All you pay is $25 per month for 2 gigs worth of data, and then you use Skype. This makes the iPad the cheapest smartphone in the market today, in terms of the monthly service fee. Yes, really. Compared to the iPhone, it saves you $70 per month, or $1,680 over two years. You hadn't thought of this, had you?
Of course, the iPad is a huge device and most people aren't going to use it "as a phone" because it doesn't fit in most pockets. But Apple has "a device for that" -- the iPod Touch. The current iPod Touch, of course, runs Skype, and you can use it with a separate data modem such as the Novatel MiFi (available from Verizon Wireless, Sprint and Virgin Mobile) or the Sierra Wireless Overdrive (available from Sprint and its partners). These types of plans start at $25 per month, mimicking AT&T's (T) iPad data plan.
We all know Apple will be announcing a new iPod Touch on September 1. Today, the iPod Touch is the only device in its class, feeling just like a smartphone, but lacking the cellular modems of every other smartphone in the market. Apple could simply mimic the iPad and equip the next-gen iPod Touch with the same kind of embedded HSPA (or EVDO or WiMax or LTE) data modem as it has already done with the iPad. If so, it would be a pure VoIP machine, in the right size for a traditional smartphone.
If Apple were to unveil such an improved iPod Touch device, it would be the only company offering a smartphone with a monthly bill two-third lower than every other smartphone on the market. If Apple were the only company doing this, it would punctuate the sales of every other handheld communications device in the market. At that point, Apple could sell well over 100 million of these units per quarter, on a global basis. Indeed, this is at the core of my bull case for Apple stock.That said, why would Apple be the only company offering such a device? Of course it wouldn't. Every other smartphone maker can easily jump into this game. Every one. Skype and Google Voice, among others, could run on every OS, every device. Nokia, SonyEricsson, HTC, Motorola, RIM, Samsung, LG -- one wonders what excuse any of these companies has for not already having launched such a product. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that the failure to launch this product represents nothing short of gigantic malpractice by all of these managements. The first company bothering with this would catapult its market share like nothing we have seen in the smartphone world to date, including the iPhone and Android.
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