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Shared data plans: Verizon vs. AT&T

The right plan for you depends on your monthly talk, text and data usage. Here's what to compare.

By MSN Money Partner Jul 25, 2012 2:15PM

This guest post comes from Louis Ramirez at Dealnews.


Dealnews on MSN MoneyLike it or not, shared data plans may be the future of the telecommunications industry. But are these plans real money-savers or will you end up paying more out-of-pocket each month? With AT&T as the latest mobile operator to jump on the shared data bandwagon -- Verizon launched its plan in June -- we decided to take a look at both plans to see which, if either, can save you money.


The basics of shared data

Image: Woman with laptop (© Mike Watson Images/Corbis)A shared data plan allows consumers to use data on multiple devices (smartphones, tablets, cellphones) from one data plan. So rather than having one data plan per family member, for example, you'll have a single, larger data pool from which the family's various devices can share.


Included in both AT&T's and Verizon's shared data plans are unlimited voice minutes and unlimited texting. In addition, both plans let you use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot at no additional charge. However, for each carrier, there are various factors that can cause your monthly bill to rise quickly. (Post continues below.)

Verizon's Share Everything plan

Verizon plan

The details
Verizon's Share Everything plan charges a flat fee per device connected to a shared data plan. One smartphone, for instance, would tack on an additional $40 per month to your bill; a tablet would cost you $10 per month over the cost of your data share plan. After crunching some numbers, we found that with Verizon's shared data plan, it's less expensive to couple data usage between a smartphone and a tablet than it would be to operate them on two different data plans.


Looking at actual data costs, Verizon's shared data plan fees range from $50 for 2GB to $100 for 10GB. Should you need a plan with more data than Verizon currently offers, Verizon charges an additional $10 per 2GB. (So a 12GB-a-month plan would cost $110.) Seem hefty? Well, if you choose a plan and surpass your data capacity, Verizon will charge you $15 per 1GB of data.


Better to be safe than sorry, we think.


But the very best way to figure out if a data sharing plan will work for you is to carefully analyze your monthly usage, data and otherwise. The unlimited voice and texting that's bundled with Verizon's data plan is a huge perk and potential money-saver, especially if you use a lot of talk minutes per month.


AT&T's Mobile Share plan

AT&T plan

AT&T plan 2

The details
With AT&T Mobile Share -- which officially becomes available in August -- the higher the data tier you select, the less you'll pay per month to have the required smartphone on your plan. For instance, a smartphone on a $40 1GB shared data plan will cost $45 per month, whereas a smartphone on a $200 20GB plan will cost just $30 per month. However, basic phones, laptop/netbooks and tablets pay a flat fee of $30, $20, and $10, respectively, per month, regardless of how much data you get.


If you go over your data plan, AT&T charges $15 per 1GB consumed. Again, consumers who can potentially save the most with AT&T's shared data plan are those who primarily rely heavily on voice minutes and texting.


Which plan is right for me?

Verizon's and AT&T's shared data plans may seem difficult to understand at first due to a number of variables and possible scenarios. That's why your best bet is to first look at your own monthly talk, text and data usage, and then determine if any plan could save you money. (Both Verizon and AT&T provide tools for tracking your monthly data usage online and via your phone.) In both cases, those who are best suited to save are customers who currently go over their monthly allotment of minutes and text messages.

Likewise, smartphone users who have recently purchased a tablet that they want to untether from Wi-Fi-only can also potentially save money with these new plans (as long as your data consumption is moderate). The same can be said of a family with multiple devices, although tracking usage across many devices is likely tricky.


As we stated, shared data plans are the wave of the future. And although T-Mobile has made it clear that it's against shared data plans, calling them "costly, complicated and punitive," mobile operators have a history of following what the industry leaders are doing.


More on Dealnews and MSN Money:

Jul 25, 2012 9:08PM

I really liked my smart phone and would love to have a tablet, but it's just too expensive. We just got rid of our smart phones and went back to the regular old cell phone to save money. I don't know how people do it. We aren't rich, but my husband has a decent job (soldier, E-7) and the phone plans put an added strain on already tight finances. I hope more and more people do the same and the phone companies realize that they need to lower the prices.

Jul 25, 2012 11:26PM
Clearly both are trying to get rid of those of us with "dumb" phones.  I am on a plan with my brother-in-law and two nieces and we all have dumb phones.  We don't need or want smart phones, but it is almost impossible to find dumb phones anymore.  They're trying to get us to pay for something we don't need or want.
Jul 26, 2012 6:32AM

I have been with Verizon for 12 years and they are going to loose a customer when my contracts are up. I have 5 phones 2 smart 3 dumb and that is $200 a month if I switch to thier new plan it would be $300  They continue to jack fees and the service does not improve. I love having a smart phone, but it is not worth what all the companies are charging for data.



Jul 25, 2012 9:06PM
Who cares about Verizon and ATT?  They both suck.  I have StraightTalk wireless.  You can buy a SIM card and use any GSM phone that it fits or you can buy a phone from StraightTalk for as little as $79 for a full-featured, Android smart phone.  If you take a T-Mobile smart phone that is 4G capable and buy a StraightTalk SIM card for $15, you will continue to get 4G service.  And you get all this for $45 a month for unlimited talk, text and data.  Sprint will do basically the same thing for you for $55 a month and so will Boost and Cricket.  No throttling.  And there are other deals from Virgin Mobile, too.  Why would ANYONE use Verizon or ATT?  They are predatory.  If you're very happy with your ATT or TMobile or Sprint Apple iPhone (the ones with GSM SIM card) you can put a StraightTalk wireless SIM card in and get everything UNLIMITED for $45 a month.  Was this article written by fools working for Verizon and ATT? 
Jul 26, 2012 7:09AM
The major flaw in the article is not addressing how much you save compared to what you were getting. How in the world is it a deal that right now I am paying about 60 for unlimited data for two phones which now will get me 2 GB with Verizon for both. Don't have unlimited? Well you were paying 30 for 2 GB for one.  So they pretty much doubled the price of data, but now you can share it free! Lucky us. 2 GB will barely update apps.
Jul 26, 2012 5:35AM
Consumers are finally noticing that AT&T and Verizon = The Most Expensive Wireless Plans in America. For the post-paid customer, the fact remains that Sprint is the only U.S. carrier to offer them the iPhone experience with unlimited data plans starting at $79.99 per month. Plus, Verizon now charges its customers $30 to upgrade to a new phone when they renew. AT&T charges $36. But Sprint only charges $18. An investment writer recently summed it up best: “Sprint offers the best value proposition for a new smartphone user. I got my first smartphone on Sprint because a new AT&T or Verizon data plan is outrageous. My Sprint plan includes 450 afternoon mobile-to-landline minutes, unlimited other minutes, and unlimited texting and data for $79.99. Unlimited AT&T or Verizon plans would approach $150, and to get a comparably-priced package, I'd have to settle on limited data or texting plans, which I'd have to constantly try to not blow through. Why get a smartphone if you can't have fun using it?” Sprint also placed first in the industry in customer satisfaction, according to results from the 2011 and 2012 American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Jul 25, 2012 11:58PM
Sprint is awesome. Unlimited everything, plus $30 for data AND phone as wireless hotspot. Flexible with billing. I've been with them for 10 years, and I'll be with them 10 more. I was with AT&T, but I left them cold when they did that Cingular cluster f*ck.
Jul 26, 2012 4:14AM
AT&T may have the apparent edge in price but in business, if you can't connect free is too expensive.
Jul 26, 2012 11:20AM
Tired of these big companies who think they can ush their crap down your throat!!! Checking into sprin.t
Jul 25, 2012 10:16PM
Between the two, I'd go with Verizon.  AT&T has bought more companies, gutted them for their technology, and dumped them (putting thousands out of work) than any other telecommunications company in the country.  I should know, because I worked for one of those companies.  I would be looking forward to the day AT&T goes bankrupt, but that will just put more people out of work.
Jul 26, 2012 1:27PM
20+ spam messages later, I have to agree with what other people are saying; it is a bit hard to compare to what you are currently paying.  How is this cost-per-phone? I don't see how this is any cheaper unless you're a family of at least 4, all with smartphones where you are constantly going over your data-limit. It really screws up people on individual plans. Which is why I'll keep my unlimited plan until they remove it, and then ditch Verizon.
Jul 26, 2012 1:47PM
Or change to Sprint.  They have unlimited data!  :)  
Jul 26, 2012 4:27PM

in my opinion both companies charge way too much.  Verizon is doing away with unlimited data plans if you renew your contract and rumor is iphone5 is going to require unlimited data so vzw and att may not be able to sell it or you will have to go pay 5 or 600 bucks on the phone.  Sprint looks like the real winner here

Jul 26, 2012 7:16PM

What the story is forgetting is that I have AT&T.  My family unlimited messaging is a total of $30 per month.  My data is $30 for 3GB.  $20 for 300MB.  So, having 3 smart phones at the 3GB each is not well defined.  It is not, however $70 per phone.  It would be $30 total for text and $90 total for data, fot a total of $120.  The description suggests it would be $210. 


I am sure Verizon is similar. 

Jul 25, 2012 9:30PM
Cricket all the way. They have greatly improved over the past few years and have fair pricing and great service.
Jul 25, 2012 8:21PM

The shared data plan is going to save me 40 dollars a month so i'm all for it

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