It's unlike T-Mobile to follow the lead of other wireless carriers. But after AT&T, Verizon and Sprint all split their unlimited plans into multiple tiers, the Uncarrier plans to do the same with the introduction of T-Mobile Essentials.
T-Mobile may not be exploring new territory by offering multiple unlimited plans. But at least T-Mobile Essentials can stake its claim as the lowest-cost unlimited data offering for families from one of the Big Four carriers.
Starting this Friday (Aug. 10), T-Mobile Essentials will cost $60 for a single line, with a second line available for $30, and lines three through six costing $15 each. That means a family of four would pay $120 a month for unlimited service. T-Mobile One, the carrier's existing unlimited plan costs $70 for one line, $50 for the second and $20 for each additional line; that's $160 for that same family of four. (Note that all these prices reflect an autopay discount; otherwise, tack on an additional $5 per line.)
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T-Mobile touts Essentials as the plan for customers who just want unlimited talk, text and data and don't want to pay for extra perks. T-Mobile One subscribers get 5GB of LTE data when traveling in Mexico and Canada, in-flight texting and one hour of data on Gogo-enabled flights, and free Netflix on plans with two or more lines. Those latter two benefits aren't available on T-Mobile Essentials, and you'll only be able to access data at 2G speeds in Mexico and Canada on the new plan unless you buy a pass with 512MB of LTE data for $5 a day.
|T-Mobile Plans||Single Line Cost||Second Line Cost||Lines 3-6 Cost||Hotspot Data||International Usage||Taxes and Fees Included?|
|T-Mobile Essentials||$60||$30||$15 per line||Unlimited at 3G speeds||Unlimited talk, text and data at 2G speeds in Mexico & Canada; unlimited texting in 210+ countries||No|
|T-Mobile One||$70||$50||$20 per line||Unlimited at 3G speeds||Unlimited talk, text and 5GB of LTE data in Mexico & Canada; unlimited texting and data (2G) in 210+ countries||Yes|
You'll give up some other benefits, too, should you opt for T-Mobile Essentials. Most significantly, the new unlimited plan's pricing does not include taxes and fees. In contrast, T-Mobile One plans do fold taxes and fees into their pricing, so you know what total amount will wind up on your bill each month. Essentials customers may also see their speeds slowed if T-Mobile's network is congested — a practice both AT&T and Verizon engage in for their entry-level unlimited plans.
International travelers are unlikely to find the Essentials plan as appealing at T-Mobile One. That latter plan offers unlimited texting and data (at 2G speeds) in 210 countries around the world. T-Mobile Essentials only offers unlimited texting when you travel; if you want data, you'll need to pay $5 a day for a global pass with 512MB of LTE data.
When choosing a family plan, you either have to opt for T-Mobile Essentials or T-Mobile One; you can't mix-and-match plans as you can with Verizon's trio of unlimited offerings.
In launching Essentials, T-Mobile pointed out that its new plan was cheaper than comparable offerings from AT&T and Verizon. That much is true — AT&T's Unlimited & More plan starts at $70 a month while Verizon's Go Unlimited costs $75 for a single line. Families of four pay $160 a month for those plans at AT&T and Verizon.
|Entry-Level Unlimited Plan||Single Line||Two Lines||Three Lines||Four Lines|
|AT&T Unlimited & More||$70||$125||$145||$160|
|Sprint Unlimited Basic||$60||$100||$120||$140|
|Verizon Go Unlimited||$75||$130||$150||$160|
A more apt comparison, though, may be with Sprint and its recently unveiled Unlimited Basic plan. As with T-Mobile Essentials, one line of Basic Unlimited at Sprint costs $60 a month. You can add a second line for $40 with additional lines costing $20 each. That means a family of four pays $140 for Sprint's Basic Unlimited plan, or $20 more than T-Mobile will charge that same family for four lines of Essentials.
While T-Mobile essentially had just a single unlimited plan prior to the launch of Essentials, it did offer add-ons to T-Mobile One, and it's tweaking the price of one of them. T-Mobile One Plus lets you stream video in HD resolution. (Otherwise, you're capped at 480p resolution on T-Mobile One.) It also includes unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi, faster data speeds when traveling overseas and 10GB of LTE hotspot data among other perks. The add-on had cost $10 per line, and while that's still the case on family plans, for single-lines, T-Mobile now plans to charge $15 on top of the T-Mobile One rate.
Editors' Note: An earlier version of this story said that customers would be able to mix-and-match T-Mobile's two unlimited offerings on family plans based on information provided by a T-Mobile spokesperson. That is not the case, and we've corrected the article to reflect that.