I have been an AT&T customer for a long time. A really long time. Let me first say that my move to T-Mobile had nothing to do with a problem or deficiency with AT&T. Loved them, still do. Service was second to none. Now thats out of the way lets move on.
The AT&T family plan that I was on was affordable but if I were to upgrade phones/devices then my plan pricing would have skyrocketed. I have 7 lines on my plan and everything starts to add up. I was sitting at about $255 month for AT&T but heres the thing. For every phone I upgraded there would be an upgrade fee ($99, $150 or whatever) and then a monthly charge for that upgraded line of like $25 or $35 dollars per month. I had four iPhone 4s’s, one iPhone 5C and two iPhone 5’s. So upgrading all the devices would have added $200 per month or more. Basically unless I purchased my phones outright then my plan pricing was going to be in the high $400’s at least.
I had always discounted T-Mobile. I assumed it was a struggling 3rd place wanna be carrier that was using gimmicks to lure customers away from their current carriers. The more I read about them the more I became intrigued. T-Mobile in the last couple of years has been making a march on their service increasing speeds and overall coverage. No they aren’t as good as AT&T or Verizon (yet) but keep reading before you judge. I will give you the rundown in just a minute.
This all started because I wanted an iPhone 6 plus. So I started crunching numbers. Here is how T-Mobile is set up. Family plan $100/month includes 4 phone lines at a level of 2.5gb of data per line for the first year. Not sure what happens in year two. Think data probably drops back to 1.0gb with the option to upgrade but the family plan price is guaranteed not to change. Each line after the four comes at a $10/month additional charge. The data is handled differently than Verizon and AT&T. Its per line and not a family “bucket” of data. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this. Advantage, when I need more data I can pick the actual line that needs it. Something very cool is that T-Mobile does not count music streaming as data usage so Spotify, Pandora, 8 tracks and quite a few other music streaming sites can run all day and not cost you data. Another cool feature is that its teen proof in that if they run over their data limit T-Mobile doesn’t charge you more, they just throttle the data hungry user back to 3g speeds. I think T-Mobile is also starting a data roll over program where your unused data from the month before gets pushed to the next month. Cool!
Back to pricing… $100 for first four lines, $10 per for the next three lines (remember I have 7) so $130/month for 7 lines. Each line has 2.5gb data and unlimited text and talk and free music channels for streaming. Not too shabby. Wait, I still have old phones! Upgrading and purchasing phones is fairly cool as well at T-Mobile. T-Mobile sells you the phone at full retail and takes the price and streams the amount into 24 equal, no interest payments over the next two years. You pay zero down on certain versions of phones…IF…you have excellent credit. I do, so no worries with this. Its not zero down for every phone. The more upgraded/features the phone has the more up front money they require but what ever you give them up front comes off the price of the phone and its payments. You always get what you pay for. Its fair. After two years your phone is paid off, its yours and you can upgrade or buy another and sell your old one on eBay. Nice thing is you don’t have to pay that upgrade fee like AT&T and then pay off the phone too! The big boys are double dipping. This chart shows the breakdown of the iPhone 6’s and the upfront and monthly fees.
Pricing…$100 first four lines, $30 for three more lines, I bought four iPhone 6’s and on one iPhone 6 plus so $140 per month for these. I increased my personal data to 4.5gb at $10 a month and picked up insurance on the iPhone 6 plus with early upgrade option for another $10 a month. Grand total with tax I roll in at about $300 per month for seven lines and five have been upgraded. I am only $45 dollars more than with AT&T. Yes, its more but AT&T with the same phones…$480 or more. They also offer some buy outs and trade ins for your various equipment and current service. Don’t be fooled there will be some out of pocket expenses cleaning up your old phone account and getting things on track at T-Mobile but it will all come out in the wash in the end.
How is the service? Pretty darn good. Not bad at all. I live in Northern Virginia outside of DC so I have very good coverage. This is something you will want to be careful with. If you live in a rural area and T-Mobile service is sketchy then stick with your current carrier. I get 3-4 bars of 4G LTE in most places near me. I even ran a few speed tests with my buddy and in some tests I bested his Verizon speeds. When you get T-Mobile LTE its fast. When you don’t, you just don’t. I traveled from DC to North Carolina (rt-66 to rt-81- to rt-77) and two thirds of the trip I was without data. I could always make a phone call but data was in and out. One feature to note is that T-Mobile phones have the ability for wifi calling. That means that if you’re in a location and you have wifi then you can make calls through the internet on the network. This is good because lets say when you’re home your service is weak. Well, in the house once wifi kicks on your phone you’re good to go. I tested and converted only my personal line to T-Mobile for the first month. I was able to test the service and fortunately it worked out. I would suggest trying before buying to make sure you’re ok with the service before jumping in both feet. I expect the service to only get better in the next two years.
Lets talk people. Fairly impressed so far. The retail staff seems very competent and the call in phone support is always very knowledgeable and courteous. I had a problem finding an iPhone 6 plus and one of the support managers went out of his way to chase one down and called me back two hours after the call and let me know he overnighted the phone to me for FREE! Two thumbs up for that kind of service. Verizon isn’t even in the club. Sorry, everyone knows its true.
I must say that so far I am fairly happy. Out of 5 stars I would give T-Mobile a strong 4.0. Pricing is great, service is great but I would take away 1 point just to be objective and say that the service when not LTE is not great and I had a tough time finding iPhones but that may totally have been an Apple issue and not T-Mobiles fault. Give T-Mobile a look. They might be a good choice for you. Do your homework first but I can honestly say so far so good.