I live in Canada, and I've heard nothing but complaints from my fellow citizens about the tyranny of our cellphone companies, from their super-high prices to their crapola plans. For the longest amount of time, it was a monopoly up here with very little competition or price. Recently the CRTC (basically, Canada's version of the FTC) has finally let other players (WIND, Mobilicity, PublicMobile) into the market. What's good about most of them is that you can bring your phone (BYOP) with you, and get some half-decent plans for half-decent rates, most of them better than the 'big three' (Bell Mobility, Telus, and Rogers) and no contract. The new companies also sell phones, but they offer no subsidies on them. Canadians reading this may think "what about Fido?" or "what about Virgin?" to which I'll respond by reminding them that Rogers bought Fido and Bell bought Virgin so while those brands are still here, they're not independent.
And having worked for T-Mobile doing customer service and technical support for their customers in the USA, I was very aware of what sort of plans both they and their competition were offering. When I tell my American and European friends about what we have to put up with, they are incredulous. All this further hit home when I chatted with some people I know who spend half the year in Canada and the other half in either Florida or London.
Now, many people are used to paying either nothing or a very low fee for their phone, and as a result, they get locked into mainly three year contracts. If they try to cancel, they are subject to horrendously high cancellation fees in the order of $300 to $500 dollars. People have become more frustrated with this as phones have gotten smarter, and hence, more capable. Say you have an old flip phone that's ok for talking, but not much for texting, and has no ability to shoot photos/video, watch movies or listen to music and you have 18 months to go on your contact - it's cheaper to wait it out as you watch your friends have fun with their non-lame devices. No iPhone or Android for you!
Still, it's an education process: As people get used to the concept of buying their own phones, and there are good deals to be had on both smarter and Smartphones, a very capable one can be had for as low as $70 to $100, and even better ones for $200 to $300, they're going to start to like the idea of getting better plans for less money and, most of all, they're going to love not being forced into a contract which not friendly to them as consumers.
Now what if they could get an iPod Touch with a 3G connection? Oh my! Today, Dan Frommer reported
on the latest albeit far-fetched such rumour over at BusinessInsider.com. As Frommer noted:
This could be a long shot. But if this happens, it could obviously help drive iPod touch sales. This sort of device, a pocket-sized gadget with a full app platform, good web browser, and data-only 3G service simply doesn't exist yet. (On the sort-of-pocket-sized Dell Streak, even if you pay $550 for the full, unsubsidized device, you still need to sign up for AT&T voice service; you can't get data-only service, we've confirmed with the carrier.)
If this does happen, this 'end run' by Apple, carriers aren't going to be happy. Or as someone hilariously put it: "what kidnapper likes to see their hostages fleeing?". That might be a bit harsh, but it's funny. Some such companies are already unhappy that people are using services like Skype to avoid paying per minute for phone calls. Whatever happened to per second billing? True some companies still have it, but many don't. I mean, how outrageous having to pay for a full two minutes talk time when you spoke for one minute and one second.
It probably won't happen with the soon-to-be-announced iPod Touch (hey, be happy with the new camera system
), but it might not be that far off into the future. And it’ll be a game-changer in favour of consumers.