Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm.

Pigs Fly! The U.S. Is Kicking Europe’s Butt At Mobile

Michael Jackson Dog

Remember The Time?

For the past week, I’ve been researching in Paris, where the streets are filled with beautiful people, the cheese is everything, and the mobile Internet is slow. Or, at least, slower than what I’ve gotten used to in the States, where I’ve been using 4G LTE on my iPhone for the past 5 months.

It feels strange saying this, given how long and how far Europe was ahead of us at seemingly everything mobile-related. But — at least for now — the U.S. is legitimately kicking Europe’s butt at wireless.

Yes, there is some LTE service in Europe — particularly to the east — and some 4G service in France. Even my current carrier, Orange, is starting to roll out LTE in Paris. Maybe by my next visit, I’ll get to use it.

But this trip, it’s been a lot of waiting for emails to send, a lot of No Service indoors, and a lot of falling back to the even-slower EDGE network. My 3G speed tests have not been impressive — a small fraction of the bandwidth I’m used to. On the plus side, there is cell service on the Métro, which is nice. (And it was easy enough to buy a local prepaid SIM card, pop it in my Verizon iPhone, and not have to pay for international data roaming.) Still, I’m a little surprised to be saying this: My phone is going to become a lot more useful when I’m back in New York.

Service, of course, is just one piece of the mobile puzzle. But as I wrote for SAY Media’s magazine last year, two U.S. companies are also leading most overall mobile innovation worldwide. It wasn’t always this way.

A decade ago, a tour of the world’s mobile-phone capitals might have started in Finland, home of Nokia, stopped in London to visit Sony Ericsson (itself a joint venture between a Swedish telecom giant and Japan’s gadget leader) to Korea for Samsung and LG, perhaps to Germany for Siemens, wrapping up at Motorola — the company that invented the cellphone — in the Chicago suburbs. Of these, Samsung is now the only one still profitably making mobile phones, and its strengths are still mostly hardware and distribution — it’s hardly a software-platform company.

Today, the most important mobile corridor in the world is the one in Silicon Valley, California — the nine-mile drive between Google’s headquarters in Mountain View and Apple’s in Cupertino. Until the next revolution, at least.

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