Sunday, July 18, 2010

Will Smartphones Availability Edge Out Small Carriers?

Here's a thought: Will the rise in popularity of smartphones push smaller carriers out of the market?

This past week I posted about SaskTel's upcoming network upgrade in August. Wayne added a helpful comment; he'd tracked down the preliminary smartphone lineup, which includes two new BlackBerry devices and two unexciting Nokia phones.

Tech-savvy consumers want the latest and greatest in smartphones. The larger the carrier, the sooner you can get the latest and greatest devices. If you're with a small carrier, you get to play the waiting game. Or the jealousy game. Or both.

SaskTel has admitted they're working on getting the iPhone 4, but I'm skeptical that will happen. Rogers has the Sony Xperia X10 and will have the iPhone 4 (as will sister company Fido), Bell will have the iPhone 4 (though Bell doesn't do business in little ole' Saskatchewan), and Telus has the HTC Hero and the HTC Desire is coming soon.

As ill-reviewed as Rogers is here in Saskatchewan, they're the only national carrier with a full selection of BlackBerry, Android, and iPhone devices.

And why is Rogers ill-reviewed in Saskatchewan? Well, their coverage is one issue - SaskTel certainly has them beat. But once SaskTel's new network is operational, Rogers customers should be able to roam on that expanded network (correct me if I'm wrong)

Rogers also adjusts their prices and plans to compete regionally. Go to Rogers.com and select that you live on Ontario. Look at voice/data plans, and you can see that evening calling starts at 9PM. Terrible! But chance your locale to Saskatchewan and look at those plans, evening calling starts at 6PM, presumably to compete with SaskTel's provincial stronghold on the mobile market.

Guess what? Their rates aren't even that bad. I priced out a new Sony Xperia X10 and they've included a helpful bill calculator on checkout, it would be approximately what I'm paying for my BlackBerry on SaskTel.

Eight years ago, when all phones did the same thing, plus or minus a few bells and whistles, SaskTel was the obvious choice for cell phone service in Saskatchewan for their coverage. Now that line is blurred - other providers have equally great coverage and offer better devices for similar rates.

I'm not about to jump SaskTel's ship and go to Rogers (I have 2 years left on my current contract, and I can't bring myself to give up BlackBerry Messenger for an Android phone quite yet), but since no carrier has a significant coverage or price advantage, more and more decisions will be made based on device availability. Carriers will need to stay up-to-date with the latest and greatest devices to earn new business.