On three of the nation's four largest carriers, unlimited data finally saw its way out last year and was immediately replaced by less-than-desirable tiered data plans. The move was a rather poor attempt at alleviating some of the stress off the carriers' networks. But studies have shown just how little effect tiered data has actually had. And switching millions of loyal customers off of luxurious unlimited plans to comparatively expensive data plans with caps has been a bumpy ride.
Effectively, all of the blowback from the so-called "spectrum crisis" is getting passed down to consumers. And many are irate. (As they should be.) Just as the carriers began to push smartphones like there was no tomorrow and as mobile content providers came out of the woodwork, the carriers realized there wasn't enough spectrum to go around and their networks couldn't handle the massive amounts of abuse a barrage of smartphone customers could put them through.
It goes without saying that this hasn't been the smoothest transition on any carrier's part. And very little foresight went into the whole ordeal.
So the carriers are going to swoop in and make things right again. Right? Well, not really. But they're definitely going to make us believe they're doing everything they can to take the pressure off customers.
Enter shared data. (It's for our own good, so we're led to believe.)
We've been hearing of different data offerings from both AT&T and Verizon for several months now. First the possibility of family shared data on both AT&T and Verizon surfaced. Then we learned of future offerings, such as drip-casting – which will allow users to download movies and other content from specific providers through their cellular data without using their monthly allotment by planning ahead and taking advantage of off-peak hours – on Verizon.
Yesterday morning, Verizon announced their new Share Everything plans and revealed they will be going live on the 28th of this month, even sooner than we had imagined. Something to get excited over, right? Not exactly. Share Everything is coming at the expense of grandfathered unlimited data plans and all legacy family plans to boot. The next time you upgrade, you will be switched over to Share Everything. Unless, of course, you decide not to upgrade and purchase phones no-contract from here on out.
It's all about the buckets. And, as our own Evan Selleck explained yesterday, that's kind of scary.
Evan also explained that Share Everything can be helpful for some individuals and families with specific setups. Verizon customers will be getting more for their money, and some will even be saving money in the process. But that doesn't mean they will be getting more of what they want.
In my case, it's more of everything I don't want. I have spent the last six months explaining how I don't like voice calling, how carrier text messaging is a rip-off and how I despise tiered data. (Voice calls – in my case, at least – are inconvenient. And text messaging is extremely overpriced. If you want a better explanation, read this article and this one.) And just last week, I explained that, if I could, I would have nothing but data – or a data-only plan for my smartphone. Yet, Verizon's new Share Everything plans force unlimited calling and text messaging down every single customer's throat.
Of course, this was inevitable; minutes and messaging have lost a lot of importance in the light of mobile data. But I never imagined I would be forced to pay for both minutes and messaging, whether I wanted them or not. Come June 28, I will have to have unlimited minutes and messages, just to have a data plan. How nice.
In truth, shared data will save my family some money. But that isn't money we necessarily want to save. Right now, we pay $260 per month (before taxes) for 1,400 minutes, unlimited data and four smartphones – three of those have grandfathered unlimited plans and one has a 2GB per month cap. Each month, we use roughly 5-8GB of data as a whole, meaning we only have two real options when it comes to Share Everything. That's a $40 per line access fee plus $80 for 6GB, or it's $90 for the 8GB plan. That equates to $240 or $250 plus taxes. So it will save my family $10 or $20 in the end. The "benefit" is that we will get unlimited minutes, which we don't even need considering we never pass 1,400 minutes. Not to mention, the three of us with unlimited data will lose our plans (which we have had long before Verizon bought out Alltel and scooped us up) for 6GB or 8GB shared buckets.
Worse is the fact that my mother will likely disband our account if she loses unlimited data, meaning I will go solo. I will be looking at paying $120 per month for a single line with 6GB of data. Considering I wouldn't have text messaging at all, that doesn't save me any money as an individual. In fact, it's $30 more per month than 450 minutes and 5GB of data would currently be. And I would rather pay $120 for 450 minutes, 10GB of data and no text messaging.
Of course, my current contract doesn't end until September, and existing plans will be long gone by then.
I understand that there are some people out there rejoicing for the few bucks that Shared Everything will save them. But it's not for me. And it's not for the majority of consumers, not if they want more choice and more flexible plans. Share Everything is simple to understand, but it forces consumers down a path they don't want to go down – they just don't know it yet.
How do you feel about Share Everything, ladies and gents? Do you welcome the change? Or, like me, do you think it's a horrible move on Verizon's part? I, of course, am mainly upset because I will be losing my grandfathered data, one way or another. (If anyone in my family upgrades, which they will, I will lose my unlimited data. That, or my mother will break off from the account, and I will lose it that way.) But does anyone out there see Share Everything as a good thing?
Image via On Video Games