The mobile phone industry is perhaps one of the worst in the world for actually delivering on promises. In part, this is because it’s propped up on the hodgepodge mix of global carrier networks, contract restrictions and phone locks that keep phone manufacturers in business, but there’s more. It’s an enormous mess of promises no one’s keeping, or could possibly ever hope to keep. In fact, it’s so bad that typical government ineffectiveness reaches new heights in terms of unnecessary, ineffective, and outright questionable regulation.
A great example of this is the fact that opening postal mail to scan the contents is more than a bit illegal, while scanning the contents of an email or SMS message is perfectly acceptable, as long as you’re using that information to sell ads (what?). In fact, Google championed that cause, you know, the guys who make that awesomely ineffective OS that every phone manufacture on the planet has customized beyond usability? It, like Android, was all done in the name of selling more ads, by tricking you into giving up more of your information, but that’s just one side of things (more on Google later).
The other side of things is a bit shadier.
An unofficial cadre of brand advocates, brand terrorists, and brand mercenaries runs the other side of cell phone marketing. Just like McDonalds is reported to pay some bloggers upwards of £15,000 a year to blog, these are people who have been paid to lie to you. They lie either because they have been paid to lie; they are fanatics about their chosen product (think: Lord of the Flies – the book, not the movie); or they’re just plain evil genius and want your advertising dollars. Let’s take the recent iPhone BendGate stories, which many a sucker bit into, blindly retweeting and sharing without even having the slightest idea of what goes into making and stress testing a phone. Before you go thinking we’re Apple fanatics, that’s not the case. We just appreciate evil genius.
You see, mobile phone marketers, like any other kind of marketer, prey on a combination of ignorance, fear, and outright stupidity on part of consumers. They also generally lack ethics. This lets companies expand brand awareness, while maintaining distance from anything that might go sideways (lack of ethics). That isn’t to say that these companies don’t have their own dog and pony shows, as anyone who has kept tabs on the Apple and Samsung wars knows. Rather, it’s to say that companies can turn marketing experiments out into the wild, without fear of direct repercussion.
To take the BendGate example, a guy who had bent other phones decided to put a sensationalist spin on his own little experiment. That was pure evil genius (and maybe he got paid too, who knows?). What we do know is that he got huge views, and was noticed by everyone and their brother (or sister) around the world. In fact, he got about 55 million views in a month. That’s more than 1,800,000 views a day, or about 1,200 views a minute.
Are you familiar with Google AdSense?
Yes, back to Google. You see, they pay people who run their ads based on CPM, which is the payment value per thousand ads views (like the evil geniuses at BendGate). While CPM, varies considerably, a safe estimate is about £2, but we’ll knock that down and assume the BendGate guys had an extremely low CPM of £1.00 per thousand ads (honestly, it’s much more, but we’re using kid gloves here, so bear with us). Now, take 55 million YouTube views divided by the 1,000 views it takes to make £1 in our experiment. That gives us a nice easy number of 55,000 – or £55,000 in ad revenue from the BendGate story.
That adds up to 80 iPhone 6 phones (you know, the £700 a piece 128G ones)
So yeah, a bunch of clowns got on the bandwagon and pumped a huge chunk of change into a guy who also happens to be reselling hosting in his YouTube signature, with a discount code, of course. That’s absolutely something worth buying into, right? He’s not alone though. There are happy families using the crappy service of second rate UK phone companies in every ad you see, buying into plans with modified phone operating systems choked by bloat ware (yay Android), and users with blazingly fast download speeds that mysteriously don’t work for anyone else, or anywhere else.
People in these adverts seamlessly pay for things with their mobiles, make calls, or instantly receive messages, which don’t usually ever work that way. Even when they do work, it’s hit or miss, and we as consumers have lined up for it in droves. You’d think we loved it, because every time an unbelievable claim comes out, like the Samsung Galaxy S5 having an impossibly long battery life, it’s taken as gospel by most folks. They only later find out that they were sold a lemon, but to admit that, they’d have to face the fact that they were swindled.
In other words, we’re all wearing the Emperor’s new clothes, and they were sold to us by the mobile industry. Since none of us want to complain too much, we instead target those who have legitimate claims that highlight our own stupidity, and single those poor suckers out. If you broke the screen on your phone, it’s because you must have done something wrong – not because just maybe phones could be made a little better. Of course, none of this is to say that there isn’t a healthy dose of human ignorance and stupidity at play too. Instead, it’s to say that we’ve bought into a lower quality of product. We accept it, and just like Windows operating systems that don’t work, or impossibly difficult to root and update Android phones, we’re generally ok with that. At least, as long as it’s the next chap picking up the tab.
So, the next time a cell phone company tells you something, instead of focusing on the shiny device in front of you, ask yourself if they’re making plausible claims. Don’t just buy or believe something because it looks good, or has a nice wrapper. Do your homework, or ask us to do it for you (we take article requests), and pay attention to the fine print. You’ll thank yourself (and us) for it later.