This week, Verizon heralded a new phase in the smartphone era, unveiling a payment scheme that allows customers to put all their phones, tablets, and laptops on a single billing plan. Dubbed the "Share Everything" plan, customers will be granted unlimited texts and phone calls, while paying for a finite pool of monthly data that can be tapped by as many as 10 devices. The plan will roll out across the country on June 28, at which time Verizon's current smartphone plans will no longer be offered. (Existing contracts will, of course, be honored.) Industry watchers say that the "Share Everything" plan is the wave of the future, and that rival AT&T is likely to follow suit. But there are concerns that customers will end up paying a lot more than they're accustomed to. Here, four takeaways from Verizon's multi-platform wireless plan:
1. The tiered plan allows you to mix and match
Under the new plan, a customer with one smartphone would pay $60 per month for two gigabytes of data and $40 for unlimited texting and calls. It costs $10 for every two extra gigabytes, while each additional device costs a different amount: $10 for a tablet, $20 for a laptop, and $40 for a smartphone. A family of four, for example, would pay around $200 a month for three smartphones, a tablet, and 6 gigabytes of data.
2. But you might not want unlimited calls and texts
The new plan comes "at a time when mobile internet use is cutting down on time spent talking and texting," says Brian X. Chen at The New York Times. The "Share Everything" plan locks customers into paying a set amount for calls and texting, even if they don't call and text that often. There is no option in "Share Everything" for those who want a shared data plan but limited voice and texting.
3. Your bill will likely go up
While the "Share Everything" plan will lower bills for some users, it's designed to push the mounting costs of maintaining expensive data networks onto consumers. For instance, $60 for two gigabytes of data is roughly twice as expensive as Verizon's current rate. And two gigabytes isn't that much; a user could "blow through the limit by streaming 30 minutes of video and five minutes of music and visiting five websites each day for a month," says Cecilia Kang at The Washington Post. As more consumers "connect more devices to the internet and use applications that require more bandwidth… the costs for families are set to soar."
4. The big carriers are cooperating with each other
In the past, AT&T and Verizon would surprise each other with deep discounts on their plans, in a bid to win more customers. This time, however, Verizon openly telegraphed its "Share Everything" plan, and AT&T is expected to follow suit with a similar scheme in the near future. "They all seem to be focused on the same objective," Jonathan Chaplin, a Credit Suisse analyst, tells The Wall Street Journal. "Not beating each other up but extracting value from their existing base."