use of the word "sheeple." It truely marks you as someone who refuses to follow the crowd. You're a rebel. A deviant. Someone who thinks on their own terms and refuses to follow trends. In fact, you're so cutting-edge that Scion has a commercial just for you [youtube.com]! You don't get that kind of treatment unless you're ahead of the curve.
  • by ianare (1132971) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:48AM (#19997565)

    Manufacturers have seen this and responded accordingly.
    By making the simple phones with no extra functionality more expensive than a fully loaded device in Japan?
  • I agree completely (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:49AM (#19997589) Homepage
    I agree. I'm actually happy with my cellphone and what I pay for it. I could care less about all of the neat-o features that Japanese people and European people apparently love. I pay Sprint something like $100/month for essentially unlimited phone calls anywhere, and I'm cool with that.
  • Re:An Explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoohickeyJones (605261) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:50AM (#19997595)

    No, we would attach a spork to a blender if we thought it would make us look cool.

    We don't care if it is actually useful.

  • Re:unlocking ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @11:58AM (#19997717) Homepage Journal
    I think you by accident have managed to mention the REAL problem here: The binding between phone and provider, a.k.a. "locking". No US phone company will sell you a phone that hasn't been locked to them, and usually also crippled. And almost no customers know that they can buy phones that haven't been locked in the first place. And the few that do know that tend to ignore it, because in the US, shopping for the /cheapest/ and not the best is the way of life.
    So customers buy whatever phones the phone company makes available. Which is whatever is cheapest for the phone company -- either by the phones being old models that the manufacturer will sell them for a pittance, or by them not having functionality that might cut into the phone company's own revenue stream (like uncrippled file transfer over BlueTooth, WiFi or USB).
    Worth noting here is that a great many Americans are poor, and can't afford anything except the cheapest available. While there's plenty of rich people here, they're not nearly as plentyful as the less rich, who have to turn the penny over before spending it. The median income in the US is way lower than other Western countries. This too drives what's being made available.
    Combined with an unwavering belief Americans have that we're the prime nation on earth with the most technologically advanced equipment god and money can buy, they really THINK that what they're getting is state of the art, when in reality it's so obsolete and limited that the average European or Japanese wouldn't take it for free.

    The overall mentality of corporate control and buying based on price more than anything else is also reflected in other ways in the US. Look at TV and radio, for example. Where many if not most western countries now have all the programming in wide screen, and radio broadcasts are digital, in the US, you still can buy low-res 4:3 TVs and people still listen primarily to FM (and even AM!). They still sell cassette tapes here, for crying out loud! 10+ Mbps internet which is common in Europe? Can't even get it most places, and Americans consider a crippled 0-256 kbps shared DSL line "broadband".

    Back to the reasons why the US is such a technological backwater: I think it's mostly due to the demographics, with the median income being so low (meaning that most people don't have a lot of money), but also the capitalist system's propensity for ending up with very few and very large companies with near-monopolies or oligopolies in their areas, making it possible for them to sell their customers whatever makes the most profit, and where the customer's only real choice is to take it or leave it.

    Where I live, I have the choice between Verizon for mobile phone (T-Mobile works in good weather, but with spotty coverage), Comcast for cable TV and AT&T for phone. Thus they can offer whatever makes the most profit to /them/ and not me, and I have the choice between buying from them or not buying at all. Cause a free market doesn't imply that there will be competition, but almost always causes monopolies and oligopolies to form.
  • 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:An Explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Billosaur (927319) * <.ten.enilnotpo. .ta. .rehtorgw.> on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:00PM (#19997773) Journal

    Already there. I don't need my mobile doing everything under the sun. I don't want to be able to surf the web on my phone, don't need it to be my electronic organizer, or even take pictures/video. I need it to be a reliable communications device, which it most assuredly is not. When my reception is not failing the phone is exhibiting all sorts of quirks that make it the electronic equivalent of a schizophrenic.

    And face it -- the average consumer only buys these things because marketers tell them they should. I suspect if you took a random sample of 1 million cell phone users in the US, you'd find a good chunk of them don't use most of the functions their phone offers, and a subset of them probably don't even know they have certain capabilities in their phone.

  • Re:An Explanation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ngarrang (1023425) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:01PM (#19997783) Journal

    Please stop and read your own posts before you write them. You're saying that american consumers "do not want more do-dads"? Are you certifiably insane? We'd attach a spork to a blender if we thought it would be beneficial.

    Correction: I wrote "most American consumers". There is a segment that demands the newest, greatest, most feature replete product that Japanese scientists can create. This segment, like the video gamers for PCs, are the ones that push development and create the cutting-edge. But, this segment is small, compared to the rest of the consumers, people you might call 'average'. These people are content to pay as little money as possible for the phone as long as they have roll-over minutes, or more more shared-minutes, or the ability to track who has been calling your daughter. If you look at the cheapest of the cheap, they still offer a ship load of features.

  • Re:An Explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by evel aka matt (123728) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:06PM (#19997869)

    He didn't say his phone was better than an iPhone, he said the features which are touted as new on the iPhone are not as novel or original when compared to the phones on the Japanese market.

    In fact, I think his actual question was more like "Why are the features of the iPhone exciting, when the U.S. market should have been providing those or similar features already"
    The features of the iPhone are *not* really exciting. I've been doing just about everything the iPhone does on my US market cellphones for years now. What makes the iPhone exciting is the IMPLEMENTATION. Browsing on my MDA, my Treo, or any one of the numerous devices I had in the past was a miserable experience at best. Browsing on the iPhone, even on EDGE, is 400000x better. That's just one example.

    I don't think any meritorious argument for the iPhone is based on the feature list.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:13PM (#19997985)
    How do you explain, that for example Belgium is larger then (greater) LA, and has less inhabitants, but still manages to have cheaper and better cell service. (I live(d) in both, so I am talking first hand experience).

    Second, if I am not mistaken, cell phones were at some point greatly pushed forward in the Scandinavian countries, because - get this - it was cheaper to cover the sparsely populated and vast areas in the north with towers, then to connect them all with wires.

    The matter of the fact is, that in the US the customer is just being ripped off, and that call phones carriers are intend on making as much money from it, without investing a lot of money. The US has a culture that encourages life today, forget tomorrow attitude. Long terms plans and gains are not in peoples agenda. Short term gains rules everything. Just look at how people is the US spend their money, how much they are in debt, and how much they save.
  • 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 pthor1231 (885423) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:17PM (#19998051)
    Except companies like VZW intentionally cripple your phone so you can't do things no it without paying them. My Motorola E810 or whatever it is, has full bluetooth capabilities....if you don't buy it from Verizon. If you do buy it from Verizon, you can only connect a bluetooth headset, can't move files via bluetooth, and can't move files to and from the transSD slot either. Thankfully I was able to load a custom firmware and re-enable those features support. This is kind of similar to the iPhone not being capable of using a mp3 as its ringtone. I'm sorry, but the capability is there, its a fucking iPod. I'm sure att has some plan in the future to roll out some sort of ringtone buying plan.
  • Re:An Explanation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:20PM (#19998099)
    Capitalism. Verizon doesn't have a "SIM" card. There are 3 different competing technologies in the US. Europe (and presumably Japan) mandated GSM. It's easier to come out with cool stuff if you don't have to design around 3 different carriers. I love my SIM card and the fact that I can switch phones in a second with AT&T. It took my parents almost a day to switch phones on Verizon. Apparently this isn't an important enough feature for people to swing behind one standard as with VHS vs Beta. Once that format war was settled all the 'cool' stuff started coming out. It's going to be the same with Blu-Ray vs HD. Companies are being conservative, you'd be in trouble if you put all your best engineers behind Blu-Ray and HD won. So companies are playing it safe.

    Not to mention. We don't even use the same GSM frequencies. I don't know if that's because what the FCC decided to open up, but you can't even bring over a phone from the Europe because it won't work on our frequencies.

    Slashdot is almost always up in arms when the US government mandates what technology. What if tomorrow 3 new bills were introduced into House & Senate: Blu-Ray is the next generation DVD format, Digital 8 shall be the only digital tape format sold in the US and AAC was the only format that could be sold in the US?

    Do you want capitalism or do you want to push technology forward?
  • by yl_mra (809735) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:27PM (#19998225)
    Absolutely correct! Point in case, when Motorola offered a real cutting edge phone to Verizon (Not sure if I got the correct contracting company) and only a small portion of the new technology was used. The phone was developed under contract and I expect that the technology and any associated patents belonged to either the contracting company or both companies which allowed the comtracting company to gain a large amount of leverage in our market. Only a small portion of the technology was made available allowing the company to milk the market for every available dime. As a result, the large company makes lots of money and our world wide competitiveness suffers. In the long-run; America looses and the multi-nationals gain.

    Yep, Free Market at it's best.

    Late breaking information; looks like Verizon and Motorola may be getting ready to compete! Google 'motorola cell phone verizon killer'.

  • 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.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:33PM (#19998339) Homepage
    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 get them to push beyond what they presently offer and needed to be pushed to get them where they are today. They don't like change and they don't like risk. They like to keep things controlled, regular and predictable. If this means offering less, then that's what they want to do. It is most often the utility commission that will force them into improving infrastructure and service selection. Keep in mind that this applies to everything from Electric power to mobile phone service... from cable TV to broadband service.

    These industries like to cherry-pick and have no driving need to innovate. The biggest reason why? Not enough competition and too much monopoly power. They'd rather make the same money every year using and abusing customer than to waste money on R&D... let someone else do it right? If you're a T-Mobile customer, you probably already see that attitude loud and clear since you're the last one to get a selection of really cool phones...
  • by sunking2 (521698) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:37PM (#19998395)
    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 @12:37PM (#19998407)
    It's not just density, it's density and scope. When you've got a really well designed dense area you have people leading most of their lives in a much smaller square footage foot print. In the US people move around alot. which means that a fledgling service has to start with a much larger foot print even to be considered. And because of the density that much large initital roolout may not even allow for as many potential cutomers, so the cost of entry into the market in the US is much higher.
  • Re:An Explanation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Spellvexit (1039042) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:39PM (#19998431)
    I want to chime in at my disbelief at the American cell phone model. I lived in Taiwan for 4 years, and during that time bought my first cell phone. It was basic, crude, and perfect for me. The phone company (Chunghwa/Zhonghua) there allows you to buy timecards for your phone that are good for a set amount of money. Because I used my phone for basic communication and messaging, I could stretch that 500NT (about $15 US) over two months or so before buying a new one, essentially spending under $10 a month on calls.

    So when I moved back to the U.S. in October, I was appalled at the inability to buy cell phones individually and the length of the contracts you had to sell your soul to. Admittedly, you *could* buy an individual cell phone, but the prices were so blatantly ridiculous as to coerce you to purchase a contract along with it. We bought the cheapest Nokia bricks along with our contracts.

    However, not all companies lock you into a phone. We went with T-Mobile, and my wife was able to install their SIM chip on her Nokia from Taiwan. Unless things have changed, I believe Cingular also uses this model.

    Perhaps Taiwan will eventually figure out how to exert the stranglehold American companies have on contracts bound to phones, but for now, I much prefer their system where you pick a phone, THEN pick a carrier.
  • 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:An Explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trails (629752) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:44PM (#19998539)
    Because the north american gov'ts are too bedazzled by arguments of "free market forces" to realise that they need to legislate standardisation for the common good.

    Standardisation isn't really meaningful to the consumer unless everyone is doing it (the gain to the consumer is mobility and interoperability, but this only happens if everyone is standardised). Hence, there is no competitive advantage to be gained by standardising (essentially a variation of the prisoner's dilemma). Hence, it will not happen unless forced on the industry, it's too happy providing shitty, dated, overpriced services to consumers and claiming "difficulties in interoperability" between wildly different formats and protocols as an excuse.
  • Re:An Explanation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nnm.one (1103799) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:47PM (#19998585)
    Though what I've noticed is that when a full featured phone is released here in Europe, the US model is always degraded in hardware & software, so it's not just the provider thing.

    The Nokia E61 is a perfect example of (what I consider the best phone I've ever had), and the phone was released in the US as Nokia E62 without wifi and other limitations. That must have been really frustrating for someone that wanted it in the US. And I've seen this happen alot.
  • 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.

  • by danskal (878841) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @12:59PM (#19998807)

    it is very difficult to get a big, powerful fun toy

    If you need a toy, get some Lego (TM) - otherwise, grow up and get a life.

    I will fully support peoples wishes to have a muscle car, the day they legislate that exhaust pipes should terminate inside the driver's compartment.

    "What?? Are you crazy?? That's poisonous gasses that will kill you!!" - I hear you say.....

    Funny that - what makes it suddenly safe for everyone else when you pump it into the air outside??

    Don't get me wrong, I realise that people have a need for transport - but I don't think there's any excuse for destroying everyone's clean air/health/environment just for your own personal definition of 'fun'.

    For example, if a pyromaniac thinks it would be great fun to set light to your prized Cayenne, that doesn't mean he should be allowed to.... right???

    /m
    ----------

    Who needs karma, anyways.....?
  • 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 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.
  • Re:unlocking ... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @01:09PM (#19998979)
    If I may offer a contrarian sounding opinion. Hidden behind the apparent locking of the iPhone to a particular provider lies a concept I don't hear mentioned often. Apple has actually unlocked the manufacturer from the provider. I know this sounds contrary to what we see, but think about it. Where can you get an iPhone? Two places, AT&T stores and APPLE stores. Apple has created a technological and marketing infrastructure that simply has AT&T plugged into it right now. But, the mainstream consumer is being prepped for going somewhere other than an AT&T store, a Sprint store, a T-Mobile store, or what have you, to get a phone. A slick phone. A phone pretty much unlike any phone any existing provider already sells. Apple, in a fashion that rings like the Carter Phone decision, has stealthily created just that environment--decoupling the manufacturer from the network.
  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @01:55PM (#19999681)
    "You have obviously never been around an office filled with cellphones that all have the same ring. "

    True, but I have worked with people who had a functional sense of touch, and their phone set on vibrate.* "Hey Joe is that your phone vibrating or are you just happy to see me?"

    *Especially since most businesses severly limit cell phones ringing while you work.
  • Re:An Explanation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 26, 2007 @02:21PM (#20000159)
    I've 'said' it once.

    You may not use iTunes but a great many of us normals do. I know the media isn't in an obscure enough format for you. I know it is offered by a large corporation that isn't Google. I know you lie awake at night worried about proprietary this and locked in that.

    Most of us don't, we just want our gadgets to work and Apple has delivered exactly that when it comes to digital music. Time will tell if they have also done it with mobile communications, but iTunes integration isn't exactly going to hurt their chances.

    So you go ahead and drag and drop your media files from /home to wherever your phone pops up when you plug it in, if it does at all. Files you found on Magnatunes despite the 1990s era interface it offers from Rhythmbox. Enjoy the feeling of freedom you get when you spend 100 man hours to accomplish what most of us invest a few seconds in.
  • by Guysmiley777 (880063) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @02:32PM (#20000321)
    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.
  • Re:An Explanation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by devnull17 (592326) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @02:37PM (#20000395) Homepage Journal
    Your post would probably be a lot more coherent if you could manage to stop making out with your iPhone for a few minutes while you typed.

    Before I get into an iPhone rant, let me just point out that the article isn't even about the iPhone. It's about the poor selection and ridiculous rates imposed on us by major wireless carriers in the US. (Somehow saying "everyone should just get an iPhone" rebuts that?) And it's absolutely true. Please explain to me why I should have to pay orders of magnitude more to send a 20-character text message than I do to make a minute-long call. Or why Verizon et. al. can get away with locking out most of the functionality in every handset they sell, only to resell those functions in diluted form for a monthly fee. It probably comes down to an apathetic consumer movement or some sort of collusion among the major providers or something like that. But anyway, about your hot, sweaty romance with the iPhone...

    The only person I know of who thinks removing buttons from user interfaces is a good idea is Steve Jobs. Personally, I like tactile feedback. Maybe it doesn't appeal to your minimalist aesthetic tastes, but I can dial my Samsung A690 in the car without causing a major traffic accident.

    I also care a great deal about vendor lock-in. I'm stuck with a large collection of iTMS songs that I flat-out can't use, because the Vista 64 implementation of iTunes is so poorly written that just playing a song drags the whole system to a crawl.

    I also have yet to talk to anyone I respect who thinks people will be lining up in droves to develop web apps for iPhone. And wow, it runs OS X. What, exactly, does that get you? Especially in exchange for the multi-gig OS image that effectively renders the thing incapable of storing more than one movie at a time?

    I'm glad you like your iPhone. But it doesn't mean the rest of us are stupid for not being impressed with an overpriced, underfeatured toy that can't do several things my four-year old Samsung can do. (Voice recognition? How can a phone without buttons not have voice recognition? That doesn't strike anyone else as incredibly stupid?) I'm much more impressed with people that evaluate products on their merits, and not on the brand stamped on the back.

    Oh, and enjoy your $2,000 Cingular contract. If that exclusive deal wasn't a poison pill that drove hundreds of thousands of potential customers away, I don't know what is.
  • by King Gabey (593144) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @03:05PM (#20000825)
    As someone who's been in Japan, that is categorically false. People in Tokyo love their gadgets. From what I've seen it's even more sheik to have the latest phones there than here. Perhaps that's the reason. I agree we Americans are generally content to feed on whatever crappy pricing corporations feed us. For example, Verizon's "rent-a-ringtone" plan.
  • by posys (1120031) <{moc.ytinifnImaeT} {ta} {posys}> on Thursday July 26, 2007 @05:04PM (#20002505) Homepage
    The author of this is correct, America is the land of the Slave and Home of the Fee when it comes to work and expenses.

    Answer is here http://teaminfinity.com/robo_wageless_lofs [teaminfinity.com]

    Mac makes great stuff, no question, alas this is not the point. The point is that America is a land of fools.

    When you have so many fools, there can be no competition. Consider it this way, the shrewder you are, the better it is more everyone else. On the other hand, the more foolishly you spend your money, the higher prices will go until it hits a limit, and all the smart people will be treated just as crappy as everyone else since there are still enough fools around to make ripping everyone off still make CENTS. And for those of you who feel everything is just fine, this is because you are part of the interlocking triumvirate and benefit from the "way things are" at others expense. This works for awhile until there is nothing left to "steal" and those being stolen from have nothing left to give. This is the beginnings of ALL WARS.

    There is an oligarchy of business concerns in America who have jointly set up this rat race, commandeered the government's regulatory prerogative, and are running 96.34523 +/- % of the populace ragged. These business concerns have even started to inhale its citizens into the meat grinder of war. For the answer to these issues: visit: http://teaminfinity.com/robo_wageless_lofs [teaminfinity.com] and for pete's sake, share YOUR thoughts with us and others re: the NO BRAINER solution ROBOTICS and the WAGELESS ECONOMY offers, and how we should demand our "leaders", asleep at the wheel of destiny lining their own pockets, to FASTTRACK the ROBOTIC WAGELESS ECONOMY TODAY !!! Thanks for your time and helping yourself so everyone can WIN !!

  • by jamar0303 (896820) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @08:16PM (#20004685)
    Yes, let's see.
    W41CA: $50
    iPhone: $500

    Enough said. Not everyone can afford an iPhone.
  • Who Is the Troll? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LuYu (519260) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @08:36PM (#20004837) Homepage Journal

    It is interesting for you to call his article a troll when you prove his point in your second statement. I quote:

    This is without even considering that the W41CA isn't available in the US so our excitement is based on comparing iPhone with what is.

    That was precisely his point: Why is it that no phone with functionality rivalling the iPhone was available until now? Why is it that these phones have been available in Japan for years?

    In his article, he was not comparing his phone for the sake of saying "My phone is better than your phone", he was pointing out that people waited in line all night to get functionality that has been available in Japan for nearly a decade and in the rest of the world for a few years. Who cares if the Casio phone has a touchscreen? The question is: does it allow you to do all or most of the things the iPhone does? It does not have to allow you to do those things in the same way.

    Your phone runs Opera Mini. iPhone runs full blown Safari.

    So, you are saying the US phone market does not suck because the iPhone has Safari. If that is not a red herring, we might as well choose another color. The argument also assumes that Safari is definitively better than Opera which is arguable at best.

    It has a shell. Third party apps will soon be hitting the web in droves.

    I certainly hope you are right, but I doubt it very much. Linux has a shell, too, and Motorola has been entirely successful in making it difficult or impossible to get access to it on their Linux phones. Apple will certainly behave similarly. Also, only people with a lot of cash and a need to show off buy iPhones, so the majority of its userbase are not geeks but yuppies. As you are probably aware, yuppies are about as intelligent as cattle and will doubtless be able to do little more than make calls with their iPhones.

    And iTunes support, you do not have that. The Casio can't play anything from the already large library of iTunes media that many of us already have. Call it vendor lock in if you want, we don't really care, we just want to enjoy our media.

    Vendor lockin is precisely what it is. I have been listening to mp3s on my phones for the last 4 years or so. Has the iPhone or even iTunes been available that long? My phone also has a USB port and mounts as a hard drive on any computer with zero software installation, so I can play or move my music to or from anyone's computer. Neither the Casio nor the iPhone can do that.

    But that is not the point. The point is that iTunes is not a standard. It is proprietary. Mp3s work with everything And please do not argue that iTunes audio tracks somehow sound better than mp3s.

    So, in the end, your argument is just a defense of the iPhone per se, and not a reasonable defense of the cellphone market in the US. In the end, it is your post that is both off topic and a troll.

  • Re:An Explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fractoid (1076465) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @10:23PM (#20005563) Homepage

    You must be young.
    If you have to be old to remember when something was bad, then it's no longer a problem.
  • by arminw (717974) on Friday July 27, 2007 @12:44AM (#20006433)
    .......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 many countries most people did not even have phones until cell phones were invented, whereas in the US almost everybody had a phone since at least the 1950s. That is true of even rural areas that STILL don't get even the faintest cell signal. They have had the good old fashioned land line phone, not too much different from what Alexander came up with more than a 100 years ago.

    Where we live there is no cell phone service. When young people come to visit us they are dismayed, but older folks are delighted to have a rest from being on an "electronic leash" 24/7. We do have DSL Internet however, so when the youngsters get desperate, they can check their email and let their most important friends and associates know that they have not fallen off the planet.

    I got a $20 prepaid cell phone which costs me about $40 for 6 months to maintain and keep fed with minutes. It's good enough to call from the airport or on car trips.

    It's in large measure because of its history, that the US phone system seems archaic, compared to countries where land line service has never been ubiquitous. In many ways, the US phone system IS archaic, but it works still well, for what it was designed for --- people talking to each other. Because a piece of wire is much simpler than complex radio equipment, a landline phone will ALWAYS be more reliable than wireless.
  • Re:Nokia N95? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by try_anything (880404) on Friday July 27, 2007 @03:07AM (#20007117)
    The phones they were comparing it with, besides regular crappy cell phones, were phones with stylus-based interfaces. For them, the biggest difference was pinching in and out on the iPhone vs. the ways that other phones deal with pages that are too large to display readably. I worry more about browser limitations and occasionally running into sites that either can't be rendered or can't be conveniently navigated. I've never seen an n95, but the first video I found [viddler.com] shows the n95 not doing quite as well as the iPhone and the n800 (a device I've had my greedy eyes on for months now). The reviewer can't get the n95 to display full versions of certain web pages instead of "mobile" versions. He tries to use touch with the n95 and n800 but quickly reverts to using the stylus on the n800 and the buttons on the n95. (Oops! I have the video running now, and the reviewer just demonstrated a web page that the n95 can't render because of lack of memory.)

    You can also see that with the n800 and n95, the reviewer has to use two hands to use certain browser features. That can be awkward if you don't have anything to put the device down on. The iPhone can be operated just fine with one hand.

    Heh, the reviewer just tried using touch again on the n800 and immediately switched back to the stylus. I cringe every time he reaches for the stylus. I don't understand why stylus interfaces suck. It defies common sense. They should be really nifty, but it just doesn't work out that way.

    Anyway, back on topic, judging from the video, the n95 seems a lot like the very best cell phones I've seen, maybe a bit better. Almost everything works, but it takes a little extra care and effort to do fundamental things, you run into limitations, and you have to learn a handful of tricks to keep things working right. (The reviewer says he had successfully loaded the normal, non-mobile version of gmail on the n95, but he couldn't demonstrate it for the review because he couldn't remember how.)

    For me, that just doesn't cut it. Every time you consider pulling out your phone and checking out something on the web, there's a little voice in the back of your head that asks, "Is it worth the effort? Is it going to piss you off and ruin your day if you spend half an hour trying to work around some limitation of the phone and never get to see what you wanted?"

    With the iPhone, you don't worry about running into any limitations or needing to clutter up your mind with tricks and techniques for using the browser. You just pull it out and use it. That, for me, is the threshold of acceptability for a web browser.

  • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Friday July 27, 2007 @09:44AM (#20009771) Journal
    Why do slashdot moderators give "insightful" to posts that are "wrong":

    In the non-locked GSM model used by most of the rest of the world (in particular Europe & Japan)

    Japan doesn't use GSM.

    http://euc.jp/misc/cellphones.en.html [euc.jp]

    • Can I buy a Japanese phone from my country?
      Unlike GSM phones, Japanese phones are tightly bundled with subscription and usually not sold alone. The only way is to buy a secondhand ("white ROM") phone.

    • Can I buy a Japanese phone when I visit Japan?
      Japanese phones are not sold alone. Buying a phone means making a postpaid monthly contract (except prepaid phones).

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