Verizon’s New ‘Share Everything’ Plans: Good Deal or Total Ripoff?

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Brian Snyder / Reuters

Verizon’s been hinting at the arrival of shared data plans for over a year, and this week, the wireless carrier finally revealed how the so-called “Share Everything” plans will work.

Starting June 28, subscribers can pay a flat fee for each device they connect–$40 for smartphones, $20 for portable hotspots or notebooks, $10 for tablets and $30 for basic phones–plus a single charge for shared monthly data, ranging from $50 for 1 GB to $100 for 10 GB. All phones on the Share Everything plan will have unlimited voice minutes and text messages, and smartphones will be able to serve as Wi-Fi hotspots for other devices at no extra charge.

Existing Verizon customers can hang onto their existing plans, but subscribers with unlimited data won’t be able to upgrade at subsidized prices, so they’ll have to pay about $600 or more for the latest smartphones. Unlimited data users can select a limited-data individual plan instead of Share Everything and still get a subsidized upgrade.

In theory, I like the idea of shared data plans, but I figured Verizon would set them up to make saving money difficult. To see exactly how, I did the math on a handful of scenarios, and compared the prices between Verizon’s existing plans and its new Share Everything plans:

Jared Newman/TIME.com

A few takeaways:

  • If you already have unlimited voice and text–or, in some cases, more than the minimum–Share Everything is cheaper for a comparable amount of data.
  • Families on Share Everything won’t be able to save money by getting a low data tier, but they’ll get unlimited voice and text, which was previously quite expensive.
  • Switching to Share Everything often amounts to a trade-off: Less data in exchange for unlimited voice and text at the same price.
  • Free smartphone tethering (also known as portable hotspot use) appears to sweeten the deal, but there’s no scenario in which it costs less on the Share Everything plan than it would as a standalone offering. At best, you’d be trading off a higher data allotment for unlimited voice and text.

Seeing the pattern here? With Share Everything, Verizon is essentially recognizing the writing on the wall: Voice and text are becoming less important, so the company is bundling unlimited minutes and messages with its new plans as a way to lure people over. Customers won’t save money unless they adopt a lower data tier, but over time their thirst for data will grow, and Verizon’s in position to make its money back.

But as with carriers’ switch to tiered data, I suspect most people will resist the Share Everything plan and stick with what they have for as long as possible.

MORE: Verizon to Ditch Phone Plans in Favor of Shared Data Plans

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