IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been traveling through Southeast Asian countries (Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam) for the past couple weeks and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve noticed many cell phone stores in several of the malls. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve caught my attention mainly because there are just so many different models of phones. I wonder why all these cool phones arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t available in the States? Right before I left for the trip, I went phone shopping. My whole family ended up getting Razr phones Ã¢â‚¬â€œ mainly because they were practically free with the family plan. I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a cool phone and all, but I really didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have many models to choose from. The only other new phone that was out (and not outrageously expensive) was the Chocolate. The Chocolate didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really appeal to me Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it looks too big and not very sleek. I guess itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s because I felt I had a lack of selection that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve noticed how much selection there is over here. It seems like these stores have at least a hundred different models to choose from, where we have about ten.
Since I havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t actually been able to use my new Razr since I got it, I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really
comment on its performance. I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait until I can buy an MP3-phone-camera all-in-one. Then I can get a smaller purse!
I think part of the reason may have to do with something you made a comment about in your posting - "(and not outrageously expensive)".
To my way of thinking Asian, and even European, countries are much more willing to spend money on a piece of mobile technology, whereas Americans are looking for technology at the cheapest price. Everyone I know selected their phones because they were nearly free when they signed their contracts.
Myself, I'm willing to pay for features and design and would agree that we need more selection. But we run into the wall that manufacturers create all these phones with higher price tags and only a small percentage of the market actually buys them.
Forget those other phones, hold out until June for the iPhone.
The real reason they have more phone selection overseas than we have in the States is that the rest of the world agreed on one mobile phone protocol years ago while here in the States, it's been left up to the free-market to decide what platform we'd use. As a result, every carrier has a different, competing and incompatible platform and protocol and the handset manufacturers have to make phones for each carrier's specific system. That's why one U.S. carrier offers phones that aren't available with other U.S. carriers - and with a few exceptions, you can't take the same phone from one carrier to another when switching providers. This is a case where our free market system has resulted in fewer choices, higher prices, and inferior technology. I lived in Japan, China, the UK and Germany throughout the 90's and they were all doing amazing things with their phones that we still haven't caught up with. When I was travelling all over the world on business, I had to carry 2 phones one for the U.S. and another for the rest of the world - and the international phone was half the size and weight, had more advanced features and held a signal better. (Even in subways and tunnels in Europe where they have relays.) It also restricts mobile marketing and content as it is too expensive and inefficient for marketers and content providers to deal with all our different systems. I'm not as up to speed on the subject as I was a few years ago when I was involved with the mobile marketing industry but last I heard as of 2004, we were still waiting for 2.5 and 3G-equipped phones that were standard-issue in Europe and Asia.
Hmm...some slight misinformation in the comments here.
1. The reason we don't get the cool phones is only indirectly because of band spectrum, which is a result of regulations by the FCC. And the FCC along with the FDA is the real reason we get crappy phones. By the FCC specifying a different band spectrum for GSM (what Europe is on), we lose out on a chunk of phones. In addition to this, each phone has to be approved by the FCC and FDA for wireless emissions and RF safety. This process takes a while, so our cutting edge phones are actually pretty old considering what the rest of the world has going on.
2. Cingular and T-mobile don't use GPRS. They are GSM band networks. GPRS is specific to data exchange, so when you are talking on your phone it is not GPRS. GSM is the broader term for the standard. For non-GSM phones, they are all something called CDMA, which to the best of my knowledge only the US and Japan use. Possibly Australia too. This means you are in particular trouble if you have Verizon or Alltell and want cutting edge phones -- in addition to FCC and FDA testing, only two, possibly three countries even use those types of phones so manufacturers don't really care to make those types of phones.
3. There are actually a lot of exceptions to using a phone on other carrier networks. The only incompatibility is between CDMA and GSM. So you can't take a GSM phone to a CDMA network and vice versa. But if you were on Cingular and went to T-mobile, or from Verizon to Alltell, it would be fine. The only trick to this is getting the phone "unlocked" from the network. For some of the GSM carriers, you can just say you will be doing travel in Europe after being on their service for a number of months, and they will unlock the phone for you. Also, it is completely legal for you to unlock the phone yourself, though is is not required for manufacturers or carriers to make this easy for you. A good example is the iPhone, which Apple has announced will be designed to make it extremely hard to unlock because of their agreement with Cingular over certain network specific features.
As a final note, if you want the most cutting edge phones for use in the US, you have two options: order an unlocked import and get it set up for your carrier (just make sure it actually supports the 1700 MHz band of GSM -- I think that's what the States uses). Or switch to Cingular. They get exclusive contracts with manufacturers to get either exclusive phone models (black razr), or first run contracts where they get the phone for like six months before anyone else does. They also have a GSM network. The downside is that they are more expensive than some GSM alternatives.