Inside Out: The Future of the Cell Phone

From time to time, we’ll provide our thoughts as to where we think the industry is going, particularly as it relates to teens. We’re calling these posts, Inside Out, because we’ll be looking from where we sit into the outside world.


The future of the cell phone: the Windows Phone 7 Series, iPhone 3GS, BlackBerry Curve 8530, Palm Pre Plus and the Nexus One

Cell phones. We live by them. They’re by our sides 24/7, wherever we are. They are our ways of connecting with the world, through texts, IM’s, or just regular calls. Getting a new one is no longer just picking up a free phone, it’s a choice of style and design. Do we want a full keyboard, something that has a good camera and music player, a simple phone that doesn’t cost much, or something completely loaded with all of the latest features? The choices are endless, no matter what carrier you’re on– Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile.

But recently there’s been a major shift in the cell phone market, led by new phones like the iPhone, Pre, BlackBerry, Droid and Nexus One. This is the rise of the smartphone (as those phones are called), phones that no longer just do texts but also email, internet, Facebook and Twitter. These phones are growing rapidly and more and more of us are switching to them when we look for new phones. Let’s take a look at why that is and where this is all leading.

Look around at your friends, siblings, teammates and classmates. How many of them are seriously interested in purchasing an iPhone or BlackBerry? You’d be more surprised at the at the amount of yes’ . I know from personal experience with my family, friends, teammates and classmates. More and more they are looking for smartphones, and they are not what you would call “business types” or “techies.” Just regular 15-18-year-olds like the rest of us who are just looking for something cool and easy to use that does everything they want. When they ask us for advice on what phone to get, they usually have narrowed down the list to something like an iPhone, BlackBerry or another smartphone.

Now why is this? We think that a lot of the reasons behind this massive shift is the way phones have evolved. The internet you now get on your phone is pretty darn close to what you’ll find on your computer (and will only get closer with the ability to play Flash videos like those found on sites like Hulu, coming to Android and Palm phones this year), and 3G, which provides quick online access, is rolling out at rapid pace on all networks (most major cities and areas now get 3G no matter what carrier your on, and carriers AT&T, Sprint and Verizon already gearing up to begin/continue roll outs of even faster 4G networks later this year/early next year).

And then there are all the apps. You got apps for Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace for keeping your social network’s up to date on your lives. You got apps for sports such as the MLB At Bat app for the iPhone that for $10 gives you live video over 3G to live games and the NBA League Pass app which (for a higher $20 for the rest of the season) that let’s you watch all NBA games– on 3G or WiFi– right from your iPhone or Android phone (for now though only myTouch or G1 running 1.6). You can IM your friends with AIM or BeeJive and you got radio apps like iHeartRadio and Pandora that give you free access to tons of stations and music online. You can order off Amazon, or place a bid on eBay, or even order movie tickets with Fandango. All right from your pocket.

The iPhone App Store, Windows Marketplace for Mobile, Android Market, BlackBerry App World, and Palm App Catalog

And this isn’t just iPhone apps. A lot of apps (such as Twitter, Facebook and the radio apps) are becoming more readily available all of the time for phones like Palm’s webOS, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile (and upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series), Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, and Google’s Android. As Apple once put it, you really have a computer sitting in your pocket.

Another big reason we see in the quick rise of smartphones is the dramatic drop in pricing, coupled with the priceless, sick designs. You can get an a sleek BlackBerry Curve 8520 with T-Mobile and Palm’s Pixi Plus for Verizon for only $80, as well as the iPhone 3G with AT&T and the Android running Samsung Moment for Sprint for $100 (and if you look to places like Amazon or Walmart, you can get phones for even cheaper). Even phones that come closer to $200 like the Pre Plus, Nexus One, iPhone 3GS and Droid have been getting a lot of attention because they look cool and do so much. Why carry (and pay for) multiple devices to make calls and play your music and movies when you can take one that does a solid job of doing everything?

And since these were traditionally aimed for businesses (like the Pre and BlackBerry’s), you get solid touchscreens and full keyboards that make doing some of the more simple tasks like texting much easier and better.

This is not to say phones like the Samsung Impression, LG Chocolate 3 or enV3 or Sidekick are going to die out anytime soon. Those phones too have been evolving. Look at your carrier the next time your up for an upgrade and see how many phones offer a full keyboard and full web browser along with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter apps. That number is growing rapidly too, and is perfect for those that really don’t want something as “fancy” as a BlackBerry or Droid.

Oh, and your cell phone carrier is picking up on these trends too. T-Mobile for example, has new plans known as Even More and Even More Plus that give you unlimited calling, text, and web for $50 to $70 a month. They know the money is in web use (my brother, who’s 15 and didn’t have an internet plan until recently, logged on to the internet for a minute maybe once or twice a couple months back to check his email and got a $15 bill– the money for them really is here). Don’t be surprised if we see AT&T and Verizon to follow suit soon with similar plans of their own.

The future of the way we use the cell phone in my opinion is in the internet, and just as texting caught on a couple of years back and became the unquestionable “basic feature” it is today, I think the internet will be the same way, with this change being led by smartphones like the Pre, Droid, BlackBerry and iPhone.

We wanna know your thoughts. What do you use your cell phone for and what phones to plan to look to upgrade to when your current contract is up? You think the future of how we use our phones is in the smartphone and the internet, or do you think the future still is in just full keyboard phones like the enV3 and that will remain the future for how teens will use their phones? Share your opinions in the comments.

If you would prefer to email your thoughts, you can email me at eli@teentechblog.com.

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Posted on February 21, 2010, in Cell Phones, Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Your and you’re are not the same thing. Good articel by the way.

  2. Misspelled article in my comment. Shot myself in the foot.

  3. I personally have gone with the HTC Hero, and something else to think about before choosing a phone is to consider what cell phone service has good reception in your area. It would be terrible to get your brand new phone for all of its benefits and then realize it doesn’t even work. Ask friends, forums and check regional awards and stuff. Another item to look into is to see how much of a rebate you can get on a plan with a phone.

  4. Good information.

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