As the internet evolved into a source of mobile activity of all kinds, you probably lamented the lack of unlimited data plans but were still searching for a good cell phone plan. As Fortune Magazine pointed out, cellular carriers began to rein in their unlimited offerings around 2010.
Unfortunately for consumers, this was also a time when mobile entertainment was exploding. Frustration with high cell phone bills grew and increasingly data-hungry applications continued to flood the mobile market.
Fortunately, there's now good news for heavy data users. Cell phone companies are bringing back phone plans with unlimited data (including unlimited call and text features). It all seemed to come to a head in fall of 2016 when several major providers began phasing out lower tier data buckets. The best part of this trend is that overage fees have all but disappeared.
The resurgence of free-flowing mobile data in the wireless industry does come with a few caveats. It's not all sunshine and roses, but if you use a lot of high-demand apps on your mobile devices you'll likely find the changes pleasing.
Key Considerations When Comparing Unlimited Data Plans
Before you rush off to find an unlimited data plan and sign up without a second thought, there are a few factors that you should consider:
Monitor Your Data Usage
How much data do you need? It's a good idea to monitor your data usage for a billing cycle so that you can see whether or not you actually need an unlimited option. There's no point in paying for more if you're not going to use it. If you would like to know how much data you'd need to determine whether or not you should opt for an unlimited plan, then you should take a moment to calculate your amount of consumed data using our data usage calculator.
If you find that you do need unlimited data, then you can always use our comparison tables below to find out which provider offers the best unlimited plans.
While comparing unlimited cell phone plans, pay attention to the terms and conditions. Some providers default video streaming to SD (standard definition) and charge extra if you want HD (high definition) quality. You should also watch the pricing. Deeply discounted rates are often limited time offers, so be sure you read the fine print on how long that rate lasts.
Unlimited doesn't mean endless high-speed access. Nearly all providers throttle speeds after you've reached a certain number of gigabytes. Using WiFi whenever possible to conserve your high-speed allotment is still the best course of action. The good news is that throttling has virtually replaced overage charges throughout the wireless industry.
"The resurgence of free-flowing mobile data does come with a few caveats. It's not all sunshine and roses, but if you use a lot of high-demand apps on your mobile devices you'll likely find the changes pleasing."
Each carrier differs a bit in the way their unlimited data plans are delivered. Be sure you know exactly what you're getting for your money before jumping on board. Even if you don't need it now, however, unlimited data is arguably an inevitability. As Time Magazine reported earlier in 2016, Americans look at their phones an average of 46 times per day. That's a lot of looking - which means a lot of data. And content and apps are only getting higher and higher in quality as technology develops.
Overall, there are several unlimited data plans available. There are full-blown unlimited data plans (complete with fine print that explains that you will experience the throttling of data after a certain amount) and then there are plans complete with a set number of GB before you experience a slowdown of data speeds. These are typically included in both postpaid or prepaid cell phone plans. For example here are just a couple of monthly plan types that you can consider that fall into the prepaid category: