Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Smartphone surge following historic net neutrality decision shows relationship between technology and consumers

To say that the past week was a momentous one in technology would be a catastrophic understatement. In the immediate wake of Lenovo’s disastrous Superfish security leak, which put millions of American consumers at risk of malicious activity, the Federal Communications Commission took a landmark vote  last Thursday morning on approving net neutrality, a policy based upon reclassifying wireless internet as a public utility rather than a product, placing it in the same category as water and electricity.

Shortly thereafter, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona featured both Samsung and HTC, each of which revealed their respective flagship devices for the next generation of smartphones: the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, and the HTC One M9, respectively. While these occurrences are only thematically linked, they nonetheless signal a period of monumental transition and change in technology and its relationship with society.

Ironically, the net neutrality decision and the smartphone announcements have something else in common – neither one was a surprise. Rumors leading up to the vote left little doubt about which way the FCC’s metaphorical wind would blow, while leaks are as anticipated in the consumer tech industry as they are on a submarine with a screen door. Pundits and politicians alike have been reacting to the FCC’s drastic pro-consumer decision for weeks, while big telecoms like Comcast and Verizon are already warming up their lobbying engines to fight the regulation that would prevent them from throttling data and granting tiered-payment access to content all across the internet. The legal battles ahead will unquestionably be long, drawn out and arduous, but they set a powerful precedent for the way in which consumers think the internet should function in society.

Samsung and HTC, in a completely different context, represent much the same progress toward the well-being of their consumers. With the GS6, Samsung has finally abandoned their commitment to awful, slimy feeling plastic. The phone’s 5.1 inch Super AMOLED display, protected by Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and back as well as a real metal frame around the sides represents an attention to build quality that is unsurprisingly inspired by competitors like Apple. Meanwhile, the HTC One M9 seems by all accounts to be simply an improved iteration on last year’s M8, keeping the all-aluminum unibody design and gorgeous panel while doubling down on a beefy set of up-scaled internals and a brand new rear-facing camera.

Neither of these manufacturers has created the phone to end all phones – there is still plenty of room for improvement on many different fronts. Nor is the FCC’s Title II regulation perfect – the road to a free and open internet is beset by greed and corporate interests all along the way. While smartphone development can hardly compare to national policy, the two are both part of a larger, inevitably positive trend toward consumers, and toward the incredible potential of technology and the internet to integrate into society.

Johnny McCabe is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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    Alumni AchievedMar 4, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    The regulation charge was led by Derek Khanna, a 2011 UMass alumni.