10 Reasons Why ATandT Data Plans Harm Mobile Developers

News Analysis: Mobile developers aren't always treated well in today's marketplace. That's especially true when one considers how developers were effectively forgotten when AT&T decided to cap smartphone data over its network.

All the debate over AT&T's new data plans have largely come to a close. The plans are set to go into effect on Monday, which means every customer will now need to live with them. But those that need to live with the changes go far beyond just customers.

Now, phone makers will need to keep them in mind as they prepare their phones for the market. Software makers, like Microsoft and Google, will also have to keep them in mind. But perhaps the biggest group that will feel the impact of the new plans, aside from customers, is the mobile-developer community.

Smartphones featuring mobile applications that allow consumers to take content from the Web and stream it to their phones partially contributed to AT&T's decision to do away with unlimited data plans. Not only did it increase the amount of content being pushed to each user's device, it also increased the amount of data that AT&T needed to accommodate. It was getting costly and putting undue pressure on its network. And it decided to do something about it.

All the while, developers now need to consider many more factors when creating applications for the iPhone, iPad or any other smartphone platform that's running on AT&T's network. Gone are the days when developers can simply create applications without worrying about the consumer's plans. Now, mobile development is different. And that won't change anytime soon. Let's take a look at why mobile developers stand to lose out with AT&T's new data plans.

1. Caps don't work in developers' favor

The main issue with data caps for mobile developers is that they don't have any way of knowing which consumers have the 2GB plan and which have the 200MB option. In other words, a video-streaming app might work best for those that have 2GB of available data, and be practically useless for those that have 200MB of available data each month. That's a problem. Developers need to know what they're playing with in order to make the best applications they can. When iPhone owners all had unlimited data, it was easy. Now, developers must create applications that accommodate even those with less data. That's a shame.

2. Consumers will be wary

Consumers will be wary of applications that use up too much data. After all, the amount of allowed data includes everything from surfing the Web to checking e-mail to using mobile applications. If consumers know that a particular application could reduce the amount of data they can dedicate to other applications, they might be less likely to use the respective program. That not only stymies a developer's ability to create useful, worthwhile applications, it also limits what consumers will be looking for. That won't play into any developer's favor.

3. Developers have more concerns

For developers, it goes beyond simply deciding whether or not an application will accommodate different plans. Now they need to think about their previous applications and see if they will lose popularity because of the new caps. They also need to consider the impact that the plans could have on those applications that they haven't released yet, but are working on. The mobile app market is changing now that AT&T has modified its data plans, and it's incumbent upon developers to now wait and see what happens before they make any decisions with their applications. That's unfortunate.

4. Innovation could be difficult

Innovation could be stymied now that developers are forced to worry about data caps. After all, prior to the announcement of new data plans, developers really only needed to think about how an application would work on an operating system. But now that the new data plans are in place, they need to think about their limits. In other words, that neat idea that would have probably used up significant data might need to be put on the back burner until the developer can come up with a way to drastically enhance its ability to offer the same experience without being such a drag on the user's monthly data allotment.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...