Summer 2009 Could Be Right Time to Expand Mobile News Services

Apple’s iPhone certainly possesses ample consumer appeal, and it’s a great platform for mobile news and information. However, its relatively high monthly bill (I pay about $93/month total for mine) prevents many would-be users from getting one, especially in a struggling economy.

But BusinessWeek recently reported that cheaper iPhones may be on the way from AT&T, the exclusive iPhone service provider, possibly as soon as the end of May.

If AT&T makes iPhone plans significantly less expensive and/or more flexible (such as offering pay-as-you-go options, as most low-cost cell phone providers do), the iPhone could become a strong mainstream news platform. Also, with the new Palm Pre launching June 6, and other cell-phone providers planning big moves in the smartphone market, AT&T will definitely have to work on its iPhone pricing.

That could make this summer the right time for a significant push on mobile news services.

So far, AT&T is not talking about much of a price cut. According to BusinessWeek, the plan that may be rolled out this month “would include limited data access at a $10 monthly reduction.” But, “lower-priced data plans would probably lure a lot of fence-sitters, including students and consumers with lower incomes. A reduction could boost AT&T’s iPhone subscriber additions by 20 to 25 percent, estimates wireless industry consultant Chetan Sharma.”

Baby steps. Even a small price drop represents progress, since AT&T has been unwilling to budge on this issue so far.

Fellow Tidbits contributor David Herrold (who recently left the Houston Chronicle to join online classifieds provider as director of marketing and business development), observed that if AT&T dropped iPhone price plans and offered pay-as-you-go service, the company would probably more than make up for it in iPhone sales.

Apple iPhone reports that a new iPhone model may be released on July 17. The vastly upgraded iPhone 3.0 software is also set to be distributed this summer.

Keep your eye on the smartphone market this summer — and consider revamping or expanding your mobile news offerings sooner rather than later.

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