Cell phones have become a staple in our lives – we don’t leave home without them. We watch videos, scroll through social media and read articles all on our devices. With so much activity, do you ever think about how much data you’re using? Has the thought of an unlimited data plan ever crossed your mind? If so, here’s some information to help you decide if switching to an unlimited plan is right for you.
Q: I’m shopping for a phone plan for my family. Is an unlimited data plan a good option?
A: Unlimited data sounds like a great deal, because who wants overage charges? There’s also something about the word “unlimited” that makes the plan seem more attractive.
Cell phone companies are taking advantage of that word’s power. T-Mobile was first with an unlimited data plan. AT&T and Verizon soon followed. Whichever carrier you use, you’ll likely have the option of signing up for unlimited data. Unfortunately, unlimited data plans aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Before locking yourself into an expensive year-long contract, ask yourself these questions:
1) How much data do I actually use?
The average smartphone user needs between two and three gigabytes of data each month. There’s no need to estimate; simply look through your old bills and calculate an average data use per month. That will take into account your habits and the habits of your family.
If you’re an average user, a 3-4 gigabyte plan is sufficient. These plans are usually 30% cheaper than unlimited plans. You only see savings with unlimited plans if you use more than 10 gigabytes per month.
For a family plan, take everyone’s data usage into account. The average family of four consumes 12 gigabytes each month. That might make the unlimited plan worthwhile.
2) Can I change my data usage?
If you regularly exceed your monthly data allotment, consider changing your habits before changing your plan.
If you’re a regular Spotify user, download your playlist to your phone using wifi and listen data-free. Lower your video streaming quality, especially if you use an app for music. Set your phone to only download system and app updates when connected to wifi.
3) Can I rely on smartphone data exclusively?
Some people can’t kick the data habit. You might use your smartphone extensively for business, or live in an area that doesn’t get high speed internet. In that case, there are other cord-cutting strategies to help reduce your total monthly expenses.
If you don’t use the internet much at home but need data on the go, consider cutting your household internet and relying exclusively on mobile data. Wireless hotspot devices that broadcast a wifi signal and use your mobile data subscription are approximately $50. Check with your internet provider for specific pricing.
Remember: No company is really unlimited. Expect to see slow-downs in service after you’ve used 20 gigabytes in a month. If there’s lots of internet use in your household, you’ll go through that cap quickly.
Whether an unlimited data plan is right for you depends on how much data you use, and whether that data use can be curtailed. If you need an unlimited data plan, make sure you get the most out of your service. Monthly fees add up quickly, so think before you upgrade!