Only 7% Of Mobile Phone Users Would Benefit From An "Unlimited" Plan

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Unlimited plans seem to be all the rage these days, particularly with wireless carriers. But we've always viewed them as things that should be treated with skepticism. "Unlimited" sounds great in theory, but the high prices that accompany them mean that you best be taking advantage of that "unlimited" allowance.

Over a year ago, Sprint shook up the wireless world with their "Simply Everything" plan, which allowed smartphone owners to access unlimited data, texting and calling for a flat $99.99 per month. The great news is that you always know what your bill will be, but the bad news is that you're paying $100 per month for services you may not really be using.

Earlier in the month, both AT&T and Verizon Wireless joined the fray by lowering prices on their unlimited voice plans. A new study by MyValidas.com has found that these sultry unlimited plans, while attractive for heavy users, may not be right for everyone. In fact, they may not be right for the vast majority of phone users.

The survey found that just 7% of consumers were really able to take advantage of an unlimited plan, while 93% were better off using some other plan options. And think about it--how often do you have unused minutes at the end of the month? How often do you go over? These days, with texting and mobile web use on the rise, it's becoming tougher and tougher to outtalk your plan minutes, and in most situations, simply upgrading to the next level of service still comes in cheaper than an expensive unlimited plan. Specific findings are below, and you should certainly have a look and think long and hard before you bite on an unlimited plan. Is it something you'll really benefit from? Chances are, it won't.


AT&T and Verizon Wireless recently lowered pricing on unlimitedvoice plans, generating headlines of increased competition and consumerbenefits. But do consumers really know whether the new unlimited planswill actually benefit them?

Insome cases subscribers will actually be forced to pay more for thewireless plans, especially in the case of family plans. Becausecarriers are now offering fewer options for big family plans, morepeople are being forced to move "up-plan" into unlimited plans, eventhough unlimited plans are actually oversized for them. For example,some popular 4,000-minute family plans were discontinued with theintroduction of the new unlimited plans. Now a family of five willactually pay $480 more per year on the new unlimited plan, which is the closest option to their previous plan.    

"Inan industry where the FCC is asking carriers to simplify wirelessbilling practices, new services, applications and calling plans arecontinuously coming to market, which inevitably creates moreconfusion," said Tom Pepe, founder andCEO of Validas. "The reality is that the more options there are and themore plans change, the less consumers actually know what's best forthem."

MyValidas.com users have realized the following results since new unlimited plans were introduced:  

  • 7% were optimized for unlimited plans;
  • 89% realized voice plan savings;
  • 75% of existing unlimited-plan subscribers were better suited with 900 or 450 minute plans;
  • $540– the annual savings existing unlimited plan subscribers realized afterusing MyValidas.com (decreasing their average monthly cost from $170 to $125).

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Definitely more for the business consumer, but otherwise I agree with the assertion that texting has allowed people to use less minutes.

A "Simply Everything" plan which included data, texting and minutes would have better value than just unlimited minutes alone.

I'm on a family plan with 2800 minutes, and it's always enough for all of us.

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Bighorse replied on Wed, Jan 27 2010 9:55 AM

These plans are nice if you can get everything out of it. Most people probably get it because their kids drive their cell phone bills in to the hundreds texting stupid stuff ALL DAY LONG! The government should make it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to texting more than 5 messages a week(meaning they can only send check in texts to their parents).

The most I need is about 500 minutes a month and if I got a data plan to keep up with work email.

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rapid1 replied on Wed, Jan 27 2010 12:39 PM

This is very subjective though. One thing specifically my entire direct family now is Mobile only as of this week. I personally have been such for quite some time (several years although I did have Vonage for a while, that's been gone for 2 years now as well). My brother and his family committed to this about 6-8 months ago. Our mother committed this week. So my family uses nothing but mobile communications.

In a way we would benefit from this, but in a way it does not matter. This is because now there is the friends list stuff and the unlimited texting etc. In a general basis across my family plan (My brother and sister in law are on a different carrier) is sufficient for our people we contact frequently.

So unlimited in many cases is unnecessary I would not turn it down though that's for sure. Me and gibber discussed this in another topic to a point as well.

I don't understand it 100%, but from what I gather using Europe as a model the market is quite different. From what I understand everyone has unlimited minutes, and all carriers use the same technology type CDMA transmission etc. So whatever carrier has the strongest signal in your current area your phone automatically uses there network.

We use 1400 minutes a month with unlimited text and picture messaging. There are 3 adults and one 12 year old with devices. however as I said all phones on the same network are free in our minutes, and those we call frequently are in the friends list. So we often don't use all our minutes monthly. The Cingular/At&t rolling minutes would be good, but there service is kind of hit or miss (it works acceptably or not at all depending on exactly where your at) where I live.

Plus as it stands Verizon seems to have the most complete (this is pending on them acquiring iPhone this week) variation of phones to as well as a great network everywhere I have been in the US. This includes Atlanta to Miami south to New york, and Chicago North, and LA and Portland Oregon W/NW. On all my travel I remember loosing connection for 20 minutes from Atlanta to Portland in an Airplane.

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rapid1 replied on Thu, Jan 28 2010 3:30 AM

Yeah gibber thats me we have 4 people with 1400 minutes and unlimited texting and picture messaging. We never go over (of course the friends and family thing helps to).

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Oblio211 replied on Thu, Jan 28 2010 2:45 PM

I'd rather see a data plan that included text messages for free. Cell phone companies are so greedy charging texting fees on top of data charges even though it costs them nothing more. And text message rates seem to go up and up ($.05 > $.10 > $.20). Why? Nothing has changed. European cell companies include text in their data packages free (from what I have read).

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Another thing they don't tell you on standard plans that the unlimited texting does not cover a fee to send photos.  There is an additional data charge, although it is only pennies per message, it's still there none the less.

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gibbersome replied on Fri, Jan 29 2010 12:26 PM

My unlimited texting from AT&T covers picture and video messaging for the whole family for $30. Since we have 4 lines, the plan is more than worth it.

 

rapid1:

Yeah gibber thats me we have 4 people with 1400 minutes and unlimited texting and picture messaging. We never go over (of course the friends and family thing helps to).

 

Lol agreed. My gf and I share the same plan, it would be scary to imagine what my cell phone bill would be if we didn't. We still have a home line which we use for extended conversations with family/friends outside our network.

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rapid1 replied on Fri, Jan 29 2010 1:08 PM

I don't know me and my direct family (My house, Mom's house, brothers house) have flipped to internet and cell phones only no landlines anywhere in site. I also think it's where we are heading as a world in general.

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rapid1 replied on Fri, Jan 29 2010 1:12 PM

The one thing is VOIP though. I did have Vonage for a good while. Although used little it was used until we saw no point in it because 90% of the time we used cell phones. Either way versus a land line the cost is miniscule compared. Which I don't get why people would rather pay the cost for a land line, and not grab DSL/Cable, and have voip/cell for the same price or less generally. Because in the second choice you also get high speed internet for the same or less.

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Inspector replied on Fri, Jan 29 2010 1:25 PM

I have unlimited and its for me and my sister only, but she texts alot so its better then not having it...

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rapid1 replied on Fri, Jan 29 2010 2:21 PM

Yeah Inspector I have had a cell phone for a long long time (since the original Motorola flip was introduced (in 90-91). I have noticed and in my accounts I go high on minutes because if you don't it can be very expensive. Although generally that also means paying for minutes you don't use. The Cingular rolling minutes model and or and all inclusive all functional are the most advantageous for the consumer all together. I think they will all get to that sooner or later inn the US but it has not happened yet. The carriers that have it in general have less to far less coverage area. So weigh it and make the best choice for your area. The at&t 3g part of this throws the whole thing off especially in large metro areas.

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rapid1 replied on Sat, Jan 30 2010 12:26 AM

Yeah I kind of misstated this the Cingular therefore At&t rollover is the best money wise however coverage wise they get a low mark to especially for 3g or better.

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90-91?! Wow, and I thought I was an early adopter back in 2000-01.

The rollover minutes was indeed great for the consumer, but not for the carrier. It prevented overage charges which is a big cashcow for these companies. Lol, this is one reason why we don't see rollover texts and rollover data bandwidth either.

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rapid1 replied on Sun, Jan 31 2010 1:50 AM

Yeah I can see that we just have an unlimited text and picture messaging add on. As for the cell phone thing, yeah I have been a user for quite some time.

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rapid1 replied on Sun, Jan 31 2010 3:28 PM

I wish Verizon would go to a plan like Sprint unlimited everything plans that are actually somewhat good price wise. They also don't need to because they have the most subscribers still I think.

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