The big Mobile World Congress show hasn’t even really started yet and already we are swamped with news of new superphones, tablets and pads, all vying to become the next big thing in wireless. The problem is, no matter how cool, fast or fun each one is, no single device can perfectly answer the needs of all our mobile Three Cs: Communicating, Creating and Consuming. But if we had one data plan to use across all types of devices? That would be something to write home about.
No pad or tablet will ever handle calls as well as a phone, and few phone-size devices can match tablets or pads for making content consumption so pleasurable; and there’s still nothing that really tops a full-feature laptop with its full-sized keyboard for being able to create content on the go. That’s why I subscribe to the theory that says most mobile professionals will soon own a “stack” of mobile devices, each with a singular purpose. Device manufacturers and service providers alike are out there now, nodding their heads, saying Yes! Please let it be so!
But what’s needed to make that happen quickly is a brave mobile carrier to be a trailblazer and provide a single data plan that covers multiple devices, allowing a user to spend their “bucket of bits” via the device, the time and the manner of their choosing. Otherwise, the device stack option is going to remain something that only the budget-rich can afford, and many cool devices will fall by the wayside simply because there isn’t enough reason for folks to sign up for yet another expensive 2-year contract with big early termination fees.
Thanks to continued innovation and competition, the prices for new advanced devices are dropping rapidly, even at unsubsidized rates. I would also submit that the average mobile consumer is perhaps far more educated about the true cost of 2-year plans than carriers might give them credit for — witness the failure of $99 3G netbooks to make any headway in the marketplace. People know how much they are paying for devices and mobile services, and right now I would submit that it’s not the device price that is keeping more people from building their stack — it’s the expensive lock-down fees and 2-year contracts associated with the separate data plans for each wireless device you might want in your workaday arsenal.
Think about it — if you could purchase a mobile-data plan for $100 a month or less that let you share a service plan across a range of devices, wouldn’t that make it easier to justify having a smartphone, a tablet and a laptop? Rarely do you need more than one device at a time, but at different times your needs may call specifically for one or the other — a powerful phone when you are highly mobile, a tablet when you need to see or read in detail, a laptop when you need to draft a long report or edit a video. But would you use each one enough to justify a three or more separate contracts? No — what you want is a single plan, shared across your stack. With all the innovation in devices happening, why can’t pricing innovation follow suit?
Ideally, each device would have its own direct cellular connection built in, so that you don’t need to always bring your phone along with your tablet so that you can use the mobile hotspot feature just to stay connected. The soaring popularity of mobile hotspots is probably directly related to the desire to have just one data service plan — and not because people really want to bring along their own hotspot or drain their phone’s battery to send email from their laptop. It’s because people generally now know the real cost of buying separate service plans for each one of the mobile devices they may want or need, and they want that tyranny of unflexibility to end.
So: Give to us, carriers, One Plan to Rule Them All — and we shall reward you with our riches.