AT&T Joins the Shared Data Game

So I’m working though my latest summer sinus headache and I see the news – AT&T has finally announced (as expected) that they are going to follow Verizon in offering shared data plans.  And, like Verizon’s offering, the plans all include unlimited voice and texting plus a fixed amount of data.  The primary difference you notice between the AT&T and Verizon offerings is that Verizon charges a fixed $40 per smartphone and AT&T lowers the per smartphone cost as you increase the amount of data you purchase.  But Verizon’s “base” charges tend to be lower (per GB) as you get to the higher-tier plans than AT&Ts.

And I thought – “oh crap”, because the idea of trying to “crunch the numbers” while working through a headache is enough to give anyone another headache!   But let’s try and let’s look at these new shared data plans a bit and see if we can’t break them down into less painful chunks.

To start, both Verizon and AT&T charge a “base” charge, that varies depending on how much data you want to purchase, plus a charge for each device you add to the plan.  Different types of devices costs different amounts to add to the plan.  So your monthly charges are:  base charge + device charge + device charge + device charge….. (and so on) – up to 10 devices on both company’s plans.  And then you add all applicable taxes and fees, of course.  Keep in mind that your base charge includes unlimited voice plus unlimited texting plus a fixed amount of data to be shared amongst all your devices.

AT&T’s Mobile Share plans are as follows:

All plans include unlimited voice plus text.

Data purchased:                        1GB     4GB     6GB     10GB    15GB    20GB
Base charge:                                $40     $70     $90     $120     $160     $200
Charge per smartphone:           $45     $40     $35     $30       $30       $30

Feature/messaging phones (no data) are added to the plans for $30 each.  Tablets are $10 each.  Mobile hotspots/laptop connections are $20 each.

By comparison, Verizon’s plans are:

Data purchased:                        1GB     2GB     4GB     6GB    8GB    10GB
Base charge:                               $50     $60     $70     $80     $90     $100
Charge per smartphone:          $40     $40     $40     $40     $40     $40

And, like AT&T, feature/messaging phones (no data) are added to the plans for $30 each.  Tablets are $10 each.  Mobile hotspots/laptop connections are $20 each.

Overall, AT&T can end up a little cheaper on the – plans and Verizon a but cheaper on the high-end plans.

In general, it seems that these plans won’t necessarily save you money (are we surprised by that?), but they can give you a little bit more flexibility in how you use your data.  If you have multiple tablets however, it could conceivably start to add up since both offerings allow you to add tablets for only $10 per device.

For me, I have 3 smartphones (1 on 5GB of data, 1 on 2GB of data, and one on 300MB of data) and a tablet (currently costing $30/mo in data costs).  Even with all that switching to these plans would kind of come out as a wash for me.  Why?  Because they insist on you signing up for unlimited voice and text.  I currently have a 1400 minute/month plan and I don’t even really use that.  What I really need is a data sharing plan that doesn’t make me pay for unlimited voice/text!  So again, I think that is what people are generally going to find.  These plans don’t really save money, but perhaps you gain a little more flexibility in your data handling.

And that is the basic dilemma offered in these plans – simplified data sharing, but you have to take stuff you don’t necessarily need to get it.  Why did they do that?  Simple – voice is cheap these days.  No one wants to use it.  Data is king right now – data is where the real money is now, and in the future as we move toward VoIP (think Skype, etc.) which is all data.  The interesting thing is that AT&T plans to keep offering its current individual and family plans alongside these new shared data plans.  It’s going to be interesting to see what people choose going forward and I’m glad to see that AT&T is going to give people all options.

So the shared data plans are now all starting to come out.  The AT&T plans should be available some time in August.  You can find more information about the AT&T MobileShare plans here.  Information about Verizon’s Share Everything plans can be found here.  Do the numbers work out in your favor?  Are you interested in these new shared data plans?  Tell us what you think!

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8 replies

  1. I love the idea AT&T has about rewarding you for getting more data by scaling back the per-smartphone charge. It is a great balance that ends up rewarding you …
    But of course while I have read some stuff putting these two together as a ‘choice’, for most people I know the carrier choice is ‘signal or no signal’, or perhaps ‘4G or 3G’. So for me I can choose ‘LTE everywhere’ or ‘pray for signal’. It is a non-choice, even though it costs me more.

    • Like I said, it doesn’t save me money at all and I would actually move to a slightly lower total amount of data in the deal, but I would be able to spread the data better amongst the smartphones in my current family plan. Personally, however, I think $30 for a feature/messaging phone is way to steep for a device that will make minimal usage of data. I think it should be $10 like the tablets. In any case, I won’t be making the leap to these plans any time soon, but perhaps once they shake out a bit and tweak them they might eventually become more appealing.

      • Does it give iPhones hotspot capabilities? Try to look for that and could not find.
        Sent from my iPad

        • I would honestly assume not … but it isn’t clear. I need to find out the same thing for Verizon. I use it on my iPad but would also like to use it on my Droid.

          • Verizon does offer hotspot as part of the deal.

            I have it in writing from the chat I did with customer service.

            • Cool – perhaps I should have re-read your article! :)

              • It’s ok, that may or may not be in the article, I can’t remember when I confirmed it.
                I need to do a follow up…after tracking our usage and getting better numbers from Verizon on corp discounts I found out we could save over $20 a month due to discounting. So it sucks for most two smartphone households but we get lucky.

  2. While it’s not really going to save me much money per se, for our typical data usage it would be a good way of sharing data with my wife. She doesn’t use much data right now, and doesn’t want to use text due to it costing us an extra $30 for her. Were I to adopt the lower $40 for 1GB consistent with my typical monthly data usage and add our two phones we’d be about the same or perhaps a tad cheaper but she’d now get unlimited text, which I think she’d actually find more useful than she realizes.