I feeling awfully torn these days. There are so many devices that allow for so many wonderful learning possibilities. Researching and publishing on the Internet from anywhere. Accessings RSS feeds from anywhere. Communicating and collaborating with one other person or many other people using text or voice or combinations of both. With so many products and services that allow us to live and learn and work on the go, who can afford not to be connected to the mobile network? Then again, with the sheer cost that comes with this access, who can afford to stay connected to the mobile network?
Allow me to explain. With the iPhone 3G now available in many countries including my own (Canada), I’ve been investigating the possibilities of ownership. I’ve been salivating at the idea of doing everything from e-mail to Internet browsing to communicating and collaborating to reading ebooks, watching video, listening to music or looking at photographs all on one device. All the wonderful teaching and learning possibilities that I’ve discussed in this blog can be accomplished on an iPhone. However, I still don’t own one and will probably not own one in the near future. The reason? It costs too much.
There is the upfront cost of the device which, while comparable to the cost of similar devices, is still expensive. However, it doesn’t end there. There’s the cost of a voice plan, then a data plan, then system active fees and then taxes. I figure that if I went out to purchase the iPhone model I want tomorrow, it would cost me $340 CDN (after taxes) immediately for the device and then approximately $70 CDN/month just to be able to communicate with it. True, $30 CDN of that $70 CDN is for a data plan that allows 6GB per month of data usage. For a mobile device, 6GB per month is huge but so is $30 CDN per month! Then there is the fact that I would have to lock in for 3 years! So that’s $340 CDN (phone) + $840 CDN/year for my data and voice plans + $5 CDN/month for 125 text messag es/month (or $70 CDN/year) x a minimum of 3 years. That’s over $3000 CDN over a three year period and that doesn’t even include the cost of desired apps! Even after paying all that money, my iPhone would still be locked so I would have to pay even more if I tried to use it out of my home country (you can read my rant about using mobile devices internationally here). I have only one thing to say to all of this – TOO EXPENSIVE!
This got me thinking. If Apple and Rogers (my ISP and cell phone provider) have priced me out of an iPhone, then they have also priced cash strapped students and school systems from ownership as well. If it is a reality that some students are able to tap into revenue sources to purchase devices like the iPhone while others cannot, then are we not entering into the digital divide debate once again? In the late 1990’s, the debate revolved around advantages afforded to those who were able to access computers and the Internet vs. those who could not. However, these days, with Internet access so ubiquitous, the debate seems to be moving to whether those who can afford mobile devices, or more specifically, mobile access, will be in an advantageous position over those that cannot afford that access.
I’ve thought about alternatives. I currently have a Blackberry Pearl and an 5G iPod video. I really love both of these devices as they allow me to do a lot at literally a fraction of the price. However, I still had to purchase two seperate devices, I’m still carrying around 2 devices, my mobile access is much more limited than if I had an iPhone and I’m only able to make this work because I am comfortable with the technology and am willing find and to dabble with software such as the Opera Mini mobile browser. Many may find this alternative too much of a hassle. After reading this article, I thought about replacing my 5G iPod video with an iPod Touch to experience some of the benefits of an iPhone. However, despite the increased functionality, even this alternative leads to one conclusion: true mobility comes with a steep price tag and alternatives, while they may be a bit cheaper, may be too much hassle.
Despite this, I’m not losing hope. These are the early days of this technology. Cell phone prices and voice plans were prohibitive when they first appeared on the scene as was computer hardware, software and Internet access. As these devices became more and more commonplace, hardware/software quality and connection services all improved significantly while ownership and access became more affordable. We are now at a point where students have steady access to the Internet at home and come to school with devices that can help them learn. Surely, the same will happen with these all-in-one mobile communication devices.