Friday, September 04, 2015

AT&T Mobile Share - Reviewing our options

Emily and I switched to AT&T’s no-contract shared data plan over a year ago and saved about $25/month. With the iPhone’s (crappy compared to Android) cellular data use controls we were doing pretty well with 2GB a month. Unfortunately over the past year Google Maps started using a lot more data (no idea why). Between Google Maps and adware bloat we started to hit 2.5GB/month — but then an AT&T special (we had to request) gave us 3GB/month for the same rate. There’s no contract to change by the way, so it’s much less worrisome to make changes now.

During this time the kids were on H2O wireless prepaid. H2O wireless worked well for years as a $40/year voice only service, but things got more strained when #1 needed reliable data services (find friends in particular) and #3’s social necessities required high volume SMS. Then we ran into the flip-side of MVNO’s low cost — truly lousy customer service. We’ve since ported two of the kids numbers to the AT&T mobile shared data plan, one remains on H2O (he almost never uses his phone).

So now we have 4 devices on AT&T mobile share. Time to examine plan options.

That’s almost impossible to do except by requesting a plan summary handout from an AT&T store. Almost … except that using phrases from the handout I located the equivalent very well hidden readable online mobile share plan summary (of course it doesn’t include corporate discounts many of us have).

We currently have 4 devices ($25*4=$100) and 3GB — except that AT&T did something weird the other day. Our official plan is “3GB” for $40, (this is what a store account rep sees), but we actually have “3GB and 3GB Bonus” or 6GB for $40. A Reddit poster interrogated an AT&T phone rep about this mystery bonus:

In an effort to recognize our customer’s loyalty [tenure], we want to show you our appreciation and thank you for being our customer by giving you more data for the same monthly MRC. You don't have to do a thing to get more data – we automatically added it to your plan at the start of your current bill cycle! If you decide to change your plan, including a change in your data bucket size, you will be allowed to select any current plans offered at that time; however, this promotion will no longer be available

So our total cost, pre-discount and not including significant hidden fees and taxes, is $140 for 4 devices and more data than we need (6GB plus rollover).

Looking at the current plan summary we could do 3GB for $45 (2GB for $30 plus $15 for extra GB) - but that’s less data for more money and same device cost, $145. Or we could do 20GB (much more than we need) for $140 plus ($15*4=$60) for devices, or $200. That plan includes free Canada calls, but we do that for free using Google Voice. That would be a terrible waste of money.

More interestingly we could drop to 2GB for $30/month, total cost $130 for $10/month reduction (over the past year AT&T has dropped cost of 2GB plan by 25%). I think, with rollover, we’d vary between 1.8 to 2.9 GB/month for an average cost of about $135/month. Slightly less than our current plan, but not a big difference and the data hassle would be much larger.

So we’ll stay where we are. Your numbers will vary; we get a typical corporate discount as well and those are certainly worth pursuing. We will continue to track Ting and its growing GSM use and, of course, T-Mobile.

PS. Incidentally, AT&T has a new SIM Unlock procedure, saw this while reviewing my account:

Apple iPhone 4S
PUK: ##########
Follow these steps to unlock your SIM card:

Enter the eight-digit PUK above, then select OK/Yes. Note: Some Motorola phone users will need to enter **05* if "Enter PUK" isn't displayed. Then enter the eight-digit PUK and select OK/Yes
Choose a new PUK and select OK/Yes
Re-enter the new PUK and select OK/Yes
If the codes were entered correctly, you can now use your phone

Have an iPhone?
If you enter the wrong PUK 10 times in a row, your SIM card will be permanently deactivated. You might see a message like "PUK blocked. Call operator." You'll have to start over. You can:

Buy a new SIM card from an AT&T retail store
Use our technical support chat (full site) or call us at 800.331.0500.
Have a different type of phone?
If you enter the wrong PUK 10 times in a row, the SIM card will be permanently locked. If you see a message like "PUK 2," you'll need to:Buy a new SIM card from an AT&T retail store

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