Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Data Plans: Unlimited or 200 MB Per Month?

I just took this picture of my study space
to verify whether I will be able to take pictures with
my regular camera and post them to the blog since doing that
with my BlackBerry is something I can't
afford to do any more until
the end of the month
Spanish prof recently posted a question as to whether it makes more sense to go for an unlimited data plan on her smartphone or to choose the 200 MB per month option.

Phone companies tell gullible customers like myself that they really don't need unlimited plans and that all their data needs will be covered extremely well by the plans with pre-set data limits. AT&T has already killed its unlimited data plan (this is a company that is unstoppable in its desire to rip off customers), and now other companies are following suit.

As one of those idiots who fell for the "you-really-don't-need-an-unlimited-data-plan-because-you-don't download-that-much" mantra, let me tell you what the 200 MB per month means in practical terms. I use my BlackBerry's Internet access to read and answer emails, blog and Twitter. I never watch any movies or YouTube videos. Never download any music, games, or anything else that can be downloaded. Never surf the Internet from my smartphone. Maybe once every six weeks I receive a .doc attachment and open it. I also take pictures and send them to my blog once or twice a week. When I do that, I always make sure that the photo is emailed in the smallest size possible.

And still, somehow, I keep exceeding those magical 200MB all the time. And then I have to pay extra for the next chunk of data. Of course, if you use your smartphone's Internet access even less than I do, then, by all means, get the limited plan. The only question I have is why a person who uses it even less than I do would need it at all.


Tim said...

How do you do that ?
I have been running my iPhone on a 150MB plan for almost a year now and I have never even once been close to 100MB traffic.

And I do pretty much the same as you do. About 30 emails a day, sometimes twitter, a lot of surfing and checking the RSS feeds every now and then and the occasional youtube video.

So huh, I am a little suprised that you actually manage to do that. And I think I have to rethink the advice I give on this topic, because I tell people to always go with the data limits as they will never be able to exceed it with just internet and emails.

By the way, what happens when you exceed your limit ? I know that my speed is throttled down to GPRS speed.

Clarissa said...

I have no idea how it happens. It isn't something I can verify either. The cell phone company just charges an extra $20 the second they say you have exceeded it by a single byte.

Spanish prof said...

Maybe I'll just buy an Ipod Touch (~160 bucks), use it when there is wireless internet, and just stick to my old cheap plan. I really don't need it that much, it's more like feeling that I am not still in the 90s.

Z said...

My Android came today and it is my first smart phone. I want it so I can use it to look up maps in Houston and Austin. I want also to be able to recheck e-mail here to see what address I am supposed to go to, and then look it up on a map ... without having to be at a wireless hot point and hook up the computer. I want to take five pictures with the camera and mail them once.

I have virtually zero plans to send e-mail, twitter, blog, or text from it.

I like it. It is a CREDO Samsung Android with real keyboard and it cost $99 and cell phone plus data plan plus tax is $80 / month. We'll see how this goes.

Shedding Khawatir said...

Does your university wireless make you login every time you open a browser/are idle, which would cause your phone to default to the smartphone plan? Or is there a website you frequent that uses an unusually large number of MB? Because the three smartphone users in my family (ATT + Iphone) also almost never go over 200 MB when they are in wireless range.

@Spanish Prof--I use an ipod Touch and love it, as I am mostly in wireless range and am not much of a phone person. However, when I can better afford a smartphone, I'm upgrading as it's a little annoying to carry around two devices and I want internet when I'm shopping to comparison shop as well as when I'm traveling.

Clarissa said...

"Does your university wireless make you login every time you open a browser/are idle, which would cause your phone to default to the smartphone plan?"

-Yes, it does!

" Or is there a website you frequent that uses an unusually large number of MB?"

-Do you think this blog might be such a website?

Shedding Khawatir said...

I don't think your blog would be too large, but who knows. I think the more likely culprit is that your phone is using your plan when you're on campus, and even if it's only a few days a week it adds up quickly. Unfortunately, the only way I know of to fix this is to manually log in via the browser every time you use your phone, which would be pretty annoying. However, you could try googling your phone model plus the problem--there might be some sort of setting you can adjust or something.

Tim said...

Truth be told, I don't like contracts. I usually buy a used phone and then go for a prepaid card than a contract that I can't cancel anytime.