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Why do American cell phones suck so incredibly much?

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  • Why do American cell phones suck so incredibly much?

    In June of 2002 I had the opportunity to spend two weeks in Japan. I spent the first week with a host family, and we got quite a kick out of comparing my Nokia clunker of a cell phone with its low res monochrome display to the latest J-Phone that one of the sons in the host family had, which sported a (relatively) high resolution color LCD. Not only was his phone capable of two-way video conferencing, it could also record and e-mail short videos over J-Phone's 3G GPRS network.

    Flash forward to 2004 and the latest and greatest gadget on Japanese cell phones is a pet translator which translates dog's barks and cat's meows for their owners. This is a technology I would love to have, regardless of whether it was done via computer software, a standalone unit, or my cell phone. My cat seems to freak out a lot when she's alone and comes running to me to console her, and I have absolutely no idea what the problem is.

    Meanwhile, in 2004, Americans are excited about phones that can take low resolutions still pictures. Whoop-tee-fucking-doo.
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  • #2
    Originally posted by bascule
    Meanwhile, in 2004, Americans are excited about phones that can take low resolutions still pictures. Whoop-tee-fucking-doo.
    Also consider the two recent stories on "/." (slashdot) one features found and offered in Japan with their Cellphones.

    One story was on "virtual combat" (sort of like a game of "hack" but a GPS feature of the phone is used, and you may only fight creatures in specific locations if you go to those locations with idea to expand to llimit some creatures to certain locations only at certain times... and then you can use an interface on the phone to face the foes and do the combat... OK, who stole my uncursed amulet of Yendor?)

    Another story was on the features of new phones which include the ones you mentioned as well as do VoIP with Wireless Access Points (if available) and then resort to local cell nodes if not.

    Yes, the phones and services available in Japan seem to be at least 1 year ahead of those found in the U.S.

    GPS-Location based gaming (Could not find the /. article I remembered. Maybe it was a dream.)

    /. on new features in japanese cell phones

    Another on VoIP and Wireless Access Points
    Last edited by TheCotMan; May 25, 2004, 04:18. Reason: Add sample URLs at end as citations

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    • #3
      You fucking think YOUR cell phone service sucks in the US? Come to Canada. Telus, Bell, Rogers, Fido. Only choices you have. And they all fucking blow.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by bascule
        Meanwhile, in 2004, Americans are excited about phones that can take low resolutions still pictures. Whoop-tee-fucking-doo.
        Ironically enough, this is because the cellcos chose to compete on a handset basis rather than offering value on a single type of network. To explain:

        There are several cellular standards in use in North America right now: AMPS, IS-95 CDMA, TDMA (over AMPS frequencies), GSM, and N-AMPS are the major ones. Because of this, a single manufacturer has a market a cellphone to each carrier's specifications for the network type that they use - so a basic handset design may require three or four unique sets of software and RF gear in order to work on different carriers' networks.

        As the production run for a given handset has now been effectively split into multiple lines, no one carrier sells enough of a certain type of handset to justify a) adding better features to their network to b) support better features built into the handsets. Because not all networks support the features you're talking about (pet translator excluded), the economies of scale just aren't there to justify building the handsets or network features.

        Personally, I'd like to see all non-GSM networks die a rapid and horrible death - this is the only way we'll ever get real competition out of the cellular carriers and, hopefully, better networks.

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        • #5
          I think it has to do with stupid people owning cell phones, lawyers, and more lawyers. People cannot drive with their phones, they crash into things, they worry about radiation poisoning from the phone, yet they continue to use them. (In Japan eyeglasses can be made really thin because they do not have to use the Nursery School safety glass have here).

          Japan also wants the latest and greatest, they will buy a laptop today with no intention of owning it at the end of the year. Us Americans want 2-3 years out of our PCs.

          In Finland you can even buy a Coke with your cell phone. Walk up the the vending machine, punch a number in your cell phone and a coke pops out.

          Just recently a 6 megapixel chip came out for cell phones. And we are seeing a plethora of laws on where and when cell phones can be used because of their use in gym locker rooms and other private areas.

          It's the lawyers I tell ya.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by skroo
            There are several cellular standards in use in North America right now: AMPS, IS-95 CDMA, TDMA (over AMPS frequencies), GSM, and N-AMPS are the major ones. Because of this, a single manufacturer has a market a cellphone to each carrier's specifications for the network type that they use - so a basic handset design may require three or four unique sets of software and RF gear in order to work on different carriers' networks.
            Well, it's not much different in Japan... NTT DoCoMo uses a CDMA2000 network and Vodafone's J-Phone uses a GSM/GPRS network.

            As the production run for a given handset has now been effectively split into multiple lines, no one carrier sells enough of a certain type of handset to justify a) adding better features to their network to b) support better features built into the handsets. Because not all networks support the features you're talking about (pet translator excluded), the economies of scale just aren't there to justify building the handsets or network features.
            Perhaps J-Phone's primary advantage is that the carrier and the handset manufacturer are the same company.

            Personally, I'd like to see all non-GSM networks die a rapid and horrible death - this is the only way we'll ever get real competition out of the cellular carriers and, hopefully, better networks.
            Perhaps in America... in Japan DoCoMo/CDMA2000 is the standard with J-Phone being something more of a company catering to higher-end feature enthusiasts.
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            • #7
              Marketing

              Why would a phone provider/manufacturer rush out and put its good stuff on the market all at once? Capitalism rules the roost here. If a company put its best product on the market, they would have nothing to replace it with. From an economic standpoint, it makes much more sense to put a product out on the market, make all the money they can from it, then make it obsolete by replacing it with a newer and better product, then repeating the cycle. That way, the competition always has to play catch up, and you never put all of your cards on the table at once. If course, the consumer is the one that gets screwed over, and will continue to do so unless the market becomes more competitive. Then they will be force to shorten the release time to prevent from being overtaken by the compeition.
              Happiness is a belt-fed weapon.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by che
                Why would a phone provider/manufacturer rush out and put its good stuff on the market all at once? Capitalism rules the roost here. If a company put its best product on the market, they would have nothing to replace it with. From an economic standpoint, it makes much more sense to put a product out on the market, make all the money they can from it, then make it obsolete by replacing it with a newer and better product, then repeating the cycle. That way, the competition always has to play catch up, and you never put all of your cards on the table at once. If course, the consumer is the one that gets screwed over, and will continue to do so unless the market becomes more competitive. Then they will be force to shorten the release time to prevent from being overtaken by the compeition.
                This is a good point, but when it comes to technology, only better products come out with time.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by phobal
                  This is a good point, but when it comes to technology, only better products come out with time.
                  Thanks. I guess marketing and strategic mgt. classes were worth something after all. :D

                  Agreed, they products (usually) only get better (Windows ME excepted). The producers still slow that process in order to maximize profit... thus keeping the consumers from getting the best possible stuff until the product has either became obsolite or threatened by competition.
                  Happiness is a belt-fed weapon.

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                  • #10
                    I've been reasonably happy with the Sony Ericsson T610 feature set, but the UI sucks ass, too many levels to get to things. Surprisingly, I have an EU business partner who is a phone fetishist and he owns a T610 also.

                    I attend a number of international conferences and I usually sit around the Japanese just to check out their toys. The stuff we get here is way down on the neato meter compared to their stuff.

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                    • #11
                      Several groups spent something like 7 years developing GSM as an OPEN standard. That is the biggest difference between EU and US cell standards. Anyone could use it without royalty fees... this allowed other companies to focus only on the content and features of the GSM phones -- not the low level standards. That is also the reason why over half of the people that have cellphones (worldwide) have a GSM phone. That comes out to about 1/6 people using a GSM phone. Think of it as the rest of the world using TCP/IP and the US using novell anad a bunch of other layer 3 closed protocols.

                      AT&T has a bastardized version of GSM for the US that basically works on a different frequency. IIRC the EU version of GSM operates in 900 and 1900MHz and we use 800 and 1900MHz. I could be wrong about that. Still, the phones have to be specifically made for the US market.

                      In the US market we have several standards that are CLOSED and don't play well with others: 1xRTT, 3xRTT, WCDMA, and IS-95A to name a few. It is no wonder we can't get the cool features that are offered elsewhere. Hopefully all this BS will end with a standardization of 4G protocols. But, don't expect that to happen until the cell companies have made back enough money from the 3G networks they are still deploying.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bool
                        IIRC the EU version of GSM operates in 900 and 1900MHz and we use 800 and 1900MHz.
                        Tri-band or "world" phones are readily available.

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                        • #13
                          Humm, but are there phones that will work with GSM and CDMA2000... or GSM and any other 3G protocol that we have in the states? For a phone to truly be usable all over the world it would have to be based on satalite rather than cell technology.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by che
                            Thanks. I guess marketing and strategic mgt. classes were worth something after all. :D

                            Agreed, they products (usually) only get better (Windows ME excepted). The producers still slow that process in order to maximize profit... thus keeping the consumers from getting the best possible stuff until the product has either became obsolite or threatened by competition.
                            Well, ME technically has gotten better with time, they fill their own holes with a new patch every hour! :).

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                            • #15
                              I got it. Cell phones can't be any smarter than the salesman trying to sell them. :D

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