When we learned about Verizon’s LTE smartphone pricing yesterday, we received few surprises. A while ago we had heard that the same $30 that bought you a month of unlimited 3G data would, at least for the time being, get you LTE data. According to Verizon that will change during the summer, but chances are if you lock in your deal now you can keep that unlimited plan for the life of your contract. Though you might not want to. One interesting aspect of the Thunderbolt pricing did emerge from yesterday’s information: you can get a data-only plan for just $50 per month. The most important aspect of the data-only plan is that it works month-to-month, which means that you have to purchase the phone outright. That is, you’ll have to pay the full $600 to get the device. Then you can get your 5GB of data for $50 per month for as long as you’d like. That could be six months, that could be the full two years, or that could be longer. The option to add a data-only plan to an existing Verizon account — and thereby affording data-only users at least a partial subsidy — would be nice. But it’s not an option, so we have to weigh it as such. Let’s start with the subsidized plan. First, you’re better off getting the Thunderbolt from Amazon Wireless, since it costs only $179.99 on contract, rather than the $249.99 you’ll pay at a Verizon store or the $299.99 you’ll pay at Best Buy after Saturday. Amazon provides free two-day shipping, so you won’t even be waiting that long. In terms of plans, let’s keep it simple: 450 minutes, 500 messages (with unlimited Verizon-to-Verizon), and a data plan. That will cost you $80 per month ($40 for the plan, $10 for texting, $30 for data). Total two-year cost of ownership: $2,100 plus tax. If you were to get the data-only plan, you’d only be on the hook for $50 per month, but you would have to pay $600 up front for the device. There is no requirement on service time, but to keep it on the same scale we’ll keep it at two years. Total two-year cost of ownership for the data-only plan: $1,800. So, because you’re saving $30 per month, you’re saving $300 over the course of 24 months, even though you’re paying substantially more for the handset up front. That said, many customers will find the voice and messaging aspects of a plan indispensable. That might require you to go down the contract path, which, as we’ve seen, isn’t too bad. You could, if you were so inclined, pick up a cheap prepaid plan to help deal with any necessary calling and messaging. There are plenty of prepaid cell phone plans out there, and you can probably find one that costs less than $300 over the course of two years. You can even find one that costs a little more and still save money, since you won’t have a commitment to either that account or to your data-only Thunderbolt. When it comes to cell phones, two-year cost of ownership is a much more telling metric than up-front device cost. To pay $600 for a Thunderbolt, just to get a data-only plan, might seem excessive at first. But once you calculated the differences in two-year cost of ownership, it starts to look a bit more attractive. If, for whatever reason, you don’t need voice and messaging, I’d definitely recommend the Thunderbolt data-only plan.