Is the iPhone 3G a game-changer for mobile broadband?

Tomorrow's much-awaited launch of the 3G iPhone has me wondering if this latest iteration of Apple's smartly designed device will finally drive mass market usage of 3G.

So far 3G data usage has primarily been limited to business users with data cards plugged into their laptops giving them the equivalent of low-end DSL speeds. Sure there has been some uptake from smartphone users who want fast email delivery, but the mass market has not embraced 3G.  

Some blame this lackluster response on the available 3G devices. Many have poor user interfaces that make it difficult for consumers to use applications that take advantage of the 3G network, such as browsing the Web or downloading multimedia content.

But now Apple's iPhone 3G will combine faster data speeds with its stellar user interface and accessibility. This seems like the perfect storm we've been waiting for to drive 3G network usage. And if the 3G iPhone doesn't drive mass market adoption of 3G, then what will?

I'm concerned that AT&T's pricing plans may prevent it from being a mass market play. After all, the least expensive rate plan offered by AT&T for the iPhone 3G costs $70 per month for unlimited data and 450 airtime minutes. And that doesn't include text messaging, which will cost at least another $5 per month. Add in taxes and fees and you're looking at a minimum of an $80 per month cell phone bill. Some consumers will be willing to spend that much for their iPhone experience, but that price point is too high for the mass market.

I think the iPhone 3G will end up doing what the original iPhone did--it will show operators and device makers that if you put an easy-to-use mobile device in the hands of consumers and add in some very compelling applications you will end up with a winning proposition. The iPhone 3G may not be enough to drive mass market usage of 3G networks, but it will be enough to instigate more competition from devices makers and other carriers--and that will likely result in less expensive, easy-to-navigate handsets and lower-priced 3G data plans which will eventually lead to a much more compelling experience for all. - Sue