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Imagining a future free of data caps

Christopher Breen | March 23, 2012
When recently pondering the nature of the Apple TV, I suggested that Apple has brought about nearly miraculous changes that we now take for granted. I experienced another such miracle last night.

When recently pondering the nature of the Apple TV, I suggested that Apple has brought about nearly miraculous changes that we now take for granted. I experienced another such miracle last night.

I’d finished rehearsal with my band and contemplated the hour-plus drive home. I’d neglected to pack my iPhone with the podcast episodes I usually reserve for these drives. While grumbling about my lack of forethought, it suddenly dawned on me. Within my grasp were:

  • An iPhone with an unlimited data plan.
  • Subscriptions to Pandora and Rhapsody (and their accompanying apps on my phone).
  • Solid 3G reception from here to there.

What on earth was I worried about? I had access to nearly anything I wanted to listen to.

And with that I jacked the iPhone into the car’s stereo, launched Rhapsody, tapped the Rhapsody Radio entry, tapped Artist Stations, and in the resulting screen entered Shawn Colvin. Within a few seconds I was listening to Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “10,000 Miles.” And all the way home, related music poured from my car’s speakers.

I had a similar experience last summer—long road trip with the family, desire to listen to a San Francisco Giants baseball game, and an AM signal that fizzled out in the second inning. The solution was similar: I pulled over, jacked in the iPhone, fired up the MLB ’11 app, tuned into KNBR’s broadcast, and we were on our way. Again, thanks to solid 3G along the highway, we didn’t miss a pitch. Had the Giants gotten on base more than three times, the experience would have been perfect.

The miracle is, of course, media in the ether. As long as you have the connection—which, along major highways in my area, is completely common—and can absorb the data hit, you have the kind of audio access that would have been impossible just a few years ago.

Regrettably, miracles rarely go unpunished. And such is the case here. That sour-faced party pooper you see grumping in the corner bears a striking resemblance to the CEO of your local cellular data carrier.

“Hey, if you want to burn through your monthly allotment playing old Duran Duran tunes, be my guest. But don’t come whining to me when Googling available motel rooms in the next town costs an extra 15 bucks because it puts you over your data cap.”

or

“No, as a matter of fact, ‘unlimited’ doesn’t mean ‘without limits of any kind.’ We’ve redefined it to mean ‘now that this iPhone thing has turned out to be a hit and therefore don’t need to tempt you any longer, we’re going to make the ‘unlimited’ plan so unpleasant that most of you will switch plans, which then allows us to kill the unlimited plan because no one’s using it and if you don’t like it, find another carrier or, more useful still, pound sand.’”

 

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