Liberation from Wireless Carriers
I have seen a shift toward freedom from wireless carriers catalyzed by the T-Mobile Uncarrier movement in 2013. Since then all major carriers, except AT&T, have removed the two year contract in exchange for subsidized devices. In the United States, device choice was tied to your carrier. If a new phone came out that you wanted on another carrier you had to pay a hefty termination fee, wait for your contract to end, or hope and pray that the device would eventually become available on your network.
Now, the decision of what network carrier to choose is separated from your device choice. Flagship smartphones are sold unlocked via manufacturer’s websites and can be used on all four carriers. The trend is that more and more phones can be bought and used on any network. No more waiting for your contract to end to qualify for another subsidy. You can sell your device and upgrade to a new one as often as you'd like. The devices in the figure below are examples of new high end smartphones that you can buy and use on any network* with all the latest features fast charging, extended battery life, and more megapixels, processing power, and screen density than your eyes can perceive.
*: HTC One A9 will work on Verizon after radio upgrade in December
Mobile Operating System (OS)
Your preference for mobile OS can determine what device you choose. I’ll start with Android as it has over 82% of the mobile OS market share according to IDC. Previously, we were seeing a lot of customization and pre-installed apps (bloatware) that were specific to a carrier. Now we are seeing a push toward near stock Android and less bloatware to reduce cost to produce and to provide updates sooner to customers. Google Nexus is still the holy grail with immediate updates and truly pure Android. However, the Motorola X Pure and the HTC One A9 both new flagship devices claim to provide near stock Android.
iOS has the next largest market share. If you have a desire for iOS this means one device the iPhone. iOS continues to be a leader in user experience.
There is a fight to determine the third mobile OS and its relevance. There are a number of options here including Firefox OS, Ubuntu Phone, Jolla Sailfish, Samsung Tizen, and Cyanogen. Judging by the investment from Microsoft and Qualcomm, Cyanogen is positioning itself as force to be reckoned with. Cyanogen is Android that allows more customization and device access. Unless you are in a non-US market, Cyanogen won’t play into your device decision.
Now you have decided on your device, the next question is what wireless network carrier you will operate it on. This choice is based on quality of network or cost. Carriers will always use confusing terms to say why they are the best network. These claims means nothing to the average user. What you want to know is at home, work, and other frequently visited places what service has the strongest signal and fastest speed. For independent unbiased information on carrier signal strength and tower locations look no further than opensignal.com and sensorly.com for crowdsourced data on networks provided by real users.
Price is the other factor to consider when choosing a mobile carrier. If price is your deciding factor there are a whole slew of mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) that resell wireless service to provide more options and lower prices. There are a few mobile companies like Republic Wireless, Freedompop, Straight Talk, and Scratch Wireless that support calls and text via WiFi, which results in lower prices. However, the major carriers are starting to support WiFi calling given your device is running at least iOS8 or Android Lollipop. Google recently entered this market as an MVNO with Project Fi. The following chart, compares prices of low cost plans via wireless carriers. More information can be found here. Each carrier has their pros and cons and you can decide which is best for you.
What device do you have or are you planning to get next? What is the deciding factor for you? Was it mobile OS, price, or device specifications?
DAF Technologies regularly advise organizations on integrating mobile and emerging technologies into their strategy. If you have questions, please contact Director, Innovation & Technology Faith Davis at 301.541.8569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.