Data usage is the bane of any smartphone or tablet user. Even if you have an unlimited data plan, it usually costs you an arm and a leg. Companies like AT&T and T-Mobile even have stipulations in their unlimited-plans, allowing the network to slow your speeds if you hit a set amount of data-used in one billing cycle. To be fair, the data-cap is sometimes upwards of 32GB, which is far more than an average person would ever use in that timeframe. In the end, data plans win and we must obey.
It costs money for each of the network-providers to handle all of the data that we use, and each of the major network-providers research ways to make supplying data to customers cheaper than the year before. One of the easiest ways to save money for the company however, is to make you use less data. That is the center-point of the AT&T Stream Saver plan. AT&T announced the new feature earlier today, but it’s a double-edged sword for users.
AT&T Stream Saver is expected to launch in early 2017, and AT&T will launch the program as a free “data saving feature.” The update will roll out to almost all of AT&T’s customers, if they are on a data-plan.
So what is AT&T Stream Saver? Well its a program that will make your videos run in 480p, which is a lower resolution than most content is played on apps like Netflix and Hulu. That lower resolution requires less data, so in the end, the plan will allow customers to watch more videos on less data. You get more videos, but you will lose your HD option.
You can turn the feature on-and-off, all for free, but there is catch of course. AT&T is most-likely hoping that you turn it on and forget about it, allowing most of the internet’s HD content to play in-less than HD resolution.
The company also seems to be making the switch a hassle. The company stated that customers can control Stream Saver “at myAT&T,” meaning you have to log-in to make the change. This means that it won’t just be a quick setting on your phone. This points to the idea that the network is hoping that people make the change to save money, and are too lazy to go back to the website to change it back.
“We know our customers love to be entertained while mobile, and Stream Saver lets them enjoy more of what they love, whether it’s video or something else,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Entertainment Group. “And, they are in control – it’s their choice on how to use this innovative feature.”
The company went on to say, “Once Stream Saver is available, we will send you a message letting you know it is on and will include directions about how to turn it off and back on.”
The network will use algorithms to detect playback and make the adjustments, but that also means that if the system doesn’t recognize the HD source, it won’t lower the resolution on your end. The company said in a statement, “Due to the way some content owners deliver video streams, Stream Saver cannot detect and then optimize all video.” AT&T did not clarify which services it could detect at this time, but more information will be released as we get closer to the launch date.
If you seldom use, or care about, HD resolution on your phone, this could be an easy way to save you money. If having HD video is important to you, then you could simply not turn on the feature. In the end it’s nice that AT&T is offering customers the choice, but since some content-streams offer you the choice to stream in different resolutions already, this feature seems to be more favorable to the network than the customer.