Mossberg: U.S. mobile phone system is an ‘intolerable, backward, stifling laughingstock’

“It’s intolerable that the [U.S.]… has trapped its citizens in a backward, stifling system when it comes to the next great technology platform, the cellphone,” Walt Mossberg writes for The Wall Street Journal.

“A shortsighted and often just plain stupid federal government has allowed itself to be bullied and fooled by a handful of big wireless phone operators for decades now,” Mossberg writes. “And the result has been a mobile phone system that… severely limits consumer choice, stifles innovation, crushes entrepreneurship, and has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the mobile-technology world, just as the cellphone is morphing into a powerful hand-held computer.”

“To my knowledge, only one phone maker, Apple Inc., has been permitted to introduce a cellphone with the cooperation of a U.S. carrier without that carrier having any say in the hardware and software design of the product. And that one example, the iPhone, was a special case, because Apple is currently the hottest digital brand on earth, with its own multibillion-dollar online and physical retail network,” Mossberg writes.

“Even so, Apple had to make a deal with the devil to gain the freedom to offer an unimpaired product directly to users. It gave AT&T exclusive rights to be the iPhone’s U.S. network for an undisclosed period of years. It has locked and relocked the phone to make sure consumers can’t override that restriction. This arrangement reportedly brings Apple regular fees from AT&T, but penalizes people who live in areas with poor AT&T coverage,” Mossberg writes.

Mossberg writes, “These restrictions have rubbed some of the luster off the best-designed hand-held computer ever made.”

Much more in the full article — highly recommended — here.

41 Comments

  1. It’s too bad AT&T;coverage is terrible where I live. I’d love to have an iPhone but will not use AT&T;. Come on T-Mobile, pay off AT&T;so you can get the iPhone.

    idea: What an idea for T-Mobile! Pretty please!

  2. Just as dinosaurs quickly became extinct, so too will these bloated corporate beasts. The world’s communication structure is moving much faster than these dolts can comprehend. Control is not their ally.

    Remember Verizon, AT&T;et. al., if you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up way too much space. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  3. Mossberg seems a bit schizophrenic here. He wants central planning for imposing technology standards, but doesn’t like companies with too much control. It looks to me like disruptive technology (e.g. iPhone) will do the job better. I’d much prefer the government didn’t get involved in picking winners.

  4. “Even so, Apple had to make a deal with the devil to gain the freedom to offer an unimpaired product directly to users. It gave AT&T;exclusive rights to be the iPhone’s U.S. network for an undisclosed period of years. It has locked and relocked the phone to make sure consumers can’t override that restriction. This arrangement reportedly brings Apple regular fees from AT&T;, but penalizes people who live in areas with poor AT&T;coverage,”

    What is his evidence that Apple was not happy to lock-up this phone so that it could reap the benefits of recurring profits? Apple might not be so innocent here.

  5. I have looked at the European plans and I am not impressed. Yes, unlocked phones are much more common, but they have contracts too. To get lower prices you sign a contract. Just like in the states, you have the option to purchase your own phone.

    However, the rate plans are very expensive.

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