Verizon Wireless has changed it's prices for service. They call it, "Share Everything" and industry insiders say other cell phone companies might jump on board.
A new shared data plan does away with the talk time and focuses on connecting digital devices.
That's the future Verizon is banking on, with a new rate plan bundling devices: cell phone, laptop, tablet and more.
"For months, people have been having to decide how much data do I have on my cell phone versus now I want it on my laptop, now I want it on my tablet, wait I'm also paying for internet at home, what does this all look like? We're finally getting to a point where one fee pays for everything as far as the data goes," Said David Dickerson, with Best Buy.
It allows multiple devices on one account, splitting the data usage among them all. One fee on Verizon's new plan covers talk time and the web on your traditional phone. It also covers access for digital devices that have their own bills right now. Your tablet, your laptop and smart phone can be bundled on the same bill.
"Whether this is a good move or a bad move probably depends on how much you use a cell phone right now, and how much you use it. If you use a traditional phone like this, it's probably not good news because it will probably cost you more money," explained FOX13 Consumer Reporter Chris Chmura.
If you own several devices, the plan could save some money.
"There are lots of variables here. In general it's something we're going to have to deal with regardless of if we like it or not," Chmura said.
Like it or not, Verizon's new rate system will get the attention of AT&T and Sprint, too. It's a sign of the digital times.
"I don't really call people on the phone anymore," said Emily Harley.
That new plan from Verizon rolls out on June 28th. It allows up to ten devices on one account, splitting the data usage among them all. Friends and family members who don't own multiple devices may try to join this plan as a group. It could really change how people pay for their service.
Some questions and answers about Verizon Wireless' new Share Everything plans, which go into effect June 28.
Q: Will Verizon convert me to a new plan, or can I keep my old plan?
A: Verizon won't switch you over to the new plan unless you ask. You can keep your old plan, even if you trade up to a new phone after that date and extend your contract. But for new customers, Share Everything will be the only alternative, with a few exceptions, starting June 28.
Q: What type of customer should move to the new plan?
A: If you already have unlimited calling and texting plans, the new plans are likely to save you money, especially if you have a family plan. If you have a tablet, the new pricing scheme could be a good idea too. Even if your tablet doesn't have a cellular modem, you may be able to take advantage of the plan, because it lets you create a "mobile hotspot" with your smartphone, so you can go online with your Wi-Fi-only tablet.
Q: What if I have an "unlimited data" plan? Can I keep it?
A: Yes, you can. But —and there's a big "but" here— Verizon will no longer let you move the plan to a new phone after June 28, unless you pay the full, unsubsidized price for it. For most smartphones that will add hundreds of dollars to the price. A subsidized Verizon iPhone 4s costs $200. The price you'll pay if you keep your unlimited plan: $650. (Verizon stopped signing up new customer for unlimited a year ago)
Q: I have a phone and tablet, but they're on different carriers. Can this plan work for me?
A: Probably not. The plan encourages you to use only Verizon-compatible devices. But if you have a Verizon smartphone and an AT&T iPad, you could cancel the AT&T service and use the hotspot mode mentioned above. It's just not as convenient has having direct cellular access on the iPad.
Q: I don't need a fancy data plan. I just want a regular phone, with no frills. Are the calling-only plans going away?
A: Almost. There will be only one plan for basic phones. It costs $40 per month and gives you 700 minutes of calling. Texting and data will cost extra. For this type of phone, there are cheaper, no-contract alternatives from many companies.
Q: I'm single and I just want a smartphone, that's it. The cheapest Shared Everything plan looks pretty expensive at $90 per month, and that's with just 1 gigabyte of data. Is there no alternative?
A: There's one cheaper plan, intended for first-time smartphone buyers. It gives you unlimited calling and texting, and just 300 megabytes of data per month. If you're frugal with data usage, that will get you by. It costs $80 per month.
Q: Is this the future? Are all phone plans going to be this way?
A: For its part, AT&T is likely to go in this direction as well. It makes sense for phone companies to meter only the data usage. They can easily provide unlimited texting and calling, but data usage stresses their network. They also want to get as many new, non-phone devices as possible on their networks, and, for customers, shared data plans are cheaper than putting each device on a new plan.
That said, there's likely to be a wide variety of phone plans in the industry.
Q: How do data plans work in other countries?
A: They mostly limit data usage per device, the model Verizon is moving away from. Contract terms are often more flexible overseas, however, and more phones and Internet devices are pay-as-you-go rather than bound by contract.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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