Thomas Gryta writes in The WSJ that US cell phone carriers have a surfeit of options and plans:
The four major carriers offer a total of nearly 700 combinations of smartphone plans—a family of five alone would have more than 250 options to choose from, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of smartphone plans offered by the four biggest U.S. carriers.
Which is fine in one sense – there are, after all, many regions, phones, add-ons, bundles, etc. But what does this mean for consumers that want to easily do an apples-to-apples comparison and decide what’s best for their wallets?
“If it really was just one number for consumers to compare, no one would ever voluntarily pay the higher price,” said Michael Grubb, an assistant professor of economics at Boston College who has researched wireless pricing and consumer behavior. “But when there is a number of gigabytes, the overage charge, the monthly fee and a little bit of math to do, suddenly it is not so easy to pick the contract that is a better value.”
T-Mobile’s defection from its peers’ practices and its simplified pricing plans (and subsequent growth) may well spur changes in pricing and messaging across the industry in the near future…but I wonder this kind of complexity and opaqueness is exactly what invites entry from the likes of Amazon (if not for regulation and the fixed supply of wireless spectrum) in this day and age.
Imagine, for a second, that Amazon offered a US-wide wireless plan.
Can you imagine how simple their pricing might be, and how delightful their post-sign-up customer experience would be?