You nailed it. Completely useless without a data plan? Just curious why get an LTE enabled smartphone and then choose a no data plan? Kind of dumbs down the smartphone concept.
Well that's a little harsh. It's actually not that easy to find a non-LTE enabled smartphone these days. Look at Fido's lineup. The only non-LTE enabled phones offered are the iPhone 4s and the ZTE Z222, which is not a smartphone.
Not everyone needs a data plan. And even those people who are happy using wifi sometimes like to get new phones. Newer phones have better processors, better screens, better cameras... and yes, most of them happen to have LTE.
You don't have to use 'data' to be able to utilise the full functionality of a smartphone.
Let's see without mobile data you can't email, can't access applications, can't use google maps, can't use social media like Facebook or Twitter etc etc.. Without mobile data you're forced to access a wifi connection. Granted that's becoming increasingly easier but even then lots of retail establishments have lousy wifi service making LTE much more palatable. I wasn't trying to be harsh, I just didn't understand buying an upper echelon device then crippling it without mobile data.
"Can't email": let's see... I can use this 5" display (including a keyboard I have to look at to use) or the 22" display with full keyboard I can touch type way faster with to read/write emails. Yeah, I want to use the inferior display and keyboard. Sure, the 22" display doesn't follow me around, but I don't recall having email that cannot wait until I come back home. Besides, you can still compose emails offline, it will just get sent once you get a WiFi connection.
Also, most of the time when I don't have WiFi (ie away from home or work), I'm driving, and I use Llama to switch off data sync when synced via bluetooth to the car: since I'm driving, I have little use for reading/writing emails, and the notification that I have received email would be annoying at best. In any case, any email/SMS I get is, by definition, not urgent. If you want an answer right away, call me.
"can't access applications, can't use Google Maps": sure you can! Of course, not applications that need a live connection, but you can play music, read a downloaded book, edit a Google Docs document (if you maked it as available offline first), view your agenda, and you can use Google Maps if you have downloaded the area you're in. No, you can't suddenly decide you use Maps if you didn't plan beforehand, but the only times I used Maps away from a WiFi connection, I think it was merely for convenience, not an actual need. Things like actual GPS, paper maps, or asking directions still work!
"can't use social media like Facebook or Twitter": nor would I want to. I don't think I know anyone with a Twitter account, and while I have a Facebook account, I have no use for it on my phone, bugging me with pointless notifications all day long. I'll get them when I willingly log on from my previously mentionned 22" display. There is nothing on any social media that requires immediate attention.
Making and receiving calls still work without data.
"buying an upper echelon device": as Cawtau mentionned, almost all smartphones are LTE now. I got the Nexus 5 at $0 with a smart plan, and although I do have a data plan, a smartphone still has advantages over a standard dumb phone, music, calendar, having contacts on Google's server so they come back automagically when you get a new phone, etc.
I have a 250MB data plan, yet I barely used half that in my last month. My wife, on the other hand, busts her 1GB plan each month.
Different people, different needs!
I have a data plan but, when I'm home or in a coffee shop with good wifi ...I prefer to browse with wifi & not eat up my prepaid data. The same applies for updates, I try to get these via wifi when I can.
Pehaps the salesman pushed it to someone who doesn't know anything about mobile phones and plans, and who just wanted a phone but ended up with something beyond his price with features that he will not use because it is too expensive.