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How Great Cheap Phones Never Get to the U.S. 481

prostoalex writes "Gary Krakow from MSNBC is impressed with Motorola's C116 phone only to find out that that the phone is not available in the US. The reason? 'A very, very basic GSM handset that handles incoming and outgoing calls as well as SMS messages, the C116 is sold all over the world -- except for the United States. It's not sold here because it's too cheap!' The phone is targeted for emerging markets, where people don't like to tie themselves into monthly contracts, and with little value proposition presents little interest to US wireless operators."
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How Great Cheap Phones Never Get to the U.S.

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  • by yog ( 19073 ) * on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:12AM (#14954983) Homepage Journal
    From the article:
    Contact numbers are saved directly to your SIM card. Most modern-day phones come with at least some internal memory, but the C100 series phones have none.
    I'm not sure I see why it's bad or "cheap" that the phone saves contact information to the SIM card. In fact my fancy, shmancy Nokia 6600 requires some special shenanigans to move contacts to the card if, for example, I wanted to switch to another phone. Apparently it gets confusing if you move your contacts to the card because the phone will continue to save new contacts to its internal memory and you need to keep track of that. Why not just use the permanent, removable storage for such vital information? Or better yet, have the option to copy it to both places (but only display it once, which it can't currently do)?

    Aside from this, he makes a great point about how the U.S. phone market is too controlled by a tiny handful of providers. I would like to see phones unlinked from the service providers, much as personal computers are separate from the DSL and cable broadband providers. Imagine if you had to buy a Verizon PC or a Comcast Macintosh and if you switched from Comcast Cable to Verizon DSL you'd need to buy a new PC!

    It seems as though GSM is a step in the right direction because T-Mobile, Cingular, and ATT branded phones are basically interchangeable. Even so, the Europeans and Japanese always seem to have much cooler phones, and the options in the U.S. are just so limited.
    • would like to see phones unlinked from the service providers

      Well, you *can* buy your own phone and have a phone service plan seperately-- it's just that the plan providers provide a free or cheap phone if you sign up for a 1-year or 2-year contract. The month-to-month plans don't seem like a good deal.

      But truthfully, it's hard to compare each plan side by side, because each plan comes with dozens of little exceptions and little add-on charges. Some websites, like [] seem to leave out all sorts of
      • i have used letstalk in the past and felt that i was able to locate all of the relevant information for the plans. it was easy to compare plans as well. terms of service, extra charges, etc is right there in the site. i havent had any surprises anywhere along the line by using them. in fact, i recommend their service. nothing like getting a phone and paid 100$ or so to sign the same contract you would have to if you went into a store in a mall.
      • You should ask how cheap you can get a one- or two-year contract, if you don't buy a phone from them. Some German providers give you something like 100 in return, but then you're usually better off to simply buy a subsidized phone and sell it on ebay.
      • Capitalism is neat. It gives consumers choice.
    • by Inaffect ( 862616 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:25AM (#14955020)

      "I would like to see phones unlinked from the service providers, much as personal computers are separate from the DSL and cable broadband providers. Imagine if you had to buy a Verizon PC or a Comcast Macintosh and if you switched from Comcast Cable to Verizon DSL you'd need to buy a new PC!"

      Ahh yes, the contract game...

      Nothing stops you from using an unlocked phone (a phone that is not restricted to the provider) with your sim card on a GSM network. The problem is many cell phone companies, at least in the US, are locking the phones to their provider. They are willing to give you the unlock code, but it seems to be a matter of getting the right person on the phone and waiting a certain period of time before they are willing to do this. So you could technically travel from one provider to another with the same phone.

      After getting some rebates on a "locked" phone in exchange for another long-term contract, I sold the phone at full price on eBay and bought a much better phone. After my contract expires, I can technically bring this phone over to any GSM mobile provider.

      Another industry "secret" seems to be that you can walk in with an unlocked phone and demand to go without contract - they claim they will not turn down a customer, but this is only if you have an unlocked phone, apparently...

    • "why not just use the permanent, removable storage for such vital information?"

      because it is limited in size.

      my sim card can hold 30 sms messages
      my phone can hold 200

      my sim card can hold 210 contacts
      my phone can hold 1000

      the sim card runs out of space way too quickly, which is why i use the nice large internal memory of the phone
    • I'm not sure I see why it's bad or "cheap" that the phone saves contact information to the SIM card. In fact my fancy, shmancy Nokia 6600 requires some special shenanigans to move contacts to the card if, for example, I wanted to switch to another phone. Apparently it gets confusing if you move your contacts to the card because the phone will continue to save new contacts to its internal memory and you need to keep track of that.

      I have a Nokia 6610, and while I don't know if the interface is the same, here'
      • Except T-Mobile generally stocks the European models of handsets, which have 900mhz band instead of 850mhz. So a T-Mobile phone usually does not include the right radio transmitter to work on Cingular. This is why T-Mobile stocked the Sony-Ericsson T610, but Cingular had the T616. But the Cingular phones have 850mhz and 1900mhz so they can be used on T-Mobile.

        Except not. T-Mobile started stocking North America dualband/triband devices when available perhaps a year ago. All of T-Mobile's current devices for

    • by Achromatic1978 ( 916097 ) <> on Monday March 20, 2006 @04:02AM (#14955387)
      Your fancy, shmancy Nokia 6600 is considered obsolete in most of the world. I like a lot of things about the US, but the cellular system is ancient, obsolete, and a joke.
    • Or better yet, have the option to copy it to both places (but only display it once, which it can't currently do)?

      The problem is that the format for saving contacts on the SIM was set years ago, and the capabilities of phone's contact lists have improved since then (support for groups, email and street addresses saved with the numbers, more than one numbers per contact, more than 250 contacts). That said, my Sony Ericcson does support transparently mirroring numbers on the SIM card, though I've never tried

    • by Thomas Miconi ( 85282 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @06:11AM (#14955690)
      The simple problem is that the US is just too big. Setting up a global cellular service over half a continent is a major challenge, which creates a huge barrier to entry. This means that it's easier for existing operators to corner the market, create an oligopoly and impose restrictions on the services offered to the customer.

      This is in addition to the fact that the US did not choose a single 1st generation standard (GSM, CDMA, whatever), which fragmented the market even more.

      In Europe, you have several middle-size countries in which local operators can develop, and then make agreements with each other to allow for international communications. It works, though it's more expensive (texting my firned in Hungary from the UK costs more than texting someone in the same country).

      In the UK alone, I know of 7 significant nationwide mobile phone operators (0range, Vodaphone, O2, 3, Virgin, T-Mobile, Tesco), and I'm sure there are a few more (OK, at least two of these are "virtual" operators which piggyback on the network of another operator, but still, that's more competition).

  • The color model, the C155, is available in the United States, sold by the prepaid wireless company TracFone online and through retail outlets such as Wal-Mart. For $29.98, you get the phone and the right to buy pay-as-you-go phone services.

    There are expenses for businesses in having extended product line, especially when the market for these types of phones is limited (and they do offer the upgraded version anyway).

    If you can get the upgraded colour version for only $30 anyway is there really a story he

  • by EnronHaliburton2004 ( 815366 ) * on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:14AM (#14954988) Homepage Journal
    The phone is targeted for emerging markets, where people don't like to tie themselves into monthly contracts,

    Am I wrong, or do they mean yearly contracts?
    • No, they mean monthly contracts... 12, 24, 36 etc... and also, you pay the bill each month, not each year.
    • I think the author meant contracts that are billed monthly...but yes they are usually locked in for 1-2 years.

      I've been told that some of the providers will offer the good deals ( $0.10/min) afforded by these plans without a contract if you aren't trying for the free or discount phones, but the one vendor I asked claimed that I was misinformed.
    • I don't think so. They probably mean it's targeted towards prepay customers, rather than anyone on a recurring billing cycle. Many mobile networks in central Africa, to name one developing market, are prepay-only.
    • Most of these are prepay markets, mostly in asia, south america and africa.

      Personally I think pre-pay is great for all markets, but I'm sure cell companies and uncle sam disagree. The former to keep service from being fungible, the latter because pre-pay is anonymous and untraceable. Both of these are probably in the consumers best interest.
      • Prepaid is also great for people who just don't use their phone often but still need to be able to do so on the go. I pay 15 EUR a year - because the prepaid card is limited to twelve months, then you have to purchase a refresh, the cheapest version of which is 15 bucks. If I had a contract I would get a new mobile every one or two years (which I don't need or want, I like my 6210), but I would pay more in two months than I pay in a year now.

        Of course I could just tell them to send me the most expensive m
    • Am I wrong, or do they mean yearly contracts?
      I suppose it's a lot like parents who insist on referring to their child's age in months after they've crossed the one year mark.

      "Trashlyn will be 37 months next week..."
    • You are wrong. The popular plans here are prepaid ones, where you pay a fixed amount of money and get a certain talktime upto a given date. This allows for fixed expenses, and easy quitting if the provider isn't good enough (or someone else offers a better plan).

      This allows me to pay $10, and get 400 minutes of talktime to be used within 2 calendar months. I can choose to renew within that period (and extend any unused talktime), or move to another provider.
    • It's likely they mean the "pay as you go" schemes, where you buy credit when you need it. For those of us who don't use their phones a lot, this generally works out a lot cheaper. You also don't need a credit card, or even a bank account, to use a phone, which can be advantageous to the young.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:16AM (#14954995)
    “IMAGINE a magical device that could boost entrepreneurship and economic activity, provide an alternative to bad roads and unreliable postal services, widen farmers’ access to markets, and allow swift and secure transfers of money. Now stop imagining: the device in question is the mobile phone.”

    “It is increasingly clear that, when it comes to bridging the ‘digital divide’ between rich and poor, the mobile phone, not the personal computer, has the most potential.”


    Mobile phones and development []

    Calling an end to poverty
    Jul 7th 2005
    From The Economist print edition

    Mobile-phone firms have found a profitable way to help the poor help themselves

    [Image] [] (Still Pictures)

    ALL eyes are on what governments can do to end poverty, with aid, debt relief and trade top of the agenda at this week’s G8 summit. But what about the role that business can play--and, in particular, technology firms? It is increasingly clear that, when it comes to bridging the “digital divide” between rich and poor, the mobile phone, not the personal computer, has the most potential. “Emerging markets will be wireless-centric, not PC-centric,” says C. K. Prahalad, a management scholar and author of “The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid”, a book that highlights the collective purchasing power of the world’s 4 billion poorest people and urges firms to try to profit from it.

    Mobile phones have become indispensable in the rich world. But they are even more useful in the developing world, where the availability of other forms of communication--roads, postal systems or fixed-line phones--is often limited. Phones let fishermen and farmers check prices in different markets before selling produce, make it easier for people to find work, allow quick and easy transfers of funds and boost entrepreneurship. Phones can be shared by a village. Pre-paid calling plans reduce the need for a bank account or credit check. A recent study by London Business School found that, in a typical developing country, a rise of ten mobile phones per 100 people boosts GDP growth by 0.6 percentage points. Mobile phones are, in short, a classic example of technology that helps people help themselves.

    But despite rapid subscriber growth in much of the developing world, only a small proportion of people--around 5% in both India and sub-Saharan Africa--have their own mobile phones. Why? The price of handsets is the “biggest obstacle” to broader adoption, says Alan Knott-Craig, boss of Vodacom, which runs networks in five African countries. Azmi Mikati of Investcom, which runs networks in Africa and the Middle East, estimates that the number of users would double in those markets if the cheapest handset cost $30 instead of $60.

    Ringing the changes

    Handset-makers earn most of their profits from fancy phones sold to consumers in rich countries, where on average a handset costs around $200 (before operator subsidies). But as markets have become saturated in the rich world, manufacturers have started to realise that their future growth depends on catering to the needs of developing nations. As a result, they have been working with operators to develop new extremely cheap handsets and to boost adoption in the poor world.

    Several operators from developing countries teamed up earlier this year under the auspices of the GSM Association, which promotes the use of GSM, the world’s dominant mobile-phone standard. They invited the handset-makers to bid for a contract to supply up to 6m handsets for less than $40 each. The contract was won by Motorola. Delivery of handsets began in April. The low cost is not due to cross-subsidy from high-margin handsets or “corporate social responsibility” funding, insists David Taylor of Motorol
    • "It is increasingly clear that, when it comes to bridging the 'digital divide' between rich and poor, the mobile phone, not the personal computer, has the most potential."

      Maybe, but I know I spend a *lot* more time on the computer than the phone, for both work and leisure.

      Besides, unlike a cellphone, the crank-powered laptop is very useful even with no infrastructure - you can store an entire library of information on it. (I realize it won't have a lot of storage, but the entire Bible is only 4 MB in

      • "Besides, unlike a cellphone, the crank-powered laptop is very useful even with no infrastructure - you can store an entire library of information on it."

        Thank you so much for having a clue. Seriously. I work in development, specialising in communications, and I run into this silly reductionism so often it sometimes makes me want to scream []. I don't know why it doesn't occur to more people, but power generation is a problem in most of the world, and with oil prices (and supply) what they are, things are on

        • That's a very insightful point, but what if the funds aren't available to do both? The best argument I can think of is that since mobile telephony seems to be spreading on its own, that is, without the help of governments and NGOs, the OLPC initiative is where developmental aid should be directed. But then, I have to ask, why not direct those limited resources at broadening access to telephony even faster?
      • An entire library of information is great for education, but you won't be able to do much with that education unless you're able to communicate with the world beyond your village. A mobile phone is much better suited for that purpose.

        To get onto the Internet with a hand-cranked laptop, you'll need a cellular connection anyway. Land lines throughout central Africa are horrendously expensive and unreliable. And besides, a cell phone with access to an entire world of information, that lasts two weeks on a sing
    • So what you are saying is if people have a hundred dollar laptop and they try to get a mobile phone, bill gates or somebody he pays, jumps out from behind a bush (the green kind, not the low IQ kind) and takes away the phone or is there some kind of new physical science that prevents them from having both.

      Beside I thought the new storey was mobile phones and origami truth bending. Keyboards, we don't need no stinkin keyboards, just because the last hundred years or so have pretty much proved the most reli

  • by rmadhuram ( 525803 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:18AM (#14954999)
    I moved back to India last year after spending 10 years in the US. I found that the cab drivers here have better mobile phones than most people in the US. I guess it has to do with monopolies and regulations..
    • by DevanJedi ( 892762 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:30AM (#14955036) Homepage Journal
      This is absolutely true in India and it mainly has to do with the de-coupling of the service providers and the phone/unit providers.
      • My Indian friends have told me on numerous occasions that a major factor is also their black markets as well.
      • Please explain or provide a link to more. This sounds like what we should be pushing for here.
        • by rsidd ( 6328 )
          Phone unit providers here are Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, etc -- same as anywhere else. Service providers are mostly GSM, and with them you can use any GSM phone. You buy phone separately and service separately. Most people go for prepaid. (I used prepaid even when I was in the US -- more expensive per minute, but cheaper with my usage patterns -- with Verizon I paid less than $20 a month, half what postpaid Verizon customers did. I'm amazed it's so hard to find prepaid service in the US). Incoming
          • I used prepaid even when I was in the US -- more expensive per minute, but cheaper with my usage patterns -- with Verizon I paid less than $20 a month
            I don't get it. When I look for prepaid at verizon, I find plans that start with a $.99/day access fee that is charged every day, regardless of access. So basically a $30/month fee before you start paying per minute. So how do you get $20/month?
    • by dilvish_the_damned ( 167205 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:59AM (#14955258) Journal
      We can't afford the good ones. Its not the monopolies and regulations (or advertising to a sheepish public).
      The basic mantra of commercialism is "charge what the market will bear" and the US consumer will bear what we are taught.
      I blaim your cab driver. He is taking our jobs, ergo he has the better phone.
      May I go just a little too far here?
      I will regardless.
      How dare you spread your anti-Commercialism here? Its down right unamerican.
      The next thing you will be suggesting is that the US cannot put regional locks on devices/media so that corporations cannot control markets through technology and the DMCA.
      But of course your a foreigner, I guess you can be excused by this basis alone. You just didnt understand.
      We are sheep. And I guess we like it that way. Dare I say "Proud"?
      And despite remours of a deficit we are all individually rich, and we are proud to support those US companies that provide for us. Did I say "proud"?.
      Trust in the company.
      Some day the rest of the world will learn to trust in thier companies and corps, just as we have. And then you wont have to think, just as we do (or dont).
      So, did I go too far? I question if I went far enough. I doubt it. So I will go one further.
      "We are the US, we are very powerfull, our prices prove it".
      I guess I should have either denoted this rant as or stopped a few beers ago. But I am American, I know full well how to sedate myself.
      And its too late, you already read it.

  • Newsflash (Score:3, Insightful)

    by funny-jack ( 741994 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:21AM (#14955010) Homepage
    Indeed, what an amazing and insightful "news" story. It's not because of cell phone technology that cell phones are such a drag in the US, it's because of the cell phone "service" providers. Who would have thought. []
  • Boo (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dave1212 ( 652688 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:23AM (#14955015) Homepage
    I'm one of the people mentioned that don't like to tie myself into monthly contracts. The fact that a phone will make less profit for the phone companies should not make a difference as to whether it is sold here. I'm sure there are many people who just want a phone to be a phone.

    Crappy (for us, the 'consumers') corporate decisions like this happen every day, and we're going to need to speak up sooner or later if we want anything to change.

    Right now, it takes a story on /., the Register, and a few more online news sources before the mainstream media realizes they can't ignore it much longer and starts to cover the story (being careful of course to not step on the toes of any of their advertisers), getting the (usually watered-down) message out to the unwashed.

    These situations seem to require getting to that point before the companies will 'take a look at' their actions, Sony's DRM CD being the latest example. Your customers don't know what a rootkit is? They have a better idea now.

    Making noise about these things is making a difference, however small it may be.
  • If down is up and right is left, that is the best phone in the world. Or at least the best looking.

    Ugly, ugly phone. Holy cow.

    You want to know why nice phones don't come to the US? It's because people want to hang onto these things until the last circuit burns out and they can't hear the person on the other end because the flames shooting out of the earpiece are too hot. Then they try to extend the life on the phones by only making calls while holding their head in a tank of water. When the phone final
    • by kitejumping ( 953022 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:26AM (#14955022) Homepage
      from the end... "The color model, the C155, is available in the United States, sold by the prepaid wireless company TracFone online and through retail outlets such as Wal-Mart. For $29.98, you get the phone and the right to buy pay-as-you-go phone services. Telefonica MoviStar sells the C116 phone in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries."
  • I use a Palm Tungsten T [] PDA and wanted a basic bluetooth GSM phone that I could use to connect the Palm to the Internet. The best I found -- actually, the only basic phone I found -- was the Nokia 6310i []. Basic black and white screen, basic keyboard, somewhat large compared to other phones, but IT WORKS. My 6310i is now over 3 years old and I've seen nothing on the Canadian market that looks like it. I have a great Palm PDA - why would I want a $500 colour phone discounted to $99 with a 3 year contract?
    • I have a Virgin phone with a pay as you go plan that in theory could be as low as $15 every three months - naturally it's not quite that low but probably only $30 every three months.

      All I would ask for in addition to that plan is a Bluetooth phone and some kind of data plan. Heck, it could cost ten cents a minute for data access and that would be totally fine, just enough to fetch and send email while out and about.

      I also do not need color screen or a camera. I just what a phone to bring me data connectiv
  • by the_REAL_sam ( 670858 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:34AM (#14955051) Journal
    Half the articles seem to be trolls in and of themselves.

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:51AM (#14955099)
    and isn't it great the way the profit motive works? There's tons of crap like this in the PC world. You can't buy an inkjet with easily (and properly) refillable cartridges, and the American counterparts print half as many pages before dying. There's little or no innovation in midrage ($100-$200) soundcards since too much too fast might kill the market for next years upgrades. And noone wants to sell you a decent video card for less than $200 dollars ever since 3dfx bought the farm. I'm sure you could find this crap going on outside the technology sector ( I hear it's a major problem in the drug industry ). I say get the gov't involved in combating this. Sure they'll muck things up pretty bad, but the way I see it the corps are screwing us all so bad hamstringing them a little couldn't hurt. Christ, at least put a stop the the landfill expanding nightmare that is inkjet printers.
    • I say get the gov't involved in combating this.

      Goverment? Where does the goverment get the money for the next election? Who is it rather going to please?

      I say - get organized. Why there is no decent consumer organization in the US is a mystery to me. And by 'decent' I don't mean another corp that makes profit by 'certifying' other corps 'consumer friendly'. I mean an organization of consumers. Big enough to raise a stink about a monopoly being abused. Big enough to scare the politicians. Big enough to org

  • by Art Popp ( 29075 ) * on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:53AM (#14955102)
    There are a large number of factors that go into the selection of handset models for both the U.S. post-paid and pre-paid markets: features, cost, size, manufacturer support, durability, radio quality, and audio quality among them.

    Major carriers have an allotted sum that they can contribute to a person's first handset based on their one-year contract commitment. People in the handset selection teams for these companies choose the phones with the best feature set for that amount of money. There is no bonus for selecting a phone that is cheaper than this amount.

    Less expensive phones sometimes get that way by choosing inferior components, and antenna designs. But not always. The only way to know whether a phone was cheaper due to clever engineering or cheap components is to completely reverse engineer the design with a every competent team of engineers, or deploy thousands of them and carefully watch the complaints.

    The drive for Zoolanderesque micro phone sizes is over. There is such a thing as too small and consumers have figured this out.

    Though there is certainly some deviation from the post-paid phone standards for the pre-paid phones each new model has a cost in customer care training time and handset replacement programs.

    There is a push to make more data services available and some favoritism is shown to those handsets that can offer that content. /. users may already know exactly what data services they need/want because they have fearlessly tried them, explored every menu of their phones, and come to a good conclusion as to what is worth paying for. Many people haven't. They only discover a new feature because they see some geeky person use it in a cool way that they'd never imagined, and say "I wish my phone could do that." To which the TruGeek replies. "That's a Nokia 6682. It can take even better pictures than this and send them right to your Inbox. Let me show you how." It may sound like paternalism to sell people phones with more features than they currently think they need, but it's not. It's just good marketing.

    When you combine these factors you have a recipe for "I told you so's" The article's author didn't find the buttons too small on this phone (though many would), and where he was, the radio was adequate (though in tiny phones, penetrating the human hand is a definite problem). This phone will never let him "discover" the joys of sending cool pictures at the zoo to his grandkids e-mail boxes (which he may already do with with Coolpix 8800).

    In summary. Geeksight is 20/20. We can mathematically determine that there is a slot for this in the American market, but marketing is stranger than chaos theory. And I would like to suggest that the article's author, go bid on the one for sale on ebay (right now AU $20) put his SIM in it. It doesn't get much cheaper than that, and then he could leave the article writing on handset marketing to people with a statistical sample > 1.

    [disclaimer: I am a Treo650 fanboy who still has his T68 on the charger]
  • by Bushido Hacks ( 788211 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:55AM (#14955109) Homepage Journal
    Oh, I could guess the primary reason we don't see the new Cell Phones or PDAs in the US:
    Download the latest ringtones to your cellphone incluidng the Motorcycle Frog and "My Humps" by the Blackeyed Peas. Watch videos and TELEVISION on your cell phone on the nations largest wireless network, blah blah blah and all that bullocks!
    The problem is that we don't want that sh*t! We want our cellphones to to be used as tools not toys. Be that adding a camera was a good idea, despite the charges we have to pay for downloading and uploading photos. Heaven forbid we might use a USB cable and download these photos directly or upload our own ringtones that don't suck! Oh, that right, we have to buy [sh*t] music from iTunes.

    Personally, I want to tell Ma'Bell to take her phone and shove it where the sone don't shine. Give me something that I can hack and create my own programs on instead of this bubblegum mainstream crap anyday!
    • I got a Motorola V551 from Cingular, and a cheap USB Bluetooth adapter. Works great. I can transfer ringtones as MP3 files to the phone, and transfer photos as JPEGs back. iSync on Mac OS X syncs it with my Address Book and iCal, which kicks ass.

      I would not recommend this specific phone to any serious geek, because apparently it cannot run network applications such as an SSH client or a decent web browser. It does include a WAP browser, and it can check e-mail over SSL-encrypted IMAP (or a variety of ot
    • yeah, I am with you on this, but they don't want our business because we are cheap, sensible people. They want 13 yr old girls and wiggers, image aware tryhards, sales people and the guys from marketing (first agaist the wall). They want people that want to annoy guys like us by leaving their phone on the desk and ringing at full volume while they are in a meeting. Those people spend money on shit like ring tones, we dont. We go off the websites find the midi to Dooms E1M1 and make it our ringtone beca
  • Remember... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Firewheels ( 252266 ) <> on Monday March 20, 2006 @01:58AM (#14955119)
    The phone is targeted for emerging markets, where people don't like to tie themselves into monthly contracts, and with little value proposition presents little interest to US wireless operators.

    The wireless operators won't tell you this - for obvious reasons - but you're absolutely NOT required to purchase your phone from them. The bottom line is that you can aquire an unlocked, factory-direct phone from places like eXpansys []. After that, simply call the carrier to do an ESN swap or in the case of GSM place the SIM in the new phone.

    The trick, of course, is knowing the technology your carrier supports. I don't expect that to be an issue for this crowd.
    • Re:Remember... (Score:4, Informative)

      by sadr ( 88903 ) <> on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:21AM (#14955168)
      Except that you don't get a better rate plan when you provide your own phone.

      So you're still paying $10-$15 a month in subsidy for a phone you didn't even get "for free".
    • Re:Remember... (Score:3, Informative)

      The wireless operators won't tell you this - for obvious reasons - but you're absolutely NOT required to purchase your phone from them.

      Here in Oklahoma, Cingular will tell you that if you have an unlocked phone it won't get cell tower updates. A friend of mine had an unlocked phone (purchased that way directly from Sony-Ericcson), and could never get signal. They said his only recourse was to get it locked. So he did. Now he has signal.

      Of course, now he can't take his phone with him if he moves provide

  • Right now the US is what they call the "high end" market. Where corporations try and herd them in like cattle, and nail it to them when they're not expecting. However, what these companies don't know is that while the economic freedom and the infrastructure of the US economy is very nice, the health of the US dollar as a currency is very very very bad.

    Between a crashing housing market, and over extended debt in the US economic system, and too much US currency (liquitidy) floating arround overseas, and 270
  • This is one of those great examples why anti-competitive markets are a bad idea. Anyone should be able to buy any wireless phone and hook it up to any wireless network.

    Standards are the backbone of competition and they keep consumer options open.

    Europe understood this and built a standards based system that works great. Here in the US, they allowed the companies to innovate freely including allowing providers to create "exclusive" phones and design in artificial barriers that wouldn't allow you to take yo
  • constant "upsell" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NMerriam ( 15122 ) <> on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:15AM (#14955153) Homepage
    What's annoying is that it is getting impossible to find a decent PHONE. I don't want a camera, I don't want a web access device, I don't want an MP3 player. What I do want is a SMALL PHONE. It seems like any basic phone without gimmicks is three times the size of a RAZR, which makes no sense whatsoever.

    All it does is cause headaches for those of us who work in secure environments and have to choose between carrying a walkie-talkie in our pocket looking like we have a tumor, or else we have to leave our compact phone at the security desk. Does ANYONE make a tiny clamshell phone that just, you know, makes phone calls and receives them?
    • I have the Motorola V262 and it does pretty much what you want. It does not have a camera. It does have a speakerphone. It has some basic calendar functionality. It has voice activated dialing. It is a small clamshell (small enough that it fits comfortably in that little changepocket above the right-front pocket in a pair of jeans). I've been pretty happy with it.

    • Re:constant "upsell" (Score:5, Informative)

      by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @03:04AM (#14955271)
      I never got this from Slashdot. Did you ever consider that basic cellular phones don't go away when the user is done with them?

      Seriously, there are thousands of decent GSM phones that you can get on eBay. The Nokia 3590 is one of my favorites - great RF, GSM 850/1900 (covers the entire US, Canada, and Mexico), good battery life, and a simple UI.

      Guess what? The Nokia 3590 goes for $25 on eBay.

      If you want a small clamshell, the Ericsson T39 goes for around $50 on eBay. There's also the Moto v66 (around $40 on eBay) and hundreds of other models.

      Do a little research on Phonescoop and buy yourself the phone that you want. There are 1.5 BILLION GSM subscribers in the world, which means that the secondary market is absolutely huge. Finding a good mobile phone is not a challenge.
    • by r00t ( 33219 )
      I take it that the camara is prohibited where you work. Drill it out. Fill the hole with epoxy, a wad of foil so that the security guard will believe you, and more epoxy.
    • by pointbeing ( 701902 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @09:49AM (#14956245)
      Right now I use a Kyocera SE44 slider. Tiny phone, tiny screen. Works great, though. The buttons are too small for my fat fingers and the screen is getting a little hard for my presbyopic eyes to see, but it works until the current contract's up.

      But - I'm closer to 50 than 40 (or even 45) and have been a professional geek most of my adult life. At this point in my life I want *simple* technology that works.

      Last May I kicked my cable TV provider to the curb and got a satellite dish. Got two TVs and two computers wired up for the price I was paying coughcomcastcough for a a two-tv digital cable setup (had analog-only to the computers). Plus, I got this really cool DVR ;-)

      That same month I told the local phone company to take a hike, ported our home number to the spousal unit's cell and got a cell phone for myself. Since only about ten people have the number to my phone, interruptions have decreased significantly.

      Last fall when my mother-in-law's laptop died (second HD failure) I took her down to the Apple store and she bought an iMac. She's almost 80 years old and can surf the web, do email and whatever alse she needs to do with a minimum of fuss. Once I got the iMac connected to her wireless network she *never* called me again for technical support. I'm so impressed I'm getting ready to buy an iMac for me. Bye Bye, Microsoft ;-)

      But I digress.

      As I continue to try to simplify my life (which is what technology's supposed to do, ain't it?) all I want is a phone that *makes phone calls*, has an address book that I can synchronize with my computer and doesn't play games, MP3s, support polyphonic ringtones, have a camera (and especially not a flash - I own a digital camera, honest) and so on.

      Of course, if you looked up 'curmudgeon' in the dictionary you'd see my picture, but the older I get the *less* impressed I am with devices that can do everything.

      But can't do any of them well. Can I have just a phone, please?
  • by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:26AM (#14955181)

    I put off getting a cell phone until December 2004 because I didn't feel I needed one. I still don't use it that often.

    The salesman seemed confused by the fact that I didn't want a camera phone, and having a speakerphone was more important. If I was going to get a new phone today, I'd want a video phone even less. I want a phone, just a phone, and nothing but a phone (so help me $DIETY), and I'm sure I'm not alone, even in the U.S.

    Obviously, the phone carriers don't care that people like me exist in the U.S.

    • One word, virginmobile. They seem to be the least evil of all cell phone companies... especially if you hardly use your phone (the standard plan will suck you dry if you do talk alot). I love it, I don't need to use my minutes every month, they never expire (assuming i buy $15 of airtime every 3 months, which is automatically billed anyway).

      Disclaimer: I don't work for or have any affiliation with virgin mobile, just a happy customer.
    • The phone companies misunderstand their customers

      Ummmm, nope.

      Au contraire, the phone companies understand their customers all too well! You are just not their average customer. Their target demographic is a twenty-something (or even a teenie) who's far more interested in flash and glam than in solid construction, long-lasting performance, and a basic feature set. Nor does s/he want to keep that phone for more than a year before replacing it with the next new thing either. The phone companies know thi

  • by Per Abrahamsen ( 1397 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:46AM (#14955220) Homepage
    Most people I know use Internet based carriers, where all interaction with the carrier is through a web page. You can use any phone with their service. There is no subscription, you have an account where you can add money as you like, and you can phone as long as there is money on the account. They are, by far, the cheapest carriers, and has won "best service" awards multiple times.

    Cash cards are also popular, especially among children. You buy a card, enter a number on the card on your phone, and can not talk for the amount of money the card costed. No subscription or Internet connection required, but they are somewhat expensive.

    There are also subscription based sevices. They have very complex price structures, mostly to make their price impossible to compare with the alternatives. The subscription based services are usually sold with a phone that is bound to the carrier in question for six months. After the six months, the carrier is legally bound to tell you how to unlock it. You can also unlock it for US$ 15 at small shops that are everywhere. This is quite legal, but you still have to pay 6 month subscription fee. Often the rebate you get is higher than the price of six month subscription.

    And this is not a developing market. It is a mature market that has benefitted from regulation.
  • Eh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NitsujTPU ( 19263 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @02:54AM (#14955245)
    I have a RAZR V3. It can do that, shoot photos (which I use frequently), email (which I use frequently), browse the web (which I don't use frequently anymore, but only because it is slow... faster web access I would use all of the time), play games, play various ringtones and music and shoot video (which eats too much RAM, but I would use if it didn't). I can loop my laptop through to Internet access as well, if I so please (and I would, were it faster).

    All of those things that Krakow says he doesn't want, I do, and not only out of some consumerist need to buy the best of everything, because I genuinely use the features. If a phone with more features is thrown into my contract, and I'm stuck getting a contract anyway, I'm not sure that I would want to get the cheaper alternative... but that's just me.
  • Ok, so that's cool that now people notice the bad hardware available here. Now let's hope it'll move on to the next stage: the SHITTY SERVICES! Hell, why would I have to pay to RECEIVE a phone call? In every other country on the globe you pay only when you call! Might be a tad more expensive, but it's a hell of a lot cheaper in the long run. The US unfortunately has a history of not cracking down on monopolies when it should, and the limitations for cell phone service here are just insane. That's why I vote with my wallet: I refuse to get a cellphone. It's so simple really. Just abandon cell phones. It'll probably result in a hell of a lot less traffic accidents anyway! And not paying the companies will force them to re-evaluate what they're thinking.
    My $0.02 worth of opinion.
  • by skinfitz ( 564041 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @04:16AM (#14955428) Journal
    In the US you have to *PAY* to *RECEIVE* mobile phone calls!

    That's just ... crazy.

    I hear that the receiver of an SMS has to pay to receive text messages too - is this true?
  • by tod_miller ( 792541 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @04:50AM (#14955505) Journal
    "I couldn't wait to slip my SIM card inside and see what it could do. "

    Filth! Nothing but poisonous fuel for a twisted mind. ++dugg ;-)
  • by romit_icarus ( 613431 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @08:01AM (#14955875) Journal
    I'm surprised nobody so far has mentioned the Nokia 1100 (,,53439,00.html []) phone. It's really marvelously designed. This single phone model is driving telecom penetration in India. It costs about USD40, uses the same battery of other phones, but is dust proof and has a torchlight!

    When i wanted a second phone other than my blackberry, I chose this one. Great design!

  • Out of curiosity, did anyone actually take a look at the story?

    A couple of the statements quoted in the Slashdot excerpt don't actually appear in the MSNBC article. While the article does point out that the phone is geared towards disadvantaged markets, there is no comment made that it's being kept out of the U.S. to pad the profit margins of American GSM carriers.

    Is this Slashdot fearmongering, or was the MSNBC story edited to appease the sensitivities of the corporate master's advertisers?
  • by jridley ( 9305 ) on Monday March 20, 2006 @11:12AM (#14956742)
    I used to have a regular phone and a regular Verizon contract. It was my first mobile phone.
    What I found out during the 2 year contract was that I barely use a mobile. The coverage at my house stinks bad enough that I can't drop my landline anyway.
    Now I have a Virgin Mobile phone. The phone cost something like $20, and I only need to pump $5/month into it which buys $0.25/min time (reduces to $0.10/min after 10 minutes). Even at that, my balance creeps up every month; I don't even use $5/month.

    I now use that info when someone tries to sell me a mobile plan with hundreds of minutes/month; over the last 3 years, my average use has been about 8 minutes per month.

    However, I do realize that the market for users like me is very small; if it weren't for teenagers and poor people to sell to, these services wouldn't exist at all for those of us who could afford a bigger phone & contract but don't really want it.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.