The analog cell phone could be put on the endangered species list, and theres little hope for any sort of recovery. In all likelihood, it will follow the same path as the 8-track tape and the 5 1/4 inch floppy hot technology one day, forgotten gizmo the next.
When cellular phones first came out, the only choice was analog. The quality wasnt always great, but they did the job without complaint. Then digital came along, greatly improving call quality and adding extra features such as voice mail. Analog has been in a tailspin ever since. As digital prices continue to drop, analog phones fade into yesterdays news.
In the business market, we are predicting analog phones will basically disappear, says Kelly Quinn, senior industry analyst of mobile communications service for Strategy Analytics Inc. By 2004 or 2005, analog phones will be completely phased out of business use. There are a lot more options with digital phones voice mail, caller ID, theyre easier to use for three-party calling and they have messaging. They are simply a lot more versatile and have better call quality.
Users can roam and not lose calls the way they did with analog phones. As prices decrease, the decision becomes easy.
People go for whats new, says Quinn. Analog phones are being given away with service plans. With many digital services, you dont have to have a contract, and thats a real advantage. Digital providers have really moved away from the analog business model people dont want a 12-month contract.
There will be some analog phones left over, mainly the ones people buy to keep in their cars in case of emergencies, but the majority of users will be on digital phones.
In 1998, analog accounted for 74 percent of all wireless phones. Thats expected to fall to 52 percent in 1999, and 4 percent in 2002. Its a pretty dramatic rampdown, notes Quinn.
Providers push the digital advantage because it uses much less bandwidth to place a call. They can use the same amount of bandwidth for multiple digital calls as it would take for a single analog call. This means more users on the same infrastructure and less cost.
People are giving away analog phones, says Quinn. Thats a big indicator theyve become a basic commodity. They were such a hot product when they first came out, people were paying an arm and a leg for them. Now they can be had for a penny.
Basic digital phones may be seeing their own demise . The third generation of phones has Internet capabilities with a small display screen and gobs of features crammed into one device. Whether this will be enough to displace the standard digital phone remains to be seen.
Todd Shryock (email@example.com) is SBNs special reports editor.