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AT&T Changes iPhone and iPad Plans, World Reacts

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You’ve doubtless heard about the new plans offered by AT&T for the iPhone, effective June 7th. If not, here’s the text from the press release, with sections bolded by me:

  • DataPlus. Provides 200 megabytes (MB) of data – for example, enough to send/receive 1,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 150 emails with attachments, plus view 400 Web pages, plus post 50 photos on social media sites, plus watch 20 minutes of streaming video – for just $15 per month.**  This plan, which can save customers up to 50 percent off their wireless data charges, is designed for people who primarily like to surf the web, send email and use social networking apps. If customers exceed 200 MB in a monthly billing cycle, they will receive an additional 200 MB of data usage for $15 for use in the cycle.  Currently, 65 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 200 MB of data per month on average.
  • DataPro. Provides 2 gigabytes (GB) of data – for example, enough to send/receive 10,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 1,500 emails with attachments, plus view 4,000 Web pages, plus post 500 photos to social media sites, plus watch 200 minutes of streaming video – for $25 per month.**  Should a customer exceed 2 GB during a billing cycle, they will receive an additional 1 GB of data for $10 for use in the cycle. Currently, 98 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 2 GB of data a month on average.
  • Tethering. Smartphone customers – including iPhone customers – who choose the DataPro plan have the option to add tethering for an additional $20 per month.  Tethering lets customers use their smartphones as a modem to provide a broadband connection for laptop computers, netbooks or other computing devices. Tethering for iPhones will be available when Apple releases iPhone OS 4 this summer.

My initial reaction was one that’s not printable here on this website. I was so pissed that I just about called up a Verizon rep and started shopping for a new BlackBerry. But instead of reacting immediately the way the rest of the internet did, I decided to take a bit and really think about what this means for me, my family, and the iPhone in general.

I started by checking my data usage. I’d like to think that I’m a pretty heavy user, although I don’t download movies or music on a regular basis. I am constantly on the internet for all sorts of reasons. I last reset my iPhone’s statistics on 3/11/10, and since then I’ve sent 44.2MB of data, and received 284MB. In almost two months, I’ve used less than the DataPro plan for a single month, and almost less than the DataPlus plan. My wife, well that’s another story. She’s never reset her stats, and in just over a year and a half she’s sent 247MB and received 2.8GB. Long story short, it looks like we could both cut back our plans. Should you think you could do the same, follow these instructions and check your own usage. Turns out I’ve never gone over 200MB.

Should you decide to switch, then your $30 unlimited plan is gone forever, never to return. However, AT&T is cool with you keeping your $30 unlimited plan as part of a grandfathering in process. That means that if you like things the way they are, you can keep it so just by not doing a thing. But that also means that there’s no chance of getting tethering on your phone. And if you do really want tethering, know first that the data comes out of the already allotted 2GB, in addition to your regular monthly data plan. So if you use 1GB a month on iPhone data, then do 1.5GB of data via tethering, then you’ve gone over by 500MB and you’ll have to pay an extra fee. Considering how much more data can be used via tethering, this seems like a particularly dick move.

So in theory, this means that my family should move to a lesser plan to save some money. But if we do that, then I know I’m also losing out on the potential for unlimited data, should I ever need to use it. Frankly, jailbreaking the phone is now a more attractive option.

But what about those of us with an iPad Wi-Fi+3G? Well folks, we just got in the bait & switch plan.

For new iPad customers, the $25 per month 2 GB plan will replace the existing $29.99 unlimited plan. iPad customers will continue to pre-pay for their wireless data plan and no contract is required. Existing iPad customers who have the $29.99 per month unlimited plan can keep that plan or switch to the new $25 per month plan with 2 GB of data.

Same rules apply: If you’re on an automatic rebilling plan for the iPad, then you can keep your unlimited usage. Otherwise, you’re not paying $5 less for less than half the available data usage. That’s gotta piss off Apple. Hard.

So where does this leave us? Well yet again, AT&T has screwed us. This will help a majority of their users save money, and that is a good thing. But this is ultimately designed to not only punish those people who use their iPhone to its fullest potential, but also to rake in more money doing so. And for those of us with an iPad with 3G, we got the same treatment, less than one month after its release.

I don’t think that Apple needs a reason to leave AT&T, but if they ever did, this is a good one. I hope Steve announces a new carrier next week, I really do.

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo

Kokou Adzo is a stalwart in the tech journalism community, has been chronicling the ever-evolving world of Apple products and innovations for over a decade. As a Senior Author at Apple Gazette, Kokou combines a deep passion for technology with an innate ability to translate complex tech jargon into relatable insights for everyday users.

3 thoughts on “AT&T Changes iPhone and iPad Plans, World Reacts

  1. so you are telling us…if you pay the extra $20 for tethering you get NO MORE DATA than the $25 you are already paying…so there is a 2GB cap regardless…

    I find that hard to swallow…is that true or did you mix up your facts…my understanding for the extra $20 you get 2GB for the tethered data…meaning you can use 2GB on the laptop and 2GB on the iPhone? I may be wrong but I just want clarification

    thank you

  2. Alexis –

    Yup, it’s a convenience charge.

    Higginbotham asked “What about the $20 tethering fee? It looks like a convenience charge.” She had it correct; in her own analysis of the new plans, Higginbotham herself noted that “the $20 fee for tethering is simply paying AT&T for the privilege of using your phone to connect your laptop to the web.” Collins replied that “you’re going to use more data so the price is based on the value that will be delivered.” John Gruber properly called BS on the “you’re going to use more data” part, saying “You’re using the same amount of data but in a different way… if you go over your cap, you’ll be charged the $10 overage fee for each additional gigabyte.” Gruber concludes forcefully that “there is no excuse for this $20 tethering charge other than greed.”

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