I am really wavering on whether I should be writing this post. According to the perspective of several US mobile executives, I really should be at my highest levels of satisfaction concerning mobile devices and services than ever before. Instead, another pull of posts and reflections has me really considering (a) whether people notice enough to care, and (b) whether anyone is listening long enough to change matters.
Who Really Cares?
I took a trip into a local T-Mobile shop today to get a G1 unlocked so that I could use either my AT&T or Truphone SIMs so that I could complete some contracted work for a client. After waiting for a few minutes for the service person to deal with someone who was talking on the very mobile they were having serviced (uh?), the person asked what I am here for.
“I’d like this device SIM unlocked to use the carrier of my choice.”
“We don’t do that here. You need to go to another shop for that service. We’re just an outlet shop.”
I had that face. You know, the face you get when you are clearly perplexed, angry, and disappointed all at the same time. I thanked the guy for his time (less than 2min) and walked out. I drove to that other wireless shop – this one specializing in prepaid mobiles and unlocking phones, and they gave me a quote of 2hrs and $30 to unlock the G1. You’d think I was stealing business from T-Mobile at those rates.
I looked around the shop and there were low cost Boost Mobile and Blackberry devices. A few formerly high end HTC models behind some glass, but otherwise, nothing but the normal prepay fare. I started to ask if there are any mobile user classes offered there, as obviously they dealt with the side of the population who lived check to check, but with no manager in sight, and the idea of customer service being a person taking my information from the other side from the room, I left shaking my head.
This is what passes for quality of service in the US.
Is Anyone Who Can Change Things Even Listening?
What motivated me to write was a two-piece of writing that I just read. The first was an article by Maggie Shiels at the BBC questioning a statement by AT&T CTO John Donovan the validity and truthfulness of his statement that the US is leading the mobile world. The second article was a response to Mr. Donovan and the BBC article by Tomi Ahonen.
Some weeks ago, when Tomi responded to CTIA’s Steve Largent about the state of US mobile innovation and leading, I remarked that it would be insanity to know that there is better out there – both in device usage and service quality – and continue to stand for things to be as they are. Heck, I promptly got on the phone with my credit union, authorized Truphone for a transaction, and waited – though ultimately, I was unable to finally leave one carrier, for another who offered me real freedom – because of the structure of transactions taking place. I was intent on finding a carrier who enjoyed playing the role of broker and pipe for a service level that I was willing to pay for no matter what device I had in my pocket.
And in return, I would be the kind of user who would push the envelop. No, I would not be the person who used way too many gigabytes of data pushing video or illegal movies, I would entrench myself into a lifestyle that took full advantage of the mobile device that I could afford, and the services that I am willing to learn more about, so that my quality of life, and the quality of life of those I interact with, would be better… enriched… fun.
And yes, my tirade really seemed to continue this morning when I woke up and was confronted with the same spewing of superphone talk that forced me to bed early. But, I was listening. Listening at both the crud and the intelligence, asking where are the voices of those folks – those folks who are innovative USAmericans in mobile – speaking towards real innovation. Not numbers which really aren’t large (number of apps does not make a successful platform except for the companies who get money by selling the data generated by the action within that store); not by iterative features (ooh, the screen is bigger, it has antenna deficit disorder, and its glass is made by monkeys but works in the sunlight).
All I keep reading, from my country’d commarades, is the same ol’mess. And then we get folks in front of a microphone, who understand the technical and business issues at hand, and they make responses as if they are not even listening.
Let me be clear, private companies do not owe anything to anyone except their employees and shareholders. Everyone else really can fall back to those two groups. I do feel that there’s a corporate responsibility, for those groups which do have a significant stake in the actions, finances, or motivations of folks that aren’t employees or stakeholders, to abide by some sense of wisdom/maturity.
I’d love for there to be some sense of listening to the ground level as well as the policy level, and then sound, clear, and easily verifiable statements to be made. I’d love for sites like GigaOm and Engadget, who clearly have the ears of tech, political, and mainstream media outlets to not just take the shiny and popular kid of the day in mobile and hold them up – but to aggressively and passionately educate their fanbase towards what’s right and wrong about the mobile industry here in this country.
We don’t need people outside of the country listening and shouting the things we should know already. Not that it isn’t appreciated, but, it says a lot when you sing in a choir (“go mobile, go mobile”) but can’t hear your own voice. You are off key, and what should pass as a unified and beautiful sound, comes across as grating – even if there’s a superstar singing in another section.
I don’t know if this post will be heard any more than others that I’ve posted here. I’m kind of already pushing back from a previous intention of asking for it to be published in the next Carnival of the Mobilists. Yes, that’s a nice platform, but its not meant for these kinds of posts. I’d rather have the ears (and eyes) of those folks who can change things, and work towards the kind of infrastructure and user education that would breed innovation – and therefore make a truth out of what many in the US want to believe, but is just a dream at the moment.
I wish that we could have been truthful, so that the world who listens could offer solutions we’d be willing to adopt; and we’d have real leadership to give, instead of the tomes of dissatisfied carriers, manufacturers, and users.