These are the Dark Ages

Originally posted on Kneel Before Pod on Saturday, June 6, 2009.

There is always a time when people look back at a technology when it was young and say “Wow, that’s so much different than now. It almost doesn’t make sense!” We’re always in a state of these “Dark Ages” even if we’re not able to see it in the present. Luckily, I am able to divine some of these things and bring them to light from time to time.

One such example hit me with a giant board with nails sticking out of it today. I believe that in years to come, cell phones will be one of our greatest sources for “wtf were we thinking?” At every turn and every innovation of the cell phone industry, things seem to stay the same. Or better yet, they adopt an out-dated method from another industry. I want to focus on just one of these amazingly short sighted examples today: the complete and utter misuse of WiFi.

One of the largest trends in Cell Phones right now is the “smart phone.” Be it a Blackberry, iPhone, Palm, Windows Mobile or one of the six people that owns an Android, smart phones are the it item right now. Handy little devices that let you check your email, browse the intarwubs, manage your calender, play little games on your down time, allow you to use useful applications and… oh yeah… it’s a phone. With this ever growing market, we have also seen some features that were previously the sole territory of computers. The main one being WiFi.

WiFi, how I love you, let me count the ways… Where I live, there are no G3 wireless data networks. I don’t blame cell phone companies for not developing this technology in our area, because frankly, it would be pearls before swine. The only relief I get from dial-up mirroring speeds is when I get in range of a WiFi network. When at home or in a public place with an open network I can finally see why people in larger cities love these devices so much. I love that these devices support WiFi for the internet end of things and it makes me feel like they understand my pain. There is a “but” though…

Why can’t I use these same WiFi networks for the use of traditional cell phone services? Why can’t I send a text message or make a phone call over my WiFi? I know it’s possible. T-Mobile offers an additional service for $19.99 that turns some select cell phones (i.e. NOT MINE) into VoIP (that’s Voice over IP, think Vonage) enabled phones! Why can’t all phones have this feature? My phone can send email, connect to Skype and browse the internet all over a WiFi network, why would I not be able to use a Cell Phone Provider’s VoIP service? It makes about as much sense as taking a normal laptop, removing all it’s traditional ROM drives and declaring you now have a netbook. Sure, a netbook is handy, but why in god’s name would you turn a fully functioning laptop into one?

Another thing, why should I be charged for using this service? I am quite literally using my own resources at this point to use your service. Instead of using your precious cell phone towers, which apparently run on the souls of Chinese Orphans at these prices, I am using my self-provided internet bandwidth to make my calls and send my texts. You’re still getting your monthly service fees regardless. From this stand point, it sounds as though I should actually be offered a discount on my bill if my WiFi services out weight my on network services, but that would be just plan crazy talk.

Sure, they might cry about the short term costs of having to upgrade their hardware and software so they can accept VoIP as well as their normal phone service, but the long term costs would have to figure up to be a savings. I mean, now with famous people wanting to adopt so many foreign kids these days, the souls of Chinese Orphans have to be at a premium.

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