The iPhone Is Not an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet
Why AT&T should dump unlimited data plans.
What will Apple say about tiered pricing? Steve Jobs probably won't like it—after all, metered service discourages people from using his device, including spending money in the App Store. Indeed, it's possible that Apple's contract with AT&T prohibits metered online access. But whether it sticks with AT&T or allows other carriers to sell the iPhone, Apple would be wise to consider tiered pricing. For one thing, it would reduce the monthly cost of the phone—which could bring in a lot more customers. Even better, it will make the iPhone less annoying to use, which has to be one of Apple's goals.
Some iPhone fans will argue that metered pricing would kill the magic of Apple's phone—that sense of liberation one feels at being able to access the Internet from anywhere, at any time. The trouble is, for many of us, AT&T's overcrowded network has already killed that sense, and now our usual dealings with Apple's phone are tinged with annoyance.
If tiered pricing prompts a lot of people to cut back on their monthly Internet usage, AT&T could very well lose money on the deal—in the short run, at least. But over time, as the network clears up and people can use their iPhones once more, people might start to feel differently. They may even stop hating AT&T.
Correction, Oct. 6, 2009: This article originally stated that half of iPhone customers use 400 megabytes or more network capacity per month. While the average iPhone user does consume 400 MB per month, it's impossible to say how many customers use more than 400 MB because AT&T hasn't released that information. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Farhad Manjoo is Slate's technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter.