Most of the announcements made so far at CES 2014 have focused on new hardware, and while AT&T continued that trend with its own new piece of kit, the carrier switched things up by introducing a new type of data plan and rolling out additional 4G LTE coverage as well.
AT&T made its Sponsored Data plan officially official today in Las Vegas. The big blue carrier compares its new service to a 1-800 number in that it allows companies to "sponsor" an AT&T customer's data charges that are incurred from eligible uses. For example, a film company could sponsor the data used by a consumer so that he or she could view a trailer for that company's upcoming movie. Another example of Sponsored Data use is enabling business to pay for the data that a Bring Your Own Device employee uses while accessing business-related apps and content.
AT&T says that Sponsored Data is delivered at the same speed and performance as non-Sponsored Data. If a user ends up taking advantage of the service, he or she will see it being offered as "Sponsored Data" and it will be broken down separately on the monthly bill. AT&T Sponsored Data will be available to users with a 4G smartphone, tablet, mobile hotspot or LaptopConnect card. There's no word yet on when Sponsored Data will launch, though, as AT&T has only said that the service is "coming soon."
While some of the finer details of AT&T's Sponsored Data service are still up in the air, right now it sounds like a service that we'll have to keep an eye on. The idea of having a company pay for your data use may sound nice, but there are definitely ways that it could the service could be abused, especially if large multi-billion dollar firms get involved.
Along with its new Sponsored Data service, AT&T announced that its 4G LTE network is now live in an additional 26 markets:
Rounding out AT&T's announcements today is the ASUS PadFone X. We haven't seen many ASUS-made handsets here in the U.S., especially from the PadFone family, but apparently AT&T feels like changing that.
The PadFone X features a 5-inch 1080p display and is powered by Android 4.4 KitKat. As with other PadFone models, the AT&T-exclusive PadFone X can be docked into an accompanying Tablet Station that features a 9-inch display. The PadFone X will also include support for Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and LTE-Advanced connectivity.
So when will we finally see this new PadFone make its way onto U.S. shelves? Unfortunately, while AT&T was happy to talk up the PadFone X's ability to run on its upcoming VoLTE and LTE-Advanced service, the operator isn't quite ready to divulge pricing and availability details for the unit quite yet. As soon as I know more, you will, so stay tuned.