We've reported on AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson's ideas on "toll-free" data usage, but it looks like he's expecting another big shift in data plans - the availability of data-only cellphone plans.
Indicating that we could expect such plans to arrive within two years' time, Stephenson said that text messages and phone calls "would be considered just another form of data." So, instead of having limits on minutes, text messages, and data usage, all would be combined under a single counter.
Sprint's money troubles are no secret to anyone. After losing out on the Lightsquared deal, not to mention the decreased revenue from the iPhone deal (which should pay off in the long run), Sprint has had trouble making ends meet in the short term. Thanks to a new deal signed with the Western States Contract Alliance (WSCA), Sprint will receive $2bn in revenue over the next four years in exchange for its wireless services.
It looks like those still anxious to get their hands on Samsung's new phablet – The Galaxy Note – are in luck - Amazon Wireless is offering the Note for just $249.99 when customers upgrade or agree to a new 2 year contract. That's about $50 less than AT&T's price.
Even better, Amazon Wireless is giving customers the option of a white or black version of the Note (though the color selections are officially known as ceramic and carbon).
In a move that is likely to upset every single AT&T customer to some degree, the nation's number two carrier has decided that its current upgrade fee (a cost tacked on whenever a current customer renews their contract and gets a new phone) isn't covering the rising cost of subsidized smartphones. The current upgrade fee is $18, and will soon be doubled to $36, matching the current fee at Sprint.
A new tablet is coming to the Sprint network next month, though it's definitely on the budget-minded side of things. The ZTE Optik will be available to Sprint customers starting February 5th through Sprint's online store, with a brick and mortar appearance to follow on March 11th. Here's a quick breakdown on the need-to-know specs for the Optik:
1.2GHz dual-core processor (we'd expect TI OMAP 4430, but that's a guess - yours is as good as ours)
Early rumours indicated that the Samsung Stratosphere would be released in September, and there were even leaked press shots of the device. However, here we are in October, and Verizon has just now taken the wraps off of the Stratosphere.
Billed as the "first 4G LTE smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard," the Samsung Stratosphere packs a hefty package, including:
Android 2.3 Gingerbread
1 GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor
4-inch (800x480) WVGA Super AMOLED display
5-row slide-out QWERTY keyboard
4GB on-board memory
4GB pre-installed microSD card (up to 32GB supported)
5MP rear camera, 1.3MP front camera (720p HD playback and 480p recording)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
The Stratosphere is clearly targeted towards the business user as alongside the QWERTY keyboard, the device will also have "enhanced B2B-enabled connectivity services from Cisco, the most comprehensive mobile implementation of Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) and support for secure remote device management from Sybase Afaria." Additionally, the device will support "Samsung’s Enterprise Platform enhancements such as VPN, encryption and Mobile Device Management (MDM)." This is a powerful phone that looks to attack RIM's enterprise stronghold and take-away market share from the BlackBerry by offering support for features corporate users find essential.
Tablets come in two flavors: either Wi-Fi only, or packing 3G/4G from a carrier. In the former, it can be purchased without a contract and usually for a lower price. The 3G/4G model typically costs more (although it may be cheaper thanks to a carrier subsidy, which is offset by the cost of the plan), and comes on contract.
It looks like Sprint is changing the way things are done in order to keep up with the competition, which doesn't always translate into good news for the consumer. The early termination fee (ETF) is getting an overhaul that will go into effect on September 9th, which will bump the ETF on "advanced devices" (read: smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and notebooks) up to a maximum of $350, putting The Now Network's policy in line with that of VZW and AT&T.