Talk is Cheap With Disposable Cell Phones
There’s a telling scene in the movie “Primary Colors” in which John Travolta’s character, Governor Jack Stanton, in a fit of frustration, tosses his cell phone out the window of his moving SUV. Then, after realizing his phone is indispensable, the Clinton-esque presidential hopeful, his wife and his aide spend a goodly amount of time hunting the countryside for the lost phone.
It’s no wonder we sometimes feel like flinging our cell phones. As anyone who carries a cell phone knows, wireless service has its hang-ups.
What with dropped calls, fast busy signals and “dead zones,” where it’s impossible to get any kind of service, it’s a surprise that more phones aren’t given the heave-ho. The problem is, the darn things are too important to go without and too expensive to be frivolous with.
Until now, thanks to a new breed of low-cost wireless handsets expected to hit the market next month.
Extremely easy to use, cheap and disposable, “talk-then-toss” phones are looming on the tech horizon. What’s more, these stripped-down phones are challenging the notion that mobile phones should offer an ever-growing list of functions, such as mobile Internet browsing. Forget the frills and bring on the savings, seems to be the wave of the new generation of disposable phones.
With the number of U.S. subscribers more than tripling in the past five years to nearly 110 million, cell phones seem to be everywhere. Still, handset sales have slowed and analysts say future customers will be unwilling to pay upward of $300 for a cell phone.
In mid-October, California phone maker Hop-On Wireless (www.hop-on.com) says it plans to sell a phone for $30 that can be thrown away or recycled. Chief executive Peter Michaels says more than 1 million phones will be shipped and available in stores including Walgreen’s, Target, Kmart and 7-Eleven.
The phone allows 60 minutes of talk time. One problem is that while the user can make calls, he cannot receive them. The handset has just two buttons — “talk” and “end” — and is powered by voice-activated dialing.
Another company, Dieceland Technologies (www.dtcproducts.com) in Cliffside Park, N.J., has won several patents for a phone made of paper that will cost about $10. The product is still in development, but the company has signed a distribution deal with GE Capital, the investment arm of General Electric.
More talk-and-toss phones are likely to follow. Robin Hearn, an analyst at market research firm Ovum, said the talk-and-toss phones may prove to be a big experiment in order to raise the number of people using cell phones from the roughly 40 percent in the United States to about 70 percent, which is seen in Europe.
The handset industry’s largest players, such as Nokia and Motorola, say the high-end phones they had high hopes for aren’t selling, creating an opening for the likes of Dieceland and Hop-On.
“Handset manufacturers were hoping that consumers would continually trade up to the high-end, feature-filled phones,” said Jupiter Research wireless analyst Joe Laszlo. “But it turns out (consumers) are looking for less-expensive phones now.”
And don’t think the Big Boys haven’t noticed.
Nearly every handset maker except Nokia — the world’s No. 1 manufacturer, selling one out of every three cell phones in the world — has slashed prices on their phones. The lower prices have helped some of Nokia’s competitors gain market share as they try to clear backlogged inventories and find a way out of the handset sales slump that has plagued much of the communications industry this year.
So what’s this all mean?
Well, cheaper, more disposable communication for starters. You may not choose to go disposable, but the trend for less expensive cell phones will certainly continue as competition heats up.
And that means that someday soon you or someone on your sales staff may toss a cell phone out the window and not even give it a second thought. Of course, littering is another story.
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