With no-contract plans, lower cost options and unlimited data, T-Mobile's offerings are garnering some positive attention. However, its network performance and call quality, along with its customer service, earn below-average ratings from both experts and subscribers. T-Mobile's Jump! (Est. $10 per month) phone-upgrade plan is a better deal than similar programs, even though there is a monthly charge for it.
No contracts. T-Mobile's no-contract Simple Choice plan is cheaper than those of its competitors, which makes it a compelling option for those who don't like long-term commitments. But the elimination of all two-year service contracts means you can no longer get a subsidized phone from T-Mobile; instead, you pay the full retail price in installments or you can use your own compatible phone.
T-Mobile offers individual plans with one phone on one line, as well as family plans with up to five lines. It's also one of two national carriers that offer an unlimited data plan; Sprint is the other, and its plan costs more. Mobile devices such as tablets require a separate plan, but that's discounted for those who also have a T-Mobile postpaid phone plan. All plans include at least some data; there's no option for just talk and text.
Jump! (Est. $10 per month) is T-Mobile's early phone-upgrade plan. It's not a great value, critics say, but it's somewhat less costly than similar programs from other carriers despite its monthly fee and lets you switch phones more often, every six months. Simple Choice also provides free text and data in 100 countries.
Below-average speed and call quality. When it comes to data speeds, T-Mobile's service proves fast in some cities but slow in others. Its 4G LTE network is still the smallest of all the major cell phone service providers, with gaps especially in rural areas, but experts say that where you can get it, speeds are just as fast as its competitors'. Still, in PCMag.com's 2013 Readers' Choice poll, T-Mobile finishes last -- along with AT&T -- with low marks for speed, reliability and coverage. Unimpressive call quality is also a flaw in T-Mobile's service; it earns below-average scores in that category in J.D. Power and Associates' latest survey.
Poor showing. T-Mobile receives the lowest marks for customer service and purchase experience in two J.D. Power and Associates surveys. In PCMag.com's large 2013 Readers' Choice survey, T-Mobile ties with Sprint for the lowest customer service score, although no carrier does particularly well in that regard. User reviewers of T-Mobile tell stories of rude customer service representatives and receiving misinformation and inadequate explanations, especially about billing policies.
Wide range of phones. T-Mobile offers an extensive selection of phones on its website, ranging from the latest Android, Apple, BlackBerry and Windows models to basic feature phones and older, sometimes refurbished smartphones. You can purchase a phone on an installment plan, separate to your no-contract phone plan, or bring your own compatible phone; regardless, those new to T-Mobile will need to purchase a SIM card separately (Est. $10).
1. J.D. Power & Associates
This J.D. Power and Associates' study examines wireless usage in three aspects of network performance in six regions within the United States. The 2013 study is based on responses from more than 27,000 wireless customers. T-Mobile's scores relegate it to the bottom of the pack in all but one region, with mostly below-average ratings.
Review: 2013 U.S. Wireless Network Quality Performance Study – Vol. 1, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, March 7, 2013
2. J.D. Power & Associates
More than 7,000 wireless phone users responded to J.D. Power and Associates' 2013 Customer Care Survey. T-Mobile comes in last place with a score that is significantly below those of the other major wireless service providers and well below average.
Review: 2013 U.S. Wireless Customer Care Full-Service Performance Study – Vol. 1, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, Feb. 6, 2013
3. J.D. Power & Associates
In the 2013 J.D. Power and Associates' wireless Purchase Experience Study of full-service wireless carriers, more than 8,500 respondents rated their customer purchase experience in three contact channels: phone calls with sales reps, visits to a retail store and online. T-Mobile customers were the least satisfied, and the service provider received a below-average rating.
Review: 2013 Wireless Purchase Experience Full-Service Study – Vol. 2, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, Aug. 15, 2013
The latest ConsumerReports.org cell phone service survey includes more than 58,000 of its subscribers, asking them to rate their cell service for value, voice/text/data service and customer support. T-Mobile, like other carriers, is rated for its performance in 23 cities as well as overall.
Review: Overall Cell Phone Service Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, September 2013
In this cell phone users' survey by PCMag.com, T-Mobile ties with AT&T for last place based on an overall score. T-Mobile is below average in all areas except for cost.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2013: Smartphones and Mobile Carriers, Ben Gottesman, March 13, 2013
6. Laptop Magazine
Cherlynn Low gives Jump! the nod over similar programs offered by Verizon and AT&T. Even with the $10 monthly fee, total costs are lower and upgrades are allowed more frequently. However, Sprint's One Up program is cheaper still.
Review: Phone Upgrade Plans: Sprint vs. AT&T vs. Verizon vs. T-Mobile, Cherlynn Low, Sept. 20, 2013
If you like to keep up with the latest in phone technology, Alexandra Chang recommends T-Mobile's Jump! as the best phone-upgrade plan. She reports that it has the least costly phone upgrades and relatively inexpensive data plans. Sprint's plan is not compared, however.
Review: T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Smartphone Upgrade Plans Compared, Alexandra Chang, July 19, 2013
Bonnie Cha explains in great detail exactly how much each wireless service provider's phone-upgrade plan costs. She says T-Mobile's plan is the cheapest of the three compared, but she questions the value of all of them.
Review: T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon Plans Promise Early Upgrades, but the Devil's in the Details, Bonnie Cha, July 18, 2013
9. Laptop Magazine
After crunching the numbers for all plans available for the iPhone 5s from the four major wireless service providers, Laptop Magazine's Cherlynn Low presents them clearly in a chart. She recommends T-Mobile's no-contract unlimited talk and text plan for the commitment-phobic, along with its Jump! phone-upgrade plan.
Review: iPhone 5s: Which Carrier Has the Best Plans?, Cherlynn Low, Sept. 16, 2013
Site editors compare cell phone services according to features and costs, but not call quality. T-Mobile comes in third place behind Verizon and AT&T, and scores highly for its reasonable fees and truly unlimited data. Its limited geographic coverage is a minus, as is its poorly rated customer support.
Review: T-Mobile, Editors of TopTenReviews.com, Not dated
In TechHive.com's nationwide testing of 3G wireless networks, T-Mobile's speeds, along with those of AT&T, significantly outpace those of Verizon and Sprint in both uploading and downloading.
Review: T-Mobile Wins 3G Shootout, Sprint and Verizon Speeds Fade, Leah Yamshon, Mark Sullivan, May 21, 2013
12. My Rate Plan
In this press release, the wireless industry analysts at MyRatePlan.com list their top three plans of 2013: T-Mobile Simple Choice Unlimited, Sprint Simply Everything and Verizon Wireless Share Everything. T-Mobile wins by offering unlimited voice minutes, text messages and data for the cheapest price. Customers also get 500 MB of free wireless hotspot data.
Review: Best Wireless Plans of 2013, According to MyRatePlan.com, Editors of MyRatePlan.com, April 18, 2013
Josh Smith of GottaBeMobile.com identifies why you would want, or not want, an iPhone 5s on each of the four major wireless networks. T-Mobile's phone-upgrade program lets you get a new phone faster than other similar plans. It has a very small 4G LTE network, but does offer HD Voice on the iPhone 5.
Review: iPhone 5s: AT&T vs. Verizon vs. Sprint vs. T-Mobile – Which Carrier Is Best?, Josh Smith, Sept. 11, 2013
Viewpoints.com accumulates user reviews for the most popular wireless carriers, both prepaid and contract. T-Mobile scores a respectable 70 percent rating after more than 500 reviews. Features and plan options are above average, but coverage and customer services are way below.
Review: The Best Cell Phone Providers: Cell Phone Provider Reviews & Ratings, Contributors to Viewpoints.com, As of December 2013