I often get asked what I think is the most cost effective way to get mobile data. Should I get a BlackBerry or an ActiveSync supported device? (e.g. Windows Mobile, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson – look here for a complete list of supported devices)
Unfortunately there is no easy answer. What I think is the most cost-effective relates to a combination of the device I use, my personal usage and most importantly, the data plan I subscribe to. Data plans (GPRS) vary widely from carrier to carrier.
A lot of carriers offer great deals for data but sometimes those deals are limited to a specific device. AT&T/Cingular data plans come as low $19.99 for use with a select number of SmartPhones but to use the Samsung Blackjack you need to pay $39.99. T-mobile offers a plan for $29.99 but neither of these include voice plans. The average cost for voice (minimum plan) + data seems to be between $60 and $80 per month.
That is if you stay within the data limits. Virgin Mobile in Australia launched a great plan, offering 300MB of data transfer per month for $10. Go over that allowance and you pay a rate of $15 per MB or almost 500 times the original rate.
So just how much data do you need to use the Internet over your mobile device? I get approximately 100 emails a day, have a massive inbox which I search regularly, have a fairly full calendar and a number of tasks I sync regularly. Using an ActiveSync device I use about 17 MB of data per month. But because I have a very low data transfer allowance through my carrier, I avoid surfing the web unless absolutely necessary.
I have often been told that BlackBerry is much more efficient in its use of data as it relates to transmitting email, calendar data, tasks and related PIM information (most data usage, less what you use when surfing the web). But if my usage is typical or even high, blackberries efficiencies may be irrelevant as the true cost of mobility relates to web traffic.
The true cost of ownership for a BlackBerry is really difficult to pin down:
- Are you on a personal plan or a business plan with a minimum user commitment?
- What is your contract duration?
- How much data do you want?
- How many voice minutes do you want?
- How many text messages do you need?
Almost all the carriers provide a complex pricing matrix for you to work with. An informal poll suggests a range of $100 to $150 per month in North America and even higher in other parts of the world. Vodafone.co.uk will take you through a fairly complex wizard before letting you know you may need a 2nd mortgage to get a BlackBerry.
That said, there are a number of other reasons – outside of cost – why someone might prefer a BlackBerry or an ActiveSync-supported device. If the choice of the best device was an easy question to answer there would be a clear market leader, and that just isn’t the case.
Only personal experience will tell which is right for you. The good news is, with our Microsoft Exchange service you can use either technology. ActiveSync is included free with our Exchange service and BlackBerry service is only $9.95 per month – a small price to pay once you’ve made the initial investment into a mobile device.
V.P. of Sales and Marketing
SoftCom Technology Consulting Inc.