Ten Things I Want From My Phone

Ian Hay wrote an interesting cell-phone-related blog post entitled Ten Things I want from You, the result of a survey he sent out to a number of friends (including those of us at Radar) about what people want from their telcos. Ian’s takeaway:

What strikes me is that there is a lot of talk on Voice2.0, Fixed Mobile convergence, the rise of VoIP, minutes arbitrage and how telephony in general needs to evolve and yet the two most desired things are effectively:

Improve the basics (and make it work better)

Transparent (clear consistent) pricing

The general ‘tone’ of the replies leads me to believe that the majority are quite happy to pay a reasonable cost for the basics as long as they are done well and that the rise in alternatives we see now are simply because people are finding ways around the problems they have with Telcos.

Doesn’t that say it all? Bad service, bad pricing as the drivers for competitive innovation :-)

Check out Ian’s complete summarized lists at the link above. In addition, I’ve included the Radar responses below. We wanted those basics too, but we wanted a lot more as well, which we’ll be exploring at the Emerging Telephony Conference in March.


  1. I want my phone to sync seamlessly with my address book to remember everyone I ever communicate with, not just those I explicitly add, and to use heuristics like Google does to find the top web pages to help find the most likely addresses to remember for me. Obviously, adding someone explicitly is the highest priority form of remembering, and deleting them is the highest form of forgetting, but in between, there are all kinds of interesting options: give higher priority to people I communicate with most often; give higher priority to people I respond to most quickly; give higher priority to people with whom I spend the most minutes communicating; give higher priority to people with whom I communicate using multiple methods (see point 2 below); demote people who call me and leave messages but to whom I never respond; demote people on known telemarketer lists.
  2. Integrate with other non-phone communication methods (e.g. email and IM, for phones that don’t support it), and use all the same metrics as in #1 above to give me an address book that reflects my true social network.
  3. Give me a PC-based app that lets me manage my social network (and visualize it), in much the same way that iTunes lets me manage my music, with more sophisticated controls than are easy to cram onto a handheld device.
  4. Interoperate with Skype and other VoIP technologies, from both my PC communications console and from my phone.
  5. Make it easy for me to script telephony applications (again, perhaps using my PC “iPhone” program), so that I can, for example, easily have different messages for different callers, even set up IVR type applications, set messages to be sent to myself or others at some future time.
  6. Give me Text to Speech, so I can have things read to me by my phone, and so I can email messages to myself or others. For that matter, give me speech to text, or at least forwarding of voice enclosures to email. We do this from our asterisk server, and it’s great.
  7. Stop charging me when other people call me. Move to the sender pays model. (But we like flat rate as well!)
  8. Don’t compete with other carriers on cell towers. Work together to give me the best reception everywhere, regardless of who owns which spot on a tower. It’s silly to be in places where on carrier’s phone works, and another doesn’t.
  9. Rate plan commitments as a tradeoff for a discount on a new phone are fine, but requiring a new plan commitment merely to change the plan for a better one (as many carriers do) is a sleazy practice that actually encourages switching.
  10. Work with phone manufacturers to standardize power supplies! It’s ridiculous for family members with different phones to have to carry around multiple different power supplies (e.g. in the car or on a trip) when one would do. iGo and USB-based power adaptors help, but this whole thing is unnecessary, wasteful, and consumer-unfriendly.

Phil Torrone:

  1. never ever ever cripple a phone. if a phone can do bluetooth, don’t cripple it so it can’t be used as a modem. if a phone can play mp3s, don’t cripple it so it can’t use mp3s as ringtones.
  2. phone has a file system. if the phone has removable media (sd, tflash, etc) when plugged in via usb, it should act as usb host drive for easy drag drop file storage (and charging)…
  3. green it. not really a top 10, but sorta important… make the phones more recycle-able, nokia’s “active disassembly” is an interesting start… http://www.nokia.com/nokia/0,6771,27610,00.html

Marc Hedlund:

  1. +1, or a thousand, to pt’s first point. The best way to drive early adopters crazy is to compile out functionality.
  2. don’t nickel and dime me when I’m trying new things. It would have been ten million times smarter for US carriers to have made SMS unlimited-use (for a flat rate add-on if necessary) then to make people count characters or estimate monthly throughput.
  3. don’t lock the platform. I never even thought about buying a sidekick because of this. If I can’t install what I want on it, it’s not a computing device, it’s just a fancy tin can, and I won’t buy it.
  4. what I want most of all is one network with which I can use my laptop or cellphone at high speeds, anywhere. I’d prefer all of my data (by which I mean “voice” or other data — I really don’t care about the difference) going over wifi available anywhere. I don’t have any belief that the basic mobile phone services work at all, so what I really want is that. If my cell phone could actually receive phone calls when I’m sitting on my couch at home, I’d be less picky about this, but for all I can tell the cell tower / coverage map never got anywhere near filled in for me, and anything else is just expensive frosting on top of mud from my point of view.
  5. don’t ever give my data over to anyone else without first making a loud and unsuccessful stink about it, and without suing everyone you have to to fight it. (I don’t use Verizon for this reason alone.)

I really tried to start writing this as “what I want” but it immediately turned into “what I don’t want.” I think it’s very hard, in the US at least, to start a conversation about mobile service without immediately tapping a deep abscess of hatred. As an aside, on the consumer rating site I run, cell phone companies are consistently the lowest-rated service providers for our users, across allregular expenses. So here’s what I really want: be the JetBlue of cell carriers. Come in and match a good attitude about customer service with reasonable prices and sane offerings. Take that combination and I’ll love you forever.

PT again:

  1. when i pay $60 for “unlimited data”, in addition to the other cell phone bill, don’t fine-print-me-out with doubletalk and how it’s actually not “unlimited data”. [See] the limits of “unlimited” EVDO
  2. give me a bill of rights. it’s weird to know that there isn’t a data retention policy i can see, my carrier has my text messages forever? 2 months? 6 months? no one knows. one time i called up to ask to see if i could get a copy of them or know how long they keep them. of course this went nowhere. i mentioned this in 2004 – http://www.engadget.com/2004/06/18/at-t-wireless-keeps-all-your-text-messages/ if you use google over sms or any service over sms, those are kept too. my guess is they’re mined for data, saved and stored forever, or until they’re lost / stolen / handed over. i’m sure we’ll see a terabyte of text messages hit the web, just like the aol search results…

like marc said, be my jetblue.