ItsOn's Zact Shows How Data Plans Should Be: Exactly Right Every Month

NEWS ANALYSIS: ItsOn's Zact offers a new approach to wireless plans, which is to let users buy just what they need and no more for each kind of service.

Data plans

Figured out how many minutes or megabytes of data you need for your smartphone every month? Neither has anyone else, meaning most people overpay, except for those who get throttled when they least expect it.

When eWEEK's Michelle Maisto alerted me to ItsOn's Zact, the first thing I did was go to my mobile phone account and check my plan. If you do the same thing I did, you'll almost certainly find that you're paying far too much for data every month. I do this because I don't want to find myself in a position of needing the data and not having it available. I can only imagine having a photo I need to send to eWEEK, and finding myself throttled to 2G speeds.

With Zact, it would seem that those days are over. This new wireless company has a novel approach to wireless plans, which is to let you buy exactly what you need and no more for each kind of service. This means that if you talk a lot but never send text messages, then you don't need to pay for text messages. But suppose—like most of us—you really don't know what you need?

The fact that most people don't really know what they need for data service and calling minutes is where Zact makes its huge difference. Let's say you pick the Zact plan that gives you 10,000 text messages, but you actually only needed 197 text messages. What happens is that Zact will reimburse your account for the messages you signed up for but didn't actually use. In other words, you'd pay for 200 messages, rather than 10,000.

The way Zact works is that you decide how many minutes of voice calling, or how much data or how many text messages you think you'll need. If you underestimate your requirements, you can add more minutes to your plan from your phone. If you overestimate, then you'll get a refund.

In its current rate chart, Zact plans top out at 5,000 minutes of talk time, 15,000 text messages and 5GB of data. Zact plans don't say what will happen if you go over those limits. But for the vast majority of users, these limits are far beyond what they're ever likely to use.

For most people, Zact's flexibility is what will really matter. If you need more minutes in your plan, Zact includes an app that lets you change the plan to one with more minutes (or text messages or data). You can also set up your data plan so it will work with specific services, such as Facebook, but not others.

But if you're a heavy user of all of your mobile services, Zact may not be your least expensive option. An unlimited plan with T-Mobile would cost $70 per month, plus the cost of your phone if you bought it from T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless would cost the same thing, but with 4GB of data rather than unlimited data. Both plans have unlimited voice minutes and an unlimited number of text messages. Sprint, the service that carries Zact's wireless traffic, is in the same ballpark. Like Zact, T-Mobile sells its phones without a subsidy.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...