On walkabout in life and technology

iPhone Data Plan Follies

This week, three stories came to my attention regarding iPhone data plans and usage: man wins $850 from AT&T for data throttling, Siri is ruining your cellphone service, and its all about the camera.

iPhone user wins $850 in throttling case

Source: Judge awards iPhone user $850 in throttling case

In short, so a guy who was sold the unlimited AT&T data plan gets throttled, sues AT&T in small claims court and wins some money. That’s the story presented.

But there are a few points missed:

  • He is still being throttled, he may have won the case, and a pittance, but the throttling continues, so its not really a win.
  • He had to go to small claims court because the one-sided contract between the consumer and AT&T forbids class-action lawsuits, and it turns out, it’s legal for them to do this. WTF! So if we all want to challenge AT&T’s throttling, we have to one-by-one go to small claims court.
  • AT&T is appealing the ruling, using its money and muscle to bury this poor guy.
  • If you don’t like it in the USA, you can switch to, um, no-one. Verizon, no, T-Mobile, no, Sprint, no. (I am aware Sprint offers unlimited plans, but it’s a bait-and-switch: It’s an on-again, off-again deal, with no commitment made to keep you on unlimited, or never to cap or throttle).

Siri is ruining your cellphone service

Utter codswallop from Paul Farhi of the once reputable Washington Post writes in How Siri is ruining your cellphone service:

Siri’s dirty little secret is that she’s a bandwidth guzzler, the digital equivalent of a 10-miles-per-gallon Hummer H1.

Fortunately, John Gruber of the very reputable Daring Fireball corrects this idiocy in How Bad Reporting Is Ruining The Washington Post:

It doesn’t take a genius to spot the logical error here. Assuming Arieso’s data is correct, that iPhone 4S users consume more data, they offer no proof that Siri has anything to do with it.

And Forbes writer Eric Savitz confirms that it is not Siri in Apple’s Siri: The Truth Is, She’s No Bandwidth Hog.

It’s about the camera stupid

Marco Arment figured out why iPhone 4S users use so much more bandwidth in his article also entitled How Bad Reporting Is Ruining The Washington Post :

The camera, of course. Every iPhone after the 3G has shipped with a higher-resolution camera than its predecessor. People capture and share a lot of photos on their iPhones, so a very likely culprit for higher data usage, controlling for OS version and tethering abilities, is that the photos are simply much larger with each new iPhone.

I can attest to that. I’m a hobby photographer, but the camera I use the most is the one on my phone. It’s there, it’s convenient, and it’s pretty good. So I am more likely to rip the iPhone out, take a shot, Instagram it and post it to Facebook and Twitter. In this case I use a lot more data - the 8 megapixel image goes over the data connection with Photo Stream, it goes again in the new larger format to Instagram, a third time to Facebook and again to TwitPic. Since the photo is a lot larger, I use more data that when I was on the iPhone 4 or the 3GS.

Maybe I was wrong in Bandwidth Caps Never Necessary, the caps and throttles are not an issue for the future, it’s a now issue that we all face.