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“What’sApp with My Cell Phone?”

Posted on 3.01.2014

:: By Michael Burke, appssavvy ::


I've never seen a remote control that actually clicks. But my dad, to this day, still calls a remote control a "clicker" because when he first saw a TV remote, it actually clicked (hence the name).     

Why do I bring this up? Because I believe that "cell phone" will be as antiquated of a name as the "clicker.” Facebook’s $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp solidifies this belief. 

Your "cell phone" was a way for you to call people on the go, from a phone that had no base. Text messaging, email, Internet and apps all evolved the “cell phone.” Today, with a plethora of capabilities, we know it as a mobile device – a device you can take anywhere and do a ton of "stuff.”   

One of your expectations is to be able to communicate. But, telling you how to communicate is an expectation that is no longer. Communication comes in many forms and is evolving from calls, to chats, to photos, to whatever else you can do with two thumbs and a headset.    

The device, of course, has communication services built in, namely around voice, text and email. These are offered by the device manufacturer with fees to the carrier. With the introduction of app stores, you can now also choose from other services that provide similar or better ways to talk and chat. It is these apps that are slowly shaking up the industry, and now one of them is worth $19 billion. It is these services that are calling into question your “cell phone” and highlight the potential of what can be. 

Every time you choose not to use a service that is provided by the carrier or the device maker, the mobile world changes and your "cell phone" becomes less of a phone and more of a device. You can use WhatsApp all day long, and the only service you need is a connection. In turn, we will start asking ourselves, what do we expect from our device? To hang on to our apps and offer quality connection speeds? What services should I pay for? Storage and connection? These are the questions the big carriers don’t want you asking as your look at your bill.  

The purchase of WhatsApp, and its eventual growth to a billion users, is a big deal for communication and how we pay for it. With that said, the media storm around WhatsApp isn’t exposing this for the first time. Carriers have been planning this and Verizon completing its deal with Vodafone (an Internet-based service) speaks to that. The carriers’ role in mobile will evolve as communication changes, but they aren’t going anywhere. I foresee a similar battle playing out in the mobile device, app platform and carrier service space as we have already seen with cable companies, Internet providers and content providers like Netflix. 

The consumer’s responsibility in this will be to think about what you really need from your mobile device and challenge the services you pay for. This will make the market stronger. If not, our kids will be saying things like “My dad still calls it a cell phone.” 


As co-founder and president of appssavvy, Michael Burke is rethinking the delivery and reception of advertising. He leads product strategy and oversees the company's Business and Engineering teams. In 2012 and 2013, he was named to the Techweek 100, recognizing the most innovative names in Chicago technology. You can find him at: www.about.me/michaelburke or Twitter @micburke27.

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