Being a gadget freak, and always on the lookout for new toys, I'm keen to get one of the emerging combined VoIP+WiFi / Cellular phones. But practically speaking, I think the market for these devices is relatively small, and limited to niche vertical enterprises. Here's my argument: the hybrid phone proposes to allow a user to switch between the "expensive" cellular networks, and WiFi networks, which according to CNet, would allow people to "shift call minutes that would otherwise count against a cell phone plan onto the Internet." However, according to a study announced today by TNS Telecoms, "78 percent of the wireless minutes paid for by consumers go unused on a monthly basis." Essentially, carriers have competed so aggressively on offering larger and larger buckets of minutes that few people end up using their minutes. So why would such customers care if they could shift usage from their unconsumed cellular plans to VoWiFi? Sure, there are niches where people will care: international callers, international travelers, corporations with internal WiFi PBX systems, etc, but as I said, these are either niche, or vertical enterprise. Also, don't forget the hurdles: seamless handoff is still not proven, battery life under Wifi suffers, and (damn!) I still have trouble logging-on to some WiFi Hotspots with my full laptop and 5 minutes...now I'm supposed to be able to waltz in to Starbucks with my hybrid phone and connect without the conversation missing a beat? For the next few years, sign me up as skeptical.
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