Best Argument: Pre-paid
Audience Favored: Pre-paid (95%)
You'll be giving lots more free tech support
Chris makes some great points, and definitely has the popular vote behind him.
But I think that one important thing to remember is that the ZDNet audience is comprised of some of the most tech savvy folks on the planet. You may love the freedom of unlocked phones, and almost intuitively understand how they work, or have the technical ability to come up to speed without much hassle.
But the beloved folks in your lives who are more like the "Luddites" Chris mentioned in his answer to the last question are going to be putting more of a tech support load on you when they stop going to the AT&T Store or the Apple Store to see the Genius because they like the idea of paying less for their phone service.
Freedom isn't free. Someone is going to pay for the trend towards prepaid, no-contract unlocked phones, and it's going to be you. One way or another. Probably with the unpaid time and frustration of getting lots of phones up and running for people who don't really want to hear about how they work, or learn how to responsibly handle problems that arise by themselves.
I checked out the snazzy Nexus 4 that Chris Dawson mentioned. After all, I like my Nexus 7 well enough. Although there is plenty of information about how to buy dumb apps from the Google Play store, the only information I can readily locate on the website about finding a provider is the ominous sentence, "Purchase Nexus 4 directly from Google Play, with no carrier commitment or contract."
So our friends and families will have a $300 brick and a huge homework assignment of how to find a carrier, read the fine print on whatever non-contract paperwork they're required to sign, be freaked out by the decision making process, and lean on us. And when things go wrong, as they so often do, it'll somehow become your fault for giving bad advice, and your job to fix it. It's a good thing you all love no-contract devices so much, because you'll be configuring (and re-configuring) a whole lot of them.
Welcome to the wonderful world of contract-free mobile. How much will you already-overburdened techies be able to charge for the tech support that used to be included with the contracts your friends and families once had? I'm guessing nada. Have fun!
Long-term wireless contracts stink
You can say all you want about representative samples and selection bias, but as of Tuesday afternoon, 93% of the votes in our Debate favor the long-term success of pre-paid vs. contracted wireless service. Why? Because long-term wireless contracts stink. They represent indentured servitude to unresponsive, monopolistic wireless providers for the price of a discounted phone. These same providers then charge more per month for capped data than pre-paid companies charge for unlimited. Nobody cares about voice anymore but the big 4 providers are happy to charge a pretty penny for that, too.
No thank you.
Yes, there will be challenges, especially in bringing this model to the enterprise, but long-term, the ability to better manage end user bandwidth needs, optimize the user experience, and obtain the best hardware to meet users’ requirements, all while saving money, will kill the dreaded contract and make pre-paid wireless the method of choice for both consumer and enterprise wireless.
Most people know where they stand