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Apple iPhone Data Plan Cost & Pricing – How to Select the Best Plan and Save Money


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Soon after the iPhone 4 came out in June, AT&T started offering new tiered data plans for iPhone users. Many people saw this as a huge loss because unlimited data was no longer an option. I decided to give it a try because of the huge potential savings. After six months of use, I am very satisfied with my decision and happy that I now spend $180 less per year on data.

iPhone Data Plan Options

If you are considering changing cell phone providers and buying an iPhone or you already have one, it’s imperative that you understand your options. I’ve had numerous friends pass on the iPhone because they assumed it was just too expensive for them. Believe it or not, there are ways to get the best cell phone plan deals.

When I let them know about the affordable plan pricing, they immediately went out and bought one. Below are the available iPhone data plan options:

  • Low Usage (200 MB) is $15/month + $15 per extra 200 MB when you go over
  • High Usage (2 GB) is $25/month + $10 per extra 1 GB when you go over
  • Unlimited is $30/month and only available to grandfathered-in customers
  • High Usage + Tethering (phone provides Internet to a computer) is $45/month

Selecting the Right iPhone Data Plan

Back when I had unlimited data, I used about 5oo MB per month. At that time, I considered myself an average user who occasionally watched YouTube videos, streamed music via Pandora, used Google Maps for navigation, and periodically checked my email. When I decided to downgrade to the lower plan, I was afraid that it would be a stretch. But it turned out that it wasn’t.

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First, I made sure I was always on WiFi at home and at work so that I didn’t use 3G data during those times. Second, I cut out video and music streaming when I wasn’t on WiFi. Since I’ve instituted these simple changes, I have averaged around 150 MB per month, and best of all, I don’t really feel like I’ve given much up.

From my experience, most people can enjoy all the great features of the iPhone while on the low usage plan. Plus, a downgrade from the high usage plan to the low usage plan saves $120 a year.

If you’re concerned that your appetite for data may be larger than mine, start with the high usage plan and see what happens. This plan should be more than enough data for all users not trying to intentionally burn through data. Once you know how much data you need, you’ll be ready to confidently select the right plan. The best part is that you can switch month to month from one plan to another. In fact, if you know you have exceeded your limits during any given month, AT&T will allow you to upgrade your plan retroactively for that month so that you don’t get charged excessive fees.

Check out the iPhone data usage calculator to see just how much you can  do with each data plan.

iphone data calculator

Checking iPhone Data Usage

Once you’ve selected your plan, you probably want to check in occasionally on the amount of data you use. This can easily be done with the AT&T myWireless app on the iPhone. The app is free and allows you to check your iPhone data at any time. It shows how many days into your billing cycle you are and how much data you have used. Additionally, AT&T automatically sends you a text message when you hit 65% of your data threshold. This is great because it lets you know to curb back your usage after a fast start to your month. You can also check your usage by logging into your account on AT&T Wireless.

  • Down the AT&T myWireless App to track data usage
  • Turn off iPhone data by going to Settings -> General -> Network -> Cellular Data

Final Word

Although some data intensive fans will miss out on unlimited data, most people should be very excited that iPhone data plans now cost $5 to $15 less per month than before. As more smartphone options are presented by all of the carriers, expect even better smartphone data plan choices and cheap cell phone plans in the future.

Which iPhone data plan are you on?


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Ryan is a business analyst in Atlanta, GA and proud supporter of Georgia Tech. He enjoys blogging as a way to share with others ideas about finding time, saving money, and having fun. He regularly contributes to ObsessedAnalytic and MoneyCrashers and has been featured on ChristianPF and RedeemingRiches. In his free time, Ryan enjoys playing and watching sports including running, soccer, football, and disc golf. Follow him on his twitter account: ramblinknight.