Posted by: crudbasher | August 4, 2010

Why Every Student will have a Smart Phone

Yesterday’s exciting #edchat was about Smart Phones in the classroom.  Many people were discussing how to get funding for them, and what do you do if not every child has them.  I made a point that I think every child will have them, and some of them will get them for free.  I want to expand on my reasoning here.

Subsidizing Products

If you look at the actual cost of an iPhone, you pay about 200 dollars or so in the store.  This is actually heavily subsidized by ATT so the actual phone cost is about $500 or so.  As the pace of computer innovation rolls on, the cost for the same capabilities next year will be a lot lower, and the year after that lower still.

For example, Sony just announced they are now making a profit on each PS3 console sold.  When they first came out 3 years ago, they lost about $150 on each system.  Technology has brought the cost of manufacturing down dramatically in a short period of time.

Phones are exactly the same way, but since they are produced in larger numbers the cost comes down even faster.

Cell Phone Economics

It is plain that the phone isn’t where the money is at in cell phones, it’s the 2 year contract.  In fact carriers often will give a phone away just to get a contract.  Why it that?  Over a 2 year period, an iPhone contract is worth over $2000.  That’s pretty good money on it’s own but now a new revenue stream has appeared – Apps.  With phones like the iPhone, we can now easily download content such as music, video, games and apps.  This is an unlimited income stream.

The Education Market

Apple, Microsoft and Google are aggressively pushing into the education market.  They want students to use their products.  Why?  Because people tend to form associations with brands in the ages of 18-24.  That’s why that demographic is so valuable to advertisers.  They want those people to become consumers of their goods. Once people develop loyalty to a brand, they tend to stick with it.

So…  It makes good sense for cell phone companies to get their smart phones in the hands of kids a young as practical.  Oh sure, they will use them for school, but when they aren’t in school they will be buying music, watching videos and buying Apps and Games.   It’s even better for the carriers if the state will subsidies these phones and mandate a certain type or brand.  There will also be subsidies for low income families for data plans.  There is no better business model than having the government mandate people have to buy your product.

There is a vast amount of money at stake.  I would like to say this is all about better student learning but really that is a side benefit.   In 3 more years the cost of today’s iPhone will allow carriers to give them away just like cheap cell phones now.   Give the phone away because that sale is the least important revenue.

So my advice to my teaching friends, is don’t worry too much about trying to get phones in the classroom.  As slow as schools operate, by the time the paperwork is done the phones will be there anyway!  Spend more time thinking about what will you do with them when they show up.  Every kid having a smart phone is definitely a disruptive technology!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Scott Newcomb, Andrew Barras. Andrew Barras said: Why Every Student will have a Smart Phone – My #edchat followup […]

  2. Andrew, I agree with you about the cost of the phones. However, in the rural areas of our country many families do not have the money to sign a two year contract for cell phone use. What I hope for is that school districts will support and fund the integration of class, department or school bundles so that all students, regardless of income can use them like any other tool in the classroom.

    And yes, the time for this is right around the corner!

    • Yeah I think even the plans will be subsidised at some point. Remember when we paid X amount per minute for long distance? Ask a teenager about that and see if they know what you are talking about! heh

      Thanks for commenting Ron!

  3. Elliott Soloway is a professor who spoke at ISTE about this very thing. Companies like Verizon are already giving schools deals on the contract so the phones for students are all free and the school purchases a contract at a significant discount making it a viable option for all.

    • I so wish I could have gone to ISTE. I was watching all the tweets coming in and I knew it was cool. Thanks very much for the tip about Elliott, I’m watching his ISTE video right now! 🙂

  4. […] Why Every Student Will Have a Smart Phone […]

  5. […] phones for all the students.  I wrote a blog post afterwards where I postulated that every kid would have a smart phone pretty soon anyway and would bring them to class.  Here is a Superintendent who thinks that […]

  6. […] is why I have faith in the free markets and this is why I stated a few months ago that every student will have a smart phone. It will happen faster than most people think because technology always trend to smaller, faster and […]

  7. […] Why Every Student will have a Smart Phone […]

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