Does T-Mobile Have the Best Plan Ever?

By Carlos Portocarrero

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Picking a cell phone carrier isn’t easy. Today’s ads have so much fine print it’s hard to tell what you’re agreeing to when you sign a two-year agreement.

But each carrier has its own features that make it unique.

Let’s take a look at each one to see how they stack up.

Sprint: Unlimited Data

Sprint is currently hanging its hat on three things:

  • They have the iPhone
  • They’ll give you unlimited data (competitors either charge for more usage or throttle your speed)
  • They have fewer customers and less congestion on the network

One thing about unlimited data: the average person doesn’t need more than 2GB, which is what other carriers offer, so I don’t know how valuable it is in the real world.

I know very few people on Sprint but they seem to be happy with their service and with their phone selection. As usual, make sure to check their coverage map.

Verizon: Service

Verizon has gotten a reputation for having great customer service and top-notch coverage. They too carry the iPhone and a host of high-end Android phones.

The downside of having great coverage and so many customers is that congestion becomes an issue and download speeds become affected. That’s the theory anyway—I haven’t met anyone on Verizon complain about this.

A few weeks ago Amazon had a crazy $0.01 sale of all Verizon smart phones, including the $299 Bionic. Other carriers have these types of deals too, but this most recent one was pretty tempting.

It’s always good to check a coverage map before making the switch, though talking to people and using a real phone is always the best way to test this stuff.

AT&T: Oops

A year ago before the iPhone 4 came to Verizon, AT&T always hung its hat on one thing: they were the only carrier with the iPhone.

Once that changed, AT&T had a hard time pitching customers on why they were a good option, especially after Consumer Reports rated them dead last in their rankings.


I used to be on AT&T but my phone only worked if I hung out of my apartment window, so I had to switch.

T-Mobile: Value

Ah, to be the value player is always a double-edged sword. People equate cheap with bad, and that’s what T-Mobile is trying to fight, especially since now they are the only major carrier without the iPhone.

They’re in the middle of a massive ad campaign promoting their new value plans. Dubbed “The Best Plan Ever,” it gives you unlimited talk, text, and data (you get throttled down to a slower speed after 2GB) for just $59.99. If you’re on a family plan with at least two lines, it comes down to $49.99.

Check out this handy chart Apple put together for their iPhone 4S page—it shows what T-Mobile’s competitors are offering. The numbers show T-Mobile is muchcheaper.

And because value is my biggest priority, I had to find out more about this plan.

Too Good to be True?

Of course, there’s a catch: T-Mobile’s “Best Plan Ever” doesn’t include any phone discounts. You can sign up for a  payment plan if you want to get a new phone and pay a little of it off every month, but you don’t get the massive phone discounts other carriers give you when you commit to two more years. You’ll have to pay retail—which can be upwards of $699.

T-Mobile won’t be waving a $499 phone in your face saying “Here, we’ll give this to you for $199 if you sign up for another two years.” That temptation is out the window.

Let’s take a look at the numbers and see what they say (using data from Apple’s comparison page):

Cell Phone Plan Savings

Those are really substantial savings.

When I figured all this out, I knew I had to get onto one of these plans. The more I delayed a new phone, the more money I would save. And since I enjoy finding phones for cheap, this plan is perfect for me [See Buying a New Smartphone Without Extending Your Contract].

The Downside

Of course, if you want an iPhone, you’re not going to get it on T-Mobile’s network. And if T-Mobile’s signal isn’t very good where you live or work, then it probably doesn’t make sense to switch.

If you really want the best value out there, these plans might be a good fit. As with any other carrier, make sure you find out beforehand how good the signal is at home and anywhere else you spend a lot of time.

Because if you can’t make any calls then all this talk about value goes out the window.

6 Responses to “Does T-Mobile Have the Best Plan Ever?”

  • Ella Says:

    You make a very good point. I wish we all were able to buy smartphones for full price and get onto any carrier we want. For example, I have the iPhone 4S and I am on AT&T. If I switched to T-Mobile, I would save (!14.99-59.99)*24 = $1320 over a period of two years. A brand new unlocked iPhone 4S from Apple costs $649 vs $199 for a phone with the data plan. Which means I come out ahead at (1320 + 199 – 649) = $870 over a period of two years (saving $36.25 each month). This number can be much higher if one chooses a cheaper smartphone

  • 20's Finances Says:

    I can’t believe I missed the deal on Amazon for Verizon phones. My contract is up for renewal, but I have been waiting because I am decently satisfied with my phone.

    • Carlos Says:

      Sorry you missed it! It’s a pretty incredible offer…but stay tuned for Black Friday as some new ones might pop up…

  • Paula @ Afford Anything Says:

    I would love to switch to T-Mobile, since I’m with Verizon and it’s ultra-expensive. My only concern is coverage. I personally would be fine, but I’m on a shared plan with my boyfriend, and he often goes to the middle-of-nowhere for work. Aw well. This iPhone Plan Comparison chart should help us spur a conversation about making the switch …. maybe a good talk to have before Black Friday.

  • Shaun @ Smart Family Finance Says:

    I’m not sure with the “Verizon has great customer service line” I’ve been a longtime customer and have a number of bouts with them, but have only stuck around because there service coverage is very good in fly over country. However, I’ve been itching for a data plan and you’ve sold me on T-Mobile.

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