I used to be a T-Mobile subscriber back when it was called Voicestream and had Jamie Lee Curtis as a spokeswoman, up until a “magical” device called the iPhone came out in 2007. Since then, like many fellow AT&T inmates, I’ve been serving a life sentence plagued by dropped calls, expensive plans, unrelenting contracts, overages, and the never-ending nightmare that is AT&T. I know I’m Sith, but still… When AT&T announced it’s plans to purchase T-Mobile several years back, I was not happy, because I knew that as a customer, while it might mean that I would have a stronger network with fewer dropped calls, it would also mean that AT&T would be in a stronger position to infect the industry with it’s own brand of corporate tomfoolery. Verizon with it’s ironclad network and Sprint with it’s unlimited data, were never a blip on my radar, because as an iPhone user, personally, I just didn’t want a limited experience with outdated CDMA tech. Who would’ve thought that after the collapse of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, T-Mobile would use the money they were compensated to begin an all-out war with the competition? Customers rejoice, those “new” plans that were announced by Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T after Un Carrier 3.0 and I suspect 4.0, are a direct result of T-Mobile’s relentless assault to the top of the mobile industry.

Yesterday, T-Mobile may have out done themselves with their newest plan.

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T-Mobile’s new break-up plan is efficient, effective, and designed to put the hurt on the competition. Here’s the details:

You: Walk into T-Mobile with you’re current phone from AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint.

You: Tell T-Mobile you’re filing for a divorce from your carrier.

T-Mobile: Takes your current phone and appraises the value.

You: Accept their offer and purchase a new phone from T-Mobile.

T-Mobile: Ports your phone number over, discusses their plans, and once you accept, serves your carrier the divorce notice.

Your Carrier: Sends you a final bill with your Early Termination Fee (ETF) attached.

You: Send T-Mobile a copy of your final bill.

T-Mobile: Gives you a pre-paid Mastercard with the value of your ETF up 350.00 on it.

You: Dance for joy because you no longer have to deal with contracts, overages, or expensive plans again!

Now for the fine print:

  • The value you are going to get for your device is awful. Don’t even think for one minute that you are going to get 500.00 for your iPhone or Samsung device. The most you can get is 300.00 and even then, you may not get that.

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  • The ETF reimbursement is a reimbursement. Unless you somehow get the Mastercard from T-Mobile faster than your final bill with your previous carrier is due, you will have to pony up the cash for the ETF and eventually you’ll get your money back from T-Mobile in the exact amount of your ETF as long as it’s not greater than 350.00 which is highly unlikely anyway.

 

  • That said, if you combine the ETF reimbursement, plus the trade-in offer of your device, you may technically come close to that 500.00 you would normally get on eBay or Craigslist for your device. Remember that T-Mobile has to make some money and besides, the major thing here is that you’re finally getting rid of the ole ball and chain, so the trade-off is worth it overall.

And about those plans:

Here’s where T-Mobile kicks the competitions butt. The basic (most people only need this) plan is 50.00. For 50.00, you get unlimited talk and text and “technically” unlimited data. T-Mobile works on the no pain, no gain system. Sure, you get “unlimited” data, meaning you will never have overages and you’ll always have access to the internet, YouTube, Facebook, or whatever your vice is. However, it comes at a cost. T-Mobile will give you 500mb of LTE data upfront, but after that…..prepare for data speeds circa 2007. So yes it’s unlimited data, but it’s only unlimited data at LTE speeds up to 500mb. However, if that is not enough LTE for you, T-Mobile will gladly give you more LTE data for 10.00 extra a month in 2GB increments. So if you wanted 2GB (technically 2.5GB if you count the original 500mb) of LTE, then you’d only pay 60.00 a month for unlimited data with 2.5GB of that data being LTE and the rest at 2007 speed. I’ve tested this out with my fancy T-Mobile iPad Air and I’m more than convinced that the overwhelming majority of people will be fine with the vanilla 50.00 500mb plan. Once that 500mb runs out and it runs out fast, data speeds for me were slower than what I’ve become accustomed to, but doable. Besides, there’s so much wi-fi in the world these days, that if you’re like me and have wi-fi at home, work, Starbucks, etc. you’ll rarely use data anyway.

T-Mobile’s bread and butter and the real threat this “break-up” plan poses is in the family plan. T-Mobile has said that they will implement this “break-up” plan for up to 5 lines per account, i.e. your “family”. This is where T-Mobile’s plan really shines. If you have more than one device up to 5 and want to tell your current carrier to take a long walk off a short pier, you bring all of your current devices to T-Mobile, get their value, choose new phones, and T-Mobile reimburses the ETF for EACH LINE. T-Mobile’s family plans are awesome. Instead of the vanilla 50.00 plan for one line, on the family plan, 2 lines cost 80.00 for the same unlimited text, voice, and “unlimited” (500mb LTE) data. Each additional up to 5 is only 10.00 more. So a family of 5 can get unlimited everything for only 110.00 plus Uncle Sam (tax) fees. NO ONE CAN BEAT THAT!

Soooooo, you may be asking what’s the catch? There’s always a catch, but it’s not as bad as you might think. First of all, this whole deal is predicated on YOU buying a new phone and new service from T-Mobile, otherwise what’s the point? T-Mobile is essentially saying drop that zero and join this hero, but at a cost. However, the cost is ultimately up to you, so even here T-Mobile is giving you freedom. Here’s how:

In UnCarrier 3.0 T-Mobile revolutionized how we buy phones from carriers. Originally, you either paid full price for your device i.e. 600.00+ for an Unlocked iPhone OR the carrier subsidized the cost by only charging you 199.99 for a LOCKED iPhone or so up front in return for your forced loyalty for 2 years. T-Mobile added option #3: You still pay full price for your UNLOCKED iPhone, but you can get it with interest free financing and pay T-Mobile back in equal installments, until the device is paid off. This sometimes requires an upfront down payment which goes toward the balance and sometimes T-Mobile actually sells their device cheaper than the manufacturer. The onus is up to the consumer as to whether they only want to make the monthly Equipment Installment Plan (EIP) payment until their balance is paid in full or pay it off early in full under no penalty whatsoever. Remember this is interest free and at cost. So when you get your new device you will have the option of buying one outright or getting it on the EIP. This means that on top of the wonderful plan you will also have a monthly payment for your device. For example I bought and iPad Air from T-Mobile using EIP. The iPad Air was the exact price of what it would cost had I bought the same configuration from Apple. My monthly data plan is 20.00 and my EIP is 26.00. So I pay T-Mobile 46.00 a month. IF you went the “break-up” route a family of 5 would pay 110.00 for their plan and depending on their device, using an iPhone 5S 16GB as an example, 25.00 for each device a month for a grand-total of 210.00 a month. Keep in mind that for example, That AT&T’s mobile share plan cost 150.00 for 20GB of data (the min for 5 lines in my exp), then charges either 25.00 a line off contract and if you bring your own phone or 40.00 a line if you sign-up for their new Next program which tries to mimic T-Mobile’s EIP EXCEPT you’re locked into a 2 year contract. If you bring your own phones that would total 275.00 or 350.00 if you get your device through them. T-Mobile is the clear winner here.

Although AT&T’s data is supposed to be LTE all the time, which is mostly true depending on where you live, if you go over you will pay overage fees if you go past your allotted data. So you have to ask yourself if full LTE up to a point plus overages is worth the extra 50-150+ in costs.

No matter how you calculate and I’ve done a lot of that in the last 24 hrs, and after talking to AT&T and T-Mobile Customer services multiple times, there is no way that I can’t recommend T-Mobile over it’s rivals if you’re an individual or a family. Just think, even if you are a couple or two friends on the same plan, you can get the basic plan with unlimited text, data, voice and 2 new iPhones on EIP for a total of 130.00 and don’t forget, if you paid for those iPhones outright (ouch) or paid them early (tax return, bonus, raise, sold some stuff online), or just made the minimum payment until you were done, you monthly would only be 80 for 2 lines with unlimited and NO CONTRACT. By the way, if you quit at anytime, which is your right at T-Mobile, you’d only be responsible for the remaining balance on your device if any.

ONE MORE THING:

T-Mobile also has what they call “Jump”. Basically it’s a no frills insurance plan that will cover your device if its damaged (dropped, cracked, fell in the bath) or stolen, for 10.00 a month per line, BUT what Jump also allows you to do is trade-up every 6 months to a new device if you see fit. New Samsung comes out as they tend to do several times a year and on Jump, you trade your current phone in, they clear out your EIP balance, give you the new device and a new EIP. You can do this every 6 months or twice a year, IF you pay the 10.00 a month per line.

There really is no point in staying with your current carrier unless you live in an area that doesn’t have good T-Mobile coverage, which is becoming more and more difficult each day.

Lastly,

I used Apple devices in my examples because they are better, however the figures should be the same when it comes to EIP payments, but the balances are based on the total cost of the device whatever that is. Case in point, the new Nexus is around 350-400 vs 600+ for an iPhone 5S.

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