For me, the digital divide is the distance between the technology and the people who can use the technology. One example of this that I find particularly intriguing is the iPhone and At&t’s rate plans. This gadget has changed many people’s minds about how much data could be processed within a tiny handheld device. Almost two years after its release many people like myself are wondering why has it not come down in price? More tech savvy people are wondering why so many fundamental features got left out. The internet without Adobe Flash, Skype, keychain password storage, or cut and paste? Worse yet, why is it required that you purchase a data package along with your phone contract when it works on normal wi-fi? There’s no doubt the iPhone was impressive and proved that there is a need and desire for such a device; however new developments are being made and currently companies like Nokia are learning from Apple’s mistakes. As more and more people are becoming accustom to smartphone devices, there is not only a squeeze to fit everything into a smaller container but also for cellular providers to fit everything into a lower monthly rate.
Business Week ran an article in December, 2008 which talked about Nokia’s new N97 phone and also some of the problems Nokia has faced in the last two years. After the release of the iPhone and new Blackberry’s, Nokia market share dropped to roughly 50% and continued to drop in the second quarter of 2008 down to 48%. The article quotes a Gartner analyst stating “Nokia has suffered tremendously from not having a touchscreen device, there’s no way around that,” (Ewing, 2008). To put this in perspective, I think it is fare to say that smartphone devices with capabilities such as a touchscreen, GPS and the internet (at least wi-fi and including flash) are in high demand and in some cases a necessity for certain jobs and lifestyles. In response to the iPhone, Nokia is in the process of developing the N97 which has several more features (including Skype Lite) and will likely be sold without being locked down to a carrier. For Nokia this maybe the only chance to regain some of the market and they are taking it very seriously. Large mobile providers such as Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T are holding on as tight as possible, but this new wave of mobile devices is sure to cause some major hurdles.
In an effort to lower monthly rates and take advantage of the features that are now being offered, people are slowly turning to voice over internet application such as Skype. Many new smartphones (except the iPhone) are java-enabled and may even come preloaded with a version of Skype made especially for cell phones. With this software users can instant message or make calls without having to burn up their minutes. People who use this service purchase an unlimited data package from their carrier or avoid this altogether by using public wi-fi. The advantages of using such a service cause people like myself who cannot afford a cellular data plan to take a second look at purchasing a smartphone. Being able to purchase a plan with half the minutes will save me approx. $30 a month which can then be spent on unlimited data. Now for around $60 a month I can get unlimited minutes (using Skype voIP) and internet use. This makes purchasing a smartphone much more enticing and helps me avoid being a victim of the digital divide.
Ewing, Jack (2008, December, 02). Nokia’s N97 Smartphone, a Laptop in Your Pocket. Business Week, Retrieved Mar. 05, 2009, from http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/dec2008/gb2008122_820144.htm?campaign_id=rss_topStories