Having just come back from a family holiday to the midwest in Utah, I was struck by how slowly the mobile market seems to be moving over there. Sure there are a lot of "cell phones" around and everyone appears to have one much like here in the UK but it did strike me looking at the handsets that they are still very much lagging behind the UK and that things had not moved that far forward since the last time I was over there 5 years ago.
Whats Changed in five years?
Some of the changes I did note, included more networks. While there we roamed on both T-mobile and Cingular Wireless, 2G Networks. The mere mention of 3G had people there in a daze, what is that? Looking at the phone stalls and shops in the mall and it was clear to see that the mobile phone market is not as subsidised as back home in the UK. The absolute top end phone in our time there would be an early version of the Motorola V3 costing around $200 on an 18month contract. Something unheard of in the UK. I think it is cheaper than that on pay as you go. Although it was possible to pick up a basic nokia pay as go for $80 I recall.
3G has not made it's way across the midwest yet and one assumes that it is on the East and West coasts and will make its way inland across the vast country, so as a result video phones and video capable handsets are just not available. I had three people offer to buy my beaten up Motorola A1000 which has seen a lot of service.
Another change I noticed, which I feel is significant and played a huge part in the acceptance of mobile telephony in the UK, is the way incoming calls are charged. On my previous visit to the area 5 years ago, it was explained to me how expensive it was to receive calls on your mobile/cellphone. In the same sort of way that we in the UK used to pay for incoming calls say 15 years ago, in the US this still occurs. 5 years ago it was very prevalent, today less so. As I understood it from talking to people the lower cost tariffs still meant paying for incoming calls but this was disappearing slowly but surely. I am sure that this has contributed to the visibily higher proportion of the population using mobile phones.
Which brings me on to another point, thank goodness we have legislation in this country with regards to the use of handheld mobile phones/devices whilst driving. If there is such legislation in the US then it is blatantly flouted. Everyone uses the phone while driving and I found it very irritating.
So from a travellers point of view it does seem that the US is still behind the UK and the rest of Europe in their mobile markets, it is another question to say whether that is a good or a bad thing.