Talk Isn't Cheap: The Last Vestige of the Phone Is in Danger

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Video chatting, one of the few data features of a iPhone that involves talking, doesn't look so appealing in the coming data-centric future. With the new iOS 6 operating system, Apple will now let users FaceTime chat over data networks, something they only could do over Wi-Fi before. That's one quick way users can burn through their monthly data allotment.

With the end of the phone approaching, as both smartphone owners and wireless carriers put more emphasis on data and less on voice, this move, at first, sounded like a savior for the phone as a talking device. But, it looks like even this auditory feature is in danger, since, as The Wall Street Journal's Thomas Gryta points out, video chatting will cost users a ton of their precious data.  "According to one analyst's estimate, those on a data plan that offers a single gigabyte per month could use up the allotment by making just one five-minute call a day on FaceTime," Gryta writes. Considering all the other data drains iPhones have, there's no way FaceTime will be used widely. So, yet again, we're left with a device we don't use much for talking, making it increasingly nonsensical to call these things phones.

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One gigabyte of data gets a user 11 hours of video-talk time, an analyst estimated for Gryta, which for most of Verizon's users is about half of a month's data allotment. 900 anytime minutes cost $60.00 a month on Verizon, which is $10 more than 1GB of data on Verizon's new data-centric plans. But, unlike minutes plans, users need to save data for the rest of their device's fancy features: Streaming music, checking email, watching videos, downloading apps, etc. Gryta predicts the high-consumption will drive users to buy more data. "While that may tap the wallets of some users, the total increase of usage will continue the trend of data sales driving a bigger portion of wireless revenue at carriers," he writes.

However, at some point, the high-cost will shift user habits, keeping FaceTime a novelty feature, rather than a main function of a the iPhone. Wireless carriers have already started pushing users off of their unlimited data plans, with Sprint as the only iPhone carrier that still offers that option. Even with the highest data option, fear of going over and incurring costly overage charges will discourage users from using FaceTime as their main communication tool, rendering one more talking option obsolete. Again, it's time to stop kidding ourselves: We don't user our smartphones as phones. Calling them that is just dumb.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.