Trading Mobility for Quality

There has been a trend over the last 20 years in telephones.  That trend has been the trading of quality for mobility and features.  Here is the progression:

First, I had a land-line with a squigly cord.  The quality of the call was usually perfect.  The phone was comfortable on my ear.  I could talk to to a girlfriend for hours on end.  I had to sit near the phone jack though and the call was charged on a per minute basis.  Kind of expensive.  Call-waiting was a pretty cool invention for this model.

Then came the cordless phone.  I could walk into the yard.  I could go on the roof.  It was still comfortable.  The battery life was pretty good.  Sometimes the microwave would mess up the call.  A little quality issue for more mobility, no problem.

I tried Vonage in the late 90’s.  The call quality sucked.  My phone was comfortable, but people thought I was underwater, when the thing worked at all.  It was cheap though.  I liked that.  Plus it had all kinds of features like Caller-ID.  Neat.

Cell phones (not smart phones) were the big deal for a long time.  I could walk anywhere.  I could be in Amish country and talk to anyone in the world. (I did that once)  I was charged for a set number of minutes (just don’t go over!).  However, the phone was uncomfortable  and get very hot.  The quality was not that good.  My dad used to say that with a regular phone he closed each call by saying “Goodbye”.  With a cell phone he closes the call with “Hello.”  As in, “Hello?!?  Hello?? Are you there??  Damn!”

Now with iPhones and Smart Phones, we have the best features and internet access, but the calling quality is horrible.  Dropped calls are the norm and the battery life is pathetic.  The phones themselves get really hot and are not ergonomic.  I can barely talk on my phone with someone and hold a coherent conversation.    The price is pretty high for all the bells and whistles.

Why did we all trade quality for mobility and features? We don’t even have a land-line anymore, except for DSL and emergencies.  I can’t talk to people for long periods of time.  I remember once being on the phone with a girlfriend for hours.  My phone wouldn’t allow that these days.  Will my kids need a land line again?  Or is texting a way of coping with the lack of decent voice service?

Something went wrong in the UX department of telecommunications.  Time will heal all wounds and quality will creep back in, but it will take a long while.

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