On June 28, Verizon Wireless unveiled Share Everything, its mandatory new plan (if you want a subsidized device) to simplify phone bills for its customers. We've heard all about it, but there doesn't seem to be anyone who totally understands the plan. There's no one to blame for this confusion except Verizon, as it managed to replace its tangled tiered plans with an equally complicated shared data plan. Even after breaking down various scenarios of cost and value for different consumer groups, it's hard to tell if this new system is better or worse.
Uncertainties of budgetary impact aside, the new plan leaves a fair amount of questions unanswered. What will happen to the current holders of unlimited data plans? Will the shared data plan be worthwhile to individuals? Why would a standard phone user need any sort of data plan?
Below is our latest attempt to answer these questions, and more, while cutting through the fog that clouds the Share Everything Plan.
What Has Changed?
The biggest difference between the Share Everything Plan and the tiered package plans is the focus on data. Gone are the days of picking the amount of minutes, texts, and data available in a plan. Verizon customers will now be given the ability to talk and text as much as they want (unlimited) no matter the plan. This benefit comes at the cost of paying premiums for data plans -- priced on a tiered system of its own -- which will be shared by every device that is included on the plan. Basically, it's out with the old tiers and in with the new, with the real kicker being elimination of unlimited data.
The old plans:
The new Share Everything plan:
Why the Change?
Depending on who you ask, there are many reasons that pushed Verizon to this style of plan. The main reason, and it might be as much accusation as it is fact, is that this new plan will make Verizon more money. By charging for capped amounts of data that will be shared between more devices per plan, there is sure to be a couple extra bucks going into the company's bank deposits.
The second reason -- and perhaps biggest according to Verizon -- is need to rein data usage across the network. Verizon executives have previously gone on record saying unlimited data is unsustainable. Share Everything appears to be its solution, though Verizon's payment structure shows it has no interest in actually rewarding those who use less data.
Think of it this way: Every Verizon customer is holding a cup. At the start of each month, Verizon fills that cup with water (data). Depending on how much the customer pays, Verizon fills it to different levels (between 1 and 10 GB). Here are your options for how full your cup can be:
1GB -- $50
2GB -- $60
4GB -- $70
6GB -- $80
8GB -- $90
10GB -- $100
To drink that water, you're going to need a straw (smartphone) -- it's one of the rules Verizon sets to provide you with water. The initial straw will cost you an additional $40 a month. After that, you can add up to 9 additional straws at varying price points. They are as follows:
Smartphones -- $40
Standard phones -- $30
USB modems, laptops, and netbooks -- $20
Tablets -- $10
Any straw that is added into the cup drinks from the month's water supply. There is no limit per straw, so it's a bit of a free-for-all, especially if every straw is owned by a different person.
If you finish your water before the month is over and you're still a little thirsty, Verizon will top you off, but they expect you to tip. If you catch that you're going to run out and offer to pay for extra, you'll be given 2GB more for $10. But if you keep drinking and Verizon fills without you pre-purchasing it, you'll pay $15 per GB.
Who is Affected?
If you're a Verizon customer, present or future, Share Everything will have an impact on you in some way.
Any person that was previously paying a heavy price for minutes or texts should probably go ahead and make the switch. In most cases, especially for those that were paying for unlimited talk options, the price will be significantly lower thanks to the change plan structure that includes unlimited voice and text.
Those who are individual plans, were paying for minimal amounts of anytime minutes or texts, or are not smartphone owners might want to start searching for other providers. Odds are very good there will be a significant jump in your bill, and it will be for features you don't necessarily need.
Unlimited data plan holders are grandfathered in and will be able to retain their bandwidth-based freedoms -- at least for a little. If you want to hold onto the unlimited data, you'll have to keep the phone you have or purchase an unsubsidized smartphone. Any upgrade to a subsidized phone will automatically terminate your unlimited data, and you'll go from $30 a month for all the data you can handle to $50 a month for a single GB.
New users just jumping into the Verizon pool won't have any real choice when it comes to Share Everything. It's here, and it doesn't appear to be going anywhere. In fact, we wouldn't be shocked to see similar plans pop up at other service providers in the future.
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