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What's Keeping US Phones In the Stone Age?

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the too-much-for-not-much dept.

Communications 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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An Explanation (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19996795)

The explanation is that the article is an obvious troll. Fine if you think that the state of cell service and associated devices is poor in the US, it is. But this need to bash iPhone is just trolling.

it offered no features I could see beyond my Casio W41CA's capabilities
Then you are an imbecile. 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.

But that aside, just comparing the two devices regardless oft heir availability, iPhone is the clear winner.

How about the touchscreen? The Casio doesn't have one, let alone a multi-touch. Its exterior is instead covered with buttons of varying types, which most of us have grown to dislike.

Your phone runs Opera Mini. iPhone runs full blown Safari. It has a shell. Third party apps will soon be hitting the web in droves.

And lets not talk about the UI. Apple did this one, show me anyone who can do them better.

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.

iPhone is smaller than the Casio. It has built in WiFi. It has been well demonstrated by now that the glass does not scratch and despite the fact that you people seem to feel like it should it remains that it does not. So we're expected to read and trust the rest of your analysis of the phone market, when you can't even deliver a fair assessment of two handsets?

Go away troll.

Re:An Explanation (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Nokia N95? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997299)

"He just used the iPhone as the starting point for his article, as that is the most "modern" american phone."

Somehow he must have missed the part about the Nokia N95 being sold in the US. Hmmmmmmmmm

Totally agree (2, Funny)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996867)

A thinly veiled attack on the iPhone along with a simplistic look at the cell phone market to try and wrapper the whole thing. Atrocious.

Re:An Explanation (2, Interesting)

Major Blud (789630) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996877)

I agree, comparing the Casio W41CA and the iPhone is like apples and oranges. The 70MB Casio to an 4/8GB iPhone? I'd like to see how long it would take him to watch a YouTube video on his Casio.... The cell phone market in the US can't really be compared to the outside world because of the ubiquity of land lines in the US. The US land-line telephone infrastructure is probably the best when compared to the rest of the world, especially in Europe, where you have to get put on a waiting list to get a land-line....hence the popularity of cell phones.

Re:An Explanation (2, Informative)

gullevek (174152) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996963)

Well, uh, great, but my phone thats more than two years old, already does all these things, and it is smaller than the iphone. It's just once you live in Japan you accept that keitais here are superior, far superior. The iphone actually more compares too Willcom devices, which are more PDA. I dont see the iphone as a phone, as it it is extremly large.

Re:An Explanation (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:An Explanation (5, Insightful)

dahwang (973539) | more than 7 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997349)

Maybe, just maybe, most American cell phone owners do not want the newer phones that have 100 more do-dads built-in than last years model. How many features can you build into a tiny space before you go beyond what the consumer actually wants?

Re:An Explanation (5, Insightful)

kamakazi (74641) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:An Explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997085)

Go away fanboy. Phones that can do way more than the iPhoney have been available for years. You think touchscreen, full-blown browser and buit-in wifi are new? You think playing songs (not just one proprietary format, I might add) is new? Who's the imbecile again?

Re:An Explanation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997091)

some actual facts on the iphone.

* has no instant messaging
* no mms picture messaging
* can't customize your ring tones
* can't record voice
* has no voice dialing features
* can't record video
* $80 US service fee for a dead battery (this is exclusive to apple)

There are tons of phones that are light years ahead of this and cost much less.
Just take a look at the nokia website. All major phone manufacturers have lines of smart phones with specs that surpass the iphone by far. Some even have upto 3.2 megpixel cameras and GASP! actaully let you deveolpe software for them.

http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=ip hone [thebestpag...iverse.net]

unlocking ... (-1, Offtopic)

middlemen (765373) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996813)

yea if you unlock your phone yourself chances are that it will brick itself.. and bam your phone is in the stone age !

It's simple suppy and demand.. (4, Interesting)

nimr0d (312173) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996825)

American's are more willing to pay for their techy gadgets. If the overpriced stuff here was perceived as that overpriced, no one would buy it, and the cell companies would be forced to sell their gadgets cheaper or with more features. I don't see this changing in the near future because we are accustomed to the pricing companies like Cingular and Sprint give us.

Re:It's simple suppy and demand.. (2, Interesting)

letxa2000 (215841) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997089)

Perhaps it's because I lived in Mexico for 10 years where cellular service is really expensive that I find Cingular service downright economical. It's all just a matter of where you come from and what you're used to. The state of affairs in the U.S. cellular market is far from the worst. It just so happens that you seem to have come from an area that is even better. Had you moved from Japan to Mexico, you'd probably have gone into a coma.

Seriously, I have no qualms with prices of just about anything cellular-wise except for the per-SMS charge which is patently absurd and a total rip-off. My Treo 650 cost me, I think, $350 last year with a 2-year contract. It works great and I see iPhone as just marketing fluff and more of an indictment of Apple's pricing more than that of cell services; and the fact that people are willing to pay such a premium for such fluff is an indictment of them. My two-phone/1400-minute-shared with rollover costs $99/month with unlimited calls to other Cingular customers and 1400 free minutes to any non-Cingular customers in the country. The data plan is $40 a month which is a bit high (especially considering how little I use it), but I'm still only paying $139/month and am basically able to forget about it and just use it as much as I want.

I've also been very pleased with Cingular's coverage. Granted, I haven't tested it on the truly side-roads a hundred miles off the interstate in New Mexico, but I *have* tested it all along I-10 and I-25 throughout New Mexico and if there was a moment I didn't have coverage, I didn't happen to see it. The fact that there is cell coverage in the lonely expanses of southern Texas and throughout states like New Mexico really just blows me away.

Anyway, there's room for improvement. There's ALWAYS room for improvement. But having lived 10 years in Mexico, I'm absolutely thrilled with the coverage and relatively low costs we have in the U.S. Just the other side of the coin, I guess.

Re:It's simple suppy and demand.. (1)

mikeabbott420 (744514) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997223)

That's how you get to be the richest man in the world - Monopoly! That's how you keep value low and prices high - Monopoly! The fact Mexico is even worse than the US is no surprise to me.

Re:It's simple suppy and demand.. (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997283)

I don't perceive my phone as expensive either. I've got a samsung 'blade' A900, I got for $50 with contract. (they actually undercharged me by $50, hehehe). I pay like $79/mo for 1000 anytime minutes, that I never get close to using...free long distance (I used that the most), and free calls after 7pm. I also have the sprint vision package...unlimited internet, and after finding a code in the phone, I can tether it via bluetooth as a modem for my laptop, no extra charge.

I very rarely txt message...not many people I know do that. I do, however occasionally send 'picture mail', which to me is about the same (text plus a picture)...and free of extra charges.

I've dropped my landline...so, basically for less than $80/mo all my communications other than my business cable internet connection.

That doesn't strike me as terribly expensive.

Re:It's simple suppy and demand.. (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997219)

Hehe, and customers buying iPhones like crazy -- I wonder where that'll take them next. ;-)

Re:It's simple suppy and demand.. (5, Informative)

cwgmpls (853876) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997235)

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

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

Re:It's simple suppy and demand.. (0, Offtopic)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997275)

Americans more willing to pay for their techy gadgets? Have you seen how much they charge for CDs and DVDs over there? ~$30 and ~$50 (depending on what's it of).

(I use these as benchmarks since prices for other electronics vary).

It's the carriers (4, Insightful)

blackdefiance (142579) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996833)

No two ways about it. Especially the old-school players like VZW, who have that MaBell attitude.

Re:It's the carriers (5, Interesting)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996919)

One interesting comparison someone pointed out to me is this: people think of Microsoft as a monopoly. But can you imagine them charging you for a "loading Windows sound" the way telecoms charge you for ringtones?

For the closedness and proprietarity of MS, they actually give you quite a bit of freedom with your machine ... when compared to a cell phone.

Re:It's the carriers (1)

PadRacerExtreme (1006033) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997073)

One interesting comparison someone pointed out to me is this: people think of Microsoft as a monopoly. But can you imagine them charging you for a "loading Windows sound" the way telecoms charge you for ringtones?

For the closedness and proprietarity of MS, they actually give you quite a bit of freedom with your machine ... when compared to a cell phone.


That isn't the best comparison. You are talking about MS charging for something that used to be free, where in cel phones it didn't exist and it was being changed from the beginning. This of the first PCs. They had no sound except a speaker (which was free and provided free sounds). You have to purchase a sound board to get the sound (which is not generally built into the motherboard).

Re:It's the carriers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997095)

But can you imagine them charging you for a "loading Windows sound" the way telecoms charge you for ringtones?

*Ahem* Remember the Windows 95 Plus Pack?

Re:It's the carriers (5, Informative)

GeckoX (259575) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997129)

No doubt.

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

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

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

What's the solution? I'd love to know...any ideas anyone?

Re:It's the carriers (4, Insightful)

OctoberSky (888619) | more than 7 years ago | (#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:It's the carriers (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997201)

No two ways about it. Especially the old-school players like VZW, who have that MaBell attitude.
Someone mod that up to 11 plz.

Big businesses maximize profits by squashing innovation. It's Edison VS alternating current all over again.

Unless I'm much mistaken (0, Redundant)

niceone (992278) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996841)

Unless I'm much mistaken they didn't even have a fixed phone infrastructure in the Stone Age, let along Cell Phones.

Kids these days!

Zzzzzzzzzzz..........

Re:Unless I'm much mistaken (1)

shawn(at)fsu (447153) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997169)

To quote Beavis and Butthead
(From Memory)

Beavis: Hey Butthead what do you think things were like before cable?
Butthead: Beavis you dumb a$$, they always had cable just not as many channels.
Beavis: Oh yeah.... Progress is cool.

And the correct answer is (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19996843)

Q: What's Keeping US Phones In the Stone Age?
A: State of the "Free Market" in the USA

And the correct answer is-Gadget Addiction. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997195)

I don't know if slashdot realizes this, but there's a schizm between what the OP apparently wants and the "but I just want a phone" crowd.

Plus I don't really see what the OP wants that's really going to improve the phone experience that we don't already have. I suppose if I was addicted to technology? A neverending iteration and upgrade cycle would be great, but I'm not.

Your path is clear (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19996845)

Book the first flight back to Japan, stay there, and buy whatever you want.

Re:Your path is clear (1)

pzs (857406) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997281)

Great attitude there, buddy. I'm sure it's that kind of "can-do" spirit which helped the US to come to the forefront of technology... and then start dropping behind again as they get complacent.

It's a bit like the auto-market. Lobbying congress to stop them imposing stricter fuel restrictions has meant that many US made cars are illegal everywhere else in the world. Anybody who doesn't like it can damn well buy something else... so they do. In huge numbers.

(Yes, I know this example is from An Inconvenient Truth. Just because Al Gore is a bit sanctimonious doesn't mean he's wrong).

Peter

What's Keeping US Phones In the Stone Age? (4, Interesting)

djupedal (584558) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996863)

One word: copper

As long as some telco clings to legacy phone lines (paid for long ago), the stone age is all the US is going to get...

Re:What's Keeping US Phones In the Stone Age? (1, Interesting)

xgr3gx (1068984) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997121)

Agreed, Cell phones are huge in Europe because of the crappy copper line quailty. Most of the buildings are centuries old, and were retrofitted with with copper years ago. For most Europeans, cell phones are better service quality, and cheaper. They are way ahead of us.

Re:What's Keeping US Phones In the Stone Age? (1)

NeoTerra (986979) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997265)

Copper is no reason why they're charging extremely high prices for wireless phones. And if they switched to fiber lines, they would pawn the price onto the consumer, making it even higher.

Copper is in our computers, cable, phone lines, and some wireless antennas. Last I checked, even fiber switches had some copper in them. At some point something is going over copper. We still hear in analog, so something has to be in analog.

Welcome to America (2, Insightful)

AP2k (991160) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Welcome to America (1)

Muevelo (132376) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997209)

The bottom line is where it's at. If they can sell old technology and still charge a crazy premium for it, it means they can 1. buy the phones at a low cost, and 2. sell them at a high cost, on top of locking in a 2 year contract that ensures them monthly cash flows for the next 24 months. Rinse, repeat, and rape the pocket.

The consumer is at fault for a lot of it, too! (4, Informative)

dada21 (163177) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996893)

I buy all my phones from Australia or Hong Kong -- unlocked and ready to roll. I currently run the HTC Trinity with a cooked WM6 rom, and I love it. $600 from Hong Kong.

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

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

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

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

The market is providing exactly the crappy service, and pricing, and hardware, that people want.

Re:The consumer is at fault for a lot of it, too! (1)

Malc (1751) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997103)

I got a used Samsung SGH-E730 off eBay last year. Originally from Hong Kong IIRC, cost $120, brand new condition, just a few months usage. It's a tiny clamshell weighing in at 80g... I don't even notice it in my pocket. So so so much better than the over-sized and over-weight crap I had from Motorola before that. Don't even get me started on RAZRs - far too big. It does email, web, and as a phone, works better than anything I've tried from Motorola. It comes with me everywhere in the world, and I just plug in new SIM cards wherever I am.

Only problem with it is the lack of choice of GSM phone providers here. Rogers Wireless is utter over-priced shit. I can bypass the shitty choice of phones in N. America, but I can't get away from the wanky service providers.

Re:The consumer is at fault for a lot of it, too! (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997109)

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:The consumer is at fault for a lot of it, too! (2, Interesting)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997157)

Because consumers in America want free or cheap phones with long contracts.

Are you sure it's what consumers want, not what companies offer? It's just a honest question.

I'm from Europe, which is the middle ground between Japan and the US in cell phone technology. However, we get both: you can easily buy a non-SIM-locked phone and use it on any network you want, or you can get a subsidised phone from a smaller selection that a cell phone provider bundles with a cell phone plan. That said, they never seem to be functionally locked. That means, even if it's subsidised, Bluetooth won't be locked from file transfers and so. A thing I heard that is fairly common in the US.

I've been with the same cell phone provider for nearly 10 years, yet I never took a subsidised phone. It might be dumb, but I preferred to choose the phone I wanted.

Again, I don't say this for upsetting anyone. I just wonder if the lack of choice is imposed by the consumers themselves or if it's the telco companies that decided that this way is more lucrative.

Re:The consumer is at fault for a lot of it, too! (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997159)

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

You can't say that people prefer that unless you can show another option. As far as I can tell, there isn't one - all that providers offer are two year contracts with a phone included. You can't get anything else without far more effort than most people even realize is possible.

Re:The consumer is at fault for a lot of it, too! (1)

crc32 (133399) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997177)

I love the LLC plan, and have been toying with the idea for some time. My (extended) family has 9-10 cell phones, many of which are used extensively. It probably costs us a collective total of $750-1000/month, and it would be great if I could slave them all together to save a couple of hundred dollars overall.

Saving 10-15 hours a week? (5, Insightful)

ericlj (81729) | more than 7 years ago | (#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?

You want painful cell phone bills? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19996897)

Try moving to Canada!

Why phones are in the "stone age"? (5, Insightful)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why phones are in the "stone age"? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997127)

I agree.

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

In the US, we have laptops ;)

As BTTF says... (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996907)

"All the cool stuff is made in Japan." Part of what you're seeing is not how "crappy" the American system is, but how awesome service is in say, Tokyo in particular. You can see some pretty incredible technology in San Francisco too, stuff that will never ever get to say, Mechanicsburg Ohio. US providers are tasked with nationwide competition and widely varying levels of tech adaptation. We have free wi-fi all over at the nearby shopping mall, but if you head out to farm country, you can't even get regular radio.

Re:As BTTF says... (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997117)

"All the cool stuff is made in Japan." Part of what you're seeing is not how "crappy" the American system is, but how awesome service is in say, Tokyo in particular.
...Because Japan, South Korea and parts of China are test markets for the various asian manufacturers.

The other reason this stuff never shows up in the U.S. is because the mfgs don't think they can move enough units to make it worth their time & advertising money.

I think this sums it up (-1, Redundant)

JeanBaptiste (537955) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996911)

clicky [thebestpag...iverse.net]

Simple... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Simple... (2, Funny)

CaseCrash (1120869) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997147)

Thank you! I had no idea that my love of new and interesting technology and my desire to be able to use the internet outside of my house/work was a result of desire for a larger penis! You've changed my life with your keen insight and ability to correctly identify what every single consumer actually wants, whether they know it or not.

Re:Simple... (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997151)

Yeah, if you want more tech gadgets, buy separate gadgets and go early 90's Bat-belt style with them!

Re:Simple... (1)

Sparr0 (451780) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997165)

I used to agree with you. Back when putting everything in one device increased the cost exorbitantly, or resulted in sub-par performance. But those days are over. My life is easier and more fun when I carry a phone, camera, web-capable PDA, and handheld game console. As many of those functions as I can cram into one device, without sacrificing performance or increasing cost more than linearly, I will take. 2 megapixel is plenty for snapshots, and lots of companies are putting 2MP in camera phones now. Phone+PDA has been trivial for years, but now we are starting to get open platforms so I can run the software *I* want on the device. As to gaming, that's tougher, but with open platforms it will solve itself.

Maddox (1, Informative)

MorderVonAllem (931645) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996917)

http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=ip hone [thebestpag...iverse.net]

Great example of the reasons why the iPhone sucks

Re:Maddox (1)

BKX (5066) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997203)

So I take it you typed that message in vi running on your webserver via ssh, then cut, pasted and posted it all on your Nokia E70. Wow. Just wow.

You think that's bad try visiting Canada (1)

The Lord of Chaos (231000) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996935)

Up here we would be only too happy to get US cell phone rates.

Featuritis (5, Insightful)

Amiga Lover (708890) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996955)

It offered no features I could see beyond my Casio W41CA's capabilities.

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

Sure, the web can be seen as just text and image files, but oh boy... did the presentation and access difference ever change the world. How things work really is important.

Re:Featuritis (2, Insightful)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 7 years ago | (#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?

MP3 Players (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19996957)

The same thing happens with MP3 players: The not iPod DAPs we get here are generally last years tired old garbage compared with the rest of the world. And that's without the vendor lock-in as an explanation.

In my opinion .... (2, Insightful)

everphilski (877346) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996965)

I don't know, but 90% of the functions you would consider necessary to make a 'stone age' phone modern, I don't want. All I want is a basic phone, enough buttons to dial and end a call with good sound quality. That's it. Call me Neanderthal, but I like my cell phones to make phone calls, my coffee pots to make coffee, and my women to ... ;-)

Re:In my opinion .... (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997139)

Ditto. I had a Nokia 3210 on Pay As You Go until the battery life was so short on it that it became about as cheap to buy a new 3310 on Pay As You Go as it was to get a new battery.

I'm 23 and all I use my phone for is occasional texting (to tell my fiancee where I'll meet her) or to call someone briefly (to say I'm near X, so how do I get to Y?). That's all I've done for the last eight years I've had a phone.

Why shell out loads on a contract when you can make a £30 phone last you years and a £10 credit last you months? ;)

Re:In my opinion .... (1)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997261)

You're getting owned just as much as the people who want high end phones. When you get a cellphone plan, you pay $200+ (over two years) to get a phone that should cost $50. The phone you want should cost $20, but you're still paying $200+ and getting the $50 phone.

Re:In my opinion .... (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997347)

Exactly, you aren't better off if you "just want a phone". Actually, it can be argued those are getting ripped off the most.

Re:In my opinion .... (3, Funny)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997317)

and my women to ... ;-)

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

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

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

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

Easy answer: (0)

Cutriss (262920) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996975)

Greed.

Tag this story: askslashdotobviousquestions

Paired Competition (4, Insightful)

dahwang (973539) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Lack of real competition (1)

techmuse (160085) | more than 7 years ago | (#19996993)

The cell companies in the US are near monopolies. Getting a phone without a contract is extremely expensive. Contracts lock you in to a provider for two years, and the cost of switching is extremely high. Since the cell companies only allow you to use certain phones on their network, and since many of them use incompatible networks, there is effectively no competition.

It's the same reason that cable TV is so expensive. Lack of real competition. Sure, you can choose Direct TV instead, but they don't have to price themselves substantially lower than the competition.

Re:Lack of real competition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997255)

Getting a phone without a contract is extremely expensive.

You mean, "Getting a phone without a contract is extremely expensive, if you use your phone a lot." I have a cell phone without a contract. It cost $30 for the phone, and about 8 cents a minute (paid as I go). This comes out to about $6 a month in phone fees.

If I want to "cancel," I just stop filling up my phone with minutes.

Bush weighs in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19996997)

I'm going to check with my cronies in major corporations and see if this is actually a problem. If so, I think we have things called "regulatory bodies" we could use to promote consumer interests. I haven't actually done that before, but I believe it's possible. I think that's why Exxon and AT&T are so small and weak, because prior administrations broke them up to help consumers.

Come to think of it, I see my role as trying to help these boys get back on their feet after too much regulation. So how about we just ask them to give you a better phone at a lower price? It'll take time, so get back to me in 18 months or so if you're still feelin' the pain.

- George

phones in bangladesh (1)

futhman (784983) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997003)

I use an N91 and I'm visiting in the US. Even call rates are so expensive! And people stop me on the street to check out my phone, which, while it's high-end, is normal enough in BANGLADESH that it doesn't get this kind of attention.

The answer: Simple phones are easy to use and... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997005)

... are reliable. Not to mention also cheap and familar.

Complex phones are hard to use, are unreliable, and expensive.

Is this realy that difficult to understand?

More for less (1)

Big Stick (318410) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997013)

Pay more for less...wait, is this an article about the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S. vs. everywhere else in disguise?

US majority is basically tech retarded (1)

DarthTeufel (751532) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997019)

The reason why the US is so far behind is because the majority of the populace doesn't realize there are better cheaper alternatives. The major cell phone carriers want to keep the artificially high service prices, because well, people are paying for it now, why change it? They also did put out a ton of capital to build the networks. Plus, I really believe the leaders of these companies realize that change is coming in the next 5-10 years. Major change. Change that could completely destroy their business plan. So why not (much like oil), try and pinch as much as they can out of it? As for cell phone manufacturers, they rely primarily on the service providers to move their product. So, they're in a tough situation. Do they try and push a phone that could hurt their number 1 sales person? In the end, we will get cheaper phones with more features. But not until we get pinched for every penny we can be pinched for.

Built to last? (1)

Igmuth (146229) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997023)

built to last until obsolescence

Since when is this a bad thing? I'd rather not be forced into buying a new phone constantly, simply because it broke.

Size matters? (3, Interesting)

andy753421 (850820) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997055)

I don't know how true this is, but I've always assumed that the United States has a harder time upgrading to new technologies than places like Japan because of size and population density. In some place like Japan or Europe a cell phone tower will cover quite a few people, in Montana however.. not so much. This doesn't have anything to do with new cell phone designs, but more with prices for text messaging and such. Does anyone know how united states technology compares to places like Russia/Canada/China/Brazil/Australia?

Infrastructure (1)

^_^x (178540) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997059)

I think it's largely a matter of area covered. When you look at the cells for a high-speed network in Japan, they are very close together so that wherever you are, you're fairly close to at least one station. Covering all of Japan probably costs around the same it would cost to do Florida. I'm betting you'd have a LOT more Japanese customers taking advantage of this since i-Mode has soundly stomped WAP for usability and billing plans... from the beginning of time, and you can do more with it.

So we keep getting cheap stone-age phones because most people don't even want the extra junk they pile in to North American phones NOW, much less getting 10x as much, and because of that, it would not be worthwhile to heap billions into upgrading the country's infrastructure (also quite hard when we have so many carriers and not just mainly DoCoMo / KDDI) just for a network that would probably be obsolete in 5 years.

It sucks... I want a DoCoMo phone too... but I can see why this is not the place to do it - at least with the current Japanese technology. Now if we get more phones that can take advantage of high-speed internet over wi-fi, that would level the playing field a certain amount (even if our residential high-speed connections are pretty slow too...)

The article already names the problem (1)

hellfire (86129) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997077)

Quote from the article:

It seems to me more like competition is non-existent...

If this doesn't slap you across the face... well... DUH.

Competition in mobile service is a joke. Phones are merely marked up so they can then be marked down "with 2 year service contract!" Plans several years ago were dropping because all the providers were trying to hold onto their customers and provide good service, but then they all started merging and stifling competition and it's been stagnant for the past few years and it seems like service isn't continuing to improve any more. I used to have less coverage but reliable calls in 2001-2002, now I have more coverage, but more "dead spots" and "dropped calls."

Competition (1)

AltEnergy_try_Sunrei (1121435) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997083)

Its very well possible competition is stifled by agreements amongst vendors. In the European Union these kind of agreements, aimed at getting the maximum money out of a market that has habituated to a certain price level, have been found in almost every industry. As your country recently overturned the law preventing mandatory minimum pricing [nakedcapitalism.com] , effectivley saying you'll always pay for store overhead even if there is no store, you can be sure you'll be ripped off.

GSM / phone carrier independence (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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).

Not just the phones. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997123)

My brother-in-law in India bought two shares of some TATA company for 750Rs per share. Imagine! buying 2 shares! The trade commission was 15 Rs or 33 cents USA. It was high as a percentage 1% of the value of the trade. I would not trade at 1% cost per trade, no sensible person would. So I am sure Indian don't trade as much as the Americans. But how can a company execute a trade and make a profit at 33 cents a trade? It is insane. In India, incoming cell phone calls are free. I think SMS is free. I got 180 minutes of talk time for some 7.5$, no contracts, no other fees. Millions of Indians use their phones only to receive calls, and so dont pay a dime as fees. Why is it so damned expensive in USA. Definitely because of lack of competition. There is no other explanation.

Not to mention... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997135)

... that they still have way to go before providing a reliable basic service. Making or receiving calls with a cell phone still is a hit and miss business.

It's spelled C-A-R-T-E-L (1)

infinite8s (106243) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997149)


Enough said.

Poster is Clueless Himself (1, Interesting)

drmerope (771119) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997153)

  1. Text messaging is cheap in the US compared to Europe. Witness this British article [trustedreviews.com] cheering that text messaging will now only be 25p. i.e., about 50c per message.
  2. The iPhone screen is not made of plastic as is the Casio's screen. Consequently it will not draw lots of scratches.
  3. The retail price of the iPhone is consistent with manufacturing costs. That this guy could get a subsidized casio product for 41 dollars is not surprising.
  4. This article plays on a disgusting pathology "all the best stuff is made in japan". No, Japan has been struggling through a crippling recession for ten years. What was true for Marty McFly in the 80s is simply dated now. And here's the kicker: some stuff is actually made for the US market first and then released to Japan. Ditto for Samsung in Singapore. You always release to your home market first to test out the waters.

Re:Poster is Clueless Himself (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997301)

"Someone pointed out something bad about the US (or my Apple iPhone)!! MUST DEFEND MY COUNTRY (or my beloved Apple product)" ...

Chill out.

He's 100% (ok maybe 99%) right about how messed up it is.

Re:Poster is Clueless Himself (2, Insightful)

sepluv (641107) | more than 7 years ago | (#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:Poster is Clueless Himself (2, Interesting)

^_^x (178540) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997333)

Japan HAS been stuck in a recession for about 10 years. That doesn't invalidate their products though. Can you really look at a cel phone with an easy to use interface, big bright OLED full color screens on the inside and out, a 5MP camera, built-in e-wallet (thumbprint-scan released smartcard wallet) function, high speed internet, an HTML-compatible web browser, MP3 playback, online chatting, smooth fullscreen video conferencing, AND solid service throughout the country and still call it inferior? I'd take one in a second, and those features aren't even so remarkable anymore...

Here is the Canadian scenario... (1)

sheepoo (814409) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997171)

1) Two major players: Rogers (a.k.a Robbers) and Bell (a.k.a Dull)
2) Other smaller players with even worse service (Virgin, Fido, Telus etc.)
3) Cannot get a phone without a contract (pay as you go is 15 cents-25 cents per call for the first minute and then a little lower for the next used time)
4) Extra charges for receiving and sending SMS, as well as for having 911 and voice mail
5) Incoming call charges (I Wish I could find a Bell or Rogers executive, put him on a plane, and take him Pakistan where even the worst Telco does not charge for incoming calls, and then shoot him!)
Bottom line: Customer gouging and hardly any choice

That's mobile phone companies... (1)

sepluv (641107) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997193)

That's mobile phone companies for you. There are only a few companies in the market who are involved in a hegemonic price-fixing cartel controlled by the use of proprietary protocols. This means they think they can get away with charging you anything.

I just looked at the prices for these things and was shocked. I just bought a new Sharp Zaurus [wikipedia.org] SL-C3200 palmtop (which is a proper computer running on Linux with various totally FLOSS OSs available, 6" x 4", 6GB HDD, 416 MHz Intel XScale CPU, 64 MB RAM, 128 MB Flash ROM, USB host and client, IrDACF & SD slots for memory and WiFi and few hours of heavy use on battery life) for 256 GBP, which looks like it is quite a bit cheaper than the iPhone is going for in the US if I have my conversion right.

I just have a Nokia 1100 [wikipedia.org] for a phone, which I've had for several years. It's very cheap, small and reliable, and the battery lasts, it can be thrown about and is very easy to use. What more do you need from a ''phone''. And these phone/PDA hybrids aren't proper PDAs and often aren't very easy-to-use phones either.

Explanation (0, Troll)

skinfitz (564041) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997199)

Most Americans = stupid and don't understand anything more complicated than making calls, therefore there is no market for anything 'fancy'.

So stupid in fact they tolerate paying to receive calls. That still cracks me up every time.

iHate (1)

Orig_Club_Soda (983823) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997215)

Sheesh, I realize the fanboyism is too much but posts like this are just outrageous. Do you people realize that the SLVR and the RAZR were $300+ unless you signed a contract? You guys keep bitching at the iPhone cost but never acknowledge how much MORE you get. Take the Casio W41CA.... 70 MG versus 4 GB. 2.6 inch screen 200x400 vs the iPhone's 3.5inch 340x480... I could go on, but if you guys want to ignore the facts, there's no helping you.

Welcome to America (1)

dattaway (3088) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997231)

Where the telephone companies are just small groups of the Skull and Bones Order.

Like phone, like car (1)

lgreco (618568) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997239)

Just look at the state of the art in design and engineering of automobiles in the States. If a country tolerates this kind of automotive engineering why would it not tolerate the anachronistic cell phone design that you write about? When it comes to design aesthetics and advanced features, culture and education are two important factors to consider. I am not saying that Americans are not cultured or educated. But it would be unfair to compare the culture and education of Japan or Europe (which spans thousands of years) with that of a very young country such as the States. Add to that the cultural isolationism of the US from most thing European and Japanese (save their cars) and you can begin to see the roots of apprehension when it comes to advanced designs. That Apple managed to maintain an innovative presence in the US market all these years is a miracle. Persistence and consistency pay off, though, so now Apple begins to reap the benefits of its commitment to good and aesthetically advanced engineering. It just takes time.

Some insight from my short stay in Japan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997247)

I was in Japan for about a month last summer and I actually got a chance to speak with some higherups at a few electronics companies about the mobile phone market in Japan, and Europe, actually. A few of the big driving forces for the adoption of better phones in Japan specifically are as follows:

Business: low-cost (to the companies) availability and quality of service: Japan is small, compared to the US, and the population is densely packed. This means the actual service providers can reach more people at a lower cost. The entire country is blanketed in a high-speed wireless network owned by a few huge telecom providers like DoCoMo. Also, local monopolies mean that companies are focused more on service and less on market share. This means a better network, which increases the value of a cellphone. Telecoms in the US would be hard-pressed to handle unlimited data for everyone (think about how many people would browse YouTube on the bus or subway... or in class or meetings for that matter), but the Japanese can do it.

Psychological: This is the important one: the Japanese are the pickiest consumers in the world, statistically. If a company slips up in the tiniest way, they will pay for it, both from that consumer and from negative word-of-mouth. In the US, these factors are diminished because of big businesses' lack of a relationship with the community, and countless studies have confirmed this effect. Because of this, only the highest-quality products manage to stay afloat in the Japanese market. You can't scrape by giving your customers crap and hoping they'll put up with it, because in Japan, they won't. Good luck changing that in the U.S. The nice thing to know is that some hi-tech phones from overseas are backwards-compatibile with some U.S networks, so you might be able to import and activate whatever phone you had in Japan.

That being said, the iPhone is still the state-of-the-art, as far as mobile design goes. The only thing I think it's missing that I've seen overseas and would like to have in an iPhone is the ability for it to replace your wallet plastic: credit card, subway rfid pass, university id, etc, and that's all infrastructure-dependent anyway. I'm sure that will come in time. No one else has such a simple, intuitive, powerful interface. The sad thing about the iPhone being released in the US is that we won't get to take full advantage of web applications leveraging the iPhone without an expensive data plan. Buy AAPL when (if) it gets released in Japan and Europe, because the profits will be ludicrous.

Hope that makes some sense. It turns out that the Japanese actually do have better inherent taste in everything, but it's not genetic, it's cultural.

Local monopolies (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997271)

That's what they are and they, the carriers, do not have to change. It's the same with the cable companies.

Why do they have a monopoly? Because of our legislatures.

There you go.

Simple reason: Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#19997285)

People in the US pay more for a lot of things. We pay more for music and movies. We pay more for TV. We pay more for internet. My travels in Latin America tell me we also pay a lot more than some people for food.

My own thought: people charge too much in this country for a number of reasons, such as high cost of living, but with technology services the biggest reason is because they can get away with it. Internet and TV service is a great example. I wouldn't be surprised if there are places where people still pay $30 a month for dial-up and it gets marketed as "fast". Most Americans probably aren't tech savvy enough to complain. I have also witnessed that companies set up monopolies, or in some cases N-opolies (where N might be the small number of cable or DSL providers in a city), to make sure that no one pays below a certain price. Meanwhile, in parts of Europe and Asia, people are paying a lot less for better service.

How does this relate to phones? I see it as the same thing that happens in this country with TV and internet. People overcharge for crappy goods and services. Why? Because they can get away with it. Sorry if it's flamebait, but we Americans are just too fat and stupid to notice.

Not just phones are inferior...cars, houses, etc. (-1, Troll)

dtjohnson (102237) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997315)

It's not just the cell phones that lag behind their overseas counterparts. The average car on the road in the US is a trashy piece of junk compared to an average car in Japan or the UK. US houses and apartments are often shoddily built and poorly maintained such that after 30 years they are ready to be torn down. Roads in the US are often full of potholes, poorly patched pavement, dangerous angles, and cluttered with hideously ugly advertising signs and strip malls. Major intersections in cities are occupied by 8-way stoplights that meter cars through at about 80 vehicles per hour so they can fly ahead to the next 8-way stoplight in the next block. Europe uses......"roundabouts" that are about 100x more efficient than stoplights.

These are specific examples but there is an underlying theme to all of these. They are the result of uninformed, close-minded, consumers who don't expect anything better and are uninterested in anything better. It's not surprising, then, that the market penetration of Linux, Firefox, and OS software in general is much higher outside of the US.

Several points... (2, Insightful)

blueZ3 (744446) | more than 7 years ago | (#19997323)

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
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