AT&T has finally made the iPhone one of the most attractively priced smartphones on the market with today’s rollout of new limited data plans. The plans create an attractive price point and offer realistic rates for realistic data usage by real users.
Although it increases ARPU and arguably draws in subscribers, the idea of unlimited data is an antiquated notion. It’s no mystery that Americans, home of the gluttonous All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, are the most susceptible globally to this kind of marketing. When an American hears “Unlimited,” that American hears “better value,” which is far from the truth when it comes to the world of mobile data.
Just minutes after AT&T’s announcement of the new plans, I jumped to lower my wife’s data plan to the minimum 200 MB (DataPlus) for a monthly $15. That’s half of the required $30 unlimited plan that all iPhone users were required to purchase before today’s announcement. After checking our billing history, I found that my wife was averaging 50-60 MB of data usage per month while being required to pay for a $30 unlimited plan. While there are those who may see this most recent step by AT&T as a step backwards, my guess is that the majority of the AT&T iPhone subscribers are going to find this a step in the right direction.
At the crux of the data pricing drama are those users who gobble up abnormal amounts of data. There’s that 1 percent who might even break the 5GB mark, which I find incredibly hard to believe, not to mention an indication of a fairly heavy duty iPhone addiction. This is another very American idea. You know, 1 percent of the population using up a third of available resources, or something like that.
According to AT&T, 98 percent of its customers consume less than 2GB of data per month. Sixty-five percent use less than 200MB. I feel like I’m a heavy data user, and still, after checking my monthly usage, I found that I use less than 1GB per month, or around 500 to 600 MB per month. I can only imagine what I’d have to do to use 5GB of data per month.
A friend of mine, a Droid user with Verizon Wireless, perceived AT&T’s new plans as some great darkness, an insidious symptom of ruthless profiteering. And yet, I wonder to what extent this is just plain common sense way overdue. As Americans, we’ve become so used to excess that we fail to realize when less is actually more.
In my opinion, AT&T has just made the iPhone a more affordable device for a lot more people. When my 21-year-old niece was looking for a phone, I didn’t recommend the iPhone because I knew she was on a budget and the high cost of the data plan was simply too much for her. Now, I think she might be able to consider it. Sure, there’s going to be those who will say that suffering AT&T’s network is expensive at any price, but I choose to believe that HSPA+, eventually LTE and other improvements really will help that situation.
As for the loss in revenue, I can see that being made up in a heartbeat given a new iPhone on the horizon and support of iPhone tethering, which will cost $20 per month. One key point here is that the tethering option won’t come with any additional data but will draw directly from the user’s plan. That means that you’ll still have some users paying $25 per month for the 2GB DataPro plan and $20 for the tethering option, plus $10 for each additional GB of overage per month.
At the juicy core of all this, however, is that I am now paying less for my iPhone per month than my friend is for his Droid, and that makes the iPhone a deal in my book. I wonder how long it will be until Verizon Wireless realizes the wisdom in AT&T’s recent move and snatches away unlimited data forever.