Last month saw the official U.S. release of the two most hyped BlackBerry devices of 2008: the BlackBerry Bold and the BlackBerry Storm. These hit AT&T and Verizon, respectively, which happen to be the largest and second largest cell phone providers in America, also respectively. While many people will choose their provider based on the handset, others want to factor in the network before making a decision. Let’s take a look at the top U.S. providers to see what kind of service they offer.
Although RIM announced the BlackBerry Bold in May, we didn’t see the device in the U.S. until nearly a half year later. It’s officially out, though, and is without a doubt the best AT&T BlackBerry out there. So if you’re looking to pick one up from the nation’s No. 1 provider, this is the one to get. Let’s take a look at their service plans, though, to get a better idea of how much this will cost you in the long run.
The Bold runs at $399.99, an astronomical price for a phone in the age of subsidies, but AT&T knocks $100 off that with a mail-in rebate. They do this knowing that some people will just forget to send it in, meaning the Bold device could end up costing you $400. We’ll assume you’re smart and remember to do this, so the device will run you $300 right up front. But what about the data plan?
A la carte, the data plan will run you $35 per month, $65 if you want tethering. The tethering plan includes up to 5GB of data. This, of course, includes no voice minutes. You can knock $5 per month of each of those plans by signing up for a voice plan with AT&T. These all include unlimited mobile to mobile and either unlimited nights and weekends or 5,000 minutes. So this can run you from $40 per month for 450 minutes to $100 per month for unlimited.
It doesn’t stop there, though. What about a messaging plan? With the way text messages are bandied about these days, it’s almost essential to get the unlimited plan for $20 per month. If you think you’ll send and receive more than 200 (and they add up quick) but under 1,500 (I’d say this is true of most non-teenage users), you can squeak by with the $15 plan. Another option, especially if you’re on the 450 minute plan, is to add early nights and weekends for $9 per month. This starts your N&W click at 7 p.m.
So let’s look at this on a two-year basis, since that’s the contract you’ll need to sign to get the price on the device. If you go with the 450 minutes, data plan, and 1,500 messages, you’re looking at $85 per month. Over two years that’s $2,040. Add the device and you’ve got a total of $2,350 over two years.
Of course, that all changes if you’re going corporate. To utilize BES services, the add-on price goes up to $45 per month. Tack that onto the voice and messaging plans, and you’re looking at $100 per month. That’s $2,400 over the contract, $2,700 with the device.
The Storm has received a ton more hype than the Bold because it has the glitzy touchscreen. It’s also the first BlackBerry model to hit a CDMA carrier before it hit GSM. Oh, and Verizon/RIM pulled off a remarkable marketing scheme, making sure that everything hit the public. This is in stark contrast to the Bold marketing, which was hampered by delay after delay.
Like the Bold is to AT&T, the Storm is the best Verizon BlackBerry on the market. Well, that is, if you don’t mind the lack of a physical keyboard, which has rubbed more than one person the wrong way. As you can tell in the Bold analysis above, this can be applied basically to any BlackBerry. You just have to adjust the device price for the one you want.
The Storm will run you $250, but you can knock $50 off that with a mail-in rebate, which again we’ll assume you’re smart enough to send in. Like AT&T, Verizon offers personal BlackBerry service for $30 more than your voice plan, $60 more for tethering (with the same 5GB cap). You can also get the unlimited messaging plan for $20 on top of that, but again we’ll look for a cheaper option. I get by fine with the $10 plan, which gives you 500 inbound and outbound messages. The 1,500 message bundle is $15 per month, so let’s do that to be fair.
Over the course of a two-year contract, at $70 per month plus the $15 for messaging, you’re looking at the same $2,040 as AT&T, though it is $2,240 with the device. So on a personal level, the Storm is $100 cheaper over two years, or $4.17 per month. On the corporate front, though, Verizon has an edge. You can get a packaged voice/data deal for $80 per month, $5 cheaper than AT&T’s combined $85. If AT&T has a package deal I missed, let me know. I didn’t see one, and went back to check a few times. Anyway, that means on a corporate level, the Storm comes out to $2,280 over two years, $2,480 with the device. That’s a savings of $220 over AT&T.
Of course, there are plenty of other ways you can configure the cost of your BlackBerry device. Remember when you’re choosing your device that not only are you paying for it up front, you’re also essentially committing to two years of the carrier’s service. This comes into play in the example above. The Storm might be $100 cheaper than the Bold, but the real difference isn’t seen until you add up the respective services over two years. The difference becomes even larger when you take it to the corporate level.
In other words, it ain’t cheap.