Shared data duel: Will AT&T or Verizon save you more?

Verizon and AT&T
By Adam Zeis on 18 Jul 2012 03:09 pm EDT

Today AT&T announced that they will have shared data plans available in August and a few weeks back Verizon dropped some shared plans of their own. While it seems like a cool idea at first, they are both a bit tricky to break down. Depending on the amount of data you actually use and the number of devices on your plan, you may be better off without them - neither of these is really a good reason to jump ship if you're already on another carrier. Keep reading and we'll see how they compare.

The Plans


Both plans start out with a base amount for data and tack on a fee per device (phone or tablet). Each includes unlimited voice and messaging as well. 

Verizon makes you pay $40 per phone and $10 per tablet. So if you have two phones and a tablet, that's $90 base ($40+$40+$10=$90). On top of that you pick your data plan from the available ones and you get your total. In this case if we go with 4GB of shared data at $70, you're at $160 from the start, not counting insurance and all those fun extras. 

Data in Plan
Cost for Data
Cost per Device
Base Total
$50 $40 $90
2GB $60 $40 $100
4GB $70 $40 $110
6GB $80 $40 $120
8GB $90 $40 $130
10GB $100 $40 $140


AT&T works more or less the same way, however your per-device fee is less with a bigger data plan. So using the same two phone + one tablet scenario, AT&T will start you out at $90 as well ($40/phone $10/tablet). The 4GB of data is the same $70, thus making your base total the same $160. 

Data in Plan
Cost for Data
Cost per Device
Base Total
$40 $45 $85
4GB $70 $40 $110
8GB $90 $35 $125
10GB $120 $30 $150
15GB $160 $30 $190
20GB $200 $30 $230

Comparing more devices and/or bigger data plans looks like this:

  • Two phones + one tablet (8GB): $180 on Verizon; $170 on AT&T
  • Four phones (8GB): $250 on Verizon; $230 on AT&T
  • Ten phones (10GB): $500 on Verizon; $420 on AT&T

So you can see that if you have a bunch of devices, you can save a bit more on AT&T through the course of the year, but overall it may not be worth it to you (and how many people actually own ten active phones?) if you're not already with AT&T.

Which is better?

Do the math on both plans, you get basically the same numbers.  If you have more geeks in your family than the national average, you might have a slew of devices and think a shared plan is a good bet for you. Going by these plans you're not really better off with either carrier, so if you're on one already these plans shouldn't force you to change. 

Your best bet in deciding if you need a shared data plan is to bust out your calculator and start doing some math. The add-ons and extras for plans vary so much, you'll need to plug away and see if switching to shared data is the way to go. If all else fails, call customer service and they'll be able to tell you what your best options are. 

Adam Zeis Adam Zeis "Mobile Nations Content Strategist" 3740 (articles) 2892 (forum posts)

Reader comments

Shared data duel: Will AT&T or Verizon save you more?


I'm a little confused with the "sharing". Isn't this more of a bundling package? Sharing leads me to believe one price for however many devices you have with a set amount of data, bundling would be, here's the price for each device and it's just totaled in one bill.

It's "sharing" rather than "bundling" because the data pool is used by all devices on the plan. If you have a 4GB pool of data and two devices, one device can use 3.5 GB and the other 0.5 GB, whereas if it was "bundled" then each phone would have a 2GB allowance (in this case) and the one that used 3.5 would have overage charges.

For those with many phones it may make sense, for two or three phones it likely doesn't.

Also, for anyone with current "Canada" plans on AT&T, they don't seem to be applicable to the new shared data plans.

Does anyone know how the business discounts for the AT&T plan work?

For Verizon, the discount is only on the plan, no device discounts.

So a 10G plan would be $100 - 20% (example) + $40 +$40 for two devices.

Both companies r screwing individuals.

Right now I pay just under $70 including taxes for 450min/month, 300MBs data and 250 texts. I don't come close to using up any of these so unlimited calls/text is of no interest to me.

With the new plans I would be forced to pay $100/month not including taxes. How is this better?

If your Verizon or ATT its better. Because there bandwidth is limited and there original estimates are blown, they have to cap data and curb heavy usage or at the very least make a pretty penny on it.

Ya, agreed. These plans give you unlimited talk and text. If you don't already have unlimited talk and text, then these new shared data plans will likely not benefit you at all.

Kind of a saavy business move by AT&T and Verizon to bundle talk and text with data. The margins on talking/texting are low (due to price competition). Also, most people don't care for or need unlimited talking. By bundling it with data they're pulling in higher margins on these services without much more network strain as most people won't use the talk service anymore than they used to.

Bravo, bravo.

What gets me is that the shared plans on Verizon basically replaced the old plan. now if you want a new smartphone you have to get a shared plan. The base price has jumped a ton for me. I have 400 minutes, 250 texts (cause I use BBM and whatsapp), and unlimited data. The price is 40 + 5 + 30. 75 bucks for all that I need. If you sign up now, you get a bunch of useless unlimted stuff, like texts and voice minutes, which I never used, and they cap the only thing I used. The basic plan is 90 bucks and only includes 1 GB of data.

I am really beginning to hate these companies.

Is T-Mobile really that bad? Maybe I will switch to them when I move to BB10.

I think (could be wrong), if you purchase the phone (retail price) you dont have to switch your plan.

You can actually keep your 450 min plan + your 250 txt plan, the only thing you can not keep is your unlimited data plan and you would have to switch to the 2GB plan for $30. Your cost will be the same but your data allowance will change.

I have Sprint. 5 phones sharing a pool of 1500 calling minutes, except for cell to cell and that is free. Unlimited data, and the whole thing only costs 220 a month with all taxes and such.

I use AT&T for myself I have to have data and voice same time,but I have a sprint account for my family 5 lines 220 a month shared 1500 and unlimited everything else. Verizon customers are straight fools They pay thru the nose I am sure there is another carrier in their area that has same coverage.

This all another reason why I love Sprint. They may not have LTE in as many places, yet, but at least they don't screw the client on pricing.

2 Smartphones & 1 dumb-phone, Unlimited Data (I use about 6 total, but plan on using more via tether to laptop), Unlimited text, Unlimited talk to any mobile, 1500 mins to landlines

This costs me $170/mo w/ Sprint

2 Smartphones & 1 dumb phone, Unlimited talk & text, 6GB shared data

$200/mo on Verizon

$195/mo on AT&T (granted, I'll get 2gb more than Verizon since they only have an 8GB option and not 6GB)

So, I'll have to pay MORE money to get less data...

I can see a niche where some users who have tablets might take advantage of the $10/mo per tablet, then again tethering is free (with ATT i believe), so why pay for that anyway.

And the person this really hurts is the individual who just has 1 smartphone.

On Sprint, I'd pay $80/mo for one smartphone, unlimited data, unlimited talk to any mobile, and 450 mins for landlines (more than enough).

On Verizon I'd pay $90/mo and $85/mo on AT&T. And that's only for 1-DAMN-GB of data!!! I'd have to get at least 4GB to make sure I have enough data, so I'd end up paying $110/mo on either Verizon or ATT, which means I'm shelling out an extra $30, and that extra $30/mo is still for only 4GB, when I already have unlimited and don't have to worry about paying an extra $10 or $15 for more data.. :(

I don't understand why this is a big deal, pretty much if it will not save you money do not get it.....I don't see why it is such a big argument, do everyone really use unlimited data on their phones? I'm not sure about data usage for a iPhone but for a BB user, who uses over 5-7 gigs on a 3 G service(4G may be different) Right now I pay almost $300 after taxes & fees for 2 BB's & one mifi with 5g usage a month on a unlimited family plan..... I have never went over more than 3 gb of data on my phone, my wife barely gets over 1gb and I only went over my 5gb limit on my Mifi once in last year......So the new plans with two smartphones & a mifi with either 10 or 12 gb's of data a month is going to put me in the $200-$210 range before taxes & fees.....I take that any day.........well I guess my situation maybe be different than 2 cents.....

For my 4 phones it breaks down to an awesome $10 dollars in saving to limit ourselves to 4 gigs. We don't use much minutes much so Data Sharing is far from being worth it for us. Why can't they just give us for once a real deal that makes us say "Wow!" ?

Current plan:
$30 unlimited/4gb data (x4 phones = $120)
$100 1400 mins
$30 shared unlimited text
$240 total

BS! share plan:
$70 For a measley 4GB!
$40 unlimited talk/text (x4 phones = $160)
$230 total. A whopping $10 dollars in savings to limit my two 4gb phones and my two unlimited phones down to 4 gb total. Awesome deal. Suck it Verizon!

everyone is forgetting about the family plans we now have. The 2nd line and up are $9.99(plus junk fees) plus what ever data plan you may have attached. Now with these shared data plans each device (phone) is $40 . If you add the $9.99 plus say $30 for your existing data plan you are at the same price as adding an additional device. The advantage of the family plan is that each device has its own data plan from which to draw. In reality you have more data with the family plans. If each device has say a 2-3 GB plan then all together you may have 6-9GB total if you add the 2-3 devices together. If they were to leave the additional lines at $9.99 and then let you share data from the primary line then it would be in the consumers best interest. Familys on a family plan will not come out ahead here.

As posted above a couple of times, I have 5 BlackBerry's (wife, kids) on a plan that includes unlimited mobile to mobile calling, unlimited text, unlimited data and we share 1500 land line minutes (from 7am to 7pm weekdays).....we all use about 800 min per month. Each phone has insurance (awesome service) and a nice big service area. For all this, I pay $270 per month. We also have 3 Playbooks that get constant use with Bridge and we eat data like it's cheese pizza and ice cream.

I couldn't imagine trying this with Verizon or ATT. I just hope Sprint holds out and doesn't follow the crowd. They should LOWER their prices, offer a deal for jumping ship from other carriers and take advantage of this culture of "limiting data" stuff.

I'm on AT&T and have unlimited data. This is because we've been customers with them ever since they were Cingular, which they take very seriously and the data plan also had an optional unlimited plan at the time. If I didn't get unlimited data right now I'd probably jump ship to a different carrier because AT&T will not release OS7.1 for my Bold and the customer service is terrible. I think I'll just get an update from a different carrier.

Sprint coverage sucks in many areas, that's why they can be cheap.

I just called Verizon Wireless today and switched to the Shared plan. I have 5 BlackBerrys on my plan that has a 19% discount.

I wasn't sure what exactly the discount applied to, so I wasn't sure exactly how it would work out.

I went from paying about $280 before taxes to about $250 before taxes. $360 a year savings is worth the loss of unlimited data on two of the phones because we never even came close to that. (that's what I tell myself anyway)

All together, we use about 2.5GB a month and I got the 4GB plan. Today I turned on WiFi Hotspot on my 9930 for the first time. Up to now it would be an extra $20.00 per month. Now I don't have to worry about it and I can still go up to 10GB for about the same price I was paying.

Yeah this is ATT realizing that no one uses texting or talking anymore, so they aren't making much money off of that. Those foolish enough to think they need such large amounts of data will now have to be foolish enough to pay a premium price for it. If anything this pricing should make you reevaluate your life and life decisions and how much time you spend with your phone and why you are spending time in that manner.

It is only a matter of time before ATT Grandfathers us in to the 2GB plans and wants us paying more and more money. They already made a data plan change this year, so profit margins must be thin.

no matter what, we are being railed.... they are making a killing on data useage- they are selling phones that eat data, then charging an arm and a leg to use them,,,,

they cry that data usage is killing them so they have to raise the prices- i mean really 1gb of data on a phone that runs on LTE network at what 45mps, thats what 10 minutes and your done with a gig...

i remember back when texting was new and att did not have an unlimited texting plan, a guy who worked for them tried to tell me that that att would never have an unlimited text plan because it was so hard on the network...

they all went unlimited data, then realized that phones will eat it, and they could go back and charge per gig...

Screw both of them - they get the bandwith for peanuts and then rip off the public. 10 cents a minute + wifi is the way to go and simply stop all the nonsense calls and txts. When their bottom lines start to suffer the rates will come down pronto. Then less people will have to bend over every month when the bill comes + 10-15 dollars for "taxes and fees". The only thing we can't do is txt and don't miss that a bit. The only way to affect their biz model is hurt their bottom line.

Just switched, for my situation I'm saving a decent amount. 2 Blackberrys, neither of them crack 500mb of data each month. Savings of $70

Old Plan:
2 phones
$110 - 1400 min
$ 10 - 2nd line access
$ 30 - unlimited family text
$ 60 - 2 unlimited data packages
TOTAL = $210

New Plan
2 Phones
$60 - 2GB shared data
$80 - 2 smarthphones, unlimited text and talk
TOTAL = $140

Even if I paid for 10GB for $100, I'd still save $30. Again, for my situation these plans save a significant amount. For those who have a 3rd, 4th, 5th device, depending on how much data you use, the new plans may or may not be better.

Phone carriers are not in the business of saving you money.
They are in the business of making money and as much as possible.