(Doc Martens store in Harajuku)
NYT: More Customers Give Up the Cellphone Contract
From the article:
The savings can be considerable. An AT&T customer with an Apple iPhone on a traditional plan pays at least $130 a month, excluding taxes and fees, for unlimited calls and Web use. Compared with the $50-a-month, all-inclusive prepaid plans, the iPhone owner pays nearly $1,000 more over the course of a year.That's great, but you are still paying $50 a month for a (likely terrible) phone, which (likely) can't get 3G outside of a population center. iPhones are even worse: you could buy a new phone every month for the monthly cost of the contract.
The reason that cellphones suck in the US is simply, there is no real competition. Every cellular company is happy to make 1000%+ profit margin on text messages and internet access while providing terrible 3G coverage and Faustian contract bargains.
Compare to Japan: I bought my phone for ~$100, I regularly access the internet, and use the phone for calling and texting. My monthly bill has yet to exceed $30 a month. I can get 3G basically anywhere but in the subway and the elevator (some carriers such as AU have special infrastructure to retransmit signals in subway tunnels; I use Softbank which doesn't).
In the age of netbooks and free Skype, cellphone companies in the US need to stop pumping out crappy phone models, do some infrastructure building, and make contracts that do not resemble slave ownership agreements.