Here are some of the important things that happened in the mobile industry this past week with my usual insightful commentary.
LightSquared files for bankruptcy
The company that was going to help deploy LTE in the US ran into a major snag when it found out that its LTE implementation interfered with GPS devices. The spectrum band LightSquared used was next to the band used for GPS. This should not have been an issue but sloppy implementation by GPS device makers made it a problem. Our society relies on GPS for many things and the government would not allow LightSquared to deploy, ultimately dooming the company. LightSquared was to supply Sprint with LTE service, but Sprint bailed on LightSquared when the controversy flared up.
My Take: This is really unfortunate for many reasons. Many people ended up out of work. A huge amount of money was wasted. For smaller carriers (e.g. Sprint, T-Mobile, etc.) LTE deployments are going to be delayed further out in the future.
I can understand why the government cannot allow LightSquared’s network to interfere with GPS systems but I can’t help but think this could have been known before so much time, effort, and money was invested.
T-Mobile Cutting 900 Jobs
Although its parent company Deutche Telekom is investing billions of dollars in T-Mobile (presumably the billions AT&T had to pay from the failed merger), T-Mobile continues to lose customers and needs to cut costs. T-Mobile offers competitively priced plans and a high speed HSPA+ network, but their coverage is fairly spotty and an LTE rollout is way off in the future.
My Take: Good thing the gov’t stepped in to save jobs and stopped AT&T from acquiring T-Mobile!
Many people were very against the acquisition fearing a lack of competition in the mobile market. The problem is that Deutche Telekom doesn’t want to own T-Mobile USA and T-Mobile can’t survive on its own so it will have to merge with another carrier at some point anyway. Merging with AT&T made sense to me since they both use GSM technology and AT&T was already rolling out LTE. What is T-Mobile going to do now?
Verizon trying to kill off unlimited data plans
Verizon stopped offering unlimited data plans to new customers last year, but people who already had them were able to keep them when upgrading to new phones, including 4G LTE phones.
This is changing somewhat as Verizon moves to tiered “data share” plans this summer. Customers with unlimited plans will only be able to keep their if they buy a new phone full retail price. If they buy a phone at a subsidized price, they will be forced to switch to a tiered plan.
Shared data plans will be rolled out this summer but details, like costs, have not yet been announced.
My Take: Well, the party couldn’t go on forever, could it? As much as we’d all like unlimited plans the carriers simply cannot sustain them.
This means that if you have an unlimited data plan and want to keep it when you get a new phone be prepared to pay $649 instead of $199.
iPhone 4 for $49
BestBuy is selling the 8GB iPhone 4 for $49, with a new 2 year contract on Verizon, Sprint, or AT&T.
My Take Why would anyone buy a feature phone when you could get an iPhone 4 for $49? Even though the iPhone 4 is over a year old it is still a damn good phone and arguably better than any other feature phone or low end smartphone. How many low end phones have a retina display, thousands of compatible accessories, and access to such a rich content ecosystem?
Thoughts on iOS 6 and “turn by turn” navigation
Last week I wrote about reports claiming iOS 6 would include a new Google-free maps app, but there has been no word about whether the app will include a “turn by turn” feature as the Android maps app has. I wouldn’t expect to hear a confirmation one way or the other until WWDC in June.
As much as I’d like to see the feature, I would not be surprised if it was not included. The big problem of turn by turn navigation is that it is a battery killer. Keeping the GPS on all the time will burn through the phone’s battery very quickly and there’s not too much you can do about that. In fact, the Verizon Galaxy Nexus uses more power doing turn by turn navigation than it gains charging. (See here and here)
Apple is very conscious of the overall image of their devices and battery life is an important part of that image. I imagine hearing customers say “the iPhone sucks because its battery life is so short” is one of their greater fears. They take great pains to manage power use in their hardware and software for this reason. iOS does not support “true” multitasking for third party apps, widgets and icons that update like other OSes do to reduce power usage. Improperly used those features consume much power and shorten the device’s battery life. Since Apple cannot force developers to properly use those features they do not provide them. Based on that, I can see Apple not including a desired feature if it will change the overall impression of the device for the worse.
And that’s the news. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow!