How to Get the Most from T-Mobile's New Plans
UPDATED 6:30 p.m. ET Thursday with T-Mobile's iPhone launch.
Choosing a smartphone, along with the right data plan, is never simple. However, T-Mobile today (March 25) launched a new line of budget-friendly plans that could make the process much easier.
T-Mobile's UNcarrier Classic Plans begin at $50 per month for unlimited talk and text, with 500MB of data (enough for email and the occasional Facebook post, and sufficient if the user has access to reliable Wi-Fi). For $70 per month, users are allotted "unlimited" data, which is actually 5GB, in T-Mobile terms. In comparison, AT&T charges $140 per month for unlimited voice and texts, plus 5GB of monthly data.
In addition to costing half the price of other carriers’ plans, T-Mobile’s service agreements require no contract. Furthermore, T-Mobile offers several ways to purchase a phone. With most no-contract plans — including Cricket, Boost and Virgin Mobile — consumers buy a phone and then pay per month for cellular and data service. At the opposite end of the spectrum are two-year contract plans, in which customers pay just a portion of the cost of the phone and the balance is spread out over the life of the contract.
Customers who decide to buy a phone from T-Mobile can either purchase a phone in full or put a down payment and pay off a portion of the balance each month. Payments are interest-free. This is an alternative for those who need to buy multiple phones or would rather not plunk down hundreds of dollars for a phone.
If you decide to arrange for service from another provider, however, you will be responsible for paying off your phone. For instance, a Nexus 4 requires a $50 down payment and a payment of $17 per month for 24 months, making the cost of the phone $458 — the same price that T-Mobile charges up front.
If you're looking for the best value, be sure to cross-check prices online for an unlocked phone. For instance, the Nexus 4 will cost you $349 on Google Play — $100 cheaper than T-Mobile's price. You could bring your current unlocked phone too, as long as it's compatible with T-Mobile's GSM network. Unlocked AT&T phones work; Verizon and Sprint phones do not.
However, you won't find an iPhone 5 at T-Mobile. The carrier may get the upcoming iPhone 5S, but for now, that is only a rumor. [Update: T-Mobile announced the iPhone 5 will be available on April 12. Read more: T-Mobile iPhone Deal Too Good to Be True? ]