While many have been able to hold on to grandfathered unlimited data plans, they are sadly not long for this world. The carriers have long laid the ground for capped plans to become the norm. The latest ploy to get customers off the unlimited plan is the shared data plan.
These plans provide a certain amount of data that can be used on multiple devices. All phones, tablets, MiFis, and laptops on the plan share the bucket of data for one monthly fee. Sharing data makes sense given the lack of unlimited data options, and as more folks enter these plans buying habits may change.
Since getting a shared data plan with Verizon (carrier doesn't matter) my thoughts on new device purchases has definitely changed. Currently I have a phone, iPad, and a MiFi on my plan, all sharing a big bucket of data. This has changed my work habits as I no longer worry about going over a low cap on each device.
The change in how I approach my work has already affected my gadget purchases. I recently traded my Wi-Fi iPad in for a 4G LTE model. I did this strictly due to the shared data plan I was already paying for. With a low $10 monthly fee I added the 4G iPad to my plan and it instantly had the pool of data to play with.
This change in philosophy is going to keep affecting my purchases. It seems that Apple will introduce a smaller iPad soon, and if so I plan to get one. When I do, it will definitely have 4G LTE capability if that is an available option.
I would have been reluctant to do that in the past, as that would have required a new 2-year data plan for the iPad Mini, with a data cap. My monthly outlay would have been ~$50 for that plan, plus I'd be stuck with it for two years.
Adding a new tablet to my shared plan now only adds $10/ month, without requiring a new plan. That is cheap enough to offset the extra cost of the tablet with integrated 4G, and the benefits of having the connectivity far outweigh that cost.
As more customers enter shared data plans I can see this shift in mindset taking place with many folks. Those like me who previously purchased auxiliary devices without 4G connectivity will be more likely to spring for the feature. It's easy to justify when the monthly outlay is so low, and especially when no new contract is required.
The shared plans will especially have this effect with those entering into BYOD situations. It's a lot easier to justify springing for new gear for work if it's cheap and with no additional contract required.