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Jewish World Review
March 27, 2009
/ 2 Nisan 5769
Can new software save mobile phones?
"Everything seemingly is spinning out of control," the wire-service news story
snippet that caught some people's attention last fall, may be veering towards a
mobile phone near you. On Mar. 19, an Opinion Research Corp. survey was set to
reveal "deepening concerns about the recession already have caused millions of
U.S. consumers to cut back on their cell phone spending and millions more are poised
to join their ranks if the economic downturn continues as expected for another six
months," according to a news release from the New Millennium Research Council,
which sponsored the study.
That would seem to bode ill for Palm Inc., due to launch their Pre mobile phone any
time soon, and even Apple Inc., which last week (Mar. 17) announced major upgrades
to the iPhone operating software. There's no price on the Palm Pre just yet, but
it surely will cost users a couple of hundred dollars, at least, and require said
users to plight their troth to Sprint Nextel for 24 months or longer. The iPhone can
run you $299 or therebouts, and AT&T Wireless requires a similar commitment. These
phones are not for the phobic.
According to the NMRC, the new "survey will show that the resulting shift in
consumer habits is likely to come at the expense of contract-based cell phone
service as more consumers seek to save money by using prepaid cell phones and
cutting out cell phone 'extras.'"
Indeed, if the images of 1930s-style soup lines return to today's streets and if
Kate Perry does a cover version of "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime," I suppose
it's possible that massive drop-offs in cell subscriptions could happen. But
there's compelling evidence on the other side that many of us will keep our cell
plans, come you-know-what or high water.
For one thing, many of us are going "wireless only," according to a March 13
report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tracks the number
of landline (or wired) phones to aid in their surveys of disease outbreaks.
According to the CDC, "wireless-only households made up 14.7 percent of U.S.
households in 2007," and "wireless-only adults made up 13.6 percent of U.S.
adults" the same year. Oklahoma leads the country with 26.2 percent of adults in
wireless-only households; the District boasts approximately one in four adults, 25.4
percent, in that category.
If all of those subscribers were to shift plans overnight, the cellular industry
could easily collapse, I'd imagine: companies need a solid base of subscribers
they can count on month-to-month for revenue. Moreover, many of those customers need
and want the services such plans provide, including unlimited calling options.
Then consider the features Apple is planning for the iPhone 3.0 software release,
due out this summer and free to current iPhone users: according to Apple, there will
be "over 100 new features including cut, copy and paste which can be done within
or across applications; MMS to send and receive photos, contacts, audio files and
locations with the Messages app[lication]; and the ability to capture and send audio
recordings on the go with the new Voice Memo app. Landscape view will be available
for Mail, Text and Notes. Search capabilities will be expanded, allowing customers
to search within Mail, iPod and Notes or search across all key apps by typing a key
word or phrase into the new Spotlight search, conveniently accessed from the Home
Translated into English, iPhone 3.0 will "fix" many of the deficiencies iPhone
aficionados have noted since the devices bowed two years ago. But wait, there's
more, Apple says: an "updated Stock [application] will add the ability to display
recent company news and current trading information [such as] opening or average
price, trading volume or Market Cap, and will offer a landscape view to see a full
screen of any stock chart. Customers will also be able to view shared calendars
right on their iPhone … and sync their calendars with iCal®, Yahoo, Google and
In short, there's plenty to keep folks tethered to more-costly cell phones. You
can argue that the iPhone can be hacked to disconnect it from AT&T-only
compatibility, with users inserting a pay-as-you-go SIM card and switching networks
while retaining most features. But the majority of us won't be that adventurous, I
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2008, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com