The Case For a Simple iPhone Service Plan

Illustration for article titled The Case For a Simple iPhone Service Plan

Click to viewHey you: planning on standing in line for an iPhone? What do you think of the calling plans? What about the data service? It's okay if you don't know much about them: they haven't been announced yet.

People have been talking about the "hidden cost" of iPhone, that is, the monthly fee that will be required to do all of the fun webby things iPhone can do (YouTube video being just one of them). But it's so well hidden, nobody yet knows what the cost is.

Here's my wild guess, or rather, my suggestion: among other service offerings, Apple and AT&T should announce a super-unlimited do-what-you-want plan. A toss-the-meter-out-of-the-taxi, flat-fee all-you-can-eat data and voice plan.

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Here's what I'm thinking: a totally worry-free plan is a very Apple thing to do. The company complains about music "rental" services having too many strings attached, and about how complicated multi-tiered pricing can be in a consumer environment. Counting the number of minutes you talk or megabytes you download can be both stressful and complicated, and worse, it most assuredly curbs usage.

All-you-can-eat data is well known among smartphones, and unlimited talking minutes have been a business customer reality for a long time. Why not make it a consumer reality? Does Steve Jobs really want you to wait until 9pm to make calls, or wonder who is in or out of your "network" before grabbing your iPhone?

The big argument for a completely worry-free plan is that it's exactly what happened in both the long-distance and ISP businesses. We went from worrying about how many cents per minute we paid calling Phoenix, to using Skype to make free calls to Hong Kong. We went from having conditional access—the dial-up modem; early on there were even minute limits or data quantity caps—to having expensive but unconditional always-on access. Web 2.0 wouldn't have happened without this, and true Web 3.0, the mobile Internet revolution, won't happen without it either. It's not just the better bandwidth, it's the constant link. Now, on your PC, the only time you think about being connected to the Internet is on the rare occasion that, for some reason, you are not.

You may have noticed I used the word "expensive." If you combine unlimited calling with unlimited data today, the bill is well over $100 a month. Here might be where the iPhone's mediocre EDGE-network access comes in handy: because it's not true 3G, the unlimited data may cost $20 per month or less. Tack on unlimited calling (and calling features) for say, $80, and you've got a completely worry-free $100-per-month plan. Arguably, carriers could do it for even less. Expensive? Sure, but not out of the realm of imagination, especially when you're talking about voice and data together on your primary, and probably sole, phone.

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While Apple certainly loves a simple plan, I may be crazy to think that AT&T would go for it. Monetizing a la carte data services and incremental voice and messaging usage is how carriers make money these days. But the iPhone platform doesn't play into that. It is specifically not a phone that Cingular will load with all of its apps.

If the iPhone really is revolutionary, than the service plan that comes with it will have to be revolutionary too. Let's ditch the taxi meter, and head for the open road. (Where hopefully the EDGE service will be good enough for a YouTube video download, but you never know.)

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So guys, am I nuts or right on the money? And how much would you pay for a flat-out worry-free plan?

Our Continuing iPhone Coverage [Gizmodo]

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DISCUSSION

@Sinpolines:

Man, there is some incredibly inaccurate info in your statement. Let's go over it, shall we?

2.5G NOT EVEN 3G = TOO SLOW

Okay...how many phones have Wi-Fi? ONE other, that I know of. The EDGE network is backup, for when you are not near a Wi-Fi hotspot. An increasing amount of places have city-wide Wi-Fi, or least Wi-Fi covering downtown and other high-foot-traffic areas. And I'll take Wi-Fi's speed over 3G ANY day.

- NO USER-REPLACEABLE BATTERY

I don't know about you, but I have NEVER needed this as a feature. Ever.

- ITUNES AND APPLE MONOPOLY

What the hell is this Monopoly you speak of? An iPod will run ANY MP3 with no problem. Know how I know? Because I have only ever purchased 6 songs on iTunes EVER and yet, somehow, my iPod has 3,000 songs on it. And with the new EMI deal, an increasing number of iTunes songs are available DRM free, so you can use them on any media player. Not that the inability to play them on another player is really a reason to NOT buy the one that can play them.

- NO INTEGRATION WITH CORPORATE APPLICATIONS

Have you seen any of Apple's marketing? Does this appear to be a phone marketed for business use? Do Blackberries play movies? The iPhone delivers the features that people want, not what they need for work.

- NO THIRD PARTY APPLICATIONS EXCEPT VIA BIMBO SAFARI BROWSER

My phone (Samsung A-900) cost $450 new. And I can install the same number of 3rd party apps: 0. Of course, I can't run AJAX apps, either...if it could...that'd be pretty sweet. My point? Yeah, it's a little disappointing. But not that big a deal.

- NO EXTERNAL MEMORY CARD

Yeah...it sucks that I can't add 512MB or a GB to my 8GB phone.

- CRIPPLED BROWSER

Crippled? Really? Seems to me that every OTHER cellphone browser is crippled. This is pretty fully-featured for a damn cellphone browser.

- NO VOICE RECORDER

Actually, there IS a voice memo feature. thanks for playing.

- NO FM RADIO

Seriously? You're listing the lack of shitty FM radio as a point against the iPhone? The complete uselessness of FM aside, what other phone do you know that offers this?

- NO OUTLOOK, NO OFFICE, NO ACROBAT, NO FLASH

Plenty of other email features, you can always use Google Docs, the iPhone DOES fully support PDF and the lack of Flash is...the first salient point you've made. Good job, buddy.

Next time, try doing some homework and/or thinking before posting an unecessarily long and erroneous post because you hate a product.