Probably the most common adjective that Google and T-Mobile executives used today while showing off their new “G1” phone: “Open.” Both companies couldn’t stop talking about how “open” the phone is — you’ll be able to add whatever apps you want, use as much of the Internet as you want, mess with the operating system, etc.
Except not really. T-Mobile is putting the most aggressive bandwidth cap we’ve seen in the United States on its “unlimited” Internet access plan for the G1.
In the fine print on its G1 site: “If your total data usage in any billing cycle is more than 1GB, your data throughput for the remainder of that cycle may be reduced to 50 kbps or less.” That is: Use this phone too much and we’re going to cripple it.
That’s because 1 gigabyte is fairly modest amount of data for a smartphone users to consume in a month — particularly if they’re part of the early adopting, open-fetishisizing crowd that will be clamoring to get their hands on one of these first. And 50 kilobits per second is roughly 6 kilobytes per second — about the speed of the dialup modem you probably threw out several years ago.
So if you want to use your phone to stream a bunch of video, download a bunch of music, use some crazy new apps, or whatever — and go over their cap — you’re going to get stuck with unacceptably slow speeds.
One gigabyte is about how much it takes to download the equivalent of a few albums, a decent quality movie, and a decent quality TV episode — not much. Add to that whatever email, Web browsing, file downloading, app downloading, and whatever else you’ll be doing, and it wouldn’t be far-fetched for the power users that Google is courting to hit that 1 gigabyte cap — 34 MB a day — on a regular basis. (Caveat: Wi-fi use doesn’t count toward the cap, so use that as much as you can.)
T-Mobile’s rivals — AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint — offer a more liberal cap: 5 gigabytes, or five time as much — after which they’ll either charge you more money or ask you to think about switching wireless providers.
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