Verizon Wireless is closing the door on its unlimited plans later this month, but fortunately, some loopholes remain.
Unfortunately, the options aren't that attractive.
Verizon will officially kill off the unlimited plan for many people looking for a new phone after June 28, when the carrier makes its shared data plans available.
The carrier already stopped offering unlimited data as an option last summer, when it switched to tiered pricing. The equivalent $30 of unlimited data all of a sudden got only 2 gigabytes of data, although Verizon has held the occasional promotion for 3GB of data to spur adoption.
"Unlimited data is not something we think is sustainable in the long term," Tami Erwin, chief marketing officer for Verizon, said in an interview with CNET.
Many customers who were already signed up on unlimited data plans weren't affected, but that changes on June 28. On that day, any customers who upgrade to a new phone and choose the subsidized price will be forced to give up their unlimited data for a capped plan.
Verizon insists that only a small percentage of customers go over 2GB, but there will always be some who want the reassurance of a no-limit plan. Here are some options for customers who insist on clinging to their unlimited plan.
Do nothing. If you have an unlimited plan, and you're happy with your service, you might as well stick with it. Of course, if you eventually get sick of your phone, that's when you can get into trouble.
Upgrade now. If you buy a new phone before June 28, you can take advantage of the unlimited plan. The benefit to upgrading now is you'll get access to one of Verizon's newer 4G LTE devices, which can really consume a lot of data in short time. Under a new contract, you'll get unlimited data for the next two years. That's plenty of time before you have to worry about the data crunch again.
Reject the subsidy. Of course, not everyone can upgrade right away. If you're in the unfortunate position of being in the middle of a contract that doesn't run out until after June 28, you have far fewer options. The only way to keep your unlimited data is to eschew the subsidized offer and pay full price for a phone. That's a particularly pricey proposition -- the iPhone 4S, for instance, starts at $649.99 -- but one that's available for customers who desperately want to keep their unlimited plan.
Switch to Sprint Nextel. If you aren't willing to fork over more cash or upgrade early, there's always Sprint, which still offers a completely unlimited data plan. That means no caps, no throttling, and no overage charges. Of course, you woud be losing access to the wider 4G LTE network that Verizon has, but Sprint is working on their rollout now.
Again, the options aren't pretty. And there's likely a reason Verizon hasn't released a high-profile smartphone in a while. For those who don't mind a slightly older phone, the Droid Razr Maxx is an attractive option with good battery life and access to the 4G LTE network.
It also probably isn't a coincidence that while Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S III smartphone is hitting Sprint and T-Mobile on June 21, it isn't coming to Verizon until July -- after the June 28 cutoff date. Likewise, the next iPhone, which is expected to have a bigger screen and 4G LTE access, will likely drive a lot of customers to give up their unlimited plan.
For many, it will come down to what's more important: unlimited data or the latest phones. Verizon isn't making it easy for anyone.