Apple and AT&T, you are doing it wrong. That $US30 iPad data plan is kind of OK. However, if you've got a smartphone in Spain, you get a microSIM duplicate to share your existing internet data plan. All for free.
If I'm paying a 3G data plan for my smartphone, is there any reason why I have to pay for another data plan for my iPad? Shouldn't this whole 3G data connection thing work like your home DSL or cable line? There is no limit in the number of devices connected to my home Wi-Fi. I can connect as many devices as I want, and I only pay one internet connection. If my wife's notebook is downloading a movie, making my network access slower, that's my problem. It's a pretty simple concept.
The Spanish Solution
One that the people at Spanish Telefonica apparently understand. Apparently, in Spain they get the sun, the good wine, the jamón pata negra, the tapas and a shared 3G data plan for your smartphone and your iPad. Just one single contract. If you are paying for a €39 3G data plan - which gives you unlimited 3Mbps internet data access for your smartphone - you can get your iPad in the same data plan, with no extra cost whatsoever. You just have to tell the company and they will give you a free microSIM duplicate of your original SIM. It's that easy.
Sure, €39 is almost $US50, but that's the price differential with everything in Europe (in the US, the iPad 3G 16GB is $US629, while in Spain it costs $US735). And that's their top data plan. You can also share the €25 ($US31) data plan for free. That will also give you unlimited traffic, although it will drop the connection speed after you download 1GB of data. It's OK. I can do that too.
Whatever it is - the $US50 or the $US31 Spanish plan - it sure beats the AT&T alternative: $US80 on standard monthly service charges - including the $US30 iPhone data plan, excluding usage charges - plus an additional $US30 for the iPad. Even forgetting about the monthly service charges, that's $US60 total without taxes. The Spanish solution: $US50 everything included for two devices.
What's the reason for this absurd differential? Economically, Spain is way behind the US. Their consumer market is weaker. But the number of mobile phones per capita is higher than in the US, with a comparable percentage of smartphones and data usage. Proportionally, the Spanish networks support more users than the US, so their mobile phone networks should be even more overloaded than the American ones. So why does Telefonica offer this possibility while AT&T charges an extra $US30?
Is this an artificial marketing limitation? Or is it a way to protect AT&T's overloaded network from dropping dead completely? Maybe the answer is both.
The fact is that having your smartphone and iPad under the same data contract makes sense. When I'm not using my iPhone, I'm using my iPad. And viceversa. And while you can argue that two people could use both devices at the same time, that has a technical solution: Limit the data transmission, so when one device is accessing the web using the 3G data connection, the other won't be able to use it at all.
And if AT&T doesn't want to implement that solution, then Apple should just give us data tethering on the iPad via Bluetooth. That way, only one 3G connection would be used. After all, Safari on the iPad will pull the same data as any rich smartphone browser. It will work just like with my home internet connection.
Steve Jobs said that they were working with different providers through the world to offer iPad 3G deals as good as the AT&T $US30 plan. I wish they worked as hard in the US. Let's hope they start taking notes and making thing truly easy for their clients. [Telefonica]