updated 02:45 pm EDT, Fri August 21, 2009
ATT Needs Data on SPhones
A leaked memo surfacing today and confirmed by AT&T for Electronista has revealed the company will soon require that every smartphone be attached to a data plan. The message obtained by BGR warns that any new or upgrade customer moving to an AT&T-supplied smartphone from September 6th onwards will need to have the $30 smartphone data plan alongside their voice plan, regardless of the manufacturer or the cost of the device. Smartphones bought unlocked outside of AT&T, like the Nokia N97, are exempted from the rule, as are those who already have smartphones on the network and no intention to upgrade.
A question-and-answer section in the message justifies the requirement by claiming that the move would give users a more "predictable bill" by avoiding pay-per-use data rates and unintentional surprises each month. When contacted, a company spokesman added that the requirement was technically in the company's existing terms of service and that, as the "vast majority" of smartphone users on AT&T already have a plan, the impact should be relatively minimal.
It's commonly believed that the move is part of a wider plan to foster added growth in AT&T's data revenues, which have risen rapidly ever since the iPhone launched on its network. The shift is expected to raise the prices for some smartphone customers who had been using either the $20 "feature phone" plan or none at all, but a handful of phones like the iPhone 3G and 3GS have always required a smartphone plan from the outset.