AT&T announces data sharing for mobile devices

Apple fans who have had to juggle multiple AT&T data plans for their iPhones and 3G-enabled iPads can now pick one plan to rule them all: The telecommunications company on Wednesday announced the launch of a new Mobile Share program that lets a single plan cover up to 10 devices.

Consumers can pick from a range of data plans that start at $85 a month for one smartphone with a 1-GB data planwhich includes unlimited talk and text optionsup to $230 a month with 20 GB of data for that single smartphone. From there, they can add up to 10 devices$30 a month for every dumb cell phone, $20 a month for each laptop or netbook, and $10 a month for a tablet or gaming device. (See the chart below for a breakdown of the fees.) The price-per-gigabyte and the fee-per-smartphone both get cheaper if you buy a larger bucket of data.

How does that compare with AT&Ts existing data plans? It depends on how much data and how many devices you use. Be warned: Theres math involved here.

Say youre the owner of a single iPad and a single iPhoneand youre using AT&Ts 3 GB data plans on each. (This assumes youre using more than the minimum data on both devices, but are still a modest user.) Under the existing data plans, youd pay $30 a month for your iPad and $90 a month for data, unlimited texting, and 450 minutes of talk time on your iPhone, a total of $120 a month. Under the Mobile Share program, those two devices using 6 GB a month of data would cost $135 a month. These figures dont include taxes and fees, which vary from state to state.

That increase is needed, though, only if youre using 3 GB a month on both devices. Now that youre able to share the data among both your iPad and iPhone, however, you might decide to go with the more modest 4 GB a month planin which case youll pay the same $120 a month that you are now.

The benefits of the new plan kick in as you connect more devices and use more data. Households wholike minehave a single 3G-enabled iPad and two iPhones sharing a 700-minute family talk plan with unlimited texting are currently paying $190 a month under the previous AT&T plan. (Again, the scenario envisions each device is using the 3 GB data plan, totaling 9 GBs for the trio.) Under the Mobile Share program, that same fee will buy 10 GB of dataand families might save if they decide 6 GB will do for the three devices, in which case the price drops to $170 a month.

How do you decide? If youre already a customer of AT&T, the companys website will let you log into your account and see just how much data youre usingmaking it easier to figure out if the new Mobile Share program is a benefit to your family or business. Existing customers dont have to convert to the program, but if they'd like to they can do so without extending their current AT&T contract.

Wednesdays announcement had long been anticipated. AT&T had said in May it would soon offer shared data plans; Verizon, however, beat the company to the punch by announcing its own Share Everything program last month.

This story, "AT&T announces data sharing for mobile devices" was originally published by Macworld.

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