What do you get when you buy a cell phone? A phone? A device to call people? A phone network to use?
The cell phone company doesn’t care much about the cell phone you buy. Some phone capabilities are crippled by the cell phone company, but often the phone is subsidized to get you to sign up to use their specific network.
Sprint, AT&T, T-mobile, Verizon, or something else. They all have the same objective– to separate you from your money; preferably over a long period of time and with enough of a penalty for switching that you won’t.
Television advertising by the cell phone companies tends to fall into three categories.
- Our network is better, fewer dropped calls, wider coverage, use us
- Our cell phone special is exclusive, buy it and use us
- Our special rate is exclusive, pay it and continue to do so
Is there really much difference in cell phone networks? Generally speaking, no. If your connection works, you’re happy. If not, you’re not. But the cell phone companies go to great lengths to persuade you that their network is better.
For the most part, a cell phone network is a near commodity item. Coverage will be spotty depending on location, terrain, number of cells, buildings, and so on. But if the connection is there, it’s there. The quality of the “sound” in the connection is more dependent upon the cell phone than the network.
Most cell phone companies carry similar model cell phones, but not always in the same market, and not always with the same features. Some features are crippled by some cell phone companies. Exclusivity of a hot new phone comes at a price– usually a longer term contract.
That’s the case with Apple’s iPhone. In the US, buy an iPhone and you’re stuck with a carrier for a couple of years.
Cell phone company rates are needlessly and hopelessly complex. It’s that way by design. They’re so complex that most people don’t know whether their monthly rate is good or bad compared to other cell phone company rates, so they stay put, and don’t go looking for a new or different cell phone provider.
That “churn” in customers is what the cell phone company doesn’t want, so they’re content to confuse the customer.
Back to the original question. What do you get when you buy a cell phone? An opportunity to call (or be called) on a mobile phone, and a monthly commitment to pay someone for the privilege. The cell phone company doesn’t really care which phone you use, and they don’t care whether you use their network or not. The less you use, the better for them.
The cell phone company just wants you to keep paying month after month.