August 29, 2011, 10:36 AM — Unlimited data plans are going extinct, and users are wondering how they can avoid paying higher fees for their Web-surfing and Facebook-checking habits. In July, Verizon Wireless became the most recent carrier to switch from $30-per-month "all you can eat" data pricing to tiered data pricing. To see what effect the move to tiered pricing is likely to have on everyday users, we asked ten subscribers with smartphones to look at how much data they've been using per month for the past few months. Most of the respondents found that they hadn't been exceeding the 2GB data cap; but the larger their phone's screen was, the more data they tended to use, simply because those phones do a better job of streaming video and audio, and are easier to use for recreation and for checking email.
For now, if you're already a Verizon customer with a data plan, you can keep the unlimited-data provision of your contract until you get a new smartphone or upgrade to a smartphone. Even then, you can keep your $30-per-month plan, but you'll pay extra if you use more than 2GB per month.
At the moment, it appears that most smartphone users don't consume more than 2 GB, meaning that most Verizon customers won't see a change in their fees under the new plans. But as phones get bigger screens, 4G networking capabilities, 3D gaming systems, and other features in the near future, many people will be tempted over the 2GB line by the improved experience.
Watch Your Data Usage
How much data do regular people use on their mobile devices each month? We informally surveyed 10 Verizon customers (including me) who have smartphones and asked them to report their data usage for the past three months. Most of them didn't exceed their data cap, and none exceeded it by more than 1.5GB. On average, the ten customers expended 1.19 GB of data per month--hardly enough to cause any worry.
Ada Tso, an assistant for a policy research organization based in the Bay Area was our "most average" data user: She used 1.17 GB per month on her Droid Incredible 2, primarily for email, though she also used her phone to search the news and to check out Facebook and Twitter.