Tiered data is the bane of my existence. I have never been – and I cannot understand how anyone could be – a supporter of data caps, hard or soft. Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid the despairing depths of limited mobile data without making some sort of sacrifice: either in speeds or the quality and reliability of the service.
In short, tiered data is a necessary evil that we're all going to have to learn to live with.
Recently, however, two of the nation's largest wireless providers have introduced data plans that can make tiered data somewhat easier to live with. First, much to my dismay, Verizon announced and released Share Everything. And AT&T quickly followed with Mobile Share.
Family shared data was a long time coming. For as far back as most of us care to remember, calling minutes have been the staple in wireless consumers' monthly bills. Wireless providers have forced customers to choose their minute plan then any add-ons, like text messaging and data packages. But just like carriers allow customers to share minutes across family plans, data was always going to be another shared connection.
Over the last five years or so, mobile data and messaging have grown exponentially in importance, effectively replacing voice calling as a primary form of communication for many mobile customers. Mobile phone usage has traversed from simply placing phone calls and sending a few text messages each day to watching videos, perusing Facebook, tweeting, browsing the Web, carrying on all-day-long text message conversations and placing or receiving a few phones every day.
But there was a time where we all (the wireless users) could do this without remorse, without limit. The very beginning of this mobile Internet trend was like an new world for many of us and carriers didn't quite understand its potential or breadth. After just a few short years and a few thousand iPhone effectively taking down a network in New York City, we all quickly realized that the world of unlimited data as we once knew it would soon be over.
Limits were eventually placed, and wireless providers are finally getting up to speed on this whole data movement. And so here we have shared data.
Quickly following Verizon's announcement of Share Everything in June, I wrote the piece Verizon's Share Everything plans are the last thing I want as a rebuttal to Evan's more positive take. Just days later, after mulling over the proposed plans a bit more, I decided that I would rather go prepaid than to be forced into a shared data plan that gives me more of what I don't want and will actually cost my family more.
Last month, we learned what AT&T's shared plans, dubbed Mobile Share, entail. In many ways, they're remarkably similar to Verizon's Share Everything, despite initially looking much more budget-friendly. Yesterday, we learned that Mobile Share will be made available to customers later this month. Come August 23 and I will be facing another crossroad: adopt Mobile Share or keep my current rate plan?
Doing the math as a single-line individual, it's simple. Keep what I have and don't pay more for less. Here's an example that I gave when writing on Mobile Share the first time:
"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."
But there are other factors to consider now, too. I could bump that data plan to 10GB and add a tablet for $160 per month. Sure, I would be paying significantly more per month, but I would have more than enough data and I've been contemplating a smaller, data-enabled tablet anyway to replace one of my smartphone lines.
I can't be certain what I will do just yet; there are a lot of options to consider, like whether I should join accounts with a friend to save money. But I can't go prepaid on both lines as MVNOs reserve the right to pull the carpet out from under you if circumvent their terms. I ca risk that with a secondary line, but I need a little more stability than that for my primary. Chances are, I won't go with Mobile Share right away. If I do, rest assured there will be at least three devices and 10GB of data.
That said, there is at least some silver lining with Mobile Share. Once they go live, users are not forced into them. Grandfathered unlimited plans will remain valid as will existing family plans. Mobile Share is only an added option, not a replacement for all other plans.
What will you do, AT&T subscribers? Will you adopt Mobile Share come August 23? Or will you avoid the shared data trend for as long as possible? Have any Verizon users switched to Share Everything yet? If so, share your thoughts below.