Whether you camped out in line and picked up an iPhone 5 this morning or upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy S III instead (or any other smartphone), the stakes are the same for Verizon Wireless customers. In order to qualify for that sweet subsidiary pricing, you have to upchuck your grandfathered unlimited data plan and swallow a relatively new Share Everything plan. But hey, don't worry about it, because as Verizon's Chief Financial Officer explains, "Unlimited is just a word; it doesn't really mean anything."
Um, actually it does. We double-checked with Merriam-Webster just to make sure, and sure enough, it's in there with not one, but three definitions. One of them defines unlimited as "boundless, infinite."
It's not totally fair to take Fran Shammo's statement literally, but no matter how you slice it, it's a poor choice of words on a sensitive topic. The trend in wireless is, for the most part, away from unlimited data plans and towards shared caps. At least that's what AT&T and Verizon have done.
Shammo's statement came during a Goldman Sachs conference in New York (you can view the webcast or read a PDF transcript on Verizon's website), and what he was trying to convey is how popular his company's Share Everything plans have become.
"We have more people going to shared than we actually anticipated. And the thing that really surprised us is we have a lot of people coming off unlimited to go to shared," Shammo said. "So what customers are understanding and through our good sales routine is once you explain to a customer their usage on a monthly basis, unlimited is just a word, it doesn't really mean anything and that people don't really -- I think a lot of consumers think they consume a lot more data than they really do. So that whole unlimited thing I thing I think is going by the wayside and they see the benefit of going to the shared."
His comments make more sense when put into context, but at the same time, he fails to mention that customers don't have a choice in the matter when upgrading. Not a good choice, anyway. If you were to pick up the new iPhone 5, for example, you could keep your existing unlimited data plan, but only if you pay full price for the handset ($649 for the 16GB model). If you want the subsidized pricing ($199 for 16GB), you have to commit to two years of Share Everything. In that way, the numbers are surely skewed.