My family has been AT&T subscribers since our first iPhones (iPhone 3G) in October of 2008. We've had good service from AT&T (I know some places do not), and we came from a pre-iPhone Verizon, where our previous phones were locked down by Verizon (you could not access pictures or ring tones without paying Verizon for each one, and Verizon's service has been far worse than AT&T's). We've had two issues with AT&T in the past four years. One is coverage–we seem to always have no data connection when we go camping, even if we are not in the wilderness. We're also baffled by the lack of 3G between St. Paul, MN and Madison, WI on Interstate 94 when there is 3G throughout sparse areas of Minnesota (including Lake Itasca).
The other issue was that both of our phones were spammed with text-message subscriptions (which add fees). AT&T was happy to refund those charges and put a block on future text message subscriptions.
Over the years, our AT&T plan was about $136 a month. This includes a 15% discount for teachers (you may also qualify for discounts with any carrier…look into it and save money). That $136 included 2 iPhones with “unlimited” data, and 700 shared minutes of talking. We also had rollover minutes and 200 text messages each. We learned to not use our phones too much, and most of the time we stayed well away from text messages. In recent months, AT&T announced that they would be putting a data slow down on unlimited data accounts that used more than 3GB (unlimited?), but we never reached that cap. But our unlimited wasn't unlimited, and you had to pay extra for tethering (connecting a wi-fi iPad to an iPhone, for example).
The new “bucket plans” by Verizon and AT&T seemed to fit what we wanted to do better. I looked at our past data usage, and combined the most data we ever used was 5GB. The new mobile share plans give you unlimited calling and texts (something my wife is looking forward to using), and the ability to buy data as you use it. The more data you buy, the cheaper the cost of the phones. And if you buy a tablet, you can add it as well for $10, using your same bucket of data. And tethering is FINALLY included–and AT&T will allow you to use FaceTime over 3G if you have the mobile share plan.
Here is where we stand..two iPhones at $35 each, and $90 for 6GB of data, for a total of $160. There will be a teacher discount as well, possibly taking another $24 off the bill, making the “core” bill $136 (before taxes). Had we wished to add unlimited family texting to our previous plan, it would have cost another $20 per month, meaning that our old plan plus unlimited texting would have been $156 or more. If we go over 6GB, there is a charge of $15 per GB, meaning that if we ever use more than 6GB, it would be better to pay $120 for data ($30 more) but save $5 more per phone ($10 less), making 10GB per month only $20 more (or actually, $17 with the educator's discount). So we'll be watching that closely.
The biggest risk we face is using more than 6GB of data…we no longer have to worry about talking or texting, and we can use FaceTime over 3G (4G) with iOS 6, and I can tether my iPad while traveling. AT&T have improved their webpage and app, so it is much easier to track your data usage. It's a scenario of win, win, win, win, win. If you are an AT&T subscriber, you may want to consider their new mobile share plan, too.