Massucci's Take: Apple may lose, consumers win as iPhone rivals mount

As buzz built about Apple's new iPhone 3G S and the cheaper iPhone 3G, and with the Palm Pre going on sale this past week, it occurred to me that as iPhone rivals mount, consumers win.

You want Windows with your phone? You'll get it. You want the Palm (PALM) or Google (GOOG) operating system? Here it is. How would you like your Blackberry? Keyboard or no keyboard? Your wish is becoming the command of wireless companies like AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ).

The beauty of this cell phone game is this: While Apple (AAPL) may lose as iPhone competition builds, customers are winning because there are more smartphone choices.

If you hate AT&T's wireless network (and based on your comments from my stories on Apple and AT&T, many of you do) you may be able to get Verizon's coveted network in two years to go with your iPhone. If you despise the Apple operating system and wish you could have Google on your mobile phone instead, you can.

For years, the wireless cell phone companies have lined us up while ringing their cash registers. You want to text? You'll pay. You want to make a call while "roaming" in Montana? Boy, will you pay. You say you want make-your-own ring tones? You can't have that.

Ah, but after years of having little to no say in the matter, customers are now gaining the upper hand. As phones get super-sized, and companies like Palm, Google and Apple control the software inside the phones, the wireless companies have to up their game. If you can buy an iPhone or a phone as good as an iPhone at their competitor, suddenly the power of the wireless network becomes much more important than minutes, ring tones or how many texts you can send for $10 a month.

Soon, and it can't come soon enough, you won't choose AT&T over Verizon because of the iPhone or Sprint because of the Pre; you'll choose them because of their wireless network, customer service or price.

Heck, you may not even need the wireless companies at all. If you have an iPod Touch with the Skype software app from iTunes and you use your phone only in wi-fi hot spots, you can make Skype calls and never have to pay a wireless phone bill. Take that, Mr. Can You Hear Me Now!

Ideally, in the future, all phone companies will have to sell the iPhone, the Pre, a Blackberry or two and the other major phones in order to compete. That's how they'll get customers. Come here, they'll say, we have whatever phone you wish, on the network you want, yada, yada.

Gone will be the days where you have to go to AT&T to buy an iPhone or Sprint to buy a Pre. Then it'll be all about how many calls really get dropped and how much they charge for minutes, texting and surfing the Web. Customers will say, you want me? How's your network these days? How much for sending 500 text messages?

So bring on the iPhone killer. Customers will have the joy of choosing among ever improving products and prices. As phones get better and more carriers sell these improved phones, the customer will win.

Isn't that what this game is all about?

Anthony Massucci is a senior writer for DailyFinance. You may follow him on Twitter at hianthony.
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