UPDATE: Feb. 13, 2017, 4:19 p.m. EST: T-Mobile has announced its own T-Mobile One unlimited data plan will match Verizon Unlimited with HD video streaming and 10GB of high-speed hotspot data, starting on Feb. 18. As such, T-Mobile One will be the better deal. Click here for full details.
Hey data hogs, guess what? Unlimited data plans are back on Verizon.
Whoo-hoo! This is great news. Where do you sign up to switch, either from an individual plan that you’re probably paying way too much for and getting way too little, or from another carrier?
Relax there tiger. Before you make the leap to Verizon’s “unlimited” (with all of its fine print; more on that below) plan, you should know how it compares to the competition and whether or not you’ll actually save money.
We totally understand what a nightmare it is to look through each U.S. carrier’s confusing website to compare the plans, which is why we did all the homework for you. Here’s the breakdown.
This is the new guy in town. For $80 a month with auto-pay (regular price is $85) you get unlimited calling and texting, an “unlimited” amount of data up to 22GB before Verizon throttles down speeds, HD video streaming, up to 10GB of hotspot data tethering (and then throttling starts), unlimited calling and texting in Canada and Mexico and 500GB of 4G LTE data in Canada and Mexico.
Here’s the breakdown for up to four lines:
1 line: $80/mo.
2 lines: $70 per line = $140/mo.
3 lines: $54 per line = $162/mo.
4 lines: $45 per line = $180/mo.
Compared to Verizon’s individual plans, which come in “small” (2GB), “medium” (4GB) and “large” (8GB), the new unlimited plan is a steal, especially if you’re already paying for large:
Small (2GB) = $35/mo.
Medium (4GB) = $50/mo.
Large (8GB) $70/mo.
T-Mobile, the “uncarrier” offers a slightly cheaper “unlimited” T-Mobile One monthly plan that starts at $70 and gets you unlimited calling, texting and up to 28GB of 4G LTE data before you see reduced speeds. Other bundled goodies include unlimited talk, text and data in 140 countries at about 128kbps (super slow, but better than nothing!), unlimited texting and one hour of free data on Gogo-enabled flights, and unlimited talk, text and data in Mexico and Canada.
Here’s how up to four lines with T-Mobile One stack up to Verizon Unlimited:
1 line: $70/mo.
2 lines: $60 per line = $120/mo.
3 lines: $47 per line = $140/mo.
4 lines: $40 per line = $160/mo.
Like Verizon Unlimited, T-Mobile’s “unlimited” plan has other caveats besides the 28GB of 4G LTE data cap.
For one, T-Mobile One streams video at a lower 480p resolution instead of up to HD resolution on Verizon Unlimited, so if you like crispy videos, this might bug you. Second, it doesn’t include any kind of useful hotspot feature for tethering other devices; I say useful because although it does technically include unlimited hotspotting, it’s at 2G speeds, which is basically useless. To add 4G LTE hotspot, you’ll have to pay another $15 per line for 5GB, which is still less than the 10GB included in with Verizon Unlimited.
But, still, if HD video streaming and 4G LTE hotspot isn’t essential for you, T-Mobile One isn’t a bad way to go.
Sprint Unlimited Freedom
Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom Plan is the least expensive compared to Verizon or T-Mobile’s offerings. But it’s also Sprint, which means its 4G LTE network coverage and speeds aren’t nearly as strong as the others.
But in the interest of providing you a complete and fair comparison, Unlimited Freedom gives you 23GB of data at 4G LTE speed before it’s throttled down to slower speeds, video streaming that’s limited to 480p resolution (same as T-Mobile One), “optimized” gaming speeds at up to 2mbps, and music streamed at up to 500kbps. It’s far less than what you get with Verizon Unlimited or T-Mobile One, but it’s at least a little cheaper for up to three lines.
Here’s the breakdown for up to four lines of Unlimited Freedom:
1 line: $60/mo.
2 lines: $60 + $40 (second line) = $100/mo.
3 lines: $60 + $40 (second line) + $30 (third line) = $130/mo.
4 lines: $60 + $40 (second line) + $30 (third line) + $30 (fourth line) = $160/mo.
AT&T Unlimited Plan
This is probably the worst of the “unlimited” plans primarily because the only way to sign up for it is to get a DirecTV or U-Verse subscription as well. In other words:
Avoid at all costs unless you want to pay a boatload and love AT&T for some reason. You can figure out what you get and all of the ridiculous fine print and fees at your own peril. (Warning: Your eyes might bleed from trying to figure it all out.)
Good deal or not?
With the average North American smartphone user using up to 3.7GB of data per month, according to a June 2016 Ericsson Mobility Report, and that number projected to increase to 22GB by 2021, now might the perfect time to switch to an unlimited plan (before the carriers decide pull the plug again in the future).
For Verizon users, the math doesn’t lie. For an extra $10 per month, you get almost three times as much data per month before getting throttled. T-Mobile One is the only real serious “unlimited” competitor to Verizon Unlimited, and while you save a few bucks you also lose out on some useful features like 4G LTE hotspotting and higher resolution video streaming.
In a nutshell, is the Verizon unlimited data plan a good deal? For most people, hell f*cking yes it is.