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.