Strong opinions, weakly held

Two phones for every pocket?

Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser says that in the future, mobile phone penetration will approach 200% because nobody will be able to find one device that does everything they need it to. I think he’s completely wrong about the reasons, but I do think many people have multiple mobile phones in their future. Most people don’t use any of the features of their mobile phones beyond voice calling, and in the meantime phones are gaining lots of new capabilities. I don’t know anyone who carries multiple mobile phones right now, even in an age where phones are still pretty limited.

I do think, however, that we’ll see people carrying multiple devices in the future because there are advantages to separating their employer-issued phone from their own phone. I was talking to someone a few months ago about their Blackberry, and they told me that they hadn’t yet activated the email access because it connects to their corporate mail server, and as soon as that happened they wouldn’t be able to use it to text their friends. (This person worked for a brokerage firm, and some regulatory requirements required the firm to monitor all employee communications on company-owned devices.)

The Blackberry 8800 doesn’t have a camera, and it’s a feature. A friend who’s an attorney can’t carry a phone with a camera because they’re banned in the federal courthouse, so he’s buying the 8800. So if he wants a camera phone, it’ll have to be on his personal account.

More people are going to want personal mobile phones so that when they’re off the job they’re really off the job. As more and more functions of our work life become portable, we’ll find people going to extra lengths to separate them. When webmail became common, people who used their work email addresses for everything started separating their personal email from their work email. Work-specific instant messaging accounts are becoming increasingly common. You may not want to give the AIM ID you could be using for the next 20 years to a customer you have to collaborate with on a three month project.

As mobile phones become increasingly integrated into our professional lives, we probably will see more people with multiple mobile devices, but mainly so that we can leave work at the office and still call people from the grocery store.


  1. when do they cross over in to being so ubiquitous that they just turn in to fashion items? A black one for formal occasions, a red one to go with your dress.

    perhaps launching branded cell phones will be even easier and the only way to really know whats happening on Twitter is with the twitter cell phone.

    This just seems like a good area to talk about “what happens when everything is free”.

  2. Folks with a “company” phone frequently have a separate personal phone. About half the staff I see have at least two phones. That’s only going to increase as companies want employees at their beck and call for off-hours work and at the same time try to trim expenses by prohibiting personal use of the device.

  3. In my case, yathrib is spot-on.

    I carry a company cell phone (prepaid only) for after-hours support as well as my personal phone. Jeez, I carry a pager too, for my other clients.

    My boss actually insisted that I don’t give out my personal phone number at work (she’s pretty cool), so I wouldn’t have work interfere with life.

    This has the added benefit of allowing me to screen my calls more effectively – when the company phone rings, then I know it is a problem, so I always answer it. When my personal phone is on (which is not always) and it rings with an unknown number or someone I don’t want to talk to at that moment, then I don’t answer it.

    Even if there was a way to have two phone numbers and pager on one phone, with different rings for each, I would only be interested if there was a way to force any number to go “silent” (stright to voicemail) at a scheduled time, so I could set my personal number to do so at night and the pager number to do so when I’m not on call for that.

  4. I’d like to join the other two-phone commenters – my primary phone is from (and paid by) the work, and the second one is the private phone for friends and family.

    However, it has recently became possible (in Israel) to switch mobile providers without changing the mobile phone number, and 2-line phones (one handset that supports two numbers on the same network) have been available for some time now, so it is not too difficult to return to one-phone-per-person mode now.

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