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T-Mobile Announces No-Contract Family Plans - But Are They A Better Deal Than Prepaid?



T-Mobile held a press event in New York today to make three significant announcements;

A new program called "JUMP" (Just Upgrade My Phone) which lets post paid customers upgrade to a new phone every six months for the same phone prices that new or out of contract customers pay. The program costs $10/month, which includes phone insurance. When customers upgrade they have to trade in their old phones, which should mean a huge increase in the number of recent model refurbished phones available to anyone shopping for a T-Mobile compatible phone. JUMP will launch July 14. You will need to pay into JUMP for six months before you are eligible for your first upgrade

T-Mobile's announced that their LTE network now covers 157 million people in 116 markets. To see a list of the LTE markets, go to this page and click the "Check latest 4G LTE cities" link. The 157 million number came as shock to most observers as last year T-Mobile said they only expected to cover 100 million people by the middle of this year. Apparently the LTE rollout is going much faster than expected. The 157 million figure compares favorably with Sprint's LTE which currently only covers 100 million people. T-Mobile still has a way to go to match AT&T's  200 million and Verizon's 300 million person coverage.

T-Mobile's third announcement is the most interesting to value conscious customers, It's a new non-contract family plan option. Starting July 14, a credit check will no longer be required for customers who up sign up for one of TMO's post-paid non-contact Smart Plans. The SmartPlans are eligible for multiple line discounts.

T-Mobile's family plan option lets you add a second phone for $30 per month with the third, fourth and fifth phones only $10 extra per month each. All the phones get unlimited voice and messaging and their own 500 MB high speed data allowance. After 500 MB data speeds are throttled to a glacial 128 Kbps.

The high speed data allowance can be upgraded  to 2 GB for $10 extra per phone per month. Unlimited data is available for an extra $20 per month per phone.

Post paid taxes and fees typically add between 10% and 35% plus about $1.50 per line to the monthly plan cost. The taxes and fees make the Smart Plans  more expensive than prepaid for individual users. But with two or more phones the Smart Plan will often be less expensive.

Here's a table comparing the cost of prepaid with the Smart Plans for one to four phones and varying amounts of data. The prepaid prices don't include state sales taxes. If your state taxes prepaid airtime that could tilt the advantage toward the Smart Plan.

Number of Phones Data per phone Smart Plan Pretax Cost Smart Plan Taxes Smart Plan Total Cost Prepaid Monthly Cost
1 500 MB $50 $6.50 - $19 $56.50 - $69 $50
2 500 MB $80 $11 - $31 $91 - $111$100
3 500 MB $90 $13.50 - $36 $103.50 - $126 $150
4 500 MB $100 $16 - $41 $116 - $141 $200
1 Unlimited $70 $8.50 -$26 $78.50 - $96 $70
2 Unlimited $120 $15 - $45 $135 - $165 $140
3 Unlimited $150 $19.50 - $57 $169.50 - $207 $210
4 Unlimited $180 $24 - $69 $204 - $249 $240

Updated 07/11/2013: This post originally stated that a single 500 MB, 2 GB or unlimited high speed data allowance was shared by all phones on a family plans. This is incorrect. Each phone gets its own bucket of 500 MB of data before throttling with additional data available for $10 or $20 per month per phone.

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24 comments:

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  1. Dennis,

    You are very right about the comparable cost to prepaid. What is not mentioned in your article that Tmobile does offer corporate discounts depending on your employer. My personal discount is 15% which is why I moved to this on the 2 line plan. Something definatly to look into that may push many to make the leap to Tmobile if they knew about them. These discounts are only available on the postpaid plan and do not apply to prepaid. Keep up the goos work, I check the website almost everyday just to try and keep up.

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  2. I think your Smart Plan table is inncorrect as well as the first line is 50 the second is 30 and each additional is 10. Therefore your 2 line price should be 80, 3 line 90, etc. for the pretax pricing.

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    1. The table is based on 500 MB/month data usage per phone so the $60 Smart Plan is used rather than the $50 one.

      2 phones is $60 + $30 = $90 pretax.

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    2. Dennis,

      The $50 plan *is* the plan with 500MB/month 4G data usage. The $60 plan has 2.5GB/month of 4G data usage.

      http://www.t-mobile.com/cell-phone-plans

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    3. The $50 Smart Plan plan provides 500 MB shared across all the phones on the account. 500 MB divided by 4 is only 125 MB per phone. The table shows options providing at least 500 MB per phone which is why the $60 plan is used.

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    4. Dennis, I am using this plan. The 50, 30, 10, 10, 10 pricing includes 500mb for each phone it is not divided between phones.

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    5. Yes, you can buy two lines today for $80 with 500mb/phone. The new plan just removes the credit check when you buy new phones.

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    6. I don't think so. The T-Mobile press release says:

      "Beginning July 14, families can get four Simple Choice Plan lines with unlimited talk, text and Web and up to 500MB of high-speed data for only $100 per month (plus taxes and fees) - no credit check and no annual service contract required."

      To me that says 500 MB period, not 500 MB per line. Resources on family plans are typically shared. If it was 500 MB per line I'd expect T-Mobile to explicitly mention it.

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    7. Well, Dennis, I just filled a cart at the Tmobile website and can order two lines with 500mb each for $80. Tmobile is not raising prices with the new plans. They just wrote an inadequate ad.

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    8. I have this plan and $80 for 2 lines is for 500mb for each phone. Also your unlimited calcualtions are wrong. The cost is applied to each phone for the extra data $10/phone for 2gb extra and $20 per line for unlimited (please kep in mind all of these numbers are for "high speed" they do allow unlimited throtled data on any of these plans for no extra cost.) Every one is so in to the "share everything" plans that other carriers are offering that this seems far to differnt. Just remember different is good.

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    9. Anonymous is right. On T-Mobile's family plans data is not shared between phones. Each phone gets its own bucket of 500 MB with additional data available at rates of $10 per phone for 2 GB per phone or $20 per phone for unlimited.

      If you are confused about the pricing like I was, go to the T-Mobile site and try setting up a plan with various quantities of data and phones.

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  3. Tmobile always seemed like the KMart of wireless, cheap and it shows. Even more so than Sprint.

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    1. Hardly. The big caveat with T-Mobile is coverage, which is probably the weakest of the 4 national carriers. However, if you do have good coverage, their combo of price/4G speed beats everyone else.

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    2. In my experience, mainly in Northern California and Nevada, T-Mobile's coverage is much better than Sprint's. In the San Francisco metropolitan area T-Mobile beats both Sprint and AT&T.

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    3. These Tmobile plans including roaming on AT&T in many areas where Tmobile has no towers. Sprint charges much more for comparable plans.

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    4. The prices are certainly cheap, especially compared to AT&T. Tmobile charges $70/mo. for Unlimited everything. AT&T charges $140 and limits your data on their Individual 5GB plan. That costs you an extra $840/year.

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  4. There are probably many families where peoples' data needs are different. Family plans tend to make everyone buy the same amount which means if you have 1 user who needs unlimited, you are overpaying for all the other users.

    In my family we have one user on Ultra's $29 for unlimited minutes, one user on PagePlus who uses almost no minutes, two users on PTel with different relatively low usage rates, and one spare phone on T-Mobile prepaid for use as-needed by younger kids when they are going somewhere. There is no family plan that will be cheaper than my current arrangement which is probably less than $55 per month for five phones. I had to pay for the phones... but it was worth it.

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  5. Their coverage map in SoCal is total crap. On the 3G/4G map side, according to them, where I am supposed to get full 5 bars reception, I hardly get 1-2, and sometimes no reception at all, and this happens not in 1 place but too many to count.

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  6. How much is California cellphone tax?

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    Replies
    1. There's no tax on prepaid. The last time I used postpaid was seven years ago. Tax was $10 of a $30/month Sprint plan. I believe it's higher now.

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  7. Wow,my tax on a $60 phone bill was roughly $10 with tmo about 3 years ago in Missouri.

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  8. Math edit: Smart Plan w/500 mb cost for 3 shown as $113.50 - $126. Should read $103.50-$126.

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  9. Thanks Dennis, I was looking for this all day. Since T-mobile explains poorly, this was a big help.

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