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It isn’t enough to have great new devices, apps, and games — you also have to know how to use them. These are the names of new mobile data plans introduced in just the last month by Verizon and AT&T.Here at The Verge, we offer step-by-step how-tos for experienced and new users who are working with online, mac OS, Windows, Chrome OS, i OS, and Android apps, services, phones, laptops, and other tools. In an era without net neutrality, we’ve drifted far, far away from the days when “unlimited data” was a simple concept that meant you could use your smartphone to its full capabilities without any handcuffs or confusing limitations. But some prodding from T-Mobile helped turn the industry around and left data buckets behind as an ugly memory.Carriers can also very easily distinguish video data from other data your phone is using, so the 480p restriction stretches all over the web.
From simple instructions on how to install and use new devices, to little-known strategies on how to take advantage of hidden features and the best methods for adding power or storage, we’ve got your technological back. Carriers will tell you that the fundamental, underlying promise of unlimited data remains true in 2018: you can use your smartphone as much as you want without overage charges or being cut off once you’ve surpassed a specific threshold. Consumers are generally in a better place now than they were a few years ago, back when Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint were offering tiered buckets of data and charging $10 or $15 for every extra gigabyte above your chosen allotment. Even so, unlimited data today is much different than in the early days of the i Phone and Android smartphones.
Now more than ever, carriers are aggressively policing their networks and implementing restrictions on video quality and hotspot usage.
You pick between T-Mobile One and T-Mobile One Plus.
But “the Uncarrier” is still saddling customers with some of the same annoying restrictions as its larger rivals. Sprint, meanwhile, for a long time went for simplicity with a single unlimited plan, which it called Unlimited Freedom.
By name alone, it’s incredibly difficult to parse what you’re getting from each and what the downsides might be. Doesn’t it sound like Beyond Unlimited should be better than Above Unlimited? Let’s review how the leading US carrier is currently dividing up “unlimited” and reserving the most useful features and the best speeds for the more expensive tiers: Go Unlimited: You get unlimited data, but at any time, your service might be temporarily slowed down in favor of other customers when the network is busy or “congested.” Mobile hotspot speeds are restricted to just 600kbps. Beyond Unlimited: You get unlimited data free of potential slowdowns until you pass 22GB of usage in a month.
Would you be able to tell whether Verizon’s Above Unlimited or Beyond Unlimited is the more premium plan? The mobile hotspot feature offers full LTE speeds until you hit 15GB of usage. Above Unlimited: You get unlimited data free of potential slowdowns until you pass 75GB of usage in a month, which is probably a ceiling you’ll never hit. Video, even on the highest plan, is still limited to 720p.But there is zero benefit for consumers when it’s applied to unlimited plans. We’re supposed to believe that these carriers are fast-tracking towards 5G, connecting all the devices in our lives, and reaching ever-soaring speeds, and yet their networks can’t handle giving everyone high-definition video. For years, carriers have engaged in what’s called deprioritization.When a particular cell site is busy or “congested,” your data speeds might be slowed down for a period of time, while other people on that carrier in the same area won’t be.On their most affordable unlimited data plans, all major US carriers are restricting video to 480p resolution, or what’s sometimes described as “DVD quality.” They’re able to do this by identifying common video sources — Netflix, You Tube, Amazon Video, HBO Go, etc.— and throttling down data speeds to limit maximum quality.So if HBO is more important to you than Watch TV (and I’d imagine it is for many), then don’t switch over to either of the new options. Prices above apply only if Auto Pay and paperless billing are enabled.I’ll give T-Mobile slightly less grief because “unlimited” doesn’t actually appear in their plan branding.Prices above apply if Auto Pay and paperless billing are enabled.Video is the aspect of smartphone usage that’s getting hit hardest by today’s unlimited plans.The discount on Direc TV Now (or traditional Direc TV for &More Premium customers) still applies.Customers who currently receive free HBO can remain on their plan to keep it.