Rogers iPhone data outrage overstated?

By Peter Nowak, CBCNews.ca

Much has been made about the people who wanted an iPhone, but were then outraged by Rogers' initial pricing plans. The plans, when they were first announced, were roundly criticized primarily for their low data allowances. The iPhone, after all, is designed to surf the web and do all sorts of other internet goodness, so 400 megabytes - the allowance under Rogers' basic plan - just wasn't going to cut it, the protestors said. After playing around with an iPhone for a week, it's a little hard to see what all the fuss was about.

In introducing its first plans, Rogers said 400MB would suit the needs of most users. But protestors on ruinediphone.com begged to differ - more than 60,000 signed the online petition and begged Rogers to reconsider. The company backed down and introduced a $30 plan with 6 gigabytes of data, which ameliorated many but left some still wanting the unlimited plan being offered by AT&T in the United States. The new 6GB offer is temporary, Rogers says, and is designed for the early adopters who are likely to use lots of data.

The question, then, is how much data is enough? I've had a loaner iPhone for a week and have used it non-stop in virtually every conceivable way, fully draining the device's battery each day. I'm particularly enamored by the iPhone's GPS and geo-location ability and am constantly using it to find Tim Hortons and gas stations. I spent the weekend leisurely driving around southern Ontario and the GPS, along with the Safari browser, were absolutely indispensible in finding movie showtimes, driving routes, hotel rates and weather forecasts.

I've used the iPhone to keep tabs on the government's spectrum auction while on my lunch break, to open and read e-mail attachments while on the beach and to show YouTube videos to friends while at the bar. I even managed to achieve the utmost in laziness - I checked baseball scores over the iPhone's browser while sitting on my couch, my computer not more than five feet away. And, in the interest of seeing just how far data allowances go, I did it all using the cellular connection rather than the built-in Wi-Fi.

Lastly, just to check how much data video really does take up, I watched a handful of YouTube videos and found that a five-minute clip tends to use between five and 10MB, depending on the quality, which is far less than than the 50MB to 80MB some analysts had quoted before the new iPhone launched.

At the end of a week, after pushing the iPhone to its limits, my total usage came to a grand total of 86MB. Factored over a month, that will come in well under Rogers' initial cap of 400MB. That said, it's hard to imagine what one would do with 6GB. Moreover, in what is potentially the iPhone's biggest flaw, the battery is not that durable and tends to give out after only a few hours of use. One can, of course, plug the iPhone in for continued usage, but if you're in range of an outlet, chances are good you're in range of a computer and don't need the iPhone. Battery life, not data limits, seems to be the iPhone's real problem when it comes to surfing the web.

So, pricing and contract length aside - and Rogers does have the longest mandatory service term in the world, and consequently the second-biggest total expenditure - just how would one go about using 6GB worth of data on the iPhone? Suggestions are welcome.