The Elephant in The Room: The Mobile Voice Experience is Crap

A recent WSJ article “Talking Less, Paying More for Voice”  discussed the fact that usage of voice is in decline; and identifies some of the culprits for the decline: The iPhone, SMS, Yelp, Facebook, email, young people dominate everything and they do not call anymore, and other web services.  While most of these are true that they substitute some of the actions where we would have used voice, there’s one culprit missing that is likely the biggest reason: the mobile voice experience is crap.

See this video from John Stewart of the Daily Show on a common shared experience in using the iPhone for voice.  Mobile voice call quality is crap, its barely intelligible, if you have an iPhone one in ten calls are dropped, operators have not tried to remain competitive on international charges, and have simply not innovated on the core voice product.  On the young people issue; just wait and measure their behavior once they have to earn a living and have children and you’ll see its just how people use technology at different stages of life.

Just think about your total communication usage, not just mobile.  All the time you spend talking to your family, friends and relatives; the hours you spend talking at work; and even in today’s connected world we still call to check if a local store is open on Saturday at 6PM, or for a last minute reservation, or dealing with contractors.   Using our voice hasn’t gone away, it’s just we’re turning our backs on mobile voice.

An analogy is to the American car industry before the financial crash and bail-out.  People didn’t buy American cars because they’d become crap compared to the competition, they were not driving less.  The same is true for mobile voice, it’s become crap compared to the alternatives.

Comments like this in the WSJ article: “Brian Higgins, Verizon Wireless’s vice president for product development, said carriers are looking to squeeze what value they can out of voice service since it isn’t growing any more.”  Demonstrate a lack of understanding of the customer experience, voice isn’t like electricity, it is an experience and that experience can be vastly better: by making it HD (High Definition), admitting and then dealing with the iPhone dropped call issue, having reasonable international call rates like Vonage, and embedding voice across everyday processes and interactions.  Seriously, bloody do something rather than sitting on your @#$& and messing around with pricing plans.

Just messing around with pricing plans shows a disregard for the customer and what they are experiencing, we could have done HD voice back in the move to 3G, one decade ago.   We’re using services on our devices more and more, which is substituting some of the voice traffic, but we’re still talking, its just increasingly not over the mobile voice network.  When people call my mobile and we’re going to talk for more than a couple of minutes we use Skype as the conversation is just better.  The WSJ highlights an important issue, but its analysis misses the most critical issue, the mobile voice experience is crap and must improved as a matter of urgency.