Despite its good customer service and robust plans, T-Mobile (*Est. $40 per month and up) lags behind other national carriers in reviews -- largely because subscribers say call quality isn't very good. T-Mobile's plus points are a wide selection of plans and good scores for customer service.
Well-reviewed plans. Reviewers generally like T-Mobile's wireless plans. For example, its entry-level $40-per-month cell phone plan gets you 500 anytime minutes, plus unlimited nights and weekends. In TopTenReviews.com's 2012 roundup of cell phone carriers, T-Mobile's fees rate just as well as those of other national carriers but lag slightly behind top-rated Verizon Wireless's plans.
Below-average speed and call quality. When it comes to data speeds, T-Mobile's 3G and 4G networks prove fast in some cities but slow in others. In PCMag.com's 2011 Readers' Choice poll, T-Mobile finishes behind U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless and ahead of AT&T, receiving average scores along with Sprint. Unimpressive call quality is also a flaw in T-Mobile's service; it earns below-average scores for call quality in J.D. Power and Associates' latest survey.
T-Mobile's 4G LTE network performance also receives low marks from reviewers. According to Brian Nadel of Computerworld, T-Mobile's enhanced network is "not really 4G." PC World's Jared Newman notes that it's slower than Verizon and Sprint 4G. T-Mobile's 4G network gets a C+ from Laptop Magazine, where tests show slower real-world speeds than the theoretical speeds T-Mobile claims.
Customer service is OK. T-Mobile receives respectable marks for customer service from the 26,000 respondents to J.D. Power and Associates' survey. In PCMag.com's Readers' Choice poll, T-Mobile receives an above-average Likelihood to Recommend score.
Wide range of phones, from basic to Android. None of the reviewers in our sources refer to T-Mobile's phone selection. T-Mobile offers an extensive selection of free phones on its website, including Samsung and HTC models, as well as Android phones, BlackBerrys and Windows phones, some of which have been refurbished. T-Mobile will begin selling the iPhone in 2013, according to an announcement in early December. Right now, the only way to use an iPhone on the T-Mobile network is by bringing your own unlocked phone and buying a T-Mobile SIM card.
1. J.D. Power & Associates
Review Credibility: Excellent J.D. Power and Associates rates the major wireless carriers, based on large surveys. T-Mobile receives a respectable score from business wireless users, particularly for cost of service and customer service.
Review: Telecom Studies, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, March 2012
Review Credibility: Excellent ConsumerReports.org polls more than 66,000 of its subscribers, asking them to rate their cell service for value, voice/text/data service and customer support. Each carrier, including T-Mobile, gets an overall score and a separate rating in each of 26 major cities.
Review: Overall Cell Phone Service Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, January 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good T-Mobile finishes behind U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless and ahead of AT&T in PCMag.com's readers' poll, receiving average scores along with Sprint. Readers don't give T-Mobile high ratings, but it does receive an above-average Likelihood to Recommend score.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2011: Mobile Phones and Carriers, Ben Gottesman, May 23, 2011
4. PC World
Review Credibility: Very Good T-Mobile's 3G download speed proves fast in some cities and slow in others in this 13-city test. Slow uploads "were a recurring theme."
Review: AT&T Roars Back in PCWorld's Second 3G Wireless Performance Test, Mark Sullivan, Feb. 22, 2010
5. PC World
Review Credibility: Very Good PC World rates the Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, MetroPCS and Clear/Clearwire 4G networks based on data from its own tests, the networks themselves and third-party sources. Newman states that T-Mobile's enhanced network is "not really 4G," and notes that it's slower than Verizon's and Sprint's 4G networks.
Review: Verizon LTE vs. The Rest: 4G Smackdown, Jared Newman, Dec. 2, 2010
Review Credibility: Good The editors of this site compare cell phone services according to features and costs, but not call quality. T-Mobile's fees rate just as well as other national carriers', but it lags slightly behind top-rated Verizon Wireless's plans, phones/features, additional benefits and help/support. T-Mobile finishes fourth overall.
Review: 2013 Best Cell Phone Provider Comparisons and Reviews, Editors of TopTenReviews.com, As of December 2012
Review Credibility: Good Gizmodo.com testers use laptops to test the 3G speeds of the four major nationwide wireless carriers. AT&T and Verizon Wireless are the fastest, but T-Mobile wins the test in Portland, Oregon, and places second in New York, Phoenix and Seattle.
Review: Our 2009 12-City 3G Data Mega Test: AT&T Won, Wilson Rothman, Dec. 21, 2009
Review Credibility: Good In Brian Nadel's opinion, T-Mobile's enhanced 3G network doesn't qualify as 4G. He tests only the Verizon and Sprint 4G networks for this article.
Review: 4G Shootout: Verizon LTE vs. Sprint WiMax, Brian Nadel, Feb. 3, 2011
9. Laptop Magazine
Review Credibility: Good T-Mobile's 4G network gets a C+ in this review. Laptop Magazine's tests show slower real-world speeds than the theoretical speeds T-Mobile claims.
Review: 4G Report Card: Who's Winning, Who's Failing, Mark Spoonauer, March 18, 2011