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August 30th 2012 10:00 am

Shared data plan outrage seems misguided.

News outlets, especially tech outlets, love hyperbole and talking about things getting more expensive.

Let's look at how things are going in the mobile space and the market in general:

LTE is here and coming to the most popular phone, iPhone in the next month or so. 3G coverage has spread beautifully to the point where losing signal is synonymous with losing 3G. It's great to see how the cell companies have spread their data to be available in more places at reasonable speed.

One thing that isn't going away is the subsidized 2 year upgrade with contract. This business model is spreading to the likes of DirecTV and others. No one likes a contract, but you're not gonna get rid of your phone, are you? Can you really not find a phone you like on your current carrier? If you have one of the big 4 (or especially big 2), there's little reason to move, beyond cost.

In order to sell more phones to families carriers introduced family plans. In the current state of the market I believe a family plan is the only way to economically survive having it all without paying an insane amount. When I look at my friends who have their own plans they pay at least 30% more than I pay my mom to keep me on her family plan. Some of my friends pay double what I pay so it definitely adds up over time.

To evolve the carriers stance that they want everyone to have a cell phone to selling everyone a smartphone, shared data is the only way to make it work. If you currently have a 4 phone plan with 2 smartphones, it won't cost much more with the shared data plans for everyone to share the same amount of data and instead have 4 smartphones. New users simply may not use as much data as previous or lifestyles may have changed with existing smartphone users that cell data usage is simply not high enough to need 2GB all to one user.

What I am saying is that these plans make sense and allow more people to have smartphones without paying too much. $30/month for someone who has never downloaded an app before is too much. My family can now share 10GBs of data for 4 users at a cheaper price when we used to be limited to just 2GB each. Allowing the availability of a mobile hotspot/tethering is certainly necessary and the ability to add more devices like a PS Vita, 4G iPad, etc onto your existing plan helps everyone.

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Family plans are the wrong option. At least for Canada.

I just hate that you have to pay $140/month to get 2GB of shared data on a family plan. Especially when my entire personal plan is $60/mo and I get 6GB :)


The other problem with family and shared data plans (here, but maybe where you are) is that changing anything on your account renews the term of the contract. This is 3 years in Canada (I WISH we had 2 year contracts like our southern friends)

So if one of the family members wants to upgrade to the newest phone, everyone else is signed on for 3 more years, not to mention they lose their discounted upgrade eligibility.

Want to add a family member to your plan? Everybody gets the contract renewed. Want to remove a member? Well you are probably paying a high early cancellation fee. You can't have a family account lower than 2 lines, otherwise you have to cancel the entire account.

I honestly just hate the fine print associated with the family plans.
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One thing I don't like about the new shared data plans is that they force you into a higher initial cost unlimited voice and text.

On Verizon, I am paying about $60 a month for 450 minutes per month and unlimited 4G data. I don't have a text message plan and just use Google Voice for that. I don't use anywhere near the 450 minutes per month so unlimited voice would be overkill.

If I switched to shared data on Verizon, I would pay $80 for 6GB of data (I regularly use more than 4GB of data just on my existing phone per month) and $40 for one phone so double what I pay currently for just one phone.

Even when I was on a family plan with 550 minutes on AT&T and an iPhone with unlimited data, I only paid $90 for two phones (one of the phones was voice only with no data).
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Dude, first let me point out that you're comparing your single user plan with a family plan.

Secondly and certainly more important: 4GB of data each month?! Wow, that's a lot of streaming movies, though I don't know how having 4G would affect my data. You're definitely an outlier in that sense.

I still can't get over the "I regularly use 4GB of data" part. WOW
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Some people run torrents on their phone, so it doesn't seem ludicrous to me. However I have never really rung up more than 1GB when I was on android. I barely pass 500MB now that I am on a data-compressing BlackBerry
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For Verizon, shared data plans are not just family plans. They are now the only option for even single phone plans as well (unless you are grandfathered with a previous plan like I am) which is why I used that for comparison. If I added another phone, it would be another $40 a month so $160 compared to the $90 I paid for a family plan with AT&T for two phones. If I had added data to the second phone, it would have been $105 ($15 data plan for 200MB) so still significantly cheaper than the shared data plans.

As far as my data usage, I like to watch streaming video at the gym when I workout which is typically ~320MB of usage per visit (45-60 minutes) so easily 1GB a week. This mornings usage was actually a bit higher at 369MB.
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