Where is the Wi-Fi only smartphone option
Carriers 3G networks are clogged, the most prevalent example being AT&T’s network. One simple solution that carriers just have not made available to consumers is the Wi-Fi only smartphone. Rather than force data plans on consumers if they buy a smartphone give them a cheaper option that would eliminate some of the network congestion.
For years phones released in other parts of the world had Wi-Fi capability that carriers here required manufacturers to inactivate. Carriers could just as easily have the 3G chip disabled or otherwise inactive allowing customers to Wi-Fi only devices.
E-readers are currently available with Wi-Fi only models so is the iPad. There is little doubt that the phones would be feasible if a manufacturer took to designing and releasing one. Such an option may even encourage the FCC to consider the viability of a free nationwide Wi-Fi network, as part of the AWS-3 auction, which has been on hold for at least two years.
The only true obstacle is the carriers. They have to be willing to adopt and support such a phone before manufacturers are willing to release one. Remember the manufacturers do not sell straight to consumers rather they sell to the carriers which means phones are designed with what the carriers want not what the consumers wants. Even the iPhone and the non-defunct Nexus One were subject to the preferences of the carriers.
There is hope, slim hope mind you but hope. For instance manufacturers could actually participate in Verizon Wireless’ Open Development Initiative. It would allow manufacturers to sell directly to consumers who could design smartphones with various features that could operate on Verizon Wireless’ network. It is unclear what plans consumers would be able to join as there is not currently a phone available via the 3 year old initiative.
Carriers are willing to experiment with pricing options and service options. Its time they need to be willing to experiment with network and hardware options. Rather than release a variety of phones with minimal differences real options could be developed and a smartphone could truly be designed with consumers in mind rather than carriers.