In 2011 Verizon, often considered the leader in wireless communication, decided to stop offering unlimited data plans to new subscribers. If you were a previous subscriber to an unlimited data plan, you were unable to upgrade your phone the traditional way without losing access to your unlimited data. This drove many customers, including myself, to find other ways to get the latest and greatest phones without having to lose their “grandfathered” data plans.
For a few years, there were ways for Verizon customers to work around this limitation through Verizon itself! One way you could do this is, if you had a family plan with multiple lines that did not have unlimited data plans, you could rotate your upgrades. Like many customers with family plans in the past 5 to 10 years, not all used smartphones, or needed to have the latest and greatest phone out there. If you had Grandma on your plan with her uneducated phone (non-smartphone AKA Flip Phone), you could use her upgrade, and switch the upgraded phone to your unlimited data plan. In doing this, you could either give Grandma your old smartphone, or reactivate her uneducated phone to her line! This satisfied your need/want for a new smartphone, without losing your unlimited data. Win-win! What was even better is that you could reactivate that uneducated phone and not have to pay for the data plan that you initially added to the line in order to purchase the new smartphone. Well Verizon, and I’m sure others got hip to this work around! About one or two years ago, Verizon started to link your contract to the actual data plan itself, and not whether or not you had a smartphone active on the line. If you upgraded to a smartphone, you would have to pay that extra $30+ a month whether or not the smartphone was active on that specific line or not. What a bummer!
Another work around, which can still work today, is to purchase a phone on your own. My preferred option was to purchase used phones via Craigslist, eBay, or other means. In most cases, you could purchase a used phone for 50% or less than the original retail price. If you know what to look for, or how to negotiate, in many cases this is actually cheaper in the long run than most upgrade options any carrier could provide for you. You may not be able to purchase the iPhone 7 when it comes out initially, but in a year (or less) you could purchase that same phone on the open market for half the retail cost. Not a bad alternative in my opinion! Then there’s also the option of purchasing a phone for full price. Motorola for example sells a version of their Moto Z direct to consumers for around $400, and now Apple has a similar priced phone in the iPhone SE for $399. A great price compared to their highest priced Moto Z for $700, and the iPhone 7 for $650. Motorola even has the Moto G which retails for as low as $149!! Not the best of the best available, but a much more affordable option for those who did not want to lose out on their grandfathered data plans. It’s also a great option for those just looking for a low-cost smartphone, and are not fans of signing contracts. Most flagship, or top tier smartphones, retail for around $650 to $700 when they are initially released, so signing a contract and upgrading for $100-$200 was always the most affordable way to get a flagship phone as soon as it was released.
Well even that’s no longer an option for most cellular companies. Now everyone is going the monthly payment, leasing route! Instead of paying $200 upfront, with no stated monthly costs throughout the contract, now you pay the full cost of the phone throughout a two-year period. No longer are you required to sign a contract with your carrier, which is linked to your phone number. No sir! No ma’am! Now the “contract” is just a lease of your cellphone. There’s no “cancellation fee” if you were to decide to change carriers, you would just owe the remainder of the cost of the phone, which would be $600-700 minus what you’ve paid so far. Typically, carrier’s cancellation fees on the previous “contracts” were around $350 to $400 dollars, so once you add the initial $200 you were paying for the latest and greatest smartphone, you were pretty much paying the full amount of the phone (without knowing it) if you cancelled.
Then steps in John Legere at T-Mobile in 2012! Verizon and AT&T were, and still are to some degree, thought of as a Duopoly in the Wireless world. In the past, they were known as the best of the best as far as coverage and reliability, but also the highest costs. Legere not only wanted to change how the wireless industry treated its customers, but also how the wireless industry worked. Legere worked for AT&T as an executive for nearly 20 years, during which he also worked closely with former Sprint CEO Daniel Hesse, so he had many years of experience in the wireless industry before becoming the head of T-Mobile. One of the first things, besides his unorthodox approach to communicating when compared to other CEO’s, was something he pointed out early on. When you upgraded your phone, and paid $200 or less to get the new phone, technically you were also paying extra money each month to pay off the remaining costs of your $600-$700 phone…it was just rolled up into your bill! Legere changed this fact with T-Mobile when he decided to lower the costs of their plans, eliminate contracts, and become more transparent about the cost you were paying for your smartphone! Now if you were to “upgrade” your phone, and after the two-year period of paying for your phone you decided not to upgrade again, your monthly costs would go down! It was refreshing to see a company become more transparent and customer friendly, it just was not enough to make me switch! The fact is, for where I lived and traveled the most, Verizon has always been the best option. Coverage and reliability is what has always been most important to me, once I had a taste of the Verizon Kool-Aid. I’ve had all of the major carriers in the past. My first ever cellphone was a Sanyo camera phone on Sprint, followed by a loud Nextel chirp, the Sidekick(s) on T-Mobile, and whatever multiple phones I had on my AT&T family plan. After this I joined Verizon and never looked back. I cannot think of a time where I’ve had issues with my actual cell service, and it’s rare that I have issues with my internet. No matter what carrier you’re with, there will be the instances when you’re in an elevator, large building, or a remote area where signal is spotty. In most of these instances, my spotty Verizon coverage was better than those around me with the other carriers. However, the other companies are closing the gap now, and investing heavily in their networks. I can tell you from personal experience, at least in my area, that T-Mobile’s coverage has improved drastically. At one point in time I had a business phone as a 2nd line on Solavei, a former MVNO which used T-Mobile’s towers, and during the 2 years I used their service the coverage and speed of the network improved greatly! There was even one instance where my signal with Solavei was actually stronger than Verizon…I was shocked! However, in most instances my Verizon coverage was always better.
The New Unlimited Wave
Back in August of 2016 T-Mobile and Sprint decided to bring back the “unlimited” data plan, and Verizon definitely felt their wrath. Both Verizon and AT&T were already losing customers by the droves throughout 2016, and by the end of 2016 were really feeling the pain! Despite the many changes that both T-Mobile and Sprint were making to give better deals to their customers, Verizon remained steady in not attempting to compete on price. Well, last week Verizon changed everything! The “unlimited” data plan is now back, and a surprisingly good deal! So much of a good deal that now the other top 3 carriers made changes to their wireless plans within DAYS! Yes, DAYS! Verizon announced their new unlimited data plans on Feb 12th, and less than a week later the others followed suit.
For me, and other family plans that include 4 or more people, it is a significant discount. I will save at least $60 a month by switching to the new plan, as 2 of my lines are still on the unlimited data plan. Not only that, but now all 4 lines are “unlimited”. For a family of 4 the costs are $45 per line. Sidenote: if you upgraded within the last two years using the traditional 2 year contract method, then there is an additional $20 charge for the lines that are still under contract. This could have an effect on WHEN you decide to switch to the new plan. In my situation, only 1 of 4 lines is under contract so the $20 does not make a difference, but if all 4 were then it would not be a cheaper option.
No more worrying about overages! Verizon charges $15 for an extra 1GB of data, if you’re on a tiered data plan. Depending on your current plan, the difference in keeping your current plan and having overages versus switching, may be worth it.
For a single line, it is not the cheapest option of the 4, however if you’re still on one of the old plans, you’re still saving money! On the old plan costs are about $120, and costs extra to include hotspot.
With the grandfathered unlimited data plan, your connection is not deprioritized after 22gb of usage, like it will be on the new plan.
If you had a discount through your employer, it is not available for the new unlimited data plans. Still a better deal in my situation!
In order to receive the advertised deals, you must sign up for paperless billing and auto-pay. Not a big deal, right? Well with the auto-pay you are not eligible for the discount if you use a credit card! If you use Rewards Credit Cards to receive cashback on all your purchases, including bills like your cellphone as I mention in a previous blog Automation Nation, then this is a slight downer. For a phone bill ranging from $100 - $300 a month, with a 1% to 2% cash back reward, that’s a range of $12 up to $72 on the high end in savings missed throughout the year. Bummer!
Mobile hotspot speed is slowed down to 3G speeds once you reach 10GB of hotspot usage. But if you were on the old unlimited plan, access was not included anyway. Still an improvement.
Taxes and fees are included in their advertised price! The advertised single line price of $70 and $160 for 4 lines is all you will pay! No need to try and calculate all of those taxes and fees which vary by state and county, or wait until the bill comes to know the true bill amount.
Your speeds may be deprioritized after 28GB of use, which is more data than the other three carriers advertise.
Hotspot is slowed down to 3G speeds after 10GB of use.
Price is the same as Verizon $180 for 4 lines, but not until after two bills, at which time you will receive a $40 credit for the 4th line each month.
Price is $220+ taxes/fees per month for the first two months, until the $40 monthly credit kicks in for the 4th line.
Speeds deprioritized after 22GB of data use.
HOTSPOT NOT INCLUDED!
Sprint has the lowest plan of the 4 carriers, at $50 for a single line, and $90 for 2. For a limited time, until March 2018, you can get up to 5 lines for just $90!
After March of 2018 prices will increase for the 5 line $90 plan to $190, or whatever the plan ends up being a year from now!
Speeds deprioritized after 23GB of data use.
Mobile hotspot speeds drop to 2G after 10GB of use.
In the end, Sprint has the best bang for your buck, and after their promotion is over, T-Mobile will have the lowest multi-line plan. Verizon still is not the lowest option available, but their move to bring back the unlimited data plan has significantly changed the course of all other carriers in just one week! If you’re already on Verizon, and their service works great in your area, now is a great time to switch to their new plans and save some money! Keep in mind that in some areas coverage is better for one carrier versus another, so keep this in mind in addition to the monthly costs!
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Akeem The Dream
I enjoy discussing and learning about technology, stocks, sports, and beating my wife at Dominoes! As I learn, I love to share with family and friends so that we can share our knowledge. Thanks for being apart of the journey!