Weak Apple iPad Data Plans: Apple Needs to Get Involved

Great Apple iPhone and iPad? How’s that data plan treating you? Our Paul Bonner and Madison Andrews say Apple should get off its island and actively approve the confusing, expensive data plans bedeviling Apple iPad, iPhone and iPad touch owners.

Madison Andrews co-wrote this story.

Ever notice how Apple iPad data plans aren’t as good as the Apple iPad?

We hoped for better.

The data plans available for the new iPad are just as lousy as they’ve been for every other smartphone or tablet. They’re over-priced and deceptively simple. They’re burdened with far too many traps, hidden charges and stern warnings that pretty much direct you not to have too much fun with that new toy.

The late Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs told Fortune never seemed a fan of less than ideal user experience, and you’ve got to believe that includes data plans. Jobs wrote in Fortune:

Our DNA is as a consumer company — for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply.”

Here’s what Steve Jobs wrote in this email to a 3G iPhone buyer.

Photo credit: emailsfromstevejobs.com

“It’s between you and AT&T,” he wrote. Think about that.

Steve Jobs gained the trust of customers like that one by dotting the i- in every iPad and crossing all the Ts in each new version. But faced by a thumbs-down on a service provider, he acted like every bad waiter and answered simply, “it’s not my table.”

Apple doesn’t sell a product. It sells a vision of excellence and a meticulously crafted experience. The data plans available for its products detract from those promises. The iPad buyer is forced to pick between a menu of equally unappealing options offered by equally ugly companies.

We understand that Apple isn’t a telecom and doesn’t want to be. But surely as one of the richest and most prestigious and powerful companies in the world, Apple should be able to dictate the terms for iPhone data plans.

Apple owes it to its customers to devise something or help providers device a plan as simple and straightforward as the iPad and iPhone. Then it ought to try to force every telecom that wants in on the bonanza to provide that plan.

Apple has had its way with record companies and book sellers and movie studios, after all, reportedly dictating the terms by which it would give them the honor of stocking the shelves of the iTunes store. Surely it can do just as well with a few bit-pushing telecoms.

The iTunes model strikes us as a fine starting point for reinventing the data plan. Apple iTunes is not the least expensive option, but it fits flawlessly within the iPhone/iPad experience.

You know what you’re getting when you open up iTunes. And you know what it will cost you.

The time came long ago for Apple to apply the same model to data. Why not offer 4G data at a flat rate — $8 or $9 per GB — and alert users when they’ve used up their allotment and need another gigabyte?

Are its telecom partners so incompetent at using a spreadsheet that they can’t calculate their per-GB costs and add on a reasonable margin? It doesn’t seem like a difficult problem, and it baffles us that Apple hasn’t found a way to solve it.

Instead, Apple continues to dodge the question. ‘We just make the iPad, not the service required to use it’, it tells us. But consumers shouldn’t have to care whose fault it is when their iPad experience turns sour. They deserve the flawless experience they were promised, and it’s time Apple took responsibility for making sure they get it.