T-Mobile made a splash announcing its new no-contract Simple Choice plans and we here at Talk Android are wondering: Can they actually save you money? For the longest time, the wireless industry here in the U.S. has been dominated by two-year contracts. Whether you go with Sprint, Verizon or AT&T, the only way to get a solid smartphone at a lower price ($99 to $299), is by signing a two-year contract. Many Americans simply don’t have the cash to pay full price for an unlocked smartphone or tablet.
T-Mobile wants to change that with Simple Choice. There are no contracts and kicking off with the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 for just $99, it sounds like a great deal. First, let’s see what Simple Choice has to offer and at what prices:
There are three plans to choose from, which in many ways complicates rather than “simplifies”. The 500MB Simple Choice plan starts at $50 per month (1 line) for unlimited minutes/texts and the data can also be used via hotspot access. You won’t be charged a dime if you go over 500MB, but you will be throttled to 2G speeds. The 2GB plan starts at $60 per month (1 line) and is technically 2.5GB of data. It includes unlimited minutes/texts and is throttled as well after you reach the limit. If you need more data on either plan, it will cost you an additional $10 per month per device for every 2GB. Sounds simple enough, but here’s where things get complicated. The unlimited plan starts at $70 per month (1 line) and includes unlimited minutes, texts, and data. There is one caveat, and that is that the unlimited data is only for your phone. 500MB of hotspot only data is included and if you need more, you’ll have to pay the additional $10 per month per device for every 2GB of data.
Now, without contracts means you’ll have to pay for the device over time. Depending on the device, it’ll cost an additional $5 to $20 per month over 24 months for either plan, and you always have the option to just buy the device upfront. For example, let’s say you get two lines and two Samsung Galaxy S III’s with unlimited 4G (500MB hotspot data). You’re looking at $120 per month plus $40 per month over two years just for the phones themselves. If you know you won’t use more than 2.5GB of data, you can opt for the 2GB Simple Choice plan which would cost $100 per month plus $40 per month over two years for the phones. You’ll again be throttled if you go over 2.5GB at 4G speeds, but you would also have access to that entire amount of data via hotspot.
T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plans aren’t “technically” no-contract because if you opt to pay for a device over time and terminate your service before the 24 months, you still have to pay off the device. It’s a bit of a catch 22. Now, looking at pricing for three other carriers, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T, let’s see how much it would cost for at least 2GB of data:
- Verizon: $60 per month for 2GB shareable data plus $40 per smartphone. Includes unlimited talk and text.
- AT&T: $70 per month for 4GB shareable data plus $40 per smartphone. Includes unlimited talk and text.
- Sprint: $109.99 per month for unlimited everything on one device, $209.98 for two devices, and additional $99.99 per month for each device up to five devices.
If you just have one line, on Verizon it would cost you $100 per month, on AT&T $110 per month, and Sprint $109.99 per month. However, taking into consideration the average family has three lines, you’re now looking at $180 per month on Verizon, $190 per month on AT&T, and $309.97 per month on Sprint. With T-Mobile’s capped and throttled Simple Choice plan, you get 2.5GB of data at 4G speed per line for a cost of $120 per month plus $5-$20 per month per device over 24 months. With T-Mobile, you’re getting a total of 7.5GB of data (2.5GB per line) while the Verizon example only includes 2GB of shared data, and the AT&T example includes 4GB of shared data.
What about the unlimited plan? Neither Verizon nor AT&T offer unlimited data so we’re only left to compare to Sprint. For just one line, it’ll cost $109.99 per month on Sprint while it’ll cost $70 per month plus $5-$20 per month per device over 24 months on T-Mobile. Your data is unlimited, but if you need more than 500MB of hotspot data, you’ll have to pay $10 per month for every extra 2GB per device. For say three lines, Sprint will, again, cost you $309.97 per month while on T-Mobile it’ll cost $150 per month plus $5-$20 per month per device over 24 months. This pricing is even on par with AT&T and Verizon’s capped and shared plans.
If you’re an individual who is satisfied with at least 2.5GB of data, T-Mobile is the cheaper option. Opting for T-Mobile’s 2GB plan (technically 2.5GB) plus paying $20 per month for a premium device will come out to $80 per month. Even if you wanted an extra 2GB of data which comes out to a total of 4.5GB, your plan will only go up to $90 per month. That’s still cheaper than Verizon or AT&T.
For families, you can’t beat T-Mobile’s unlimited 4G data plan. Up to five lines, it’ll cost you $210 per month plus $5-$20 per month per device over 24 months. Even if you get five premium devices that will cost $20 extra per month each, that’s $310 per month. With just 4GB of shareable data on Verizon across five lines, you’re looking at $270 per month with AT&T costing the same. Sprint’s Unlimited Everything with five lines will cost a whopping $509.95 per month.
However, if your family spends less time making calls and more time using data, you could get Sprint down to just $239.96 per month for five lines, unlimited text and data included. If you’re a family who will use a lot of hotspot access, the fact that data on T-Mobile Simple Choice isn’t shared across all devices, is a major benefit. Even if you have five premium devices at $20 extra per month on the 2GB plan and added an extra 2GB to each device, you’re looking at $310 per month. While Verizon and AT&T will cost you around $40 less per month, you’re getting more data per device with T-Mobile.
Moving forward, the biggest obstacle that T-Mobile faces is building out its 4G LTE network. Launching 4G LTE in six new U.S. cities is a good start, but carriers such as Verizon and AT&T are still winning at that game. As with any carrier, you also have to take into consideration service beyond just high speed data coverage. T-Mobile doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to reception so before making any decisions, research your area and see what other people are saying.