Over the last few years mobile phones have taken huge leaps forward. My current phone is a Samsung Galaxy S II. By anyone’s standards it is a smashing phone. If we set aside our love for what ever platform tickles your fancy at the moment, the SGSII has more power and memory than laptops had a few years ago. My first Laptop had a single core ~1Ghz processor and 128MBs of RAM. At the time it was great. We had dial up connections then but that wasn’t important. I had a powerful laptop! Even though the SGSII is a street ahead in specs now, the one thing the phone needs to function, where that laptop didn’t, is a fast, reliable, internet connection. Without it, it is a lump of black plastic and Gorilla Glass that just makes calls and texts. I know, I know, there will be people reading this article that think “that’s what a mobile phone is supposed to do!” and yes, of course you are right, but that is not why I bought this phone. Every phone on the market can make calls and texts. What separates those phones from Smartphones is  that Smartphones can now harness the power of the Internet in the same way only our PC’s could only do a short time ago. I now have the Internet in my pocket. Not some shrunk down, badly rendered version. I have full access to any site I choose to go to. That is why I have a Smartphone. That is why I love Smartphones. Whether or not some of us like it, when Apple announced their App store for the iPhone, they changed the way we would interact with our Smartphones for the foreseeable future. What ever platform you use on your phone now, there is an App for almost anything. News, Sports results, your favourite retailer, blogs!, the list goes on. What do all the Apps I’ve mentioned rely on? An Internet connection. As all of our phones have progressed, the internet has become completely intertwined in our lives. Facebook, Twitter, Google +, they are all useless with out an Internet connection.

Skype has been with us for many years. In the last five or so it has made the transition from being computer based to being an App on your phone. So much so Microsoft has just bought it, no doubt to integrate with Windows Phone 7.5 running on Nokia smartphones . You can make voice or video calls very easily. The calls that are charged for, cost next to nothing compared to what it would cost you on a traditional phone. You can ring anywhere in the world for the same price as a call down the road. What does Skype rely on? An Internet connection.

Most mobile networks offer free webtexts. With the “App” age that’s upon us, people have created apps that can utilise these webtexts on your phone. No need to send texts in the traditional manner anymore. What do these apps rely on? An internet connection. I’m sure you can see the recurring theme at this stage. BlackBerry Messanger, iMessage and a multitude of other Apps that are available cross platform can all now send texts between people in the none traditional sense.

All of our Smartphones work because they connect to the Internet. All the features we love about them involve the Internet. As a consequence we are making less and less calls and sending less and less texts.

Some Networks have observed this trend and are now offering data allowances that are conducive to this type  of internet usage. They offer “Unlimited Data” plans as their headline grabbers. Obviously they are not truly unlimited but still I think they should be applauded. The Networks are pushing Smartphone deals and asking you to sign up to long term contracts. With those deals should come the ability to use those phones in the full. Minutes and texts won’t enable that, Data will.

Other Networks are taking a different approach. They too have seen the trend of increasing data and decreasing use of minutes and texts. Instead of offering greater data allowances, they are decreasing them. It’s not just an Irish phenomena, you just have to look around the world and see that this is the path certain networks are choosing.

€40 per month seems to be the settled upon entry level cost for smartphone plans in Ireland. Some are offering this slightly cheaper but this seems to be the point most of the Networks are aiming for.

On one of the leading Irish Networks, for that very €40 per month entry point you are getting 150MBs per month data allowance. One of the other networks is offering 15GBs. That’s one hundred times extra. Don’t worry I had to check the Maths too!

I wanted to see in real terms just what 150MBs equates to.

I setup a program to monitor my data usage while I watched some high definition clips on Youtube. The results are as follows:

  • 720p clips consume on average 20MBs per minute
  • 1080p clips consume on average 35MBs per minute

This is just the average for Youtube using the phone to tether to a computer

So I hear you say  “Oh, you’d never be streaming 720p/ 1080p on your phone”, well, the Galaxy S II is perfectly capable of streaming and playing 1080p clips. There’s no reason the iPhone 4S won’t be able to. If you are tethering, the phone doesn’t even come into the equation.

Most people have become used to pretty poor speeds from their mobile network. I know some of you still will be experiencing those terrible speeds, but for the areas that have HSPA+ coverage now, real broadband speeds are now achievable.

The true potential of our Smartphones has been unlocked. You can now access the internet from anywhere as the same speed as most people can on their computers. Smartphones are built to consume data. They sync and update in the background non stop. This is one of the advantage of them. All the latest information from emails to news stories is already at your fingertips when you unlock the phone.

I know most of us don’t watch 1080p clips on our Smartphones everyday, it’s just an example of how easily modern Smartphones can consume data.

With all that said, for a network to offer 150MBs data allowance, on a HSPA+ capable network with it’s entry point Smartphone plan would seem to most to be flying in the face of progression. I don’t believe anyone should have to pay more than €40 per month for a Smartphone plan. It’s still a fair amount of money to be paying out with the times we are in. Most companies are restructuring their prices to cope with the lessening demand for their products and are trying to retain their customers. Consumers have to make decisions. Can they afford this, are they getting value for money and do they feel that the company they are buying from are taking into consideration the difficult financial situation they are in. Or on the other hand are some companies trying to use this opportunity to make more from their customers by charging for something that was once included, so as to lessen their losses from falling demand?

I’ll let you decide which category 150MBs with a Smartphone plan falls into.

 

Let us know your thoughts below.