Reviewers say T-Mobile Prepaid offers an excellent combination of voice quality, phone options, low-cost plans and good customer service. Earning high marks for usage plans and for customer help and support, it falls short in features, fees and phone selection.
Great for occasional use. Editors at TopTenReviews.com say that T-Mobile only has one prepaid daily access plan, but it's the best there is. PrepaidReviews.com points its readers in the direction of T-Mobile's monthly access plans, which it says "simulate postpaid contract plans."
The cheapest option T-Mobile offers is $10 for 30 minutes, which don't expire for 90 days -- making this a good choice if you don't plan to use your phone very often. There are also packages for $30 and $50 and an annual plan for $100, where you get 1,000 minutes that don't expire for a year. See our review of T-Mobile's Prepaid Annual Plan (*Est. $100 for 1,000 min.). If you replenish your account before your minutes expire, the unused minutes roll over. You can do this online, from your phone, or at one of 90,000 retail locations nationwide. You can also sign up for automatic refills.
T-Mobile offers monthly unlimited plans similar to Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk (*Est. $35 per month and up), but T-Mobile's plans have data-usage caps, and its prepaid cell phones aren't quite as advanced as those of Virgin Mobile. T-Mobile charges $50 per month for unlimited talk and text, but it caps Internet use at 100 MB ($70 per month raises it to 2 GB), unlike Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk Unlimited (*Est. $55 per month), which offers unlimited talk, text and data and a more advanced smartphone. You can instead choose a 1,500 combined minute/message plan with 30 MB of data for $30 a month, or unlimited texts for $15 a month plus 10 cents a minute for talk time.
T-Mobile also offers a Pay-by-the-Day option, in which you pay only when you use your phone. Plans start at $1 a day for unlimited text, with talk costing 10 cents a minute. A more useful plan might be the $2-a-day option, with unlimited talk and text and 2 GB web.
No roaming charges within wide nationwide network. 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 readers' poll, T-Mobile finishes behind U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless and ahead of AT&T, receiving average scores along with Sprint. Long-distance calls to all 50 states made with T-Mobile are treated like regular calls, with no additional long-distance fees. The good news is that T-Mobile users incur no roaming charges while remaining on the extensive T-Mobile network; the bad news is that the network doesn't reach as far as Alaska and roaming charges are expensive, according to TopTenReviews.com.
Experts and users love T-Mobile's customer service. Editors at TopTenReviews.com report that customer support is a big plus for T-Mobile. The company generally ranks better than most for customer service among major wireless providers. The website offers a very helpful live chat feature, and telephone and email support are also available, as well as an extensive FAQ section. Users give T-Mobile high marks for customer service in polls by J.D. Power and Associates and PCMag.com, but at PrepaidReviews.com T-Mobile draws its share of customer complaints, earning only 3 stars out of 5 overall from users.
Basic phones, smartphones and bring-your-own phone. PCMag.com states that T-Mobile Prepaid offers several different Android phones for prepaid customers, as well as Nokia Windows Phone devices. Other reviewers report that T-Mobile's touch-screen phone offerings are less advanced than Virgin Mobile's selection. However, if you already have an unlocked Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) phone (including the iPhone), T-Mobile sells a prepaid SIM card (*Est. $7) that you can insert into your phone to enable it on T-Mobile's prepaid cell phone network. T-Mobile prepaid phones start with a basic Nokia 1616 cell phone with text messaging (*Est. $25) and range to Samsung Galaxy S Blaze (*Est. $300) and Nokia Lumia 710 (*Est. $250) smartphones. T-Mobile has said it will begin selling the iPhone directly sometime in 2013.
Review Credibility: Excellent T-Mobile is one of six prepaid wireless providers included in ConsumerReports.org's latest rankings. Editors poll more than 66,000 cell phone users to find the best and worst wireless services.
Review: Prepaid Cell Phone Service Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, January 2011
2. J.D. Power & Associates
Review Credibility: Excellent In this survey of about 6,400 prepaid wireless cell phone users, T-Mobile rates just above the industry average overall, but falls squarely in the middle of the pack of nine prepaid cell phone carriers reviewed.
Review: 2011 Wireless Non-Contract Customer Satisfaction Index Study, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, March 31, 2011
Review Credibility: Very Good This article addresses overall satisfaction with cell phones and cell phone service as reported by PCMag.com readers in 2012. T-Mobile gets the Reader's Choice award for prepaid carriers. A chart shows how each service stacks up in a dozen categories, such as price and handset choices.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2012: Smartphones and Mobile Carriers, Ben Gottesman, March 28, 2012
Review Credibility: Good T-Mobile stands in the middle of the pack at TopTenReviews.com's 2012 roundup of prepaid cell phone services for 2013. Earning fairly good marks for usage plans and for customer help and support, it falls short in features, fees and phone selection. Note that TopTenReviews.com's evaluation of prepaid cell phone providers is based only on features, and doesn't look at how each phone service performs.
Review: 2013 Prepaid Cell Phones Comparisons, Editors of TopTenReviews.com, As of December 2012
Review Credibility: Fair Editors here give T-Mobile Prepaid 4.5 out of 5 stars. It ties for the top spot among the 29 prepaid wireless suppliers rated. Like all prepaid providers, however, T-Mobile draws its share of customer complaints, earning only 3 stars out of 5 overall from users.
Review: T-Mobile To Go Prepaid Cell Phones, Editors of and Contributors to PrepaidReviews.com, As of December 2012