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Data Access Everywhere…

July 15, 2011

I’m currently in the market for a new cell phone. Naturally, I asked for recommendations from my network of contacts. While I received several suggestions, one comment stood out: “Who uses dumbphones anymore?”

Due to economics, my choices are limited to what used to be called “feature phones”, but now are being called “basic phones” by the phone company. I got my first cell phone four years ago and had tons of choices. But now, not so much. Not only are my choices more limited, the available technology in the feature phones seems to have not changed a bit in the past two years, and when compared to cost, may have even regressed. Since the pool of options was not particularly vast, I had to face the facts: cell phone companies are not very interested in feature phones anymore.

While I can’t pay for a data plan and a smartphone, I do have access to wifi nearly all of the time. So why not a phone with wifi but no data plan? That is what I decided to get, but there is only one model like that. If phones are moving towards a smartphone model, why is this option not more available?

It is in the best interest of the cell phone companies to encourage the use of data plans – after all, they get more money from the data plans. But is the lack of wifi phones a conscious choice on their part, or is the market not interested enough in that type of phone to make it economical to make available?

Alas, this isn’t really a blog about cell phones. What I’m more interested in is the ways we access information as consumers and provide access to information as professionals. With the advent of smartphones, remote access opportunities are increased. While libraries made some forays into making mobile apps or mobile-browser friendly websites, there definitely remains room for more access points through cell phones. And on a broader scale, what has changed about user perceptions? How can information institutions better serve the needs of their communities?

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