Wireless carriers in the United States are spiritual descendants of dear Ma Bell: they view total control over customers as their inherited birthright. The younger generation — Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile and the namesake child AT&T — would make their hallowed matriarch proud. They do everything they can to keep power firmly in their own hands. It is entirely at the carriers’ discretion to permit, or disable, the features that a factory loads into the newest phones. They also decide which software can be installed and how it may be used. Many wireless subscribers have ruefully become acquainted with gotcha clauses in their contracts. In most European and Asian countries, a customer can switch carriers in a few seconds by removing a smart card from a cellphone and inserting a different one from a new provider. In the United States, wireless carriers have deliberately hobbled their phones to make flight to a competitor difficult, if not impossible.