Remixed from an original by Omphala
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updated 7/27/2011 8:03:43 AM ET 2011-07-27T12:03:43

Verizon has officially ended its unlimited data plan, joining several other carriers in an effort to make data caps a standard practice. Maybe you don't need endless amounts of data and don't mind paying only for what you use, but if these limitations bother you we've got the cheapest ways to get around them.

First things first, we're talking about smartphones. If you're simply looking for an unlimited 3G and/or 4G data plan your cheapest options is Clear(wire), offering unlimited data plans for $45/month (4G-only) and $55/month (4G and 3G). These plans will be relevant depending on your situation, but first lets take a look at your options.

Know Your Carrier's Options
Depending on your carrier, you may still have an unlimited data option. (See all possible options here.) If you use Sprint, you can get unlimited everything for $99/month (although you can get unlimited data with limited talk for as little as $70/month). That includes data, and it's the cheapest option you've got. T-Mobile also offers unlimited data, technically, but speeds are throttled after a certain amount of usage (starting at $80/month for 2GB). Boost Mobile also offers an unlimited everything plan for $50/month, so if you're already with them or don't mind switching then they're the best deal. AT&T and Verizon do not offer any kind of unlimited data plan, but you can get out of your Verizon contract without paying an early termination fee until Aug. 30. That's an option if you'd prefer to switch.

UPDATE/NOTE: There are lots of comments recommended Virgin Mobile. They were left out because they throttle data (like T-Mobile) and it seemed superfluous to mention them when Boost is cheaper and doesn't appear to do that. But many of you are pretty fond of them so I'm adding this note to say Virgin also provides unlimited plans. Check them out here.

Use a Second Carrier for Your Data Plan
If you're stuck with your carrier, don't want to leave but haven't been grandfathered in to an unlimited data plan, or really want to join a particular carrier that doesn't offer one, you can always use a secondary carrier to supplement your data usage. T-Mobile and Sprint both offer sort-of-unlimited data plans, which aren't ideal because they either throttle speeds (T-Mobile) or only offer unlimited for 4G (Sprint), but those Clear plans mentioned earlier don't have those limitations and are cheaper anyway. While you can get pseudo-unlimited plans from other carriers, Clear is the only one with a true option and it's still cheaper than any of the alternatives.

Getting a second device just for data is going to tack on an extra $45 or $55 to your already high smartphone bill, so you're going to want to cancel your smartphone's data plan if at all possible. If you simply want an iPhone with unlimited data, turning an iPod touch into an iPhone  might be a good way to go. With a Clear plan, you could end up with a 4G iPod touch phone for significantly less money than it would cost you to get a proper iPhone. It wouldn't be perfect, but if you really want unlimited data and want to save some money at the same time, it might be a worthwhile sacrifice for you.

The Bottom Line
It all comes down to this: 1) If your carrier is Sprint, you can still get unlimited data. This is also sort-of true with T-Mobile. 2) If you don't care who your carrier is (and aren't too picky about the phone you can use), Boost is, by far, the cheapest option for unlimited everything. 3) If you want to choose your carrier and get unlimited, dump your data plan and supplement it with a Clear mobile hotspot.

Unlimited data may not be the easiest thing to get, and it may often be pricey, but you do have a few options available to you that won't completely break the bank.

You can follow Adam Dachis, the author of this post, on Twitter and Facebook.  Twitter's the best way to contact him, too.

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