Verizon Wireless(s vz) is overhauling its prepaid data plans for smartphones. Instead of offering different price tiers, Verizon has reverted to a single plan: $45 a month with unlimited text and voice and 500 MB of data. If you want more data you just buy it a la carte, but interestingly those add-on data buckets don’t expire at the end of the billing cycle.
Called Allset, these plans introduce a new pricing structure Verizon is called Bridge Data. If you buy a 1 GB or 3 GB Bridge, you have three months to use it on top of your regular 500 MB monthly allotment. Though in an ideal world we would buy data like gasoline – you keep it until you use it – this definitely gives Verizon’s small but growing base of prepaid users more flexibility.
There’s something idiotic about asking customers to anticipate their data consumption each month and then penalize them with more charges if they go over or wasted megabytes if they go under. Under the Bridge structure, you can buy your data three months in advance and, when it runs out, you just tack on another Bridge bucket. Verizon is even allowing you to buy multiple add-ons at the same time and queue them up. A Bridge plan only kicks in – and the clock starts ticking – once you’ve used up your previous data allotment.
Verizon is also including unlimited messaging to Mexico, Canada and Puerto Rico in the plans, and it’s offering a limited time promotion to new customers of 1000 free voice minutes to Mexico or Canada. It’s also interesting to note that Verizon is treating feature phones and smartphones the same under the new pricing scheme. The only difference is feature phones customers have access to a $35 plan, which includes 500 voice minutes rather than unlimited calling.
These plans definitely make Verizon more attractive to the no-contract crowd, but there is still a lot to be desired about Verizon’s prepaid service. It’s expensive for one – there are a lot of operators big and small that will give you a lot more for $45 a month – and Verizon restricts prepaid customers access to its 3G network even if their phones sport LTE radios. Verizon, however, still has the largest footprint in the country, appealing to people who care more about coverage than cost or speed.