Like a few of you, I was dismayed to hear last week that Verizon would be phasing out its customers who were “grandfathered” into unlimited data plans by forcing them to adopt the new shared data plans this summer. I’ve been an unlimited customer for years, and when I lived out in the country the tethering plan saved me around a thousand dollars a year in overage fees I’d otherwise have been paying. “Blow this for a game of soldiers,” said I, “they can have my unlimited data when they take it from my cold, dead hands!”

Of course, you can keep the current terms of your contract so long as you don’t buy a subsidized phone. Which puts me in something of a conundrum: I’m the (mostly) happy owner of a Galaxy Nexus, and as previously discussed, it doesn’t look like Verizon has any intention of releasing a device that meets or beats it before the new policy goes into effect this summer.

Now as it happens, I’ve been eligible for a discounted phone since April (because I bought my Nexus from Verizon outright) and have just been waiting for a worthy and hack-friendly Verizon device to come along. Which hasn’t happened, and unless the Galaxy S III gets here before July, probably won’t. So here’s what I did:

I bought an iPhone.

“What?” you ask, “You? The man who swore up and down that the only thing that makes the iPad more worthy than its Android competitors is the data plan? The man who takes every opportunity to poke fun at Apple, its hardware and its customers? You, who by your own admission are as rabid an Android fanboy as has ever walked under the living sky?”

Yup. Here’s why: if you’re grandfathered into unlimited data, you can renew your contract right now and get and get a subsidized phone without losing unlimited, even if you’re upgrading from a 3G phone to an LTE phone. You can even score a pretty sweet $30 unlimited tethering plan. I don’t know if Verizon will come out with a worthy high-end Android phone before the new policy goes into effect, and we’d certainly tell you if we did. So I decided not to take chances and grab the discount now.

So why did I pick an iPhone? Simple: Apple products have an almost mythical ability to retain their value, and a brand new one in its original packaging can sell for nearly 90% of the retail price. It’s unfair, perhaps, but Android devices just can’t keep up. So I bought an iPhone 4S 16GB at a Verizon store, then without even opening the box, told them to re-activate the line on my Nexus. Bingo bango, I’d just spent $200 to get a device that’s worth $550 or more at street value – and my unlimited data is safe for another two years.

I put that sucker on eBay as soon as I got home, and it was claimed in a matter of hours. Now I’m $350 in pocket, with a Verizon unlimited contract that’s untouchable for another two years. Yes, I’ll have to spend extra money on the next Verizon phone I get. Between my unlimited plan and the remote location of most of my family, switching carriers really isn’t an option. But with contract-free prices of high-end devices hovering at around $650 on Verizon, the full price of that phone minus the $350 I just “made” probably won’t be any more than the upgrade price would have been anyway, at least at the time that the phone comes out.

This isn’t an ideal move for a lot of reasons. You’ve got to be 1) a grandfathered unlimited customer with 2) an expired contract or one that’s set to expire very soon and 3) have an Android phone you don’t mind hanging on to until the next big thing comes along. I’d still recommend waiting until just before the new policy goes into effect, just in case there’s a phone you really want that we haven’t heard of. But for those who, like me, are absolutely committed to keeping an unlimited Verizon 4G LTE account, I think it’s a pretty good solution.

  • Tannen

    I was pretty dubious about your plan when you mentioned the iPhone, but by the end I realized that I might be one of the smartest ideas in this situation with Verizon.

  • Drew

    Excellent approach. Take that $350 and tuck it away. The next best comes along, buy it retail and use the $350 to offset the hit. OR, wait until the next best thing it out for a bit, and buy one used on craigslist. You may end up with no $$$ out of pocket.

  • Rich

    You do realize you just broke the terms of your contract, right?  You bought an iPhone at a subsidized price because you promised in a contract that you would be using it for 2 years or until your next upgrade.  Then you went ahead and immediately sold that phone for profit.  And then you boast about it on a tech-blog. 

    • Spoken Word™

      Wrong! He promised to keep his service for 2 years. It doesn’t matter what phone you bought or use on the line, it only matters that you don’t terminate your contract before the contract period expires.

      • Rich

        Wrong! As a retail store, you pay almost full price for the phones, and then subsidize the cost of the phone to the customer with a 2 year term agreement. Then on the back end, the retailer gets paid from Verizon or whatever carrier they are selling, because that customer has signed on to use that device for 2 years. The carrier performs a scan of the line after 6 months, and if that device is not on the customers line, the retailer will get charged back for that upgrade because that was flagged as a fraudulent sale. What Michael did here is 100% Fraud. He bought a subsidized phone from Verizon and then immediately sold it online to profit himself. He probably could have just gone in to a Verizon store and renewed his contract without buying a phone and still be grandfathered in to his unlimited data.

      • Michael Crider

        Fraud is a strong word Rich, and I object to it. I didn’t do anything illegal or immoral – in fact, I explained my intentions to the retail employees as I was buying the phone (at a corporate store, by the way, not some mom and pop franchise). If we’re going to talk about this in terms of money for Verizon or its retail stores, let’s consider that I’ve spent many thousands of dollars on Verizon service and hardware, and have so far been “credited” with about $500 in subsidies for said hardware. Even so, if I try to upgrade after the summer, Verizon will take away my unlimited privileges, even as they add more and more capacity to their LTE network. They want to make some of their best customers pay more and more, while delivering less and less. Who do you really think is getting the short end of the stick here, Verizon (including its retail stores) or its customers?

      • ohwut

        This is entirely false, as a DM for a 3rd party wireless retailer I can say everything you just said is wrong. A 3rd Party(Like ours) will occasionally do our own personal “credit validation” where we check the line after 30 DAYS(Not 6 months) and if that specific phone isn’t activated we do a charge of full retail onto the users credit card. This is a 3rd party retail thing and part of our conditions and only there to protect us from fraud this isn’t a Verzion check.

        The only time that Verizon does a charge-back against the commission of a sale is on NEW LINES that are canceled within 30 days, or have a feature change within 60. An upgrade will only result in a charge-back if the device is returned within the buyers remorse period.

        What he did is fine with Verizon, the contract is for the Voice Plan of $39.99 or more (Which the subscriber is maintaining) and any Smartphone data Feature. Should one of those be dropped will still using a smartphone than you get an ETF as intended. Michael is perfectly in the clear.

      • LJK

        I have a cousin whom was in the middle of a contract and lost her IPhone. All the other lines in her family plan were also in the middle of contracts. Basically, no upgrades at subsidized prices. I had an upgrade available on my family share plan and used that to buy a new IPhone at the subsidized price. At the Verizon store, the IPhone was activated on my line then deactivated. My old smartphone was then reactivated. Then, the salesperson at the store activated the IPhone on my cousin’s line on her family share plan. The salesperson at the store said he did this same thing for his and other accounts.

    • Michael Crider

      The terms of the contract say that I will retain my Verizon service for two years. It doesn’t say anything about keeping the same device. That screenshot is from after I bought the iPhone and switched back – Verizon doesn’t seem to mind, so long as they get paid.

      • Ali Khalifa

        LOL people who try to follow the rules disgust me, i did the same. Michael is fine. If i have 5 upgrades available on my family plan, i can use them all to buy subsidized iphones, not activate them, and resell them for a profit. There is nothing wrong with that.

      • LJK

        Also, I think only 1 line has to have a data plan. You can transfer upgrades between voice only to voice and data lines.

      • koolkat2

        I cant believe people are even questioning it. Ive literally had 15+ phones on my account since last year.

    • Ackwms

      Is this a joke. I had a terrible terrible phone that literally had a mind of it’s own. They replaced it FOUR times after seeing for themselves that the phone was a complete piece of junk (I paid $200 for it at the promo price and signed a two yr contract) instead of being able to get a new phone and declaring this a lemon ), I had to honor my contract and buy a New phone at full retail price. I have every right to a new phone at a promo price if I sign a new agreement that costs me $350 to break. They (or Motorola) has no right to keep my $200, when clearly the phone was a lemon, so don’t talk to me about fraud. The least they could have done was refund my $200, and apply it to the full retail price

  • master94

    Since sooner or later they will remove my unlimited data, I plan to abuse it as much as I can until that day, Non stop movie and music streaming. 12GB used and counting.

    • Matt

      nice. 😛 While I don’t usually go over 2 gb, why should I have to pay the same price for limited data as I do for unlimited.

  • Greg Montaño

    I’m in almost this exact same situation. I have a droidx and contract is up in early July. That might be too late for me use your idea. I’ve been researching researching the idea of using a 7″ 4g tablet as a phone and porting my number to google voice and using Groove IP app for calls and txting. The advantage is lower monthly cost and large screen and the downside is that it won’t fit in my pocket. I refuse to get internet at home since I’m barely there. I like the Padfone concept if it ever comes to the US but I’d lose unlimited to get it. Any thoughts?

    • racedaychamp

      You can probably “early upgrade” for like an extra $20, I had a Droid X and that’s what I did, so now I have a Razr Maxx and unlimited data for 2 more years.

      • Greg Montaño

        Not sure I want to continue paying for minutes and txting even if I get unlimited data. Also, I want a giant screen as I don’t have internet at home. We use our phones as our main internet devices unless at work. 7″ 4g tablet seems like a good compromise but I fear I’ll be unhappy on both fronts instead of happy on the phone front and unhappy on the data front.

    • Michael Crider

      I’ve been tempted to buy the Galaxy Tab 7.7 (Verizon LTE) and try to slide my LTE SIM card into it, then mod the hell out of it to get phone calls working. They won’t let you upgrade straight from a smartphone to a tablet and keep unlimited data, but I suppose you could try to buy one second-hand.

      • Greg Montaño

        I don’t have a sim card but with google voice and GrooveIP calls and txting comes in over data. Without the need for a voice or txting plan I’d happily pay $50 for 5gb or so. Unlimited for $30 would be better obviously but I don’t think any unlimited tablet plans exist currently. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I looked at the 7.7 but I’m waiting to see this quad core tablet is coming or not.

  • I basically did the same thing. Got a Galaxy Nexus and Popped it on T-Mobile ($30 per month, unlimited Data+Text and 100 minutes) and used my upgrade with At&t on an iPhone 4s. I love having both. That way if an Apple Fanboy gets all high and mighty I smack them down by whiping out both phones and show him with the Nexus can do that the 4s cant. I also do it the other way around when an Android guy brags about his phone…It’s fun being open minded!

  • Lunchbox

    You sir are a true hero 🙂

  • Hawkeye

    Here is my question Michael, and excuse it if it is a stupid one. I am in pretty much the same situation as you were: Grandfathered unlimited with an upgrade I haven’t used yet. I have a droid X. Your plan sounds great except, what happens if I get the Iphone 4S at the subsidized price, sell it and continue using my droid X then later decide maybe I want to try the Iphone 5 (probably LTE) when it comes out or a 4GLTE android phone? Would I then not have to upgrade my service to 4G, voiding my previous contract and establishing a new one under the new guidelines? I would love to put your plan into action, but it may be for naught as I would want to go from 3G to 4GLTE later.

    • matt

      yeah it sounds like if you don’t upgrade to 4G now, then you will lose the unlimited data when you finally decide to upgrade.

      I’m in a similar situation as you are. I have a Droid Incredible. I was going to hold out till iPhone5 came out but now I’ll probably get the Droid Razr. Maybe hold out till the last day before the new policy goes into effect and get the best phone on the market at that time.

  • SuiteLeo

    does anyone know that actual date that they are going to do this? i mean summer can mean tomorrow or june 21st.

  • ERN

    i did the exact same thing as the OP

  • TJ Noor

    This doesn’t really work in all places. In order to actually get the Iphone 4S you have to upgrade your phone. They don’t let you LEAVE the store unless they activate it. There is a 24 hour wait period. If that 24 hours is not satisfied they will charge you full price. HOWEVER, the sales person behind the desk said that you can deactivate the phone keep a clean ESN and still sell it after you deactivated it. So I think that this works for some places not all places.

    The sales person Also told me that you could always purchase this online and have it shipped to your house. That way it isn’t even opened and you can still sell it.

    This isn’t a big deal but it is worth noting that this doesn’t ALWAYS work and you won’t get one that is unopened. But you can get one opened, keep the plastic on, keep everything intact, let them activated it, List it on #bay, deactivate it the next day, and ship it off.

    Same process, Same price, just an opened box

  • Stanman

    If I pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S3 before June 28th, will that ensure that I keep my unlimited data plan. I am due for an upgrade.

  • This isn’t that bad. Now instead of paying 30 dollars a month for data for each family members phone and then a plan for a wifi hotspot and another for an ipad, now people will be able to pay 30 a month for all those devices.

  • jrs45

    Does anyone think I can do exactly what the OP did, but then on top of that shortly after claim my current phone died, then buy an upgraded phone on the market (I only have a droid x), and still keep my grandfathered plan?