- Nov 30, 2015
T-Mobile doesn't work out for everyone.
Having phone service that's cheap and good is important.
Finding the right phone carrier is a pretty big deal. We're using our phones more than ever, and doing more with them — they're not just for making calls anymore. And sometimes, finding the right carrier doesn't happen on the first try. What's important is that you know it and are ready to move on.
A lot of folks are happy with T-Mobile, just like a lot of folks are happy with any of the other carriers here in the states. If you're one of those happy people, that's awesome. But if you're not, and you're thinking the grass might be greener with another company, here are five things to think about and see if it's time to make a change.
As of the end of 2016, T-Mobile claims to cover 313 million Americans or just 1 million shy of Verizon's 314 million total. We've no reason to doubt it, and T-Mo has rolled out even more coverage since. But there are plenty of people who don't have good T-Mobile coverage.
The reason is because of the population demographics here in the U.S. With about 90% of the population living in urban or suburban areas, it's easy to show they are covered with a magenta map. But if you live outside of town, T-Mobile might not work for you. Even if you live where the map shows you're covered, there are no promises of consistent and fast coverage. Never trust those maps, which is why we always suggest you ask the people you know and trust what carrier they use.
Phone service can cost a lot of money. T-Mobile has long championed itself as being the cheaper alternative, but we're seeing their costs rise more and more with each makeover of their plans and services. We'll chalk some of that up to inflation, but we can't ignore that it no longer has to beg for your business and is out to increase its bottom line a little more. Of course, that's what all companies do so T-Mobile is not alone here.
To offset those price increases, its waiving taxes and fees for people using a current plan. That's great if you live somewhere like California that has high taxes, but in other areas taxes are low and it's not as much of a bargain. That's why the idea works — for every customer T-Mobile is spending $50 or more each month to eat the taxes, another customer is only costing it $10. A price hike helps make the whole thing a wash for T-Mobile.
T-Mobile unlimited plans are still cheaper than plans from AT&T and Verizon, and in many cases by a large amount. But if you're on the current $45/4GB plan or one of the previous monthly plans, you can do better.
T-Mobile is great in this area. Most unlocked GSM phones have the network bands needed for T-Mobile service, and it gets the big-name releases just like every other carrier does. But it took a while to get to this point, and we're going to be going through it all over again, at least if you need good service indoors or as part of the coming rural network expansion.
Those are the things the new 600MHz network rollout is going to fix, and it won't work for you unless you buy a new phone. We've seen the LG V30 announced as compatible, and others will be coming. But nothing will make your current phone work on this new network, nor will any of last-years awesome phones that are still sold as new at a big savings work, either. If you need to buy a new phone anyway, it's worth looking to see what else is out there from the competition
T-Mobile's front-line postpaid customer service is heralded as being some of the best in the industry alongside AT&T. Yet the internet is still filled with horror stories, and everyone knows AT&T customer service is just as bad. So what gives?
These ratings are for postpaid only, and based on first-contact. When you get a ticket number and have to call back, you might not be as lucky.
The internet is filled with tales of billing errors that were never reconciled, lack of support for devices issues (especially if you're not using an iPhone or Galaxy device), shipping problems and more. These are the tough issues, and while the employees in stores and over the phone are well trained on the basics so they can answer most questions and fix most issues, difficult problems seem to get lost in the cracks a bit more often than we like to hear. Even second-hand anecdotal evidence can be worrying where there is enough of it.
The fine print
All carrier plans come with fine print that you need to read so you know what the details really mean, and T-Mobile has mountains of it.
They're not being outright deceitful — the details are there if you look for them, right where you expect them to be. They just don't make it into the commercials or Uncarrier events.
We all know that unlimited really means "might be limited at our whim," but other things might surprise you. Like 'Netflix on us' means low-quality Netflix streaming on your phone unless you pay $10 more per line, or 'Including Mobile Hotspot' means 3G-only hotspot unless you pay extra, or 'DVD quality' means 480p at best and still subject to optimization on both ends, and 'International connectivity like never before' means some features are domestic only. Technically all these things are still as-advertised and true. That doesn't make you feel any better when you find out what a Binge On! video looks like at 480p on your laptop while tethered at 3G speed or how long you had to let it buffer before it started playing.
If you just don't want to give extra money every month so that the service is closer to what you thought it would be, it might be time to look elsewhere.
We know plenty of people are more than happy with what T-Mobile has to offer, and we know that just as many people have their own horror story. Get in those comments and let everyone know what you have to say!
Alternative carriers (MVNOS)
- What is an alternative mobile carrier?
- What are the advantages of going with an alternative carrier?
- How to make sure your phone works on a prepaid alternative carrier
- 8 Important Considerations When Switching To An MVNO
- These are the cheapest data plans you can buy in the U.S.
- Mint SIM vs. Cricket Wireless: Which is better for you?