Space Ramblings

The Cost of a Kilobyte

BoingBoing has a sob story up from a guy who did some international roaming and found out how much data roaming on his iPhone cost. Now I’m sorry but first of all an iPhone, despite whatever hype Apple might be feeding the masses is not a laptop substitute. Certainly not if you’re a supposed web developer and second… well just read on.

I have a caveat emptor to top them all. I purchased an iPhone on opening day to use in lieu of a cumbersome laptop while traveling in Ireland and England for two weeks in early July. AT&T promises “easy, affordable, and convenient plans” in their advertising… turns out I got two out of three.

On the way to the airport, I activated the per-use international roaming data plan – the only one offered to me. The rep quoted me $.005 per KB but did not disclose what that would translate to in layman’s language (i.e., X amount per e-mail, X amount per web page, etc.). I’m a web developer as part of my career and I couldn’t even tell you how many KB the average web page is, no less a text message to my son, an e-mail with a photo to my mother, or a quick check of Google Maps. That’s part one of the trap. However, I now pay $40 per month for unlimited data usage on the iPhone, so really — how much could it be? $100 at the most, right?

A bill for $3000. Two weeks of travel with sporadic AT&T EDGE network usage off and on mixed with wifi when available… $3000.

3000 dollars is a lot. But what kind of web developers are they turning out these days who actually don’t know what a kilobyte is? If you’re a web developer who doesn’t know what a kilobyte is, yes you’re probably on the near side of 20 and you’re also a technical illiterate.

0.005 per kilobyte doesn’t sound like a lot and if you were just sending all text emails it wouldn’t be too much to worry about. You’d have to send dozens of emails to even hit a cent. But the whole point of the iPhone is that you aren’t just sending out a text email. You’re using the web and the web costs. Oh the web costs big time. With websites increasingly oriented toward broadband users (something any dial up user can tell you) even checking yahoo mail is an extensive procedure that requires loading multiple pages and the ads on all of them. Before you know it you’re playing with 5 megabytes just to check your email. And no that’s not an exaggeration.

Want to randomly browse the web? It will cost you. And if you’re stupid enough to start playing anything on YouTube, get ready to cry. Big time.

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