Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Mobile phone networks have a tendency to sell phones at a reduced cost or even give them away for free so long as you sign up to a nice long contract. When your contract eventually ends your presented with a shiny new must have phone that makes you look cool, interesting and sexy, you want this phone so much but you can't afford it. No worries, sign a new contract that ties you to the company for another year or two and it's yours. Phone networks make a lot more money from contracts than selling phones but they can't trap you in a contract without selling you a phone. What if you didn't need a new phone?

What if every few months your phone got a software update? Well If your phone was receiving software updates then it would be able to do lots of things newer phones do and not needing a new phone your in no danger of getting stuck in another long contract, you could reduce your tariff or you could even change network!

When a phone is released and the likes of Orange and Vodafone start selling it they tend to fiddle with it first. They check to make sure there is no software on it that could cost them money. For example Orange may disable VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) which means you can't use programs like Skype or MSN Messenger, if you could make free calls with Skype then why pay Orange to make calls? Only after they have fiddled with it will they sell you the handset, a tell-tale sign that a phone has been fiddled with is if the network has branded it with their own name. 

Over the last year or so the networks have come across a new problem, the smartphone. Since Apple revolutionized the market with the iPhone they helped set the precedent that some phone manufacturers can demand, that in return for exclusivity, the networks do not fiddle with their phones software. This Allows software updates and handy programmes like Skype. Ah, but if the network cannot cripple the software then how can they convince us to get new phones? The solution, they mess with the hardware instead.

One instance of this may be Vodafone with their exclusive deal with HTC and Google to sell the 'Magic' here in the UK. Sure enough there on the face of the phone is the Vodafone logo but the only evidence of software tampering is another Vodafone logo glowing at you on start up and a bookmark to the Vodafone website. Nothing evil there, however the tampering, I believe, happened a little deeper. If you buy a HTC Magic direct from HTC it comes with a RAM (Random Access Memory) of 288MB but if you get the same phone through Vodafone it only has a RAM of 192MB. Put simply the Vodafone branded Magic is less capable of receiving software updates than the non-branded Magic.

Sure the current software works great on both types of handset but when an update becomes available only the phone with the most RAM a.k.a the non-branded phone will be able to run the newest version. The only way to get your hands on the shiny new software and all the extra things it can do? Yup you guessed it, get a new phone with a new contract.

This practice has angered a lot of consumers and instead of buying the latest handsets from Vodafone they are simply leaving the network for greener pastures. The result? a Vodanotsosmartfone.

Keep smiling,
Mat Preece