iPhone 5: The Carrier Dilema

I switched from Verizon (or was it Sprint? hm) to AT&T in 2007 because they had exclusivity on the iPhone. Moving on to my 6th iPhone, I'm reevaluating what carrier I'd like to be on. Why now? LTE. From what I've been reading and hearing, Verizon currently has both superior LTE coverage and speeds. And in my area, AT&T has no coverage at all. The downside: Verizon doesn't support data (except wifi) during voice calls.

Checking out Verizon's plans, I was completely surprised to see that these 'Share Everything' plans are the only plans available, even if you have just one device. Ok, so that narrows it down. Although there aren't any great deals here, the way Verizon puts your plan together is refreshingly simple. The antiquated concepts of paying by the minute or text are gonezo; welcome to 2012. All that's left to figure out is the data. But first, let's take a gander at what iMessage has done to my text messaging over the past year.

iOS 5 (which introduced iMessaging) was released October 12, 2011, curiously when my text messaging peaked. Since then, legit SMS usage dropped rapidly as my friends either upgraded to iOS 5 or smartened up and got iPhones. Nowadays it seems weird to see those green messages, since most people i message use iMessage. This was just for fun, SMS doesn't matter any more so let's move on to data. 

I've been sick of hearing everyone get worked up about maintaing their unlimited data plans that they've been grandfathered in for years. "I won't do X, Y, or Z because I'd lose my unlimited data plan" they say. I too as once worked up about this when I needed tethering - the unlimited data plan would have to be relinquished. News flash: It's extremely likely you don't need unlimited data. Here's my data usage over the past year.

Once, and only once, did I exceed 2GB in one month of usage, making a 2GB plan perfect for me (overages are billed at $15/GB on Verizon, which I would have incurred once over last year). I bet if you dig up your own usage data (check your bills, bro), it's likely you'll find that you fit quite nicely into one of the limited data plans. Your mileage may vary, especially avid Pandora-ers, but it's worth checking.

On to Verizon's Share Everything plans, which are really easy to put together.

  1. Got a smartphone? Check. $40 for unlimited voice and text. 
  2. Want some data? Check. $60 for 2GB, $70 for 4GB (higher amounts available too). Use as a wireless hotspot is included too. You're paying for these bits and get do to whatever you'd like with them.
  3. There is no step 3.

For those who find adding two separate prices together Verizon supplies you, dumb American consumer, with an example of how to add them. Following this example, I find that my base bill will be $100/mo. Since I only expect to exceed the 2GB cap once per year, it makes more sense to pay the $15 overage once than the extra $10/mo for 12 months for a 4GB plan. If my usage goes up and stays up, move to the 4GB plan. Simple. It looks to me that it'll be about a wash with my current plan when I estimate my corporate discount and other random fees they tack on.

AT&T's has competing "Mobile Share Plans" in addition to the more classic limited voice, text, and data plans. The mobile share plans are slightly more complicated because they discount the voice/text part of the plan more as you increase how much data you're purchasing. 2GB data plans are conspicuously missing. The 1GB plan isn't enough, so the next step is 4GB.

  1. Got a smartphone? Check. $40 for unlimited voice and text w/ a 4GB data plan.
  2. Want some data? Spoiler alert, I already said 4GB. That'll be $70.
  3. There is no step 3.

My plan cost from AT&T comes in at $110, which will end up slightly more expensive than what I'm paying now when you figure in the fees and discounts. Now what if you go with an individual plan instead of the mobile share plan? Note that I need tethering and text messaging.

  1. 450 minutes w/ roll-over (metered minutes seem so ridiculous in 2012) $40
  2. 5GB data w/ tethering (only option available...) $50
  3. Unlimited messaging (only option available) $20

This comes out to $110, just like the share everything plan.

The bigger question here is: AT&T or Verizon? Until the end of the year, there is no AT&T LTE service in Nashua, NH, where I live, but there is for Verizon. I can't say that I have been unhappy with my AT&T service, but I'm going to switch. As my research has shown, the plans are roughly the same cost between carriers, but Verizon's LTE network is not only already here now, but faster. Now, what about that ETF from AT&T? It'll cost me about $225 to cancel my AT&T contract, but that's actually cheaper than the additional $250 I'd have to pay for iPhone 5 since I'm not eligible for full upgrade subsidies.

And now we wait till 3AM PST to pre-order these things. Tomorrow's going to be rough.