Bell is launching a preemptive strike before the much–drooled–over iPhone lands in Canada. The Star reports that Bell customers with the new HTC Touch phone (pictured right) could get unlimited wireless data for just $7 a month (data transferring is necessary to get music, games, television and the web onto your phone). The Touch is similar to the iPhone in that both substitute a keypad for a touch screen and can run applications, but the Touch lacks the iPhone’s WI-FI feature.
The big news is that Bell is willing to charge a fixed fee for unlimited data, since data transfer has been traditionally very expensive. Without the plan, the cost is a whopping $50 per MB, although Bell limits the cost per session at $2 (otherwise, loading Torontoist would cost about $18!). However, the unlimited data plan is not new: Bell users have been able to get it for years as an “unlimited mobile browser” feature, but the Touch has a full Internet Explorer browser that is head over heels better than the mobile browser on regular cell phones (no more improperly formatted sites with shrunken images!).
The pricing is not much of a deal though. The Touch is also available at Rogers, which already has a plan with 15MB of data usage that is similarly priced as Bell. (The Touch is also available through and Telus) In addition, Americans pay 20% less for unlimited usage on their iPhones with AT&T (see comparison pricing chart here).
The biggest losers end up being users of PDAs and BlackBerrys. Bell considers the Touch a cell phone and therefore allows users to have unlimited data monthly for $7. For PDAs and BlackBerrys, 8MB of data—a light amount of usage—costs $40 a month. Why the big difference? It’s not the technology. According to Bell’s technical support, PDAs, BlackBerrys and the mobile browser on cell phones all use Bell’s EV-DO technology. Instead, it seems the mobile browser is cheaper because when accessing a site it uses less data than a higher-quality HTML browser. But that changes with the Touch, which should have no difference in browser quality from a BlackBerry. So it’s likelier that Bell is charging business users (i.e. PDA and BlackBerry users) a premium for data transfer in the same way that airlines charge a premium for Business Class seats (without the free champagne and comfy seats).
We firmly believe surfing the web on your phone will become as mainstream as text messages
within years once the iPhone drops in Canada. Bell isn’t going to win any customers before the iPhone’s arrival by singling out the Touch, but not the similar 6800 or BlackBerry Pearl. In fact, all Canadian mobile users are clearly being taken for a ride with voice and data plans that double that of our American counterparts. So, the big question is: where is Jim Flaherty now?