To keep it short and sweet ;), no, you won't be required to sign up for a data plan only *IF* you buy it for the no commitment price, or have access to handset-only upgrades via a premier/business account. In other words, the lower subsidized prices listed now in the brick and mortar stores/online *do* require the data plan. There may also be different terms regarding keeping a data plan for a minimum of 6 mos. for a rebate if one is offered. That can vary sometimes, for example, going through Amazon.com or letstalk.com.
Yes, you can simply use the browser via your home/work/wireless cafe wifi connection. That's how I primarily use my ATT Tilt (HTC 8925), since I'm around wifi 95+% of the day. ATT does not lock this feature out or charge extra as such. There are at least a couple of windows mobile applications that let your turn off the 3G connection so you can rely on 'free' wifi when available/needed. Modaco no data is the one that I use on my WM6 encrusted Tilt ;). FWIW, the free third party browser Skyfire is a really greater alternative to PIE (portable Internet Explorer) that comes preloaded on the Tilt and Fuze.
Regarding functionality, out of the box the iPhone is certainly the show stopper with a better browsing experience IMO. You really have to learn how to tweak a windows mobile device like the Fuze to get it just right. This does require some time and a bit of a learning curve if you aren't particularly tech saavy. The capacitive touch screen technology of the iPhone is a lot more user friendly IMO and E as well, but I have adapted to my Tilt with a plethora of useful apps, contrary to the popular belief that the presence of an Apple app store necessarily makes the whole shebang 'superior'. I won't even go into that one today. Having a full physical keyboard is a huge plus, as is more control over the device with all the custom ROMs & free apps available. OTOH, there are some feature upgrades to the iPhone arriving with OS 3.0 (and perhaps a new iPhone entirely this year), so you might want to investigate if that would meet your needs regardless of whether or not you'd have to pony up for a data plan.
I'm on AT&T and planning to upgrade my phone soon. The iPhone is great for obvious reasons, including its user friendliness and a wealth of apps (many of which are useless tho, I kno haha).
Anyways I'm definitely not getting the iPhone b/c I don't want to pay extra for the required data plan, I just want to keep my monthly bill the same. So I am thinking of getting the HTC Fuze, which seems comparable. But can someone confirm that
(1) I don't need to buy a data plan for this phone
(2) I can use the browser to go online if I am able to connect to a wireless network nearby
I kno the general differences b/n HTC Fuze and iPhone, but I want to know if its functionality is about the same (like they both do the same things, so I'm not going to be missing out on something big regardless of which phone I pick). It is, right?