Saturday, August 22, 2009

AT&T to Require Data Plans for All Smartphones

While overall cell phone sales are down, more people are picking up smartphones nowadays. In fact, Gartner said in Q2 2009, cell phone sales dropped 6% but smartphone sales rose 27%. Let's see, how can a wireless carrier use that to his advantage?

AT&T will, as of Sept. 6th, require smartphones on their network to carry a data plan. Quite a few people I know (including my wife) have a smartphone because they want the PDA functions and easier text messaging with a QWERTY keyboard, but don't want email or the Internet. With this new policy, AT&T can milk smartphone users for data plan fees, even those who do NOT want a data plan.

The news comes via a leaked document obtained by BGR. The only good thing is they're letting existing customers "slide." Here's what the leaked email said:
Beginning September 6, 2009, customers who activate or upgrade to a Smartphone will need to sign up for an appropriate data plan. Existing Smartphone customers active prior to September 6, 2009 will be grandfathered and exempt from the new policy.

Why we are making this change?
We want our customers to have the best possible experience with their Smartphones. A predictable bill is a key factor in customer satisfaction, so effective September 6, 2009 Smartphone customers will need to subscribe to a data plan, as the vast majority of customers already do. Data plans let customers fully utilize their device, without the worry of bill shock.

How we will ensure an extraordinary customer experience?
The sales representative is the customer’s expert resource in helping select the right device for their needs. When a customer does not want a data plan, we will position other devices in our industry leading portfolio for the customer to choose from, as many devices do not require a data plan.

Action Required:
Sales Managers will review the Know the Facts, Job Aid, and FAQs (found under Related Links) with their sales teams and ensure all sales representatives fully understand the new policy and how to position the Smartphone data requirement to customers. A Sales Coaching Session will be available on September 5, 2009 (document to be distributed in advance).
Here's the goofy reasoning: "Data plans let customers fully utilize their device, without the worry of bill shock." Sure, if the customers are silly enough to browse the web without a data plan. Those who don't want it at all, usually aren't quite that stupid.

Additionally, they say they want their customers "to have the best possible experience with their Smartphones." I'd say AT&T also wants to maximize their profits.
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