I spent most of yesterday touring United Airlines’ new corporate headquarters and meeting with customer service executives. I’ll have a full report soon. But in the meantime, here are a few final words about our #Nophone challenge, which ends today.
The big question we wanted to answer is this one: Can I travel without a phone in 2012?
Specifically, is it possible to go “data-only” — using Wi-Fi and cellular networks for Internet-based voice, video and text communications?
The answer? No, not yet. Here’s why:
User habits. Old habits die hard. Even though it’s technically possible to make a phone call from an Internet-based service like Skype, it is still easier to use your regular phone to make a call. That’s at least what we found, even when as we tried to stay off our conventional lines.
Competing standards. Fact is, there’s no “one” standard for Internet-based communications, although there are several strong contenders. And until there is, I’ll have to keep several windows open on my laptop or iPad, to accommodate everyone’s preferences. That’s not a problem until I forget to fire up one app and no one can reach me. There must be a better way.
Price. This isn’t meant as a criticism — after all, everyone has a business to run — but it’s difficult to compete with free. So even though the best online communication tools cost something, it’s hard to compete with lesser applications that are free. I think some of the models out there need to be tweaked, although I’m not sure how.
Bandwidth. When I see those TV ads for 4G wireless service, I cringe. Wireless carriers are not the solution — they’re the problem. We already have the technology to facilitate smooth, super-high speed wireless communication, but commercial interest have stunted their adoption and deployment.
Walled gardens. I wrote about closed ecosystems in my latest book. These are not helpful to the next evolutionary step in wireless communication. Limiting the types of applications that can run on a smartphone because they aren’t in a cellular phone company’s commercial interests (but are in the interests of the user) limits progress and innovation.
By the way, join us tomorrow evening at 5 p.m. Eastern time under the #nophone hashtag for our party. We are not giving anything away (alas, the party favors never showed up, but so what?) but it’s gonna be a lively discussion about phones, family travel and a variety of other topics.
Ask us anything now under the #nophone hashtag, and we’ll answer it. Within reason.