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The End of Free T-Zones

It looks like T-Mobile is eliminating the last vestiges of the free web access that has been part of their pay as you go service since at least 2005, probably earlier.  That's when I got my first T-Mobile prepaid phone, a used Nokia 3650 from eBay, and discovered free T-Zones.

At that time T-Mobile only had one prepaid plan, Pay as You Go. It was strictly a voice and texting plan, there was no data available except for T-Zones, which was what T-Mobile called their mobile web homepage before they renamed it Web2Go. When you opened the browser the T-Zones page loaded. It let you check your prepaid balance and plan expiration date, top up your account with a PIN code and buy ringtones, wallpapers and games just like the My Account section of Web2Go does now.

But T-Zones had something else that was very special. If you clicked a link labeled "Web & Applications" you got to a page that let you go to  CNN, ESPN, ABC News and a trivia site called Amusing Info. These four sites were absolutely free. They were old school, mostly text mobile web sites, but they let you keep up with the news and scores. The CNN site even had local weather. Plus there were a few sites including; Yahoo, the Weather Channel, 4Info Directory, Traffic.com and CBS Sports that were never part of T-Zones, but were available by entering the URL. The image shows the old T-Zones site and some of the free sites that were available in 2008.

Up until 2009 or so T-Mobile even used to advertise T-Zones' free access to news and information on prepaid phone packaging and point of sales brochures.

Then last year, free T-Zones started to slowly disappear. The links to CNN, ESPN and Amusing Info were removed from T-Zones, although you could still open them using their URLs. Eventually CNN and ESPN stopped working and later in 2011, when T-Zones was re-branded as Web2Go, the Web & Applications page was removed entirely and ABC News stopped working. But even after the re-branding many of the free sites still worked if you knew their URLs, including Amusing Info, Yahoo, BBC Sports and the Weather Channel.

This week T-Mobile changed something and all the free sites were gone except Yahoo (m.yahoo.com). At the rate things are going, I don't expect it to be around much longer.

I have a phone with a real data plan now and I haven't used the free T-Mobile sites in while. But I still feel a little pang of nostalgia for that awesome service that introduced me and millions of others to using the Web on their phones.

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  1. Wow - looks like I got out just in time. I finally decided to jump ship to AT&T's version of the 10¢/min plan today, where I can actually pay them to get a little data if I want, plus save money on texts with a package akin to what I got on T-Mo UK during a visit there. And then I came home and saw this article! I wish I'd found this site before spending so much time researching my options on all the various carrier sites!

  2. I don't care about T-Zones... but I would be much happier if there was something useful to replace Web Day Pass, or better yet, a way to apply mobile broadband plans to my phone account so that I could occasionally use it for tethering. I don't want to move up to a $70 prepaid plan, I just want to occasionally be allowed to pay $10 to get 100MB of data that could be shared with a laptop when I am in my mechanic's waiting room.

  3. T-Zones was a great freebie back then, but I think most users want more than that, even if they have to pay for it.

    I can get something better than T-Zones, for free, but it still won't meet my changing needs. If I load my Pay as You Go SIM card from my personal phone into my BlackBerry work phone, the regular BlackBerry browser is missing, but I still get Google Maps and any website through Opera Mini. It's slow, but very usable and of course much better than T-Zones ever was. By the way, it didn't work with my wife's Android, just the BlackBerry.

    As for users wishing to replace the Web Day Pass, I believe you can still switch to the $2 or $3/day plans and back and your Pay as You Go balances will be the same, less the $2 or $3 for the day. The $2 and $3 plans aren't 24 hours, though; you have to switch back before midnight.

  4. came back today

    1. Confirmed. T-Zones free sites are working again for me too.

  5. only worked for a day. back to the ice age.

  6. T-zones has this though-
    I use it on a re-flashed SE Equinox or my 2 old TM-506'S as 3G tethering modems for my hacked iPod touch. Unlimited GPRS access, plus email servers re set to use SE's free ones in EU so T-Mo don't ding a txt msg for the email if phone's email program used (was used, but not since tethering began...).
    Turned my iPod Touch 4G into damn near an iPhone.
    Add google voice to a legacy my favs plan..well you get the idea.

    T-zones unlimited was designed to have a 100MB soft cap w/ an up sell trigered by accessing certain services or data overages, not triggered via my method, 2-6 gigs monthly used, 'data used' infographic showing allotment vs usage greyed out on billing page... its been awesome. Yesterday's attempt to load ANY plan into cart an alert said T-zones is not compatible with selected plan.

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