How to Choose Your Data Plan When Unlimited Isn't an Option
Verizon is the third of the big four carriers to drop its unlimited data plan for smartphone customers. Like AT&T and T-Mobile, Verizon now offers tiered plans based on usage.
The change will not affect current smartphone customers of Verizon even when they upgrade to another phone, according to a Verizon statement.
However, if you're a first time smartphone buyer, you may not be sure whether you can live with 200 megabytes or if a higher limit would be a better choice. You could take the pick-and-see approach, but there’s a better way.
If you can estimate how much data you'll use and more important, how frequently you'll be within Wi-Fi range, you can choose a plan with confidence. Here's how:
Data plan options
New smartphone customers will be able to choose from four different capped monthly data plans on Verizon: $10 for 75MB, $30 for 2GB, $50 for 5GB, and $80 for 10GB.
Users who go over their monthly allotment will be charged $10 per gigabyte, or $10 per 75MB on the entry-level plan.
Choose wrong―either too high or too low―and you could end up over paying on your next bill.
Estimating your usage
To estimate your data usage, consider how you typically use your phone. If you're investing in a smartphone for on-the-go email, you'll use a fraction of the data used by someone who plans to watch videos and stream music. If you fall into the latter group, you'll need at least 2GB of data.
The average email without an attachment consumes about 20 kilobytes of data. There are 1,024 kilobytes in a megabyte, so with 75MB you could send or receive around 3,800 emails total.
However, photos, music files and videos are much larger. A single digital photo has an average size of 3MB, so now a 75MB plan accommodates only 25 photos a month.
Music? Around 18 songs could be downloaded on the starter plan.
Video? Streaming a half hour TV show on ABC.com would consume about 100MB, so now starter plan customers are over by 25MB and that's if they don't do anything else that requires data. What began as a $10 a month plan, would double just after one episode of "The Bachelorette."
The solution to excessive data plan usage is switching to Wi-Fi.
Shift to Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi transmissions are not charged against your data plan. Wi-Fi data is both free and unlimited. Your new smartphone should automatically switch to sending and receiving data via Wi-Fi when it detects a signal.
If it does not, you can manually connect to an available Wi-Fi network , similar to the way you connect a laptop to the Internet. Check under your phone's settings menu.
To stretch your data plan, always check to make sure your phone is connected to Wi-Fi before you download files, browse the Internet, stream music and watch video.
$20 tethering: worth the money?
Verizon customers can add a mobile hotspot feature to their plan for $20. If so equipped, a smartphone can provide an Internet connection via Wi-Fi to nearby devices such as laptops, iPads or other smartphones. The fee includes an additional 2GB of data.
If you find yourself frequently out of free Wi-Fi range, the tethering fee may make sense. But if you use your laptop at the local Starbucks, McDonalds or library, it's a fee you can skip.
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