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AT&T Changes Pricing Plans - What Should You Do?

By (view all posts by benjamindsearle)
at 9:30AM Monday February 27, 2012
under Newsworthy

If you're one of the millions of mobile broadband users who is on the AT&T network, then pay attention for a moment. AT&T has announced that this week they're moving price and plan changes into place for all their mobile data plans. They now have a 300MB per month plan, which will set you back a cool $20, a 3GB plan for $30 a month, and a 5GB plan that allows you to connect your computer to your phone for $50 a month.

Now the bottom line for all of you out there is "How does this affect me?" So I'll break it down for you. If you're currently on the Unlimited plan that AT&T offers, you are probably doing all right. The one caveat that AT&T has thrown out regarding that plan is that they are going to start throttling - slowing down - data service to the top 5% of their data users every month. That number is a variable target, but it seems that if you're using more than about 2GB a month, you're at least at risk.


What that means is that you're going to want to use the online tools to check on how much data you're using in a month. If you're on the limited plans that AT&T offers now - 2GB for $25 or 200 MB for $15 a month, then be especially careful to see how your data use averages out over several months. Once you switch off the old plans you can never go back to them, though AT&T says they'll honor them for as long as you have them and don't change your plan.

The bottom line is that you need to be more careful than ever to watch your data usage and pare it down wherever you can. The tricks that I use are simple, but they've reduced my data usage every month to the point where I'm barely using any of my mobile data plan. The first and most important thing to do is to make sure your phone is on wifi wherever possible. I use the wifi at home, and at work. Whenever you're on wifi, you aren't chewing into your mobile data, and wifi is typically faster than anything but the best of a 3G network speeds.

Secondly, check out the applications that you have on your phone. Things like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, other Email services, Instant Message clients make the mobile experience a constantly connected experience, but they have a price. Background data. My Facebook app on Android updates every 15 minutes by default. That means that every 15 minutes, it's contacting facebook.com, looking for new data and sending it back to my phone. That's not a ton of data, but it's a small amount of data 96 times a day, every day. Add Gmail, Twitter, Tumblr, the games that have online components and that becomes a lot of data usage that you aren't even aware of.

Siri adds even more to that, for you iPhone users. All of these applications have settings that you can change, causing it to poll the server less frequently, or even to poll only when you open the application up and look yourself. If you're getting close to the edge on your mobile plan, you can tell the apps not to synch, keeping you from getting a nasty overage charge.


How do you manage your mobile data use? Tell me your secret tricks in the comments, and let me know what I've missed!