Ask Us: Do I Need A Data Plan On An Old Phone?

Darkagesmom asks:

We have no data plan our our current Verizon family plan. I cannot upgrade my phone till next year. My father has a Verizon Palm phone he no longer uses, and has offered it to me so I can text my preteen easier (my phone does not have a querty keyboard and makes texting her hard for me). Can I add his phone to my plan without adding data? I know a new phone like it would have to add data, but that is not an option for me right now. Thanks for answering a stupid question from a mom stuck in the dark ages with her current phone.

Your question is a valid one.  As time passes and new people work for Verizon Wireless, the wisdom of those who worked for the company before 2007 becomes ancient history with each new year.  However, your question is easy to answer while hard to explain.  So I will do just that.

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Can I Activate An Old Phone Without Data?

In general, the answer to this depends on the model and the time frame that it was sold.  For feature phones (not smartphones), this will be a list of 3G-capable phones that were sold in 2010.  This list was known as the “3G Multimedia” phone list.  It included the LG Chocolate Touch, LG Env 3, LG Env Touch, Samsung Alias 2, Samsung Rogue, Samsung Reality, and some others.  We will cover these phones in depth in a future post, but these models will always require some sort of data plan, even if purchased used.

Now, if you have a smartphone, this is somewhat of an easier case.  Since late 2007, any new smartphones have required a data plan on Verizon Wireless.  Models that were sold before that date, even those that were on the shelf on the day data plan requirements went into effect, are grandfathered under the old system.  This means, for an older PDA phone or smartphone, a data plan is not required.  However, the capability to send and receive data is automatically included on your plan when you have such a phone active.  This gives you a few choices to consider, which we’ll cover in a moment.

Which Smartphones Can I Use Without Data?

The 2007 cutoff basically means that phones released before November of 2007 don’t have to have a $15 or $30 data plan.  This includes any Palm from the Treo and Centro era.  There was a gap in time - about three years - between the Centro and the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus launch in 2010.  If it says “Pre” or “Pixi” on it, it requires data.  If it says “Treo” or “Centro,” it doesn’t.

All Android phones came out after 2007, so all Android phones will always require a monthly data plan.

For Windows phones (pre-Windows 7 phones), most older models will not require data.  There were only a handful of Windows phones sold on Verizon after 2007, including the HTC Touch Pro models, HTC Touch Diamond, HTC Ozone, HTC Imagio, and LG Fathom.

The original KIN phones, called One and Two, will require data, while the refreshed versions of these models will not.  It is not the recommendation of PhoneCan to have and/or use an original KIN phone.  Trust me, I had it.

Blackberry is a bit of a different story.  Verizon started requiring data plans on its Blackberry phone line earlier in the year, and it was retroactive to earlier models.  So any Blackberry you try to activate on Verizon, even the archaic 7250, requires one of the two data plans.

So What Are The Options?

Most people are familiar with the current data plans on Verizon Wireless, and we covered it when it changed.  But in a nutshell, the data plans look like this:

$15/mo for 150MB/mo, includes personal email
$30/mo for unlimited MB/mo, includes personal email
$45/mo for unlimited MB/mo, includes company and/or personal email

But before 2007, data plans looked like this:

$0.015/KB (which works out to$15.36/MB)
$45/mo for unlimited MB/mo, any email included

Starting in November 2007, Verizon added the $30/mo for unlimited MB/mo option to some phones.  Most older models you come across can use the $30 option, while others might only have the $45 option.

The $45 plan is exclusively for certain types of business email, typically those on Microsoft Exchange or Blackberry Enterprise servers.  At the user-level, you don’t use this plan much any more.  For most people, personal email works for their small business.  For large corporations, they typically have your line on their corporate account where they get much better rates.

So, in the case of older smartphones that didn’t require data, you will probably have one of the following options:

$0.015/KB (Pay-per-use rate)
$29.99 for unlimited with personal email
$44.99 for unlimited with personal or business email

Some models will NOT have the $30 option.

Aside from the options above, there is the choice to block data.  This is put on top of the pay-per-use rate, and blocks your phone from accessing the Internet.  The down side to this, though, is that it will block any picture messages, as smartphones retrieve picture messages through the Internet connection.  Also, while in extended coverage (roaming that’s part of your regular plan), you might not get text messages either (that depends on the roaming agreement between Verizon and the other company).

For the people who aren’t expecting to use smartphones for data, blocking can be a viable option.  If you don’t send or receive a lot of picture messages, you really shouldn’t notice much difference.  If this is an issue for you, then you might be fine chancing the pay-per-use rate.  You’d want to keep an eye on it (on Verizon, dial #DATA and hit send to see a report of your data usage).  If there’s any chance of yourself or a child getting into the phone and hitting random keys or going online, you probably want to have the data block enabled.  This can only be done with a Verizon Wireless representative, either on the phone or in a store.

How To Activate An Old Smartphone Without Data

You can activate phones online, with the automated phone system, in a store, or over the phone with customer care.

If you activate with the automated system, I can guarantee you that the system will automatically put the $45 plan on the line.  Online will probably do the same, but we were unable to verify that, as we haven’t had an old smartphone in some time.

Over the phone or in the store, you’re likely to run into someone who insists that it requires data.  Don’t get too upset with this, this is most likely because they started AFTER the 2007 required data started, so from their point of view, all smartphones require data.  Despite this, data plans are NOT required on pre-2008 or later smartphones, and the rep will have to do a little extra work to put your desired plan on the line.  Remember, there is the small chance that you have a phone that cannot do the $30 data plan, of which there is nothing that the rep can do to override.

If I Activate Pay-Per-Use, How Do I Avoid Charges?

On older Palm OS phones (Treo 600, 650, 700p, 750, and Centro), you want to avoid Web most of all.  Don’t set up any email accounts.  Don’t use any update programs, or download applications that access the web.  And be aware that some WMA music files might try to verify their licenses over the Internet.

For an older Windows phone (Treo 700w, Samsung i730, i760, HTC 6900, 6800, 6700, and others), you want to avoid Internet Explorer, updates, error reporting, don’t set up email accounts, and be weary of any music files that need to verify their licenses.

As stated earlier, old Blackberry phones, regardless of time frame, require data.  There is no pay-per-use option.

Some phones are just too old.  Running into one is rare.  If you have a Treo 300 or a Kyocera QCP-6035, you’re better off calling The Smithsonian to see if they’d like to archive it.

Why Is Data Required?

This is the subject of an entire article.  In a nutshell, there are two reasons.

First is business.  Seeing as how Verizon Wireless is a for-profit business, requiring data made some sense.  It’s incoming revenue, simple as that.  If you want, however, you can blame the existence of the iPhone, which was the first device on the market to require a data plan.  Once one company did it, the door was open for other companies to do the same.

A little more involved, however, is the fact that as smartphones became more popular and more common, they would often go to the Internet even without the use accessing it.  The phone effectively “pinged” the Internet every so often, which brought the pay-per-use crowd random usage charges of $10 to $30.  Instead of constantly crediting these charges, it was easier to say that the phone required data.  So in a way, when the carrier says the phone requires data, there’s truth behind it.  If you imagine today’s smartphones with their partial cloud-based information, you wouldn’t want to have a Droid or Palm Pre on pay-per-use data.  The bill would make you black out.

The second big reason is what I just eluded to with modern phones on archaic pay-per-use data plans: things have changed.

In 2007, phones like the HTC 6900 and Samsung i760 could be seen randomly transmitting data every now and again.  You really couldn’t do much to stop them.  As smartphones evolved into more efficient devices, they also evolved into Internet-rich devices.  As browsers got better, programs became apps you can download through the phone, and personal email became live email, the need for Internet on a smartphone evolved.  Today, buying a smartphone with no intention of Internet use is much like buying a new TV with no intention of having TV service.  The service and the device have merged into one system.  Asking for something that defeats the purpose of it’s own existence is futile.  In 2007, smartphones were well on their way to this reality.

Is It Worth Getting An Old Smartphone Without Data?

The final question to this is, “is it worth it?”  If you’re looking for an old smartphone, and don’t want a data plan (even at $15/mo), then yes, it’s worth it.  You must have some reason that justifies it.  If you just want a Treo 700w on your hip for the sake of looks, then you missed the boat by a few years.

If you want a modern phone without data, then you’re digging for the wrong device.  I can attest that the Android phone in my pocket would be useless and unused without an Internet connection.  If you want a planner without Internet, your best bet is a digital planner or old-fashioned notebook.  If you’re lucky enough to have an old Treo sitting around, and don’t mind an ancient and very large device in your pocket, then you’re good to go.

Just remember one thing, if nothing else.  If it’s older, most likely you do not need a data plan.  If it’s newer, you will.  If there’s any question, ask your Verizon representative for more information.

Best of luck to you!

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