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T-Mobile launches low-cost data plan in response to coronavirus

(Image credit: T-Mobile/YouTube)

The coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout it's causing are pushing T-Mobile to get a head start on offering a new low-cost smartphone plan. Starting this Wednesday (March 25), T-Mobile plans to launch its $15-a-month T-Mobile Connect plan, which provides 2GB a month alongside unlimited talk, text and data.

T-Mobile Connect broadens the carrier's assortment of plans beyond unlimited data, which starts at $60 a month for the T-Mobile Essentials plan. It also halves the cost of the cheapest plan you can currently get through T-Mobile or its various entities, a $30-a-month 2GB plan available through the Metro By T-Mobile prepaid service.

T-Mobile first announced T-Mobile Connect last November at a time it was trying to clear the last remaining legal hurdles for its proposed merger with Sprint. T-Mobile Connect was to have launched once the T-Mobile-Sprint merger was finalized, but neither wireless carrier expects that to happen before April — perhaps longer, now that the COVID-19 outbreak has ground the economy to a halt.

The economic slowdown is the reason for the early launch of the new T-Mobile Connect plan, the company says. "Right now, having a reliable, low-cost connection is absolutely crucial for Americans, and with many facing financial strain, time is of the essence. We knew we couldn’t wait for the merger to finalize to launch T-Mobile Connect, our lowest priced smartphone plan, so we’re rolling out ahead of schedule,” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere in a statement announcing the new plan. “With T-Mobile Connect, we’re giving those hardest hit an even more affordable way to stay in touch. Half the price of our lowest-ever priced smartphone plan. So everyone can stay connected.” 

In addition to the 2GB tier, T-Mobile Connect includes a 5GB allotment of LTE data for $25 a month. To put that plan in context, Verizon's 5GB plan for a single line of data costs $55 a month after a $5 discount for autopay. T-Mobile's prepaid Metro subsidiary already offers a 10GB plan for $40 per month.

T-Mobile says that Connect is a prepaid plan. Presumably, that means your data speeds could be slowed should T-Mobile's network get congested. However, that's a common tradeoff when you opt for prepaid cellular service.

Launching its T-Mobile Connect plan before the Sprint merger closes isn't the only change T-Mobile is making in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The company says its weekly T-Mobile Tuesdays customer appreciation program will include two months of YouTube Premium starting tomorrow (March 24). YouTube Premium is an $11.99-a-month service that includes ad-free videos and the ability to play videos in the background, among other perks. T-Mobile Tuesdays will also include a free four-week online learning course provided by Shaw Academy.

In addition, Metro by T-Mobile will adjust its plans to cut the monthly rate on its 2GB plan to $15. Currently, that plan costs $30. The price change goes into effect this Wednesday, as the T-Mobile Connect plan launches.

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.