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With all the excitement of the new iPhone 4 announcement, some of you may not have noticed an announcement by AT&T regarding new pricing for data plans. If you are buying your first iPhone, you can no longer get unlimited data for $30 a month. Instead, you can get 200 MB for $15 or 2 GB for $25. If you run over on the 2 GB plan, you automatically get another 1 GB for $10 (which doesn't seem too bad to me). If you already have an iPhone and upgrade, you can keep your $30/month unlimited plan or switch to one of the new plans (but you can't switch back).

AT&T claims 98% of users never use more than 2 GB a month. I checked my usage, and with 3 days to go, I've used 1.2 GB (and I use my iPhone a lot, but not as much as I used to since I got my iPad). However, my wife, who uses hers for email (and she gets a fraction of what I do) and some web surfing, but almost never YouTube or other video, uses over 300 MB a month. So I can't see who will get by with only 200 MB if she can't. I nearly did it with the iPad before going on the road, but I usually use my iPad where there's WiFi available (still, I'm pretty glad I picked up the 3G model – watched some more Tiger games while on the road).

New users will have to choose one of the two new plans – AT&T will send you warnings as you get near your thresholds. They won't get a choice of the unlimited plan.

So what would make me consider changing plans?


Tethering, that elusive feature that AT&T has been promising for two years, is finally available for the iPhone – but only if you go with the 2GB/month plan (and it's an extra $20/month to consume the same data you would have on your iPhone – I don't see where you get any extra data). Tethering has been available for Blackberries and other phones for many years already for $30/month (for 5 GB of data).

I've been whining to AT&T every time they send me a survey begging for tethering, but now I have to think about it. With Netflix coming to the iPhone, and my iPad now with 3G data, I may be able to finally get by without it. Sure, it would be great to tether my MacBook Pro to the 'net – but if I'm someplace I can tether, I can use my iPad. And since I can remote into my home system (and soon my work system) and work from there, tethering is less of an issue for me than it was before the iPad.

So I need to think about it and check how often I need to tether in the future. I would have been happy to pay the extra $30/month to add tethering to my old plan, but I'm leery of losing my unlimited data plan. Heck, I'm still grandfathered in on an AT&T Family Talk plan that's $10 a month cheaper than any plan they offer today (and while it offers less minutes, I routinely lose 300-400 "rollover" minutes a month anyway). 

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