Sleight of Handset


As an advocate of innovation and an early adopter of all things technology, I am thrilled that my mobile phone can let me book a restaurant reservation, GPS me to a destination, take crystal-clear high definition photographs, check the stock listings, return e-mails and update my Twitter account.  I am not thrilled that it drops calls and distorts voices, especially when I’m talking to a client.

In the early years of brick-sized cell phones, pocket sized cell phones and flip phones that were small enough for dogs to swallow, we tended to forgive phone call quality in the name of amazing convenience.  But now, when I can even program my PVR from another country with my mobile phone, I am losing my patience.  In their furiously innovative stampede to add new functions to mobile phones, the telecom sector has distracted us from the appliance’s main purpose, which is having a clear conversation with another human being.

If I have an important phone call scheduled, my default device is a land line.  Such is the importance of nuance, tone of voice and even pauses, that a mobile phone just isn’t reliable or present enough to be sure that I’ve heard everything I need to hear.  What does this have to do with innovation?  Well, I guess innovation is also about getting things right.  The auto makers have done it with diesel engines.  Microsoft seems to have done it with control-alt-delete-free operating systems.  Now, in a personal appeal, I am asking telecoms to do the same thing with mobile voice communication.

I harken back to those wonderful Verizon commercials where a guy with a cell phone would find remote locations and ask, ‘Can you hear me now?’  A decade later, I shouldn’t have to ask the same question.  If you want a clear competitive advantage, cell phone companies, make a better telephone.

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