Has the touchscreen mobile phone inadvertently damaged our choice when it comes to selecting a mobile phone? I'm not talking about the touch over type argument or the wonders or disillusions of Android, but the fact that the mobile phone industry in the UK is hampering, and at times, damaging our embracement of the latest mobile phones.
Think about it, O2 has the iPhone, T-Mobile the new Android powered G1 and Vodafone is about to officially announce that it will be the exclusive partner for the new BlackBerry Storm. If you want any of these devices you have to go with the dedicated operator providing them.
But why? Is it a desperate move by operators to lure you away from competing brands? Of course it is. O2 has openly said that it fought hard to win the Apple iPhone contract last year because it knew that the type of users it would bring to the network were lucrative.
But the problem with this model - that is fast becoming the norm - is that it doesn't benefit me as a consumer. Could you imagine if you bought a Sony television and you weren't able to watch BBC on it because they had signed an exclusive agreement with Philips? It would be a nightmare. So why do we let it happen with our phones?
Some will say that mobile phone operators have become so much alike that it doesn't matter whether you are on Vodafone or Orange, but we all know that's not the case. I'm personally on Vodafone because it offers me the best coverage for where I live and work. Go to Richmond though and for some reason it's like being in the black hole of Calcutta.
So what's the solution? I've never been a fan of exclusives in mobile phones or even stories here on Pocket-lint. You run the risk of isolating your consumers and give them a reason to not sign-up to your offering.
The Apple O2 deal, the T-Mobile Google deal and the RIM Vodafone deal are all probably lucrative to a select few, but I bet you all the manufacturers, RIM, Apple and HTC would sell a lot more if it were open to all. If the iPhone was on Vodafone would I buy it? Probably not as it doesn't do email that well, but I would certainly think about it a lot more than I currently have.
What is interesting is that the current trend of having exclusive handsets is really only affecting the touchscreen models. Although the Omnia and the soon to be announced Tube don't, or are unlikely to have exclusives, operators clearly see those lucrative early adopters as the customers to have.
Just like the airlines going after the business class traveller to boost the coffers, the operators clearly hope the touchscreen handsets will allow them to achieve similar goals for the mobile phone industry, and as long as they keep on coming back for more or contemplating switching, I think that mobile operators are going to keep on making sure they have exclusive hardware to offer above and beyond their service.