BYOB: Bring your own BlackBerry

Pile of cell phones

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Tess Vigeland: This week, we witnessed a stunning corporate about-face. Verizon announced it's opening up its network to any phone or software.

That makes phone geeks very happy, but I'm not sure why. To find out, we turn to Marketplace's technology goddess Lisa Napoli.


Vigeland: Lisa, what does this change mean for you and me? You know...people with cell phones?

Lisa Napoli: Right away, it's not going to mean anything. But the hope and the promise is that down the road you can buy any phone you want and use it on Verizon. Right now, as you know, you can't do that, right?

Vigeland: Right, you have to go buy a phone and then buy the contract with that one provider.

Napoli: Exactly, and if there is a particular phone that you like because it's got some sexy feature, you can't just use it if you're a Verizon customer. But in a year, that's going to change, and the promise here is that since Verizon is opening the gates, everybody else will follow and open the gates. That's not a guarantee, but that's the hope.

Vigeland: So that's great, that you can take your phone with you no matter which company you're using for your service, but the thing that drives me nuts and that recently got me is the contracts, the two-year contracts that you have to sign in order to get a free phone. Any chance that'll ever go away?

Napoli: That's starting to go away, because the reason they make you sign those contracts is because it costs them so much money to get you, as a customer, in the door, they don't want to lose you. They can't afford to lose you, so they've got to lock you in and every time you've made a change, they lock it in even more, right?

Vigeland: Exactly.

Napoli: In the last six months, that's started to go away a little bit because these cell phone companies realize that it's not just that they need to get you in the door; they need to get you in the door and use more and more and more of their services, because that's where they're making their money. They're not making the money from the phones; they're making the money from the collective power of all these people who sign up and stay with them. So, the frustration that you've been feeling and this news with Verizon this week is a sign that things are starting to open up. It's still not great yet, but it's a sign of a sort of shift in the cell phone industry.

Vigeland: Alright. In the meantime, at least, if you're a Verizon customer, you'll be able to bring your phone with you.

Napoli: Exactly.

Vigeland: Marketplace's Lisa Napoli. Thanks.

Napoli: Thank you.

About the author

In more then twenty years in journalism, Lisa Napoli has managed to work for almost every major

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