A girl typing a text message (by Stan Honda/AFP/Getty)
Rob Pegoraro, Special for USA TODAY
Question: I've got an unlimited-broadband wireless plan, one that my carrier doesn't offer anymore. How can I keep that?
Answer: If the concept of a meter running on your mobile bandwidth bugs you, your options to avoid that have shifted over the last few years.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless each stopped selling unlimited-data plans to new subscribers in 2010 - while T-Mobile restored an unlimited option last summer and Sprint never stopped selling unmetered data.
If you've been clinging to an AT&T unlimited plan since 2010, you were able to relax your grip a little bit last year. The carrier relented on its policy ofthrottling back the connections of subscribers whose data use put them among the top 5 percent of users in a given market. Now, downloads won't slow until "unlimited" users hit 3 gigabytes in a month, or 5 gigabytes on a faster LTE (Long Term Evolution) connection.
And you can carry this sort-of-unlimited plan over to a new device without penalty. That's not the case for Verizon Wireless customers, who can only retain an unlimited plan if they pay the full price on a smartphone.
That's an expensive habit, even if you scour eBay for used models.
Let me throw out a possibly heretical thought there and say that for most wireless users, unlimited data isn't worth it.
I realize this can seem like a form of surrender: Those big, stupid carriers lured us in with all-you-can-eat pricing, they're taking it away, and you don't want to accept that! (I'm old enough to remember the collective glee when America Online ditched hourly access charges and moved to flat-rate billing.)
But if you look at how much data you actually use each month, you may be surprised by how low that number goes. From early March to early April - a period in which I overused my phone at the SXSW Interactive festival in Austin and shared more than 900 megabytes of data with my laptop - I only racked up 2.13 gigabytes.
It helps that I can keep the phone on my home Wi-Fi network during much of the day - in large part for the unexpected boost this gives to my phone's battery life - but then I tend to lean on the phone a lot more than normal users away from home.
Most users plow through much less data than me, to judge from third-party studies. For instance, the trade publication Fierce Wireless and market-research firm NPD found this spring that average data usage per month ranged from 760 megabytes at Verizon Wireless to 1.36 GB at T-Mobile.
The more relevant number here has a dollar sign before it - why pay extra for data you don't use?
To check your data usage in current versions of Android, open the phone's Settings app and tap "Data usage" for a graph of that over the last month, helpfully broken down on an app-by-app basis.
The same tool on an iPhone - launch its Settings app, then tap General, then Usage, then "Cellular Usage" - only gives a cumulative total unless you reset it and then remember to check a month later. (It also doesn't show which apps were the biggest data hogs; for that, the tool of choice seems to be the $4.99 DataMan Pro.)
Instead, check your monthly statement at your wireless carrier. Saving $10 a month by cutting back on your data plan may not be much, but $120 a year is still real money.
Tip: It's okay to hoard charging cables
If you look in my car and either bag I might carry a laptop in, you'll find the same thing: a spare micro-USB cable that I can use to charge my phone from any nearby outlet or computer. Even if I didn't have a random assortment of surplus cables floating around my office from old review hardware, the low, low cost of these generic cables make them a cheap form of insurance.
The expenses aren't so low with Apple's proprietary Lightning cables, even if you opt for cheaper versions from third-party suppliers like Amazon and Monoprice. But spend that money anyway on a spare or two. Even if you never need them, somebody next to you eventually will.