Eyeballs not devices

27Mar11

Too many devices

I seem to accumulated a proliferation of devices recently that want to have SIM cards in them for mobile data:

  • Personal laptop (well actually a tablet, but not in the way that people use that label these days)
  • Work laptop
  • iPhone (not just data)
  • Android phone (could be not just data, but I don’t use it for calls)
  • Galaxy Tab
  • MiFi

This is one of the reasons I ended up ordering a WiFi only iPad 2 (the others being uncertainty over carrier locking to AT&T for US GSM models, and the lack of HSDPA) – I just couldn’t be doing with another telco contract in my life.

Let’s run through that list again with an eye on the contracts:

  • Personal laptop – old style Vodafone PAYG SIM (£15 for 1GB, credit lasts forever provided it’s used every 6 months). Basically there for emergences.
  • Work laptop – presently empty
  • iPhone – £40/month Vodafone contract with 900 minutes, unlimited texts, 750MB data. I mostly got this for roaming in Europe, where I get 25MB data per day, and calls for up to an hour for 75p.
  • Android phone – £5.11/month Three ‘SIM only Internet‘ contract for 2GB data
  • Galaxy Tab – £15.50/month Three data plan for 15GB data (I should probably switch this for another SIM only Internet plan)
  • MiFi – presently empty

I could ask why Three charge a very reasonable £5.11 for 2GB of data on a plan intended for a smartphone, and lots more for other ways of consuming data from their network, but the confusopoly of telcos and data pricing has been done to death elsewhere. What did make me really angry this week is finding out that I’ve been stung for £5 just trying out the new hotspot feature on the iPhone (I used 95Kb of data, but got charged for a 500MB allowance)[1].

What I really really want

Is a data plan where I just pay for a data allowance – say about 15GB/month – and I can get as many SIMs as I need. After all I can’t use all of those devices at once, I only have one pair of eyeballs connected to one brain. Sure if I have a few of them switched on at a time then there’s a certain amount of quiescent data use, but nothing like when I’m actively surfing (and the only thing that uses serious data is big downloads and video).

Of course the devices above marked presently empty are probably seen by the telcos as an opportunity to sell me more contracts rather than use more data or make my life more convenient. The other issue is that each telco will only let me have so many contracts. Do they expect me to swap SIMs around (Android behaves quite badly when you do that)? Or am I expected to buy PAYG packages when I exhaust my ability to get more contracts?

and it’s not just data plans – apps (and content) too

One of the things that I quite like about the Apple ecosystem is that I can buy apps once and then use them on multiple devices. This is fine for the single user use case, and also fine if one person is happy to take pecuniary responsibility for a household of devices. I however have already anticipated trouble ahead as my kids grow up, and if/when tablets become multi user (as I think they should) then it creates some very tricky situations for app billing.

I’ve already hit issues with a device limit on Audible when I tried to install it on my Galaxy Tab (something that wouldn’t happen without silly DRM). I wonder how many other nasty surprises are out there waiting for me?

[1] if you have ACCINT on your bill for £4.17 ex VAT then you might be in the same boat.



3 Responses to “Eyeballs not devices”

  1. 1 @ndy

    Expensive but flexible:

    http://www.aaisp.com/telecoms-mobile.html

    £2.70 pcm per SIM.
    Either data only SIMs or voice / data SIMS
    2.5p/MB

    Their SIP->SIM is also interesting.

    I have an O2 PAYG 3G Dongle SIM in my laptop. I pay £2 any day that I use it. You can chose to pay daily, weekly or monthly.

  2. 2 Jimmy

    Re: what you really want

    I’m not too knowledgable in mifi, but doesn’t that enable you to have one data subscription for your wifi enabled devices? I’m missing something here aren’t i?

    • With a perfect MiFi it would indeed be possible to have a single data subscription and run all other devices off it. The trouble is battery life. No MiFi that I’ve come across (or phone with hotspot mode) can run for more than around four hours. So MiFi can be made to work on this issue, but it involves a bit of user effort managing things (and occasional disappointment when batteries run flat).

      I should probably see if I can use something like Locale to make one of my Android devices work as a hotspot only when I’m out of home/work WiFi bubbles.


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