“Sponsored data” is a step towards free cellphones

Was just checking my bill on the AT&T Wireless site and was rather surprised to find that I now have a feature called “sponsored data” enabled, without any notification or promotion from AT&T. In fact, I bet you do too.

It’s described by the company thusly:

att wireless sponsored data help

This is actually really cool because it means that a company like Ford or Apple could “sponsor” visits to their Web sites such that you exploring what they have to offer, toy with the idea of buying a new car or shiny new laptop, whatever, wouldn’t come out of your data pool. For these companies, it means that it’s eliminating yet another obstacle for people deciding not to explore a given advertisement because they’re low on bandwidth or don’t pay for much bandwidth.

What’s more interesting is that it’s a step towards us having truly free, subsidized mobile devices where the cost of data connectivity is paid by advertisers not the consumer in return for access and the ability to hawk their wares to us remotely. Would I be willing to give an advertiser a few minutes/week of my time and attention in return for them paying my AT&T Wireless smartphone bill? Oh heck yeah. Wouldn’t you?

Which is why it’s so puzzling that Amazon’s slick Fire Phone is positioned as they did. The phone itself is very slick (albeit surprisingly heavy) but the pricing is completely off: Amazon should be subsidizing it so that the phone’s free, or even comes with that first year of Amazon Prime, essentially making it something they pay you to purchase. It’s not. It’s $99, which is more expensive than far more popular devices like the Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy or HTC One with a long-term contract. This goes a long way to explaining why in the first 60-days it’s sold less than 50,000 units (according to sources).

Oh, want to turn off your sponsored data? There’s a disclaimer that goes with it:

disable turn off opt out sponsored data att wireless

Surprised they don’t say “We’ll charge you more, you idiot!” Well, maybe not, but you know what I mean.

How about you? Ready to have your mobile cell phone bill reduced through corporate sponsorships?

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