The increasing number of smartphones that can browse the Internet and download additional content have made data plans a necessary addition for many Verizon Wireless customers. While voice and text messaging are handled separately, data charges include Internet browsing, video and music streaming, email, photo uploads and some application usage. These functions can be accessed from a variety of devices and may have additional limits or charges depending on the plan.
Depending on what the device supports, data access is available on Verizon's 3G or 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks. If the device is 4G compatible, data will be transferred over 3G in areas that do not offer 4G access. Verizon's 4G LTE network offers average download speeds of 5 to 12 Mbps, compared to 600 Kbps to 1.4 Mbps for its 3G coverage.
As of May 2011, three different categories of phones access data on Verizon's network. Phones with 3G access that are not required to have a data plan by Verizon may access the Internet and additional features for a per MB fee. Verizon requires phones categorized as 3G multimedia phones to have a minimum monthly data plan. This plan includes 25 MB of data use, with a smaller per MB fee after the allowance than phones without a data plan. Verizon requires all smartphones to carry an unlimited data plan. Smartphones include all iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices. These plans are the same even if the phone has 4G support.
Verizon's network also offers support for tablets, netbooks, USB modems and mobile hotspots. As of May 2011, plans are offered allowing either 5 or 10 GB of data use per month for all devices, while tablets also have the option of 1 to 3 GB per month plans. From the 3 GB plan on up, each GB used above the monthly allowance will require an additional fee. Prices remain the same for all devices whether they are 3G or 4G compatible.
To avoid reaching data limits with some phones, those that have the capability can access public or home wireless connections. Using Wi-Fi when possible allows data to be accessed without using Verizon's network. This also applies to other devices that have Wi-Fi capabilities. As of May 2011, Verizon's unlimited data plan for smartphones has no limits or restrictions.