Sprint’s first act under new SoftBank management was to reinforce its commitment to unlimited smartphone data — at least for customers who switch to its new service plans. The company is launching a new set of individual and family plans called Unlimited, My Way, and anyone who signs up for them will get Sprint’s guarantee that it will never turn off the talk, text and data spigots for as a long as they remain customers.
At first glance, I was a bit suspicious of this announcement. To me it looked like Sprint is saying “if you upgrade to one of our new all-inclusive plans we’ll guarantee you unlimited for life, but if you stay with your cheaper plan we can snatch unlimited away from you at any minute — just watch us!”
Sprint Spokeswoman Laura Lisec corrected me of that misperception very quickly. Sprint will continue to maintain its old plans for people who want to keep them, she said, but going forward its trying to simplify its pricing tiers. So for the same $80 price you pay for Sprint’s 450-minute, unlimited-text-and-data smartphone plans, you now get all three services on an all-you-can-eat basis.
Sure, the guarantee doesn’t apply to older Simply Everything and Everything Data plans, but I can see little reason to stay on them once the new plans go into affect Friday or after your contract is up. If you actually stuck with Sprint’s $110 Simple Everything plan you’d wind up paying $30 more a month.
This guarantee is primarily for marketing purposes. Technically AT&T and Verizon’s unlimited plans were guaranteed as well, which is why they still have so many customers grandfathered into them. But frankly I’m still a bit surprised Sprint is spelling this commitment out. I’ve always believed that the unlimited plan would go the way of the dodo — that it simply isn’t sustainable in a market where average smartphone data use is constantly increasing. Sprint has already nixed unlimited tablet and modem data, but keeping smartphones unmetered still seems crazy to me.
That said, I just today wrote a big post lecturing Sprint on how it needs to embrace its roots and start challenging fundamental assumptions in the mobile industry. Well, one of those fundamental assumptions is that data must be metered. I’m still skeptical, but I’m happy to shut up and let Sprint prove me wrong.