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iPhone data plans: Cheap or pricey?

The iPhone's data plans are comparable to services from other carriers.

How much will your messaging cost? CNET Networks

The announcement today of AT&T's iPhone service plans puts one of the last remaining pieces into the Apple puzzle. The data plans, which range in price from $60 per month to $100 per month depending on the number of anytime calling minutes, are unique to the iPhone and will not apply to other AT&T handsets. The number of night weekend minutes will vary as well, but all plans will include visual voice mail access, unlimited e-mail and mobile Web surfing, free mobile-to-mobile minutes, and 200 text messages. Current AT&T customers can add unlimited iPhone data features to their existing account for $20 per month.

So what does this all mean for iPhone buyers? Are these plans cheap, or are they expensive? It's an important question to ask, particularly since iPhone owners will be shelling out $500 or $600 for the handset alone. And remember that those service plans come with a two-year contract and a $36 activation fee.

On the whole, the iPhone data plans aren't a great deal more expensive, nor are they significantly cheaper than plans options with other carriers. But for some consumers, they might be easier to deal with. For example, AT&T's data plans for its other phones include only the data access; calling minutes are purchased through a separate plan. So if you buy a Samsung BlackJack, you can get a PDA Personal Max plan for $44.99 per month. While that will give you unlimited data access and 1,500 messages, you'll need to purchase a calling plan if you want to talk to someone. At the very least, that means an additional $39 per month for 450 anytime minutes. That's a monthly total of $83.99. Options for BlackBerry devices are about the same; a little more expensive, but not much.

Some of T-Mobile's options wind up being a batter bargain than the iPhone's plans. The T-Mobile Sidekick data plan is a reasonable $29 per month for unlimited data, though a calling plan is extra. The cheapest is $29 per month for 300 anytime minutes and unlimited nights and weekends. Its BlackBerry plans are quite a bit more, but they include some calling time. The BlackBerry Minutes and Mail Ultra is $79 for 1,500 anytime minutes and unlimited data and e-mail, while the BlackBerry Minutes and Mail plan is $59 per month for 1,000 anytime minutes and unlimited data and e-mail. No night and weekend minutes are included, but the plans are pretty comparable just the same.

Verizon Wireless has bundled data and calling plans, which also rank relatively well with the iPhone service. The carrier's Core Choice 450 will give you 450 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, and unlimited data. Or for a bit more, the Extra Choice 1350 plans will give you 1,350 anytime minutes, unlimited nights and weekends, and unlimited data for $109 per month.