What to do about AT&T data plan changes?
June 2, 2010 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Should I switch to one of the new AT&T data plans for my iPhone?

AT&T has announced the end of unlimited data plans for smartphones, including the iPhone. I currently have the $30 unlimited data plan and can keep this as long as I have my current iPhone, if I'm reading the news correctly. I also just bought a wifi-only iPad and am trying to figure out if switching to one of the new data plans on my iPhone would be beneficial.

I used just under 800 MB since 3/1, averaging 266 MB a month. On the new Data Plus plan (200 MB for $15, with an additional 200 MB for $15 if you go over) this would cost me the same $30 as I'm currently paying for unlimited data, but save me $15 in any month I don't go over 200MB. On the $25 Data Pro plan, I'd get 2 GB of data and save $5 a month. I could also tack on another $20 to tether my iPad for a net increase of $15 per month over my current plan. But that's basically the same $15 per month that I would have paid for the smaller of the former iPad 3G plans (had I bought an iPad 3G), but I will have saved the $130 extra cost of the 3G iPad.

I don't plan on doing a lot of streaming on my iPad if I tether it, so I shouldn't overrun the 2 GB plan. It would just be nice to have the option to read e-mail, look up restaurant reviews, use Google maps, etc. when I'm out of wifi range. I realize I can do all that now on my iPhone, but it's just easier to do some things on the iPad.

Am I missing anything here? Should I switch to the Data Pro plan on my iPhone and add the tethering for a net $15 increase per month? I'm nervous about doing this because I won't be able to go back to the unlimited data plan.
posted by Joleta to Technology (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You can't tether an iPad to an iPhone without jailbreaking, so bear that in mind. As far as I've been able to find out, that won't change when tethering becomes officially supported in the US. For example, you can't tether an iPad to an iPhone in the UK.

Now, supposing tethering to the iPad were an option, one way or the other. Consider this anecdote. A friend of mine recently had a cable outage for a couple of days. Desperately needing internet access for working from home, he jailbroke his phone iPhone and used it as his internet connection for three days. No streaming video or audio (not even YouTube): just regular web browsing and email. In those three days he used ~600MB of data. Compare that to 50MB-200MB per month over the past 6 months.

Now, that was tethering to a MacBook, not an iPad, but given how content-intensive the iPad is, I think you'll be amazed at how quickly you use data when tethered.
posted by jedicus at 8:03 AM on June 2, 2010

Response by poster: From the AT&T press release: "Tethering for iPhones will be available when Apple releases iPhone OS 4 this summer. "
posted by Joleta at 8:10 AM on June 2, 2010

If I were you, I wouldn't make any iPhone/iPad/AT&T-related decisions until after the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, which runs from June 7-11 this year. Announcements are expected regarding a 4G iPhone, which could possibly include an end to AT&T's exclusivity deal in the USA. Everything's speculation at this point, but if you can hold out for another week and a half, the possible change in available wireless plan options could prove very beneficial.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:13 AM on June 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

From the AT&T press release: "Tethering for iPhones will be available when Apple releases iPhone OS 4 this summer. "

Yes, but that only connects an iPhone to a computer. You won't be able to tether the iPhone to an iPad without jailbreaking.
posted by jedicus at 8:13 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Keep your current plan (unless AT&T forces us to change plans), jailbreak your phone, install MiWi, and save your money.
posted by adamrice at 8:50 AM on June 2, 2010

Yes, you need to jailbreak to tether an iPad to an iPhone's net connection. With a computer you can tether over Bluetooth and USB. Neither option works with an iPad. (Yet?) You need to use MyWi or PDAnet to turn your iPhone into a wifi hot spot. They are jail break apps. I'm pretty sure tethering in this fashion is invisible to AT&T, so you wouldn't need to pay them an extra $20 for the privilege of using the bandwidth you already pay for.
posted by chunking express at 9:01 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could save 5$ by dropping to the 25$/2GB plan and never worry about overages.

Personally I don't think tethering is worth it unless you're a business class airfare 4x a week kind of person, but ymmv.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:21 AM on June 2, 2010

"Current subscribers will be able to keep their $30-per-month unlimited plans, even if they renew their contracts. But starting Monday, new customers will have to choose one of two new data plans for all smart phones, including iPhones and BlackBerrys."

That may or may not mean you have to change your plan when you get new hardware if you have an existing account. You might want to find out first.
posted by Kimberly at 10:13 AM on June 2, 2010

Response by poster: Since it looks like I won't be able to tether my iPad, I guess that's out. I just checked my monthly data usage since I got my iPhone (late November 2009): December 242 MB, January 252, February 258, March 220, April 287, May 174. It looks like I'd consistently overrun the 200 MB plan, costing me the same for the overage as I'm paying now for unlimited ($30). I could switch to the $25 a month 2 GB plan and save $5 a month. But I think I'll wait a few months and see if May is the start of a trend where I'm using my iPad more and playing with my iPhone less. If I see three or four months all under 200 MB, I might switch to the $15 a month plan.
posted by Joleta at 10:15 AM on June 2, 2010

According to Gizmodo, " If you already have an unlimited smartphone data plan and you renew your contract, even after June 7, as long as you don't change anything, you can keep... unlimited plan. But if you add tethering, you move to the new plan."
posted by earlygrrl at 10:18 AM on June 2, 2010

Response by poster: Kimberly: From AT&T's Facebook page: "If you like your current smartphone plan you do not have to sign up for the new plans. You are also not required to switch to the new plans if you renew your contract or switch to another smartphone."
posted by Joleta at 10:20 AM on June 2, 2010

Keep your current plan. Or, save yourself $5 a month and go on the 2 GB plan.
posted by jabberjaw at 10:47 AM on June 2, 2010

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