Verizon's new plans offer higher rates but more data

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Verizon is giving you more for more. The nation's No. 1 wireless carrier's new set of plans greatly pumps up its data limits in exchange for a little more money, adding a bunch of features that its competitors have been touting for a while: Canada and Mexico roaming, "carryover" data, and a management app with the ability to switch your plan at any time.

"Listening to [users] and looking at their behavior and getting the feedback, they wanted more value out of the plan, they wanted more data, they wanted the carryover," said Jeff Cha, Verizon's VP of experience design. With the average Verizon user now consuming 2.7GB of data per line, it was time to increase data bucket sizes, he said.

Like the previous set of plans, the new Verizon Plan comes in five sizes: 2GB for $35, 4GB for $50, 8GB for $70, 16GB for $90 and 24GB for $110. Add $20 for each phone or $10 for each tablet or hotspot used on the plan. In general, these prices are $5-10 more than they were previously, but you get 30-50 pecent more data.

Nobody will be forced to switch plans, Cha said. "Our philosophy has always been to let customers stay in the plans they're in," he said.

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Along with the bigger data allotments, Verizon is adding features that we've seen Sprint and T-Mobile promoting over the past year. You can roll over a full month's worth of data into the next month, but it expires after a month. Canada and Mexico LTE roaming as part of your data bucket come along for the ride, but they cost $2/day unless you're on a $90 or higher plan. Both of those features match the limits AT&T has put on them, but Sprint and T-Mobile give you more liberty.

A new "safety mode," for $5 on the lower plans and included in the two higher ones, prevents overages and instead throttles you to 128kbps, much like Sprint's and T-Mobile's systems do.

Verizon is also extremely proud of its new account-management app, which lets you monitor your data usage in near-real time and change your plan size at will, including pro-rating the price if you switch mid-month.

Still Reliable, Still Limited

Verizon still has the nation's best network, according to our Fastest Mobile Networks tests, and the nation's most faithful users. Its "porting ratio" to T-Mobile, the rate at which customers flee to the cheaper carrier, is lower than any of its competitors. So it doesn't feel pushed to make huge changes.

Comparing these plans to T-Mobile's and Sprint's becomes a false comparison, then. Both of the smaller carriers offer lower rates, free international roaming, and truly unlimited LTE options. But nobody goes to Verizon because it offers the best list of features per dollar. They go because of network quality and, especially, reach. In our Fastest Mobile Networks driving, we've found for the past two years that T-Mobile can nearly match Verizon in its number of city wins, but Verizon triumphs inside buildings and in outlying areas.

For techies and phone geeks, Verizon is also still hobbled by its old CDMA radio infrastructure. Because of its CDMA base, it can't use many international phones and can't activate non-Verizon, non-Apple branded devices through its app. The company has said it'll accept "LTE-only" devices at some point in the future, which would let it activate the many phones in the world that don't have CDMA, but it keeps pushing the date forward.

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