Gadgets

Picking the Right Data Plan for your Gadget

Picking the Right Data Plan for your Gadget

With wireless carriers moving from unlimited to tiered data plans, you need to know your data usage to make the right call in choosing a package for your smart gadgets. Here is our guide for you:

Interest In Wearables & Other Connected Products

An increasing number of our personal digital products and devices are being connected to the internet. Many of those are being connected to the cellular internet – one for which you will pay a (typically) monthly fee.  In recent research by WhatPhone a phone plan comparison site, they forecast that, in their region (Australia), uptake of  of ‘wearables’ – essentially a gadget you wear – was increasing rapidly.

Australia has a reputation among Western countries for being an island of Early Adopters when it comes to new technology. However, what happens there is generally representative of what will come later in other parts of the world. Currently 11% of those surveyed by WhatPhone have a wearable product in their home. That’s set to grow 42% in 2018.

That’s a startling rate of growth for any technology. Wearables are following the same growth curve we saw with smartphones in the first few years after the initial iPhone launch. If it keeps up, if sales and connections keep increasing, we’re all going to have to get better at seeking, comparing and signing up to the right sort of data plans for these devices. Here are some helpful hints and tips to keep in mind as you find yourself walking down that path.

Picking the right data plan for all of these devices

Picking the right data plan for all of these devices
Picking the right data plan for all of these devices

The key questions to ask yourself, when you’re trying to figure out how much data you need for your gadget relate primarily to the amount of video you’re going to use.

  • Does it have a screen? Some gadgets do have screens, like smartphones and laptops. Some do not, like Google home or Alexa. Any kind of video usage which draws the images shown on your gadget over the internet is going to use a lot of data. High Defection video is provided by default on YouTube if the connection enables it. In that sense, Google doesn’t care if you’re on your home WiFi or on 4G. Both pipes are fat enough to give you a great picture. And, of course, the larger the screen, the more data you’ll use filling it with a high quality picture. If you’re watching a TV show from YouTube on your laptop, it’s likely to use more data than watching the same clip on your phone. 2017 saw a host of Mobile Broadband bundles with 30+GB data bundles at affordable prices. If you’re using a laptop with a high definition screen, you’re better off with one of those.
  • Is it 3G or 4G enabled: There are still a large number of 3G devices around the world. Incidence varies by location but even in the most modern economies, 3G devices account for 25%-50% of those connected to the phone company networks. If you’ve got one of these slightly older gadgets, it’s going to use much less data than a newer 4G product.
  • How portable is it ?: The reality is that many of the things we use our gadgets for can be done at home if required. Once established and connected, a bit more home WiFi use is essentially free. If you can download and transact what you need while you’re at home – for example, if you download films to watch on your Android phone while you’re at home and then watch them when you’re out and about – the amount of data your gadget uses is going to be much smaller.

Do you want it to have the same phone number?

Smartphone
Smartphone

The key thing we learned from the rollout of the connected Apple Watch 3 in September 2017, was that phone companies need to be thinking ahead when it comes to data plans and gadgets. Unlike previous Apple Watches, the Apple Watch 3 is connected independently to the internet, not requiring a a hotspot internet tie in through the owner’s iPhone. This raised an important question – does the owner now need to have 2 phone numbers.

Cleverly, the phone companies realized that the user was far more likely to want a single phone number and data allowance which was shared between their iPhone and their Watch. And there’s the problem. As we add more and more devices from our personal area networks to the internet, the range of companies which provide billing systems that can perform this clever management of phone numbers across devices is actually quite small at the moment.

Summing it all up

If Australia does shine a light on the future we all face when it comes to gadgets and wearables, the ramifications are substantial. Figuring out how much data you need will, in the future, involve 2 steps. First, establishing the data usage for the particular gadget you’re using – mostly a function of the amount of video you intend to watch on it.Secondly however, the question of how many gadgets you now have connected to the internet will have to be confronted.

And therein lies the complexity. When our laptop, watch, the Alexa in our car, our Google Glasses and everything else we own is connected to the mobile internet. Managing the data across them and knowing which should be provided it’s own phone number will be a problem we all have to address.

Ideally, it would be the phone companies which helped us solve the problem. Unfortunately, there’s a conflict of interest involved. Phone companies don’t want us to manage our data budgets efficiently. They want us to have a lot of data bundles and leave a lot of left over data at the end of the month.

The truth is, it may take some clever third party apps and digital services to help us work out our usage, potentially across multiple individuals, each with a combination of devices, in a family. In the future, we will need a Spotify equivalent for our mobile phone subscriptions – an app which knows what we want even when we don’t and which provides it for us – so we don’t have to manage this difficult problem.

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