Roaming Free

An interesting piece over at Forbes…

Just as thrifty theater-goers can save a buck by smuggling in their own Junior Mints, so too are cell phone users finding ways to download their own phone upgrades without paying a big margin to their carriers.

The very same phones that give users the power to download new services also give them the flexibility to find other ways of getting new content into those phones. For instance, an avid text messaging fan in Britain who owns a Nokia 6600 can save money by using a service run by an outside company such as Fastchat, which provides unlimited text messaging for a flat fee.

Such fee-dodging tactics are about to become a major threat to the cell industry, according to a new study by Mako Analysis, a British research firm specializing in mobile communications. New operating systems such as Symbian Series 60 are capable of working with all manner of extra applications.

“A savvy user can use this open operating system to completely bypass a range of services that are normally charged for by their mobile operator,” the report says. []

Of course these issues raise the question of who owns the phone… You pay for it and lock into a service contract in most situations, but people are finding ways around the walled gardens often created to control the experience. The control is part of a two-pronged approach to both make money as well as limit the potential service issues.

An advanced user should be able to choose services that are of interest to them, and often do, though at an increase in cost due to buying unlocked phones from third parties rather than directly from the carrier – who lock the phones. When a phone is locked it allows the carrier to pre-program content and content partners as well as assure that whatever settings they need to input are there for these services to work.

If you’ve ever read Howard Forums, Mobitopia (or lurked in #mobitopia), Mobilewhack, My Treo to name a few, you’ve seen that many people are independently dealing with things.

From a user perspective, I personally think we should be able to use compatible hardware on whatever network we like. It should force the carriers to offer quality services that users want rather than just pre-loading WAP menus with things people don’t even know about let alone use…

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