Friday, March 12, 2010

User Experience: The Sociological Component

Genius Mike just mentioned to me that "fleeting interesting: you can sign up for 3G directly on the ipad. it's metered, alerts you when you're running low, lets you PAYG after you use up your quota, and lets you cancel without any human involvement."

In other words, Apple has removed the biggest pain point from the mobile / cellular experience for the customer: dealing with the operator.

Apple has also thus removed what is seemingly the worst pain point for the operator: having to deal with the customer. What, too harsh? I would think that if we weren't a problem to the operators, they wouldn't treat us like they do.

On a more serious note, I know that many Pay As You Go (PAYG) carriers show you your balance after every transaction, including browsing (using a technology called SSID, which is best described as 'SMS Lite'). This means that you do see how your data usage makes your allowance go down. I know of no subscription or monthly plan that does something similar and actually warns you when you are reaching your limit or cap on data usage; the usual thing for operators to do is to silently switch the consumer to a more expensive per-byte plan. This warning on the iPad may be the first real-time instant feedback a mobile device gives you that you are running out of data on your monthly plan.

Since operators really want to get rid of unlimited data plans, and this is a consumer-friendlier way of managing data allocation than silently charging the subscriber a mint for data overages, expect this to trickle down to all smartphones. All you need to do as an operator is have a really simple data plan with easily allotted blocks, and software on the phone that knows about them and can shop for more.