Should I Switch? AT&T Unlimited Data vs Mobile Share Plan

Posted:

Updated: 1/13/2017

Last updated January 2017 to reflect price incrase.

AT&T Wireless raised the price on grandfathered Unlimited data plans by $5 in December, 2015 from $30 to $35.  And by another $5 from $35 to $40 in March 2017. What do you think they will do in March 2018?

2 Year plans ended January 8, 2016.

AT&T Wireless rolled out a new Mobile Share Advantage Plan on August 22, 2016 with lower data costs but higher per device fees.  Our analysis below has been updated to reflect this.

AT&T Wireless has introduced a brand new unlimited wireless data offer for new and existing U-Verse (From $59.99/month) and DirecTV (Many plans) subscribers. It was launched on 1/12/2016. Press Release

Clearly AT&T's goal is to give full access to stream video if you are one of their Wireless and Video customers.

AT&T Unlimited Plan Details

  • Unlimited talk/text
  • $100/month for first phone
  • $40/month for next 2 lines
  • 4th line is free - After 2 months of paying $40.
  • Tablets $40/month
  • Watches $10/month
  • Basic / Messaging phones $25/month
  • No hotspot function

After 22GB per line, you will get throttled to a lower data speed.

As another bonus, when you combine your AT&T wireless and DIRECTV/U-Verse bills, you’ll save an additional $10 a month.

AT&T_logo_2005

Lessening the elimination of Unlimited Data. On January 7, 2015 AT&T announced that it is adding AT&T Rollover Data. Mobile Share Value customers will have their unused, shareable plan data in a given month roll over to be used within the next month. No signup or additional cost. This plan started January 25, 2015.

Caveats:

  • The rollover data does not carry over
  • Prepaid and grandfather plans are not eligible

T-Mobile added a similar feature called Data Stash in 2014, but their rollover period is 12 months.

Throttling Lawsuit

In October 2014, the FTC sued AT&T over throttling users with unlimited data plans. They found 3.5 million customers got slowed down at least 25 million times, affecting roughly 25% of AT&T's unlimited data plan subscribers.

On June 17, 2016 the FCC slapped AT&T with a $100 million fine for throttling users. They found that AT&T misled consumers and never told them that speeds could be slowed.

Introduction

Some long time AT&T Wireless customers have grandfathered unlimited data plans. With AT&T’s newer mobile share plans, it is time to revisit our Smartphone plan. We could possibly save money and or add new features with a change of plan. BuyVia is committed to helping consumers save money on all their purchases including Smartphone plans.

With Verizon Wireless, to keep unlimited data, you have to pay full price for each smartphone you upgrade to.

What is Grandfathered AT&T Unlimited Data?

AT&T charged $30 $35 for unlimited wireless data up until 2010 when the iPhone 4 was introduced. Customers who had that plan were allowed to retain it even when upgrading to a newer Smartphone. We have upgraded from the iPhone 4 to 5s and still retained this great benefit. AT&T stopped selling this plan due to overuse by a small set of customers. Some would stream video or Pandora all day, significantly using a ton of bandwidth every month. The top 5% of bandwidth users in each area caused major issues for the rest of the subscribers.

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Downsides of Unlimited Data

Having this grandfathered benefit does include some limitations.

  • Data is throttled or slowed down after 22GB a month when using 4G LTE (Some people are lucky and do not get slowed)
  • No hotspot feature
  • Family Plans did not have unlimited talk and text
  • Adding a new line would force it to use a different plan

When Should You Keep Grandfathered Unlimited Data?

With AT&T’s Mobile Share plan in 2014, we found that it was time to re-evaluate maintaining this benefit with the positive changes possible.

You should keep unlimited data if:

  • Your data usage is above average
  • If a new Mobile Share plan with enough data costs more
  • You do not need the extra minutes or unlimited texts
  • Additional phone lines are not required (Line 3, 4)
  • You do not need to add a Tablet with 4G
  • Full speed data up to 3GB/5GB limit covers your needs

If you are affected by some of these issues, you should consider switching plans.

att-mobile-share

AT&T Unlimited Data vs Mobile Share Plan

We are in this situation and felt that doing the cost analysis was the only way we could see what plan would be best for us. Hopefully others will find this beneficial. First we will examine our current plan.

Existing AT&T Family Plan for 2 lines with unlimited data
Family Talk Nation 700 with rollover minutes $60
Unlimited Data Plan $35
Messaging Pack 200 Text $5
Line number 2 $9.99
Unlimited Data Plan for Line 2 $30
Messaging Pack 200 Text for both lines $10
Monthly Total Charge $149.99 + taxes and fees

This is our existing plan for 2 Smartphones with unlimited data and a small messaging pack for those not using iMessage.

Actual usage:

Voice Minutes: Never used up our monthly minutes

Texts: Never went over allotment

Data: Averaged 3GB per month for 2 Smartphones

If you are not sending free iMessages or using a free messaging client like Whats App, you may have added:

Family Messaging Unlimited ($30/mo.) or Messaging Unlimited ($20/mo.) for each line.

 

Switching from Unlimited Data to Mobile Share 6GB Plan

What if we switched our plan to the currently available plan? Would we save money? Would we gain additional features?

AT&T Mobile Share 6GB Plan
Mobile Share 6GB Data Plan, Unlimited Talk/Text $60
Existing Smartphone Off Contract or on Next $20
Existing Smartphone on 2yr Contract $40
Monthly Total Charge for 2 with Next $100 + taxes and fees

 

This is a wash. No upside to switching plans for us, especially because we did not care about unlimited talk, text, or hotspot feature. We already get 5GB+ of full speed data grandfathered. But if you are paying for Family Messaging Unlimited ($30/mo.) to cover 2 lines instead of our two 200 message packs ($5 x 2 lines = $10), you would definitely save money moving to the Mobile Share plan.

 

Adding a Third Line to an existing AT&T Family Plan with 2 lines of Unlimited Data

Say we wanted to add a new $199 Smartphone with the typical 2 year commitment. We priced out adding a third line to our existing unlimited Data Family Plan vs switching to AT&T Mobile Share. Here is the cost:

Two Line Family Plan with a 1 additional Smartphone (3 Lines Total)
Existing Plan $144.99
Add a line $9.99
Mobile Share 3GB Data for new phone $40
Monthly Total Charge $194.98 + taxes and fees
Cost of a new phone using 2year commitment
Smartphone cost $199
Sales Tax $60
Activation fee $40
One time charge $299

High upfront cost. The New line will share your family plan minutes. Texts will be a la carte for the new line unless you get a texting plan.

Adding a Third Line to the Mobile Share Plan

We wanted to add a new $199 Smartphone with 2 year commitment. The latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy is priced at this level. We priced out adding a third line to an AT&T Mobile Share Plan. Here are the various options.

Two Line Mobile Share Plan with 1 Additional Smartphone (3 Lines Total)
3 line Mobile share Plan 10GB $80
Add a line with 2yr agreement completed $20
Add a line with 2yr agreement completed $20
Add a New line with 2yr agreement $40
Monthly Total Charge $160 + taxes and fees
Cost of a new phone using 2yr commitment
Smartphone cost $199
Sales Tax $60
Activation fee $40
One time charge $299

Comparing Mobile Share to our existing Family Plan, adding a phone will result in the same one time initial charge. The AT&T Monthly charge will cost about the same. Each line will have 3.3GB of data each month to work with. Not a good way to proceed, stick to Unlimited plan.

 

Adding a Third and Fourth Line to the existing unlimited Family Plan

Say we wanted to add 2 new $199 with 2yr commitment typical Smartphones. We priced out adding a third and fourth line to our existing unlimited Data Family Plan. Here is the cost:

Two Line Family Plan with a 2 additional Smartphones (4 Lines Total)
Existing Plan $144.99
Add a line $9.99 x 2
Mobile Share 3GB Data for new phones $60
Monthly Total Charge $224.97 + taxes and fees
Cost of a new phones using 2yr commitment
Smartphone cost $199 x 2
Sales Tax $60 x 2
Activation fee $40 x 2
One time charge $598

Very expensive one time outlay. Texts will be a la carte for the new line unless you get a texting plan.

When does the Mobile Share Plan save money?

There are several scenarios where the Mobile Share plan is advantageous. Most are when you have 4 lines and use the AT&T Next Plan to add a line or purchase an unlocked smartphone from a store other than AT&T.

Adding an unlocked Smartphone

You can purchase an unlocked GSM Smartphone like an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy for a couple hundred dollars and then add it to your Mobile Share Plan for only $20. This phone will share your unlimited talk/text, and data allotment every month.

Adding a Tablet to the Mobile Share Plan

Once you have a Mobile Share Plan and want to add a Tablet or gaming device, you pay only $10/month to share your Mobile Share Plan’s data. Without the Mobile Share Plan, it will cost $30/month for an DataConnect 3GB tablet plan. This is a great price and much cheaper than going it separately.

 

att-next-logo

AT&T Next Plan

AT&T has a Next Plan that replaces the standard 2yr agreement with new smartphones. Instead of using the traditional 2yr agreement when adding a new line, you will need to run the numbers with this installment plan. Next Every Year and AT&T Next allow you to upgrade to a new phone after 12 months or 24 months. The longer the Next plan, the lower the monthly installment payment. With the Next Plan, the main attributes are:

  • Upgrade the device after 12 or 24 months (optional)
  • No activation fee
  • No down payment
  • Full price of Smartphone broken into equal payments
  • 24 or 30 month plan length
  • Cheaper every month than a 2yr plan
  • After 90 days, you can pay off the entire amount
  • Smartphone unlocked after paying off phone

If you do the analysis, you’ll find that after paying off your Smartphone, your monthly bill will be less. If you love to upgrade your device every year, the Next Plan allows you to do it albeit with a slight premium that we analyzed in another article.

Note: This applies to the smartphone, not the wireless plan.

Adding a Third Line Using AT&T Next Every Year to an existing Unlimited Data Family Plan

Say instead, we wanted to add a new $199 Smartphone but with Next Every Year commitment. Unlimited data is grandfathered. We will rerun the totals for this situation.

Two Line Family Plan with a 1 additional Smartphone via Next Every Year(3 Lines Total)
Existing Plan $144.99
Add a Line $9.99
Add a Next Every Year Smartphone $32.50 (for 20 months)
Mobile Share 3GB Data for new phone $60
Monthly Total Charge $247.48 + taxes and fees
Cost of phone using Next Every Year commitment
Smartphone cost $0
Sales Tax $60
Activation fee $0
One time charge $60

You get a very low initial payout, but have to pay more each month as compare to a traditional 2 year commitment. You pay $239 less initially, but this amount is negated after 8 months of payments at the higher rate. The phone is paid off after 24 months, reducing monthly bill to $184.98 at that point. Not a good value.

Texts will be a la carte for the new line unless you get a texting plan.

Adding a Third Line Using AT&T Next Every Year to a New Mobile Share Plan

Say instead, we wanted to add a new $199 Smartphone but with Next Every Year commitment and Mobile Share Plan. We will rerun the totals for this situation. We move from a 6GB plan to a 10GB Plan.

Two Line Mobile Share Plan with a 1 additional Smartphone via Next Every Year (3 Lines Total)
New 10GB Mobile Share Plan $100
Existing Smartphone Off Contract $20
Existing Smartphone on 2yr Contract $40
Add a Next Every Year Smartphone $32.50 (for 20 months)
New Next Every Year Smartphone $20
Monthly Total Charge $215.50 + taxes and fees
Cost of a new phone using Next Every Year commitment
Smartphone cost $0
Sales Tax $60
Activation fee $0
One time charge $60

This pricing is very similar to the grandfathered unlimited data plan. After 24 months, the monthly bill falls to $175 because the smartphone is paid off. Switch only if you need unlimited talk, text, hot spot, or need to add a tablet.

 

Adding a Third, Fourth Line Using AT&T Next Every Year to an existing Unlimited Data Family Plan

Say instead, we wanted to add 2 new $199 Smartphones but with Next Every Year commitment. Unlimited data is grandfathered.

Two Line Family Plan with a 2 additional Smartphones via Next Every Year (4 Lines Total)
Existing Plan $144.99
Add a line $9.99 x 2
Add a Next Every Year Smartphone $32.50 (for 20 months) x 2
Mobile Share 6GB Data for new phones $100
Monthly Total Charge $329.97 + taxes and fees
Cost of phone using Next Every Year commitment
Smartphone cost $0
Sales Tax $60 x 2
Activation fee $0
One time charge $120

More expensive per month over a Mobile Share plan.  Switch only if the unlimited data really helps reduce your bill.

Texts will be a la carte for the new line unless you get a texting plan.

Adding a Third and Fourth Line Using AT&T Next Every Year to a New Mobile Share Plan

Say instead, we wanted to add 2 new $199 Smartphone but with Next Every Year commitment and New Mobile Share Plan.

Two Line Mobile Share Plan with a 2 additional Smartphones via Next Every Year (4 Lines Total)
New 10GB Mobile Share Plan $100
Existing Smartphone Off Contract $20
Existing Smartphone on 2yr Contract $40
Add a Next Every Year Smartphone $32.50 (for 20 months) x2
New Next Every Year Smartphone $20 x 2
Monthly Total Charge $260.00 + taxes and fees
Cost of 2 new phones using Next Every Year commitment
Smartphone cost $0
Sales Tax $60 x 2
Activation fee $0
One time charge $120

Each line is allotted 2.5GB. Low initial outlay also and lower monthly cost.

AT&T Wireless Plan Comparison Conclusion

If you have a grandfathered Unlimited AT&T Plan, it is time to examine your usage and needs. You might be better off with a Mobile Share Plan in these situations:

  • Adding a 3rd or 4th line with unlocked smartphones
  • Throttling of data at 3GB or 5GB does not affect you
  • Adding a 4G Tablet
  • Paying for text plan
  • Paying extra for minutes
  • Need Hotspot capability

You may save money when you switch wireless plans. Unless you can save money and benefit from one of these additional features, you are probably better stay with your Unlimited Data plan.

Have you made the switch from Unlimited Data or decided not to?

Leave some comments below with your experiences.

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22 responses to “Should I Switch? AT&T Unlimited Data vs Mobile Share Plan”

  1. JJ says:

    I’ve researched this quite a bit from various carriers, I’m not a frequent upgrader for phones however with a growing family additional lines are on the horizon. It seems all the carriers want to get away from contracts and go with a “next” type plan. Your basically leasing their equipment with the only way to end the cycle is pay it off and don’t upgrade. They still recoupe some of their subsidized cost on a standard two year contract with higher fees per line, activation fees etc. in every scenario the next plans end up costing 150-200 dollars more on the back end of a 24 month period. My fear is if I give up my unlimited data plan based on current usage will my usage mysteriously increase just enough to add 20 dollars here and there for overages. It’s pretty much a coin toss on do you want a higher up front cost or pay more in the end?

  2. bill says:

    heck no. Don’t give up unlimited data plan ever !
    Yes they will eat your lunch later with data fees.

  3. Mikey says:

    I have 2 ATT accounts. 1 has 3 phones, all with unlimited data. One nephew had used as much as 20gb but usually the 2 nephews use another 10-15GB per month (I use about 1-2). I had others that had unlimited but by switching to the 10GB family plan, my bill went down. The phones that had unlimited data never went over 2. So I moved them around, kept only the 3 on unlimited and now the family plan with 8 phones and tablets don’t actually use 4 GB! But it’s cheaper to get the 10GB plan. Also, I added the ATT Honebase phone for $20, raised the GB to 15, which this month they doubled.. (And they will keep it at 30GB) and I’m thinking of droping the DSL line we have. (We do have FIOS too)…. It’s complicated.. Anyway.. It will save even more money! It seems like almost $75-100! So you really have to weigh wverything. I would suggest that people consider the phone companies “Honebase” phones that actually use the cell sites.. I get great phone quality… and it’s only $20 a month for the line..

    • norman says:

      Great suggestion. It is really interesting that AT&T is supposed to throttle your speed to a snail’s pace after 5GB of use but many folks are not getting affected by that.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I didn’t want to but I finally gave up on my Unlimited Data plan. I use about 4GB a month and it was very (very!) slow.

    Best thing I could have done! I had Unlimited data but an outdated plan!

    Family plan now costs exactly the same as my previous plan. But now I have Unlimited Text and Talk (don’t have to worry about minutes), plus Unlimited International texting and the Hotspot, which works great!

    • norman says:

      We gave up our unlimited plan also. The new Mobile Share plan promotion that doubles your data, from 15GB to 30GB should last us a little while.

  5. LL says:

    If you switch to Mobile Share, you are foregoing your option to upgrade with a 2 year commitment. Read the fine print. You have to upgrade using the Next Plan or your monthly discount goes away. I don’t know about you but I like getting discounted phones every 2 years rather than paying $32/mth for 20 months on TOP of my monthly fees. I’d be saving some money on my bill each month, but I will have to agree to purchase all my new phones at full price. If I upgrade with a 2 year commitment to get a discount on my new phone, my monthly bill will actually go UP about $25/month compared to what it is now with unlimited data on Family Talk. I have never paid more than $199 for a phone and have no intention of paying close to $700 for the new iPhone, which I will be getting in March 2015 when I’m due for my upgrade. Sorry Mobile Share plan. You almost had me.

  6. EL says:

    Read the fine print look.

    Note: Changing your plan does not commit you to an additional two-year contract term.

    *Savings is for service only and is an estimate. Devices sold separately. Excludes taxes, fees, add-on features, and other monthly charges. This discounted pricing is available as long as you keep your phone. If you upgrade to a 2-year wireless contract, you will lose the Mobile Share Value discount of $15/mo. or $25/mo. To receive the discount, upgrade with AT&T NextSM, pay full price for a new smartphone, or bring your own smartphone.

    Mobile Share Value Pricing: Prices include monthly plan charge and monthly access charge per device. AT&T NextSM installment charges are extra. Devices sold separately. For plans 10GB or higher, customers with smartphones on 2-year agreements prior to 2/2/14 are eligible for the $15/mo. access charge. For plans 2GB to 6GB, customer with smartphones on 2-year agreements prior to 3/9/14 are eligible for the $25/mo. access charge. The discounted pricing is available as long as you keep your phone. If upgrading to a new phone, the discount is only available via AT&T NextSM or when you bring your own phone or buy a new phone at full price. If you upgrade to a new 2-year agreement, the discount is lost. Data: If you exceed the amount of data in your plan during your billing period, you will be charged overage for additional data provided ($20/300MB on 300MB plans, $20/500MB on 1GB plans, and $15/1GB on all other plans. Device Limits: 10 per plan for consumers and IRUs. Limit 4 financed devices per wireless account may apply. General Wireless Service Terms: Subject to Wireless Customer Agreement or applicable Business Agreement. Other Monthly Charges: Apply per line and may include taxes, federal/state universal service charges, Regulatory Cost Recovery Charge (up to $1.25), gross receipts surcharge, Administrative Fee, and other government assessments which are not government-required charges. Monthly access charge per device may not be eligible for discounts. Pricing subject to change.

    Conclusion……stick with unlimited data and never do Next.

  7. Macher says:

    AT&T is supposedly going to do away with 2 year contract upgrades starting in May.

  8. buyer says:

    Wonderful website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics discussed in this article? I’d really like to be a part of online community where I can get opinions from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.

  9. Don says:

    I think your article needs updating.

    First, AT&T doesn’t throttle until you hit 22GB data. They just had a lawsuit about it and lost.
    https://www.att.com/esupport/datausage.jsp?source

    Second, unsure how a $149 to $100 decrease (unlimited to MSP) is a wash. The only downside I see is less high speed data but everything else is better. But you only use an average of 6GB combined so to me that is a moot point in your case. AT&T also doesn’t charge if you go over your data limit they just throttle you down once you hit it. You could upgrade to a higher data plan (10GB for $80) and be at $140, still less than your unlimited plan and now you have 5GB data each.

    Lastly, when your second phones 2yr contract expires on the MSP your monthly goes down another $20, so it would be $80 vs. $149. On the grandfathered plan you are at $149 forever even if you own both both phones outright.

    I am currently on a grandfathered plan and am debating switching which is why I found this article.

    • Ken says:

      Yeah, same boat Don. My phone is grandfathered, wife is 2gb, but we have a 10 and 12 year old that we need to add soon to our plans. I also have been trying to leverage the fact we have DirecTV in to the equation. Seems we can get the 4th line free, each with unlimited (up to 22gb) but they don’t offer this crap up to you at my local ATT store, it’s like pulling teeth to have them give you all the best options. Big PIA, part me things I should call Directv, the other says call ATT instead of dealing with the guy with his iPad in the local store.

  10. sad face says:

    Have had my AT&T Unlimited Family plan for more than a decade now (i think), and I just found out they stopped offering a subsidized phone for a 2 year contract…

    Seems like if I’m continuing my current grandfathered plan month-to-month, I’m basically losing $300 per line per year (due to needing to pay for a full price phone now)

    I guess it’s time to give it up?

    • norman says:

      Yes AT&T is making it hard to stay on there. Run the numbers, a Mobile Share plan may be more versatile.. You can always switch to T-Mobile One unlimited plan.

  11. Whobarra says:

    Here’s my dilemma…. I current pay for 3 lines, 2 unlimited data, 1 with 2GB…. As of late(I mean 6 months or so) I have paid overages of about $100 per month for the 2GB plan…. So I’ve thought about switching to the mobile share plan 60GB which after dealing would be $213plus tax, this plan is what would work we use about 45-52GB of data mostly the unlimited plans but I digress, or we could “add” directv, (perfectly happy with dish) and pay $220 for 4 lines unlimited everything and basic DirectTV package…. Minus $10 for paying them together… So $210… Plus tax… Second option seems better no?

  12. Sky says:

    Don, Ken, Sad face. I’m on the same boat. I’m grandfathered in I had the 450 talk w unlimited text and unlimited data on an iPhone 5s. I also get a 25% off the plan through a company discount. The total comes to about $89 / month. I didn’t want to give up my unlimited data until I realized that I would either have to buy the new iPhone full price or change plans. Now technically I can afford it but I feel like that would be $1000 over what I already pay! So while I don’t want to loose my unlimited data, they’ve made it very difficult to service us with our plans. If I do change, then I would pay a few dollars more. I think it came to $93 a month but that would be with a new phone. If I just get the plan through them then is just $50 and I was thinking then going through Apple for the phone purchase. Their monthly is the same except they give an unlock phone and is upgradable every year if I want to. So get a new phone every year and 6Gb data for the same price I’m paying now seems like is the only option in order to keep my same paying else I basically would pay $130 a month once I have to get a new phone if I want to keep the unlimited data. I currently don’t use more than 6Gb and keeping the unlimited without the capability of tethering while the 6Gb seems like a no brainer to me. But my friends think I’m crazy to consider changing. I just don’t see an advantage to keeping the old package for the exception if the what if I gonthe 6Gb.

  13. Rico says:

    I currently have a grandfathered unlimited plan for 2 phones that I’ve had since the first I phone and then a shared 20GB plan for 3 other lines on my account. I did this because I just don’t trust giving up my old unlimited plan, which they try to get me to give up at every turn. The rep told me that even though my old plans were unlimited, I was still getting throttled at 20GB usage per phone, which I never come close to using so I really wouldn’t know. He said that it would be much cheaper to do the new unlimited plan for all my phones and that I wouldn’t get throttled until 22GB on each phone. Should I trust him?

    • norman says:

      Never trust a rep, look for the terms and conditions and print them out. They do state a 22GB cap then throttling right now.

      You do have to subscribe to DirecTV or U-Verse to qualify, so there is a lot of cost to get unlimited data now.

  14. Jeremy says:

    I have the old unlimited plan and I wanted to upgrade to the iphone 7. Well I can’t do that unless I give up my old plan and join the new unlimited plan. They said it would be the same price. But why would they change the plan if it was the same? And why do they always want me to change my plan every time I talk to them? As a business why would they want to save me money… just seems like they want people to get rid of the old unlimited plan

    • norman says:

      Of course they want you to sign up for both AT&T and DirecTV to get the new unlimited plan. If you worry, just buy another phone unlocked and you’ll be just fine.

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