Existing Verizon Wireless customers have a choice to make. They can stick with their current plan or switch to one of the company's Share Everything plans when they become available on June 28.
Under the new plans, subscribers pay for two things: the pool of wireless data they use every month, and the devices they add to the plan. Here's a brief look at prices and a breakdown of which plans are best-suited for various types of users.
The base cost is a monthly data allowance, shared among all the devices:
- 1 gigabyte $50
- 2 gigabytes $60
- 4 gigabytes $70
- 6 gigabytes $80
- 8 gigabytes $90
- 10 gigabytes $100
Verizon allows up to 10 devices on each plan. This is the cost of adding each device:
- Smartphone $40 (With unlimited calling and texting)
- Non-smartphone $30 (With unlimited calling and texting)
- Laptop, USB data stick or "mobile hotspot" device $20
- Tablet $10
Here's how the Share Everything Plan stacks up against some current Verizon plans:
The Connected Single: One smartphone with unlimited calling, texting and 2 gigabytes of data.
- Current Nationwide single-line plan: $120 per month
- Share Everything: $100 per month
Winner: Share Everything.
The Frugal but Connected Single: The cheapest plans for that one-smartphone guy or gal are...
- Current Nationwide Plan: $80 for one smartphone with 450 minutes of calling, 1,000 text messages and 2 gigabytes of data.
- Share Everything: $80 for one smartphone with unlimited calling, unlimited messages and 300 megabytes of data (Up to nine non-smartphones can be added to this plan for $30 each, sharing the data allowance)
Winner: Current plan, because it gives you more data.
The Connected Couple: Two smartphones with unlimited calling, texting and 4 gigabytes of data (shared under new plan, 2 gigabytes for each phone under old plan)
- Current Family SharePlan: $210 per month
- Share Everything: $150 per month
Winner: Share Everything. It's cheaper, plus it's easier to use the data.
The Frugal but Connected Couple: Two smartphones, paying as little as possible.
- Current Family SharePlan: $150 for two smartphones with 700 shared minutes of calling, 1,000 text messages per line and 2 gigabytes of data per line.
- Share Everything: $130 for two smartphones with unlimited calling and texting, and 1 gigabyte of data, shared.
Winner: Share Everything. It's cheaper, but gives you less data. If you need more data, you can get 4 gigabytes of data for a monthly bill of $150.
The Always-Connected Couple: Two smartphones with unlimited calling, a tablet and a USB data stick.
- Current plans: Total of $290 per month. That's $210 for the smartphones on Family SharePlan, plus $30 for the tablet and $50 for the data stick. Total data allowance is 11 gigabytes, but it's split up over four devices, so it's hard to use it all in one month.
- Share Everything: $200 per month, with 8 gigabytes of data.
Winner: Share Everything. It's cheaper. You get less data in this example, but it's all in one pool, so it's easier to use it efficiently. For example, you could use 6 gigabytes watching Netflix on your tablet one month, if you want. On the current $30-per-month separate tablet plan, you're limited to 2 gigabytes per month.
The Family: Two smartphones and two "dumb" phones.
- Current Family SharePlan: $210. That's for 2,000 shared minutes, unlimited texting, and 2 gigabytes of data for each phone.
- Share Everything: $210. That's with unlimited calling, unlimited texting, and 4 gigabytes of shared data.
Winner: Share Everything. It's the same price, but you get unlimited calling and it's easier to use the data efficiently.
Here's a Q&A session to offer more information about the new Verizon "Share Everything" plan:
Q: Will Verizon convert me to a new plan, or can I keep my old plan?
A: Verizon won't switch you over to the new plan unless you ask. You can keep your old plan, even if you trade up to a new phone after that date and extend your contract. But for new customers, Share Everything will be the only alternative, with a few exceptions, starting June 28.
Q: What type of customer should move to the new plan?
A: If you already have unlimited calling and texting plans, the new plans are likely to save you money, especially if you have a family plan. If you have a tablet, the new pricing scheme could be a good idea too. Even if your tablet doesn't have a cellular modem, you may be able to take advantage of the plan, because it lets you create a "mobile hotspot" with your smartphone, so you can go online with your Wi-Fi-only tablet.
Q: What if I have an "unlimited data" plan? Can I keep it?
A: Yes, you can. But -- and there's a big "but" here -- Verizon will no longer let you move the plan to a new phone after June 28, unless you pay the full, unsubsidized price for it. For most smartphones that will add hundreds of dollars to the price. A subsidized Verizon iPhone 4S costs $200. The price you'll pay if you keep your unlimited plan: $650. (Verizon stopped signing up new customers for unlimited a year ago)
Q: I'm a current Verizon customer with a 3G phone, but I need faster data downloads. Do I have to go to a new plan if I upgrade to a 4G phone?
A: No, you can keep your old plan. However, if you have an unlimited data plan, you'll be paying full price for that spiffy new 4G phone, as mentioned above.
Q: I have a phone and tablet, but they're on different carriers. Can this plan work for me?
A: Probably not. The plan encourages you to use only Verizon-compatible devices. But if you have a Verizon smartphone and an AT&T iPad, you could cancel the AT&T service and use the hotspot mode mentioned above. It's just not as convenient has having direct cellular access on the iPad.
Q: I don't need a fancy data plan. I just want a regular phone, with no frills. Are the calling-only plans going away?
A: Almost. There will be only one plan for basic phones. It costs $40 per month and gives you 700 minutes of calling. Texting and data will cost extra. For this type of phone, there are cheaper, no-contract alternatives from many companies.
Q: I'm single and I just want a smartphone, that's it. The cheapest Shared Everything plan looks pretty expensive at $90 per month, and that's with just 1 gigabyte of data. Is there no alternative?
A: There's one cheaper plan, intended for first-time smartphone buyers. It gives you unlimited calling and texting, and just 300 megabytes of data per month. If you're frugal with data usage, that will get you by. It costs $80 per month.
Q: Is this the future? Are all phone plans going to be this way?
A: For its part, AT&T is likely to go in this direction as well. It makes sense for phone companies to meter only the data usage. They can easily provide unlimited texting and calling, but data usage stresses their network. They also want to get as many new, non-phone devices as possible on their networks, and, for customers, shared data plans are cheaper than putting each device on a new plan.
That said, there's likely to be a wide variety of phone plans in the industry
Q: How do data plans work in other countries?
A: They mostly limit data usage per device, the model Verizon is moving away from. Contract terms are often more flexible overseas, however, and more phones and Internet devices are pay-as-you-go rather than bound by contract.
Q: Does this mean I can drop my home DSL service or cable modem?
A: Maybe, if you're a light Internet user. Adding a data stick or Verizon-connected "hotspot" device to your plan will cost just $20 per month. But home PCs often use a lot of data, especially if you like to watch Internet video. Many households use more than 10 gigabytes per month, the maximum allotment under Verizon's plan. That much data costs $100 per month.
PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer