New Data Plans from AT&T: Designed to Counter Jump in Data Consumption with New iPhone?

Submitted by lalit on June 6, 2010 - 6:15pm.

Many websites and blogs have posted articles about the amount of data transfer required to watch, say 1 hour of video or load given number of webpages. Some have even compared AT&T’s new data plans with data plans available on other carriers. Gizmodo has posted a detailed article showing data consumption for video streaming on websites like Netflix, ABC and YouTube. Reuters has also posted an article about how new data plan charges will work.

However, not a single website has considered the jump in data consumption once Apple brings multitasking to the masses on iPhone.  We talked with five developers using the new iPhone OS 4 beta and each one of them said that they have noticed at least 50 percent jump in data consumption since they started using iPhone OS 4 with multitasking. In fact, one of the developers had tripled his data usage without changing his Internet surfing habits. The only thing these developers were doing different was to allow few applications like chat client, Safari and Weather to run in the background.

For example, you are on MLB.com following a game score in Safari, the score ticker automatically updates every 60 seconds even when its running in background. So for a three-hour game Safari will reload the page at least 180 times even when running in background. AT&T says that on a 200MB data plan, users will be able to view 400 webpages on average, so in about three hours you have used around half of your data plan without even watching a single streaming video. Now consider all the applications that will take advantage of multitasking on iPhone.

According to rumors, Apple is also going to offer video chat on next generation iPhones. Even if Apple uses 320 x 240 resolution video, it will at least require 50MB of data transfer for every 10 mins of video chat. So if you have 200MB data plan you will be able to use Apple’s new video chat on iPhone for less than 40 minutes per month.

After analyzing the above information, it is very clear that average data use for next generation iPhone users will at least double, if not quadruple with features like multitasking and video chat. Apple has been testing next generation iPhone for over three months on AT&T’s networks. We believe, AT&T has observed this pattern of rise in data usage with the new features on upcoming iPhone and as a proactive measure AT&T has changed their data plans to either limit data usage or at least earn more if data usage is suddenly tripled on their weak 3G network.