Category: Smartphones

Today, AT&T announced the end of unlimited data plans.  They currently charge $29.99 for this on the iPad and iPhone.  On June 7th, the new plans will be:

Rate Plan Amount of data/month Cost/month Overage
DataPlus 200MB $15 $15/200MB
DataPro 2GB $25 $10/GB

Their tethering option is similarly unattractive.  It costs $20 on top of the DataPro plan, and worst of all, it uses the same pool of data.  Thus your 2GB allotment applies to both your smartphone usage AND tethering! 

The current situation with Verizon Wireless is better.  They continue to offer unlimited data for $29.99 (Update: “Unlimited” is actually limited to 5GB) , but have signaled that they will be moving away from this in the future.  Their new pricing has not been shared, but you can bet that it will be similar to AT&T.

Opinion

I believe that this is a very troubling trend.  The newest smartphone OSes like iPhone, Android and WebOS are designed for constant Internet connectivity and bandwidth will become even more important with new mobile technologies like video conferencing, video streaming and cloud-based applications.  Unfortunately by increasing the bandwidth costs, carriers are limiting adoption of these services and stifling innovation. 

Raising bandwidth prices is a short-sighted strategy.  Data usage will only increase and as it does customers will become more frustrated with rapidly growing bills.  Ironically, increased usage presents an opportunity for a carrier to provide a better end user experience with fast wireless data and fair prices.  The provider who gets this right has the potential to increase its market share and generate additional profits and revenues.  Unfortunately, it appears that these two major players are adopting Jerry Maguire’s mantra of “Show me the money”; however this story is unlikely to have the same happy ending.

I blogged earlier this week about the importance of a next generation smartphone OS and recently ran across this article over at the Wall Street Journal which reinforces the point.  It discusses how multiple vendors are developing iPad competitors based on Android.  The key is that Android is a next generation OS that provides the flexibility to support multiple hardware platforms.  This is similar to how the iPhone was designed.

The other element to consider is that Android is a truly open platform allowing for broad application support.  In contrast, Apple tightly controls the availability and qualification of applications for the iPhone/iPad platform.  The Android approach provides much more flexibility and openness at the expense of control.  Apple tighly controls their environment and can and does limit applications that do not meet their standards or compete with existing functionality (think Google Voice).  Consumers will vote with their wallet on the solution that they want.

Clearly Apple has a big lead in the market with its early launch of the iPad, but the openness and broad vendor support of Android may allow for more aggressive competition.  It will be interesting to see which technology emerges as the dominant one.  For me, I always prefer openness and flexibility and so would be more willing to invest in Android over the iPad.

The Mrs is looking to take the leap into the world of smartphones.  Up until this point, she has used a traditional cellular phone and an old fashioned Palm Z22.  The combination has worked okay, but the requirement for frequent manual syncing of the Z22 due to recurring data loss is frustrating.  It is time for a change.

As I am reviewing options, the realization has struck me that what really matters is the OS.  I define the OS as not just the software that runs on the phone but also the supporting infrastructure.  Apple has masterfully innovated through their iPhone OS and complementary applications such as iTunes and the AppStore.  Apple created an entirely new and highly profitable business model with these products.  They then ported the same technology to two additional platforms in the iPod Touch and the iPad and further extended their reach.  In fact their OS and infrastructure was so revolutionary that they have made few changes to it since the launch in 2007 and it still is the leader.

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I had dinner with my cousin, a plastic surgeon.  He is a very friendly and warm person and donated his time to help operate on Haiti’s earthquake victims.  He participated with a charitable organization called Operation Smile.  At the time of his trip, Operation Smile had two sites in Haiti, my cousin’s was in Fond Parisien, a 7 hour bus ride from the Dominican Republic while the other was in Hinche, a 12 hour bus ride.  The actor Harrison Ford is involved with the charity and agreed to fly the team to Hinche from the Dominican Republic, and this is where the iPhone comes in.

The medical team boarded Ford’s plane and flew to the GPS coordinates of Hinche.  One of the doctor’s had been to Hinche before and was familiar with the location and topography.  The plane arrived at the coordinates and was unable to find Hinche airport.  The doctor looked out the Window and told the pilots that he did not recognize the area.  They kept circling and then headed towards a nearby airport to reconfirm the coordinates.  The tower provided the same GPS information and so the plane flew back to the same location and was still unable to find the airport.  Clearly the frustration was growing in the aircraft.
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Slingbox on a Blackberry

I am huge fan of my Slingbox.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, a Slingbox is a device that will stream video from your home Internet connection anywhere in the world.  All you need to do is connect it to your cable box and your Internet connection and you are good to go.  You can remotely control the cable box and tune to any channel remotely.  The system works very well and I often use it at home to stream to my laptop while my wife is watching something else.

The one thing that I was missing on my Slingbox was a way to stream the video to my new 3G Blackberry Bold.  How cool would it be to be able to stream video to my Blackberry wherever I am?  Well, it appears that I am in luck.  Sling Media appears to be launching an open beta of the Blackberry Client for Slingbox late this year according to this post.  I am definitely going to try this out.