Smartphones have become a mainstream method for connecting to the web. We all use apps to access online content, get real-time messages from email and Facebook, and use the web browser quite a bit. We do these things without thought as they have become a part of everyday life. We have never worried about how much data we are consuming on our phones because it was all included in the buffet-style unlimited data plans. Those unlimited plans are going away, and for Verizon customers this week. Metered smartphone data plans are going to be the norm, but the fact is you probably won't notice anything different on your monthly bill.
We all love unlimited anything as opposed to tiered billing that charges us more for something the more we use. In the case of smartphone data plans we have grudgingly paid high monthly bills with the knowledge we at least had unlimited data at our disposal. The reaction to carriers ending unlimited data plans and switching to metered plans is overwhelmingly negative, and rightly so. When companies take away something we have gotten for "free" we don't take that lightly.
Since the news broke today that Verizon has confirmed the end of its unlimited smartphone data plans, I have been swamped with communications from friends and family about what that means for them. Everyone is paying a high monthly phone bill already, and fear is rampant that it is going to shoot up now that the unlimited free ride is over. The fact is, hardly anyone is going to see anything different on the bill as long as they have a data plan that is sufficient for them. That plan is probably smaller than many folks realize, based on my years of heavy smartphone data usage.
I have been using both smartphone data and aircard/hotspot data for years, and because it is important to my work I have always tracked usage very carefully each month. I have been paying so much for data plans that I had no desire to pay for more than I really needed, but I couldn't afford to pay for too little and have expensive overages kick in.
How much data does a heavy user go through each month? In my case less than 2GB per month; over years of data plans I have never exceeded that amount. That's why in the beginning of Aircard plans I quickly dropped from a 5GB monthly plan to a much cheaper 2GB plan. It is all I have ever needed, even when using my phone to tether to a laptop.
This is why I have been telling everyone contacting me in a panic today to calm down and don't worry. Unless you watch a lot of streaming video (movies, TV shows or other online video) odds are the move from unlimited data to a tiered system won't affect you. Video addicts better think things through though, or make sure they don't lose the unlimited data that carriers are grandfathering in. Other folks should be just fine with 2GB of data in the plan. Don't forget that tethering options cost an extra monthly fee, but in most cases augment the data allowed.
Image credit: Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives