Do you really “need” unlimited data?

If you’re an early iPhone adopter like me, then chances are you are grandfathered in to AT&T’s “Unlimited” data plan. AT&T has taken a lot of heat (and deservedly so) over playing games with this plan and doing things like throttling users back that use a lot of their “unlimited” data and holding back features ie. Data Tethering and FaceTime over Cellular, from users still on these plans.

Never gonna give it up!

Like many of you I have no plans of giving up my unlimited data voluntarily. Actually I don’t have a choice as my AT&T plan is through work. I do use a lot of data when I travel. I’m on this plan until they take it away (cold dead hands) or until work changes to something else. However, I also have a family plan with family members on it. Many of those iPhones and iPads were on unlimited plans too. A couple of months ago I decided to look not only at my bill, but to also look at usage and I found that most of these family members don’t use a lot of iPhone 3G/4G data at all. They are on WiFi most of the time either at home, work or school. I also had 3 iPads on various monthly pay-as-you-go plans. I decided to bite the bullet and move everything over to one of AT&T’s Shared Data Plans. Doing the math it would save me about $30/month and everyone (but me) would get the benefits of tethering and FaceTime over 3G/4G. I went with the 10GB/month plan because for 5 iPhones and 3 iPads the math you don’t really save anything by going with a lower plan as the cost per phone goes up!

How’s it going?


This is my first full month after the switch and as I suspected they didn’t go anywhere near the 10GBs of allotted data. Again remember this is for 5 iPhones and 3 iPads.

The Bottom Line

While I like the idea of buying data and using it anyway that I want, I still don’t like AT&T’s tactics here of not allowing you to use your device to fullest if you were an early adopter on an unlimited data plan. If you use the data (especially video streaming) then by all means stick to your unlimited plan. Stick it to the man! However, if you could save a few bucks and you’re not using that much data you might be actually better off on one of the new shared data plans. These plans also include unlimited voice and unlimited texting.

Check your usage in the My AT&T App


7 Replies to “Do you really “need” unlimited data?”

  1. I’ve been trying to tell my father to relax worrying about his data.. I said, what are you going to download the whole internet?!

  2. Yes I really do need unlimited data because no one offers a reasonable price for a per MB Data plan. And no one offers rollover data.

    From my perspective everything is data and the only thing that might fairly cost more is a guaranteed low-latency, high-speed connection for streaming video and virtual machines.

    I need a data plan that is unlimited or a shared data plan that lets me pay for per megabyte usage for all my devices with paying a separate monthly fee per device. I will accept a tiered plan if it has rollover data. I am also willing to pay a monthly fee for a higher guaranteed level of service to support video and audio streaming.

    But unlimited is so much easier to keep track of.

  3. yeah, having “unlimited” data is/was just a lot easier to keep track of and one less thing to worry about. I’m still grandfathered in with both my iPhone and iPad and will resist changing as long as I can. I don’t like the new data plans that much. I wish they had rollover data too. It’s mostly a psychological thing, but some months I use more data than others. I usually stay under 3 gigs, though, but I can see that going up a little bit with LTE.

    AT&T has been slow to upgrade their network because they were too busy trying to gobble up T-Mobile. They used spectrum shortage as a reason that they *HAD* to buy them out. That fell apart, and now they’re behind the curve again. They continue to blame ‘data hogs’ too, even though the amount that constitutes a ‘data hog’ seems to be a moving target.

  4. This subject is so controversial. Do we REALLY need unlimited data? It’s important to think about the future of technology. 3g is usually slower than the average household Internet connection. However, with 4G coming around the corner, rather it’s already here, people will begin to realize, “Hey, my cell phone Internet is faster than my home Internet.” Why would I wanna watch videos in low quality on my wifi to avoid long buffering when I can I can watch high quality videos with little or no buffering on my cellular data? What do you think?

    Technology is rapidly changing, and how it’s being used now is going to be a whole lot different in the future, possibly near future. Paying data per Gb is not a good a idea in my opinion. 1) as already mentioned, it’s one less thing to worry about if you have unlimited. 2) As bandwith becomes faster, technology will be dependant on that speed and quantity. More will be downloaded, and faster it will download. I suppose in the future, when someone is not on an unlimited plan, before they know it, they’re going to be over or close to their peak before the end of their cycle. Sure, you might turn off data usage, but think about how integrated it is in some people’s lives. Cutting off data until the pay cycle is renewed? That is scary when access is really important.

    Cellular companies know that data is on high demand and they want to milk the price of it from their customers. And when the time comes when the demand is higher, think of how much more expensive it will be? Giving up your unlimited data plan now, just to save some money now may be smart for some people, but beware in the long run you’re going to pay up for all that data unless new plans or competition comes into play.

    … But who knows, some people may only need 2gb per month. It really depends on who the user is.

    As a closing opinion about cellular companies like ATT and Verizon that have rid their unlimited plans, that is so ridiculous. Why are they constricting their customers to such few options for their data? Why can’t their be unlimited data plans, without the features of tethering and so forth, and shared data plans. Why only shared? I appreciate Tmobile and Sprint for competing with these companies by allowing their customers to choose what they want to fit their needs, whether they want unlimited data or paid. That’s what I like when I shop–options.

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