AT&T Wireless customers can save 10 percent to 15 percent a month with the No. 2 carrier's new Mobile Share Value plans, according to a Consumer Reports analysis.
The plans, announced this morning and available starting Sunday Dec. 8, come fast on the heels of our 12th annual cell service and phone ratings report, which applauded T-Mobile for being the lowest-priced major national carrier with the most honest phone pricing, while AT&T and Verizon Wireless were highest priced. (Check our cell phone buying guide for more details.)
AT&T's new plans change that dynamic by providing more value. You spoke, and the giant AT&T listened. "Our customers told us loud and clear that they want more value and no contract," Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman, said.
For example, a couple who uses only 400 voice minutes, sends just 200 text messages, and consumes a mere 500MB of data per month with one smart phone and one mostly voice flip phone will pay AT&T $90 a month, down $25 from $115 under the current two-year contract-plan pricing and only slightly more than T-Mobile's $80 per month. That makes AT&T the second-lowest-priced major carrier for this low-use customer type and leaves Sprint and Verizon vulnerable as the most expensive at $110 per month.
A family of four that uses 1,800 minutes of talk time, 7,600 text messages (kids!), and 4GB of data per month across two smart phones and two slider phones will save even more with the AT&T value plans. This family can now pay $160 a month, down $50 from $210. Again, that's still behind T-Mobile's bargain $110 per month, but well below Sprint's $200 and Verizon's $210.
Even lower-priced deals are available from smaller no-contract and prepaid carriers, of course, but most consumers buy from the big four.
AT&T's pricing shake-up now leaves Verizon looking overpriced. Once the undisputed king of service satisfaction, Verizon was matched by low-priced upstart T-Mobile in 17 of 23 metro areas where we have ratings, making T-Mobile a steal.
Meanwhile, AT&T's overall ratings are not meaningfully different from Verizon's in 11 of 23 rated metro areas, including Boston, Dallas, the District of Columbia, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, and Tampa, Fla. And nationwide, AT&T earned our highest rating for the reliability of its 4G cellular service, while Verizon 4G was merely so-so, according to the judgment of 58,000 subscribers surveyed earlier this fall by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
So AT&T is suddenly back in the game, and Verizon may need to re-examine its lavish prices, which is good news for consumers all around.