Friday, January 2, 2015

Perhaps the U.S. mobile phone carrier market may be a TEENY bit non-competitive

Normally in tech markets, the competitors in the market are always trying to score competitive advantages against each other. For example, even though the operating system market is an oligopoly, you constantly have the operating system vendors coming out with new releases with new features to outdo the competition.

But when you go down the chain, sometimes the competition gets a little less competitive. For an example, look at the Android 5.0 Lollipop release. Google obviously really wants Android users to adopt it. And Google has gotten Samsung on board, and Samsung is reportedly heavily championing the new release, ensuring that its existing devices will support it.

So when will U.S. users see Google's new release on their Samsung phones? Well, there's one more player that has a say in that.

The rep shared that Samsung Galaxy S5 is the priority to get Android 5.0. That will be followed by the Galaxy Note 4, then the Note Edge. After those three, other models, including the Galaxy S4 and Note 3, will be next in line....

The rep noted that while he did not have any specific carrier timelines for an update, he was told that Samsung has been weighing heavily on the carriers to move updates out faster.

Think about it. This provides a possibility for Verizon or AT&T or one of the other carriers to score an advantage over the competition. "Sign up with us," they could say, "and your phone will have the latest updates!"

Yet from the perspective of the carriers, deploying an operating system update to their customers is a hassle, not an opportunity. They have to invest in additional customer support staff. They have to rework their carrier-specific ringtone purchase apps. Someone in advertising needs to redo the specs.

It appears that the carriers, despite being surrounded by technology, aren't really tech companies. They're utilities - an Edison, a General Motors 1.0 - that happen to deal with tech products.

Take Verizon Wireless. Yes, its "about the company" page talks a lot about technology and innovation and all that, but what are the first words that appear on the page?

We’re the people who keep you connected...

Yeah, Verizon keeps the network up. And Amazon keeps the servers running. And Apple puts the special glass and the plastic together.

There's a difference between connecting people and keeping people connected. Connecting people implies innovation, and a willingness to push boundaries. Keeping people connected does not.

Which is why mobile phones (except for Apple, which has more leverage) are basically bricks that are mostly unchanged and useless after 18 months.
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