No Need for Voice Plans on Cellphones

Mat Honan of Wired discusses the lack of needing a “phone”

So why do we still need voice plans? Dunno. You can get LTE on any decent tablet. And with LTE, you can send and receive calls with Skype and its ilk even, say, on the bus. You can send text messages with services like WhatsApp. You can port your existing mobile number over to Google Voice and continue calling and texting, from the exact number you have right now, on your iPad.

A thousand times yes! Most people under 35 hardly use their phone for voicecalls at all1. Most people hate talking on the phone these days. In this world of constant task switching2 a phone call is to much of a dedicated task. Text messages and the like has become most people’s preferred method of communication, mostly due to the asynchronous nature of them. In other words, a person can text another person and that second person will answer when they have time, or are able to. As opposed to the old method of needing the second person to be available for a phone call at a specific time.

The problem is that the carriers make so much of their money off these voice plans. It is their bread and butter. And for the time being, it isn’t going away. There are still issues with certain VoIP technologies that make them not as reliable as a traditional voice call, and that will scare off “average folk.” In order to get a subsidized price with a carrier a voice plan has to be purchased. Even if an unlocked device is purchased it’s unclear whether a data-only plan could be purchased for a phone device the same way it could be for a tablet. Then on top of that a problem exists with having a phone number for traditional phone calls (e.g., doctors, repairmen, etc.) that would need an actual number.

At the moment it is just to difficult to circumvent the phone call system without too much disruption. At some point some carrier will make the shift and draw in a bunch of customers and force the hand of all the other carriers in the same way that many previous options have done. In the meantime the carriers will just keep fooling people into thinking there is a difference between voice and data traffic.

  1. I have a relatively modest voice plan and I have over 4,000 rollover minutes []
  2. Although people love to throw the word “multitasking” around it’s really just frequent context switching []