First, apologies for my hiatus. As I have shown in the past, I do not travel and blog well. I have an crazy travel schedule for the next few weeks, so hopefully I can keep up blogging. We will see.
I wanted to write a blog about my observations while in London this past week. Trying to think back at what sort of interactive themes I saw, the same topic hit me in London as it did in Argentina – Cell Phones.
The states, as “crackberry” obsessed as we are made out to be, are SO far behind in cell phone usage from other countries. Sure, we have the strange new text-speak commercials that introduce old school acronym talk to the masses. (Which, frankly, bugs me, as I don’t know that many kids/young adults who still use these. I am sure they still sub for “u” or “r” for “you” and “are” but I doubt the use of sentence acronyms prevalence on texts is as much as it was in chat rooms. But I digress…) By in large, our US cells are still used for phone calls, storing grainy pictures and as horrible, chirping walkie talkies.
In London, SMS codes are an everyday part of life. Americans may see them on sketchy commercials for free ringtones, cell phone wallpapers, or jokes of the day. But they are incorporated into almost all marketing campaigns in the UK; they seem as ubiquitous as the URL.
There are a variety of core differences in the way the US and most of the rest of the world handle cell networks. Texting packages are handled differently than here, for example. Sending and recieving sms messages at $.10 a pop can get pricey. US plans are starting to more widely offer unlimited plans. And sms’ing in general is becoming less of a techie or teen thing and more of something anyone can do.
Another cool use of cells in the UK is accepting credit cards. Most of the establishments I went to had their staff carrying mobile credit card terminals. During my undergrad, I worked on tech support for the old credit card terminals, so I noticed and silently applauded those manufacturers for making a portable version. Also, when I went to a local market in Greenwich, one of the booth owners told me that he could accept credit cards through his mobile phone now. The integration of different technologies seems more fluid in Europe in general. Even if we could accept credit cards through our phones here in the US, can you imagine the charges?
Which leads me to another pet-peeve that I have. Cell phones, and almost everything having to do with them, are dictated by the networks here in the states. Because of that, as a loyal Verizon customer, I can’t get, say, a Nokia N95 unless Verizon decides to add that phone to their repetoire. Whereas in Europe, they can (for the most art) pick whatever phone they want and buy a SIM card for the network that makes the most sense for them. This leads to a lack of inspiration to innovate on the part of cell phone designers selling to US companies, as the action stops being B2C and is only B2B. AND most of the phone in Europe are tri-mode, so they can switch between different network coverage without much hassle. (please, if I have any or all of this wrong, let me know as it seems so backwards here to me).
Just interesting to travel and see the innovation we do not seem to be taking advantage of. I guess the optimistic version of that is, at least we can learn from their mistakes, right?
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