When the iPhone was first released, AT&T offered an unlimited data plan at a flat monthly rate. But since then, AT&T has discontinued the unlimited data plan and is instead offering tiered data plans that allot iPhone users a certain amount of bandwidth each month. All new iPhone users will be forced to choose one of the limited data plans, but current iPhone users who were already on the unlimited data plan are now faced with a choice. iPhone users on unlimited data plans can continue with their current plan, or they can switch to one of the tiered plans. Although the notion of unlimited data may seem appealing to you, it’s important consider the tradeoffs and realities in terms of price vs. value with your iPhone data plan. Consider the pros and cons of the tiered data plans before making the switch.
Pros of the Tiered Data Plans
Both tiered data plans for the iPhone have lower monthly fees than the unlimited data plan. At the time of this article, iPhone users can get 200 MB of bandwidth a month for $15 per line or 2 GB for $25 per line. The unlimited plan, meanwhile, costs $29.99 a month. If you use less than 200 MB of bandwidth a month, you can essentially cut your data bill in half. According to AT&T, 200 MB allows you to send about 1,000 e-mails, view 400 web pages, post 50 photos and watch 20 minutes of streaming video each month without going over your limit. Furthermore, when your iPhone is connected to WiFi, you won’t consume any data from your plan. Unless you travel often or are a heavy data user, the $15 per month plan is sufficient.
Those on the new data plans can also enjoy AT&T’s tethering feature. For an additional fee, iPhone users can connect their phone to their computer and use it as a modem. That means you can access the Internet from anywhere that is covered by AT&T’s data network, regardless if there are any public WiFi hotspots available.
From a collective standpoint, the limiting of data usage across the board should alleviate some of the service issues previously experienced with AT&T. With less data being consumed across the network, all users should enjoy a boost in speed and reliability over AT&T’s 3G and EDGE networks.
Cons of the Tiered Data Plan
The greatest danger of the tiered data plan is the risk of going over your monthly limit. For example, if you go over the limit on the 200 MB plan, you’ll instantly be charged $15 extra dollars for another 200 MB for the month. If you exceed it again, you’re looking at another $15 coverage charge. As such, iPhone users on the 200 MB plan can quickly rack up higher charges than they would pay on the unlimited plan.
Paranoia over overage charges can also significantly affect the enjoyment of the iPhones web features. You may find yourself hesitating to watch a video or use an app, for fear it’ll bump you over the limit. Plus, you’ll be saddled with the additional burden of keeping tabs on your usage each month and occasionally curtailing your data usage altogether until the next billing cycle.
If you are on the unlimited iPhone data plan, the best way to determine whether the switch will be economical for you is to keep tabs on how much data you use for the next few months. If you consistently use less than 2 GB or 200 MB of data, it may be a good idea to switch to one of the lower priced plans. But if you regularly exceed the 2 GB limit, the unlimited plan will save you the most money.