AT&T announced last week it would retire its $29.99 per month unlimited data pricing plan in favor of offering new subscribers a tiered model based on usage--according to AT&T, the new plans promise to slash monthly fees for as much as 98 percent of the operator's customer base, but some developers express concern that consumers may now face a reluctance to download and use bandwidth-intensive applications. AT&T's new approach offers incoming subscribers 200 MB of data for $15 per month or 2 GB for $25 per month, with charges for additional data use; existing AT&T smartphone customers can keep their current unlimited data plan. According to AT&T, 65 percent of its customers use less than 200 MB per month, and 98 percent consume under 2 GB.
AT&T's change in direction could pose enormous repercussions for the developer community, and appears likely to impact the creation of games, location-based services and other applications that consume significant bandwidth or require constant refreshing. "What created this lively app world we are in was the iPhone on one hand, and unlimited data plans on the other," said Noam Bardin, CEO of turn-by-turn solutions provider Waze, in an interview with The New York Times. "If people start thinking about how big a file is, or how fast an application is refreshing, that will be a huge inhibitor."
Chief among developer concerns: AT&T subscribers will begin closely monitoring and fretting about their data consumption, limiting application use or delaying an impulse app purchase. While AT&T will alert customers when they near their monthly data quota and enable subscribers to track their use via the operator's website, few customers understand how much data a particular app consumes, posing additional challenges. "They're going to be reluctant now because they're going to be thinking in the back of their mind that there's a clock ticking about how long they can play this game," said Brad Foxhoven, chief marketing officer and co-founder of augmented reality game developer Ogmento.
Foxhoven also anticipates some developers may scale back their applications, eschewing more robust features: "It's going to make them second-guess how deep and intricate and involved their game is," he said, adding that Ogmento is already plotting to revamp a forthcoming action game originally optimized for sessions spanning hours or even days at a time.
For more on developers' data pricing concerns:
- read this New York Times article
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