I’m sure you heard the news that in August, AT&T will join Verizon Wireless by offering its new shared data plans for families or just groups of people who would prefer to have one giant pool of monthly data to feed all of their devices.
When we first heard late last year about the carriers’ plans to eventually enable shared data, I think it’s safe to say we were all expecting to save a little bit of money, especially if you live in a household with everybody using a smartphone and paying a ridiculous amount of cash per month for each. Now that the top two wireless providers in the United States — AT&T and Verizon — both unveiled their pricing structures for said shared data plans, I personally am feeling a bit let down. I was stupid enough to believe the carriers weren’t being greedy for once.
First let’s take a look at the competing shared data plans. They both follow a very similar pattern, which is to charge a specific monthly fee for a given amount of data plus another monthly fee for each smartphone, basic feature phone, mobile broadband device, or tablet bundled with that amount of data. The cheapest someone with a smartphone can pay on AT&T is $85 per month and that’s for 1GB of data plus unlimited talking and texting. The same plan on Verizon costs $90. Those are actually somewhat decent.
This pricing structure becomes a problem when more devices are added on. Let’s add another smartphone to the mix. On AT&T, that’ll run you an extra $45 per month and on Verizon, $40, but let’s just stick with AT&T for this example. Now you’re paying $130 per month for unlimited talking and texting for two devices, plus that same 1GB of data. The amount of data didn’t change at all, meaning the extra $45 is basically covering the unlimited talking and texting for that second device.
If you talk on the phone a lot, that’s great because you’ll probably get your money’s worth. Unfortunately, AT&T and Verizon both know very well that people are talking less and less on their mobile phones now that we have all this texting or video calling or the dozens of other ways to communicate. If you are like many others who don’t make a lot of phone calls per month or even a whole lot of texting (standard texting fees are a joke in themselves) you’re getting screwed.
I checked my own usage history on AT&T. Last month I used 144 minutes. That’s it. 144 minutes is way below AT&T’s entry-level 550-minute plan as of now and it’s nowhere near what any of us including AT&T consider to be within an acceptable “unlimited” range. Plus, 144 minutes is actually high for me — I used 47 minutes in March. I suspect there’s a lot of people just like me who will eventually be paying a large sum of money for unlimited talking when they don’t need it.
Speaking of unnecessary fees, the carriers are finally deciding to sensibly include tethering into the price of data, but now AT&T is looking to start charging extra for FaceTime over cellular this fall. Why? No seriously, why though? If we’re paying for data, shouldn’t we have the right to use that data as we wish? If FaceTime causes someone to go over their monthly allowance, fine, charge extra, but don’t charge a separate price to use FaceTime just because it’s a different way of using data.
I don’t want to unfairly bitch all about AT&T here because Verizon is at fault, too. My absolute favorite part about Verizon’s shared data plans is the small footnote at the bottom that says “Need more than 10GB of data? Add 2GB for $10/month by logging in to My Verizon.” Cool, so it’s only $10 per month for an extra 2GB of data, yet the initial price for 1GB is $50.
I realize some of you might actually save money with these new plans depending on your own configuration of devices and data needs, so if that’s the case, your life is sweet. We can all argue back and forth about whether or not AT&T and Verizon are ripping us off, but the bottom line is this: under no circumstances would they be launching these new shared data plans if they weren’t going to be making more or at least the same amount of money from them.
In the end, it’s all about the money and the carriers are reeling in more than enough off of us.