What’s had the biggest impact on mobile? All you can eat data!

I know it’s been a while but, after reading Ewan’s post about mobile impact, I decided to write in…

Dear Ewan,

I too read the network impact blog post from Pankaj Schroff and I too wondered at what mine would be. My response was instantaneous, however I was utterly stunned to discover that both your [great] post – as well as that of Trish Burgess-Curran – had missed it!

Admittedly, the Tellabs blog post does make one wonder how quickly technology moves and indeed ‘How did we get here?’ The 1985 science fiction classic ‘Eonby Greg Bear, is set in 2005 and the main protagonists are depicted as using ‘slates’ that – funnily enough – appear to be iPads in all but name. Amazing really that the author was only five years out with his prediction.

But, in my opinion, it is not the iPad that has the biggest impact on the mobile industry, nor is ‘instant email’.

Back in May, Marek Pawlowski invited me along to speak at the eternally interesting MEX conference. My subject? Inspiring new forms of creative expression through mobile devices. I have a further blog post to write about this on its own (and you can read the full presentation over on slideshare) however, one of the points that I had to make absolutely crystal clear when discussing the iPhone’s prevalence amongst the Flickr device elite is the advent of the ALL YOU CAN EAT* DATA PLAN.

As much as I am loathe to admit it, Apple’s insistence on the mandatory data plan shipping policy for the iPhone signalled a HUGE sea-change in the way that we all consume data.

You can merge as much technology as you like, you can suck down as many emails as you want and you can spurt location-based services from every possible application – but none of this would be possible without the now universally accepted (and expected) mobile data plan.

That, without doubt, is what has had the most impact on our industry to date and I would be hard-pressed to find an argument stronger.

App this. Mobile web that. We couldn’t do any of it without affordable data.

Cheers,
James

* Clearly ‘all you can eat’ doesn’t quite cover it, but you get my point. Ben Smith has the latest on that.

[Editor's note: James is Marketing Director of the social media expert agency, 1000heads. Nice to see you back James! - Ewan]

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Selvidge/663278471 Michael Selvidge

    Agree with Whatleydude. 

    Similarly, the desktop Internet (at least in America) really didn’t take off with the mainstream until AOL stopped charging by the hour for access. 

  • Anonymous

    hi. James does make a fantastic point. Mobile Internet is something which is changing the way people are using phones. I wrote something on that.

    http://ashutoshtiwary.com/2011/04/13/the-relevance-of-web-in-the-world-of-apps/

    Though my article was more on the penetration of mobile internet! :)Nice to see a brilliant writer on a brilliant blog! :)

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Disqus generic email template Nice!

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  • http://antoinerjwright.com Antoine RJ Wright

    A good point, but I think that SMS interpolation between carriers and the addition of cameras had bigger impacts ;)

  • http://www.Phone.com JebBrilliant

    I think Michel is making a really important point.  James is right that “All you can eat” data was a huge deal but I think the telcos are going to be the stumbling block. The “unlimited” plans are a joke and a travesty.  I like the idea of throttling back speeds once you’ve hit your limit but I imagine many people like myself who may want to catch up with on a TV episode or watch a movie on their mobile device have no idea how much data they may be using up to do that.  If they’re on the unlimited (really 2.5GB) monthly plan can they watch a 90min movie?  Can they stream a 40min episode of their favorite show?  I don’t know and I don’t think they know either.  

    So I think the telcos with their lying deceptive ways are going to hinder and slow down the growth of data consumption.  The public along with the device manufacturers must force the telcos to offer truly unlimited plans at a very reasonable rate.  The normobs are buying these amazing new devices with huge screens made specifically for entertainment and the public won’t use them for that if they think they may get dinged with a huge data bill.  We need to force the telcos to lower data fees or at the very least be truthful in their advertising and plans.  Unlimited better bloody mean enough data to stream non stop for your entire 30 day plan, not stream for few hours and then BAM a few hundred dollar bill.  

  • http://www.Phone.com JebBrilliant

    By the way, great post James.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/kiwimike Mike Stead

    Apple? APPLE?   *****A-P-P-L-E?*****

    Three’s X-Series

    Launched 1 Dec 2006. Unlimited, truly unlimited data. All other UK MNO’s follow suit within 6-12 months.

    March 8, 2007: N-95 launches across Europe. Sells one million in UK, only 8 months after launch, same month as another phone goes on sale in the UK…

    iPhone: 29 June 2007. US-only. iPhone Arrives in UK nearly a year after X-Series. And then only on one MNO.

    Apple made the market for mobile data? They were the ‘sea change’? Pfft.

    Three and Nokia.

    Had 3 not forced their competitors to follow suit, had Nokia not made a spankingly good 3G consumption/creation device, when a single model arrived on a single carrier with a very hefty pricetag, 2G-only – who’d have blinked? Would Voda/Orange/Three/T-Mo have launched into very expensive data upgrade projects because of ONE 2G-only handset tied to ONE MNO?

    Would they hell.

    (Other rants are available ;-) )

  • http://www.facebook.com/kiwimike Mike Stead

    Heya Jeb

    They must throttle or cap. It is physically not possible to give everyone unlimited data (and today simply buying a mobile includes you in ‘everyone’, not early adopters/geeks). There are not enough base stations, or spectrum. I argue there never will be. Shannon’s Limit still holds.

    Once people accept that reality the rest is marketing and how you perceive they treat you, where I agree 100% re weasel words.

  • http://www.Phone.com JebBrilliant

    Mike, 
    According to AT&T in the US (only) 95% of people never reach 2gb per month.  So of that 5% only a few go much over and I’d say 1% use more then just a few gig and there’s always that few that go to 20+ gb.  So I argue that currently and only currently the carriers should be able to handle it.  Maybe not in 2 years but for now I think they should.  

  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    Hey Mike, I love you man but I 100% disagree.

    Yes X-Series was the first AYCE data plan. But that was just *the plan* and, to be perfectly honest, back in 2006 (with a market share of 2.5%) no one gave a monkeys about Three *at all*. The first AYCE data plan that actually made an impact would’ve been Web ‘n’ Walk from T-Mobile.

    But that’s not the point.

    Moving on (and leaving out your previous employer for a second):

    The N95 was indeed launched in Europe in 2007. But I would *love* to see some figures around how many of those actually shipped with a data plan. I remember being charged TWO POUNDS THIRTY FIVE PER MEG back in the day and I *hated it*.

    Also, bear in mind that I’m talking *globally*, not just UK. As I said above, *Apple’s* (not Nokia’s or Three’s) insistence that the iPhone MUST ship with a data plan first in the good ol’ US of A and then subsequently Europe gave way to a whole world of universal acceptance: bill shock, was no longer a daily headline (we probably get one every three months or so now) and *all* of the networks had to pull their socks up and distribute data plans *as standard*.

    Remember this is me you’re talking to mate; James ‘I’ll never own an iPhone ever and I hate everything it stands for’ Whatley – it does indeed LOATHE me to say it BUT…

    The handset manufacturer telling the operator what plan their shipping with? Unheard of.
    Handsets shipping on HUGE operators (such as AT&T, T-Mobile and o2) with data plans as standard? Unheard of.

    Not having a data plan with *any* handset today? Unheard of.

  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    I have to agree with Mike on this one Jeb. It’s the same thing here in the UK with o2. When they capped data last year they issued a statement saying something like 3% of their user base was taking up 36% of their network. That’s an insane amount!

    Also, AT&T have said themselves that 95% never hit the 2GB, but they haven’t said what the other 5% do… that’s an assumption on your part and, based on o2’s figures above (given that they too were first to ship the data-hungry iPhone) I’d wait and see if AT&T release similar numbers before jumping to conclusions.

  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    Thanks buddy :)

  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    Ha – from a carrier perspective (re SMS) definitely: I think there’s a quote somewhere from an operator about SMS being the closest to ‘liquid gold’…

    From a revenue standpoint, yeah – I’d say it had an impact ;)

  • http://benjam.in Ben Smith

    Nice post James – in a hotly contested area. On an imaginary judging panel I might make a case that operator subsidies were more important in getting mobile technology into consumers’ hands – effectively rolling service and financing into a single product – but it’s definitely a close-run thing :-)

  • http://benjam.in Ben Smith

    Sorry mate – I’m with James here. X-Series was awesome but it was the ‘handset manufacturer calling the shots on tariffing’ that is the crucial bit here and as cools as X-Series was it an operator initiative. Kudos to 3 for being one step ahead, but it wasn’t a structural seismic shift in the way the industry worked.

  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    Thanks Ben – and a good counter-argument to boot.

    Perhaps in a yet-to-be-confirmed Christmas episode of MIR we could put forward our arguments like they do on that Gadget Show programme. Then we’d be proper telly.

    ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/kiwimike Mike Stead

    It’s the £2.35/MB that X-Series helped get rid of. And Web’n’Walk was never truly unlimited data from the get-go, AFAIK. Certainly not for £10 or £15/month. And it was restrictive – no IM, no streaming video, unless you were on the ***£44/month*** Max plan. Whereas X-Series explicitly wanted you to stream the bejesus out of it, audio & video, Skype, WLM etc.

    Apple/O2 customers still got bill shock aplenty when roaming. Even worse, as they generally thought they were covered.

    Again, I postulate:

    Why would the other 4 UK MNO’s turn around and go for AYCE data for all 40M of their subs, just because Apple made O2 build it into the iPhone tariff? If T-Mo & Three were already offering AYCE mobile data, where’s the big deal? What did Apple change with one phone on one network? If AYCE was such a killer idea, why didn’t O2 make it available to all their customers from day 1 of the iPhone launch? They were the network launching the iPhone, they had dropped their trou at Apple’s behest, and yet they didn’t even offer proper AYCE to their own customers.

    Apple *insisted* on AYCE. But customers had been able to have AYCE on any phone, on several networks, for over a year. Things were already well and truly opening up.

    I don’t detract for a minute that Apple did a bang-up job of *helping* bring the concept of the mobile internet (or the internet, mobile) to the masses. The Jobsian RDF and media fawning at the foot of the turtle-necked One did bring it to the world’s attention in a desirable, understandable device. A hygiene factor in that was a capped cost, certainly. But no more than a hygiene factor.

    I disagree that there was cause > effect between iPhone *tariff* & Impact on mobile. To me, the impact on mobile was ***the iPhone itself***. The UX, the hardware, later on the apps. The 2G-ness forced people to rethink WiFi usage, and making it dead easy to connect to your home WiFi (Lookin’ at YOU S60 ;-) )

    When people saw the stunning iPhone UX (Symbian geeks tearing their hair out that they could do that *years* ago on a much cheaper, faster 3G phone) but couldn’t afford it, they looked to other vendors, on other networks. What was ALREADY THERE WAITING was a swathe of phones, on most MNO’s, with AYCE on 3G up & running. They jumped in, and that is how we got to where we are. T-Mo W&W and then X-Series upping the game made that alternative possible. Without W&W then X-Series then the iPhone waking latent demand it would still have happened, just over a much longer timescale.

    As always, Apple stood on the shoulders of giants, as did Three.

  • http://benjam.in Ben Smith

    You’re too fixated on the AYCE part re: data. It *doesn’t really matter*.

    It’s the change of roles where Apple started dictating terms over tariffs (and mandating data) that is the key here.

    IMHO :-) (actually… scrub the ‘H’)

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Disqus generic email template Can I pop-in here to say that Three really screwed things up by not progressing with their X-Series offering :/

    *From*: Disqus [mailto:]
    *Sent*: Thursday, August 11, 2011 04:12 AM
    *To*: em@mobileindustryreview.com *Subject*: [smstextnews] Re: What’s had the biggest impact on mobile? All you can eat data!

    [image: DISQUS]

    James Whatley wrote, in response to Mike Stead:
    Hey Mike, I love you man but I 100% disagree.

    Yes X-Series was the first AYCE data plan. But that was just *the plan* and, to be perfectly honest, back in 2006 (with a market share of 2.5%) no one gave a monkeys about Three *at all*. The first AYCE data plan that actually made an impact would’ve been Web ‘n’ Walk from T-Mobile.

    But that’s not the point.

    Moving on (and leaving out your previous employer for a second):

    The N95 was indeed launched in Europe in 2007. But I would *love* to see
    some figures around how many of those actually shipped with a data plan. I
    remember being charged TWO POUNDS THIRTY FIVE PER MEG back in the day and I
    *hated it*.

    Also, bear in mind that I’m talking *globally*, not just UK. As I said
    above, *Apple’s* (not Nokia’s or Three’s) insistence that the iPhone MUST
    ship with a data plan first in the good ol’ US of A and then subsequently
    Europe gave way to a whole world of universal acceptance: bill shock, was no
    longer a daily headline (we probably get one every three months or so now)
    and *all* of the networks had to pull their socks up and distribute data
    plans *as standard*.

    Remember this is me you’re talking to mate; James ‘I’ll never own an iPhone
    ever and I hate everything it stands for’ Whatley – it does indeed LOATHE me
    to say it BUT…

    The handset manufacturer telling the operator what plan their shipping with?
    Unheard of.
    Handsets shipping on HUGE operators (such as AT&T;, T-Mobile and o2) with
    data plans as standard? Unheard of.

    Not having a data plan with *any* handset today? Unheard of.

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  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Disqus generic email template One step ahead before they started obsessing over customers with £0.16 ARPU annually

    *From*: Disqus [mailto:]
    *Sent*: Thursday, August 11, 2011 05:12 AM
    *To*: em@mobileindustryreview.com *Subject*: [smstextnews] Re: What’s had the biggest impact on mobile? All you can eat data!

    [image: DISQUS]

    Ben Smith wrote, in response to Mike Stead:

    Sorry mate – I’m with James here. X-Series was awesome but it was the ‘handset manufacturer calling the shots on tariffing’ that is the crucial bit here and as cools as X-Series was it an operator initiative. Kudos to 3 for being one step ahead, but it wasn’t a structural seismic shift in the way the industry worked.

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  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Disqus generic email template Is there a Santa outfit involved?

    *From*: Disqus [mailto:]
    *Sent*: Thursday, August 11, 2011 06:10 AM
    *To*: em@mobileindustryreview.com *Subject*: [smstextnews] Re: What’s had the biggest impact on mobile? All you can eat data!

    [image: DISQUS]

    James Whatley wrote, in response to Ben Smith:
    Thanks Ben – and a good counter-argument to boot.

    Perhaps in a yet-to-be-confirmed Christmas episode of MIR we could put forward our arguments like they do on that Gadget Show programme. Then we’d be proper telly.

    ;)

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  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    Also, too fixated on the UK market.

  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    You really must do something about your formatting issues dear boy.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Gahhhhhh

    Sent from my iPad

  • http://benjam.in Ben Smith

    My god man… what’s doing that? It’s horrible. I’ve never had any problems (like that) with email replies!

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Disqus generic email template I think it’s MIR running on Google Apps BES….

    *From*: Disqus [mailto:]
    *Sent*: Thursday, August 11, 2011 10:17 AM
    *To*: em@mobileindustryreview.com *Subject*: [smstextnews] Re: What’s had the biggest impact on mobile? All you can eat data!

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    Ben Smith wrote, in response to Ewan:

    My god man… what’s doing that? It’s horrible. I’ve never had any problems (like that) with email replies!

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  • http://ilicco.com Ilicco

    @whatleydude:disqus The quote was “SMS is the closest thing to pure profit anyone has ever come up with” – it has been known to start a fair few fights ;-)

  • http://whatleydude.com James Whatley

    Do you remember who it was who said it chap?

  • http://ilicco.com Ilicco

    Yes… I said it & nearly got beaten up but if i remember correctly you & Dan were right there beside me….. (it was I believe, the outgoing CEO of Vodafone)

  • http://natts.com Dave Nattriss

    Er, it’s the title of this post?! Of course it matters. You can’t say “What’s had the biggest impact on mobile? All you can eat data!” and then explain that you actually mean Apple’s insistence on it made a big impact. Either it was the truly unlimited (a far better description than ‘AYCE’) data being available, or it was Apple insisting on tariffs for its phones. Can’t be both. As it seems to be the latter, the post headline should just be “What’s had the biggest impact on mobile? Apple being up their own arses!”.

  • http://benjam.in Ben Smith

    I’m not the author of the post and I agree… Had I written it I would have given it a different emphasis.
    Of course I could be mis-representing James’s views and he may well have just meant ‘AYCE’ but he’s here responding to comments and hasn’t jumped in to say so…

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