July 19, 2012, 2:21 PM — Critics and users are crying foul over AT&T and Verizon's new shared data pricing structures that let you share one bucket of data with up to 10 devices. PC World readers commenting on AT&T's new Mobile Share plans described the news as "atrocious," "insane," and "ridiculous." Verizon introduced its Share Everything plans in June.
Harry Thomas, T-Mobile's director of public marketing, also got in on the shared data bashing, saying in a statement to PCWorld that the new plans were costly, complicated, and punitive for consumers. "T-Mobile does not plan on introducing shared family data plans and believes consumers will not benefit from that model," Thomas said.
But are the shared data plans from AT&T and Verizon really that bad? It all depends on your needs. If you're just one person using one smartphone and a tablet, then shared data plans could be a bit pricey. But if you've got an army of mobile device users at home, then you may actually benefit from the new plans.
Here are a few things to consider about the new trend of shared data plans.
Who Needs Unlimited Talk?
One of the big tradeoffs with the new shared data plans from AT&T and Verizon is that you get unlimited calling minutes. This sounds like a great deal, but does it justify the added expense of a shared data plan? How often do you exceed the average basic monthly calling allotment of 450 minutes? Especially when you have other communication options such as text messages, e-mail, and Facebook. Unless you are a big talker or are supporting multiple phones on one plan, the shared data option may not be for you.
Know Your Data
One thing you want to watch out for on either the shared or tiered data plans is your overage charges for using extra data. On Mobile Share and Verizon's Share Everything plan, you pay $15 for every extra gigabyte you use -- AT&T's tiered data plans from 3GB and up charge $10 per extra gigabyte. Those charges may not seem like much, but it adds up if you're not careful.
Tiered Data vs. AT&T Mobile Share
Let's say you want to connect a smartphone and an iPad to AT&T. A current AT&T customer with a basic tiered data plan would be paying $40 per month for 450 calling minutes, an extra $20 per month for unlimited messaging, and another $30 for 3GB of data. So for $90 you have your smartphone covered, and you can pay another $30 for 3GB for your iPad for a total of $120 per month.