Credit: Blair Hanley Frank
AT&T bummed out a lot of long-time iPhone users Monday by announcing a $5 per month rate hike on grandfathered unlimited data plans. AT&T hasn’t offered new customers unlimited data since 2012, but users who snapped them up in the iPhone 3G era and clung to them until now (including yours truly) will see the first price hike in seven years, from $30 a month to $35.
AT&T will first notify affected customers, and then start charging them the extra $5 in February 2016. While AT&T previously came under fire for throttling these so-called unlimited plans to a lower speed after customers hit 5GB, the company recently changed its policy. Now it only throttles users “if you exceed 22GB of data in a billing cycle and are in a congested area.”
Why this matters: If you have unlimited data with AT&T and you’re still under contract, you still have to pay the increased cost. If you don’t want to pay, your only option is to cancel your contract within 60 days of receiving the higher bill, and AT&T will waive the early termination fee “for the lines impacted by the price increase.” I’m the only unlimited-data line on my three-line family plan, so if I wanted to move my whole family, I’d still be on the hook for ETFs for the other two lines. AT&T hopes customers will move to its Mobile Share Value plans instead—which can save you money versus paying for separate data buckets for each user, although then you also have to, you know, share the data.
What about the others?
Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon will cover the costs of switching from another carrier, as long as you turn in your current smartphone and buy a new one. So AT&T unlimited customers might consider switching—and here’s what you’ll find if you go shopping today.
At Sprint, a new 64GB iPhone 6s is $100 down and $15 a month if you trade in another smartphone—it’s a 22-month lease, but you’re allowed to upgrade to a new iPhone anytime. Sprint has an unlimited data plan to go with its unlimited talk/text, but it’s $70/month. (All Sprint plans at 1GB include unlimited 2G data, so the $70/month is if you want unlimited LTE data.) Sprint may throttle unlimited users once they exceed 23GB of data in a billing cycle. Interestingly, Sprint will still let you sign a 24-month contract for the iPhone, making the 64GB iPhone 6s $300 upfront, but a monthly fee of $95 for unlimited talk, text, and LTE data. (Sprint’s Cyber Monday deal is only available in stores, for a 16GB iPhone 6s for $1/month if you trade in an iPhone 6.)
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