Are AT&T's new data rates going to drive users away from iPhone, towards BlackBerry?

AT&T's new $15/200MB, $25/2GB tiered, data-capped pricing plans are a huge change for the US mobile industry, and something BlackBerry maker RIM thinks will drive consumers away from high-bandwidth, open internet devices like iPhone and Android and towards low-bandwidth, proxied devices like BlackBerry. Our good buddy CrackBerry Kevin sums it up this "happy day for RIM" as follows:

Effectively, BlackBerry users have been subsidizing iPhone users bandwidth demands over the past few years. Now finally, with a dataplan like this, RIM can start to really boast and market the benefits of BlackBerry efficiency. Previously, the "looming data crunch" argument seemed a bit like an excuse for RIM to cover up some of the areas where it was lagging behind the competition. But with RIM fixing up it's gaps, for example with the new WebKit browser which will be fast AND use 3x less data than the competition for rendering the same page as we were told by AT&T Mobility's President and CEO back at CTIA 2010, RIM will be able to deliver customers with a great all around smartphone user experience that costs less to use on a monthly basis as compared to some of the more data heavy devices. The "average" BlackBerry user (which may not be you if you're reading CrackBerry on a daily basis!) should be able to get away with AT&T's $15/mo. plan.

Personally, as much as I think the BlackBerry Bold 9700 is the ultimate messaging device, my carrier (Rogers) has always had tiered pricing and I choose to pay $30/m for 6GB on an iPhone instead of saving some cash by getting less data and a BlackBerry. For me it's not about cost but about value. I personally find more value in what I can do with more data on an iPhone.

But what do you think? Is price -- or total cost of ownership (TCO) -- enough to make BlackBerrys a more compelling deal for consumers than iPhones under this new data reality?

How about new users and first time smartphone users? Are they more likely to go BlackBerry now than iPhone?

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Are AT&T's new data rates going to drive users away from iPhone, towards BlackBerry?


LOL more like makes some of us want to go elsewhere to get a 3G smartphone with no stupid 2gb cap. (Sprint, Verizon)
those guys at crackberry must really be on crack.
blackberries are dying get over it

I am sticking with the iPhone. I live in an area with Edge wireless, and am about 2 hours away from the closest 3G zone.
If this new data package is for new or upgraded contracts (i plan on getting the 4th Gen iPhone), this will bring the cost of my plan down quite a bit.
I just checked my bill, and on average per month I use around 80MB of data. I am around WiFi most of the time, so the $30 a month for unlimited (which i don't use) 3G (which I can't access) is a waste.
The one thing I do hope is that I have the ability, on the phone, to switch between the 200MB and 2GB plans as needed.

why would I switch?
As a business user for a Blackberry to get Enterprise Email I need to pay $45/month. My IPhone is currently @ $30.
Even with these new tiers...I would have to get to 4 Gigs before I was at $45 on an Iphone.

At first I wasn't very happy when I heard about caps, but then I was curious as to how much data I actually use. I was pleasantly surprised to see I've used roughly 90MB of data about half way through my billing cycle. I wonder if those who are really upset about this change, really know how much data they use. I bet, for most, this change won't affect them at all.

A failing brand of phones would look at this as a positive point, but the user experience is rich and vibrant on the iPhone.
I thought I was a heavy user, but I've never gone over a gig of DL once in the 2 years I've had an iPhone. Looks like that 98% number MIGHT be accurate.

It is great for existing BB users, as well as any iPhone users with very low data usage. If BB users consistently use less data they should be happy with their bills going down. However, even if the average TCO of a blackberry is significantly less than TCO for an iPhone, it is not going to drive many new sales, simply because US consumers (of which I am one) tend not to look at long term TCO for new purchases for anything outside of cars and homes. Kevin makes the argument that price matters more as markets pass the early adopter stage, but most US people focus on the initial price, and ignore the longer term obligations. We should pay more attention, but, in aggregate, we do not.
Bulk purchasers may care, but those tend to be in the blackberry camp already.

I have a blackberry and i checked my data usage for the past few months. I use on average 400MB/mo. Im also on Verizon, but as this announcement doesn't necessarily affect me, If Verizon were to pick up pricing similiar to this then i'd still be paying the same amount. This goes with saying that I dont use my browser nearly as much as I did when I had my iPhone. Mostly in part because the browser su cks and its almost aggravating at times.
I dont see any iPhone users switching to a Blackberry (who would!? haha) but I can see it as a sales pitch when trying to sell a device to a new, uninformed, potential smart phone buyer just to get a contract out of them.
Su cks for the heavy iPhone (and Android if i must say??) users out there.

No. Most people don't even come close to 1GB of data in a month. Also, current Unlimited Plan users can choose to stick with their unlimited plans.

Don't be silly. No one is going to change their Iphone for a BB.
They will however move to a new carrier and get an Adroid phone. That you can be sure of.

First time users will go for the BB because they dont know what they are missing so they'll pick the one with the cheapest plan. When I was getting my first smart phone I chose a windows mobile phone over a BB because the plan was cheaper.
However I might get a black berry n use my iPhone as an iPod because if AT&T forces me to pay more for less I'll definitely get a blackberry.

"Don’t be silly. No one is going to change their Iphone for a BB."
I did it was the 2nd best switch I ever did. The best switch was from BB to Droid. I also know plenty of other people who switched

Seldom putting my phone down I still can't break one gig per month, so I'm not running out to get a BB any time soon.

all att is doing is trying to cut down people using tethering without them really knowing f**k att

Ewww! I would never go blackberry. I'll stick with the iPhone since it has everything I need rolled into one device with a wonderful User Interface.

Are you kidding me? Minimal TCO for iPhone just dropped. Previously you needed to commit to 2 years x $30/mo for data ($720). Minimal data commitment just got halved ($360). Doesn't matter whether many of these users will need the 2GB plan or else face overages, it will be perceived by newcomers as a discount. iPhone is huge because it's converting people who wouldn't otherwise use a smartphone to get a smartphone and sign up for a data plan for the very first time. This just makes it that much easier. Power users, as usual, get screwed of course.

In fact, my folks, who both own BlackBerrys Curves, will be switch from BB to iPhone 4th Gens once their contracts are up this September. The BlackBerry Curve, IMO, is a very badly made and underpowered device with an OS that is not made for any real world use.

In the last 5 months my data has been as high as 7.8 gb and the lowest its been was 2 gb. It went through the roof once Slingplayer was allowed over 3g. I guess no one has a Slingbox or the MLB app ( I paid for the video of games) ? I stream music at work, and use the Sling app nearly every day. No WIFI at work for me so its 3G or nothing. This is a bad deal for power users. AT&T's network is garbage as is and now this is how they are going to protect themselves from their users, by charging insane rates for data. Great job guys, thanks for the kick to the shin....

As AT&T pointed out, 95% of all AT&T data customers use less than 2GB/month. So, for the overwhelming majority of users, this means a lower bill. I use my iPhone all the time to look things up on the web, and use a ton of apps that use data services. But, at both work and home, I'm connected via WiFi. Looking back at my data usage for the past 6 months, I've never gone over 200MB. So, for me, I'll be saving $15/month. Huge win. If I do go over, it's another $15 for another 200MB...which means for any spiked month of heavy usage, I'm only paying what I'm currently paying: $30.
Most heavier users should be fine with 2GB, particularly if they often utilize WiFi. Plus, it's only $10/of overage.
I've seen some commenters on other sites saying they regularly use 4-5GB/month, and this will screw them. But, when pressed, we learn they're using a phone that doesn't have WiFi, so everything is coming from their data bucket. Not exactly a fair comparison.

I'm all for the $15 plan, but 200MB is too small. A 500MB limit would have been nice.
I wonder, what will happen to the other data plans for the dumb phones, like the family data unlimited, MediaNet, etc. Will those also be replaced by att new plans?

I can't believe Apple can be too happy with this move because there are always plenty of people on the fence about whether or not it's worth it to move to AT&T just for an iPhone. This will keep A
LOT of them from doing this.
Then again, if there is going to be a Verizon iPhone, Apple won't care and this is just AT&T shooting themselves in the foot.

Blackberry users have low data usage because there is no decent web browser for the Blackberry and they are using an archaic OS. Kevin obviously sees BB dying to make idiotic statements like BB users are "subsidizing" iPhone users. What an idiot.
I finally had it after 3 long years with AT&T. I switched to Verizon and an HTC Incredible. It's no iPhone but its pretty darn good and will be sufficient until the iPhone arrives on Verizon later this year.

My worry is not about my data usage now, I wonder about the not too distant future. AT&T's new plans seem like the proverbial carrot and stick--cool, my data usage is currrently below 2GB/month and I can save $5 a month, I'll take that deal--but we are moving toward the streaming world and soon 2GB/month is going to seem pultry. What will these plans look like then?

Increasing ETFs; rate cuts for lower-usage; grandfathering in the higher-usage users; new tethering plan - this can only mean one thing. A new iPhone carrier. AT&T wants to keep everybody, if possible. The whole thing smells like a customer retention effort for iPhone users.

Yawn... that would be like "ridiculous comparison goes here". Also people are getting way too bent out of shape about this. 98% of you don't even use 2GB, and they've slashed the overage fees drastically. If you're already a customer you can keep your unlimited (aka 5GB). Tempest meet the teacup!

I love my iPhone but if I'm always worried about it's usage, I may have to go to verizon for the android

So what is RIM saying? That their BB is less capable or used less for data? I guess so. Less apps, less use, lousy browser is a PLUS than! WOW I never thought of it that way! Sure makes me want another BB! HAHA

If you use less than 200MB/month is a good deal to add a line to your account switching from MetroPCS, you will pay $9.99 voice and $15 data. BUT at&t is so devil they changed the ETF charge before announcing the new data plans.

I have four iPhones on my family plan. I checked data usage this morning. I'll be able to switch three phones to the $15/month plan and the other one to the $25/month plan. So, I just saved $600/year with this option. I'm actually quite pleased with the change.

All the carriers are going to do this. At some point, all the telco's are just going to be data suppliers. With things like skype gaining popularity, people get far less minutes, which means data rates have to go up.

Switch from iPhone to BB? No. Switch from iPhone to Incredible/Evo/etc from iPhone, certainly very possible.

I am curious to know where people are going to go once other carriers start introducing these tiered prices with their new 4G service. Verizon said it's coming with LTE. Sprint already charges 10 bucks more 4G access and T-Mobile, well I doubt they will keep their prices the same forever as they expand their 3G access and introduce their 4G coverage. In the end, I think the most vocal people who are upset are technologically savvy individuals. The mainstream user, think Carol Brady, probably won't care as long as she has an iPhone.

Wow AT&Tax you suck. Period, this is outrageous. I use my iphje constantly for email, web, YouTube, hell just about everythingit offers. After years of the unlimited data plan you put a cap, and a 2GB cap at that. I'm so glad I'm leaving AT&T friday when the evo launchs. In the back of my mind, this tell me AT&T is keeping the iPhone for quite a while. If not that woudve kept the old plan

Going from an iPhone to a BB is just plain stupid. If anything, it'd be Android. And that's not an attractive option either. I don't know what OS6 has in store for BB but as it stands now the software could never satisfy the average iPhone user. Especially the customers that will have problems staying below the 2gb cap. That's nonsense.

Something is up here. Why would they do this now, right before we expect the new iPhone to release? I truly believe their stats (that 65% of users use less than 200MB and 98% are under 2GB), so how does it help AT&T to do this now? Is it because they anticipate video chat having a major effect? Could the Verizon rumors finally be true and AT&T is scared? I'm not sure, but something is up...

Dear costumers,
Please excuse us and our unrealible infrastructure and known dropped calls, while we cap your data plans. Also did we mention you have to pay for tethering on your iPhone, along with an outrageous mms bill? So please, with our 98% of america covered slogan, bend over and take it anal.

Sorry, but Kevin's phone-centric assessment is wrong. The mobile industry's future is not simply about phones. And the iPad was just the beginning. The competition sees what 4G and beyond are all about and yes I'm talking about Sprint and Clear. Over the wireless pipes you can add home phone, home internet, mobile computing, tablets and phones. That's not all. Home/business security and B2B and B2C transaction processing will be possible too. With all of this as the future to think that this is a Blackberry move is just plain ignorant of the fact of where the carriers are heading.

I use my iPhone very heavily for data usage and was surprised that with only 9 days left in my billing cycle I am only at 793mb of data used. I use my iPhone to be on the internet almost more then my Macbook besides streaming videos. This 2gb cap will not be an issue for me as I first thought it would have. Phew, I thought about jumping ship for a second.

If you're an iphone user complaining about this, I challenge you to login to your account at and click on 'view past data usage'. You'll get a nice graph of monthly usage totals. I'm guessing that if 100 people here do this, maybe 3 of you will be anywhere NEAR 2GBs in any given month. I use my iphone constantly, day and night, and even breaking 200mb is fairly rare.
Unless you're 'that guy' running slingplayer all day while at work over 3G. In that case, you're EXACTLY the kind of abuser that got us tiered pricing to begin with. You think AT&T should charge you the same $30 using 8-9GB that they charge regular users at 70-80MB? I guarantee you that more than 95% of all iPhone users will SAVE MONEY under this new pricing. And if you're one of the ultra power users, then keep your current plan for $30! That's your choice too.

there is NO 5GB CAP...I went back and checked my past bills and found out that I used an amazing 9GB of DATA during the month of DEC. '09...with NO OVERAGE FEES...

I am a constant iPhone user and I occasionally tether. Last month when I wad moving and had cut off my cable so for 3 weeks the iPhone was my only Internet connection.
Just for research I also avoided joining wifi for a month. For the first time ever, I finally passed 500MB. I achieved a whopping 1.7 GB.
The unlimited plan in the US is the reason you don't have tethering.
Spectrum is a limited resource. Keeping under 2GB takes just a little bit (very little) restraint. Failing to do so is like driving down the road in your Hummer, using leaded gass and throwing your plastic drinking bottle out the window.

@Viral: I just checked my wireless usage and I use (on average) 2.5gb for the past 6 months. No, I don't have a SlingBox or anything like that although sometimes I do stream videos from my HTPC. This change would make me leave AT&T.

What no one seems to be able to tell me is this. Say, you have the Data Plus plan and you check your usage and you find out that you have used 20Mb or 60Mb or even 100Mb of extra data. Do you have to play an additional $15 even though you didn't use an additional 200Mb of data? OR is it. Hey, You've use 320Mb of data so far, thats just the regular $ on your way?
I agree. I don't never come no where near a 2Gb cap. I think that this is a plus for the MAJORITY of iPhone Users.
I really don't know how you use 2.5Gb a month. I tether, stream, email, download apps, view videos, all day every day for hours at a time. The most I've ever manage to get out in a month is a 600MB w/ close to 9,000 txt message (I know they don't count txt in that figure). I think, as I said above, the majority of users will benefit from this. But some one like you I would consider an ExtremeUser, not PowerUser, for data.

At first this made me mad but then I started thinking about it more. Me and my wife both have iPhones so thats $60 for the unlimited iPhone data. Last month we used a combined 150MB because we use WiFi a LOT and don't get the best 3G service at home anyways. This will save me possibly up to $30 a month so go ahead and change the policy. It will maybe make a decent amount of people leave AT&T freeing up some bandwidth!
And this doesnt mean anything for BlackBerry. If anything this will make people say screw you AT&T I'm going to VzW not screw you AT&T I'll show you and buy a crappy RIM product!

read on that tethering is confirmed to work on launch day of 4.0 but at 20 more bucks per month and you can't keep your unlimited plan to use tethering either they force you to drop to the 2GB capped plan so thethering total would cost someone 45 a month to use and it is capped at 2GB. ATT is ripping people off for iphone uses.

I use my phone a lot every day - surfing the web, watching youtube videos, etc.
Looking at my ATT myWireless application, in May (31 days) I used just under 500MB. My wife used under 150MB.
We'll happily save $10/month.
We only have 3G models, so there is no video recording and when we get the next phone with video recording, we'll still be uploading those videos to the PC first before pushing up to the YouTube.

Since RIM is a Canadian company I really hope they start to get better because the competition is good for the iPhone and we the consumer as we all know benefit from the competition both in terms of innovation and pricing. However that being said I once used a Storm I bought for my brother and it was a peice of garbage and the bad taste in my mouth means I look at all BBs with the same disdain. So the problem is not to look at pricing as swaying users but to look at what you're offering them instead.

I know many other people have chimed in on this already, but I figured I'd pile on, too.
We give AT&T a lot of crap for their service...deservedly so. Still not great in many big cities, spotty 3G service in many areas and restrictive around features that we should have had much earlier (see MMS, Tethering, VoIP over 3G, etc.)
This is a bigger deal than it should be,though. I consider myself a pretty heavy user...streaming video and music (I watch a lot of games on either MobiTV or MLB At Bat), but I have never eclisped the 2 GB fact not even dangerously close. My wife rarely ever goes over 100 MB. I'm going to save at least $15 (and probably $20, if I choose to switch mine). Many people will save much more. Best part is we don't have to switch if we don't want to.
I wish they would have left a premium unlimited option, as tethering will certainly add some usage and with Multitasking, VoIP will definitely increase (depending on what Skype decides to charge us next year!) Mostly this is a good thing. Instead of a majority of us (even if you don't believe their percentages, it's definitely still a majority), locked into $30 for data we don't use, we get a bit of a break and those who use it will foot their own bill....

Well, get a wireless wifi router, and a new iPod touch. Use free hotspots. Problem solved. I really think AT&T had to do this, because with the new features of the iPhone 4 or iPhone HD teathering, better streaming, and so on, could AT&T handle the unlimited data use? All carriers will do this. Is the pricing fair? AT&T tends to be high. To the question, I cannot see people buying a blackberry.

In the available graph one month I hit 1.9 GB. I was over 1 all five previous months. No thanks i'll keep my unlimited plan, jailbreak, and get a third party tether.

i use my phone for rhapsody and surf the web pretty much all day, and use about a gig a month. if i were to somehow use 3 gigs, it would cost me a whopping 5 dollars more. i'm pretty sure this doesn't make me want to change anything, let alone my cellphone.

Re rogers tarriff: 6BG/month @ $30
I presume that the price you are referring to is the GRANDFATHERED (promotional) data plan ...
Cuz afaik the regular maxi data plan costs $80/mnoth for that chunk of bandwidth!?

For the VAST majority of people, this is going to be a price CUT, not an increase. People are reacting without bothering to look at the facts. There are three lines on our family plan and I checked usage today for the last six months on all of them. The most that any of our lines has used in a month over that time was 800 MB, and other than one month for one line, 550 MB was the most that any of us has used. None of us streams music or anything like that, but otherwise we use our iPhones ALL the time. For the very heaviest users, yes, this will affect you a bit, but for the vast majority, we're getting a price cut. I'm very happy with the changes.

Unlimited Talk = $70 a month
Unlimited Text = $20 a month
25 MB Data = $10 a month <--- STUPID. Almost all users will exceed this.
5 GB Data = $30 a month
Tethering = $30 a month
Data over 5 GB = $0.05 per MB = $50 per GB.
Unlimited Talk = $70 a month
Unlimited Text = $20 a month
200 MB Data = $15 a month <--- covers 68% of iPhone users.
2 GB Data = $25 a month <--- covers 98% of iPhone users.
3 GB Data = $35 a month
Tethering = $20 a month
Data over 5 GB = $0.05 per MB = $50 per GB.
AT&T's rates are very favorable compared to Verizon's rates.
AT&T's Tethering rate is less than Verizon's
For the 98% of users who use less than 2 GB a month, AT&T is $5 a month cheaper than Verizon, saving $60 a year. With tethering, AT&T is $15 a month cheaper than Verizon, saving $180 a year.
Ideally, AT&T should also have a limit of 5 GB a month, like Verizon. This makes it easier to use video conferencing on the new iPhones. After all, AT&T in the 1970s did envision someday having video conferencing on phones. The 5GB limit would still be a good cutoff point for heavy data users.

I don't see how you people DON'T use over 2gb. What's the point of a smart phone if you're not gonna use it.
I have 4 email accounts, they are setup to check every 15 minutes. Each requests uses 800kb of data. This means I use 2.3GB of data for the phone to just "check" if I have any email. I don't stream video, i don't stream audio, i lightly browse the web, and now I'm stuck with overage charges because I want to keep up with 4 email accounts.

@John- I find it hard to believe that email checks use 200 KB of data per account if no mails are downloaded. If so, iPhone mail program is terribly coded. Really should be only a couple KB per account to check. As to how other people use so much less data, I'd imagine that (a) they use WiFi at home and maybe at work, (b) they turn off email checking at night, and or (c) using Push might use less bandwidth than 15 minute checks because it maintains an open connection (but doesn't send data through it when idle, just pings the phone when new email arrives). Anyway, you have options to reduce your email data usage that shouldn't reduce the phone's usefulness.

I used to be so frustrated beacuse I couldn`t resolve this situation. Then I observed your internet site in google and problem is solved. Thank you!

@John @Dyvim
I checked 3 email accounts only once last night on my iPhone 4 via 3G (FYI: I use WiFi almost exclusively). I received 2 new emails with text, no pictures or fancy graphics. 1 of the emails had a 6.2kb Microsoft Word attachment. I checked my att wireless account this afternoon and my usage increased by 720kb just for the aforementioned email checking and downloading.
Also go by the data that att charges you, not by what the iPhone tells you under Settings -> Usage. In my experience there is a large difference between what att says you've used compared to what the iPhone measures. att will always charge you according to its estimates, not what your iPhone estimated.
Another thing that I've found out the hard way is that there is a long lag between what you've actually used compared to what att measures. So let's say you've used 150mb out of your 200mb plan, and you still have a day or two left before the next billing period. My advice is to stop using cellular data or only a very small amount. Don't try to use 50mb because you may be surprised at what att says you've used, so it's your word against theirs. The lag time for att to actually record what you've used is about a day to 2 days in my experience, so users beware of the many traps that await us!

I have used 10 gb befor but my average is around 6 to 8 gb! I am going to t mobile where at least they have unlimited data! I think alot of people will switch!! especially when iPhone 4 comes to verizon!!!!!!