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Can You Get By with 250 MB of Data Per Month?

The iPad models that come with Wi-Fi and 3G will let users choose, on a month-by-month basis, whether to pay AT&T for 3G data service at one of two service levels. The unlimited plan is $29.99 per month, just like the iPhone's data fee; the 250 MB per month plan (combined upload and download) is just $14.99 per month. Will that suffice?

At first, I thought such a small amount of data laughable. I use my iPhone constantly, and must push vast amounts of data through it; with an iPad, I would surely use it even more. But I forgot that the iPhone tracks 3G usage separately from data sent over Wi-Fi until colleague Tom Negrino noted so in Twitter.

Tom wrote, "Checked iPhone's 3G data use. Since Sep[tember], when I last reset the counter, 35 MB out, 171 in. iPad 250 MB plan OK."

This prompted me to check my usage, which you can do in the Settings app by tapping General > Usage, and then scrolling down to the Cellular Network Data section and adding the two numbers there. As far as I can tell, I haven't reset the phone's usage statistics: I've used a combined total of 1.9 GB over 7 months or about 270 MB per month, just over the limit. I checked my AT&T account to see how much I used in January, a month in which I traveled with the iPhone and no laptop - just 150 MB total. Some research pegs average iPhone 3G usage at 500 MB per month. [And I've used just 589 MB since purchasing the iPhone 3GS in July 2009, well under the 250 MB per month limit. -Adam]


Neither AT&T nor Apple has said what will happen if you go over the 250 MB limit in a month. A rational approach would be simply to charge you $29.99 for that month and give you unlimited data for the rest of the month, but rational approaches have no role in the cellular industry - unless Apple has insisted on that as part of its continuing networking deal with AT&T. (The iPad could work on T-Mobile's network in the United States, but not at 3G speeds, as the iPad doesn't include the specific frequencies used by T-Mobile for 3G networking.)

One of our readers pointed out that Steve Jobs had said the AT&T plans would be prepaid; that's in contrast to so-called postpaid plans. A postpaid plan requires that you pay for monthly service in the month before you use that service, but allows you to rack up additional usage and fees which are billed in the subsequent month. Prepaid service, by contrast, lets you use only the services that you have paid for, protecting you from additional fees. (Postpaid relies on credit checks and credit cards; prepaid typically allows many methods of payment, and delivers only up to the precise service paid for in advance.)

If AT&T is charging on what it calls a prepaid basis, but will bill for overages, that could get pricey. Most cellular carriers charge in increments of 5 cents per MB - $50 per GB! - for plans that have limits. A few carriers warn customers via texts, email messages, and sometimes phone calls as the data limit is approached. Without a cutoff, warnings, or a bump to the unlimited plan, expect customer horror stories to abound in the first few months after the iPad ships as people unknowingly rack up huge data bills.

AT&T will include free Wi-Fi access at its 20,000-plus hotspots as part of both of the iPad 3G plans, and I'm sure I've used my iPhone plenty at Starbucks and other free locations, as well as over my home and office Wi-Fi networks. (McDonalds' is now entirely free for everyone, and represents nearly 12,000 of AT&T's 20,000 locations, by the way; see "Find Free and Inexpensive Wi-Fi," 23 December 2009.)

Wi-Fi is also being widely installed for commuters, often at no cost or as part of a low-cost plan. This includes trains, ferries, buses, and, one day, the BART system in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most airports are already included in AT&T's network through roaming agreements.

If I were to buy an iPad, I would lean toward spending another $129 to get a 3G flavor just for the advantage of having access, when I need it, everywhere I go. The fact that I haven't been overusing my iPhone's 3G plan is useful to know. To make the $14.99 plan work, I'd just have to be slightly more careful about watching the meter.


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Comments about Can You Get By with 250 MB of Data Per Month?
(Comments are closed.)

Tommy Weir  2010-02-02 15:03
Yes, mine is generally well under it too.

I do think however that a MiFi and the wifi version might be a better on-the-go option. That way the whole slew of devices we take on the road with us can connect to the net.
Jerome  2010-02-02 15:11
Could not agree more.

Just got the MiFi (GSM/HSPA version), already had an unlimited data plan ... and will get the WiFi iPad on day one!

MiFi works brilliantly so far.
(no drivers needed in Snow Leopard over USB, and of course WiFi)
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-02 15:15
MiFi has a 5 GB per month limit on every U.S. carrier that sells it. Or did you mean you had an unlimited iPhone plan?
Peter Leppik  2010-02-02 16:03
If you subscribed to an unlimited Verizon data plan during the brief window they were offered, and were careful not to let them "save you money" by downgrading to a capped plan, it is possible to have a MiFi with unlimited usage.

That's what I have, and that's how I got it. I just have to be careful when I upgrade the device to make sure they don't change my plan on me.
Jerome  2010-02-02 20:19
Well, it just happens I do not live in the US. (yep, that happens ;-)
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-04 13:03
Ah! I was under the impression that nearly no carriers outside the US offered unlimited plans!
Jerome  2010-02-05 12:07
This is Orange in France.
But you have to be a company to subscribe to this offer.
Luckily I am self-employed.
Sam Applebaum  2010-02-02 15:18
Two questions:

Does 3G data on the iphone include data used while making calls? Doesn't the iphone make calls over 3G. This would indicate that the ipad would probably use less data than the iphone.

Also, given the use scenarios of the iphone versus the ipad, doesn't it make sense that you would use more data on the iphone in general? The iphone is specifically designed to use on the go, so most of the time I use mine, I do not have access to wifi. I think a good deal of my ipad usage will actually be when I am at home, or working somewhere else that has wifi. Hard to say, until I actually have one.

Just some thoughts.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-02 15:21
Voice minutes over 2G/2.5G/3G are clearly counted and charged separately. There are no data charges involved in using the voice network (no matter that it's based on data) that AT&T offers.

I'm totally with you on the "where you use data" topic. I suspect that it's far more likely that I will be sitting down somewhere comfortable to use an iPad, which would include coffeeshops and libraries that have Wi-Fi!
A more rational approach than the one you suggest might be to prorate that $29.99 depending on where you're at in the month, so if I go over 250 MB on the 30th of the month, I'm only charged a dollar over the initial $14.99. But you're right, it's never going to happen that way.
Timothy King  2010-02-02 15:35
I suspect that data usage on an iPad would be significantly greater than on an iPhone, primarily because of the much larger screen size. I suspect that applications optimized for the iPad will be much larger, and any images optimized for the iPad screen (whether still or video) will be substantially larger as well.

In other words, my guess is that 250 MB for the iPad would only work for pretty light usage...
Jim Thorpe  2010-02-02 17:29
Your assumption about comparative data usage might be correct in some ways, yet incorrect in others. Because yes, a larger screen is definitely conducive to more data downloaded/displayed on that big screen...however, the larger size and weight of the device -- compared to an iPhone -- will decrease the number and length of situations in which you'll be willing to use it. For example, how often will you be willing to whip out your iPad while walking down the street, or waiting in line at the grocery store?

On the other hand, I haven't yet seen any reporting on what the MobileSafari user agent string looks like, and if iPhone versions of most websites would be served to the iPad. If not, then I'd say bandwidth usage per web page could be triple or quadruple what it is on the iPhone.
Holland  2010-02-02 15:36
This is interesting. I have an Android phone on T-mobile. I just checked my usage for the going bill, (I'm not even 2 weeks into my month) and I've used 1.1GB.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-02 15:42
Does it say "3G" or all data? It might be combined with Wi-Fi.
Holland  2010-02-02 17:50
Believe it or not, I have never turned on Wi-Fi on my phone. The 1.1GB figure I gave actually came from my T-Mo bill.
Dylan Bennett  2010-02-02 16:14
I also use Android and I use an average of 750MB a month. Granted, Android can do more at once, so that may account for the higher usage. (That's not a troll, but rather just a simple fact. For example, I can have Pandora running in the background while I do other things on my phone.)
Also, you need to factor in for your personal situation that even if you have an iPad with 3G you also have an iPhone *at the same time*. So it is likely that you will split your time using 3G data between your iPhone and iPad, so maybe your iPad usage will be less than you think?
Icabod Adams  2010-02-02 15:56
pretty sure that the Keynote said it would be pre-paid. So I imagine if you "go over", it just stops transferring data.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-02 15:58
That is an excellent point. So excellent that I am going to update the article to note it.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-02-02 16:13
That would be really frustrating, since you then couldn't go online to pay more. Perhaps AT&T would allow some way to buy more time...
Jim Thorpe  2010-02-02 17:42
@Adam: Apple says you can sign-up and cancel the data subscription right from the device.

This also leads me to believe that, upon exceeding your limit, they will NOT just shut you off. My guess is, when you sign up for the $14.99/mo service, you're required to accept an agreement that states, should you go over the allotted 250 MB, that you agree to pay the full $29.99. It just makes more sense from a UX standpoint, and from the carriers' standpoint.
Why would anyone sign up for the unlimited plan if going over 250 MB/mo. costs the same as the unlimited plan? Does anyone think that people who use less than 250 MB/mo. on the unlimited plan are going to get a refund?

Yes, there will be a way to buy additional capacity. However, if you wait until the device shuts down, my guess is that you will have to do it over WI-FI or the phone. Tracfone has been working like this for years.
Holland  2010-02-02 17:53
I was under the impression that AT&T hotspots were free. It seems likely you could pop-in to your local Starbucks and upgrade to the unlimited at your whim. Probably at many airports and hotels as well.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-02 18:30
Not quite. McDonald's stores are free (almost 12,000); Starbucks has a two hours per day free deal that requires 5 purchases to activate and then regular purchases to get keep active (the new deal since Dec. 2009), covering about 7,000+ stores; and Barnes and Noble is free. The airports that AT&T operates are for fee, as are at least several hundred other locations.

All AT&T broadband subscribers and business subscribers get free Wi-Fi access, although iPhone and BlackBerry users only get the free access on the phone, while everyone else gets laptop or phone access.
In fact, AT&T has cross-license (or something) deals with quite a few others, so you may well qualify for Free AT&T wifi and not even know it. For example, if you subscribe to US West.. er, sorry, Qwest DSL at certain speeds or any Qwest wireless or even, I believe, DirecTV via Qwest, you get access to AT&T's wifi network.

ALthough, to be fair, it is a MASSIVE pain to get an iPod Touch to sign-on via this deal.
what? i figure even if you have "no minutes" left, ATT will let you talk to the mothership over 3g since you're trying to give them money.
StefanB  2010-02-02 16:18
I'm in Australia, waiting for renewal to get new iPhone 3GS with proper iPhone plan (currently using iPhone 3G with data plan that was not designed for iPhone). I currently have 50Mb and I found out that it nicely covers my current usage of Twitter, email, google maps, occasional location based search for services and some web browsing. The lower usage is probably because I have access to fast internet both in office and at home. Of course more is better but currently it seems that providers offer iPhone plans with the standard 'other crappy phone cost included' and you still pay on top full price of iPhone. So if you buy iPhone you still end up having some 'other crappy phone' price included in your plan.
davesmall  2010-02-02 16:56
There are some activities that will run up your data usage. Using the Maps app for GPS, YouTube Videos, downloading files that are large, etc. I think most users are in WiFi areas much of the time and should be able to get by with the $15 per month plan.

I also think we should see some pricing variations for customers who have both an iPhone and iPad and for family plans.
Johnny  2010-02-03 04:04
I think AT&T should offer the same two-tiered data plan for the iPhone(especially if you also have an iPad).
I like The idea of family plans as well. $30 for the first iPhone and $15 for each additional.
Samuel Michon  2010-02-02 17:00
I'm in The Netherlands, where there's a very reliable 7.2mbit per second HSPA network with great coverage. I got the iPhone 3G in July 2008 and I've never reset the data counter. I rarely use my iPhone on WiFi networks, even at home I use the 3G connection.

I just checked the stats: in 19 months my iPhone sent 2.3GB over 3G, and downloaded 11.4GB over 3G. That translates to 721MB combined use per month.

For me, a 250MB 3G plan would definitely not suffice. I'm hoping that the Dutch data plan will be more forgiving than AT&T's. I have reason to believe that it will, as the current iPhone plan is $40 a month, for unlimited data and 300 minutes of voice minutes.
Tom Dibble  2010-02-02 17:01
"If AT&T is charging on what it calls a prepaid basis, but will bill for overages, that could get pricey. Most cellular carriers charge in increments of 5 cents per MB - $50 per GB! - for plans that have limits."

Hmmm. 250MB at $0.05/MB runs $12.50.

Seems like the "second" 250MB would be significantly cheaper than the first one, if they went this route. Don't see how you'd complain.

But then, since it's less likely to cause complaints, AT&T will probably instead charge $5/MB for every MB over. Can't run a cell network by satisfying customers!
Jim Thorpe  2010-02-02 17:50
Yeah, I was wondering about that too. "$0.05/MB" doesn't sound like much of an overage charge. As horrid as $5.00/MB sounds, it also sounds accurate.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-02 18:32
I don't imagine AT&T will charge 10 times the rate it already charges.
im sure its $0.05/kb
Glenn Fleishman  2010-03-25 10:09
AT&T only charges rates that for outside-the-U.S. roaming. AT&T's overage charges in the U.S. for data on 3G plans are 5 or 10 cents per MB.
joecab  2010-02-02 17:01
My usage is right on the limit, but I think I'll forego the 3G; I plan to use it mainly at home, at work, the library, and various cafes, and they all have Wi-Fi. I'm missing out on the GPS as well but since I don't have a car, I'll deal.
Johnny  2010-02-03 04:07
The GPS is the icing on the cake for me. 10" TomTom!
Ricardo  2010-02-03 05:08
I don't think you're going to be able to use it for navigating any highways. The iPad has no GPS chip, so any location services you will get will be by cell tower triangulation and/or wi-fi hotspot markers. Connecting to a real GPS device via bluetooth I suppose would be possible, but that means you'd have to have a GPS device already with you.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-03 06:51
The iPads with 3G access will also have a GPS chip. It's listed confusingly as Assisted GPS (AGPS), which is a combination of systems that relies on a GPS radio plus networked data to provide faster lock and update times.
Johnny  2010-02-03 13:36
Correct. That is why I am getting the 3G model.

TomTom makes a nice cradle for the iPod Touch that adds GPS to it. I wonder if TomTom would create a GPS attachment for the iPad.
The GPS is worth the extra $120, even if I never use the 3G on the iPad. In fact, 10" GPS is really the only application I personally have for the iPad that would really be useful. However, it's going to be expensive if it needs a GPS boosting cradle like the iPhone does (another $100), and that will be enough to forestall any plans I might have to buy one.

Although sitting in bed yesterday while sick watching TV shows I did think the laptop was too cumbersome... RDF in full-effect?
davesmall  2010-02-02 17:32
I think most of us will start out with the $15 per month plan and be careful about big downloads and video when on 3G. Check usage frequently and it will probably be OK.

Like most new Apple products I think this one will have good resale value on Ebay and elsewhere. I'm thinking I'll buy the 32 GB model with 3G and take a pass on the AppleCare extended warranty. I'll plan to sell it within a year and when the first upgrade is released. Depreciation will probably be around $200 for the first year. Even if they drop the price this will be OK because it will be cheaper to replace. Always have the latest version. Always have it under warranty. Upgrade every year if not sooner.
Richard Testani  2010-02-02 17:33
Maybe by now most iPhone users are conditioned to just use Wi-Fi when available instead of 3G which may be the reason usage is low.

It does pose a very odd case for ATT who's claiming iPhone users are hogging their network. 250MB really isn't that much data.
Glenn, minor pedantic point on an otherwise interesting post. You said postpaid= "A postpaid plan requires that you pay for monthly service in the month before you use that service, but that you can rack up additional usage and fees which are billed in the subsequent month."

Actually postpaid means you don't pay for service til the end of the billing period. That's why they do credit checks, and why mobile operators have problems with bad debt from customers (and why they used to market prepaid pretty much exclusively to poor people, kids, etc. but now market it more widely)
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-02 18:28
I may need to word this better, but as far as I understand, you prepay a month's service but additional fees (like text message overages or data fees or extra minutes) are billed in the subsequent month.

Whenever I have started a new postpaid plan, I thought that I am billed immediately for the service that is to follow, and subsequent bills are for the coming month not the previous for the baseline plan.

Have I had this wrong all this time? I'll check!
Well heck, now I need to check too... maybe I've had it wrong all this time too.

FWIW, wikipedia says:
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-04 13:07
I checked AT&T's postpaid terms for iPhone. It says: "Except as provided below, monthly service and certain other charges are billed one month in advance, and there is no proration of such charges if service is terminated on other than the last day of your billing cycle."

So I guess they call it postpaid, even though it's more like "we bill overages in the next month instead of cutting you off."
Matthew  2010-02-02 18:43
I had a mifi for a trip, w/ my laptop. Usage over the course of a few hours was over 100 megs. My normal usage on the iphone is under 150 megs a month, though. I think with the size & speed of the ipad, i'll likely use it more like a laptop for browsing.

It's difficult to browse for extended periods of time on the iphone - i really only use it for email, and some other low bandwidth purposes.

I think we're going to see people blow through the 250 megs in days.. not weeks.
Tim Maly  2010-02-02 18:46
My experience started out similar to yours for iPhone data. I went through like 1gb in 7 months of use.

That changed when tethering became available in Canada. They forced me to upgrade to a 6 GB (!!) plan (tethering not permitted on the 500mb plan). I don't come close to the new limit but when I'm on the laptop, I'll watch more videos, stream more media and that starts to add up. I'm closer to 1-2GB per month with a phone that's liberally used to tether (and knowing that I have 6GB of headroom means I'll often choose to tether rather than bother finding a hotspot wherever I go).

I'd guess that for the iPad if you were willing to forego video and other high bandwidth sites unless you were near a WiFi hotspot it would be OK. If you wanted to use the iPad the way you use your laptop to download and watch all sorts of media without worrying, 250mb won't be enough.
David Weintraub  2010-02-02 19:15
The problem is that you're assuming that you have WiFi at home. Let's take this scenario: Grandma bought an iPad and wants to connect it to "those Internets" she always hears about.

You have two choices:

CHOICE #1: Have her contact the phone company or cable company. She spends all day waiting for a technician who installs a line. She then has to figure out how to setup a WiFi router and connect her iPad to that. In the end, she's paying $50/month

CHOICE #2: She gets the 3G model, signs up for a 3G plan, and inserts a SIMS card. No more configuration, and all for a mere $30/month.

Which one would you recommend to Grandma.

Otherwise, I agree that the $14.99 is plenty. The iPad is rarely going to be using 3G. 90% of the time, it's in the house or at a WiFi cafe.
$50 a month for Internet? No. You can get DSL from the phone carriers for half that, if not less. My in-laws are paying $19.95 for 768K/256 (which is in reality 1.5Mb/512Kb). As for configuring, these devices are very much plug-n-play. The technitian sets it up with the isntall and you unplug it once a month to reset it and that's all. I don't think my FIL has ever even SEEN the configuration screen for his DLS/Wifi router.
Andy Baird  2010-02-02 20:13
Today I was prompted to install the iPhone 3.1.3 upgrade on my iPod Touch. The download was over 250 MB. If I had 250 MB per month to work with, that one download would have shut me down for a month.

And then there are the App Store apps. These get upgraded all the time, and some of them are whoppers. A couple of days ago I was prompted to upgrade iBird Explorer Western edition--325 MB. Pocket First Aid & CPR is 80 MB--that got an update recently. AnatomyLab is 57 MB--that's been updated at least twice since I bought it. SkyVoyager is 41 MB. And so on.

For me, at least, 250MB would be absolutely unworkable.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-02 20:43
Apple won't do over the air updates for firmware, and I've found the App Store quite poor at downloading super-large apps over 3G on the iPhone.
Johnny  2010-02-03 13:37
I believe there is a limit to the size of App Store downloads allowed over 3G. I've been prompted to download over WiFi as my purchase is to large for 3G. I think the cutoff may be 100MB.

I have 105 apps in my Mobile Apps folder

1 is &gt; 1GB

2 are 100-1000MB

12 are 10-100MB

74 are 1-10MB

16 are &lt; 1MB
The cutoff is 10 MB.
AHoffman   An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2010-02-02 22:32
I don't this piece really addresses the question we're wondering about.

1) This only addresses the average, without gving any info about the variability. Even if one averages well less than 250MB/month, that doesn't tell us how often in that span one goes over that 250MB/month.

2) What kinds of apps use how much data? I know that this is a hard hard question. But how much data do we use for email? For the web? Etc.?

3) What kinds of usages might we expect significantly more of with an iPad? This is an even harder question I am sure, as it requires imagining what future apps we'll be using.

4) Won't we be using our iPads more than our iPhones? The iPhone is such a compromise in so many ways, don't most people use their computer if it's available? But the iPad is supposed to be BETTER at so many things, won't it call for much MORE usage?

I understand the urge to address this question as soon as possible. But I don't think this even scratches the surface of question.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-02-03 05:36
I think these questions, apt as they are, are unknowable until we have iPads in our hot little hands.

The problem is that the iPad will - for many people at least - have rather different usage patterns, as other commenters have pointed out. You're not going to pull one out while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, for instance, if you even have it with you while running errands.

On the other hand, you're probably more likely to stream video to it while on an overnight trip.

Luckily, the no-contract approach means that it doesn't really matter all that much (assuming overage doesn't generate excessive charges) since everyone can just determine if they're likely to go over and if so, pay the full $29.99 for unlimited data.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-03 09:45
I'm using a wide array of apps now, some of which download quite a lot of data or stream data, but the way in which Apple uses syncing, requires Wi-Fi for large downloads (like podcasts above 10 MB), and so forth, seems to work in favor on the iPhone towards reducing 3G usage. Which makes sense all around.

The iPad will be used differently, but I think it's more likely to be used in scenarios in which Wi-Fi is available.

I didn't note in the article that AT&T and Apple have it set up that you automagically log into an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot (starting in iPhone OS 3.0), which means that iPad users may wind up using Wi-Fi more often than they realize since they aren't intentionally logging in.
email, unless you are downloading large attachments (which the iPhone will not do on 3G) is a tiny tiny TINY amount of data. As an example, 1158 messages in one mailbox take up a total of 6.5MB of space. 1158 messagesis more messages than most people get in a year.
I am in Mexico and my first iPhone data plan included 250 MB. It wasn't enough, I reached it within the first 15 days. I used to check the Cellular Network Data but it turned out to be really inacurate. So when the unlimited data plans were ready I chose one and never worried again.
Tim Crawford  2010-02-03 04:46
There seems to be one point your not seeing. While some state that the size of the iPad will lower your usage, I see a use cases where it will raise your usage. For instance, a longish car trip. Perhaps you use a navigation app, or perhaps you download a couple of movies a day for the kids. This could put you over fairly quickly. Not to mention if you keep Pandora, or NPR running for hours at a time.
I realize that many readers don't take car trips anymore, but some of us still do :-)
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-03 06:48
You're not going to download a "couple of movies a day" over a 3G network--it's simply not fast enough. It would take 2 to 3 hours, if not longer, to download a 1 GB film.

And I wasn't saying that no one will exceed 250 MB per month. Rather, that I was surprised with my use pattern, which seems heavy, that I apparently use Wi-Fi already for all the heavy lifting without even knowing it. I would never have guessed that.
Galley  2010-02-03 05:38
I've used 4.7GB on my 3GS since launch day. That 670MB per month.
DaveyJJ  2010-02-03 05:55
Until I see what Rogers/Bell are planning on gouging, err, charging us Canuck clients, the WiFi iPad will be the one for me. Even though I developed seven games for the platform, I don't have an iPhone for that very reason, the unreasonable plans here. Given my usage pattern (home and office mainly) I am 90% of the time in range of WiFi. I might consider the smallest data plan (250MB) for Rogers/Bell if it's cheap ... sort of as an emergency access plan if I can't find a WiFi signal and I need to look something up. The location of a business, a phone number, etc. So yes, the 250MB plan will be more than enough for my needs.

P.S. Now we know that OmniGroup is bringing their apps to the iPad, can someone call Panic and get them working on iPad-Coda? Just for those one minute coding fixes. Please? :-)
Anthony Hecht  2010-02-03 08:50
I'm on my third iPhone - original, 3G, 3GS - and I've never reset the statistics. So it says "Last Reset: 7/4/07" but I'm curious if the actual data usage transfers from phone to phone, or just the reset date. 3GB in 30 months seems quite low.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-03 09:43
I migrated from a 2G to 3GS with the same data, and mine shows "Never," but is clearly since the 3GS was set up. I would suspect the date on yours is an artifact.
Rich Shipley  2010-02-08 14:48
I would think some smaller amount of usage would happen on the iPad since you'd still be using your phone. after all, the iPhone is still the device you'll always have with you. but as they say, your mileage may vary.
John Baxter  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2010-02-08 16:21
If I buy an iPad (not a sure thing) I'll probably not include 3G. When a need develops, I would feed it from a MiFi (which I don't have yet and might never). The MiFi is more flexible--can also feed a laptop (Mac or otherwise).

Of course, I could change my mind before reaching the bridge or the iPad bridge depending on the situation then.
JoeTaxpayer  2010-02-08 16:44
Part of the issue is the iPod (touch) and iPhone tend to view the mobile versions of the sites they are on.
I set a bandwidth meter to zero, then went to (New York Times), clicked technology, then an article I wanted to read. 4MB total. It won't take more than a few minutes of surfing to hit 25MB in just one session of light reading. A flip to the business section, then the Dow story headline, another 2.5MB.
If the iPad will load the pages in full, a better comparison is what I'm doing, turn on the meter, and just surf as you might while using the iPad.
By the way, I am drooling to get one, I just won't bother with the 250 plan, the $30 unlimited is reasonable to me.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-08 19:26
Not to be difficult, but there is no universe in which viewing one New York Times page takes 4 MB. Whatever is being measured, it's not just that Web site.
JoeTaxpayer  2010-02-08 21:19
3 pages equaled 4MB. Just to verify that I wasn't counting some streaming Flash, I went back to three top pages in NYT, Business, Sports, Tech, and did a "save page" 1.9MB, 1.6MB, 1.2MB ea. Multiple images were more than half the bytes involved. The Times may have more than average in the way of images, but even the home page of Sports Illustrated loaded up as 2.1MB.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-08 21:55
That is highly peculiar. I believe you, but that seems like a rather insane amount of data to shove at people for a single page.
Jeff Carlson  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2010-02-08 22:10
I wonder if what's being measured is the *rendered* page, since the iPhone (I believe) converts pages to images for scrolling and such.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-09 11:46
I just used Firebug in Firefox to measure precisely what's retrieved. I emptied the cache first. The site is just under 600K "fresh." (The Firebug add on shows what's coming from the cache, so I could confirm that I didn't have some large external JavaScript file retrieved.)

I can't explain the difference in what you're seeing unless there were background push email downloads happening while you were retrieving the NY Times.
JoeTaxpayer  2010-02-09 14:16
Glenn, I certainly appreciate your patience. I'm not looking to split hairs or get to +/- 10%.
At 600K, going 2 links in still puts you close to 2MB.
This is still far more than your gut would tell you that browsing would cost you.
As with any discussion re the iPad, time will tell. But I'd bet that there will be a number of people who don't consider themselves heavy users but blow thru 250MB in less than 2 weeks. And if they are wanting to stay with the $15 plan, they'll need to be very strategic in their use.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-09 14:24
Not exactly: a hunk of that 600K is recurring JavaScript, CSS, and externally referenced files.

Still, if you use the Web site instead of the Web app, you definitely would be burning far more MBs than I realized. Thanks for alerting me.
andychrist  2010-02-08 22:57
First: A pre-paid plan means that you are alloted a finite amount for a set fee. The way it works on AT&T with a voice plan on the GoPhone is that when you get down to $5 worth of airtime left, you are sent a notification and a link to purchase a new bundle of minutes. I imagine it would be similar for their limited data plan on the iPad: when you are nearing the end of your allowance of MBs, you would be notified and given the opportunity to purchase either another 250MB for $15 or a month of unlimited service for $30. In either case, as one cannot exceed one's limit, there is no risk of overcharges.

Secondly: It might be a bit premature to be estimating how many MB it will take to load a page from the NYTimes, as they will offer an app specifically tailored to the iPad, as demoed back in January. Other publishers are expected to follow suit. So who knows how much data any one page might consume.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-09 07:17
On the first point, you're making a supposition, just as I am: we won't know if this is a classical prepaid plan until we get the details.
andychrist  2010-02-09 07:57
Yes, I am making a supposition, which is why I said "I imagine..."

But under a pre-paid, no contract plan, how could it work otherwise? With the GoPhone, if I don't want to purchase additional credits electronically, I can just stop by an AT&T store and make a cash purchase. No way they can bill me for going over, all they can do is cut me off when I reach my limit or the end of the time period.

I agree it will be interesting to see the terms in writing. Of more importance though in my mind, is how long this offer might last. Without a contract, AT&T could jack up its prices at any time, as they did when they took over the GoPhone from Cellular One.
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-09 08:23
I'm just sayin', you're imagining one possibility, while I'm looking at a variety of scenarios because this is unique: there's only one other pay-as-you-go plan for mobile broadband. Virgin Mobile sells a USB modem that lets you prepay for specific MB/GB of service over a specified period. It's truly prepaid, which the iPad plan appears to vary from.

AT&T will almost certainly require a credit card (since you activate from the iPad itself), in which case the in-store cash purchase might not be available at all. If they have a credit card, they can require having a lock on $100 or more to deal with overages.

AT&T's postpaid plan isn't really postpaid (you pay for service a month ahead), so I have doubts its prepaid plan will be entirely prepaid.
andychrist  2010-02-09 08:54
How can you say that AT&T's plan for the iPad appears to vary from Virgin Mobile's when you are not even sure of the details? In all events, it seems to me that AT&T's plan would precisely mirror that of VM.

Even if you activate from the iPad, you could theoretically still pay for credits from AT&T with a debit or gift card or coupon. Without a contract, there is no way they could lawfully hold you responsible for overages. Their postpaid services, on the other hand, for which you may be billed for overtime, are all tied to a contract (and usually include a "free" or partially subsidized phone).
Glenn Fleishman  2010-02-09 10:19
This is true.
I'm hoping that pre-paying $15.99 or equivalent will be allowable on trips abroad to avoid paying the outrageous roaming bills. Last year three days in Spain cost me around $100 roaming on the iPhone. Here's hoping sense (not a commodity in abundant supply in the cellular industry) will prevail and we can pay the iPad basic pre-paid fee in whichever country we find ourselves.
Simonre  2010-02-09 01:52
All UK users got unlimited 3G from launch. BBC iplayer streams all BBC TV and radio output over 3G.