How big a data plan do you really need for your iPhone?

iPhone sales really took off in the Summer of 2008 when the iPhone 3G came out. Then another huge boost came in the Summer of 2010 when iPhone 4 was released. In between we also saw the upgraded 3G, known as iPhone 3GS, but the sales didn’t increase as much as when the “3G” and “4” was released in the Summers of 2008 and 2010.

Depending on where you live, iPhone contracts varies in length. In the US, I believe they are two years. So you’re assigning yourself to the same phone company for two years, unless you pay a fee to get out of the contract early.

Luckily, in my home country (though I don’t live there any more…), the maximum allowed contract length is 6 months. So when you buy an iPhone, you pay more for it than what you would do in the US – but at least the choice of contract is yours after 6 months, so you have the option of switching to a different carrier with better prices or coverage.

You could also look for iPhone SIM card plans that doesn’t require you to buy a new mobile device, in case you’re happy with your current iPhone – or whatever smartphone you might have, of course.

Just one thing you need to keep in mind, is how much data do you really need? And what will happen if you exceed what you have bought?

On iPhone, go to Settings – General – Usage and scroll down to the bottom and look for “Cellular Network Data”. Add the two numbers from Sent and Received to get your data usage since the last time it was reset, which it says just below, where the reset button is located.

There’s no need to pay for 1GB if you only use 200MB a month. But on the other hand, if you’re often tethering (especially now that “Personal Hotspot” has been added to iOS 4.3) or downloading large files, you might need to opt for a big data plan to avoid any extra costs. Extra costs is something you need to be sure about too. What will the provider do if/when you reach your data limit? Will they charge you extra (a lot extra, probably!), will they just shut down your data complete? Or, preferable, will they throttle your data speed to something slow and notify you?

Just a few things for you to keep in mind when your iPhone contract ends and you need to figure out what to do next.