Unlimited Data Plans: Do We Really Need Them?

Last week AT&T announced that it would be getting rid of its unlimited data plans for the iPad and iPhone, and the Internet was full of rage. I admit that I was one of the many who cursed the company for this move, but after I calmed down, had a few beers, and slept on the news, I realized that the decision will probably end up saving me money in the long run. Saving me money by not having an unlimited data plan? It’s true.

The fact of the matter is, wireless companies like AT&T tout unlimited data plans because the possibility of having so much for so little actually gets you to spend more money than you would normally have to. Take a detailed look at your wireless usage and you’ll probably see that you don’t come anywhere close to the 2GB cap that is now replacing AT&T’s unlimited data plan. At the time of me writing this, Gizmodo has a poll going asking people how much data they really use in a month. Out of the 11, 705 people who responded so far, the highest percentage of votes come in the 200 to 400MB range. Under the new pricing plan AT&T has set up, that will cost you around $15/month, rather than the $30/month you were being charged for unlimited data.

While I admit that the new price points have their flaws, I’m not going to get all worked up over it anymore, knowing that I really don’t use that much data in the first place, and neither should you. While I first saw it as a move by the company to make more money, since more than 2,000,000 people now have iPads and will have no other choice but to spend more depending on their usage, I am trying to look at this from a positive point of view. By doing this, AT&T is actually forcing me to examine my data use, and be more aware of what I do with my time.

On the other hand though, there are those people that go absolutely nuts with their data usage. Streaming Pandora, and XM all day long while they sit and work. Rather than just bringing a damn iPod dock to work, they’d rather let others choose their music for them. There’s also the folks who stream podcasts (audio and video) all day as well, rather than just downloading them to be listened to later on their iPod. These are the folks that are going to be hit the hardest by AT&T’s changes, because they are data hogs, plain and simple. They don’t care about being conscious of their usage, and it’s going to be difficult for them to change their ways. Should they take the plunge though, and really take a long hard look at what they are using that unlimited data for, they’ll probably see that by changing a few habits, they too, might end up saving money in the long run.

Don’t look at this as AT&T trying to shaft us all, look at it as a way to examine yourself and your habits. Like me, you might find that this is a good thing, and will end up saving you money. I mean, do you really need to be streaming all day when you have an iPod collecting dust at home? Probably not. Just calm down, be realistic, and it will all work out in the end.