Correcting Some of the Shared Everything Misinformation
Ever since Verizon announced the new Shared Everything plans there has been a lot of speculation, misinformation, and a combination of misinformation and speculation presented as facts in the various forums and blogs, including this one (unfortunately). This post is intended to correct some of this misinformation.
This will be cross posed on the Verizon forums of both Crackberry, and AndroidCentral (possibly iMore eventually).
First the DISCLAIMER: I do not work for Verizon (though I have some friends that do) or AT&T. As part of my job I sell on contract phones with both AT&T and Verizon, as well as a number of prepaid options. I have been trained on the new plans by a representative of Verizon and have seen several training documents which we have not seen on the Internet yet. None of the information I will be presenting is “internal” (I value my job), but Verizon’s own public documents have not always been clear, especially when it comes to how existing customers are effected. THE OPINIONS I EXPRESS HERE ARE MINE ALONE AND DO NOT REFLECT THOSE OF MY EMPLOYER.
[As of this writing AT&T has also announced their own shared data offerings,
but has not begun training us into all of the details. The majority of this article will deal with Verizon’s plans, but from time to time I will include some information about AT&T, which should be viewed as subject to change for now. This article will be updated when full details are disclosed and I am formally trained on them as needed.]
Before I begin I want to make one thing absolutely clear:
Existing Customers DO NOT have to change to the new plans when they upgrade.
(No matter how many times this is repeated some people have a hard time grasping it so forgive me if I repeat myself a few times here.)
Many people will want to change because they will save them money and give them something they have wanted for a while: unlimited talk and text, standard on (almost) all plans.
WHY SHARED DATA:
So why are Verizon and AT&T making these changes? This is not something arbitrary or that has come out of the blue, this has been in the works for a long time and is a result of the changes to the wireless landscape.
Once upon a time cel phones were used mostly to talk, and over time texting was added into the mix, and then email, other forms of messaging (such as BBM), and eventually rudimentary web browsing. But, for many years the primary purpose of the phone was to talk and the pricing plans that carriers used reflected this. The more you talked the more you paid.
Texting grew in popularity over time, but because it consumed fewer resources, carriers moves away from making people pay for every message to “unlimited” messaging or smaller buckets of messages. They got away with this for a long time even though it consumed so few resources because it was popular and people wanted it. For many years data was the same way. We had unlimited data plans because it wasn’t used as much and wasn’t consuming as many resources. Unlimited was never meant to mean “unlimited” unlimited was meant to be “we aren’t going to bother keeping close track of how much you use because it isn’t worth our time and effort.” I know some of you are going to argue that point as a matter of principle but like it or not that is how it was.
But over the last 5-7 years or so a lot has changed (and I am not talking specifically about the iPhone here). As a society we have become increasingly mobile and as such have changed the way we communicate. Talking on the phone has been replaced with texting and now other forms of online communication (IM, Facebook, Google +, etc.), most of which you were previously chained to a computer to use. Five to Seven years ago accessing email on your phone was a luxury confined to mostly Blackberry, Palm, and a few other assorted devices. Now this is a core feature of virtually every phone on the market. Even the most basic flip phone can access your Yahoo or Google email. With the advent of the iPhone (and then Android) it became mainstream to run “apps” on your phone, access facebook, view web pages in the same format as your desktop (as opposed to the stripped down “mobile” versions most of us were used to seeing), and even doing things like streaming music and watching YouTube videos. Previously these things were either not available or confined to niches like Blackberry, Palm, and Windows Mobile. All of these platforms (along with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone) of course are now mainstream and, of course, use data.
Over time more and more users began using less and less minutes and more and more data intensive things, but carriers were still stuck in their old way of thinking. The average cel phone user uses less than 200 voice minutes/month but uses around 1 GB of data a month (almost unheard of even 5 years ago). Many of the higher minute users have started to switch to prepaid cel phones (specifically because they offered unlimited minutes, and on Verizon at least a very small minority (around 5%) are using a majority of the data (around 65%), and yet they were not paying any more than the users who used only a few hundred megabytes a month. Does that sound fair?
Even though WiFi is readily available in a lot of places these days, data usage has still gone up. Part of this is because users are just used to not having to worry about it, while others prefer to brag about the absorbonate amount of data they use. I have seen many people say things like “I only used 9GB of data last month, that’s not that much” (it certainly is!) And one user who has his avatar set to a screen capture of a My Verizon app showing 60GB of data usage.
The writing has been on the wall for some time now that something had to change. Last year on 7/7/11 Verizon discontinued “unlimited” smartphone data plans for new customers, new lines of service, and customers upgrading from a basic messaging phone to a smartphone. Instead they introduced “tiered” data packages starting at 2GB for $30. This was a step in the right direction and forced people who used more data than the average user to pay more for the privilege. At the same time they trained their employees to better educate their customers on how to calculate data and how to conserve data use (i.e. WiFi) and provided better tools to help customers keep track of data usage. But this still had problems such as that users continued to have to pay for a data plan for every line that had a smartphone on it (regardless of how little data they used). One line on a plan might only use 200-300mb of data while another would use 2500mb and then incur an overage.
Introducing Shared Everything and Mobile Share:
Shared Everything and Mobile Share are designed to better fit the current way people use phones.
- All Phones on your account now have unlimited (domestic) talk minutes. It does not matter what time of day you talk, or what network they are on (or if they are a land line). There is no more need to tell Verizon who your “Friends and Family” are, talk as much as you want whenever you want and to whom you want. *
- Texting is the predominant way most of us communicate and for the most part it consumes minimal resources so unlimited (domestic) texting is now standard on all devices that support it.*
- Tired of having to pay for a separate data plan for everyone on your plan, even for the family member who has a smartphone but barely uses the features? How many of you have someone on your plan who would like a smartphone, but doesn’t have one because of the scary $30 data plan? Now you have one data package for all of you.*
- * Tired of being limited to 5 devices on your family plan? Families are getting bigger along with the definition of what a family is. They are doubling it to 10 devices (smartphones, basic phones, jetpacks (hotspots), netbooks, notebooks, data cards, and tablets) all of whom can share the same pool of data so you are not paying for data that someone else on your account could use instead of paying overages.
- Tired of having to pay extra to use your phone as a cellular modem for other devices (tethering or hotspot). No more, tethering and hotspot are now included free on all supported devices on the new plans, and the data just comes out of your allotment. No messy feature to add to the line it is just there and available for any device that supports it.
- Worried about surprise data overages? Every device on the account will now automatically (no need to sign up) receive warnings (Verizon has them at 60%, 75%, 90%, and 100% of your data usage) so there are no surprises. These warnings can also be sent to email addresses and off network cel phones by setting it up in My Verizon. If you see that you are going to exceed your data allotment in a given month the Account Manager can change the data allotment up to THREE times a month with a simple call to *611 or logging into My Verizon. For parents concerned that their kids will over use their data and incur overage, for $5/month per line that you need it on you can limit data usage and many other things, such as when they are allowed to use their phones.
[*There is ONE exception to these first three points: the cheapest plan for basic phones only has 700 minutes, pay per text, and pay per data.]
I will spare you the details of the specific plans (there has been plenty of that already) but The way the plans are set up the actual plan is the data package (starting at $50 for 1GB for Verizon, $40 for 1GB on AT&T) and each device (up to 10) has a line access fee.
$40 for Smartphones (for Verizon, AT&T uses a sliding scale between $45 and $30) depending on the number of devices on your plan)
$30 for basic/messaging phones
$20 for mobile hotspots, netbooks, notebooks, and USB sticks
$10 for tablets
In any combination you want, up to 10 devices.
Verizon Share Everything Data Buckets
$10 per 2GB thereafter up to $20GB for $150 (not advertized)
AT&T Mobile Share Data Buckets
additional data $15/GB
On Verizon, there are different plans for data only devices and for basic phones only.
Basic Phone Only
700 Minutes (pay as you go texting and data) $40
Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited texting, $300MB data $70
$30 each per additional devices
This plan can have ONE smartphone for $40 on it Data Only Plan Data Buckets
4GB for $30
6GB for $40
8GB for $50
10GB for $60
$10 for each additional GB
Same per device fees as above.
The catch of course is that Verizon does not allow more than one account level plan on an account so you CAN NOT have the mixed device, basic messaging phone, and data only plans on the same account. If you have all 3 you must use the mixed device plans. You also can not have an old Nationwide Family Share plan on the same account so if you switch you have to switch everything (other than single plan devices).
These completely replace almost all of Verizon’s existing plans for new customers (Business and 65 and Over plans are unchanged, and the old Nationwide Single Line plans seem to still be available online though they are no longer listed in the brochures in favor of the 700 minute and Unlimited Talk and text plans for basic phones).
On AT&T the cost per device for smartphones decreases with the higher data packages, and the data pricing starts a little cheaper (but ends up being more expensive on the highest data buckets) but the others are the same as Verizon. They are also launching these as options for all customers, not completely replacing their existing plans (at least for now). This is important, so it bares repeating: AT&T is NOT eliminating any of their existing plans (it has been falsely reported that they are in numerous places online). They are also allowing more than one account level plan in a single account so you can have more than one Mobile Share group if you want and you can have a mobile share group and a Nationwide Family Talk group if you want,
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
What About Existing Customers Do We Need To Switch When We Upgrade?
Okay let me make this as simple as I can, repeat after me:
“Existing Customers DO NOT have to change to the new plans when they upgrade.”
“Existing Customers DO NOT have to change to the new plans when they upgrade.”
Many people will want to, though, because they will save them money and because of the many benefits of the new plans. I have personally talked to customers who have saved anywhere from $50-$180 dollars by switching to the new plans because it no longer costs extra for more than 450 minutes (700 on a family plan) but when you looked at their data usage over the last few months
But if that isn’s you that is okay. Existing customers are not effected at all by the new plans (even if they upgrade) with a single exception:
ON VERIZON, If you renew your contract (i.e. buy a phone subsidized) Unlimited Smartphone data will no longer be available.
[It is my understanding that AT&T is NOT ending grand parenting in of unlimited data at this time. We shall see what happens in the coming months though.]
If We Are Grandparented Into Unlimited Data Do We Need To Switch When We Upgrade?
No, this does NOT mean that you need to switch to the new plans (I know we just covered that, but some people are having a hard time getting that to sink in). If you want to keep your old plan you need to select one of the tiered data plans debuted last year (starting at $30/2gb) and since the vast majority of customers (something like 95%) use 2GB or less a month, only those who use an excess of data will see their bill go up.
Is There Any Way To Keep Unlimited Data?
If unlimited data is that important to you, you have two choices:
- Buy devices full retail
- BYOD: Bring Your Own Device (i.e. use a device you got from someone else or buy one off eBay or Craig’s List)
These Devices must be Verizon certified, international phones WILL NOT work with a Verizon SIM card because the radio frequencies will be different.
What If I Choose To Keep My Legacy Plan? Can I Still Make Changes And Add Lines?
If you stick with the legacy plans you will still be able to:
- Increase and decrease your minutes and data allotments without extending your contract
- Add and remove plan features
- Add lines to your existing Nationwide family plan (up to the 5 maximum)
- Change or swap to compatible devices
But once you switch to the new plans you CAN NOT switch back. And it appears that you can not have more than one Account Level Plan (ie famiy plan and share plan) so once you are in you are ALL in unless you want to leave lines on individual plans.
How come Verizon hasn’t made this clearer?
I get this question a lot and I don’t get it at all. I think they have made it as clear as possible considering. There are three plan types: (1)plans for basic phones only, (2)plans for data only devices, and (3)plans for smartphones and other devices together. The vast majority of the people reading this blog can ignore the first two and focus on the third since if we are here we are using smartphones and tablets.
Pick your data allotment (this is now the actual plan, not an add on like it used to be), then select your devices. Depending on what kind of device it is you have an access fee. Phones cost more than other data only devices because they also include unlimited talk and text.
I don’t talk and/or text. Why are they forcing all of us to have minute and text plans?
For the same reason that you were “forced” to have data plans on smartphones even if you didn’t or barely used data. They are a core feature of the phone.
They are giving you unlimited talk and text for the same price as you used to get just 450 minutes and NO texting, so while data pricing has gone up, the vast majority of customers either pay about the same or less than they are now. I know a lot of people reading this wont believe this and I was a bit skeptical myself but doing the numbers with numerous customers has shown that the majority of every day consumers either save money OR get new features/benefits for roughly the same money that they are paying now (give or take $10-$20). Only high volume data users end up paying significantly more, and frankly that’s how it should be.
Why is there a per device cost?
I am going to speculate here since I have not seen an official explanation: Each device connected to the network consumes resources. Smart and Messaging phones consume the most resources and thus cost more. They all include unlimited talk and text, tethering/hotspot for that $30-$40. Smartphones use more data. Tablets use the least, and MiFi’s and data sticks use more than tablets because they are often connected to a computer or more than one device at a time.
When Will These Plans Be Available?
The Verizon Shared Everything plans are available now (as of June 28, 2012) and the AT&T ones became available on August 23, 2012.
Please feel free to comment on this thread and I will make an effort to answer your questions and I will update this port accordingly. In a few days I will be cross posting the same thing to Crackberry but will continue updating the original.