February 13, 2008, 1:44 PM — Editor's note: This column is part of a new series, "Making It Personal", that explores our love/hate relationship with personal technology.
The cell phone industry is rife with competition and a severe lack of distaste
for the consumer. Instead of allowing you to do what you want with the phone
you purchased, both manufacturers and carriers try to prohibit you from hacking
your handset and at times, moving it to another carrier, even though the task
would be as simple as popping out your current SIM card and adding another.
For years, this kind of mentality has permeated every facet of the cell phone
industry. After all, this is a market that's run by a group of suits that subscribe
to the beliefs of the Old Guard and have no real clue what consumers want.
If you're looking for proof of that assertion, look no further than the iPhone.
Instead of being like most other GSM phones that would allow the owner to pop
a SIM card out and use it on any carrier, Apple, in its infinite wisdom, agreed
to a deal that would lock the phone down to one of the most hated carriers in
the world. To make matters worse, the phone shipped without the ability to add
third-party apps that could actually enhance the experience and probably jump
But alas, the iPhone has been relegated to the role of 'hack-worthy' instead
of 'buy-worthy.' According to its most recent figures, Apple has sold over 4
million iPhones, but its sales pace has slowed and although the company sells
about 20,000 iPhones per day, the chances of it selling 10 million this year
- one of Steve Jobs' goals - are slim at best, considering its current rate.
Ironically, Apple and AT&T also failed to realize that a huge hacking community
would emerge that would confront these two companies and provide one of the
most entertaining battles this industry has seen in years. And with around 1
million unlocked iPhones in the wild, according to Piper Jaffray, an international
middle-market investment bank and institutional securities firm, it looks like
Apple is losing.
If you ask me, the company could have fixed the hacking community long ago
and realized that what the consumers in this industry want isn't to have their
hands held by tech companies, but the ability to do what they want, how they
want on products they purchased with their hard-earned money.
Was it really so hard to figure out?