Monday, April 13, 2009

Dell Gets Snubbed By Cell Carriers, Smartphone Sold Through Retail?

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The much rumoured upcoming smartphone from Dell has reportedly failed to get a deal with any of the world's cell phone carriers, despite talking to cell phone carriers at the Mobile World Congress trade show, Dell struck out. Despite this the very unofficial word is coming from the grapevine is that Dell will sell the smartphone unlocked through direct sales and through Retail.

This makes for a rather dubious business model for the smartphone. The non-subsidized cost of a smartphone can easily reach 400 dollars and beyond. This would require nothing short of a spectular piece of hardware to break users away from iPhones and Blackberries that can be picked up for less than 200 dollars and committing to a two or three year contract.

Even if there were consumers that are willing to spend that kind of money for a smartphone they probably won't be willing to pay it for just another Windows Mobile device, going with Google Android is much better bet. That would make it an easy sell in Canada since none of the carriers offer the HTC Android based G1. Even American users could be attracted to an Android phone from Dell, because of the poor battery life of the G1 or they don't want to switch to T-Mobile.

Getting the Dell Smartphone on Cell carriers' networks will be easy for GSM users because it just requires switching the SIM card from one phone to the Dell phone. CDMA users will have some difficulties since CDMA carriers have long resisted putting phones they didn't originally sell on their networks. Verizon says they are going to be opening up their network to unlocked CDMA phones, but that is a couple of years away. Sprint and all the CDMA carriers in Canada still stiffly oppose putting outside phones on their networks.

The odds are definately not in Dell's favor, but given a chance and the right business plan it could work. Number portablity gave people the ability to keep their phone number when switching cell carriers, A phone sold the way that Dell wants to sell their new smartphone would give people the ability to keep their phones as well. This would take power away from cell carriers and give it back to consumers, and that's the way it ought to be.

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