Verizons ‘Share Everything’ Plan: Think Twice Before You Opt In
Verizon and others carries are making it more expensive to download data on your smartphone or tablet. Paying less for voice capacity that you probably won't use and more for data that you will use is a not a good trade.
Everybody loves a deal. So when a company that you patronize tells you it’s going to charge you less, you’ve got a right to feel good. Except when it’s really planning to charge you more.
The culprit this time is Verizon, the giant wireless carrier that is introducing a new plan called “Share Everything.” But when you read the fine print and do a little math it turns out that for many — not all — it will actually cost more. Maybe it should be called the “Share more money with us” plan.
First, a bit of context. Many subscribers now have multiple mobile devices, including a smartphone and a tablet. Some families have several smartphones and tablets. So why have a separate data plan for each device? That bothers people so much that many device owners rely soley on Wi-Fi to access the Web on their tablets.
Given that reality, Verizon last week announced the “Share Everything” plans, which include unlimited phone calls and texting, and will start at $90 per month for one smartphone and 1 gigabyte of data. Add a tablet, pay another $10 a month; a notebook will cost an additional $20 a month. So a smartphone, tablet and a notebook and unlimited talk minutes and texts adds up to $120 a month when “Shared Everything” goes into effect on June 28.
A second phone ups the charge by $40 a month, as will any subsequent additional phones. (The limit is 10 devices.)
That’s a huge change from just a year ago. At that time, smartphone users paid $30 per month for unlimited data while choosing among various plans that defined limits on voice minutes and texts. More recently, you might spend $80 a month if you send or receive up to 1,000 messages, don’t talk a whole lot and use up to 1 GB of a data. That’s $10 a month less than the entry-level “Share Everything” plan.
Remember, 1GB of data isn’t all that much. According to AT&T’s online calculator, 10 minutes of streaming video a day (HD video use more than twice that much data), plus 30 minutes a day of streaming music would eat up just over 1GB of data in a month, and that doesn’t include any data you’d use checking email or surfing the Web.
And that means you might want to move up to 2GB of data for an additional $10 a month, or 4GB for an additional $20 a month, which would bring your monthly total on the “Share Everything” plan to $130. And if you need to add another smartphone, that will cost yet another $40, pushing the bill to $170 a month. You can see how easily the “Share Everything” plan can grow in price.
The carrot in all this is unlimited voice and texting. But many users don’t need all that talk time, so getting more minutes isn’t very valuable.
Why is this happening? It’s not just greed, though that certainly plays a part. As video, online games and other bandwidth intensive applications become more popular, networks are increasingly burdened and the carriers are spending billions to upgrade them. I’d argue that in AT&Ts case, they’re not spending fast enough, but that’s another discussion.
In any case, it makes economic sense from the carriers’ point of view to give away voice capacity that won’t be used and charge more for scarcer and more popular data capacity.
AT&T is likely to introduce shared data plans as well.
The one real advantage of the new shared plans is that they are less complex than the older ones. You won’t have to build a spreadsheet to figure out what you’ll be paying.
Families with numerous devices may come out ahead as well, as long as they are disciplined about data usage. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that last one, though. If the lack of success many families experienced in controlling voice usage is a precedent, being disciplined about data usage is going to be difficult.
For now, I’d urge you to use Wi-Fi as much as possible, since data you download while connected doesn’t count against your data plan. (Here are more tips on how to keep data use under control.)
If you are a current Verizon subscriber you do not have to switch to “Share Everything.” But if you are considering it, take a hard look before you switch.
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.