Will Higher Data Prices Drive Users To Feature Phones?

With every carrier getting greedier and greedier with their data fees and tiered plans, will the feature phone begin to make a return to pockets around the world? Sure, applications are great for your phone, but is it worth the extra $50-$100 per line to get those apps when you can Facebook, Tweet or Foursquare through SMS? We are always featuring ways to save a buck on your smartphone bill, but it is getting to the point where the carriers are restricting you so heavily that there are no other options but to pay up or drop that smartphone.

There was a time when you could go purchase a $500 smartphone, and only turn on the voice services and use your home and office internet connection for your data. Those days are apparently gone, and will not be back anytime soon. Today, there isn’t a carrier around that will allow you to activate a smartphone on to their service without having the minimum data plan attached. These minimum plans set you back anywhere from $10-$30 a month and feature limited data, throttling or some other form of penalty if you want to use them.

This leads us back to the idea of the pocket PC and the feature phone… Yes, carrying 2 items once again. While the electronic organizer has all but gone the way of the dinosaur, when people start realizing that they are spending $360 a line for data per year ($1800 for a family of 5) and locked into a 2 year deal ($3600 for that family of 5) and have to spend $350 a line to get out from under it, it makes you think twice about even getting started on it. Sure, it’s great to Netflix at the park, in the car, at the doctor’s office, but remember you only get 3 hours a week before you blow that cap and it sets you back further. Streaming radio is great, but once your data begins getting throttled, your speeds aren’t high enough to keep running. It’s just sad to think about that kind of investment with a return that is so small.

Now, with Wi-Fi being so ‘available’ now, it makes us wonder how easy it would be to hook up a VoIP account to your handheld and use that as a phone – or even better – to return to a feature phone and using a handheld when needed for games, email and more. Before the smartphone, everyone had their emails forwarded to them as Text/MMS messages. It worked fine for TXT based emails, but not so great for those HTML buggers. For those rare occasions that you would need to use HTML email, you could use a tablet or PDA, and just leave your phone to be just a phone.

While smartphones continue to sell in record numbers, people have become more concerned with Apps that cost. The fact is, the average smartphone will cost you $500 more over the life of your contract than if you just had a feature phone. That just gets to be downright expensive in these economic times. Perhaps as more people see their Disneyland vacation go bye bye in exchange for data on their cell phone, they will begin the move back to cheaper plans.


Quick Comparison:

Sprint: 2 lines – 1500 min/txt – $99.99    –    1500 min/txt/data – $149.99  –  cost over 2 years $1200

Verizon: 2 lines – 1400 min/txt – $109.99    –    1400min/txt/data – $169.99 – cost over 2 years $1440

AT&T: 2 lines – 1400 min/txt – $119.99    –    1400min/txt/data – $169.99  –  cost over 2 years $1200

T-Mobile: 2 lines – 1000 min/txt – $79.99    –    1000 min/txt/data – $119.99 – cost over 2 years $960


Right now, T-Mobile seems to be the best deal in wireless, post-paid service. Sprint pulls in a distant 2nd place with their $10 per line ‘premium data charge’. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are pulling in last place with a whopping $50 a month extra tagged on their billing. With the T-Mobile/AT&T acquisition coming sooner than later, their prices won’t last long – and honestly, to compare services more evenly with Sprint’s Any Mobile/Any Time service, T-Mobile users would need to upgrade to the ‘unlimited plan’ that would run $139.98 a month which brings it right in line with Sprint’s pricing.

Will the cost of a smartphone ultimately bring people back to feature phones? Our opinion is yes, especially for those casual users that don’t use the data features well. If you check email once in a while, or check the news page in the morning, you probably won’t continue to use a $30 expense on the bottom line for long. If the smartphone continues to weasel its way into our lives a bit more, it’s going to be harder to kick those data plans to the curb, but look for people to start trying to find cheaper options – like that $10 – 75MB plan that Verizon offers while running Wi-Fi at work and home.



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