After years of moving away from unlimited data plans, the wireless industry has done an about-face. iPhone owners now have several unlimited options from major carriers including AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint. Data plans with no hard limit have proliferated over the past year, as carriers fight tooth and nail for data-hungry smartphone subscribers. Here are some highlights of the latest and greatest unlimited data plans for iPhone.
AT&T has stepped up its game as the most recent entry into the unlimited data price war. However, not only is AT&T the most expensive unlimited option, but these plans do not allow tethering (personal hotspot). With no tethering option at all, some customers will have to look elsewhere for an unlimited data plan. AT&T does include unlimited voice, messaging and data on four lines for $180 including Canada and Mexico even when roaming. In addition, text messaging to 120 countries is included. AT&T reserves the right to throttle data speeds after 22GB is used during a single billing period.
Verizon WirelessVerizon has a similar throttling threshold of 22GB per month, but the unlimited plan includes 10GB of total mobile hotspot data for all lines on the plan. While four lines will cost the same as AT&T ($180 per month) a single line runs $80 as opposed to the AT&T charge of $100. Verizon has been battling T-Mobile's gains in the subscription department, as the latter company has more than doubled Verizon's new subscriber count. Overall, Verizon's unlimited data plans are similar in cost to AT&T but they include tethering capability.
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Arguably the vanguard of the recent unlimited data movement thanks to its "Un-carrier" campaign, T-Mobile has been making serious inroads when it comes to the mobile data business. Known for its customer-friendly attitude, T-Mobile offers a similar unlimited plan to Verizon and AT&T with a slightly higher 28GB throttling limit and cheaper pricing. 10GB of tethering is included for $70 on a single line and $160 for four lines, with taxes and fees included. Voice, messaging and data to Canada and Mexico is unlimited, with unlimited 2G-speed (256 kbps) data service included for the rest of the world.
Sprint is the least expensive unlimited data option of the four major carriers, but they offer 10GB of tethering for each line and a competitive 23GB throttling limit. While the current promotional price only runs $50 for one line and $90 for four lines (until March 2018) the plans are only available to new customers. In addition, speeds are not necessarily optimal LTE across the board. Games are artificially limited to 8 Mbps and music is throttled at 1.5 Mbps. However, Sprint offers five lines on the unlimited plan for just $95 per month (also until March 2018).
Additional carriers such as MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless also offer unlimited plans. MetroPCS offers unlimited LTE data plus 8GB of tethering and a 28GB throttling limit for $60 per month. The company claims they offer twice the 4G LTE coverage of Sprint. Cricket Wireless has a $70 per month unlimited plan with a $5 monthly credit for enabling the automatic payment option.
Of course, all plans may be subject to activation, upgrade or other service fees and require specific payment methods for eligibility.