Thursday, June 07, 2012

Data Plans Part 1: What do they do?

The newest way to grab your attention in the cutthroat world of cellphones is the data plan. A mysterious but terribly expensive bucket of numbers that give you the ability make or destroy the personal universe that is your cell phone. Data plans give you the ability be everywhere at once or make your cellphone just that thing that calls your house sometimes. Which I’m pretty sure makes you Amish. Many companies have promised in the next two years that phones service plans will be almost exclusively data plans. So understanding what they are and how they are changing is important to deciding what data plan is right for you and why.

The most basic thing to understand about data plans is that they run everything that isn’t actually a phone. Your email, streaming videos, driving directions, and that sound board that makes your alerts sound like they came from a chicken, all from the plan. Data plans are what has changed cellphones from that thing that lets your mom know where you are to the tether to your life while you are on the go. You can be sitting on the beach in Hawaii and working on your TPS reports due to the terrible power that is the data plan. Now data plans are still a relatively new thing, because of this cell phone providers are making the fees for it more and more absorbent.  Knowing that when your boss is breathing down your neck for that email with the sales figures you’ll pay just about anything to get into their inbox so you don’t have to leave The Game.

The three basic carriers, Sprint, Verizon, and At&t, are all using interesting techniques in the data plan wars. Sprint has decided to just clear the decks, free data for anyone. This is causing many who are being “capped” by Verizon and At&t plans to jump ship for this smaller company. It was shrewd decision, but one that may cause them to lose customers if they decide to change gears. No one can offer a free lunch forever, especially when lunch is all your customers are planning are eating. Verizon had an unlimited data plan that actually let older customers be “grandfathered” in to continue their plan.

But now that beautiful dream will end, as they have decided to charge people who go over their data plans. This does not include the $30 a month that you pay just for the privilege to be charged extra later on.  At&t data plans have been burned in effigy throughout the nation. They used be able to say they had the best network, Verizon beat them at that, best service, still true, but they have burned many a customer with their data plans that have capped their speeds.  It also hurts that they are no longer the sole carrier of the golden god that is the IPhone. The IPhone cares nothing for data plans caps. It only wants you to live, live, and if that ends a $1,000 phone bill so be it!  

Choosing your data plan seems like a simple step in the decisions of your phone, but now it is the heart of your cellphone experience. Knowing the kinds of hearts that are out there, the dark shrivelled peanut (At&t), the pre-christmas Grinch size (Verizon), or the post-Christmas Grinch (Sprint). But why would anyone want anything else but the one who helped carve the roast beast? The answer is data plans are important but if can keep yourself within in limits and only splurge occasionally the heart that pepper sprays the salvation army santa can work just fine for you.