Across the country, the number of people using traditional landlines for their home phone service is dwindling. Many consumers are finding in the tough economy that home phone service can be disconnected and mobile phones used exclusively.
Shedding the home phone line is something that many consumers find appealing, but the providers of landline phone service are looking for ways to halt the progression to an all-wireless society. One of the ways Verizon is looking to lure people back to using home phones is with home phones that offer some of the capabilities we associate with smartphones.
The Verizon Hub is a home phone that features an internet-connected base that offers users access to V Cast entertainment services, messaging, and email among other features. Those features are common on many mobile phones today, but are new for the home phone. The big catch for the Verizon Hub is that along with features of a smartphone, it also gets some features of smartphone plans. The device costs $199.99 and requires a 2-year contract.
Verizon has announced today that it plans to offer an application store for the Hub, much like the App Store for the iPhone. The Hub app store would open the market up for third-party developers to offer programs for the Hub expanding its usability. One example of possible application for the Hub is Internet radio.
Verizon also says that it is working to remove one of the most restrictive requirements for using the Hub -- that Hub users must be Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon's John Gravel said, "We're in the process of getting rid of that restriction. Why would you limit anyone from using this?"
The bigger issue in analyst's eyes is that the Hub is expensive -- it costs $199 to buy, there is a two-year contract, and the service costs $34.99 per month. In the economy today that sees people shedding home lines altogether to save money, increasing the cost of the landline is going to be a hard sell.
Forrester analyst Charles Golvin said, "It's a tough time to be marketing a device and service like this. The first order challenge is to explain to consumers why this is an improvement over a home phone ... why it's worth paying $35 a month on top of their broadband bill."
Many consumers can access the same services that Verizon is talking up for the Hub via devices already in the home like smartphones and computers. Simply adding these common features to a home phone seems to be of dubious value.
One significant drawback to the Hub is that customers of rival providers like AT&T and Sprint could be prevented from sending and receiving text messages between the Hub and their mobile phones. Verizon is betting that the app store for the device will be enough to draw attention back to the home phone. That is a big bet and one that Verizon is likely to lose.
The device has been on the market since February 1 and Verizon won’t offer firm information on how many have been sold. All Gravel will say is that demand is tracking with expectations.