"AT&T gives customers more choice with new shared wireless data plans." That's the headline of the press release that AT&T sent out about its new shared data packages. Keywords: more choice. That's a polite way of saying "we're aiming to confuse the crap out of you." Unlike Verizon's shared data packages, which are about as simple to understand as they come, AT&T did what AT&T does best: took the simple and made it far more complex than in should be. Hopefully we can break it down so it makes sense.


As you can see, the amount paid for each smartphone goes down with each bump up in bandwidth. Ergo, if you only need one geebee of data every month, you'll pay $45 for your smartphone, whereas if you use 10 GB of data, your smartphone will only cost $30 a month. Basically, the larger the data bucket, the less you pay for your smartphone.

Then you can add other devices into the mix for a flat rate: $30 for feature/basic phones, $20 for laptops and hotspots, and $10 a month for tablets and gaming devices. Those fees don't fluctuate regardless of which data package you choose, so that's pretty easy.

All shared data packages include unlimited talk and text.

Now, let's lay this all out into a practical scenario. Say you have one smartphone and one tablet, and  you choose the 6GB data package. Data will set you back $90, the smartphone is $35, and the tablet is a flat $10. Thus, you'll hand over $135 a month for your mobile usage.

One more scenario, this time for families: 4GB of data, two smartphones, one basic phone, and a tablet. The data package is $70 a month, and each smartphone will cost $40. Add an extra $30 for the basic phone and $10 for the tablet, and your total monthly bill will cost you your first born child $190 plus taxes and other fees.

So, how do AT&T's new data plans compare to Verizon's? They're actually pretty similar; cheaper on some levels, but more expensive on others. For example, if you have a 1GB plan with one smartphone on Verizon, you'll be paying $90 a month; on AT&T, however, the same package is $85. As the plans go up, however, that changes. A 10GB plan with one smartphone on Verizon is $140, whereas it'll set you back $150 on AT&T. The difference may seems almost negligible on a month-to-month basis, but consider this: over the period of one year, the latter plan will cost you $120 more on AT&T than Verizon. With the former, Verizon ultimately costs $60 more per year. In a nutshell: it's a crapshoot. You can't switch carriers every time you need to switch plans, so one is always going to better (or worse) than the other.

Alas, there's nothing we can do to change it. This is clearly the mobile plan of the future (in the U.S., anyway), with two of the largest U.S. carriers already embracing it. Ultimately, I think the switch over to shared data with unlimited talk and text (it's all the same thing, anyway) is a good thing, but there's no doubt that the changeover is going to be a difficult conversion for many mobile subscribers.

Update: AT&T just confirmed that, unlike Verizon, it will continue to offer existing packages alongside the new shared data plans. Both new and existing customers alike will be able to choose the plan that best suits their needs. Also, customers who were grandfathered in on an unlimited data plan can keep their existing package should they choose to.

[AT&T PR; more info]

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • http://twitter.com/zepiusftw Zepius

    or you can do the no contract route... http://www.straighttalksim.com/ - $45/mo unlimited talk text and at least 2GB of data, some have reported more.

    • Joel

      ...and AT&T gets most of your money anyway.

  • xsirxx

    Or go sprint and have unlimited everything...

    • http://twitter.com/DroidKl0wn Droid Kl0wn

      Yeah, my co-worker did that...and I all I hear all day is, "hello? Can you hear me? Hellloooo?". Their service is crap unless you are in a really populated area, where they decided to fork out the dough to make a decent network. Wait for them to roll out their LTE and see how unlimited they are then ;O).

      • ScottColbert

        And that's not even guaranteed. I have 5 towers in a 1 mile radius of me and service still sucks.

      • Ashish Raj

        Funny that!! I had the same exact (or maybe worse) experience with AT&T!! My wife didn't even get the calls; even though it was ringing on my end.. Finally got frustrated and switched to Sprint. Sprint has been good.. I stay near NYC so maybe you are correct about Sprint service being better in a really populated area; but isn't that a good thing than a service which doesn't work in a really populated area (where more people need the service)!!??

      • Lexster

        What makes you think LTE will make any difference? They didn't change their unlimited data policy with WIMAX.

    • fixxmyhead

      and get dsl speeds no thanks. tmobile for the win. i never go over 2gb anyways and even if i do ill get throttled to EDGE which is still faster than sprints 3g network (wooosh)

      • Lexster

        Sorry, but it's really not. I got throttled once on T-Mobile and I was down to 32 kbps. That's nowhere near faster than Sprint, which I'm on now. And while the speeds are slower, I get better response from websites and my streaming music on Sprint than I ever did on T-Mobile.

        • fixxmyhead

          come on man its like ur after me. i know u love sprint and get good speeds but a lot of there customers are dissapointed with there network. its only good for a handful of people

          • Lexster

            After you? Not really sure what you mean by that. The fact is, there are people on every network who don't always get good speeds and disappointed with their network. Despite the lower speeds, I still get more consistency in data delivery than on T-Mobile. Even with my 6 mb/sec on T-Mobile, sometimes the browser would take a full minute to load the page, while on Sprint, it take maybe ten seconds with 500 kbs. Speeds aren't everything, is what I'm saying.

          • fixxmyhead

            i meant cuz were always doing this back and forth whenever sprint is the subject. i know u remember me from last time. yea i know people dont always get good speeds on there network but i lets be honest sprints is the worst one ( i think most people would aggree)when it comes to data speeds. i see people on xda in the evo threads and they all say the same thing on how painfully slow the network is.

            also if ur browser didnt load at 6mb/s then something was wrong with the phone probably like bad cache stored up or something cuz theres no reason for it to not load

          • Lexster

            Honestly, I don't pay attention to usernames. I'm on so many different sites, I rarely remember who I replied to anyway. I already agreed that Sprint's speeds are the slowest. My point is that speed isn't the end-all-be-all. It wasn't just the browser that was the problem. And it wasn't just one phone. I had both a G1, Nexus One and a Nexus S on T-Mobile and I had the same sorts of issues with all of them. Downloads from the market would sometimes pause for no reason on 3G. Streaming music was horrible and it would rarely even buffer the whole song, yet it buffers two or three songs on my EVO now.

          • fixxmyhead

            ok. i have never experienced these data hang ups u talk about on my s2. i remember u (how can i forget that damn avatar) and not that i hate u but i kind of do just cuz i freaking hate stephen colbert, hes not funny. damn i really hate that guy

          • Lexster

            To be fair, this has been my WordPress avatar for like 8 years now. I've just never bothered to change it. Colbert's gotten progressively less funny because he doesn't play up his Republican persona up as much as he used to. It's pretty obvious over the past few years that he's not being serious, which didn't used to be the case.

    • JessNick86

      Almost everytime I call a sprint or nextel customer... i get 'please hold while the ___ customer you're trying to reach is located' or they never get my texts..... you couldn't pay me to switch to either of them from tmobile

  • Ahhk

    Queue the Sprint shared data.........

  • jkensing

    All these capped data plans are the way the mobile industry is going. With the increase in numbers of people signing up for these plans they are not going anywhere. The success/failure of these plans are determined in what people are taking out of their wallets. I was going to quit the smartphone idea but I just signed a two year contract with Verizon with unlimited data. I don't abuse it but I see value in not being capped at $30/month. These plans exceed that. While I understand that network capacity is limited, the question is what value does these price plans have to you? I'll see what the industry does over the next two years but if I were in the market and was strapped to one of these plans, I would say goodbye to my smartphone, buy a tablet that works on just wi-fi. These plans are just overpriced. Loosing me as a customer will go unnoticed. Loosing a large chunk of subscribers over these plans would have an impact. But I do understand why people pay for the convenience. To ask yourself what value these plans have, figure out what your monthly bill will be, multiply that by 12 and ask yourself if the annual cost is worth it. Especially if you're on wifi more than 90% of the time. If you find it's worth the money for the convenience, then make a go at it. Just some food for thought. I love the convenience but after a couple of months, I would forget about it.

  • Chahk Noir

    I'll hold on to my grandfathered unlimited data, thank you very much. And at the end of my 2-year contract I'm walking away to a prepaid plan on another carrier.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

    The only difference between this and Verizon's system is that AT&T charges you a little less for each smartphone based on how much data you want. I don't really see how that's confusing.

    I'll say it's a bit less reasonable than Verizon's plans, though. Jumping from from 1 to 4GB is kind of a grab at many people who use just a little over a gigabyte a month. I, for one, will be sticking it out with my current tiered plan, as it's definitely cheaper for me.

  • TiredOfLackOfEditing

    You misspelled "than it" in the first paragraph.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Thanks. Fixed.

      • http://www.facebook.com/spiritcrusher33 Jeremy Oliver

        This alone is the reason I left At&t and contracts period.. save up and buy a phone outright and go get prepaid .. currently use unlocked galaxy nexus with the 30 dollar a month t-mobile plan, 5 gigs of data a month unlimited text and 100 mins a month.. or use straight talk, unlimited everything cept data ( 2 to 4 gigs a month ) for 45 a month.. if everyone did this, the big carriers would have no choice to have better plans,, to gain back customers.. but alas most people just stick to the 2 yr contact deals to get a free or sub phone.. etc.. wish people would be smarter.. lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1849765376 Jordan Rushing

    "Ergo, if you only need one geebee of data every month, you'll pay $45 for your smartphone, whereas if you use 10 GB of data, your smartphone will only cost $30 a month. Basically, the larger the data bucket, the less you pay for your smartphone."

    Mind = Blown

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      That's just for the plan, not the actual price of the smartphone. ;)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1849765376 Jordan Rushing

        I understand, but the fact that anyone could use 10 GB of data in a month is ridiculous. I only go through 1.5 GB of data and that's with moderate to heavy use.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

          Ah, got it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1849765376 Jordan Rushing

            Haha, sorry I didn't clarify beforehand!

        • Oliver Petruzel

          Try streaming a HD video, or two... or perhaps 10 episodes of a TV show in a single month. 10 GB is not common, but it's certainly not unusual for anyone who doesn't have decent public WiFi in their area.

          Unless, of course, you feel that people shouldn't use all of the new multimedia options on their brand new uber smartphones?

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1849765376 Jordan Rushing

            I have...and ended up getting charged extra to buy more geebees. I can understand not using WiFi because it's not decent, but then again I'm aware of the dangers of using too much data and how much data I use when I use the features in my phone. But of course, I always use such data eating things on WiFi, so that might account for my seemingly low data usage.

  • bhazard

    These new plans frustrated me so much, that I just switched from Verizon to T-Mobile prepaid after 7+ years with Verizon. HSPA+ is faster than CDMA in my area, and I don't have to worry about my data usage. I don't miss Verizon one bit. I hope millions of other customers do the same to send a message to these companies.

  • http://www.williamint.com William Aleman

    More simple, buy a Nexus and get around the carriers with your own phone. When a carrier becomes crap just go to another without contract. It's what I'm doing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Олег-Цой/100002515142603 Олег Цой

    I'll stick with my grandpa plan $20 for 150 min. My GrooveIP and $25 2gb data.

  • Oliver Petruzel

    I just did the math and figured that, using the 10 GB plan which is comparable to the 5GB cap we have now on grandfathered "unlimited" data, my current charges would INCREASE by roughly $25 - $35 per month.

    $180 PLUS fees/taxes (new plan)
    $157 WITH fees/taxes (current plan)

    no thanks.

  • Oliver Petruzel

    The single biggest problem I have with all of these new tiered/capped plans is this:

    The carriers' left hands are marketing/selling you amazing new smartphones with mind-blowing multimedia options, cloud services, etc... while their right hands are simultaneously crushing you with the data limits that negate all of that new-found functionality.

    That's just sickening. :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/Joecascio2000 Joseph Cascio

    Holy fucking hell, I currently pay $211.86 (3 Smartphone, 2 Regular Phones, 2GB/per Smartphone 6GB total, Unlimited text all phones, 1400 Anytime Minutes with A-list and Mobile to ANY mobile. Price includes taxes) I never go even close to using all minutes and I have like 8,000 rollover minutes.

    If I switch it would be $90 for 6GB Shared [which is a huge deal breaker because I have data hogs as family members] plus $105 for 3 Smartphones, plus $60 for 2 Regular Phones. A GRAND TOTAL OF $255 without taxes. Probable $290 with taxes.

    tldr: An $80 dollar increase for absolutely no gain other than fighting to the death for my share of data.

    No thanks at&t, F U.

  • Freak4Dell

    How is that confusing at all? Their chart lays it out plain and simple. I think you'd have to be an idiot to get confused by it.

    Anyway, it looks like I'm going to be on my T-Mobile Value plan for quite a while. The service isn't the best, but it's better than Sprint, and a hell of a lot cheaper than AT&T and Verizon.

  • jason

    A change to an $X/MB of data billing plan without any per device charge would be interesting. You could charge something for each phone line if the device needs one. This is not interesting.

    What's it's actually making me do is consider whether or not I actually need to have a wireless data plan at all. I'm on wifi almost all the time. I wouldn't be able to text and talk on the phone while I'm driving, but I shouldn't be doing that anyway.

    Google+ hangouts will now notify you like it's an incoming call. Although, I don't really talk on the phone much anyway. I have the cheapest t-mobile plan I don't get close to using all the minutes.

    Looks like a 30 day experiment is in my future. Do I really need to be "connected" all the time? Do I want to be?

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

    It should also be mentioned that it's a $15 flat overage per GB. I do want to credit them here, it's the first time I've seen an overage (on a useful service) on any carrier where the bucket level doesn't effect the cost of the overage.

    I'm vaguely looking at this. I'm already paying (before taxes) $95 for 900 minutes, 200 text, and grandfathered unlimited data (which I rarely cross 2 GB in a month). By myself with a 4 GB plan and unlimited everything, it does go up $15, which sucks... but I'm also looking to get a family member onto the plan, which means her $40 plan with low minutes and no data or text would turn directly into unlimited stuff for the same price. The catch, it's not really clear how they are managing subsidized phones. Unless each line on a plan gets to have some kind of subsidy, then the older plans remain superior for cost.

  • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com/ Cody Toombs

    Just an anecdotal point...I described this thing to my mother in less than 90 seconds, she wasn't confused at all.

    I ran into a buddy of mine who now works at AT&T, he told me they intentionally waited to announced their shared plan until Verizon announced their own. I guess AT&T just wanted to make sure they weren't over/under charging people. It makes me wonder, why aren't they just colluding on pricing in secret the same way that Visa and Mastercard do?