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What Is a Smartphone Data Plan?

By Rebecca Mecomber
Updated: May 16, 2024

Many cellular phone companies provide a service called a smartphone data plan for customers who have smartphones. Smartphone plans differ from basic cell phone plans. Cell phone plans offer voice and text messaging services. A smartphone data plan offers a voice plan and text messaging service with an additional Web access plan, also known as a data plan. The data plan allows the user to access email, browse the Internet, access global positioning satellite (GPS) service and more.

More sophisticated than a mobile phone, a smartphone is a small, handheld electronic device that gives the user the ability to send and receive phone calls and access the Internet. The smartphone might have a touchscreen or small textual buttons that the user can use to manage the various Internet applications, such as a web browser or email program. To access the Internet, the smartphone is equipped with a small data chip that accesses data from an Internet-connected cellular network.

Travelers and commuters can benefit from smartphone data plans because the plans are extremely convenient for mobile web browsing, real-time location mapping and emailing. Cell phone carriers advertise data plan terms on a price tier organized into bandwidth allowances. For example, a carrier might offer 2-megabyte, 1-gigabyte and 2-gigabyte data plans, each at a different price. Customers usually subscribe to data plans that are best suited for their mobile needs. Should a customer use more bandwidth than his or her subscription allows, he or she typically receives an overage penalty and is charged accordingly.

A smartphone data plan cost might be an additional fee added to normal mobile phone service charges. To reduce overage penalty charges, which can be quite costly, the user often can download email and other Web material while connected to a wireless network, such as a home network or a free public Wi-Fi hotspot. Smartphone Internet activity on a wireless network, when it is possible, might not count toward the data plan usage. Therefore, connecting to a wireless network can save money.

When choosing a data plan, one should consider the various plans and overage charges carefully. A frequent traveler might prefer a larger, more expensive data plan that will allow him or her carefree Internet service without worrying about costly overage fees. A casual user who checks his or her email or who infrequently browses the Web might benefit from a smaller data plan with its lower cost. Cell phone carriers usually are more than happy to help prospective customers sift through the various types and tiers of smartphone data plans.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon974524 — On Oct 18, 2014

I am interested in a plan with unlimited phone, text and data. but under data it says 2GB. If it is unlimited why does it say 2gb? This will be my first phone I will use for internet data so I need to understand this. It seems like a contradiction.

By Markerrag — On Apr 05, 2014

@Soulfox -- that is a brilliant way to keep people in a constant upgrade cycle, but there is a drawback -- a lot of those plans lock people into one phone for two years and offer hefty penalties for those who want to upgrade faster than that.

You'll notice, however, that a lot of companies have come up with new plans lately that allow people to upgrade every year to deal with that limitation.

By Soulfox — On Apr 04, 2014

Smartphone plans are also the brilliant inventions of mobile telecommunications companies. Often, those are a hybrid of both a typical smartphone plan and a financing agreement all in one. The brilliant part of them comes in on the financing in -- a user can plunk down $200, walk out with the most awesome phone on the block and not think about financing, say, $600 throughout the life of a plan.

Without that financing element, it is very likely a lot fewer smartphones would be sold.

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