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What's in a data plan? Consumers should know their limits

Working up a holiday shopping list? New cellphone, iPad Mini, NetFlix subscription – check, check, check.

Now don’t forget the wireless plan that makes all those family gifts work on the move. Pricing has changed dramatically since last year.

Phone calls and text messages come in unlimited quantities in the latest featured deals from the big four wireless phone companies — Verizon, ATT, Sprint and T-Mobile USA.

The competition lies in data.

“Data” means the stuff consumers increasingly gobble up as they use wireless devices to browse the Internet, download or update apps, play online games and watch videos. Consumers have gotten used to buying a data plan for each device.

Now, however, the wireless industry has split.

Sprint and T-Mobile continue to pitch their offer of unlimited data plans for cellphones and other devices such as tablets.

Verizon and ATT have introduced shared data

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