Friday, January 19, 2007

Do We Really Want Unlocked and Converged Mobile Phones in USA?

I think everyone would like to be part of the Nokia Blogger Review Program and get expensive unlocked N-Series phones for free on your door step. I have been very lucky to be part of that program for many months now.

I have enjoyed the benefit of having access to these powerful unlocked phones. Prior to being part of this program with Nokia I just took the free phones that the carriers gave out with minute plans.

I had never owned a smartphone until Andy Abramson sent me the Nokia N90 last winter. Prior to last December of 2005, I just had basic phones.

It must seem strange to those that have been following my WebTalk Radio past to know how mobile challenged I was just over a year ago. Getting this N90 phone was shocking to me to go from just a very basic phone to this MultiMedia computer as Nokia called this N90.

I have been a long-time user of a Dell Axim Pocket PC and that device really shaped my perceptions of what a mobile device should be able to do. In just over one year, I have gone from not needing or really wanting a smart phone to it being a requirement. Well to be fair it is pretty important for me to have one to use and test on here at Melodeo.

I have swung from one extreme to another in what I expect from a mobile phone. I also know that that based on my experience with my Pocket PC that I do want a convergence device. Many still claim that a functionally specific device will always be better. Well, I don't really agree as I am seeing the evolution of the Nokia N-Series devices and they just keep getting better and more able to do media well and still handle calls to perfection.

In the office, we just got in for testing the Nokia N95. I have already blogged about this device from Nokia as it is the one phone that takes me beyond even the Apple iPhone. Sure the iPhone is getting huge buzz, but it just does not do it for me like the N95 does.

I believe that the iPhone goes after a different user then me. Just like I have very little interest in an iPod. I find that my iRiver Clix with 2GB of flash memory is all I need to have and I also have 2GB's in my mobile phone memory.

I do like the complex convergence type devices like the N95, but the truth is that Nokia is making these phone easier to use all the time. I do like a phone that is more like a laptop then a phone. Now, I know the iPhone could fall under this heading with that big display. While simplicity and graphical interface coolness is a hallmark of all Apple devices. I just feel more akin to a mobile media computer like the N95 with a 5 megapixel still camera, built-in GPS and 30 frames per second video recording.

I also must say that I am attracted by the path less traveled and not walking the Apple path feels that way. I do think it is funny that Apple gets so much attention and buzz, but they are still very low in marketshare for adoption of a computer device like the MAC. I will be sticking with my Windows PC, Nokia or optional Windows Smartphone for some time into the future.

To get back to the discussion from above. I have pondered the question as to why anyone would want to willingly buy a locked phone. I love to get unlocked mobile cellular phones. I just wish that phone buyers here in the USA had more options to buy unlocked phones like people can do in Europe. Here in the USA the wireless carriers have such a hold on the market here, that companies like Nokia who sell unlocked phone directly to consumers here in the USA are slowly pushed out of the market and don't get new phones into the market by many of the wireless carriers.

Here is a list of USA online retailers that are selling unlocked phones.

http://www.egizmo.com
http://www.amazon.com
http://www.cellular-blowout.com
http://www.cellhut.com

The downside of the growth of direct selling of mobile phones here in the USA is that the purchase prices of the phones are at least double the usual carrier sales cost as all the carriers subsidise the cost of the phones with the 1 or 2 year contracts. We would all pay more for phones this way.

Here is a discussion around whether it is legal to unlock a currently locked to a carrier mobile phone. Kathy Gill, who teaches digital media at the University of Washington sent me a link to her WiredPen Blog that discusses a section of the copyright code that discusses whether it is legal to use third party software or unlock codes to free a locked to a carrier phone if you want to change carriers?

The Seattle PI wrote an article about this topic and the below is a highlighted area that should help expain the resolution issues.

"Unlocking a phone requires entering codes or a special set of numbers, which a cellular company may or may not share with the user. Verizon Wireless doesn't lock its cell phones. T-Mobile will unlock a customer's phone 90 days after fulfillment of the contract. Sprint won't unlock phones because it believes customers already benefit from a Sprint-subsidized phones, said Travis Sowders, a spokesman for Sprint Nextel. Cingular will do it upon request but only when a contract expires or under specific conditions, said Mike Broom, a Cingular spokesman."

I think in the long-run phone will be purchased like laptops and laptops will be more like phones. I can see a day when a wireless phone carrier is selling bundled laptops or UMPC's with their 3G/4G chips already inside the device and these carriers are also bundled with cable TV, digital phone phone, cable or fiber optic internet access.

The future is bundled and converged. Here comes AT&T and is Comcast far from AT&T's grasp. You will get a kick out of reading this article about Comcast buying AT&T in the USA Today from 2001. We may see another articl like this again you never know.
Rob Greenlee

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rob!
    The N-Series really are great phones. I have the N70 and the N91. Waiting to get my pawws on the remarkable N95 too, with GPS.

    I wish I had heard earlier about this blogger relations thing, as I could have introduced my mobile blogging concept system at noklog.com

    I really like that Nokia embraced blogging with their LifeBlog application, but it forces you to use TypePad. I also really like that they are embracing blogging again, with their 'Vox' app, via another SixApart product (though this one is free, unlike TypePad).

    All this is good, but it is forcing bloggers to change their blogging platform. I don't think 'true' bloggers really want to do that, so the noklog system (soon to have device specific rendering of the site itself - as well as the existing mobile publishing ui) will corsspost to your EXISTING blog. On most blogging platforms out there.

    It will also send your images on to your flickr account, if you have one and your videos to your YouTube account if you have one of those too.

    With additional (optional) location based metadata coming from the gps-enabled cameraphones, a similar system like bloghud.com can happen (Bloghud is a blogging system with the sam features, but from SecondLife users).

    The noklog system still has some work to b done in it, before I can open some more accounts up, but I'll be sure to contact all these 'nokloggers' out there (including you) when I have it ready ;)

    Cheers,
    Kosso

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