Hey you: planning on standing in line for an iPhone? What do you think of the calling plans? What about the data service? It's okay if you don't know much about them: they haven't been announced yet.
People have been talking about the "hidden cost" of iPhone, that is, the monthly fee that will be required to do all of the fun webby things iPhone can do (YouTube video being just one of them). But it's so well hidden, nobody yet knows what the cost is.
Here's my wild guess, or rather, my suggestion: among other service offerings, Apple and AT&T should announce a super-unlimited do-what-you-want plan. A toss-the-meter-out-of-the-taxi, flat-fee all-you-can-eat data and voice plan.Here's what I'm thinking: a totally worry-free plan is a very Apple thing to do. The company complains about music "rental" services having too many strings attached, and about how complicated multi-tiered pricing can be in a consumer environment. Counting the number of minutes you talk or megabytes you download can be both stressful and complicated, and worse, it most assuredly curbs usage.
All-you-can-eat data is well known among smartphones, and unlimited talking minutes have been a business customer reality for a long time. Why not make it a consumer reality? Does Steve Jobs really want you to wait until 9pm to make calls, or wonder who is in or out of your "network" before grabbing your iPhone?
The big argument for a completely worry-free plan is that it's exactly what happened in both the long-distance and ISP businesses. We went from worrying about how many cents per minute we paid calling Phoenix, to using Skype to make free calls to Hong Kong. We went from having conditional access—the dial-up modem; early on there were even minute limits or data quantity caps—to having expensive but unconditional always-on access. Web 2.0 wouldn't have happened without this, and true Web 3.0, the mobile Internet revolution, won't happen without it either. It's not just the better bandwidth, it's the constant link. Now, on your PC, the only time you think about being connected to the Internet is on the rare occasion that, for some reason, you are not.
You may have noticed I used the word "expensive." If you combine unlimited calling with unlimited data today, the bill is well over $100 a month. Here might be where the iPhone's mediocre EDGE-network access comes in handy: because it's not true 3G, the unlimited data may cost $20 per month or less. Tack on unlimited calling (and calling features) for say, $80, and you've got a completely worry-free $100-per-month plan. Arguably, carriers could do it for even less. Expensive? Sure, but not out of the realm of imagination, especially when you're talking about voice and data together on your primary, and probably sole, phone.
While Apple certainly loves a simple plan, I may be crazy to think that AT&T would go for it. Monetizing a la carte data services and incremental voice and messaging usage is how carriers make money these days. But the iPhone platform doesn't play into that. It is specifically not a phone that Cingular will load with all of its apps.
If the iPhone really is revolutionary, than the service plan that comes with it will have to be revolutionary too. Let's ditch the taxi meter, and head for the open road. (Where hopefully the EDGE service will be good enough for a YouTube video download, but you never know.)
So guys, am I nuts or right on the money? And how much would you pay for a flat-out worry-free plan?