Just about every network provider will require you to subscribe to a data plan if you purchase a discounted data phone from them. The solution is pretty easy---don't get a discounted phone from them.
Often they will offer you the same phone with no plan requirements at a much higher price. Even though the price for the phone will be higher, if you total up the savings over the life of a 2-year plan you'll usually be way ahead.
But you can often get a much better deal on phones from third parties. For example, I recently received an LG Voyager Titanium and it required a data plan from Verizon. The phone was free. Or, if I wanted two Voyagers for a family plan I would pay $30 each. This deal was through Wirefly.com during a post Christmas sale. (By the way, the LG Voyager is a multimedia phone with many PDA-like features but it's not nearly as good as an actual PDA or smartphone. I would NOT recommend it as a replacement for a PDA or smartphone. The Voyager normally retails for around $440.)
If I wanted to avoid the data requirement, I could have purchased a new LG Voyager on eBay for around $200 or I could have purchased it for $350 through Amazon.com. Then I could have subscribed to ANY calling plan I wanted from Verizon. I could have also used the phone with another compatible carrier. Most carrier's don't mind if you provide your own phone as long as it is compatible with their network.
So, if you want a NEW phone, the choices you have are: (1) Pay more for a phone now and be able to pick any plan you want, or (2) Get a free or heavily discounted phone from a carrier with the requirement of having to include a data component to the plan.
Of course a third option would be to keep your OLD phone. If you have fulfilled your original commitment to your carrier, then you can now get any plan you want with your OLD phone.
I've had several smart phone; currently have the Blackberry Curve 8300.
Looking for a phone with similar functions without having to pay the monthly data plan costs. I would like to use the Internet / email occasionally. Qwerty keyboard nice but not necessary. Would like Wi-fi, but again, not necessary. Good display important because my visions not the best. I'm with ATT. Any suggestions?