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Droid Bionic takes Verizon`s LTE network to its limits


When Verizon Wireless moved to tiered smartphone data plans earlier this summer (Unfiltered: VZWís new data plans: a gigabyte is a gigabyte), it included a mammoth-sized data bundle, 10 GB, among the options. Now we know why. The new Motorola Droid Bionic (Unfiltered: Bionic adds another LTE device to Verizonís portfolio) isnít just one of Verizonís most powerful phones to date, it comes embedded with new cloud streaming capabilities that will give the operatorís new long-term evolution a real workout, possibly pushing the limits of even its biggest data plans.

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The key application is Motorolaís ZumoCast software, which has been available for download to other smartphone and PC platforms for a while, but is featured out of the box for the first time in the new Bionic. ZumoCast is a cloud streaming service, similar to those offered by Amazon and Google, but ZumoCast spans a much broader range of content, allowing users to access remotely stored documents and pictures as well as the biggest bandwidth killer of them all, video. A customersí whole video collection from movies to TV shows is suddenly available to the handset, and unlike its competitors Verizon isnít limiting access to Wi-Fi.

With the launch of the LG Revolution, Verizon began promoting heavily Netflix over LTE (Unfiltered: With Netflix app is Verizon crazy or crazy like a fox?). Adding ZumoCast will add to the data deluge, but Verizon seems adequately prepared to manage any surge (and profit immensely if one occurs). The Bionic has been introduced after Verizonís tiered plans went into effect, meaning no customer buying can sign up for its old unlimited plans. Instead, theyíll have to select a 2 GB, 5 GB, or 10 GB plan ($30, $50 and $80 a month, respectively), and pay $10 a gigabyte for any overages. If a Bionic customer plans to make heavy use of ZumoCast and Netflixóand not confine themselves to Wi-FióVerizon will likely steer them toward those higher tier plans.

Thereís no question the network can supply the speed. Independent tests have clocked Verizonís network as three times faster than its nearest competitor (CP: The Connected Planet Ď4G Scorecardí). And with an open 10 MHz-by-10 Hz LTE carrier, Verizon still has plenty of capacity. But Verizon is almost inviting its customers to fill that pipe upóor at least try--with these new streaming apps. Unlike in the days of unlimited, though, VZW will get paid more for those customers who take up its challenge.

Wait, thereís more. What makes the Bionic a particularly sick data hog isnít just its current streaming capabilities, but its potential capabilities based on its peripheral connection hardware. Like the Atrix before it (Unfiltered: Will Motoís Atrix change the mobile landscape?), the Bionic will dock to all sorts of peripherals including a laptop-style monitor and keyboard and an HD docking station which will connect directly to a digital TV. Right now ZumoCastís cloud sharing capabilities only beam documents and photos to those peripherals, while Netflix and ZumoCastís music and video capabilities appear confined to the phone. But if Motorola opens up ZumoCastís capabilities to those devices, the floodgates could open. Instead of optimizing a video stream for the Bionicís 4.3-inch screen, a full 720p and 1080p stream might come roaring over its 4G link. If that happens Verizon might have to offer bigger data plans than 10 GB a month. Either that or customers must make damn certain they have Wi-Fi connections.


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