AT&T’s New Data Plans for Smartphones (iPhone) & iPad

Already there is plenty of blowbackabout the announcements from AT&T regarding changes in new data plans on their service. Twitter and “blog-world” are lighting up with people complaining about the changes.

From AT&T today:

“AT&T, the U.S. smartphone leader, today introduced new wireless data plans that make it more affordable for more people to enjoy the benefits of the mobile Internet. Customers can pick the new data plan that best meets their needs – either a $15 per month entry plan or a $25 per month plan with 10 times more data. Current smartphone customers are not required to switch to the new plans, but can choose to do so without a contract extension.”

MacRumors reports, and the quote above confirms, that current iPhone users can keep their current plan when they upgrade to the next phone. AT&T’s facebook wall is brimming with people asking about this, and AT&T is responding:

“as you’ve probably heard us say, our current customers are not required to switch to either of the new plans. If you have an unlimited plan that you love, you are more than welcome to keep it”

So, at first this alarmed me a bit. I consider myself a power user of the iPhone. I am always on it. Surely I break 2GBs of data every month, right? I surfed on over to AT&T’s website, logged in an checked my data usage… and was shocked to learn I don’t even break 200 MBs.

Since I had (and still have) unlimited data, I never checked my usage before. I got to thinking about it, and most of my usage is in wifi. I would never get rid of the 3G capability, but most of what I do is done with access to wifi. Even though I use my phone a lot for data, I don’t use a lot of data on the cellular network. I do almost everything on a wifi network.

Taking a look at my usage, I could even drop down to the lower, $15 tier of service.

But, my question is this: Will people’s usage decrease or increase over time? As devices get better, and networks get better, will people be using more or less data? I think more. But it looks like it will be a long time before most people are using 2GBs of data. And if that is years away, I’m sure the market will change again, and we won’t be talking about this price structure by then.

If most users are like me, and nowhere near 2GB of data, why the wailing and complaining? It’s a PR loser for AT&T. Here they are lowering prices, and reducing costs for plans that most users could easily adopt, and they are getting hammered for it. People don’t like to have things taken away, even the just simple possibility of using as much data as you want in a given month (whether you actually use it or not). I know AT&T is also giving (finally) the ability to tether, but they are taking away the unlimited and replacing it with limited. Combine this with the recent changes in early termination fees, and AT&T will lose a god number of iPhone users if (when) that device is available on other carriers.

At this point I will keep my unlimited data plan. I may, for fun, turn off wifi on my phone and see how much data I really use in a month.

Another question, how does this affect iPad 3G users? Is there still an unlimited plan available for them? And for how long?

Update: And the answer from Ars Technica is, as long as you keep your existing recurring plan in place:

iPad WiFi + 3G users, who were sold the promise of unlimited data for $30, might be in for the biggest shock by these pricing changes. Just a month after the iPad WiFi + 3G went on sale, AT&T is pulling the $29.99 unlimited data plan and replacing it with a $25, 2GB per month plan.

Those that are currently signed up for a $29.99 unlimited plan will continue to be renewed at that rate. However, if you cancel that plan for any reason, you will not be able to sign up for it again—2GB for $25 will be your only option.

“For $25, we’re providing customers with a large amount of data,” AT&T spokesperson Seth Bloom told Ars. “We believe that 2GB of data on the 3G network will be plenty for most customers, especially since based on the trends we’ve seen thus far, iPad customers tend to use WiFi a lot.”

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