Why Are Most Mobile Phones So Awful?

I’m in the process of reducing all my monthly bills as much as possible. Earlier this week, I spent about 20 minutes on the phone reducing my monthly Time Warner Cable bill by $70. I even cut out a few of my Sirius Satellite Radio subscriptions that I don’t use often enough. But now I have my sights set on my cell phone bill. It’s not that I dislike AT&T, my current provider, or that I’m upset with my BlackBerry Bold. It’s just that when it comes time to assess a budget, looking at a bill that measures well over the $100 mark isn’t so easy to swallow.

So, I’m looking to find the new best deal for a cell phone. I’m not against sticking with AT&T, but I’m all for switching to the carrier that provides me the best deal. Whether it’s Sprint, Verizon Wireless, or even T-Mobile, I don’t care. I just want the best price for the best coverage. That isn’t too much to ask, right?

There’s just one problem with that desire: the phones.

Over the past couple years, I’ve owned several smartphones. Everything from the Treo 700p to the iPhone to the BlackBerry Bold has spent time in my pocket. And for the most part, I’ve been happy with the experience they have all provided. But as I consider all the phones I might be buying over the next few months, I’m shocked at how poor they all are.

Last night, I spent about an hour on Verizon Wireless’ Web site trying to determine which phone I would want if I chose its service. After spinning through my choices, the answer was clear: most of them suck. And when it was all said and done, I came to the conclusion that I needed the BlackBerry Tour, which is basically an updated version of my own BlackBerry Bold on AT&T.

That bothers me. I want to believe that companies are creating products that appeal to someone who needs a little more than a flip phone and text messaging.

But when it comes down to it, I can’t help but wonder if it’s only Apple that actually is providing that service. When I owned the iPhone, I was generally happy with it. The only issue I had with the iPhone was that it failed to provide me with a viable e-mail experience. Plus, I couldn’t stand its virtual keyboard. I should note, though, that those issues arose before Apple released iPhone version 3.0.

Regardless, I became disenchanted with the iPhone. I had enough. But now, I’m left wondering if it’s really the only phone for me. The other devices offered at carriers simply don’t compete on the same level as Apple’s smartphone. Whether it’s feature set, application quantity, or just design appeal, Apple’s iPhone looks more attractive than any other product on the market.

I find that sad. Years ago, there were several phones to choose from. Today, it’s the iPhone and all the rest. It’s unfortunate. And it needs to stop.

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist whose work has included popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move on Twitter at @donreisinger.

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