AT&T sets Aug. 23 launch for new shared data plans

AT&T’s new shared data plans will launch on Aug. 23, the company announced this morning, attempting to nudge its customers into a new world focused less on data limits for individual devices, with charges dependent instead on the overall data used by families in a given month.

One big difference from Verizon’s approach is that AT&T is making its shared data plans optional, as we reported when AT&T originally announced the news. New customers or those getting new phones aren’t required to use AT&T’s “Mobile Share” plans.

The question of whether you should shift depends largely on how much data you use. In some cases, the new plans are cheaper, and in other cases they aren’t. AT&T has launched a new online tool to help determine if it makes sense, and the company says its customer service reps can also talk through the options.

In addition to the cost of data, talking and texting, AT&T will charge a monthly fee per device: $20 for laptops and broadband sticks, $10 for tablets and gaming devices. The company is betting long term that people will add a wide variety of devices to their plans.