It seems our recent plea for more clarity in data pricing has fallen on deaf ears, at least among U.S. wireless operators. AT&T’s ever-present Mobile Share commercials use celebrities like Chef Gordon Ramsay and former NBA basketball star Grant Hill to tell us how cheap its mobile plans are. Verizon has also jumped on board the data sharing bandwagon, while T-Mobile seems to make an announcement every other week regarding data plans and pricing that mostly serves as a publicity stunt and to tick off the competition.
Sprint also succumbed to this game with its unfortunately named Framily plans and silly commercials. But after just a few short months, the operator has kicked out the framily and instead created data plans that are supposed to be easier to understand. But are they?
The Framily plan was very difficult to compare to the competition, mostly because it’s selling point was that pricing went down as you added more lines. Sprint has shifted its model for a more traditional shared data plan with its focus on giving customer more data than the other operators.
But is simply throwing more data at customers enough anymore? As pointed out by Alex Leslie, most customers have no idea how much data a streaming video consumes and may only be aware of reaching their data limit when they receive a stern email from their carrier warning them of their impending overage.
Making matters worse and muddying the already confusing data pricing waters, carriers may or may not subsidize handsets (or may roll it into the monthly fee), may or may not require a contract and early termination fees and may or may not charge a hefty overage if you’re even a kilobyte over your plan.
Head still spinning? That’s not surprising given all the variables involved in the different data plans. Let’s not forget the battles over LTE, spectrum and who has the best coverage.
The pricing wars don’t help the consumer at all and in fact turn most off to prospect of switching carriers because trying to figure out the best options almost requires an engineering degree.
With the T-Mobile/Sprint merger called off due to regulatory issues, it’s safe to say the top four U.S. carriers will continue their bickering ways by constantly trying to one-up each other without concern for what it means to the customer.
However, there are choices. Ting, a Sprint MVNO, has been somewhat under the radar since it launched a couple of years ago, but given the current state of mobile pricing plans it makes sense to give it a closer look.
Unlike pretty much everyone else, Ting unbundles voice minutes, text messages and data so customers aren’t forced to pigeonhole themselves into a plan that might not fit them perfectly. So instead of guessing what you’ll use in a given month, you just pay for what you use, and that level can fluctuate from month to month with no penalty.
Ting doesn’t subsidize phones, but Sprint customers can bring their own device, and Ting itself offers a wide range of refurbished and used handsets for customers looking to save a little money.
It looks like the average user can save quite a bit by switching to Ting, and it’s surprising the major carriers haven’t caught on to the a la carte pricing. But in today’s cutthroat world of mobile plans, just give them time to jump onto the latest pricing craze.
“in a given month, you just pay for what you use, and that level can fluctuate from month to month with no penalty” – ten years ago, who could have imagined that that could sound like a radical approach to charging…