ROCHESTER, NY — What a difference a couple of decades can make:
Twenty years ago, the properly equipped college freshmen came to campus with their first visions of MTV dancing in their heads and an electric typewriter tucked under their arm. (Dad had the pleasure of carrying the modular stereo and the record collection stuffed into an orange crate).
Today's freshmen are downloading music from the Internet onto their MP3 players and burning their own CDs on their laptop computers. (O wherefore art thou, eight-track tape player?)
The spiral-bound weekly class planner has gone the way of the 89-cent gallon of gas and has been replaced in the backpack by the personal digital assistant and electronic organizer. ("Carry a pencil? C'mon, you're just not stylin' without your stylus.")
And forget all about passing notes in class. Today's classroom flirtations and weekend planning are taking place on two-way instant messaging devices and wireless phones.
In fact, if you're looking for the latest "must-have" for back to school, a wireless phone should probably be right at the top of the list.
If the 80s were the decade of the personal computer, and the 90s were the decade of the Internet, the 00s are shaping up to be the decade of the wireless phone.
Cool phone designs, interchangeable color faceplates and lower-priced calling plans are making wireless phones an attractive purchase for the late teen/young adult market. Add in flat-rate pricing that eliminates long distance and roaming charges, instant messaging capability, and Internet access and you've got one of the hottest back-to-school items since the pocket calculator.
"The back-to-school season is traditionally a very strong time of year for wireless sales," says Tracy Nolan, president of Verizon Wireless' Upstate New York region. "We're seeing a large number of college-age customers in our stores, particularly in college communities."
Nolan points to the portability, convenience and security of wireless phones as the keys to their popularity, along with the fact that wireless phones are no longer considered a luxury item.
"Today's late teen/young adult market is very 'tech-savvy,'" she says. "They've grown up with technology. They're comfortable with it. And they often have lifestyles that change drastically and rapidly. They're going away to school and they want the means to stay in touch with their family and friends. A wireless phone is a great way to do that."
And a fast way, she adds. Instead of waiting to have their dorm room phones hooked up, many of today's students are simply bringing their wireless phones from home, or purchasing wireless service when they get to school, so they can be connected right away. Wireless phones also eliminate the hassle of dividing up the monthly phone bill between roommates.
Prepaid wireless is right behind
The surge in traditional wireless sales is being complemented by the growing popularity of prepaid wireless service. Prepaid wireless provides all the benefits of traditional wireless service but without a long-term contract, credit check, monthly fee or monthly bill. Purchasing additional airtime is as simple as purchasing a new prepaid calling card. That simplicity, flexibility and convenience are apparently right in step with what today's 34-million-strong young adult market wants.
"Research has found that young adults want the latest wireless services like text messaging and flat-rate pricing, but without restrictions like network boundaries and annual contracts," Nolan says. "Prepaid wireless service also provides this powerful market segment with a way to manage their wireless costs more closely."
To tap into that segment, Verizon Wireless has introduced the first nationwide prepaid product targeted at today's young consumer. [FREEUP] - so named for the freedom sought by young adults - bundles nationwide voice service, two-way text messaging, and voice mail into a convenient prepaid package. Starting at $124.99, the [FREEUP] starter package includes a Nokia 5185i wireless handset, service activation, a $50 prepay [SETUP] Card, Mobile MessengerSM Spk 'n Txt short messaging, voice mail, call waiting, domestic long distance, national roaming and [TIMEUP] Minute MeterSM, a feature that helps customers manage their usage and notifies them when it is time to replenish. Nolan says [FREEUP] is a product whose time has come for one of the fastest-growing, most powerful market segments in the country.
"[FREEUP] is a simple, affordable, national service that will be a young adult's connection to family and friends from wherever life takes them," says Nolan.
Verizon Wireless traditional and prepaid wireless service are available at more than 1,200 Verizon Wireless Communications Stores nationwide.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless communications provider in the U.S. with more than 28 million wireless voice and data customers. The coast-to-coast wireless provider was formed by the combination of the U.S. wireless businesses of Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD), including Bell Atlantic Mobile, AirTouch Cellular, GTE Wireless and PrimeCo Personal Communications. Verizon Wireless has a footprint covering more than 90 percent of the U.S. population, 49 of the top 50 and 97 of the top 100 U.S. markets. The company, headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, is 40,000 employees strong. Reporters and editors can find more information about the company on the Web at http://www.verizonwireless.com.