Yes, Freedom, don't we all love freedom, especially after being slaved by our mobile carriers for so long? Maybe people outside of United States won't have such a strong feeling, but for anyone who lives in US, you know the pain.
Yesterday, Google has just announced its new mobile strategy based on the already popular (some people call it "iPhone killer") Android platform. The idea of the strategy literally smashed open the shackles that we were forced to put on with all the mobile carriers. We now can choose an "unlocked" phone first before choosing a carrier.
Just to clear things up a bit, I'm going to explain why this is so significant.
The idea of buying an "unlocked" phone to some of us, it is almost unheard of. Of course to people that are a bit more tech savvy, this isn't that special. However, buying an unlocked phone directly from the manufacture instead of through eBay or some shady cellphone dealers in LA is definitely new. But in many other parts of the world, this isn't new at all. Their mobile industry models are built to serve as the networks, not the cellphone dealers.
A quick example would be China even though China has only two government owned mobile networks. In China, people would save up their money to buy a phone first, and then decide which network they want to use. If you go to a computer/gadgets mall in Shanghai, you'll find hundreds of different cell phones sold by pretty much every store. There is no concept of "locked" or "unlocked" phones. All phones sold their by natures are "unlocked" and they have to be. You'll see exactly why shortly here.
I remember I had to call T-Mobile while I was in China to unlock my MDA so that I could use it there. T-Mobile actually charged me $30 just for giving me the damn unlocking code.
The freedom of choosing which carrier you want to use with your phone is truly turning the US mobile industry upside down. For the first time, you don't have to deal with a carrier that you don't like or a plan you can't effort just because you want the phone from that carrier or plan. You know buy your preferred phone than take it to the carrier you like and choose the plan you wish. I don't know about anyone else's feeling on this, at least this sounds naturally right to me. Why would I settle for a two year contract for an insane monthly cost just for a phone that potentially can be out dated within a year?
Again, I'm going to use China's mobile industry as an example to compare to the US mobile industry.
Have you seen the messiness of the prepaid mobile market in US? There are quite a few of small to large carriers who specifically provide prepaid mobile service. They all charge an insane amount of money for every service provided (even MetroPCS. oh yes, don't be fooled, it cost you $2 everytime to just pay the bill online ) What's even worse is they all make you to buy your phone from them and most phones are really really crappy. When my Mom visited me last year, she brought with her a really nice Samsung phone from China thinking that she could just buy a prepaid SIM card and start making phone calls. But no, that did not happen and quite frankly could not happen with any carriers. (we ended up buying a $60 crappy phone from MetroPCS and put her on a MetroPCS plan)
Now comparing to China's mobile industry, it is just completely the other way around. You can buy prepaid SIM cards or Prepaid Minutes Card from any convenient store (including 7-Eleven). You have the freedom of choosing which network you want to use, which phone number you want to use (this part is depended on what the store has on hand), and which prepaid plan you want to use (plans are different by minutes and services provided). If you happen to have your phone with you, you can put in the SIM card right at the spot and start using the service.
Of course, there are also long term service contracts you can sign with the networks just like the way it is in US, but buying a phone from the network is completely optional.
Ever since Google surfaced up in the Tech mainstream, being public or not, it has kept its promise for being open. Most of the softwares and platforms developed by Google are open sourced. Google believes in "openess" when it comes to software development (I have a post coming up soon that talks specifically about this "openess"). This promise was also well kept on the Android, an open source smart mobile platform.
The article on Techcrunch covering this story summarized the relationship between Google and Carriers quite well. All the carriers and manufactures except AT&T & Apple had their balls held by iPhone when it comes to the smartphone war. Everyone of them wants something to compete with iPhone. Now here comes Android. It's not a phone, but a base platform that can be implemented on different hardwares. It makes the manufacture and the carrier's life easier and it gives them a magic wand that can compete with iPhone.
From my personal view, it's a simple market share war between Google and Apple. If all the carriers sign up to the Google's new strategy, how many Android phones will there be on the market? I'm guessing it would be a lot more than what AT&T+Apple can handle by themselves.