How Do T-Mobile's Plans Compare?

Summary: Wireless carrier T-Mobile has come out dressed as the 'Un-Carrier' and has hit the streets with new plans and payment models which have barely moved the needle from what users used to pay on T-Mobile...

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Wireless carrier T-Mobile has come out dressed as the 'Un-Carrier' and has hit the streets with new plans and payment models which have barely moved the needle from what users used to pay on T-Mobile. Although T-Mobile CEO, John Legere, has quickly dispensed with other carrier's subsidised cell phone tactics as confusing and almost malicious, T-Mobile's new wireless plan model separates the phone payment and the service plan payment with little financial chage for customers over 24 months. Think of it as being able to offer a lower headline price to attract customers but making it back with other payments over time, a lot like discount airline tickets where you pay for baggage and food separately after buying the cheap ticket.

So, how do these plans compare over 24 months now that you'll pay upfront for your new phone (or finance it with T-Mobile over 24 months which is the more likely option). We've compared the new total prices to paying off the device by way of a 24 month contract in a traditional wireless contract. We've used an example where you want a new Galaxy S3 (and added the best substitute device from Virgin Mobile and Boost, the Galaxy SII 4G, to be able to include some wider options).

All of the comparison numbers for all plan combinations on the Galaxy S3 can be compared here across 24 month period including the costs of the new Equipment Installation Plan on T-Mobile.

Light Usage - Entry Level

For light users we ran a sample comparison of 500 minutes, 500 messages and 500MB of data per month. Entry level customers had previously been offered a 500 minute plan from T-Mobile but now find themselves seeing unlimited calls and messages as their main option. As consumers move away from phone calls towards increased data usage via messaging applications like WhatsApp and iMessage, 500 minutes might be the right size for many people.

Medium Usage

For medium users, we looked at monthly usage of 1,000 minutes, 1,000 messages and 2GB of data per month with a new Galaxy S3 across 24 months. T-Mobile was the most competitive of the major carriers, but lost out again to the MVNO players like Ting and Virgin Mobile on the Galaxy S2 (although the Galaxy S2 is a weaker and cheaper phone).

Heavy Usage

For heavy individual users we've looked at unlimited calls, unlimited messages and 4G of data per month. You can go heavier in your usage comparisons and right up to 12GB comparisons, but we've started at 4GB which is pretty heavy for an individual. We've excluded some of the MVNO players as they can't offer 4GB at full speed (i.e. the most you can get from Virgin Mobile is 3.5GB at full speed).

Mobile Hotspot. If you want to use the T-Mobile unlimited data plan as a mobile hotspot, you'll need to add a separate data plan to allow this access as T-Mobile won't let you go unlimited on data if you're hot-spotting. You can keep your unlimited data for your phone and add hotspot access of 2.5GB for $10 or 4.5GB of access for $20 per month so that you can use your phone as modem.

No contract. The promise with T-Mobile's new plans is that they are they are contract free and you can upgrade anytime if you have already paid for your device upfront or paid off the financing of your device (which comes in at the same total cost with a 0% APR).

Contracted finance payments: Most people will likely end up financing their device via T-Mobile so you've still got a 24 month payment plan with T-Mobile's financing vendor. If you leave T-Mobile after 12 months, you're still going to have to pay the device off in full. The iPhone experience with Leap Wireless has shown just how resistant consumers are to high upfront costs as customers found the high upfront cost to be a barrier whilst Verizon celebrated a deluge of customers in the same period by offering and $0 iPhone 4 8GB which shows the subsidised model still draws in consumers.

Compare service plans and prices for your selected phone here

Note to Journalists: You’re welcome to use the infographics we’ve made and we’ve included a full size infographic of the T-Mobile plans compared against other carriers over 24 months below. Feel free to use it but we’d love it if you credited us appropriately as the source if you do choose to use it. Enjoy.

Like these Comparisons? We've put them together in one big Infographic

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