Verizon Wireless may have recently passed up T-Mobile to hold the title of #1 carrier in the United States, but T-Mobile has far from given up; in fact, they are still close behind. T-Mobile previously held the title according to OpenSignal, and even their latest study shows the “Uncarrier” isn’t far behind Verizon. They actually tied the Big Red in speed, but lost by a hair in other categories.
Setting rankings aside, T-Mobile boasts lower prices up front than either Verizon or AT&T (it’s next closest competitor), and does so transparently: no extra fees here– the price you see is the one you get.
But if Verizon beat T-Mobile in performance categories, is the latter worth those lower prices? At what cost do these lower prices come? And is T-Mobile good? Find out by reading on.
T-Mobile plans + pricing
|T-Mobile ONE|| ||$70/mo.||View plans|
|T-mobile ONE Plus|| ||$85/mo.||View plans|
Most cell phone carriers boast their monthly prices, then quietly hide extra fees behind an asterisk saying “taxes, fees, and other charges not included.” While T-Mobile may employ asterisks, the “not included” part doesn’t apply to them.
With the exception of their “Essentials” plan (see below), all the prices you see are the ones you’ll get. In fact, at T-Mobile, activation fees aren’t even a thing. And honestly, we love that. Transparency at its finest.
That aside, T-Mobile’s single flagship unlimited plan is the T-Mobile ONE (ironically, there are two versions of this plan). It gives you a massive data deprioritization threshold of 50GB of 4G LTE data per month and an unlimited mobile hotspot at 3G speeds. The SD video streaming is a bit disappointing, but that soft data cap can’t be beat by competitors for the same price.
If you’re curious about how T-Mobile’s ONE vs ONE Plus plans differ, there’s really not a ton. If you want HD video and 4G mobile hotspot speeds, an extra $15 a month upgrades you to the ONE Plus plan, which also comes with some more bonus perks. Compare either ONE or ONE Plus to competitors like Verizon and AT&T and most of the time you’re getting a better deal with T-Mobile.
That said, you’re not going to beat Verizon when it comes to coverage.
Over 55? Check out T-Mobile’s 55+ Unlimited Plan for seniors-- you’ll get 2 lines of unlimited for just $70 a month.
|T-Mobile ONE|| ||No extra cost||View plans|
We chose T-Mobile for the best international plan of all the top carriers for a reason. Not only is unlimited texting and data at 2G speeds in over 210 countries included in the base unlimited plan, but for just an extra $15 a month, you can get even faster speeds– perfect for that 2-week vacation to Europe.
If T-Mobile’s regular unlimited plans aren’t floating your boat, they’ve got a stripped-down version of ONE that they unveiled last summer. T-Mobile Essentials starts at just $60 a month for 1 line, and if you sign up for 4, you’ll get it at just $30 a line– not bad.
Essentials gives you, well, the Essentials: unlimited talk, text, and data. But there’s a few downsides:
- You’ll find your speeds throttled first, in favor of customers on the ONE and ONE Plus plans, especially once you pass the 50GB data threshold; and
- Essentials is the only plan that doesn’t include extra fees in their advertised price– so expect to pay a little more per month; in other words, you might end up paying just as much as if you’d gotten the ONE plan, so be sure to do your homework beforehand.
T-Mobile Prepaid plans
|T-Mobile ONE Prepaid Domestic Only||Unlimited domestic talk, text, an data Unlimited mobile hotspot at 3G speeds||$50/mo.||View plans|
|Simply Prepaid||Unlimited domestic talk and text 4G LTE data up to 10GB||$40/mo.||View plans|
|Pay As You Go||30 minutes of combo talk/text Add more for $0.10/msg.||$3/mo.||View plans|
As far as Prepaid plans go, you get 3 options with T-Mobile: the prepaid version of T-Mobile ONE (no international service features), Simply Prepaid, and Pay As You Go.
T-Mobile ONE prepaid
The prepaid version of T-Mobile ONE has the same features as the regular postpaid unlimited plan. But it’s domestic-only features. That means international features have add-on prices, whereas they’re included in the regular postpaid ONE plans:
- +$5/mo. for coverage in Mexico + Canada
- +$15/mo. for stateside international calling
Simply Prepaid is essentially the same as the ONE Prepaid plan, with one notable exception: no unlimited data. Simply Prepaid gives you 4G speeds up to 10GB, then slows down. While that’s not bad, Simple Mobile gives you 40GB of data before throttling, plus international texting and calling, for just $10 more per month. If you really don’t plan on using that data and you don’t make any international calls, this might be a solid deal.
Pay As You Go
T-Mobile’s Pay As You Go plan is great for people who rarely use a cell phone. You pay $3 for the month, and you get 30 minutes of texting and calling, in any combination between the two. Once you run out, you’ll pay $0.10 per message/minute.
AT&T offers a similar plan where you pay $2 for each 24 hour period that you use your phone; however, on the days that you do use your phone it is unlimited.
The T-Mobile plan is best if you text and make calls almost daily, but never for very long. The AT&T plan is better if you have long, but infrequent calls/texting sessions.
*Reflects current promotion.
T-Mobile gives you plenty of options for multi-line plans, with some pretty good savings. You can choose the Essentials all the way up to the ONE Plus plan. So basically, it comes down to how much hotspot data or HD streaming you and your family members do: lots of video and music streaming? (Remember, Wi-Fi doesn’t count towards your data cap.) Probably go with ONE or ONE Plus.
Not so much? Just stick with T-Mobile Essentials.
But when it comes to a family plan, even with T-Mobile’s savings and perks, you really can’t beat Sprint: currently, pay $60 a month for the first two lines Unlimited Plus and you’ll get your 3rd, 4th, and 5th lines completely free.
If you’re looking to save money on multiple lines and don’t want frills, go with Essentials. Everyone else-- go with Unlimited ONE.
Now that we’ve got all the plans out of the way, you probably noticed a line in some of the tables saying, “Lots of perks included.” That’s where T-Mobile shines. Here are their biggest:
- Netflix subscription: When you have 2 lines on the T-Mobile ONE (or Plus) plan, you’ll get a free Netflix subscription. It’s the standard, 2-screen subscription and you can use it across any of your devices.
- GoGo flights: If you fly often, T-Mobile ONE gives you inflight texting plus 1-hour of data on any GoGo-enabled flights. Upgrade to ONE Plus or ONE Plus International, and you’ll get unlimited inflight Wi-Fi.
- T-Mobile Tuesdays: Every Tuesday, T-Mobile gives away freebies to customers, just for being customers. Prizes included free access to TV channels like MLB.TV Premium, or Lyft ride discounts or Frostys at Wendy’s.
- Digits: You can use your T-Mobile number on multiple other devices, like PCs and older phones.
- Military discount: If you’re past or present military, you’re eligible for a sizable discount – $55 a month for the first line, with each additional at ½-off.
- 55+ senior discount: We mentioned this one already — pay just $70 a month for 2 lines of unlimited.
Phones + devices
|Samsung||Galaxy S10E, S10, S10 Plus, Note9, S9, S9+, etc.|
|Apple||iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, X, iPhone 8, 8 Plus, etc.|
|Pixel 3a, 3a XL|
|Others||LG G8 ThinQ, OnePlus 7 Pro, Motorola g7 Power, REVVL 2, LG Aristo, CoolPad SNAP, Alcatel GO FLIP, etc.|
When it comes to phones, T-Mobile scored a major win recently– they can now carry Google phones. Verizon had held the monopoly on that, but no longer– so say hello to Google Pixel.
But even before, T-Mobile carried a wide selection: all the latest iPhones and Androids, as well as older models and their own T-Mobile brand. So you’ll have no problem finding something to suit your needs.
But, if you want to do a monthly payment plan, be ready with your credit score as T-Mobile asks for it. If you skip the credit check, just know that you’ll have to pay full price for your phone up front.
Coverage + performance
While T-Mobile and Verizon have fought for overall #1 carrier– particularly concerning speed— when it comes to coverage, there’s no competition here: Verizon wins, T-Mobile loses.
In fact, not only does T-Mobile lose to Verizon, but they actually come in 3rd place, behind AT&T, too. T-Mobile is just not built for rural areas, so if you live outside a city– watch out.
The short of T-Mobile’s performance is this: if you live in a metro or city area, you’ll probably get fast speeds. But if you live in a more rural area, go with Verizon or AT&T. You’re more likely to get a signal.
The wireless industry is pretty poor as a whole when it comes to customer service, but T-Mobile is trying– and they’ve now won JD Power’s award for “Wireless Customer Care” the 3rd year in a row.
Part of their success may be centered around the “Team of Experts” they launched to address a poor phone menu and aggravating call center runaround– customers’ two biggest complaints in the past.
Still, despite awards and progress, you’ll still get mixed reviews if you start looking into T-Mobile’s ratings in this department.
When it comes to T-Mobile’s online support center, it’s pretty easy to navigate. You can chat, join a forum community, reach out by social media, or call the number. They also give you some shortcodes to check on your account balance or minute, message, and data usage with a single text– pretty handy when you just want to do a quick check.
You can find all those contact methods here:
So, does T-Mobile provide good value for their lower prices? The short answer: Yes, they do. With all the features they include, you have to wonder why they don’t charge a little more.
T-Mobile offers just 2 unlimited plans (with upgrades, of course), but these few plans include many of the features that other carriers would separate into a greater number of tiers.
The prepaid plans give some decent value for their prices, but you may get better value out of an MVNO like Simple Mobile. Family plans, too, cut you a good break, but you can get better value-for-money out of Sprint’s Unlimited Plus family plan.
T-Mobile’s biggest failing comes with coverage– if you leave the city, your bars will go down. Maybe not as quickly as with Sprint, but if you’re a rural-dweller, Verizon is the one to choose. Or, AT&T if you want a little better price for similar coverage.
What is “GoGo?”
GoGo is an in-flight service that gives you Wi-Fi access during your flight. It’s available for ONE, ONE Plus, and ONE Plus International plans. You’ll get 1 hour of free Wi-Fi on the ONE plan and unlimited on Plus and International. The downside is, it’s only available on some airplanes (“GoGo-enabled flights”). Those include:
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- Virgin America
Can I bring my old phone to T-Mobile? What about my number?
Yes. T-Mobile has a BYOP program. There are a few steps you need to follow, though:
- Verify that your device is unlocked.
- Use the online compatibility checker to see if your device will work on T-Mobile’s network.
- Choose a SIM card
- Activate your line.
You can check here for more detailed instructions.
You can also bring your old number over, too. There are two ways to do that:
- Dial 611 or call customer care at 1-877-453-1304 and have your account number, PIN/password, and billing address ready.
- Follow the number transfer instructions that are on the “payment page” during online checkout.
Will T-Mobile pay my Early Termination Fee if I switch?
Yes. If you switch from AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon, you may be eligible for T-Mobile’s ETF reimbursement offer. To do so:
- Transfer your number, trade in your phone or tablet, and receive a bill credit based off your device’s market value.
- When you get the bill from your old carrier with the ETF amount, send it by mail to T-Mobile or submit it online to switch2tmobile.com. If you do qualify, you’ll get a virtual mastercard covering up to $350 per line within 8 weeks.