Data plans: Which one costs you less

Verizon Wireless has shaken up the familiar data plan with shared-data options, but is it the best deal for you? Not always

Shared data can cost more or less depending on who you are

Shared data can cost more or less depending on who you are

When Verizon Wireless announced its switch to shared-data plans, called Share Everything, the blogosphere erupted in complaints about this different approach to buying 3G and 4G service. You can have up to 10 devices per account, and you pay a monthly access fee per device, as well as a fee for the amount of shared gigabytes bought for all the devices.

I compared Verizon's prices to its old ones, as well as to its competitors, and found that some people will save but others will pay more. Here, I show the costs for nine scenarios, highlighting the best price in yellow.

Other InfoWorld articles show all the prices in one table and explore the often-cheaper option of a pay-as-you-go plan.

Digital single: Avoid Sprint

Digital single: Avoid Sprint

If you're a single person with a smartphone and a tablet, using 2GB of data combined, Sprint is by far the most expensive carrier you can choose. Verizon (for both its new and old plans) and T-Mobile are the best options in terms of price.

A note on Verizon Share Everything costs: You pay $30 per month for each basic phone, $40 per smartphone, and $10 per tablet with unlimited voice and text messaging; data is purchased as a preset amount (with tiered pricing) that is shared among all compatible devices. Also note that all prices are before taxes and fees, and do not include the devices' costs.

Simple single: All cost the same

Simple single: All cost the same

If you're a single person with one "dumb" (basic) phone, you'll pay the same price no matter which carrier you choose.

Digital couple: Verizon is much cheaper

Digital couple: Verizon is much cheaper

Two people with a smartphone each and a tablet each, sharing 4GB of data, and with text messaging pay far less with Verizon's new Share Everything plan. The worst price comes from Sprint, which charges 65 percent more than Verizon does for the equivalent offering.

Semi-digital couple: Verizon is cheapest again

Semi-digital couple: Verizon is cheapest again

If you're a couple with a smartphone each and one tablet between you, with 2GB of data and no text messaging plan, Verizon's Share Everything plan is again the best deal. Once more, Sprint's is by far the worst.

Simple couple: T-Mobile slightly cheaper

Simple couple: T-Mobile slightly cheaper

If you use just basic phones, the prices across the carriers for a two-person plan are identical -- with one exception, T-Mobile, coming in at $10 less per month.

Digital family: Verizon is best deal

Digital family: Verizon is best deal

If you're a digital-savvy family, Verizon's old plan is the best deal; stick with it if you have it. Its Share Everything costs a bit more but is cheaper than the competition's plans. AT&T is by far the priciest carrier for a digital family.

What is a digital family? Five people with a smartphone each, two tablets among them, and a text messaging plan for all.

Semi-digital family: Again, Verizon's price is best

Semi-digital family: Again, Verizon's price is best

Not all families are as digitally active, so I priced the costs for a group of five people with two smartphones and three basic phones -- perhaps for kids or older parents -- as well as two tablets. They share 2GB of data, and all have text messaging.

Verizon's new Share Everything plan is the best deal, followed closely by its old plan. Sprint again is by far the priciest provider.

Semi-digital family without messaging: Costs vary little

Semi-digital family without messaging: Costs vary little

If you don't have kids and are older, your group may not use (or want to pay for) text messaging. I took the semi-digital family scenario and removed text messaging as an option. Doing so nearly equalized the costs across the carriers -- and showed that Verizon's old plan was noticeably cheaper without messaging.

It's clear that the carriers want you to pay for messaging whether or not you use it; the same goes for voice. It's also clear that going forward you'll pay for messaging and voice no matter how much or little you use.

Simple family: T-Mobile has the best price

Simple family: T-Mobile has the best price

If your group of five uses only basic phones, the new Verizon Share Everything plan is a very bad deal, coming out 19 percent higher than the old Verizon plan and 46 percent more than the bargain for basic cellphone plans: T-Mobile. It's clear that, except for T-Mobile, nondigital families are not particularly welcome.