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Data usage sticker shock: How I learned to freak out when my daughter used my iPhone 3GS


I tend to be a pretty light data user. As the chart here shows, my monthly data consumption rarely exceeds the 200 MB mark. After all the events of this week, with AT&T announcing its new, and quite limited, data plans I decided to hop over to my iPhone account page and see how I was doing in terms of overall consumption. What I discovered over there shocked me.

After month after month of limited data use, my June numbers (actually starting May 23rd) were through the roof; about 3GB to date. It didn't take me long to figure out why: it's because for the last few weeks my teenage daughter and I have been stopping by Starbucks in the evening. I play my Mother's Day gift of Field Runners on the iPad while my daughter has been surfing the 'net on the iPhone. We chat, we zone, we compute. Add to that, I've also been letting her surf while we run errands in the car.

Unlike me, my daughter watches lots of YouTube videos and engages in other high-bandwidth surfing. Since the "attwifi" system at our local Starbucks is perpetually borked, she's been doing all this over our 3G connection. Just an hour here and an hour there of YouTube and chatting has totally put our bandwidth for the month way over any reasonable pricing under the new AT&T plans.

It's enough to strike fear in a mother's heart, let alone her pocketbook. Especially because I didn't consider her data use to be "heavy" in any consistent way; these were all short intense interaction periods, not a constant use of the phone throughout the day. I know that I am not alone out there. iPhones and iPads get used in real world situations by real people, and with its greater ability to access websites and resources the iPhone and iPad sucks down data like nobody's business.

Am I hoping that Apple has a new data plan agreement up its sleeve to counter these AT&T changes? Darn straight, I tell you. Come WWDC, here's wishing that Steve Jobs will pull out a winner for the iPhone (and especially iPad) community because if I had to sign up for iPhone service under these new terms, my choices would be to either to cut off my daughter's access to data or to start paying far more.

Yes, I'm grandfathered in on my current plan with unlimited data but my heart goes out to the new 3G iPad users who are facing exactly this dilemma. Personally, I don't like the feeling that I can't afford to step away from continuing my plan. I doubt you do either.

So how do you check your usage? Head on over to AT&T's Online Account Management (OLAM) pages. Sign into your account. You can register from the linked page if you have not done so before. On the main page, you'll find a summary of your current usage, both minutes and data, and links to your usage details. There are two of these links: one to a general usage detail summary, and one that allows you to graph out your past data usage as shown in the chart here.

What about you? What have been your data usage shocks?

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