From this month new Verizon Wireless customers kissed goodbye to unlimited data plans. But what effect does this have on existing customers? Can off-grid people live without unlimited data?
Verizon planned to eliminate the unlimited data plan for months. But how much data do most people really need?
Neilsen recently published data that shows that the average Android user in the first quarter of 2011 used 582MB of data per month. The average iPhone user was close behind, using 492MB of data per month. This is about a quarter of the 2GB of data allotment per month that is offered under current usage-based plans. However off-grid users tend to have heavier traffic.What might concern off-grid users is that Nielsen also found that people are rapidly ramping up how much data they use. In the past 12 months, average data usage has grown by 89 percent in a year. In the first quarter of 2010, smartphone customers on average consumed 230MB of data. Twelve months later, they were using on average 435MB in the first quarter of 2011.Data consumption grew even faster for the heaviest data users. Nielsen found that data usage for the top 10 percent of smartphone users, or the 90th percentile, is up 109 percent. And the top 1 percent, or the 99th percentile, has grown their usage by 155 percent from 1.8GB in the first quarter of 2010 to over 4.6GB in the second quarter of 2011.But before you panic and try to future-proof your data plan, take a deep breath and keep a couple of things in mind.First, people who rack up more than 2GB of data per month are typically people who stream a lot of music or video. For example, according to Verizon’s data calculator, if you stream music for 1 hour a day every day of the month, you’ll hit the 2GB threshold. If you watch 1 hour of high-resolution video every day on your phone, you will rack up over 10GB of data per month. Even 30 minutes of high-resolution video every day will take your usage to about 5GB per month. And 2 minutes of low-resolution video every day of the month will get you to the 2GB limit pretty quickly. By contrast, watching 30 minutes a day of low-resolution video will eat up about 690MB of data per month.
One current Verizon customer we heard of has a data plan for a Windows 6.5 phone HTC Touch Pro2. She is hoping to wait for the new iPhone 5.
Verizon now offer three tiers of service: 2GB of data per month for $30 a month, 5GB of data for $50 per month, and a 10GB of data for $80 per month.If you already have an unlimited data plan with Verizon Wireless, and you are still under contract, then you will keep that unlimited data plan at least until the end of your contract. The newly priced plans will apply to new subscribers.
According to a document from Verizon leaked to the blog Android Central and others, Verizon has told its sales staff that it is “grandfathering” in existing Verizon customers. This means that if you already have an unlimited smartphone contract with Verizon, you will be able to keep that unlimited plan even if you upgrade or renew your contract after July 7.
But if you add another smartphone to your family plan, that new line will not get the unlimited data plan.If you already have a Verizon Wireless smartphone, you should be set when the next iPhone is introduced. You will likely get to keep your unlimited data plan, so you don’t need to do anything right now.
A year after AT&T introduced tiered pricing, the carrier is still allowing customers to keep the plan when they upgrade to a new smartphone, so long as they don’t change their plans.
Something that people should keep in mind is that Verizon or any other wireless carrier cannot change the terms of your contract, such as pricing, while you are still under contract. After all, it’s a contract. The company has agreed to offer you certain services at a certain price for a specific time period. And you have agreed to pay for those services at a particular price for a specified period of time. Either party is not allowed to break the contract. If you bail on Verizon, they charge you an early termination fee. And if they significantly change the terms of your contract, you can get out of it without being penalized.
But once your contract ends, all bets are off. Verizon may decide a year from now that it doesn’t want to allow people upgrading or renewing contracts to keep the unlimited data service. And they are well within their rights to do this. In fact, the company has recently changed its early upgrade policy and it’s also lengthened all its contracts to two years instead of one.
One other thing to keep in mind is that even if you no longer have access to the unlimited data plan, it doesn’t mean that you will necessarily be paying more for your data service. Most people use far less than the 2GB of data that is offered as part of either AT&T’s or Verizon’s plans.
Here’s a little guide put together by Verizon to give you an idea of how much data certain activities eat up: Email (text only) = 10KB Typical Web Page Lookup* = 1.5MB Audio Streaming = 40MB/hr Lo-Res Video Streaming = 200MB/hr Hi-Res Video Streaming = 400MB/hr Digital Photo download/upload (Hi-Res) = 1MB * Can exceed 2 MB with graphically intense pages or with video.Keep in mind, not many people watch that much video on their phones every day.
If you are a commuter and you like to watch Netflix on your phone on the train in the morning and evening, you might. Or if you throw your smartphone in the back of the minivan on a regular basis to entertain the kids while you cart them around, this could be a problem. If you’re one of those people then an unlimited plan is definitely the right plan for you.But if you’re someone like me–who checks Facebook and Twitter from a smartphone regularly and uses Google maps when I get lost, but who barely gets above 300MB of data per month because I don’t watch a lot of video on-the-go, and who typically streams music while in a Wi-Fi hot spot–then you’ll be fine with the tiered plans.
Also, remember that using Wi-Fi hot spots will reduce how much data you consume on your carrier’s network. If you use these data hefty applications in Wi-Fi hot spots, that usage doesn’t count against your monthly allotment, because you’ve offloaded the data consumption. So even if you’re a commuter, who likes to watch lots of video on the train, the train may have Wi-Fi, which will allow you to catch up on your TV and movie viewing without breaking the bank, even without an unlimited plan.And finally remember that no matter what you do, Verizon or AT&T or any other carrier for that matter, can change their pricing plans at any time. And if you’re not in a contract at that point or you’re ready for an upgrade, you’re at their mercy anyway.
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