Interview by: Noah Graff
Today’s Machining World Archive: May 2008 Vol. 4, Issue 05
Scott Goldman, also nicknamed “The Wireless Wizard,” is one of the world’s foremost authorities on cell phones. For the last 25 years he’s been an author, consultant, speaker, entrepreneur, and trainer in the feld of wireless communications. You can read his blog at www.thewirelesswizard.com.
NG: How do you rate cell phone carriers?
SG: They all have their advantages and disadvantages. The most important aspect of any carrier for someone considering purchasing a cell phone or switching a cell phone to another carrier is whether or not the coverage is adequate at your home and office. If it’s not, no amount of choice in hardware, no reduction in cost, and no other tweaks to the capabilities of the phone will make it worthwhile.
NG: How are the sizes of cell phones changing?
SG: At this point, phones have already reached the minimum size that they can reach from an ergonomic standpoint. The possibility of phones getting smaller from a mechanical standpoint always exists. There are ways to make keypads smaller; there are ways to make screens smaller. You might be able to eliminate screens and so forth. The major factor in the size of the phone today is not the keypad, the screen, the casing. The major factor is the battery size.
NG: Is U.S. cell phone reception inferior to that of other countries?
SG: In terms of reception or coverage, the U.S. is probably behind many other countries, and there are reasons behind that. For one thing, the U.S. has had a terrific landline phone system for many years. In other countries, that has not always been the case. So when it was first introduced cellular service was accepted as an immediate substitute or replacement for landline service, so the demand for coverage – in-building coverage, coverage in subways and elevators, in other places where U.S. carriers have not really refined their coverage – was in demand much sooner than it was in the U.S.
Another reason is that in the U.S., there are two fundamentally different technologies in use. There’s a GSM technology which is utilized by AT&T and T-Mobile, and there is a CDMA technology which is utilized by Sprint and Verizon. [Those] split the available coverage. GSM technology is available all over Europe (as mandated by governments).
NG: Can the government track where we are from our cell phones?
SG: Cellular carriers can identify where we are by where our cell phones are. There are two ways that that works. First of all, some cell phones and some carriers, such as Sprint, have a GPS component in their phone. Other phones will work on the basis of triangulation, where they will be located approximately by determining the signal strength differential between three different cell sites. You can be pinpointed within maybe an eighth of a mile or a couple hundred meters.
NG: What are you most excited about for the future of cell phones?
SG: The ability to continue to make and receive calls anywhere is still the killer app for cell phones. As coverage improves, it just makes life easier for everyone. I also think that the location-based services – the ability to know whether or not your friends are nearby, whether or not there’s an ATM machine that fits your profiles nearby, whether there’s an open pizza place at 11:00 at night nearby – are terrifically exciting and have a brilliant future through the use of mobile devices.
NG: Do you ever turn off your cell phone?
SG: I do. It’s got an off switch and I use it. I’m an avid cyclist and I really cherish the time that I spend outside my office on my bike. And while I ride with friends who do leave their phones on and take phone calls while we’re riding, I do not and I will not. To me answering the phone is an option not an obligation.
NG: Thanks Scott.