Note to Smartphone Makers: We Still Need to Be Able to Call People

BlogHer Original Post

It's a simple question, really. What is your phone for? Making calls, or checking email/browsing the web/using apps/playing games/updating Facebook/posting to Twitter...? Of course, your smartphone should do it all, right?

But what if you had to choose?

I am ready to retire my iPhone. I love it to death. I check my email. I have apps that sync with my desktop. I have games that lull me to sleep. (Because that's what games are good for, right?) I check the weather. Read headlines. Set an alarm to wake up. Find out where the heck I am on a map.

But let's face it: The iPhone is pretty crappy as a phone.

I don't blame Apple, except to the extent that they made their initial deal with AT&T. I don't get much of any signal at my house. My calls are dropped so frequently – that is, if I can actually connect at call at all – that I have given up trying.

So I'm looking at that greener grass over the fence, over in Verizon land. I once lived in Verizon land. It wasn't so bad. I could make calls just about anywhere, even up in the mountains where nobody else could get a signal.

But in 2007, their phones sucked. I had a Palm 700p, which was my worst technology purchase ever (too). But I could make calls. I could receive calls. I could hear people in my phone conversations. They could hear me. Small miracles.

But now they have the Droid, and I am tempted, bleeding edge or no.

Barbara Barnett:

I admit it. I’m a middle-aged geek. I love my gadgets and toys. I was the first on my block to get a Blackberry Storm (big mistake). I got my Amazon Kindle the day after it was released (much wiser decision). And now I have my Droid. Actually, I’ve had my Droid for a month now, having purchased it on its release date. And a month later, I still love it. What’s a Droid? Thanks for asking.

The Droid is Motorola’s entry into the “Android” phone market. Sold exclusively through Verizon, it’s a (not too) distant cousin of the iPhone. Android phones are Google-connected communication devices. They do email, texting, Twitter, and Internet browsing; music, videos, and the usual calendar/contact PDA stuff.

I’ve been a Blackberry devotee for five years, and it was a difficult choice for me to jump ship. But after testing out the Droid in my Verizon store — comparing it to the Storm 2 and several other touch screen smartphones, I decided unequivocally to cast my lot with the Droid.

Oh, and she can make phone calls too. "Call quality is good," she says, and "the speaker phone is excellent"!

But Kara Swisher points out some possibly misogynistic aspects to the Droid ads.

“Should a phone be pretty?” it begins, using an odd series of images that is packed full of random misogyny. “Should it be a tiara-wearing, digitally clueless beauty pageant queen?”

Then comes all the manly imagery–a racehorse, a powerfully pointed Scud missile, bananas and buzzsaws to represent the Droid. A surging missile, as well as several creamy explosions too. Get it?

And let’s not forget the bunch of fey, effeminately-dressed mannequins, with one getting bashed with an ink-filled ball thrown by some tough masked thug with the line, “Is it a precious porcelain figurine of a phone?”

Then back to anti-women name-calling, saying an iPhone is a “princess,” unlike the Droid, “a phone that trades hair-do for can-do.”

Ugh.

Kristin Marshall offers some advertising analysis.

I’ll be blunt: Verizon is really overselling the Droid. I’m glad I don’t watch television, because the ads get on my nerves as it is. Storming the phone through brick walls and calling it a robot just looks like they’re trying too hard. You don’t want to overdo it with inflammatory ads that may alienate buyers.

It’s also not a good thing when advertising per unit is $100. And that’s if they reach the coveted 1 million units sold. With $100 million put into advertising this year alone, factoring in current sales figures, advertising cost per unit is sitting at around $145. That’s just short of the full price of the phone!

I understand that it’s an investment to gain momentum through advertising, but it needs to stick to succeed. Only time will tell, the Android platform has a lot going for it…

Hmmmmm.

Well, I don't like offensive ads — who does? — but I'm needing a phone-and-smartphone, not a phone-and-smartphone-with-admirable-advertising. There's just not much good out there when it comes to product. I can't shop according to ad ethics. And the Droid is running Open Source Android.

But wait — Is buying a Droid premature? What about these rumors that Google is coming out with its own phone?

Writes Sara Zucker:

Finally, Google is about to give the world an actual Google phone, running on the HTC G1 cellphone. The device will include a branded handset and includes free phone service. Though the G1 has already been (mis)identified as the "first Google phone," this new phone will be emblazoned with Google's company logo. It will feature Google Voice, the company's phone service, which recently overcame its FCC troubles, and connect users to that ominous (to some) Google Cloud. A touchscreen display and an extremely fast processing system, “far exceeding that of the iPhone 3G S” are also included.

The mobile dance for positioning has made for some interesting bedfellows, or maybe better, bed-frenemies. Motorola, Verizon and Google have partnered on the Droid. (Google has a lot of catching up to do after spending a reported $100M in marketing the collaboration). But with its free phone service, and patch-in to the full range of Google services, Google's offering could easily damage efforts by its Droid partners. Meanwhile, Apple's beefed-up iPhone, touted as a possible Droid-killer, will reportedly be available with Verizon service, putting Verizon on the possible outs with Motorola as well as with Google.

Motorola, the big winner of the Droid battle, may have the most to lose, since its 2010 plans include the release of at least 12 Android-based smartphones. These efforts are seemingly threatened both by the rumored new iPhone and by Google's go-it-alone launch.

MegC's post entices:

The Google phone, aka “Nexus One” is expected to be a big hit for Google. The Google phone will be sold by the Web site directly, instead of through cell phone providers. How the Google phone business model works out will be interesting, as many times phone manufacturers strike deals with specific providers who then use the phones to lure customers to their plans.

Take for instance the Apple iPhone. The iPhone has had the biggest hype up until the Droid was announced. The iPhone is available only through AT&T, and many people switched providers just to be able to have the exclusive phone.

On the other hand, the Google Phone Nexus One will be available to purchase and then customers have the flexibility to purchase whatever plan they desire. This is great for Google and great for consumers, as they will have the freedom to keep their phone and make their own choices.

What type of features will be on the new Google phone? So far, all that is known is that the Google Phone will feature a high resolution OLED display, snapdragon CPU, and microphone. It is rumored that it will run on the Google Android operating system.

Maybe I'll get the Droid, then when the Google phone comes out I'll weigh my options then.

One thing for sure: No phone is going to compel me to stick with AT&T. (Sorry.)

Contributing Editor Laura Scott blogs at blog and tries to make phone calls from Colorado. Follow here on Twitter.

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