Hey AT&T and Apple, You Are Doing It WrongS

Apple and AT&T, you are doing it wrong. That $30 iPad data plan is kind of OK. However, if you've a smartphone in Spain, you get a microSIM duplicate to share your existing internet data plan. All for free.

If I'm paying a 3G data plan for my smartphone, is there any reason why I have to pay for another data plan for my iPad? Shouldn't this whole 3G data connection thing work like your home DSL or cable line? There is no limit in the number of devices connected to my home Wi-Fi. I can connect as many devices as I want, and I only pay one internet connection. If my wife's notebook is downloading a movie, making my network access slower, that's my problem. It's a pretty simple concept.

The Spanish Solution

A concept that the marketdrones at Spanish Telefonica apparently understand. Apparently, in Spain they get the sun, the good wine, the jamón pata negra, the tapas, and a shared 3G data plan for your smartphone and your iPad. Just one single contract. If you are paying for a 39 euros 3G data plan—which gives you unlimited 3Mbps internet data access for your smartphone—you can get your iPad in the same data plan, with no extra cost whatsoever. You just have to tell the company and they will give you a free microSIM duplicate of your original SIM. It's that easy.

Sure, 39 euros is almost $50, but that's the price differential with everything in Europe (in the US, the iPad 3G 16GB is $629, while in Spain it costs $735). And that's their top data plan. You can also share the 25 euros ($31) data plan for free. That will also give you unlimited traffic, although it will drop the connection speed after you download 1GB of data. It's ok. I can do that too.

Whatever it is—the $50 or the $31 Spanish plan—it sure beats the AT&T alternative: $80 on standard monthly service charges—including the $30 iPhone data plan, excluding usage charges—plus an additional $30 for the iPad. Even forgetting about the monthly service charges, that's $60 total without taxes. The Spanish solution: $50—tax included—for two devices.

What Gives?

What's the reason for this absurd differential? Economically, Spain is way behind the US. Their consumer market is weaker. But the number of cellphones per capita is higher than in the US, with a comparable percentage of smartphones and data usage. Proportionally, the Spanish networks support more users than the US, so their cell networks should be even more overloaded than the American ones. So why does Telefonica offer this possibility while AT&T charges an extra $30?

Is this an artificial marketing limitation? Or is it a way to protect AT&T's overloaded network from dropping dead completely? Maybe the answer is both.

The fact is that having your smartphone and iPad under the same data contract makes sense. When I'm not using my iPhone, I'm using my iPad. And viceversa. And while you can argue that two people could use both devices at the same time, that has a technical solution: Limit the data transmission, so when one device is accessing the web using the 3G data connection, the other won't be able to use it at all.

And if AT&T doesn't want to implement that solution, then Apple should just give us data tethering on the iPad via Bluetooth. That way, only one 3G connection would be used. After all, Safari on the iPad will pull the same data as any rich smartphone browser. It will work just like with my home internet connection.

Steve Jobs said that they were working with different providers through the world to offer iPad 3G deals as good as the AT&T $30 plan. I wish they worked as hard in the US. Maybe they just need to open all their devices to every provider out there, and let them fight with each other to offer a better service for a better price. [Telefonica]