How bitterly should I cling to my unlimited data plan?
November 4, 2012 8:04 AM Subscribe
How strongly should I feel about hanging on to my grandfathered AT&T unlimited data plan?
posted by escabeche to technology (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
It's time for a new phone contract. I currently have the $30/mo. unlimited AT&T plan on my iPhone 3g, and my wife has a non-smartphone. With the renewal, I'll upgrade both phones on the line to smartphones (probably an iPhone 5 and an iPhone 4S.)
There are various ways I can do this. I can keep my current unlmiited plan and add a 300MB/mo data plan for my wife's phone; this will total $110/month.
On the other hand, if I junk my current plan and go with one of the new shared tiered plans, I could get 1GB/month shared between both phones for $130 on either Verizon or AT&T, or 4GB/month for $150.
Why would I even be considering paying more money for capped data usage? 1) Verizon has LTE here in Madison, and AT&T doesn't -- presumably they will someday but it's not clear how near-term that is. Switching to Verizon means giving up the unlmiited plan. 2) The unlimited plan doesn't allow tethering, which sounds like it would be useful, since my laptop is the device I actually like using and I'm often in places with no wi-fi signal; and 3) looking back at my usage pattern, I have never used more than 330MB of data in a month, and am almost always below 200 MB. I use my phone mostly for receiving e-mail, web surfing, and podcast listening, but seldom or never stream movies or music. (Listening to baseball games on MLB AtBat is probably my heaviest data usage.) So it's not clear to me that "unlimited" and "1GB" are meaningfully different for us.
Relevant questions, then, are:
a) If you switched from an older, slower phone like an iPhone 3G to a newer, faster one, how much did your data usage increase? Is 1GB/month actually a low limit with a 2012 phone? What about 4GB/month? (It sounds like my "unlimited" data plan would throttle to painful slowness after 5GB anyway, so it's not clear how unlimited it actually is.) What are people who use 5GB per month doing -- is the primary load coming from streaming video, or are there other data-intensive practices that I haven't thought of and that I'll want to use once I have a phone that can handle them?
b) How much am I going to notice the difference between HSPA+ (which is what AT&T now offers in Madison) and LTE? (I assume both will be notably faster than the 3G I'm using now?)
c) How much should I care whether I can tether? It is certainly not uncommon for me to find that I wish I had a wi-fi signal so I could e.g. send someone a file that's on my laptop, or get all my current e-mail into my OS/X mail app so that I can answer it with a real keyboard instead of a touchscreen. (In other words, it's not my practice to use my phone as my primary work device and I don't think it's likely I'll adopt this practice, even with an updated phone.)
d) Am I right that this entire question is completely independent of the question of whether to stay with iPhone or switch to Android? (e.g. I am sort of vaguely aware that there's an entirely different approach which I don't really understand involving Android phone + Straight Talk + Google Voice.)