AT&T to force new Smartphone customers to get a data plan?

According to a leaked AT&T memo, the company is preparing to force all new smartphone contract to feature a data plan, which usually almost doubles the monthly price. Here’s how AT&T is presenting it internally:

Why we are making this change?
We want our customers to have the best possible experience with their Smartphones. A predictable bill is a key factor in customer satisfaction, so effective September 6, 2009 Smartphone customers will need to subscribe to a data plan, as the vast majority of customers already do. Data plans let customers fully utilize their device, without the worry of bill shock.

How we will ensure an extraordinary customer experience?
The sales representative is the customer’s expert resource in helping select the right device for their needs. When a customer does not want a data plan, we will position other devices in our industry leading portfolio for the customer to choose from, as many devices do not require a data plan.

While it is normal to assume that Smartphones should be used with a decent data plan, I think that the customer should be able to decide. Smartphones are arguably awesome PDAs or SMS devices, without requiring a data plan. To avoid “bill shocks” (like this) and make customers happy, what about creating a convenient way of showing the current bill in quasi real-time? Oh wait, that might actually make customers consume less… Let’s be honest: data plans are great forAT&T’s bottom-line, just say so.

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