Applause to Vodafone for its attempt to bring some clarity to data roaming charges (see story below). In its press release to publicise its new data roaming tariffs, it not only points out the costs, but also, the amount of data they include. It then goes further, explaining what this data actually means in terms of data roaming activity. So receiving and replying to a short email, it says, would use around 100kb of data, and cost 50p. This is very good. Now you know if you only need to look at four or five emails a day while you’re out of the country, it’s going to cost you £2 – £3 to do so.
Vodafone then goes on to explain what the £4.99, 25MB daily data tariff gets you. And a detailed explanation it is too. 25MB, says Vodafone, would be enough data to browse approximately 250 Internet pages, read and reply to 25 emails, find your way to a restaurant on Google Maps, read eight news stories on the BBC website, change your status on Facebook, and watch three 90-second videos on YouTube. It even takes the trouble to point out that for the purposes of its data roaming tariffs, a day is classified as midnight to midnight UK time. This is useful to know if you’re in a different time zone, and will help prevent customers spending more than they anticipated.
And yet, for all Vodafone's efforts, which are indeed a major step in the right direction, I still can’t help feeling this isn’t enough. Because let’s be honest, who out there counts the number of web pages they browse, or emails they read and reply to, or the number of videos they watch?
When I plug my Vodafone USB dongle into my laptop, not only do I get fantastic mobile broadband coverage, I also get a fuel gauge telling me how much data I’ve used. I’ve never come close to busting my monthly allowance, but it’s nice to know I can check on it at any time. My question to Vodafone and the developer community is simple: why can’t you offer the same sort of fuel gauge for the phone? Then when I go abroad and need to go online, I’ll know exactly how much data I’m consuming. There may be some rational explanation as to why this isn’t possible, but that’s the beauty of not being a tecchie yourself; you can ask questions like this in complete ignorance, in the hope that someone out there might have the wherewithal to make it happen.
As Apple is fond of saying in its ads for the iPhone, there’s an app for that. Well at the moment, it seems, there isn’t. So who's up for the challenge of producing one?