There’s no denying that the mobile phone industry is big business, filled with big players. It’s a battle of the titans. Titans like Samsung, Motorola, LG, RIM and HTC. Titans like Verizon Communications, AT&T, Sprint. Titans like Microsoft and Google.
It seems a little [in the relative sense!] Austrailian company called Kogan has beaten nearly every one of the big players to the table with their new Agora mobile phone. It’s slim like a Motorola Q, sexy like an iPhone, and fast like a Blackberry … and it runs Android. More importantly, Agora isn’t a mobile phone carrier. They’re an electronics company, and they’re happy to sell you an unlocked Agora.
Kogan’s move into the mobile phone space represents a major departure from the way the smartphone business has worked to date – and it could be a harbinger of things to come. Why? Because Kogan – a manufacturer – is offering a full-featured smartphone for the price of a midrange PDA, free from carrier subsidies and two-year contracts. You can turn around and use it on any GSM network in the world, using whatever plan you choose. None of the features are crippled, and you’re not roped into purchasing add-on applications from any one place. If you were looking for a game changer, this could be it.
Up until recently, the business models of all the wireless carriers and device manufacturers depended on – indeed, clung to – the limitation of consumer choice. But the choice that’s being enabled by Android, and in one incarnation offered by Kogan, is creating an empowering new freedom to customers in this segment. It’s a small rudder trying to move a very large ship, but as people begin to see the amazing things that Android can do, and as they realize the power they hold to demand flexibility and freedom, the situation will reverse: The tide beneath the ship will push it toward openness, as the big players find themselves clinging to obsolete business models.
Will I buy an Agora phone? At the moment, I’m still up in the air. My family and I are Verizon customers, and switching to an Agora would mean moving to AT&T Wireless here in the US. But who knows… if their data-only plans are competitive, I might give it a try!