This week, Verizon announced the launch of its long-awaited shared data plan. Dubbed “Share Everything,” the new plan allows you to purchase data in chunks of 1 to 10GB and share it among all your family’s devices, from smart phones to tablets or even netbooks. In a world where carriers have traditionally charged separate data fees for each device you own, the new pricing structure sounds like a breath of fresh air. However, if you do the math, you might end up spending more money than what you're paying for Verizon’s current lineup of voice and data options.
Fortunately, current Verizon customers will not have to give up their existing plans, even when they upgrade their phones and renew their contracts. The one exception is that users who have been grandfathered into unlimited data plans will have to switch to limited data if they want to upgrade their phones at subsidized prices. New Verizon customers who sign up after June 27 will only be eligible for Share Everything. If you were planning to sign up as a new Verizon customer and don’t like these plans, now’s the time to act.
So, current and future Verizon subscribers, are the new Share Everything plans a good deal for you? It really depends on how much you talk and text and how many devices you have.
Adding up the cost of the Share Everything plan is so simple even a third-grader can do it. You simply pay a device fee for each device you use and a data fee for your shared pool of data. The device fee is $40 per smart phone, $20 per notebook or 4G modem and $10 per tablet.
You then buy a block of data ranging in size from 1GB to 10GB and in price from $50 to $100. If you’re the type of person who primarily uses Wi-Fi at home and the office and only reads e-mail and surfs the Web while out without consuming multimedia, you may be able to get by on don’t plan to watch a lot of streaming movies or tether to a notebook, we recommend 1 to 2GB of data per user, but if you expect to do either of those things we’d go with 4GB of data per user.
Good for Talk and Text
If you make a lot of voice calls or do a lot of SMS messaging, the Share Everything plans are a good deal because they provide unlimited minutes and texts. For just $40 per smart phone, you can talk or SMS message to your heart’s content, something that, on the current rate structure, costs $89.99 per month for an individual ($69.99 + $20) or a whopping $179.98 for two lines on a family share plan.
When you add data, the Share Everything plan costs $100 ($40 + $60) to provide a user with unlimited voice and text plus 2GB of data while the traditional plan costs $119.99 for the same thing. For a family of two, the cost of two smartphones with 4GB split between them is $150 a month, much better than the $239.98 it would cost under the current rate plans. If those users can get by with just 2GB between them, that price is just $140 a month.
Verizon wisely realizes that most people don’t use talk and SMS as much as data so they’ve turned those minutes and messages into an expensive commodity and focused the plan’s price differences on data. If you’re still focused on voice calls, you could come out ahead.
Bad For Non-Talkers
If you don’t use more than 450 anytime minutes per month as an individual or 700 minutes as a family, you’re better off with one of Verizon’s current plans. The cost of the minimum 450-minute individual plan plus 2GB of data is just $69.99 ($39.99 + $30) as compared to $100 on the Share Everything plan ($40 + $60). Even if you can get by with just 1GB, a size so small we don’t recommend it, you’re still paying $90 a month for something that costs you $69.99 under the current rate plan.
A two-person family plan with 700 anytime minutes and 2GB of data per person costs $129.99 ($69.99 + $30 + $30) under the current system, but under Share Everything, a family with two smart phones and 4GB of shared data will pay $150. If the family can live with just 2GB shared, that price gets $10 cheaper.
We should mention that the current plan rates we’ve just quoted do not include texting plans. Under Verizon’s current rate plans, you can either pay $10 for 1,000 messages, $20 to $30 for unlimited texts ($30 is for family plan members) or pay-as-you-go with $0.20 per text and $0.25 per SMS picture message.
The frugal solution is to forgo a text messaging plan and simply use a free app and service like Google Voice to get your texts. That can be a hassle, because it requires you to give out a separate number for SMS and you still get dinged if someone messages your primary number. But if you only receive a handful of unwanted texts a month from friends or businesses that ignore your pleas, that’s not a lot of money.
If you expect a few texts, the $10-for-1,000-texts plan still comes out cheaper than Share Everything as an individual plan with 450 minutes, 2GB of data and 1,000 texts costs $20 less than the minimum 2GB Share Everything plan ($79.99 versus $100). However, the minimum Family plan with 700 minutes, 4GB of shared data and 1,000 texts per line costs the same $150 as the equivalent Share Everything plan with two smart phones and 4GB.
Helps Avoid Multidevice Overages, But Not Necessarily Cheaper
Designed for a 21st-century home that has tablets, connected netbooks, and hot spots, Share Everything plans makes it easy to avoid overages by pooling all your data into one bucket, but it does not necessarily save multidevice users any money. Under the current system, an individual Verizon user with the minimum smart phone plan and a single tablet will pay $99.99 a month to get 450 minutes of voice, 2GB of phone data, and 2GB of tablet data. Under Share Everything that user would pay $40 for the phone, $10 for the tablet, and $70 for 4GB of data – a total of $120. However, with Share Everything, you would not need to worry about how much of the 4GB each device uses.
The price goes up with the more devices you have. If, for example, you are an individual with one smart phone, one tablet, and one MiFi hot spot, you would pay a minimum of $129.99 a month, assuming 2GB of data per device and 450 voice minutes. On the Share Everything Plan, you’d pay a total of $160: $40 device fee for the phone, $10 device fee for the tablet, and $20 device fee for the MiFi, and then $80 for 6GB of data. But when you have that many devices, you might just want to have 6GB and not have to think about limiting each one to 2GB.
Tethering Now Free, But It Always Was
One of the benefits of Share Everything is that it drops the $20 a month tethering fee Verizon has been charging smart phone owners who want to use their devices as mobile hot spots. While that fee was always a hassle, there were and still are ways around it.
The Google Play market has a number of apps that allow you to tether without paying the carrier any additional monthly charges. PdaNet allows you to connect your phone to a PC or Mac via USB while FoxFi allows you to connect via Wi-Fi.
Whether you opt for the current rate plan or Share Everything, you can save a lot of money on 3G or 4G tablets by purchasing their Wi-Fi-only equivalents and using your phone’s hot spot feature to get them online.
Grandfathered Plans: Don’t Leave
If you’ve been with Verizon a while you may be grandfathered into one of two possible plans. First, if you signed up for a smart phone prior to last summer, you may have an unlimited data plan. If you want to upgrade to a new phone after June 27, you’ll need to either pay the full, unsubsidized price (usually over $500) or switch to either Share Everything or an older limited data plan. Clearly, if you can stick with your current phone or upgrade before the cutoff date, you’ll want to hang on to your unlimited plan over Share Everything. There’s no unlimited data option under Share Everything.
You may also have signed up for data at the promotional rate of 4GB for $30 when Verizon was offering a special deal during the holiday season. If that’s the case, you’re also in a better situation than you would be under Share Everything. The minimum cost for a smart phone with 4GB of data is $110 a month under Share Everything, but if you have the promotional rate, your minimum is just $69.99.
When you do the math, you see that the Share Everything plan really saves you money if you plan to use more than the minimum amount of voice minutes and texts. It can also save your sanity by providing you with a single pool of data, rather than separate allotments for each device you own.
However, if you don’t plan to make a lot of traditional voice calls or send a lot of SMS text messages, you may save money by sticking with the old-fashioned rate plans that are still available through June 27. You can also save on device fees, by purchasing a plan only for your smart phones and then using them as hot spots to get your tablets and notebooks online.