This weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend a ton of time with a big group of friends and family (30-50 people) thanks to a graduation celebration for my brother. During that time, smartphones and wireless service were brought up quite often (since that’s what I do for a living), leading to some interesting conversations around Verizon’s new Share Everything plans. What I gathered over the last 4 days, was that these plans benefit very few people, and that no one I talked to had suggested to Verizon that this become an option, as was suggested through their announcement.
Family and Friends
This group of friends and family that was in Portland for the weekend is what I would consider to be average tech consumers. Almost all have some form of higher education, many have smartphones, some have feature phones, a few travel for work, most use computers on a daily basis, and almost all are starting to realize that their lives are made easier by using more technology. Being in the northwest, I’d say that 90% of them are Verizon subscribers and have been for a number of years. As you can imagine, when I started trying to pry thoughts out of them on these new shared data plans, they had some concerns.
According to Big Red, “customers asked” for these new shared data plans. Did they really though? We don’t know who Verizon polled or where they got the idea that sharing data was something needed, but what I do know is that every single person I talked to this weekend, had certainly never thought of it. Not only that, but we also had to talk through the situation a couple of times in order for them to fully grasp what it is that Big Red is trying to get them into, starting June 28.
As I sat with these friends and family this weekend, I had plenty of opportunities to talk through the benefits (if there are any) to these new Share Everything plans. I made it clear that if you switch to one, you would never have to worry about minutes and text messages anymore as they were being bumped up to “unlimited” status. While that sounded good at first, none of them were all that excited about this new “unlimited” status because they are all settled into their current plans which they are comfortable with and rarely run over on.
“Unlimited” is how Verizon is going to try to sell these though. If you look at Verizon’s own landing page for these new Share Everything plans, you will struggle to find benefits. The only thing that stands out is this “unlimited” stuff, which from what I can tell, means very little to most. As you can imagine and we have reported on, people are using less and less minutes and are sending fewer and fewer texts each year. Both of these categories used to be cash cows for carriers, but as data has become the new mobile technology force, profits from those areas have fallen and carriers are finding other ways to make up for it. Data is one of those new ways.
Up front, through the unlimited smoke screen, everything sounds like a positive. “No more overages!” “No more worrying!” “Send as many texts as you’d like!” However, it’s the final step, where you choose a data plan, that is going be the thorn in the side of many. While you may not have to worry about texts and minutes, you will be worrying about data usage. With the small amounts of data and sky high prices that make up these tiers, along with the ever-growing number of data hog apps and services, you should be more worried now than ever.
After talking through similar points this weekend, we finally got down to actual pricing and whether or not my friends and family would benefit from Share Everything. I was able to walk through their current setup and help them figure out their bill based on shared data tiers.
To give you an example, many of these were couples who had 1 smartphone and 1 feature phone. Their minute plans usually sat around the 600 minute mark, sometimes pushing towards 900. They had the one data plan, no plans for a hot spot and no need to connect a tablet. I would put their average bill at anywhere from $90 to $120. Once I was told how much they currently pay, I broke out the costs under these new Share Everything plans ($30 per feature phone, $40 per smartphone), which ended up being more than they are currently paying in every scenario.
If some of them took their 1 feature phone and 1 smartphone and added on a 1GB data package to share between them, they would be starting out at $120. Since almost no one can make it on 1GB of data (Verizon even claims that the average user uses 2GB), they would have to bump up to 2 or 4 or 6GB, which would then take their bills to $130, $140 and $150.
At one point, I tried to sell a couple on trading in their 1 feature phone for a smartphone because even if they weren’t big data users, their partner who may be, would benefit from having extra data. And then we got back into pricing and with data tiers starting at $50 for 1GB, it then made no sense.
I Don’t Get It
Seriously, I don’t get it. Do carriers think we’re all this stupid? For new customers, it is my understanding that all will be forced into a shared plan. For current though, it’s much different. If you take an upgrade after June 28, you can choose whether to go onto a solo tier or take the family onto a Share Everything plan. Every single current customer should take the solo tier in this situation. You can get 2GB of data for $30 on the solo, but when on the shared plan, it would cost you $60 for that much data that you would then have to share with other people. Think about that for a second. Verizon is charging share plans double for the same exact amount of data.
An Expensive Future
I tried and tried over the last couple of weeks to find benefits to Share Everything, and unfortunately, I have come up empty. From what I can tell, the only people to benefit, would be those that talk like champs and text with the best of them yet use little to no data. How many of those people do you know? In some cases, it would also benefit large families who have multiple smartphone lines. At least 75% of Droid Life readers said that under these plans, their bill would be higher. In some cases, drastically higher. I think we all understand, as with any major corporate move, that this wasn’t going to benefit the consumer in the end. I just feel for my friends and family (the average tech consumer), who are going to be left with some very difficult decisions in the near future.
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