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How Much Data?

March 9, 2011 - Dave Hecei
At this time, I do not have a smartphone but I do have an iPad. I've only had it for a few months and have not activated the AT&T data plan for 3G cellular data. Thankfully, the iPad data plan is not a contract so you can use it month by month as you see the need for mobile Internet access.

So far I have done pretty well just using WiFi for Internet. But I have to admit that I am starting to find times when there just isn't any WiFi around when I need to do something online. I'm not trying to be cheap (yes I am), but $25 a month (plus taxes and tariffs) is probably closer to $30+ a month.

When the original iPad was released, AT&T had a special 'unlimited' plan that was supposedly unlimited. Boy, that was a mistake and they fix that a few months later. AT&T went to a lower price per month, with less data allowed, just before the iPhone 4 came out.

Today, AT&T data plans are $15 for only 250MB a month and $25 for 2GB a month. This is a low price for a data plan, but compared to others who have at least a 5GB a month cap it's not great for someone who plans to regularly use cellular data networks.

Apple Insider has a post about AT&T and Verizon iPad 2 data plans. They also had a link to an AT&T 'Data Calculator'. This page has a bunch of sliders that allow you to dial in what you think you would be doing on your iPad on a daily basis. As you set your daily activities on the sliders it calculates a monthly data usage total at the bottom.

I dialed in what I think I might do on average for the month and surprise, I went over the 2GB limit for the month. It was actually over 3GB. The scary part was how much streaming audio added to the total. Don't even think about watching a Netflix movie or you'll be done for the month. Maybe this calculator is a leaning to the heavy side of data usage just to help keep you under your limit, but I'm just not sure.

So what happens if you go over your limit? You get charged more money of course. I don't think anyone would opt for the 250MB per month plan, which is pretty much worthless to all but the casual user. On the 2GB per month plan it's $10 per 1GB over the limit. So if you did use 5GB (or maybe 4.99GB) it would cost you $55. That isn't so terrible, is it?


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