Today, AT&T joined Verizon in offering shared data plans to its customers. Essentially, you will buy a bucket of data (used for emails, surfing web, watching videos) and share that among up to 10 mobile devices. Consider your mobile devices to be cars and consider data as that gas that fuels them.
You fill up each month and then burn it out.
So is sharing data a good thing? Potentially if you have a number of devices under one account.
Verizon announced a switch to shared data in June and its customers can currently opt for it. AT&T customers can switch in August. Existing customers can switch or stay on current plans without affecting their contracts. Existing customers can even purchase a new phone under a new contract and not be forced to switch.
The issue with either plan is if you’re an individual user, particularly one with multiple devices like a tablet and a smartphone.
Currently, on AT&T, if you have, say, a Samsung tablet and a Samsung phone, you would pay $120 per month to give the tablet online access and give your phone 3 gigs of data plus unlimited texting and 450 minutes of anytime calling. Remember, AT&T offers free calling mobile-to-mobile calls from any provider, so 450 minutes of anytime calling plus unlimited nights and weekends is about all anyone would need.
Under the new plan, that same user would pay $90 for unlimited minutes and texts and 6 gigs of data — the same amount he brought previously for his phone and tablet combined. Adding the now required $35 for phone access and $10 for tablet access, and his total bill climbs to $135. That’s $15 more than under the old system.
Of course, that user could opt for less data. Dropping to 4 gigs shared reduces his bill $5, but still the new plan doesn’t cut it for the solo user.
If you have multiple devices, this plan could be somewhat advantageous.
Under AT&T’s current plan, a family with three smartphone users would pay $70 for the phones per month, plus $90 in required data to power them. Add in $30 for family unlimited texting and you’re looking at $190. If one of them has a tablet, add another $30 for tablet access for three gigabytes. That’s $220.
(Quick note here, AT&T offers cheaper data options, $20 per month per device for 300 megabytes for data, but for most users this will not be enough, particularly as we move to 4G LTE networks that offer faster data speeds).
Now, let’s look at the same scenario with shared plans:
Under the new shared data plan, the same family could pay $35 each for each of the three smartphones, $90 for 6 gigs of shared data and $10 for tablet access to that shared data. Now you have unlimited calls and texts plus the shared data for $205. If you want to bring another tablet online, it’s another $10 instead of another $30.
And if that 6 gigs wasn’t enough data, that same family could move up to 10 gigs of shared data. AT&T charges $120 for 10 gigs instead of $90 for 6 gigs, but the price to access it per smartphone drops to $30 from $35.
So for our family of three, the effective price to jump to 10 gigs is $15.
A few things to remember: if you use up all your data and go over, AT&T will bill you $15 per gigabyte. If you don’t use it all, AT&T will not roll over the data into next month. It’s just gone. One other thing. Currently, AT&T charges to allow customers to use their cellphones as “hotspots” to provide data to WiFi only devices. The ability to use a device as a hotspot is included in the Mobile Share plan.
Is all of this for you? We think you have to crunch the numbers, but for multi-use families, we think it’s worth serious consideration.
Below is the full press release from AT&T
AT&T* customers will soon have more options in choosing the plan that’s right for them and their mobile devices. With new AT&T Mobile Share plans, available in late August, new and existing customers can share a single bucket of data across smartphones, tablets, and other compatible devices, plus get unlimited talk and text. AT&T Mobile Share plans make it easy for customers to manage their data, voice minutes and texting, without needing to keep track of multiple plans.
Customers can select one of the new shared data plans or choose one of AT&T’s existing individual or family plans. Current customers are not required to switch to the new plans, but can choose to do so without a contract extension. There are no changes to AT&T’s device upgrade policy, which means customers eligible to upgrade to AT&T’s best device price are not required to switch plans. The new plans will also be available for business customers.
With AT&T Mobile Share plans, customers start by choosing how much data they want each month, then choose up to 10 devices to attach to their shared plan, one of which must be a smartphone. Each plan includes tethering and unlimited domestic calls and texts for smartphones and basic or quick messaging phones. The larger the data bucket you choose, the less you pay per gigabyte and the less you pay for each smartphone added to the shared plan
First, choose your monthly data amount.
Mobile Share with Unlimited Talk & Text
Additional data: $15 per GB
Next, add more devices to your plan.
Basic and quick messaging phones
Laptops, LaptopConnect cards, and netbooks
Tablets and gaming devices
$30 each per month
$20 each per month
$10 each per month
AT&T Mobile Share allows customers to essentially build a plan to fit their devices and usage. Customers who are more data-centric can choose a larger data bucket. Customers who typically use more voice than data can add multiple smartphones and basic phones and opt for a smaller data bucket.
“We offer customers a broad choice and the best lineup of plans, now enhanced by Mobile Share,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Mobility. “With these new plans, the more you share, the more you save. They’ll be a good fit for a variety of new and existing customers. But if customers want to stay on their current plan or choose from our existing plans, they can do that, too. It’s their choice.
“Today we think of people’s smartphones and tablets sharing a bucket of data. But in the future we’ll see health care monitors, connected cars, security systems and other devices in the home all connected to the mobile Internet,” said Christopher. “Our Mobile Share plans are simple, easy and a great value for individuals or families with multiple mobile Internet devices.”
Mobile Share plans give customers more control over how, where and on what device they use data — which has become more important as people use more data devices. You can choose to use more of your data bucket on your tablet, for example, or tap into your data bucket only when needed for devices you use occasionally. And by consolidating data plans, you can take advantage of any data you currently have unused each month by efficiently sharing it across devices.
“The ‘more you share, the more you save’ concept is one that will resonate well with customers because of the value provided through the Mobile Share data plans themselves and in smartphone connection fees,” said Roger Entner, Founder and Lead Analyst of Recon Analytics. “AT&T also is providing its customers with flexibility and choice by keeping its existing data plans and not requiring customers to move to Mobile Share unless they want to. It’s a win-win for both AT&T and its customers.”
To help customers track their data usage, AT&T keeps users informed with courtesy alerts as they near their data allowance for the month. Also, customers can check their usage at anytime online, through the myAT&T mobile app, or by calling *DATA# from their mobile phone.
Each data plan also includes access to more than 30,000 AT&T Wi-Fi Hot Spots — the nation’s largest Wi-Fi network** among wireless carriers — at no additional charge. Wi-Fi usage at public hotspots, home or office does not count toward the monthly wireless data plan usage.