Saturday, June 26, 2010

Phone Phace

At lunch yesterday I experienced another bout of iPhone envy. My podcast co-host, Paul Skalny, has just gotten a new iPhone G4 and everyone who stopped by our table wanted to play with it. That wasn’t so bad but what really stung was that everyone who stopped by already had some version of the iPhone, including our waitress.

Dave Bittner showed Paul a funny app called “Mouth Off.” Paul proceeded to download the free app onto his new phone and joined in the fun. I tried to do the same with my Droid but in the Droid app store Mouth Off isn’t free. I haven’t paid for an app yet and I wasn’t about to do so at this particular moment. I silently stewed and ate my lunch while my colleagues played.

I’ve been thinking about mobile phones since I noticed that a store called Best Buy Mobile was coming to the Mall. Though the new “mobile-specific” store has been around since 2006 this was the first I had heard of it. Currently the closest store to HoCo is in either Wheaton or Annapolis.

So why is Best Buy opening stand alone stores exclusively for “mobile-specific” market?

The answer is that that independent mobile phone stores, those stores not connected to a specific carrier like Verizon or AT&T, are the future of mobile phone retailing. According to this story by Elizabeth Woyke in Forbes, “As the data airwaves open up and customers can "unlock" their phones from their carriers, phone makers are beginning to wonder whether it makes good business sense for them to foot the bill of running retail shops.”

“And that's just the kind of opportunity that Best Buy (nyse: BBY - news - people ) has been hoping to see for years. Best Buy, which operates more than 900 stores across the United States and reported $39.5 billion in revenue over a trailing 12-month period, has some big ambitions: It wants to grow its share of the mobile market from 2% to a double-digit figure in the next five years.”

Paul told me that seven of the attorneys in his office switched from Blackberries to iPhone 4G’s this week. The ones I spoke with all commented on how much more fun the iPhones were than the Blackberries.

Tell me about it. I’ll bet by now they’ve all downloaded Mouth Off...for free.
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