Shared data: a holy grail for wireless consumers everywhere. A single bucket of bytes shareable across two, three, four, or more connected devices — phones, tablets, hotspots, the list goes on. The good news is that Verizon has finally pulled the trigger this morning, the first of likely many American carriers to do so over the coming months.
The bad news is that they've botched it in a very predictable way. And we can expect AT&T, which typically mirrors Verizon's pricing strategy, to do the same.
Verizon's Share Everything plans offer unlimited voice, unlimited text messaging, and a bucket of data that can be shared among up to ten devices on the same account. We're already off to a bad start: what if you don't want or need unlimited voice or text? US carriers — Verizon and AT&T in particular — have perfected the fine art of giving you too little or too much on the plans that they offer, intentionally omitting the "sweet spot" because, by the consumer's definition, the sweet spot is the spot of greatest value. And greatest value is not the greatest profit.
Let's spell out just what a lackluster deal that is
And the inclusion of unlimited voice and text gives Verizon the justification that it needs to charge an additional fee for each device that you add. If we were sharing a data bucket alone — which is what most of the shared data advocates have asked for — it would be harder to justify a significant per-device fee, since you're not getting any additional gigabytes for each additional tablet, modem, or phone. Instead, Verizon charges up to a whopping $40 extra if you add a smartphone. And let's spell out just what a lackluster deal that is: if you have a 1GB Share Everything plan, you're paying $40 for unlimited minutes and text and a single gigabyte of data shared across multiple devices. That's about what you'd expect to pay for a standalone plan with the same specs on many value carriers.
If Verizon (or any carrier) wants to take this seriously, it's very simple: let customers add unlimited devices to an existing data bucket for a reasonable monthly fee. $5, for instance. I could even understand $10, perhaps. But $40 for an extra smartphone? Instead of the shared data holy grail, Verizon is essentially offering us a new spin on family plans. This will be great for some, don't get me wrong — and it'll probably save a few dollars in many cases — but let's not call this the revolution we've been waiting for. It's not.