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Why Your Cell Phone Still Sounds Like a Tin Can

by Jack McGrath | December 22, 2010

With innovative mobile applications and shiny hardware practically being released daily, cell phones seem to be bursting at the seams with features. It is this oversaturation in the market today that has led many to forget what a cell phone is actually meant to do. To put it bluntly, a cell phone is meant to make calls. Why has the quality of calling remained prehistoric in the quickly changing phone market? Why does it still sound like we are talking on phones manufactured in 1911?

Daniel Beringer, a telecom entrepreneur, spoke with Janet Babin of NPR’s Marketplace about the stark state of telecommunications. He noted a specific instance in which the lack of sound quality lead to a major, embarrassing miscommunication. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France was recently on the line with President Barack Obama when President Obama stated, “I want to be a force for peace.” However, that is not how President Sarkozy interpreted it, thinking he said, “I want to be a source for cheese.” In this instance, it is obvious to see that the cellular situation is humorously unsettling.

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Research that was released last spring by the Pew Internet and American Life Project proved that teenagers prefer to text message as opposed to directly speaking with friends and family. It is rather difficult to get away with calling somebody in the middle of class, though it is not the main reason why teens avoid eating away minutes. Why would one want to inefficiently type out a message? With such horrifying sound quality, why would you want to bother your ears with such agony?

Orange-France Telecom Group, a heavyweight in the European market, has recently created a new service in six European countries called HD Voice. Where available, Orange has been able to deliver this technology at no cost to consumers. How difficult would this be to adopt in the United States? Not very, requiring only a few, tiny firmware updates. If the technology is there, why have the carriers of the United States failed to enhance their services?

Unfortunately, innovation depends on the amount of money it requires. At this point in time, many carriers are having a hard time coming up with a good incentive to spend the amount of money it would require to upgrade existing systems. This argument is now irrelevant, as the cost of implementing the technology over the last ten years has dropped significantly. There is literally no excuse for the horrific call quality Americans have today.

What do you think? Are you outraged? Are you going to boycott AT&T and Verizon until they adopt the high definition system or are you content with hearing every audible artifact on the other end of the line? Let us know in the comments below.


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Jack McGrath

Rooted in his childhood obsession with dismantling and reassembling gizmos and gadgets around the house, Jack McGrath's knowledge of programming,...Rooted in his childhood obsession with dismantling and reassembling gizmos and gadgets around the house, Jack McGrath's knowledge of programming,...


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