AT&T iPhone, iPad service contract changes

AT&T has announced changes to its U.S. data plans for iPhones and iPads. Most current iPhone users pay $30/month for an unlimited data plan. A bit pricey, but you know what you are paying every month, and you don't have to worry about surprise charges on your next month's bill (I've had an iPhone for two years).

Under the two new plans, there is no unlimited option for the iPhone. Instead, there are two plans that provide 200 Meg ($15/month) and 2 Gig ($25/month) of data. Overage charges are actually fairly priced, in my opinion, rather than some of the punitive charges we have seen from some cellular providers in the past.

iPad users have a choice of two similar plans, one that provides 250 Meg ($15/month) and an unlimited plan ($30/month). The big news is that AT&T will finally allow tethering, meaning you can use your iPhone as a cellular modem for your laptop while traveling. AT&T is going to charge an additional $20/month for this service. iPhone users have been waiting a long time for this, and I think the additional charge is fair. Tethering your laptop is going to use a lot more bandwidth than equivalent Web browsing and data on an iPhone. And the $20/month charge competes very favorably with the cost of buying a dedicated cellular modem service (these plans tend to run about $30/month).

I am ready to sign up for the tethering plan. Free WiFi services while traveling are often hard to find and if you do find one, performance is typically abysmal--slow when working, and often not working, especially in airports, where I most often want to try to get some work done.

AT&T is also promising easy to use tools to keep track of how much data you have used over the course of a month so that you can avoid overage charges. This is essential to keep from annoying customers. Mobile data access is increasing rapidly as more people have smartphones and pad computers, and the cellular providers have to do something to manage bandwidth. The big weakness of wireless broadband is that there is only so much spectrum to go around, and when demand uses up the bandwidth available from an access point, the wireless provider has only one option--a costly upgrade to the access point and/or adding more access points and more backhaul--all expensive.


Textie and Text+ for the IPhone allows unlimited texting. Text+ is also built for IPad.

When I read this, I honestly thought this could turn people away from buying iPhones, Blackberries, or Droids...any sort of smartphone really. While many people may only use them for e-mail and texting, quite a lot do streaming audio, some video, and some tethering. My wife didn't hardly do anything beyond e-mail, some browsing, and a few audio/video files and she regularly used 1-2 GB a month just from that.

I had been considering a Blackberry but I may reconsider now and stick with a traditional phone rather than incur the added expenses and hassles. The way I see this is that AT&T is choosing to throttle their customers rather than upgrade an insufficient network. Granted, most customers may not exceed those limits, but part of having an unlimited data plan is not having to worry about an overage. That's why we have unlimited text and picture messaging, along with unlimited data: our bill never varies. The data caps are also why we dumped cellular-based internet, they were far too low for normal household usage. I'd prefer DSL, but we had to go with Satellite, which while it also has some restrictions for normal daily use between 7 AM and 2 AM, we get 2-7 AM unlimited for downloads so we can schedule a lot of things to run at night and we don;t have to worry about it.

With 3 iphones in the house, this plan will definitely get me to drop the iphone. I don't need to worry about what I or my family is downloading or not and how much. That's why I went unlimited. If they do this, I'm done with the 3 iPhones we have and their plans as soon as we're out of contract. My family can do unlimited text with any plan and that's all they need. I can go to another service and get something else without much difficulty at all and I won't miss a thing.

This is another boardroom solution to more money for the bottom line and frankly, It's a big turn off for me...

Just don't ever cancel and you are grandfathered in on the unlimited plans you have.