Mobile Phone Settings comment


You know, the preferences mobile phone companies set on the phones we by have a wider cultural effect than is often appreciated. I will give you two examples. One is past and one is now.


The default settings of ring tones.

Mobile phone companies set relatively loud ring tones on their phones by default. Maybe they are concerned that their customers have to hear the ringing, as they certainly don't set a politer form as a default, for example; vibrate, then quiet ring followed by louder ringing. In other words, it will alert the users gently first, the kind of alert which will get your attention when you are in a quiet environment, so you can respond discreetly. But follows on to be louder which is useful when you are in a louder environment.

And how does that affect our culture? When you are sitting next to someone who has a loud ring and takes a while to answer, you may be annoyed. But that is the default setting on the phones and therefore the cultural norm. So saying: "Can you please change your ring tone to be quite at start, maybe with vibration, then getting louder please?" is a but much to ask. You basically have to tell them how to change something to be different from 'everyone else'. But if the default setting was initially quiet and polite, then you can just say: "Hey, why did you make that thing so loud? Please just turn it back to normal!"

So the default setting changes the way we accept intrusions. Whatever the companies set by default becomes the expected standard of behavior.

The setting of mobile phone location communicator.

Mobile phone locations are known by the phone company. There is little reason to not expect mobile phones to be able to transmit their locations to other phones. This presents some privacy issues not just based on the technology and capability itself, but also based on the default settings of the phone manufacturers: Are the phones going to be locatable by default? Only to people the user has designated as friends? Only to emergency services? Or only when asked for a location update?

In the same way we tend to get annoyed if a friend leaves their phone of now, will we be annoyed when they leave their phone unlocateable? We cannot escape their voices now, their virtual presence. Friends and co-workers (read bosses) can always get us. Will the next step be that they will always know exactly where we are?


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