Confused about the best iPhone 6 plans for AT&T
September 11, 2014 7:25 AM   Subscribe

My wife has an iPhone 4 on a market rate plan. I have an iPhone 5 with both a grandfathered unlimited plan and a discount through my employer. Together, we fight crime. No, wait, we look for bargains on our cell plans. Can you help us figure out what's the best plan or combination of plans for us, and how actually to upgrade to iPhone 6?

I'm totally confused by the new AT&T plans and pricing.

I have a grandfathered unlimited data plan that I'd like to keep, although I don't really use that much data (1.8G on average in past 12 months). I pay about $60 for data and voice after the discount through my employer. I locked in a trade-in value for my iPhone 5 through Gazelle and I don't mind paying what I'm used to for my iphone (e.g., $399 or whatever).

My wife has her own voice and data plans that total about $80 per month. She has gone over her limit on data a few times. She also has a locked in value for her iPhone 4 (which is not much). All the same, she's comfortable paying full price (for a locked AT&T phone).

Most of our family are already on AT&T, so most of our voice calls are free. We really don't stream (maybe an occasional YT video) or use facetime, and we've had smartphones for years now, so we're not expecting a big spike in our network usage with the iPhone 6. We're data thrifty!

If you've followed the AT&T Next pricing and understand the different plans, can you help me figure out what's the best plan or combination of plans for us? I'm totally confused about Next, Mobile Share, the merits of keeping my old unlimited plan and paying full price for my wife (or maybe seeing if I can get my discount on her phone, too) versus getting a family plan (and possibly losing my unlimited plan). To the extent I try to keep my unlimited plan, what back channels do I have to go through to do that?

Maybe also the nuclear option: Should we switch to another carrier that has a better network and/or family plan for two people (not the assumed case of 4 people). We're in Metrowest Boston, and I have to say AT&T is not great here.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Technology (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Hold on to that unlimited data plan like grim death. When I went from the 4S to the 5S my data usage went from ~2gb a month to ~5gb a month. You should be able to add her line as a "family" plan to your account for less than full price. I've got two iphones (5s, unlimited data, 5s, 2gb month) for $130 or so using this plan with an employer discount.
posted by Oktober at 7:42 AM on September 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have an unlimited plan on AT&T too. Last time I upgraded my phone (from a 4 to a 5) I just got the phone at an AT&T store and there was nothing said or mentioned about the data plan one way or another. Still have the unlimited plan.

My plan is to do the same thing this time. They can pry my unlimited data from my cold dead fingers.

I added my now ex-wife and her sister and my brother to a family plan a few years ago without losing the unlimited data as well. I don't know if that has changed or not, but it still looks like the data plan is tied to each line individually, and so long as you're not changing /that/ then the voice/txt plan can be changed willy-nilly. Brother left the family plan a year ago without affecting any of the rest of us. YMMV
posted by ish__ at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Let me hip you to something.

Apps and operating systems are designed to EAT data.

Last time I upgraded my iPhone (3GS to 5S) I was floored at the change in data usage. Nothing I do (turning off apps, locking down preferences) seems to bring my usage back down to pre-5S levels.

Yes. Hold onto that unlimited data plan for dear life.


We have some sort of ATT combo plan where 2 iPhones + 2GB data = $90.

We did not give up an unlimited data plan to get this, tho. I think I gave up unlimited texts? Rollover minutes?? I don't remember.
posted by jbenben at 8:54 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would look into switching carriers if I were you. The family plans that T-Mobile and Sprint have are $100/mo for up to 4 lines. T-Mo's comes with 10GB data and Sprint's comes with 20GB data. $50 per line and the data seems to be more than enough.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:25 AM on September 11, 2014

I'm thinking about T-Mobile, too.

A friend just gave up his expensive unlimited data plan w/ Sprint for a less expensive T-Mobile plan. Because his friend referred him, he's got double the data for free through the next year, or something like that.
posted by jbenben at 10:33 AM on September 11, 2014

You can also go your own way, and keep your grandfathered data plan and she can get an umlimited plan. T-mobile's unlimited single phone plan is $50-60 and Sprint's unlimited single phone plan is $60 and she wouldn't go over on anything, and she'd save over what she's paying right now. And you're paying $60 which is decent for your plan. Or if you mostly text and web and don't talk very much, there are payg (prepaid) plans which are significantly cheaper than that.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:40 AM on September 11, 2014

Former AT&T unlimited subscriber. Even with unlimited, AT&T hits you with data caps at 3GB for 3g phones, 5GB for LTE phones. Actually do the comparison with other providers and look at how much data you actually use - there's very good odds you can get a better deal without a two year contract. For example, I hardly ever went over 2.5, but am signed up for a 5GB plan (which was all of $10 more per month vs. 3GB).

That is, you absolutely must have an iphone - in which case you're probably stuck with a two year contract regardless of where you go.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:56 AM on September 11, 2014

AT&T only enforces that 5GB LTE cap in markets where other carriers don't have strong LTE deployments. I did 12 gigs of data in a month (and regular go over 5) with no problems.
posted by Oktober at 12:10 PM on September 11, 2014

According to a thread on, you will be able to upgrade to an iPhone 6 and keep your unlimited data plan. This is confirmed in-thread by an AT&T representative.

Read the comments carefully, because some hoops-jumping is required. When the phone arrives, you will have to activate the phone with the cooperation of a human AT&T representative, either by calling them or visiting an AT&T store. See the comments in that thread by ShaunniDarko and mcleath for more details.

This question is relevant to my interests too, so I'm relieved to see that at least AT&T is keeping the option available. Ultimately, I may end up moving my account to a different AT&T plan, but I'd rather do that later during the 30-day post-activation window rather than during tonight's mad rush.
posted by ardgedee at 7:36 PM on September 11, 2014

With that said, you express some dissatisfaction with AT&T signal quality. Changing phones and plans is also the best time for changing carriers, too. If you want to be an early adopter, the clock is ticking; if you are willing to get your phone a week or two after all the other early adopters, you might be happier come mid-October.

Use to compare carrier network coverage in your area. Using it, I can see that Verizon has much better coverage across the urban area where I live, but that AT&T has good-to-excellent coverage at pretty nearly all points relevant to my weekly routines, so for me personally it's a wash. If my office or home were a couple miles away from where they currently are, Verizon would be the better option.
posted by ardgedee at 7:45 PM on September 11, 2014

Following up, now that I've ordered phones:

Doing so through AT&T's online store* allowed me the option of keeping my current unlimited plan. And that was it, really. I'll still verify things (and possibly lean on human tech support) while activating the phones.

* (AT&T's online store was slow but worked perfectly well. Apple's online store was wedged at 3:00 and, almost an hour later, doesn't look like it's working yet. This is in contrast to the last time I was part of an iPhone preorder rush, when AT&T's store was knocked completely offline while Apple's store worked OK.)
posted by ardgedee at 12:57 AM on September 12, 2014

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