Audio Streaming: Probably Not What Your Mobile Carrier Had In Mind
from the so-much-for-that-unlimited-plan dept
Regardless of what you think of his ideas about net neutrality, Tim Wu is unequivocally right about one thing: Ziphone is downright magical. Thanks to it I've been in possession of an unlocked iPhone for the past few weeks, and I've been quite pleased with it. The variety of things this little gadget can do is truly amazing.
But for the mobile carriers the sensation it prompts is probably closer to worry. These newfound apps are bandwidth-hungry, and not only for WiFi packets. iPhone Bittorrent is a rather extreme example; EDGE-capable podcatchers are a more plausible threat. But perhaps most striking -- and therefore menacing -- is iRadio, a native application that brings Shoutcast-based streaming audio to the platform. It's easy to imagine a lot of users wanting this functionality and using it heavily, particularly given how often I forget that I've left it playing.
Of course, the percentage of jailbroken handsets isn't likely to ever get particularly high. But that won't be enough to stop these applications. For one thing, most observers think that the SDK -- which is expected to be announced today -- will allow developers access to both the phone's EDGE and WiFi capabilities. For another, streaming audio has already come to the platform without the need for any new code at all. FlyTunes offers a number of radio channels through an iPhone web interface; it works great. Similarly, WFMU offers a specialized domain for listening to the station on your mobile. More of these apps are almost certainly on the way.
It's true that this is just one device, but it's already setting a standard for what consumers expect from a smartphone -- and proving that users and savvy developers will use every bit of bandwidth they can get to. This demand will only grow as Android arrives and the carriers' grip on the mobile platform inevitably loosens. I'm hardly longing for the days of per-kilobyte data charges, but it seems likely that many carriers will soon be faced with choosing between a return to metering or a flood of customers upset by unexpected transfer caps on their allegedly-unlimited data plans.