iPhone and iPad users who want to make video calls using FaceTime when it becomes available through iOS 6 this fall will be able to do so for free on AT&T’s network. But there’s a catch — they have to sign up for the carrier’s new Mobile Share plan, which AT&T is expected to launch before the end of the month. Mobile Share is a data plan that will offer customers “buckets” of data that can be shared between a number of devices. Since FaceTime video calling will use a lot of data, it’s a good bet that many potential FaceTime users will be good candidates for the Mobile Share plans anyway.
Of course many AT&T customers still enjoy the company’s unlimited data plans, which are no longer offered but are “grandfathered” until the end of the contracts for those who have them. If these customers want to keep their unlimited data and still use FaceTime, they will have to rely on Wi-Fi connections for FaceTime.
Wi-Fi is the preferred method of connection for many tablet users, and that’s probably one reason AT&T is not overtly pushing tablet buyers toward its data plans. The company is now telling customers that they do not need a service commitment to purchase a tablet. And of course no more contracts means no more subsidized pricing for the slates. (The iPad has always been sold without a contract and without a subsidy by AT&T.)
While AT&T’s change in tablet pricing may look like a move away from contract sales, it could actually be a way to encourage more people to sign up for Mobile Share. Tablets that are not part of another data plan are good candidates for Mobile Share, which allows customers to add up to 10 devices, and pay a fixed price for an allotment of data.
Last month, Verizon Wireless stopped offering tablets on contract as it was introducing its own shared data plan that covers up to 10 devices.