Why I Won’t Be Getting Another iPhone

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

In a word? AT&T, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

I’m not dropping the phone because it’s not a great phone or because of AT&T’s coverage, nor am I dropping it because of their piss-poor service. I’m ditching because of their new data plan pricing, just announced this morning.

One of the biggest reasons I find that people don’t switch to the iPhone is that it’s too expensive — not the phone itself, but the minimum iPhone plan runs about $100 a month. After you pay for the required 3G data plan, the minutes and the texting, you are left paying quite a hefty price. My counter argument is normally that it’s worth it, that having that unlimited data connection and non-stop access to the Internet is a life-changer, that it will change your daily routine and the way you communicate with the world.

A year ago, Apple announced it was bringing the much requested tethering feature to the iPhone. For those who don’t know, tethering is a feature that allows you to use your phone as an Internet connection, making it possible to use a laptop or other wireless device in a location where there is no WiFi but  your phone gets 3G service. The catch to this announcement? The iPhone would have the tethering option in almost every market internationally, but AT&T would not yet be supporting tethering in the United States. AT&T said it needed to get its already over-taxed network prepared to be able to handle tethering, and promised that tethering would be available to iPhone customers by the end of 2009.

Well, here we are — it’s June of 2010 and guess what? My iPhone still can’t tether. That puts AT&T six months past their own deadline to provide tethering to its customers. This morning they announced that tethering would finally be available with the release of iPhone OS 4.0 in the coming month. Better late then never — or is it?

With tethering, AT&T also announced new data plan pricing schemes for its customers. Currently on both the iPhone and the iPad, customers pay $30 a month for unlimited data. Under the new pricing scheme, however, customers will have the option to pay $15 a month for 200 megabytes of data (and $15 a month for every 200 megabytes after that) or $25 a month for two gigabytes of data (and $10 for every gigabyte after two).

For those who want tethering, they must have the $25 plan and pay an additional $20 per month. AT&T touts this as a great way to give customers more flexibility and reduce their charges as only (according to AT&T) 2 percent of iPhone users use more then two gigabytes of data a month.

This is a smokescreen. 200 megabytes of data will be beneficial to only a handful of people. I am hard pressed to see how it would suffice for even the lightest of iPhone users. Many customers will switch to the cheaper 200 megabyte plan not realizing how much data they actually use and will find themselves needing more — and paying AT&T $15 more, which comes out to $30, saving them no money with a lot more hassle. The $25 plan will be admittedly beneficial to most people — they can save $5 per month as two gigabytes will be enough for them.

However, of the supposed 2 percent of people that use more then two gigabytes a month. I am one. I love my iPhone. I use it for email, GPS, a plethora of apps, and streaming video and audio. I stream most of my podcasts as it saves me the hassle of having to sync my phone and wait for podcasts to download. Considering I listen an average of three podcasts a day, this comes out to a lot of audio being streamed over my phone.

I also love some of the streaming video applications. When the NCAA tournament happens, there is an app released every year that allows you to stream the games at a pretty good quality. The Major League Baseball app allows you the same convenience, not to mention the coming Netflix app. The ability to tune into a game in progress is one of the best uses of my iPhone. It’s great to get a text saying such-and-such is three outs from a perfect game and being able to instantly, no matter where you are, tune in to that game on your phone and catch history.

Apple is all about the user experience. Everything about their product design is geared towards convenience and ease. If I want to download an app, one click and it’s there. If I want to listen to a podcast, one click and I’m able to do it. Watch a game in progress or use the GPS? Apple’s goal is to make it seamless, thoughtless, and natural.

To me, AT&T’s new plans run contrary to that policy. No longer will these things be thoughtless — you will be worrying about how much you have left on your cap. Want to watch that video? Listen to a podcast? Play with Google Earth? Better check your cap first, because you don’t want to go over. It would seem to go against the form factor and design mentality — and perhaps demonstrate an ever-growing gap between the companies.

AT&T has stated that current customers can keep their unlimited plans, but all new customers will have to make the choice. I will be keeping my unlimited plan, thank you very much, but I don’t know for how long. What happens when my upgrade is available and I want to pick up the next iPhone? Will I be able to keep my unlimited plan then? What flaming hoops will I have to jump through in order to keep it?

That is why I won’t be getting another iPhone — not unless AT&T changes the pricing scheme or the phone becomes available on another network. In the age of unlimited broadband connections, AT&T wants to take us back to the AOL/Earthlink pay-by-the-minute business model of Internet access.

Why should I go along with it? There are some really great Android phones out there (which, by the way, now offer tethering applications for free) whose pricing plans can hopefully offer me the ability to use as much data as I want. I just don’t ever want the day to come when I get a text saying,”Hey, Tim Lincecum is three outs away from a perfect game” and I can’t watch it, because I’m just a few megabytes away from my AT&T data cap.

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