The latest developments in the cell phone and handheld wireless device space show, once again, how far apart the creators of technology are from their customers or the needs thereof.
As eWeek has reported for some time, manufacturers are in a desperate race with wireless network providers over which can outpace each others uselessness.
Research In Motion has added voice support to its popular BlackBerry device. Motorola is discontinuing its traditional pager business in favor of devices that carry two-way messages and voice (see eWeek, Dec. 10).
Thats all well and good. But such cutting-edge products are about as useful as paperweights in the United States, which does not have GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks available to carry the data. Verizon, VoiceStream, Cingular and AT&T Wireless plan GPRS networks, but they wont be available until well into next year.
Cell phone and network technology may be more in sync by then, but as we have seen in the Wintel world, todays devices will always be surpassed by the next-generation (and nonstandard) technology hovering on the horizon. Users will always be facing a choice between getting by with yesterdays gadgets or waiting for tomorrows promises. And so it goes.
Meanwhile, few users are waiting for mysterious new networks to appear before they upgrade, and few use all of the bells and whistles the devices do contain. (Im just looking for a reliable connection. Ya know what I mean?)
So its a mystery to me why Sprint PCS has decided to push things like downloadable ring tones and personalized graphics. The company is trying to capitalize on its success in Europe by rolling out some 200 tones in the United States, but the catch is that only Sprints newest handsets will be able to make use of the add-ons.
In addition to a few new handset sales, the only other result will be more annoyance for those who turn off cells in meetings or while on trains. Now, instead of hearing the standard rings, well have the privilege of being annoyed in more than 200 personalized ways.
Now thats innovation.
What do cell phones really need? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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