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What’s Got You Chained to Your Mobile Device?

by Travis Harvey | November 10, 2009November 10, 2009 8:15 pm PST

In the last couple of years, smartphones have evolved into something beyond their name.  They’ve become devices that lie between the cell phone and the mobile computer.  These next generation devices have some stiff competition that’s growing by the day.  For any particular person, there can be a number of factors that limit our ability to truly choose the device and network we really want.

verizondroidProbably the biggest factor that limits consumer choice is exclusivity agreements.  These agreements include companies like AT&T and Apple or Motorola and Verizon.  Carriers usually pay the manufacturer to keep the device locked into only their network.  The incentive is placed on the manufacturer, but it would be great if consumers could always carry their phones over to the network of their choice.

Obviously you couldn’t take an AT&T GSM device over to attiphoneVerizon’s CDMA network, which brings the second major decision limitation.  Network standards differ from carrier to carrier so for a device to work on these different types of technologies, companies generally have to manufacture a different handset (at least from the inside).  Perhaps one day, carriers will be using the same network technologies, making it easier to transition with the devices we already have.

sprintpreMany more consumers are being held in place by the two-year contract they agreed to when they signed on the dotted line.  One of the few ways to terminate such a lengthy contract is through an extremely pricey early termination fee.  While controversial, these contracts are a way for networks to subsidize your device, making it more immediately affordable.

In a perfect world, we could take our device to and from any network at any time. Unfortunately for us, the consumer, we’re stuck playing by our network’s rules.

We want to know what’s keeping you tied to your current device and network.  Is it because you only get Verizon coverage where you live?  Are you staying with AT&T because of the iPhone or Sprint because of the Pre?  Are you stuck with whatever your parents have chosen?  Is it the pricing?  The possibilities are endless but we’re demanding your explanation!  Share your frustration in the comments.