But even if there was in fact greater SIM card ubiquity in the U.S. market, I’d like the portability concept that underlies it to be taken much further. The fact that, by and large, most of us have only one handset in regular use for our mobile phone accounts has always struck me as pretty lame. Just as people own more than one watch — a sports model for the office, a model for day-to-day use, and maybe a dress model for special occasions — I think we should be moving towards a future where we can own (and regularly use) more than one mobile phone.
These handsets have become so cheap now that there’s no good reason that I shouldn᾿t be able to buy a few complementary models and use them whenever I want: a rugged model, perhaps equipped with a GPS unit, that I can take with me on a hike. An ultra slim model that I can tuck into my suit jacket when I head off to a formal event. A model equipped with a two-way radio for work in the field. A Sidekick-like model that will allow me to work remotely. To switch between them, all I’d need to do, in theory, is swap out some sort of SIM card or similar memory chip, which could carry my mobile account identity, i.e., my phone number and my contact list. So regardless of the particular situation, I could carry a mobile phone that suits the current requirements while still allowing the people who need to reach me to dial that same phone number.
I Wanna Be Your Wireless Slave
I know that, in a way, I’m just begging to be marketed to by the rapacious wireless carriers even more — a scenario like this offers even more opportunities for these companies to prohibitively lock-in customers. Still, I think it helps resolve a problem that I think is choking the mobile handset industry, which is trying to convince customers that a single model of phone is sufficient for all the needs they might have, at least until their next upgrade. It’s led to monolithic devices like, admittedly, the Treo 650, which features a camera that to be honest I don’t even want. It was the least interesting feature in the whole package when I was considering it as a purchase and, ironically, it’s the one feature that prevented me from using it.
With stronger SIM-like features, handset designers can focus on building innovative phones that do a few jobs very well, rather than many jobs with only marginal success. As the market for mobile phones saturates, it only follows that further productizing demand for phones in a manner similar to this is the next big opportunity. Maybe I can make some of that big money, and then I’ll buy myself a second phone.