T-Mobile wants to take the guesswork out picking a data plan. If you're a new customer, T-Mobile One — the carrier's unlimited data plan which also eliminates taxes and fees from your monthly bill — is the only one you can sign up for.
But Verizon's decision to add an unlimited data plan to its offerings has impacted other carriers, with T-Mobile changing its own plan in response. Here's wheat you can get from T-Mobile now that unlimited data has become the hot new trend in mobile plans.
Best Family Plan
Last year, T-Mobile said it was doing away with tiered data plans in favor of T-Mobile One, a plan that provides unlimited LTE data alongside unlimited talk and text. For a family of four, it’s an attractive option, especially when compared to other carriers who require families to share from one pool of data. Everyone on a T-Mobile family plan gets an unlimited data stream. That regularly costs a family of four $160 — the exact amount Sprint charges families of four for its unlimited plan.
If you want to know how things break down, T-Mobile charges $70 for the first line of data, $50 for the second and $20 for each line after that. Put another way, a family of four pays $40 each per line. Note that T-Mobile frequently offers promotions where it waives fees on one of the additional lines — as of this writing, T-Mobile says it will offer two lines of unlimited data for $100 a month — so check T-Mobile's site for that kind of deal when you're shopping for plans. T-Mobile’s price assumes you enroll in the carrier’s automatic payment program; otherwise, you’ll be charged an extra $5 per line each month.
T-Mobile's unlimited plan used to have at least one limit: you could only stream video at 480p. But with Verizon adding an unlimited option that let users watch HD video, T-Mobile has changed its tune, adding that feature to T-Mobile One. You'll also get 10GB of hotspot data, again matching what Verizon offers. If you use too much data, T-Mobile reserves the right to throttle your speeds, but that doesn't kick in until you've used 30GB of data in a month.
Previously, if you wanted HD video on T-Mobile, you had to sign up for T-Mobile One Plus. That option is still available, as a monthly $5-per-line add-on. Get T-Mobile One Plus, and you'll enjoy unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi through Gogo and faster data speeds when you travel abroad. For an extra $25 a month, you can opt for T-Mobile One Plus International, which features those benefits, plus unlimited international calling to landlines in 70-plus countries and mobile numbers in 30-plus countries. You also get unlimited hotspot data at LTE speeds.
Other Options: Apart from the variations on T-Mobile One noted above, that's it in terms of options. So what if you're interested in a T-Mobile plan but don't use a lot of data? T-Mobile's answer is its new KickBack program which will give you a $10 bill credit for each line that doesn't use more than 2GB of data per month. That's a potentially attractive program for families, especially if some people on the plan use far less data than others. You have to enroll in KickBack through T-Mobile's mobile app.
Best Individual Plan
The advent of T-Mobile One takes a lot of the guesswork out of finding an individual plan — you can get unlimited data for $70 a month. That’s $10 more expensive than Sprint’s unlimited plan, though T-Mobile’s network performs a lot better. And T-Mobile's plan costs less than the unlimited plans AT&T and Verizon now offer.
Other Options: It's unlimited data or nothing, friend, though you could also take advantage of the KickBack program for those months where you use less than 2GB of data to reduce the cost of your monthly unlimited plan by $10 in bill credits.
Best Prepaid Plan
Under T-Mobile's Simply Prepaid plans, you'll get 3GB of high-speed data for $40 a month. With T-Mobile now only offering unlimited data to its postpaid customers, that plan may appeal to people who don't use a lot of data each month. (It's also the same amount you'd pay for 3GB of LTE data at T-Mobile-owned MetroPCS.) Other T-Mobile prepaid tiers include a $50-a-month 5GB option and a 10GB plan that costs $60 monthly.
T-Mobile no longer offers prepaid family plans, instead offering the T-Mobile One unlimited plan with no credit check.
What You Need to Know About T-Mobile
Here are a few other things to consider when looking at T-Mobile's cellphone plans.
* T-Mobile's network is neck-and-neck with Verizon's. Verizon has long boasted of having the best network in the U.S., though the gap has practically vanished according to some third-party testing firms. OpenSignal had T-Mobile and Verizon tied in 4G speed in its most recent tests, and T-Mobile has also gotten within striking distance of Verizon on 4G availability. T-Mobile didn't fare as well in RootMetrics' most recent study, though T-Mobile has a bone to pick with RootMetrics' methodology. We're about to publish our own network speed tests, and we're interested to see how T-Mobile fares against Verizon.
* You can devour a lot of data before getting throttled. Here's the thing about unlimited data — every carrier puts a limit on just how much data you can consume each month before it might slow down your speeds, T-Mobile included. But T-Mobile's limit is the highest among the four major carriers. And that cap just went up to 30GB per month, up from 28GB previously. (That's because T-Mobile only throttles the top 3 percent of its data users.) The next highest limit is Sprint's, at 23GB per month. Note that the throttling only takes place if the network's congested, and it only lasts for the remainder of a particular billing cycle.
* T-Mobile subscribers get weekly freebies. Each week, T-Mobile gives away free prizes to its subscribers, and all you need to claim your reward is the T-Mobile Tuesday app. Recurring giveaways have included free Frostys from Wendy's and movie downloads from Vudu, with the Subway fast food chain recently joining the mix, too.The carrier also gives away an ever-changing weekly prize each week. T-Mobile Tuesdays have not been glitch-free — original participant Domino's pulled out after it was unable to keep up with the demand for free pizzas — but it has been widely embraced by subscribers as another way that T-Mobile stands out from other carriers.
* Calling and texting overseas come included in your plan. International travelers have plenty to like about T-Mobile, as the carrier has a very attractive approach to international roaming. T-Mobile offers unlimited texting and data more than 140 countries, though data is reduced to considerably slower speeds when you're overseas. You're able to place calls to mobile devices and landlines at 20 cents a minute. T-Mobile's plans also cover Canada and Mexico, meaning you'll use your regular data plan while making unlimited calls and texts in those countries. And if you travel to Cuba, T-Mobile now offers roaming where you can talk for $2 a minute, send texts for 50 cents a message and use data for $2 per MB in that country.
* So do taxes and fees. When announcing its move to unlimited-only plans in January, T-Mobile said it would eliminate access and regulatory fees so that the price it advertises for its unlimited plan is the price that shows up on your bill. Essentially, T-Mobile is adjusting the rate it charges so that any fees are baked into that $70-a-month you're paying for one line of unlimited data.
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