The Feature Mill

Tech as it could, should, or will be...


AT&T Pwns Your Smartphone

Posted by Phil on 8/25/09

Cnet reported Saturday that AT&T plans to force smartphone subscribers using their network to buy a data plan in addition to their wireless plan.

AT&T unsurprisingly spins this as a way to provide "greater customer satisfaction," however it seems much more likely that they see this as an opportunity to expand the consistent revenue stream that data plans provide.

Now many, even most, smartphone users have data plans, but it's not hard to envision scenarios where a data plan is surplus:

  • Low volume use, perhaps only in emergencies
  • Customer bought or given a smartphone but doesn't need or use the data features
  • Customer doesn't have the extra money for a data plan
  • Data coverage is so poor that it's not worth the expense
At one time I owned a Cingular 2125, technically a smartphone, but the data features were so poor that ultimately I gave up using them. Lucky for me, I now use an iPhone 3G.

And that's where this is no doubt coming from. AT&T is looking at Apple's closed platforms (again defended with a quality of service/customer satisfaction argument), and at the locked-in revenue from iPhones and wanting more. Those regular, guaranteed monthly payments mean a lot to a company (just ask Activision|Blizzard).

However those of us using iPhones opted in to this model. Users that will be affected by this decision did not, and are probably locked into a contract making switching carriers difficult, even assuming that coverage allows an alternative choice. Not great for the consumer, but expect to see more of this unless a hue and cry is raised.


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