Expanding unlimited calling to off-network phone numbers is one of the wireless industry’s newest ways to attract customers. Alltel was one of the first major carriers with its My Circle (which now has been rolled over to Verizon Wireless with the merger, called “Friends & Family”), then T-Mobile followed with myFaves. Sprint’s also doing something with “Any Mobile, Anytime” on select plans.
Now AT&T is getting into the game with a service called A-List. Like its competitors, the gist is the same: customers add their five most frequently called numbers. These are then treated like mobile-to-mobile calls, which are typically unlimited.
I will give kudos though. AT&T does not mess with the rest of the plan when you use the service. Neither your normal mobile to mobile or rollover minutes will be affected.
There is a catch. Like Verizon Wireless, you must have a $59.99/mo. or greater voice plan in order to use the service. This is somewhat troubling to me, as a large segment of AT&T’s growing iPhone population is from the get go excluded from the service.
Almost all of my iPhone-equipped friends are on the $39.99 monthly voice plan. The reasoning for this is simple: on top of that, a $39.99 $30 monthly data plan is required, already pushing the bill to nearly $70 a month. Add the fact most of us are texters, so we’re already now pushing that bill to near $90 a month even before taxes and fees, or any other service we might be inclined to add.
If we’d bump up to the next plan, there’s a good chance our monthly wireless bill would exceed $110, which in most cases is just too much to justify for. But through AT&T’s policies, none of us would qualify for A-List.
This seems rotten to me. I’m willing to place money on the fact that the average iPhone users bill is probably on the order of 50% or so higher than that of a non iPhone user. Look at AT&T’s ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) for the second quarter: $60. That is already about $10 below the base cost of owning an iPhone, without texting or anything else added.
Yes, iPhone users put a strain on the AT&T network. But at the same time, they are the basis of the company’s bottom line. The least the company could do here was include its “A-List” customers in on the deal.
Hopefully, the carrier reconsiders the requirements and allows for iPhone users who are already paying a lot every month to benefit from this new feature.
Update: I had the data plan cost wrong here, as well as T-Mobile putting back M2M with myFaves now (it wasn’t at first) so I’ve tweaked our math and wording here. Thanks to commenters for catching this.