If you look outside your window over the next few days and see a mushroom cloud blooming on the eastern horizon, all I can say is, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cause an international incident or the destruction of Western civilization. I just wanted to look at some cool cell phones.
Translation: I am writing this from Seoul, South Korea, where I've spent the last few days touring the myriad facilities of electronics giant Samsung and, incidentally, looking into the future of mobile communications. There's also a tour of the DMZ on the schedule; somebody somewhere thinks it's a good idea to let me wander near and possibly over the border with North Korea. Let's just hope Kim Jong Il is taking a nap when it happens.
You may not be aware of it, but South Korea is to the wireless industry what Ashton Kutcher is to inane Twittering. Between them, Samsung and its bitter South Korean rival, LG Electronics, build nearly half of the handsets sold worldwide. They certainly build the vast majority of the really amazing ones.
iPhone, shmyphone -- these guys lapped Apple 10 times before breakfast. Samsung in particular is pushing the envelope on what handsets are capable of. Want a 12-megapixel camera? Check. Full-motion HD? Got it. Bang & Olufsen speakers? No sweat. The whizziest gesture-based haptics-driven touch-screen interface you've ever seen? Natch.
Unless, of course, you want all this cool stuff in the U.S.A. In that case, you do have a problem, and it can be summed up in four words: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
The primary reason the most cutting-edge handsets almost always hit the United States last (often minus some of their groovier features) is the stranglehold the big four telecom carriers have on the U.S. market. They control the horizontal and the vertical. They determine what feature sets the phones have, down to the last widget. And they take their sweet time about it.
Meanwhile, Samsung, et al, are already working on what's next: fourth-generation, super-high-speed mobile broadband services. Imagine riding the subway at 60 mph under the streets of Seoul streaming ESPN sports highlights to a netbook at 4mbps. I don't have to imagine it, because I did it, using a WiMax connection from Korea Telecom and a Samsung WiBro-powered (WiMax Broadband) netbook.