American operator Sprint is to start charging customers $10 a month extra if they're using a smartphone, as it attempts to even the playing field for data users.
Sprint reckons smartphones use, on average, ten times the data of more-intellectuality-challenged handsets, so from the end of January all new activations will be subject to an additional Hamilton* very month to cover the cost of all that data. Sprint calls this its "Premium Data Add-On".
The tariff was already being added to the operator's 4G handsets, with the provision of faster access over the WiMAX network, but now any handset with smarts (the release lists Blackberry, Android, Windows Mobile, Palm and the Instinct family) will have to cough up extra too.
"This is responsible, sustainable and reflects our commitment to simplicity and value" explains the operator, who suggests that those balking at the additional fee might like to check out the "full range of traditional feature phones, including popular eco-friendly or touch-screen handsets that do not require the Premium Data add-on charge but still have a great range of capabilities with voice, text and data access".
Flat-rate billing is obviously unfair to the light user, but the overloading of data networks is usually attributed to dongles: laptops consume an awful lot more data than the smartest of telephones, though the difference is becoming less acute.
Users may hide their smartphones, changing the HTTP User Agent to make the smartest of phones look dumb, but the network knows the handset's serial number, which can be traced to a make and model if Sprint can be bothered. Odds are that it won't bother, as long as the majority coughs up the new fee. ®
* Alexander Hamilton graces the non-green side of the $10 greenback.