You don’t need a data plan


I willingly raised my cell phone bill by 17% recently.

That sounds punishing and predatory, until I tell you that it went from $30/month to $35/month.

While my new plan had a limit of minutes and texts per month, my new plan gives me unlimited talk and text, so I no longer need to keep track of how many minutes I’ve used.

Sure, laugh at my quaintness, but how much is your cell phone bill? According to a recent JD Power report, the average is $73/month. If I’m paying $35, that means that, statistically, some poor soul out there is paying $111/month. My condolences.

But I’m not bragging. I’m not even going to suggest that you ditch your smartphone. (I’ve already done that.)

Instead, let’s look at what separates my situation from yours. I’m going to assume that you have a smartphone and plan on keeping it. That’s fine.

But one thing you don’t need, even with a smartphone plan? You don’t need a data plan.

Needs versus wants

Let me repeat it again: you don’t need a data plan.

I’m not saying that you need to ditch your smartphone or all of your apps. With the prevalence and ubiquity of WiFi signals, you can run your smartphone over WiFi and still get almost all of the functionality out of it that you usually do.

A few workarounds

But what about if you’re totally lost and you need maps and turn by turn directions? What if you’re in your car?

But see, that exists too. You can download maps and use them offline. You can even use your smartphone’s internal GPS to see where you are on the map, as well as apps that will offer directions.

But what if you need to check Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp/Periscope/etc/etc/etc?

You don’t. There will be some times where you won’t be connected, but with the prevalence of WiFi hot spots, these times be interspersed in between larger moments of connectedness. Think of it like being on a plane; what happened when you were in the air and not connected? Chances are, nothing bad. You won’t be gone for long.

The pleasure of logging things out

But I’m not here to make your life more difficult just so you can save money. No, I suggest ditching your data plan because of the pleasure reduced focus on technology can bring.

Without the constant pings and distraction of apps, news sites, and other attention-stealers, you can be more present in the space that you’re in. And that can feel good. And if you don’t believe me, answer me this: how did it feel when you spent hours answering emails and checking Facebook? Did you feel more connected, or just exhausted?

And lest we forget, without a data plan, you won’t be totally out of contact. You’ll still be accessible via text and phone.

So more presence and focus, less distraction, a lower bill, and without too much change in behavior. How does this not sound like a good idea?

Question your assumptions here

Just because a data plan is the default way that people around you interact with their phones, doesn’t mean you need to. After all, the phone companies are just trying to sell you things. And we all know about what advertising means.

You don’t even need to make the switch permanently. Try it out for a month. Turn off your data, leave your WiFi on, and see how it goes. It will require a little adjustment, and the transition might not be seamless, but I think after only a short period of time you’ll start to see the benefits.

Try it and let me know. When you’re back in range, of course.


  1. mpinard

    Oh, this strikes fear into my very heart! I am just now making the rounds and comparing plans, so this is extremely timely… but I was considering piggy-backing my internet access to my phone plan, which throws your argument out the window, as many plans now share internet device data with phone data. Doesn’t it? Tell me if I’m wrong!

    • Mike @ Unlikely Radical

      Well, given the ubiquity of Skype and Google Talk/Voice/Hangouts, I think one could just as easily argue that “you don’t need a phone plan”.

      There are advantages to “bundling” in that you can save money, though at the expense of a certain amount of flexibility. I can’t say one is categorically better than the other.

      But for me, the reason why I don’t need a data plan is more than just money saved. It’s also increased focus and reduced distraction.

      I’m not familiar with plans that bundle home internet with phone data (though I haven’t really looked recently). What have you found?

      • mpinard

        After MUCH hemming and hawing, I’ve combined my family’s phone data with my internet data. *Cue panic* It requires more careful watch, at least at the beginning, and some curtailed video watching (probably good for your increased focus idea). It’s in the same ballpark as the bill my family plan had going before (but now my internet is $30 rather than $50). *shrug*

Comments are closed.