T-Mobile Report Card

Sometimes, it seems as if T-Mobile executives are spending every waking hour thinking up ways to get the upper hand on their fellow wireless carriers. However much time the company puts into attention- and customer-grabbing stunts, it certainly seems to be working — T-Mobile is our choice for top cellphone provider, largely on the strength of its overall value.

Verizon may have a better, more expansive network, and AT&T may have topped our customer-service rankings. But T-Mobile turned in a strong performance in both categories, then jumped ahead on the sheer volume of special perks that subscribers enjoy, from free music-streaming to appealing features for international travelers. T-Mobile’s competitively priced unlimited data plan also helped vault the carrier to the top of our list.

Carrier Performance (46/50 points)

In our tests of six cities, T-Mobile fared well, finishing only behind Verizon, with average speeds of 22.7 Mbps down and 13.2 Mbps up nationally. T-Mobile topped our tests in New York, Seattle and Houston and also had a strong showing in San Francisco. Note that our tests are conducted in cities, and that T-Mobile has traditionally performed better in cities than in less populated parts of the country.

T-Mobile can also point to OpenSignal's latest report, where the network testing firm says that the Uncarrier now has the fastest 4G LTE network in the U.S. A rival firm, RootMetrics, gives the edge to Verizon, but T-Mobile has angrily disputed those findings.

MORE: See How T-Mobile’s 4G Performance Stacks Up

Plans (19/20 points)

If you hate sorting through different plan options, T-Mobile is the carrier for you. T-Mobile only offers unlimited data in its $70-a-month T-Mobile One plan. There is a catch: You have to watch data at 480p resolution, which T-Mobile argues is perfectly acceptable on a smartphone-sized screen. If you absolutely need to watch video at its highest quality, though, you can pay an extra $25 each month for T-Mobile One Plus, which places no limits on either streaming video or LTE hotspot data. (The regular T-Mobile One plan restricts hotspot data to 3G speeds.)

T-Mobile's unlimited offering is particularly appealing to families, thanks to the discounts T-Mobile makes as you add lines. A second line costs just $50, while you can add more lines after that for $20 each. That means a family of four would pay $160 a month for unlimited data. And T-Mobile frequently offers promotions, such as waving the cost of a fourth line, furthering lowering your monthly bill.

Another nice thing about T-Mobile: It doesn't charge access fees for each device. Both AT&T and Verizon add $20 per device to your monthly bill, which can add up for families. You won't find that extra charge with T-Mobile 

MORE: Compare T-Mobile’s Phone Plans to Other Carriers

T-Mobile's prepaid plans are less compelling when compared to discount carriers, as T-Mobile uses the same rates as its postpaid plans. Both AT&T and Sprint have lower prices on their prepaid plans, and discount carriers — including T-Mobile-owned MetroPCS — offer even lower prices, though with a performance tradeoff.

Customer Service Rating (13/15 points)

T-Mobile finished fourth among the major carriers in our customer support showdown, felled by a less-than-prominent link to its support site and an incorrect answer to one of our questions during a live-chat session. 

Still, these are relatively minor quibbles: T-Mobile still provided solid customer service in our tests. During our undercover chats, the Uncarrier's customer-support agents were friendly, helpful and cheerful. We also appreciated T-Mobile's active and responsive social media presence for fielding support questions.

MORE: Compare T-Mobile’s Customer Service to Other Carriers

Phone Selection (8/10 points)

As with the other major carriers, T-Mobile offers an extensive selection of phones, bolstered by certified pre-owned models. But it didn't quite offer everything on our checklist. T-Mobile was missing LG Flex 2, Galaxy S6 Active, Moto E 2015 and Moto G, making it the only carrier to have fewer than 10 of the 12 phones on our list. T-Mobile does make it easy to bring your own device, though.

Special Features (5/5 points)

It shouldn't be surprising for a company that hangs much of its identity on being different from other carriers, but special offers and subscriber benefits are where T-Mobile really shines. The company offers a dizzying area of deals to attract new customers while keeping current subscribers smiling.

For customers still on the carrier's tiered data plans, T-Mobile's Data Stash program lets them roll over unused data every month for up to 12 months. T-Mobile also introduced programs that let you stream music and video without it counting against your monthly data cap — less relevant for new customers that sign on to the carrier's unlimited T-Mobile One plan. Unlimited data customers who want to occasionally watch high-resolution videos but don't want to sign up for the more expensive T-Mobile One Plus plan will be able to buy a $3 HD day pass that will let them bypass the 480p limit on streaming video for a limited time.

MORE: Top Services to Stream Data-Free on T-Mobile

It is international travelers who have the biggest reason to embrace T-Mobile. The company has expanded coverage in Mexico and Canada to allow free calling to and from those countries; customers can also use 4G LTE data in Mexico and Canada. In addition, T-Mobile offers unlimited 2G data in more than 120 countries with all of its popular Simple Choice plans, and select phones support Wi-Fi calling. Wi-Fi calls from overseas back to the U.S. are also free, while cellular calls cost a palatable 20 cents per minute. 

T-Mobile's Jump plan costs $10 per month and lets you trade-in your phone after paying for half its cost. A similar program, Jump On Demand, does away with that $10 fee, and lets people leasing their phones upgrade up to three times a year.

Since we published our carrier rankings, T-Mobile has introduced a weekly rewards program for its subscribers that gives away freebies like movie downloads, discounted ride on Lyft and free Frostys at Wendy's. We'll take the T-Mobile Tuesdays giveaways into account when we re-evaluate our rankings later this year.

Best and Worst Wireless Carriers

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63 comments
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  • sam81_
    Cricket has some pretty awesome internationl features like use plan in thr whole NA
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  • Steve_102
    Tmobile the best. I ALWAYS have constant problems with Tmobile, they have numerous times sold me on a plan by "mistake" to have to correct it later. Their sales people never have matching answers, no one knows how plans operate and more. T-Mobile sales and customer service sucks, but they appear nice.
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  • Walt_1
    I have Cricket. And it;s not really that hard to find out that the throttle data at 8MBs. That's plenty and I have ATT's coverage non roaming of course
    1
  • Chris_220
    I attempted to switch from Verizon to Tmobile due to their international rates. I am military and Tmobile offers great rates in Qatar. I was told that my Galaxy S6 would work by a Tmobile Rep, and ordered SIMs under the Bring your Own Device plan. I was informed that I could receive a full refund within 30 days by the rep on the phone if I changed my mind. I received the SIM cards, and learned that my Verizon variant S6 wouldn't support data services on the Tmobile network; from what I gather my location relied on a Band that they didn't provide? Regardless, I closed the account and asked for a refund on the SIM cards. I was initially told by a customer service rep that they would not refund the SIM cards. After reviewing the information I received when I initially began the process of switching and noting that it did say I had 30 days to get a full refund, I called back and was informed that I would receive a refund for the SIM cards (that was after being bounced around several times to different reps and eventually their orders department. I was informed not to worry about returning the SIM cards, because it wasn't economical for Tmobile to reuse them. I was told that I would receive a refund for the SIM card purchase. This has never happened. I have interacted with them over the phone and on chat numerous times, and been given the run around every time. I am disputing the charges with my credit card company based on the chat logs I have promising a refund, and I am also posting to this and other forums in the hopes that prospective customers will see it and stay away from Tmobile. My goal is to cost them at least as much in revenue from a potential customer as they have effectively stolen from me. So, if you're reading this, please take my advice and stay away from Tmobile. They ripped me off, and they might do it to you as well.
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  • th666
    Strange... AT&T has always beat T-Mobile in reception, until... THIS ARTICLE. Whazup wid dat? Somebody at T-Mobile got cozy widya?
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  • zeterian
    You need to update this article with Project Fi by Google. It's pretty good.
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  • zeterian
    Is there a reason you keep trying to pass off this old article as representative of what's out there now. Project Fi beats all your entries in every category, yet you still omit it. It's been available to everybody since March. This is OLD NEWS. Changing the date doesn't make it new.

    It connects to both T-Mobile and Sprint plus wi-fi, which ever has the strongest signal. Downloading data over a home or free wi-fi doesn't count against your monthly data usage. I can download TBs of data at $10/GB with rebates instead of rollovers. I got connected to a human tech support in less than a minute last night.

    Are you getting paid to ignore certain carriers of are you that unaware of what's out there? Either way the validity of any articles will be suspect with regard to current models used for testing.
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  • Claybuster
    T Mobile lies! If you Binge through another device like Apple TV it eats your data. Netflix and HULU can only be watched on the phone. I told the represenitive that I was using my Apple TV and was told it was ok, but I found out I did NOT get unlimited data as advertised. I returned my 2 day old IPhone 6se for a refund and now I am having trouble getting my money returned, seems like they cannot find the phone after they signed for the receipt of the phone. I went back to Verizon. Still waiting for my money!
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  • Jmmedc
    I have T-Mobile and yes, they offer good plans, hot spot use and great speed but only if you are outside. Once you inside your home or in a building all bets are off. Inside a building you are lucky if you get a bar at 4g unless you commit to a bulky signal booster. I believe that if T-Mobile really wants to be in the number 1 spot they need to install more towers to truly improve reception indoors where most of are most of the time due to employment commitments.
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  • Claybuster
    Anonymous said:
    I have T-Mobile and yes, they offer good plans, hot spot use and great speed but only if you are outside. Once you inside your home or in a building all bets are off. Inside a building you are lucky if you get a bar at 4g unless you commit to a bulky signal booster. I believe that if T-Mobile really wants to be in the number 1 spot they need to install more towers to truly improve reception indoors where most of are most of the time due to employment commitments.
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  • Claybuster
    They lie by omission also. The Binge is only good on the phone. If you use Apple TV or the like it uses your data fast! They do not refund money on a new phone in a timely manner. TMobile stinks. I went back to Verizon and will stay there!
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  • Jmmedc
    Is there a way t-mobile can read our comments?
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  • rgd1101
    sure, post on their facebook or twitter
    1
  • Claybuster
    Anonymous said:
    Tmobile the best. I ALWAYS have constant problems with Tmobile, they have numerous times sold me on a plan by "mistake" to have to correct it later. Their sales people never have matching answers, no one knows how plans operate and more. T-Mobile sales and customer service sucks, but they appear nice.
    0
  • Claybuster
    I agree on how bad TMobile is. I went with them for the data on Binge and found that Binge only works on the Phone! Hot spotting to as an Apple TV you use your data up fast and you go to 2g for streaming. I was told different when I did my research. After many hours of research I went back to Verizon. I do travel and Verizon cannot be beat.
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  • Diehardlinux
    The hi jacking with straight talk:
    This has to be the worst prepaid cellular provider out there. As for security, there is none.
    This is the most shocking thing that has ever happened to me. The person who had stolen my number, had put it in a cheap Huawei phone with no SIM card and tried to port the phone to Verizon. My SIM card was deactivated because the number had been put into that phone. After the number was stolen, it was changed through the automated system allegedly which out my knowledge.

    After two hours on the phone on 06/05/16, I was told by a supervisor most of this stuff. Mind you while I was trying to get my number back, the person was in my account. I had to call back the next day and speak to another supervisor to try to get my number back and to get my minutes back that I had paid for. A day and a half without a phone had got me into some serious thinking about security layers on some of these sites. This one pretty much did not have enough security. Especially if my passcode was changed on the website. The person who had done it knew my mothers maiden name.

    Last call to straight talk management, I followed up on a promise by straight talk manage Genesis to provide me a nano SIM card for my device because I had used the SIM card I had out of a bring your own phone kit I had bought through Walmart some time ago. Long story short after talking to the management about my whole experience, THEY WERE NOT WILLING TO FOLLOW THROUGH WITH THEIR PROMISE. I told the straight talk representative that this is the worst customer service experience I had ever received and would not be stay with straight talk.

    Final thoughts after this experience, I said either I get to port out to another carrier of my choosing with my number or I change my number. Either way I'm leaving straight talk. Peace to the burner phone site and there lack of security.
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  • Kathy_21
    My verizon phone died again from water damage and I got a coupon in the mail from MetroPCS, which sounded too good to be true, but I had to check it out. There was absolutely no one in the store when I arrived on a Saturday afternoon, which was a terrible first impression. The phone froze up on day 8, on a Sunday @ 6pm, and of course, they were closed. I took it back for an exchange the next day and the manager accused me of damaging the phone intentionally, told me he didn't like my attitude, and I should go back to verizon !!! So I did, and they verified that the phone was not damaged!
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  • treetops422
    I had to stand outside or by a door or window to use virgin mobile calling without missing what people say. I was with virgin for 3 years and 3 phones. Iv had metro for 2 weeks I can hear people anywhere in my apartment. I live in a major city phoenix az. Virgin mobile is the worst ever, their insurance premium is 100$ on a 150$ phone.
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  • rgd1101
    Anonymous said:
    I had to stand outside or by a door or window to use virgin mobile calling without missing what people say. I was with virgin for 3 years and 3 phones. Iv had metro for 2 weeks I can hear people anywhere in my apartment. I live in a major city phoenix az. Virgin mobile is the worst ever, their insurance premium is 100$ on a 150$ phone.


    VM use sprint. metro pcs use t-mobile.
    why would you get insurance on a $150 phone?
    What about google project fi? it use US Cellular, sprint and tmobile network. or wifi.
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