May 19, 2009

iPhones and data use…

One of the attractions of O2’s contract pricing for the iPhone in the UK was the including of “unlimited” data. I wanted to be able to use the phone to the full without worrying about unexpectly large bills. Yes, there’s a fair use policy, but I assumed that given that the device is clearly intended as an “always on” internet device Apple would have persuaded O2 to be generous. I’ve certainly not heard of anybody being stung by O2 for using too much data. Part of that, I’m sure, is because of the restrictions Apple and the carriers have put on data-intensive apps (streaming video mostly), which only work on WiFi connections.

I also assumed that using an iPhone as intended would result in the consumption of lots of data, so an “unlimited” plan made a lot of sense. I’ve never really check that, though, until now. I’ve just gone back over my last few bills – O2 itemise my data usage on a daily basis. I seem to average only about 100MB of data transfer, and my highest has been 250MB. That’s a lot lower than I expected. At home I’m using WiFi the whole time, which obviously helps. During the day at work I don’t. Thanks to a combination of the iPhone’s irritating VPN behaviour and the WiFi setup here, it is just too inconvenient and I have a 3G signal at my desk anyway.

What prompted me to look at this is a rumour that AT&T in the US might be looking at reduced pricing for “capped” data plans. With my current usage, if O2 did the same here that might be a quite attractive option. For now at least, 1GB, or even 0.5GB would be fine.

If ever video streaming over 3G is allowed, though, everything will change. I would occasionally watch BBC iPlayer content over 3G if it was possible. Especially if streaming live TV was supported. An experiment a couple of months ago showed that an hour’s iPhone-optimised iPlayer content results in about 100MB of data. That could add up quickly.

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