Part of the reason AT&T went from unlimited data plans to data caps with tiered pricing was iPhone users. Or so they said. According to AT&T, iPhone users constitute roughly three percent of their customer base, yet were responsible for 40 percent of data usage on the carrier’s network. To hear AT&T tell it, all those dropped calls and other network issues that people love to complain about were because of their iPhone customers. We have yet to see whether the data caps solve the problems. Recent reports indicated that, for the first time, Android phones are outselling the iPhone, pushing Apple’s device to third place after BlackBerry and Android devices. It just stands to reason that’s going to have an effect on data usage as well.
According to a report from Wired, Verizon Android customers use 25 percent more data than AT&T’s iPhone customers. In addition, a study by Rhythm New Media showed that Android users stream more video over 3G networks than iPhone users do.
What does this mean? Well, for one thing, it means we can probably expect the other three carriers to follow AT&T’s example and begin capping data pretty soon. The major wireless companies all usually follow each other in policy changes and new offerings anyway. It’s part of remaining competitive. In this case, though, by continuing to offer their unlimited data plans, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile maintained a bit of an edge over AT&T. Unless a potential customer is really adamant about getting an iPhone, why wouldn’t they opt for unlimited data over capped, right?
AT&T’s data caps went into effect on June 7, 2010. Those who were already AT&T customers with unlimited data at that time were able to keep their unlimited plans if they wanted to, or they could switch to limited and maybe save a little money.
I would imagine the other carriers will do the same. The more people start using smartphones, and the more data they consume. And with the net neutrality debate heating up again, now may be the time to lock in an unlimited plan if you don’t have one already, before you’re left without the choice.
Image courtesy Rhythm New Media