One thing that has been crippling to the U.S. mobile phone market is locked phones. In every other part of the world customers purchase the phone they want and then take it to the carrier they want. Sure it means that customers pay a little more for the device but they aren’t relegated to a certain carrier because of the device they want. The model has been working in Europe and Asia for years.
Speaking in a keynote session at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today, Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn identified challenges that were facing retailers in this connected lifestyle. Dunn identified three key areas for improvement for making the connected world more accesible and all three of them fall directly on the carriers:
- Significant up-charge for a device that connects to the mobile internet
- Plans that are expensive and hard to understand
- Too many “locked” devices (devices that are “locked” to a given carrier), causing Best Buy to carry more SKUs and ultimately complicating the supply chain
Dunn said: “We strongly believe in the notion of a Connected World, one in which people are able to access their information, entertainment, services and human networks – whenever and wherever they want.”
More after the break
Best Buy is the nations largest electronics retailer. It’s very doubtful that the model for which we purchase mobile phones will change anytime soon but if Best Buy is willing to take such a vocal stand, perhaps it could impact a change down the road.
Locked phones and carrier plans are often things that contribute to fragmentation within the Android ecosystem. Carriers are constantly trying to one-up each other with new devices to entice customers to stay within their network. Some mobile constituents believe (as well as I) that if carriers and OEM’s moved to an unlocked model, some carriers would lose customers initially but after an initial turn over churn would dramatically decrease.
Of course this means that carriers would need to rely on their network rather than the cool devices they can bring to market, regardless of what the carrier can offer.