AT&T's Mobile Share plans are just as bad as Verizon's Share Everything

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| Published: July 18, 2012

In mid-June, Verizon Wireless announced their fresh and quickly approaching Share Everything plans. Just two weeks later, said plans went live, marking the end of grandfathered unlimited plans (for those who choose to upgrade when the time comes) and the beginning of a new era, where data buckets are the primary choice in customers' wireless plans over minutes and messages, which are now unlimited.

Share Everything is Verizon's latest attempt to squander heavy data users and to better manage their users' consumption levels. By grouping everyone on a single family plan into a single data pool, select families will be able to save a fair amount of money each month while getting the same – or roughly the same, possibly even more – usage.

The idea behind Share Everything is that families only have one choice to make: how much data everyone will use.

From there, it's simple. The access fee per smartphone is $40 per month, $30 per month for each feature phone, $20 per month for Jetpacks, USBs, notebooks and netbooks, and $10 per month for each tablet. Data buckets start at $50 for 1GB and rise $10 for each tier: 2GB, 4GB, 6GB, 8GB and 10GB. For example, two smartphones and a tablet with a 10GB data bucket would cost $190 per month; that's $80 for two smartphones, $10 for the tablet and $100 for the data package.

Sure, some families will save money, and many aren't going to care one way or another about Share Everything. But there are quite a few who will take a hit each month for Share Everything plans. Specifically, heavy data users. The highest data bucket Verizon offers is 10GB. While that's probably plenty for me on a high month, I know people who have used well over 25GB in a single billing cycle. If someone were to do that with Share Everything, it would cost them upwards of $325 ... just for data. (That's not including the monthly access fees. It's $100 for the 10GB data bucket and $15 per gigabyte beyond 10GB.) They could also add 2GB for $10 per month on top of the 10GB plan, but the total price of data would still be $305.

At first mention of Share Everything pricing, I was outraged. And I'm still pretty heated, for what it's worth, mainly because at one turn or another, I'm going to lose my grandfathered unlimited data plan. Of course, I could split off from my mother's account and buy each Verizon smartphone no-contract. But Verizon isn't going to make keeping unlimited data easy, and they're going to corner me at some point down the road and all of my efforts will have been in vain. In short, it's not worth all the trouble and headaches.

Just this morning AT&T made their Mobile Share plans official, announcing pricing and availability in August. We all knew this day would eventually come.

However, at first glance, AT&T's shared data plans looked a bit more enticing than Verizon's. My eyes immediately shot to the right of the chart to find that they are offering up to 20GB of data. What? 20GB? That's great, right? Well, yes and no. A 20GB plan will cost users $200 per month, plus $30 per month for each smartphone. With just three smartphones, you would be paying over $300 per month (with taxes). On the other hand, say someone eats through 25GB with this data tier. Instead of the $325 for the data it would cost on Verizon's Share Everything plan, it would only cost $275. That's still very pricey but, for what it's worth, it's $50 cheaper.

Comparing Mobile Share and Share Everything side by side, you might jump to the conclusion that AT&T has the better shared offer. But one is hardly better than the other.

The larger the data bucket you purchase on AT&T, the cheaper the monthly access is for smartphones. For instance, 1GB is only $40 on Mobile Share, whereas the same tier is $50 on Share Everything. But the monthly access is $5 more on AT&T for that tier – $45 per month for each smartphone versus $40 for Verizon Share Everything subscribers. In other words, if you have two users on the 1GB tier with Mobile Share, it will cost you $130 per month ($40 for the 1GB of data and $90 for two smartphones). The same configuration on Share Everything will cost you the exact same amount, $130 ($50 for 1GB of data and $80 for two smartphones). This follows suit up to the 10GB bucket.

The only real benefits come from AT&T's Mobile Share plans when you have a large family – or more devices. And that's where AT&T's plans slightly undercut Verizon. Three smartphone lines on a 10GB Share Everything plan would cost $220 – $100 for the data and $120 in access fees. The same configuration on Mobile Share would be $10 cheaper – $120 for data and $90 for access fees. Each three (or more) line configuration beyond 6GB is cheaper on Mobile Share than on Share Everything. But you have more low-gigabyte choices on Verizon, whereas on AT&T, you have the option of both 15GB and 20GB. It's a trade-off, but neither are worth clamoring over.

The closest configuration to what I currently have through AT&T would be a 6GB bucket, which costs $90, and a $35 access fee for one smartphone. The total would put me at $125 per month. Currently, I pay $90 plus tax for 5GB of data and 450 minutes. I recently removed SMS from my plan because I use Google Voice for my text messaging needs, which is free. So, just like Verizon's Share Everything, Mobile Share is more of everything I don't want, and it's not cost effective or efficient for someone who primarily uses data. Luckily, Mobile Share plans are a choice … for now. Come upgrade time, users will not be forced into the new plans, but will likely be incentivized and coerced by sales reps.

Me? I'm still going prepaid when my Verizon contract runs out. And I'm not exactly thrilled to learn of Mobile Share from AT&T. But, seeing as postpaid carriers still have dibs on newest devices and are building out 4G networks at breakneck pace, it's worth paying a little extra to stick with them. Unless something drastically changes (like rollover data or some other promotion), I will be holding out on Mobile Share for as long as possible.

What say you? Are you at all interested in shared data offerings from Verizon and AT&T? The case varies from family to family. Are there any that will save yours a great deal or money? Or is it more of everything you don't want?

Update: It was brought to my attention that Verizon does, in fact, offer larger data plans: 12GB, 14GB, 16GB, 18GB and 20GB. They are not listed but are avalable upon request. Also, some key benefits of Mobile Share were brought to my attention. These plans are not mandatory, and they do not come at the expense of grandfathered unlimited data plans. Users can keep their current plan when upgrading and do not have to switch over to Mobile Share, adding to the plan options at AT&T.

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