The cell phone wars are heating up again. Just 2 months after AT&T reduced pricing on its family plans, Verizon has followed suit to staunch the flow of customers to Ma Bell.
On April 2, Verizon announced that it is lowering pricing from $180 to $160 on the More Everything plan, which includes 4 smartphones sharing 10 GB of data.
The new pricing mirrors AT&T, which rolled out its offer of $160 for 4 smartphones sharing 10 GB of data back in February.
To put the amount of data being offered by both players in perspective, 1 GB of data is what the average smartphone user consumes each month.
Battle Of The Bigs
AT&T's price cut back in February was announced because the company was suffering the most lost customers of anyone to T-Mobile, since both companies use the same GSM (Global System for Mobile) technology and the former has a tarnished reputation.
But T-Mobile wasn't about to sit by idly as AT&T made its move. A poaching war erupted after AT&T announced an offer to pay you a $450 bounty if you moved from T-Mobile to AT&T.
From that moment, it was game on. T-Mobile fired back by offering to pay up to $650 in termination fees for you if you left any contract carrier and came to them.
The best thing about this price war? You the consumer always win!
Meanwhile, I should mention that AT&T has a discount sub-brand called Aio Wireless, which is now in the process of being absorbed into Cricket. Aio customers can currently get 5 lines priced at $40, $30, $20, $10, and $10 for the time being. No word yet about whether or not this offer will still be valid when the Aio brand is shuttered and fully folded into Cricket later this year.
Don't Forget About Sprint!
There's more action in the marketplace beyond just what's happening with AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Back in January, Sprint announced a new $25 smartphone offer for large groups of family and friends called the no contract "Framily" plan.
The plan requires you to come up with a minimum of 7 people and a maximum of 10 to get started. Once you've pieced together your posse, you get access to group buying power.
Everybody on the plan gets $25 a month unlimited talk, text, and 1 GB of data with no contract. Each account is billed separately, but you have to identify 1 person who agrees to be financially responsible if somebody doesn't pay as agreed.
And if someone among you wants unlimited data instead of just 1 GB, their bill jumps from $25 to $45 for that person only. Though 7 is optimal for savings, customers can still realize savings with 2–6 members vs. a traditional Sprint plan.
Is A Family Plan Even Necessary?
Here's a radical question: Are family plans going the way of the dodo? With plenty of cheap offerings from what I call "innovators" in the mobile world, a family plan may not even be necessary for you to get great savings for multiple people.
The innovators all share a couple of hallmarks: Cheap no-contract pricing and using wifi to pass the savings on to you.
Republic Wireless is my favorite of this bunch. For $25 per month, you get unlimited talk, text, and data. That is the best deal in America. You buy a very good Android called the Moto X for $299, or the cheaper though still good Moto G for $149. Then you use the phone like any other, except most of the time you are on wi-fi instead of cellular, thus the savings. (Read my review of Republic Wireless.)
Scratch Wireless offers a free plan that is hard to wrap your mind around. You buy a Motorola Photon Q for $269. It is a dated midrange Android. You have unlimited everything anywhere there is wi-fi, and get unlimited free texting everywhere, even when you're just on cellular. If you want talk and data on the go, you can pay a daily or monthly fee. Scratch is counting on the fact that most of the time we are somewhere where there is free wi-fi.
Freedom Pop offers a freemium service and is by far the most radical plan. You buy any of a variety of Androids with prices all over the place (starting at around $99) and get 200 minutes, 500 texts, and 500 MB (half a gig) of data per month for free. There are a variety of paid options including unlimited talk and text for $10.99 per month.
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