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Why Verizon’s 4G Limits May be the Droid Bionic’s Achilles Heel

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The Droid Bionic might be the best 4G LTE phone you can buy, but Verizon’s limits will prevent the device from living up to its full potential. Both Motorola’s Droid Bionic and Verizon’s 4G network are speed demons, but what’s the use if you have to worry about burning through your data allocation before the month even ends?

Rationing gigabytes and worrying about streaming multimedia content will damper many users’ excitement over 4G. Instead of enjoying the Droid Bionic to its full potential, they’ll have to consider the cost of data every time they consider downloading a large file, or want to stream any multimedia content.

(Click here for our full Droid Bionic Review here.)

The problem here is that most consumers don’t have a clue what a gigabyte is, much less how much bandwidth it takes to do any of the cool things Verizon promises you can do on its 4G devices.

Verizon offered unlimited 4G access when it launched the HTC Thunderbolt back in March.  For $29.99 per month, Thunderbolt owners could run wild and even use the mobile spot feature without paying additional fees. That party ended back in July when Verizon started charging an extra $29.99 per month for the mobile hotspot feature to early adopters who were already signed up for Verizon’s unlimited 4G plan.

Verizon now offers new 4G LTE subscribers decidedly less-attractive plan options. The new 2GB per month base plan now costs $30 per month. There’s also a 5 GB ($50/month) and 10 GB  ($80/month) plan available. Overage charges are $10 per GB. The optional mobile hotspot feature is an extra $20, but gives you another 2GB of bandwidth to play with. All of which can add up quickly.

Verizon obviously needs to make a profit, but unfortunately data caps will make users think twice before actually using 4G LTE in ways that really make Verizon’s network shine. Want to stream Netflix movies or watch a ballgame through MLB’s At Bat 2011 app? Better check your Verizon account, unless you’re willing to get bumped to the next $10 tier.  Want to axe your home Internet service and replace it with your Droid Bionic and 4G LTE? Forget about it unless you managed to get grandfathered in like I am.

4G Downloads eat up limited data fast.

4G Downloads eat up limited data fast.

All things considered, $60 for unlimited data and the mobile hotspot functionality is a price I’m happy to pay.

The keyword in this for me is “unlimited.” As in, I don’t have to tell my wife to not watch movies via Slingbox or listen to music via Slacker when traveling for fear of overage fees. It means I don’t have to worry when visiting my in-laws, who ironically have a .5 to 1 Mbps Verizon broadband connection. I don’t have to worry about uploading and downloading large files with connected notebooks or tablets. Unlimited also means I don’t have to worry about checking in on my Verizon Wireless account to figure out when I get a new batch of gigabytes.

Sadly, Droid Bionic users are always going to have data limits looming over their shoulders. Even those with deep pockets will be reminded to throttle back every time they opent their Verizon Wireless bills.  During my three-week trip to the East Coast this summer I pumped more than 17GB of data through my HTC  Thunderbolt. The total bill for data for the month was $60 thanks to being on the no longer available unlimited plan. Under Verizon’s new plans the cost would’ve been $190, $180 or $160 depending on which tier I was subscribed to.  If I had one of the newer 4G plans I likely would’ve had to have kept an eye on how much data I was using, and rationed my usage accordingly.

Here’s an LG Revolution ad that highlights a bunch of the things you can do with Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Think about how many of those thing you would hesitate doing if you have to to pay overage fees. The first thing I’d stop doing is sharing my 4G connection with friends at tech conferences.

So what’s the answer here? I’m not suggesting Verizon grant unlimited access to anyone with a 4G phone, but how about a truly unlimited plan for those that are willing to pay for it? Yes, users can technically use as much data as they wish and pay a varying amount each month, but the lack of an unlimited plan will keep the Droid Bionic and Verizon’s 4G LTE network from living up to their potential.

Xavier Lanier is the publisher of Gotta Be Mobile and a photographer. He uses too many devices to count, but his current favorites are the iPhone 5s, HTC One, Nikon D800 and Sony RX 100M II. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

21 Comments

  1. Gunitsoilder22

    09/07/2011 at 9:36 pm

    I got grandfathered in to the unlimited data plan for 30 bucks a month are u saying that I no longer have my unlimited data for 30 bucks a month

    • Geri O

      09/07/2011 at 11:16 pm

      No.

  2. Xavier Lanier

    09/07/2011 at 11:22 pm

    You should be fine since you’re grandfathered in should you upgrade to the Droid Bionic. The truth of the matter is that there will be very few 4G subscribers moving from the Thunderbolt to the Bionic. 

    • Gunitsoilder22

      09/08/2011 at 2:59 am

      Why is that

  3. Matthew

    09/07/2011 at 11:27 pm

    This article pretty much sums up the reason I don’t have a smartphone.  I was thinking about getting one until these pathetic data caps were introduced.  But now there’s no point.  The price of wireless data is too high and the data caps are too small.  Its not worth the money. 

  4. Anonymous

    09/07/2011 at 11:55 pm

    I’d like to see an article about how quickly it takes to get to 2GB on Verizon.  For instance, how many visits to Facebook and for how long?  How many videos and pictures can I upload to Facebook?  How many YouTube clips can I watch and for how long?  Right now, I don’t have a smartphone, but my contract with Sprint is up and I can switch at any time if I like.  I’d like to know whether I should sacrifice coverage for data usage with Sprint, or if I’d be OK going to Verizon.  I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Verizon’s new tiered packages, but no actual examples.  Could someone watch an hour of YouTube videos on Sprint, but only 30 minutes on Verizon before they eclipsed 2GB?  I’m sure I’m not the only one who would find this info useful.  Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.

    • Jiimmyjohn

      09/08/2011 at 5:50 am

       I use facebook everyday and downlaod youtube vids everynight before bed browse internet all day use ebay everyday   Im at 1.03 gigs and my cycle ends the 18th its the 8th today.

      • Jiimmyjohn

        09/08/2011 at 5:52 am

         I think 2 gigs is plenty unless your using netflix or downloading torrents

  5. Struzzin78

    09/08/2011 at 2:10 am

    I tried out the 2gig hotspot and after 2 days I was at the limit. 8 episodes of dora via netflix and I was at 1.9gig. Not a good deal at all. I cancelled the hotspot.

  6. Jason Rezendes1975

    09/08/2011 at 4:48 am

    I’m under my return policy for the thunderbolt. Should I return it for the bionic?

    • Xavier Lanier

      09/08/2011 at 2:52 pm

      Yes. Overall the Bionic is a better phone in my opinion. 

  7. Jeff

    09/08/2011 at 7:50 pm

    Is there an extra charge to use your Bionic as a Hot Spot for your other devices if you have been grandfathered in with the unlimited data for $30?

    • Xavier Lanier

      09/12/2011 at 5:49 pm

      Yes, there’s a $30 fee for the mobile hotspot feature with the Droid Bionic or any other Verizon 4G phone. 

      • Ltferguson1971

        09/22/2011 at 8:16 pm

        So, if I currently have the unlimitedted plan (grandfathered in) then I could upgrade to the bionic and pay an extra $30 a month to make it a hot spot? In doing so, if I have the unlimited plan then I could use my droid bionic saw my wireless Internet for my house and not have to worry about how much data I am using? What speed is the verizon bandwidth?

  8. Steve

    10/06/2011 at 7:39 am

    Sprint is offering unlimited data with their iPhone 4S plan.  And it’s unthrottled (unlike VZ, AT&T and TMO).

  9. jak

    01/21/2012 at 2:55 pm

    I have a bionic and a razr and only unlimited on the bionic I have had the razr for one day and already I am at my 2GB limit this is really rediculous its not like it costs them extra when we use data if it did im sure I would get a letter from them as I use over 100GB every month on my bionic

  10. Mngent42

    02/19/2012 at 2:07 pm

    Recently got a good deal on a Thunderbolt with Verizon,, but it is limited to 1GB. However, it appears one way around the limit is to setup the phone to use your Wifi for data. Obviously you’re paying for 4G on your phone AND for home Internet (something I’m sure many are trying to avoid), but if much of your data activity is near a Wifi connection – it’s one way to get more than 2GB of data in a month!

  11. Lawrence H. Cook

    04/02/2012 at 3:51 pm

    This phone is crap as far as I’m concerned.  I’ve paid out the @ss for this phone and now I’m burning through the data like mad, and I don’t even know what is doing it.  I’m done with Verizon, their 4G wireless, and their “authorized” (self) dealers.  What a bunch of B S.

  12. Baseball4all149

    04/17/2012 at 2:34 pm

    Quick question. I bought an iphone 4S in june i believe, when verizon still had their “$30 for unlimted data a month” deal.I got a little bored with the phone so recently i swapped a buddy for his Droid Bionic. Do i have to worry about the 2 gigs a month garbage now?

    • Baseball4all149

      04/17/2012 at 2:36 pm

      ***I apologize, it was just the Iphone 4.

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