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When you think about what the most important aspect of your phone plan, what would you say yours is? For me, it's probably data. Texting and voice are equally important, but the cool thing about data and owning a smartphone means that as long as data available, you can access all three. It's also the feature that I use most in my phone. But even if you don't find data to be the most important feature in your phone plan, if you own a smartphone it's probably of somewhat importance that you have one. So now all you have to do is decide what the perfect data plan is for you - but if there's more than one person or device on your account, it might not necessarily matter what works best for each individual line. For some companies, you have to figure out what data plan works best together, because some companies are opting in for data-share plans.

In some ways, this plans works out perfectly. Say two people sign up for a plan. Person A uses about 1-3 GB of data per month for video streaming, and while Person B might use some data here and there, they mostly just use their smartphone for games or perhaps productivity for work. They only need some data to download the proper applications, but doesn't use a lot of data. A shared 4GB data plan between the two would probably be a good idea, because it would be a waste to be paying for Person B to have 2GB of their own if they never even use it. Since most carriers require smartphones to activate some sort of data plan anyway, it could make sense.

Shared data plans can also work out if somebody is using two devices on one shared plan, like a tablet and a smartphone. Shared data between the two is probably easier to keep track of and use rather than two separate plans for each, and allows for more flexibility. Maybe one month you want to use more data on your tablet for streaming movies than you do on your phone for other tasks, and the next you don't have as much time to stream movies but you find that you're using your phone a lot more. With a shared data plan, you can easily switch which devices uses more data each month.

But what about when shared data plans don't work? Surprisingly, or perhaps unsuprisingly, the shared data plans only truly benefits a couple of key groups when it comes to saving money, and those groups are: mobile users who use both plenty of voice minutes and data, and users who need a boatload of data on several devices, for the more data you need, the less it will cost. For everyone else, it's likely costing you more.

AT&T recently announced that all new customers will only have the option of signing up for shared data plans starting on October 25, but on the plus side, and unlike Verizon, they won't make current customers switch over to the shared data plans. Even when you upgrade your phone, current customers stay grandfathered into their current plan if they wish. But for customers who were thinking about switching to AT&T, it would probably be a good idea to reconsider, or at least take a second look at their shared data plans to make sure that you're still getting the best value for your money (if that's what's most important to you).

Carriers like AT&T and Verizon are seeing the shift in trend from minutes being the most important aspect in cell phones to data being the most important. Naturally, they're going to want to charge you more for the things that you find most important - for the things that you think you can't do without. And what's a smartphone without data? But like I said, shared data plans do save money for certain people; but for the majority, it doesn't. While I think that shared data plans should be available for customers who can make good use of it, I'm against them being forced upon customers who will likely end up paying more every month for services they're not going to use. This is particularly true for Verizon, who forced their current customers into shared data plans whether they wanted to switch or not. Not cool.

But that's just my two cents. Now it's time to hear what you guys think about the move towards shared data. Are you happy that some carriers are making the shift, or is it something that deters you from using certain carriers? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


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