With more and more phone companies (and, indeed, companies who have nothing to do with the phone market) getting on the unlimited data sim train, it can often get confusing, not least because a lot of the time, unlimited doesn’t always mean just that. Furthermore, an unlimited data sim may come with prohibitive caveats, meaning that you are either paying over the odds, are unable to access to use large amounts of data without penalty, or even actually access the internet when you need it most.
So before you jump in, grab a PAC code and commit to that super cheap deal you have just seen, it’s worth not only checking the finer details, but also how much data you actually use. Are you going to be paying for something that you only use 30% of each month? Is the sim going to be in a mobile phone where there is ‘always on’ usage needed, or a tablet that only gets used on the daily commute? Could your phone also do with an upgrade to make best use of your data? Here are some common considerations and some simple answers.
Do I Need Unlimited Data?
It’s great to have a sim and not have to worry about ever running out of data. However, this is often overpriced and many people do not use anywhere near as much data as they actually think they do. Some networks will charge a set price for unlimited data, but will drop the price dramatically (often by as much as 50%) for only a small step down in terms of data allowance, which means that truly unlimited data suddenly presents poor value for money. Unless you are running your entire home off of one data sim, it is likely that on a month to month basis, you will not use more than one of the lesser data packages available. Websites such as Compare My Mobile provide excellent opportunities to compare data plans side by side.
When Do I Need Data?
The excitement of having truly unlimited data will often be crushed completely by finding out it is not available, or is dramatically limited in speed at certain times. Many networks anticipate that customers will use large amounts of data in the evening or on weekends, and will restrict speeds, meaning that you effectively have unlimited ‘dial up speed’ internet. So if you do need truly unlimited data, look at when you are going to use it, and make your choice accordingly. Naturally, an unlimited data plan with no fair usage policy and no time constraints is nearly always going to cost more, but the headache of being unable to perform the most basic of tasks is going to feel like a real uneven trade-off.
What Devices Will I Be Using?
Whether you plan to pop the sim into a laptop, tablet or mobile phone, it is worth looking to see what restrictions networks place on device usage. For good reason, many still will not allow tethering (where the phone becomes a hotspot and other devices use Wi-Fi) and some will provide a ‘data only’ sim, meaning that there is no phone number attached; this then turns your phone into a very expensive mobile hotspot. This also makes it twice as important to see what call and text allowances come with a ‘data heavy’ plan; you don’t want to be having to go out and take out a second plan and negate any savings.
How Do I Track My Data Use?
For anyone looking to closely monitor their data use in order to find the most cost effective plan, there are a range of apps and facilities at one’s disposal. Nearly all phones have a ‘data warning’ option, meaning you can be informed when you are about to hit your data cap (great if data doesn’t cut off but is chargeable over the limit!) or many networks will allow you to ‘opt out’ and not access data once the cap has been reached. In addition, there are plenty of free apps that give accurate, real time data usage information, meaning you can check on your most busy data use periods and look to most effectively use your allowance.
Whilst these may sound like the answer to your data allowance woes, they are all common sense considerations; sensible data usage is a matter of personal opinion, and no one network is going to cover every angle for what you need; finding what you definitely need and are willing to sacrifice is down to personal choice.