With AT&T ending its unlimited data plans for iPhones and iPad 3Gs, it certainly could make a customer’s entire app-buying experience different. As it stands now, there is absolutely no thought as to how large a file is that is downloaded to a device. However, once consumers recognize that file sizes do matter, that could all change.The new data plans, which have now replaced the unlimited plans for both iPhone and iPads (for new purchases only) limit you to either 200 MB of data per month (for the DataPlus plan at $15/month) or for $25, 2GB for the DataPro plan. If customers in either plan go over their monthly limits, fines are imposed. For example, DataPlus users would play $15 for each additional 200 MB, while $10 would be imposed for DataPro customers for each 1 GB of data amassed beyond the plan’s limit. The legacy unlimited plans are $30/month. However, AT&T claims that 68 percent of its customers use less than 200 MB/month, while 98 percent of its customers use 2 GB or less. If this is truly the case, it makes you wonder why AT&T is changing its pricing plan to begin with. After all, if 98 percent of AT&T users are now suddenly going to spend $25 versus $30 (assuming all customers switch to the DataPro plan, which they won’t), this would appear to be a money loser for the company, which is highly unlikely. Besides, there is a huge divide between amassing 200 MB of data versus using 2 GB for only a price difference of $10/month. Most likely, AT&T is hoping that most of its DataPlus users will go over their 200 MB limit, at least to the point where they will pay somewhere beyond $30, which is the most that is charged under the old system. A DataPlus plan user, for example that uses 1.2 GB of data in one month would be charged $95 ($15 for the base price, plus $15 for each 200 MB allotment), which would be a huge windfall for the company. For app developers, the situation could prove costly if consumers do indeed begin watching their data time like they used to watch their calling times before the advent of rollover minutes, especially for apps that include streaming content, for which there are thousands. And, of course as apps get more robust the data amounts will only get larger. Time will tell who is hurt, or unhurt by these changes, if anyone.
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June 8, 2010