Shared data plans -- changing gadget purchase habits

Shared data plans -- changing gadget purchase habits

Summary: The rapid disappearance of unlimited data plans has not pleased anyone. These are being replaced by shared data plans that tie a bucket of data to an account, shared among multiple devices. These plans may change the way we buy gadgets, especially for BYOD situations.

BYOD gear

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.

See also: Data sharing plans may change our buying habits for tablets | Verizon: No free tethering for unlimited data plan customers | Verizon shared data plans reset wireless economics; AT&T to follow | T-Mobile resists shared data plans

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.

Topics: Mobility, 4G, Smartphones, Tablets

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  • Single device no costs more

    This new plan changed my data habits. I canceled my data connection on my device and will not buy any more data service from Verizon.

    Under the new plan, if you have just one device only, it costs significantly more (one sales rep quoted me a price over twice what I had been paying).
    • Which is sad, because this is essentially...

      Sending us back to the stone-age. I have seriously considered giving up on smartphones and external devices entirely. Heck, with the rates cellphones services are charging now, I'm seriously considering whether or not I actually need one (aside from a pay-as-you go model for emergencies).

      I have grown quite attached to my devices, I have to admit, but if my life revolves around watching how many seconds I spend on the phone or how many megabytes my phone uses, then at some point, I have to wonder where my money, time, and concentration would be better spent.

      I'm a single user as well, and with the Verizon "screw everyone" plan, I will end up paying over $50 more for less service. Needless to say, I'm not OK with that. I'll hang on to the grandfather plan for as long as it will take me, then consider the drastic alternatives.
      • Right there with you, brother.

        I have 4 cellphones on a legacy VZW plan, and I'm not looking to continue with what I have go forward. 2 of the cellphones are used for voice calling only, I have a Blackberry that's begging to be upgraded to Android/iOS, and a 20-something who has an iPhone w/ real data needs. To pay $30/mo for each cellphone that barely gets used makes no sense. At least one of them will be going to a Jitterbug (older parents' phone), and the wife's phone may go the same way. Jitterbug is $15/mo for 50mins/mo ($20 for 100mins/mo), and unused mins don't expire. That'll leave me and my son to fight over either 2GB or 4GB in an Share The Pain plan. I'd have upgraded my device back in May if I'd know I was going to get screwed taking my time.
  • Where is the insight in this piece?

    Sorry James, this article must be fluff to meet a quota. No offense, but it feels like you re-stated the obvious here. I long ago quit buying devices based on integrated radios (other than WiFi) and just either tether or use a hotspot device. The carriers are just too greedy. They can have my grandfathered, unlimited data when they pry it from my cold, digital wallet. I buy devices at full price to avoid this trap. I don't care how enticing the subsidy is, and we Americans got too comfortable for subsidized devices. I also don't care if I use less than 2GB one month, I might use 10GB the next.
    • The problem is...

      Their plan is to eliminate the grandfather plan. At some point, even paying full price won't save you from their loophole.

      I'm sitting on my grandfathered plan as well, and I won't upgrade device because of it (thankfully, it's LTE). But when it comes down to month to month service, I'm not held to their contract, but inversely, neither are they bound to mine. That poses a serious dilemma when they flat out want to change the terms of my agreement (why I won't pay full price for a phone - at some point, they will get us).
  • And they laughed at me...

    When I stayed with Sprint
  • You are wasting money

    You could have saved yourself $120 a year by using the built-in features of your plan already. Verizon Share Everything Plans already include the hotspot feature for free. Why not keep your wifi iPad and just tether when you need to go online with it? I don't understand why you would
    1. Pay for a more expensive iPad when the one you have worked fine.
    2. Pay more per month on an already outrageously expensive plan.

    If you want to continue to feel like you are okay with being raked over the coals with your plan, then continue to do so, but your article holds no water when you look at devices that are not tablets. $30 for a 'dumb' phone? $40 for a smartphone? That's insane prices considering that hardly anyone needs unlimited minutes on their line.

    The $10 per tablet is an obvious marketing ploy to get more tablets online through Verizon, but it's hardly going to change how people buy devices like your article title suggest.
    • Agreed...

      The best thing about the new shared plans is that you CAN use the hotspot feature without a premium, meaning you can use your phone (which you'll have with you all the time anyway) for LTE and save the money on more expensive iPad hardware and the monthly $10 add.
    • Also agree...

      That funny that the author did the exact opposite of what I would do...I am in the market to purchase a tablet, and now that my phone can tether, I would not spend the extra money for a 4G tablet (plus the extra $10 per month). This feature is one of the only ways one might save money with this new horrendous shared plan because most people don't have the need for a 4G tablet when they can tether with their 4G phone at no additional cost. You don't get more data by adding a tablet, so why not tether? I actually thought this new scheme would hurt sales of 4G tablets.
  • Scam

    Seems like a scam for me to pay extra per device. You should pay only for the amount of data and perhaps a low one time fee for each sim.
  • They get you coming and going

    Had an AT&T rep contact me and told me I can get the shared data package for less than my current plan.
    Current 2 smartphone unlimited data (capped at 5gb each grrrrrr)
    Current 1 smartphone at 3gb data
    Current 2 smartphones at 250 mb data ( strict wifi )
    And then the usual minutes / text / insurance....

    No matter ow hard this poor lass tried, the cheapest package that met my usage was $60.00 a month higher.

    Like others, you can pry it from my cold hands .... Unless something really good comes along.
    • Shared data plans

      For three phones, with one on unlimited data plan, I would pay about the same for the Shared time plan with 3GB of data for the three phones. But then I wouldn't be able to not think about how much data I was using as I do now. Frankly, AT&T is making a killing on my plan since I could easily get by with 200MB data plan on my phone, but then I would have to worry about how much data I was using, and NOT having to think about that is worth the $.50 a day more I pay for 'unlimited' data.
  • Inaccurate

    This is inaccurate. iPads have never required a 2 year agreement for data. It has always been month-to-month.

    Also, paying an extra 10 dollars a month for the "privilege" to use my data how I like is plain and simply insulting. Can someone explain to me how this makes sense on any level? If I pay for xGB of data, why does it matter where/how I use it?! I just don't understand how this is justified.
    • Agreed

      Agreed. That's why I'll never consider one of these plans. If it's truly a "shared data pool" why should I have to pay a $10.00 a month "access fee" for each device I add to that pool? I add a tablet and a laptop and suddenly I'm paying $20.00 a month for the "privilege" of accessing that same, small data pool. I mean, maybe if that $10.00 bought you an added Gigabyte per month it would make some sense, but no. It's just a way to screw you for another $120.00 a year.

      For comparison, for the same $10 a month, pre-paid carrier Boost Mobile will let you turn on the wireless hotspot feature on your HTC Evo Shift and you can tether as many different devices as you want. And their 4G is unlimited usage. Yeah, their 4G is Sprint/Clearwire WiMAX technology which has pretty poor coverage and isn't likely to see any expansion, but if you're in a coverage area it's a great deal.

      Quite frankly, subsidized Cellphone plans are a massive ripoff, IMHO.
  • How much did you say you're forking over James?

    You're either incredibly naive or extremely delusional to think Verizon is giving you a good deal. I pay a flat $50/month for 4G, no contract, and enjoy the freedom of unlimited data. No caps. No overages. No throttling. And all I need for it is a single mobile hotspot device, that DOESN'T require me to buy gear with 3G/4G built-in.

    The truth is you're paying more to get less - just admit it. No need to hide behind articles written using only selective facts to justify your viewpoint.

    As for your BYOD argument, a reputable business will make the investment. I think an employer that takes money out of my wallet and cannot expense equipment necessary for it's workers is not an employer I would want to work for.
  • Philippines data plans

    4G/3G coverage may not be that extensive in my country but thanks to recent upgrades, the coverage is actually improving...

    I'm currently paying around $41 a month for my monthly phone plan. $18 is for my consumables(calls and text) while the $23 for the unlimited data plan...That's $23 for a true unlimited plan....I consistently get HSPA+ since I'm living in the capital region and the best part is, there's no data cap...

    I decided to get another data only plan($23/month) for a myfi device for my home use. I decided to have my DSL plan cut because the speeds I get from the HSPA+ network is significantly better than my old DSL subscription. I use my phone's hotspot for outside use while the myfi device stays at home...
  • what a stupid position and post!

    What are you talking about I've never signed a contract for a data plan for anything beyond my mobile phone. I've never signed any contract let alone a 2-year contract for my AT&T data plan for my iPad. Car salesmen must love to see you coming, I mean with that clueless sucker tattoo on your forehead and all.
  • republic wireless to the rescue!!

    I gave up on _all_ the major carriers last year, before this current "shared" nonsense began. Since last December, my service has been with republic wireless (yes, no caps) and I pay the princely sum of $19a month for UNLIMITED EVERYTHING.

    No, I don't work for republic wireless, but I know a deal when I see one. Check it out.
  • Nobody talks any more

    The shared data plans all have unlimited talk and text, which was extra cost before. I guess no one talks any more, and text never did cost enough to justify the charges.

    I just switched to shared.
    The overages on the iPad plan pushed me to it. Instead of four little pools of data, now I have one big pool, and overages aren't likely.

    I get tethering, which means I can drop my MiFi.

    It's a good deal for me.

    -- clarence
  • Blah

    The wife and I are rocking grandfathered unlimited data plans and always will. I don't really notice the throttling but in all fairness......I seem to find open wi fi every where these days. And I never knew what I was missing until I got an LTE is good.
    Allen Frady