There's a little secret about connecting to the Internet from your car: You usually must use your smartphone to do so, running up potentially shocking data charges along the way. T-Mobile and Audi want to make that cheaper for you with its new in-car data plan by offering wireless connectivity for $15 per month.
Audi Connect services are already sophisticated, creating a Wi-Fi network inside the vehicle that can be accessed by up to eight devices at the same time. Launched in 2011, it was the first of its kind, letting drivers access special versions of Google Voice Local Search, "My Audi Destination," which works with Google Earth to display up to 50 destinations on the car's screen. That gives you a look at your surroundings from Google Street View, a welcome sight to a lost and weary traveler.
This new plan requires the Audi owner to plunk down $450, which sounds like a fortune, but that includes 30 months of wireless data service. That's 15 bucks a month. Not bad. Or, you can choose a $30 per month-to-month plan that doesn't require a service contract. There are a few pricing increments between those two, as well.
Audi currently offers a six-month free trial of wireless data service when you buy the car, so if you don't mind paying that $450 up front, it ends up being a better deal than exceeding the limits of your smartphone's data plan as your in-car link to the Internet.
Another advantage of not using your smartphone for in-car connectivity is that you can either conserve battery power, or avoid having to plug your phone in every time you want to use it as a communications link in your car. For everyday use, that small inconvenience can quickly become an annoyance.
After testing a variety of cars with cellphone connectivity, I can vouch for the fact that running apps from your phone to be displayed in your car — especially GPS — runs a battery down with disconcerting rapidity. And there's no need to distract yourself fumbling with a smartphone at 70 mph either.
I think this kind of pricing for this new partnership between T-Mobile and Audi will become commonplace in the near future, and is destined to go even lower. Readers, do you think this $15/month deal is worth it? Let us know in the comments.