Without a connection to the internet, you might as well be listening to music on an old iPod: All you can do, pretty much, is hit the play button. The internet is one of the things that makes apps such a powerful upgrade.
This week, we’re seeing a hint of how we will pay for the internet in the future: one plan for the home (if that) and another plan for every non-home device in our lives. It’s starting with shared service for smartphone and tablet, which Verizon first offered and which AT&T announced today. But this quote from AT&T Mobility chief marketing officer David Christopher shows us where AT&T thinks this is all leading:
Today we think of people’s smartphones and tablets sharing a bucket of data. But in the future we’ll see health care monitors, connected cars, security systems, and other devices in the home all connected to the mobile Internet.
I’m on a reduced schedule this week as part of my annual summer “break,” and that means I am playing a lot of tennis and then jumping in the ocean right afterwards. In this ridiculous heat, I am sticking to my only designed-for-tennis shirt, which is made out of some sort of microfiber ingeniousness that keeps me cool as I struggle to regain my teenage forehand.
Some people are calling those shirts smart, but they’re not — yet. Within my lifetime, I expect my racket, shoes, shirt, and bathing suit to be smart like a smartphone. The court temperature, match time, my perspiration levels, the score of the match, the number of steps I ran, the number of second serves I hit during the game, the overall pace of each match with my brother vs. other opponents — all of that stuff and more should be trackable so I can monitor my summer tennis in the same way the jogging and biking people already do. (Maybe my shirt won’t have its own modem — maybe it will use the one in my racket bag, because hey, it’s all on the same data plan anyway.)
All of this stuff should be capable of running apps of some kind. Some of those devices will connect to headphones or have speakers. Who knows — maybe in my sixties, as I approach the diving board at the end of the pier to take my post-match dive into the ocean, my jam will start playing. Old man dive jam! Yes!
All of this stuff will require wireless connections, and now, we know that AT&T plans on selling it to us as we buy plans for our smartphones, tablets, and everything else not in the home.
One big question that remains: When we’re already paying AT&T, Verizon, or someone else for a shared wireless plan that works with all of our tennis shirts, smartphones, diving boards, and so on, will we still pay for traditional internet within the home?
Net neutrality advocates would surely hope so, because wireless data networks are more easily controlled than the internet has been so far. But from a music-app-talking-to-the-cloud perspective, it’s hard to see why home internet will be worth the money as a separate plan if this vision, shared by AT&T and technology futurists, comes to pass.
(Hopefully the company does a better job of managing all of this than they did with its video about all the new data-sharing plans, which is still marked “private” on YouTube, rendering it unwatchable here.)