It was good to see the unsurprising yet hotly anticipated Verizon iPhone announcement beat the debut of the Spider-Man musical. Perhaps even less surprising was AT&T’s almost immediate response of cutting the cost of its iPhone. You can expect the availability and cost of the iPhone to be a dominant news story in the coming months, with developments such as Verizon’s decision to cancel its “new every two” upgrade policy generating a good deal of consumer angst. But for me, the real news in 2011 will be the development of data plan pricing. Verizon has yet to announce data plans for its iPhone, but some anticipate they could range up to $120 per month when this hotly anticipated device finally hits the market. Yes, there’s been talk of vendors providing family data plans, but the days of unlimited data plans seem numbered. And its efforts to block “bill shock” consumer protection laws shows the industry is very protective of this market.
The fall of hardware and rise of data plan pricing makes me wonder if the smartphone industry is following the path of inkjet printers a few years ago. After a brief time of selling these printers for a couple hundred dollars, manufacturers began to all but give them away after they realized ink cartridge refills could provide a steady revenue stream. I wouldn’t be surprised to see rock-bottom prices and “buy one get one” family deals for smartphones by the end of 2011 – and even less surprised to read stories of consumer anxiety about data plan affordability.