Tuesday, April 16, 2013

T-Mobile's New Wireless Plans

Over the weekend, Amber went out and got her first smartphone. Hooray Amber! (It's a Windows-based Nokia, for those curious. 100% her choice, in part because Amber and I have different priorities, and also because I'm a little gun-shy recommending any cell phones to anyone these days.)

But actually...I'm going to talk more about something else. Recently, T-Mobile - whom I've been with since January 2010, and has long lagged behind in 4th place nationally - completely changed the structure of their cell phone plans. Now, it's pretty simple: a) No contracts, period. b) Every smartphone plan is unlimited talk/text. c) There are tiered data plans on top of that, although only "high speed data" (3G and up) counts against your quota.

Amber wasn't already on a data plan, and she was going to need one for her new smartphone. So between that, and T-Mobile's new wireless plans, I figured this was a good opportunity to re-evaluate T-Mobile versus the competition. I'm generally happy with T-Mobile. They're cheaper, their customer service is way better than AT&T, and their coverage in the cities I spend the most time in is fine, not to mention more reliable than AT&T. (Seriously, AT&T was rubbish.) Their coverage in rural areas (e.g. West Virginia) is lacking, however, and is far inferior to Verizon. So with T-Mobile's new plans, is T-Mobile still cheaper than Verizon? Because if not, then we should switch. (Verizon is the only competitor I would consider switching to; Sprint would be a lateral move, and, well, I've already said my piece on AT&T.)

Well, here's the deal with the new T-Mobile wireless plans (also explained here). In addition to being "no contract", the base rates are also cheaper than before. However, the cheaper base rates are made up for by the fact that you don't get those discounted "two year contract" rates for phones anymore. Instead, you pay full price for the phones in monthly installments over a two year period (at 0% interest). The end result is that you end up paying basically the same per month as you did under the old T-Mobile plans. However, if you're like Amber and typically only upgrade your phone every three or four years instead of every two years, then once those two years are up, you start saving money! And therein lies the primary benefit to T-Mobile's new plans, as I see it. Of course, if you're the type to upgrade more frequently than every two years, you pay more...but that was already the case.

I worked out the numbers in full, and concluded a couple of things. First off, given that Amber wants a smartphone, we're better off switching both of us to a new "no contract" T-Mobile plan now, even when you consider the $100 "plan migration" fee (or some such thing) that I'm subjected to due to still being under contract through next January. Also, Verizon is still $20 or $30 more per month, and I don't think it's worth that just to have better coverage for those few hours we spend in West Virginia every time we drive to Toledo. Because really, that would be the primary benefit to switching. Verizon is also supposed to be faster, but I'm not a heavy smartphone user, so, meh.

Speaking of not being a heavy smartphone user: my old plan had unlimited data, and my new plan doesn't. Sucks, right? Well...I looked back through a year's worth of bills, and found out that on average, I only use 500 MB per month of data anyway. And the bare minimum T-Mobile plan offers...500 MB a month! I could have justified sticking with the minimum, but I decided to go with the 2 GB plan ($10 per month per user) just to prevent that from being an issue. 2 GB per month will be plenty. Also, if you go over the limit, T-Mobile doesn't slam you with overages; instead, they just handcuff you with G and 2G data speeds for the rest of the billing cycle, which isn't a terrible thing.

So, for the foreseeable future, T-Mobile it is! I really hope things work out for them, because these new plans are definitely more "customer friendly". Try not to get bought out by AT&T again, okay?

This also means I could upgrade my phone any time, and it'll cost me the same regardless of whether I get it now, or wait until January. My current phone isn't the greatest piece of technology ever produced, but I haven't had any problems with it lately, so I'm in no immediate rush. And no, I'm not going to get an iPhone, even though T-Mobile offers them now.


James Allen said...

You could circumvent the monthly new phone payments by purchasing an inexpensive yet high-end unlocked device.

Chris Allen said...

That is true. Get that phone through T-Mobile and you end up paying $457 total. Hmm