T-Mobile's New One Unlimited Plan: Who Wins, Who Loses

T-Mobile is betting that simplicity and unlimited data are the fastest way to customers' hearts. It's doing away with tiered data plans in favor of a lone unlimited data plan for $70-a-month that it calls T-Mobile One.

Add in discounts for adding multiple lines — a second line costs $50 while additional lines after that cost $20 each — and a family of four can get unlimited data for $160 a month.

T-Mobile's emphasis on unlimited data is great news for people who consume a lot of data each month and don't care to keep tabs on just how many megabytes they're eating up every time they stream a video. Previously, the Uncarrier's unlimited data plan cost individuals $95 a month.

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But users who don't consume much data might find T-Mobile's new approach a bit unwelcoming. Previously, the carrier's Simple Choice plan included a $50-a-month option with 2GB of high-speed data. T-Mobile One starts at $70. However, T-Mobile tells us that it is not eliminating Simple Choice plans right now.

T-Mobile executives say that single lines are only a small part of the company's postpaid business, and that the unlimited data offerings are really geared toward family plan customers, where T-Mobile offers each line its own pool of data. Other carriers' family plans feature individual buckets of data for each person in the plan.

In a conference call with reporters, T-Mobile executives pointed out that the carrier will continue to offer tiered plans through its prepaid service as well as through its MetroPCS subsidiary. MetroPCS monthly plans start at $30 for 1GB of data while T-Mobile's prepaid offerings start at $40 a month for 3GB.

T-Mobile One includes some fine print that customers should be wary of before leaping feet first into T-Mobile's new unlimited data pool. For starters, that $70-a-month starting price assumes you'll enroll in an automatic payment program; otherwise, tack on another $5 each month to T-Mobile's pricing.

T-Mobile's Binge On service, which allowed users to stream lower-resolution video without it eating into their data plan, is now baked into T-Mobile One. That means any video you watch will be streamed at what T-Mobile calls DVD-quality (around 480p). T-Mobile executives says that's a perfectly fine resolution for watching video on a smartphone-sized screen; if you disagree, it'll cost you $25 per month for each line to upgrade to higher-definition video.

T-Mobile's previous unlimited plan included 14GB of hotspot service. That seems to have been ditched with T-Mobile One, as the carrier promises only unlimited mobile hotspot data at 2G speeds; if you want high-speed tethering, that's $15 for 5GB of high-speed data.

As with most unlimited plans, there are limitations to just how much data you can use. T-Mobile says people who consume 26GB of data per month can expect to see their speeds throttled when there's a lot of network traffic. That's actually a higher threshold than T-Mobile's previous unlimited plan where throttling kicked in at 23GB.

The T-Mobile One plan launches Sept. 6 for new customers. Current T-Mobile subscribers will be able to keep their current plans if they wish.

Philip Michaels

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.