The data dilemma: content, bandwidth, and metering

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The data dilemma: content, bandwidth, and metering

Just a week old, the new iPad is quickly exposing a problem with US data usage. As device access to bandwidth increases, content becomes more enticing and accessible. Think Hulu, Netflix and funny videos of monkeys riding pigs. At the same time, unfortunately, metered data isn't getting any cheaper.

As the Wall Street Journal detailed today, some American consumers are finding they need to go on a data diet after receiving their 4G-enabled iPads. This problem is not unique to the iPad among Apple's products, and certainly not to Apple's product among mobile computing. But it's getting a fair bit of coverage due to the prominence of the iPad in recent news.

Go to any carrier site. Somewhere you'll find an interactive data calculator that estimates how many web pages, how many emails, and how many minutes of video you can consume with a given allocation. Here are a few popular ones in the US:

It's not hard to see that videos in particular quickly eat away at data buckets.

For some US iPad users, holding tight to their grandfathered AT&T unlimited data plans has been a blessing, even with the 3GB throttling recently imposed. They can reasonably expect to keep on top of March Madness in the car without having to re-charge off their credit card every few hours.

This isn't an option for the majority of iPad owners, especially the new ones. For them, we'll make a few rather obvious suggestions to help put yourself on a data diet from the start.

Fill up at home. Although services like Netflix won't allow you to temporarily download movies, iTunes does. You can add multiple rentals to your iPad in advance (up to 30 days) and watch them when away from home. The 24-hour clock doesn't start ticking until you begin watching a title.

Don't rely on Hotel Wi-Fi. Don't go on a trip expecting to offload your iPad's data needs onto your Hotel's wireless, which in the US often range between poor and awful. Make sure your consumption needs -- surfing, email, etc. -- can be met by your cellular data plan.

Enjoy the view. As annoying as fellow travelers at the airport are, you can often find something to do that doesn't involve staring at a screen. A nice conversation can improve your life, your outlook, and your data consumption.

Sure, we'd love to see better infrastructure with cheaper data costs for the carriers that are passed on to end-users, but we're not thinking that's going to happen any time soon. Got more suggestions on how this problem can be dealt with? Drop your thoughts into the comments and let us know.

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