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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 senior editor at Tom's Guide. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.