Jul 29, 2011

Mobile Phones

In the USA, Android is the 1st OS, but Apple is the largest single seller (nielsenwire).
We have Apple with a share of 28%, followed by HTC and Blackberry both at 20%. So these 3 companies alone account for about 70% of the market (postpaid mobile subscribers).
I find this quite oligopolistic and I wonder if this depends on the monopoly power provided by excessive intellectual property...
Anyway the iphone for sure is a good product, it's cool, is well designed, the software is smooth and it just works (provided you use it exactly the way Apple wants you to use it - to make some criticism - which also tends to imply paying Apple to monopolize your technological life and lock you in...).
Yet I find this amazing considering the price of their products and Apple's policy of total closeness.
Is mobile phones dominated by the most expensive and supposedly one of the highest quality variety?
How do other verieties compare in terms of quality or perceived quality? Are people aware of companies policies in terms of openness and does that affects their choice and their perception of product quality?
I would be courious to have data on that and about marketing costs, R&D, patents and their costs also in terms of legal actions...
But let me forget about economics and take this news as an excuse to make some thoughts about how smartphones affect people's life, at least in my experience. Or more precisely how people tend to misuse their smartphones, which when properly used, are great tools.

In the last 6 months I've been using a cheap extremely basic ZTE phone.
Result: I am quite less dependent on stupid apps which I do not really need, that do not really improve the quality of my life, but that once you start using you may find addictive.
I do not miss any email, I do not miss anything from the web. And since in most jobs people just sit in front of their computer the whole day (assuming your company is not one of those that block any website and track you, in which case you may use your phone to escape their control - and I wonder how relevant is this component), I wonder if one really needs to spend his time on stupid apps (games are the most downloaded items), instead of going out, read a book, doing sports, sleep etc.

I don't want to make any moral here. I just consider the data I have: my experience and what I see around me.

Before swithcing to the ZTE basic phone (which for my normal life is a bit extreme, I must admit), I had an old Samsung smartphone and I was used to check email or do other stuff on about a half a hour basis. I was not compulsive as others, I could easily turn it off or forget it at home, but I developed the habit of checking very often. And I was even seriously thinking about buying a more powerful phone. It makes you feel cool to some extent. You feel modern, technologycally advanced and, given you are always connected, efficient. And this is quite true, provided that you know when to disconnect yourself and do not become an enthusiastic slave of your device, something that iphones owners I've seen tend to become very easily.

When I had to switch to the basic phone, I felt it was ugly and slow, I thought I was going to miss being online etc. I thought people would have thought I was technologically prehistoric etc. I thought I would easily get lost without maps on my phone... Instead I found out myself feeling more free. I did not care much about this phone object, I started seeing it as a tool, not as a cool accessory to take care of and to show to people. It is lighter than ever and smaller than ever. It can fall on the ground and ususally nothing happens, and I couldn't care less. And the battery lasts for 5 days!

At the end I started reading books a bit more, instead of doing bullshit which is out of my mind 3 minutes later. I did not miss a single email anyway, I did not write less of them and I did not spend more time on the computer for emails. Not checking facebook/twitter every 15 min is a good. Even if you may feel your social updating lags behind, soon you realize that the kind of social updating provided by social networks is rather superficial and just does not deserves much of your time nor of your attention. I even started remembering maps...

I know many people who are enslaved by their phones. They are compulsive in checking email/facebook/twitter. Clearly without any reason nor necessity, since the likelyhood that you get something that requires your real time attention in any instant is almost zero for most people, and still if there is something urgent someone will easily find a way to contact you. They keep touching their screens as if there were some magic in them and as if touching them again and again could give them new hints on how they work. Many of the iphone owners I know use it when they are with people and tend to give less attention to what happens around them; some are even used to go to bathroom or to sleep with their phone. They take it in the bed and start playing some games until they fall asleep. I wonder how good is that habit. Some of them used to read more than 10 books per year before the advent of the iphone, now they read almost zero. The same mental energies they spend for books have been totally wasted on games.
I doubt this makes you a better person as reading 10 books per year.
Do people need much more information and perhaps some training before buying a smartphone?

That said, of course my next phone will be a (possibly not too closed) smartphone, which is a great tool if used wisely.
Are you an iphone/smartphone slave or know one of them?

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