T-Mobile: Un-carrier with somewhat better prices

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T-Mobile uncarrier plansLooks like T-Mobile’s new “uncarrier” plans are now live. And it’s a good thing. Kinda.

First, the good part:
– no more contract. If you want a “discounted” phone, you have to just finance it, and add to monthly payments. This was always the worst possible aspect of US cell phone service — you used to get contract no matter what. And if you didn’t want the phone — too bad, just sell it on eBay or something.

– unlimited data. Kinda. They say that speed will be downgraded to “2G” after included allotment is used up. Better than overages for sure.

– unlimited minutes and texts. No explanation needed, this is pretty much “the thing” now — everyone offers it, though at different prices.

– mobile hot spot is now standard. About time. There’s really no reason why regular carriers charge extra $20 for mobile hot spot — you’ve already paid for the data, so it shouldn’t matter how exactly you are using it.

Now the bad part:
– unlimited minutes and texts. Yes, it’s both good and bad. There used to be plans with less minutes but more high-speed data — no more. I think it was Verizon that started the trend of making all minutes unlimited, wether you want it or not. Not everyone needs tons of minutes, so now there are less options.

– plan charges you 20c for every international message (see here for details). While it’s better than, say, Sprint charging you for both incoming and outgoing international text, still, MVNO that use the same T-Mobile network but also include international messages in price.

– price is somewhat too high. Again, looking at MVNO (for example, Solavei or Simple Mobile or even Go Smart Mobile which is owned by T-Mobile) you can get all the same things but for less, especially if you already have a phone. Most of the MVNO give you more data at overall same or less price ($45 for something that includes 2Gb+ of high speed data).

credit approval may be required — I suppose for phones only? Doesn’t really say.

– those pesky taxes and fees. Specifically: “Regulatory Programs Fee of up to $1.61 per line/month applies. Taxes approximately 6–28 percent of your monthly bill”. In other words, the real price will be up to $65.61 ($50 + $1.61 + $50*0.28). With true pre-paid you get maximum of sales tax/USF fee, which is generally less. And no “regulatory” fee.

Overall, it’s a step in the right direction. Tiny, tiny step. Hopefully more steps will be taken soon, such as bigger variety of voice plans, and cheaper data.

p.s. Of course if you go with MVNO you probably won’t get LTE data for a while, but given how limited T-Mobile’s LTE network is, it probably won’t make any difference.

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