In response to the post below on how service providers stifle mobile-phone innovation, reader Michael Radanovich writes:
As someone involved in antenna design for cellphones, I see firsthand the network operators' stultifying effect on handset design. In particular, the greatest obstacle to further progress minaturizing phones is the continued need to support the original 800 MHz band. (Maybe the WSJ article covers this...it is a pay site so I can't see.) I've seen pendant designs, wristwatch designs, and Zippo-sized flip-opens die because it is impossible for antennas to operate well at 800 MHz. Lower frequency means longer wavelengths...remember how long those 33 MHz CB antennas were? No way around it.
New entrants to the market are particularly prone to getting whacked: sensing the demand for a smaller handset, they come to us, only to later discover that they can't meet network operators' RF specs in their oh-so-cool form factor, after wasting both their & our engineering resources (miniature antenna design is a laborious and inexact art; you don't know exactly how much you can squeeze the size down until you try).
If the operators would permit PCS-only phones (1900 MHz), consumers would flock to their heretofore unattainably small sizes (starting with people who have to wear formal/business attire often). The market pressure to convert the lower frequency networks would be tremendous. (Sprint is PCS-only, but the CDMA protocol they use presents different barriers to minaturization...the effect of the two opposing forces is that they about hold even with the GSM phones.)
As it is now, handset makers compete by piling on cameras, smartphone features, etc. into a form factor that hasn't really shrunk in years. Granted, it's nothing like the the old Ma Bell days...thank God for that.
On a semi-related note, I use Sprint PCS and often find myself without service while people all around me are yacking on their cell phones. Should I switch? And, of so, to what network?
UPDATE: I switched to t-Mobile. Thanks to everyone who wrote in with advice.