The days of unlimited data are drawing to a close and voice calling is on a decline. Tiered data is quickly becoming the new "minutes" and is easily becoming the staple of the mobile industry as smartphones become the mobile devices of choice for most consumers.
Unless you are (or plan to become) a customer of Sprint, who has vowed to keep their unlimited data as long as possible, the chances of you signing a contract and being offered unlimited data are next to none. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile have all scrapped their totally unlimited data offerings for more profitable and limiting tiered data or data throttling after a certain allotment is exceeded, while only allowing existing data customers to be grandfathered into their unlimited data plans.
Naturally, managing data usage is difficult and confusing to consumers. Unlike calling minutes, which are easily quantified and fairly easy to keep tabs on, data is much more subjective per user and varies between every website you visit, every song you stream and in literally every possible way you can use it. If you were to ask a paying data customer or even a Verizon rep how much data a gigabyte is, there is no easy way to explain exactly how long 1GB of data will last. At best, a sales rep will give you a pamphlet that gives approximated usage calculations that are conservatively averaged and still somewhat confusing.
I've stated before that carriers have to compromise in some form or another with consumers. Since the rise of mobile data and recent transition away from unlimited plans, carriers have yet to give in other areas. Text messaging remains respectively overpriced and calling plans have remained the core of phone plans, instead of appropriately decreasing in price, importance and/or minute allotments.
Supposedly beginning tomorrow, however, Verizon will begin the first of what could be many LTE tiered data promotions. They will offer "double the data" to new and existing 4G customers; meaning, if you currently have the 2GB LTE plan for $30, that same $30 can be turned into 4GB if you give Verizon customer service tomorrow. This certainly isn't as nice as, say, a limited time offer of unlimited data. But it's a pretty sweet deal, nonetheless.
The problem? There are so many questions left unanswered with a promotion like this. How long will the the promotion last? How long will users who take advantage of the promotion receive the deal? Will it expire come upgrade time? What about customers who aren't in 4G LTE areas? Do they have to pay premium prices for 4G-capable smartphones and get no added benefits? Why do 3G customers not have the opportunity at double the data?
Not only does it leave a lot of questions unanswered, it adds to the confusion for the customer. Personally, I feel a better promotion would be for Verizon to offer a similar offering to what T-Mobile offers to customers – unlimited data that is throttled after a certain point. Users who pay $30 would have 2GB of data to use before throttling kicks in. That, or paying an extra $5 or $10 would would enable unlimited data with 2G or 3G throttling. Despite the good intentions from Big Red, there is a lot that they need to do in terms of helping customers manage and monitor their data. On top of that, they should not single out customers based on what product they are buying. Not every customer is in a 4G area, yet customers in 3G-only areas should be eligible for promotions, too.
What say you, ladies and gents? Do carriers need to help customers manage their data a little better? Are promotions like this more trouble than they're worth? And will you be taking advantage of the promotion?