When it comes to tech gadgetry, disposable nature is more or less based on price point and ease-of-transition from one gadget to the next.
A few examples:
Netbooks were always disposable because they were introduced with a low price point and are even marketed as “companion” computers, which translates to “this is something cheap enough to throw away and not care about it”.
The ease of transition from one netbook to another is fairly simple because they all share similar hardware and limitations. For most people it’s as simple as installing your apps from a single USB stick and acquiring all your data from the cloud/Internet.
Personal Navigation Devices, a.k.a. PNDs (you know them as GPS devices) are now disposable because the price point has fallen below $100 for a Garmin PND. There are also other brands that go well below that mark. You couldn’t say the PND was disposable two years ago, but now you can because of the price point.
The only thing worth transferring from one PND to the next are your waypoints, a.k.a. favorites. This is easily accomplished (at least with Garmin PNDs) using Nuvi Editor. The time it takes to do this is less than 5 minutes, so ease-of-transition from one Garmin to the next isn’t an issue.
“Plain” cell phones are disposable because the only thing you care about on them is the contact list. Wireless phone stores such as a Verizon Wireless store will transfer all your contacts from one phone to the next free of charge whenever you get a new phone. There are also many utilities online to transfer contacts via USB, and also cloud-based contact lists like Plaxo.
Cell phones go all over the place as far as price is concerned, but they are cheap. As long as you can move the contacts from one handset to the next, that’s all that really matters.
Enter the smartphone
Smartphones are different because they’re more computer than actual phone. Apps can be installed, with each app having its own set of preferences. There are many options for cloud-based storage and sync for just about everything – including the contacts.
Concerning price point, the smartphone is at a disposable level because it’s busted the $100 mark. A Droid-based phone can be purchased at Wal-Mart for $99 using VZW service.
But is the smartphone disposable at this point?
The only thing that makes a smartphone non-disposable has nothing to do with the phone and everything to do with the carrier. While the phones themselves are very reasonably priced considering all they can do, the carrier fees and lock-ins are where you’re forced to stay with a particular smartphone for at least one year.
Now it’s true you could buy an unlocked smartphone so you can ditch a carrier at any time, but you will pay dearly for one – and it’s unlikely you’ll ever get the money back you put into it.
What about prepaid smartphones?
This option is available but currently has limitations that turn some people off.
MetroPCS for example has a no-contract smartphone plan – but you have to use their Blackberry. Some people don’t like Blackberry phones at all.
With Virgin Mobile, same deal – Blackberry.
Verizon tries you bash you over the head with the Blackberry as well with prepaid smartphone options, but thankfully there are several Droid options as well.
T-Mobile to the best of my knowledge has “FlexPay” options for all their smartphone offerings.
In the US, Verizon and T-Mobile have the best options for prepaid smartphone use. Per-month prices are reasonable in the no-contract arena and you have the most choice of which smartphone you want.
At the end of it all however, this does not make a smartphone disposable because you’re still subject to carrier limitations.
What do you think? Is the smartphone disposable? I don’t think it is, but I could be wrong.
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