AT&T has announced a new iPhone and iPad data plan that’s scheduled to go into effect on June 7, the same day that Steve Jobs will take the stage at the Worldwide Developers Conference and ostensibly announce the iPhone 4G.
The plans are actually quite beneficial to the average user. Rather than pay a standard fee each month, iPhone owners will be able to pay based on the amount of data that they actually use. Plans will start at $15 for 200MB of data. Those that use 2GB of data or more will be forced to pay $25. In other words, current owners stand to gain anywhere from $5 to $15 per month.
iPhone owners should be happy to hear the news. But whether Verizon Wireless is all that happy remains to be seen. AT&T’s decision to drop the price of its existing data plans less than a week before WWDC, and then to put those plans into effect on the very day Steve Jobs will take the stage, seems awfully interesting.
It might portend to a Verizon iPhone being announced at WWDC. Admittedly, that is a long shot. According to recent reports, AT&T inked an exclusivity deal with Apple through 2012. So, there is always that possibility that AT&T is simply trying to be better to customers. But there is also that possibility that its new plans are part of a premeditated strategy to beat the Verizon iPhone before it’s released. There is certainly no guarantee that that will happen. But there is a chance. And AT&T’s decision has gotten some folks thinking that way. These are the reasons why.
1. The timing is perfect
AT&T’s timing on its new plans couldn’t be better. The wireless company has waited until just five days before the potential announcement of the iPhone 4G to inform customers and future customers of the changes. Plus, it has decided to set the plans into effect on the very day that Steve Jobs will take the stage at WWDC. Some might say that it’s a ploy to get more customers to switch to AT&T and pick up an iPhone. But what if AT&T’s decision to set the new plan into effect on that day was meant to give it an upper-hand on plans when Apple announces a Verizon iPhone?
2. AT&T stands to lose money over the short-term
AT&T is a public company that needs to ensure its revenue is growing each quarter. Its investors expect that. But by changing its data plans, the company has effectively ensured that at least in the short-term, it will reduce its revenue. In fact, the company acknowledged that point when it announced the plans, but was quick to point out that it shouldn’t have a major effect on its financial statements. That strategy of intentionally cutting into revenue is an interesting one. In business, companies that reduce pricing do so either because demand has slowed or they want to be a price leader against a major competitor. AT&T’s data prices were the same as Verizon’s and it’s the only company that has an iPhone. Why should it lose revenue when it has what people want?
3. It’s deathly afraid of a Verizon iPhone
There’s little debating that a Verzion iPhone could be a significant problem for AT&T. The company has spent years ensuring that Apple’s smartphone stays with it in the United States and doesn’t travel to competing companies. But that day might be coming to a close. And AT&T knows that if and when a Verizon iPhone hits store shelves, it will significantly cut into its revenue. Perhaps that’s why it fired the first shot less than a week before Apple could be showing off a Verizon iPhone.
4. There is no rush
There was absolutely no rush for AT&T to drop the price of its data plans on June 2. What did it really solve? Consumers seemed fine with the way things were and AT&T was guaranteeing $30 per month on iPhone customers that, for the vast majority, didn’t even come close to even 1GB of monthly data use, let alone 2GB. AT&T’s decision just doesn’t make sense right now. Dropping rates would make sense if it was concerned with a major competitor. But to do it when it still has the most important phone in the industry on its side raises some red flags.
10 Reasons Why ATandT’s New Data Plans Hint at Verizon iPhone
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5. Why would consumers care?
AT&T is saying that it dropped the price of the iPhone’s data plans to help consumers. And although some folks will be excited to hear that their bills will be lower by about $5 from now on, it’s debatable how much consumers would really care. AT&T didn’t make this move to be the nice company in a motley crue of bad apples. It did it for a real business reason. Yes, it might have been to increase its customer-service capital, but it might have also been due to its knowledge of what’s coming in short order.
6. The iPad is a key battleground
It’s important to remember that the iPad is also included in AT&T’s data changes. According to the company, the $30 unlimited plan has given way to a $25 per month, 2GB plan. Those that currently have a $30 plan can maintain it. Admittedly, AT&T’s decision to change things up for iPad customers is troublesome. The iPad is one place where consumers want to stream video, which takes up a lot of bandwidth. But by saving customers $5, AT&T might want to look like the good company again. And it would be up to Verizon Wireless to respond.
7. Verizon won’t be expecting it
AT&T’s move, if a Verizon iPhone is, in fact, making its way to the market, is a smart one. Assuming Verizon has been working with Apple on developing the device, the company probably also has its data plans all set and ready to go. Since AT&T was offering $30 per month fees, the company might have offered the same plans. Now that AT&T has revised its own plans, all that has changed. When it comes to strategy, AT&T’s decision to change its plans just a few days before Verizon takes the stage is a smart one. Assuming, of course, that Verizon will actually have the iPhone.
8. AT&T would know, right?
If any company would know that Apple plans to bring the iPhone to Verizon’s service, it’s AT&T. After all, the company signed an exclusivity deal with the hardware company and it would be the first to know if Apple was getting out of it. That’s an important element in all this. Even though there is a chance that Verizon won’t have the iPhone, AT&T’s decision to change data plans seems like one that was born out of its desire to beat its top competitor to the punch. And unlike so many other things in the tech business, this is one item that AT&T would have known all about.
9. It’s saying all the right things
AT&T is a highly respected company in the tech industry because it knows what it needs to do to be successful. And as its press release announcing the sweeping changes to its data plans shows, the company has once again said all the right things. Some might say that AT&T’s comments on the changes are perfectly throwing consumers off the scent. Others say that there is no Verizon iPhone on the way, so there is no scent to throw consumers off. In either case, AT&T is ramping up the rhetoric to ensure it looks good whether Verizon offers an iPhone or not.
10. It’s being much nicer
AT&T is doing a fantastic job at looking like the company looking out for customers in its new plans. In fact, it will inform customers that they’re getting close to their limits to ensure that they don’t get overcharged for a service. That’s a welcome addition to AT&T’s plans. For too long, carriers have been bullying customers. It seems now that AT&T wants to fix some of its past mistakes and make it clear that it really is looking out for them. That’s nice. But whether or not it’s born out of AT&T’s desire to play the nice person or if it’s a reaction to a Verizon iPhone is still in doubt. There’s no telling what Apple plans to announce at WWDC. But based on AT&T’s latest moves, a Verizon iPhone wouldn’t be a shocker.