Emphasizing the Insanity We Deal With to Stay Mobile

E73 Mode in Hand - Share on OviSome months back, I wrote a pitiful piece on why using and advocating mobile in the US can be like constantly defining the word insanity. There’s a lot that we just accept and tolerate in respect to mobile, and frankly, it doesn’t seem to want to change.

Over at Mobile Industry Review, Ewan got on a similar stream of words – better phrased and detailed to a few points – towards the kind of insanity we all deal with in terms of mobile services versus what’s possible. And not the pie in the sky stuff, but the nuts-and-bolts aspects. His piece said it all, and my comment, which I’m repeating here for my records, just confirms this insanity.

Yes, am very much with you. And at the same time, am not as fired up about it as I’d been in the past. Yes, I’m in the USofA where carriers exert all kinds of controls to the market. I don’t use an on-deck mobile, and my post-pay plan has a few perks that keeps me in a non-contract status. I don’t see anything here that would change, else I’d moved from where I am to something different.

Better, yes. I’d pay for better QoS for voice calls. I’d even consider paying for a “tiered web” approach were certain sites were guaranteed to work no matter what the network conditions. Heck, if enabling Skype Mobile meant that I’d be able to negotiate a data package where I was guaranteed a certain level of service, I’d be happy as beans and drop my “minutes and messaging” to pay for it. They’d win if the offering was better.

Its not. And it seems that in many respects, we who know better are kicking against an industry that’s milking it for all its worth to users who don’t notice that it crappy. I called it “the definition of insanity” on my blog  and that behavior doesn’t change because we kick against the pricks, it takes the Apples, RIMs, and Nokias to stand for something besides “hey carrier, just get me on deck.”

If carriers wanted to keep “my” interest and business, they’d offer a framework to all mobile platforms for a network connected phone book which connected to every IM, social network, VoIP, and LBS service via user-downloadable plugins. They’d let me see the network status (not just online, but what the cell tower sees) of the person I’m trying to contact, and then use network intelligence and the mobile platform I’m on to recommend the best means to contact that person*. I’d pay for that… anyone would. Its relevant, and dang it if it doesn’t take advantage of everything they are already trying to stuff down our throats already in a much cleaner manner.

Do they see this? I don’t know. Do they want to (if they don’t)? I don’t know. But it really is a piss poor shame that the basics fail so much, and what could be considered better, relevant innovations in having a communications terminal in your pocket is wasted on just figuring out if you’d keep a signal long enough to get the message across.

Somehow, we’ve got to find a better way to do this.

And yet, not so long after reading that piece at MIR, I was led to this one in my Twitter stream from Jan Chipchase/Frog Design: The Hidden Cost of Free:

Many people are not bothered by personal data tracking. After all, Internet users clearly benefit from free services like Gmail, Facebook, and dictionary.com. Some argue that if the providers of these services take something in return, they are welcome to it. Moreover, if the result of this data sharing is targeted advertising, doesn’t everyone win? Isn’t relevant advertising better for both vendor and viewer? The certain honesty in this argument is appealing. What it ignores is the importance of transparent pricing.  Today’s economy of personal data is a priceless economy, which means that firms aren’t forced to compete based on the cost to users. How much of my data will you share and with how many parties? For how long will you share it? There are no market constraints on these matters, so there is no limit to what information is shared, stored and sold.

So I’ve got this mobile, to which I know things can get better. And I don’t want it to infringe any more on the already hard cost of living. But, to get it for less means that at some point that I’d be giving up my very valued (but maybe not quite in the monetized sense) personal values towards information and behavior.

This is the insanity of the times we live in. And why this argument for mobile to get it right is hard. Because if I were even more honest with myself, knowing what people go through just for my mobile to be made is an area that hard to ignore or reconcile to my faith.

*This is an idea that I posted at the now dead Symbian Ideas website. Maybe if its interesting enough I’ll repost it. But basically, thinking about communication as something the network responds to, not as a behavior that we have to keep learning and relearning.