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Cell Phone Industry's Six Biggest Failed Schemes

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the modu's-idea-was-pretty-cool dept.

Businesses 163

adeelarshad82 writes "The tech world is for dreamers, schemers, and sometimes, scammers. Which is why it's no surprise that the cell phone industry isn't any different. In wake of the recent news about the Israeli mobile-phone firm Modu shutting its doors, mobile analyst Sascha Segan revisits six major failures in the cell phone industry, from using phones to create a peer-to-peer that would eliminate the need for wireless carriers to a company with a $225,000 phone."

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Is it really too much to ask (5, Informative)

choongiri (840652) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900526)

Is it really too much to ask the /. editors to quickly look around the page for the crud-free one-page "print" version link and post that for us all instead...

http://www.pcmag.com/print_article2/0,1217,a=259387,00.asp?hidPrint=true [pcmag.com]

6 failed...but so many tricks that work (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900552)

For one thing, the outrageous charges for text messages. Or making sure that every aspect of you using your phone gets the last little second out of you so that it takes away from your total minutes. Or not having phones that function as answering machines simultaneously as voice mail....the list goes on. They are really taking consumers for a ride.

Re:6 failed...but so many tricks that work (-1)

GNious (953874) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902946)

What are these "minutes" you talk about? Battery life? Or you can only talk for n minutes and the phone melts, requiring you to buy a new one?
And paying for text messages - I thought that stopped ca 10 years ago! Sure you're not referring to MMS messages, which still costs a pretty penny?

Re:Is it really too much to ask (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900588)

It is good post [fara.com]

Re:Is it really too much to ask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900650)

It's "social media" advertising for PCPro. Same thing goes for infoweek and other sites like those.

Re:Is it really too much to ask (2)

icebraining (1313345) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900654)

Meh, in this kind of article the images are nice to have.

Re:Is it really too much to ask (0)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900680)

What's the point of breaking articles up on multiple pages anyway? Simply more ads? Slightly less bandwidth for people who only read the first part? To accomodate some browser that for some reason doesn't have scroll buttons? Pagan ritual of some type?

Re:Is it really too much to ask (5, Informative)

choongiri (840652) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900786)

The *only* reason is to increase page views, and thus ad impressions.

Re:Is it really too much to ask (4, Interesting)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901260)

What's the point of breaking articles up on multiple pages anyway? Simply more ads? Slightly less bandwidth for people who only read the first part? To accomodate some browser that for some reason doesn't have scroll buttons? Pagan ritual of some type?

To figure out what percentage of people are interested in more than the title and summary paragraph.

Re:Is it really too much to ask (1)

c (8461) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900816)

I'd ask the slashdot editors to screen TFA content, too. If those are the industries "Biggest Failed Schemes", I'd say they're doing pretty well. Nothing like an "Enron" in that bunch...

Re:Is it really too much to ask (1)

aurispector (530273) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901170)

Nah, just a bunch of scammers trying to bilk their investors. Heck, the fact that some of them were issued patents means nothing seeing as how they issue patents for just about anything these days. Nothing to see here.

Re:Is it really too much to ask (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902332)

Yeah, right... An article about failed "get rich quick" schemes in the cell phone industry that fails to mention:

1. WAP/WML and the players around it some of which had valuations exceeding the valuations of major carriers at some point.
2. iMode outside its native Japan
3. And the fairest of them all - IMS/PCRF/EPC and the 3G/LTE VAS model which was supposed to pay back for all those license investments. 60Bn in Germany alone with 0 payback from what was supposed to be the primary revenue generator and all revenue coming from low margin voice and cheap-as-chips data.

Re:Is it really too much to ask (4, Insightful)

Pinckney (1098477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900900)

I'd really rather if they not do that. If it becomes standard to link to the print version of articles, sites will just remove the print option entirely. As it is, we, who care, get to enjoy these articles in a relatively clean form for minimal work, and the people who don't care effectively subsidise us (thanks!) with their ad impressions.

Re:Is it really too much to ask (1, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900912)

Yes.

But imagine if everyone gave links to the print version; they'd eliminate it since it allows the reader to actually read the article, rather than wade through crap. Better if it's kept as a "secret" and only used by a few people.

Re:Is it really too much to ask (0)

Nikker (749551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902096)

Phew, I won't tell anyone if you don't.

Re:Is it really too much to ask (0)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902700)

Damn, got stuck in your signature for an hour there. Damn you!

Re:Is it really too much to ask (4, Insightful)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900976)

Is it really too much to ask the /. editors to quickly look around the page for the crud-free one-page "print" version link and post that for us all instead...

http://www.pcmag.com/print_article2/0,1217,a=259387,00.asp?hidPrint=true [pcmag.com]

So you'd like Slashdot to intentionally screw PCMag out of ad revenue for the (not insignificant) amount of traffic /. brings to their website, making it likely that PCMag's web gurus will block such outside linking to the print version, disable the print version outright, put themselves behind a pay filter, or go out of business (something that plug-ins like AdBlock are already working on doing)?

Yes, no one likes ads. But to quote the snob -- "websites is expensive".

Re:Is it really too much to ask (3, Insightful)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900986)

Then have three times the ads on one page. Breaking across three pages is as much of a pain to read as those old credit-card sized pocket books were in the 90's.

Re:Is it really too much to ask (1)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901944)

That would be a fantastic way to have web sites eliminate the "print" version altogether.

failed schemas (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900600)

darn, i though i was about to read about failed schemas. lololol that's so not normalized

Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (5, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900632)

What it really comes down to is that most of the good ideas in cell phones (a) have been done already or (b) are waiting for technologies in other areas to advance first. All those other not-so-good ideas have extremely limited appeal to the masses. Yet people and smaller companies continue their attempts to "innovate" in this marketplace, primarily because there appears at first glance to be such a huge amount of cash sloshing around in the cell phone arena. As it turns out, though, that money is pretty much locked up by the major players, so your Popeil-esque Great Idea But On A Cell Phone This Time is going nowhere.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900656)

Good ideas have either been invented already or haven't been invented yet. Wow... really insightful.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (3, Insightful)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900674)

Reading comprehension FTW. I said that the good ideas were either already done or were waiting on technology in other areas to be developed first, which means you can't invent them yet. Someone will invent them eventually, but it won't be you.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900734)

For a free market to operate at its most effective. There should be companies entering and exiting that market. It means the most efficient ones survive and the least efficient die off. It means some people will lose money in the end, but that just means that someone else just made money selling you start up supplies that you can work for now. And that is how the system works until people get the notion that companies are too big to fail.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900832)

this comment gave me a headache.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (2)

Ihmhi (1206036) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900960)

I've always said to my friends that cell phones as a business and technology aren't really worth being used seriously until you can get worldwide unlimited everything (sans data) for $50/month. It's ridiculous that you have to pay $0.10 a minute or something to telephone granny in Scotland. We should be way past this point now, but greed and little reason for expansion has greatly slowed this down.

Maybe one day satphones will be cheap enough (service wise) that they're a viable option. It'd be awesome to see the cell companies get hit from behind like that.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (4, Interesting)

cgenman (325138) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901058)

Cell companies are probably going to get hit by data-anywhere aggregators + VOIP plans. I loved how you could drag a Vontage phone to any country in the world, and make VOIP calls as if you were local to your city, Oklahoma.

They'll get hit, but from in front. Just like landline phone companies have been marginalized by cellphone companies, cell companies are about to marginalized by wireless data companies.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902302)

Cellular and Wireless are the same basic tech. Cells are Regulated Frequencies and Wireless is not. Cellular has larger range between "cells" while wireless is limited range between AP. Wireless is usually not managed well, while Cellular is (more or less).

Other than that ... you may be right.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902170)

"It's ridiculous that you have to pay $0.10 a minute or something to telephone granny in Scotland."

I recall paying $2.00/min to call the UK from Australia, that was in 1976 dollars, ie: almost one weeks wages per hour.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902268)

I've always said to my friends that cell phones as a business and technology aren't really worth being used seriously until you can get worldwide unlimited everything (sans data) for $50/month.

You're approaching it the wrong way - get an unlimited data plan and put Skype on your phone, and you can talk to your granny all you want - today.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (2)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902730)

I keep wondering why someone with, for example, Vodafone UK has to pay roaming charges when calling on the Vodafone NL network. They're the same fucking company! The call itself is routed through voip for cost reasons anyway, so the cost difference can be minimised.

Re:Whizbang cell phone market is saturated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901286)

LMAO I modded you up mostly because of your arcane reference to "Popeil-esque Great Idea But On A Cell Phone This Time". LMAO so true though. You need big big money and a lot of clout to sell anything in the cell phone market. Shoehornjob

P2P phone not a bad idea (1)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900764)

If it was based on open standards and software rather than some guy's proprietary system looking for venture capitalists.

I cant wait to see the day that scumbags like Vodafone and AT&T&T are no longer necessary

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (2)

commlinx (1068272) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900826)

Main problem I'd see with this from a practical point of view is reduced battery life. If your phone was spending a good deal of time acting as a repeater the standby time would be similar to current talk times.

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (1)

complete loony (663508) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901840)

While Peep Wireless seems to be a scam, Serval's Batphone shows some promise. Their working prototype [villagetelco.org] was a port/hack of asterisk, batmand, sipdroid and their own Distributed Numbering Architecture software all running on an Android phone. Also all their source code has been released under the GPL.

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901050)

P2P would(barring some very clever design or a focus more or less exclusively on walkie-talkie use cases) likely be a poor candidate for cell phone use(lousy latency, uncertain availability, battery life of nodes...) P2P works pretty well for cheap transfers of big files; but somewhat less well for low-bandwidth, but latency sensitive, stuff.

The system that I would like to see would be a radically free market(and thus, likely never to be seen in the cellular arena) system of phones that electronically bid for resources in real time, from carriers within range who dynamically compete for customers in real time.

Consider a basic example: I have a cellphone with a GSM module that can see two or three carriers' towers, and a wifi module that can detect a number of access points. I open my address book, or start typing in a number. Detecting that I am going to be making a call, my phone checks the rate information being broadcast from the wireless links visible to it: it then silently routes the call out through whichever offers the lowest rate. In order to prevent surprises, the user could, of course, set "absolute ceiling", "manual verify", and "warn but continue" price thresholds within their phone's bidding engine. Towers, for their part, could dynamically adjust prices, down to the operator's set floor, in order to keep themselves busy but not over-saturated.

Data would be handled in a similar manner: cell towers and wifi access points could broadcast their willingness to provide, and rate(at home, of course, your router would treat you as a special case of free access, to ensure that you always used the bandwidth you had already paid for, and applications requiring data could choose based on price.

Since most people would not want to trouble themselves with the details, phones would, ideally, ship with some sensible defaults and a few heuristic rules(ie. if I almost always make long calls to contact X, and very short ones to contact Y, select a carrier for contact X based on lowest expected price for a long call, and select a carrier for contact Y based on lowest expected price for a short call). For those who did wish to dig deep and twiddle all the knobs, the tools for expressing and solving optimization problems in multiple constraints to computer systems are not exactly terra incognita. The real propellerheads could have their handsets algorithmically trading off between lower and higher power-requirement connections based on batterly life and location/time based estimates of next charge, and whatever other variables they felt like including...

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (1)

DCFusor (1763438) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901298)

Amazingly good idea, easily feasible, but that assumes free markets instead of "the best law money can buy", eh?

Of course you've only handled the originating side of the call here - both sides need handled.

This tech solution would develop quite rapidly if we solved the social problem, first.

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901424)

It seems like a huge number of potentially interesting technical solutions have a messy social problem sitting in their way.

In wonder if that is the real reason why engineers are statistically more likely to be driven to extremism? All those elegant systems, and models, and protocols, being sacrificed on the altar of shareholder value by besuited simians...

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901300)

---this is really quite good, well thought out.

  The cellphone companies would hate it, they prefer the cartel model. Ever notice how close they are in prices? I guess that applies to most modern business, they only half compete with each other.

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901400)

I'm guessing that it would go over about as well as poor old "cablecard", which was largely murdered in the cradle despite being far less radical.(Or, for that matter, if SIM unlocking is too scary for them, this idea would have them shitting bricks, since it amounts to phones that automatically swap SIMs every second or so, depending on price...)

In theory, though, there would be nothing preventing "traditional" style cellphone contracts(other than cheaper competition potentially making them foolish).

I deliberately modeled the notion on that of electronic market trading, in which context a traditional cell contract would be, in essence, a "minutes/SMS/data option contract". Instead of buying my minutes at the market price where and when I need them, I purchase an "option" on X minutes, Y SMSes and Z megabytes to be delivered in the following month, at a set rate(presumably for a discount over the expected spot prices).

Again, having to have a finance degree just to make a phone call won't really appeal to most people, so I would invoke the "sane defaults" notion and hope for the best; but the explicit parallels to common financial instruments, along with automated transaction engines, open up some fascinating possibilities for enthusiasts(as well as, in theory, helping networks cope with congestion: heavily congested regions would be more expensive for spot-price users, encouraging them to moderate usage; but they would also be most profitable for local wifi operators, temporary telco cell trucks, etc. to set up shop...)

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902242)

That is a really, really, REALLY bad idea for anyplace where the population densities are not very large. Areas where there are not a lot of people aren't going to be very lucrative for cell phone companies. So what you will end up having is deals where company A pays companies B and C what they would expect to earn for area X and now the people in area X can ONLY use company A and this gives company A huge leverage when it comes to fees. So what you will end up doing is saving money for people that live in huge cities(where it may not be very popular since you give up predictability) at the expense of everyone else. The cell phone companies that you decry would actually probably end up making out like bandits. So yeah, thats just a really bad idea.

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901338)

I forgot to mention; but it bears mentioning: there is an implicit tradeoff here between security/reliability and cost: If my phone only considers offers from major telcos, I'm unlikely to get the best prices; but I can be fairly confident that only the feds are listening in. If my phone accepts bids from an SSID of "joe's WAP 'n SIP", I am likely to enjoy excellent rates; but the odds of being MiTMed by some malicious prankster go up.

The solution(assuming that there isn't some super clever one that my limited crypto-fu isn't making apparent to me) presumably would be to treat the "sensible defaults" roughly the way we treat trusted certificate authorities: People whose eyes would glaze over if they heard those terms get a more-or-less-safe-but-not-too-limiting set, enthusiasts can do whatever they want, and corporate gear gets set to trust the intranet's cert.

For the propellerhead set, the idea of arranging for an encrypted tunnel to their preferred proxy host/SIP provider will be no big deal, so they can deal with the untrusted channel. For those less enthusiastic, the defaults will either have to include only reasonably trustworthy channels or automated secure tunneling.

The most interesting possibility, now that so many phones speak wi-fi, is that of a Fonera [wikipedia.org] -esque scenario where individual broadband subscribers could(altruistically or to make a few bucks on bandwidth they aren't using at the moment) have their router automatically offering data access to passing cellphones at the most-profitable rate within a user-set range.

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901582)

Why would you ever want to make an unencrypted phone call? If you are going to handle the tech to get the payment right, include some sane security. Of course, techniques for hiding _who_ you are talking to tend to have unacceptable latency for a voice call, so if you want to hide that from random people your methods may still make sense.

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (2)

ami.one (897193) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902102)

Maybe, the chinese phones with 3 SIM slots can be used to do such a thing without requiring the networks to decide. These phones have 2/3 radios & sim slots - they all work simultaneously - you can receive any call from all 2/3 nos and set a preference or select one while dialing out. People have 2 or 3 sim card phones and select which no to use to dial out depending on tariff etc. Quite common in India/China/etc Though i personally never liked having 2/3 nos or worrying so much about call charges, but yes, i would be interested in using data in such a way.

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (2)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902262)

I'd love to see that technology become common in the US for a completely different reason, and that is to separate work data and home data. Combine this with virtualization, and this would be great for people who use their devices for work and home stuff. Leave a job and the IT staff sends a self-destruct signal? It only gets rid of the work based VM.

Done right, it can be made decently secure as well.

Of course, having the ability to switch SIMs for one machine is cool too, not just for cheap call rates. Say provider "A" is 4G but has a pathetic limit, provider "B" has 4G, but charges fees after a gig or two, and provider "C" is 3G, but is unlimited. The phone can use provider "A" until the bandwidth is exhausted, switch to provider "B", then to "C", until the month resets and "A" is useful again. Add QoS so important traffic (E-mail) goes over one link and other stuff goes over another, and this would be a very good thing (tm) to have.

Even more ironic -- the providers in Asia use R/UIM cards, which are functionally identical in size and shape to SIM cards, but are for CDMA networks. Combine this with a radio that handles CDMA and GSM, and even the US's big divide between providers can be bridged to allow one device to work anywhere. Hopefully everyone adapting LTE will make the need for SIM versus R/UIM cards not needed, but who knows. I'm afraid the CDMA providers won't use SIM technology when LTE comes online, so even if a device is LTE based, a provider can just say no when a customer calls and begs for it to be activated.

Re:P2P phone not a bad idea (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901814)

Unless you've got some magical routing protocol up your sleeve, yes it is a bad idea.

10c text messages (4, Insightful)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900774)

You'd think when they charge you 10c per text message, that'd be something people reject. Especially when any random stranger can send you spam which you have to pay for.

Re:10c text messages (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900868)

I'm truly surprised nobody has launched an ad-supported (they would call it "free") texting-only service. Probably the most expensive-per-byte plan out there is AT&T's $15/mo plan which has only 200 MB/mo. But assuming a text averages 200 bytes, that would be 1,000,000 texts. So if an ad-supported user sent 1000 texts per month, you'd only have to collect 1.5 cents from advertisers to recoup bandwidth at the same price per byte. Somewhat more if you wanted to subsidize the cost of the phone. But you would also make money by charging by the minute for voice calls.

I realize all the excitement right now is around high-end phones that do everything, but I'm going to have 4 teenagers over the next 10 years and would like a barebones way to let them all have a phone (or at least texting) without paying monthly fees. For that matter I would toss my tracfone for that because I only average a couple calls and a handful of texts per month.

Re:10c text messages (1)

tkprit (8581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901312)

between now and then a lot will change, but NOW... if your kid(s) have an ipod touch (not phone just touch)

(and believe me w/ iPhone coming out on other carriers, my kids are looking to pawn off their Touches for like a buck!)

iPod Touches can already sms text like that with free applets (text free, textnow, etc), all they need is wifi and the Touch. (And again, I strongly believe that as kids dump their iPod Touches PLUS cell phone for just an iPhone, the iPod Touches will decrease in value rapidly. jmho.)

Re:10c text messages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901910)

You know iPod touch/iPhone can also use Google Voice to do SMS. This works to/from US numbers from anywhere in the world. I use it to keep in touch with my friends in the US for free, even though I am in Japan. God only knows what it would cost me if I actually paid SoftBank and did it via "real" carrier SMS.

Re:10c text messages (5, Informative)

jeff4747 (256583) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902012)

Text messages aren't sent over the data channel.

Oversimplified version: Text messages are embedded in normal GSM packets. Most of these packets are essentially "are you there" messages and are sent frequently between the device and the tower. "Are you there" doesn't fill an entire packet. So cell phone companies came up with SMS to fill the rest of the packet. SMS is essentially free for the cellular providers to handle because it's using part of the timeslice that would otherwise go to waste.

So you won't need to worry about wireless bandwidth costs. If the device can attach to a cell tower, it's got all the bandwidth it needs for SMS.

Re:10c text messages (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902500)

This is one reason I use Google Voice on my iPhone. When people text me, I get a notification via the GVoice app, and the text never comes to my phone's SMS setup. Google voice isn't the only such option, but it's the only one I know of which provides me with a phone number people can call as well and reach me on my mobile or land line.

Re:10c text messages (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902998)

I'm truly surprised nobody has launched an ad-supported (they would call it "free") texting-only service.

To be followed by SMS based broadband data where advertisements are filtered as noise at layer 1.

Re:10c text messages (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900910)

I'm always amazed to hear you have to pay to receive messages in some parts of the world (America?)

Re:10c text messages (1)

boreddotter (1836042) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901008)

You have to pay for stuff you receive?!

Re:10c text messages (1)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901096)

Yep, calls and txts. (Unless otherwise stated in the plan, usually it costs extra to have free incoming)

Re:10c text messages (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901100)

Yet another reason to hate Australia's Testra. They sent out a lot of spam SMS's about Telstra services to Telstra customers and the customers had to pay a few cents to Telstra for every one of those spam they received. The government stepped in and forced a refund after this had gone on for a while which upset Sol Trujillo (the bandit running Testra). Watch out Americans, Sol Trujillo is back in the USA and will be pulling scams like that on you if he can.
There has also been a bit of multimedia message spam which people have to pay even more for. I have that type of message blocked entirely for that reason so only get plain text.

Re:10c text messages (1)

sjwt (161428) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902610)

The problem was not spam SMS's, they cost the receiver nothing, it was spam voice mail messages. You pay to access your voice mail, and receive SMSs for free.

Re:10c text messages (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902996)

At one point Telstra was charging the recipient of SMS. During that time they sent advertising messages to all of their mobile customers and all of them were charged. Since then the charging policy has changed, most likely because they eventually ended up with some competition in the mobile market.
That's how evil a monopoly like Telstra was - they charged twice for every SMS.

Re:10c text messages (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901032)

Find a way to get to some actual free market competition somehow. Here in Europe there are offers for unlimited plans at 15-20 US dollars/month, but I don't talk that much, and easily get average bills of something like 8 USD/month.

There is no reason to charge 10c for a text message - I just saw here an ad targeted at teens on cheap/limited mobile plans, offering to subscribe to unlimited free SMS at something like 2 USD/month, and teens being teens, they'll probably send a thousand SMS for that.

Re:10c text messages (3, Insightful)

flatt (513465) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901594)

You'd think when they charge you 10c per text message, that'd be something people reject. Especially when any random stranger can send you spam which you have to pay for.

I believe the ridiculous rates for texting are proof that there is collusion in this market. Something with such little overhead (essentially none) should not be able to sustain such a high cost if there is adequate competition. I think people would reject it, if they had a choice.

Re:10c text messages (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901914)

This seems to be a US-Specific thing. I don't think one has to pay for incoming text messages in most other countries.

Re:10c text messages (2)

dafing (753481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901994)

You're quite right, surely the US has the worst communications tech in the developed world?

I bought my first, Original iPhone (not sold in New Zealand) Jailbroken, for about 600 USD in full. I ran it on prepay, since I rarely use my phones for calls and txt messages, it would cost me....5-15 dollars a month New Zealand, lets say 10 US a month.

My iPhone 4, bought here was just under 1000 USD, it is mine, I own it. Like basically all iPhones around the world, as in outside the USA, it runs on any GSM network, "unlocked", it tethers, any bloody thing I want, and again, still costs me about 10 US a month in charges, mostly 3G data now, which I buy in 50MB segments, about 4 USD for 50MB. Damn expensive compared to home internet, but I want to help our third, new small Carrier out, against the Telecom NZ/Vodafone NZ duopoly.

Voda are the "official launch carrier" in NZ, I bought my iPhone 4 from Apple, it took FOUR WEEKS to get here on launch shipping, now they are overnight delivery I believe. Vodafone wanted me to buy one on a two year contract, FRIG THAT! I waited, and picked up a 2 Degrees Micro Sim from a neighbourhood electronics chain.... only the iPad and iPhone 4 used it, NEITHER were out in NZ at the time (!), but they were EARLY for demand. Imagine that, an upstart company that really bends over backwards to help get new customers!

If I didnt want to help out 2 Degrees, I can flick the SIM out, throw it in the trash, and throw in a new one. BOOM.

This is how shit is MEANT to work, its Twenty Ten forgodsake!

The more I hear about the US situation, the more pity I have for my US friends.

FTFY (1)

smi.james.th (1706780) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902244)

This is how shit is MEANT to work, its Twenty Eleven forgodsake!

FWIW, here in South Africa we've got a similar situation, you can use any phone on any network, just swap out the SIM card. Receiving calls and texts also costs nothing. MAKING calls and SENDING texts on the other hand... is quite expensive. That's another issue though.

Re:FTFY (1)

dafing (753481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902298)

hi smi.james.th, I think its almost universal that things work this way, its just in America, and perhaps less developed nations that its different.

I mean, I have three carriers available, and they all have NATIONAL coverage, no matter where you are. But, in the USA, with my iPhone "I'd be stuck on AT&T", which is apparently the worlds worst network! I wouldnt even be able to make a single call, and yet get charged a hundred bucks a month, instead of my current, roughly 10 USD, based on my use!

Text messages are "cheap", my whole country uses them, all ages txt into polls etc. About 10 NZD (say 6 USD) for 500+, perhaps as many as 2000 for that price, depending on carrier. On my prepaid plan, they are 20 cents each, about 10 US cents say, of course we only pay to SEND a txt...

Txts are never "cheap", but really, 6 dollars a month for effectively unlimited txts isnt "horrible", even if the actual data used should cost 5 cents, ha!

Re:FTFY (1)

smi.james.th (1706780) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902322)

Ja, similar sort of thing here.

I'm on a prepaid plan, texts cost me 50c (which is around 7 USc, not sure about Kiwi money), I don't know of any plans which give you many / unlimited texts, but then I haven't really looked. It's expensive, the costs mount up if you need to send a lot, which fortunately I don't really do, most of my communication is via the internet. Still, as was pointed out elsewhere, the fact that the carriers can charge anything for a text which essentially costs them nothing is quite ridiculous.

I haven't any experience with AT&T, so I wouldn't be able to say, suffice it to say that I've had some gripes with the local service providers though. I've used both major ones, there are a couple of smaller ones as well that I've been too lazy to try out.

Re:FTFY (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903018)

Somebody can correct me if I am wrong but I get the impression that mobile phones started out in the US as special services attached to local phone numbers. It was as if they took a line from a local exchange and patched it into a radio device so that the mobile behaved as a normal phone in that exchange area.

In .au mobiles have their own national prefix. They don't tell you where the phone is based. Thats bad for the caller because some mobile calls could cost them more money without them knowing about it in advance.

In the US the caller pays for the call to a local number (including long distance charges if appropriate) and the receiver of the call pays for the mobile leg from the exchange to their handset.

Re:FTFY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34903098)

Here in South Africa, all the mobile operators have their own codes, like location codes for cities, so Johannesburg land-lines begin with 011, Pretoria with 012, etc, while cell-phones begin with 082- 083- 072- etc.

As far as cost goes, calling a mobile anywhere in the country is all the same, and calling a landline from a mobile is all the same as well.

Iridium (3, Insightful)

Z8 (1602647) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900822)

They missed one of the biggest failures of all, Motorola's attempt to build a global satellite-based network [wikipedia.org] . It cost the company over $5 billion USD. Some more details here [74.220.211.32] .

It's still going so has not failed (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901042)

It's not a failure if it's still running. Financial failure perhaps but physically it's not broken. You can still buy and use the handsets today.

Re:Iridium (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901082)

Iridium was a total clusterfuck for Motorola, who basically ended up paying many of the capital costs and then having to write off the whole thing.

On the other hand, the (definitely in no way whatsoever US clandestine services connected, just like everybody else in McLean, Virginia...) group of private investors who snapped up a fully functional constellation for $25 million have been doing just fine with it.

The moral of the story seems to be that there is absolutely no way that satellite phones can(in the face of cheap terrestrial calls) justify their startup costs; but if some sucker eats those for you in bankruptcy, it is a perfectly viable business....

Re:Iridium (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901622)

...snapped up a fully functional constellation for $25 million have been doing just fine with it.

It's a trap?

Re:Iridium (4, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901826)

Iridium was one of those projects that was a good idea in the beginning; however, by the time it came to launching it, nobody at the top had noticed that circumstances had changed. The idea was begun way back in the 1970s when a vacationing Motorola engineer wanted to make a call from the beach in the Caribbean. The thought occurred to him that he could use satellites to do it. The technology wasn't really ready but over the next few decades, Motorola worked on it in tandem with other technologies.

By the time, the technology was ready, Motorola had worked hard on getting the necessary logistics of launching a satellite network. However, since the original idea, cellular phones were beginning to partially fulfill the need for communications. Now a cell phone can't go everywhere like the sat phone was intended, but it can be used in places most people will be, like in cities. In its estimation, Motorola (whose products helped launched the cell phone industry) badly miscalculated the numbers of customers that would have need for a sat phone compared to a cell phone. I think one place that they expected higher demand was Africa. However, in Africa, cell phones actually outnumber landlines because they are in fact cheaper than landlines to operate and build. The local populations buy mostly prepaid phones but only in the remotest parts would they need a sat phone. However, few can afford the nearly $1000 USD just for the phone itself.

The problem wasn't that someone at the top should have recognized the situation had changed and that spending a few billion dollars or so when there were going to be few customers was foolhardy. I think part of it was that Motorola didn't know when to cut losses but went ahead anyway.

Re:Iridium (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901986)

However, in Africa, cell phones actually outnumber landlines because they are in fact cheaper than landlines to operate and build.

Translation: if you lay copper, thieves will steal it within a month.

Re:Iridium (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902702)

How do you think the cellphone towers are interconnected?

Re:Iridium (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903030)

Satellite links.

Re:Iridium (1)

dafing (753481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902010)

Funny you mention the nearly 1K USD price, ha, my iPhone 4 cost me that here in New Zealand, I own it outright, which would any SANE person rather have, some bulky hunk of crap Sat phone, that talks back to Satellites, or, the iPhone 4, which can LISTEN to Satellites via GPS, oh, as well as having that marvellous build quality, thin, touch screen with INSANELY GREAT resolution, dual cameras, App Store...

Nice one Motorola!

Re:Iridium (2)

nohear_t (551965) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902086)

Iridium hardware was big and bulky to say the least.  However, looking past it's failure Motorola did one thing that many people over look.  They managed to stick to a schedule and launch satellites into orbit across multiple launch sites in different countries using three companies.  They launched 66 satellites (plus 6 spares) in over 12 months which is VERY impressive with a 15/15 launch success rate.  Motorola proved it was possible to launch that many satellites and hit their targets at less than $5 million per unit built every 5 days. Motorola had it down to an art.  The fees to use it were outrageous and the primary clients at the time seemed to be military and the few who had really deep pockets.  The way the satellites communicated to each other was a ingenious design too, using special arrays to maintain links with its closest neighbors.  The network as a whole was impressive.  It's demise was the price.

Re:Iridium (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902100)

Didn't the government foot the bill for that fiasco? If I'm thinking of the same failed satellite network, they sent a bill to the US government stating they didn't have to resources to pay for the satellites and would abandon them unless the government bought them. And, I'm pretty sure we did at a reduced rate.

Re:Iridium (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901938)

I was a Motorola engineer for 10 years (and a consultant for things related to them and Freescale ever since) and got to enjoy some involvement in Iridium. Hopefully I am remembering this ancient history correctly.

It did not cost Motorola $5B USD. One of the things the Wikipedia article leaves out was all the foreign investment involved (Saudi Arabia had almost as much money invested into Iridium, IIR the Powerpoint presentation correctly) leaving Motorola's contribution/investment at about $400K USD with a total exposure of probably $1B, but they got most (if not all) of that back by paying themselves the other investors money for the design work. No-lose contracts are a nice way to do business if you can get someone to sign from the other side. The .pdf you linked to has some good historical information, but also some glaring errors which I am not in the mood to fisk.

That said, Iridium SSC was a SNAFU from the start, as anyone looking at the map of world wide cellular coverage in 1997/98 should have been able to see. Since there are no records of the skepticism I put forth much earlier than that, I won't bring it up further. Of course, Motorola in 1994 still thought that analog cellular was the only way forward and was in the process of completely mismanaging the conversion to digital, so it isn't that surprising that the higher up execs missed it. The phoenix that arose from the ashes to enable the South Pole to get 28.8 kbaud and US DOD operators to be able to phone home without having to lug around 3-4 kg of satellite equipment is something I applaud the US bankruptcy laws for. Stupid money and big dreams can have good endings for someone. I will forever wonder how the US automotive industry would have fared if those same laws had not been interfered with.

I was invited to sit in on one of the early presentations right when they made the decision to reduce from 77 satellites to 66. The presenter's manager didn't much care for my smart ass suggestion they rename the project Dysprosium (I doubt he ever had the geek cred to read /., but if he is reading this- HI!). I was also the guy who previously explained to them why the PowerPC 603 was a horrible CPU to use for a satellite and the guy who helped them redesign around the PPC604 after the managers woke up to just how important it is to have at least SOME level of cache checksums in hardware (a pretty reasonable requirement for anything floating around the earth, and which was why my coworkers and I were invited to the presentation). But it was a great joy to spend time at their design facilities right next to a dairy farm south of Phoenix. Fragrant.

Re:Iridium (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902200)

Why would a story about cell phone failures have any mention of sat phones? That's being saved for the sat phone story.

Re:Iridium (1)

SpazmodeusG (1334705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902436)

Check out GlobalStar. A much greater fuck-up than Iridium. Their low orbit satellites started failing in 2007 which was after they were already bankrupt and sold off. They sell their phones with pamphlets stating "times you can use you phone in your area".

GTFO! (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900988)

FTFA: ...full of shady characters with inconsistent documentation.

In the mobile phone industry? Didn't see that coming.

What about... (2)

scumfuker (882056) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901004)

Microsoft's Kin?

Re:What about... (2)

BatGnat (1568391) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901194)

Or Windows Phone 7 ....?

Re:What about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901942)

or iPhones and Androids! look, after the first everyone is a (sore) looser.

That a bunch of fanboys mindlessly buy whatever crap the put a logo (an apple or an android) on, does not make a phone successful.

-====== Every Smartphone SUCKS ======-

it's the FAD of the first mid of the 2010's. Get over it!

So why isn't Kin part of the list? (4, Interesting)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901036)

Reportedly MS has spent about a billion dollars on the Kin only to kill it after very poor sales. Part of the costs was the Danger acquisition (reportedly about $500 million), the engineering and R&D for 2 years. Then the marketing and launch costs. Numbers vary on actual sales but the highest estimate was about 10,000 units sold. In my book, that spells FAIL.

Re:So why isn't Kin part of the list? (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901138)

Seriously. I've never heard of Microsoft Kin.

Re:So why isn't Kin part of the list? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34902216)

Really? Welcome to the Internet.

Re:So why isn't Kin part of the list? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901200)

Not that Wikipedia is a citable source, but according to that and the Microsoft press releases that they note, the KIN was a prototype for the Windows Phone 7 interface, and the team working on KIN is now part of Windows Phone 7. This would imply that the KIN was not "killed," but merely "repurposed."

We wouldn't say that Debian was "killed" by the release of Ubuntu either. It was "repurposed," into a general operating system for non-expert users. But the original remains. And they're still both based on free software philosophies, although perhaps slightly different.

Re:So why isn't Kin part of the list? (3, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901736)

From mini-microsoft [blogspot.com] , one of the reasons that the Kin failed was politicol.

Now there is spin that Andy killed kin to put all the wood behind Windows Phone 7. Er, the guy was in charge for two years of Kin development. He could have made this decision far earlier.

Similarly Windows Phone 7 has two years of development under his watch. Based on his past performance, 99% chance this is also going to be a total catastrophe. It further doesn't help that much of the Windows Phone 7 leadership team was kicked out of Windows when they screwed up Vista.

It sounds to me that Kin and Windows Phone 7 were completely separate products from different groups.

Re:So why isn't Kin part of the list? (4, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#34902342)

And yet Microsoft investors STILL haven't revolted and threw Balmer out. I just don't get it. The man has shown he lacks both technical vision AND managerial skill. From everything I have seen and from what ex Redmonders have said, Microsoft still seems to think it's the 1990s, ie the managers think that the only competition they face comes from within Microsoft. Thus they constantly bicker among themselves and Microsoft ends up with an inconsistent, often incoherent line of products.

The phones are obviously the biggest example, at one point Microsoft was developing 3...THREE...different competing and incompatible phone operating systems. You saw it a couple of years back with the music DRM fiasco, Microsoft managed to develop and release 2 different DRM formats that weren't compatible with each other. You can even see the political infighting within single products. The windows UI is an incoherent mess. Every single interface seems like it was designed by a different person and instead of someone actually taking charge and making decisions they just threw everything together and called it an interface. You can even see this with Windows phone 7, it's obvious that different groups had different ideas on how the phone should be programmed and how what capabilities/interfaces should be exposed. And since none of the managers wanted to "submit' to any other manager, you end up with an incoherent mess. The whole reason we ostensibly pay CEOs ridiculous amounts of cash is that they are ostensibly supposed to be the one who steps up in these situations and forces everyone to play nice. It seems that Ballmer is either unable or unwilling to do this and Microsoft just keeps on going down the shitter. In the current recovery Microsoft seems to be one of the very few large US tech firms that has actually lost market cap, a lot of it. Ballmer is a talentless hack whose only "ability" was that he happened to land in the right place at the right time. Again, why share holders aren't calling for the man's head is beyond me. His only "talent" seems to be a penchant for stupid pranks, but guess what I can go down to any frat house in the country and find someone that is better than Ballmer at stupid pranks and pay them 1% of Ballmer's salary and they would be damn happy to get it.

Re:So why isn't Kin part of the list? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901740)

We wouldn't say that Debian was "killed" by the release of Ubuntu either. It was "repurposed," into a general operating system for non-expert users.

When exactly was Debian discontinued? I'm pretty sure it is still in active development. That is a horrible analogy.

Re:So why isn't Kin part of the list? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34902860)

My understanding is that the KIN and Windows Phone 7 teams were largely independent, and to a degree, competing with each other. KIN was developed by the Danger team after it was acquired by Microsoft; Windows Phone 7 by the Windows Mobile team.

Given that Windows Phone 7 was released less than a year after the KIN, and given Microsoft's typical (very long) development cycles, it seems unlikely that the KIN significantly influenced Windows Phone 7's development.

zzzPhone sidestory: wooden mobile phone (4, Interesting)

kanto (1851816) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901142)

The Outcome: zzzPhone took some orders and shipped a small number of very low-quality phones. I heard crazier and crazier stories about Horowitz, all second-hand. For instance, he apparently hired a carver to make him a cell phone out of wood that he tried to insert working phone components into.

I found that a bit funny because making one [interface.tut.fi] is a course at a Finnish university. More pictures here [yle.fi] , but with finnish text only.

I originally read about this in a magazine; apparently they solder the sim-card connecting leads so swapping operators requires some work.

Oh I am sorry (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901524)

all this time I thought celphones were a part of the tech industry, how silly of me to think technology could be anything other than PC's

I don't own a cell phone (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901748)

I haven't had one for about 3 years now.

Modu wasn't bad (1)

!eopard (981784) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901858)

I thought the Modu concept was pretty good. A basic phone that could plug into whatver expansion device (portable or not) you wanted to provide additional functionality . From the expansions on offer it looked like a goer. Wonder what killed it?

What about WAP? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34902602)

Surely WAP must have been the Windows Vista of the cellphone world?

Emblaze / Else had potential (1)

Toy G (533867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34903122)

The emphasis on one-hand use looks spot-on. I'd be curious to see a similar concept working up on some hacker-friendly smartphone (Maemo/Meego or Android).

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