By now I’m sure you’ve heard that AT&T has taken to smacking their customers in the face as soon as they walk into their retail locations. Yes, it was only a matter of time. First, there were all those pesky network issues that AT&T wanted customers to find for themselves. Then there was all that talk about asking gluttonous iPhone users to cut back on their data usage. After that, they increased Early Termination Fees (ETFs) for smartphones. Then, earlier this week, the company announced that they’d be doing away with unlimited data plans, and instead offering tiered data plans that charge for actual usage. Ok, so the smacking in the face thing isn’t really true, although a lot of people sure feel that way. There’s been no shortage of people complaining about the change, so let’s try to focus on a couple of the positives, shall we?
It’s a year late, but iPhone users will finally be able to tether their devices. One of AT&T’s new data plans offers tethering for an extra $20. Granted, you don’t get any additional data for that extra money, but I guess AT&T’s hoping you won’t notice that while they’re dangling the tethering option in front of you. It will become available when OS 4 launches later this summer. You’ll be able to use your iPhone as a portable hotspot to download to your heart’s content. Well, you know, as long as you stay within your data download limit.
AT&T will also be offering three ways to help customers avoid bill shock by helping them keep track of their data usage. First, when customers start approaching their limits, the carrier will send three text messages to warn them, at the 65, 90, and 100 percent marks. Second, customers with iPhones and a few other devices will be able to track their data usage with the myWireless application.
Those without the ability to use the application can instead dial *DATA# to get a free text message with their data information. Finally, customers will be able to use an online data calculator to choose which data plan will work best for them. What’s that? The unlimited data plan was working just fine for you? Yeah, um…sorry.
There are three more very important things you should know:
- The new data plans take effect Monday, June 7, and will apply to new customers only. Current customers can switch to a new plan if they wish, but if they don’t, they will continue with their current plans at current prices, including unlimited data for $30 for iPhone users.
- Under the new plans, if you go over your data limit, you will be subjected to a per-megabyte price for every megabyte of data downloaded after you exceed your limit. For example, if you choose the basic plan which offers 200MB of data at a cost of $15 per month, and you go over that amount, you’ll be charged 7.5 cents per megabyte. Look at your current bill and do a little math to see what that would cost you.
- If you’re currently an AT&T customer paying for an unlimited data plan, nothing will change for you unless you specifically request to switch to one of the new options. You may want to do this if you’re using less than 200MB of data per month and want to save 15 bucks. In fact, switching to the next option will still save you five dollars, and give you up to 2GB of data. Again, take a look at your last few AT&T wireless bills and see how much data you’ve been using on average before you make the switch.
If you’ve been on the fence about buying an iPhone, or you thought you’d wait until the next generation model came out, but you think you’ll be using a lot more than 2GB of data every month, you may want to rethink the decision to wait. AT&T has said current customers will not be required to switch to the new plans, but they haven’t been clear about whether customers who are upgrading their phones will have to make the switch.
If that’s not the case, conceivably, you could buy the least expensive iPhone now, sign up for the current unlimited plan, then upgrade the phone later, and keep your plan intact. Before you try that, talk to an AT&T sales rep and make sure that’s the case. Make them answer that question at least three times before you sign anything, even at the risk of receiving a cease and desist letter from the company.