Just as the possibilities of cloud computing and streaming media began to make smartphones exciting, Verizon
Customers: annoyed, but unaffected for now
If our data consumption rates remain the same, then the capped plans won't affect most customers. The vast majority of smartphone owners use far less than 2GB a month -- the average user only eats up 435 MB -- while the most data-hungry owners use less than 5GB. As it stands now, the 10GB plan appears unnecessary for all but a small niche of users.
Of course, it's naive to assume that smartphone data usage won't grow. Even so, the average user's consumption would have to quadruple before it outgrew Verizon's cheapest data package.
The cloud and streaming media: a mixed bag
The data caps shouldn't make much of a difference for services such as Microsoft's
I also don't think the data caps will have too much of an effect on streaming video services such as Netflix
On the other hand, the death of unlimited data could slow the growth of streaming audio services like Google Music, Amazon's Cloud Player, and Pandora
In this light, Apple's
The data caps could also help Sirius XM
In the long run, I don't see capped data plans doing much harm to the bigger players I've mentioned here. However, I do think the plans will probably toss another monkeywrench into Pandora's plan to acquire more listeners and pray for profitability.
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Fool contributor Patrick Martin owns shares of Netflix. You can follow him on twitter @TMFpcmart03. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of AT&T, Apple, Amazon.com, Netflix, Microsoft, and Google; creating a diagonal call position in Microsoft and a bull call spread position in Apple; and buying puts in Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.