Consumer Reports: Pay Less on a metered plan? Fat Chance!
Are you a longtime AT&T subscriber who accesses the Web only occasionally from your phone, but have kept your unlimited data plan, assuming it will save you money? You might want to check that assumption: Close to half of AT&T customers with unlimited plans could save $10 a month by switching to a metered plan, according to data obtained by Consumer Reports.
The usage data, provided to us by Validas, a company that tracks wireless data coverage, shows that about 48 percent of AT&T unlimited-plan subscribers, who pay $30 a month for their data service, use no more than 300 megabytes of data a month, on average. AT&T’s 300MB-a-month data plan costs $20 a month. So subscribers who use little data could save more than $100 a year by switching to it.
Reality check: how many people actually want to worry about how much data their smartphone is using? How many people actually can control how much data their smartphone apps use, or make any meaningful measure to “use less” in the face of artificially imposed scarcity? And are people’s usage of smartphone data going to go down or go up?
Unlike, say, your electric bill where most people can figure out how to use less, mobile phones provide precious little in the way of showing users what apps are using data and how much. Even bugs in the OS could cause massive amounts of data to be used. Unbeknownst to the end user.
Having an “unlimited plan” eliminates all of that uncertainty. Except, as we all know, AT&T’s unlimited plan really isn’t, but it provides enough headroom for most people. And even on the off chance they do go over, there isn’t a financial penalty for doing so. Unlike on a metered rate plan, where there clearly is.
The reality is: people will pay more on AT&T’s metered plans than they will on their unlimited-but-not-really AT&T plan. Maybe not today, but they will soon. AT&T knows this (but aren’t saying so publicly). Even uneducated consumers know this.